Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Sadness, Beauty and exciting Realism

Belonging

Re-Live , Chapter , April-27-18
Belonging by Re-Live The return of Karin Diamond’s remarkable play once again brings home the sharp realities of the awful disease dementia and the problems that beset those who have to deal with it.

This reality is even more sharpened by the overwhelming realism and skill achieved by the several members of the cast. In this small studio theatre in the middle of Canton in Cardiff we are seeing acting of West-End quality. Gillian Elisa who is so real as the hapless Sheila has not long returned from playing the Grandma in Billy Elliot The Musical in the West End.

But here she superbly becomes a total elderly Welsh woman, one that we regularly see padding up and down Cowbridge Road East, just a few yards from the theatre. So convincing is she in her role that it is very easy to imagine that she has missed her turning and wandered up Library Street, crossed Market Road and stumbled into the theatre. Soon she is casually talking to members of the audience as if they are old friends. Despite her problems she brings many moments of lively humour into the narrative.

We are given an equally striking and ‘real’ performance by award winning actor Llion Williams. We see him as a retired farmer, engineer and garage owner. We meet him many years ago on the day of his wedding to his pretty, lively wife, Mags. They are the epitome of youth and charm. On a chilly walk in the evening he puts his coat around his wife’s shoulders to protect her. We see him almost instantaneously fall into dementia. Williams is quite outstanding at this moment. It’s as if we see the illness enter his brain and spread throughout his whole body.

Cler Stephens love and support for her husband is so strong it almost wraps itself around us all. Later when it is clear he no longer recognizes her she hits a real despairing moment. The young man sitting near me was not the only member of the audience shedding real tears. To anyone not closely familiar with dementia this is an immense and disturbing revelation.

Karin Diamond plays Sheila’s daughter. Having recently become a mother she does her best, in the early stages, to care for her mother. Her brother Gareth, a boisterous performance from Sion Prichard, at first refuses to see that there is anything wrong with his mother. But very soon he is forced to come to terms with it.

Inevitable the dreaded Care Home stage is reached. Cler Stephens does a remarkable transformation to become the doctor who refers Sheila. Diamond captures well the frustrated spirit of the overworked care worker.

Williams also has an opportunity to get us chuckling as the very kindly neighbour, Mike. It’s his kindness that wins through despite his lack of understanding and sensitivity.

Artistic Director of the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, who directs, is well known for his magic. But here he gives us stark reality. For anyone not familiar with Dementia, it’s a tough lesson. For those who have to cope with it they are reminded of the warmer moments of relief. We see, towards the end of the drama a moment when Morys suddenly remembers his wife’s name. Her face becomes a beautiful smile. They walk again in the cold night air. He warms his wife by putting his coat around her shoulders.
Once again Art and Reality merge.

The play tours to:
Torch Theatre, Milford Haven: 10- 12 May
Theatr Clwyd, Mold: 16 – 19 May
Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea: 23 – 25 May
Borough Theatre, Abergavenny: 6 June

With a little dramaturgical work on the script this is a play that deserves to be seen by a much wider audience.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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