Theatre in Wales

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At Made in Wales

Made in Wales- Football , Chapter, Cardiff , September 4, 2004
“It’s 2006. England have won the world cup. (Thank f*** - otherwise we’d have to invade Iraq again.) Sir David Beckham is a National hero. His shirt has sold for 137,000 euros at a charity auction. Three friends meet for dinner; two want sex, the other bought the shirt. It is almost Art.”

The ‘Is it Art?’ debate will never be resolved. One man’s art is another man’s irritating bewilderment. Some artists, in all fields, see their role quite differently today from any other period in history.

Lewis Davies is a traditional narrative playwright drawing this dangerous comparison with Yasmina Reza’s play that had a surprisingly long run in London a few years ago, with the opening words that sets up his story. There may be an underlying debate about the nature of ‘art’ in this forty-five minute delightfully amusing examination of the middle class human psyche. Its strength comes from the snapshot he has captured in bold reality that reveals that most of us need much more than we think we want.

Jason, played with accomplished delight by Martin Cole is a sort of smoothed out sophisticated Ainslie Harriet, a celebrity chef who has succeeded more by stealth than ability. He has invited old friends, Clive and Kate, whose earlier relationship had ‘apathied’ away, around to dinner to celebrate his acquisition and unveiling of the ‘celebrated shirt’. Dinner parties and Mike Leigh have a well-established connection and that’s the territory we’re in.

There is the cynicism that goes with well-educated middle class thirty somethings, that’s part of the reality but Davies’ art is in the glows of surprise and gentle wry humour he introduces when we least expect it. When we first meet Clive, a commanding performance from Hywel Morgan, he’s a drunken, good for nothing yob who’s first expletive appears on page four and continues through the play. Later it emerges that he’s a big softee, with very little self-esteem but with an incisive knowledge of football tactics who still has an unfinished book on the game, fifteen years in the writing.

Kate is the successful Sports Editor of a national newspaper, so stupid, she actually trusts men, and she tells us it wasn’t her literary skills that necessarily got her the job. In any short play it is inevitable that the characters don’t have that many words to say. It is to Suzanne Procter’s great credit that she is able, in this short space of time to flesh out such a well-rounded and compelling realisation of the character

They debate the merits of the shirt. Has it an artistic value? Jason’s motives for buying it, their past, their futures, throw insults, offer understanding… Although there are, at present no plans for an extensive tour of the play, it certainly deserves to be widely seen. I’ll not reveal an unexpected twist at the end. This happens just before Kate asks Clive “Do you want sex tonight?” Is that art? I suppose it depends on the way they do it. But such voyeuristic aesthetic displays are not yet allowed, even at Chapter. What they really want is someone to cling to, someone to love.

This is a very theatrical play. Its greatest success is that in so short a time, in such a minimalist black box set, designed by Pete Bodenham, the writer, Lewis Davies, director Jeff Teare have introduced us to three people whose whole lives and day to day activities are made so easy for us to imagine. That is art.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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