Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Savage beauty – outstanding performances

Seanmhair - (shen-a-var) - Scots Gaelic: Grandmother

The Other Room , The Other Room at Porters , March-14-17
As I sit down to write I can still feel in my whole body the sense of joy from the clouds of beauty, human beauty that enveloped us in the very unprepossessing environment of The Other Room.
A very small theatre, already with a big reputation. Beauty is something that Artistic Director, Kate Wasserberg does really well.

This quote published in ‘The Stage’ from her production of Sand: “…beautifully staged and mesmerically performed…” could equally be said of her interpretation of Hywel John’s very fine play. He gives us the tough realism of the narrative but with a poetic quality that celebrates human life, in all its complexities. They are joined by three outstanding actors: Sian Howard, Hannah McPake and Molly Vevers. They all play one part Jenny. Jenny’s ‘adventure’ starts very early in her life but we first meet her as it works its way towards old age.

They also fill the stage with many other characters, all part of Jenny’s tale as she battles her way through her tough journey, receiving tremendous help and understanding from her Seanmhair. Here Howard gives a performance of quiet strength and great understanding.

The central atmosphere of the production is equally contributed to by Mark Bailey’s harsh set design. Beneath the poetry lies a very hard narrative. Laura Jeffs as Movement Director picks up Wasserberg’s atmosphere with many moments of stylisation adding some very human hard ‘sound-effects’. Lighting and sound from Katy Morison and Dyfan Jones perfectly complete this fine tuned ensemble.

It is by no means all sweetness and love with this atmosphere making even more poignant the pain that lies within the darkly painted scenario.

There’s another character, Tommy MacLeish, though we never see him in the flesh, we certainly know he’s there in the middle of it all. Hannah McPake seems to take all the male roles. She drops her natural femininity with ease. We no longer see the actor, we see Tommy, continually up to no good and Jenny’s posh father. Vevers is equally captivating as Jenny, At age eleven when as a result of pebbles thrown at her window, she asks, “What do you want Tommy MacLeish, you black eyed monster?”
And the reply is “You”. Tommy does get what he wants and the links of the chain of events start to tighten!

There was no easy way out of all the damage; something must have been recovered as Jenny’s and Tommy’s lives moved on.
But what a story! What a great piece of theatre art.!

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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