In the Pipeline

Gary Owen
A Paines Plough / Òran Mór Production
Part of the A Play, A Pie and a Pint series Live Theatre, Newcastle
(2010)

In the Pipeline publicity photo

A new liquid gas terminal is to be built at Milford Haven and a pipeline laid through West Wales with all the disruption, even loss of their homes, which this will cause to those who live along the route.

Cue an angry environmentalist play, obviously.

But not for Welsh playwright Gary Owen. In his In the Pipeline we see how the eponymous development touches on the lives of three people, but that word "touches" is the important one. This is not an environmentalist tract, nor an outcry against big business impacting on the lives of the "little people", although from the first words of Andrew, the first speaker in this series of monologues by three people who have been affected, one might think it is going to be.

Here the impact is almost tangential, but significant nonetheless. For Andrew (Rhodri Lewis), the incomer in a small village, his decision about whether or not to sell impacts enormously on his developing relationship with another incomer, single mother Alison. For middle-aged Dai (Grahame Fox), made redundant when the power station at which he has worked for many years closes, the effect is even more indirect, albeit traumatic, and for Joan (Meg Wynn Owen), a farmer's wife, we have the sense of her losing a part of her life following on their decision to sell part of the wood which has had a significant role in her life and the life of her family.

The play consists of three monologues, delivered directly to the audience. At first Andrew speaks, then Dai, then back to Andrew before returing to Dai, and then it is Joan's turn. Each character is fully rounded and distinct with their own distinctive language: Andrew clumsy and unsure of himself in dealing with others, especially women; Dai more self-confident but despairing at the loss of his livelihood and the vanishingly slim chance of getting another job or even setting up his own business at his age; Joan the dreamer, almost fey.

It is a powerful piece, well performed by the company, which engages us with its characters and their problems and, without politicising the situation in any way, shows the unintended, even unimagined, consequences of decisions taken by the powers-that-be for the ordinary people who are touched by them.

Seth Ewin reviewed this production at the Traverse, Edinburgh.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan