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Bilingual prison drama ‘Bariau’ gets rave reviews from critics

06 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Bariau. Image: S4C

A gritty new S4C drama, set within the harsh confines of a contemporary adult male prison, has received rave reviews from critics who have described it as ’thrilling’ and ‘dark’.

Based on testimonies from real-life prisoners and prison guards, six-part series Bariau explores the complex interplay between four central characters on both sides of the law – highlighting the profound impact of the decisions they make on themselves and those around them.

Star cast

The bilingual Welsh-English drama stars Adam Woodward (Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, ITV’s Emmerdale) as Kit and Bill Skinner as George (Apple TV’s Ted Lasso) – both making their debut appearance in a S4C drama, starring alongside Welsh actors Annes Elwy (BBC’s Wolf, S4C’s Y Golau/The Light in the Hall) and Gwion Tegid (S4C’s Rownd a Rownd and Yr Amgueddfa) as Barry.

The series is written by Ciron Gruffydd (S4C’s Limbo) and directed by Griff Rowland (S4C’s Hinterland, BBC’s Wizards vs Aliens.

Bill Skinner as George in Bariau. Image: S4C

Produced by Rondo Media, Bariau has injected hundreds of thousands of pounds into Llangefni’s economy. The production’s impressive two floor set comprising 24 cells covering almost 2,500 m2 was built by local tradesmen on Stage 1 of Aria Studios.

The production employed around 80 people, including 18 former workers from the 2 Sisters chicken plant- a major Llangefni factory which shut earlier this year.

James Mellor, the third Assistant Director on the drama is one of the previous employees of 2Sisters who worked on the production. James Mellor said:

“Bariau could not have come at a better time for Llangefni. Having lost one of the biggest employers on Anglesey, Rondo Media and Aria Studios have given the area a much needed boost. Many people suffered financially and mentally due the closure of 2 Sisters but, in my role on the production, I was able to help lighten that burden, by offering work on and off screen to former factory workers.

“When 2 Sisters closed, it was the main topic of conversation for months. Now I can’t walk into a shop without being asked about the drama, its release date, and what’s coming next to Aria Studios.”

‘Spectacular locations’

Aria Studios, which opened in January 2023, was established by Rondo Media and S4C’s commercial arm, S4C Digital Media Limited to capitalise on the growing number of productions attracted to the spectacular locations across north Wales.

With support from the Welsh Government through Creative Wales, the studios have two fully soundproofed studio stages offering a total of 20,000 square foot of filming space, for Welsh production companies to use and to attract film and television producers outside of Wales to film in the area.

It is hoped that Aria will become a hub for talent and skills development with plans to provide training and development opportunities for careers within the film and TV sector. Media trainees from Sgil Cymru and MSbarc were given the opportunity to work as part of the production crew on Bariau.

Gwion Tegid as Barry Hardy in Bariau. Image: S4C

Gerwyn Evans, Deputy Director, Creative Wales, said: “It’s fantastic to see the facilities at Aria Studios being utilised by production companies to create new, original Welsh content.

Aria’s launch has been a huge boost to the North Wales region, by becoming the new home for Rondo Media, creating opportunities for the local workforce and offering local trainees the chance to gain experience of working on a set in a live environment.

“ARIA is also part of a new pan-Wales skills initiative, Wales Screen Academy, which was launched recently. Led by University of South Wales, in partnership with Bangor University and Screen Alliance Wales, the project will create three new Screen Academies inside Cardiff-based Greatpoint Studios, Dragon Studios in Bridgend and Aria Studios on Anglesey, to deliver the skills, education and training for people to pursue a career in film and TV.

“This announcement sends a very positive message to the industry – Aria is open for business, and we hope that this will lead to more production companies choosing north Wales as their next location.”

Bariau follows the success of S4C’s first major bilingual crime drama Bang, which was set in Port Talbot. Created and written by Roger Williams, the first series, which broadcast in 2017, was shortlisted for the Writers’ Guild Award and won best drama awards at the BAFTA Cymru Awards and the Celtic Media Festival. It was the first S4C drama to be acquired by the BBC in its original form and was sold to territories worldwide including North America, Canada and Sweden.

S4C Drama Commissioner Gwenllian Gravelle said: “Bariau reflects the harsh reality of life inside a modern prison in Wales – with Welsh speaking and English speaking characters – as you would expect to find there, played by outstanding talent.

“We’re delighted that recent dramas such as Dal y Mellt and Y Golau (The Light in the Hall) have enjoyed worldwide success and we hope that audiences in Wales and far beyond, will connect with this compelling series.”

Bariau first aired on S4c on Wednesday 3 January, with future episodes at 9pm each Wednesday. Alternatively, you can tune in on S4C Clic or BBC iPlayer.

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