The true story behind new BBC drama Men Up

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New feature-length drama Men Up comes to BBC One, exploring the lives of five ordinary Welshmen who embark on an extraordinary journey.

They participate in the trial of a groundbreaking drug, which would eventually be known as Viagra, at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital in 1994.

Is Men Up a true story?

The fictionalised drama is inspired by the true story of one of the world’s earliest medical trials for the drug.

It follows a group of unpretentious men, including Meurig (played by Iwan Rheon), Colin (Steffan Rhodri), Tommy (Paul Rhys), Peetham ‘Pete’ (Phaldut Sharma), and Eddie (Mark Lewis Jones). These men are united in their quest to regain the romantic spark in their lives.

This fictionalised portrayal in Men Up captures their pursuit of rejuvenating their sex lives, symbolising a deeper desire for romantic reconnection. However, as the drug offers them a glimpse of restoring their lost intimacy, they quickly realise that their journey is just beginning. The clinical trial takes them on an unexpected path, compelling them to re-evaluate their lives in ways they never imagined.

Men Up is not just a story about a medical breakthrough; it’s a tale of personal transformation and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of new challenges.

Men Up cast in the drama

Writer Matthew Barry shared of creating the drama: “I was sent a one-page document about the real trial that happened in Swansea, and I remember reading it thinking this is such an incredible story.

“It’s The Full Monty with Viagra and it’s such a no-brainer. I researched the medical context and the trial itself with the physician Dr David Price who ran the trial. We didn’t discuss the patients on the trial, I created fictional characters, thinking of the type of men who might have been on the trial, these working-class Welshmen.”

He added: “It’s so important to tell authentic working-class Welsh stories. As a working-class Welsh writer myself, I don’t think we see enough of these characters on television.

“So, for me, I really wanted an authentic voice, plus real authentic Welsh actors to play these roles. It was central to the entire project to have it feel real, authentic and grounded within a proper Welsh community.”

Men Up airs at 9PM on Friday, 29 December on BBC One and iPlayer.

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