Theatre in Wales

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101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , theatre of Wales , April 2, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer In these days like no other, the centre of their lives taken away, some of the actors and directors of Wales are reaching into memory. The music and the books that made their deepest personal impact are being shared.

At any time the devastating caesura would have been bad. For performance in Wales it cut off a new Daf James play mid-tour. A double treat of musicals from Seiriol Davies and Jon Tregenna were killed virtually on the night they were due to open.

So too the reviewer can only look back in reflection and memory. But a sifting too can be done. Many nights have brightened my life. A list of 101 starts with productions that begin with A.

From “Acis and Galatea”, Mid-Wales Opera & RWCMD, Newtown, 2014

“Nicky Shaw’s set is a magic box, revealing ever new tricks and perspectives throughout the hour and a half of Handel’s near unbroken melodic grace. The principals, led by Jane Harrington’s Galatea and Oliver Mercer’s Acis, sing before a variety of verdant scenes. The shepherds hardly suggest they have ever done a day’s work in the fields. In their creamy waistcoats and knee-length britches they look as if they are in preparation for a Watteau-esque fếte galante.

"…Mid Wales Opera has a reputation for small touches of directorial wit. The first sighting of Polyphemus, only in part, had me spontaneously chuckling out loud. If I had to choose one piece of stand-out music it would be the blend of fifteen voices mid-way through the second act. When Gay’s libretto calls for the Arcadian cluster to express joy the writing is as simple as it can get. The word “happy” is sung three dozen times in jubilation. The singers, arm in arm, make a charming little jump in accompaniment. Happy is as happy does. The audience response is rapturous.”

From “Adventures in the Skin Trade”, Theatr Iolo, Aberystwyth, 2014

“Lucy Gough’s adaptation begins in Wales. Matthew Bulgo is seated stage rear with his head slumped forward. Jenny Livsey is draped over a cupboard that is part of Neil Davies’ delicious ramble of a set. She, Ceri Elen and Ceri Ashe act as a kind of chorus with darting lines tinged in poetic exclamation. Oliver Wood is Samuel Bennett, not yet twenty, with a habit of hoarding finger-nails and ear wax. He is prompted to remember to taste his tears. On the journey east he exhibits a selfishness, emblematic of the author, in hogging the train’s lavatory and denying access to a fellow passenger in discomfort.

“...The ensemble goes off to explore some louche night life. Dylan Thomas was little of a proto-feminist and the roles for women are those of either matron or Eros. Oliver Wood is left at the women’s hands bereft of clothing but with his pork pie hat left for his modesty. The London adventures, or misadventures, are animated and dependent on the presence of Matthew Bulgo. His George is a marvellous plummy bohemian in his bowtie and check suit. He and the ensemble are given some loping movements- Jem Treays movement director. George expatiates on his preference for Wordsworth over Walter de la Mare. Learning that his new acquaintance hails from Wales he enquires “Oh, do you know Tintern Abbey?”

From “All My Sons”, Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 2015

“Catrin Aaron’s Ann, fresh from New York City, is first in high-waisted silk, then in lace. If it does not work out with the Kellers she might easily be mixing it with the Don Drapers. Matthew Bulgo brings a gust of energy in his act two entry as avenging angel George Deever. With a five o’clock shadow from an arduous day’s travel his black double-breasted suit, weighing as heavily as his newly acquired revelation, is emblem for the ascent from factory to professional status.

"Fathers and brothers are a regular that distinguish the best of Miller. “All My Sons” is marked out by the presence of both a father and a son, in the form of gaoled father Steve and lost pilot Larry, but who are both absent from the stage. Simon Holland Roberts is a regular on stages in Wales. He was in Aristophanes with Northern Broadsides when that company played in Wales, one of several top-notchers who no longer do so. This last winter he was an exuberant gravedigger in Terry Hands’ swansong “Hamlet.” Living brother Chris is probably his biggest part on the Clwyd stage, performed with a trenchant subtlety. He starts as the vaguely unsatisfied younger sibling, a man who reads book reviews avidly but never a book. He delivers his speech of wartime memory while sitting tranquilly on the porch step. When he moves to being the carrier of hardly bearable emotion his voice drops to a snarl of hostility.”

Pictured: “Adventures in the Skin Trade” Theatr Iolo

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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