Theatre in Wales

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101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 18, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer Shakespeare knew every word in the English language. In his time there were forty-four thousand and now there are a million plus. The theatre of Wales has given cause to add at least one, the adjective “Mappamundian.”

It has only been used twice in written form by the record of the search engines. Nonetheless, it has a meaning for those who know and were there. Mappa Mundi is now no more. But its fine troupe of regulars gave good service. I miss them.

A gauge of wise arts funding is the ecological variation it enables. Numbers 21-24 could hardly demonstrate this better in richness of genre, geography, style, theme.

From “Dangerous Liaisons” Mappa Mundi & Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan, 2010

“Lilting harpsichord music fills the auditorium. As an audience we know exactly where we are, prepared for a play set in pre-revolutionary France, all taffetas, grace and aristocracy. The lights go down and the cast of eight, lit from behind, assembles for a formal dance; except that the harpsichord has been overlaid with a version of Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” underpinned by a ferocious drumming.

“It is very Mappa Mundi, but the choice of music is also clever. It is a pointer that the characters are barely family, and where family does exist it makes faint claim to any moral tutelage. In a small but clever touch in Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones’ direction a passing physical gesture on the part of Christine Pritchard’s Madame de Rosemond’s to her nephew signifies her tacit approval of his behaviour. As for Kathryn Dimery’s Madame de Volange daughter Cecile is little more than prospective marriage material for social and monetary advantage. That Matthew Bulgo’s Comte de Gercourt is three times her age is of no account...Carl Davies’ set is of blue veined marble and a floor of diagonal tiles.”

From “The Dark Philosophers”, Told by an Idiot and National Theatre Wales, Y Stiwt , Rhosllanerchrugog, 2010

“..Thomas himself is onstage throughout in the script co-created by Kneehigh veteran Carl Grose and the Company. He offers his characters a helping hand to negotiate Angela Davies’ vertiginous set. He stands behind them and suggests the next line for them to speak. With his tight suit, his elbows forced back, his trilby, his three-quarter mask with its bulbous nose, there is an echo about him of the Shen Te/ Shui Ta figure from Brecht’s “The Good Woman of Szechwan”

“But best of all, it catches the exuberance without sentimentality of this particular author. A watering can is tipped over an actor so he really does get wet in the rain. Goats bleat and sheep baaa. A tyrant swells to a faceless eight foot in height. As in the best of humour it rests on a base of deep moral seriousness. Poverty, guns, “the smell of cabbage, damp and rent” permeate. Near the close the author voices his philosophy: “You see, to me absurdity is the most beautiful thing.” “We are the victim of a grand over-riding joke.” As a philosophy it is less dark than light and liberating.”

From “The Day We Realised the World was an Oyster”, Chloe Loftus Dance, Chapel Court Aberystwyth, 2013

“The timing for the performance at the tour’s second venue is a quarter to ten at night. At Aberystwyth in August that is the magic time, after the sun has set over Llyn but before full darkness has set in. The sky has a unique colouring, for around half an hour, that does not have a true counterpart at dawn. Chloe Loftus’ geodesic structure, constructed by the Welsh School of Architecture, is lit in blues and reds, and contrasts with the deep blue of the surrounding sky.

“The Day We Realised the World was an Oyster” is filled with suggestion; the surprised gaze of the newly hatched chick, the view from the top of a ship’s mast, innocence and exhilaration. The relationship between the female and male dancer is one of complete equality, in scale and strength, movement and litheness. The last image has the man asleep, deep within the structure, while his companion crouches high up in a position of outward watchfulness...the freedom of physical movement is counter-balanced by the loose-tight elegance and beauty of the frame. After the performance the audience is to be seen touching the wood and the wire; there is a sculptural beauty to the mathematics of its making, the fact of its being simultaneously both open and closed.”

From “dead born grow” National Youth Theatre Wales & Frantic Assembly, Aberystwyth, 2013

“A major change...Jain Boon with a strangely wonderful title, full-time for the year, of Creative Activist...“dead born grow” has a creative team led jointly by Jess Williams and Eddie Kay. The stunning design concept, the work of Gabriella Slade and Cordelia Ashwell, combines density with the simplicity necessary for touring. It is a devised show based on ensemble work, so that there are no leads or stars among the cast of twelve who, as usual, come from all points Welsh. The rehearsal has been constrained to a shorter period than the customary residency in Aberystwyth but would never be guessed from the production’s quality and finish.

“dead born grow” has a structure in which the close returns in circular fashion to its opening image. The use of video- Ethan Forde is the audio-visual member of the creative team- is telling and controlled. Physical theatre works via suggestion over statement. The crisply edited production embraces much of the experience of the teenage years. The surprise of erotic allure is subsidiary to the overwhelming need for social adhesion. But, truthfully, affiliation is shown as hand in hand with emotional lability... The show is richly figurative. Three women move into a single pullover. A scene involving an unclothed torso, a tape measure and a marker pen hovers between the humorous and the unsettling.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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