There are many options available to me to introduce you to a true part of Welsh heritage, some you will know (you can’t avoid Dylan Thomas, Sheep, and Rain) but for you, who have decided to make Swansea your home during your University years, it is the less well known but oh so important parts of our heritage which I would like to entertain you with today.
In 1997, when I was just 14 years old (cough**20 years ago**) and most of you were still in nappies, I and my fellow ‘Jacks’ were awoken from our 90’s haze of Gameboys and Personal Walkmans by the onslaught that was ‘Twin Town’. Already, as teenagers, we were beginning to drift away from the frivolous teen bop of ‘Barbie Girl’ (Aquarium) and ‘Spice up your life’ (Spice Girls) in favour of more ‘urban’ pop such as ‘Song 2’ (Blur) and ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ (Urban Hymns) – yes, we did have SOME good music in the 90s. But still, nothing could prepare us for the dirty, violent, truthful, nasty, beautiful reality of ‘Twin Town’. Directed by Kevin Allen, himself a Swansea lad, the film follows two brothers known as ‘the twins’ (real life brothers – Rhys Ifans and Llyr Ifans) on their drug fuelled contemplation of life, death and all the mess in between.
The film’s supporting characters border on the stereotypical but are played with such skill by the amazingly packed cast of Welsh talent that all you can do is laugh at the insanity of it all because you (well, us Jacks at least) know it’s all true, every single last inch of it. From the dodgy construction jobs to the karaoke nights in Barons (a great club in its heyday, whose cat-pee smelling carpets you guys will never have the pleasure of treading over). Twin Town shows a side of Swansea most visitors will never see. This is not to say that we are all crack head, nut jobs with a ‘Godfather’ obsession, but that is undeniably a strong part of some of the city and therefore a small part (at least) of all of us born and raised here.
What Kev Allen has tried to do is take characters such as those portrayed in Dylan Thomas’ famous ‘Under Milk Wood’ and mix them a little with the likes of ‘Trainspotting’ (in which he, incidentally, played a role). It is Swansea through a dirty cracked lens. But make no mistake, these are not woeful, put upon, tragic humans bemoaning their fate – no. Every single last character in this film is loving life in this ‘pretty shitty city’, every last dirty minute of it.
The film is a joy to behold. It is funny – ‘This glue is for sticking my model Submarines together, not for sticking up your fucking noses! Buy your own fucking glue!’, shocking – ‘You burned my mam and dad… And my sister! All for ewe’r fucking… Poodle’, and poignant – ‘Why is it that a 2 litre bottle of coke costs 27 pence, but a 1 litre bottle costs 37 pence?’. The male voice choir singing on Mumbles Pier at the end while the brothers bury their father, Fatty, at sea from a stolen boat with their father’s panicked killer tied to the coffin, is incredibly moving – it gives me goose bumps every time I watch it.
Ultimately, it is us. Every one of us. Whether you be Welsh, English or Martian, this film connects with a dirty part of our humanity which we all know is there playing in the background. Watch it, enjoy it, laugh at it, then go out and walk round Swansea. You won’t regret it.
If you really enjoy Kev Allen’s view of our ‘pretty shitty city’, you will be happy to hear he has just announced a sequel is in the works. I wonder what delights the twins have in store for us; do you think they made it to Morocco?
P.S.. Keep an eye out for all the Swansea landmarks!