Theatre in Wales

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At the Sherman

Home , Sherman Theatre , January 24, 2016
At the Sherman by Home Many of my visits to theatres have provided unique experiences. Here was a particular and very beautiful, unique event.

The whole of the floor of the bare, extensive Sherman Theatre stage floor was coloured white, the back wall was also all white; Ceri James’ lighting provided a very still space, a perfect background from which these, often moving, stories emerge.

A simple row of chairs lined the back wall of the stage. The chairs at the sides of the stage were interspersed with suitcases. One very small Pakistani boy, carrying a suitcase, walks timidly to the centre of the stage. He looks around; his face carries a bewildered expression. Soon he is joined by many more children from Cardiff’s Waulah community, all carrying suitcases. This is the first time these children have been on a stage. They walk in a very precise and disciplined manner, consciously following the directions of their director. Andrew Sterry has directed with a deft and gentle touch allowing the large cast the best way to tell their own stories.

The children return to their seats leaving two suitcases in the centre of the stage. Two elderly gentlemen walk forward and pick up their suitcases. They are brothers, one is 87 and the other 89. They are the real originators of all the stories from Cardiff’s Waulah community. Waulah is a small village situated in the heart of Pakistan’s Punjab region.

They tell us briefly of the difficulties they experienced arriving in Cardiff in the late fifties.
Two younger men take their suitcases to the front of the stage, they take out two saplings and leave them on the ground. Over the next twenty years many more people arrived in Cardiff from Waulah, young men and whole families. The stage is now full of young children, men and women of different ages. Four generations in all.

We hear that their early days were hard, living in cramped quarters, working in hard jobs. Life improves with each generation. They own their own businesses. They go to university and into professional jobs. The community is a reflection of life around them. Many of the stories are gently and eloquently spoken. A tremendous atmosphere of beauty and dignity is created. The only moments of a real concern came when they described their feelings at the way their community is represented in the media. We could see their point. A tear was occasionally shed both on stage and off. In the last moments of the performance, though it was more living reality than performance, each person on the crowded stage looked straight us and whispered “Thank You” I felt humbled to be in their presence.

Every theatre should belong to its community. The Sherman’s new, enlightened Artistic Director, Rachel O’Riordan has said “We are here for you - the Sherman is your theatre.” Through the theatre’s Sherman 5 scheme she is extending her hand out to welcome people who have never been to the theatre before. For details of this excellent project see

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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