Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Things That Begin with G

101 Nights to Remember

Theatre of Wales , Theatre of Wales , April 26, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Theatre of Wales “Grav” reached out to a tranche of people who have not seen any other in this list of 101.

At Felinfach I chatted to a couple who on a normal night are behind the counter at pysgod ysglodion. In London, for a second viewing, I was memorably seated next to a giant of a man; we talked rugby memories before the lights went down.

Over to the director. Peter Doran: “In my forty years of working in the theatre I’ve never worked on a show with such an appeal across the board.”

“Grav” crossed the Atlantic. National Dance Company Wales is seen every year across Europe, Asia. This “Guys and Dolls” stormed its way from Mold to Swansea and across England.

Theatre can be one or twenty, epic or miniaturist. “Gwyn”, fine and honed, was made of two.

From “Grav”, the Torch, Theatr Felinfach, 2015

“Francis Bradshaw’s set for “Grav” is a creation of vivid detail. Gareth Bale’s Ray Gravell tentatively enters a room of stained tiles, grimy windows, rusted lockers and in-growing ivy. He jumps at the sparks issued by a shorting bulb...The encounters- they include meetings with Peter O’Toole and director Louis Malle- have a comic vivacity to them. There is real tension as a ball ascends high towards the posts, and it is all in the telling. Such is the confidence of the show that director Peter Doran even has his actor sit with his back to the audience for the telling of an anecdote that muddles “warrior” with “worrier.”

“Most of all “Grav” takes its audience into its world of rugby. The physicality is there, how it is be “facing a charging eighteen stone South African”. The sound design uses off-stage crowd song to evoke the stadium. But Owen Thomas also captures some of the inner spirit and camaraderie. A couple of eggs are cracked into a glass and it is called lunch. A fellow star player makes Gravell fret over the possibility of a creeping belly. Because Owen Thomas is able to use humour he can also take his audience into moments of poetry. Glyndwr and Gwenllian are evoked and the production creates a genuine poignancy for Grav’s last exit...Peter Doran, Owen Thomas and Gareth John Bale have taken theatre to new places, places in recent years that no others have reached.”

From “The Green House/ Profundis”, National Dance Company Wales, Aberystwyth, 2017

"Caroline Finn's first piece for National Dance Company Wales “Folk” was critically acclaimed in 2016. Her “Animatorium” was seen at the Green Man festival. “The Green House” which forms the forty-five minute long second act of this new tour is rich in allusion. Every choreographer has their own style and mark. The method here has been to give the company a rich array of sources to respond to. David Lynch is in there along with Samuel Beckett. Francesca Woodman, whose photographs of masterly distinctiveness were to be seen at Bodelwyddan Castle recently, hovers over the piece. Her work characteristically used slanted light from an outside window onto a body, always her own, that emanated isolation and self-exposure.

“It is the nature of metaphor that it be both, and simultaneously, concrete and suggestive. “The Green House” has a double inside-outside division. The set, elaborate for a touring dance show, has a pair of swing doors and large sash windows. Supplicants stand forlornly the far side of the window wishing and being denied entry. But the set is also a set itself. Its wall extends into untreated woodwork. Its artificiality is shown by a dancer taking a ladder and poking her head over the top. An illuminated sign declares that the dance is itself a performance for television. The unseen makers indicate the time for applause. The music suggests an era. It would be the nineteen-fifties, a high watermark of social conformity...This performance-within-performance is a strange and unsettling domain. The man who squats on the mantle-piece is repeatedly picked up and removed from the room.”

From “Guys and Dolls”, Theatr Clwyd, New Wolsey Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse, Mold, 2011

“Are dese de guys?” is the opening line in director Peter Rowe’s production. A group of hoods emerge from the mist ominously carrying musical instruments. They lay them down, open them and reveal…trumpets and trombones. Musical director Greg Palmer has followed a trick from the Watermill Theatre. The cast are the band. It is not just the versatility that impresses but the sheer industry of it. Sophie Byrne, Georgina Field, Rosie Jenkins and Claire McGarahan one moment are sultry, thigh-revealing dancers in a Havana nightclub. A few minutes later in the side-stage back light they have changed into loose trousers, waistcoats and trilbys and are blowing on clarinets.

"Nick Lashbrook is mean cop Brannigan with his peaked cap pulled low over his brow and his truncheon swinging menacingly. But he can punch out just as mean and moody a riff on his trumpet. Other musical highlights are the great trombone, played by Christopher Fry. In the half-light an unidentifiable player produces lovely liquidy tones from his guitar. Susannah Van Den Berg’s General Cartwright has a soprano that vaults thrillingly over the combined voices of the rest of the cast’s singing in unison...“Guys and Dolls” has leads but no stars; at least it has stars but there are twenty-two of them. Robbie Scotcher’s Sky Masterson is a lean, poised presence, a natural superior to the loose-limbed Broadway low-lifers around him. Only he has the muscle to put East Cicero’s finest Paul Kissaun’s Big Jule where he belongs. When he comes to “Luck be a Lady”, that great melody and lyric, he raises his glance upwards and his eyes narrow in a song that is half-defiance and half-prayer...“Guy and Dolls” is a big, mood-raising, cuts-defying recession-buster of a show...brought the opening night Mold audience to its feet.”

From “Gwyn”, Cwmni'r Frân Wen, Aberystwyth, 2014

“Gwyn is gywn- not just on stage, where costume and set are white, but curtains, floor, benches, the setting in total. The company members on the sound desk and production manager are in white. It is little surprise that heads in the audience are sometimes lifted from the action to gaze at the world into which they have been led...“Gwyn” has attracted a small audience. That is not small in numbers; the company’s space is full. They have come from Llanryhstud’s Myfenydd school. Year ones and two have reached a certain size and they are mini-giants next to their Derbyn fellow-pupils. And they are attentive. They chuckle and gasp at times, but “Gwyn” is not a laugh-out-loud production. Mostly they watch. A four-year-old face may swivel around occasionally to share its pleasure with a teacher on a bench behind.

“Gwyn” is a two-hander, Bryn Fôn and Rhodri Sion playing characters Titrwm and Tatrwm. The tour is just beginning and takes in ten more venues that include all points south, east and north... “Gwyn” holds its audience for the most solid of theatrical reasons. It comes without interval but comprises a perfectly formed two-act structure. The first part ends with the fall of night and a stage action that is inventive, visual and pure theatre...the emotions are real. When a small task in their daily routine necessitates the placing of pegs on their noses we can sense the stink. The expression that Tatrwm’s face assumes on discovery of an alien element in his world is that of genuine pain. Later the audience both guesses and wants Titrwm to do a certain action. The tension in the waiting is real.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

back to the list of reviews

This review has been read 38 times

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


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