Theatre in Wales

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Wild and Exuberant Comedic Play from France

The Best of Touring Theatre

Yuri- August 012 , Chapter , October-15-15
The Best of Touring Theatre by Yuri- August 012 The artistic mission of August 012 is to bring plays from beyond Britain, principally European, to Cardiff. If there is a unity to the mission the choice of the plays themselves, and the authors, is highly eclectic. Fabrice Melquiot's three-hander is as far from Camus and “Roberto Zucco” as might be. Melquiot himself in France is prolific and versatile, first an actor, then writer, songwriter, director and performance artist. Since 1998 he has been author of children's stories and the eponymous character “Yuri” is himself a child, of a kind.

All stories carry cadences of others that have gone before. There is an echo in “Yuri” of Pasolini's late film “Teorema” in which a stranger enters a home with an enigmatic presence that is to affect the household forever. Yuri does that but in a manner that is a universe away from the glacial presence of Terence Stamp in the Pasolini. Yuri is a thirteen-year old- or so declares Carys Eleri's Adele- although he is manifestly not as played by Guto Wynne Davies with a rosy sweetness, at least at first.

Ceri Murphy's Patrick enters from a seat at the back of Chapter's packed-out studio in black motorcycle gear. The character has a depressive tendency and a low sperm count that makes for the couple's childlessness. Their home, mentioned as in the Carmarthenshire vicinity of Upper Tumble, is a riot of incongruous modernity. Jack Llewellyn's characters, just a village or so away, never inhabited a space of zigzag carpeting and bright yellow chairs and toaster. Camilla Clarke, hailed this Spring for her work with Volcano, is designer of this madcap space. The yellow motif matches the foot-high Minion, one of the playthings for child-man Yuri.

The best of comedy relies on jarring mismatch. A sense of hazard helps and Fabrice Melquiot does both. Adele has found Yuri in a supermarket next to a pile of seasonal flim-flam and brought him home. She presents him as the perfectly obvious solution to fill their lives and home. Patrick explodes in protest, scans the television news for an item on a kidnapping and showers the new arrival with every bit of Russian he can lay his hands on. “Boris”, “Stalin” and “Rasputin” are just the beginning. “Fate has brought us brought us together” says Adele. “F*** fate” he says.

Rupert Harrington, a Masters student at Cardiff, is translator of the text from French and Dafydd James adapter into a theatrical Welsh and English. As expected it has a James-ian verve and energy to it. Equally to be expected a Mathilde Lopez-directed production is not to going be grit and hard-toned realism. When Patrick goes for a shower her method gets a whoop of audience approval. Patrick ends the one and a half hour show bizarrely in a full-size Bugs Bunny outfit.

The company for August 012 includes image-maker Jorge Lizalde, Branwen Munn on sound and Katy Morrison on lighting. Sara Jane Leigh is producer, in Cardiff for this show before departing for New Zealand to join the cast of “Hiraeth.” Elgan Rhys with his ever-broadening range of activities in assistant director.

These are all experienced theatre professionals. Carys Eleri and Ceri Murphy are actors of depth and experience who can hold the largish space in Chapter with ease. But “Yuri” is made whole by the inspired casting of Guto Wynne Davies. The character barely speaks and he maintains an almost unchanging expression of benign innocence. It is that quality that renders his bouts of action so effective. He howls on occasion, races out through the fire exit into the night, gets to throttle his supposedly new father. He relieves himself at length on a cushion and insouciantly displays an appendage of a size that certainly throws into question his supposed age.

“Yuri” has unexpected moments. But no-one ever went to a production of a Lopez-James collaboration in expectation of theatrical sobriety. The soundtrack has song in Welsh, Russian and, in accord with the unfolding plot line, Chinese and Congolese. The surtitles even manage the Chinese and, in a nod to the work's origin, the music ends with Piaf. Yuri acquires some rudimentary language after the chomping of some scrabble piece. It's funny. New work in Wales has a tendency to be overhung by the Puritan past. A Billy Roche or John Byrne does not easily take seed. “Yuri” is funny. It's funny at the start, at the middle and at the end. Melquiot gives his plot a twist of a finale that is a little outrageous. All in all it is a treat.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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