Just a tent and a few props strewn around the stage. A simple setting in the intimate surroundings of the Cairo Studio. Out of the tent falls Pippa, a twenty something who is heavily hungover.
Pippa is a valleys girl from Tredegar, who we soon learn is protesting in her tent on the Coldra roundabout on the eve of the NATO Summit in 2014. We gradually learn more about what drives and motivates Pippa and she becomes a fully formed political protestor.
This new play by Chris Harris is beautifully written and observed. Pippa is a gritty, strong and ultimately flawed human who is a product of her broken family life and no hope valleys upbringing. Harris’ writing reflects the political changing landscape in the world and in Wales. Her alcohol and drug fuelled ramblings take us on a journey with Pippa. She doesn’t necessarily understand everything that she is protesting for, but she knows it is the one thing in her life that drives and excites her.
Melanie Stevens plays Pippa with absolute commitment. She is at times, vulnerable and weak when talking about her mother and powerful and determined when it comes to love and what she believes in. Stevens gives a brilliant and well crafted performance. I was drawn into believing she is a girl from Tredegar with no prospects. She holds the audience in the palm of her hand. Sometimes lovable, sometimes hateful, at other times falling into drug induced embraces with strangers.
The play is tightly directed by Luke Hereford. There are lots of physically stylised sections that really serve the piece well. The simple setting also doesn’t distract from the storytelling. I would have liked to have seen a couple more shifts in the lighting as this would have helped with the movement of the play. The use of sound was very clever and was brilliantly interwoven into the action of the piece. Josh Bowles’ sound design really helps to heighten the drama and passion.
The play is not just about politics but about personal struggles and Pippa’s place in history and society. She doesn’t fit in at home after being bashed by her mother’s boyfriend. She can’t hang onto a boyfriend because of her drinking and drug binges, but she can retain her activist ideals. Her tent could be pitched anywhere in the world. It just happens to be in Newport.
No Boundaries Theatre who produced this play are Royal Welsh College alumni and its great to see them getting support from the college. They are taking the show to the Edinburgh Festival later this year. It deserves to be seen.
Cairo Studio, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, 16th and 17th May 2017