Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At the Sherman

Sherman Cymru- Cardboard Dad , Sherman Theatre , November 5, 2009
At the Sherman by Sherman Cymru- Cardboard Dad Alan Harris is a strong emerging Welsh playwright who is able to put his finger on current events and reflect on how the major goings on in the world affect and impinge on our domestic realities. Donna is a lonely Army wife, seemingly out of nowhere she receives a life-size cardboard cut-out of her husband to “help the family adjust while service personnel are away from home.” (Apparently this actually does happen in America –well I guess it would!)

Harris’ work always contains many sparkling notes of humour as well as shrewd observation and a modern-day poetic sensitivity and no little fantasy. With its two or perhaps three players, Simon Nehan, his cardboard alter-ego and Shelley Rees creating two very lively and captivating characters and with its imaginative and engaging story it’s hard to put a finger on why this particular play doesn’t quite take off.

I was watching a preview and the official opening is not for a couple of days. They have been running it since the 15th but the banter and the playful rapport between the players I know will sparkle even brighter. But the problems with the production are more endemic and lie with its presentation and dramatic interpretation.

The opening sequences – husband is away at the war, the cardboard cut-out has not yet arived and in mime, smiles and whispers Donna takes us through her daily routines of polishing the furniture, reading, listening to the radio and taking in the Tesco deliveries. These were opportunities for much more humour, incite and expressionism than we were given. For me the realistic-ish set was at odds with the situation and fitted awkwardly into the Venue 2 exciting stage space.

The early part of the story where the couple meet before our laddie goes off to the army works very well. Here the acting challenge is the basic one of making us believe in the characters we are watching but later when Nehan is the animated form of his cardboard cut-out the two actors need to take a step back from their characters to create more of an objective comment on the situation they find themselves in, not simply continuing to keep us whole heartedly believing in them, which they do very well, Nehan as the boyo soldier and Ress, the slightly dotty, stay-at-home wife. I did wonder if the ‘live’ husband was really necessary and though I would not want to do the actor out of a job the situation might well be even more compelling if it was simply a conversation between the actress and her cut-out husband. These questions prevented the dramatic truth from coming through and churned in my mind and prevented me from entering into the spirit of the production I was watching

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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