Simon Burke stars in Devil's Playground.
Simon Burke stars in Devil's Playground. Nick Wilson

Devil's Playground brings Simon Burke back from the UK

FAITH is at the centre of Simon Burke's labour of love, Devil's Playground.

The new Foxtel drama, which debuted this week, follows on from the 1976 film in which the AFI Award-winning actor starred at the tender age of 13.

Burke reprises his role as Tom Allen who, 35 years on from the events of the movie, is a socially-conservative Sydney psychiatrist and recently widowed father.

"He's a practising Catholic and he gets invited by one of the bishops at St Mary's to council a couple of priests who are having some problems," Burke told The Guide.

 "At the same time a kid at his son's school goes missing. It's the son of a woman he's quite close to.

"Also at the same time the bishop who has asked him to see these priests is involved in a kind of ideological battle (because he's a quite liberally-thinking priest) with a very conservative bishop over who's going to be the next archbishop.

"So you have a kind of political drama going on within the church, a family story about this guy who's just lost his wife and having the normal kind of dad problems and this really horrific incident where this kid goes missing.

"Over the course of the series those three plots intertwine and it gets pretty dark and pretty confronting but very compelling I think."

John Noble, Andrew MacFarlane, Jack Thompson, Uli Latukefu, Max Cullen and Don Hany star in Devil's Playground.
John Noble, Andrew MacFarlane, Jack Thompson, Uli Latukefu, Max Cullen and Don Hany star in Devil's Playground. Mark Rogers

While some of the controversies surrounding the Catholic Church in the 1980s are now public knowledge, Burke said viewers will be seeing them through the eyes of an initially devoted church-goer.

 "In the 1980s there was a whole lot of stuff going on people wouldn't know about, that people like Tom wouldn't know about," he said.

"Possibly he gets the opportunity to find out what's going on and possibly he gets the opportunity to become a kind of early crusader.

"It's really about one man trying to keep his faith in the face of some pretty big challenges."

Burke is also an executive producer of the series, which saw him return home to Australia from the UK where he had been enjoying a successful theatre career in London's West End.

"The film was set in 1953, so our starting point was 1988," he said.

"The character is 48 years old and the great and fascinating thing for me as a performer was to sit in a room with eight of the most incredible minds and writers in television and that's all we had, was this guy as a starting point.

"We had a back story but it was only up to the age of 13, so we had a whole 35 years to fill in the gaps."

Burke is joined by an all-star Aussie cast, including Jack Thompson, Don Hany and John Noble.

"The performances are just incredible," he said. "We were so lucky to get the people we did. It's like a complete dream project."

Devil's Playground airs Tuesdays at 8.30pm on Showcase.