brenin (king)

Commissioned from BBC Wales for a new series of performance for film from Wales based artists. Breninwas made in September 2003 by Pembrokeshire based performance artist / choreographer Simon Whitehead with film director Margaret Constantas and composer Barnaby Oliver. Words by Elvis Presley.

On 5 June 2000, Cardiff academic Terry Breverton published ‘evidence’ that Elvis Presley’s ancestors originated in the Preseli hills in West Wales. Breverton related the name Presley to Preseli-and used the Welsh names for Elvis’s mother Gladys and brother Jesse Garon, to back his claims. Also that his grandmother Dot Mansell hailed from the Gower. Supporting his theory is the story of St. Elvis of Munster (purported to have baptised St.David) who has the only chapel dedicated to his name in Llaneilfyw close to the Preseli hills. Largely anecdotal, Breverton’s Welsh story adds to the number of countries (Scotland, parts of England, Ireland and France!) that have made blood claims to his heritage. This story reaches BBC National News and creates a heated debate within the UK chapter of the Elvis Presley fan club.

We were inspired by these claims to create a performance work that magically calls Elvis’s spirit and presence back to the homeland of his ancestors. Brenin (King) was filmed on location in the Preseli hills, featuring 3 central characters along with performers and singers gathered largely from local choirs. Using a blend of choric song, dance and performance we conjure up ‘The King’ in lament, gospel and rock’n’roll in these hills.

Brenin is our own contribution to the King’s mythology, playing on the edges of his presence and absence through suggestion, sound and fleeting image in a landscape already filled with memory and myth. The film is a serious mixture of the surreal and ritualistic, which ‘evidences’ this event and extends the King’s uncertain existence into the legend of these hills and the contemporary folklore of Wales.

Brenin (King) is approximately 14 minutes long. The film was first broadcast on National BBC networks and has been screened internationally, most recently as part of the Reeldance film festival in Australia and New Zealand.