Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Fantastic Children steal the show!
Romance, Revenge, Heartbreak, Hope

At Wales Millennium Centre

Tiger Bay , Wales Millennium Centre , November 15, 2017
At Wales Millennium Centre by Tiger Bay It’s the excellent, pounding music of Cardiff’s Daf James that drives this show along at a great pace turning smoothly to a gentle beauty for the quieter moments In the story. This second Wales Millennium Centre production also has a brilliant and strongly committed cast. The Water Boys, steal the show, boys who assisted the dockers- the Donkeymen - as they loaded trucks of coal onto the boats, some as young as 10 and they were all absolutely wonderful.

In a charming scene where one of the boys Ianto is given to the Marquis of Bute purporting to be his missing son. Ianto is unwilling to continue the deceit. Louise Harvey (10) shares the role of Ianto with Ruby Llewellyn (11). This is a key role in the story. Tonight was Ruby’s night. I am sure that Louise is equally compelling.

John Owen-Jones sings superbly, his Marquis of Bute is not so much ‘The Richest Man in the World’ but a saddened man seeking always to find his lost son. This gives us the opportunity to witness some crafty séancing, wittily played by Liz May Brice.

There is great singing from every member of the cast, including the ensemble. It’s a pity that not all the words are easy to hear. Noel Sullivan sings loud and clear and he perfectly catches the character of Seamus O’Rourke, the Dock Master and baddy of the piece.

Anna Fleischle’s grey steel set dominated by a huge hull of one of the boats that take Welsh coal all around the world perfectly captures the atmosphere of the time. It would have been good to have a change to a warmer atmosphere for some of the more tender scenes.

Leading singer and actor Dom Hartley-Harris gives us a fantastic performance. He is so believable as Themba Sibeko who suffers from colour prejudice initially but eventually becomes everybody’s friend. He is well matched by the shop-girl Rowena Pryddy delightfully played and sung by Vikki Bebb. Didn’t quite see the need for the two short shop scenes, overdoing the identification by far too much. The show is over long. Here are two scenes that could go.

The packed audience were almost on their feet at the moment she and Themba finally got things together.

Another feisty and lovable performance came from Busisiwe Ngejane, at times a singer with co-presenters of the show, Cape Town Opera. She plays Klondike Ellie who makes her ‘favours’ available to all who are willing to pay. She had plenty of competition; at this time Tiger Bay was the Red Light district of Cardiff.

In the early part of the twentieth century Tiger Bay was known as a tough place. Yet it had a good reputation as a friendly and multicultural area.

Michael Williams fails to capture the essence of the place, he tells a good story but this could be set anywhere. I would have thought experienced directors like Melly Still and and Maz Barton should have been better able to overcome the shortcomings in this production. This is the second major Millennium Centre production. A national tour is planned for the first one, Only The Brave. Tiger Bay will need a lot more finessing before it will be able to follow it.
Nevertheless the packed house were all on their feet and cheering at the end. A lot of people had a real good time.

Continues to 25 Nov

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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