Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

More Things That Begin with A

101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 4, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer A billion words have been expended to capture, in way of witness, how to it is to be with one group of humans in performance in front of another group. The least useful, and the least true, is the word “ephemeral.” It has a meaning, that is “of no lasting significance.”

In October 2013 I reviewed a compilation by Nick Hern titled “My First Play.” The book featured memories from sixty-six playwrights, directors, actors. The names were well-known: Alfreds, Brenton, Callow, Churchill, Doran, Edgar, Elyot onward. Their first experiences were profound and made their lives into what they became.

These three round off the productions over the years 2007-2019 that begin with A. At the first I took a companion, its effect causing tears to roll down her cheeks. After the second I crossed paths with Michael Billington and described it. “Arden of Faversham? That's not done often.” He was fully approving. It belongs among the best theatre I have ever seen.

As for the third: were I to be asked to think spontaneously of great performances of Wales a first to spring to mind would be Christian Patterson’s Casimir, a piercing portrayal of wounded humanity.

“The Almond and the Seahorse”, Sherman Cymru. Aberystwyth, 2008

“What marks out Kate O’Reilly’s writing is the skill with which she sets up deep echoes and resonances so that her play vaults beyond its subject of Traumatic Brain Injury. The parallel story of two victims and those left behind is heartbreaking, but the play moves it into wider questions of culture and identity.

“She shows how love requires more than an atmosphere of compassion in which to breathe. Archaeologist Sarah is exasperated by husband Joe. He has become kind, well-meaning, likeable and she yearns for the lost grit in his personality. Twenty years the carer of Gwennan, husband Tom has read his Oliver Sacks and Gerald Edelman. What is a personality, he wonders, if it can be changed so abruptly? If we are “ just electrical impulses, carbon matter” what are we worth? In a landscape bereft of divinity, where bodies are burned but refrigerators are interred, the mind sustains itself on illusion. “The poor brain thinks it’s a soul” he says “it thinks it’s immortal.”

“Arden of Faversham”, Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 2010

“Stephen Marzella’s repellent Clarke, with his thick glasses, skull cap and paint-spattered robe, has a tongue that laps in lascivious anticipation of his encounter with Michelle Luther’s Susan. A gob of real spittle sits on his beard which pokes out at a horizontal angle...Hedydd Dylan’s Alice exposes the bare torso of Daniel Llewelyn-Williams’ Mosby and presses her mouth to his stomach. Blood flows freely when faces are hit. Brendan Charleson’s Black Will, in his wide-brimmed hat of the same colour with its dandy-ish three feathers, sticks his dagger into Steven Meo’s nostril and flexes it....Dyfrig Morris has the strength to lift up the smaller Michael bodily by the collar. With his unruly mop of hair, one sock drooping round his ankle, Steven Meo’s engaging Michael is an ambivalent character, swivelling between protector of his master and conspirator in his demise.

“...Hedydd Dylan is dressed in green velvet, with a Medusa head of jiggling ringlets and a single glittering jewel in each earlobe. The size of her eyes moves from slits to quarter-globes. She sways from the hip when she wants a conspirator to do her will. Her face has a mobility that goes from eyebrow to chin. Her voice can alter pitch in the course of a three-syllable word like “ruffian.” There are tiny touches like the anxious lick of the lips before the serving of a poisonous breakfast broth. It is a large, larger than life performance that fits to perfection the tone of Terry Hands’ production. “Glowing with promise” was the slightly weird phrase the Sunday Times wrote of her late last year but you can see what the writer intended.”

“Aristocrats”, Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 2013

“Christian Patterson’s Casimir is the thread that defines the weave in Brian Friel’s characteristically intricate fabric of Irish dynastic life. As the last male of Ballybeg Hall’s O'Donnell family, once dominant and now dispersed and enfeebled, his is a performance of depth and texture. A fluent fabulist, he has his own family afar of whom his siblings have never had sight. Simon Holland Roberts’ Eamon once “a laughing broth of an Irish boy” and now a grimmer and gruffer adult casts doubt whether the all-too-gemuetlich family in Hamburg with the three sons may even exist. A kind of boy-man Casimir can absorb himself utterly in the Chopin played offstage by youngest sister, Lisa Diveney's Claire. But the distant voice of his father, the former judge felled by a stroke, can freeze him into immobility with memories of childhood terror. As befits the part Christian Patterson’s voice oscillates into occasional falsetto. Small tragedy haunts many a life and when he speaks of an awareness from boyhood that “I would never enjoy the easy relationships that other men enjoy. I would never succeed in life” it comes with the deepest of pathos.

“Mike Britton’s design is a sweep of sunlit grassy hillock. Vast skies on two sides indicate not just Ballybeg Hall’s openness to wind and rain but the gusts of time and history blowing through late 1970’s Ireland. The Civil Rights struggle just a few dozen miles away has been cause for a short involvement by Eamon. The staging and design feel monumental with the audience pressed back to four rows of seating on three sides of the Emlyn Williams stage. Its scale allows the large cast to move widely across their shared and private spaces.”

Picture: “Aristocrats” directed by Kate Wasserberg

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

back to the list of reviews

This review has been read 64 times

There are 26 other reviews of productions with this title in our database:


Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © keith morris / red snapper web designs /