Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Facing Up

Made in Wales , Theatr Clwyd , February-18-92
Facing Up, a new play by a new writer, came out of the workshops run by Made in Wales stage company, which specialises in new writing for the theatre in an area of Britain that doesn't have much of a dramatic (as opposed to literary or musical) tradition. Over the past 10 years they have begun to create one.

Ieuan Watkins, a teacher from Mold and a former amateur boxer, has set his first play in the changing room of a boxing club in the valleys, where the ring offers a hope of escape to working class boyos with ambition.

Lloyd Morgan is facing a fight that could take him to championship level when his girlfriend, with more determination than tact, invades the sweaty stronghold with an ultimatum: she's been molested by one of his mates and wants satisfaction.

It is a punishing dilemma for a wholesome lad like Lloyd, who wants to settle down with Vicki but has other things on his mind at the moment: to him she has almost invited the assault by working (unknown to him while he's working out) as a part-time stripper. And bare-knuckle brawling with a heavyweight isn't going to help his career. The agonising irony of being a professional fighter is that you're not free for street-fighting to defend your woman.

The play that has been worked up from that tantalising and often very funny clash delicately probes the relationships between the boxer (Jams Thomas) his pugnacious girl (Helen Gwyn) and bullying Benny (Steven Speirs).

There's an underlying tension, too, echoing the clash of scruple versus unscrupulousness, between his careful coach (William Thomas) and go-for-it manager (Laurence Allan) - is the skill or the will more important in winning?

Gilly Adams' direction, which has nurtured the play from that first workshop through rehearsed readings to full production at Theatr Clwyd's studio, gives a vivid reality to both the issues - which have suddeny become topical - and to that very specific world of machismo, muscle, mateyness, money and mothering.

She's helped by detailed observation in both the design, by John Jenkins, and the immaculate playing by a clearly committed company (with boxing training by Jackie Chambers). Anyone who cares about the way words and ideas are used - you don't have to be Welsh or a pugilist - will be knocked out by it.

Reviewed by: Robin Thornber, The Guardian

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