Tag Archives: Port Talbot

Review, Steeltown Murders, BBC Wales by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Steeltown Murders may be yet another Welsh drama in the ever-popular crime genre, but it is very well done on the whole. Telling the true story of how DNA was used in a pioneering way to solve a cold case in Port Talbot, it flits between the 1973 setting of the murders of three girls and the early 2000s with ease. Starring Philip Glenister, whose accent was nicely perfected through immersion into his Welsh roots, alongside Steffan Rhodri, who play the chief investigating officers, it is a drama that is understated, and effective as a result. Verisimilitude permeates its presentation, and is its greatest strength.

The aesthetic is beige and brown, particularly in its 1970s scenes. The “present” day has a drop more colour but remains blunted by a noirish sensibility. It suits the story and the location well, the unsolved murders hanging over the families and wider community like the smoke from the factories. When music is used, it is in a typically melodramatic way, especially over highly emotional scenes and end-of-episode montages featuring the various characters that come into play. The cast is large, a result of spanning over two timelines partly, but even when each is considered separately, Steeltown Murders feels like an ensemble rather than a two-man show. Glenister’s DCI Paul Bethall is well-drawn – strong-willed, single-minded, haunted by the past – as is Rhodri’s DC Phil Bach – dry-humoured, attentive, poised. But even bit-part characters such as Seb, played by Matthew Gravelle, husband to Sita (Natasha Vasandani), who was two of the girls’ friend, is complete enough to add real weight to the narrative, particularly in its final episode. Whether this is down to its basis in real events, and therefore people, is open to question but, even in spite of this, every actor appears to embody their character with respective heart and attentiveness.

There is the slight criticism towards exposition, and explanation of the forensic and scientific methods that sound plainly for the audience’s benefit. This takes away slightly from its realism which is nevertheless strengthened by the localised accents on show and a bilingualism which, though under-used, was still welcome insofar as representation is concerned. Never for a moment can Glenister be thought of as merely a star signing, his commitment to the role and the overall drama depicted as much in Bethall’s seriousness as his relationship with Steffan Rhodri. The two make a great pairing, sparring off one another with an ease and respect that lightens the dark tone of the narrative. They never dominate the screen however, meaning that the case itself always takes centre-stage even when their part in it is pivotal.

This four-part drama may not be ground-breaking in-and-of itself but Steeltown Murders does tell a ground-breaking story of how DNA technology was used to catch a killer. As such, it is simple but effective; good at what it does, without breaking any new ground.

Click here to watch the series on BBC iPlayer.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Series 2 Review, Bang, S4C by Gareth Williams

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

After its acclaimed debut on S4C in 2017, it was surely only
a matter of time before Bang returned to our screens. Over
two years have passed since the first series, with writer Roger Williams
wasting no time in getting down to business. A visceral opening scene throws us
straight in at the deep end, posing plenty of intrigue. What follows is a
well-plotted second season that melds the development of returning characters’
stories with those of brand-new faces.

There is no sign of second series syndrome, with Williams
developing a strong central crime narrative that works perfectly well as a
stand-alone. This means that there is no overreliance on the likes of Sam
(Jacob Ifan) and Gina (Catrin Stewart), the brother and sister who were central
to the show’s original run. Instead, the continuation of their storyline is
just one of a number of other narrative strands – each fully rounded and
complete – that tie together nicely. It is the tightly-crafted way that
Williams weaves these strands and slowly draws them into a collective whole
that makes Bang such a satisfying

The gun remains a potent symbol in series two, though its
appearance is much more sporadic. It has shifted from being the singular
obsession of one to being the shared object of many. Its presence is felt, but
always underneath the surface in this latest six-episode run. The ramifications
of its use, however, are potently displayed in the character of Sam. Still
trying to come to terms with the death of his father by such a weapon in series
one, we find him grappling with PTSD. Ifan does an excellent job of conveying
Sam’s mental state; in fact, it is one of the most genuine onscreen portrayals I
have ever seen. Most make clear what they are trying to do. Yet here, through a
combination of fine acting, clever editing, choice camera angles, and pervasive
music, the producers of Bang manage
to capture Sam’s struggles so powerfully that I couldn’t help but be
emotionally moved.

The domestic abuse by DI Morgan Riley (Dyfan Dwyfor) on wife
Caryn (Hedydd Dylan) is no less affecting. Williams captures the subtle
manipulation and invasive cruelty of the husband really well, causing me to
turn away from the screen several times such was my discomfort in the face of
his underhand brutality. In fact, this subplot became more absorbing than the
central storyline, involving a serial killer enacting revenge for the rape of
Marissa Clarke (Sophie Melville) ten years earlier. The bloodbath that ensues
across the course of six episodes is fairly graphic. Yet it was the unseen
mental and emotional scars inflicted on the show’s characters that had me
reaching for the remote in distress.

Writer Roger Williams has not returned to Port Talbot in a
hurry. This second series of Bang feels
as much a labour of love as its first. It is another compelling story full of well-defined
characters dealing with pressing issues. Returning fans will not be
disappointed. And for those who haven’t yet seen it, I would recommend adding it
to your isolation watch-list.

You can watch the full series on Clic here.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams