Theatr Ffynnon and Theatr Iolo have teamed up to present a beautiful, funny and nostalgic piece of theatre .
Now celebrating their 26th year, Theatr Iolo is an award winning Welsh company with an international reach, bringing Welsh theatre as far as Russia and Korea. They are also known for bringing innovative international theatre to Wales, such as the fantastic American This is How We Die by Chris Brett Bailey, earlier this year.
They have come together, this time, with the Cwmbran based Theatr Ffynnon, a company that puts adults and young people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health issues at the heart of what they create. They believe that “active participation in creative expression improves mental, physical and emotional health and well-being, as well as contributes to both personal and professional development and growth”
The audience is waiting in the foyer when, after a few minutes, a man that sits at a table says loudly: ‘don’t mind me, I am just reading my paper’. A voice then comes over a tannoy, and introduces the performance before we are allowed admittance to the Studio space in Chapter Arts Centre. The disembodied voice introduces us to a woman who has been standing in the corner, unsuspectingly, the whole time while we have waited. She is Julie [Doyle], the voice tells us, and she is the BSL interpreter. Finally, the man in the corner with the paper is explained, he is the audio-descriptor (Alastair Sill) for the evening. But both of these players are, as it turns out, much more than their ‘functions’.
Throughout the performance they are both interwoven into a night of beautiful storytelling and provide moments of witty encounters with the main performers.
Once we have all taken our seats the ensemble of six performers arrive and we watch them explore the beautiful paper forest that we, the audience, have just walked through. They take to the main stage one by one, investigating the time capturing paraphernalia as they go. The set (Saz Moir) is marked out in time periods that the performers reminisce and tell stories of.
The stories told range from the hilarious, like when Sarah [Lapin] accounts her ability to tread the shaky ground of having two boyfriends, to the beautifully nostalgic, like when we hear an account by Mark [Selby] of his memories of the Berlin wall being knocked down, his performance ranged from breathtakingly moving to belly laughing hilarity through the evening.
All the performances throughout are wonderfully present and intuitive. Ollie Hafod demonstrates his ‘expertise,’ as the narrator tells us, which interweaves his apt caretaker role of the piece. Karen Godfrey provides some of funniest moments of the night, like when she engages the audience to speak about their first loves.
One of my favorite moments of the evening was hearing Sophie Watson’s regaling of her past summer afternoons getting to enjoy her favorite ice cream. And then there was Lucy. Lucy Harris’ comic timing was simply brilliant. Her ability to move with each story and to embody her own humour was awe-inspiring.
Kevin Lewis has staged a beautiful piece that speaks to many parts of me from the heart to the funny bone.
An immensely enjoyable evening.
Further performance at Chapter tonight (November 20)