Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews


Twelve Cabins Twelve Vacancies

Company of Sirens , Chapter , June-11-19
Twelve Cabins Twelve Vacancies by Company of Sirens Company of Sirens’ Artistic Director, Chris Durnall, has brought us many fine plays, some from Welsh writers and some from further afield: all directed, with his beautifully taut and compelling flair.

This one is much more personal, from his heart, he has written the play, performs the central character and directs it himself. Again he creates the gripping tension we have come to expect from this sensitive and understanding director.

Durnall’s father died in nineteen sixty-eight. At the time he first became ill Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film Psycho was being shown on television. He tells us, ”consequently, ever since, it has resonated in my mind with that event.” The play subtly intertwines incidents from the film with his own personal recollections.

As we enter the auditorium we see a young lady, wearing a slip, relaxing on a long section of artificial grass, that is the stage. The audience sits on either side of it. She is looking at a book, full of photographs. We learn that she shares her name ‘Marion” with the leading character in the film.

There is a blank projector screen at one end of the stage, at the other end an overhead projector and a television set, showing trailers from Psycho. In the darkness Rhys Anderson underlines the emotions with his poignant guitar playing.

On the screen we see random notes, that had been writen by Durnall’s mother on cardboard and the backs of cigarette packets. These had been found when Durnall was clearing the house. He tells us “some were prayers but many were comments on life, family and mortality. She gave no indication of these feelings to me or anyone.” We all see them now, up on the screen. Then all goes blank again.

Durnall as Norman (another name from the film) walks slowly onto the stage, he speaks quietly creating a tension that holds us throughout the performance. Now well established as a successful theatre director it is a long while since he has acted on any stage. His skills have not left him. He stands quite at home on the stage giving us a reality of personality that totally captivates.

Angharad Matthews, as Marion also shares this engaging verisimilitude and adds to the tension and beauty of the overall performance. She contemplates the wonder of birth. A brown and faded photograph of three young girls and a boy appears on the screen. She looks at it with a querulous nostalgia.

Pointing at the screen, Norman and Marion describe scenes from the film. Nothing actually appears on the screen. We are invited to share the pictures in our own heads.

More sequences from the film are recalled. Marion writhes to indicate the terrifying shower scene. Norman looks on and in a very low voice sings ‘Autumn Leaves”.

The fearful film images fade away. Norman takes us to his favourite place in the middle of the wood. Marion joins him and they embrace in celebration.

Durnall and Mathews have showered us with recollections, some sad, some happy. We have no need for an umbrella, the strength and the beauty of the performance have enthralled us all.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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