Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Here Be Monsters


Small World Theatre , Traeth Dolwen Aberporth , July-21-18
Cragen  by Small World Theatre Aberporth is first location for the sighting of Small World's Cragen. The event has been well publicised and an audience of 150, on beach and cliff path, is awaiting. To add to the atmosphere two dolphins are swimming 50 metres from the shore. The sense of expectation is set with the emergence of Delyth Wyn from a tent on the sand. In white lab coat and striped shoes she is a professor with a lifetime's study of monsters behind her.

To gauge the rapport between professor and audience she checks: “how many of you believe in hobbits?” The response is at least ninety percent affirmative. She has brought evidence of her research work with her in the form of a large book. She turns the heavy folio pages and shows off the well-known members of the species such as “fishius dangerius extraordinarius.” One page, ostensibly blank, is illustration of the sea-monster that is invisible.

She moves from page to life. In a rockpool in Tresaith the professor has caught an example and from a pile of seaweed a mini-monster emerges. She is black and scaly. At first slightly alarming, a smile puts her on the reassuring right side of scary. The professor teaches her audience the beginnings of Cragenish. It is a language posed somewhere between chirrup and warble.

By which time we are well primed for the thing itself. The inspiration for Small World's creation is an illustration by the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner (1516-1565). His book “Historiae Animalium” can be seen in Lampeter's Roderic Bowen Library.

The Cragen makes a dramatic appearance set against the background cliff outline of Penbryn and Ynys Lochtyn. Head, tail and a loop of back are to be seen above the surface of the water with its remainder submerged. Its effect on the audience is immediate and galvanic. They are enthralled in excitement.

A few years ago our summer was brightened by Lady Augusta, an eight foot tall Victorian naturalist with a mission to save our meadows against monoculture. Cragen too has a message to bring about nature and its retention. Small World has never shied away from concerns about ecology but they are always subsidiary to a sense of theatrical merriment.

Cragen swims slowly in an arc towards the shallows. Another mini-monster of humanoid similarity emerges to join his fellow and they stay for a while. When it is time to swim again to the sea, goodbyes are said by the audience- all in Cragenish, of course.

David Adams, the veteran critic, once took a look at the whole scene of performance across Wales. The glory, in his opinion, was in the spread, the richness and vitality of the many small. Small World may be small in name but is one of the many who are a quiet treasure for the culture.

The Cragen is to be sighted next at Tenby 27th July. Further appearances over the summer are expected at Cardigan, Stackpole, Aberystwyth, Newquay, Goodwick and Beaumaris.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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