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DO'R BLIMEY!

Byline: By Matt Withers Wales on Sunday

It's scooped the equivalent of a TV Oscar.

Yet the chances are, you haven't even heard of steamy S4C series Con Passionate.

By beating EastEnders, The Bill and the best programmes Europe has to offer to win the coveted Golden D'Or for Soaps and Light Dramas, the saucy Welsh show has every right to claim it's the best in Britain.

It's certainly telly's best-kept secret.

Compared to the millions who tune into Albert Square and Sun Hill, two series of Con Passionate attracted a total of just 332,000 viewers, who saw opera singer Shn Cothi star as a sultry temptress who ruffles feathers when she's plunged into the world of an old-fashioned male voice choir.

The series, whose name means With Passion in Italian reflecting the lusty storyline, is one of S4C's biggest-ever hits. But it remains unknown to most non-Welsh speakers and a complete mystery to viewers over the border.

This week's gong, presented in Switzerland, follows previous awards including Celtic Media, Bafta Cymru and two Prix Europa prizes.

Shn's cleavage was even nominated for a top advertising award after it was splashed over buses and billboards to promote the show.

But the latest award for the Sunday night drama, which will enter its third and final season next year, could send it into the big time and its leading lady has dared TV bosses to put it on screens UK-wide with subtitles.

'I'd love to see if anybody was brave enough to do it,' said Shn.

'I think it would be a great experiment. It travels well outside of Wales. It is very Welsh - it has its roots in the Welsh male voice choir tradition and lots of people can relate to this - but then again lots of people over the border who've seen it have told me how much they love it. I think they probably enjoy the humour.'

Written by Siwan Jones and directed by Rhys Powys, the show broke S4C's ratings record for the year when it debuted in 2005 and, with its comparatively high budget, set a new standard for drama on the channel.

Carmarthenshire -born Shn, an opera singer who has appeared in Phantom of the Opera in the West End, said she was looking forward to getting into the character of the scheming musician for the last time.

'She's quite dark,' she said. 'She plays the boys in the choir like little pawns, she moves them around, gives one more attention and then the other.

'She's quite evil and knows exactly what she's doing. She's fantastic to play.'

Producer Paul Jones said the quality of writing was the key to the series' success.

'Siwan Jones' script for Con Passionate sets the benchmark for excellence in television scriptwriting,' he said. 'It's a quality for which all authors in Wales and beyond should aspire to reach.

'Her modern, dynamic portrayal of a male voice choir blows away the stereotypes about choirs. Con Passionate combines surrealism, bizarre and complex storylines, with credible, memorable characters. It's a series which both challenges and entertains viewers.' Who's who...

Davina Roberts - Shan Cothi: A soprano from Carmarthenshire, temptress Davina is the conductor who sets pulses racing in the men's choir. Obsessively dedicated and driven, she is fiercely passionate about her music and gets frustrated when others' standards don't match her own.

Pete - Ifan Huw Dafydd: One of the second tenors of the choir, Pete met his long lost son Simon during the series.

Glyn - William Thomas: Given the meaningless title of 'Secretary of the Honour of the Choir' to keep him happy, Glyn's obsessed with the music group. So much so, his wife Glesni left him for the caretaker. Lives for the choir to the extent of ignoring pretty much anything else.

Ian - Alun ap Brinley: Another one of the second tenors in the choir, he discovered his wife Helen was having an affair and was later the victim of blackmail.

Andy - Stephan Rhodri: Ambitious Andy wanted to become a professional singer 'like Bryn Terfel'. After several unsuccessful attempts to escape his job as a solicitor, he finally became an interior designer in the second series.

Eurof - Matthew Graville: A talented bard with a difficult personal life, teacher Eurof is almost permanently at war with colleague and heavy drinker Sin.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 13, 2007
Words:719
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