Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“Alan Harris's Script Sharp, Characterful and Full of Lovely Little Details"

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

For All I Care- National Theatre Wales , Summerhall, Main Hall , August-19-19
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by For All I Care- National Theatre Wales The Fringe in 2019 utilises, with skill, the tools across the range that the cyber-world has to offer. Its digital marketing and box office have been transformed from just a few years back.

Yet, surprisingly, old habits and patterns endure. In the train last August, at rocketing speed through the fells of Westmorland, I asked a group of four how their schedule for the Fringe was working out. The answer was that they did not have one. But they laid out the Fringe Programme. “How do you start?” I asked.

The answer is that a lot is done on the spot on arrival. I try as far as feasible to get information from primary sources. I was in Edinburgh for this year's Jazz and Blues Festival, which precedes the Fringe in mid-July. It is a strange time since the Fringe venues are sealed off with tape. Amiable groups of Eastern Europeans in high-visibility jackets are hefting scaffolding into Pleasance, Underbelly, Summerhall and all the others.

In the Fringe Office, open but empty, I lingered to chat with the front-office member, a summer-of-2019 arts graduate. She confirmed that the bulk of audience purchases takes place in and of the moment.

That is why the frenzy to get the reviews in the first days matters. Audiences are like any consumers. They tend to follow habit and favour a venue they like the feel of. A reviewer even writes “It’s performed in one of my favourite Edinburgh venues, Paines Plough’s pop-up theatre, the Roundabout, which is in the round and has LED lighting embedded into its ceiling.”

The Paines Plough venue is a success- the publicists line the entry alley where the queues form with blown-up reviews on boards. Success engenders success.

With five performances to go National Theatre Wales has racked up half the reviews of that of “How to Be Brave.” One aspect is the thumbnail description in the Fringe Programme. Those thirty words need to be sweated and hewn, worked and reworked for the maximum impact. Because they matter. The National Theatre copy is simply not very good.

That from Dirty Protest, on a small fraction of their budget, does it better.

But Alan Harris is a known entity. Indeed it was his work with Dirty Protest which built his Fringe reputation. “For All I Care” is manifestly a show to treasure. Its commendations kicked off early with Radio Wales, below 10th August.

From British Theatre

“Welsh theatre is very well presented at the Fringe, and, for me, it’s a thrill to see a play written by Alan Harris, writer of The Left Behind, which is well worth a watch if it’s still on the iPlayer. The play is essentially about two different women, Clara, a professional shop keeper struggling with mental health, and Nyri, a mental health nurse, named after Nye Bevin, founder of the NHS. Their complicated lives weave together when Clara is taken into a unit and Nyri begins to care for her.

“The script is vibrant from the off, and both women, despite the crisis in their lives, begin to bond as Nyri realises that the NHS will not meet Clara’s needs. Hannah Daniel is excellent, playing all the characters so well that I can’t think of it as a one person show, I loved the policeman half her age that Nyri hooks up with!  Harris’s script brings the tale to a realistic but satisfying conclusion, without ever softening the anger about the lack of resources for mental health patients.

“The story doesn’t just apply to Wales, of course, it’s universal to us all. Go see it for a tremendous performance and a strong script, beautifully directed by Jac Ifan Moore.”

From Broadway Baby

“For All I Care is, first and foremost, the story of two women. It is, however, also about the current state of the National Health Service and the promise made by its founders. First: Clara, shoplifting items requested by "the Devil" (aka local brute Diane) who sets herself on fire in a high street changing room. Second: mental health nurse Nyri, sleeping with a policeman half her age, and mourning the death of her mother.

“Alan Harris's script is sharp, characterful and full of lovely little details: Nyri remembering her dying mother, for example, her "breaths out longer than breaths in," before they finally stopped; the slightly-nauseating, just-following-procedures boss, constantly clicking his pen; Clara's lightly-given assertion that "I don’t believe in anything because I can't afford to". Director Jac Ifan Moore has come up with a simple device to indicate when characters other than Clara or Nyri are speaking: performer Hannah Daniel simply speaks into one of three microphones hanging down from the ceiling in an otherwise dark, near-empty stage.”

From Critically Speaking

“This new iteration of Alan Harris’ one-woman show now comes with a new actor and a new staging, giving it the feel of something that is fresh and new. What hasn’t changed is the emotional depth of this comedy drama. Harris writes beautifully of the relationship between an overworked nurse and a suicidal teenager, all told under the shadow of a faltering NHS. There’s an interesting parallel between the reverence with which Harris writes about Fairwater in Sugar Baby and the NHS here, one’s importance as crucial as the other.

“Whether by design or circumstance director Jac Ifan Moore replaces the traverse staging with a traditional platform one, which means the audience don’t miss anything. Katy Morison’s lighting design is typically brilliant, her presence so integral to enhancing the surreality now so synonymous with Harris’ work.

The final word is reserved for Hannah Daniel, who is a magnetic presence on stage as Clara and Nyri. Helped no doubt in the rehearsal room by Ifan Moore, Daniel does a superb job of switching characters with the most subtle of tonal and physical shifts. For a play so steeped in sentimentality, Daniel doesn’t lay it on thick either – that race to the final, emotional punch is very much a marathon rather than a sprint. It’s yet another example of how, in the last twelve months, For All I Care has developed into a very strong and polished piece of theatre. And, of course, a much-deserved salute to Wales’ greatest achievement.”

From Broadway World

“Written by Alan Harris and in association with National Theatre Wales, For All I Care is a powerful one-woman performance. Clara is a vulnerable young woman with no family and a history of psychiatric problems. She is admitted to an inpatient facility when she sets herself on fire in a shop dressing room.

“Nyri works as a nurse at the hospital and this is how the two meet. Nyri has some guilt that her own mother died in a nursing facility rather than at home as she wished and seems to view Clara as an opportunity to ensure someone gets the correct care.

“For All I Care is a fast paced and thought-provoking piece. It both celebrates the NHS and criticises what it has become. Hannah Daniel is a captivating performer and delivers an important political message in a subtle manner.”

Reviews cited with thanks, can be read in full at:

https://criticallyspeaking.co.uk/2019/08/18/for-all-i-care-edinburgh-fringe-2019/
https://www.broadwayworld.com/scotland/article/EDINBURGH-2019-BWW-Review-FOR-ALL-I-CARE-Summerhall-20190809

https://britishtheatre.com/review-for-all-i-care-summerhall-edinburgh-fringe/

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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