‘Welsh language TV is quite special’ says star Joanna Scanlon as gripping new S4C drama is launched
Welsh drama fans are in for a treat as a brand new six-part psychological thriller Y Golau begins on S4C tonight with a star studded cast.
Y Golau/The Light in The Hall is described as a gripping and decidedly dark six-part drama centring around murdered teenager Ela Roberts.
Filmed in and around Ammanford, the drama reunites No Offence stars Joanna Scanlon and Alexander Roach while the sinister Game of Thrones tyrant Iwan Reon plays the convicted murderer on the verge of parole.
The female co-stars had different starting points when it came to the Welsh language, and admit they both found filming bilingually challenging initially.
Alexandra said: “It’s my first job in Welsh since leaving Pobol Y Cwm when I was 15 or 16. I haven’t lived in Wales since I was 17 so I was feeling really anxious about turning up on that first day and doing the English version and then ‘reit – nawr mewn i’r Gymraeg’. I was like ‘o my gosh am I going to be able to do this’.
“And that first couple of weeks doing back-to-back [English and Welsh] – you have to almost make new neurological pathways in your brain! That’s what it felt like especially after having had a baby just seven weeks before. By the end of week two you think ‘ah ok, I get this’ – and it becomes a very rewarding experience.”
Joanna described the project as one of her career highlights, but also one of the hardest things she has done, as, despite growing up in Wales, she was not a Welsh speaker at school.
She said: “Pleasure and pain mixed up together. Wales is a wonderful place to work. I’ve worked there a lot anyway, in the English language, but Welsh language TV is quite special.
“When I was asked to do this, I initially thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is an incredible honour to be asked to act in Welsh!’ – a kind of dream I’ve had since I was a child.
“I did lots of drama at school in a Welsh language environment, but I was never a Welsh speaker. However, when we actually got going, I was useless at it. Completely hopeless and pathetic.
“My niece came down to stay with me and she just drilled me. She’s North Walian, and that’s where my character’s from.”
Timely and important
Talking about the character she plays and the injustice and tragedy she faces, Joanna Scanlon reflects on how timely a work it is.
“Sharon is an emotionally driven individual. She spent 15 years emotionally raging, grieving, weeping and screaming about the fact the convicted murderer will not say where the body of her daughter is.
“I think she surprises herself, in the fact that she has no more respectable boundaries. She is so rageful that she has to take things into her own hands.
“It’s a very important piece of television because it talks about the way our memories and our prejudices can misguide us – from the truth, looking at ourselves, and from our own responsibilities.
“It’s a very timely and important piece of drama, because one woman is killed every three days in the United Kingdom [2021 Femicide Census]. In 2021, 21 women were murdered in London.
“The impact on their families and loved ones is huge. So, I think it’s a very important story to talk about – and the consequences of murder, how we look at the truth, and where we find the truth.
“A lot of the people in this story are wrong about what they think is the truth. And that, I think, chimes for me in real life. You can [have] some kind of self-righteous idea [of how] you remember events, but actually, when they’re examined, they’re not correct. And you need to go outside of your own subjective feelings to find the truth.”
S4C’s dark new drama tells the story of Sharon Roberts (Scanlan) who has never stopped grieving the loss of her daughter, Ela.
Joe Pritchard (Rheon), a quiet, unassuming gardener, was arrested for Ela’s murder after her DNA was found at his caravan. Although Joe confessed to killing Ela he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, say why or what he did with her body.
Journalist Cat Donato (Roach), originally from the same town as Ela, has always been obsessed by her murder. Ela had been part of her circle of friends but prior to her murder Ela had been ostracised over a silly teenage squabble, a fact that Cat has tried her best to forget.
The news of Joe’s parole hearing and the prospect of his release causes both women to confront the past and the part they played in Ela’s final days.
With so many questions unanswered, Joe’s return to the community could be a way to get to the bottom of the mystery once and for all. If Joe Pritchard did kill Ela, why did he do it, and where is the body?
Y Golau starts tonight at 9.00pm on S4C with English subtitles available. It will be available on demand via S4C Clic, iPlayer and other platforms and the English version will air on Channel 4 and All4.
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