Category Archives: Film & TV

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar by Richard Evans

Venue Cymru, Llandudno July 1st – 6th 2024 and touring

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

David Ian for Crossroads and Work Light Productions with Nederlander Producing Co. UK with Michael Watt presenting the Regents Park Open Air Theatre Production

Lyrics by Tim Rice and Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

What’s the fuss? Tell me what is happening.  

Telling the story of the last week of the life of Jesus through the eyes of Judas was an original, imaginative idea when this musical was first produced in the early 1970’s.  Would this staging of Regents Park Open Air Theatre’s revival recapture that early promise?  Owing to the nature of this story, this would be a near certainty.  To recreate the crucifixion of Jesus on stage, if done well, can not fail to be dramatic and this production adds plenty of imagination to this already thought provoking musical. 

The cast attacked this story with elan, Luke Street who played Judas in this performance was suitably moody and filled with angst.  The moment when he took the payment for his betrayal was done very well.  Ian McIntosh as Jesus grew into his role and provided some stand out moments especially as he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his arrest.  Strangely though, Jesus is portrayed as a vulnerable man who is struggling to come to terms with his fate throughout the play.  However, aside from his episode in Gethsemane, Jesus was in control and walked knowingly towards his fate, scathing to those who attempted to deflect him.  

The choreography was well planned, purposeful and added to the drama.  The set put the cross at the centre of the production, although it was odd that the chief priests walked on an instrument of torture that in Biblical times was a symbol of being cursed.  They would have been ritually pure therefore would never knowingly touch such an instrument of death.

The musical is stuck in a time warp to some extent, the music and lyrics resonant of the early 1970’s and since then some of the stories concerning Jesus are less well known.  It would help to have a good working knowledge of these biblical events.  However, it was great to hear this score once again as some of the songs have become favourites for many.  Hannah Richardsons rendition of ‘I don’t know how to love him’ and ‘Everything’s alright’ were beautiful.   

It is easy to see the play is not without its problems including the logical flaw in its premise.  Telling the story through Judas’ eyes is an intriguing idea, but of course, he was not around to see the crucifixion having already killed himself.  He is the side story.  The power in this story is not the actions of Judas, but what happened to Jesus.  Even then, crucifixion in itself is not significant.  It  is just another, particularly grisly form of execution.  One Roman commander crucified 500 people in one day.  He would have killed more but ran out of wood.  It is the death of Jesus that is significant and it is what happened to, and about Jesus after his death that makes this any story at all.  To give Judas a sort of equal billing as Jesus after their death, sitting down together in the afterlife as the last scene depicted seems very strange.  

However, we should not let factual relevance get in the way of a good story and this remains a striking piece of theatre that brings more awareness of the death of Jesus to the general public.  While it may not be doctrinally sound to those who profess faith, it avoids being offensive as some other plays or films have been.  The first time I saw the play if became a memorable experience.  This too will stay in the memory for a while.

Review, Madagascar the Musical –Wales Millennium Centre by Bethan England

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Adapting a film for the stage is never an easy feat; audience members come in with all sorts of preconceptions and expectations, and this is particularly true of an animated classic such as Madagascar. This obviously succeeded with another of Dreamworks’ properties, Shrek…so they have a strong track record!

The audience was packed to the rafters with families, school groups and animal ears and tails galore, all eagerly anticipating the tale of Alex the Lion, Melman the Giraffe, Marty the Zebra and Gloria the Hippo. So, does Madagascar stack up to the film that so many people know and love?

The set is colourful, bright, with clever use of the crates from later in the tale as a frame to the action. The set is simple but ably moved around the stage by the Central Park Zookeepers who introduce us to our motley crew of animals; the stars of the zoo. Alex, Melman and Gloria are happy with their lot at the zoo, especially Alex who is the ‘King of New York,’ but Marty is dreaming of going to the wild and the hilarious penguins are dreaming of Antarctica.

The best part of the show is easily the costumes and the puppets. Aside from the main four creatures, the talented cast multi role, leaping with ease from two legs to four. The puppets, especially the penguins, are amazing. Their puppeteers bound across the stage with so much energy and we easily forget that we are watching puppets and can only see penguins and lemurs cavorting across the stage.

The leads are excellent. It’s a tall order to take roles that have been made famous by Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer, to name but a few. But the physicality and voices are silly, energetic and loads of fun. The dancing and singing are brilliant and the songs are catchy and easy to clap along to. There’s actually a lot of heart and adult humour that did get slightly lost in the rustling of sweet packets but the script is actually really clever, capturing the essence of the original film.
Act Two picks up the action and runs with it, as we reach the shores of Madagascar and meet the lemurs and the charismatic, slightly insane, King Julien.

The highlight of the show is ‘I Like to Move It’ which has the audience delighted. The whole cast join in with a joyous explosion of music and colour and the audience clap along with glee. It is lovely to see children seeing theatre, likely for the first time, and experiencing the thrill watching live performance can bring.

The show is very cheesy and silly, but I left my seat with a smile on my face after the audience was on its feet, dancing along to the encore. It’s a funny, happy show, which is perfect for kids and big kids alike.

This is a great way to introduce little audience members to the stage or if you loved the film in 2005 (and are still young at heart!). Make sure you escape to Madagascar before it gets crated up and sails away from the Millennium Centre!

Review, Lost Boys and Fairies, BBC, by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Lost Boys and Fairies is a very moving piece of television. Created and written by Daf James, it is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. He draws on his own experience of the adoption process to tell the story of Gabe (Sion Daniel Young) and Andy (Fra Fee) who, as potential parents to a little boy called Jake (Leo Harris), journey through the highs and lows of what is an illuminating and very affecting narrative. So much so that it sometimes hits a little too close to home.

Daf James

One of the reasons for its potency lies in the performances of the cast. Young and Fee are suitably matched as the central couple, bringing charm and warmth to their characters but in very different ways. Through their initial meetings with social worker Jackie (played with effervescent forbearance by Elizabeth Berrington), Andy appears easy-going and comfortable whilst Gabe is defensive, with an assurance that suppresses a very dark backstory. The latter becomes the protagonist in many ways, through an arc that forces him to face his demons and accept himself. His relationship with his father is key here. William Thomas portrays the emotionally-restrained, chapel-going Emrys with understated gentleness. It is the tiny cues in his body language and softness of voice that unearth a kind and considerate man whose attempts to interact with his son are compassionately flawed. The contrast between the grey skies above his drearily-decorated farmhouse in rural Wales and the vibrant colour inside the Cardiff nightclub where Gabe works could not be more marked. Yet they remain in touch, conversing in Welsh in a way that feels natural, unlike the deliberately inclusive bilingualism of a Hinterland or Hidden.

For all its verisimilitude, the series makes clever use of magical realism. The inclusion of musical elements at once hyperbolises, celebrates and subverts its subject matters. It leads to flashbacks being presented in a fresh and surprisingly non-superficial way. It adds a touch of the absurd to make emotionally intelligible what might otherwise be elaborate or nihilistic. It queers the conventional to emboss the dramatic nature of the storyline with pensive irony. Ultimately, its contribution makes moments like Gabe and Andy’s first meeting with Jake all the more emotive; Gabe’s answers to the adoption panel, particularly the second time around, more revealing; and his meeting with Jake’s mother all the more tear-jerking. Gwyneth Keyworth may only appear in this penultimate scene of the series but her presentation of a boisterous but broken single parent is spellbinding. Specifically, how she encapsulates the range of attitudes and emotions across the length of their encounter, going from garrulous and domineering to kind and caring, fragile and vulnerable and deeply loving toward her son. It is heartbreaking but also, in the context of her interaction with Gabe, strangely uplifting.

Given that Leo Harris is starring in his first major role here, his portrayal of Jake is fantastically well-rounded and hugely empathetic. Opposite Young and Fee he embodies a mischievous yet lovable child with realistic aplomb. Which makes Jake and Gabe’s connection over a dressing table simply wonderful. In addition to the silence and diegetic sound of birdsong, and the sunlight creeping into the room with them, it makes for one of the most beautiful pieces of television. Contrast it with the second episode’s unexpected ending and the description of Lost Boys and Fairies becomes ‘deeply moving’. It is a hard watch at times but also life-affirming. Prepare to laugh and cry and be fearfully and wonderfully broken.

Click here to watch the series on BBC iPlayer.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Review Pieces of a Woman, Kata Wéber and Kornél Mundruczó, Battersea Arts Centre by Tanica Psalmist

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

From the writer and director behind the award-winning hit Netflix film adaptation: Kata Wéber and Kornél Mundruczó, Battersea Arts Centre and The Adam Mickiewicz Institute present the UK stage premiere of TR Warszawa’s Pieces of a Woman.

Pieces of a woman is centred around the depths of love, passion, solidarity, life, loss as well as new beginnings, grievance, bereavement, overcoming adversity whilst simultaneously coming to terms with redefining our identities when on the verge of losing a sense of who we are.

This production delves deeply into multiple realities that can hinder, distract and inflict pain, conflict and demise. Each character displaying nobility, beauty, truth and sincerity, bringing real life emotions to life on stage. The delivery of Polish culture was strongly referenced in this play, offering fresh perspectives of feminism and individualism.

The special elements of this production were the unique angles, lens and shots smartly projected on to the well designed stage door. It was an extremely rare aspect that gave this play a nice touch, offering a different experience of multimedia used within theatre. It was not possible to notice the hidden camera men that were out of the audiences peripheral in real time, live recording the set behind the massive staged door to display the several room spaces of the couples family home whilst they acted, occasionally coming out of that space.

Everything that remained both open and closed off to the audience took on different variations and interpretations of transitions which worked its wonders when leading to climaxes, tension and momentum, ensuring to leave all on the edge of their seats.

Overall, Pieces of a woman is refreshing, insightful, thrilling, unpredictable and cultural. Unapologetically displaying vulnerability and fragility, making this production equally magnifying, hypnotising, thought-provoking and intensifying throughout! The casting, lighting cues and mis-en-scene has been well choreographed, directed and produced.


Lars: Dobromir Dymecki
Ewa: Monika Frajczyk
Magdelena: Magdalena Kuta
Wojtek: Sebastian Pawlak
Maja: Justyna Wasilewska
Zuzanna: Julia Wyszyńska
Monika: Agnieszka Żulewska

Set and Costume Design: Monika Pormale
Music: Asher Goldschmidt
Lighting Design: Paulina Góral

Review, Creisis, S4C, by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I can think of many television dramas which feature mental health as a theme or part of a storyline. But to have it at its core makes Creisis a rarity. The facts which appear at the end suggest that it’s grounded in real-world evidence. The complexity of the protagonist Jamie’s journey over the course of six episodes points to a verisimilitude that takes no shortcuts. This is public service broadcasting at its most powerful and important: informing and educating through entertainment to shed light on an experience in an authentic and engaging way.

Gwydion Rhys embodies his leading role with a stereotypical form of masculinity in which cracks are slowly exposed and the façade gradually crumbles. He confidently addresses the camera in a gracious nod to Anfamol in the opening episodes. But these become few and far between as he turns from explanatory narrator into observed patient. The subtlety with which the audience gaze changes to focus more intensely on his own mind forms part of the potency which gives Creisis its cutting edge. And as it does, the line between imagination and reality, truth and fiction, becomes cleverly blurred. Before this, there is a gradual but increasingly noticeable descent, with clear effects on his family, neighbours and colleagues. The glass shards which disseminate his body in the title sequence come to be prescient in more ways than one. This really is an examination of the ailing mind.

Wife Janette is clearly long-suffering but also devoted. Sara Gregory plays her with strong will entwined with compassion. Line manager Huw (Arwel Gruffydd) is mixed with similar: a serious exterior masking a soft inner soul. There is overwhelming concern from all his fellow staff members which dissipate their quirky mannerisms once Jamie is brought into the Mental Health Unit not as an equal but under their care. Head of Service Natalie (Hannah Daniel) is the only one who is close to being a two-dimensional character. Daniel displays a villainous intent that contributes to Jamie’s state of mind to the extent that she almost becomes a caricature. Even best friend Barry, who is not quite what he seems, is granted emotional versatility by Alex Harries in order to illicit both sympathy and anger from the viewer. Meanwhile, Melvyn and Mary offer light relief through their sweet relationship marked tragically by dementia. Wayne Cater and Rhian Morgan may be part of a subplot but contribute beautifully to the whole with performances that are suitably ordinary and, as a result, wonderfully apt.

What seems to drive Jamie is a desire to fix things, including people. He is chaotic, innovative, reckless and passionate in his attempts. But in the end, he must acknowledge that he is broken himself, in part because he believes that he could and should have fixed another. Grief is both the cause and effect here, revealed in such myriad ways within the context of everyday lives that it touches on some form of accuracy. Not that experience can be boiled down. But in the individual story lies something of the universal. This is what Creisis seeks to capture, and it does so rather well. Mental illness is taken seriously and is never curbed by expectation. Including in its finale, when instead of the usual heartwarming finish, it introduces an open-ended curveball that continues its commitment to realism.

There is much to learn and appreciate here. Creisis demonstrates the art of skilful and well-researched writing to make this one of the best explorations of mental illness in modern television.

Click here to watch the series on BBC iPlayer.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Review, Mammoth, BBC Wales, by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The premise of Mammoth is far-fetched. But go along for the ride and this Welsh sitcom doesn’t disappoint. More funfair than theme park, its zaniness takes time to get used to. Once in the flow of Mike Bubbins’ world though, there emerges a strange empathy for his protagonist, resulting in a desire to return for more. It is a shame then that three episodes is all the BBC could muster.

The first episode is a whirlwind narrative. If the task was to squeeze in the life and times of Tony Mammoth in 25 minutes then it succeeds. But not without its fast pace feeling like a rush job. We go from his resurrection on the side of a ski slope, after being buried for 40 years underneath an avalanche of snow, to his reappointment as a PE teacher at Nowlan High School in the blink of an eye. Add in the quirky comedy and it’s possible for all this to be taken with a pinch of salt. It is not until the revelation, at the end of the episode, of Sian Gibson’s doting and overprotective parent as his daughter, that the programme settles and gains traction. Episode two certainly feels more stable even as the humour remains offbeat.

Most of the laughs arise in the dissonance between Mammoth’s 1970s worldview and the liberalisation of a 2020s UK. He is a boozer, pipe-smoker and womaniser, in a world no longer chugging back beers or treating women as objects. He struggles to come to terms with the fact that his boss is not only a woman but a lesbian too. Mali Ann Rees is suitably dismissive as Lucy, despairing in his attempts to connect with out-of-date references and inappropriate behaviour. She is the straight woman to his not-so-wise guy, a partnership that works and even finds slight affection blossoming between them by the end of episode three. Gibson, for her part, delivers an enraged performance opposite Bubbins’ calm exterior which also leads to funny moments filled with fondness. One cannot help feeling for Mammoth even as his views verge from the baffling to the squeamish. In this regard, he follows in the footsteps of other self-absorbed but strangely-lovable male leads, from Glyn Tucker (The Tuckers) to Ben Harper (My Family) and Victor Meldrew (One Foot in the Grave).

For so short a run, this sitcom is awash with verbal and visual tropes. Always playing with the generational difference, it is often the simple exchanges that invite the biggest smiles. The fact that he says “over” at the end of each correspondence at the drive-thru, he gives a pupil “10p [to get] a Marathon from the tuck shop”, and plays music to his class via a tape recorder all add to the ambience with charming effect. Then there’s the playing of “Burn Baby Burn” at his friend Barry’s funeral, giving a rabbit CPR on a wellness retreat, and riding into a café on a horse for daughter Mel’s birthday, that make his world peculiarly comical. It is not without its touching moments though. When fellow friend Roger (Joseph Marcell) poignantly sings the theme tune to Blankety Blank before he scatters Barry’s ashes, the tragedy of the situation is deeply felt, even as it remains absurd.

The ending is a good one, hopefully indicating at the promise of more. For most sitcoms take a while to get going and hit their stride. Mammoth is no different. Mike Bubbins has created a prime candidate for a great British sitcom character. There is enough here to warrant further. It may be odd but it is likably so. Hyperbole at its finest.

Click here to watch the series on BBC iPlayer.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Review, Pren ar y Bryn/Tree on a Hill, S4C/BBC Wales, by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

“Hell’s Bells” is the phrase that sticks from Pren ar y Bryn / Tree on a Hill. “Bingo” too. Both are utterances of Clive, a quirky character, played by Rhodri Meilir, who is representative of this offbeat drama. Filmed in Welsh and English, the former went out on S4C around Christmas whilst the latter appeared on BBC Wales from Easter. And though both are fairly similar, there is something about Cymraeg that offers an eccentricity not quite matched in its Saesneg counterpart.

Right from the start, the programme is off-piste. The presence of a model village is symbolic of a dream-like quality that permeates into the lives of Penwyllt’s real-life inhabitants. The brass and percussion instruments of the soundtrack, resembling arhythmic, improvised jazz, add to its oddness with their chaos. It is at once tragic and comic – a duality that runs through the series like a winding river. The titles are reminiscent of a B-movie; and indeed, complete with the music and faded colour palette, could have easily come from the 1950s. The addition of a rather outlandish murder plot and several strange occurrences mean that, in some ways, Pren ar y Bryn / Tree on a Hill is quite unique in the contemporary TV landscape.

Ed Thomas

It would be no surprise to find The Singing Detective as an influence upon the creators of this drama. It is certainly very different to the more serious and sombre work of producer Ed Thomas (Hinterland, Bregus). Here, he takes the elements of a classic whodunnit and turns them inside out. He borrows from the absurd of sitcom, the emotion of kitchen sink drama, the aesthetic of arthouse film, and even a little from the genre of horror, to create not just a narrative but a whole world that is strange and surprising, silly and sinister. Meilir, for his part, brings a wide-eyed innocence to his role. Deadpan, emotionally understated, yet physically expressive alongside Nia Roberts, who is beautifully awkward as his wife Margaret. Richard Harrington is perhaps the only straight-talking member of the cast as Glyn, the catalyst on which this fabulous yarn unravels. Yet even he is used in a subtle exploration of mental illness that comes to define most of the characters here. Themes of loneliness and change and liberation all feature in a drama that is both brilliantly barmy but with surprising emotional depth. A dead body in a basement freezer is the best description (without giving too much away) of its sliding scale between the ordinary and surreal.

Watch Enid a Lucy, Dal y Mellt and Y Sŵn, even The Way, and you will find a penchant for the off-kilter, ironic, and darkly comic in Welsh drama. The spectral and otherworldly nature of realist pieces like Parch, Yr Amgueddfa and Gwledd also feel very representative of a certain aesthetic that continues into Pren ar y Bryn / Tree on a Hill. Such ingredients somehow work better when the Welsh language is weaved into them – something in its rhythm and pace and tone that differs from the English; that contains a sense of mystery and magic that forms part of the nation’s identity. In which case Pren ar y Bryn is recommended as the preferred watch. Though Tree on a Hill doesn’t miss out on so much that it can’t be just as enthralling.

Click here to watch either series (Welsh or English) on BBC iPlayer.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Review: The Wizard of Oz, Venue Cymru by Richard Evans

Venue Cymru, Llandudno March 5th – 9th 2024, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff July 23-28th and touring

 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Produced by Michael Harrison and Gavin Karin Productions. By arrangement with the Really Useful Group Limited. Adapted by Andrew Lloyd Weber from the 1939 Motion Picture.  Book by L. Frank Baum

Somewhere over the rainbow… in a land that I heard of once in a lullaby

Why has this film and subsequent musical retained its attraction?  In the preface to his book, L. Frank Baum describes the book as a modernised fairy tale in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.  It is this fantasy and escapism that has proved enduring, for the same reason, Star Wars has retained its appeal. 

The storyline starts with a petulant Dorothy who feels a common teen angst where she feels neglected.  On running away, she is transported to a fantasy land and seen as a hero for accidentally killing the wicked witch of the east.  She then embarks on a journey to Oz, to see the wizard and gain the means to go home.  She encounters various characters and makes firm friends with the brainless scarecrow, heartless tin man and cowardly lion.  In order to earn her passage home and to find respectively a brain, a heart and some courage, the intrepid four are sent on an arduous task, to bring the broomstick to the wizard of the wicked witch of the west.  

This story is well known and ranks among many peoples favourites so it is a challenge to bring it to the stage once again in a fresh way.  This production adds a bit of glitz and glamour to do this, the props are minimalistic, but the music and video backdrop add plenty of pizazz to proceedings. Some of the visuals are stunning, notably the tornado scene which was highly effective, and in general they are used imaginatively to set the scene and augment the action.  

The cast have a couple of celebrity names, Gary Wilmot gives an assured performance as Professor Marvel and the Wizard while The Vivienne, winner of the first series of Ru Paul’s drag race makes a threatening, devious Wicked Witch of the West.  However, the show is carried by Dorothy, played by Aviva Tulley.  She made ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’, the signature song, her own and was a lively presence throughout.  The supporting cast were energetic and committed, making this a fast paced, joyful experience.  

The musical is faithful to the original story and incorporates most of the favourite songs from the 1939 film as well as some more contemporary numbers from its recent revival.  However, the production lacks the simplicity and innocence of the film, replacing it with the loud score and striking visuals.  Does is loose some of its allure in this process?  

There is plenty of enduring meaning here, not least, your heart, brain and courage are latent inside you.  Dorothy learns to appreciate home when she understands what she is missing.  But it is in joyful escapism that this story comes to life.  It is a colourful interlude from the mundane, gritty reality of life.  This may explain its appeal to marginalised groups in our society but there is enough here for anyone to identify with and makes this a warm, feel good experience that is well worth seeing.

Review, The Way, BBC Wales, by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Its title is perhaps deceiving. For there are many ways to describe The Way. Realist, certainly, but both magic and social. Incorporating documentary-style shots with archive footage. Alluding constantly to myth and legend. And that fine line between the supernatural and the imagined. All such elements contribute to what feels like something that wants to be epic. But there are so many strands to this drama that sometimes it drowns in its own details instead.

As Michael Sheen’s directorial debut, it isn’t too bad. It is not so disjointed as to be lacking any concept. The problem is that there are too many big and weighty themes being handled. Boil it down to the Driscolls – the family at the centre of this drama – and it becomes understandable. A fractured and broken unit, the four of them are forced to work together when Port Talbot becomes a site of insurrection, for which mam Dee (Mali Harries) and son Owen (Callum Scott Howells) are largely to blame. In this alternate-reality, they have no choice but to flee their country, seeking to cross the border (which is hard and fast here) into England, and on to daughter Thea’s husband Dan in Germany (played by Sophie Melville and Aneurin Barnard respectively). Their journey is strangely perilous, avoiding road blocks and any kind of surveillance in very familiar countryside and townscapes. It is a bit like watching Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto’ trilogy but without the humour. Everything is a lot more serious here. As if Sheen wants to create a contemporary version of a Classic tale: a 21st Century Mabinogion, if you will. But this lofty ambition is perhaps pushed too far, with hyperbolic tendencies that create, at worst, confusion, and at best, fascinating melodrama.

Lead actor Steffan Rhodri brings a pathos to dad Geoff that keeps the drama believable. He handles his character’s unresolved grief and melancholic temperament with a natural ease that catches the eye. In contrast to Mark Lewis-Jones’ hammed up performance as Union man Glynn and Luke Evans’ suitably brooding but underwhelming appearance as mercenary Hogwood, Rhodri embodies an everyman persona that keeps The Way grounded in its otherwise flittering state. For amidst the jump cuts, involving security cameras, social media sites, and news flashes, there are also talking teddy bears, Carry On clips, and prophetic dreams. But whilst on one level it could be described as strange, there is also a prescience to it that remains real. None more so than with the threat of job losses at the steel plant. Sheen is not content with just a standard social commentary on this issue though. He incorporates immigration, nationalism, Thatcherism, and nostalgia into a story that also wishes to say something about the nature of story itself. Not self-referentially but in the wider sense of Wales as a land of story and song.

Everything is done with good intention. But it doesn’t always result in translation. There are times when, for example, the life of the steel plant would work better as spoken metaphor, and the final monologue more affective, in the context of theatre. The Way almost shows us too much and, in doing so, doesn’t say enough. It rightly has one family at its core but a tendency to reach wider causes it to lose sight sometimes of this feature. The Way still manages to be entertaining though. Just a shame that it’s Michael Sheen’s name that gives it kudos rather than his direction or the drama itself.

Watch the full series on BBC iPlayer here.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Series Review, Bariau, S4C by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Bariau is the latest series to enter the realm of prison drama. With Time and Screw already making a mark in their respective ways, it is the turn of S4C to put a Welsh spin on the subgenre. Bariau follows the blueprint of the other two insofar as real-life stories inform the onscreen narratives. Verisimilitude is in vogue when portraying life behind bars these days. But while Bariau does not shy away from the dark realities, its soap-like presentation makes for palatable viewing.

The casting of Adam Woodward (Hollyoaks, Emmerdale) as Kit Brennan ensures that Bariau entertains popular appeal. He brings a slight melodramatic edge to this central villain, making him at once genuinely terrifying and ludicrously arrogant. He arrives with a real swagger, and fast becomes the controller of a wing that features a great cast of misfits. Glyn Pritchard is particularly good as the religiously-devout Peter, whose overbearing mother and anger management issues give some kind of insight into his incarceration. The focal point is Hardy however, played with a fascinating aloofness by Gwion Tegid. An air of mystery continues to surround him even as he becomes embroiled in the powerplay and blackmail of life in the cells. He gets dragged into Brennan’s world largely against his will, performing tasks with deadened emotion. He is intriguing to watch.

The relationship between George Lyle (Bill Skinner) and prison guard Elin (Annes Elwy) is fatefully believable. Brennan threatens them both with exposure unless they enact his plan, inevitably involving drugs. The way tension is built up by the searing music is nicely done (though a little too overbearing in episode five), especially in the final episode, where things come to a head in dramatic fashion. Not edge-of-the-seat thriller but still an enjoyable twist or two to keep glued to the screen. The bilingual nature of the show also adds a touch of finesse which plays into the reality of Wales’ prisons. It means overall that Bariau falls somewhere between Time’s grittiness and Screw’s humour: late-night soap opera, if you will, meant not as an insult but very much a compliment.

Watch the full series on BBC iPlayer here.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams