Theatre in Wales

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At Theatr Clwyd

Clwyd Theatr Cymru Theatr for Young People- Mimosa , Clwyd Theatr Cymru , July 15, 2015
At Theatr Clwyd by Clwyd Theatr Cymru Theatr for Young People- Mimosa I have long been an admirer of the work of Tim Baker and, being a committed follower of all things Patagonian, looked forward with anticipation to the performance of Mimosa by Clwyd Theatr Cymru and I was certainly not disappointed.

This year sees the 150th anniversary of the journey of the small converted tea-clipper Mimosa from Liverpool to the New Bay in Argentina carrying some 160 or so brave souls from Wales to set up Y Wladfa, the Welsh colony in Patagonia. There have been many celebrations in Wales, Liverpool and Argentina to commemorate the events of 1865 and there will be many more throughout 2015, but few can be as original and bold in their concept than a project that had been developing in Tim Bakerís mind over recent years and which has come to fruition in this production.

Mimosa, written and directed by Tim Baker, who once again has forged a highly successful link with Musical Director Dyfan Jones, tells the story of the shipís two month long voyage down to the South Atlantic through the seasons from the summer in Liverpool to the bleak Argentinian winter. As the Mimosa sails from summer to winter, from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere, from the known to the unknown, so do we see the passengers taking the psychological and emotional journey from hope and joy in anticipation of a new life free from the oppression of poverty and religious and political persecution to utter despair as the realisation dawns that Patagonia is not a land flowing with milk and honey, but a barren, cold, unforgiving wilderness devoid of all hope of a bright future.

I am a fan of minimalistic sets and that is what we have in this production. Much is left to the imagination, but such was the quality of the acting and direction that nobody who has had the good fortune to see Mimosa could fail to be there with the cast in the noisy, bustling dockland streets of Liverpool, in the cramped conditions on board the Mimosa both when becalmed and in rough seas and on the rocky coastline of what is now Puerto Madryn in the New Bay. We were there with Michael D. Jones back in Wales, with Edwin Cynrig Roberts and Lewis Jones on the shore in Madryn, with all the passengers throughout the adventure and with the inexperienced 25 year old Captain, George Pepperall.

Dylan Williams, a familiar face to Welsh audiences and who has recently finished a run performing in Les Miserables in the West End, is the senior member of what is a very young and talented professional cast. Dylan, Hanna Jarman, Tom Blumberg and the youngest member of the cast, Bethany Gwyn, each takes on a number of roles during the show and each is totally convincing, even when Bethany plays a somewhat older man! Not only are all four very talented actors, they also sing well both as soloists and in a harmony in which the Welsh excel.

The story revolves around the lives of 31 year old William Jones and his wife, Catherine, also 31 years old and their two daughters, three year old Mary Ann and sixteen month old Jane. The family had left Bala to embark on the voyage of adventure to Y Wladfa, but their early lives in the new colony were showered in grief. Mary Ann died on the day the Mimosa dropped anchor in the New Bay and her despairing parents had to face further heart-break when little Jane died a mere four weeks later.

It is to the credit of the actors and all concerned with the production that every scene, every emotion, every twist and turn in the story are all so credible. What is remarkable is that the drama is staged in both a Welsh language version and one in English. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the performance in Welsh, in the language of Y Fintai Gyntaf, the First Colonists, but the cast had already performed in English in the matinee earlier in the day. There are few actors who could perform the same play in two different languages in two performances on the same day. Such is the talent of the cast of Mimosa.

Having completed a demanding tour of Wales, culminating in an extended run in Clwyd Theatr Cymru, the four professional actors will shortly be joined by 18 young actors, 16 from Wales and 2 from Patagonia. The larger cast will perform in the National Eisteddfod in Meifod before the whole company flies out to Patagonia to perform in Gaiman, Madryn, Trelew and then over to Trevelin in the foothills of the Andes. It may be the Patagonian winter in August, but the party from Clwyd Theatr Cymru can certainly be assured of a warm welcome in Y Wladfa. My one regret is that, having just returned from our second visit to Patagonia, my wife and I will not be able to see Mimosa over in Argentina but we have already told friends over there that a theatrical treat is on its way to them.

The play, so heavily tinged in sadness and tragedy, ends on a note of hope for the future. Having survived the ordeal of their arrival in the New Bay and having lost a number of passengers, mainly young children, the story turns to the new births, two on board the Mimosa, and to the discovery of the River Chupat (Afon Camwy in Welsh) and of more fertile land 40 miles to the south of Madryn. William and Catherine went on to have a large new family in Y Wladfa and to have a successful life, with Catherine living right up to 1914. It was only fitting that Monica Jones, formerly of Gaiman and Trevelin, but now living in Deganwy, the great-granddaughter of William and Catherine should be in the audience to enjoy a truly fitting tribute to her ancestors and to the voyage of the Mimosa.

Reviewed by: Richard Snelson

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