UK TV drama hinges on cleaners’ ‘invisibility’

18th of January 2019
UK TV drama hinges on cleaners’ ‘invisibility’

The "invisibility" of cleaners is the main theme behind a new six-part drama currently being aired on UK terrestrial television.

Cleaning Up takes the premise that cleaning staff are so overlooked and undervalued that they could carry out clever crimes without anyone suspecting them.

The idea behind the drama came to writer Mark Marlow when watching the 1987 film Wall Street starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, whose character was tasked with finding some inside information for Douglas.

While Sheen was rifling through the filing cabinets, Marlow noticed some extras dressed as cleaners gliding by unnoticed in the background. "The idea hit me at once - if they work in that office surrounded by inside information, why couldn't they do that?" he said.

Actress Sheridan Smith stars in the drama and prepared for the part with a full day's cleaning training. She then mingled with real cleaners working at London's Canary Wharf in the early hours of the morning.

"It was interesting when we did the scenes where the stockbrokers are arriving and the cleaners are still there," said Smith. "They didn't even notice us: they just barged in with their briefcases. You're unseen to them."

Smith's savvy character attempts to use insider trading to pay off her online gambling debts. "They would never suspect one of us - it would be a case of: ‘It can't be that little cleaner'," she said.

Many cleaning companies are seeking to address employees' feelings of "invisibility" by making them feel more valued. Meanwhile, the European Cleaning & Hygiene Awards Initiative Raising the Profile of the Professional Cleaning Sector category aims to improve the perceived value of cleaning.



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