Kevin Allen

Rooting around in the creative bouillabaisse of Kevin Allen’s back catalogue; it’s hard not to gasp at the exceptional melange and the
sheer diversity of a Welshman who definitely knows his cockles from his laver bread.

A submarine engineer’s youngest son, Allen was brought up in England, Malta and Singapore before settling in his motherland, Wales, at the age of 10. Having cut his directorial teeth as the inaugural BBC video diarist reporting the insane world of football hooligans at Italia 90 – his classic documentary On the March with Bobby’s Army was the first of a collection of unique video-diary films – before unleashing his first pean to Wales, his debut, Bafta nominated cult feature film Twin Town – deemed to be magnificent, distasteful, authentic, inspirational and terrifying in equal measures. Allen then leapt, gazelle like, to the Los Angeles’ call, directing Warner Bros’ satirical hairdressing gem The Big Tease before departing on a year long motorhome odyssy, researching and writing a commissioned studio film about elderly Viagra dealers in the deep American South… that somehow never got made.

Los Angeles was indeed a strange and soporiphic base for the boy from Swansea, and having wooed his glorious bride to a stunning marriage ceremony in the sizzling Death Valley desert, Allen decided to cash in his hard earned Hollywood chips and helm MGM’s big budget kids action adventure flick, Agent Cody Banks, before riding off to deepest rural Ireland to build an exquisite timber home from which they would rear their 4 young children and breed a large herd of Saddle Back pigs.

Comfortably interned in Kavannagh’s ‘Stony Grey Soil’ of County Monaghan, Allen then responded to the shift of tectonic plates and the smattering of fairy dust which created (with ‘Butcher Boy’ author and like minded rapscallion, Pat McCabe) the sublime and infamous Flat Lake Literary & Arts Festival. Replete with the late laureate, Seamus Heaney, and a magnificent role call of literary giants in a circus-tented borderland field, The Flat Lake was considered by those lucky enough to attend, to be the most perfect, intellectual and wildly beautiful festivals in the UK & Ireland.

Somewhat fed up with the spectre of insolvency and three relentlessly wet summers, Allen left his tractor to Flamenco off to Spain where he set up and directed the first cheesy hit series of Benidorm for ITV, receiving a Bafta nominatio, three tons of premium pig feed and a curious absence of back end royalties for his trouble.

This unique journey with Hollywood ‘n Hooligans, Poets ‘n Pig Farmers, perhaps provided the perfect groundwork then for his ultimate love letter to Wales, and the lush, sexy, critically acclaimed creation that is Under Milk Wood. Barnstorming and raunchy, ushered in by Verdi and a Welsh male voice choir, this utterly beautiful vision of Dylan Thomas’ seminal offering of magical prose poetry sees ‘Allen the film director’ at his outrageous best. The Welsh language version of the film was also shortlisted for a foreign language Oscar.

Next, comes an exotic fusion of much of the above. Allen has written a revival of his epic cult hit, Twin Town. It’s rumoured that TIN TOWN, set in the West Wales town of Llanelli, entertains a concept based of a pair of female bent cops… and sheep dung – so, it’s no wonder that Mark Kermode recently compared him to the great Ken Russell … which, although quite a compliment, is also slightly misguiding – because there is literally no one quite like him.

Sara Jane Lovett – London Evening Standard

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