Theatre in Wales

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Homing in on the West End

At Theatr Clwyd

Home, I'm Darllng- Theatr Clwyd & National Theatre , Duke of Yorks Theatre, London , February 5, 2019
At Theatr Clwyd by Home, I'm Darllng- Theatr Clwyd & National Theatre The last time that Theatr Clwyd was in London for a period the production was an adaptation of Caradog Prichard's “Un Nos Ola Leuad”. That was as far as back as the early nineteen-nineties, the venue south of the river rather than a skip from Trafalgar Square. The transfer from the Dorfman is an event then to be reckoned with. It was disappointing to hear then from WWO- the Wise Welsh Owl, who knows a thing or two- the comment “It's not really Welsh, is it?” It is the perennial issue, a theatre that is not just in the wrong place but, worse, under suspicion that it plays to the wrong sort of people. Nicholas Hytner: “There is a real danger in a relentless and exclusive focus on the nature of our audience.”

To which the responses are several. Theatre in the subsidised sector is an ecology. As a domain it must contain a few companies which play to a good number of people. Otherwise it is a straightforward fiscal transfer, from the many to a tiny few. Wales has no producers of its own capitalised to the extent to be able to get a production into a substantial St Martin's Lane Theatre. The National Theatre does not go into co-production with lightweights, the last occasion being also a woman playwright, Nina Raine, and the co-producer Out of Joint. There will be “co” parts in the co-production by definition.

If an analysis of components of Welshness is to be done, then many a production, that has been hailed, has contributors or setting that are from another place. The review from last year, below 27th July, recorded some of the make-up of the production. “The credits are shared across Wales and England. The producing side in Mold comprises William James and Jim Davis. Debbie Knight is wardrobe manager for the lustrous costumes on show. The set is the work of the Clwyd team under workshop manager Steve Eccleson.” If Sara Lloyd Gregory, Richard Harrington and Hywel Morgan- they all sparkle under Tamara Harvey's direction- get eleven weeks' West End work and a few prestige venues thereafter that is good for them and good for everyone. An 80-page heavy weight report was published last year about the projection of Wales to afar through culture.

The review from last year of the first production reads right. Richard Harrington is still skipping the two floors and four rooms of designer Anna Fleischle's Welwyn Garden City home with a cherubic lightness. Sara Lloyd Gregory still does manager Alex in her briskness and brittleness. Had the Wales Theatre Awards taken place, as was the intention, in Blackwood this last Saturday both most likely, and others from “Home, I'm Darling”, would have been nominees.

But there is a difference six months on. Plays evolve, surfaces remaining constant but with meanings that morph. Sam Holcroft's last production for the National Theatre was called “Rules for Living”. It has an overlap with Laura Wade's play and shares territory too, if surprisingly, with Nina Raine's “Consent”, its vastly different subject-matter notwithstanding.

They are all about the codes and modes of behaviour that protect and sustain social order. Those codes, as given to Laura Wade to mother Sylvia in the evening's one speech, have changed utterly. The response in face of complexity is human, recourse to a beguiling simplicity. That is what “Home, I'm Darling” for all its effervescence is about. In Act One it seemed even at times to have a feel of being a Referendum play.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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