Theatre in Wales

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Theatr Clwyd Cymru: Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3

At Theatr Clwyd

Clwyd Theatr Cymru- Cariad , Emlyn Williams Theatre, Theatr Clwyd Cymru , February 8, 2008
At Theatr Clwyd by Clwyd Theatr Cymru- Cariad “Cariad”, a first play by actress Sophie Stanton, completes a memorable trio of Welsh plays put on this winter. After the literary “A Toy Epic” and Meredydd Barker’s tremendous “Two Princes” “Cariad” is small scale but nonetheless a rip-roaring piece of modernity.

Set in a scruffy mid-Wales terrace it is a three-hander in which drunk Jayne, her mother’s ashes in tow, blunders into the home of childhood friend Blodwen and nine year old daughter, Emily, a remarkable performance, half-elfin, half-feral by Bettrys Jones.

Mother Blodwen, large in body and gross in sentiment, has a rich and ribald language all of her own. “How’s your bum for love bites?” is her way of enquiry as to a boyfriend. Her fornicating sister is “a big slimy piece of smelly turd”. Resigned over the absence of partner Allaun she says “I’ve never been into sex. Too sticky for my liking.” Dewey-eyed towards a childhood friend, permanently punitive towards her daughter, Blodwen is a big blowsy role seized by Rachel Lumberg and played with colossal brio and an underlying poignancy.

Posher Jayne is prone to delivering weighty lines – “There’s nothing left between me and the sky”, “Maybe’s that’s God”, “Talking is Air”- that fit uneasily into the text. Unattached, with no professional background other than “London”- here just code for not-Wales- she has a gift of instant bonding with child Emily. But she is under-characterised even though Esther Ruth Elliott does her best with her.

As a play “Cariad” is more a situation spread across six scenes than a honed drama. Structurally, having a character drunk for the whole of the first scene, means the audience is left waiting a long time to grasp the direction of the play and even at the end of the second scene it is unclear. However, Act Two pulls it together and moves towards an affecting scene of reconciliation.

Plays by women about women are rare sightings. “Top Girls” and “Dreams of San Francisco” were a long time ago. There are things in “Cariad” that a male playwright would, could not do. Jayne staggers around the room, tights around her knees. “Oh, my aching pissflaps” and “Worse than a bloody period” are just two of the lines a male writer would shrink from.

Caryl Churchill’s and Jacqueline Holborough’s plays tackled women and public life. “Cariad”, for all its opening of fresh dramatic territory, is rootedly about women in the home. But, for a first play it is an achievement of character and language, and Sophie Stanton should feel well pleased.

Postscript: somewhere there are regional judges around who nominate best acting awards to the Theatrical Management Association. Wherever you are, please take out your nomination forms and write in the name of Rachel Lumberg.

“Cariad” continues until 16th February

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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