Posts Tagged ‘Dafydd James’

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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