Theatre in Wales

Plays and dance productions in Wales since 1982...

The River by Lucy Caldwell
First presented in 2004 by Ruth is Stranger Than Richard ,
cast size:5
The River’ tells the story of Rose, a young girl who is forced to grow up facing two images of her father: that of the man that told her stories and took her to feed the swans, and that of the man who ran away and left Rose with only his dirty secrets for company.

The play balances heightened lyricism against devastating realism to both brutally and beautifully portray the burden of sublimated blame and inherited guilt in all of its characters. 

No wonder the swans went away.


   There are 3 reviews of Ruth is Stranger Than Richard ,'s The River in our database:
The River by Lucy Caldwell
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Venue 13 Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2004

Lucy Caldwell’s sweet and engrossing little play is a study in purity retained despite the loss of innocence, the value of staying constant and the necessity eventually to move on. A particular riverside setting is its central image, a place where the young child Rose shared beautiful moments with her father.

But her father left and as Rose grows up and brings a variety of other people to this spot, its magic becomes less and less possible to believe in, until eventually she herself must acknowledge that the past is irretrievably gone and must be left behind.

Under Adele Thomas’ delicate direction, Sara Lloyd believably and evocatively takes Rose from ages seven to seventeen, showing us a bright and self-aware child who can be innocent without being naive and who can keep a core of idealism even as she is affected by the world’s corruptions. She just as convincingly lets us see her realise that she has outgrown her need for this spot and its associations. A simple stage design effectively symbolises the passage of time and decay of Rose’s fantasies by making the river and shore increasingly defaced by litter.
Gerald Berkowitz
The River by Lucy Caldwell
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Venue 13 Edinburgh

The River, produced by the wonderfully-named Cardiff company, Ruth is Stranger than Richard, is a coming of age drama that focuses on the dreamy Rose, a little girl who idolises her father.

The first scene gives the seven-year-old her last glimpse of him, as he mysteriously disappears having introduced her to the mysteries of The Rushy River, both mythical and real, as cleverly brought to the stage by designer, Carl Davies.

After this idyll and her father's disappearance, Rose, very convincingly played at all ages from child to teen by Sara Lloyd, struggles to come to terms with life.
Somewhat confusingly, Rose splits in two as her inner demon is embodied by a second actress, Leah Crossley. She is the one who puts doubts into her alter ego's mind. She also pollutes the river, symbolising a gradual loss of innocence.

This loss accelerates in the early teen years as she befriends the slutty Scouse Leanne (Rhian Green) and Angharad Lee's foul-mouthed Marie-Claire. It is the latter that has the key to the disappearance of Rose's father as she relives the drowning of her 16-year-old cousin.

The revelation of her father's misdeeds almost destroys the heroine but, ultimately, she comes though it, as she belatedly achieves maturity.

The River is generally very well written by a playwright who shows great promise, particularly in the creation of a believable protagonist. She only slips a little out of character in a scene with a teacher, played by Alistair Still, who also does a good job as the father.

Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide
The River by Lucy Caldwell
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Sherman Theatre, Venue 2
There is a unique quality about this company impressed upon us by the first reading of its intriguing title. Innocence is too simplistic a name for it, as with its clarity of purpose and deep caring commitment to new work of real quality, along with Adele Thomas’ understanding direction and the sensitivity of Lucy Caldwell’s writing, a touch a real artistic wisdom is beginning to emerge.

The excellent revues this production received on its outing to the Edinburgh Fringe are well deserved. The play ends on a note of hope and this young company sound a strong hopeful note for the future development of theatre in Wales.

It’s to a very pleasant sheltered place beside the river, a simple, cleverly designed river by Carl Davies, where Rose, an innocent 7-year-old is brought by her father to throw bread to the swans and their signets. There seems to be a great loving relationship between father and daughter and seems is the operative word. It’s to Alistair Sill’s great credit as an actor that in such a relatively short scene he is able to convey the duplicity that we later learn is the more dominant characteristic of this devious and seedy dad.

For the moment father and daughter play happily, tell stories and Ruth is very fascinated by the baby swans. Father tells her to take care beside the ‘rushy’ river as it has a strong and dangerous current. Soon after this his caring spirit leaves him and he leaves the family home.

His wife’s alcoholism and depression seem to stem from his dalliances and he has fled to get away from the place where the events of his passion with a young sixteen year old school girl who was carrying ihs child and on discovery threw herself into the swirling river and was drowned, are catching up with him. Again a ‘soap opera’ plot but in the hands of writer Lucy Caldwell it becomes a little gem of theatrical story telling, that just needs one small final polish.

Sarah Lloyd’s Rose is equally captivating and convincing at each stage of her development as she rapidly progresses from naïve seven year old to worldly wise and troubled seventeen year old. Her struggle with her dark influences and her deep sense of real decency are played out with the personalisation of her alter ego with Leah Crossley as Rose 2, giving a strong portrayal of the cynicism she seems determined to fight. It is the other Rose who determinedly pollutes the river and its bank, continually returning with more and more piles of dirt and rubbish as the play continues.

At one point Rose number 2 seems to have won as Rose number 1 makes a bungling attempt to seduce her teacher beside the now quite disgusting riverside spot. The two Roses struggle and agonise within. Rose 1 is pushed to the edge but she finds the strength to move on and away from her tough loud mouth sexually precocious ‘friends’ again delightfully played by Rebecca Sutton and Angharad Lee.

The human story was warmly told but the technical theatrical presentation of the piece needs to be tidied up. Each short scene worked very well but the links, some times going into over-long complete black outs, slightly undermined the pace and conviction. These breaks must not be left to die and are equally as important as the acted scenes and require as much attention. Maybe we could have been left with a low light to contemplate the river. Was it necessary to stop the action between every scene. I acknowledge that several years had passed by between some of the scenes but maybe the years could have passed by a little more quickly. Perhaps I’m just an old man quibbling, as I did become very engaged with the story and the quality of the acting.
Michael Kelligan

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