Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“The Other Room leading where other theatre companies, particularly the larger ones, are lagging”

Hela- the Critical Round-up

The Other Room , Porters , November 25, 2019
Hela- the Critical Round-up by The Other Room Diversity is an incendiary subject. The aspirations emitted by Wales' cultural managers may be taken as sincerely meant. But they run up against the historical record. Diversity in play-writing in Wales is narrower in 2019 than it was in the last century.

The decline times with the arrival of government in Cardiff. Whether its unique policy for the UK towards publicly funded theatre is the driver is uncertain. Richard Huw Morgan is correct in his comment for Nation Cymru November 21st: “It’s a shame the performance history of Wales is poorly documented.”

There are too few dramatists and there are too few women dramatists. Mari Izzard's debut is thus to be welcomed on many counts. Her play was certainly welcomed by those who reported on what they saw.

Nation Cymru in the longest and fullest commentary was alone in placing “Hela” in the context of the theatre's season.

“In crafting this series, The Other Room has achieved something remarkable theatrically for sure- an ambitious and brilliantly executed project...The Other Room here are leading where other Welsh theatre companies – particularly the larger ones – are lagging, and failing to see the opportunity of and creativity in having a variety of language on stage.”

In edit:

“A gripping thriller of a piece, Hela is a ‘locked room drama’...A tense and gripping piece of work condensed perfectly into a tight 65 minute running time, is an emotional, engaging piece that offers much to think of beyond its running time...The bilingualism of the play is fully integrated, fully accessible and makes narrative sense.

“Izzard manages also to integrate commentary on the Welsh language, on pride and prejudice of language, without it being heavy handed...The humour inherent in her writing also manages jokes about the Welsh language, Hugh’s failure to understand it, and the prejudices and challenges of language without falling on extremes of insults that some corners of social media often do when discussing language divide.”

“Mari Izzard has crafted a well-structured, gripping play that is as funny as it is disturbing...Izzard knows just how much information to deliver at a given time in order to keep the audience guessing, and most importantly, invested in the story. To say too much would be to spoil what is a brilliant ride in which things feel like they could constantly change. But the world in which Izzard places her characters feels real, and terrifying all at once...Hela is a tightly woven drama, that executes its narrative with engaging storytelling and pitch perfect dramatic pacing.”

From Quench:

“...themes, visuals, characters and wordplay are certainly not for the faint-hearted...the play is an ambitious attempt to present the consequences of human actions and the advent of a not too distant world dominated by technology. Izzard consistently plays with words, language and repartee between the two central characters. The play keeps the audience involved and takes them on a journey to realise the implications of relying on technology through the actions of characters which come back to haunt them time and again.”

From Arts Scene in Wales:

“Mari Izzard’s Hela is first and foremost a punch to the stomach – its themes, its visuals, and its resolution are most certainly not for the squeamish. This is in equal measure brave and important: brave, because the danger of indulging in excess violence merely for the sake of shock value is ever-present, yet Izzard’s writing proves skilled and thoughtful in walking the fine line bewteen impact and voyeurism, never overstepping it; important, because at a time where the assumption that there are things that should not be represented in art has once again reared its ugly head, productions like this must exist to remind us all that nothing is forbidden in art and on the stage, as long as any subject matter, even the most disturbing, is approached thoughtfully and supported adequately by story and characters.”

“... It is an ambitious work with a kind of ambition that we should see more often on stage. In some of its many goals, it fully succeeds, aided by strong performances and an excellent work on characters. In others it falls somewhat short of the mark, though not for lack of dedication. Overall it gives plenty to discuss – this, I suspect, was really its main goal, and this one it has without doubt achieved.”

From Theatre and Tea:

“Hela, written by Mari Izzard, is a thrilling and fast paced, bilingual addition to the season, as the two hander leaves its audience thinking far longer than the 65 minute running time...As the storyline hurtles towards its climax, the two actors work brilliantly with and against each other, Hugh becoming more Welsh and returning to his roots, while Erin (Lowri Izzard) spirals in to the English language as her emotions flare and the truth emerges.

“Brilliantly written, beautifully creative in its bilingual nature and devastating in its reality... Definitely one not to be missed to end a promising yet pessimistic season at The Other Room.

Edrych ymlaen at beth sydd nesaf!”

Buzz locates “Hela” in a context of its theatrical antecedents:

“Violet Burns Award-winning playwright Mari Izzard seems like a disciple of Sarah Kane, in terms of her dramatic use of shocking trauma and extreme violence, deployed in highly symbolic ways, to signal the abuse inflicted upon an entire culture. Her writing retains a visceral poeticism whether in English or in Welsh, with moments of inventive linguistic comedy.

“Under Dan Jones’s direction, there are echoes of Saw in the set (designed by Delyth Evans), as well as Black Mirror in the play’s suspicion of technology’s influence on contemporary morality. But the tension is well-balanced with an impish and distinctly Welsh sense of humour, helped along by the writer’s twin sister Lowri Izzard, a captivating performer, in the lead role of Erin. Gwydion Rhys is also excellent as her captive male victim Hugh, hiding guilty secrets about his connections to Gethin....a wildly ambitious and highly intelligent debut play, it’s not without its flaws...brimming with diverse ideas...a gripping production that heralds the arrival of a new and exciting feminist voice in Welsh theatre, proving yet again that The Other Room at Porter’s is one of our very best venues for first-rate new writing.”

British Theatre Guide

“Hela—the title refers, in Welsh, to hunting—is the debut play from actress Mari Izzard. It is the inaugural winner of the Violet Burns Award for female writers (named in honour of the mother of one of the supporters of The Other Room, a woman who did not manage to fulfil her own artistic ambitions)...As a psychological thriller, Hela is highly effective, the author's writing giving us two protagonists believably on the edge of desperation. The performances are excellent, director Dan Jones maintaining the tension throughout, aided by Tic Ashfield's anxiety-inducing electronic score and Katy Morison's murky lighting design. Inevitably, there is violence, fight director Kevin McCurdy once more called into action.

“Hela tells a story which has been often told before, but which remains tragically relevant; the futuristic Welsh context at least ensures a freshness of approach and provides a political subtext.”

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


Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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