Now BBC 1 Keeping Faith with hit Welsh serial set on Welsh coast
Now BBC 1 Keeping Faith with hit serial set on Welsh coast
Keeping Faith was already a broadcasting phenomenon, even before it opened on July 12th (2018), prime-time, on BBC1 TV (Thursdays, 21.00).
The eight part drama, set in South Wales (the principal locations are Laugharne, Carmarthen, Swansea and the splendid Carmarthenshire and Glamorgan coastline) revolves around the magnificent, yellow-coated Faith Howells (Eve Myles), a small-town lawyer and mother of three, whose husband sets off for work one day and doesn’t come back. Faith’s challenge, with the pressure ratcheted up from episode to episode, is to find her husband and hold her family together.
There are several remarkable things about the series, written (in English) by Matthew Hall. Jointly produced by BBC Wales and Welsh-language channel S4C, it was made in English and Welsh versions, with each scene being shot twice, once in each language.
Eve Myles was so keen to play the part of the dominant central character Faith that she learnt Welsh so she could do so.
The third remarkable thing is the programme’s route to national TV. It started off on S4C, where it was screened in Welsh. Then it was shown on BBC Wales, in English. After that it was released on the BBC iPlayer, where the series has had 9 million downloads, almost certainly a record for the medium, making it the most prominent example of the genre of Cymru Noir. Lastly, and unusually, it is being screened on BBC, prime-time, after already having been widely available. Another big audience is in prospect.
As is normal practice with TV, and especially BBC productions, little is made of the locations – unlike feature films, they’re not identified in the programme credits. It could be argued that locations are secondary, and either they’re so well-known that they don’t have to be explained – speedboat chases on the River Thames for example – or it doesn’t matter that the majority of viewers don’t recognise places, because they are not important to the plot. As they are not in this series.
Yet when viewers see so many external shots of Faith’s very well-appointed seaside house, looking over a quiet and pretty little seaside town, with boats tied up on meandering channels and a castle in the background, their curiosity is bound to be aroused. This principle location is Laugharne, the Carmarthenshire village where the poet Dylan Thomas famously lived, worked and sat and talked in the pubs. The waterfront is the River Taf estuary, his “mussel pooled and heron priested shore”.
(The castle turned Tudor mansion – ‘Brown as owls’ in Thomas’s ‘Poem in October’ – was built in the 13th century by the de Brian family, probably on top of an earlier Norman structure. It was roughed up, in the 1600s, by Parliamentary forces after they captured it.)
There are many shots of the streets in the town, although the police station – and in real life this town is probably too small to have its own police station – is in Pontardawe, near Swansea.
Some of the courtroom scenes take place in Carmarthen, in the old town hall, although, as often happens with screen locations, sequences are merged into those filmed at another much bigger civic building, the Swansea, 20 miles to the east. One key scene shot in Guildhall Square, Carmarthen. The was my mistake you are you
The last thing the programme makers want for viewers to distract themselves by puzzling over seemingly impossible changes of location, when characters drive away and, within minutes, are at a place many miles away. It’s enough to say that certain scenes take place around Nash Point, far away in the east. But most of the waterside scenes were filmed at the estuary in Laugharne,
while some of the most dramatic beach sequences were shot nearby on the beach at Pendine.
Vague though the details of the locations are – only Swansea is name-checked in the script – I think it’s important that viewers have a single, approximate place in which to anchor this adventure when they could be watching it for eight hours, just as they knew that Broadchurch was set somewhere on the coast of Dorset. They need to know this is Carmarthenshire, with a few excursions east along the South Wales coast.
Footnote: Eve Myles played Gwen Parry-Jones, who has a brief liaison with Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw), in A Very English Scandal (BBC 1, 2018) the dramatised account of the saga that led to the political downfall of Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant).
And BBC Wales has announced that a script for a second series of Keeping Faith is in development.