Theatre in Wales

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New Welsh Review at D J Britton Play

Kamil and Francis

Theatr Cadair , Taliesin , November 23, 2019
Kamil and Francis by Theatr Cadair D J Britton has form in the vivid dramatising of historical encounter. A play for radio of some time back was set in Porthmadog at the time of the building of the Cob; spies clashed with romantic poets.

The subject of “Kamil and Francis” is an encounter of even greater apposition. New Welsh Review, to its credit, was there to report. In edit:

“We are sitting close to the stage – close enough to see the detail on the Persian rug which is laid out on the stage floor. An image of thirteenth-century Egypt is evoked. Alongside the rug, there is an ornate Arabic side table, traditionally Islamic in style, alongside a chest half draped in richly coloured throws. To contrast, at the centre of the stage, behind the rug, is a modern football table illuminated by a spot-light.

“…Kamil and Francis reimagines the meeting of St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al-Kamil at the height of the Fifth Crusade through the lens of the twentieth century. We are taken back to the thirteenth century in a way that is familiar, in a way we understand. Already, it is millennial-friendly.

“The play begins with St Francis (Russell Gomer) and the sultan (Simon Armstrong) aggressively playing football. It’s unexpectedly funny, and it becomes easy to forget that the play is a historical narrative. The history is there, all in line with the details provided on the eloquent Director’s Note offered before the show.

“...little detail is known about this historically recorded meeting between the pair, (other than via other imagined sources such as Anne Wroe’s poetry)..both men were left deeply affected, DJ Britton’s imagination fills this gap with philosophical, political and spiritual musings – all delivered with a punch line.

“A major theme running throughout, despite the comedic approach, comprises the ways in which two radically opposed cultures might reconcile and find peace. This seems a momentous task to achieve in just two acts, but it is skilfully presented. The invented character of Alhikma (Ri Richards), the Sicilian interpreter, plays a vital role in this aspect.

“With her loud, commanding voice, she frequently emphasises that she is not a translator, but an interpreter. There is a big difference, she claims: translators translate, interpreters interpret. It is her role to understand the meaning implicit in words not explicitly said; to move beyond the constraints of language. This invented character plays a pivotal role in bringing opposing cultures closer to peace. I had assumed the stars of the show to be St Francis and the sultan, but it is Ri Richards’ Alhikma who dominates both stage and script.”

Taken, with thanks, from the full review which can be read at:

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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