Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Two Reviewers at Daf James Sequel

Tylwyth

Theatr Genedlaethol & Sherman Theatre , Sherman Theatre , March 18, 2020
Tylwyth by Theatr Genedlaethol & Sherman Theatre The third weekend of March was long marked in my diary for 2020. The atmosphere in Aberystwyth's Arts Centre is often ebullient and never less so than at a weekend. The open areas hum with young dancers, art class afficionados, cafe customers in clusters.

The ever welcoming public space is unprecedently sealed by lock and key.

This weekend Theatr y Gwerin was due to host Daf James' sequel to “Llwyth.” It is promised for another, better time. So too audiences at Galeri, Ffwrnes, Hafren, Mwldan, Pontio and Theatr Clwyd must forgo “Tylwyth” for another season.

In the meantime reviewers were there for its opening week in Cardiff. From Wales Arts Review in edit:

“The death of playwright Mart Crowley, author of The Boys in the Band (1968), was announced this week. His groundbreaking comedy-drama focused on a group of gay friends, rejecting the judgemental attitude characteristic of most pre-Stonewall representations and instead focusing on the characters’ambitions, relationships and sense of community.

"It is possible to see parallels with Crowley’s play and Daf James’s Tylwyth at the Sherman Theatre. I’m not going to lower myself to a ‘Boyos in the band’ pun, but it is a modern and proudly Welsh exploration of gay life in the same honest, challenging and witty mold as Crowley’s landmark work.

“Tylwyth is a sequel to Llwyth (2010), which explored the ‘tribe’ of the title as a group of twenty-something gay friends in Cardiff. In James’s new play, most of the original cast return to play older versions of the characters who are now facing middle-age and pressure to assimilate into the predominantly ‘straight’ institutions of marriage and child-rearing.

"The formerly hedonistic Aneurin (Simon Watts) has settled down with Dan (Martin Thomas) but finds himself questioning whether he can leave his past behind and adjust to parenthood. It is perhaps because many of the cast have already played these roles that the performances are uniformly strong – there is a chemistry between them that has clearly been honed over time.

“...The play oscillates between tragedy and comedy with rapidity, often using one to temper the other. Most of the dialogue is razor-sharp, as characters affectionately one-up each another with smart puns and pithy remarks – the reference to Golwg as ‘the Welsh Daily Mail’ claimed one of the biggest laughs of the night.

"In stark contrast to this, a poignant speech by Dada (Danny Grehan) rightly points out that while LGBT+ people can now adopt and marry, many will still be afraid to hold a partner’s hand in public. The play touches on several complex issues (domestic abuse, chemsex, open relationships and HIV to name a few) and some of these can feel a little rushed in a 100-minute runtime. One particularly harrowing revelation towards the end of the drama does feel like it needed more room for digestion by both characters and audience.

“...It is this careful balancing act, of depicting serious issues while appearing not to take itself too seriously, which makes Tylwyth such an enjoyable examination of modern, Welsh gay identity.”

Nation Cymru was also there:.

“Tylwyth is the sequel to Daf James’ scintillating 2010 play, Llwyth. Like the original, it’s directed by Arwel Gruffydd and co-produced by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Sherman Theatre. Llwyth was an epoch-defining moment in Welsh drama – the story of four gay men navigating Cardiff’s nightlife to the contemporised rhythms of Aneurin’s ancient poem Y Gododdin, it was a shot of adrenaline through the veins of theatr Cymraeg.

“...Yet, seemingly in a blink of an eye, ten years have passed and, thankfully, the themes of Llwyth are more accepted now. Indeed, Tylwyth opens with self-obsessed party animal Aneurin (Simon Watts) now settled with a loving partner Dan (Martin Thomas) who hails from the north of Wales.

“I want a God tonight, not a Gog,” Aneurin laments when the pair first meet on Grindr. Externally, Aneurin has matured, to the point that he and Dan have adopted two children – a concept that would have been virtually unheard of in 2010. But internally, he wrestles with his own shortcomings as a father – all the worse when Dan is serenely paternal – as well as with his inner demons and the nagging sense that life isn’t what he had pictured for himself.

“...Simon Watts imbues Aneurin with a combination of fatigued ennui and redundant energy; a hangdog on heat, yearning for the life he has but also the life he’s lost. James’ script explores male depression in a way that is nuanced. Aneurin is a man with whom we can empathise but also sometimes loathe, a villain and a victim.

“...Last time out, the characters were fighting for an identity as Welsh-speaking gay men – now they are fighting for an adult identity that will have repercussions on all those around them. The story is about saving one’s tylwyth – one’s family, in all its forms.

“Tom Rogers’ stunning carousel set turns domestic bliss into a literal whirl of dark debauchery, while Daf James’ music and Sam Jones’ sound perfectly capture a regretful Saturday night in town, albeit one with Arglwydd, Dyma Fi thrown in. The joyousness of Llwyth still remains, especially through its music.”
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Full reviews at:

https://www.walesartsreview.org/theatre-tylwyth/

https://nation.cymru/culture/review-tylwyth-uses-nostalgia-to-say-something-new/

Photo Credit: Mark Douet

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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