Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Haves and the Have-nots Battle

American Nightmare

The Other Room , The Other Room , September 10, 2019
American Nightmare by The Other Room Matthew Bulgo is an all round man of the theatre. Actor, producer and here with his playwright’s cap on, he has given us a stunning and compelling play, powerfully directed by the excellent director, Sara Lloyd. This may be the small intimate space of The Other Room but this is a ‘big’ play, the first in the theatre’s Violence Series.

If this is an example of the quality of the productions in the series, we are in for some exciting theatre and that is certainly what we are given tonight. We get top quality acting from all the cast. There are, in a way, two plays going on, though the link between them is quite clear. Upstage when the screens open we have a very sophisticated lady, beautifully and subtly realised by Ruth Ollman, clearly one of the ‘haves’ discussing seductively an architectural project with a well-heeled builder. A relaxed and penetrating performance from Chris Gordon. They are in a very smart high-rise restaurant drinking Martinis. The sharp, pacey dialogue bounces between them

Downstage we are in bunker-like cell where two people have been placed seemingly to kill their drug habit. They receive their threats and instructions from a powerful master. His hard face is projected on to a screen, where we see in large close-up, a masterly Richard Harrington, a personification of the ‘American Nightmare’.

Things aren’t going so well with the ‘have-nots’ lying on their hard beds on either side of the stage.
We get a remarkably strong characterisation of the crafty Elwood from Gwydion Rhys. He clearly wants nothing to do with his lively cellmate, Daria. We get a perfectly drawn picture of this lively and erotic character from Lowri Izzard and a totally engaging performance.

It’s when they do get together things start to zing! We start to believe that a degree of intimacy is growing between them but Izzard’s Daria is having none of it. She quickly brings the play to a startling and surprising end with a powerful change of her character, with new energy she seems to find in the air. Most certainly there is no American Dream here.

Each one of the four performers gives a performance perfectly pitched for the intimacy of the venue

The technical team’s scene of changing New York skyline projection adds another dynamic to the production.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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