Review: On Bear Ridge, National Theatre Wales, Royal Court Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Set in the isolated mountains, this small cast encounter the almost apocalyptic world of a small rural town in Wales. Where everyone has left due to violence and lack of supplies, John Daniel (Rhys Ifans) and Noni (Rakie Ayola) endeavour to stay put, with their memories and their lost lives.

On Bear Ridge is a simple play, full of dialogue and not much need for anything else. There are some theatrical tricks implemented to add to the on-stage feel, and give it that National Theatre Wales (NTW) and Royal Court feel, but the main magic comes from the detailed narrative and fantastic acting.

As expected, Ifans is brilliant. With this being my second time seeing him on stage, I can already see complete differences from his role on the National Theatre Stage as a dying King, to this countryside man who is slowly losing everything. The accents are of course different, but how he holds himself, his emotions and the pure comedy he effortlessly eludes are different and brilliant. With such a big name in a production there’s more to draw upon and compare to other work, but along with the other actors, they all gel and bounce off one another effortlessly and triumphantly – creating an overall equal success on stage.

Ayola’s character fits perfectly with Ifans’s. They work well together and make the characters fit like puzzle pieces. While this feels slightly science-fiction as a narrative, yet also possible in our world, their relationship is very real, very loving and it’s clear that their character’s are meant to be as one.

On Bear Ridge is emotional, heartbreaking, wonderful and hilarious. A world that could easily be imagined, could easily be reality, we feel a part of a small family, and feel every bit of grief, every bit of happiness and every bit of love that these characters exude.

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