The BBC has unveiled fresh images from “Men Up,” an upcoming drama chronicling the journey of five regular Welshmen who embark on an extraordinary quest by participating in the trial of a new drug that would later become known as Viagra.
Co-commissioned by BBC Wales, this production is a collaboration between Quay Street Productions and Boom. “Men Up” draws its inspiration from the remarkable true account of one of the world’s earliest medical trials for the drug, conducted at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital in 1994.
Penned by Matthew Barry (known for “Industry” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”), this feature-length drama is slated to air on both BBC One and BBC iPlayer later this year.
The newly released images showcase the cast, including Iwan Rheon (noted for “Wolf,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Misfits”), Aneurin Barnard (“Dunkirk,” “The Pact”), Phaldut Sharma (“Sherwood,” “Romantic Getaway”), Paul Rhys (“A Discovery of Witches,” “Rellick”), Steffan Rhodri (“House of the Dragon,” “Temple”), Mark Lewis Jones (“Gangs of London,” “The Phantom of the Open”), and Joanna Page (“Gavin & Stacey,” “Dolittle”).
As previously announced, the drama also features Alex Roach (“Killing Eve,” “Sanditon,” “No Offence”), Alexandria Riley (“The Pembrokeshire Murders,” “The Pact”), Nathan Sussex (“It’s A Sin,” “Hollyoaks”), Lisa Palfrey (“Sex Education,” “COBRA”), Dyfan Dwyfor (“A Very English Scandal,” “Requiem”), and Katy Wix (“Ghosts,” “Stath Lets Flats”).
The actual trial in 1994 not only had a profound impact on the individuals involved, both medical practitioners and patients, but also left an indelible mark on millions worldwide. The drug swiftly became one of the most debated and lucrative in history, fundamentally reshaping the discourse around sexual and mental health.
In this fictionalised portrayal, Meurig (played by Iwan Rheon) yearns for intimacy with his wife, Ffion (Alex Roach). He loves her deeply but feels ensnared by his inability to reignite the passion in their marriage. He’s willing to try anything to rekindle their connection, anything except communicate openly.
Then there’s Tommy (played by Paul Rhys), a gay man who feels compelled to conceal his sexuality due to the trial’s focus on heterosexual intercourse. Encouraged by his friend and clinical nurse Moira Davies (Joanna Page), how far will he go in weaving this web of lies to find his own happiness?
Colin (played by Steffan Rhodri) lives a solitary existence, finding solace in crossword puzzles after his wife’s passing. He believes he’s found a potential partner in Teresa (Lisa Palfrey), a fellow Lonely Hearts column respondent. However, when she suggests meeting in person, fear takes hold. It’s been so long since he’s been with a woman. What if she expects them to take their budding romance to the next level?
Peetham ‘Pete’ Shah (played by Phaldut Sharma) seems to have a picture-perfect middle-class life: a good job and a lovely wife in Alys (Alexandria Riley), who has discovered a newfound zest for life hosting lingerie and adult toy parties. But their spark has dwindled. Blaming his impotence, he sees a potential solution in this small white pill (which only turned blue much later). Can it bridge the growing gap between them?
And finally, Eddie (played by Mark Lewis Jones), a burly and seemingly resilient man. Yet, beneath the surface, there’s a vulnerability. Desperate to please his wife, can this trial be the key to solving his problems?
“Men Up” delves into the vulnerabilities of these characters in their pursuit of a common goal—the rekindling of a romantic connection in their lives. However, as the drug holds out the promise of a return to that once-elusive intimacy, the men realise that the real work is just beginning. The trial will lead them to unexpected places and force them to reassess their lives.
“Men Up” stands as a witty, candid exploration of masculinity, mental health, family, friendship, and love.
This 90-minute production, “Men Up,” is written by Matthew Barry, directed by Ashley Way (known for “White Lines,” “Stella,” and “Merlin”), and produced by Karen Lewis (credited for “The Salisbury Poisonings,” “Years and Years,” and “Happy Valley”). The executive producers are Nicola Shindler (known for “Nolly,” “It’s A Sin,” and “Happy Valley”) and Davina Earl (noted for “Safe” and “Come Home”) for Quay Street Productions, Rachel Evans (from “35 Diwrnod/35 Days” and “How This Blind Girl…”) for Boom, Matthew Barry, Russell T Davies (credited for “Nolly,” “It’s A Sin,” and “Doctor Who”), Rebecca Ferguson representing the BBC, and Nick Andrews for BBC Wales.
“Men Up” has received support from the Welsh Government through Creative Wales and is produced in partnership with Cineflix Rights, the exclusive worldwide distribution partner. Both Quay Street Productions and Boom are integral parts of ITV Studios.