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Review, Invasion, Bad Clowns Comedy, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Take Men in Black. Set it in England. Add some bumbling comedy buffoons and what do you get? Invasion by Bad Clowns Comedy.

Filmed exclusively for reviewers, Bad Clowns Comedy have nicely given us a good quality recording of their show at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. Filmed with different angles and great sound recording, it is one of the best recordings over the past year of Covid that I have seen.

If you were to imagine Men in Black set and written by the British, this would be it. The character’s fumble around, they’re not sure what they are doing, to some degree it could be seen as a spoof. It reminds me much of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost if they brought their films or even their show, Spaced, to the stage. It reminds me also of when Ant and Dec ventured on the film Alien Autopsy, when the narrative is meant to be spooky and serious, but in true British Comedy style, is a comedy of itself. If Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall decided to make a Sci-Fi theatre show for Bottom, this is what it would be.

Each character has its own flaws – Sam’s character is stars truck by his commanding officer, but lacks common sense and this leads to hilarious errors. Christian is the smarter of the two but exasperated by Sam and still, finds ways to be inadequate as a Special Agent himself. John is the commanding officer, who encompasses both Sam and Christian’s traits, and for sure, should not be a captain – hilariously finding ridiculous ways to stop a bomb, to engage with the set, the characters, the narrative. If this was true life, it would be one hilarious worry.

The three performers bounce off one another and the audience well. When there is the odd mistake or a heckle, they are quick to react and incorporate it into the performance. It only adds to the hilarity. They engage with the audience, using their responses and heckles to incorporate and help the narrative. They address them the entire time and so there is no escape, but makes you feel part of an exclusive club.

Adding multi-media in the form of a large presentation screen, recorded voices with Sci-Fi style orders, they effortlessly pick up on the quintessential elements of known Sci-Fi, from films, tv shows, games as well as British Culture. Some being well known dances that we all followed at school discos, the presentation of pop ups on a computer screen from way back when, with the correct noises and the use of brain control with helmets often seen in Sci-Fi films. It allows us to spot and identify with these parts and shows their intricate research and well written production.

A wonderful part of this production is that they clearly enjoy what they do and are very skilled in improv and going with the flow of the performance. Times where they could corpse or it’s on the verge of this, is still so professionally done and fits… like it was always meant to happen.

Invasion by Bad Clowns, is a hilarious and very British Sci-Fi Comedy production which anyone, whether into this genre or not, would find themselves laughing out loud at.

Review Death Drop, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Death Drop is the ultimate triple threat: it’s a Drag Comedy, a murder mystery, and a musical extravaganza – and it’s here to slay. Premiering on the West End in December, the star-studded UK Tour is making a brief pit-stop in Cardiff for only a few days – so sashay your way to the New Theatre and catch it while you can!

It’s 1991, and Lady von Fistenberg (Drag Race UK star Vinegar Strokes) has gathered a gaggle of celebrity frenemies to her mansion on Tuck Island to celebrate Charles and Diana’s anniversary – only for the guests to start dropping dead. This isn’t your grandmother’s murder mystery – and when it comes to the jokes, there’s no such thing as ‘too far’. Produced by TuckShop and Trafalgar Theatre Productions and written by Holly Stars (who also plays all three Bottomley Sisters), the show is essentially Murder on the Starlight Express: a campy, chaotic riff on the whodunnit where the one-liners fly so thick and fast, they make panto look slow.

Karen From Finance, Ra’Jah O’Hara, Willam, and Vinegar Strokes

Drag legends Willam and Ra’Jah O’Hara lead an all-star cast including Vinegar Strokes (reprising her role from the original West End lineup), Drag Race Down Under’s Karen From Finance, and drag kings like Richard Energy and George Orell who deliver some of the show’s best and most bonkers lines. The cast are incredibly game and bring a fun, raucous energy to the stage – I truly can’t remember the last time I laughed as much as I did in Death Drop.

Directed by Jesse Jones and with original songs by Flo and Joan (Oopsie Whoopsie is a real earworm), the show is a boozy, bolshy bit of escapist fun. Justin Williams’ set looks as if Dr Seuss designed Liberace’s living room, and Isobel Pellow’s costumes are a feast for the eyes: case in point, an outfit of Willam’s made entirely of bandanas (even the boots! I seriously want a pair). It leaves no 90s reference unturned and no innuendo unmilked – it’s daft, it’s dirty, and it’s an absolute delight.

Funny, filthy and fabulous, Death Drop is anything but a drag. If you’re averse to a bit of blue (cheese or comedy), you might want to give this one a miss – but if you’re up for a night of glitz, glamour and giggles, you can’t get better than this.

Death Drop is sashaying its way through to Saturday 23 October at the New Theatre.

Review, Immersive Gatsby, Immersive LDN, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Greeted at the door by a man with an excellent hospitable nature and his 1920’s attire on, in the heart of London, we enter into what feels like some form of speakeasy at the top of this lovely building, where the doors open and you are (nicely) bashed in the face with jazz music and dancing.

Immersive Gatsby is based upon the well known American Novel, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, which you likely know from recent film adaptations, or were subjected to at school. I admit, that I have a love/hate relationship with the novel, mainly with school ruining it. But as adaptions in film and theatre continue, I appreciate it more in older age.

The story is about old lovers who meet in later life. Both changed dramatically, their love is reignited but is doomed by circumstance, by gossip and cheating, by lies and love. And so we see them fall in love but also fight for one another, amongst the many love triangles.

The story of Gatsby is well known for the fact the character of Jay Gatsby throws lavish parties where anyone who is anyone will be. Full of booze, of colours, dancing and care free lifestyles, and this is what we initially get a taste of. The performers do quintessential moves from the 1920’s, in their beautiful and stylish outfits, encouraging us to dance, and at one point, putting us through a dance class. Certainly a good way to have a great night out and feel pleasantly out of your comfort zone.

The joy of Immersive theatre, especially in large venues, is that there are pockets of events happening in different rooms, in little groups, in corners of the room. Depending where you are placed, you may get to chat with Daisy about her love for Jay, or Muriel about her love affair. Not everyone gets to go in another room, or be spoken to and that’s what makes each experience different to the last. This is what makes you want to go again; to fill your FOMO needs.

However, with this, it can also feel a little frustrating. The placements of the rooms are almost in each corner and until you realise this, it’s entirely possible you won’t be lucky enough to be whisked away in the group. It’s impossible to be sure everyone out of potentially 150 people in a room has had their turn to see the new spaces. And so we unfortunately left with only seeing the main area and 1 extra room. I wouldn’t say we felt cheated but it certainly wetted our curiosity appetite and left us a little deflated with the knowledge there were scenes and rooms we never saw.

I was lucky enough to be taken away on my own with the character Muriel. My social awkwardness did not help here but it was really interesting to go into this quiet room and talk with the character as if we were old friends. A very special part of the evening indeed.

Knowing the story well, it confused me that character’s seemed to be doubling up and being put in parts of the story that they were not in the novel. It is clearly for logistical reasons, and they do well to keep in character and to continue the momentum, so we enjoy this as it is but it conflicts what we know about about the story and somehow undermines some of Fitzgerald’s intentions. Some characters also didn’t come across as they were intended in the novel and again, this is a juxtaposition on the initial story. I couldn’t help but be critical, thinking that that was not how a character was meant to be or how the story goes.

I cannot leave a review without mentioning Gatsby himself: there are moments of the above to help inform the transition of the space and the story but Oliver Towse is the right brooding, distant but hopelessly in love character that Gatsby should be… and clearly his attractive nature, in his well known pink 3 piece, makes us all swoon. As if we are in the room of a Rockstar.

Immersive Gatsby is for sure a brilliant night out; filled with dancing, elation, champagne and a 1920’s Eastenders style vibe with conflict. But for those who know the story well, the need to utilise the space unfortunately sees changes to the novel which makes a stickler a little anxious.

Review Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Theatr Clwyd by Richard Evans

Tennessee Williams

Co-production by Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Curve Leicester and English Touring Theatre

Directed by Anthony Almeida

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What is it like to be living a lie and then to be confronted by the truth?  This is the theme that runs through Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  We know this is a classic text so it is hard for a new production to live up to that legacy.  The spectre of Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor from the film adaptation looms large in the memory and that medium can introduce more phase and change into the setting than is possible on the stage.

This is a difficult play to get right.  It’s reputation demands vital theatre, yet the script is carried by dialogue much more than action such that it is the communication of character that will hold the attention.  Does this production succeed?  Indeed it does.  The three strongest characters, Maggie, played by Siena Kelly, Brick, by Oliver Johnstone and Big Daddy, by Peter Forbes were superb and were ably supported by the cast.  Maggie in particular was beguiling, passionate and determined while Brick suitably downtrodden before being awoken by confrontation from his stupor.  Big Daddy was the epitome of a controlling, self-made man from the Deep South with all the patriarchal values you would expect. 

Sienna Kelly as Maggie

The action takes place in a bedroom in a household that is straining to cope with the tensions that lie within.  Key to this is how people respond to the fact that Big Daddy is dying and what will become of his legacy.  Of course there are machinations behind the scenes, but the problem is the alcoholism demonstrated by the favoured son, Brick.  Why does he drink?  It is clear he is a spoiled, indulged child who has had his sports career wrecked through injury and suffered the loss of a profound childhood friend through suicide.  Now he is now running from himself out of a sense of disgust but senses that a tissue of lies pervades all his relationships.  Something has to change. The play becomes an exercise in how to uncover truth after a whole panoply of lies has been built.  The question arises, just how much truth can we take without it breaking the family apart? 

Oliver Johnstone as Brick

The set was simple and effective.  I found the curtain a distraction while it was drawn, but it was used to excellent effect when Brick was wrapped in it to symbolize being suffocated by the expectations of people around him.  The movement of the cast in and out of scene while dialogue was taking place alluded to the fact that ‘walls have ears’, again, nicely done. 

Peter Forbes as Big Daddy, Oliver Johnstone as Brick

The cast did an excellent job of portraying a suffocating, stifling atmosphere.  All that was missing were a few crickets, mosquitos and the oppressive heat from the Deep South.  The play gripped the attention and held the audience in thrall.  The characters were well developed, complex personas who all had their flaws and thus mirrored the human condition.  No easy answers were given here, people had to make the best from what they had. This may sound uncomfortable, rather it made for riveting theatre.  This was an intense, yet thoroughly enjoyable evening. 

Rhys Payne Interviews Hamed Amiri on The Boy With Two Hearts.

In this interview Rhys Payne interviews Hamed Amiri writer of The Boy With Two Hearts, adapted by Phil Porter now showing at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.

You can find out more about the production and book tickets here.

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Rhys to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Review The Book Of Mormon, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne.

The Mormons have finally made their journey all the way from Utah and have landed at the Wales Millennium Centre to celebrate their first touring musical in the Donald Gordon auditorium. They bring with them their signature twisted comedy, super catchy musical numbers and (surprisingly) an unreal amount of camp fun! What is probably most important to keep in mind before deciding to watch the show is that it comes from the satirical minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who created South Park the tv series), and Bobby Lopez (who is one of the key writers of Avenue Q the puppet musical) and so this is not a musical for the faint of heart or anyone who is easily offended. There is constant bad language, sexual references and the jokes are usually based on outdated stereotypes who to a modern audience could be teetering on the offensive. It is extremely crude the entire way through and so is clearly meant for a more mature audience. This musical is very clearly a comedy which is shown in the opening moments of the show where all of the Mormons (who are devout members of the church) are all extremely flamboyant and camp! The choreographer Casey Nicholaw and their team had carefully crafted the dance routines in this musical to exaggerate the more effeminate physicality of every performer which let the audience know from the opening number that this was all supposed to be in jest and not an educational show (although their are a few moments where you will learn some new this about this religion) with the character Elder McKinley playing upon this throughout the show (but more on that later!)

The show is based on the very real moment in a Mormon where they are sent out of their mission trips to try and bring new people into the faith. It follows a shining star in the Mormon faith Elder Price, played by extremely talented Robert Colvin, as he is paired with the much more chaotic Elder Cunningham, played by the brilliant Conner Pierson, who are randomly paired together to spend the next two years in Africa specifically Uganda. The conversion trip is met by a lot of backlash for the locals as they have experienced numerous people coming over to try and promote Christianity but leaving the locals in the exact conditions they found them in. I thought that the casting of Rober Colvin as the up and coming leader of the faith Elder Price was fantastic! His physicality, vocals and facial expressions all helped to add to the preppy all-American character and purposefully reduced the amount of sympathy the audience have for the character and instead focuses this onto Elder Cunningham.  This character goes through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the show from when he begins to lose faith in the religion he has been following since a young age, to the anger/frustration at being paired with his eccentric mission partner, to the moments where he is overflowing with arrogance. All these moments were performed beautifully by Robert and really took the audience of a journey with the feelings towards this at times selfish character. I thought that  “I Believe” was a highlight for me as Robert seems to excel in and is more confident during the higher sections of his vocal range. This song was structured as an almost detailed list of what Mormons should believe but with sprinkles of comedy throughout.

Despite all this, however, the highlight in this production would have to be Elder Cunningham who was played by the wonderful Connor Peirson. This was an extremely comical role that very much starts off as the punch line of many jokes but by the end because of a very strong and powerful leader. Connor managed to captures the more timid and more energetic moments in the show flawlessly! I thought that his rendition of “Man Up” was incredibly fun and energetic which was the perfect way to end act one. This was a theatrical spectacle with Conner flying across the stage on a moving platform, creating his own magnificent stage lighting and dancing across the stage in the most over-the-top way I have ever seen. Every comedic moment within the song was performed excellently with the audience in hysterics throughout the whole number. Both Elder Price and Cunningham contrasting personalities clashed beautifully together so much so that it made sense why they got on so well by the end of the show. The duet of “you and me (but mostly me)” really showcased the more arrogant side of the former and the side-kick energy and sympathy required for the latter! Cunningham forms a relationship with Nabulungi (played by the incredible Aviva Tulley) who lives in Uganda with her father. These two perform the hilarious “Baptise me” which contains wonderfully awkward sexual energy the audience seemed to eat up every second of it! However, the highlight performance of this character was the song “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” which was flawlessly sung by the clearly very talented vocalist.

I mentioned early about how Elder McKinley, who was played by the incredibly entertaining Jordan Lee Davies, really leaned into the more camp elements of the musical. In fact, this is the only character that openly talks about being, I suppose you would call it, an ‘ex-gay’ member of the church. However, this character showcase a lot of ‘fruity’ behaviour which does make the audience wonder if the “turn it off” method actually works. Jordan performed this role with all the fun and energy it deserved and stay in character the entire time even stealing focus when they weren’t even speaking. McKinley alongside his wonderful gaggle of dancing moments were brilliant fun throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed “Turn it off” especially the magical costume change and tap number that occurred about halfway through the number!

Overall this was a very energetic, entertaining and fun musical that was crammed full of catchy musical numbers. If you have a darker sense of humour then I would strongly recommend this show for you but if you are even the slightest bit easily offend it’s probably not one for you. The audience were on hysterics throughout the majority of the show which made for a very relaxed environment. I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars!

REVIEW Radical Reinventions – The Love Thief & Tilting at Windmills, Sherman Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore


The Sherman Theatre is well and truly Back in Play! The festival, which has everything from stand up to monologues to young writers showcases (all done in short form to allow you to safely see as much or as little on offer as you like), is headlined by ‘Radical Reinventions’, four short plays which put a new spin on a classic work of literature. (Hamlet is a F&£$boi and The Messenger, which both reinvent works by Shakespeare, premiered earlier this week).

The Sherman always has a knack for getting at the sinew and bones of a story, and this series is no exception. Performed in a socially distanced and visually striking cabaret setting (imagine that the Phantom of the Opera designed a circus tent and you’re halfway there), The Love Thief and Tilting at Windmills are two joyously irreverent and transcendent plays which argue that, while love may seem futile and dreams impossible, the adventure makes them worth the risk.

Rahim El Habachi

The Love Thief is written and performed by Rahim El Habachi and directed by Nerida Bradley, and is based on Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound. Dressed in flames, Prometheus steals love instead of fire and gives it to humanity so they can love whomever they love regardless of gender. El Habachi, an actor and belly dancer, commands the stage from the second he appears – sensual, ethereal and lyrical, he relays his story like the Emcee via Elvira, all mischief and mysticism. The play gives a god’s eye view of modern Britain, its imperial ghosts and their ungodly scions who make it their life’s work to make life difficult for anyone they deem to be ‘different’. It also highlights the personal toll of activism, and how important it is to fight the tide of hatred and bigotry even when it threatens to consume you.

Mared Jarman

Tilting at Windmills is written and directed by Hannah McPake and performed by Mared Jarman, and is based on Miguel de Cervantes’ The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. Jarman is chaotic, heroic and mesmeric, gallantly sprinting around like Lancelot on a sugar rush. Using basic props and a whole lot of chutzpah (not to mention a rollicking Knights of Cydonia needle drop), Don Quixote and Sancho Plant-za attempt to squeeze a near-one-thousand-page book into a breathless (and hilariously meta-textual) thirty minutes. Cervantes makes an appearance as a Zardoz-like disembodied voice that boasts of his own greatness – opening up interesting avenues of the dialogue between authors and those adapting and performing their work, and how radically reinventing a text is what keeps it fresh, alive and relevant.

Ultimately, Prometheus has to decide whether hope is worth all the pain and the not knowing whether things will ever get better, and Quixote/Mared has to decide whether to stay in the fantasy or live in the real world. And yet, neither choice is a binary between staying or going, fantasy or reality. There will always be pain, and uncertainty – but there will always be hope, fun, and magic, hidden between the margins.


The Sherman is most definitely Back in Play and back to stay!

Back in Play season at the Sherman Theatre: 8 – 30 October

Top, left to right: Seiriol Davies, Mared Jarman; Bottom, left to right: Lowri Jenkins, Rahim El Habachi
Barbara

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

REVIEW Company of Sirens: Hitchcock Redux, Chapter by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Company of Sirens make a dynamic return to Chapter with Hitchcock Redux, two short plays that explore the elusive power of real (and reel) memories. Written and directed by Chris Durnall and funded by Arts Council of Wales/National Lottery, Hitchcock Redux dramatises and meditates on two traumatic events in Durnall’s life and the Hitchcock films with which are intertwined.

In the first play, Twelve Cabins Twelve Vacancies, Durnall recounts the time when, while watching the first television broadcast of Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1968, he learned that his father had died. The two are forever connected in his consciousness, and memories of both are shaped and distorted by each other. The second play, Souvenirs of a Killing, explores the tragic abduction and murder of a friend in 1973, the trauma of which is embodied and underscored by the film Vertigo. Both plays are performed by Durnall and Angharad Matthews (who also designed the set and costumes), and feature original music composed and performed live by Eren.

Twelve Cabins premiered onstage in 2019, and was performed along with Souvenirs online in March of this year. The lyrical writing and pensive performances resonated even through the screen – but onstage they are brought to vivid, visceral life. The sense of place, space and movement is powerful: Durnall moves as though monumentalised in grief, shifting between joyous reminiscence and solemn contemplation; Matthews moves ethereally, as light dances on the surface of rippling water; and the immersive music, composed and performed live by Eren, moves between original compositions and evocations of Hermann that cage the characters in a spiralling static state.

The women in Psycho and Vertigo are portrayed with more empathy in those films (and in these plays) than Hitchcock showed the actresses portraying them. Women encased in amber, both celluloid and corporeal, are objectified through movies and memories, their losses mourned through the membrane of grief and fiction. Durnall speaks not for them, but through them, their voices reanimated but recounted, living only through scribbled words on cigarette boxes (a subtly gorgeous image).

The set is plaintively sparse, evoking the ways in which the backgrounds of memories are often shadowed, blurred, or absent altogether; sometimes a face, a dress, a glance, is all we remember. Examining a memory can tarnish it, like buffing a broken mirror – it just makes the cracks cut deeper. In a piece for the Wales Art Review, Durnall argues that the (fictional) films and the (real life) losses ‘have become so inextricably linked with those moments that they have become artistic metaphors for the events themselves’. Whether watching scenes play out on a television set, or re-enacting Hitchcock’s dialogue, Psycho and Vertigo become a prism through which grief is reflected and refracted, and provide a kind of closure which is not always found in life.

The search for closure is a sentence which Hitchcock Redux leaves incomplete – purposefully so, because closure is by nature perpetually unfinished. But it also leaves you with the drive not only to explore your own connections between art and grief and memory, but the tools you’ll need along the way. Striking, pensive and poignant, it does not ask you to take the first step – it merely opens the door.

Hitchcock Redux is playing at Chapter through 16 October

REVIEW Groan Ups UK Tour, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Direct from the West End, the award-winning Mischief Theatre crew is back in Cardiff with a raucous new comedy. Groan Ups follows five characters through the trials and tribulations of primary school, high school, and the inevitable reunion years later when these supposed grownups dig up old rivalries, flirtations, and secrets thought long left on the playground.

Written by Mischief stalwarts Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, and directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, Groan Ups is further proof the energy and creativity of Mischief Theatre is unmatched. Eschewing improv for dramedy, the ensemble has crafted a gleefully anarchic and surprisingly sweet show buoyed by an incredibly game cast. There’s Lauren Samuels as conscientious Katie, Dharmesh Patel as naughty Spencer, and Daniel Abbott as sweet, shy Archie, who becomes Spencer’s ride or die after an I, Spartacus moment with a dead hamster. Completing the quintet is nerdy Simon (Matt Cavendish) who obsessively and unrequitedly adores popular posh girl Moon (Yolanda Ovide).

We follow this famous five through three key stages in their lives: when they’re chaotic and demanding at age 6, angsty and hormonal at age 14, and regressive and regretful at age 30. The cast excellently evoke these different ages: Dharmesh Patel nails the faux-casual bravado of the teenage boy while Lauren Samuels plays a pitch perfect precocious toddler always running for teacher when the others misbehave. The ensemble’s effective characterization is buoyed by Fly Davis’ incredible and transportive sets which perfectly conjure the classrooms of your memories, cleverly using scale and exaggerated sizing to capture the feeling of towering over the chairs which once towered over you.

The first half might seem a little much at times, but it’s all brought round so beautifully in the second, with every seemingly-throwaway joke and character beat returned to with added meaning and bigger laughs. The second half also features Jamie Birkett as Chemise, an aspiring actress who Simon hires to play his girlfriend, who damn near stole the show with a single ‘aye’ and our hearts with everything that came after. Killian Macardle also draws laughs as a stern teacher in the first half and an overconfident alum in the second.

It might not quite reach the dizzying heights or the razor-sharp precision of The Play that Goes Wrong – but it doesn’t need to. And it ends on a genuinely meaningful note: the problem is not that we look into the past but that we do so with rose tinted glasses. Memories tend to dull the blade of experience, and Groan Ups captures all the pining, the teasing, and the worrying you’ve tried to forget; all the horror and the beauty of growing up and then realising you never really did. Nostalgia is a trick, because it fools you into believing your best days are behind you – but they are ahead, if you manage to maintain that sense of play and wonder.

Groan Ups concludes that we might not ever truly grow up – but we can grow, if we can keep that youthful sense of hope, fun and possibility. Good comedy is the hardest art form; great comedy is almost impossible. But Mischief have worked their magic once again.

Groan Ups is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff through Saturday 16th October.

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

Barbara

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Review The Boy With Two Hearts, Wales Millennium Centre by Gary Pearce

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Itself an imposing building and host to much brilliant theatre and this was no exception as it hosted the first Welsh refugee story to be brought to the stage. The Boy With Two Hearts, is a play based on the book of the same name by local author Hamed Amiri and adapted for stage by Phil Porter.

The scene is set, it is Afghanistan in the year 2000. The Taliban are rapidly taking over the country and imposing intolerable laws, people speak out but sadly to their detriment as Hamed and his family soon discover.

Their lives change overnight and soon begins a race against time to leave their homeland…a race for survival. The play tells the story of how Hamed and his family embarked on their perilous journey to safety, the hardships and the dangers they encountered enroute, the people who were there to take from them what little they had and the humanity shown by others. It portrayed a family bound by love, by commitment to each other and by the courage and determination to succeed.

As the story unfolds we learn about each individual member of the family, their hopes, their desires, their dreams. It gives a realisation that people are the same the world over, all striving for the same things, the right to live a life without fear, without hardship and most importantly of all a life of freedom. During the play we also learn a lot about one of the brothers life-threatening condition and the treatment he so desperately needs.

The acting was incredible, within minutes you were convinced that this was the family themselves and they weren’t actors playing the parts. The set was grimly atmospheric, the addition of the displayed dialogue was genius and the live vocals created a haunting backdrop. The story played on your every emotion, it was heartfelt, thought provoking, humorous, happy, sad…and real. I can say with all honesty that this play not only made me happy and sad in equal measure but left me thinking, it made me realise how little I know about the plight of others and how little I can do to help