Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Another great production from Castaway

Cloud 9

Castaway , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , August-23-03
In Cloud 9, produced by Castaway Community Theatre at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre 22-23 August, playwright Caryl Churchill traces the stereotypical English nuclear family's devastating neuroses back to their Victorian origins, revealing the links between imperialism and domestic tyranny. Blaming it all on the Victorians is nothing new, but Churchill's satirical way of telling the tale is. The first act finds the colonial officer Clive (David Blumfield) and his family in Africa in 1890. In Act II, the characters have aged a quarter-century, but the action takes place in Britain at the present day, or, rather, 1979, when Churchill wrote it.

Act I is brilliantly written and the Castaway actors, directed by David Blumfield, universally rise to the challenge of the material. Lindsay Blumfield as Clive's son Edward is a vividly convincing pre-adolescent boy. Edward’s transformation into something of the man his father exhorts him to be is the distortion of a person with feelings and reason into a robot. Mrs. Saunders, the proudly self-reliant 'New Woman' whom Clive hates to desire is also a complex character. She is excellently played by Catrin Huws. Joshua (Peter Reilly), the household's virtually enslaved African servant, bottles up his confusion and rage until it needs to explode. The tension in Reilly's portrayal is riveting. Claire N. Jones powerfully acts the very different roles of Clive's bitter mother-in-law and, in the second act, Edward's sister Victoria's lover.

Act II is somehow less engaging. David Blumfield acknowledges in his director's note that, in 1979, Churchill could not have imagined the AIDS crisis. Her affirmative treatment of polyamory and casual sex must be seen with this in mind. However, Act II is less interesting more because it contains more unmediated polemic and less irony. Her 'liberated' women and 'sensitive' man, lesbians and gay men are cliches. Act I's irreverent exposure of the Victorian colonists' shocking hypocrisy and casual cruelty overwhelms the subtler struggles that dominate Act II.

Nevertheless,when, at the end of Act II, the modern characters literally confront their relations and alter egos from 1890, the effect is perceptive and haunting. In short, Cloud 9 is another great production from Castaway, a theatre company that seems always to have something original to say.

* * *
An abridged version of this review was published in THE WESTERN MAIL on 28/8/2003.

Reviewed by: Rebecca Nesvet

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