The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe is ITV’s latest true-life drama and starts on Easter Sunday starring renowned actors, Monica Dolan and Eddie Marsan, who play Anne and John Darwin. The real-life story of how John Darwin faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy is written by acclaimed screenwriter Chris Lang who is behind smash hit drama, Unforgotten.
The drama focuses on how Anne Darwin became complicit in her husband’s deception as she started to convince the world, their family and friends, the police and insurance companies, that her husband had gone missing in 2002 whilst canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew in Cleveland, where the couple owned two large houses with panoramic views of the sea.
The drama is based in Cleveland and Panama, but let’s see where it was filmed.
Read more: The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe full cast including Karl Pilkington and Trigger Point star
Anne and John’s house
All the interiors were built by the ITV Production Design team led by Claire Kenny on The George Lucas stage at Elstree. Each floor of the two connecting houses was a separate set. The exteriors were shot in an area called The Headland near Hartlepool – it’s about a 10-minute drive from where the real houses were in Seaton Carew. The real houses were visited but no scenes were shot there.
Seaton Carew and the beach
The beach featured in the drama was right outside the “shooting house” but wasn’t the actual beach that John Darwin would have departed from in real life. Although the beach at Seaton Carew wasn’t used at all they did film on the front at Seaton Carew – at the amusement arcades and the lovely cream Art Deco bus stand. The beach where John comes ashore was near Steetly Pier about three miles north, but again wasn’t the actual beach (in reality, that was North Gare Beach about three miles south of Seaton Carew).
There were plans for the drama’s team to go to the Dominican Republic to shoot all the Panama material, but the destination went on the Covid Red List just before they were due to travel. In the end the team went to Portugal. The flat was north of Lisbon (near Cascais), the ‘fish shack” was on a beach about 30 minutes south of Lisbon, but again the designer transformed a tasteful European beach holiday house into an atmospheric Caribbean barbecue shack.
Most of the prison material was made at the (now closed) Holloway Prison in north London, but some sets (the laundry room, Anne’s cell) were built separately.
The courtroom, the interior police station, and some of the cells were shot at the (now also closed) Camberwell Magistrates Court in South London.
The Thief, His Wife and the Cane starts on Sunday, April 17 at 9pm on ITV and ITV Hub.