Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Facing Up

Made in Wales , Theatr Clwyd , March-01-92
The Cardiff-based Made in Wales Stage Company and Theatr Clwyd Mold have enjoyed a long and productive relationship with a series of Write-On Festivals and Workshops, out of which have evolved a number of significant stage plays. The company is currently presenting a new work by the Neath-born writer Ieuan Watkins called Facing Up for a ten-day run during February 1992.
This play, like many others in the Made in Wales repertoire, is the result of an extended collaboration between the author and the company.

It is set in the dressing-room of a boxing venue in one of the South Wales valley atowns. The action is accompanied throughout by the shouts and cheers of a crowd watching a fight in an adjacent boxing ring. This background noise of an overtly public participation contrasts strongly with the intensely private nature of the events in the dressing-room.

Here Lloyd, an up-and-coming young Welsh boxer, is preparing for his bout, assisted by one of his seconds, the lugubrious Dick. They perform the pre-fight rituals with an almost surgical precision. When Lloyd is ready, mentally and physically, to “do the business”, as boxing buffs say, Vicky, his girl-friend comes into the room, and in a heated confrontation with Lloyd, discloses certain information which causes him profound anguish.

From that fairly basic situation, the author sets out to demonstrate that there are deeper confrontations between individuals that mere fist-fights. Lloyd, in particular, has to confront himself, and in the process he generates the emotional tension which is at the heart of the play.

Plot-wise, Facing Up is in the lightweight division, and the joins in the narrative are occasionally too much in evidence. However, the writing is fluent and idiomatic.

The author certainly knows his boxing and the expressive potential of the South Wales vernacular. He is also generally well-served by the actors and the director of the play. Jāms Thomas as Lloyd shadow-boxes and agonises to good effect, and Helen Gwyn is a sexy, street-wise Vicky and crafty to boot. The vastly experienced William Thomas is a laid-back, worldly-wise old pro, still hanging on the fringes of the boxing game.

Laurence Allan plays Eddie, Lloyd’s manager, with a typical Welsh brio. His language, peppered with obscenities, contrasts sharply with the ingrained Puritanism which causes Lloyd such inner torment. Eddie, perhaps, is larger than life, but he adds to the comedy and irony of the play in no small measure.

Steven Speirs, as Benny, the cad or villain of the piece, makes good use of his intimidating physical presence to provide the menace and mockery that keeps the action on the boil.

John Jenkins provides a spare but authentic-looking background and director Gilly Adams controls this entertaining bout of emotional fisticuffs with a steady and sure hand.

Reviewed by: Bob Roberts , The Stage

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