Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Five stars, theatre full: Neath Goes to Edinburgh

Nye and Jennie

Theatr na nÓg , The Studio, Edinburgh , November-05-18
Nye and Jennie by Theatr na nÓg A long 980-word five star review from the Southside Advertiser.

In excerpt:

“Produced by Aneurin Leisure and Theatr na nÓg, “Nye & Jennie” is a reminder to everyone that large scale productions with expensive theatrical effects and digital age technology are simply not needed to produce good theatre. This is theatre stripped backed to the basics of a small, simple but effectively staged set, lighting that is effective because of its selective usage and some very old but very well used stage exit and entrance moments.

“Both designer KITTY CALLISTER and lighting designer HRISTO TAKOV have done a fine job here with a very limited space to work in. For anyone that has not been in The Studio, it is a multi-purpose performance space with a seating capacity of around 200 (and it was full tonight). There is no physical raised stage and the seating starts very close to the performance area. This is what I call “no hiding place” theatre as the cast are so close to their audience there is just no room for mistakes, and in a two person production like this that is set in one fixed performance set space, it is the perfect space for theatre that requires this level of intimacy between stage and audience.

“Nye & Jennie is simply theatre at its best, theatre that needs nothing else than the most basic of ingredients (a recipe so often forgotten though) for its power and effect; a good story (MEREDYDD BARKER), characters that are of real interest and have a depth to make you as an audience take an interest in them (Nye & Jennie), good direction (GEINOR STYLES), and performers with the skills to bring all of these elements to life on stage , GARETH JOHN BALE and LOUISE COLLINS.

“Given the stature of the two people in our story, this production at around 75 minutes is a short story However, the single act format works well and forces the focus onto some of the most important aspects of Aneurin (Nye) Bevan and Jennie Lee. The passion of both to want to create a society that shared more evenly in the wealth of a nation is well played here by Gareth and Louise, and a good balance is kept between their socialist values on one hand, and their often perceived “Champagne lifestyle” on the other. Driving everything in this story though is a simple, old fashioned love story, perhaps one that British politics never again witnessed..”

From reviewsphere

“Grief, it is said, is the price we pay for having loved. And the silver thread of grief which laces Jenny Lee’s (Louise Collins’) opening and closing monologues about the death of her husband and fellow rebel with a cause Aneurin “Nye” Bevan (Gareth John Bale) are testament to their labour of love. Her expression of which, at one point, literally disarms him of pulling the trigger on a couple of prying hacks.

“...However the grief expressed by Lee was not just about the passing of her “born old, died too young” husband (the owl to her lark, the Marxist matador to her Socialist senorita), but also at what more he could have done to help the men, women and children from the mining communities into which they were both born. He in Tredegar in Gwent, she in Lochgelly in Fife. A sentiment echoed by many in the left after the death of John Smith.

“It was a personal grief, too, for the sacrifices she made in her own political career which she surrendered to support his. A decision based on her belief that as the leader of the left he was best placed to deliver socialism to Britain. But support him she did, with every sinew of her being: writing and rewriting his speeches to ensure they packed a stronger punch. A tactic which drew charges of being the “dark angel” on his shoulder who like Lady Macbeth poured poison into his ear.

“Directed by Geinor Styles (artistic director of Theatr na nÓg who co-produce with Aneurin Leisure) and written by Meredydd Barker (who was short-listed for Best Playwright in the English Language at the 2018 Wales Theatre Awards), Nye & Jennie is an intelligent, thought-provoking and towards the end moving mix of the political and the personal.

“There are no barnstorming speeches in the style of Bevan’s rousing oratory. Instead, Styles, with great subtlety and wit (“I don’t mind you dressing as a prostitute, but I do mind you dressing as an unsuccessful one”), weaves their socialist views into the fabric of everyday conversation, with references to women being deprived of their pensions and the unemployed developing footsore due to the distances they are forced to travel for interviews being sadly as relevant today as then. Which forces the question: how much has changed, how far have we come?

“Politics aside, what shines in this production as bright as the stars above the Welsh Valleys are the performances by Gareth John Bale and Louise Collins, the latter of whom fleshes out the forgotten woman of British politics who for so long lived in her husband’s shadow. A woman of great principle and passion who not only became the youngest member of the House of Commons and the first Minister of the Arts, but spearheaded the creation of the Open University (OU).”

Reviews in full at:

Picture credit: Simon Gough

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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