Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At Theatr Clwyd

Clwyd Theatr Cymru- Stone City Blue , Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff , November 17, 2004
Simple words, breaking into magnificent sentences fire out from the stage, penetrate the head and dazzle the brain in this long awaited gift of up-to-the-minute theatrical excellence from author Ed Thomas, his CTC production team and the super,skilful and intelligent acting team of Nia Roberts, Ryland Teifi, Alys Thomas and Richard Harrington.

Thomas is a sort of Van Gogh figure in present day Welsh play-writing but I don’t think he is in any danger of cutting off his ear. His recent work, in association with Mike Pearson is an indication of his continuing quest for fulfilling artistic expression. Despite the hard hitting nature of this and most of his other plays and the obvious commercial success with his ‘Fiction Factory’ film company, there is, not so very deep down in his psyche, a vulnerability and an underlying compassion for humanity and a great frustration with its imperfections. He also has a poet’s ear for gentleness and beauty.

“Winter in a city, Berlin, Paris, Cardiff, Antwerp
It could be anywhere
A stranger
A poet
A drunk
A whore
Four voices
One city
Together till dawn
The end of the story?
Or just the beginning?”

Whilst all his plays are based firmly in Wales, he embraces and questions the whole of the universe with his resonating Welsh voice. There is an indication that the opening scene of the play takes place in a well-known hotel near the main railway line through Cardiff but as the play progresses we become less sure. The characters in the play, known only as R1, R2, R3, and R4, also seem to circulate in a revolving world between somewhere and almost nowhere.

The surreal conversation of the opening scene moves questionably on, into a more domestic area. The four sophisticated metro-sexuals lose some of their élan, lapse into a broader vernacular and demonstrate a craving for basic human needs. The dialogue moves at a whip-cracking pace as each of the ‘Rs’ seeks for his or her particular identity through a sea of delightfully meaningful expletives and unique allegories.

We swim through an ocean of sexual desire and sexual deception, through passion into potential suicide and potential murder. The binding closeness of love and friendship producing its own antithesis.

There is a narrative, the plot of the play does progress but Ed Thomas is a magician and puppet-master continually amazing us with his ‘tricks’ of words and movements, the beat of the choreography matching the rhythm of the words. This is a pure theatre piece, though a touch self-indulgently overlong. The actors do have well-drawn individual identities but they are all also ‘Everyman’ figures. They are all very demanding and challenging roles to which the cast responds with tremendous vigour and expertise. This is Brechtian ensemble acting at its best. And there are even more treats…

Whilst I remain somewhat equivocal about writers directing their own work, this author-directed play could not have been better staged. The unity of the stage pictures must have grown so organically out of the words. There were also many good, old fashion, constant values of theatrical staging employed, with touches of post-modern Noël Coward and post-post modern Restoration comedy coming through the writing.

The set design by Mark Bailey created a great stage picture with its atmospheric colouring and there was more magic from the superb lighting design from Jeanine Davies. The worrying music and, literally, moving sound effects from John Hardy and Matthew Williams all underlined the strange vitality and manic beauty of this unique writing. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another five years for another play from ‘one of the most exciting playwrights to come out of Wales’

Is it in themselves or is it the present state of human nature that draws so much angry creativity from artists working at the present time?

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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