by Brian Friel.
Clwyd Theatr Cymru (Emlyn Williams Theatre) CH7 1YA To 12 October 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Sat Mat 2.45pm.
Audio-described 12 Oct 2.45pm.
Post-show Discussion 10 Oct.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 0845 330 3565.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 October.
Vividly depicted world without the will to change.
Ballybeg, fictional location of Irish dramatist Brian Friel’s world, has been seen from many angles. In this 1979 play it’s looked-down upon from the heights of Ballybeg Hall, which starts as focus of an American academic’s historical research and, after he’s departed the scene, is revealed as crumbling structurally and in the fortunes of its family.
They may still look down on the town, and fear that leaving the Hall empty will invite immediate vandalism – despite their Catholicity, a remnant of historical class tensions – but their own descent from high judges down the legal hierarchy is emphasised in the baby alarm installed at the start (by a neighbour, who’s also the driver for a family unable to cope practically).
Through this boom, Wizard of Oz-like, commands from the grown-up children’s father, eventually revealed as feeble and dying. The middle-aging generation evade life, married Alice by alcohol, failed solicitor Casimir, despite his grand name, by fantasy and to-be-married Claire by her expert pianism.
When the family’s gathering changes from her impending wedding to a funeral, Claire’s heard playing Chopin, unable to move from a piano sonata’s romantic tune to the funeral march surrounding it, and a reminder of reality.
Aristocrats is factual yet ironic in its title. Irony on such a matter’s hardly novel, and the play doesn’t have the inbuilt dynamism of Friel’s best-known work such as Translations or Dancing at Lughnasa. But Kate Wasserberg’s revival in Mold’s Emlyn Williams Theatre shows that plays which don’t work everywhere can fit like a glove in the right theatre.
Most of the floor’s taken up by the hillock of designer Mike Britton’s garden-set, grass still kept short attacked by weedy spindles round the edges, the holes of a former croquet-court needing to be searched-out. The few audience rows on three sides become like visitors stopping to watch life in the decayed Big House go by.
With Wasserberg’s cast inhabiting every moment, speaking or silent, with their various abstractions, the sensation recalls early productions of the Moscow Arts Theatre, its audiences astonished into believing they were watching real-life happen in Anton Chekhov’s plays.
Tom Hoffnung: Brendan Charleson.
Willie Diver: Kai Owen.
Uncle George: Stephen Marzella.
Casimir: Christian Patterson.
Alice: Catrin Aaron.
Eamon: Simon Holland Roberts.
Claire: Lisa Diveney.
Judith: Victoria John.
Father: Hugh Thomas.
Anna’s Voice: Majella Hurley.
Director: Kate Wasserberg.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.Sound: Matthew Williams.
Voice coach: Majella Hurley.
Fights: Rachel Bown-Williams.