Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Welsh Designer In Impressive Company Debut Tour


Bear Trap Theatre Company , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , February-22-12
Bound by Bear Trap Theatre Company Hard, physical, male work is a subject not commonly seen on stage. Writer-director Jesse Briton’s script looks back to a David Storey-like tradition. His choice of subject is certainly brave. After a scene on a Brixham quayside, his six characters- five Devonians and a Pole- are sent out to sea. This is not the sea as a place of urban leisure but the source of money. The ping of the sonar is in constant pursuit of the elusive shoals. It is a search that leads to a Force Eleven storm. In that wind, James Ashton’s Alan, the veteran seaman, tells ingénue Alex Clarke’s Kirk a flying frying pan will take a head off.

Buddug James Jones comes from outside Newcastle Emlyn. Her design is crucial to the look of “Bound”- a cunning, dual-meaning title that reveals itself slowly. Simplicity is all. Table and chairs become a cabin. A light bulb swings through a one hundred and eighty degree arc. Fellow artistic director Joe Darke is musical and movement director. He gives “Bound” moments of intense physicality.

Jesse Briton’s characters make no reference to the surroundings. It is their working terrain. To talk about it would have as little logic as the Boys from the Blackstuff talking about asphalt. Instead, they squabble, tease and taunt. The food is cursed. They fret about the larger trawler on the horizon. Experience in this world is without dignity. Aging means loss of strength and agility. In these cramped, tense conditions male co-existence veers between fissure and solidarity.

The plot has two key points of dramatic decision. A character has a back-story that is similar to one in John Sayles’ 1999 script for “Limbo.” A plot turning point is in common with Sebastian Junger’s “A Perfect Storm.” Not that it matters; all great artists borrow.

“Bound” was conceived in 2009. It carries the shadow of the September of the year before. It starts with a link in the fish supply chain going bankrupt and a successful catch having to be shifted at basement price. Although the men have acquired semi-detached homes and modest cars in the better years, the price has been collapsed personal lives. Ironically, the dourest character has the most content of lives. But he is well mocked over his new-found enthusiasm for ballroom dancing.

Late on, the script reveals that the vessel is the remnant of a fleet that was once fifteen-strong. A key encounter takes place between Edward Grace’s John and driven Skipper Wood played by Thomas Christian. It reveals, truthfully, that brittleness of comradeship between the wage-earner and the one who carries the financial risk.

The cast is completed by a sparring pair, Jonathan Busby’s Graham and John McKeever’s Rhys. “Bound” went to Edinburgh eighteen months ago on a mix of self-belief, determination and debt. In that Darwinian battle for attention, popular and critical reception turned it into a winter tour from Perranporth to the Lowry. It is a strand of theatre that cheers and awes in equal measure.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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