Dancing on the Edge is a British television drama written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff and produced by the BBC about a black jazz band in London in the early 1930s. The series aired on BBC Two between 4 February and 10 March 2013. It was nominated for three awards at the 71st Golden Globe Awards.[1]

Dancing on the Edge
Dancing On The Edge screenplay cover
Cover for the published screenplay
Created byStephen Poliakoff
Written byStephen Poliakoff
Directed byStephen Poliakoff
StarringJacqueline Bisset
Angel Coulby
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Matthew Goode
John Goodman
Anthony Head
Tom Hughes
Janet Montgomery
Wunmi Mosaku
Miles Richardson
Mel Smith
Joanna Vanderham
Composer(s)Adrian Johnston
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Running time360 minutes
Original networkBBC Two
Original release4 February (2013-02-04) –
10 March 2013 (2013-03-10)
Preceded byGlorious 39
External links



The series follows a black jazz band's experiences in London in the 1930s. Made up of talented musicians and managed by the compassionate yet short-tempered Wesley Holt, the band gets a gig at the Imperial Hotel, by way of cunning journalist Stanley Mitchell. They prove to be a hit, and become a success at the hotel. Countless aristocrats—and the Royal Family—ask the band to play at parties. The media rush to interview and photograph the band—including the ambitious American businessman Walter Masterson and his enthusiastic British employee Julian. The band's success spirals, being offered record deals. But tragedy strikes, setting off a chain of events that may wreck the band's career.


The Louis Lester Band

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Louis Lester: The band leader of the Louis Lester Band. Born in London, Louis travelled the world as a merchant seaman before returning to the UK.
  • Angel Coulby as Jessie Taylor: The lead singer with the Louis Lester Band. Beautiful and with an amazing voice, she fascinates even royalty.
  • Wunmi Mosaku as Carla: The shy backing vocalist for the Louis Lester Band and Jessie's best friend.
  • Ariyon Bakare as Wesley Holt: The irascible manager of the Louis Lester Band. Although born in Cardiff, he has lived in Chicago for most of his life and lost his British birth certificate.

Music Express magazine

  • Matthew Goode as Stanley Mitchell: A music journalist at Music Express magazine, who helps bring notice to the band.
  • Jenna Coleman as Rosie Williams: Stanley's assistant at the magazine.
  • Sam Hoare as Eric: A new journalist at the magazine.
  • Allan Corduner as Mr Wax: The owner of Music Express, who has little to do with the day-to-day operations.

The Elite

  • Jacqueline Bisset as Lavinia, Lady Cremone: A wealthy aristocrat who has become a recluse after the death of her sons.
  • John Goodman as Walter Masterson: An American real estate mogul and one of the richest men in the world.
  • Tom Hughes as Julian Luscombe: A charismatic and debonair young man, who works as Mr Masterson's aide.
  • Joanna Vanderham as Pamela Luscombe: Julian's sister and a playful, beautiful society girl.
  • Janet Montgomery as Sarah Peters: A photographer and Pamela's best friend. She is the daughter of a Russian immigrant.
  • Anthony Head as Arthur Donaldson: A wealthy and influential businessman.
  • John Hopkins as Prince George, Duke of Kent: Son of the British King.

The Working Class

  • Mel Smith as Nathan Schlesinger: The manager of the Imperial Hotel.
  • Miles Richardson as Harry Thornton: Mr Schlesinger's right-hand man at the Imperial.
  • Maggie McCarthy as Mrs Mitchell: Stanley's mother.
  • Caroline Quentin as Deirdre: The owner of a small music club.
  • David Dawson as D.I. Horton: A police detective investigating a murder.
  • Gerard Horan as D.I. Gunson: A police detective investigating a murder


No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date UK viewers inc.HD
1"Episode 1"Stephen PoliakoffStephen Poliakoff4 February 2013 (2013-02-04)3.00
Music journalist Stanley Mitchell befriends The Louis Lester Band and helps its rise to fame from playing in a basement jazz club to the illustrious Imperial Hotel. At first, the band is treated with hostility by the hotel's elderly audience, most of whom have never heard jazz music nor seen black musicians before. However, one table of young aristocrats love their new music and invite them to play at a garden party.
2"Episode 2"Stephen PoliakoffStephen Poliakoff5 February 2013 (2013-02-05)2.48
The Louis Lester Band has yet to reach the fame it so desires, and is stuck playing children's birthday parties at the Imperial Ballroom. Louis is frustrated. However, the band is introduced to wealthy recluse Lady Cremone and she may be able to change its fortunes.
3"Episode 3"Stephen PoliakoffStephen Poliakoff11 February 2013 (2013-02-11)2.35
The band and their friends are devastated by Jessie's (Angel Coulby) hospitalisation, and take turns to visit her. Louis is interviewed by police about events on the night of Jessie's attack, and he tells them that he saw Julian when he should have been on a train to Paris. The band have to be persuaded to play without Jessie for the Imperial Hotel's Christmas lunch and they are unsettled when a table of racist Germans walks out during the performance. But the mood is lifted when news arrives that Jessie has woken from her coma. For New Year's Eve, Lady Cremone holds a party on her estate. Everybody is surprised when Julian turns up, announcing he has been in France exploring a new business idea. The group goes into the village to hear the New Year announced on a loudspeaker, and there is a joyous and romantic mood. In the middle of the party, Louis confides to Sarah that he saw Julian at the hotel the night of Jessie's attack. Stanley exacts revenge on the racists by smuggling in Louis to play at a German Embassy party. The prank goes brilliantly, but the friends' joy soon turns to tears when tragedy strikes.
4"Episode 4"Stephen PoliakoffStephen Poliakoff18 February 2013 (2013-02-18)2.52
The Band plays for the Freemasons dinner and Louis notices the close ties between Julian, who he believes is the killer, and a powerful elite. Everyone is shocked by events in the United States where an attempt has been made on the President's life. Masterson reveals his plan to build a news empire around the New Music Express Magazine. Stanley warns Louis that the police believe him to be the killer; he tries to see a lawyer, but others seem to be conspiring to hand him over to the police.
5"Episode 5"Stephen PoliakoffStephen Poliakoff25 February 2013 (2013-02-25)2.61
Louis can no longer hide out at the Music Express Office so Stanley takes him to a suburban flat to escape the manhunt. He is to wait until nightfall, whilst Stanley goes to find his passport as they plan his escape out of the country. Stanley returns to the Imperial Hotel, to find that its reputation has been badly affected by the murder there. Masterson takes over the new Music Express magazine, and surprises Stanley by announcing he has offered a large reward for the capture of Louis Lester.
6"Interviewing Louis"Stephen PoliakoffStephen Poliakoff10 March 2013 (2013-03-10)0.39 (overnight)
Presented as a series of interviews undertaken by Stanley for his Music Express magazine and taking place at the peak of fame for the Louis Lester band, Louis, Jessie and Carla give an insight into their thoughts about fame as well as their personal stories. Louis and Stanley remember the First World War, in which Louis's father fought. Louis talks about what it is like to be a black musician in London, and they discuss the band's exotic attraction to the aristocracy. Stanley talks to Carla and Jessie, who open up about their upbringings and their feelings on becoming famous. And Louis describes a chilling story about a female fan, when what started as a prank phone call became something much more sinister.


Filming took place on location at the Grand Hotel and Council House in Birmingham, where the hotel scenes were shot, the Black Country Living Museum was used to shoot a scene set in a mining village and Ragley Hall in Warwickshire was used as Lady Cremone's home.[3] The headquarters of Music Express are located at No. 4 Princelet Street, Spitalfields[4] and later at Somerset House. The railway scenes in the first episode were shot on the preserved Bluebell Railway. Wilton's Music Hall was used as the club. Fenton House, Hampstead, stands for the house of Donaldson. Some scenes for Donaldson's house were also shot at Upton House, Warwickshire. Kidderminster, on the Severn Valley Railway, was used as "Folkestone" in the fifth episode. Manze's Eel, Pie and Mash shop in Walthamstow also makes an appearance in that episode.

International broadcastEdit

Country Channel Premiere date Timeslot
  Greece NET 1 March 2013[5] Friday 22:05
  United States Starz 19 October 2013[6] Saturday 22:00
  United States PBS 26 June 2016[7] Sunday 20:00
  Sweden SVT1 4 January 2014 Saturday 22:00
  Iceland RUV 11 May 2014 Sunday 21:00
  Finland YLE TV1 24 June 2014 Tuesday 21:00
  Mexico Canal 22 27 July 2014 Sunday 21:00
  France France Ô 7 November 2014 Friday 20:45



  1. ^ Messer, Lesley (12 December 2013). "Golden Globe Nominees 2014, the Complete List". Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Weekly Viewing Summary (see relevant week)". BARB. Archived from the original on 18 April 2007.
  3. ^ "Birmingham is the star of major new TV drama". Birmingham Mail. 3 February 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  4. ^ "4 Princelet Street". Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  5. ^ Viewing Summary of the program, 1 March 2013
  6. ^ Munn, Patrick (27 July 2013). "Starz Picks Up US Rights To Stephen Poliakoff's 'Dancing On The Edge', Sets October Premiere". TVWise. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  7. ^ McLennan, Cindy (2 June 2016). "Dancing on the Edge: PBS Previews Jazz Drama Series".

External linksEdit