It's not like panpipes are even mentioned in the Bible

When I first told Alastair that I was writing a Britten biopic, he said “let me guess, it begins with a distant shot of Benjamin Britten walking along a beach”.

Which, of course, it doesn’t. Because it would be one of those immediate cliches that, in my case, has me running to turn off the television (or, less conveniently, the cinema).

The equivalent for films about Jesus – actually, anything biblical – is a shot of the desert and panpipes. Instant turn off, and surely the kind of thing any self-respecting director would look for alternatives to (even Mel Gibson managed to do something interesting here).

So, delighted though I was to hear about the BBC’s The Passion, a serious attempt to do something new with a Gospel dramatisation (it’s got Paul Nicholls in, it must be serious), I was pretty dismayed when the first thing it gave me was desert and panpipes. Actually I’m afraid I haven’t managed to get any further in than that yet.

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