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101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 12, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer A performance is an particular event in a particular space and a particular time; so too its attendance.

I remember the context of my one and only visit to the Muni. Geoff Cripps asked me to review; I replied it was December and a tricky journey. I changed my mind, left the valley of the Teifi at 10:00 in the morning and was back by 4:00, a winter storm not far behind me.

In the interim I had walked the town, admired the bridge and eaten at a Chinese stall in the market. It was the only time I saw Frank Vickery, which made it worth the while. The company included Gwydion Rhys in a new light singing “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

The first line about “Click” says it. It had the tang of today, its subject teenagers, sexuality, the cybersphere.

The concept, direction and design of “Constellation Street” had, quite simply, an audacity to it whose equal I have never seen.

From “Cinderella”, RCT Theatres, Muni Arts Centre Pontypridd, 2011

“Director Richard Tunley leads his production for RCT Theatres into moments of theatrical ecstasy. The new-style “Twelve Days of Christmas” involves rubber chickens, a string of Barbies, and some weird underwear. Toilet rolls spill off the stage for the drummer to throw back. The tempo of the band quickens, forcing the five singers to belt around the stage at speed. There is the odd apparent error. In fact, the whole scene is one of considerable crafted artistry, which earns a colossal din of approval from the Muni’s packed house.

To call Frank Vickery’s Candarel and Simon Nehan’s Demerara ugly is a misnomer. They are plain gruesome, with lines like “Better be lush/ Or we’ll smash your face to mush.” Their sheer, delicious frightfulness is not just the result of a pair of seasoned performers but the bizarre, even surreal costumes they have been given. The Wardrobe Master is Nicholas Grimes. The costumes’ creators, from Coleg Morgannwg, are Hafina Harris, Donna Adams and Georgie Phillips.”

From “Click”, Mess up the Mess, Carmarthen, 2011

“Click” is fresh, funny, warm, bitter-sweet. It has the authentic tang of today. It is performed by its twelve-strong cast with poise and assurance. Their ages are fifteen, sixteen. Lady Gaga, Richard Ashcroft and others sing on the soundtrack. Its teenage characters are at ease with their sexuality. The quality of their relationships- tentative, exploratory, open - is universal. These intertwined tales from teenagehood feel like the real thing.

“Artistic director Sarah Jones and assistant director Claire Hathway put their cast on stage pre-lights-down. They loll on a gaming chair, lie on a rug, sprawl on a wicker chair, text, work out with weights. Lucy Tootle’s Ellie is immersed in Shakespeare. Grounded for being found out with a bourbon and coke she finds a cyber-friend in May Auyeung’s George in Hong Kong. George is all stripes and frills with pink highlights in her hair. Meanwhile surf dude brother, Russ Beer’s Sam, is in Australia in a developing relationship with Tashy Tylka’s Cathy back home. Dan Morgan’s Isaac- “the queer from the farm”- is on Gaydar. He is in chat with a none too charming character with the moniker Bulldog2000.”

From “Constellation Street”, the Other Room, Porters, 2016

“It has an intrinsic dynamism. Characters start in apparent conditions of stability and move to an edge where their worlds are shredded. There is a nice touch of modernity. An infidelity no longer needs a cache of letters to be discovered. Those omnipresent machines sync their content of betrayal autonomously.

“Chelsey Gillard and Dan Jones have shaped performances where actor, character and speech are seamless. Neil McWilliams, Gwenllian Higginson and Roger Evans are Stephen, Alex and Frank, the two men performing in settings of extraordinary intimacy. Amy Jane Cook is again designer, her approach to “Constellation Street” brilliantly counter-intuitive. The set is now firewood- or rather chiminea fuel in this season- but to reveal too much would be a spoiler, should it be re-created elsewhere. The most intimate space in the theatre of Wales has been split up and made more so. Nonetheless the design works on contrasts of light and dark, space and enclosedness.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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