Theatre in Wales

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A Cavalcade of Irreverence and Zest

At Theatr Clwyd

Milky Peaks- Theatr Clwyd, Seiriol Davies & Aine Flanagan Productions , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , April 28, 2022
At Theatr Clwyd by Milky Peaks- Theatr Clwyd, Seiriol Davies & Aine Flanagan Productions Three shows died in March 2020. "Tylwyth" resumes its tour in the Autumn of 2022. Of "Hail, Cremation!" not a word is to be heard. "Milky Peaks" finally arrived on its intended Theatr Clwyd stage two years and a week after its scheduled first night.

Graciously all concerned have sent it off on tour. The wait has been worthwhile. It is a cavalcade of audience joy.

Seiriol Davies plays Little Dewi Mini-bach, receptionist at the Snowdonian town's hotel. His about-town costume combines a yellow woolly cap, Doc Martens, a skirt and kind of Roman legionnaire breast-plate. Dewi's boss is Alun, played by a stentorian-voiced, hugely animated Tanya Bridgeman. Alun is an entrepreneur with an ever eye out for monetising opportunities in the ex-slate town. Matthew Blake is Pariah Carey, immersed in nostalgia of how great the drag scene was in Queensferry back in the 1990s.

Lisa JÍn Brown is plain mother with no name and a penchant for salsa classes. The 9Bach lead singer has an octave-spanning voice to thrill. Sophie Winter is Linda Maria, the town's arts centre director. She stands out in Milky Peaks as the sole wearer of a pashmina and is, it turns out later, in flight from a psychotic super-fan in Surrey.

"Milky Peaks" opens on a day in spring, Dydd Dewi Sant celebrated with an inflatable plastic leek and daffodil. The plot ignites with the arrival of a metropolitan blast in the shape of Miriam O'Brien's Rhombus. She and her committee are on the hunt for Britain's best town. Meanwhile Alun has his eye on the nature reserve, a treasure trove of dragonflies and site for human activities. The lyrics are not quotable in an open-to-all-eyes review. The Planning Committee looks favourably on the reserve's conversion to a nightclub. It goes up remarkably in the course of a night. Dewi gets the manager job and with it a confirmation of his identity.

A sub-plot involves a plan to produce "My Fair Lady". After some to-and-fro-ing it is given an edgy cross-dressing treatment. Meanwhile the mask slips off the motives of the best town competition. The arrivals like the look of "pale Wales" and sing of the satisfactory absence of brown faces. They are indeed a group, "Britain's Best" draped in Union Jacks. "Milky Peaks" is the first theatre to speak of Wales as a site for white refuge, the subject of a celebrated essay published by Planet over twenty years ago.

As in the best of tales virtue reasserts itself, the Welsh mam in the fore even gains an identifying name. And in a moment of theatrical sweep the red dragon of Wales awakens- literally, not metaphorically. Thematically "Milky Peaks" circles around the issue of authenticity. It is not for nothing that the show-within-the-show is "My Fair Lady". That is a tale, a great tale, of authenticity being dressed up within an improving artifice.

En route over two and a half hours there is unbroken ribaldry and exuberance. Rhyl gets a side-sweep of an insult. "When you're Welsh there's always a little bit of pain in you" says the mother early on. The Sais get their due as "a dominant bunch of monoglots." "Toss me the odd copper" features among the double entendres. There are few privacies in small town life. A song tells of the woman frequently near the bottle bank with the jangly bag. "Must be jam jars" is the lenient interpretation. Current pieties are aired. "The war on men is a global conspiracy."

Janet Bird's tourable set is made of slate layers that can be pivoted to reveal a neon night-club wall. Musician Dylan Townley is part-concealed and has an occasional speaking role. Inserting his head into a hole surrounded by tiles he becomes the character of a wall. This must be the first since the one that separated Pyramus and Thisbe and that was in 1595. Wise wall knows a thing or two about a building with his view from the inside. The club that went up overnight, he says, is made of styrofoam.

Further credits for this eruption of theatrical joy are: director Alex Swift, devisors Seiriol Davies, Matthew Blake and Dylan Townley, choreographer Ewan Jones, musical director Dylan Townley, sound Design & music production Chris Bartholomew. lighting design Kevin Treacy, voice coach Nia Lynn.

The script also dips into moments of meta-theatre. The lights and seats are addressed. "Weird shows make people uncomfortable. Don't they, audience?" proposes Seiriol Davies.

Not quite. "Milky Peaks" brings its Aberystwyth audience to their feet, cheering and cheering.

By chance, my front-seat neighbour is a long-term author, dramatist, with a theatre company to his name. His verdict, when the applause at last drops:

"This is what theatre in Wales should be."

"Milky Peaks" continues throughout May at Theatr Hafren, the Sherman, Pontio, Theatr Brycheiniog, and Taiesin Arts Centre.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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