Posts Tagged ‘Cai Dyfan’

I rather liked Thomas Eccleshare’s quirky multi-layered SciFi satire, combining the use and abuse of technology, parent / child relationships and grief. An intriguing, highly original piece.

Harry likes to tinker and considers himself a king of the flatpack. He and his wife Max start with small projects, then graduate to building themselves a replacement son, Jan. From here the story of their lost son Nick is interwoven with the development of their new one, until malfunctions begin to cause chaos and ruin relationships with neighbours Paul, Laurie and their daughter Amy. Along the way we see how parents mould their children’s attitudes and values and how helpless they can be when they grow up.

There are something like fifty scenes in 100 minutes, which is at first irritating, until you get into the rhythm of the scene changes, where props arrive and leave on conveyors, members of the cast move robotically & jumpily and the small cinema-screen-like space enlarges and opens up. I was impressed by Cai Dyfan’s design. It’s a fine ensemble, but I have to single out Brian Vernal, who plays Jan and Nick with some deft switching between and within characters.

The play got me thinking a lot about where technology and AI in particular might be taking us, but also about how we mould real human beings too and how grief can lead to desperation. A thought-provoking, well executed piece expertly staged by Hamish Pirie.

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What I loved most about this brilliant but harrowing play was its unpredictability. And the terrific performances. Oh, and the superb design. In fact I liked just about everything about it.

When his mum dies of cancer, seventeen year old Liam has to move from the north to the South Wales valleys to live with his biological father Rick who he never knew and who doesn’t really want him. They are like chalk and cheese. Liam is intelligent, sensitive and quick-witted. Rick’s nickname is Viol, for Violence, which tells you all you need to know about him. He rules by fear and he’d like his son to be as tough as he is. Liam wants to grieve, Rick wants him to toughen up and get laid. Liam is obsessed with Dr Who. Rick is obsessed with alcohol and sex.

The action takes place in an evening and the following morning in Rick’s living room. Liam has been to a Dr Who convention with his school friend Jen, who’s now finding it impossible to get home in the rain. Rick has been in bed with his lover Suze. The play explores this father and son relationship as it takes some extraordinary turns, with Jen and Suze well and truly caught up in it. It’s a brilliant piece of writing from Gary Owen. The room is circular, wall waist high, with two gated entrances. We’re sat in grubby white plastic seats or on the usual ‘upstairs’ benches on ‘concrete’ behind. Cai Dyfan’s clever design felt like a bullring, which came to seem ever so appropriate given the amount of testosterone on display.

It’s a bit disconcerting when it seems like yesterday you first encountered Jason Hughes as the 20-something gay lawyer on TV in This Life and now he’s old enough to play a 40-something dad – and he’s terrific, cast against type, scaring the life out of me. This appears to be David Moorst’s second stage outing as Liam and it’s a stunning, delicate performance that squeezes every ounce of wit and sarcasm from his lines. Jen’s transition from innocent to a little bit predatory to aggrieved is beautifully handled by Morfydd Clark. Siwan Morris has her own journey from compliant to apologetic to outraged, also navigated brilliantly. It’s a fine set of performances indeed.

The play reminded me a bit of David Mamet’s Oleanna, where people left the theatre with different takes on it. It’s inconclusive, which means it continues to play in your head for some time. Great theatre. Go!

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During the 18 years I lived in Abertridwr (the mining village in South Wales where I was brought up) I don’t recall ever seeing a show there – not even a panto. The only thing I do recall was a visit by BBC Wales to the Workman’s Hall to record a TV show with Victor Spinetti and The Flower Pot Men (well, that tells you how long ago!).

I’ve watched the rise of National Theatre Wales with great interest. The show in the Brecon Beacons intrigued me and I’d have loved to have been at the Port Talbot Passion. My first exposure was the terrific Dark Philosophers at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, which fuelled my enthusiasm and added more than a touch of pride that things that good were coming out of NTW so soon.

I was in Wales a few weeks ago when news that the premiere of their new show was in Rudry (I think I’m related to most of the inhabitants of that village, even though I’m no longer in touch with any of them!). Twitter started twittering, with the Guardian’s Lyn Gardner the first to suggest something special. I looked up the tour venues for a local friend and discovered it was going to theatre-starved Abertridwr. How could I resist?  So I rounded up five friends and relatives, bought 6 tickets for less than the price of one in the West End, and re-routed myself from York to London via Abertridwr (+200 miles and 6 hours). No pressure there then….

The show starts before the show starts with the five organisers of the annual Cae Bach (Little Field) village social making last-minute preparations, greeting people and panicking. There’s Clean Jean (as her badge says) the Health & Safety Officer (cleaner,) Security Dave feeling superior with his walkie-talkie, his wife Yvonne glamorous and just a little bit pissed, local historian yoga teacher and one-woman community force Lisa Jen, and self-appointed leader Lawrence. They’re later joined by Lawrence’s son Dion and what appear to be a ‘chorus’ of locals.

The star guest is a medium but she’s late, so there’s a lot of ‘filling in’ with songs and stories, the latter mostly folk myths and legends. When she does turn up, they get more than they bargained for as the myths come alive and more recent truths are revealed. This is all executed with great skill by Sue Roderick, Oliver Wood, Carys Eleri, Rebecca Harries, Darren Lawrence and Gwydion Rhys and there are lots of laughs and bucketloads of charm. It’s completely bonkers, becomes absolutely surreal and the smile hardly ever left my face.

There’s a small band led by co-writer Dafydd James (no relation – well, I don’t think so…) who was also responsible for that other Edinburgh Welsh hit (in Welsh) Llwyth. It’s directed, but seem not to be (this is a compliment), by co-writer Ben Lewis with authentically amateur designs (another compliment) by Cai Dyfan.

It was huge fun and I’m very glad I made the detour. I appreciate that there was an extra something ‘going home’ but I defy anyone not to find it enjoyable. Perhaps above all, for me, is that we have (and can hopefully continue to have) another National Theatre that lives up to its name. The wonderful National Theatre of Scotland pioneered this homeless outreach approach; now we have two. When I’m sitting in the National Theatre in London, which I often am, I will be thinking differently about the word ‘national’ and it took a trip back home to show me what it really means.

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