Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Blazingly Good New Drama

Kill Thy Neighbour

Theatr Clwyd & the Torch , Torch Theatre , May 2, 2024
Kill Thy Neighbour by Theatr Clwyd & the Torch With “Kill Thy Neighbour” playwright Lucie Lovatt takes theatre of Wales into a new place. And a very welcome place. A co-production between the two main producing venues beyond Cardiff, the Torch and Theatr Clwyd, it shows a partnership that is fighting fit, fresh and feisty. Director Chelsey Gillard, after “Private Lives” last autumn, confirms that Pembrokeshire's fifty-year-plus-old theatre is in buoyant, confident hands.

Dramatic writing, a tough call, asks for a half-dozen things to be done all at once. Momentum requires both a revealing of action and a framework of coherence. Lucie Lovatt sets her direction of travel early on. But then, at the end of the first half, she executes a surprise.

“Kill Thy Neighbour” becomes something richer, more varied and more human, in its second act. But the artistry in it is that the ground-work has been laid down. It is all there in the detail of the writing.

Dramatic locations in Wales tend to focus on the places where most people live. That means urban. Rural settings do occur, unsurprisingly, with Theatr Genedlaethol. Meredydd Barker a while back conjured up a Pembrokeshire town of Treianto, the play's subject an excavation of the sharp politics of heritage.

Lovatt's Porth y Graith is of a different complexion. It reveals the new social geography of the coast, a universal occurrence as much as it is a political conundrum. The coastal communities of Saint George's Channel, like Solva, are little different from those on the Tyrrhenian or Black Seas.

Caryl- a high-energy Victoria John- and Meirion (Dafydd Emyr), slowed down by a troubled hip of mature years, are in a home of seven generations' ownership. Their village retains “The Ship” but as Caryl says “a bus service, a doctor's, a shop, it's not too much to ask for.” The new sociology of the sea-and-cliff-view homes is deftly written. It is true that the 4 by 4's rumble west from Bath and Bristol but the new villages are just as likely to be owned by a mortuary magnate from Gwent or a “loaded lawyer from Penarth.”

The Senedd gets a mention; government features uncommonly in Wales' drama. Sprightly estate agent Gareth (Jamie Redford) warns that legislation might restrict future property transfers. But “Kill Thy Neighbour” is undidactic. Playwrights owe a duty to their characters that is higher than to their own opinions. In particular, letting the characters retain elements of complexity and ambiguity gives more nourishment to the actors. Among a fine cast- credit to casting director Polly Jerrold- Catrin Stewart as daughter Seren, faced with a rare choice, plays her last scene with exemplary force.

The cast is completed by Gus Gordon as a digital marketing consultant. He is an effervescent figure of youth early on, ripe for comedy with his weird dress and bright white crocs. But he moves into a more rounded figure, treated with sympathy. He is little likely to turn Glan y Mor into “The Nightjar's Rest.” The play even ends on a muted note of optimism, in the face of these new unquenchable kind of neighbourhoods.

Max exudes the language of the new urban nomads. He can stay by the sea as long as it suits. He is WFW- working from Wales. Even if he has to go short on the ricotta pancakes. The dialogue includes much sparky wordplay. Normans and Vikings are lightly threaded into the script as precursor invaders. “The sheep have got into the glamping field again.” These are not traditional words on the farm. Llamas now nod over the hedgerows. “They'll stick us in Saint Fagans when we retire” says Caryl.

For a first full-length play Lucie Lovatt has grasped the stage with a remarkable craft. Key elements in the design are critical to the writing and action. A door that swings open, part of an ill-constructed extension, gets itself a final dramatic flourish. Elin Steele's design is created in fine detail. The kitchen units and door-frame speak of a house extension done economically. The shelves of books and magazines have a look to them that takes years of domestic inattention to achieve.

A production like this takes many talents. Tic Ashfield's sound design, glowering and a little unsettling, fuses with the tonal shifts of the unfolding action.

Good management navigates continuity and the new. A tradition from the twenty-five years of the Peter Doran era persists. The audience experience of theatre goes beyond the actors and the stage. It is the whole thing, from the first step through the door to the last step out.

Everyone, just everyone, at the Torch gives off a single feeling, that they love being there.

Full off-stage credits for “Kill Thy Neighbour”

Company:

Writer- Lucie Lovatt

Director- Chelsey Gillard

Set & Costume Design- Elin Steele

Lighting Designer- Lucia Sánchez Roldán

Composer & Sound Designer- Tic Ashfield

Assistant Director- Ellie Rose

Intimacy Director- Bethan Eleri

Casting Director- Polly Jerrold

Wellbeing Facilitator- Hester Evans

Company Manager- Alec Reece

Deputy Stage Manager- Tyla Thomas

Assistant Stage Manager- Emma Hardwick

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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