Theatre in Wales

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“Completely captivating”: 5-Star Edinburgh Reception

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Mr & Mrs Clark- (F.E.A.R.) , Zoo , August-11-17
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Mr & Mrs Clark- (F.E.A.R.) (F.E.A.R.) in Cardiff has lost its full stops en route to Edinburgh to become plain (FEAR). What it hasn't lost is the critical response, notching a five star rating from Broadway Baby.

If Cardiff has sparked into a greater creativity in the last few years Newport, its ugly-beautiful sister city just over the horizon, is doing not badly. Newport-based Wales Arts Review caught up with the Clarks before the departure northern-wards. In edited form some of their words were

“We’re based in Newport and have made work in and around the City for the last 7 years. Our ethos is to connect what we do creatively with what is happening around us. Whether taking on empty shop units for pop up performances or touring theatre shows Newport and the political climate has been key to our practice. Being able to connect with our community is really important and making shows like “The Meeting” and “Smash It Up”, about the destruction of the Chartist Mural and loss of public space on our high streets, seem to connect the local issues of a City in transformation to a wider global issue of the corporate takeover of civic centres.

“Smash It Up” was nominated for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award and that for us was the highest accolade. We want to make people think, question their surrounds and be aware of the changing political climate under a strong corporate agenda. (F.E.A.R.) is aiming to share personal narrative to expose the global context and truth is very important to us in the work we make.

“We are and always plan to be a small creative team. Gareth, Mr Clark, is the writer and performer in this piece and Marega, Mrs Clark, has designed lighting and supervised choreography. Diretor Agnieszka Blonska is a renowned Polish director working in Poland and the UK. She developed (F.E.A.R.) with Gareth. Andrew Rock created film for the show, a montage of public information films and news clips, and Ceri Benjamin is our technical manager.”

Broadway Baby 5 stars

(FEAR) grabs your attention as soon as you enter the venue. Every single detail of the design has been utterly thought out. Large red blocks, spelling FEAR, in capital letters look stunning against a black background. Fitting, since the combination of red and black is often used by nature to signify danger ahead.

Writer and performer, Gareth Clark sits on stage wearing a terrifying crocodile mask. He moves along the stage with intensity and clarity, intimidating the audience who are still getting settled in their seats. Everything falls quiet. He starts speaking. His voice is clear and as the story starts to unfold it is apparent that Clark has a real talent for storytelling.

He chronicles his life so far and the things he has feared. From silly childhood fears to the fears of a middle aged man with vulgar hilarity. Fear of God, fear of authority, fear of terrorism, fear of growing old, fear of everything. Rational and irrational fears. As a speaker he is completely captivating. He has the energy of a five year old with the intention of a drunk lad in the pub who has spotted the girl of his dreams. He gallivants around the stage, interacting with the audience every chance he gets. If you have a fear of audience participation this show is not for you. The piece contains filthy language and sexual gestures as well as drug and alcohol abuse. As many have , Clark showcases how he handles his fears with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Honestly who is this guy? I want to hire him.

The music is completely fitting, featuring classical, pop and rock music to underscore the situation in a way that really places it in time and space. Clark works incredibly well with the audience, drawing them into his thought process. This show is a real piece of art. Did it come to a clear conclusion? No. Does it matter? Not the slightest. You are really missing out if you don’t see this show. Just leave your children at home.

A Younger Theatre was not quite so bowled over

Huge red letters spell FEAR and man with a crocodile mask sits on a chair. The fringe has truly begun. This one man show opens with Gareth Clark who writes and performs the piece, sliding across the floor wearing a reptile head periodically looking towards the audience. After a few more crocodile based high jinks the base of the piece starts.

Fear is unsurprisingly about fear. What scares us, and why we are scared of it. Being scared of not being clean in case we get in an accident and the doctors refuse to treat a dirty boy. Being scared of being a sissy. The thrill of being scary. Gareth talks directly to the audience about what he was scared about as a child. Ranging from the funny to tragic, he tells stories about what it was like growing up in another generation. As the crowd at Zoo was generally quite young, it started to feel like a kooky uncle telling tales of his childhood. After finishing his childhood memories he goes into what he is scared of now. From Aids to Zika, to terrorism, to feeling selfish for not having children. Unfortunately these stories didn’t feel particularly unique. At times, (Fear) felt more like a nice man reading out the comments section in The Guardian.

Gareth Clark is a wonderfully affable man. He is warm, likeable and engaging. He performs with gusto and his joy of performing is infectious. He works with the crowd wonderfully and is someone who is able to have an intimate conversation with whoever is watching him.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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