Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

It's Brecht in the twenty-first century!

At the Sherman

Sherman Theatre Company- Saturday Night Forever , Studio, Sherman Theatre , March 15, 2001
The commitment of theatre to assist in social change for the benefit of humanity is rarely seen in contemporary Welsh theatre, so this eye-opening, captivating piece of tragicomedy raised questions and ideas that will remain in my thoughts for some time to come.

It is a simplistic love story. Lee (Darren Lawrence), after ending his former relationship with Matthew finds happiness once again with the muscle-bound Carl. The interesting element within the performance is that he plays with the conventions of the monologue, - Lee is not only the narrator but he also plays the other characters in the story, adopting their voice, attitude, movement and gestures.

The consensus of opinion from the South Walean homosexual community is that they are not accepted as equals. Homophobic hate crime is a pressing problem and incidents such as the one in this play are not uncommon, yet the majority of us are not even aware that it is taking place. As well as the purpose of entertaining an audience for an evening at the theatre, this play has the all-important function of raising awareness in a time when homosexuality should not be disguised in shame.

In order to make the incident more effective, the director (Stephen Fisher) chose to indulge in the risky business of audience participation too. It really worked well in this piece as it made the theatre a much more intimate place. Lee had chosen to share this painful story with the audience and the fact that he had handed out beer, and talked very directly to the audience meant that when he revealed the fate of his lover Carl, we were all the more empathetic at his ordeal.

Darren Lawrence delivered this monologue with style, skill and precision, and achieved the difficult task of making an audience really feel for this very ordinary, passive human being. Monologues are particularly popular in Cardiff theatre at the moment and this causes me to ask the same questions as before. The reliability of the narrator and the question of how much of this story is actually 'truth' must be considered, however Stephen Fisher seems to have skillfully taken these issues and used them to the productions advantage. For example the fact that the audience trust Lee's interpretation means that there is no question as to whether these events actually happened like this. He wears no mask and does not seem to be hiding anything from us. However, the performance cleverly plays on the details such as, when Lee describes Carl as the most beautiful person he had ever seen yet when replaying the scene of their meeting, Lee plays him as clumsy and slightly stupid!

After a discussion with Stephen Fisher it was very positively obvious that he had added a multitude of levels to the piece that had not existed previously. He has taken a hard-hitting, well-written narrative and given it so much more through the use of lighting, sound and gesture. One episode in particular that was beautifully conceptualized was when Lee left the party and described how he felt on his long, cold walk home. The music was eerie, and a dim light shone on him like a street lamp in the centre stage as he had his jacket pulled tight around his neck. In this production all of the details had been carefully considered which is the reason why it will reach out to such a wide audience.

Reviewed by: Victoria Cooper

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