Theatre in Wales

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Memorable Debut for New Dramatist

At Theatr Clwyd

Clwyd Theatr Cymru- Bruised , Emlyn Williams Theatre, Clwyd Theatr Cymru , May-23-12
At Theatr Clwyd by Clwyd Theatr Cymru- Bruised Two things matter about “Bruised”. The first is that it is a critical success and doing good box office. Matthew Trevannion’s script has been around a while. It’s been to Sherman Cymru, had a reading at the Soho Theatre. Theatr Clwyd Cymru has slotted it into its Celtic Festival, alongside drama from Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre and Belfast’s Lyric. He is the luckiest playwright of the decade in having a first play fall into the hands of Kate Wasserberg, Max Jones and team. Nothing could illustrate better the mad-cappery of a life in the arts than the fact that his acting in the electric “Little Dogs” has prevented his presence among the early audiences. Directors, literary managers, actors get the work on stage but it is the audience that tells a writer how to do it.

Any first work, in any field of endeavour, has an element of haphazardness in its craft. It does not matter; craft only requires practice. A distinctive voice is a different matter; it’s there or it’s not there. “Bruised” is a kind of “Usual Suspects” for the stage, in that everything clicks in the last five minutes. Max Jones is always scrupulous in detail. For his dealer’s den in Pontypool he has done the last detail of the greasy hand-marks that accrue around a light switch. His set has a visual puzzle right from the opening, before the cast even appears. At the end it fits.

Like “the Usual Suspects” the end arouses the urge to see it again. Like the film not all in the audience are quite sure they’ve got it. Five minutes after the close of “Bruised” Sion Pritchard is to be seen in Clwyd’s downstairs foyer. He is elaborating on the script’s subtleties and plot points to a circle of enthusiastic viewers. He has a couple of hours between matinee and evening performance but time enough to stop, talk and enthuse; so much for all those digi-theorists who fret over theatre’s supposed lack of interactivity.

To mention another renowned film script would give away Matthew Trevannion’s central plot device. Nothing is ever entirely new. Charlotte Jones did the same when she wrote “Humble Boy”. I may be slow, I may be fast; for me it clicked in the birthday present scene.

The six Pontypool characters are playing two walls away from a group of Sondheim New Yorkers. For many in the audience the setting of “Bruised” is probably a more foreign land than Manhattan. Simon Nehan, shaven-headed with a tribal tattoo running from elbow to shoulder blade to ear, is simply terrifying. Bethan Witcomb is hollow-eyed, worn-down, cigarette-starved, twenty-one year old Stephanie. Sara Harris-Davies is never resting mother Wendy, offers of tea, toast or custard creams rarely off her lips. Sion Pritchard is a funny actor- a very funny actor- and it is good to see him cast as returning son Noah.

It is a small production team. Nick Beadle is on lighting, Matthew Williams sound, Ruth Hall is assistant designer. Rachel Bown-Williams’ contribution is crucial. Few things on stage are more difficult than the short, sharp violence that carries total conviction at a distance of ten feet. It works, superbly.

Matthew Trevannion’s writing is saturated in his Pontypool upbringing. “I didn’t come up the canal on a biscuit” says one character. Another has met “a gippo with a face like it’s been dead a month.” On the other hand Noah’s anecdotes from Japan are second hand, common currency.

“Bruised” ends on a fast climax and the audience goes abruptly from surprise to applause. They need a coda to manage the transition. There does not even need to be dialogue but it needs an extra minute or so. At the other end the play starts slowly. A character reading from a newspaper is not action. An audience needs a marker, what the play is, within fifteen, twenty minutes, which here is not obvious. But these are small details of technique.

The second thing that matters is that a new voice is uncommon in Welsh theatre. Some writers have only one play within them, some have a few, some a career’s worth. Matthew Trevannion deserves to know. It is not acceptable that he should wait three, four years to find out. Maybe talks are already underway. If not, the telephone call goes out from Senghenydd Road. Not in a good-idea-must-do-it-sometime kind of way: this week.



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Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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