Hogia Ni: Yma o Hyd (Our Boys: Still Here)
A review from a 3rd Act Critic
It is powerful stuff. 2 men, 1 woman sitting on crates against a screen, like three wise monkeys in black and khaki. This is going to be a neat, clever, visually adept production. I am not wrong.
They are back from Afghanistan in a pub in Caernarfon; they are in Afghanistan. Their language changes, their behaviours change and the screen goes from dusty blue to sunset desert scenes behind them. It is so simple and so clever; and so effective.
They reluctantly share their experiences both at war and at home; and their emotions spill out into tears and aggression and strange army humour. The audience tentatively laughs with Iwan at Telor’s mistakes, ‘Hedd Wyn, the Welsh war poet’ from Trawsfynydd, not ‘Eifion Wyn’, a poet from Caernarfon. Hedd Wyn, his bardic name, means ‘Blessed Peace.’
But there is a problem for me. I can hear swearing, guttural and harsh and entirely appropriate. I can hear conversations in English and Welsh. I don’t speak Welsh but I can follow much of the action easily. I am using Sibrwd – a translation app; it allows me to read or hear the play in English and I have chosen to read what I think will be the lines of the play. It is not. It is a mixture of précis and quotations and description. I hear ‘fucking soldiers’ and I see, ‘Iwan is struggling with his return from Afghanistan’ or something very similar. Interpretation and translation. I am being told what to think.
Many of the lines are superb: ‘terrorists don’t fight for a country’, ‘Talibans don’t come into Caernarfon and piss on our statues and shag your girl’, ‘never tell your girlfriend or your wife that you are enjoying yourself’.
War is, they say, ‘bananas’ but it is enjoyable – it is a buzz, an excitement, a sense of worth and purpose for these fucking soldiers. Without it, they are lost, dangerous and confused.
This is a timely, impressive and well-written tale; acted with strength, assurance and conviction. I believe every one of them. I do not feel sorry for them but I wish them well.
Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O’i ôl mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.
Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae sŵn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A’i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.
Mae’r hen delynau genid gynt,
Ynghrog ar gangau’r helyg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A’u gwaed yn gymysg efo’r glaw
Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God
Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,
Now wields the sceptre and the rod?
Man raised his sword, once God had gone,
To slay his brother, and the roar
Of battlefields now casts upon
Our homes the shadow of the war.
The harps to which we sang are hung,
On willow boughs, and their refrain
Drowned by the anguish of the young
Whose blood is mingled with the rain.
Event: Hogia Ni
At: Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
Playwright: Meic Povey
Director: Betsan Llwyd
Producer: Theatr Bara Caws
Seen: 8pm, 24 March, 2016 (last night)
Reviewer: Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics
Running: 22 March – 24 March, 2016
Performers: Lance Sargeant Iwan Jones Owen Arwyn
Sergeant Diane Taylor Manon Wilkinson
Guardsman Telor Roberts Gwlon Aled