Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Anamnesis 25.12

Mercury Theatre Wales , Chapter , December-19-14
Anamnesis 25.12 by Mercury Theatre Wales The image of Lynn Hunter, one of Wales leading actors, first as an old lady in a hospital bed looking very poorly, attached to an intravenous drip, then pulling out her venflon, leaping out of bed in her child’s Christmas onesie pajamas and dancing around like, no she is, Holly, a highly energetic eight year old. She cavorts and tumbles to the roaring delight of the audience and is just one of many iconic moments in this captivating show.

But let’s go back to the beginning. It is not often you visit a hospital, be welcomed by a ukulele playing nurse however it is Christmas Day. In the first of her three roles, bright eyed, Louisa Marie Lorey as Ward Sister Lee sparkles, makes sure we have sheet music for the carol singing and leads us into the
ward. The whole of the auditorium of the Chapter theatre is the ward with five patients, all wired up with their treatment drips. It is very atmospheric and a little disturbing but this spangled ensemble soon raises everyone’s spirits and we start to bring a bit of Christmas to the ward and the large audience gives a robust rendering of the first carol, Ding Dong Merrily On High.

The visitors are invited to give the patient a hug for Christmas and some of them even have presents.
It may be worth quoting the programme with a dictionary definition here;
• Psychology: A recalling to memory: recollection.
• Medicine: The complete history recalled and recounted by patients.
What director Bethan Morgan and her writers have so skillfully done, using real-life stories and using the presents we see the patients being given, trigger their memories and relive related situations from earlier in their lives.

Grumpy teenager Nick is given a chocolate orange, he stiffens, quickly jumps out of his hospital bed and he is the older brother of the Christmas pyjamered Holly as they romp around the Christmas tree. Like everyone in this glittering cast François Pandolfo is equally engaging. Christmas is bad for them this year; they will be lucky if they get even a chocolate orange between them. Father is a drunkard and has spent the Christmas present money on booze. Dean Rehman give us a very convincing ‘not my fault’ alcoholic and has a strong stage presence here and particularly as the drop-out, Jesus in the final uproarious scene.

Every member of the cast, with aplomb, plays at least three parts. Patient, Dean Rehman is another Dad, his present is a candle. We relive a Christmas electricity blackout, a first Christmas for dad and his two kids without their mother. The candle replaces the electricity and recalls another beautiful and magic moment. I’m not giving that one away.

Sarah-Lousie Tyler is another very engaging performer. Her hospital present is a music box. Its music brings back her time in the Second World War. We are all invited to join in The Lambeth Walk but the intense Jitterbugging is best left to the vitality of the cast. Sir Winston Churchill also appears broadcasting his stirring speeches standing on a hospital bed, complete with long cigar. The inestimable acting of John Cording makes us think we are in the presence of the great man himself.

The farcical nature of the closing scene is extraordinary. Now as the ninety two year old heart attack survivor, Lynn Hunter’s present is a pair of golden high-heeled shoes. Her granddaughter Robyn, another role for Louisa Marie Lorey, brings home a stinking vagrant to the family Christmas supper, much to the consternation of her parents and grandmother. As a result of a 999 call for grandma’s heart attack and the visiting vagrant, Jesus, all hell breaks out and it takes armed police to sort it.
Can’t really say so too much about this kind of chaotic stage activity, you just have to see it. We settled things down with a final carol and are all very grateful indeed for this early Christmas present from Mercury Theatre.

29-31 Dec the play can be seen at The Lord Mayors Reception Room, The Guildhall, Swansea.

3 Jan Pontardowe Arts Centre.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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