Bordering on the ridiculous: new BBC comedy set in post-Brexit NI

The Road Patrol team of Tracy Jones (played by Diona Doherty) and Connor Lafferty (played by Patrick Buchanan)
The Road Patrol team of Tracy Jones (played by Diona Doherty) and Connor Lafferty (played by Patrick Buchanan)

When a new spoof documentary entitled Soft Border Patrol was being filmed in the Province last year some people thought the team of enforcers were a real consequence of Brexit.

The new three-part comedy which begins this Friday evening on BBC One NI focuses on a fictional team of border patrol officers in Northern Ireland in the not-too-distant future where Brexit has led to a soft border.

Soft Border Patrol series producer Marie McDonald, centre, out on location with colleagues, during filming for the new series

Soft Border Patrol series producer Marie McDonald, centre, out on location with colleagues, during filming for the new series

Producer Marie McDonald explained how the show courted controversy before it even reached the small screen.

She said: “We filmed it in September and October in and around various areas of the country. One of the days we were filming a couple of members of the public spotted some of the branded cars and it was all up on Twitter and Facebook and people were thinking it was real.

“People were asking, ‘Is a soft border patrol really the answer to Brexit?’ others were saying Stephen Nolan needed to get on it.

“It was so funny reading through the comments – people getting into a big argument about something that wasn’t real.”

Alan Irwin as Soft Border Patrol official Sandy Donaldson, part of the Ground Patrol team

Alan Irwin as Soft Border Patrol official Sandy Donaldson, part of the Ground Patrol team

While this particular border patrol team is made up of a host of actors and comedians whose lines are largely improvised, Marie admitted that no one can be quite sure if such a Soft Border Patrol could exist in the near future.

She said: “It’s a very confusing situation that we’re all in with the border. We’ve taken that situation that’s hard to comprehend and we’re having a bit of a laugh with it.”

The 35-year-old has first-hand experience of life on the border: “Growing up in Moville [in Co Donegal], our big shop was done in Derry and you got your shopping checked going back over the border.”

She added: “I was a teenager well before the soldiers ever left, it was part of normal life for us. When I think of it now it was insane – how much time it took up, how people were held up, how you had to get ready an hour early to go anywhere.

“I can’t really see how they’re going to deal with it in the present day. It’s as ridiculous now as it was then.”

Rather than try to explain the confusion surrounding a post-Brexit border, the three-part programme embraces it, with much of the comedy deriving from the uncertainty a virtual soft border between NI and the Republic would bring.

In the first episode, border patrol officers must assess if a plank across a stream in a farmer’s field constitutes an unlawful border crossing and also deal with a demonstration from a people’s protest movement who feel Brexit presents the perfect opportunity to reunite the nine counties of Ulster.

The most recognisable members of the cast include Hollyoaks actress Karen Hassan and comedian Neil Delamere.

Marie said she hoped the show could emulate the success of Derry Girls – a show which she said was important in showcasing the Northern Ireland sense of humour to the rest of the UK.

• Soft Border Patrol begins on Friday on BBC One NI at 10.35pm.