‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ – and in the context of winter viewing, this is the series that will surely save any dull January; the ensemble murder mystery drama to grab your attention and outdo any Agatha Christie or drunken game of Cluedo.
The series is an exciting new project between S4C and production company Boom Cymru, combining stylish directing, subtle acting, and skilled scriptwriting by Fflur Dafydd, in eight hour-long episodes, starting on S4C on January 6th.
Boom Cymru producer, Paul Jones, summarises the drama in figures: ‘Onscreen, the action happens over a period of 35 hours – with 1 murder court case, 12 jury members, 3 deaths, 2 accidents, and a great many personal problems’.
‘Add to this a sex scene that hasn’t been seen on S4C before, and we hope it makes for exciting stuff!’
Although part of the popular 35 Diwrnod series, 35 Awr will follow a slightly different path, with a restriction on the usual timeline, a faster and more gripping feel from the beginning, and two whodunnit stories running parallel.
These two stories include the present-time plot of the jury members, as they try to manage the court case and their complex lives in a jury room and a country hotel; and the story of the criminal case in question, which is gradually revealed through flashbacks and the present tense.
Playing the 12 jury members is a brilliant ensemble cast, including Gillian Elisa, Christine Pritchard, Jâms Thomas, Lisa Victoria – in her first role since Pobol y Cwm, Tara Bethan, Iestyn Arwel, Rebecca Hayes, Dafydd Llŷr Tomas, Lisa Marged, Aled Pedrick, Carwyn Jones and Gareth John Bale; also starring in the drama are Ioan Hefin and Lowri Palfrey, and two promising new actors, Aled ap Steffan and Sion Eifion.
Between them, they play a multitude of interesting characters, including a sad and troubled defendant, a fussy librarian with OCD, a scheming young girl, and a confused and emotional mother – and none of the actors were told about eachothers’ scripts, nor what part they play – if any – in the opening scene’s death.
Like the previous series, it is this suspicious ‘death’ that first grabs our attention, and during the opening moments of the first episode – before we turn to the jury’s proceedings – we get a sudden flash-forward of the horrific scene towards the finale, as the figure of someone on fire flails on the hotel steps.
And if that death is absolutely horrific, the court case murder creates discomfort in another, sinister, complex, emotional and tragic way, leading to a very real threat to the jury members’ safety – from many directions.
It’s this threat which means that the 12 – who are in the middle of discussing the case – must be moved to a country house hotel to await further instructions; but of course the wine flows, tongues loosen, and tensions rise, causing bickering, fighting, sexual relationships, scheming, deception and more…
Author Fflur Dafydd, who also wrote the popular series Parch and the exciting film Y Llyfrgell, said, ‘The absolute irony of course is that a group of biased and arbitrary people whose own lives are so messy, are responsible for debating a complex court case and determining a stranger’s fate’.
‘I think it’s the quiet, profound character of Steve who best sums this up when he says: ‘We’re just people – imperfect people with all sorts of prejudices – and we are supposed to work out what the truth is’.
‘The characters are in an unusual ‘pressure cooker’ situation due to the stress of the case and the restriction on their freedom – and the whole thing has the potential to spin completely out of control.
‘But despite the dark events, inevitably some humour also stems from the fact that 12 people with nothing in common must spend so much time together!’.
To watch the whole thing unravel, tune in to S4C weekly at 9pm on Sunday evenings, from January 6th.
Sunday 6 January, 9.00, S4C
English subtitles available
Available to watch on-demand at s4c.cymru, BBC iPlayer and other platforms
A Boom Cymru production for S4C