Theatre in Wales

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Alan Harris Bruntwood Prize-winner Back

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Aaron Kilercioglou- How My Light is Spent , Greenside @ Nicholson Square, Fern Studio, Edinburgh , August-20-18
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Aaron Kilercioglou- How My Light is Spent A dramatist, who is doing well by any standard, reminded his fellow writers of Wales not so long back of a brute truth. They strive so hard for the all-important commission. For writers in England that is the first part, nice as it is. But the meat of it is royalties, the satisfaction in addition of being author of a piece that is seen again and again. Sir Karl Jenkins wrote with pride in his autobiography about “the Armed Man.” By 2015 he had sold 123,000 vocal scores and the recording had been in the classical charts for 579 weeks. That figure had been prompted by the live experience, 1820 performances in 43 countries. It can be done.

So Alan Harris' award-winner is back. A seven-minute walk away down Nicholson Street and “Sugar Baby” is wowing its audiences nightly. Double appearances from Wales are not new. Rhodri Miles has acted in Richard Burton and Dylan Thomas solo shows in tandem. But a double Fringe credit as author makes him a first among Wales' writers.

The production team for this revival comprises director Aaron Kilercioglu, assistant director Issy Snape, and producer Olivia Elise Kumar. Susi Mauer is sound and lighting designer and Joy Hunter associate director. Anna Wright plays Kitty and Harry Redding plays Jimmy.

Edfringe had two reviewers at the show. From the first, 7th August:

“...a two-hand comedy about a relationship between a doughnut restaurant employee and an adult sex line worker. It starts strange and veers into the surreal about a third of the way through. But expectations aside, what I got was a funny and touching fairy tale story about purpose, belonging and the power of human connection.

...Redding and Wright instantly established a relationship of quick-fire quips, and this carries on for the whole production as they create every character in the play: from Jimmy’s Salvation Army mother Rita to military man turned doughnut boss Peak. Setting the play in Newport, the two make a quirky cast that perform the main story. They’re hugely versatile performers, switching from semi-narrators to sympathetic characters to exaggerated caricatures on the fly.

...However, the core of the play is the awkwardly blossoming relationship between Jimmy and Kitty. It’s about as atypical as they get, but the play, written by Alan Harris, develops it endearingly. The jokes come quick and fast, even in the narration, such as when a car park is described as being “black as a hedge fund manager’s heart”. But the tender romance between two people who’ve both ended up in undesirable places in their lives keeps a heartfelt focus that the comedy only enhances, rather than distracting from it.

...It all takes a swerve into fantasy when Jimmy starts disappearing, but in this show’s eccentric world, it doesn’t feel jarring or out of place. It’s difficult to discuss the direction the show heads in without spoiling it, but it becomes something of an atypical fairy tale. It’s not necessarily a piece with a moral message but it’s heartfelt and striking nonetheless...sharp wit, two charismatic performances, a touch of whimsy and a whole lot of heart, it’s a show that’s worth your attention.”

The quality of reviewing in Edinburgh is uneven. The second Edfringe review, also 7th August, is a less assured piece of writing. The Edinburgh Guide, 10th August, does the good thing of quoting to capture the flavour.

“Jimmy makes a panicked phone call – “Kitty, my hands have disappeared”. Despite studying psychology, it’s not really a conversation she is prepared for – “I’m not really qualified; I’m a phone sex worker.”

When did Jimmy start to disappear? Perhaps when he lost his job, his wife and daughter and, possibly, hope. Still living with his Mum, at the age of 34 his aspirations seem to have vanished.

But let’s start with masturbation. Jimmy makes calls to Kitty every Wednesday at 7.45 while his mum is at the Salvation Army. The format is also regular and Kitty makes the answers he wants to hear, despite wearing sensible underwear and definitely not having a “lady boner”. Jimmy normally “finishes” in 3 minutes, leaving time to chat in the remaining minimum call period.

They talk about Jimmy’s job at the Newport ‘Nuts – the town’s only drive-through doughnut outlet. Over the course of months, he falls in love with Kitty and, drawing attention to herself in an act of altruism at the drive-through, they finally meet.

They have much to sort out; Jimmy’s long-term plans and fixing his relationship with his estranged daughter and her choices in funding her psychology degree. Perhaps there is a brighter future out there but if, like a candle, they only have a certain amount of light to give, will they just vanish? Jimmy does just that, like the Invisible Man from the movie which he watches, he is gradually fading away. And when she too disappears Jimmy needs a plan to prevent them both from slipping through the cracks.”

The reviewer ends with a paragraph that changes in tone. It is not a satisfactory piece of writing. If there are perceived to be artistic gaps or flaws readers deserve to be apprised of them specifically. To write “Some elements don’t shed much light on the characters, it never really deals with their darker real-world problem.” is insufficient. It is a nervy business being a creator. What is done is done for a public and public reaction is inevitable. But makers deserve specifics in the criticism that addresses their work.

The reviews can be read in full at:

http://edfringereview.com//r/W0jNym8wRUyMxTF3XDx6yg?r=1

http://www.edinburghguide.com/festival/2018/theatre/drama/howmylightisspentgreensidenicolsonsquarereview-19362

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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