Twin Town 20 years on: 'It belched in people's faces'

Llyr Evans (l) and Rhys Ifans (r) Image copyright Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock
Image caption Llyr Evans (left) and Rhys Ifans (right) star as Julian and Jeremy Lewis

Twin Town enjoys cult status in the pantheon of Welsh cinema - but that was not always the case.

It follows the exploits of tearaway "twins" Jeremy and Julian Lewis (Rhys Ifans and real life brother Llyr Evans), opening with panoramic shots of Swansea as they race a stolen BMW through the cobbled streets of Mount Pleasant.

At the time, it was described by some as "sordid", with fears it might even affect visitor numbers to Wales.

But 20 years on, as thousands flock to a special anniversary screening in Swansea, one film critic says it has simply got better with time.

The film follows the Lewis' car thefts and drug-taking and their ongoing feud with local businessman, rugby enthusiast and part-time drug dealer Bryn Cartwright (William Thomas), after the brothers' father, Fatty Lewis (Huw Ceredig), falls from the roof of Cartwright's rugby club while carrying out a "hobble".

Cartwright refuses to compensate Fatty for his accident, and, as the tit-for-tat escalates, Cartwright enlists corrupt policemen Terry and Greyo (Dougray Scott and Dorien Thomas), before the plot turns murderous.

When it was released in 1997, Kevin Allen's directorial debut drew some criticism for both its abundant profanity and its perceived negative portrayal of Swansea.

Image copyright Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

There is certainly plenty of bad language: 318 expletives in 99 action-packed minutes at an average of 1 every 19 seconds, to be precise. Twin Town ranks alongside such films as Nil By Mouth, Reservoir Dogs and Goodfellas as one of the most expletive-packed films of all time.

Then-Liverpool Liberal Democrat MP David Alton described it as "sordid and squalid, plunging new depths of depravity".

The Wales Tourist Board criticised its potential impact on visitor-numbers to the nearby Gower, while police chiefs raised objections to the depiction of habitually-corrupt officers.

But film critics took a kinder view, with Twin Town receiving a nomination at the Berlin Film Festival.

And according to Welsh comedian, film critic and social commentator Gary Slaymaker, it has only got better since.

"I don't think people knew quite what to make of Twin Town when it first came out; it was so different to anything which had gone before," he said.

"Up until that point, Welsh films had all portrayed a slightly twee, chocolate-box Wales of miners and male voice choirs and so on. Twin Town came along and made people take notice by belching in their faces.

"It's funny precisely because it's real. We all know someone like Fatty Lewis or Bryn Cartwright, and whilst we might not want to acknowledge that reality, we still chuckle at the recognition."

Mr Slaymaker believes Twin Town has put Swansea on the map in the same way as Trainspotting did for Edinburgh, or The Commitments did for Dublin.

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Media captionDirector Kevin Allen said the real people of Swansea inspired the characters

"They are all very different films, and I know for a fact that Kevin Allen (Twin Town's director and co-writer) doesn't really appreciate the comparison with Trainspotting.

"But what all three do is perfectly capture the zeitgeist of a place in a particular moment in time. That slightly shabby, post-industrial Swansea is largely gone now, but in a way I miss it, so I suppose I find Twin Town quite nostalgic.

"I thought it was a particularly Welsh sense of humour which wouldn't travel well, but I've been astonished by how many people in England and throughout the world can quote me entire passages.

"I used to go out with Sue Roderick who played Bryn's wife Lucy, and it was impossible for us to have a drink or a meal without someone coming up and asking about the film."

To mark the 20th anniversary, a special open-air screening has been arranged on Thursday at the city's Singleton Park.

'Sold 3,000 tickets'

Swansea's only independent cinema, Cinema & Co, is hosting the celebration in conjunction with the council.

Organiser Anna Redfern said she has been overwhelmed by the interest.

"Originally we'd planned to hold the screening on the beach, to an audience of 500, but those tickets sold out inside an hour, and it was soon pretty obvious that we were going to have to think again.

"After the council helped us switch to Singleton Park, we've sold over 3,000 tickets."

Kevin Allen and members of the cast will have a Q&A session at the screening, with the Lewis' caravan and the BMW and AC Cobra they stole "putting in an appearance", Ms Redfern added.

In the film, the director's brother, Keith Allen, plays a farmer called Emrys, who unwittingly buys a hotdog laced with magic mushrooms from the Lewis twins.

Ms Redfern said there will be a hot dog van at the screening but "there'll be no magic mushrooms on these ones".

Image copyright AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo

And lovers of the film may not have too long to wait for their next fix, after Kevin Allen confirmed a sequel, Tin Town, set in Llanelli, was ready to go into production.

Mr Slaymaker has mixed feelings.

"Part of me can't wait to see what Kevin can come up with in Tin Town, but part of me is a little bit scared that you can't top perfection.

"Maybe it's the Fawlty Towers-thing of knowing when enough is enough.

"Either way, I'm glad it's happening, as I have a bet with Radio Wales' Eleri Sion that I can get a part as an extra in it."

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