Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Comedy from Colwyn Bay to Cardiff

Whose Coat is that Jacket?

Frapetsus Productions , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , September-30-12
Whose Coat is that Jacket? by Frapetsus Productions Jack Llewellyn founded his four-year-old company on the only principle that works, clearness of purpose. From purpose comes consistency, from that identity, and from that audience. “If reaching new audiences…is important to your work or organisation, make this everyone's responsibility not just one person's” says a participant at a recent theatre get-together in Cardiff. Frapetsus has a complementary talent in the form of Tom McLeod but Jack Llewellyn is his own producer-actor-writer. Frapetsus has staked out an area of theatre that is its own but adjacent to that of Jon Godber and Frank Vickery. Critics and commentators avoid them but they fill houses. But then critical orthodoxy too shuns writers like Nicci French or Ruth Rendell, artists superior to many a Man Booker nominee.

“Whose Coat is that Jacket?” has progressed from its start in Swansea’s Arts Wing to an eight-venue tour from Colwyn Bay to Cardiff. It delights a West Wales audience for one starting reason. Its characters share the same physical landscape. Unhappy pair Rhodri and Ruth have met at Aber University and the town comes in for a quip or two. Burryport and Aberaeron get a mention. Sixth formers Ceri Phillips’ Ieuan and Rhys Wadley’s Bleddyn crack a joke at the expense of Carmarthen’s Trinity College. “North Wales..” muses Ieuan Rhys’ wonderfully relaxed Dafydd “it’s an extension of Liverpool.”

Jack Llewellyn relies more on comedy of situation rather than one-liners. But he knows that good comedy has sadness at its heart. The population churn, old for young, is a constant for West Wales. The pain and loss felt by the empty-nesters is very real- Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour not so long back reported a father who drove his daughter to the station for her university send-off and returned home sobbing. The kind of marital weekends that Jack Llewellyn depicts, one of an unvarying heavy predictability, happens all the time. Terri Dwyer’s Ruth, with her dimmed life on a fifteen thousand a year clerical job, hurts.

Maxine Evans directs unobtrusively. Recalling an encounter outside a shower Ceri Phillips squeaks and both his feet leave the ground. It takes a few plays for a fully-fledged comedy writer to emerge. Here an onstage television, although crucial to the plot, renders the action a little static. A washing line means the characters have to duck. The Bleddyn-Rhodri age gap, though not impossible, niggles. The climax, which requires an offstage revving vehicle, reminds the audience of what it cannot see.

These are, however, minor aspects of stagecraft. To its credit “Whose Coat is that Jacket?” does not judge its characters. Mam may cling, but in Sara Harris-Davies’ playing she is identifiably vulnerable. Dafydd and Rhodri inhabit that borderline of silence that is common between father and son. When it is breached it has all the more meaning. But most of all “Whose Coat is that Jacket?” has the arc of a story, it moves, it twists, and reaches a satisfying conclusion. It touches the emotions.

Another reporter from Cardiff’s Devoted and Disgruntled in September states that the number of new plays in Wales in a year is a fifth or a sixth that of Scotland. Documentary is television’s province. Get a crafted story and the audience will come. Two hundred plus ticket-buyers in Aber know it and they show it.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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