Thursday, November 12, 2015

Land of Our Fathers (Venue Cymru, Llandudno)

Land of Our Fathers is set on Thursday, May 3rd, 1979. Or rather, the story begins on that day. It's more accurate to say that Land of Our Fathers is set throughout May 1979, because the protagonists are six South Walian coal miners trapped hundreds of feet beneath ground following a colliery accident. It's a chamber piece boasting a bland but beautifully realised set (well done Signe Beckman) and six wonderfully written characters. But is the story strong enough to hold the attention for two and a half hours?

A play this long needs to have enough twists and turns to really demand the attention of the audience, and indeed Land of Our Fathers does have its fair share of soapy revelations and melodrama. I'm not altogether sure what does happen warrants such a taxing duration; it could have been shorter without much damage to the plot. Some might say the play is as much an endurance test for those watching as being trapped beneath ground for days on end is for the miners. That's one way of looking at it. But to be honest, the audience is not trapped down a mine and might appreciate a little more brevity.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My People (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)

Pic: Catherine Ashmore

"There is no Wales to speak of, no real national life: no art, no dance, no folklore; no literature... except for the foolish mouthing of its preachers."

So said Caradoc Evans, writer of My People and once (and, for some, perhaps still) the "most hated man in Wales". Evans's short stories, published 100 years ago, portrayed life in Nonconformist Wales for what he believed it really was - hypocritical, stunted, short-sighted and ultimately self-deceived. He saw the power that the chapels of Wales had over their congregations - who, remember, were far greater in number then than today - as limiting to people's spiritual development. Without the luxury of self-expression and the freedom to lead life as one chooses (rather than by the rigid guidelines of organised religion), the Welsh culture could not develop or grow, and may never be a part of the wider world around it.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Pomona (Royal Exchange, Manchester)

Every time I catch a Metrolink tram between Salford Quays and Manchester city centre, I'm fascinated by the stop at Pomona. It's an empty, soulless, despairing place. Nobody ever gets on, and nobody ever gets off. The tram stops, waits a few seconds, then continues on its way. Nobody is ever seen there, and there's barely any movement beyond tumbling litter and the occasional disorientated pigeon.

Pomona is a lonesome place in the heart of Manchester which seems to exist outside of normal reality. There's just nothing there, apart from graffiti-scrawled walls and what appear to be empty office blocks. And it's this same experience that inspired 28-year-old Alistair McDowall to write Pomona, which has won him a London Evening Standard Theatre Award nomination for Most Promising Playwright.