Tag Archives: Sara Lloyd Gregory

Review Home, I’m Darling, A Theatr Clwyd/ National Theatre Co-production by Gareth Williams

(4 / 5)

Travelling along the sun-drenched roads of North Wales in the heat of an early July evening, I wondered whether it was the right time to be going to sit in a theatre. But Home, I’m Darling is worth suffering a bit of sweat for. It may have been warm in the Emlyn Williams Theatre, but that did not stop me from thoroughly enjoying Laura Wade’s brand-new play. With a sizzling set, a bunch of colourful characters, and a blooming good narrative blossoming with resonant themes, this is a must-see for the summer.

As I entered the auditorium, I gasped with amazement at the sheer size and scope of the set. To be greeted by a full scale model of a house was not what I expected. I was positively overwhelmed by the sheer level of detail in its interiors and furnishings. The work of designer Anna Fleishle and her team is nothing short of remarkable. It transports us immediately into the world of the 1950s, where we meet a “sickeningly happy” couple played by Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd, Humans) and Richard Harrington (Hinterland, Lark Rise to Candleford). Parkinson plays the doting housewife to Harrington’s sporting gentleman. Set to the music of Mr Sandman, there is an air of pristine perfection about this opening scene. The song exudes a dream-like state in which these two characters exist and, indeed, as Harrington’s Johnny pops on his hat and coat, takes his lunchbox packed by Parkinson’s Judy, and kisses his wife goodbye, it all feels rather like a Sunday afternoon TV movie. So when Parkinson pulls out an iPad from a drawer, it creates a moment of dissonance that reverberates on the saccharine glass of this play’s squeaky –clean window.

Parkinson gives an accomplished performance as Judy, an idealist who delights in the idea of immersing herself in the 1950s by becoming a full-time housewife. It is not just the décor that oozes a nostalgic charm. Along with some incredibly elegant dresses, Parkinson’s slightly RP-toned accent and gliding movement paint a picture of a simple existence far removed from the complications of modern life. Judy is a woman who has chosen this life of frugality and servitude. Parkinson has her defend this choice with the kind of razor-sharp wit that is a staple of her acting persona. Even the impassioned speech of her feminist mother (Sian Thomas) seems to have little effect on her. It is a succinct and timely reminder of all that women have fought for over the past 100 years. It may not have broken through the resolute edge that Parkinson provides Judy with, but it was powerful to hear as an audience member. Such a resolute appearance is marked by an air of vulnerability however. Judy has lost herself in the pursuit of her ‘50s dream. It is left to Johnny to help her find herself again. Harrington invests warmth and loving care into his character. He could not be further removed from his troubled and brooding character in Hinterland. When he does get angry, it is a tone that will be familiar to fans of the BBC Wales crime drama. It seems that anger is what Harrington does best. Yet there is a distinctly soft side to Johnny that shows another side to Harrington’s acting ability that I’ve not seen before. It was refreshing to see, and proves his worth as one of Wales’ finest contemporary actors.

Sadly, we don’t get to see near enough of another of Wales’ finest. In my opinion, Sara Gregory is up there with Eve Myles in terms of her acting ability and characterisation. Her turn as branch manager and Johnny’s boss Alex in Home, I’m Darling is short but unsurprisingly sweet. She brings a professional charisma and expert flair to her character that makes her a formidable force for the short time she is on stage. When her, Parkinson and Harrington are together, it is one of the most electrifying scenes of the whole play. Kathryn Drysdale and Barnaby Kay complete the cast, both giving solid performances as husband and wife duo Fran and Marcus. Such is the quality of their characterisation that they could easily be the lead characters in another story. It is testament to Laura Wade’s writing that, instead, we have them occupying this space as minor, but no less significant, characters to Parkinson and Harrington’s leads.

Due to move to the National Theatre in London later this month, Home, I’m Darling is worth catching if you are in or around North East Wales. Director Tamara Harvey and her team have again excelled themselves with a production that is just as, if not even more memorable, than 2017’s Uncle Vanya. The set is certainly as iconic as the one created for Uncle Vanya, and the cast that has been assembled is again oozing with quality. Katherine Parkinson feels like she was made for the part of Judy. Richard Harrington is brilliant as her husband Johnny. Sara Gregory and the rest of the cast are given characters that could quite easily be lead parts in an alternative version of events. Massive credit must go to Laura Wade for creating such an inventive and mesmeric play. She has created something that perfectly encapsulates the zeitgeist, and that includes the weather at present. Amidst the current spell of sunny weather, it is worth venturing indoors for an evening in order to see this wonderfully colourful creation.

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gareth

Gareth Williams

Review Sand The Other Room By Caitlin Finn

Sand - Sara Lloyd-Gregory 2 (credit Aenne Pallasca)

All photographic credits Aenne Pallasca

For those of you that didn’t know, there was a last minute recast for this one-woman play. Because of this, the actress, Sara Lloyd-Gregory, had only been learning the part for a week prior to the performance that I saw. I’ll admit I was very hesitant as to how professional the acting would be as Sara would perform script in hand. I was worried that it would be too clinical or too choppy. However, I was SO wrong about this! Sara is such an amazing actress and she didn’t even seem to reference to the script until the latter half of the play which was extremely impressive.

Sand was a heart breaking tale that had you hooked before the first word was even spoken.

Sand - Sara Lloyd-Gregory 4 (credit Aenne Pallasca)

The set itself was designed so effectively with four ‘light tunnels’ surrounding Sara. They gave a futuristic effect with supported the plot so well. The way that Katy Morison, the lighting designer, arranged how to adjust the lighting along with the script was done beautifully and kept you interested.

The wording used during the play was extremely powerful into hinting to the deeper plot, especially the differentiation in pronoun use.

Sand is definitely a performance that I would highly recommend, whether it’s something you would be interested in purely for entertainment, or even if you are a writer yourself and want to pick up some inspiration from wonderfully unique productions. I have only seen two productions from The Other Room and, in all honesty, I am already completely hooked on the atmosphere and the pure talent.

 

Cast:

Sara Lloyd-Gregory

Photo Credits:

Aenne Pallasca

Creative Team:

Director – Kate Wasserberg
Designer – Amy Jane Cook
Design Assistant – Oliver Harman Assistant Director – Bruno León Cháves Lighting Designer – Katy Morison Season Sound Designer – Dyfan Jones Sound Design – Sam Jones

Production Stage Manager – Steffi Pickering Assistant Stage Manager – Izzy Rabey Scenic Construction – Eifion Porter

Review Sand The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

sand-2web-1

It’s always hard when you have to do a monologue on stage, but a 40 minute intense one with only one week practice is pretty much impossible. Yet that is what Sara Lloyd Gregory did. Even though she had her script on stage she didn’t falter one bit. Taking on Sand by Nick Gill,  a monologue that took on the themes of grief, war and nuclear weapons. Sara’s intensity kept gradually building until the very end when she just blew us away. Her vocal training and breath control was impeccable even when the pace was phenomenally quick.

Kate Wasserberg, director of this production lead this performance to a success, the timed pauses and the changes in emotions and attitudes were completely on point. One thing that also has to be applauded was the use of sound by Sam Jones and lighting by Katy Morison, both aspects made the performance mesmerising to watch and in some parts it even felt like it was in a different dimension.

One of the main aspects I love coming to watch the Other Room’s seasonal performances is that they always pick challenging pieces yet they always bring in such professional actors that completely deliver.

Review Parallel Lines, Dirty Protest by Kiera Sikora

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design 

Honesty is severe. We desire it and we require it, we recognise that it is some thing that we always need. But as soon as it’s not what we want, we despise it. We just can’t win, can we?

Dirty Protest bring to Chapter Arts Centre a fantastic 90 minute revamp of their already acclaimed ‘Parallel Lines’ which executes an impulsively precise look at how two colliding worlds affect each other. Playwright Katherine Chandler, through her freshly updated script, allows us to see how a longing for affection affects opposing worlds and the individuals in them in a very witty Welsh manner.

Nothing is hidden. These two worlds are projected right in front of you throughout the whole piece with the cast present on stage, before, during and after their scenes. There’s a clear sense of consistent colliding consciences.

Catherine Paskell’s very slick, precise, physical direction of the piece creates a fighting contrast with the stress, pain and uncertainty that the characters feel throughout. Their movements are thoughtful and are elegantly highlighted by Joe Fletcher’s sharp lighting design and equally supported by Dan Lawrence’s eerie sound scape, together creating a pathway into the minds of the characters and their sole situations.

The stage homes very little set, just a table and few chairs which echoes that idea of loneliness and lack of nurture. But the constant presence of this collision between these two very different lifestyles fills the stage with all that you need to feel their thoughts and experience their dilemmas. The characters’ complexity allows you to empathise with their situations while the careful pace of the piece allows you time to detach yourself from their spoken words, in order for you to see the paranoia that exists beyond the language.

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design

Paskell’s vision lets us explore the baggage that comes with power, class and truth and how we react to uncertainty, isolation and our own versions of normality. The relationship between Jan Anderson as the wayward mother Melissa and Lowri Palfrey as her daughter Steph is one that you can’t help but enjoy and dislike they allow you to laugh and pity them, without asking for either reaction. While Gareth Pierce as Simon and Sara Lloyd-Gregory as Julia are the corrupted and obscurely humorous couple who implore you to recognise the devastation that follows accusations and doubt while also reminding us how important it is to say your P’s and Q’s and park your car considerably.

Throwing away the previous script and starting a fresh two years on with the challenge of it being as real and as relevant as before is a one that would take being beyond brave to do. But, I’ve got to be honest playwright Katherine Chandler and Dirty Protest did it!  The play is intense, indulgent and intuitive. It feels familiar and it embodies a social situation at a raw and original level.

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design

So if you enjoy beautifully written Welsh wit and a story that you can believe then you know where to go. It’s honest, it’s funny and it’s inclusive best get going.

Dirty Protest’s first ever tour of ‘Parallel Lines’ continues at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff until 24th October. They then move onto: Pontardawe Arts Centre on October 28th, Aberystwyth Arts Centre on October 30th Galeri, Caernarfon on October 31st, Soar Centre, Treorchy on 2nd November Ffwrnes, Llanelli on 4th November. And finally, Theatr Hafren, Newtown on November 6th

You’d be crackers to miss it.