A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy far, far away…. actually, it was 1979 in Pembroke Dock…. But you get the drift… Sam (Jack Hammett) is a 12-year-old boy, wannabe film maker who is obsessed with Star Wars. Mourning the loss of his mother and struggling with his new family dynamic between himself and his grieving step-father (Dick Bradnum), Sam learns that the Millennium Falcon, iconic ship of the Star Wars series is being built in Pembroke Dock. He hatches a plan to break into the building yard to catch a glimpse of the ship and film it for a film contest. Fast forward to 2014, and Star Wars VII is being filmed at Pinewood Studios. Older Sam, (Kieron Self) is now a middle-aged taxi driver with an ex-wife. Giving up his dreams of being a set designer, Sam’s older self is struggling to control his 16-year-old daughter Lizzie (Sian Davies), whose rebellion at school leaves her in hot water. After a confrontation with her dad, she runs away to break into Pinewood Studios and give her dad the opportunity he let pass by, lightyears ago.
This extremely clever piece of writing flips the story seamlessly between 1979 and 2014 to tell the tale of dysfunctional and non-traditional families coming together (in much the same way that Star Wars does) and overcoming adversity.
What I loved most about this piece, as well as the great acting, was the clever writing of Mark Williams. The whole plays subconsciously adapts the morals and stories from a Star Wars episode, but set in Wales. Its structure deliberately uses comedy and timing to create beautiful moments of vulnerability and sadness; which is heightened even more for Star Wars fans.
Director Catherine Paskell deliberately uses Star Wars references throughout the staging, deliberately setting up sub textual moments and montages between the characters to reflect that of the Millennium Falcon and other famous scenes and solutes from Star Wars.
A cast of four strong actors portray 15 characters throughout the show, cleverly using Cadi Lane’s minimalist set and props, to take the audience into different worlds and times. A highlight would be the final scene where two bits of plywood with a hole cut out in the middle and some clever staging, becomes the Millennium Falcon.
Another highlight for me would be the clever use of Dick Bradnums West Wales accent, when playing Sam’s Stepdad, which cleverly highlights and creates the archetypical Welsh working class character. It is this character that is created through the accent, which helps exaggerate the beautiful tear jerking ending for the audience.
A small criticism would be that the story does have two points where the audience is forced to suspend belief a bit too much, however this is quickly forgiven as an audience member, due to the strength of the characters and humour of the script. From a producing point of view, I would also question if the ending would be as strong to theatre audiences outside of Wales.
At a running time of only 80 minutes with no interval, it both felt like the longest show ever with its richness and content, and yet it flew by at…well…lightspeed. While it had funny moments, for me, the greatest achievement was the overwhelming pathos, I actually found myself with tears pouring down my face and I certainly wasn’t expecting that!
Cleverly written, great actors, great direction and about a topic that should sell tickets – What more could a producer and audience ask for?
Recommend to anyone who wants a fun night out at the theatre to hear a great story. Star Wars fans will love this, not exclusively for lovers of the Force.
Touring until May 5. For show times and locations visit www.dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk/lightspeed-from-pembroke-dock-by-mark-williams/
The cast talks about the work: