New S4C series leads the way for lockdown dramas

20 April 2020

In strange and unprecedented times, where plans are cancelled and technology has become our only means of contact with the outside world, an exciting new lockdown drama is about to hit our screens.

Cyswllt (Lifeline) is an intimate drama that gives a snapshot of life during a pandemic, showing the effect of lockdown on individuals and families. In a pioneering move, it will use only laptops and phones to film the entire three-part series.

The series, which will see its first episode screened on Wednesday evening at 9.30 on S4C, will be the first drama of its kind to be commissioned, shot and broadcast in the UK during lockdown.

Filmed under strict safety conditions, Cyswllt will capture the changes we are all experiencing in our lives as our relationships and behaviour are shaped by fear. Warm-hearted and compassionate in tone, the series interweaves the stories of family and friends over the weeks, bringing tension, split loyalties and big surprises.

Brought to our screens by Vox Pictures, the production company responsible for Un Bore Mercher / Keeping Faith, viewers may notice that Cyswllt shares many of Keeping Faith's cast members including; Mark Lewis Jones, Suzanne Packer, Hannah Daniel, Catherine Ayers and Aneirin Hughes. In another first, screen legend Suzanne Packer plays her part in Welsh.

Mark Lewis Jones, compared the filming experience to Mission Impossible.

"I've been told to expect a box on my doorstep, disinfected, with instructions and all the kit we need to film. I feel like I will have to open it quickly, before it explodes. It's Thursday, I haven't even filmed my part yet and the first episode airs on Wednesday. That's how quickly it's all happening. It's great to be part of something positive and creative to come out of this crisis.

"The prep has been quite normal, in terms of learning the script and getting to know my character, Daf. What's really different is that I'm on my own, in my bedroom in Cardiff. It's all filmed on the phone with Director, Pip Broughton, and Hannah Daniels, who plays my daughter Ffion on Zoom on a laptop.

Actress Catherine Ayers agrees the filming process is surreal: "I'm now glad I took note of what the production crew does over the years. We get this box with a laptop, phone, antibacterial wipes and a clapper board and that's it! From there, we're responsible for everything, including camera angles!"

"Luckily my husband can help if needed as he works in the industry, but we have three kids at home too so it could get interesting. As we don't know how long this situation is going to last, it's nice to keep going.

"My character Sian has cancer – her husband is living in a tent in the garden to protect her, as he runs a business and still has to come into contact with people. I hope this will strike a chord with the people watching, especially those self-isolating on their own. I hope this will give them something, some comfort and company perhaps."

The series will be filmed over three weeks, with the script for each episode finalised just days before it is aired, so that it reflects life as it happens.

Hannah Daniel, who plays Ffion, an A&E Nurse on the front-line says: "Pip, the author wanted to show how this experience changes people and changes their relationships. How it can bring people together as well as push them apart.

"Drama hasn't been done in this way before. We're all coming together, all hands-on deck. Even we don't really know how it will pan out. I will definitely be watching on Wednesday. I have however just realised that my house is the set, and, as the first scene is in my kitchen, I better get cleaning!".

Cyswllt will use the very same technology that is keeping us all in touch with each other during lockdown to reflect the changes happening in our lives, as it happens.

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