New show signals High Hopes for BBC Wales comedy
of south Wales' shadiest specimens are about to take over the TV
screens, as BBC Wales' new sit com High Hopes gets set for
an autumn screening.
The comedy, which will air weekly on BBC ONE Wales from the end
of September, takes a sideways look at the larger-than-life characters
in the fictitious valleys town of Cwm Pen-ol (literally translated
as "Backside Valley") - a place where a life of crime
is de rigeur.
Self-appointed professor of crime Richard "Fagin" Hepplewhite
(Robert Blythe originally from Port Talbot, The Lifeboat) is an
ageing agoraphobic whose career in crime has been less than glittering.
rogue, he prefers to think of himself as "a spider at the centre
of an intricate web" as he attempts to orchestrate the networks
of criminal activity that he invents in the comfort of his own shabby
Fagin's quirky Mam, Elsie (Margaret John from Sketty, Swansea, Z
Cars), runs the Hepplewhite household.
woman - always on hand with tea and angel cake - she is the proud
owner of a vast collection of pinnies and she knows how to make
a sex toy from a lump of putty and an old alarm clock.
Dwayne Hoffman (Steven Meo from Ystradgynlais, Swansea, Belonging)
and Charlie Jenkins (Ben Evans from Pontardulais, Swansea, Honk)
are homeless teenage scallywags trying to scrape a living by operating
on the wrong side of the law.
no homes to go to - Hoffman's parents are divorced and disinterested
in him while Charlie's mum is busy giving "executive relief"
in the car parks of Neath - the pair stumble across Fagin and Mam
during a midnight burglary raid on 66 Investiture Crescent.
The six-part surreal situation comedy was filmed in and around the
south Wales valleys, with BBC Wales' new Head of Comedy Gareth Gwenlan
leading the cast and crew as producer/director.
Viewers will also spot cameo appearances throughout the series by
actors including Philip Madoc and Anna Mountford, and by the writer
of the show Boyd Clack.
Gareth Gwenlan, who is best known for producing Only Fools and Horses,
has teamed up with Welsh comedian Boyd Clack - who wrote and starred
in cult hit Satellite City - for this major comedy production, the
first for BBC Wales in many years.
Hudson, BBC Wales Head of Programmes, English Language, said:"I
think viewers in Wales are going to love High Hopes.
got great characters, it's brilliantly observed and most of all
it's very, very funny. Boyd Clack, Gareth Gwenlan, and the wonderful
cast have given us a real treat for the autumn."
High Hopes team tell it like it is
BBC Wales Head of Comedy Gareth Gwenlan, who comes from Brecon,
explains how High Hopes was created: "Boyd Clack has already
established a reputation for creating comedy drama in Wales. His
idea was put forward, and we decided to commission it.
"In comedy terms, there's very little difference between High
Hopes and Only Fools and Horses, except that Only Fools and Horses
are 75 minute films so it's a different scale.
"But by and large, they're both comedies made in front of an
audience - and the Welsh audience for High Hopes were just as enthusiastic
as any Fools audience I've seen.
"If comedy is good, it transcends the geographical boundaries
it sets - just look at the popularity of Last Of The Summer Wine
which is set in Yorkshire, or Only Fools And Horses which is London-based."
Writer Boyd Clack, who grew up in Tonyrefail and lives in Cardiff,
sparked the original idea for the comedy.
Boyd Clack says he sees this comedy as Dickensian: "It's about
a world of poverty, which Dickens is very familiar with.
"Life in the 21st century is not a lot different to how it
was in Dickensian times - it's how human beings are.
"We're fully aware that the people who consider themselves
as the great and good are often absolute charlatans.
an ordinary close knit loving family like the Hepplewhites, who
appear to be just a bunch of thieves, are actually very moral. It's
all about values.
"I'm Welsh working class and I've known all sorts of weird
and wonderful beings. I really like Welsh people - there is a gentleness
and goodness to us."
Actor Robert Blythe, originally from Port Talbot, describes his
character Fagin: "Fagin is agoraphobic, paranoid, disillusioned
and he thinks he's an expert on the world economy, but he isn't.
"He's spent eight years in prison, and now he has a real desire
to show off.
"Boyd Clack has written a wonderful script for High Hopes and
the characters are very warm-hearted, eccentric and very funny.
Gwenlan has to be the best director in his business, and he's certainly
the best comedy director I've worked with.
"Fagin takes Hoffman and Charlie in, partly because he likes
the fact that they're impressed by him, but also because he's very
good hearted and good natured."
Margaret John, from Swansea, describes her character Mam: "She
totally supports this son of hers - she loves him to bits and they
couldn't live without each other.
"She believes everything he says, and she'll happily quote
him - even though he makes things up.
"She loves the boys to bits, she's totally motherly and nothing
seems to throw her. I think she's been about a bit in her time.
"On one hand she's very straightforward and innocent, but on
the other she knows all about drugs and sex. She's great fun to
play, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it.
"I think it's a sign of a good comedy if the cast are all still
laughing at the lines, and we are. Even the sound man on set was
laughing out loud while we were recording."
Notes to Editors
BBC Wales aims high with
its Autumn Season for 2002