Wednesday, 5 March 2014

“Mods rock in as Brynmawr cinema hosts world premiere of Svengali” reports Wales Online

The film's stars, Line Of Duty actress Vicky McClure and Merthyr actor Jonny Owen, made their entrance on the back of scooters as Mods and rockers came together at Wales’ oldest cinema for the premiere of a new film set in the world of rock ‘n’ roll.

Around 70 scooters and motorbikes pulled up outside The Market Hall Cinema in Brynmawr, which almost closed one year ago, for the world premiere of Svengali.

Among the riders, on the back of a mod scooter, were the film‘s stars, Line Of Duty actress Vicky McClure and Merthyr actor Jonny Owen.

Owen, known from his appearances in Shameless and for co-producing a Bafta-winning documentary on the Aberfan disaster in 2006, said: “That was amazing... the turnout from the scooter clubs. We even had some Valley Commandos (bikers) turn up. There was no trouble!”

McClure added: “That was the best entrance to a film ever.”

Owen has written and produced Svengali, which follows the antics of a hapless wannabe music producer from the South Wales Valleys. The 42-year-old also takes the lead role in the film, playing Dixie, while McClure plays his understanding girlfriend, Shell.

Dixie’s story was first shown through Owen’s popular web series, also called Svengali, which starred former Oasis manager Alan McGee, Carl Barat of The Libertines, and comedian Sally Phillips.

The feature film also stars McGee and Barat, and Owen also signed up Sherlock’s Martin Freeman, Silk actress Maxine Peak and the late Brian Hibbard.

He admits that when the funding to make the feature was offered by co-producer Martin Root, he was slightly taken aback.

“I sat on the kerb outside the office and had a little moment – I couldn’t believe I’d done it,” Owen told Wales Online.

The film was shot on location in Mountain Ash and London.

“I’m really looking forward to actually getting the film out and getting people to see it,” said McClure, who is known for her dark and serious roles in series such as Shane Meadows’ ‘This is England’.

“I enjoy taking on different roles. Although the script was already in place, I got to develop her character, her sense of style and sense of humour. Jonny gave me the confidence to go and do it.”

Not only does the Svengali premiere mark the beginning of an exciting new era in Welsh film, it also is a huge coup for the Brynmawr Market Hall, which celebrated its centenary last week, just one year after it almost closed.

The cinema opened in 1894 and since then it has shown movies, hosted boxing matches, housed a weekly market, the local library and been a home to the local operatic society.

It came under threat last year when Blaenau Gwent council announced proposals to cut the hall’s funding from the budget, prompting passionate protests from the local community and a petition signed by more than 2,000 supporters.

“I wanted the premiere to be here,” said Owen, “so I asked Universal, then – when they agreed – I had to tell them it would be in the Valleys.

“But we visited the cinema and it’s such a beautiful place they agreed.”

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