Tiger Bay is an emotional, heart-breaking musical which takes you on a roller coaster ride; a musical that may be confusing at first but by the end you want to watch it again and again.
The show is based in the Bute docks in Cardiff. It is the early 1900s and it’s a case of poverty meets extreme wealth. There are lots of gangs of children everywhere, trying to make their own money by working as “waterboys” cleaning rails tracks on which the “donkeymen” push the heavy coal trucks to be loaded into the ships in the docks. The work is all for the benefit of the coal mine owners, here portrayed as the troubled Marquis of Bute, as the coal industry is generating a great deal of money even though the miners and the dock workers were not making a lot of money.
The musical clearly shows the discrimination that the dock workers had towards people who had come from different countries to live and work in the docklands, particularly in this production African people. But the narrative also followed the story of young woman who decides she just wants to try to make a difference in the world when she sees the problems and wants to help the gangs of children living on the streets. This and other elements include din the show, such as the Suffragette and trade union movements, shows a turning point in social history.
I loved how the musical shows aspects of Welsh life at this time by including some Welsh language in the spoken and sung words, the characters in the musical having Welsh names and there is also mention of other Welsh culture such as the national saint.
Also making the musical based around coal, the coal miners and dock workers also showed an aspect of Welsh life when the industry was massive in Wales and formed the basis of so much of today’s Wales.
I also liked how the costumed worn by the different characters showed the difference between the upper class world of the Butes, the middle classes, such as the David Morgan department store, and the working class society. This was also essential in establishing the period of the musical.
The lighting design is used effectively to help the audience identify the main characters in the show during large ensemble sections and a variety of contrasting atmosphere were also created through colour and strength of light.
This musical is a credit to the creative abilities of Wales with strong vocals, dancing and powerful acting.
Tia Snell is a New Voices reviewer and member of the Cardiff West Community High School Stage and Screen group, which is supported by Wales Critics Fund