Tag Archives: NTW

Review National Theatre Wales, The Cost of Living, Swansea Grand Theatre by Charlotte Hall.

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

National Theatre Wales latest production consisted of three part theatre experience called ‘The Cost of Living’. The first part, which only 50 people that have paid for the main part, could come to, if they wanted to, was a discussion with politicians and council leaders where they heard the public’s opinion, on the cost-of-living crisis and what people in power can do to help (which I didn’t attend, therefore I can’t comment on that part). The third part was protest music by Minas, but I will not comment on this because I am going to discuss the piece of theatre.

Credit Kirsten McTernan

The second part K and the Cost of Living was a theatre performance, which is an adaptation (by Emily White) of the play The Trial by Franz Kafka. The narrative tells the story of an innocent man who is arrested, but is still allowed to live his life. He doesn’t really get the chance to prove his innocence and at the end of the play he is killed. This adaptation was very similar to the original (although I have read, not seen, the original play) and it was an interesting take on it. I thought it was a good adaptation, and was well-modernised, but there were some things that were confusing and that didn’t make it a 5-star performance.

Credit Kirsten McTernan

Eerie music was played before the performance, and then at the start of the play, they brought up the curtain a little bit. Then we had two people crawling towards the centre of the stage, drawing chalk on the floor, the curtain went down, and the music restarted. Then the curtain came up a bit more than the last time and there were two more people. The curtain came down, and the next time it came up all of the actors were on the floor, and the others joined in to do interpretative movement, which was like they were puppets and their body parts were moving outside of their control. They made it as if nothing had happened and the lights were still on between the curtains going up and down, which was a very interesting start, but it didn’t seem to have relevance to it.

Credit Kirsten McTernan

There was a diverse cast and several actors played the role Josef K, the main character, which I thought was a lovely modern turn to it. They had actor Gruffudd Gyln to play Josef K, then a transgender character, played by actor Joni Ayton-Kent, then another character played by Lucy Ellinson, and the last Josef K was played by Kel Matsena. That added another modern twist and showed people from different backgrounds which represented National Theatre Wales themselves because they are a diverse organisation. It does potentially sound confusing, having four actors playing one character, but the way that they made the transition made it very easy to know which was Josef K. It was at significant part of the story that the whole cast came together to dance and the one in the centre was swapped for the next Josef K. All the actors multi-rolled, and it was very well executed, they were all excellent actors. Sound and lighting was used very powerfully to demonstrate their points, but I felt the parts of movement weren’t necessary and were a bit show-offy, something to add to make it ‘more modern’.

Credit Kirsten McTernan

In terms of the main narrative, the company made a theatrical point of having the power cut off, and the landlady (Mrs Grubach) shouting to one of the tenants to put money in the meter. There was a protest before Josef K goes to work in the bank, with ‘enough is enough’ and ‘freeze the prices not the poor’ on placards. At another point Josef K gave a signature to a petition, but that was pretty much all the references to ‘the cost of living’. I felt the main point of the adaptation was to show how the government and people in power don’t understand, and show prejudice against working class people or minority groups, and about how we give all of our information away through data with our technology. It felt like the company had toyed with the phrase ‘the cost of living’, to mean
something different, being that the price you must pay for living is to have a lack of freedom and prejudice and inequality against you. This felt out of touch with what was advertised and instead this production was a modern take on what life is like.

NTW wanted people who actually struggle with the cost of living to see the production, but the cheapest price for a ticket was £8.00, which doesn’t reach their supposed target audience.

I thought the adaptation of The Trial was well done and the actors were brilliant, however I don’t see the connection to the cost of living, as in struggling to find money to eat and choosing between heat and eating, I think it was falsely advertised in that way, and there were parts that I felt were put in just to say it was modern, but didn’t really fit well with the rest of the production such as the dance/ movement sequences.

Review: English, National Theatre Wales, Dance House, WMC by Luke Seidel-Haas




Afternoon tea, Apple, Belonging, Brexit, Cricket. What connects these words and phrases? Well on the surface, not much. In the black box space of the Dance House at WMC, with audience sat in the round and screens at two ends, words from a pre-arranged lexicon flash up in alphabetical order on a screen. With the encouragement of performer Jonny Cotsen we the audience are encouraged to stop the lexicon and discuss anything in relation to these. English is a collaboration between National Theatre Wales and Quarantine and forms part of the Festival of Voice celebration. It is a live performance which is by nature different every night, and blurs the boundaries between creator/receiver and audience/performer.

In typically British fashion, people are initially rather hesitant to contribute to the conversation and instead sit silently in their chairs. For Jonny this isn’t an issue – he is an excellent and engaging storyteller in his own right. As words flash up he regales us with stories from his own life; from planting an apple tree for his daughter, to his time as a shepherd on a kibbutz in Israel, to his struggles during voice therapy learning to make speech sounds by feeling the vibrations on a balloon. As someone who is profoundly deaf and who has only recently started learning British Sign Language Jonny offers a fascinating perspective on the use of English and the ways in which people communicate.

With a strict time limit imposed by the stage manager of 90 minutes, our progression through the words continues apace. As people warm up to the idea of contributing, discussions bounce across the space – from the derivation of the phrase ‘arse over tit’, to a reminder of the poisonous qualities of the ‘daffodil’ Topics of conversation are generally light, with more contentious words such as ‘Brexit’ and ‘de-colonisation’ generally considered the ‘Elephant in the room’ (another phrase on the lexicon) and skirted over.

Occasionally the lexicon is interrupted by a filmed segment, or an invitation to contribute to the piece in another way. These range from the wacky to the surreal. This is a great way of breaking up the structure of the piece and ensuring that the performance never feels too much like an empty void which has to be filled with conversation. Towards the end Jonny encourages us to use alternative methods of communication – instead of speaking we use paper and pen to all contribute our ideas and answers. This provides the audience with some fascinating insights, from people’s first language (English, Welsh, Spanish, Dog) to where they consider home (the USA, Wales, New Zealand, Unsure) and many more. These serve as a reminder that while English may be our shared method of communication, we all arrive at it from different perspectives and angles.

Finally it hit me what the connection between the words was. They were all things associated with English/British identity. It is interesting that a production by NTW does not have more of a focus on Welsh heritage or identity, with Daffodil the only specifically Welsh centered word. Perhaps on another evening, with a different audience this may have come up in conversation. When the word ’empire’ flashed up, it is interesting that the conversation turned to the Aztec, Inca and Mongol Empires rather than the obvious choice of the British Empire. This only further highlighted the anglo-centric bias of most of the discussions of the evening.

The main difficulty in reviewing a show like English, is that while the structure and concept of the show will remain the same, the show that happens tonight or the next night will be radically different in content to the show the happened last night or the night before. So much of the show depends on the generosity and openness of your fellow audience members. This type of collaborative method for creating a show may not be to everyone’s tastes. However if you’re interested in seeing something a little different, in becoming part of a conversation about language and identity rather than just a passive audience member then English is a fascinating piece.


Live performance/performance art

Dance House, Wales Millennium Centre

20th June 2018

Performed by Jonny Cotsen

Directed by Richard Gregory

Part of the Festival of Voice – more info and tickets here

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sunglasses and indoor

Luke Seidel-Haas



Review We’re Still Here, National Theatre Wales by Kevin Johnson

Over a year ago Port Talbot steelworks were put up for sale by Indian owners Tata Steel, threatening not only thousands of jobs but the future of the town itself. What followed was a campaign to save the last part of heavy industry in South Wales by people from all walks of life.

Rachel Trezise

This story has now been turned into a play by Rachel Trezise, in collaboration with the National Theatre Wales and Common Wealth Theatre Company. Set in an old factory that was once part of the steelworks, this is promenade-style theatre, where you ‘wander through’ the play and it happens around you. There are seats if you need them, and good disabled access, but at around 80 minutes, the play is brief enough to endure, yet long enough to shock.

Sam Coombes (Lewis)

With a core cast of five including real-life steelworker Sam Coombes as Lewis, this is both spacious and intimate. The cavernous building is juxtaposed with the intimacy of the workers, who tell their stories, and confide their fears, amidst the jovial banter. Also roaming among the audience are actual retirees, who share true stories about the works, and the oft hidden cost.

Jason May (Rob), Siôn Tudor Owen (Mark) & Simon Nehan (Kevin)

In the interests of full-disclosure I should mention that I was born here, and as a local the steelworks have always been a big part of my life. As one of the actors says:’if you can smell sulphur in the air, somebody’s getting paid’. Both my parents worked there, so in a way it paid for my upbringing. Steel is in our blood here, and with so many accidents over the years, our blood is certainly in the steel.

Designer/Dylunydd Russell Henry, Choreographer/Coreograffydd Vicki Manderson, Directors/Cyfarwyddwyr Rhiannon White & Evie Manning

Co-directed by Common Wealths Evie Manning & Rhiannon White, music, song, comedy and monologues are used to create an enthralling and fascinating piece of theatre. Watching so many people coming to my ‘home’ to be entertained, gave me such a feeling of pride.

This threatened closure is the latest in a long line of body blows that have hit Port Talbot, brought home by the scene where the names of some of the 750 already made redundant are read out. A litany of damaged lives, counterpointed by the children the workers can’t see, ghosts from a lost future.

Sam Coombes (Lewis)

This isn’t sugar-coated either. At one point, in a gladiatorial arena of chairs shared by cast and audience alike, grievances are expressed with a violent passion. Characters turn on each other, unsure of the best course of action to take. One blames the union organiser, who then quietly reveals that his marriage has become a hidden casualty of the fight.
That’s a key element here: how long do you keep on fighting? When do you know when the cause is lost? What if all you have left is the struggle? The whole play roars a magnificent defiance at the world, but beneath that you can hear the scream of a wounded animal.

Ioan Hefin (Adrian) & Jason May (Rob)

If the steelworks closes it’ll be devastating to the town and its people, should that be allowed to happen? I’ll give the last word to Dic Penderyn, a local martyr hanged for rioting in the 1830’s, who’s last words on the scaffold are quoted in the play:
“O arglwdd dymma gamwedd, O Lord, what injustice.”

Top Tunes with Rhiannon White

Hi Rhiannon great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
So a bit of background – I’m a Cardiff born, Cardiff based theatre director. I mainly work with my theatre company Common Wealth but I also work on freelance stuff which has ranged from taking a circus to Gaza to making a show on a beach.
The work I make is socially engaged, often political and site specific – we find interesting places to stage our shows in the past we have made shows in houses,boxing gyms, courtrooms and now we’re making our new show in a huge industrial warehouse.
I grew up in Cardiff, St.Mellons – I’ve got a deep sense of love and pride for this city and the incredible people that I know here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, this city gives me the fuel I need to spark and fuel my imagination. I love the magic of this city.
I think it was growing up in St.Mellons that got me into theatre. We didn’t have very much growing up but what we did have is loads of kids to play with. I spent my childhood playing in the street, dressing kids up in my mums old clothes and on plays on in the garden. I think that’s where my DIY spirit came from in those early lessons of making the most of what you’ve got.
My company Common Wealth grew out of those roots – we were a group of people that came together to make theatre. We started with nothing, making shows in large empty buildings, without funding and with the generosity of people who wanted to get involved.
Over the years Common Wealth has grown, we’ve made work in many different places, with incredible groups of people and are now working on shows in places like Chicago and Germany. Currently I am working on a new co-production with National Theatre Wales called We’re Still Here – I’m mega excited, it’s our first big show in Wales, staged in an epic former industrial warehouse and inspired by the incredible Save Our Steel Campaign.
This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
Currently I’m listening to Kojey Radical’s album 23winters – he’s a London spoken word, grime artist. I’m loving it because it’s so poignant and powerful it feels like a new genre, he’s also a visual artist so he’s fusing all these different forms together. He’s a powerful man, full of real energy and rooted in his truth. I respect that.
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
The Holy Bible, Manic Street Preachers
This album changed my life, bit cheesy but it did. I discovered it when I was in school and it was one of those ones that spoke to me about who I was, it helped me make sense of the world. It’s genius, I’d go as far to say they’re some of the best lyrics ever written.
Drunken Lullabies. Flogging Molly
I love punk. I love how fierce it can be and that you can loose yourself dancing to it and let everything go. This song is particularly special to me, it’s a song me and my friends used to sing early hours of the morning as the sun was rising. It reminds me of a friend that passed away, Daniel Griffiths. It reminds me of the wild times.
The 4th Branch, Immortal Technique
I also love hip hop, especially it’s conscious, political and says things that we rarely hear. Immortal Technique is an independent rapper in America who refuses record deals, he holds his own. This song particularly resonates with me because it’s about the Palestinian struggle, it captures the situation in all it’s horrific truth. When I was travelling in Palestine this was a soundtrack for me, in a strange way it gave me hope that someone was writing music about it and that was reaching people that might not know.
Shame, Young Fathers
Young fathers live. Wow, I dont have the words. I saw these guys at Clwb Ifor Bach, I had no idea and instantly fell in love with their music, I’d never heard anything like it in my life. Shame – has had a massive influence on my work, I use it in most of my workshops, it’s urgency really inspires me. I LOVE the video too.
Let them Eat Chaos, Kate Tempest
Kate’s a force of nature an important artist of our times – she always pops up at the right time, she inspires the shit out of me and puts me back on track. She’s a friend of mine and I’ve loved seeing her grow and smash it over the years. She’s reminds me to be true to myself, the past and to not apologise.
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
It would have to be Shame, it makes me feel alive and full of fire. It’s a song you can run, dance, scream and shout too. That’s important to me.
Many thanks for your time

An interview with Rachel Trezise

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to writer Rachel Trezise. We discussed her career to date, theatre in Wales, and access to literature/cultural provision.
Hi Rachel great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I’m a writer from the Rhondda valley. I’m most well known for winning the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006 with a collection of short stories about life in South Wales called ‘Fresh Apples.’

So what got you interested in writing and the arts?
Initially I wanted to be a journalist. I started writing a music fanzine when I was fifteen because I loved music and writing about it so much. Between the time I left school and throughout university I wrote my debut novel in my spare time because I couldn’t wait to start writing for a magazine or newspaper. The novel was published just before I left university and I stuck with writing fiction as well as some freelance journalism.
As a writer you work across a variety of forms from novels, short stories to plays. How do the different disciplines differ for you?
 There are different levels of involvement and different amounts of time required to complete each. Short stories are my favourite simply because of their brevity and the fact you needn’t have to hold a whole world in your head which you have to for a novel and to some extent a play. But the writing or the aim of the writing is always the same; to realise each character and their circmstances.
 Your first play Tonypandemonium for National Theatre Wales was autobiographical and from a predominantly female perspective. I believe the cast of your next play ‘We’re Still Here’ for NTW is predominantly male and developed from first hand interviews with steelworkers? Can you discuss how this process differs?

Tonypandemonium National Theatre Wales

Credit Mark Douet

 Actually it doesn’t differ. Although Tonypandemonium was autobiographical and We’re Still Here is a form of non-fiction both works come via my own world prism. I’ve worked hard to ensure the steelworkers in the play reflect the people I met and spoke to in Port Talbot but I always try to make sure my characters are authentic to their own locality and situation in any case. What is different I suppose is that the characters in We’re Still Here are predominantly male. But they are working class men working in the rapidly-vanishing realm of heavy industry which, much like the de-industrialised setting in Tonypandemonium is an environment that’s underrepresented in literature and theatre. I’ve tried to make the characters as honest and soul-bearing as the men I interviewed and to completely avoid the more common strong and silent male character trope we see everyday in film and on TV.

 For ‘We’re Still Here’ you are working with Rhiannon White from Commonwealth Theatre. Much of their practice is a socially engaged form of theatre making which has obvious links to NTW’s hugely successful production The Passion with Michael Sheen. Do you feel involving citizen in this way can create new audiences for what can be seen as an elitist art form?

The Creative team on  ‘We’re Still Here’  Kully Thiarai, Evie Manning, Rachel Tresize and Rhiannon White 

Of course. From start to finish we’ve engaged and will continue to engage with the people of Port Talbot. We’re making a show for the town rather than just about it. In fact Commonwealth Theatre and NTW have set the ticket price lower for residents of Port Talbot which is a very direct way to engage a local and perhaps previously unaccustomed audience and we have a large community cast. NTW worked in a similar way during the run up to Tonypandemonium at the Park and Dare in Treorchy, creating a community cast and inviting the community into rehearsals which gave Treorchy some ownership over the event.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or specifically writers?
 Nothing that isn’t already being identified and addressed but there are always factors that are beyond our control. I loved doing an intensive creative writing workshop with Literature Wales and the South Wales Literature Development Initiative throughout 2013, working mainly with three groups: Young carers, Comprehensive school students and Valleys Kids. All the young people I worked with were eager and receptive but I remember a couple of young people outside one of my Valleys Kids classes who didn’t have the confidence to come in and have a go and whatever I said I couldn’t encourage them because they thought creative writing was somehow academic. I just think it’s a bit of a tragedy that an initiative like that hadn’t reached them a bit earlier in their lives and made the arts seem less threatening.

 There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
 Yes, it does feel healthy to me at the moment. My experience, although more with my literature than with drama work, is that it’s been difficult to get work reviewed widely. The literary quarterlies in Wales are always a few months late, the Welsh newspapers aren’t interested in reviewing the arts in any depth and the national media might not necessarily understand the setting of Wales-based work. (I still remember a headline from The Telegraph the day after I won the Dylan Thomas Prize: ‘Rural tales of despair scoop £60,000.’ I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams describe the post industrial south Wales valleys as ‘rural’.) All these issues make getting your work out there difficult but I know that Get the Chance, Wales Arts Review and NTW have been doing a lot of good work in this area.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
 Libraries. My life would be very different had I not discovered Treorchy Library whilst my mother was a cleaner there and I’d like to think that every child has a well-stocked library within walking distance where they can access thousands upon thousands of worlds very different to their own.

Treorchy Library

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

 Work on the script has been manic for the last few months so I haven’t got out much. One thing, which of course it was my duty to see, was an adaptation of one of my own stories ‘Hard As Nails’ by three Treorchy Comprehensive School drama students in association with RCT Theatres and Motherlode. The girls adapted the story, directed and acted in the fifteen minute performance at the Park and Dare and the Millennium Centre. It just made me very proud to have such talented and enthusiastic young people coming straight out of school and diving so fearlessly into the arts.

 Many thanks for your time

An interview with artist Kyle Legall

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Kyle Legall. We discussed his career to date, theatre in Wales and his new production RATS (Rose Against the System) which plays at Wales Millennium Centre 02-03 June 2017.
“Hi Kyle great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?”

Kyle Legall spray paints Planet Rock, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force. T-shirt, Higher Graphics.

“I believe you are currently preparing for a new production at The Wales Millennium Centre called RATS (Rose Against The System). I wonder if you can tell us more?”
Kyle was inaugural artist of the year with National Theatre Wales. This information below is taken from Klyle’s blog post on the development process of RATS which was posted on the NTW Community.

Kyle with a RATS cast member

“I will be presenting a glimpse of my Rats project; Rose Against The System. This is an animation I have been working on over the last year. The rats of Butetown have got wise and decide to fight back. I am planning on showing how far I have gotten by trying out a performing version for the first instalment to see if it could work as a theatre piece as well as an animation.”

“I have involved local musicians and spoken word talents such as Wibidy and Weller from Degaba. Music score by Dafydd Ieaun, from ‘Catatonia’ and ‘Super Furry Animals’ performing with his new band ‘The Earth’ introducing a new talent I discovered whilst in Edinburgh Fringe, Sam Porter. Guest Voice by Rhys Ifans.”


A live trailer for an earlier version of RATS (Contains strong language)
Voices by Rhys Ifans, Weller, Wibidy, Sciddy, Sam Porter. Music by Dafydd Ieaun from Super Furry Animals

“What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?”
“Many thanks for your time.”

Top Tunes with Kully Thiarai Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales

Portrait photographs by Jon Pountney

Top Tunes is a new feature for Get the Chance in collaboration with Outpost Coffee and Vinyl http://www.outpostrecords.co.uk
The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Kully Thiarai, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales.
Hi Kully great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
“Hi I’m currently Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales and based in Cardiff. I grew up in Smethwick, near Birmingham and got into theatre quite by accident. I have over the years worked independently as a Theatre Director and also run organisations large and small –some with theatre buildings and others like National Theatre Wales whose work can happen anywhere.”
This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 
“I’ve not listened to much recently. I’ve just bought the new XX album and looking forward to seeing them in Cardiff very soon. I’ve mostly been listening to Bowie recently– his greatest hits and Black Star. I was lucky enough to see Lazarus in London– the new work he made before he died and it made me want to listen to some of his older music as well as Black Star.”
Have you had the chance to catch up with any Welsh or Wales based singers or bands?
“I’ve always enjoyed Super Furry Animals and Catatonia and would obsessively play the Manics albums but I have a lot to catch up on the more recent Welsh scene. Swn Festival is of course a great event and it certainly helped me hook into some Welsh musical talent that I wasn’t aware of.”
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, so we want to ask you to list 5 records/albums which have personal resonance to you and why. 
“I’m struggling to list only 5 – but here are few that come to mind for very different reasons.”
“U2 – lots of albums that I love but ‘War’ which featured ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ was my introduction to the band and I still think it’s a wonderful anthem and rebel song. There are loads of other U2 songs that I play a lot but I could be here for hours naming them.”
“I can’t name one single album as such but I loved the Jam and then The Style Council and now all things Paul Weller. ‘A Town called Malice’ is one of my favourite songs – it somehow captured the times I grew up in. ‘Brand New Start’ is heartbreaking but I always hear it as a song to help pick yourself up when your down and ‘Why Walk When You Can Run’ just celebrates the joy of being young and full of life.”
“Tina Turner because I had to include a great woman singer who was feisty, extraordinary and such an entertainer, but I can’t name an album – she’s simply the best!”
 “Parallel Lines Blondie – I remember one of my Maths teacher at school being completely obsessed with Blondie and he used to try and sing her songs. She was such an iconic figure and the music felt so different from other things I was hearing at the time.”
“Monsoon Wedding soundtrack – I really enjoyed the film and the diversity of music from classical Indian tunes to contemporary compositions was really fun. It has a joyful quality and hooks into my Indian culture I suppose.”
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
“It’s really difficult to choose one but…..There is a beautiful song on the Monsoon Wedding Soundtrack called Aaj Mausam Bada Beimann Hai (Today the Weather Plays Tricks on Me) by Mohammed Rafi which always makes me smile. It’s playing as a young wedding planner is creating a heart of marigolds on the lawn as the rain is falling to show the maid of the house his feelings for her.”

Review Before I Leave National Theatre Wales

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

National Theatre Wales soar as their revere for a nation of unified pride reigns in a more increasingly inclusive Welsh theatre, at the Sherman Theatre.

From first glance Before I Leave is a story of Alzheimer’s – inevitably sad and scattered with a respectably predictable style of humour. However, with a wonderfully assured cast, a truthful direction, and a truly vibrant script, a brewing passion of a profound Welsh musicality triumphs! Rocky’s war-cry of ‘Why can’t we give love one more chance?’ encompasses this performance for me. We all can appreciate the desperate actions of a character put ‘Under Pressure’.

To quote playwright Patrick Jones “This play is a testament to the healing power of song” From the perspective of, debatably, the youngest person in the audience on Tuesday night, regardless of my cultural experience – and knowledge of The Jam or Neil Diamond – I (like the entire audience) can acknowledge that music has an ability, if somewhat exploited in this piece, to evoke our human longing for nostalgia, understanding, belonging and escape. The Before I Leave chorus and choir added a beauty, in its sentiment, to a pop-rock enthused performance.

Director Mathew Dunster champions empathetic and honest portrayals, through an admiration for ‘the people’. From Desmond Barrit’s unapologetic portrayal of an ex-policeman embodying a life of continuous conflict. Celia Hewitt’s sorrowful, and enlightening, Isabelle, and Dafydd Hywel’s exulted grit in Rocky – who illuminates the truth behind a too well-known Welsh figure. But, Martin Marquez’s Joe – a slowly fading rocker, unsure of what he’s raging at anymore – makes for a seemingly effortless and encompassing performance, and perhaps, as a result, the most under-rated of the evening.

Dunster’s direction – of meandering crossovers and the adopting of minimalistic solutions – highlights a simplicity that poignantly reflects a nation of loss. This constant interchanging of time, characters and setting reinforces the spirit of a community continuing to live. And, the audience, intended or not, are coaxed to ‘power through’ the surges, and droughts, of a zealous intensity.

Jones’ sincere, and deeply-rooted play is confirmed in the understanding of its disease. Abrupt, and ambling, scenes are a mere portal into the scattered objectives of a chaotic (real) life.

Anna Fleischle recreates all too familiar settings. Chairs striking – in their primary colours – plonked, to animate waning lives, on the uninspiring mesh of carpet. Seamlessly, a reflection of the struggle to express vividity in an increasingly taxed and drained Welsh society, as well as those plagued by Alzheimer’s, can be discovered in a tragically governmental building – a Merthyr library. Straker’s poignant projections of our green valley, its ever-present brutality, and our glorious dead, succeed in capturing the tensions of an ‘evolving’ Wales.

Before I Leave is painstakingly perceptive – yet the light never fails to pierce through its shadows. National Theatre Wales commanded the audience to their feet and left them humming.

Before I Leave
Venue: Sherman Theatre
Dates: 27 May – 11 June, PN 31st May
Director: Matthew Dunster
Written by: Patrick Jones
Design: Anna Fleischle
Technical: Heddwyn Davies/Andy Evans (Sound), Dyfan Jones (Music), Angharad Matthews (Costume), Dick Straker (Video designer), Joe Fletcher (Lighting)
Cast includes: Desmond Barrit (Evan), Olwen Rees (Isabelle), Dafydd Hywel (Rocky), Llinos Daniel (Gemma), Martin Marquez (Joe), Melanie Walters (Dyanne) and Oliver Wood (Scott)
Running time: 2hrs 30min