Roofless

Geraint Thomas
Sisbro Productions
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
(2007)

Publicity photo

Rugby is for the Welsh what food is for the French: a defining national obsession. When playwright Geraint Thomas reported on the 2005 Grand Slam win for the South Wales Evening Post, he was inspired by the "collective show of emotion" to write this play.

Lewis (Leighton Kyle) is a young and directionless man from a small village in the Welsh Valleys, living "off the social" after feigning a back injury. Rugby is his life, and he struggles to prioritise the game and his long suffering fiancée, Cerys (Alison Johns). But the trouble really starts when the 2005 Six Nations deciding game between Wales and Ireland coincides with their registry office wedding. To make matters worse, the ticket he's bidding for on e-bay rises to £900 - forcing him to sell off his own roof tiles to pay for it.

Thomas' script is fast paced and packed with one-liners: "I calls it 'The Counsellor'", Cerys' mother Beryl (a polished performance from Julie Barclay) says of her newly invented cocktail. "A couple of them and you'll end up in therapy". Lewis' dim-witted mate Harvey (James Ashton) reminisces about the uncompromising photo of Cerys which Lewis secretly sold to Loaded magazine for £200. Harvey chants, "Your Cerys is on more walls in this village than artex".

The action is cleverly underpinned with the audio-commentary and a series of evocative images from the 2005 Wales-Ireland game. The acting, like the direction, was at times self-conscious but basically sound. Julie Barclay gives the strongest performance of the night as Beryl: a raucous, gin-swigging, tranquiliser-popping valleys girl whose life revolves around her snoring husband, her job as barmaid and her determination that her daughter will not sign up for the same fate.

Thomas and his sister/Director Bethan Thomas, missed a few opportunities to kick the production into touch by failing to balance the comedy with some controlled moments of poignancy. But for all that Roofless works, and was certainly an entertaining hour, undeniably well-received by an enthusiastic audience on the night of its premier.

"Roofless" ends 12 September at the Chapter Arts theatre, Cardiff, then tours to Swansea Grand theatre Arts Wing 17 - 19 September.

Reviewer: Allison Vale