A new TV drama has been hailed as a Welsh cross between Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the Italian Job – with a horsebox in tow.
The HBX model provided by Ifor Williams Trailers plays a key role in the S4C series because the plot of Dal y Mellt (Catching the Lightning) revolves largely around a magnificent, jet black stallion called Chief.
The show is based on the contemporary thriller novel of the same name, written by Iwan ‘Iwcs’ Roberts, from Trawsfynydd, and set in rural Meirionethshire, Cardiff and Soho in London.
The six part series made by Cardiff-based Vox Pictures will be shown on S4C this autumn.
Among the stars is Mark Lewis Jones, originally from Rhos, near Wrexham, whose long list of screen credits includes blockbuster films like Master and Commander and Robin Hood alongside Russell Crowe, Game of Thrones and more recently, Keeping Faith, and the Welsh version of the hit TV drama, Un Bore Mercher (One Wednesday Morning).
During a break in filming some pivotal scenes at a remote farm, Bryn Ifan, near Clynnog, on the Llyn Peninsula, Mark paid tribute to his former drama teacher, Gwawr Mason, who sadly passed away in 2020.
It was her inspiration while he was a pupil at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, in Wrexham, that ignited his ambition to become a professional actor.
It led to his stellar career on film, television and on stage, including a spell with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Mark said: “I well remember the moment she asked me to be in a play, Culhwch and Olwen, at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd.
“For some reason, I agreed. I had no interest in acting prior to that and no-one in my family had ever gone into the arts.
“That moment changed my life. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all the help she gave to people like me and working class families around Rhos and Wrexham. She helped very many of us, not just me.
“She was a very special woman. She had a lot of influence over us as young people at the time. That was around 40 years ago and I’ve been working since then.”
In the series, Mark plays a shady character called Mici Ffin, who runs a garage and suffers from PTSD.
He added; “Superficially, he’s as cool as a cucumber but underneath, there are many problems. He’s a complicated man. That’s always good to play and he’s a lovable rogue which is always fun.
“The horse called Chief is like another character in the series. He’s pretty spectacular and that’s important because the character’s important and a big part of the story.”
Chief is actually a nine-year-old Friesian horse called Odysseus, named after the hero of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey.
The spectacular stallion will be familiar to millions of viewers from other TV shows and films like The Crown and Mary Queen of Scots.
He was supplied by Dolbadarn Film Horses which was based in Llanberis for many years but has now relocated to Abergele.
Horse master Dylan Jones, who runs the company, said: “For me personally because we work with teams from London as well when there are big projects on, like Warhorse, Robin Hood, Game of Thrones, the best thing is to work on our own jobs such as Welsh projects and S4C.
He said: “Dal y Mellt is going to be a fantastic series and I enjoyed working with them 100 per cent. It’s been a lot of fun.
“Chief has a central role in the series and I’m pleased we’re using a HBX from Ifor Williams Trailers.
“I really like their trailers and I have been using them for years. Their horseboxes are the gold standard.”
Veteran actor Dyfan Roberts, originally from Rhydymain but now living in Llanrug, plays an embittered widower called Gronw, the father of Antonia who owns Chief.
He said: To a large extent, Gronw drives the plot. Something quite tragic has happened in his family and he wants revenge. He wants payback.
“Although it’s a crime thriller, there’s also a lot of humour. The characters are warm and very Welsh.
“It’s like a cross between the Guy Ritchie film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and the Michael Caine classic, The Italian Job, with a Welsh twist.
“It’s very interesting and I hope that the characters appeal to the Welsh audience. I’m sure they will.”
Young Anglesey actor Gwïon Morris Jones, who trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, has a starring role as Carbo whom he describes as a James Dean-type character.
Gwïon said: “We meet Carbo at the start of the series and he’s lost because he’s been running away from these bad people who have been chasing him.
“It’s a lot of fun but also a challenge because Carbo is a very different person to me.
“I’ve had some amazing experiences playing this part and I’ve done my own stunts. I’ve been fighting, driving fast cars and hung upside down from a crane.”
The person who’s bringing Dal y Mellt to life on television is Llyr Morus, whose CV includes producing Keeping Faith and Pobol y Cwm, who bought the TV rights even before the novel was published
He said: “Iwcs sent me a copy of the manuscript and I read it in one sitting of four hours. It was really gripping so I rang him straight away and told him it was fantastic.
“I think Iwcs had this idea of a film or a series from the start and so when you read the novel, it’s very visual because he’s seen it in pictures as he was writing it.
“The horse and the horsebox are central to the series. Gwyn Eiddior, our designer contacted Ifor Williams Trailers because he’d worked with them on a previous project, Prosiect Pum Mil.
“We’re very grateful that they agreed to support this production as well. It’s been great.”
The loan of the horsebox was arranged by Lois Wynne from Ifor Williams Trailers who was invited for a behind-the-scenes sneak peek during the shoot at Bryn Ifan.
She said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to play a small part in making this flagship drama series happen.
“Seeing the scenes being filmed gave me a fascinating insight into how everything works and I can’t wait to see it all come together on screen.
“The series is based on a brilliant novel by Iwcs and they have an incredibly strong cast so it promises to be a major highlight on S4C this autumn.”