Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Charm, Cheer and Charity

Anamnesis 25.12

Mercury Theatre Wales , Small World Theatre Cardigan , December 18, 2015
Anamnesis 25.12 by Mercury Theatre Wales Mercury Theatre’s last-of-2015 tour starts on a seasonal note. A choir has been requested and a community group from St Dogmael’s has met the request. The entrance area of Small World’s venue is compact and it is filled with song from the assembly of a dozen-plus singers. This particular performance area in Cardigan, into which the audience is led, is unique and Small World’s timbered, balconied tepee of a central area is bathed in fluorescent blue.

Mercury Theatre’s successor production to “Spangled” has visited residential homes before this five-venue tour. Its setting, and concept, has freshness and novelty. Its setting might be guessed by Bethan Morgan in costume who welcomes each and every audience member on arrival. Anamnesis- this is the second piece this year to have a weighty classical word in its title- has meanings, the programme explains, in the realms of both psychology and medicine. In the latter it refers to “the complete history recalled and recounted by a patient.”

The show has song and music led by a pair of chirpy ukeleles. The company of eight waltz and jitterbug. The format for the audience is part-peripatetic, part-seated. Opportunities for participation are offered but not mandatory. The first participant, who becomes a regular, is called Carol. She swiftly earns herself the soubriquet of “Christmas Carol.”

The form is impressionistic, leading up to a set-piece of a stressed-out Christmas dinner across three generations of family. Less-than-welcome visitors include hoodie Jesus, pronounced Hay-zoose, who leaves a tooth and what else in the twenty-one year old malt and nicks a yet-to-be-opened prized vintage cognac. When the police arrive it is in the form of Sam Harding armed and in flak jacket. Even for these nervy days it feels a little like over-kill.

Leading up to this comedic farce the production touches on the stresses and strains of what Christmas has become. This week the BBC- give credit where it is due- created a documentary sequence of Christmases over every decade back to the 1940s. The participants revealingly liked that of the 1970s best, the one before the first Sinclair and Commodore 64. It was the balance point between eras of privation and rationing and a felt grossness of private expenditure. “Anamnesis 25.12” touches on the family that has suffered redundancy at work, a financial situation made worse in the face of the extravagance of the gift that is the expectation of an eight-year old daughter.

Anther narrative brings to light a long-covered secret on a love once proscribed. A Father Christmas runs foul of a worldly child and a vengeful parent. Mercury Theatre’s multiple strands of narrative have drawn on a cluster of six writers. Bethan Jones, Bethan Morgan, Shane Anderson, Jodie Ashdown and Jaye Swift are variously alumni of the National Youth Theatre, Bangor, Bridgend College and the Spread the Word scheme. Owen Thomas is author of “Grav”, set to reappear in 2016.

Some of the performers are familiar faces. David Prince, Judith Haley and Daniel Rochford are joined by Francesca Goodridge, a 2014 graduate, in five roles covering the span from ten year old horror to mother of a teenager. Holly Genevieve is video artist and Dan Young lighting designer. Also offstage is the considerable presence of Lynn Hunter in the role of assistant director.

“Anamnesis 25.12” spans word, video, music and dance. It is impressionistic, as warm as the weather outside, demonstrably amiable in its attitude to its audience. It is not embarrassed to raise a laugh or two but knows too that lightness need not diminish charm, a sense of charity and humane regard that is still the inner essence of the Christmas season.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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