Theatre in Wales

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Two Reviewers Enthusing: A Summary

At the Sherman

The Mother****er with the Hat- Sherman/ Tron , Sherman Theatre , April 1, 2018
At the Sherman by The Mother****er with the Hat- Sherman/ Tron The first quarter of 2018 is over. It has been an eventful 90 days, out of the normal, for the theatre of Wales. Among the main events it looked, from a distance, as though the Sherman had itself a hit.

Two new generation reviewers were there to communicate a quality that matters. That quality was excitement.

Jemma Beggs, for Wales Arts Review, hit Stephen Adly Guirgis’s play of 2011 head on: “unconcerned with causing offence through its characters’ persistent obscenities or racial stereotypes. Yet this is not an insensitive or vulgar production chasing a cheap shock factor, but a darkly, hilarious examination of the destructive effects of alcoholism, addiction, infidelity and betrayal.”

The plot is dark: “Just out of prison and back in the clutches of his addict girlfriend, recovering alcoholic Jackie (François Pandolfo) is following a dark path sure to lead him straight back inside, despite the encouragement to change his viciously cyclic ways from his sponsor Ralph and cousin Julio.”

The play is funny with its comedy “multi-layered and recurrent throughout the duration of the performance; glaring irony, parodic caricature, physical slapstick, witty word-play and lines which are funny because they’re just so bang on the money, all blend together to make a laugh out loud firecracker of a play.”

Beggs gets to the centre of the writing: “Characterisation is the strong driver of this play, with each of the five outstanding actors playing their parts to perfection. Whether it be Renee Williams’ raw vulnerability or Jermaine Dominique’s transition from jaunty optimism to defeatist cynicism, each member of the cast excels. François Pandolfo gives a remarkably authentic performance; equally convincing as a man on the edge overcome with violence and rage, or a near paralytic drunk, slurring and stumbling across the stage with inebriated abandon.

...Kyle Lima is both hilarious and extremely endearing as camp, super buff Cousin Julio, who highlights the strength of family bonds through his unwavering loyalty to Jackie. Alexandra Riley opens and closes the show but is not seen enough throughout – a shame, as her stage presence makes her highly watchable.”

Barbara Hughes-Moore was at the Sherman for Get the Chance. Hers is a long review from which these extracts give some flavour.

“...Set in the grimy grit of Hell’s Kitchen NYC, The Mo-Fo Show follows a young man named Jackie, a newly-released ex-con recently home from prison, as he tries to stay clean and out of trouble despite personal revelations that threaten to turn his world upside down. Francois Pandolfo plays Jackie with such roguish, ramshackle appeal that you understand why Veronica, Ralph and Julio still care about him despite his transgressions. He’s a lovable loser; a user in all senses of the word.

“...Alexandria Riley, who is fast proving herself as one of the most dynamic actors currently treading the boards...the most tragic character of them all, because she learns nothing, and is doomed to re-enter the vicious cycle in which she has imprisoned herself. When the play starts, Veronica is chastising her mother on the phone for dating a deadbeat and taking drugs; and yet she casually snorts coke during the conversation, and then praises her own deadbeat boyfriend for finally getting a job. Veronica is her mother’s double, repeating the same harmful mistakes of the past again and again. We leave her at the end alone in the dark, with little hope for the future.

“...Each character leaves the play with their own long list of regrets – for the life they could have led, for the people they could have been, for the choices they’d have made differently if they had the chance. Regret makes a double of you, leaving an imprint of who you might have been if not for one choice, one moment, one mistake. The character of Victoria – wonderfully, woundedly portrayed by Renee Williams – exemplifies this duality most keenly of all. Her choice to follow love over career has left her hollow and achingly lonely, so much so that she wants to ‘disappear’, if only for a while.

“...Every character in the play was, or had been, an addict – to drugs, alcohol, sex, sometimes a combination of those things. But they’re also (quoting Last Days) ‘addicted to tragedy and punishment’, doomed to wallow in a hell of their own making; a vicious circle of self-imprisonment. Secrets and lies have stretched taut to breaking point between the characters; revelations take time to crack open, but once the lid is lifted on that particular Pandora’s Box, a whole swathe of sorrows and deceits come pouring out, with little sign of stopping. Some of the revelations were so shocking that I gasped audibly when reading them for the first time, and still felt the aftershocks of that surprise whilst watching the play live. Each character fails to stave off the throes of their own addiction – often, as Nick observed, just swapping one addiction for another.

...Vibrant, vulgar and viciously insightful, “The Moth****er with the Hat” is an unrelenting, rewarding play that lingers in the mind long after the final curtain. Incendiary, inventive and intoxicating, the play showcases the second-to-none cast and brings the wildly exhilarating worlds of Stephen Adly Guirgis to sharp, relatable relief.”

Barbara Hughes-Moore is a new writer at Get the Chance. She proves herself to be a vivid new critical voice for Cardiff's flourishing theatre.

The reviews in full are on

Picture credit: John Johnston

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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