Theatre in Wales

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Quarterly Critical Round-up

Theatr Clwyd , August to October , October 31, 2021
Quarterly Critical Round-up by Theatr Clwyd THEATR CLWYD threw its doors open as soon as the law permitted, below 28th June, and kept up the pace over the summer.

“Curtain Up”, a title for the moment, had 45 actors and writers of Wales with 15 new short plays over three weeks. They had a twist, the audience each night choosing the actor for the part and the prop and costume to be used.

The Guardian:

“Directed by Theatr Clwyd’s artistic director, Tamara Harvey...each play at little over 10 minutes in length, it allows for swift and playful variations in dramatic tone and formal experimentation.

"In the first week’s plays, Samantha O’Rourke’s “Finding Feet” was a movingly heartfelt monologue of love at first sight, while in “The Ongoing Eternal Search for “Da” by Mari Izzard, sexual tensions were inflamed to Nintendo sound effects.

“...the accidental nature of our contributions provide both an amusing absurdity – as a Grenadier Guard teddy bear came to power a journey through time and space in Meredydd Barker’s “Just Another Blue Marble” – as well as an unexpected poignancy, with an oven glove tightly clutched in a doctor’s surgery in Ming Ho’s “Nine Point Two Minutes.” In Matthew Bulgo’s “Life 2.0”, the unexpected delivery of an Eddie Izzard VHS tape led to brave new post-pandemic adventures.

“Curtain Up” feels like a sincere and direct invitation to its audience, imbuing the plays with possibility and ownership. We are attentive, knowing that the performance is playing out like this, just for us, just this once. It’s a timely reminder that theatres are not just for entertainment, but also civic buildings, especially in Wales; a place for the polis and for play. A really great night out.”

* * * *

KAITE O'REILLY, a bulwark of theatre in Wales, returned with a version of “Miss Julie.” The Guardian:

“...Presented in a strong north-east Welsh accent, Kaite O’Reilly’s “Missing Julie” relocates Strindberg’s Miss Julie to a stately home in Wales in 1921. Christine and John are the walking wounded, seeped in postwar and post-pandemic grief. This is a world of chapel and working-class nonconformity, where aspiring to magnificence is met with caution...directed by Chelsea Walker and starring Heledd Gwynn “Missing Julie” is staged with a sophisticated and exact vision...Her Julie is an unruly mixture of dangerously appealing contradictions.

“...Tim Pritchett as John is her opposite. Measured and assured, despite apparent limitations he is unafraid of performing his intellectual and physical prowess. The old order is being swept away and magnificence is owed to him, too. As Christine, Catrin Aaron carries the stoicism of her class with the weight of the cross worn around her neck. Her climactic outburst is a gut-punch, and the tragedy here feels like hers more than anybody else’s...Georgia Lowe’s arrestingly sleek and spartan matt black set of Perspex, bells and smoke, lit by Elliot Griggs, all three performers remain on stage throughout. Taut and claustrophobic, beautifully acted to the unceasing hum of Jasmin Kent Rodgman’s sound design, social and sexual tensions simmer towards their inevitable conclusion.”

* * * *

TIM PRICE at the Royal Court in 2014 was a highpoint for theatre-writing of the last decade. His play had an added bonus to it in that the printed script was pulped for possibly offending a powerful corporate body.

“Isla” was a Theatr Clwyd and Royal Court co-production in which Price returned to modernity. Humanity is saturated in the immaterial domain of technology. Soon, said the publicity, voice-activated, digital assistants will out- number humans.

Price's character Roger is in need of company and not a dog. Daughter Erin buys him Isla, a digital assistant. The Guardian:

“...TAMARA HARVEY’s direction is masterly. Like Roger’s penchant for slow television, there are wonderfully contemplative onstage moments where nothing happens. On Camilla Clarke’s set and under Ryan Joseph Stafford’s lighting, days pass and medicine is taken as we watch a kettle boil.

“In what is a deceptively challenging role as so much is spent monologing to an inanimate object, Lambert is superb, finding hues of sympathy and compassion in a character in which such responses are not always invited. Beth Duke’s excellent sound design also deserves special mention, imbuing Isla (voiced by Catrin Aaron, who also appears as PC Jones) with a presence that far exceeds her plastic casing.“

Illustration: poster for "Curtain Up"

Link for “Curtain Up”

Link for “Miss Julie”

Link for “Isla”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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