Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At Theatr Clwyd

Bruised , Clwyd Theatre Cymru , May 25, 2012
At Theatr Clwyd by Bruised The third play in Clwyd Theatr Cymru's Celtic Fringe Festival is their own production of Matthew Trevannion's first play, Bruised.

It's a darkly funny domestic drama set in Pontypool. Dysfunctional is probably too mild a word for this particular household with drugs, violence, domestic abuse, an unwanted pregnancy and mental instability all adding to the mix.

Purely on that straightforward level it's a powerful play, superbly acted and directed with the speed and energy of a racing locomotive.

But the reason I went back to see it a second time is that there is an element that only gradually reveals itself. I confess that on my first viewing it didn't reveal itself to me until my wife asked me a question as we were leaving the theatre and all became clear in retrospect. We both wanted to go back and properly listen to particular conversations and speeches, as well as looking closely to see how well directional misdirection was handled.

And it was handled so well that it was a pleasure to see just how I had been fooled. Now I'm sorry, I'm not going to reveal that extra level because, although the run has come to an end, this is far too good a play to just disappear and it is one of those where the less you know when you see it the better.

Not only is it exceptionally well written, it also contains roles that actors can really get their teeth into.

Shane, drug dealer, macho man, not a boyo you'd want to get on the wrong side of, is a magnificent creation. Simon Nehan is a force of nature in the part, an aggressor who sees himself as a protector, a man who will brook no argument but who sees himself as wholly reasonable. This is one of the performances of the year.

He is the intruder in the home of Sion Pritchard's excellent nervous, twitchy Noah, the son returned from years abroad. Sara Harris-Davies is Mam, a woman who doesn't want change or trouble or disturbing memories stirred up. This is the best acting I've seen from her, particularly the moments when her eyes reveal the fear and the emptiness inside.

The other son is Adam and Rhys Wadley lends him a calmness and self-possession that is in contrast to the general atmosphere. It's beautifully controlled acting amidst the mayhem.

The unwanted pregnancy belongs to daughter, Stephanie, and Bethan Witcomb gives a fully rounded (in more sense than one) performance of a girl who feels that her life, on her 21st birthday, has already ended.

The remaining character is Lugs, the slightly thick dogsbody to Shane, who Shane regards as his personal pet. Kristian Phillips makes him someone you really care about, particularly when he limps in with a gruesomely convincing dog bite on his leg.

The director is Kate Wasserberg and she uses noise and business as effectively here as she has used silences in the past. You don't just watch this family, you become part of it and when violence occurs you feel it almost physically.

Her direction, Max Jones' seemingly realistic but actually slightly off-kilter set, the strong acting from everyone and especially the impressively complex writing make this one of the top productions of the year.

Reviewed by: Victor Hallett

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