Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At Hijinx Theatre

Ill Met By Moonlight , Wales Millennium Centre , December 15, 2010

Charles Way has written some twenty ‘grown up’ plays, several of them performed by Hijinx Theatre, a company with which he has built a very warm and artistically productive relationship. However he is best known as an internationally acclaimed award-winning author of plays for children with over fifty works to his credit. The magic in this production, directed by the author demonstrates indisputably that this is a play for children aged from about nine to ninety.

With its seats rolled back the Weston studio becomes a vast black rectangle big enough to house a small aeroplane, an enormous black room with scaffolding poles and revealed stage- lighting equipment hanging high up in the ceiling. The set for this revival looked rather prosaic too with its platform on more scaffolding, simple half-moon backing and a couple of wooden ramps. Not what one might expect for a fairy tale. But the sparseness of the scenery along with the clever lighting and sound and the beauty of the words and the acting strengthened and enhanced the magic.

The story tellers with their banjo and squeeze box welcome us into their domain with music and laughter. Michael Wagg, returning after his fine performance in the company’s production of Gulliver last year setting the comedy with his over enthusiastic welcome to some people in the audience. He quickly gets called back into place by the other members of the cast and the fun begins. With his long black curly hair, beard and deep dark eyes he is well equipped to play the devilish Gwarwyn-a-Throt which he does with enormous relish and skill. He has stolen a very small human from her earthly home and she has become his changeling, Hedydd. A wager is set up between them by which, if she succeeds she will be allowed to return to reality.

As always with this powerful diminutive performer, Katy Owen, we are totally captivated by her smile, her comedy timing, her beauty, strength and truthfulness. Back in the village on the Welsh Marches farmer Samuel Jenkins is doing well and still a single man he concludes he needs an heir to hand down his good fortune. Whilst Stephen Hickman’s character may appear to be the least colourful of the quartet he gives a perfectly pitched performance and eventually gets us rooting for him.

He decides that his widowed neighbour, Mary Morris will make the ideal bride. Apart from her initial reluctance, with the devilish Gwarwyn’s constant interfering in the path of true love things do not look very promising. Hannah McPake gives us a very sensitive picture of the vulnerable widow but also very ably turns on the Brechtian comedy when required.

One of Charles Way’s strengths is that he can tell a good fairy story without any sentimentality, he is able to draw us in and make us believe in the characters he creates. One of the major strengths of this production is that we really do care about the happiness of everyone in this intriguing story. It is a great relief when we reach the happy ending to be ensured that love had conquered all, both down on the land as well as in the fairy domain.

"This marks the end of an era - it is sadly the final production made specially for community audiences.  For 30 years Hijinx have toured high quality work to community audiences throughout Wales and England; following the Investment Review ACW are no longer prepared to fund this work and want the company to focus on their work for and with adults with learning disabilities.  

Hijinx have commissioned a new play for 2011 which will have a particular resonance for adults with learning disabilities and feature two learning disabled actors from Odyssey Theatre working alongside three experienced performers.  It will have a short tour in the spring to venues who book the learning disabled shows, and a further short tour in the autumn to community venues.  In this way the company aims to continue their reputation of being "past masters of the tight, subtle, disarmingly simple art of dramatic storytelling" by performing all over Wales and England."

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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