Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

"A Fine Achievement”

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Neontopia & Wales Millennium Centre- A Good Clean Heart , Underbelly, Cowgate , August 14, 2016
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Neontopia  & Wales Millennium Centre- A Good Clean Heart From Broadway Baby 14th August

“This play in English and Welsh (fully subtitled - don't panic!) follows two brothers, Hefin and Jay, separated at birth as they meet for an unexpectedly bumpy and difficult reunion. What follows is a moving exploration of cultural divide and to what extent we are shaped by our surroundings.

The play moves at a rapid pace for its entire duration. At the start my head was spinning and I was finding it difficult to follow both the languages. However, the play became much easier to follow later on, once I had adjusted to reading the Welsh lines off a screen and listening to the English ones. There were a few moments where the subtitles didn't appear and I couldn't work out whether this was intentional or not; it seemed more like a technical glitch than a theatrical technique.

Bilingualism was not the only standout feature of this play. Its bold use of technology and special effects to support the story was also very impressive. For instance, a Facebook messenger screen was projected on to the walls, displaying a conversation between the two boys. It was an important reminder that these lines of text were all the two characters knew of each other before their meeting.

James Ifan and Oliver Wellington, as Hefin and Jay respectively, played off each other fantastically as the two brothers. They showed real contrast on stage which highlighted how much the separation had impacted their lives. In particular, their very differing reactions to first meeting was both amusing and emotive. Both actors used multi-roling well, even switching into female characters sometimes, although the mother’s husband could have required a little more definition. Ifan deserves credit for switching between English and Welsh at an alarming speed; the play wouldn't have been possible without his uncanny ability to do this.
Theatre rarely diversifies in language but this bold choice really pays off. A bilingual play may be a difficult concept to understand, but A Good Clean Heart needs to be seen to be believed.”

From “the List”

“Hefin is 18 when his parents – his adoptive parents, it turns out – tell him he has a brother. And that he's been sending letters for years, which they've concealed. After an accidental online encounter, the young man flees small town Wales to head to London and his unseen sibling – where he gets a few unexpected insights into the darker sides of contemporary life.
It seems churlish to call it a gimmick, but “A Good Clean Heart”s distinguishing feature is that it's in both Welsh and English, with each language subtitled in the other (although the subtitling could do with a polish to keep up with the speedy spoken dialogue). But, in the end, Alun Saunders's script hardly delves into language differences, certainly not as an embodiment of the two men's contrasting backgrounds.

Instead, A Good Clean Heart is a punchy coming-of-age story, with brotherly affection battling against the darker impulses of growing up, and it deals with the inevitable disappointments of adult reality nimbly. James Ifan and Oliver Wellington give very strong, considered performances as the brotherly double-act, and Zakk Hein's attractive video design manages to be both stylish and instructional. It's a fine achievement – with or without language issues.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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