BILIN­GUAL DRAMA GO­ING FOR SCANDI-NOIR AU­DI­ENCE

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - JES­SICA WALFORD Re­porter jes­sica.walford@waleson­line.co.uk

ANEW bilin­gual TV drama is hop­ing to at­tract in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences in the same vein as Scan­di­na­vian shows like The Killing and The Bridge. Set and filmed in Port Tal­bot, Bang, which started on S4C last week, fol­lows the story of po­lice­woman Gina, played by Ca­trin Ste­wart, and her brother Sam, played by Ja­cob Ifan, who has his life trans­formed when he comes into pos­ses­sion of a gun.

The show has been billed as the first ma­jor bilin­gual Welsh show of its kind with char­ac­ters speak­ing in both Welsh and English, re­flect­ing how lan­guage is used by many people in Wales in 2017.

Bilin­gual­ism and sub­ti­tles have be­come a dis­tinc­tive style within the Scan­di­na­vian noir genre, born from the suc­cess of crime dra­mas like The Bridge and The Killing.

Like the Scandi-noir hits, Bang fol­lows a sim­i­lar model.

For pro­ducer Ca­trin Lewis De­fis, the com­bi­na­tion of the two lan­guages was sim­ply re­flec­tive of the world we live in.

“Hav­ing a bilin­gual com­mis­sion for Bang made it very ex­cit­ing for me be­cause it’s the way we speak to­day in Wales,” she said.

“I move be­tween speak­ing Welsh to Welsh-speak­ing friends and English to English-speak­ing friends al­most within the same para­graph and that’s how we’ve pro­duced Bang.

“I think we switch re­ally nat­u­rally be­tween both lan­guages and it shows the way that Wales and the Welsh lan­guage is to­day.

“It’s bril­liant be­cause we can take the Welsh lan­guage fur­ther, rather than mak­ing an ex­cuse for it and dub­bing it in English, we’re go­ing to take the Welsh out there with the English and that makes this project re­ally fresh and in­no­va­tive.”

Di­rec­tor Philip John from New­port, who di­rected six of the eight episodes of the Welsh se­ries, wasn’t hin­dered by his in­abil­ity to speak Welsh.

“I am Welsh, very proud to be Welsh, but it’s not part of my back­ground and when I was ap­proached to maybe di­rect a bilin­gual se­ries, I fig­ured that I’ve been do­ing this for 20 years and I can tell what emo­tions are be­ing put over or put across in per­for­mance,” he said.

“So as long as I know what’s be­ing said, then I can deal with the emo­tional side of it.

“I had a trans­la­tion to learn and work with so I knew what the ac­tors were say­ing to each other when they’re work­ing in Welsh.

“I was a lit­tle bit ner­vous to be­gin with, but then once we started do­ing the au­di­tions it calmed those nerves.

“Ev­ery­body was given a Welsh ver­sion and an English ver­sion, be­cause I thought, ‘Well, I’d like to hear it in English at least,’ and then after a day I just thought, ‘For­get the English, we’ll just keep do­ing it in Welsh, be­cause I can un­der­stand what the em­pha­sis is on what the emo­tion is,’ and I could di­rect. So it was fine.”

For ac­tor Ja­cob Ifan, star­ring in a bilin­gual show felt “com­pletely nat­u­ral”.

“I feel that the way we have filmed Bang is ac­tu­ally re­flec­tive of how people do ex­ist and speak in Wales,” he said.

“Not ev­ery­one speaks per­fect Welsh, so there’s Wenglish too you know!

“I’ll be do­ing a scene and I’ll be speak­ing one lan­guage to one per­son and then we’ll switch.

“I think we need to trust au­di­ences be­cause we’re plenty used to do­ing that with TV shows now: pro­grammes such as The Bridge or Nar­cos where people are far more open to sub­ti­tles and the like.

“In drama, I al­ways feel that the duty of the pro­duc­tion is to re­flect the so­ci­eties that we live in.

“I hope people in Wales re­act to the Bang ap­proach well. It makes it dif­fer­ent but I think, hope­fully, people re­late to it.”

It’s not the first Welsh drama which has found an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence.

In 2014, rights to crime-thriller Hin­ter­land were sold to Ger­many, the USA and Canada.

Rights to the show’s third se­ries were sold to Ice­land, Aus­tralia, Hol­land, Fin­land, Nor­way and New Zealand be­fore it was even com­mis­sioned, with view­ers in Brit­tany and Bel­gium also able to watch the orig­i­nal se­ries.

It was also avail­able on Net­flix in the USA, Canada and Scan­di­navia.

Back in 2014, Kaare Sch­midt, ac­qui­si­tions ex­ec­u­tive at Dan­ish TV net­work DR, said Hin­ter­land could open the door for more Welsh dra­mas in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

He said at the time: “If any­thing I think Hin­ter­land could show even more of the Welsh lan­guage to high­light its own iden­tity.”

Now Bang’s bosses hope the show can repli­cate Hin­ter­land’s suc­cess – and it’s al­ready prov­ing to be a hit, with the rights to the show al­ready be­ing sold to Swe­den.

More coun­tries are ex­pected to fol­low.

“People are now aware of the qual­ity of work avail­able here,” said Bang’s cre­ator, writer and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Roger Wil­liams.

“There are media dis­trib­u­tors in London who don’t even know where Wales is but be­cause Hin­ter­land was sold to a large num­ber of com­pa­nies, it means people will have con­ver­sa­tions with us about other pro­grammes.

“Of course, our show is dif­fer­ent to Hin­ter­land. We have only got one ver­sion of our show and that is a pre­dom­i­nantly Welsh ver­sion.

“There is a per­cent­age of English but it’s ba­si­cally a Welsh show.

“It’s un­known ter­ri­tory to an ex­tent. But people are far more pre­pared to watch sub­ti­tled shows – The Killing was the break­through in that.

“But there was a big op­por­tu­nity for us to say we’ve got this se­ries which is in Welsh but it’s got a good story. People have to take a risk with it.”

Bang airs on S4C tonight at 9pm.

‘I think we switch re­ally nat­u­rally be­tween both lan­guages and it shows the way that Wales and the Welsh lan­guage is to­day’ – pro­ducer Ca­trin Lewis De­fis on new S4C drama Bang

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