Suspend your disbelief and fly Exodus airways
Motherlode are a relatively new theatre company, directed by writer and dramatist Rachael Boulton. After training in London, she says “coming back home is the best thing I ever did”, her connection to and understanding of Valleys life in Wales is reflected in their new play Exodus.
The work shows us life on two levels – one of four very different people, drawn together by circumstance, who bravely take the chance to escape everyday Valleys life to go to Cuba in a light aircraft (don’t expect realism here!) and the more detailed experience of the female character, a manager in Peacocks whose main job is to discipline, hire and fire people in the shop. In true Valleys style she describes how, in between family crises, she tries to keep her own job and do it well. On orders from above she has the difficult task of disciplining a woman who is clearly on the edge and this doesn’t end well for either of them.
Exodus is a devised work, developed by the whole team under Rachael Boulton’s directions. Because of that and because they are genuinely skilled performers, the actors quickly inhabit their roles and are able to make their ridiculous ambition to fly to Cuba, using the local high street as a runway, almost believable. Each has their own story to tell, conveyed with humour, energy and a solo violin.
With underlying serious issues about the struggles and problems of working class Valleys people, Rachael Boulton and her team have created a funny, clever, relevant and thought provoking piece of theatre that strikes a chord with its audience; a reaction that can be heard in their laughter and the warmth of their response. With just a few tweaks, it could enjoy the success of its predecessor The Good Earth.
The strong Valleys accent of Mary meant that I sometimes missed words so although very important, it could be toned down slightly. If there is other criticism to be had, for me it was the programme. Whilst presented in a clever format, it wasn’t easy to read with small print and colours that are difficult to discern for people with sight impairment. There was also scant information on the company’s website about the cast and the background to the show. I’d really like to know the full backstory to Exodus and the ambitions of Motherlode. Oh and if you’re going to use stage smoke, do it properly or not at all – the intermittent wisps that I presume were meant to represent clouds didn’t do anything except distract.
Motherlode is supported by RCT Theatres and was created and performed at the Coliseum, Aberdare as part of their 80th anniversary celebrations. In my opinion this is the best way forward for local theatres, to support their own and create strong Welsh drama, already internationally renowned and requiring constant investment. Their support of Motherlode should be applauded and I hope that the Arts Council of Wales, who helped to fund this show, are able to give the company much more support in the future.
Exodus is not laugh-out-loud like a Frank Vickery play, but it does have echoes of the same concern and observation of the lives of Valleys people; their humour, their frustrations, their sorrow and their sheer resilience and ambition that lifts them out of their everyday lives. Hopefully a new generation of theatre goers will be able to appreciate it and fill the theatres like Frank did. Suspend your disbelief and climb aboard Exodus airways, it’s better than Easyjet!
The production is currently on tour and more information can be found here
Review by Judi Hughes