Wales is left with a lingering concern today: how does most of its own people cope with their loss of their language and culture?
This bombshell of a question is remedied by Theatr Gwalia and their new show: ‘inheriting gods’. Here we see Rhiannon, a Welsh girl on hols in Cape Cod. Whilst there she encounters a young Native American and they form a close friendship. Leonard Cohen once said “Let us compare mythologies”, yet here it feels more like let us compare victimhood…
It doesn’t take a history lesson to make you realise that the English persecuted both the Welsh and the indigenous peoples of the U.S. Both of these characters feel hollow without their native languages, this being one of the most important factors of the show. At first, they both seems to remark with ‘microagressions’ to one other, (he calls her English, she calls him an Indian), but thankfully this type of talk smooths out as the show continues. They both come to conclusion that they must get to know their roots and therefore become a better person, maybe?
What would have been a much more stimulating decision for the piece could have one of them learn their native language and the other go on as before. This would say more about the state of both nations today and would not border on preachy territory. There is a lack of theatrical bite to the show.
C. M. Stephens has written of script of vast appeal, but at times left wanting. A checklist of Valley’s stereotypes seems to predominate and the representation of a Native American character has little development, other than the forced rekindling of his cultural identity. Deputy Hawk in Twin Peaks said it best when he remarked “some of my best friends are white people”. A romance blossoms throughout the show, but it never seems to go anywhere either.
The performances of Saran Morgan and Charlie Jobe are respectable, though are in need of tweaking. Watching them both, you feel like no risks are being taken, perhaps due to the lack of heightened romance and all the “oh, why don’t I know my culture so well?” Morgan plays the Valley’s girl with an affectionate charm, her insights and revelations make for some intimate moments in the show. Jobe might need to work on the American accent, though he does create a sympathetic character, who is perhaps more justified in his lack of privilege, regarding his race and circumstances.
I applaud the show for helping trigger once again this conversation that we should be having. Although it does not feel quite like a finished project (I saw it on the opening night), I know it will go far.
‘inheriting gods’ , Chapter Arts Centre until March 24, 2018.
Image: Kirsten McTernen
This review has been supported by the Wales Critics Fund.