5 plays held in the basement of a coffee bar in central Cardiff & I am reminded of how much my old town has changed as I wander streets now unfamiliar & ask a dozing homeless person how he is.
This has always been an area where the homeless gathered – public loos & the food-bins of the market & Marksies. One man told me 128 people sleep here sometimes. Change falls out of his hands as he falls asleep. I watch him for a while, concerned, as the night revellers wander by.
Another man, bare-chested & carrying his life on his back, sweeps into the bar as we enjoy our pre-theatre drinks. I am not sure what he says but the crowd is silenced momentarily & once he has gone, someone claims his actions & words as part of the production. I’m not sure I find that funny.
Merlot & speciality beers drunk, we trot downstairs into the basement of the bar & find ourselves in a bright white small room with school chairs & bunting. Very nice neat clever photos of Cardiff streets around us & a feeling of Bohemian comfort pervades.
A bouncy introduction & we’re off.
A rapid monologue performed with the jerky nervousness required of the part. Quick & Dirty, ‘shocking proper shocking, mind’ – it is excellent: a well-written bit of life which leaves us wondering, what are they planning with those nylons?
Then, a couple splitting up. Hard to be different but some good lines here, ‘I don’t like the sound of a world without you in it’ & as the pace picks up & their story unfolds, we feel for them in their, ‘small, lonely & broken’ states.
Ok, so 3 people are sitting together discussing something to do with a college award & it is sometimes satirical, sometimes topical, sometimes political: ‘I do not fuck pigs’ & for some reason, Charterhouse cops it repeatedly. It gets its laughs from an audience who gets it – but I don’t – until the last lines, ‘so, how do you think the interview went?’ ‘I’m going to fucking crucify you’. Difficult to act & a job well done.
So, we have Brian. He apparently takes 19 minutes to produce a stool. This is a seriously clever play. The narrator perambulates around Brian, his date & his life & his life’s end, engaging easily with us, the audience, the inactive voyeurs of a man’s death by fork. I would like to see this again; no, I would love to see this again.
Another play about a couple failing to see eye to eye. Pokemon & pregnancy. There is a really nice use of silence here, a really nice use of few words, gentle body language, excitement, knowledge & heartbreak. Nothing new perhaps but it was moving, it touched me.
Lastly, the builder with the pint glass & the mobile phone. ‘Ah fookin’ needed tha’ & he tells us his story with grace, humour & tremendous pathos. We expect one thing, we get another. I suspect that I am not alone in being upset by this work. It manages to touch on the many angles of life: the dangers in loving someone, the need to keep up appearances, the roles we are all expected to play & the risk of exposure, ‘I knew ah’d look like wha’ ah am’. Brilliant. Truly brilliant.
This is a theatre company well-worth following & perhaps, joining in…
I wander back to my car past the late-night Tesco shoppers & the party-goers, bump into folk I haven’t seen for 17 years & am glad to get home. I wonder how the homeless are faring this muggy night.
Event: On the Brink
Dirty Protest Theatre Company
Seen: 9pm, 18th August, 2016
Directed by Dan Jones
Produced by Angela Harris, Matthew, Catherine and yourself.
The plays in order of appearance:
1) CHIP SHOP DINNER by Remy Beasley
With Non Haf playing Kayleigh-Jade.
2) THE SPLIT by Sian Owen
With Hannah Thomas-Davies playing Ruth & Rhys Downing playing Michael.
3) THE AT SYMBOL by Gary Raymond
With Rhys Downing as A, Non Haf as B & Hannah Thomas-Davies as C.
4) THE SUICIDE OF BRIAN by Justin Cliffe
With Richard Elfyn as Narrator, Rhys Downing as Brian, Hannah Thomas-Davies as Flora & Non Haf as Waitress.
5) WHAT NOW by Connor Allen
With Non Haf as Kate & Rhys Downing as Tommy.
6) ‘THE BOSS’ by Matthew David Scott
With Richard Elfyn as Tony.
Reviewer: Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics
Running: 17th August, 2016, at The Pen & Wig, Newport
18TH August, 2016, at Little Man Coffee Company
Cost : £6 / ticket in advance, £7 on the door