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Into My Own

Glenys Evans
Hijinx Theatre
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, and touring
(2010)

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The partnership of Cardiff's Hijinx Theatre and playwright Glenys Evans always packs a punch. Their annual touring productions, written for an inclusive audience and performed by an inclusive cast, tackle tough issues head on, and always inspire. Into My Own is no exception.

Evans' latest play addresses the emotionally charged issue of young adults with learning difficulties who continue to live with their parents long after childhood. The play masterfully explores the missed opportunities that can result from a life of enforced dependency and confronts the difficult question of what happens after their parents' death.

Anne (Clêr Stephens) is a learning disabled young woman who lives with her frail and elderly mother. Her mother has been devoted to her, but their closeted lives have made Anne old before her time - she spends her days old-time waltzing in the front room and at night sleeps in an armchair when her mum can no longer manage the stairs.

The problems start when Anne's mother is taken ill; there is no plan for her care and her brother Ken (Adam Timms) lives hundreds of miles away with a family of his own. But a chance encounter with an old school friend and care assistant, Terry (Jack Reynolds), introduces Ken and Anne to the fun-loving and inspirational Dilys (Sara Pickard). While Ken and Terry pour over paperwork and agonise over the logistics, Dilys forges a friendship with Anne, filling her with confidence and introducing her to a world of independence, excitement and potential.

Into My Own is a beautifully written piece, with memorable performances from all four cast members, and fully brought to life by sensitive direction from James Williams and Gaynor Lougher and by Mary Drummond's design. The ageing clutter of Anne's front room gives way to the breezy freedom of Dilys' flat, draped with shimmering batik work (produced by learning disabled artists at Llanover Hall Arts Centre). Even the soundtrack of these two young women's lives speaks of their different worlds: Anne tunes in to the shipping forecast, while Dilys climbs onto a podium and dances to Amy Winehouse and Fat Boy Slim.

Dilys does far more than persuade Anne that moving out of her home is a good thing. Her "can do" attitude to life is contagious, and she encourages Anne to celebrate the things she can do all by herself, and to take a chance on some of the things she has been raised to believe that maybe she can't. Her free-spirited determination and love for life is inspirational, beautifully captured by Sara Pickard.

In end, with a little nudge from her friend, Anne decides to ask all the right questions and prompts the answers her family have been too nervous to give her. She asserts herself, shedding the "wounded bird" inheritance she has been hidden behind and embracing a new life with gusto, in a closing scene which leaves the whole auditorium sharing her jubilance.

Reviewer: Allison Vale