TV series ‘The Durrells’ takes British viewers to 1930s Corfu


Greek locations used as sets for international movies have always witnessed a subsequent increase in foreign visitors – just think “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” (Cephalonia) or “Mamma Mia!” (Skiathos, Skopelos) – serving as a great boost for the tourism industry at those destinations. Since last year, ITV comedy-drama “The Durrells” has had British viewers glued to their screens on Sunday nights, taking them on a journey to the island of Corfu in the 1930s.

There’s a lot to the name Durrell. Lawrence, the eldest son of the Durrell family, became a celebrated author of works including “The Alexandria Quartet.” A philhellene, he knew both Greece and Cyprus quite well. Also a poet, dramatist and travel writer, not to mention an agent of the British crown, Lawrence had an exciting bio. Other family members measured up quite impressively too.

Having started out in colonial India before moving to Britain in the early 30s, his mother Louisa decided to take her three younger children, Leslie, Margaret and Gerald, and leave the UK in 1935 for Corfu, where her firstborn was already living with his new wife. The series takes viewers through the four-year period that the family lived on the island and is based on the memories recorded in three books by Gerald Durrell, the youngest of the four siblings, “My Family and Other Animals,” “Birds, Beasts, and Relatives” and “The Garden of the Gods.” His obsession with animals wasn’t by chance. Eccentricity and a love for animals was a characteristic of the whole family, particularly Gerald, who later in life decided to devote himself to wildlife and nature, setting up various conservation organizations.

How does one go about recreating a setting which no longer exists? Corfu has changed quite a lot since the pre-war period, with a strong tourism industry that’s developed over the decades. The solution to this dilemma was found in Danilia, a replica of a traditional Corfiot village created for tourists. It was built from scratch using old building materials in the 1970s by islander Spyros Bouas, to serve as a reminder of the island as it once was. The village later passed into the hands of the Daskalantonakis hotel group.

Danilia is where the producers of “The Durrells” decided to film the series, so it would look as authentically 1930s Corfu as possible. Well-known Greek actors have participated in the production as well, including Alexis Georgoulis and Giorgos Karamichos, who play friends of the family during their time on Corfu.

The show is now in its second season and continues to draw new viewers, with a third season in the making. This means Corfu can look forward to a surge in tourism arrivals, as well as a boost to the local economy.