Theatre in Wales

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The Reviewshub at Alan Harris Bruntwood Prize-winner

At the Sherman

Sherman Theatre & Co-producers- How My Light Was Spent , Sherman Theatre , May 31, 2017
At the Sherman by Sherman Theatre & Co-producers- How My Light Was Spent Alan Harris' play was a three-way co-production by the Royal Exchange Theatre, Theatre by the Lake and the Sherman Theatre. It played at the Royal Exchange until 13 May, the Sherman 16-27 May and Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, 1-24 June.

No Theatre Wales reviewers saw it but Jo Beggs for the Reviewshub was at Manchester.

“...Set in economically drab Newport and performed on Fly Davis’ suitably bland paving stone set, it’s immediately obvious why this two-hander won the 2015 Bruntwood Prize judges’ award.

In some respects Harris is engaging with concerns about the socially overlooked that were also explored in Katherine Soper’s “Wish List”, the overall Bruntwood winner in the same year. But his is a uniquely theatrical voice, presenting us with characters struggling to reconnect with their lost sense of self, and written to be performed as a combination of real-time dialogue and third-person narrative.

There’s a warm glow at the heart of this quirky exploration of social invisibility and self-rediscovery. Jimmy is in his mid-30s. He’s hooked on fantasy phone sex and still lives with his mum. After he loses his non-job at a doughnut restaurant, he wakes up scared one morning when his hands disappear.

But as his body parts dematerialise, his on-off relationship with sex line operator Kitty generates the spark of human closeness that could bring back his sense of identity.
Liz Stevenson’s studio production perfectly captures the play’s oddball optimism, with illuminating direct-to-audience performances from Rhodri Meilir, wearing an awful bowl cut hairdo as the increasingly invisible Jimmy, a man approaching his own vanishing point, and Alexandria Riley as the more resourceful Kitty, both discovering why it’s impossible to feel part of anything if you’ve become socially disconnected.”

Jacqui Onions was in Cardiff for the Reviewshub

“How My Light Is Spent” is a quirky take on what is essentially a story of everyday lives and loves. Jimmy (Rhodri Meilir) and Kitty (Alexandra Riley) first cross paths when he calls the sex line that she works for. From there, we follow the downturns in their lives and their impact on each other, with one unusual twist – Jimmy is slowly disappearing.

Writer Alan Harris takes an interesting approach to conveying his story to the audience, switching between third person narrative and the first person portrayal of the characters. It is a slightly unusual structure for a play, which works in its favour to hold the attention of the audience and sustain interest. It does, however, feel a little like a style more suited to engaging younger or family audiences. Couple this with the major plot point that Jimmy thinks he is becoming invisible and juxtapose it against sex workers and masturbation and we are left in a no man’s land between adult themes and a story with wider appeal.

The two actors not only play the main roles, but narrate the story as well and play all of the secondary characters encountered along the way. They are both highly engaging storytellers and deliver Harris’ immensely funny writing to great comedic effect. Meilir switches between characters with ease, bringing a distinct voice and personality to each. Some of Riley’s characters are less distinct, particularly the difference between Kitty and Jimmy’s daughter, but she still gives a strong performance.

The set comprises nothing more than a paved platform, with the audience sitting on either side. This is the perfect blank canvas for the storytelling to shine through, allowing the imagination to fully take over, and is complemented by the soundscape (Giles Thomas) and lighting design (Joshua Pharo). Both the sound and lighting have a beautiful flow to them that blends seamlessly with the
spoken word to enhance the images conjured in the audience’s minds.

“How My Light Is Spent” may not have the edge that its adult themes and quirky ideas promise but it is an enjoyable play with plenty of laugh out loud moments and a heart-warming message.”

Photo credit: Jonathan Keenan

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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