Over the past week, something out of the ordinary has been happening in rural mid Wales as elephants roamed the countryside, echoing a local story that a circus elephant was buried in Tregaron in the 1840s.
The two African elephants, that have been staying in a secret location on the outskirts of Tregaron, are the stars of a new family film Y Syrcas which will be shown on S4C.
Although the story only features one elephant, Citta and Sandra have taken their turn to play the role. And despite the production only needing one elephant, both were brought here to keep each other company since they're sociable creatures and don't like to be left on their own.
The prodcuers were aware from the start that recreating a circus in mid Wales was going to be a challenge. But they were reasured that it was possible to do it in a way that would ensure the welfare of the animals and enable them to star in a unique and memorable film.
As well as presenting the producers with a challenge - the elephants' visit has caused quite a stir. To keep them happy and comfortable, the huge creatures have been living and sleeping in a tented enclosure with plenty of shelter and space to roam outside. And the shopping list to feed them is vast, with each one munching their way through 120kg of hay (good quality, no dust); 25kg of horse Muesli (no oats); 25kg of bran; 15kg of apples; and 15kg of carrots every day.
This isn't the first time that elephants have been in Tregaron. According to the local story, in 1848 a traveling circus visited the area, and during their visit one of the elephants fell ill and died. The story is that the body of the elephant is buried behind the Talbot Arms.
The film Y Syrcas has been set in the same year and location as the nineteenth century story. It tells the story of Sara, a young girl trapped by her father's strict rules and religion. When the circus comes to town, the local residents are weary of the newcomers, and the chapel preach hell fire against them. But gradually the locals warm to them and Sara falls in love with the elephant as she is bewitched by the colour, excitement and whirlwind of the circus. It's an emotional, funny and life affirming story.
The film is directed by Kevin Allen, famous for writing and directing the dark comedy film Twin Town. He says, "Working on this production has been a magical experience on so many levels - the Tregaron landscape has been so inspiring and the presence of these magnificent elephants has most certainly contributed to the wonderful atmosphere on set. It’s been a tough shoot in terms of managing a very tight schedule and although moving these huge beasts around has been challenging at times, we’ve learned that, unlike actors, you can't hurry an elephant!"
Starring alongside the elephants in Y Syrcas are Saran Morgan, Damola Adelaja and Aneirin Hughes, as part of a multicultural cast. The script features several languages and cultures – Welsh, English, French, Irish, German, Spanish and Yoruba.
Gwawr Martha Lloyd, S4C Content Commissioner, said, "Y Syrcas is a warm and uplifting film that the whole family will enjoy over the Christmas period. With a masterful cast and crew, along with fantastic costumes, set and locations, we can lose ourselves in the world of the circus and Victorian Wales. It's an ambitious project which bridges languages and cultures, with a wide appeal – with the legend of Tregaron's elephant at its core.
Y Syrcas is a production by fFatti fFilms for S4C, and it will be broadcast on S4C at Christmas. The film will be sold on the international market by distributors Aimimage.