The Wizard, the Goat and the Man who Won the War
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Fri 3 March
I first saw this fabulous solo performance two years ago on the closing day of the Dylan Thomas Festival. In its infancy the showing was its trial premier performance and now, having taken in audience comments from that day an earlier reading at Llanystumdwy (Lloyd George’s home town) and taken it on tour the play has evolved from an informed, solid piece into a stronger, funnier more lyrical performance.
The same concept of a one man oratory on Lloyd George exists; a fictional telling of a great man’s life based on a framework of well researched facts, comparisons are not necessary as I walked out of this performance with the same spellbound feeling. “What went on in Lloyd George’s heart and mind, is of course, open to theatrical speculation” the programme explains, yet for a man faced with disapproval and scorn from his Welsh heritage and his standing in British politics and a known womanizer it might be easy to guess some of what pathways his thoughts took.
The first performance included a significant amount about his relationship with daughter Mair, his perfect image of the future and the belief’s they both hold about the other great British figure, King Arthur. The evolved performance has had the content on Mair reduced and introduced more about his Political and British life, weaving his grief for her into the wider WWI picture. Yet this does not detract from the passion, power and energy displayed, far from it in fact, it is simply that the narrative has changed tack slightly and Lloyd George’s love for the child is still strongly evident. He talks about events and people in his life; Mair, who died at 17, Frances his mistress and growing up as a child in Criccieth, fatherless. It soon becomes evident that his life is one large juggling act: between his wife and mistress; his Welsh identity and British image and his role as the people’s protector with his ever increasing wealth.
The cloth makers of Provence are the makers of his Union towel, commemorating his winning of WWI, but “Oh for a Ddraig Goch” he cries: what do the French know of a Ddraig Goch exactly? To Richard Elfyn’s Lloyd George, it is not he who has abandoned Wales, but Wales who has abandoned him, which to the real man may have been the truth.
The play is a mix of three languages with the English speech broken up by flashes of Welsh and French and whilst many in the audience may not understand the French or Welsh it adds to the atmosphere and the depth of the character before us.
Lloyd George would be at home in today’s political arena: a Liberal-Conservative coalition, political scandal, social reform and of course the press: an institution as prevalent to the politicians then as now, and it included The News of the World, a paper that has never changed its skins. Lloyd George’s actions alos exposed a corrupt system of peerages, something we are familiar with even now, having given newspaper proprietor’s Max Aitkin and George Rydell Lordships for a price. There are several political jokes, he notes Chamberlain leap frogged his elder brother to the top job, quipping “who in the world of politics would ever do that” a cheeky aside to the Milliband brothers.
What Elfyn undertakes for the show is a feat, for a one man show the energy hardly pauses and is kept at a high level throughout and the passion flows right though his oratory – keeping the audience entranced from the outset. With only a walking stick, towel and bench as prop’s he does extremely well to keep going – the stick a particularly useful tool, morphing from its traditional use to become woman in an his embrace as he dances, a golf club as he discusses the golf clubs and pointing at all sorts. He addresses the audience as the sea, his stage vantage point being the beach at Lloyd George’s favourite resort of Antibes, yet through that abstract viewpoint Elfyn involves the audience: making one woman blush and as if on cue the audience join in his rendition of Myfanwy. The singing a throwback to the knowledge Lloyd George gathered his cabinet around the piano and showed off his Welsh heritage.
For more of my review’s please visit http://paradeisosgwynfor.blogspot.com/