Think of a parallel universe where nineteenth century French surrealist, Alfred Jarry, and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy writer, Douglas Adams, grew up in the Welsh Valleys. Now think about what would happen if they wrote a play together. The result would probably resemble something like Mathilde López’s take on Yuri by Fabrice Melquiot.
This production is an onslaught of deranged fun from the first words of Adele (Carys Eleri), spoken as the audience come in: “Where’s the broccoli, Siwan [stage manager]” In a show that bends the rules of every theatrical movement, it refreshing doesn’t fall under any of the dogmatic labels of naturalism, realism, melodrama, the now overused term Brechtian, or even surrealism. Rather it is a mixture of them all (and some), and it is sheer genius.
The characters push the boundaries of the ‘fourth wall’ with audience interaction and by making no bones about telling the stage manager (Siwan Fflur Griffiths) what to do and when to do it: “Not now Siwan, Jesus”.
The play tells the story of Adele and Patrick, an infertile couple, who have been yearning for a child to come into their lives. The events before us show the upheaval caused when the child comes in the form of a “Russian”, or maybe not, thirteen year old, or maybe not, boy called Yuri, or maybe not.
The first striking element of this hazy affair is the set (Camilla Clarke). This is heady mix of psychedelic patterns and ‘modern’ feng shui to create a trendy Cardiff city apartment and is full of surprises throughout the evening. It sets the perfect environment for the irrational, but always genuine, Adele and the confused but lovable Patrick to raise their 13 to 17 year old baby.
The performance from each player is sublime: with no one outdoing another. Guto Wynne Davies created a wonderfully jarring presence as Yuri, giving the sense that anything could happen. This unpredictability caused a tension that I can only liken to tightening a banjo string too far and waiting for the consequence.
Carys Eleri is breathtakingly hilarious as Adele; seriously I could not breathe from laughing. She was as great physically as she was vocally using every bit of herself to create a truly fantastic character. Ceri Murphy as Patrick complimented this brilliantly. His versatility in voice was so great he could be likened to many of the great orators of Shakespeare’s soliloquys at various points in the play. Travelling from Olivier’s melodramatic grandeur to David Tennant’s intimate Hamlet, whilst always remaining hilarious.
However, it was the relationship between these two virtuosic performances that served as the backbone of the evening. How they played off each other was incredible. They created a homely atmosphere amongst this deranged brilliant mess of an evening.
Mathilde López, true to form, serves up a truly wonderful production. She has staged a show that is multicultural, multilayered, and is holistic all the same time. Behind the haze of hilarity she allows serious themes, of infertility, desperation, family, and love, to name of few to all come through given the audience something more than a very entertaining evening.
A surreal night of deranged fun not to be missed.
Yuri by Fabrice Melquiot
Directed by Mathilde López
Adapted by Dafydd James
Chapter Arts Centre