Theatre in Wales

Plays and dance productions in Wales since 1982...

To have and to Hold by devised by the company
First presented in 2001 by Hijinx Theatre

To Have and to Hold is a new devised play about marriage... relationships... friendship, based on research and real-life stories of people with learning disabilities. To have and to hold explores the trials and tribulations, the joys and jubilations of a brother and sister ... when he gets married and she meets a very special friend.

   There are 3 reviews of Hijinx Theatre's To have and to Hold in our database:
To have and to Hold by devised by the company
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Newport mencap Gateway
April 21, 2005
Exploring themes of family, love and romance, this production aims to engage both people with learning disabilities and their carers in the same entertainment. Rhiannon is a young woman yearning for a relationship; she also has learning disabilities and is cared for by her older brother, Phil. Romance enters the drama early, with the projection of Phil and Rachel’s wedding onto the stage. Appearing as a very real experience, it immediately adds a dose of authenticity to the action.
Although the drama is driven by Rhiannon’s aspirations of romance, other issues raise alongside it make the production equally relevant for all. The contrasting reactions from Phil and Rachel to the burgeoning relationship between Rhiannon and her school friend, Darren, emphasises that this play is for everyone. While Phil is very cautious about Rhiannon’s declaration of love, her sister-in-law Rachel is instantly pleased. Simply, she is empathising with another’s luck at finding romance, not judging on whether it is an appropriate situation for her.
Emphasising this aspect nicely, Rachel gently applies a little make-up on an eager Rhiannon, making the current changes really visible. When Phil returns from work, Rhiannon’s declaration to him, “I’m a woman now!” touchingly completes the metamorphosis. Everyone in the audience can appreciate the meaning, because she isn’t defined as Rhiannon-with-learning-difficulties, but just as a woman. If anyone doubts this message, the chorus of Time Keeps Moving On, sang with plenty of vigour from the cast, confirms it. 
Other points of view are also cleverly included, through Darren’s humorous narration of his parent’s attitudes; his father’s no nonsense approach, and his mother’s obvious need to shield him.
The simple set and originally scored music not only showcases the talent of the cast but also the quality of the production as whole. This play deserves a wide audience. A whole spectrum of people, especially those who have no experience of those issues, will enjoy and benefit from this energetic, but ultimately sensitive productions. A job well done.
Big Issue Cymru
To have and to Hold by devised by the company
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Pontardawr Arts Centre
May 12, 2005
A very cheerful looking family wedding video sets the scene. Rachel the bride, vibrant and pretty is given a very intelligent and lively performance by Peri Thomas. The happy couple is completed by tall dark and handsome groom, Phil very sensitively portrayed by Ceris Jones. The bouquet goes over the bride’s shoulder and it’s caught by Phil’s younger sister, Rhiannon – great expectations! Sadly life is never quite so simple.

This revival, of Hijinx To Have and To Hold, launched the company’s Spring tour, at the very attractive and lively Pontardawe Arts Centre, which it will continue to visit, as well as venues in Wales, centres as far apart as Blackpool and Gloucester. This neat and well rounded production was given a well deserved send off by the Deputy Mayor of Neath and Port Talbot and representatives of the higher echelons of The Arts Council of Wales and many friends of the company.

‘ Any play about falling in love, romance and weddings deals with universal emotions…and with the additional ingredient of dependency how much more potent the mix. Our play offers no easy answers, it explores a situation and opens the door to possibilities…to quote the old Chinese saying…”a journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step.”’ Val Hill Hijinx Administrative Director. Or in this case a throw of a bouquet.

Of course the production and its themes are of interest to everyone but the essential message of the play is directed at an audience of adults with learning difficulties. Whether seeing the play is a help to them is as big a question as how much help to anyone is a visit to the RSC or National Theatre?

In their new married home Phil has undertaken responsibility for Rhiannon, a knowing teenager despite her impaired awareness skills. The strength of the production arises from the cast’s real ability to create such real and convincing characters. Eloise Howe, as Rhiannon strikes a perfect balance in giving us both the vulnerabilities of the character and her flashes of genuine joy. Peri Thomas shows her frustration at the situation of not having her newly-wed husband completely to herself but at the same time creates an understanding character and gives herself fully to this potentially difficult situation.

With the target audience in mind, Hijinx founding Artistic Director Gaynor Lougher determines that the productions are never over long. In this case I did miss a word or two of scene setting indicating how we arrived at the situation at the core of the play. Rhiannon has a delightful imagination and has decided that she has a couple of potential husbands in the pipeline before she suddenly realises she has real feelings for fellow student Darren.

Darren is given such a beautifully warm and cuddly performance by Emyr John that anyone would want to give him a hug and take him home. They clearly get on very well and Rhiannon is soon into lipstick and ‘pins’ in her hair. She tells us, “I like kissing Darren. Feels nice. Think about him all the time. His funny face. Sparkly eyes. ‘proper relationship’ Rachel said. Holding hands, kissing. Proper relationship.’

Once again the Hijinx well proven style, of hanging up a few sheets and turning then into vibrant theatre, formula, works very well. Chrys Blanchard’s music, both Al Cappella and recorded, gently echo the themes and help to move the play on from scene to scene.

Although the difficulties that will probably lie ahead are flagged up we leave on a high note, as always full of the delight and joy, the rich soft creamy chocolate centre taste that a visit to any Hijinx production always leaves in the mouth.

Whilst the cast did bring real depth to the characters they play, one does just wonder, does Hijinx let their audience off too lightly, should their work, after twenty years, offer a greater degree of challenge to their audiences and could those sheets be hung just a little more cleverly?

Michael Kelligan
To have and to Hold by devised by the company
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Llanover Hall, Cardiff. and on tour
May 12, 2005
Marriage is more than two people just liking each other and having a church wedding in a pretty white gown with lots of presents, as a young woman with learning difficulties has to be taught to appreciate. Her recently married brother, on whom she is dependent, tries to guide her in a relationship with a young man who has similar problems.

Their trials and tribulations, joys and jubilations are sympathetically explored in this heartening and relevant play. As Rhiannon and Darren take hesitant steps in their romance, their carers are encouraged by the wise Chinese saying that a journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step. Eloise Howe and Emyr John project an appealing simplicity and innocent longing for companionship that proves quite touching. Ceris Jones and Peri Thomas as the brother and his new bride provide strong support.

In this example of theatre serving a social need, Gaynor Lougher’s direction is clear and sharp, full of humour, never over-earnest. The thoughts of the lovers are given as soliloquies, reminiscent of diary entries, with the short scenes effectively linked by songs and chants.

The simple sunshiney-yellow setting is designed by James North, with musical direction by Chrys Blanchard. Hijinx is taking this play for people with learning difficulties, their relatives and friends and all who care in the community, to around 40 venues in Wales and England on an 11-week tour.

Jon Holliday, The Stage

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