Theatre in Wales

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At the Sherman

Love, Lies & Taxidermy , Sherman Theatre , November 15, 2016
At the Sherman by Love, Lies & Taxidermy This extraordinary production was one of the most dazzling and exciting pieces of theatre I have seen for quite a long time. I was reminded of a young Peter O’Toole bursting onto the Bristol Old Vic stage as Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger. Three splendid actors spun lines at each other like spinning frisbees, sometimes they spun them into the audience and the audience spun them back. I have never experienced a situation where every single member of the audience was tingling with palpable excitement at every moment of the performance. This found release in the final burst of applause from this packed house at the end of the play.

Writer Alan Harris has broken away from a conventional narrative, there is a story but our great satisfaction came from the completely compelling way he and director George Perrin and the actors were telling it. This was an animated work of surreal fine art but with no bewilderment, well maybe a bit but that was part of the fun.

We’re in the Sherman Arena; the stage is a crimson circular carpet, the audience sit in a circle around it. It’s a bit like watching a boxing match. Three ‘fighters’- two men and a young woman are on stage.
The younger man is Valentyne, an odd name for a boy from Merthyr. Yes that’s where it all takes place. Merthyr has its own surrealism. The quality of the performance of all three actors is of the highest quality. Andy Rush brings both a self-assuredness and sensitivity to his role as Valentyn. His character, though in many altering moods, remains constant throughout. The other two performers each take on three different roles. Remy Beasley plays it cool as Ashley, Valentyn’s potential girl friend but she does try to make the running with him. He is desperate to prevent her getting into the amateur porn movie business. The resolution of this escapade is the climax to the whole captivating adventure; this time the actors create the whole of the population of Merthyr living around the area by the Castle Hotel. This magic needs to be seen.

Richard Corgan magnificently changes the shape of his body and the sound of his voice effortlessly with each part he plays. There are times when he has a discussion with himself. There is a delicious touch of madness running across the evening. As Ashley’s dad he runs an Ice-Cream van but he has fallen on hard times. That’s why she wants the money from the porn movie. He also plays Valentyn’s dad, Jacub, a former builder, now quite a skillful taxidermist. He’s squirmy and slightly revolting as Maxi Doyle the potential porn moviemaker. And that’s not to mention Richard Stiles, deputy manager at Tescos!

Jacub gives talks about his skill, this night he’s at the local Conservative Club. “Yes there are some conservatives in Merthyr”. One of them seems to be strangely sexually attracted to him. This time a slightly crouching, ready to pounce, Beasley finds her touch of craziness, this is an impossible part to play but she does it superbly. She’s much harder as Vicky, Jacub’s estranged, Welsh wife. He is desperate to get her back – but no chance!

The way in which the actors engage and relate with each other is one of the evening’s joys. They are not calling on us to suspend our disbelief, they are clearly actors on a stage but by golly they get the pictures of the narrative into our heads. It was a fascinating and delightful trip around Merthyr. I recommend it highly.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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