Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At the Sherman

Sherman Theatre- Everything Must Go , Lyric, Hammersmith, London , May 13, 2000
A recent spate of theatre work emanating from Wales has taken a jaundiced view of life in the valleys, and Patrick Jones's play, enlivened by a soundtrack from the Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and others, is no different. Cindy, Pip and Curtis live in a small Caerphilly town; for them, life is barren, New Labour is a bad joke, and the best they can hope for is a poxy job assembling cheap computers in the local factory. Heroin is a more appealing way to die.

Statistics in the programme point to Caerphilly's deprivation: its 8.1 per cent unemployment rate, the 29 per cent of its residents who have no educational qualifications. Unfortunately, these speak more eloquently about life in Wales than Jones's overwrought and self-consciously poetic script.

The first half of the evening isn't so much a call to the barricades as one long whine. Things buck up a bit in the second half, as Jones tells the story of the distraught A, who decides to terrorise the human resources manager who casually sacked his father. This scene is the best in the play: it has some real dramatic tension and, more importantly, it doesn't preach about but shows the gulf in Wales, between the haves and the have-nots, the workers and the enforced idle, the young and the middle-aged. The manager seals his fate by calling A "sonny".

Jones's play and Phil Clark's strident production have a youth audience in mind, but they have learned little from the innovative Volcano or Frantic Assembly, until recently both Welsh-based, and still with a huge under-25 following. This a stuttering, old-fashioned piece of theatre that merely pumps up the volume and throws in some tricksy visuals. The gutsy cast is way too old.

But it is the play's nihilism, the way it is so quick to applaud despair and suggests that feeling is better than thinking, that is so deeply depressing.

Reviewed by: Lyn Gardner

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