Sam Pryce

[...]

REVIEW: Moira Buffini’s ‘Blavatsky’s Tower’ 3 Crate Productions, Chapter by Sam Pryce

Tower banner

The effects of social isolation have never been more relevant in today’s oh-so-social digital world. With social media companies swallowing more and more of our personal data, it’s certainly the right time to revisit a play that asks why a father might lock up his family in a top-floor flat, away from that world and the ‘crushed’ that live in it. Such a play is this 1998 work from the English playwright Moira Buffini: a tragicomic tale, ‘Blavatsky’s Tower’. Revived by the exuberant folks at 3 Crate Productions, the resonating themes and jet-black humour of ‘Blavatsky’s Tower’ are unmistakably relevant.

On the twenty-fifth floor of an ugly tower block, the ‘architect and visionary’ Hector Blavatsky, now blind and close to dying, lives with his three children – Roland, an embittered, resentful young boy engaged in writing his ‘Theory of the Universe’ whilst rotting his brain with hours of television; Ingrid, a sensitive girl who obediently takes note of each of Blavatsky’s bizarre visions; and Audrey, the only family member who has ever ventured outside the house (and has clearly become ‘crushed’ by it too). When Audrey brings home an aloof Dr. Tim Dunn to help her dwindling father, the true damage done to these children by such isolation becomes clear. The play reaches dark conclusions about family ties and how the society in which we live affects our treatment of others.

As dark and odd a tale it may sound, it is also very funny. Moira Buffini’s playful style means that the darkest moments are handled with rib-tickling absurdity, occasionally too much. In this play, it seems Buffini’s crowd-pleasing sense of humour cannot reach its full potential due to the rather bleak subject matter in ‘Blavatsky’s Tower’. Her style is much more suited to the sell-out, West End farces like Handbagged and Dinner for which she is now known, performed to packed-out theatres and five-star reviews. So, regardless of all the loose-ends that are left dangling here, this play is undoubtedly entertaining.

Under Peter Scott’s direction, those moments of bleak farce are elevated, making for a painfully funny evening. And this is thanks in no small part to the consistently good troupe of actors on show. Emma McNab and Hannah Lloyd have a humorous rivalry as the sisters, Ingrid and Audrey, which soon swells into a near-homicidal contempt for the other. Ben Tinniswood has a suitably aloof air as Dr. Tim Dunn, delivering his funniest lines with a dazzling command of timing. A lot of the raucous laughter though is down to Tom Hurley as Roland, comically frantic and poisonous in manner. Finally, Anthony Leader adds some theatrical class to the evening as Blavatsky, portraying him as a Prospero-like figure, highlighting both the menacing and the moving aspects of an old man aware that this is not his world anymore.

A lot of fun is had in this production – a lot of water spilt, a lot of bellies tickled, even a yoghurt pot flew into the audience at one point. But beneath the laughter, there sits a truly dark message about human nature in an enclosed space. Take a trip up to Blavatsky’s Tower if this sounds like your sort of thing. Oh, and by the way, take the stairs.

 

‘Blavatsky’s  Tower’ is at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff until 11th April.

REVIEW: Howard Barker’s The Dying of Today The Other Room, Cardiff by Sam Pryce

ca8fimvwgaafwjt

This second course in Kate Wasserberg’s ‘Life in Close Up’ season at Porter’s was a little hard to swallow, especially after the resounding success of the previous production: Sarah Kane’s unforgettable play, Blasted. Kane is a hard act to follow. We all know that. But Howard Barker offers enough explosive action and quasi-philosophical drama to keep us intellectually stimulated in this seventy-minute two-hander, The Dying of Today.

Based rather obscurely on an apparently hot-blooded moment in ancient history – Thucydides’s account of the destruction of the Sicilian expedition in 413BC (don’t ask me) – Barker propounds his ‘theatre of catastrophe’ theory by showing an outbreak of crippling grief within the innocuous surroundings of a barbershop. Dneister, a sprightly customer, notifies the barber, after a flurry of ostentatious yammering, of some bad news: the barber’s son has died. What follows is the gripping breakdown and eventual transformation of the barber’s spirit. Alongside that, some thought-provoking conclusions are reached through the men’s incessant and progressively violent interaction about the nature of belief, war and death.

The problem, in my opinion, is the writing. Barker is quoted in the programme as having said that he ‘[doesn’t] think about the audience at all’ when writing. Then who is he writing for? Clearly himself. His convoluted style of dramaturgy comprises complex, meandering sentences that attempt to clarify such themes as war and belief. This, to me, leaves no room for characterisation and renders both these characters as the exact same person. The result is self-indulgent. If we take Sarah Kane’s writing (which, for me, is far superior to Barker’s), we can see how she can create fully-formed scenes and characters while still tackling big themes but distilling down to the simplest, clearest image or essence, making truly engaging drama. She can make a catastrophe clear of clouds. You may call me a philistine for badgering Barker but I think his style was unnecessarily decadent, placing style high over substance.

Saying that, a pair of riveting performances are still on offer, brought to fruition by Kate Wasserberg’s always brilliant, scrupulous direction. Leander Deeny, as the visitor burdened with bad news, blabbers to the barber with striking volatility, injecting some valued humour into tense moments. Christian Patterson excels once again as an initially reserved character before exploding into a range of fluctuating emotions. His acting is truly a pleasure to watch. I’d happily go along to any play with Patterson in the cast. The final sequence, however, of the barber reflecting on what has happened to the tune of ‘People They Ain’t No Good’ reeks of the toe-curling sentimentality of an X Factor sob story. It simply does not correlate with the play’s deeply serious and unsentimental subject matter.

Wasserberg’s second offering in this season then may not be as strong as Blasted, but there still is enough enrapturing action to keep anyone engaged.

‘The Dying of Today’ is at The Other Room in Porter’s, Cardiff until 11th April 2015

Photography by Pallasca Photography

Review Blasted Sarah Kane The Other Room by Sam Pryce

Blasted-690

The infamous work of Sarah Kane is always uncompromising and unflinching, arresting audiences from start to finish and confronting them with the horrors of the real world. Never could it been more‘in-yer-face’ than in this newly built pub theatre at Porter’s – the Other Room. Seating only around fifty people, one would assume that such an extreme play as Blasted would need somewhere a little bigger. However, the intimate space proved far more effective in challenging audiences with the potent imagery and powerful messages that lie at the dark heart of Sarah Kane’s unforgettable play.

In a lavish hotel room somewhere in Leeds, a mismatched couple enter. The audience may expect a bog-standard two-hander about relationships. From the obscene opening line though, it’s clear that this play eschews all boundaries. Excuse any spoilers. We are introduced to Ian (Christian Patterson), a repulsively crass, middle-aged tabloid journalist, and Cate (Louise Collins), a young woman who, by the end, is raped, abused, gives birth to a baby that dies, then eaten, all the while suffering epileptic fits. Later, we discover the violence and unease exists not only in the hotel room. Escaping from an apocalyptic war outside, a brutally sadistic soldier (Simon Nehan) arrives and inflicts similar pains upon Ian as Cate suffered. The play’s structure fragments, abandoning words and instead showing humans in their most pathetic, vulnerable and despicable states. Within these bleak and sickening closing scenes, here, the moments of pure clarity emerge. In the atrocious acts committed by Ian and the Soldier, a shred of humanity catches the light in a world of darkness. The brilliance of Sarah Kane’s writing is her ability to humanise even the most disgraceful characters.

The accomplished trio of actors demonstrate consistent and impressive performances. Louise Collins’ portrayal of Cate goes through an intriguing development. She begins as mentally unsound and vulnerable with the exuberance of a little girl, before hardening and growing despite her trauma. In the final tableau, Cate’s last act of kindness to Ian is incredibly moving and deftly directed by Kate Wasserberg, whose interpretation of Sarah Kane’s enigmatic writing is pitch-perfect.

Simon Nehan excels as a comically Welsh Soldier, who soon becomes wracked with suffering and malice in equal measure. Not to say the comedy detracted away from the harshness of the play; the comedy was impeccably handled. Indeed, often Kane writes some hilarious one-liners in amongst the suffering. Christian Patterson gives a stellar performance as Ian, switching from brutality to vulnerability within seconds – a fearless actor with a striking presence.

With a cleverly designed set and Nick Gill’s beautifully tragic score, there is very little, if anything, to criticise in this production. Only that, if you have a weak disposition, see it at your own risk. There are moments when the tension is at a heart-stopping level. But that is no flaw, quite the opposite in fact.

In short, a thrilling, deeply affecting revival of an eternally relevant play. Cathartic and exhilarating, this play leaves you in a similar state to the title and is a promising start to The Other Room’s ‘Life in Close Up’ season.
‘Blasted’ is at The Other Room at Porter’s Cardiff until 7th March.

Artes Mundi 6 – A Young Critic Responds…

IMG_0591

 

Art – it’s a wild, scary thing. And very difficult to define, these days. From Damien Hirst’s pickled sharks to Tracey Emin’s crusty bed, what we now consider art stretches further than a mere painted canvas. In fact, in the Artes Mundi 6 exhibition, I don’t think one artist has painted a thing – or at least not at the National Museum’s collection. No, the artists on show here have gone from plywood panels to chocolate heads, from rotating goats to cardboard monuments. Film, music, sculpture, drawings – the mediums and materials are as broad and as varied as they could possibly be. Such a diverse range in style gives the viewer many different ways to respond.

As part of Artes Mundi’s series of response performances, I took part in a lunchtime response session in which I and the dynamic and abstract creative team Response Time guided an audience around the exhibition, subjecting them to live and immediate responses to the artwork on offer. The responses, much like the variety of the artwork, came in several different mediums – short fiction, poetry, dance, movement, scenes of dialogue… With some only written within 24-48 hours of seeing the exhibition, the effect art can have on the mind or the body was made clearly visible. The art provoked a crescendo of creativity and what emerged were thoughtful, astute pieces that could have stood alone.

My own response (which is available for your viewing (dis)pleasure at the end of this post) was brought on by the artwork of Theaster Gates, whose work ‘When We Believe’ pondered the notion of worship across cultures and its symbols. The particular artwork I was attracted to was a stuffed goat used in Masonic Initiation ceremonies which continuously circulated a railway track. At first, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what I’d write but I knew the image of the goat was the most resonant in my head after seeing the exhibition. What I created in response would probably bemuse the artist. It’s a short story which aims to take the image of the goat and put it in the environment of a Welsh village. Performing this to a room filled with adults seated on the floor beaming up at me while a goat revolved behind has to be one of the strangest, yet most rewarding experiences of my life.

I hope you enjoy it. Or at least get to the end. Lady or Gentlemen, I bring you ‘Goat’.

 

??????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

GOAT

by Sam Pryce

 Note: This story was written between 27th and 30th Oct 2014 in response to the artwork ‘When We Believe’ by Theaster Gates.

 

It was the third night that George had not come home. Margaret did not feel particularly nervous about this fact. After all, George was a grown man of fifty-five years – he could do what he liked. But for three nights in a row now, Margaret had sat in front of the television with only an incontinent cat and an empty, moist armchair for company.

 

It wasn’t that Margaret was worried about what her husband could be doing, no. It’s not like he’d be with another woman. Good grief, no; not George. The only woman who’d ever endure his body odour, his pedantry, his weak spirit, his complete lack of charisma, his ingrowing toenails, his pot belly and his tragic face was Margaret. Not even his mother could put up with it; got out as soon as she could.

 

Now she thought about it, Margaret had perceived something lost in George lately. He had lost his… Well, he didn’t really have much to start with, but Margaret had certainly noticed something off about him.

 

She recalled a conversation that had happened earlier that day.

 

George was sat reading a beaten, brown book intensely, when Margaret entered to ask what it was.

 

‘Oh, it’s nothing really,’ he said, somewhat startled. ‘I just found it upstairs.’

 

‘Well,’ she said. ‘If it’s nothing, let me see it.’

 

‘No, really, it’s nothing, Margaret.’ He slammed the book shut and left the room, declaring, ‘I’m going for a cack.’

 

‘Oh, okay,’ replied Margaret. ‘Enjoy.’

 

It was not strange that George should want to go for a cack; he usually went up to five times a day, depending on what Margaret had cooked him. But what was strange was the fact that he was reading something other than the Western Mail or Page 3.

 

Whenever he would leave in the nights, George would say he was going for a drink and would not be back until ten – accurate enough. Only, when he would get back, she could not smell the slightest whiff of drink on him.

 

Overcome with suspicion, Margaret switched off the television, slipped on her coat and walked out into the night to find George.

 

The village pub was called The Goat and Compass – a name which Margaret had always found peculiar. Why would anyone want a goat and a compass? Perhaps you could ride a goat and use the compass to tell you where you were going.

 

Margaret pushed open the heavy wooden door to a near-empty pub. She approached the bar, where a young girl slouched tapping into her phone.

 

‘Er, excuse me,’ whispered Margaret. The girl looked up and said nothing. ‘Hello, I wondered if you would know where my husband might be. He said he’d be here, but I can’t see him. His name’s George, if that’s any help.’

 

‘There’s a load of ‘em upstairs,’ mumbled the girl. ‘It’s like a social thing or something.’

 

‘Oh, good,’ replied Margaret, genuinely relieved. ‘I’ll just use the toilet then and I’ll be off.’

 

But the girl had already turned back to her phone, her fingers striking like lightning across the screen.

 

Margaret carefully ascended the steps to the toilet so as not to disturb her husband’s club. Once at the top of the staircase, however, she could hear something choral, something harmonic, some vocal exaltation resonating from the room to her left. A rising, echoing chorus of surging male voices, declaring love to a Great Architect. If only he had told her. If only George had said, thought Margaret, that he had only gone and joined a choir. He wasn’t so dull after all. She moved towards the door, charmed by the smooth gush of the choir’s refrain, and opened it only slightly, but was greeted with something far stranger within.

 

Inside, several men were congregated, clad in brown hooded cloaks, encircling a small, plump man in the centre, also hooded. The central man was blindfolded and visibly unnerved. His reddened, sagging body was shining in sweat and he was shaking.

 

A bell tolled. The choir stopped. Another man – whom she could not see – boomed to the congregation.

 

‘Render the candidate slipshod.’

 

Without hesitation, the closest hooded figure knelt to roll up the shivering candidate’s right trouser leg until it was above his knee and removed his right shoe. Margaret could do nothing but hush her breath and watch.

 

‘Expose the candidate’s left breast.’

 

As controlled as clockwork, another man came and slid the cape over the candidate’s shoulder so that his firm nipple and flaccid breast was out for all to see. Margaret could recognise it anywhere – it was her husband. She bubbled with indignation. He’d lied to her. She had lost all sympathy for him – even as the men tied a golden rope around his neck, she felt no obligation to go in and stop them. All she wanted was to show George up to them for what he really was – a liar.

 

But before she could, a gong sounded. In a tone of finality, the master of the ritual spoke again:

 

‘Divested of all metallic substances, neither naked nor clothed, barefoot nor shod, right knee and breast bare, you are ready to begin Initiation. Now, hold the instrument to his breast and lead the candidate around the room.’

 

The chorus began their soft, ethereal chant again. Margaret watched George – pathetic, sweaty, snivelling little Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie, kissed the girl and made her remain in a sexless marriage for over 20 years – being led around the room, a dagger held to his nipple. He wept with fear. He looked ridiculous. It was like watching an animal being led to the slaughter.

 

He’s like a goat, thought Margaret. A pathetic little goat. But not even as tragic as a live goat. No. A stuffed goat, yes. Lifeless, loveless, just staring blankly ahead, rotating around and around, no idea, no aim, nothing but dead skin and pillow flesh. No life left.

 

And as if that wasn’t enough, the Master now roared, ‘Prepare the Goat!’

 

The Goat they were referring to was brought out on wheels and George was made to sit upon its back. The Goat was treated with such reverence from the men. They had been told what it meant to them. The Goat was filled with the sins they had committed. The horns, the beard, the cloven hoofs – the Goat marked the Devil himself. By riding the Devil’s back, the men were able to free themselves of sin. Once all the men had gone through this act, they were truly accepted. It was George’s turn.

 

George clung to the horns of the Goat for dear life. The Master went behind the Goat and took hold of a large lever which protruded from the Goat’s backside.

 

‘I shall now buck the Goat until you fall from it, denoting your sacrifice to the Lord,’ said the Master.

 

And with a singular wrench of the lever, the Goat’s backed bucked and George was propelled through the air, flew over the Goat’s horns and landed with an almighty thud upon the floor. A barrage of mocking guffaws ensued. Margaret felt herself open the door and rush into the room. That was when he saw her. His hood had fallen back, his stunned face on show. They all saw her. She stood, held the room still with her appalled glare. George sat up, eyes wide and cheeks burning with shame. The others gawked.

 

A pause. This was broken by the Master pulling off his hood revealing the beaming face of Mr. Barry Blacksmith, a great friend of the couple and proprietor of the pub.

 

‘Oh, alright, Margaret?’ he said. ‘We’re just having a bit of fun by ‘yer, we are. Initiation for the, er…’

 

George plucked up the courage to mutter, ‘For the, er, Drinking Society, it is.’

 

The other men tore off their hoods quickly – as though Margaret were a symbol of the law – and all simultaneously confessed that it was all a bit of fun really, yeah, just a bit of fun, it is.

 

Margaret, however, was unconvinced. Instead of allowing relief to replace her resentment, she walked out of the room, out of the pub, out of the town, in silence and in disbelief.

 

For she was no weakling. For she would not surrender to her lying husband’s newfound religion. For she had seen the full, gruesome extent of what we become when we believe.

 

Artes Mundi can be seen at National Museum Wales,Turner House Gallery and Chapter Arts Centre.

REVIEW: Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco – Chapter, Cardiff by Sam Pryce

011-Crazy-Gary©FarrowsCreative-e1411142626902

Photo credit Farrow Creative

Welsh playwright Gary Owen wrote this shattering triptych of vulnerable masculinity in 2001. Now, in 2014, it gnaws at the bone just as much. In fact, in this production by Waking Exploits, it may as well snap the bone off completely. Three accomplished actors deliver three similarly brash, shocking monologues in a strange hinterland spattered with empty bottles, shards of glass and a disused karaoke machine – a set designed aptly by Alison Neighbour that subtly reflects the shattered hopes of the characters.

 

First up is the eponymous Crazy Gary, equipped only with a tracksuit, a swagger and a murderous look in his eye. Gary – who is in no way based on the playwright (as far as I know) – makes sure we know he’s getting laid tonight. After carving an esteemed reputation at school as the bully, Gary now runs a mobile disco at the local pub. And no one gets in the way of his disco night. That’s common knowledge. But, of course, when it comes to the girl of his dreams, we find he’s capable of some ounce of compassion, although violence seems to be his only way of coping. Jordan Bernarde embodies the role brilliantly, conveying the character’s psychopathic hostility as well as his brittle spirit.

 

Gwydion Rhys then steps up to the mic and warbles us a ballad as Matthew D. Melody, the next in the troubled trio. Karaoke King Matthew, bearing a perturbed stare and a wailing singing voice, tells us of his newfound love Candy, his devotion to God and his unfortunate incident involving the mutilated corpse of a cat.

 

Finally, Sion Pritchard gives the last and most twisted of the monologues – the one that finally ties the three into a firm and unbreakable knot. Pritchard plays Russell who is desperate to flee the town that has tormented him so. His attention-seeking girlfriend, however, has other ideas and blackmails him into following her rules. Still haunted by a horrific incident from his schooldays – something that links the three men – it seems Russell does not have much choice.

 

All the characters seem ruled by the women in their lives. Gary’s violent manner is made to seem pathetic when his dream girl snubs him. The girl of Matthew’s affection seems detached and aloof from his desire. Russell too is forced and threatened by his clearly unhinged partner, piling on more guilt on top of what already burdens him. Does this make the play misogynistic? Or rather, is it a feminist text? Since the women clearly have the upper hand here.

 

Under Matt Ball’s direction, the actors participate in each other’s monologues, voicing minor characters, thus amplifying the connection we eventually discover between them. Although each character has done best to avoid each other for years, something of their spirit lingers. The projected motifs of tearful eyes and bloodied teeth either side of the stage thicken once again the knot that binds them.

 

It’s not one for the faint-hearted, the narrow-minded nor the easily offended, but it is one for those hard knocks out there who relish Welsh drama. As a play, it adds emotional depth to the stereotype. It’s violent, yes. It’s crass, undoubtedly. But the cruelty is only a front for something tender and helpless. Here is masculinity crying for its mother.

PREVIEW: ‘Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco’ by Gary Owen – Waking Exploits by Sam Pryce

Anna Poole, Jordan Bernarde, Gwydion Rhys, Sion Pritchard (web)

Pictures by Kirsten McTernan
Described by Guardian critic Michael Billington as ‘a startling debut that spluttered and fizzed like an out-of-control firework’, Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco starts its Welsh tour this week at Chapter in a revival by Waking Exploits. Chapter – famed for showcasing new works alongside old – is the venue where Gary Owen’s stage debut made its first appearance in February 2001. Since then, Owen has found much success as a playwright, now writing for Sherman Cymru, National Theatre Wales and the Royal Court, establishing himself as one of Wales’ most daring and definitive literary voices. This production, however, will bring the play and its writer back to their roots; back home, where they belong.

Jordan Bernarde, Gwydion Rhys 2 (web)
The play, set in small town Wales on a night out, concerns three very different but similarly flawed men whose masculinity is in crisis. Each one is desperate to shed those innate reputations that still haunt them from their schooldays – ‘the geek, the gimp and the bully.’ Owen essentially provides a voice for these men, unleashing a lifetime of frustration through a relentless tirade of visceral, abrasive monologues.

Jordan Bernarde, Sion Pritchard 2 (web)
Waking Exploits have previously been lauded for their ground-breaking, innovative and ambitious projects, performing works by contemporary masters such as Caryl Churchill, Dennis Kelly and Simon Stephens. Also on board is director Matt Ball, formerly the two-year Creative Associate for National Theatre Wales and five-year Artistic Director for Camden People’s Theatre. Its cast will include Jordan Bernarde, Gwydion Rhys and Sion Pritchard. In other words, it is sure to be a good’un.

Sion Pritchard 2 (web)
Gary Owen himself has said of the project, “It will be brilliant, but slightly weird, to see this play being done in Chapter again. It’s been done loads – every year, there are a couple of productions somewhere in the world – but seeing the play that started my career, at the venue where it was first produced, is going to be a huge pleasure. And slightly unsettling.”
After picking up the library’s copy of the play, I am quite pleased to say that I devoured it in one sitting. Coupled with the expertise of the creative team behind it, I expect this production will do it the justice it deserves.

Sion Pritchard, Gwydion Rhys (web)

PREVIEW: ‘Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco’ by Gary Owen – Waking Exploits

Anna Poole, Jordan Bernarde, Gwydion Rhys, Sion Pritchard (web)

Pictures by Kirsten McTernan
Described by Guardian critic Michael Billington as ‘a startling debut that spluttered and fizzed like an out-of-control firework’, Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco starts its Welsh tour this week at Chapter in a revival by Waking Exploits. Chapter – famed for showcasing new works alongside old – is the venue where Gary Owen’s stage debut made its first appearance in February 2001. Since then, Owen has found much success as a playwright, now writing for Sherman Cymru, National Theatre Wales and the Royal Court, establishing himself as one of Wales’ most daring and definitive literary voices. This production, however, will bring the play and its writer back to their roots; back home, where they belong.

Jordan Bernarde, Gwydion Rhys 2 (web)
The play, set in small town Wales on a night out, concerns three very different but similarly flawed men whose masculinity is in crisis. Each one is desperate to shed those innate reputations that still haunt them from their schooldays – ‘the geek, the gimp and the bully.’ Owen essentially provides a voice for these men, unleashing a lifetime of frustration through a relentless tirade of visceral, abrasive monologues.

Jordan Bernarde, Sion Pritchard 2 (web)
Waking Exploits have previously been lauded for their ground-breaking, innovative and ambitious projects, performing works by contemporary masters such as Caryl Churchill, Dennis Kelly and Simon Stephens. Also on board is director Matt Ball, formerly the two-year Creative Associate for National Theatre Wales and five-year Artistic Director for Camden People’s Theatre. Its cast will include Jordan Bernarde, Gwydion Rhys and Sion Pritchard. In other words, it is sure to be a good’un.

Sion Pritchard 2 (web)
Gary Owen himself has said of the project, “It will be brilliant, but slightly weird, to see this play being done in Chapter again. It’s been done loads – every year, there are a couple of productions somewhere in the world – but seeing the play that started my career, at the venue where it was first produced, is going to be a huge pleasure. And slightly unsettling.”
After picking up the library’s copy of the play, I am quite pleased to say that I devoured it in one sitting. Coupled with the expertise of the creative team behind it, I expect this production will do it the justice it deserves.

Sion Pritchard, Gwydion Rhys (web)

REVIEW: ‘Wendy Hoose’ at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff by Sam Pryce

hoose-2
With Scottish Independence elbowing Page 3 girls and royal foetuses out of the newspapers, this steamy Scottish sex farce by Johnny McKnight seems an appropriate diversion. Birds of Paradise and Random Assembly have brought their box of tricks to the Sherman to test how Scot humour translates to the Welsh. And, in all honesty, there’s not that much of a difference.
The focus of Wendy Hoose covers two attractive, sexually frustrated 20-somethings – Laura and Jake – who decide a one night stand is in order after sexting over a hook-up app (undoubtedly Tinder). When Jake arrives, finding Laura’s door wide open, he sees the buxom lassie, ready and waiting, in bed. After some of Jake’s wince-worthy dirty talk and clumsy undressing, he begins to make his move. Once the duvet is peeled, however, he finds he’ll be getting a lot less than he bargained for. Jake decides to ring a taxi as soon as possible but a forty-five minute wait leaves him stranded. That wait turns out to be a remarkably enlightening one.
McKnight’s wildly filthy one-act breaks every taboo in sight. It is more ground-breaking though than purely destructive. The laughs come thick and fast and are made accessible to those both visually and aurally impaired. A sign language interpreter, an acerbic audio describer and some uncouth emoticons all compliment, enhance and satirise the action, despite occasionally upstaging it.
For such a bawdy, rib-tickling script, it requires a pair of actors with dazzling stage chemistry. James Young, as the brash but gawky Jake, brings us a common chauvinist crossed with a hopeless, stumbling romantic, winning the audience’s compassion as well as their uncomfortable sniggers. Amy Conachan, alluring and seductive, shows no reticence in her performance and boldly establishes that she has the upper hand when it comes to ‘getting one’s leg over’.
Two-handed plays have the tendency to be a dull affair, often merely focusing on the couple’s relationship and nothing else. However, armed with its ‘twist’, it explores themes both in and outside of the bedroom. It reveals harsh and clandestine truths on modern attitudes to body image, sexism and the difference between sex and love. Though the crass language and frank sexual content may shock some, what lies underneath is a sincere, candid portrait of our perception of others and ourselves.
Wendy Hoose is at the Sherman Theatre until 13th Sept 2014.

REVIEW: ‘Wendy Hoose’ at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

hoose-2
With Scottish Independence elbowing Page 3 girls and royal foetuses out of the newspapers, this steamy Scottish sex farce by Johnny McKnight seems an appropriate diversion. Birds of Paradise and Random Assembly have brought their box of tricks to the Sherman to test how Scot humour translates to the Welsh. And, in all honesty, there’s not that much of a difference.
The focus of Wendy Hoose covers two attractive, sexually frustrated 20-somethings – Laura and Jake – who decide a one night stand is in order after sexting over a hook-up app (undoubtedly Tinder). When Jake arrives, finding Laura’s door wide open, he sees the buxom lassie, ready and waiting, in bed. After some of Jake’s wince-worthy dirty talk and clumsy undressing, he begins to make his move. Once the duvet is peeled, however, he finds he’ll be getting a lot less than he bargained for. Jake decides to ring a taxi as soon as possible but a forty-five minute wait leaves him stranded. That wait turns out to be a remarkably enlightening one.
McKnight’s wildly filthy one-act breaks every taboo in sight. It is more ground-breaking though than purely destructive. The laughs come thick and fast and are made accessible to those both visually and aurally impaired. A sign language interpreter, an acerbic audio describer and some uncouth emoticons all compliment, enhance and satirise the action, despite occasionally upstaging it.
For such a bawdy, rib-tickling script, it requires a pair of actors with dazzling stage chemistry. James Young, as the brash but gawky Jake, brings us a common chauvinist crossed with a hopeless, stumbling romantic, winning the audience’s compassion as well as their uncomfortable sniggers. Amy Conachan, alluring and seductive, shows no reticence in her performance and boldly establishes that she has the upper hand when it comes to ‘getting one’s leg over’.
Two-handed plays have the tendency to be a dull affair, often merely focusing on the couple’s relationship and nothing else. However, armed with its ‘twist’, it explores themes both in and outside of the bedroom. It reveals harsh and clandestine truths on modern attitudes to body image, sexism and the difference between sex and love. Though the crass language and frank sexual content may shock some, what lies underneath is a sincere, candid portrait of our perception of others and ourselves.
Wendy Hoose is at the Sherman Theatre until 13th Sept 2014.

REVIEW: ROGUE’Z Theatre – Harold Pinter’s ‘The Homecoming’

slide11

Offering up a dark alternative for this year’s Cardiff Comedy Festival, the continuously laudable performers at ROGUE’Z Theatre chose to perform Harold Pinter’s third full-length play of familial rivalry and sordid desires, The Homecoming. In this first-rate revival, the company consider the thick, underlying subtext as well as what is written so that both Pinter aficionados and complete beginners are satisfied.

Although this is more a character-driven piece, the plot can be said to be a little thicker than some of Pinter’s other plays. An all-male, virile household gets all shook up when Teddy, the estranged son, makes an impromptu return from America, now armed with a doctorate in Philosophy and a curiously detached, dangerously magnetic wife named Ruth. His family consist of Max, his cantankerous father, Sam, his mild, even effeminate uncle, and his two brothers – Joey, a dopey amateur boxer, and Lenny, a suave pimp. His arrival is treated with surprise and disdain but the men, particularly Lenny, pay more attention to Ruth, who seems uninhibited and unthreatened by their vulgar propositions. During Teddy and Ruth’s brief sojourn at the home, a power struggle ensues that digs up hatchets that should have remained buried. It culminates in Ruth becoming a new part of the family, but very differently to how she, or Teddy, imagined.

The company conveyed the painfully awkward silences as well as the geysers of viciousness between the brothers and the father. Jeff Fifer snapped and barked as the belligerent patriarch Max and his interaction with his adorably timid brother Sam (Ray Thomas) proved comically callous. Three finely diverse performances were given by the three brothers. Richard Jones carried an interesting paradox when playing Teddy – something of a bumbling, submissive fool despite being prodigiously intelligent. Darren Freebury-Jones nailed the role of the boxer Joey switching from hard and thuggish to vulnerable and naïve after his encounter with Ruth upstairs. Andreas Constantinou gave yet another commendable performance as the lewd and lecherous Lenny, experimenting vocally with volume and tone to make him slightly volatile. Regardless of being outnumbered by men, Nerys Rees as Ruth displayed dominance as well as maternal humility, since she fills the role of the absent mother as well as the sexual object. Unlike Vivien Merchant’s passive and compliant portrayal in the film version, Nerys Rees acted as though she could see straight through the masculine facades.

Pinter’s not for everyone, I understand that. One needs an acquired taste to fully appreciate his deadpan humour and the scenes of almost horrifying slander. Perhaps some moments of amplified hilarity could have left newer audiences a little less bewildered but it is that perplexity that makes Pinter and his work unlike any other.

As ROGUE’Z Theatre are acquiring a well-honed knack for dark and twisted productions, I can’t wait to see what’s up next.