“It’s All About the Bus” 3rd Act Critic Leslie Herman Jones on Sherman 5 and access to drama.

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(You know) It’s all about the bus…

When is a bus not a bus? When it’s a cycle bus or a walking bus. Please read on….

Guy O’Donnell coordinates Sherman 5 at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff. This Sherman 5 event supported a group of older people to see Happy Hour (written by Anita Vettesse; directed by Gethin Evans; and part of the Òran Mór series: A Play, A Pie and A Pint); and have a discussion afterwards.

When I pulled up on foot outside of The Sherman Theatre, I saw all these busses (as you do outside of a theatre on a performance day)…. and for some reason, this image resonated. I stored it away inside my writer’s brain, and went inside. And then I learned that when you join Sherman 5, and you book a ticket to see a range of the Sherman Theatre’s productions, you do not have to worry about getting there. Because (you know) it’s all about the bus, you can choose the Sherman 5 coach (which is a bus by another name), or you can choose the walking bus or a cycle bus.

I’d never heard of a walking bus or a cycle bus before now. Walking busses, I have since learned, operate for Sherman 5 family productions; and a lead cyclist will accompany audiences from the four Communities First areas of Cardiff to the theatre on Sherman 5 nights. That’s the Cycle bus. For further information, on this or any aspect of Sherman 5, please contact: –

Guy O’Donnell, Sherman 5 Coordinator, Sherman Cymru.
Tel 07703729079
E-mail guy.odonnell@shermancymru.co.uk
http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/sherman5/

Also steering this bus with Guy were Artistic Associate (and Happy Hour Director) Gethin Evans, and the Sherman’s Creative Learning Associate, Andrew Sterry.

This was an early matinee, 11am on a Thursday. That was just about the most perfect time for this event to occur. Five stars on timing, guys. And, instead of a pie and a pint, a cake and a cuppa were offered – very well received, thanks again!

As a dramatist, I can’t help but find symbolism in everyday occurrences, and like the busses, I knew that somehow the overturned milk jug during the interval would serve me. The play is about a dysfunctional family. ‘The family have gathered in the back room of the pub ready to scatter Dad’s ashes which currently reside in a Nike shoe box. But bitter resentments and long-held grudges might hinder Dad from resting in peace…’ Their ‘stuff’ (like the milk that accidentally spilt all over the Sherman foyer floor during the interval), spills across the pub floor in a tragic and hopeless way, as did the ashes in the penultimate scene….

The only ‘happy’ in this play was in its title. Happy Hour was not an easy play to watch; it left me feeling quite bereft. Personally, I am compelled to seek happy endings or at least a glimmer of hope in my own work; and I prefer to leave the theatre with some sense of promise so, when I asked on the day, I said I didn’t ‘like’ this play. But in retrospect, perhaps its dark rawness was its strength and perhaps it was necessary. (Perhaps Vitesse is writing a sequel? The characters were deep and full, and I was invested in their drama. I cared about them, and would like to know what has happened to them.)

I’d bet that the majority of older people in the audience, if not the world, can relate to family dysfunctionality in one way or another. By the time you’ve reached 50 it’s inescapable to have encountered it in one shape or form. And the discussion afterwards gave voice to their varied experiences. Respectfully, Andrew made the group aware that ‘the language of the Glasgow pub lives and breathes in the piece’. As the discussion again proved, there were not many in the group who hadn’t experienced vulgarity sometime or other in their lifetimes.

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The post show discussion

The happiest part for me was observing an audience of older people at the theatre for a challenging production. The team had considered age and appropriateness, and deemed Happy Hour fit for purpose. They also considered all the logistics and variables to ensure the success of experience. The discussion was well-led by Andrew Sterry, who genuinely made everyone feel welcomed and valued; and the extra added bonus of the STAR Communities Volunteers on site offering hearing-aid testing was a stroke of genius.

Leslie Herman Jones
Third Act Critic
8 December 2015

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