Theatre in Wales

Plays and dance productions in Wales since 1982...

 
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
First presented in 2001 by Sgript Cymru
cast size:5
synopsis:
Art and Guff is a brilliantly observed comedy about two best friends living in London waiting for their big break. But have they survived too long on secrets and lies?

Exposure looms, there's two weirdos downstairs, Auntie Jo has just died and their giros keep disappearing. Is somebody trying to tell them something? Is it any wonder they're paranoid?

Catherine Treganna is a scriptwriter for BBC Wales’ popular drama series Belonging. The cast included BAFTA winning actor Richard Harrington and Roger Evans (Human Traffic, Nuts and Bolts).
 

   There are 9 reviews of Sgript Cymru's Art and Guff in our database:
Some stuff here
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Chapter Arts Centre
April-13-01
I remember Catherine Tregenna when she played Genny in that explosive first production of Ed Thomasís House of America that changed the face of Welsh theatre. Well, now the tables are turned as Ms Tregenna turns playwright in her own startling stage debut with a play that seems very much to feature Ed Thomas.

It doesnít, of course, but Richard Harrington, as Art, does bear a remarkable resemblance to Walesís most famous living playwright. And the lines which Ms Tregenna has given him to speak are uncannily like those of the loquacious Mr Thomas. That Art plays a struggling screenplay writer sharing a London flat with a mate from South West Wales, a situation not a million miles from the true history of Edward Thomas, may be coincidence. Though featuring a book called How to Make a Successful British Movie might raise more than a wry smile from the man whose recent movie Rancid Aluminium got some of the worst reviews ever.

So it may well be a case of Art imitating life - but this entertaining and moving new production from Sgript Cymru positively sparks with energy as it creates an engaging tale of two Kidwelly thirtysomethings getting distracted from making it big as writers by the lure of Tequila slammers, Stella and sloth.

Itís hardly innovative, however, and the themes seem to float between Waiting for Godot and The Likely Lads by way of Withnail and I and too many tv sitcoms, with an embarrassingly underwritten pair of hippie neighbours failing to provide any real note of menace.

It is a promising first play but a bit thin, then, with some good dialogue writing let down by lack of depth. What really makes it are the stunning performances from Harrington and Roger Evans as Guff, who capture to perfection the uncertainty, frailties, bonds and affection in the menís relationship.
reviewer:
David Adams
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Chapter Arts Centre, cardiff
March-15-01
I remember Catherine Tregenna when she played Genny in that explosive first production of Ed Thomas’s House of America that changed the face of Welsh theatre. Well, now the tables are turned as Ms Tregenna turns playwright in her own startling stage debut with a play that seems very much to feature Ed Thomas.

It doesn’t, of course, but Richard Harrington, as Art, does bear a remarkable resemblance to Wales’s most famous living playwright. And the lines which Ms Tregenna has given him to speak are uncannily like those of the loquacious Mr Thomas. That Art plays a struggling screenplay writer sharing a London flat with a mate from South West Wales, a situation not a million miles from the true history of Edward Thomas, may be coincidence. Though featuring a book called How to Make a Successful British Movie might raise more than a wry smile from the man whose recent movie Rancid Aluminium got some of the worst reviews ever.

So it may well be a case of Art imitating life - but this entertaining and moving new production from Sgript Cymru positively sparks with energy as it creates an engaging tale of two Kidwelly thirtysomethings getting distracted from making it big as writers by the lure of Tequila slammers, Stella and sloth.

It’s hardly innovative, however, and the themes seem to float between Waiting for Godot and The Likely Lads by way of Withnail and I and too many tv sitcoms, with an embarrassingly underwritten pair of hippie neighbours failing to provide any real note of menace.

It is a promising first play but a bit thin, then, with some good dialogue writing let down by lack of depth. What really makes it are the stunning performances from Harrington and Roger Evans as Guff, who capture to perfection the uncertainty, frailties, bonds and affection in the men’s relationship.
reviewer:
David Adams
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Chapter Arts Centre, cardiff
March-15-01
The set, a very realistic, squalid 'been there-done that' (well I have) bed-sit hits you as you enter the theatre. The 'Portishead' music blaring at us tells us we are in 'Young People Land'. Although when we meet them they turn out to be not so young.

The play opens with some lively banter between the two principle characters telling us that these two lads get on really well together and putting the audience into a good comedy mood. The odd slightly erudite phrase slips into the dialogue and we realise that these two aren't just two 'don't give a damn' youngsters that are just out for a good time but a couple of thirty something Welsh boys with real literary ambitions!

The play is a reflection on the fact that many people have desperate aspirations and fight hard to fulfil them. Some times battling against the odds, winning a few steps forward then moving more steps back.

The boys are faced with the opportunity to take a possible small step up the ladder but are over come by the undermining effect that they have on each other and slip back into apathy and frustration.

The boyo 'loveableness' and sensitivity of these two characters is skilfully created by Catherine Tregenna, along with the 'sit-com' highly amusing banter or 'GUFF'- even. She examines and explores many aspects of human nature in a very compelling and entertaining way -'ART'. I recall seeing Peter O'Toole in one of the first 'out of London' performances of John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger" at the Bristol Old Vic. That was a performance very much of its time as this play is very much of the times we are experiencing now.

Two sickly ghouls, in the form of downstairs hippie neighbours disrupt Art and Guff's already somewhat untidy lives. These characters are so well portrayed by Ralph Arliss and Glenna Morrison and my one criticism of the play is that there could have been even more involvement between them and the other two characters.

Richard Harrington as Art so successfully created a well-rounded character and conveyed his artistic frustrations with a gut wrenching effect on all of us. All the cast bounced of one another very well but for me Roger Evans demonstrated a warmth of personality and an ability to communicate with the audience that well above and beyond the call of all expected endeavour. A fitting reward for the steady and well informed hand and head of director Bethan Jones.

The dreadfully sad end of the play curiously gives us a glimpse of hope by demonstrating the strong real love that these two boys have had for one another. But the down beat ending has a telling inevitability.

In the Seventies and Eighties each theatrical event that was put on felt like founding a Welsh Theatre movement, failing and starting all over again. We are, thank goodness with the work of Sgript Cymru, and others, now well beyond that stage. Here's hoping that the partnerships established between Sgript Cymru and The Soho Theatre in London and 'Paines Plough' will continue and other contacts made that will ensure that quality Welsh drama will now be seen by a much wider audience throughout the UK. And, as demonstrated by this play, also by Carri Munn and Karin Diamond in "Spin" and Darren Lawrence in Roger William's "Saturday Night Forever and many others we, most certainly have the talent to merit it.
reviewer:
Michael Kelligan
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Soho Theatre
March-13-01
IT shows a certain nerve to call your first play Art and Guff. Catherine Tregenna's account of two young Welsh lads on the make in lonely, mean London couldn't really be classified as "art", but, though it contains a fair bit of juvenile blather, nor can it be dismissed as "guff". It falls somewhere in between, at times resembling a bottom-drawer sitcom pilot, at others declaring itself as a stirring theatrical debut.

There's nothing particularly startling about Tregenna's choice of subject matter and much that is familiar about these struggling bohemians - Art fancies himself as a screenwriter, Guff as a poet. Withnail and I is the genre's golden example and the fringe often yields navel-gazing pieces from aspiring, twentysomething writers. What makes this so watchable, however, is Tregenna's grasp of the minuter details of the male psyche.

She catches the childish humour, the inattention to cleanliness, the pub repartee - but she also taps the failure to communicate. Menaced by a prowling, heartless hippy couple from downstairs, Art drinks his way towards a nervous breakdown.

Bethan Jones's production has its longueurs, but thrives on the touchingly authentic rapport between Richard Harrington's prematurely wrecked Art and Roger Evans's mindlessly breezy Guff. The daffiness of the two Taffs is lovingly accentuated, but anyone who has had bad days in the Big Smoke will see themselves in this clingy pair.
reviewer:
Dominidc Cavendish, Daily Telegraph
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Soho Theatre
March-07-01
The ghost of the film Withnail and I stalks this likeable but dramatically flawed drama by Welsh writer Catherine Tregenna.
As in Withnail and I, Tregenna's two leads, Art and Guff, are a couple of deadbeat wastrels trapped in a depressing London bedsit. Art is a skinny, neurotic, would-be screenwriter and Guff is a chubby, garrulous bard who scribbles verse on beer mats. Both are staring down the barrel of 40 and are harassed by a couple of hippies from downstairs who pilfer the duo's negligible possessions.

The gay frisson of Art and Guff's relationship is late developing and to begin with is realised only as revulsion at other people's sexuality. Instead, Tregenna keeps the duo sparring and squabbling with snappy dialogue, observing their unspoken love with wit and affection. But the dialogue is more assured than the dramatic structure which paints itself into a melodramatic corner. What's more, a bum note of verisimilitude is struck by the annoying hippy neighbours who distract from the central story.
Bethan Jones's production for Sgript Cymru, the new writing company for Wales, does little to ameliorate the structural problems, but embraces the scenario with an infectious love of the leading men.


Similarly, Sean Crowley's set provides an impeccably dank, dingy dump for the two heroes to live in - sleeping on a grimy sofa and a tatty z-bed surrounded by squalor. The music too, majoring on Portishead, echoes the melancholy introversion.
But the production's most outstanding features are Richard Harrington and Roger Evans as Art and Guff. Harrington is the edgy, psychologically unstable one, adept at masturbation and whose party piece is impersonating a dog chewing wine gums.
Roger Evans is the cuddly poet who chuckles himself to sleep at night, but who is also given to fits of towering moral indignation. He props up the ever more alcoholic Art, sinking in a sea of rejection letters.
reviewer:
Patrick Marmion The Evening Standard
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Soho Theatre
March-12-01
Comedy and tragedy can often make a nightmarish combination

Expectations also get a bashing in Art and Guff (at the Soho Theatre) in which two Welsh lads fail to get their names up in lights as writers in London. Holed up in a scuzzy bedsit, neurotic screenwriter Art descends into boozy despondency as the rejection letters pile up while sociable poet Guff makes the best of whatever comes his way.


Catherine Tregenna's debut play is a raggedy mix of sitcom, sentimentality and tragedy that touches on aspiration, art and cultural identity (the iconic spectre of Dylan Thomas still seems to hang pointedly over every Welshman with literary ambitions). But the play is at its best when concentrating on Art and Guff's relationship which shows Tregenna's promising talent for energetic dialogue and the kind of silly banter and sparring that evolves among close friends.


These characters are made more convincing by Richard Harrington as Art and Roger Evans as Guff, whose terrific performances make us care about these lads who see themselves as "just two dull boys from Kidwelly".


The play falls apart, however, whenever Art and Guff's manipulative hippy neighbours, Nicky and Suse, gatecrash their lives to expose the lads' self-conscious provincialism but also to bring a jarring air of Pinter-like menace. It's as if Tregenna wants to rewrite The Caretaker as slacker comedy and it doesn't work. But Bethan Jones's production, which moves to the Chapter Arts in Cardiff from April 4, ensures that even if Nicky and Suse seem to have come from another play they are strongly realised by Ralph Arliss and Glenna Morrison.
reviewer:
Alan Johns, The Times
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Soho Theatre
March-09-01
The last time Art and Guff, two self-confessed dull Welsh lads from Kidwelly, came to London to find fame and fortune as writers they had to be rescued by their families after they were down to their last pack of Jammy Dodgers.
Now they are back, older, not necessarily wiser and, in the case of Art, who has suffered some kind of minor breakdown that makes social interaction impossible, much more fragile. In their poky bedsit, neurotic Art and outgoing, chirpy Guff spar like the odd couple as the rejection slips arrive in every post, dreams turns to ashes, the drink flows and the sinister hippies downstairs invade their lives.


Catherine Tregenna's first play doesn't really hang together, but it is an honourable failure with its curious hybrid of sitcom and Pinteresque menace that boasts some sparky passages of writing. Tregenna is undoubtedly a talent.
The central quirky relationship is given real credibility through superb performances from Richard Harrington as Art and Roger Evans as Guff, and Tregenna plays cleverly with ideas of Welsh identity. Over its final image of drunken poetry hangs the legacy of Dylan Thomas, the dead, sozzled cultural icon that no Welsh writer seems able to escape even in the current climate of cool Cymru.


The self-doubt central to both Art and Guff's image of themselves is neatly pointed up by the arrival of Nicky and Sues, the lying , light-fingered hippies who produce nothing and take everything and yet still make Art and Gruff feel inadequate and provincial. The point of these sequences is clear, but they don't work in the dramatic scheme of things with Nicky and Sues seeming less organic to the play and more like escapees from a trippy version of The Caretaker. Once again, though, the performances are spot-on with Ralph Arliss and Glenna Morrison making the flesh creep as the game-playing failures who try to feel superior.
Bethan Jones' production slightly panders to the sitcom element of the play, particularly in the opening scenes. But then maybe that's deliberate because, for all its raggedness and swooping sentimentality, Tregenna's play knows exactly what it is doing when it passes a tragedy off as comedy.
reviewer:
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Soho Theatre
March-15-01
For centuries playwrights have laughed at naive provincials who find themselves cheated and robbed in the big city. In her subtle and sad new play Catherine Tregenna tells the archetypal story of country lads lost in the metropolis from the point of view not of the villains, but of the victims.

Art and Guff, two gauche Welsh boys from Kidwelly, arrive in London with hopes of becoming famous writers. Instead, they are ripped off by their neighbours, Nicky and Sues, a pair of streetwise hippies.

The strength of Tregenna's writing lies in the fully imagined world of Art and Guff, two losers who only dimly realise that they are out of their depth. Details of their childhood friendship, their dependence on their parents, and their previous attempts to leave home all emerge in an unforced and revealing way.

The relationship of the two men is a tangle of petty deceptions, small rivalries and empty dreams - yet they are also genuinely fond of each other. Compared to the nasty coolness of Nicky and Sues, Art and Guff have warmth, innocence and low-level fear of life.

Jointly produced by Soho Theatre and Sgript Cymru, this piece is set in a bedsit, designed by Sean Crowley, that is so squalid you can almost smell the rancid milk stains.

Sympathetically directed by Bethan Jones, the cast - Richard Harrington as Art, Roger Evans playing Guff, Ralph Arliss (Nicky) and Glenna Morrison (Sues) - explore the emotional bleakness and youthful agony that give the play its punch.

Despite its darkness, the ending does have a glimmer of hope as Art finally understands the truth about his life.
reviewer:
Aleks Sierz
Art and Guff by Catherine Treganna
[print]Print this review  now
venue
Chapter Arts Centre
April-04-01
"ART AND GUFF" - By Catherine Tregenna

Script Cymru in association with Soho Theatre Company
Chapter Arts Centre
4th April 2001

This theatrical situation tragicomedy is a effectively written, moving piece of theatre. Written by Catherine Tregenna, it follows the lives of Art and Guff (Richard Harrington and Roger Evans) as they struggle to survive in a grim little flat with the temptation of excessive alcohol consumption as the major priority. Art desperately wishes to become a writer, but is trapped in his own fear-filled world in which he firmly believes that there is little hope for someone like himself. Guff, his long time best friend is there to encourage and inspire him but they never seem to get any further than the bar!

The plot is slightly predictable, as it seems tragedy is the only place to which it can go. The nuisance next door neighbours (Ralph Arliss and Glenna Morrison) seem to have no real function except emphasizing Art's agoraphobic tendencies and being quite strange individuals.

The skill of this piece most definitely lies within the relationship that Art and Guff have created on the stage. Harrington and Evans have captured the closeness of these characters perfectly and because of this we are drawn into their despondent yet strangely interesting lives. They are both quite macho individuals yet the closeness and intimacy that is present between them shows a bond that many males find very hard to express. The final scene, as Art finds Guff dead after a night of heavy drinking is so very moving that this overcomes any imperfections with other aspects of the play.

The director (Bethan Jones) has created some highly emotional scenes aided by the effective choices of music (portishead in particular) and realistic set that really captured what life is like for these hard-up hopefuls. The death of Guff gave a kind of resolution to the piece as we would like to assume that this was the event that caused Art to pull himself together and make it as the writer he could only have dreamed of being up to this point.

By Victoria Cooper
reviewer:
Victoria Cooper

If you know of any other existing review, or if you have any more information on Art and Guff, (perhaps you were in the production or were the author or director) then please use the form below to send us the details
Add your comments or amendments to our information on Art and Guff
your name
e-mail address
What colour is this block?

orange


this helps us fight spam messages . You have to fill in the box for your message to be sent!
 

Privacy Policy | Contact Us | ©2006 keith morris / red snapper web designs / keith@artx.co.uk