Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Empowering!

35 Times

Mercury Theatre Wales/RCT Theatres , Penarth Pier Pavilion , July-01-17
35 Times by Mercury Theatre Wales/RCT Theatres For some time director Bethan Morgan has wanted to write a play tackling the issue of domestic abuse. She tells us she feels it is a subject that is still not discussed openly, a subject that for many remains ‘taboo’. In the UK police receive one domestic violence call every thirty seconds and two women are killed every week by a current or former partner.

“Statistically, a women suffers physical assault from a partner, on average, 35 times before reporting it; hence the title of the play.

We seem to be sat at tables in a local church hall that has been ‘trimmed’ up for ballroom dancing lessons, the subject of today’s Women’s Aid meeting. One table is set in the centre of the room with members of the audience sat around it. We are all closely caught up in the action. There is extraordinary realism of character created by every member of this totally committed and captivating cast.

Llinos Daniel’s Jules has a calm and gentle touch of motherliness as she welcomes everyone with a cup of tea. Catrin-Mai Huw does open-faced young wife Gemma, proclaiming her youth with her very short skirt, bright lipstick and black tights superbly. She also gives moments of high comedy with her sarky banter.

Dance music plays, a couple waltz between the tables, Jules gazes at them, for a moment, transfixed. Suddenly things turns nasty and the man drags the girl very roughly out of the door and the tone of the evening is set – or is it?

Rasheeda Ali’s Tara, is so convincingly self-effacing, she says very little but leaves little notes with members of the audience. It seems we are all present at this WA session. There’s a great rustling as Glenys comes into the room. Once again Olwen Rees totally captures this slightly dotty old lady as she delights in her old ball-gown ready for the dancing.

When Clêr Stephens’ smartly dressed, seemingly self-possessed, dancing teacher arrives unexpected tension arises. Again we get a very realistic personality. She and Gemma have a history but soon everyone appreciates she also is a victim and has much in common with the others.

We do get as things move along the sad stories of the sufferings and beatings these women have endured from their partners but director/writer Bethan Morgan brings a lively Brechtian touch to the evening.

The tragic stories are interrupted with some very sensitive choreography and movement that involves us all. Shortly after, Claire appears, she sings, mic in hand, to the tune of ‘Hopelessly Devoted’ from Grease, the story of her tough times with her husband. Natalie Paisey’s body captures the spirit of a working class valley’s mam perfectly but sings with soul with a fine troupe of backing singers from the other members of the cast and we are taken into a different, up-beat world.

Despite their awful background these ladies find strength in each other’s company. They show resilience and a zest for a new life. The acting throughout is of the highest level. The show is a fascinating mixture of sadness and human strength, which we all celebrate, waltzing to the music with big smiles as this cocktail of hurts and happiness draws to a very rewarding close.

The production tours to:
Volcano Theatre, Swansea July 5-7
Chapter, Cardiff 11-15 July

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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