Requiem

In 1994, a toddler disappeared from a small Welsh village, never to be seen again.

Published: 22 January 2018
We’ve all seen stories that kick off with the hero losing a loved one, but what if this story began with the hero losing herself?
— Kris Mrksa, creator and writer

Twenty three years later, in London, the mother of rising cello star Matilda Gray commits suicide, without apparent reason.

Among her possessions, Matilda discovers tantalising evidence that links her mother to the Welsh girl’s disappearance all those years ago.

And so grief-stricken Matilda travels to Wales, determined to explore this mystery, even if it means unraveling her own identity. In the process, she uncovers long buried secrets in this remote community - including one secret more bizarre, terrifying and dangerous than anything she could have imagined. Dark otherworldly forces are gathering - they have been waiting many years for Matilda to arrive.

If every life is a story, then for most of us, it’s our parents who write the opening chapters. They record and remember our early childhoods as we cannot, acting as trusted witnesses to our lives.

But what if you discovered that your parent might have lied to you? That almost everything they’d said about their own history, and yours, might have been untrue?

Requiem takes its inspiration from the psychological horror films of the late 1960s and ‘70s - Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and The Innocents, avoiding easy answers, and instead playing on uncertainty and ambiguity.

It’s also a rumination on the nature of memory, identity, and loss, hinging on a universal truth: that when a parent dies, a part of you dies with them.

Requiem is written by Kris Mrksa (episodes one to four and six) and Blake Ayshford (episode five). The series is directed by Mahalia Belo, produced by Susan Breen and executive produced by Willow Grylls, Elaine Pyke and Charlie Pattinson for New Pictures, Kris Mrksa and Christopher Aird for BBC.

RC

Introduction by creator and writer Kris Mrksa

For me, stories often coalesce when several apparently unrelated ideas collide, and I suddenly notice that they might actually be part of the very same story. Requiem grew out of just such a collision.

The first element was my lifelong passion for scary movies. I don’t mean the kind of in-your-face horror film that seems to be so ubiquitous these days. I’m talking about subtle-scary, the kind that trades on mood, and a sense of disquiet, slowly building to something that is ultimately far more disturbing and unsettling. There are a string of movies that do this beautifully but Don’t Look Now and Rosemary’s Baby sit on top of my hit list.

I found myself wondering whether that sensibility, with its sophistication, restraint, ambiguity, and psychological complexity might be transplanted into longer form television drama. Was there a way of maintaining it over six hours?

The second key ingredient was a fascination with the nature of personal identity. There seems to be a popular obsession with identity right now, with the idea that you might be able to find out who you “really” are, whether that’s through DNA testing, studying your family tree, or doing some sort of personal actualisation course. I’m doubtful about the value of this stuff, but I found myself pondering the compulsion that underlies these activities.

Most particularly, I found myself wondering about how a person might feel if they did get a definitive answer to the question “who am I, really?”, but it was not at all what they expected? If it turned everything they thought they knew about themselves on its head?

We’ve all seen stories that are kicked-off by the hero losing a loved one, but what if this story began with the hero losing herself?

The final element was not so much a story idea, as a mythological underpinning. I’d been reading about an alchemist and mystic, and I discovered that they had some very intriguing beliefs, based on a world view that was both idiosyncratic, yet surprisingly coherent. Suddenly, everywhere I looked, these philosophies started cropping up, in books and newspaper articles, on TV and in museum exhibits. And it just seemed too good to ignore.

You can see what I meant when I said that the three elements were apparently unconnected. It’s when I suddenly saw how they might all fit together, in a way that was surprising, yet also satisfyingly neat, that I knew I had a TV series. And so Requiem was born.

Matilda (Lydia Wilson)

Matilda is a brilliant young cellist whose considerable domestic success is about to be eclipsed by an exciting new opportunity in New York.

As a child, it was her single mother Janice who drove Matilda hard to succeed, and their relationship was often intense and difficult as a result. This was amplified by the fact that Janice was Matilda’s only family, while Matilda’s career was Janice’s only project. Still, Janice was a loving and attentive parent, and Matilda was happy.

Yet there has always been something dark looming just beyond the edge of Matilda’s consciousness, a darkness which goes all the way back to her childhood. Perhaps it has something to do with her odd, isolated family life, the lack of a father, siblings, even aunts and uncles. But whatever the cause, there is a barely registered hole in Matilda’s life, which she has always been striving to fill.

Hal Fine (Joel Fry)

Hal is Matilda’s accompanist - in music and in life. A dedicated music-nerd, Hal’s public school polish can’t hide a certain lovable gawkiness.

If Matilda’s musicality comes from a place of passion and intuition, Hal’s is all intellect and rigour. Hal has been in love with Matilda from the moment he met her; a love that he knows will never be reciprocated, at least not in the way he wishes. Matilda knows it too, of course, yet they never speak of it.

Perhaps because they both understand that once Hal’s true feelings are acknowledged, their easy friendship will never be the same. Still, their friendship is real, and deep - and grounded in their shared love of music.

Sylvia Walsh (Tara Fitzgerald)

Local antiques dealer Sylvia has a seemingly quiet life in Penllynith. She makes her money from plundering deceased estates for items that could be restored and sold on, which brings her directly into Nick’s orbit. Sylvia’s obsession with historical artefacts hides a much deeper fascination with the past.

Janice Gray (Joanna Scanlan)

On first appearances, Janice appears to be a dedicated (if somewhat clingy and neurotic) stage mum who is immensely proud of her daughter Matilda’s musical success.

Janice does not trust easily and has always kept herself to herself, preferring to dedicate herself to Matilda’s burgeoning career, rather than to focus on a life of her own.

But Janice's decision to take her own life is so profoundly out of the blue that it forces Matilda to question whether she really knew her own mum or indeed, just what would have compelled her mother to do such a thing?

Rose Morgan (Claire Rushbrook)

Rose was a bright, beautiful and charismatic soul who seemed to have it all. But the tragedy of losing her daughter Carys has derailed her entire life, destroying her first marriage, and very nearly destroying her.

She has fought hard to keep herself on an even keel over the last few years, especially for the sake of her young son Davey.

However Matilda’s arrival in Penllynith quickly threatens to unravel Rose’s fragile mental state. And Rose is holding her own secrets about that time. Above all, the tragedy of losing Carys still sits in her heart, like a bomb. And all it needs is for someone to light the fuse.

Aron Morgan (Richard Harrington)

A man of action rather than intellect, Aron has never dreamt of leaving Penllynith. Rather, his ambition has always been to become the biggest fish in his very own small pond.

He is married to Rose and is incredibly protective of his son Davey. However he has a darker, controlling side of this personality which has slowly started to sour their marriage. Worse still, he has a deep-down understanding that he was Rose’s second choice. Which for Aron, is simply a sign that he needs to tighten his grip even more.

Stephen Kendrick (Brendan Coyle)

Detective Inspector Kendrick led the original investigation in Carys Howell’s disappearance. Although now retired, he is still a pillar of the local community and has a close relationship with Rose Morgan, having been made godfather to her son Davey.

Kendrick has a son of his own who he adores, but who is sadly in the tertiary stages of a degenerative disease.

PC Graves (Clare Calbraith)

Graves is a sensible country girl turned conscientious cop. Despite having lived in Penllynith for nearly 12 years, the English Graves is still treated as an outsider. But community is something she can take or leave. Graves is more interested in doing her job well.

An honest but pragmatic person by nature, Graves understands that some minor local crimes should be overlooked, for the greater good. However, when one case refuses to conform to this pattern, Graves sets out on a dangerous journey to try and uncover why.

Nick Dean (James Frecheville)

Handsome, charming and easy-going, Nick’s happy go lucky exterior conceals serious problems. Despite his natural gifts, Nick has achieved very little in his life, aside from stacking up some serious debt, and a string of broken relationships, including one ex-girlfriend with a baby, who is demanding child support.

So when he was contacted with the news of an unexpected inheritance, Nick was over the moon, hoping that the windfall would solve his considerable problems. However when things don’t go his way, Nick is driven to even more desperate measures to recoup some much needed cash.

Sean Howell (Sam Hazeldine)

Sean loved nothing more than his small family. But his idyllic life was shattered when his daughter Carys disappeared.

A suspect in the original police investigation, his relationship with Rose subsequently broke down and Sean found himself disconnecting from everything. Unable to let the past go, but unable to leave it behind either, Sean has been drawn back to Penllynith.

He has not had a proper conversation with another human being in 10 years, so his social skills are atrophied - and yet Sean might hold the key to what happened all those years ago.

Trudy Franken (Sian Reese-Williams)

Trudy runs her father’s pub and despite her seemingly tough exterior, she has a fragile and tormented soul. When Trudy was a young girl she made a terrible mistake that has coloured the rest of her life - a mistake that she thinks contributed to Carys’ disappearance.

Trudy is a woman haunted by the question of what could have been, and by self-loathing at the part she played in the Carys mystery. Matilda’s arrival in Penllynith brings all of this pain back to the surface and forces Trudy to confront some uncomfortable secrets in her past.

Ed Fenton (Dyfan Dwyfor)

Local gardener and handyman Ed isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but would be content with the humble life he has, if only there was enough paid work for him to provide for him and his on/off girlfriend Trudy.

Ed believes if he could only make some serious cash, Trudy might finally see him as a viable husband and commit. But this desperation to impress soon lands Ed in hot water, and he finds himself dangerously out of his depth.

Harry Franken (Ifan Huw Dafydd)

Local publican Harry has been at the heart of community life in Penllynith for many years. However, when his wife Natalie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Harry was naturally devastated. As the relentless cycle of treatment continued, the normally gregarious Harry began to crumble. Matilda’s arrival in Penllynith threatens to break open old secrets and wounds.

Verity Satlow (Pippa Haywood)

Verity grew up in Penllynith but then moved away to a prestigious English university to study where she met her husband Lloyd.

They moved back to Penllynith in the hope of starting a family, but to Verity’s heartache she never fell pregnant. Verity is the local GP and is well known and liked throughout the town.

Lloyd Satlow (Simon Kunz)

Lloyd is a local solicitor who has a comfortable life with Verity. A pillar of the community, Lloyd is a conventional, conservative man who enjoys the simpler pleasures in life.

Royce (Charles Dale)

A pot-smoking sheep farmer, Royce inherited his farm from his dad and has managed to wring a bare living out of it ever since. He’s lived alone for too long, and as a result, has started to get a wee bit eccentric.

Shortly (Darren Evans)

A very green junior constable, only recently started out in the job but eager to learn the ropes. Shortly fancies himself a comedian, but it’s not an opinion that anyone else would share, as his jokes are generally terrible.

Natalie Franken (Nicola Reynolds)

A figure of tragedy, Natalie’s life was shattered by her ovarian cancer diagnosis - something she bravely shielded daughter Trudy from. As her body betrayed her, Natalie’s husband Harry stood strong by her side. But not every man is unbreakable, and she soon learnt conviction in her husband’s love would be the greatest tragedy to befall her.

Laura (Anastasia Hille)

Fraught and fragile from years of struggle with depression and psychosis, Laura has battled against the mysterious voice inside her head that has haunted her for most of her life - ever since the disappearance of Carys Howell.

In recent years, with medication and welfare support, she’s managed to claw back a sense of normality, convincing herself the voice is nothing but her broken mind. But when she meets Matilda, all this is thrown into question.

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