Chippy And Scratch Does the Diff
Following their sell-out night at the London Welsh Centre last month, Chippy Lane Productions brought (half) their 2017 scratch night home to the ‘Diff. Following an audience vote on the night 4 of the 8 pieces were selected for performance in Chapter.
As these are works in progress this isn’t a strict review, but a chance to reflect on the pieces presented and share some comments on these great new writers as well as the talented young directors and actors.
You Gotta Go There to Come Back – Poppy Corbett
The story of the Welsh girl desperate to leave Wales- and the slim pickings of Metros – definitely struck a chord with most of the room, both in London and back in Cardiff. We’ve all heard the same Welsh jokes when living and working over the border, and we’ve all felt the push and pull of family, opportunity and the big question of ‘what if?’ that lies with leaving where you’re from. Filled with references that anyone who grew up in South Wales will certainly recognise but also full of heart and a universal story about leaving behind the familiar. The ten minute extract of Corbett’s longer piece was brilliantly funny- particularly thanks to Michelle Luther’s energetic engaging performance- but also highly poignant and touching. The story of the conflict between roots and dreams, about the importance of where we come from but our own independence is one that will resonate with audiences universally, however the ‘home touches’ of growing up Welsh gave it a particularly poignant feel. More importantly Catrin is a character a lot of women will identify with, and giving voices to women’s stories and women’s experiences on stage is a vital one. Corbett has a real voice for capturing that experience and it’s one that should be heard.
Tiny Mad Animals- Neil Bebber
Any story that combines a debate about lasers with tea drinking is worth anybody’s time. Neil Bebber has also managed to come up with the greatest description of children with that title. ‘Tiny Mad Animals’ sees a pair of old friends and flatmates reflecting on past and future as one of them prepares to move in with his girlfriend. There’s an easy but witty dialogue between the two characters and it’s easy to imagine their long friendship (and nights spent stoned, chasing each other around the flat talking about lasers). But there’s also a real sweetness to their story, and a sensitivity with which Bebber’s writing addresses their feelings for one another. It’s a piece that really left a question mark over what might happen next.
Outside Blisters- Ruth Majeed
Blisters of the title is a nightclub in Bargoed, and this piece forms part of several short plays Majeed is putting together to reflect contemporary Valley’s life. Anyone who has lived or worked in that part of the world will immediately feel like they know these characters. And even if you’re a generation or two apart from the selfie-taking e-cigarette smoking girls in the play, their world is still familiar. It’s a great take on contemporary life, the language the girls speak in is pitch perfect Valleys and really brings the vibrancy of their world to life. It’s a genuinely funny but also very real slice of life and shows how a simple moment- three girl having a smoke outside a club, can be a real window into so much more. Again these are voices we hear rarely- both women, and women from working-class backgrounds, outside major cities. Majeed in this extract and her wider piece is bringing these stories to audiences, and showing both the uniqueness of that particular slice of life, and the universal elements of their stories. At the same time it’s a brilliantly funny piece of writing that will have most audiences either saying ‘I know that girl’ or ‘I am that girl’.
Cardiff Boy- Kevin Jones
If ‘Outside Blisters’ captures a slice of the current generation, ‘Cardiff Boy’ spoke to another generation in the room- the 90s kids. No sooner had R Kelly blasted out while Jack Hammett described a night out in Lloyds, than every person of a particular age could smell 90s Cardiff in an instant. The clever use of musical cues to divide up aspects of the story, as well as the nostalgia they induce was a great framing device for this look back at life growing up in Cardiff. Nostalgia aside it felt like there was a lot to say about Cardiff in the 90s through the eyes of a young working-class man. Not just the wider stories of the city shaping him, but the challenges and struggles within in that time from teenager to adult. Hammatt brought to life a fascinating slice of life in the short extract. A combination of detailed knowledge of the subject- niche references to Cardiff itself but a broader sense of working class life for teenagers in the 90s, makes this a great piece for locals and others alike. Underneath the music and the nostalgia there’s also an important story of masculinity, working class life and growing up that is an important and interesting story to explore. Jack Hammett brought to life the story with engaging and endearing charm and it’s a play and a performance that hopefully will continue to grow.
Following the success of the 2017 London scratch night, these 4 pieces were a brilliant ‘homecoming’ for Chippy Lane productions. Their support of new writers in the short time they’ve been a company (just 16 months) is a marker of commitment to supporting new artists in Wales, and these scratch nights have been a great opporturnity to see that work both in London and on ‘home’ turf.
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