Tag Archives: BBC

Series Review, Hidden, BBC Cymru Wales by Gareth Williams

(3 / 5)

When one looks back over 2018, Keeping Faith is sure to come out on top in the world of Welsh television drama. It has been a huge success. Its latest stop on its incredible journey is primetime BBC One. It goes from strength to strength, and will certainly deserve all the accolades that come its way. In amidst all the hype of this brilliant series however, it has been easy to overlook another Welsh drama that has been airing over the past two months on BBC Wales and BBC Four respectively. Produced by the creator of another Welsh hit drama Hinterland, Ed Talfan, Hidden has been allowed to bubble away below the surface of Keeping Faith’s success. I would suggest that this is primarily because it is a crime drama. And though I would agree, to a certain extent, with some of the groans that accompany the thought of yet another one hitting our screens, it does at least offer something a little different. There is a slight spin on the achingly familiar.

The twist in Hidden’s tale is the revelation of the killer at the outset. The opening scene sees a girl running through the woods, pursued by an unknown man. This girl is subsequently found dead. The investigation that unravels across the whole of the series centres on finding this girl’s killer. Such a task is given to local detectives Cadi John (Sian Reece Williams) and Owen Vaughan (Sion Alun Davies). But whilst they are in the dark over the killer’s identity, the viewer is given unprecedented access into the life of Dylan Harris, played brilliantly by Rhodri Meilir. A strange, sensitive and brutalised figure, Harris lives with his mother and daughter in an old farmhouse deep within a forest of the Snowdonia National Park. It turns out that he is a serial abductor of young women. Having let his latest catch go, we witness his unsuccessful attempt at abducting a local farm girl. Then, as the pieces of the drama’s puzzle start to come together á la The Bridge, he claims the life of long-suffering student Megan Ruddock (a standout performance from Gwyneth Keyworth). What follows is a tense thriller that follows both the police investigation and Harris’ narrative simultaneously. As a result, it involves the viewer deeply in its various twists and turns over the course of its eight episode run.

Despite the fact that the central crime isn’t particularly original, Hidden remains worthy of some praise for the performances of two of its central actors: Rhodri Meilir and Gwyneth Keyworth. Episode four in particular, which is wholly focused on Dylan and Megan, is a deeply uncomfortable yet utterly compelling hour of television. It is made so by their noteworthy performances. Firstly, Meilir brings a vulnerability and gentleness to the role of Dylan that will be recognisable to fans of the sitcom My Family, in which he played the hapless Alfie. Yet this vulnerability and gentleness are subverted as a result of the abuse Dylan has suffered at the hands of his mother (Gillian Elisa). As a result, they manifest themselves in an extremely dark and dangerous way, far from the comforting confines of the Harper household. Meilir manages to express such complexity at the heart of his character in such a way that the viewer is both sympathetic yet repulsed by him. To extract such opposing emotions is testament to Meilir and his ability to play such a broken and complex figure. Meanwhile, Gwyneth Keyworth produces an emotionally raw performance as Megan, a student whose mental anguish (outwardly shown in the form of self-harm) is exacerbated by her abduction. It is an incredibly challenging role that Keyworth manages to embody wholeheartedly. As a result, she is powerfully believable as Megan. It is easy to forget sometimes, in the course of the series, that what is witnessed is a dramatic reconstruction. Keyworth plays it in such a way that it seems horribly real. For me, it is one of the most engrossing performances in a British TV drama this year.

With a stunning backdrop that shows off the bleak, mountainous terrain of North West Wales in all its magnificent and austere glory, Hidden may not be revolutionary but it is still worth watching. With some excellent performances from the cast and a slightly different take on the conventional crime narrative, it has enough going for it to keep viewers coming back for more. If you like your crime dramas dark and disturbing, then Hidden is certainly for you. It may not be Keeping Faith but it nevertheless showcases the fantastic talent coming out of Wales at the moment at every level, from production to acting, storytelling to editing. This is very exciting. With hopefully more fantastic ‘Made in Wales’ dramas to come, the Welsh TV landscape looks like going from strength to strength.

Click here to watch the full series.

gareth

Series Review, Keeping Faith, BBC Wales by Gareth Williams

(4 / 5)

Having just watched the final episode of Keeping Faith on BBC Wales, I’m asking myself: Is this a golden age for Welsh television drama? Hinterland was critically-acclaimed. Bang featured in the national press. Gwaith/Cartref continues to be a marker for quality Welsh-language drama. Parch has just entered its third series. And Craith will be broadcast in the English language later this year as Hidden. It appears that one cannot move for drama made in Wales. And it’s about time too. Gone are the days when S4C was presumed to be solely for first-language Welsh speakers. Once, BBC Wales-backed dramas were so few and far between that their broadcast almost felt like a national event. Now, subtitles are no longer a barrier, in large part thanks to the phenomenal success of The Killing. Meanwhile, BBC Wales will be following up Keeping Faith with Hidden later this year.

Of course, quantity does not automatically mean quality. However, in the case of the above, quality most certainly matches the output. In terms of Keeping Faith, this has not only been reflected in its incredible cast of Welsh actors but in the gripping storyline and its atmospheric soundtrack. So, if you haven’t managed to catch it yet, here are three reasons why you should go to BBC iPlayer and download the series:

Eve Myles

Fans of Torchwood and Broadchurch will already know the brilliance of Eve Myles. Personally, I’ve run out of superlatives to describe her acting skills. Here, she plays the lead character Faith, wife to Evan (Bradley Freegard), mother to three children, and a lawyer in her husband’s family firm. One Wednesday morning, her life is turned upside-down when Evan leaves home and disappears without trace. Over the course of the next eight episodes, we see this strong, no-nonsense woman face the most challenging emotional, professional and personal pressures of her life. In doing so, Myles produces a character of incredible complexity with seeming simplicity. She manages to wholly embody her character and, as such, Faith’s every expression is drenched in meaning. There is a moment in episode two, for instance, when her vacant stare manages to reveal a plethora of internal emotion. We see her frustration, pain, anger, sadness and confusion all packed tightly into that single expression. Only the best actors can convey so much through doing so little. This is not to say that Myles’ natural physicality does not also enhance the strength of her performance. There is a wonderful moment in episode six, in the boardroom of the law firm, where Faith’s frustration and joy is brilliantly conveyed through the movement of Myles. In this same episode, when Faith is in conversation with Gael Reardon (Angeline Bell), Myles moves so quickly from a smile to a frown that it adds a light humour to the serious nature of the circumstances. In so doing, we learn so much about her character. It is these small moments, in which so much is communicated, that make this such a standout performance. She really is one of the best actresses of her generation.

The Music of Amy Wadge

Alongside Eve Myles, the music has got to be the star of this show. It is beautifully constructed, weaving in and out of the series like the ripples of water in the opening titles. Written, composed and performed by Amy Wadge, it is gorgeous in its simplicity and captivating in its tone. It is a bit of a coup to land a woman who has written songs for some of the biggest stars in the music industry (Ed Sheeran and Kacey Musgraves among them). Yet her star quality is surely what elevates this soundtrack to become a powerful narrator within the series. Wadge has clearly spent time with the character of Faith, connecting so deeply with the character’s emotions that at times the music speaks what no dialogue could. As such, it perfectly complements Myles’ performance, even enhancing it at times. Before going out to buy the soundtrack however, I would recommend a listen to the Welsh translation, sung by Ela Hughes. If you like the originals, you will love these Welsh-language versions.

The Story

Keeping Faith is first and foremost a drama about family. The mystery of Evan’s disappearance may be the hook, but the central focus is on the family. To this end, Matthew Hall has enabled the series to steer the course of eight episodes without ever overstretching the plot twists or exhausting the narrative threads. It enables us to remain intrigued by the disappearance of Evan whilst giving us a fully formed world of characters all with secrets of their own. As a result, the central mystery becomes laced with other mysteries as the web of family affairs widens. It is not only the marriage of Faith and Evan that is put under the microscope, but those of Tom and Marion (Evan’s parents) and Terry and Bethan (Evan’s sister) too. Add a cast of corrupt police officers, a criminal underworld and a client that has feelings for Faith and there is no shortage of action. All that is left is to give a nod to some of the cast for bringing Hall’s intriguing narrative to life so vividly, among them Mark Lewis Jones (Stella), Aneurin Hughes (Hinterland) and Matthew Gravelle (Broadchurch).

What do you think? Is this a golden age for Welsh drama? And what are among your favourites? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments below).

Series Review, Broken, BBC by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

Father Michael Kerrigan is the latest name to add to the growing pantheon of priests appearing on our television screens in recent years. Following in the footsteps of Tom Hollander (Rev), James Norton (Grantchester) and Mark Williams (Father Brown) is another acting heavyweight, Sean Bean. Bean takes the lead role in writer Jimmy McGovern’s latest drama, Broken. The six-part BBC series has seen Kerrigan battling his own personal demons whilst acting as counsellor, social worker and friend to his parishioners. The narrative has been suitably gritty, tackling poverty and injustice unashamedly through the lens of social realism. It is, of course, what McGovern does best. It could even be argued that Broken is among his best work.

Sean Bean is a fascinating lead actor. He is utterly mesmerising here. The emotion etched on his face conveys perfectly the inner turmoil and wretched guilt of his character. There is no need for words. He makes Kerrigan so likable, so genuine. It is hard not to fall in love with his character. His flaws and his mistakes and his heartfelt pleas only increase our empathy for the man. Kerrigan is broken. Yet in his brokenness we see something of our humanity – for better and for worse.

The opening credits seem to capture this sense of conflict perfectly. It is so beautifully melancholic: the heart-rending tones of Nina Simone singing “Human kindness is overflowing/ And I think it’s going to rain today”. It is this overwhelmingly positive image streaked with an impending sense of despair that wonderfully encapsulates the stories at the heart of this drama. In particular, the investigation into the death of Vernon Oyenusi (Jerome Holder) places a focus on PC Andrew Powell (Mark Stanley) as he wrestles with the personal and professional consequences of telling the truth. He wants to do the right thing, but there is a cost for doing so.

McGovern finds rich material here. He touches on some of the hypocrisies of the institutional church. He tackles issues of homosexual acceptance and the morality of gambling. There is also the moment when Kerrigan faces up to one of his former teachers who, as we see in flashbacks, abused him. The lack of remorse shown by Father Matthew (Robert Gillespie) is infuriating to say the least. Yet Kerrigan’s response is measured. He doesn’t lash out in justifiable rage yet the emotional anger underneath is evident in this incredible exchange. Again, Bean’s acting is masterful.

The standout episode of this fascinating series has to be the fourth offering. It finds single mother Roz (Paula Malcomson) facing up to the reality of her fraudulent past. She owes over £200,000 to her employer and confesses to Father Michael that her only way out is to take her own life. It is complete dramatic perfection from McGovern: raw, heart-breaking, full of understated emotion and grounded in the ordinary reality of daily life. It is also where Broken becomes an ensemble piece rather than simply a protagonist-led drama.

Jimmy McGovern is a master at creating fully-formed and multi-layered characters. The leading light in this drama is certainly Kerrigan. However, as the series progresses, he becomes like the candle he lights to declare the presence of Christ. This simple yet powerful motif reflects Kerrigan’s role in the community: he is present amongst his parishioners but he is no superman solving all their problems. He is there for them, but he is helpless as much as he is helpful. He is part of their lives, but they have their own stories to tell – he does not define their decisions or determine their choices necessarily.

The place that McGovern gives to Father Michael Kerrigan is far less certain than the clear morality of Sidney Chambers’ crime-solving world in Grantchester. Yet it is somewhat more assured than the struggle for relevance that faces Adam Smallbone in Rev. This is what makes Broken such a fascinating series, particularly in the canon of TV shows with a clerical protagonist. For McGovern, the church remains a place where hope is found. But this hope is expressed through the individual (Kerrigan) rather than the institution (as represented by Adrian Dunbar’s  Father Peter Flaherty). In this way, the final scene makes perfect sense. Being critical, it could be seen as a little too perfect, almost sentimental. Nevertheless, it still elicited a few tears from me in response.

Broken is an excellent and inspiring drama. It continues Jimmy McGovern’s reign as one of Britain’s best and most provocative of writers. The acting talents of Sean Bean, et al. only add to the sheer quality on display here. It is surely one of 2017’s best dramas.

An Interview with Rachel Williams Development Producer, BBC Writers room – Wales

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Rachel Williams, Development Producer, BBC Writers room – Wales. We discussed Rachel’s career to date, opportunities for Welsh and Wales based writers and the exciting new plans for BBC Writersroom Wales.

Hi Rachel great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi , I grew up in Church Village and went to primary school in Treforest, Pontypridd. I did a degree in English at Birmingham University and started out working as a music writer and journalist, and music radio producer before moving into factual television and directing on documentary and Arts series such as The Culture Show and Channel 4’s Cutting Edge. When I had my first child I came back to Wales and moved into TV development – I was Head of development for BBC documentaries where amongst other things I developed Factual drama including Jack Thorne’s ‘Don’t Take My Baby’ for BBC3. Telling fictional stories appeals to me for many reasons but mostly because you can go deep into the story and structure. I feel very privileged to be able to read scripts and work with writers as part of my day job – and also to have licence to  watch drama box sets guilt free!

So what got you interested in the arts?

I think my primary school St Michaels in Treforest first sparked a love for the Arts – I still remember my inspirational English teacher Mrs. White and the inventive way she taught creative writing and poetry. I think the Eisteddfod was another huge influence – I was billeted with a family in North Wales to perform at the national Eisteddfod – which was an amazing experience and my first exposure to the Welsh language. I think it’s great that Wales has such a strong culture of valuing and supporting the arts.

You are coordinating the BBC Writersroom Wales, what are the plans for this new initiative?

Writersroom Wales has been set up with the aim of developing new and established writing talent in Wales, to find tangible opportunities for writers across the genres and to help develop more diverse stories about contemporary Wales on network drama and comedy. I started in the role just before Christmas and we are also looking to appoint a freelance script editor/ producer who can work across Welsh language submissions. One of my first jobs is to set up the first BBC Welsh Writers Festival – an event that will bring together the Welsh writing community and launch the Writersroom in Wales. We are also planning an inventive launch event and writers workshop in North Wales in the summer in partnership with Radio Cymru and other partners. We hope to have regular one off writing events, writers residentials for writing commissions. We are going to set up a Writers development programme and work closely with Arts organisations from National Theatre Wales to Fio to It’s My Shout to support and develop writing talent.

You have organised a Writers Festival on Friday the 24th of March at Chapter Arts Centre, I wonder if you can tell us more about this event?

This is the first BBC Welsh Writers Festival and is modelled on the annual BBC TV Drama Writers festival. We wanted to gather the Welsh writing community together and give them some inspiration, ideas and information about opportunities and also to announce that the Writersroom has landed in Wales. We are putting on a mixture of craft and Q&A sessions giving writers an introduction to everything from Children to Comedy, Radio drama and TV drama. Andrew Davies will chair the day with a Q&A on his writing career followed by a craft session on adaptation, talking about War and Peace. We will also have a Q&A from the brilliant Lucy Gannon who will talk about her writing career across TV and radio. We have sessions on everything from Dr Who to Casualty and Welsh language drama like Hinterland. I’m really excited about the sessions on Comedy Drama and Representing Wales at the end of the day which will be a vital chance to hear from writers and programme makers about the current landscape and hopefully provoke some lively discussion.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/opportunities/wales-writers-festival

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or specifically writers?
I’m not aware of barriers,  although arguably there is always a class barrier to becoming ‘a writer’ in the first place. I know there are people in Wales doing brilliant work with under represented communities. The Iris Prize in particular is a fantastic success story that has an international reputation. But I do think there’s a sense that English language drama about Wales has not always reflected the diversity of contemporary Wales. It would be great to see some more diverse stories of Wales on screen – whether that’s about the Somali community in Bute Town or the Italian Welsh community in the Valleys – from a wider range of perspectives. The Writersroom have just produced a second series of the Break for BAME writers – and the next series is coming out of Scotland. It would be great if it could come to Wales the following year.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2016/the-break

http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/successes/the-break

There are range of organisations currently supporting Welsh and Wales based writers, have you met with any of them? How do you see BBC Writersroom Wales working with the current support network for writers?

In the first few months of the job I’ve tried to meet as many dramatic writing related organisations as I can from Ffilm Cymru to theatrical institutions such as Theatr Clwyd and National Theatre Wales. There are already people doing brilliant work in terms of writer support and development such as the Sherman Theatre who run a well respected writer development programme – we don’t want to step on any toes and duplicate work that is already being done. The question for me is how can we work and support existing structures and is there a need for something else that is not currently being addressed? Identifying that need is the sweet spot for the Writersroom – we are here to help fill that gap. But the key thing for us is that any initiative we set up has to have a tangible outcome for the writers at the end of it – whether that it is a slot on radio, TV or online.

Director General of the BBC Tony Hall

The deficit of English Language drama produced by the BBC reflecting the diversity of the citizens of Wales is a cause for concern. Is this something you will be tackling in your new role?
This is an issue that has been identified by Tony Hall and this is partly why BBC Writersroom has been set up in Wales – to nurture and develop the next generation of story tellers writing about Wales. The recent announcement of an additional £8.5m funding for programming in Wales – as well as a new £2m development fund for comedy, drama and factual in the Nations – should be a real boost and help generate new drama and comedy coming from Wales.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/bbc-announces-50-increase-investment-12636991

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

We already have brilliant writers here working in theatre and radio – what would be great is if there was a vehicle for talented new writers to develop and hone their writing. So much of good writing is about craft – understanding story telling and the beats that make good drama – and this is definitely something that can be refined. Russell T Davies talked about learning to write on daytime drama The Grand – for the first time writing a scene entirely in subtext. I know these sort of long running drama strands are expensive but perhaps we could experiment with form – do it online or in a drama podcast?

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I love the vibrant theatre scene in Wales, which is full of talented actors and writers. I recently saw Lucy Rivers’ Sinners Club at the Other Room – visceral, immersive ‘gig theatre’ that told a factual story in a clever and layered way. She wrote and performed it – and for what was essentially a monologue the pace never lagged. It’s going to be showing at Theatr Clwyd next. Watching theatre at the Other Room always feels like a treat, as it’s such a small intimate venue.

SINNERS CLUB

Thanks for your time Rachel.

Review The Husbands of River Song, Dr Who by James Briggs

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/12/2015 - Programme Name: Doctor Who - TX: 25/12/2015 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01hrs 1st DEC 2015*** Doctor Who (PETER CAPALDI), River Song (ALEX KINGSTON), Hydroflax - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston/Simon Ridgeway
Doctor Who (PETER CAPALDI), River Song (ALEX KINGSTON)  Photographer: Ray Burmiston/Simon Ridgeway

The much-anticipated Christmas special of Series nine Doctor Who has finally arrived! And so has the much-loved companion Professor River Song. It was brilliant to once again see Alex Kingston’s name included in the titles once again projecting her name as a leading lady.  When we first found out that Alex Kingston would be returning as River Song the reaction of the fans was split. Many fans believed that Rivers character was not able to return any longer and her ‘song’ had ended. Even the Doctors themselves were split in the decision for her to return. “I’m really possessive over Alex [Kingston],” said former Doctor Matt Smith. “Anyone else, but don’t give [Capaldi] River… I am really proud of the fact that Alex was part of number Eleven’s life. My wife!” David Tennant was also a supporter of this view.

Her return however was a wonderful Christmas present from Moffat to see the old River return.  One plot downside in the episode however was the whole character of the Doctor. At the end of series nine we saw Capaldi’s Doctor was a lost man who was besotted with the idea of a character called “Clara” and he was on a mission to find her. It was after this story that we found it hard to believe that the Doctor was a dancing between comedy and romancing with River Song. Given that she is far closer in age to Capaldi than she ever was to Matt Smith, this pairing of River and the Doctor is the most realistic relationship age that we’ve seen. Meanwhile with her memory loss in the episode it’s great fun to see the Doctor turn her catchphrases back at her.

Another character that has to be noted is that of King Hydroflax who I think has one of the best alien names in a long while. King Hydroflax is played Greg Davies (of Inbetweener’s fame) who spent the episode playing a disembodied head on a robotic body. Even so he probably contributed to one of the funniest scenes in the episode when his head was inside the hold-all bag.

Another of the funniest scenes in the episode was when the Doctor finally got to play the companion therefore getting his Tardis ‘it’s bigger-on-the-inside moment’  this was surely a moment where the audience thought who was having the more fun: Moffat in writing it or Capaldi in playing it!

Doctor at Christmas

Photographer: Ray Burmiston/Simon Ridgeway

The ending of the episode did however leave the Tardis doors open for a possible return of River as one night last much longer than on earth. With the series due to start filming shortly in Cardiff we will wait with anticipation on whether River will continue to fly with the Doctor through all of time and space. Doctor Who will return in the summer next year with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and his latest sidekick with him.