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My Top 5 Showcase: Welsh TV Drama: 2010-2019

Continuing this series for Get the Chance, here I select my top five Welsh TV dramas of the last decade. They are not necessarily chosen on the basis of popular appeal or critical acclaim. Instead, this is a personal list from which you are free to agree or disagree entirely. Let me know your thoughts…

Baker Boys

Broadcast in 2011, this series was my first proper encounter with Welsh TV drama. Set in a tight-knit community in the South Wales Valleys, it focused on the impact of the economic recession on its population, many of whom suddenly find themselves unemployed when the local bakery goes bust. Timely and relevant, Gary Owen & Helen Raynor’s series featured a who’s-who of Welsh acting talent, with Eve Myles (Sarah) and Gareth Jewell (Owen) heading up efforts to save the company and make it work as a co-operative.

Hinterland (Y Gwyll)

Starring Richard Harrington and Mali Harries, this crime drama was one of the first to find broad appeal outside of its nation’s borders. Running for a mere twelve episodes, Harrington played DCI Tom Mathias, a man whose troubled soul was reflected in the bleak and desolate landscape of its setting. In fact, the wild and mountainous terrain of Ceredigion was such that Hinterland/Y Gwyll was labelled as the original ‘Welsh noir’ (after Nordic counterparts The Killing and The Bridge).

Keeping Faith (Un Bore Mercher)

When I sat down to watch Un Bore Mercher on S4C in 2017, I could not have imagined how big it would become. After its English-language version Keeping Faith was subsequently broadcast on BBC Wales, it became such a hit on iPlayer that it landed a prime-time slot on BBC1. The reason for its immense popularity was largely down to the juggernaut of a performance given by Eve Myles. She put in an emotionally-raw turn as lawyer Faith Howells, whose husband Evan goes missing, leading to the uncovering of a host of secrets that cast doubt on how well she really knew him. Myles deservedly won a BAFTA for her immersive portrayal.

Parch

Ok, so maybe I’m being a bit biased here, but despite the fact that I have a soft spot for TV vicars, this surrealist drama was still a hugely enjoyable and well-written series. I may have tuned in initially to follow the crazy and chaotic life of the show’s protagonist, the Reverend Myfanwy Elfed (played wonderfully by Carys Eleri), but I stayed because of the strength of the supporting cast. Writer Fflur Dafydd is masterful in creating well-rounded, fully formed characters, the effect here being a show that was full of heart.

Hidden (Craith)

Series one of this crime series featured standout performances from Rhodri Meilir (Dylan) and Gwyneth Keyworth (Megan). Series two brought us another excellent performance from rising star Annes Elwy (Mia). Holding it all together are Sian Reese-Williams and Sion Alun Davies, who play detectives Cadi John and Owen Vaughan respectively. They are chief investigators in storylines that reveal the killer early on. But this makes Hidden/Craith no less gripping, perhaps because of its intense focus on the personal lives of all its characters.

And I haven’t even mentioned Bang, 35 Diwrnod/35 Awr, Gwaith/Cartref, Alys…. Are there any others you can think of? What are your favourites?

Written by Gareth Williams

Review, Parch, S4C by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Last Sunday evening, I spent a good ten minutes with my hand firmly placed over my mouth. In the final episode of S4C drama series Parch, there was such an unexpected twist that I simply hadn’t seen coming. In my own words, ‘Well, that was a bombshell and a half’. To think that this is it, that we will no longer be following the crazy and chaotic life of the Reverend Myfanwy Elfed, is more than a little sad. Yet writer and creator Fflur Dafydd has reached the conclusion that this is a good time to say farewell to this most lovable of protagonists. It’s a little frustrating. Carys Eleri has brought such warmth and wit to her character that it has always been a pleasure to share in her company of a Sunday evening. But if she must go, then she has gone in the most beautifully tragic of ways. It felt like Dafydd always knew how this series was going to end. It made the final scenes no less surprising though. And for someone who has journeyed with Myfanwy through all three series, the emotional impact of this final section certainly hit hard.

It is only retrospectively looking back at the narrative arc of the main character that you begin to see the full artistic vision of Fflur Dafydd for Parch. As such, although gutted that this is the end of the road, I applaud her for having the conviction to draw a natural line in the sand and stick to it. So many TV drama series’ these days have a tendency to drag on a bit too long, remaining on our screens on the basis of their initial commercial success. What would have been the right time to stop is made into a springboard in an attempt to give fans more of what they love. Yet for so many it is like carrying on after reaching the edge of a cliff. Few fly. Many fall. As a result, I’m rather glad that Dafydd has refused to bow to the desires of people like me who want to see Parch continue. Instead, it will remain an ever-affectionate drama in my mind rather than a hoped-for return to a glorious past. Not that the series has to end due to Myfanwy’s absence. It is testament to the strength of Fflur Dafydd’s writing that, over the course of these three series, the focus has been as much on the other characters as the cleric of the title. As such, although initially a contemporary representation of a female priest within the Church in Wales, the series has also seen a broader focus on the trials and tribulations of the Elfed family and those around them. We have been involved as much with Gwenlli (Non Haf) and her struggles with her sexuality, for example, as we have been with Myfanwy and her faith. This final series, in particular, has been such an enjoyable watch in part due to Dafydd’s ability to hold the various storylines onscreen together. She has woven romance, mystery, fantasy, and family drama together so brilliantly that, in the end, it has become an ensemble piece. But, ultimately, it would be odd to continue in her absence. Even if she were to be like the ghostly visions that have accompanied her throughout the series’, somehow it wouldn’t be the same. In the end, Fflur Dafydd has made the right decision to bring Parch to a close.

Parch is another example of the high quality television drama that is currently being produced in Wales. As I’ve said recently, I think this is something a golden age for Welsh television drama. Having watched it alongside Keeping Faith, I can honestly say that Parch ranks just as highly in my view. It may not have won the plaudits that Keeping Faith has, but it has shown a quiet strength, epitomised by Carys Eleri’s performance. Whilst Eve Myles showcased her bold and brash physicality in Keeping Faith, Eleri has brought a humorous vigour and subtle power to her character in Parch. In doing so, she leaves behind an indelible mark of a veracious female lead who will be sorely missed.

So thank you, Fflur Dafydd. You may have left me in tears at the end, but the past three series have been a joy to watch. Parch will be missed.