Theatre in Wales

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Things That Begin with B & C

101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 8, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer “Wales has so many stories to tell.” It is a phrase that I have got tired of hearing. I have got tired of it because story is craft. Aspiration has no accompanying institutional mechanism to develop the craft.

If there were more stories of fire there would be more attendances. Great story is fuelled by one element. We love great villains and there has been too little villainy in Wales' theatre. I can think of three. The best, by a league, was Simon Nehan. His absence from a stage is a loss to all.

There are too many solo shows. But Rhodri Miles is the exemplar of the genre. He performs widely and “Burton” was theatre as intimate event, the high-domed Studio at Aberystwyth as full as it can be.

I usually go to theatre alone but there are exceptions. For “Cafe Cariad” I took two ten-year olds. It was a risk; they loved it.

Too little theatre by and about women in the theatre of Wales. Mal Pope did the best and the most humane.

From “Bruised”, Theatre Clwyd, Mold, 2012

“Bruised” is a kind of “Usual Suspects” for the stage, in that everything clicks in the last five minutes. Max Jones is always scrupulous in detail. For his dealer’s den in Pontypool he has done the last detail of the greasy hand-marks that accrue around a light switch. His set has a visual puzzle right from the opening, before the cast even appears. At the end it fits.

...Simon Nehan, shaven-headed with a tribal tattoo running from elbow to shoulder blade to ear, is simply terrifying. Bethan Witcomb is hollow-eyed, worn-down, cigarette-starved, twenty-one year old Stephanie. Sara Harris-Davies is never resting mother Wendy, offers of tea, toast or custard creams rarely off her lips. Sion Pritchard is a funny actor- a very funny actor- and it is good to see him cast as returning son Noah.”

From “Burton”, Miles Productions, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 2010

“The physical resemblance is startling. Director Hugh Thomas opens Gwynne Edwards’ play with a light on Rhodri Miles’ tilted face. Faces are rich with different expressions but there is a rightward tilt in which the look of Richard Burton is uncannily caught. That seductive baritone of a voice is inimitable but the tone and phrasing, a stream of syllables on a single outward breath, are superbly rendered.

...The time is the early 1970’s. Burton, with thirty-three films behind him, is in his exile of a home in Celigny, Switzerland. Rhodri Miles is in thin black polo neck, dark trousers, a cardigan and medallion. A glass never leaves his hand. The decanter on the trolley, replete with soda siphon and gaudy ice bucket, is steadily drained dry...Gwynne Edwards’ dramatised Burton is the personality of a caustic intelligence, the one who revered literature and read a book a day. He looks back at the rancid price of celebrity, where children endure a restless life with semi-strangers and where their education would be better served in the schools of Pontrhydyfen.”

From “Café Cariad” National Youth Theatre of Wales, September 2007

“The key plot point in the second act is an exchange of prisoner identity and the subsequent torpedoing of the ship “Arandora Star.” Typically director Cullen does not opt for the sinking to be reported by a messenger, in classical drama style, but puts it right on stage. It is emblematic of the boldness throughout of the production.

“Greg Cullen here is co-author with Tim Price, winner last year of a Royal Court award as one of the best fifty emerging writers in the UK. “Café Cariad” is epic in construction, swinging between scenes of light and promise in pre-war Dowlais and threat and menace in Fascist Italy.”

“The fact that it exhilarates is due to the sheer scale and speed with which it operates. There is a gay sub-plot, or sur-plot, that seems almost too much but may well be in tune with the sexual free-for-all that is reported from World War Two social historians.”

From “Cappuccino Girls” Grand Slam Productions & Ffwrnes, Ffwrnes, 2015

“Mal Pope’s first scenes set up the three girls of the title. Sarah Arthur is extrovert Connie with her regular appointments for botox injections and her racy phrasing. Told of the virtues of putting on a smile, in that it always comes back, her response is “What, like herpes?” Claire Hammacott’s Demi is the mother with the troubled past in present servitude to a remote husband who has even given her a name that is not hers. Claire Hanney is former magazine writer Hilary, now immured in a sea of childcare and domestic duties. The script has itself a joke on the educational testing of even tiny three-year olds. The lives of these three are ones of plainness, with a consciousness that the absorption of domesticity and demands of child-raising entail an impoverishment of adult life. “How did we get so small?” they lament in harmony in Mal Pope’s most felt ballad number.

Mal Pope himself and Greg Arthur combine all the male roles. A DJ runs his morning radio show from high up in the gallery. Greg Arthur is also a white-coated doctor urging a return call and a strutting compėre at the World Barista Championship. Among the men in the lives of the Cappuccino-sipping trio are Lawrence, a supercilious editor, and Tom, a husband both avaricious and faithless. Harry is a quietly domestic husband and circling around them all is coffee-maker Eddie, purportedly from a harsh background in Rio de Janeiro but with an enigmatic tattoo on his forearm marked “Henry.”

Picture: “Bruised”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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