BLACKTHORN To 20 November.

Mold.

BLACKTHORN
by Gary Owen.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru To 20 November2010.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 November.

Property rights and local values cause skilfully-sketched comic tension.

While Gary Owen’s new play works through individuals, there is, in Terry Hands’ production, a playful sense that the characters are part of a game of town v country mindsets. After London life has taken its toll on Kate and Tom – they burst onstage, mid-family row over discovery of teenage daughter Evie’s online sex romps – they make a break for the peaceful North Wales countryside, to start over again.

But in buying land from local Huw, their easy assumptions come up against different values. Partly it’s Huw’s misreading of Kate’s body-language and dress-code; what would be everyday mock-flirtatious in town seems sexual invitation to the old countryman.

Which doesn’t help when a kind of roughed-up Cherry Orchard conflict emerges. Having bought the house Tom intends extending it at the cost of Huw’s dearly-loved apple-tree garden. A battle between property rights and tradition develops, setting carefully researched sophistication against peasant stubbornness.

As the two finally come to irreconcilable blows, with Kate standing furiously by, the sides seem reconciled in the distance by their teenage offspring. But the young ones have it easy; it’s only the thorny matter of emotions between them, not money’s knotted tangle.

There’s a lot of fun in the contrast between Philip Bretherton’s self-confidence – first undermined when he returns from London at night to find Kate unnerved – and Huw‘s ties to the land, alternately generating means of undermining his new arrival and becoming vulnerable under attack.

Hands’ production, on Max Jones‘ abstract setting – a bare floor marked with a sense of ownership and ritual by a large blue circle on the floor, plus a suggestion of blackthorn aloft in the rear – gives the stage to the series of steadily-growing conflicts – in which two, at least, of the newcomers lose their way.

Bretherton is impeccably urbane, Ifan Huw Davies ruggedly rural until respective danders are roused, while even more than the men, Vivien Parry changes from insistently tactile to scarily furious. With Amy Morgan and Rhys Wadley also capturing the production’s mix of serious and comic, it would be hard to imagine Owen’s play given a better birth.

Tom: Philip Bretherton.
Huw: Ifan Huw Dafydd.
Evie: Amy Morgan.
Kate: Vivien Parry.
Cian: Rhys Wadley.

Director/Lighting: Terry Hands.
Designer: Max Jones.
Sound: Matthew Williams.
Fights: Terry King.
Assistant director: Lora Davies.

2010-11-22 15:47:37

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