Rebecca Smith-Williams, Rebecca Knowles, Valmai Jones
Chapter, Cardiff

Valmai Jones Credit: Jorge Lizalde
Rebecca Smith-Williams, Rebecca Knowles, Valmai Jones Credit: Jorge Lizalde

This is the first production from Triongl, a company comprising three actresses who met on a job, and discovered shared concerns and interests. These involved not only the range of roles available to them as women, but also the concept of “home”. From these informal discussions, and via a process of research and devising, Miramar has emerged.

The central character and unreliable narrator is Enid, played by Valmai Jones. On a simple set which suggests cosy domesticity, she speaks, unsentimentally, of the crisis which followed the sudden death of her husband. He has left her nothing but financial strife, due to a secret gambling addiction; this has led to the loss of the small house, in a village somewhere near the Welsh coast, which they shared for 52 years.

Forced to move in, on a temporary basis, with her next-door neighbour, she looks on unhappily as “Awel Y Môr” (“Sea Breeze”) is sold to a middle-aged couple from Swindon, who change its name to “Miramar”; their names being Miriam and Martin.

It transpires, however, that they are resident only sporadically. Encouraged and aided by her friend, Enid decides to stealthily move back in. Until, one evening, Martin’s adult daughters turn up unexpectedly, bringing with them news of unwelcome developments.

Enid continues to narrate as the drama proper commences. Step-sisters Alice and Georgina each have issues of their own to deal with. Rebecca Knowles’s Alice is the older, more hard-headed, careerist sibling; Rebecca Smith-Williams’s Georgina is flightier, less settled, the hippy-ish traveller. Enid is called upon to use all her skills of manipulation in a desperate attempt to achieve her aims; although, as it turns out, those skills are rather limited.

More tightly plotted and wittier than might be expected from a devised piece, Miramar throws us a number of refreshing narrative curveballs. As might be expected from a company created by actresses, each performer is given the opportunity to shine, although since Enid is in control of the story-telling, the other roles inevitably veer towards caricature at times, and there is the occasional moment of crowd-pleasing sit-com-ish acting, which doesn’t necessarily sit well, given the piece’s darker themes.

I also perceived something of a plot-hole—surely the unfortunate event which brings the siblings to Wales would have been extensively reported in the media (?).

The post-show discussion (hosted by Llamau, a locally-based homelessness charity) threw up a number of points. One audience-member noted that the plights of all three characters had their roots in relationships with unreliable men. Another expressed relief that Enid’s objections to the in-comers were based on emotion rather than nationalism—although the historic arson campaign against Welsh holiday homes is cleverly referenced during the play’s technically impressive denouement.

Far from the “issues”-based drama which one might have anticipated, Miramar is grimly comic, and an entertainingly chilling reminder that it might only take one calamitous occurrence for any of us to end up on the streets.

Reviewer: Othniel Smith

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