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24 September 2014
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New show signals High Hopes for BBC Wales comedy

The cast of High Hopes

Some 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.

A loveable 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 front room.

Fagin's quirky Mam, Elsie (Margaret John from Sketty, Swansea, Z Cars), runs the Hepplewhite household.

A practical 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.

With 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.

Clare Hudson, BBC Wales Head of Programmes, English Language, said:"I think viewers in Wales are going to love High Hopes.

"It's 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."

The 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.

"Yet 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.

"Gareth 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



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