Tag Archives: Chapter Arts Centre

BSL Review (F.E.A.R) A Mr & Mrs Clark production at Chapter Arts Centre by Stephanie Back

Please find below a transcript of the BSL review of (F.E.A.R.) performed by Gareth Clark at Chapter Arts Centre.

Hello my name is Steph. I’m a member of Get The Chance and I am now going to review a performance called (F.E.A.R.) This was performed by an actor called Gareth Clark, focusing on his fears, in society and the differences in this growing up from child to adult.
I arrived at Chapter Arts Centre where the performance was happening. I had been here before so knew what it was like and where I was going so it felt quite relaxed. I went to the desk and asked to pick up my ticket; there was a bit of a communication break down because the lady did not understand me but I wrote it down and it was all okay.
I then went to find the performance space. It looked interesting with big red letters at the back spelling out the word fear. There was a man sat next to this in a crocodile mask, looked good and a bit scary!

I noticed from the start that Alastair,Sill who was audio describing the piece was sat in the audience a couple of seats across from me. I know from previous performances the AD has been hidden in a box behind the scenes and the blind or VIP audience members can access this though headsets. I appreciated that the audio describing was not hidden away and that (apart from the Deaf obviously!) all the audience had access to this.

At the start of the piece Tony Evans who was the BSL interpreter let us know he would be moving. I have been to many performances before where the interpreter is placed to the side of the stage and you have to look back and forth in order to access this. I thought this will be interesting to see how this works. It was really clear. And really easy to follow. It was clear it had been well planned and thought out. There was even a moment where Tony put his hand over Gareth’s mouth and it was nice to see this interaction between the character and the interpreter. This relationship worked really well and benefitted the performance. I felt more part and more included in the performance because of this.

The match between the interpreter and performer also worked really well. The age was similar, look was similar and the portrayal of emotion matched up much better. Because they grew up around the same time this similar experience they had added to the performance. If for example it had been a young woman interpreter the story would have come across much differently.
Seeing both the actor and interpreter on stage also highlighted that (F.E.A.R.) although experienced differently for each person, is the same as a concept overall. Added a sense of uniting it for all.
At the start, I found I didn’t believe the character portrayal of a child as much as I did the different ages shown throughout the rest of the performance. I am not sure why but it was perhaps because I couldn’t emphasise with the facial expressions or they seemed a little fake in reaction to the fear with the over put on smile.. Having said this from teenage upwards I felt like I could well and truly emphasise with this character. It was like there was this barrier that was destroyed in front of us. There was a sudden onslaught of his experiences and an honest, open dialogue that could make him seem vulnerable to the audience. He said that society told him that it was bad to have sex because he will get a person pregnant at 16 and life will be ruined. And then he asked; what do I do then about this aching in his balls with the natural urge to have sex. That felt so honest and open. And being told that by society is something that I was told too. From there I trusted him so much more because it felt like there were no secrets in that room. The fear was exposed.

After the performance I talked to the Interpreter and audio describer about the performance and they mentioned how access had not been an afterthought. It had been planned and budgeted into the performance. This is really rare. A lot of the time they are brought in last minute and told GO! But it was so clear that access had been thought about and it so much more a better performance because of this.
One thought to improve is that it was unclear at the start as to why the scene remained exactly the same with nobody moving for about two minutes. I understood afterwards from asking that this was due to allow time for the AD to set the scene. It would have been good to let the Deaf audience know beforehand that this would happen so it is not so confusing when nothing is happening for a while. I feel there could have also been more audience interaction, I know there was some but a bit more to encourage the audience to think more about their own fears perhaps.
To conclude. I really enjoyed the performance and really appreciate how much the access was thought about. I felt I could connect so much more to the piece because of this.
Thanks you for watching.
http://www.chapter.org/fear

Review: Babulus, Gwyn Emberton and ilDance by Helen Joy

Babulus
4 Stars
Tower of Babel, says a friend next to me.
 Communication, that’s what it’s about, she says, all the different ways of communicating.
 I’m not sure about the bear, I find the bear creepy. Oh, she says, I like the bear.
Did you like the dance as a whole? Oh yes, mesmerising. I like going to things with you, I see things I wouldn’t otherwise see.
I see things I wouldn’t otherwise see. This is one of them for me too.
 
I was facilitating art classes last week with older people in hospitals and care homes and one of them, Brian, was unable to speak or hear. Don’t worry, the nurse said, he will make you understand him. And he did. Brian painted flowers, big colourful flowers. We chatted with our hands, our faces and our paint. We did not need to use our voices. It was a dance between two people.
Babulus is a dance between five people, one of whom is a bear now and again. A bizarre, fluffy, comedic yet sentient and sympathetic character to foil the darker elements of tied hands and closed mouths. I still found it creepy. The clown in the classroom, the slapstick to the poignant. I realise that this is just me – everyone else loved the softer element, the balance, the reference to a childhood toy. I still have my Bear, he sleeps with me still and he is my most valuable possession so I do get it, I get the thinking, I just don’t like it until I watch her loose a dancer’s bonds, quietly, softly.
But the dance itself? Oh it is superb. The dancers come together, push apart, come together, push apart using movement, chatter, language, sticky tape, song and light. They are beautifully choreographed, they are beautifully lit. It is mesmerising. There are two themes I particularly like: the holding of hands over each other’s mouths; and the bunching together babbling in their mother tongues. I like that they emerge from behind us, that they make eye contact with us, that they threaten us and engage with us. They laugh with us too.
It is the dance between two people, one with his hand over her mouth with her twisting away to speak, that I will remember most – they roll into and over each other in a balletic, deceptive, controlling, power struggle. I wish I could see this again and again. It called to me.
It is also one of the best after show discussions I have ever attended. The performers, dancers, are as engaging vocally as they have been throughout their piece. Clever, open, responsive to their audience, they are indeed communicating at all levels. Not babbling at all, really.
 
Event:                   Bablulus
Seen:                    1930, 17th February, 2017
Reviewer:            Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics
Running:               Friday 17 February – Saturday 18 February
Cost :                    Tickets: £12/£10; Age 11+
Running time: approx. 50mins  
Links:     http://www.chapter.org/babulus
Production:         Gwyn Emberton and ilDance collaboration
Music:                  Oscar Collin
Lighting and design:         Joe Fletcher
Direction:            Sara Lloyd
Babulus was created and toured with the support of Arts Council Wales, Gothenburg International Theatre and Dance Festival, The Work Room, Wales Arts International, Göteborg Stad, Västra Götalandsregionen, NDCWales, Ballet Cymru, Balettakademien Stockholm, Konstnärsnämnden, and Arts Promotion Centre Finland.

Review : A Regular little Houdini by Beth Clark


5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
 
An exciting and turbulent story of a boy who is born in Wales but comes from Irish decent. He is part of a large working class family who all live under one roof.
Set in the heart of Newport’s South Wales’ busting docks, the actor Daniel Llewelyn-Williams; impressively also the writer of the play gets your full attention from the out by representing a real, personal and historical account of how things were back then. An imaginative and determined boy who displays extreme courage whilst being subject to one of the many catastrophic occurrences which unfortunately happened during the British industrial revolution.
Harry Houdini; very famous of the times was a direct influence and inspiration to the boy promoting a hopeful and escaping duality for him. When some aspects of the boy’s life have been shattered another aspect or dream is materialised. Quirky and fun-loving, the boy’s relationship with Gammy as well as his dad, sisters and friend is something that brings a warming feel to the boy’s character and overall feel of the play.
Daniel played the one man show so intriguingly, it was like he was telling the story as his own and I wondered if this was in fact a real story from his family’s history. Who knows? Honestly, it was that good it certainly felt real and I would strongly advise anyone to go and see the play regardless of a specific style of play you might like, as I believe this play ticks all the boxes. There was absolutely no time whatsoever in that hour that I thought of anything other than the play, the characters or their feelings and perspectives. The actor was completely captivating and with reference to lots of welsh-ness, I found it relatable and moving but not only because I am Welsh as I believe anyone will feel this way. Even though the play does have heartache, the joy it brings overpowers that completely making it a pleasure to watch. The fact that you are drawn to other characters in the story with only one actor representing all characters is infatuating for the audience. It was directed, written, composed and performed to a such a high and entertaining standard that I would absolutely go and view it for a second time.
In my eyes when you can hold an audience with just one man and a box to that standard you are winning in life. Well done Daniel Llewelyn-Williams you smashed it!
A Regular little Houdini
Produced by Flying Bridge Theatre Ltd
Written and performed by Daniel Llewelyn-Williams
Directed by Joshua Richards
Music by Meg C

Review ‘The Giant Who Had No Heart In His Body’ by Gemma Treharne-Foose

giant
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There’s a reason why people are reluctant to sit in the front row.  Expect to be picked on, called out or even become part of the show!

This was my first time to see a family production at Chapter apart from their regular family film Saturdays – a favourite of mine and my little ‘mini me’ Lili, age 7.  This was also the first time for Lil to accompany me on a trip to see a show I was reviewing.

We are greeted in the theatre by Dot (played by Hazel Anderson) and Aggie (Ellen Groves), who immediately strike a chord with the kids in the audience.

The set is whimsical and dreamy, there are washing lines with wind chimes and floaty plastic bags gently blowing in the breeze. There are fishermen’s nets lit with icy blue fairy lights. There is an ethereal and robotic soundtrack, creating the feeling that we are definitely somewhere else.

I’m not sure if we are in an inventor’s workshop or an art studio. I know that just watching those floaty bags swishing in the dimly lit studio immediately put me at ease despite there being around a hundred kids behind me – and this is a rare feeling for me!

img_4700

Anderson and Groves play the part of Dot and Aggie, two ladies with a special mission: to collect and gather as many stories as possible from their dream platform on the sky. It’s been a couple of hundred days since their last story was gathered.  Somewhere along the way and I have no idea where, as engrossed as I was in the story – they swallow an item that makes them become storyTELLERS instead of story gatherers.

They set upon a mission to meet a giant, who needs his heart back so that all order can be re-instated. The story is based on an old Norwegian tale, which it turns out is a lot more complicated and multifaceted than this pared-down devised creation.

In this story, Dot and Aggie beg, steal and borrow from everyday items and old nick-nacks to move the story along. Stories are ‘hoovered up’ in disco-lit tubes and deposited in tin cans, crows are created with a tatty umbrella, miniature characters are created using a sponge and a tin can. The giant is conjured up using a couple of white bed sheets and some poles with rubber gloves on the end.

This is no-frills theatre, but with pure champagne ideas. It is imaginative and fun to the core, but what makes this a production really worth watching is the sheer exuberance and hilarity of Anderson and Groves.

It’s clear they have cleverly crafted this tale, injected it with a few madcap extras and sprinkled a whole load of Christmas fun on top.

The improvised asides and lines come thick and fast, there are mishaps on stage (arms fall off the little characters, costumes getting tangled up) and the energy and fun of the two during the performance is completely contagious.

This is not a kid’s play where the actors talk to you in a high pitched voice and coddle your special little snowflakes.

These two have sass and plenty of it. The comic interaction of this duo reminded me of French and Saunders, with a side order of Victoria Wood and a sprinkle of ‘Smack the Pony’.

I loved the joshing and piss-taking of traditional character types: ‘Me? Jump in this well? But I am a mere delicate waif maiden with a very floppy hand’. ‘Gee miss’, Dot’s character hams up with a strange gruff American twang, ‘Haven’t you ever heard of feminism’?

Kids in the audience belly laughed and roared, cheered on by the characters who played along brilliantly with all the interruptions. When the giant’s arms got tangled up on stage, I went up and tried to assist as best I could before giving up and sitting down.

The whole thing could have gone tits up from there, but they managed to recruit an ‘adult man’, who helped them untie the Giant’s arms and move the story along. ‘I’m glad we are filming THIS performance’, one of them quipped.

I always listen intently to others in the audience for snippets during the intervals/intermission. One Mum commented she thought some of the audience interaction bits (breaking the 4th wall, etc) were unnecessary in parts. I think the only lame ducks were some of the cheeseball ‘Dad jokes’ – ouch. But then you need some Dad jokes in a kid’s show I suppose – tradition and all that! 

fullsizerender

Keen to recruit a new mini reviewer, I’d asked mini me after leaving the show ‘Do you want to do a video review so all the other Mums and Dads can find out about the show and you can tell the actors what you thought?’ ‘Noooooooo!!!!’ she said firmly.  That was the end of my dream for my ‘Mommy and me live theatre review channel’.

However, I did persuade her that a written review would also be very welcome.  This struck a chord with her and she was keen to share her thoughts and her 5 star rating. She was delighted to be called out in the show – ‘What did you eat for breakfast?’ Ellen Groves’ character Aggie asked her.

‘Pancakes’, she responded. Later in the show, Aggie (dressed as the hilarious Giant) asks kids in the front row ‘Have a guess where my heart is buried…?’ before interrupting them and bellowing back ‘NO!’

She then turned to Lili and said ‘Oi…pancakes…what do you think?’ So Lili signed her note this evening ‘Love, Pancakes’. This may have been Lili’s first review but it was also a love letter from a theatre fan girl in the making.

When she got home, her first words when she saw her Dad were ‘DAD – You seriously missed out!’  Maybe next time, little one (and Dad can help hold up the giant’s arms!)

From Lili (hand-written review pictured above):

Wow! What a great show!!! I loved the creation.  I hope you do more shows like this. It was soooooo good. You acted great.  It was sooooo funny. The puppets were wonderful. I want to see it again! I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year, from ‘Pancakes’. (5 stars)

Type of show: Theatre
Title: The Giant Who Had No Heart In His Body
Venue: Chapter Arts Centre
Dates: 19 December (Touring show)
Devised by:  Hazel Anderson & Ellen Groves
Directed by:  Hazel Anderson & Ellen Groves
Cast: Hazel Anderson (Dot) & Ellen Groves (Aggie)
Running time: Approx 1.5 hrs (includes interval)
Produced by Likely Story

Time Credit earn & spend by Gemma Treharne-Foose, Community Critic for ‘Get the Chance’ Wales

 

When I joined the ‘Get the Chance’ team (reviewing live theatre and performance as a network of ‘community critics’), I wasn’t fully aware I’d be getting Spice Time Credits in return and quite surprised to receive them! I had some previous awareness that Time Credits were something people got ‘out there in the community’ – perhaps for doing voluntary work at a local community project or initiative. I had no idea you could actually receive time credits for writing and reviewing live theatre. I hadn’t thought of myself as ‘volunteering my time’ as I already kind of felt like I had won the lottery doing something I loved doing anyway. If you are part of a wider conversation, helping to increase accessibility and creating more knowledge and awareness of the arts for all – you too are a volunteer, an ambassador and a cheerleader. You’re using your skills and strengths to break down barriers and act as a bridge between theatres and non-traditional or possibly first time theatre goers and I’m really glad that Spice recognises this.

The great thing about Spice is that they are a form of currency: a way of trading your time to get a sort of ‘passport’ to do the things you love. If money is an issue, this doesn’t matter, you can use time credits for anything from local leisure services to high-brow theatre. They can travel with you – I’m off to London on the Megabus next week. I may decide to spend the time credits I earned writing about Welsh theatre to take in a show at the Barbican with my hubby. I’m on a budget weekend, but I won’t let that stop me! Time Credits makes this possible and they’re recognised all over the UK, which is great! So far I have used my time credits to spend an afternoon with my daughter jumping and running wild at ‘Jump’ play centre in Llanishen and I’ve spent several lovely afternoons watching family movies in Chapter Arts Centre with my husband and little girl Lili. Writing about theatre may be ‘my thing’, but I love sharing the time credits with my family for fun (cheap!) afternoons out. They were really handy in the holidays when money was getting tight! Chapter Arts Centre is wonderful when it comes to booking tickets, very family friendly and relaxed. I also like the fact that there’s no in-your face aggressive marketing of overpriced snacks (Which can push your average cinema outings up to £50 or more for some families). Chapter even has a ‘no munching’ rule. You’re there for the movies and good vibes anyway, not stuffing your face full of crisps and chocolate (plus if you really need a feed: use the lovely Chapter cafe!). Quite a few times over the last few months, my family and I have driven to Chapter, parked for free, used our time credits to pay for a family movie then taken a walk in the park afterwards. You don’t need to spend big money to make memories, but it helps if you have a few time credits in your pocket!

http://www.justaddspice.org/get-involved/get-started-with-time-credits

BSL review ‘The Good Earth’ Motherlode Theatre Company by Stuart Parkinson


This is a BSL review of The Good Earth by Motherlode Theatre Company performed at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. A written transcription is available below the video.
It was interesting recently I saw a play named ‘The Good Earth’
dsc07324-edit
An interpreter was provided called Julie Doyle. She was fantastic. The story was emotional. It was emotional though seeing change. Various people moving away. The spirit of the community was changing.
I became to understand  Valleys and appreciate community. Change is not nice as when people do not people move away the spirit of the community changes
It was interesting to see the actors use chairs and tablets to show destruction
dsc07363-edit
The Interpreter’s role did shift which is important to see and identify which character was talking.
At the end of the play I reflected it must be nice to live in a close knit community in the valley.
If you haven’t seen the play please do watch it.
Thank you
http://motherlodetheatre.com/thegoodearth/#thegoodearth/about

Review Blavatsky’s Tower 3 Crate Productions by Corinne Cox

BlavatskysTower-FacebookEventHeader2

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This week at Chapter Arts Centre, the final stop of their 4 week tour of Moira Buffini’s 90s play, emerging Welsh Theatre Company 3 Crate Productions treat audiences to a unique insight into the lives of the Blavatsky’s. Choosing never to leave their top floor apartment in order to avoid ‘the crushed’, when Dr Tim Dunn enters their lives (bringing with him our socially constructed perception of normality) the company’s exploration of the family’s unusual relationships leads us to question the very notion of what it means to be ‘normal’.

The back story to the tale had distinctive parallels with Ballard’s 1975 High Rise through Hector Blavatsky’s visionary plans for his architectural masterpiece and how the result failed to realise the utopia of his vision. In Hector’s case this results in the descent of a veil of disillusionment and subsequent abstraction from the outside world, turning his back on the society that rejected his vision and barricading himself and his three children (emotionally rather than physically) within the four walls of their apartment in search of a higher meaning. Even as we see him on his death bed, Tony Leader’s portrayal of Hector Blavatsky makes it clear to the audience that despite his frailty his tyranny has undoubtedly defined the lives of his family, evidenced in the mixture of the love and slight resentment they have for him.

Audrey, the only Blavatsky to leave the house on account of being the breadwinner for the family, has a distinctive hold over her siblings and the power play enacted between the characters is extremely well executed. Hannah Lloyd’s portrayal of younger sister Ingrid perfectly captures the vulnerability of a character who is simultaneously curious of the tantalising outside world and altogether fearful of leaving the apartment, particularly heightened by Audrey’s antagonising. Through the sister’s interactions we experience first-hand the heightened tensions that social isolation can bring to relationships and the need that Audrey seems to feel to be in control of at least one aspect of your life, in this case through her power over her siblings.

Yet as we watch the squabbly interactions between the siblings we could equally be looking into the living room (although significantly less furnished) of any contemporary family and despite their idiosyncrasies we don’t doubt the close bond between the Blavatsky’s in spite of how this has been defined by their experience at the top of the tower.

3 Crate Productions make us laugh with the eccentricities of characters who have interacted only with each other but also challenge us to question our own preconceptions of what it means to be normal.

BT Photo
 
Director: Peter Scott
Assistant Director: Matt Rushmere
Marketing Manager: Rachel Kinchin
Photography: Kirsten McTernan
Print Design: Rich Chitty at Ctrl Alt Design
Original Music: Loui Milne

Review Belonging Re-Live Theatre by Helen Joy

Belonging

Review from a 3rd Act Critic and Older People’s Involvement Worker

“Feeling Affected, in a Good Way”

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
It’s sold out.

Gently twanging music plays around the warm space as we settle into our seats. I am sitting between the usher and two women from the Wales Arts Council. We introduce ourselves and look down on the audience – average age, maybe 35? Surprising. And I am pleased.

The stage is dimly lit and we can see a wooden room – a staircase, bookshelves, television and pictures, a small lamp on a side table. Simple. It is a home, someone’s home with the usual vase of dried flowers gathering dust and memories to one side.

I have been warned. It is a tear jerker. Ah but it will be bread and butter to me, apparently. It won’t touch me – it’s my job.

It is two stories – a mother and her children; and a long married couple. It is a small cast scampering through complicated emotions, making us believe they are different people at different times even when they are the same person by name. From the start, I am transfixed by their abilities and follow their journeys with some fear and some hope. But only some hope – I am convinced this play will go the way of most – a depressing indictment of dementia and social services.

It does make a few political points about services – unnecessary, I feel – please do not tell me what to think; I have been there, you know. I am here for a play about belonging.

And this they do well. The stories duly plunge into confusion, misery, loss and anger with moments of utter hopelessness. But they hold on.

Through scenes of stress-driven tragedy we join in their epiphanies and cariad, we move on. My tears – and I am not alone, all around me people gently wipe their faces – are now for joy. The future is ok. These remarkable characters are safe somehow.

Does this play glorify dementia and its impact? Most definitely not. Does it give false hope? No. Does it give some sense that people experiencing dementia are lessened by it? No.

Practitioners should see this work – it offers an oriel onto the legitimate feelings of everyone affected by this disease and its different forms.

We are always being told how we should behave, what we should and shouldn’t say and do around people experiencing dementia.. but we are all human, with all the complexities that brings; and this play shows us that that is ok too.

Huge applause and the usher steps aside. We nod to each other and I leave the dark womb of the theatre.

Cat, apple, sausage – we are all checking our memory function and checking our tears as we wander into the light outside.

ReLive H Joy

Event:                      Belonging

At:                             Chapter Arts Centre

Playwright:          Karin Diamond

Director:               Peter Doran

Theatre:                Re-Live Theatre

Seen:                      2pm, 6 May, 2016

Reviewer:           Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:              May 2nd – 7th 2016, May 2nd – 7.30pm, BSL May 3rd                                                                         6th – 2pm, 7.30pm daily

Links:               http://www.re-live.org.uk/belonging/

 

Review Fear of Drowning Black Sheep Theatre by Kiera Sikora

0

Black Sheep Theatre’s debut production ‘Fear of Drowning’ opened at Chapter this week and it is not what you expected. (Whatever that was.)

Elli’s the runaway bride, Tim’s her doting brother who’s most definitely a Hufflepuff and Steve’s Elli’s should-be husband. Sounds pretty straightforward really- but there’s also Deano. He’s not so straightforward. And it only takes one shark to scare the fish.

The play begins with a man’s cries and the sounds of him drowning, those two things being the physical metaphor of the ideas that this piece expresses and examines. In a basic, budget but brightly lit hotel we meet Elli (Sarah Jayne Hopkins) in a wedding dress and Tim (Keiron Self ) in a sharp suit, who at first we’re not quite sure of. But we soon find out that they’re siblings and after a little chat about a horrendously large bath, naughty lightbulbs, expensive alcohol and a Harry Potter reading being a deal winner we see that the hotel room they’re in is one they’ve fled to following Elli’s run from the altar.

Elli’s confused and hurt, leaving Steve at the altar is something she’s not sure if she’s regretting and so she leaves Tim to find her ex- just to be sure she loves Steve. And so Tim’s left to his own devices…

Until Steve (Michael Humphrey) turns up and questions Tim on Elli’s whereabouts, and with the help of Deano (Lee Mengo) he gets enough information to see him off for the night on his mission to win back his woman. Meanwhile Tim is held hostage by Deano, a ketamine fan with a quick wit, foul mouth and a sick sense of storytelling that victimises Tim even further by making him listen to his drug induced story of how he first saw Elli while aboard the Noah’s Ark Ship on a HMS mission. What’s also mentioned here a little bit about how cats are very laid-back about who sleeps with who in the cat community- Deano’s absurd and perfectly performed speech is not one you’d want to miss out on experiencing.

The play concludes with Steve returning to the hotel room and soon he and Deano are bullying a ketamine-spiked Tim into more torture. Soon after, Elli returns and is back in Steve’s arms before Tim can get to his feet. Which, becomes the reason he falls back down again. This last part of the play shows a strangely strained reconciliation between the characters.. They’ve all dived into a Wonderland of their own. And it is the Wonderland that Tim, Deano and a dream-like Young Elli enter at the end of the play that leaves us wondering what it is we’ve witnessed.

PWR Jenkin’s play is quite an experience, and a world of wonderfully absurd wit. I think its safe to say we can expect the unexpected from Black Sheep Theatre- this debut is definitely one that won’t be forgotten.

Review Fear of Drowning Black Sheep Theatre Company by Corrinne Cox

fear-of-drowning-thumb

Tensions run high in Black Sheep Theatre’s debut production Fear of Drowning at Chapter this week; it’s Elli and Steve’s wedding day, the bride has gone AWOL and Steve’s best mate Deano is waterboarding her brother Tim in the hotel bathroom.

After an initial flash-forward to Tim’s unfortunate predicament, the play begins with Elli and her brother, Harry Potter fanatic and ardent Environmental Warrior, Tim arriving in a budget hotel (whose lightbulbs we quickly learn do not meet international efficiency standards) having fled Elli’s imminent vows to possessive partner Steve.

Elli’s feeling out of her depth. Is marrying Steve a massive mistake or maybe commitment really is for her? To know for certain, she resolves the only solution is to go and see her ex, Ben, one last time. When Steve and Deano turn up, Tim is quick cover for Elli, resulting in a stake out in the hotel room where underlying class tensions come to a naturally humorous head.

Fear of commitment, possession and both the loss and perceived pejoration of identity through a new shared one are recurring themes throughout this eclectic piece of drama which is as funny as it is a clever statement on underlying class prejudice. There is a brilliant irony in Tim’s unshakeable belief that he is saving Elli from Steve’s possessive ways whilst simultaneously trying to shield her from the tragedies of Steve’s ‘type’, fuelled by an insurmountable fear of losing his sister that itself borders on obsession.

Through Tim’s sense of helplessness as he slowly loses his sister (and of course his very literal experience of being water-boarded by Deano); Elli’s uncertainty of the unknown and reluctance to take the plunge and commit to Steve and Deano’s evident feeling of treading water in a dead-end position where he is underpaid by his supposed best friend, the play is a perfectly realised metaphor of drowning which reflects the intricacies of each characters unique situation and lack of control.

When Steve abandons the others in a last-ditch attempt to pursue Elli we encounter what was undoubtedly the most surreal and wholly unanticipated scene of the play; Lee Mengo’s comically menacing portrayal of Deano lightly ridiculing Tim quickly escalating into a ketamine induced recollection of how he first met Elli aboard HMS Genesis a post-apocalyptic research ship on a Mission named Noah’s Ark… On Steve’s return, the continuation of this notion of being out of control, only this time in a very literal sense, escalates further still, manifesting itself in the pairs decision to waterboard Tim.

There is a slightly unsettling scene at the end with Tim in evident turmoil at the loss of his sister who despite everything decides that Steve is the one for her. Yet this is once again interrupted by more of the unexpected absurdity which made this play so enjoyable.

From Deano’s holographic memory, a ketamine riddled BLT and the moral conundrum of whether or not you can waterboard a trouser-less man, Black Sheep Theatre combine sharp wit with a stark and honest portrayal of class prejudices to produce a work well deserving of its place as Runner Up in the inaugural Wales Drama Award. Fear of Drowning is a credit to writer Paul Jenkins and Black Sheep Theatre and a sign of great things to come.