When I was asked to review Y Tad using the Sibrwd app that whispers in your ear, I was intrigued as to how it would work. The app has been developed by Theatr Genedlaethol and makes their work more accessible to audiences who could not otherwise enjoy their shows. You download the app, connect to the WiFi network and a voice in your ear tells you what is happening. Well, that’s the theory.
Unfortunately, my experience was not as smooth as anticipated. When the translation happened at the right time, it was ideal, but the majority of the time, there was either major delay or it was massively ahead of time. There were a few occasions when it started during a scene change before the actors were even on stage. I understand that there may be glitches when a lot of people are using the system, as last night, but it really did impact on my enjoyment of the show. When a full auditorium laugh at a joke and I receive the translation 30 seconds later, it is, quite literally, lost in translation.
Dafydd Emyr and Dyfan Roberts
Catrin Mara and Dyfan Roberts
Back to the show itself. The play is a Welsh translation of Florian Zeller’s award winning play Le Pere. Arwyn is a man who feels like he is losing his mind. His daughter Ann is struggling to care for him as he descends into dementia. Strangers seem to be appearing in his house, or is it his house? As his mind empties, so too does his house, as furniture starts to disappear after every scene. It is a simple idea and exploration of a man losing his grip on reality.
Ann (Catrin Mara) is torn between the love for her father and the need to care for him whilst trying to maintain her relationship with Pete (Dafydd Emyr). We see things through Arwyn’s (Dyfan Roberts) confused eyes as he is never quite sure what is real and what is his mind playing tricks on him. We, as an audience are not quite sure what is happening initially, but it becomes clear as we enter the final scenes when Arwyn is in fact in a care home and the strangers appearing are the nurses.
The set designed by Erin Maddocks is a clinical, white house that portrays the befuddling of Arwyn’s mind. Ceri James’ lighting is full of texture with lots of blinds to signifying the shuttering inside his brain. The leafless tree outside the window signals the barrenness that poor Arwyn is experiencing. All the clues are there. We understand what is happening to him. He delivers a line about feeling like he is losing his leaves and the final image is of leaves falling from the sky.
This is a brutal story of love and the limits of people’ patience. I wanted to have sympathy for Arwyn, but I found it hard to sympathise with any of the characters. The surrealness of strange people turning up was treated in the same naturalistic way as the rest of the play. There was no doubting that his experience was terrifying, but it all seemed a bit too simplistic and for me, lacked anguish and depth.
More information and tour dates: