It was a dull dismal December day as people enter the Lounge of the Park and Dare Theatre in Treorchy, they are met with the anticipation of Christmas as members of Avant Cymru begin to assemble ready for their presentation of Episode 4 of Rhondda’s very own soap opera “Rhondda Road”. Band members, dressed in Christmas jumpers, practise their chords. The time is ripe as like an apple, the drama begins to peel.
“The Fourth Wall Café” is open; Liam who lives in the flat above the café is helping to arrange the tables. Megan, co-owner of the café, walks in bringing with her an overnight bag; she queries where her partner Alex is. Liam can only answer coyly that Alex is planning something
“Something that you won’t believe”, he notices the bag and asks Megan if she is going somewhere. Megan explains that she is going to stay with a friend for a few days, she gasps as she discovers betting slips behind the café bar believing them to belong to Alex with his own secrets.
“Oh yeah, they’re mine!”
“Nice try, Liam” Megan acknowledges his comment as Abbie the niece of Ieuan enters the café.
Megan enquires whether Ieuan is coming to the evening’s party
“He says he’s not coming” Abbie answers as Liam interjects that Alex has stated that he is bringing Ieuan.
Izzy sees her Mother’s overnight bag and shouts “You can’t go!” Izzy is annoyed
“I’ll have nothing to do, come on Abbie” Izzy leads Abbie to another part of the building.
“Are you leaving?” Charlotte, Megan’s half-sister asks “Can I go with you?”
Megan can only answer that as Charlotte does not get on with the friend she is going to stay with, that Charlotte should stay with their Mother.
“Stay with Mam, there’s nothing wrong with her partner, Marla – except for turning Mam gay”, Megan changes the subject “Where did you get to last night?” Charlotte explains that she saw Ioan at her mother’s home; Ioan had asked her about Sion (who, we had learnt in a previous episode, is the father of both Megan and Ioan).
“I’m not frightened of Sion or whatever he calls himself” Jess, their Mother, states as she enters the café, noticing that Megan is packing, and with a concerned tone asks
“You can’t run away from things … Is it Alex?” Jess is worried for her daughter; Megan can only reply that they are fine, they just need to talk. Jess wishes to talk with Charlotte as she believes she has an eating problem that she is skin and bones
“Have you ever seen her eating here?” Jess cries as Megan answers negatively.
“Years ago Marla had an eating disorder and nearly died. It’s really serious; you’re her big sister, talk to her” Jess challenges her younger daughter to tell them the truth.
“Where is he?” Sion’s accusing tone breaks the conversation.
“Where is MY son?, Ioan hasn’t been home or at school” he continues as Charlotte repeats that Ioan is not there, Sion is adamant, as with vehement intent, he moves towards his daughter.
“JOHN, you take your hands off MY daughter, keep away ….”
“You’re making a scene!” Sion admonishes her
“You come near my family again, and I will kill you!” Jess warns as Sion states that he hasn’t laid a hand on Megan.
“I’m not scared of you, Sion or whatever you call yourself now. Do you know why Ioan came to me? He was scared of you, scared that you were going to hit him ……”
“That’s NOT what happened …. “ Sion pleads his innocence
“A leopard never changes his spots Johnny, he knows everything about you; our marriage, what you did. I didn’t tell him a single word; I just gave him my diaries to read ….”
“I burnt them!”
“The diaries were not the only notes I kept. Staying inside, hiding my face – everything was in them – EVERYTHING” Jess emphasises “ and your son has now read every single word, so Ioan knows about how I once loved you, how your own daughter loved you …”
“I’m not that person now”
“You hit her, you hurt her. Do you remember our Anniversary, John? You know how it ended.
We ended up in hospital; battered the pair of us. Listen to me now, you hurt or hit any of my family or even your own son, I WILL kill you” the couple exchange a conversation in loud startling tones.
“That was another time, I have changed I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for 20 years. You’ve got it all wrong”
“That’s it, blame the drink. You’re a control freak!”
Sion continues to argue his case, “I’ve come back, I’ve bought this place. I have offered it to Megan. I wanted to make a better life for Izzy and you. Tell her Megan” Sion implores
“I will NEVER take it from him” Megan admonishes him.
“Hey” Alex enters only stopping to adjust his Father Christmas costume that would look better on a Sumo wrestler. “You’re not going to have to give us anything. I am going to buy it off you” Alex motions to Sion. “Today I’ve been to my first Meeting with Gamblers Anonymous” Alex announces to everyone; only the sarcastic prolonged clapping from Sion is heard.
“Well done Alex, that’s the first step, but you’re penniless ….”
Alex explains that something else has happened, an unexpected windfall, he wants to make a future for them all as he holds both Megan and Izzy close to him. The money is not enough to buy the building but it is sufficient to secure a mortgage, they can get married.
“We don’t want your gift, all we want to do is secure our future – as long as you are happy” Alex offers an olive branch to Sion who remains silent; realising that the battle is lost, Sion shakes hands with Alex.
“WHERE IS HE?” Ieuan storms into the café with intent, he wears a similar costume to Alex, there are hints of muffled laughter from the café occupants as the two men, now much larger than in real life face each other, their puffed out costumes making them look as though they should be nesting rather than about to wrestle.
“Calm yourself” is all Alex can offer as Ieuan shouts “I HATE YOU, You trekkie”
“I am honestly so sorry ….” Alex begins as in a ruffle of spitting words Ieuan tries to explain that years ago a relative of Alex got shares in the merchandise of a film making company, models were given to Alex but he never played with … the film was “Star Wars” and the merchandise is rare
Alex presents Ieuan with a gift, and attempts to embrace his friend but their ample costumes are barring them from doing so.
“Storm trooper? I’ve got them!” is all Ieuan can find to say, as they exchange a friendship pact known only by them, in a fashion that looks like two peacocks mating.
Part time Waitress and Carer Seren enters the café with her Mother, Cerys
“I want to thank you for helping me get that job” Ieuan states to Cerys who looks a little perplexed “You were Titania.”
Charlotte faces Seren, they have been good friends in the past she now realises that things have to change “You like Ioan don’t you? Right, I’m going to give you a chance, he’s a nice boy. Ask him to the party”
Ioan and Seren meet and awkwardly exchange comments; Seren takes a deep breath and asks him to join her in the seasonal celebrations. Coyly, Ioan answers and Seren seals a kiss on his cheek as they shyly move on.
Liam with his arms around Eleri enters the café, closely followed by Eleri’s daughter Hannah.
“When did THAT happen?” Ieuan is incredulous as he asks Alex “I thought I was in with a chance”
Liam hands a gift to Ieuan as he apologises for all that has happened between them
“I just want to thank you; you helped me when I had nowhere else to go” their friendship is restored.
The two Father Christmases face the audience and both announce
“It’s Christmas, we’re going to have a party. Let’s party” and we are all invited to the celebrations
As the group Hey Deity led by Sam Rees, who plays Liam, begins with their debut “Galaxies” followed by the assembled artists following a Congo like pathway through the café to the Christmas sounds of “Rockin’Robin”
The party is interrupted by the appearance of Dan from whom – in a previous episode, Alex had taken money loans to pay for his then, secret gambling addiction.
“We’re having a private party …” Alex attempts to explain as the man in the (almost) Christmas wrapping style suit looks around at the assembled people, his eyes are stunned by what he sees
“MEGAN!” he exclaims
Megan, captured like a moth in his intense glare, can only react on impulse, grasping her daughter tightly.
This is how Episode 4 of Rhondda’s very own soap opera “Rhondda Road” ended.
Appreciation was given to all the organisations that have supported Avant Cymru during their production of “Rhondda Road” in 2017 at the Park and Dare Theatre, Treorchy. Acknowledgement was given to the people who had suggested ideas from which themes had been taken for each episode. It was daring, direct and different, remaining true to present day issues wherever you may live. It was a reawakening, a genesis of performance that everyone could relate to. Real life is raw.
Secrets and emotions were laid bare, and we were there to witness such unravelling of souls.
Radio Treorchy and Radio Wales were present to record the dialogue and music of this episode; interview the Director of “Rhondda Road” Shane Anderson and Rachel Pedley, Artistic Director of Avant Cymru plus members of the audience who had enjoyed the accomplished performance.
We look forward to following the path of “Rhondda Road” in 2018.