Theatre in Wales

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One of Sherman Cymru’s iconic happenings

At the Sherman

Sherman Cymru- Deep Cut , Sherman Theatre Cardiff , September 27, 2008
At the Sherman by Sherman Cymru- Deep Cut There have been a number of very fine productions from the Sherman Theatre over its thirty five year history, not quite as many as one would have liked but the soon to be refurbished building has given us in the last few months three very fine plays in succession. Deep Cut may yet prove to be one of Sherman Cymru’s iconic happenings.

The author, Philip Ralph is a very fine, passionate and committed actor, he has brought that passion and commitment to the construction of a most compelling and moving piece of theatre art. This was a verbatim play put together from words spoken and written by real people involved in the tragic incidents that occurred at the, now due for closure, Deep Cut Barracks between 1995 and 2002. But it is the order and juxtaposition of the very human reality of the words of the parents of Private Cheryl James, of Llangollen and her soldier friend Jonesy with the bland bureaucratic speak of Nicholas Blake QC and the rest of the establishment that draw us so strongly into this sad and bitter story. The official message was that ‘they’ were telling the truth. If this was the truth why did every word they uttered sound as if they were trying to cover something up?

The intimate set, deigned by Igor Vasiljev was mainly the living room of the home of Cheryl James’ bereaved parents Des and Doreen. Ciaran McIntyre gives us a truly award-winning performance, conveying the gentle bonhomie of the man equally as strongly as the deep hurt and sorrow brought on by the unanswered questions raised by their devastating tragedy. Rhian Morgan gave an equally captivating performance as his wife. Fine and subtle acting is given to us by all the cast, Simon Molloy’s QC is the epitome of cold, reactionary sophistication. Rhian Blythe is a great joy to watch. Whilst we always remain aware that they are all consummate actors presenting their art to us, we are always completely convinced of the reality that they portray. Blythe does this with such a vitality and determination that is easy to see how she gained her award at the Edinburgh Festival where the play made its first major impact.

Showing that he is much more that his Fagin, High Hopes comedy character Robert Blythe gave us an earthy Frank Swann, the forensic investigator who establishes a strong case against the official line taken by the army and the government. Robert Bowman completes the sextet with a well observed investigating journalist, Brian Cathcart, doubling with equal adroitness as the bland Lieutenant Colonel from the barracks.

The Sherman technical staff had skilfully recreated the atmosphere of Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre. The packed audience sat on three sides of the set on the main stage, we were almost in that living room with all the deceased Cheryl James’ belongings packed away carefully above our heads in the family attic. Director Mike Gordon set the play at a good pace and ensured that every word, both those that were strong and sincere and those that were bland and unconvincing registered. In a post show discussion he celebrated the fact that we live in a democracy where the government willingly funds the arts, allowing the arts to be extremely critical of that same government.

From the 4Th March until the 4Th April Sherman Cymru’s Deep Cut will play at the Tricycle Theatre in London; maybe some people in the government will attend and be moved to join the petition to establish the truth of these terrible events, if the real truth can ever be found? For the sake of closure for the families involved you can consider signing an on line petition – Only a few days ago another young recruit was found hanging at a barracks not far from Deep Cut - www.deepcutfamiliesfightforjustice.co.uk

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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