Theatre in Wales

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Why We Have Theatre in the Public Domain

Eye of the Storm

Theatr na nÓg & Swansea Grand Theatre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , October-28-19
Eye of the Storm by Theatr na nÓg & Swansea Grand Theatre “Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art:” That was part of the epitaph that Walter Savage Landor, Swansea and Llanthony resident, wrote to himself on his seventy-fourth birthday. The two came together on the night of October 25th.

Inside Aberystwyth's Theatr y Werin Theatr na nÓg brought their tour to its last leg. While the company of eight performed “Eye of the Storm”, nature's own storm outside felled trees and severed the rail link. The A-road at Blaenplwyf was reduced to a slithery single lane through a torrent of water.

But for the reviewer who no longer travels outside his home county there is gratitude for every company that plays in Aberystwyth. “Eye of the Storm's trajectory to a blasted coast was via venues south, mid-country and north.

But these were not Chapter, Brycheiniog and Y Galeri; instead Portsmouth. Birmingham, Edinburgh. I like theatre that comes to my home venue; I like still more theatre that competes on quality and which goes out to make an impact elsewhere

The number of professional reviewers that remain can be counted in single figures. But one of them is in Scotland and Joyce McMillan was there to see the production in Edinburgh's King’s Theatre. The company has form here, having also taken “Nye and Jennie” to the Scottish capital. (Even the Scotsman had problems with that pesky “Ó” in “nÓg”.)

McMillan:

“Emmie is a girl with dreams. She wants to become a meteorological physicist, studying the tornados that are her hobby and obsession; and in writer-director Geinor Styles’s exuberant musical play – with songs and lyrics by Amy Wadge, all performed by a formidable cast of eight who double as the live onstage band - we watch her find a way to make her dream come true despite many setbacks, including the active hostility of her embittered physics teacher.

“Rosey Cale sings like an angel and acts like a true star in the central role of Emmie; and with the rest of the company offering a whole range of fine voices and powerful music-making in support, Styles brings this hard-hitting and necessary piece of 21st century popular theatre to an upbeat conclusion that may be just a shade starry-eyed, but that young Emmie has earned, every hard step of the way.”

The ending may well be starry-eyed. It is completely off-beam but aesthetically satisfying. And it has been earned. A happy resolution- this is basic story-craft- can only work if there has been pain to get there. The pain in the script in authentic.

Geinor Styles, when asked, says she is not a playwright. That may well be but there is a lot of craft in it. The classroom scenes have an animation to them the equal of “Everyone's Talking about Jamie.”

The company has a host of off-stage members. The visual impact is jointly the work of Elanor Higgins' lighting, Andy Pike's audio-visual design, Carl Davies' set and, Paul Brown. Amy Wadge's music on stage has credits across Barnaby Southgate, Mike Beer, Gareth Brierly and Matt Gibson.

As Joyce McMillan describes, the versatile actors between costume changes pick up and play the instruments. The casting is excellent but a last word has to be kept for the lead. Sometimes theatre creates moments where performer and part are matched in a perfect congruence. It happened a few years back with Sophie Melville. Rosey Cale is magnetic.

The script is about something that matters, a young person who cares about climate emergency. It dramatises a teacher who puts exam rankings before the interests of young people.

Geinor Styles has also scored a small theatre first. Emmie is creator of a synthetic tornado. Its realisation on stage is an effect of great beauty.

“Eye of the Storm” is why we have theatre in the public domain.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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