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101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 24, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday was marked with a gala concert in London on 2nd August 2010 in the Albert Hall. Bryn Terfel joined Simon Russell Beale, Daniel Evans and Julian Ovenden to sing, and dance to, “Everybody Ought To Have A Maid.”

The Albert Hall was packed and the audience was in delight. Two months before, in the first week of June, Aberystwyth put on its celebration, a Sondheim show I had never seen. I took two thirteen year olds, a risk at that age. Arad's Goch theatre too was packed. That audience too was in delight; and so was I.

The company received no public funding. Nor too did Frapetsus. The company's series of comedies was, while they lasted, unique in being able to fill venues from Colwyn Bay to Cardiff. And brought in audiences who never went to theatre.

Fluellen too received no public funding. Guided by a historian they presented a buried nugget of theatre treasure in 2017 which attracted a huge interest. .

From “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, Curtain Call, Aberystwyth, 2010

“The Pseudolus role has been inhabited by some great comic figures. In Arad Goch’s elegant studio space it was the turn of Rhys Jones. His performance was an arm-swivelling, forehead-furrowing, cheek-wobbling, jaw-rolling, eyeball-stretching, eyebrow-arching, neck-flexing alternation between manipulation and comic agitation. Wisely, the characters around this demented display of comic combustibility were played more or less straight. Paul Lawless’ Hysterium is the classic stooge. As the housewifely master-slave with his secret cache of erotic pottery “I love to grovel” is virtually his first line. It is an added joke in the director’s armoury that the male selected to impersonate a virgin bride-to-be is the company’s only bearded member.

“When Sophie Jenkins’ Dominia returns to Rome in search of her errant husband she puts on an over-the-top performance, her voice assuming an unnerving huskiness. On his entry song Sean Derbyshire’s Miles Gloriosus, with his self-parodying helmet and plastic sword, does full justice to Sondheim’s witty, blood-thirsty lyrics. Timothy J Howe’s direction adds any number of imaginative touches. Ben Buckstone’s Marcus Lycus produces a rose from within his robe and hands it to a front row member of the audience. The trio of Bertie Brown, Rhys Bevan Edwards and Jake Rudge have some marvellously synchronised movement. There is a great visual joke borrowed from “Duck Soup,” If a director is going to borrow a joke you cannot get a better source than the Marx Brothers. By the time the finale arrived Timothy J Howe was delivering pure performance nirvana.”

From “The Good, the Bad and the Welsh”, Frapetsus, Aberystwyth, 2014

“In “the Good, the Bad and the Welsh” actor-writer-producer Jack Llewellyn returns with affection to his fictional Williams family of Trimsaran. It is his company’s sixth and largest tour and he has probably taken his group of characters as far as they can go- in 2015 he returns to the game which unites all his male characters in passion. The format of the 2014 production follows that of 2013. The characters are propelled from the comfort surroundings of Carmarthenshire home and club to a distant place of tourism.

“The Aberystwyth performance takes place on a sizzler of a day in this Indian summer of a September. Nonetheless it attracts a sizeable house, interestingly with women in a majority. The reason is clear. The author really does like women. In a dramaturgical climate with a useless track record for the depiction of women Jack Llewellyn gives his women the best role and the best lines. Manon Eames’ Angharad opens the production and she and Nia Trussler Jones’ Poppy together close it....Jack Llewellyn gives himself again the role of Rhodri, a persona high in amiability but with a degree of ineffectual hopelessness that gives the second act its dramatic frisson. Danny Grehan and Tony Wright reprise their roles as Dai and Barry, their differences in background obscured by a common relaxedness, passion for sport and the quaffing of beer in ample quantities.”

From “Granton Street”, Fluellen Theatre, Mountain Ash, 2017

“Granton Street” was premiered October 10th 1934 by the YMCA Players at the New Hall in Aberavon. Burton, a teacher of inspirational quality in Port Talbot, had delivered a lecture on “The Fundamentals of Play-acting” and was asked if it were possible to write a three-act play with a single setting, action and just a single entrance. Burton rose to the challenge and “Granton Street”, a first play, was the result...It is a remarkable first play by any criterion and evidence, were it ever needed, that a steeping in theatre is first requirement for writing for theatre. The unities of time and place are a formidable discipline- interestingly it is exactly what Butterworth has achieved in “the Ferryman.” But the accomplishment of dramatic writing is the way in which perspectives pivot and alter as the action unfolds.

“Thus Andrew Lennon's Uncle Jim has been set up by patriarch Tom Davies (Christopher Pegler-Lambert) as the family waster. When he appears he has cadences of O'Casey's Joxer but Burton has him evolve into a character of richer ambivalence...Director Peter Richards takes a short role as an election campaigner and then does the sound, pieces of piano and the clamour of an election night. The performance is in the round with a few items of period furniture. The lighting is that of ceiling panels in a church hall. Audience and players sit in the same lighted space...The banishment of virtually all technical involvement matters not in the slightest. A script that matters, actors of power who command a space, a director who gets the rhythm and keeps up the energy, it is theatre."

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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