Created by Steven Knight, Peaky Blinders has enjoyed phenomenal success as a TV drama and has recently been turned into a theatre crime play. The antics of Thomas Shelby and his Birmingham-based gang are being brought to life on the big stage through dance in a show that uniquely captures the underworld of the late nineteenth century. The Peaky Blinders plots are violent, gripping and intense, that’s clear from the start. But here are 6 things about the Peaky Blinders show that you didn’t know.
1. The Peaky Blinders Existed
The Peaky Blinders production on stage is based on the TV series and the plots for both are fictional. But did you know that the scripts are based on Birmingham street life and the real existence of the Peaky Blinders gang, which dominated the city from the 1880s until the 1910s? The group, which sprung out of inner-city poverty, consisted largely of young criminals from lower to middle class backgrounds.
2. Thomas Shelby Wasn’t Real
The Peaky Blinders might have been real, but the Shelby family, including the show’s gang leader Thomas Shelby, is entirely fictional. While Steven Knight created many of the characters from scratch, they were closely based on thuggish gang members who gave the real Peaky Blinders their violent reputation. Some of the characters in the Peaky Blinders TV series, however, are based on real historical figures including politician Winston Churchill and rival gang member Billy Kimber.
3. Thomas Gilbert Took the Lead
Shelby might be fictional. But the real Peaky Blinders leader was thought to be a man by the name of Thomas Gilbert, more commonly known as Kevin Mooney. It was Mooney that helped to extend the gang’s criminal portfolio with activities that included smuggling, robbery, bribery, fraud, hijacking, land grabs and postcode wars. Certain gangs dominated certain parts of Birmingham and this became widely acknowledged and understood in the underground world.
4. Gang Name Origin in Question
The Peaky Blinders gang liked to stitch razor blades into the peaks of their caps and it’s thought this is what gave them their iconic name. But this theory has also been questioned. In the nineteenth century, ‘blinding’ was commonly used to describe someone’s smart appearance. The Peaky Blinders always wore tailored jackets, silk scarves, button waistcoats and metal-tipped leather boots. So this could be another explanation.
The way each gang member looked mattered. But they didn’t expect to shell out for the privilege of good clothes. As Thomas Shelby boldly declared, “I don’t pay for suits. My suits are on the house or the house burns down.”
5. Tom Holland Auditioned But Didn’t Get Cast
Tom Holland, best-known for playing Peter Parker/Spider-Man reportedly auditioned for a role in the Peaky Blinders TV series, but didn’t get cast. Steven Knight commented, “It must have been quite a big role he was auditioning for,” but it’s hard to say exactly who he wanted to play. Thomas Shelby, perhaps?
6. Cillian Murphy Fought for his Role as Thomas Shelby
Believe it or not, Cillian Murphy had to fight for his role as Thomas Shelby. This is mainly because Murphy is the polar opposite of his on-screen character. Knight revealed in an interview that Murphy sent him a text after his Peaky Blinders audition to remind him that it doesn’t matter that he’s nothing like Thomas Shelby, because he’s an actor. The creator later admitted that, “No-one else could have been Tommy Shelby.”
If you’re a huge Peaky Blinders fan, don’t miss the Steven Knight production live on stage at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre in London.