Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A biblical tale of courage, passion and political corruption

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru- Esther , Sherman Theatre May 11th/12th May 2006 , May 15, 2006
Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru- Esther A biblical tale of courage, passion and political corruption performed by some of Wales’ most prolific actors, in a language I could not comprehend – a challenge or a pleasure?

When faced with observing a production in a language unfamiliar to oneself should it be a linguistic confrontation or a perceptible encounter that can stand alone without the aid of discourse as its crutch?

It is difficult to assess where welsh language theatre stands in culture today. To how great an extent does it detach non-welsh speakers? Does it encourage a somewhat selective approach within our theatrical society? Or is it on its way out? I saw this production as an experiment – what could I grasp from this well established and popular welsh play? What could find its way through the language barrier?

Written in 1960 by the late Dr Saunders Lewis Esther is a biblical story transformed into a morality play full of vehemence and tension. The plays heroine risks her own life as she confronts her husband’s decision to sentence the Jewish nation to death. She takes on the fraudulent Haman, second in command, whose wish to see the eradication of the Jews fails and we witness his demise and the salvation of the Jewish people.

As the words signified nothing I looked to the body language, tone and expression as my guide. Haman’s (Rhys Parry Jones) arrogance and intimidation are displayed through his physicality - a large towering figure casting a pungent shadow over the tiny, frail stature of Esther portrayed exceptionally by Nia Roberts. His load, roaring words recoil as they are seized by the sharp wit and resilient passion of his female contender, leaving him with no option but to desperately utilize his last and only weapon – his physical strength. The humble Mordecai (Rhys Richards) moves and converses delicately only raising his voice when his frantic emotions and desperation topple his humble dignity. The charismatic King played superbly by Julian Lewis Jones maintains command and domination whilst displaying tenderness and adoration for his beloved wife.

Whilst the set was minimal it thrived on its simplicity, the tall, imposing doorway acting as a dynamic focal point. For me, the strength of the acting and the intensity of the plot left little room or need for an intricate set. The actors utilized this space with great ease signifying a solid and thoughtful piece of direction from Daniel Evans. Strong visual shapes emerge as the actors travel around the stage, pausing to reveal a bodily formation that establishes itself in your mind. For a play that is discussed and analysed so much for its words, Evans brings a new visual dimension to the text, and with this move releases a sense of accessibility.

With _ a million pounds going to English language theatre in Wales one has to wonder what the future holds for it’s welsh counterpart. The Theatre Genedlaethol Cymru’s production of Esther is a worthy example of why we must encourage the continuation of welsh language productions throughout Wales.
Despite my inability to comprehend the crucial dialogue that is at the heart of this text, I can honestly say that from the moment the play commenced until the final second, I was so engaged with the standard of acting and the imaginative direction that I almost forgot my dialectal alienated state.

Reviewed by: Amy Stackhouse

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