Theatr Clwyd and Hampstead Theatre
Emlyn Williams Theatre, Mold
“Heaven on Earth,” says Scarlett as she reaches her destination of a ruined chapel on a remote Welsh hillside.
“No, not here,” replies Eira, “you must be lost.”
And so the scene is set for Colette Kane’s gentle comedy about a repressed and depressed shop-owner from London, sensitively portrayed by Kate Ashfield, who sees the decrepit outbuilding as the chance to re-invent herself.
Lynn Hunter is a deliciously deadpan Eira, the owner of the chapel who, rather inconveniently, does not really want to sell it. Certainly not to an outsider like Scarlett anyway.
Hunter’s representation is very funny and almost brings the house down when she announces her “romantic arrangements” with the butcher in the most matter-of-fact way. Indeed, the observational character development is a real strength of this well-conceived and directed production.
As Eira clearly has a heart of gold beneath her fierce exterior, she soon accepts Scarlett, helped in no small part by her fourteen-year-old, but worldly-wise, granddaughter Billy. This role is taken by Laurence Olivier Bursary winner Gaby French, who is making her professional debut in a hugely impressive manner. She captures the essence of a teenager, one minute vulnerable and the next waspish but always endearing.
However, the arrival of Scarlett’s mother and daughter, after she had said she had no family, leads to a change in the tone of proceedings. Daughter Lydia, played by Bethan Cullinane, and mother Bette, Joanna Bacon, ensure sparks really fly. They both have their own views as to whether Scarlett should be in Wales and Kane’s writing really comes into its own as we ponder the true motivations of both.
All five characters reveal unexpected depths and there are some revealing moments that make you wonder if Bette is really the dominating, almost suffocating force she appears, if Lydia is quite so selfish and certainly if Eira is that far removed from the reality of life.
Scarlett is a little gem, set on a Welsh hillside, and an interesting consideration of the sometimes volatile dynamics of family life.
Reviewer: Dave Jennings