Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Modern life with a surreal twist.

At the Sherman

Sherman Theatre- How My Life Is Spent , Sherman Cymru , May 17, 2017
At the Sherman by Sherman Theatre- How My Life Is Spent The hardest part of being a critic is trying to review a show you don’t like, or worst still you don’t understand. The joy of being a reviewer is discovering a gem of a play you want to tell the world to go and see. Fortunately, “How My Life Is Spent” falls into the latter category.

I have been following the work of Welsh playwright Alan Harris for a while from “Orange”, “ The Future For Beginners” to “Sex, Lies & Taxidermy” last year. To say that my companion and I were eagerly anticipating his latest play is an understatement.

Director Liz Stevenson transformed the Sherman studio into theatre in the round by the simple expedient of placing a long platform in the middle of the auditorium. Small intimate spaces fit the playwright’s style. This is a 2 two-hander involving Jimmy, a shy worker at Newport Nuts, a doughnut drive-through and Kitty, a sex phone worker. This pair of misfits at the forgotten end of society make an unusual couple as they struggle to cope with all that life throws at them. Alan Harris's gift is the ability to create real characters and place them in surreal situations to see how they cope. In Jimmy's case, little by little he is literally disappearing while Kitty wants to change career and has the opportunity to settle down with a man who collects china dolls.

Even though there are just 2 performers on stage they each bring a variety of diverse characters to life, ranging from Jimmy's mother to his 17 year old daughter, via the doll collector Stevo and Jimmy's hard-nosed boss.

Alan' s play are a joy for an audience to watch. He successfully combines believable people in unusual sitations and makes you care about their predicament. These are always funny plays with a lot of local references ( the Newport area in particular) but they are also very poignant as you want both Jimmy and Kitty to be happy.

Liz Stevenson has chosen a simple staging which works. The proximity to the actors draws you into their world and creates an intimate connection to the characters. Similarly, the sound and light designs from Giles Thomas and Joshua Pharo subtly create the atmosphere without ever dominating these delicate people. However, have given credit to the writer and the production team there is no limit to the praise I can bestow upon the performances of Rhodri Meilir and Alexandria Riley. As an occasional Amateur Dramatics actor I cannot express how impressed ( and jealous ) I am of actors who can believably switch from one character to another in a milli second. These aren't easy roles and yet they capture the nuances of Jimmy and Kitty perfectly.

I am always a little apprehensive of watching new plays. There is a modern tendency for playwrights to want to show us how awful the world is, which I already know from watching the news and reading a paper. I want to be transported from a recognisable environment where happiness is possible whatever the situation. For me Alan Harris is the perfect writer for these troubled times. I can't wait to see his next offering "Sugar Baby" at this year's Edinburgh festival.

In the meantime you will have to content yourself with having a great time at "How My Light Is Spent" which runs at the Sherman Theatre until the 27th May. Go, you won't be disappointed."

Reviewed by: David Cox

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