Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Mid-year Site-specific Cheer

Tales from Borth

Coleg Ceredigion , Borth , June-30-17
Tales from Borth by Coleg Ceredigion The people of Borth are used to taking it on the chin. At the Machynlleth Comedy Festival they enjoy their one-liners about its one-street plainness. But imaginative eyes see it differently. Gideon Koppel looked at the railway line that runs between town and bog and saw it as similar to the opening scene that Sergio Leone made for “Once Upon a Time in the West.” The houses bear the names of the far-off towns which the sailors of Borth had seen. Arequipa stands near to Tyrol, the latter in a new yellow that shows it in all its architectural style. The Libanus Chapel of the 1870s has been made into a cinema this year by an entrepreneur picture-framer with not an Assembly grant to be seen. There is more to Borth than meets the eye.

Director Solveig Frykman-Lloyd opens up the breadth of the town in the hour and a half peripatetic piece performed by Performing Arts final-years from Coleg Ceredigion. The company has ten performers at its core and others in and around. The devised piece vaults back to a battle of the eleventh century and the verse of Dafydd ap Gwilym. Taliesin is remembered in a rich stream of metaphors. A performer recites the poem of Cantre'r Gwaelod. A story-teller narrates that out on the bog lived a witch whose breath was of such a foulness that it could kill.

Borth is protected now by a new sea wall and its story is interlaced with the sea. A case is packed for a sailor heading for 'Frisco. A memory of Rio brings on a troupe of beating drummers. Twenty fishing boats were ever ready for the arrival of the herring which turned the water of Cardigan Bay dark. Widows in black look out in memory of those who never returned. The dark hair that features in the town now is courtesy of survivors from a ship of Portugal that foundered in the eighteenth century.

“Tales from Borth” encompasses recital, movement and song. A meditative voiceless sequence on an empty plot has dancers in slow movement to the sound of pebbles rustling. On the terrace of the Victoria Inn the young unmarrieds of the town take to the dance space couple by couple. A deliciously bendy-legged duo in bowler hats sing the Garland-Astaire classic “We're a Couple of Swells.” On a little front lawn two performers trade the counterpoint voices of Robert Graves' comic “Welsh Incident.”

Site-specific performance has its perennial risks of weather. June 30th should have been a good bet but the days before have been squall without interruption. The company has luck on its side, no sun but no rain and enough wind to churn the waves of the high tide as a background sound. The cast are teenagers at the onset of a maybe career in performance. A rounded sharpness of finesse is there to be learnt but warmth and engagement, these are qualities that are innate. These are not the best of times but this is an event to raise the spirits.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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