Sarah Phelps is a British television, radio, film and freelance playwright and producer. She is best known for her work on EastEnders, a number of BBC serial adaptations including Agatha Christie's The Witness For the Prosecution, And Then There Were None, Dickens’ Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and work with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Phelps also wrote for the World Service Soap opera Westway before joining the BBC in 2002.
Phelps has written over 50 episodes of EastEnders, including the return of Den Watts and his final demise, less than two years later, when he was killed by his wife, Chrissie. A journalist for the British tabloid The Daily Mirror described her as "Enders' best writer". She has written over 40 episodes of Westway, which won Best Soap Award at the Commission for Racial Equality's Race in the Media Awards (RIMA).
Phelps wrote the screenplay for the BBC's 2011 Christmas costume drama adaptation Great Expectations and the drama series The Crimson Field. In 2015, a television adaptation of J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy was written by Phelps. In the same year, her adaptation of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None was broadcast. Reviewing the latter for The Daily Telegraph, Tim Martin found that, "The final episode of this bloody adaptation by Sarah Phelps did splendid justice to Christie's lightless universe, presenting an isolated mansion full of leaking corpses, in which the characters – quite understandably – freaked out in ways that no previous adaptation has countenanced".
He went on to note, "All this couldn't have been further from the teasing restraint of classic adaptations such as René Clair's celebrated Hollywood version from 1945. But Phelps's version felt closer both to the cruelty of Christie's original and to its dramatic intentions. Clair chose to sacrifice the book's murder-suicide conclusion in favour of a romantic clinch, while Christie herself had already ditched it for her stage adaptation in 1943. Phelps kept it in, and this brave decision allowed her adaptation to preserve its cheerless emotional contract with the viewer – although the consequences, which required a five-minute exposition scene to be spoken by a character dangling on a noose ('No! You don’t mean this! Urk, urk! No, wait! There's no more bullets! Urk, urk!') pushed high drama to the edge of the ridiculous." But Martin concluded by writing, "That aside, however, this was a stonker: classily photographed in low light, moonlight and candlelight, and with strong performances from the weighty ensemble cast throughout, it made a strong case for Phelps (best known for her TV adaptations of Oliver Twist and Great Expectations) to be put on seasonal murder duty at the BBC every year".
Her radio work also includes Vital Signs II, Cardamom, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and The Compass Rose: A Tattoo Lexicon. Her theatre projects include Tube, Angela Carter, The Subtle Art of Boiling Lobsters, Amaretti Angels and Modern Dance for Beginners.
- "10 Questions for Screenwriter Sarah Phelps | The Arts Desk". www.theartsdesk.com. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
- "Sarah Phelps- Playwright Dramatist". www.doollee.com. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
- "BBC News | TV AND RADIO | Race awards recognise diversity". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
- "Great Expectations meets BBC's high hopes thanks to young actor Douglas Booth". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
- "The Crimson Field axed by BBC, 'gutted' writer Sarah Phelps confirms". The Independent. 2014-06-11. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
- "Sarah Phelps, interview for the Casual Vacancy: 'JK Rowling and I saw eye to eye'". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
- "And Then There Were None - BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
- "And Then There Were None, episode three, review: 'a class act'". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
- "Sarah Phelps | United Agents". www.unitedagents.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-23.