Contemporary Welsh Plays
Edited by Tim Price and Kate Wasserberg
Completing the set of recently written plays in the new Methuen Drama series comes a varied offering from Wales.
It features some excellent writing but also gives the impression that life in the Principality is currently far from a bed of roses, regardless of the horticultural skills of the protagonist in Brad Birch’s offering.
Pleasingly, on this showing, Wales could be a powerhouse of theatrical creation over the next few years.
Tonypandymonium by Rachel Trezise
The volume gets off to a super opening with this clever play that focuses on the difficult relationship between Danielle and her slovenly, grossly inadequate, mother, Deborah.
What would be an interesting concept if presented in a naturalistic style gains much from the idea of introducing three different versions of Danielle, age 9, 15 and 18.
While that has been done before, allowing them to interact with each other and cross over between different time lines adds significant depth and meaning.
For such a grim play, Tonypandymonium even manages to end on a relatively upbeat note.
The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning by Tim Price
Bradley Manning was one of those unsung heroes or anti-heroes whose 15 minutes of fame disappeared almost before they had begun.
A couple of years back, he hit the headlines having leaked apparently deeply significant security information about American operations in Iraq to WikiLeaks.
As the playwright and co-editor of this volume, Tim Price, identifies, while Manning might have been in the US Army, following the breakup of his parents’ marriage the youngster with an accent from the wrong side of the Atlantic was educated in Wales.
In a highly novel style, Price invents and relates the boyhood, student years and army life for this pint-sized, gay misfit. The suggestion is that the outsider was bullied at school and eventually sought his revenge by attacking that much bigger bully, the United States of America.
Using an ensemble of actors swapping roles and many different textual styles, The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning was a highly effective piece of touring theatre. It also comes over extremely well on the page, providing the reader with the opportunity to think about and consider the major issues at relative leisure.
Gardening for the Unfulfilled and Alienated by Brad Birch
This short monologue ostensibly about a man who discovers gardening is something much more.
In it, the highly promising Brad Birch makes a mini exploratory visit into the realms of contemporary life and philosophy through the words of an Everyman.
The writer also shows a great sense of humour in a piece that is likely to become a festival favourite around the world.
Llwyth by Dafydd James
Unfortunately, since is written in Welsh with only a small proportion of the text in English, it is not possible to offer a review of Llwyth. However, since this critic saw the play in Edinburgh, this review will provide an idea of the staged version.
Parallel Lines by Katherine Chandler
Like Rachel Trezise, Katherine Chandler views Welsh society through the eyes of a mother and daughter involved in a bitter family war.
In this case, Melissa has got to the point where she is completely unable to control her 15-year-old daughter, Steph.
The youngster is stuck at home during the course of the play, like Simon, her unfortunate schoolteacher. That is because she has accused him of sexual harassment, leaving both feeling unhappy and probably not too far from suicide.
The playwright cleverly logs the experience from the perspectives of mother and daughter on one side and husband and wife on the other in a well-constructed and gripping drama.
Bruised by Matthew Trevannion
The collection ends with yet another suggestion that life in Wales is not as rosy as it ought to be.
In Bruised, a family’s skeletons are unearthed when son Noah returns from travelling the world.
What he finds, along with his rather mysterious brother Adam, is a very strange ménage a trois.
This consists of mother Wendy, daughter Stephanie and drug-peddling lout Shane.
Matthew Trevannion builds the tension to an unexpected but satisfying ending.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher