by Matthew Trevannion.
Clwyd Theatr Cymru (Emlyn Williams Theatre) To 26 May.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 May.
A triumph for theatre in Wales, if not the Pontypool tourist industry.
This is something to long for: a new play by a first-time playwright that speaks and soars with its own voice, and which has a mature sense of construction indicating that, if Matthew Trevannion hasn’t written plays before, he certainly has experience of how they work on stage. And is able to use the knowledge to shape his own material, not copy what’s been done before.
Of course, just about everything has been done before. But whatever the predecessors of individual points and devices, their construction into a piece comes over as original, while the stage world carries conviction throughout.
It does so in the Pontypool council flat where Noah comes home from a ten-year absence to find Shane ruling the roost with intimidating qualities Simon Nehan chillingly embodies.
It’s hardly a surprise he finds the place useful for his criminal activity, but there’s also truth in his assertion he’s brought stability to Noah’s mother and pregnant sister; in holding them virtual prisoners he’s preventing them falling apart.
Trailing Kristian Phillips’ Lugs, his height emphasising by contrast how he’s a born victim of scorn, taking insults and dog-bites with cheery acceptance, Shane finds ways to put Noah to shame. It ends in violence, predictably enough, but as with other aspects the shape of the violence is less foreseeable.
Outside all this, in manner and appearance, stands young Adam, referred to occasionally as his position becomes clear, as does the reason his presence is acknowledged only by Noah. Rhys Wadley’s contained yet intense performance contrasts Sion Pritchard’s unlucky bag of nervousness, attempts at reason and sense of defeat.
And there are exceptionally fine performances from Sara Harris-Davies as Wendy, the mother coping by smiles and accepting everything as positive, and Bethan Witcomb’s heavily-pregnant Stephanie, young enough still to have moments of assertion in an otherwise near-silent misery.
Kate Wasserberg’s scrupulously detailed production incorporates domestic disharmony from next door, laying bare without a note of sensationalism the bruises in these lives, while Max Jones’ enlarged letter-box-shaped set presents both space and a cramped feel, just as his décor suggests comfort going stale.
Wendy: Sara Harris-Davies.
Shane: Simon Nehan.
Lugs: Kristian Phillips.
Noah: Sion Pritchard.
Adam: Rhys Wadley.
Stephanie: Bethan Witcomb.
Director: Kate Wasserberg.
Designer: Max Jones.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.
Sound: Matthew Williams.
Fights: Rachel Bown-Williams.
Assistant designer: Ruth Hall.