Theatre in Wales

Plays and dance productions in Wales since 1982...

Barkin' by Frank Vickery
First presented in 2010 by Grassroots Productions
cast size:3
Frank Vickery, considered to be one of Wales’ most popular playwrights, returns to the stage this autumn in a brand new comedy, directed by Phil Clark.  Barkin’ is Frank’s first new play for over 3 years and it is touring venues throughout Wales.

Barkin’, co-produced by Frank’s company Grassroots Productions and Rhondda Cynon Taf Theatres, is an exciting development in Frank’s writing from farce to comedy drama.  The play is a gripping black comedy exploring the relationship between a mother and a daughter, told totally from the daughter’s perspective.

Stevie has lived all her life with her domineering mother and feels trapped by the responsibility of caring for her, while her seemingly carefree brother is living life to the full. Now, has the day finally arrived when Stevie can, at last, experience the freedom she has yearned for?   Or will she discover that things are not quite what they appear to be?  

A tightly woven drama, Barkin’ is a rich cocktail of pathos and humour, dark secrets and unrealised dreams. Using Frank’s usual humour and realism, this darkly comic drama comedy explores issues that many of the audience will be able identify with.

Frank explains how Barkin’ came about,
‘It’s not easy for me to say where the idea for Barkin´ came from. I do remember writing Granny Annie and having the idea for Barkin´ at the same time and could hardly wait to finish the one before starting the other.

Most of my plays only take ten or so days to write so I didn’t have to wait long. I say it takes ten days but in fact it takes many months of thinking and preparation before I put pen to paper.

I have a reputation for writing roles for strong women and I’m sure this was uppermost in my mind when I started to develop the idea for Barkin’.’

The Barkin’ tour starts at The Torch Theatre in Milford Haven on Thursday 23 September and then visits Clwyd Theatre Cymru, The Welfare in Ystradgynlais, Theatr Brycheiniog, Blackwood Miners’ Institute, The Congress Theatre in Cwmbran, the Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy, The Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd, The Coliseum in Aberdare, Swansea Grand Theatre and Cardiff’s  New Theatre.

Frank Vickery started writing whilst still in school and had his first major success at the age of twenty-one when his first comedy ‘After I’m Gone’ won the Howard De Waldon Trophy for the best one act play in Great Britain.  

Frank now writes extensively for the theatre, radio and television and was recently the subject of a major documentary by BBC TV called ’On Show: Kiss and Tell’.

Frank Vickery is now considered to be Wales’ most popular playwright.  Also a talented actor, his writing and performances have achieved widespread critical acclaim and confirmed his place as a leading name on the Welsh touring circuit since the early 1990’s.  

Barkin’ has been supported by a grant from the Arts Council of Wales, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s Cultural Services department, City and County of Swansea/Swansea Grand Theatre.

Rehearsals begin on Tuesday 31 August at The Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd, and then transfer to The Torch in Milford Haven from Monday 20 September, including the technical and dress rehearsals.

   There is 1 review of Grassroots Productions's Barkin' in our database:
Thoroughly entertaining and intriguing
Barkin' by Frank Vickery
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Frank Vickery has been referred to as the Welsh Alan Ayckbourn. This is not a comparison that has ever held water for me until now but his latest play certainly does pull off one of Ayckbourn's favourite tricks. It brings to vivid, and nastily sour, life an unseen, off-stage character.

Stevie's late mother still seems to be getting up to her nasty, vicious mind games even while her dysfunctional children gather for her funeral. Neither Stevie nor her brother Gerald actually intend to attend but control from beyond somehow keeps them welded to the family home in mutual animosity.

This intriguing black comedy keeps you wondering where it is heading throughout. Right to the end in fact so that some apparent oddities or inconsistencies are only clarified in the final few moments, and very satisfactorily too.

Although it could perhaps have been tightened up by about 15 minutes, Phil Clark's production generally keeps things moving from one plot turn to the next. There is a disconcertingly odd atmosphere which keeps the audience very slightly on edge, even while the nicely judged laughs keep coming.

There's very good use of the set which, while mainly a fusty living room, also has sometimes transparent walls so that characters can be glimpsed elsewhere.

What really holds the attention are the performances. Sonia Beck's Stevie is full of neurotic energy and outrageous rebellion in the face of the loss of an unloved parent. Gerald is as rigidly uptight as they come and nicely played by Frank Vickery himself. His wife, who knows more about him than he thinks, is splendidly twittery. Maxine Evans does fussing very well and she has a lovely drunk sequence.

Gareth Milton nicely underplays sensible yet vulnerable Andrew, the gay from next door. David Lyndon as the family doctor is the epitome of respectability when diagnosing and much more relaxed when courting Andrew.

This old-fashioned, and I don't mean that as an insult, play is a thoroughly entertaining and intriguing piece of theatre.
Victor Hallett

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