Theatre in Wales

Plays and dance productions in Wales since 1982...

A Lament for Moths by Patrick Jones
First presented in 2009 by Gwent Young People’s Theatre (formerly Gwent Theatre)
cast size:3
Poet and playwright Patrick Jones has written a new drama for Gwent Theatre directed by Gary Meredith, performed by Jain Boon, Lizzie Rogan and Daniel Wallace with design by Georgina Miles.
A Lament for Moths is a roller-coaster ride through the journey of two children growing up in a world where the moths (gentle, sensitive people) are trampled by mammoths (the brazen and manipulative).

It is told through the eyes of Joe and looks at what and who creates violence and its effect on young people.

He and his young friend Ruby are friends since childhood and the action follows their lives against a background of family breakdown and how adults can, unwittingly, scar their children by the effects of their own emotional conflict.

Patrick says: The title is from a Tennessee Williams poem and one of the earliest poems I loved.  When we talked about the development of the play its metaphor seemed perfect.

Patrick says the style of the drama is expressionistic with musical montages from James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers providing beautiful sound tracks to the quickly changing scenes.

   There is 1 review of Gwent Young People’s Theatre (formerly Gwent Theatre)'s A Lament for Moths in our database:
A Lament for Moths by Patrick Jones
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Crickhowell School
A Lament for Moths by Patrick Jones with music by James Dean Bradfield

A Response by Roger Wooster

What is it important for a child of nine or twelve years old to know? What would you say to them if you had but an hour to make a difference to their lives? How about friendships and relationships, physical bullying, text bullying, knife crime, happy slapping, relationships with parents, parental absence, family break-up, masculinity and gender roles, coping with adolescence, envy, trust or, in short, a lesson in what it is to be human? This is the modest aim of A Lament for Moths which is performed by Gwent Theatre and in just 45 minutes!

The piece is heavily packed with issues but does not become a soap opera of despair. The young audience are invited to observe this package and then unpack for themselves the issues that they see around themselves or, more crucially, feel within themselves. This is facilitated by a workshop in which the young people are gently coaxed into an analysis of the events outlined in the play. Such an approach needs time and the quality of response is in an indirect ratio to the size of the group. At Crickhowell, there was not enough time to fully explore the interests and opinions of the Year Seven pupils and there were well over a hundred in the audience. Whilst they were all engaged in play and workshop, verbal responses tended to come from the more confident; a smaller cohort might have led to an even more perceptive analysis. Perhaps better use could have been made of the actors in this session as co-facilitators? Or maybe allowing hot-house discussions in mini-groups of the young people for whom one would feed-back? With such delicate subjects under the microscope there is always a concern about what is going through the minds of those who do not speak.

For many young people, a visit from their local Theatre in Education company may be their only non-pantomime introduction to theatre. When realism and naturalistic acting dominates their cultural experiences (almost exclusively off the screen) it is great to see them coping with impressionistic design, multi-character playing and the acceptance of pairs of shoes as the parents and hoodies on tailors dummies as the bullies. One would expect them to cope with the jump cuts and narrative juggling and occasional contextualising soundscapes, but it is rewarding to see their imaginations invigorated by the immediate acceptance of demanding theatrical conventions. The language of the play too demands of them far more than the usual screen fare to which they are accustomed. Scenes of realistic dialogue and family argument are challenged at time by haunting moments of poetic insight which never become maudlin or shallow. The music too works extremely well, used as it is as an audio backdrop rather than a device to ratchet up emotion.

For me the programme, performance and workshop, has to be taken as one. I also saw a public performance with a mainly adult audience. It went down well and the audience made all the right noises. However it is the total package that packs the punch. This was a play for and about young people: about a time of their lives that they were, right then, embroiled in. For adults it does not have the same immediacy, nor should it. For the young people watching the play it has a different meaning. Adults may have created and performed this piece, but it is about them. They are the experts. Because they are the experts, it is only the presence of the workshop that gives the content of the play validity in their lives. They must have the opportunity to take the analysis that has been presented before them and to dissect it. Joe, the young boy in the piece mentions that he felt forced to do what was expected and not what I believed in. The audience watching were the experts in that: in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.

Yes, it would have been good to allow the depth of the discussion to be expanded by having fewer numbers and more time, but as a piece of workshop TIE it had a great impact on those who saw it. Stylistically too, the set, conventions and language make demands on and reward the audience. Im not sure that the hoodies convention worked (hooded figures on wheeled dummies); it seemed to slow the action at times. There was a danger too of some sexual stereotyping; it is the boy getting in with the wrong crowd and the girl having the interests in poetry and nature and generally being more emotionally mature. But with a small cast and a dozen issues to touch on there are no easy solutions here! The play did go out of its way to show the young Joe in touch with his aesthetic side and it is he, after all, who opens the play as a fifteen year old reading the story of the Dancer and the Tin Soldier. Our role as audience was also a little confused. Direct address was established early on but I was not (as far as I recall) invited to observe the story as anyone other than myself or with any task before me. So when at the end I was thanked for helping Joe to clear his head I wasnt sure what exactly I had done. But I was glad I had done it well!

These are quibbles though which are insignificant compared to the theatrical and educational value of the piece. One of the characters says education should be about teaching people how, not what, to think. This precept is something at which TIE above all other teaching methods can excel. Gwent Theatre have succeeded in offering an exceptional educational challenge to the young people of Gwent.
Roger Wooster

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