by Brian Friel.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru (Anthony Hopkins Theatre) To 23 October 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 23 Oct 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 0845 330 3565.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 October.

Reliable revival of a major Friel drama.
Pagan joy amid Christian conformity makes for melancholy recollection in Brian Friel 1990 memory play, in which the adult Michael (here given a definite urban identity in leather jacket and approaching middle age) returns to his childhood home in 1936 Donegal, where his mother and her four sisters see out the end of a life-style during the traditional festival of harvest god Lu. Meanwhile, crazed as he is, Michael’s old uncle Jack’s back from Africa, clearly infected with the delights of the paganism he found there.

Jack’s mental imbalance protects him from the sense of shock his revelations cause among the sisters. Their Catholicism is compromised by the modernity of a semi-functioning wireless, which they name ‘Marconi’ with the semi-comprehension lying behind many religious names. But the march of industry begins to affect their domestic community as prejudice against the pagan Jack and modern factory production disturb the rural domestic economy. In a masterstroke of dramatic construction Michael describes the years of decline to come before the last scenes, where the pervading sense of melancholy’s increased by the audience’s new foreknowledge.

Mold’s main stage becomes a scuffed pastoral green, the quarry that’s mentioned being mirrored in a hollow to one side. So designer Max Jones suggests the continuity of the small household with the fields around, the workaday nature of the life here, and hints at something sinister in the dips and rises of the setting, implying a world beyond the sisters’ family community.

Kate Wasserberg’s production encourages the cast to point matters out, making good sense but without the relaxed intensity that would make the production truly poignant. Still, the surprise moment when, one by one, the sisters abandon their daily drudgery for a few moments of wild pagan delirium in a dance reliant on Marconi’s undependable technology is vivid as always.

John Cording’s Jack has a happy simplicity that’s entirely believable, while the mirroring of the opening image, where the sisters sing a solemn hymn, at the mellow end as figures in a tarnished, not-so-eternal landscape, beautifully lit in autumnal twilight by Nick Beadle, is moving and memorable.

Chris: Catrin Aaron.
Michael: Brendan Charleson.
Rose: Louise Collins.
Jack: John Cording.
Maggie: Hedydd Dylan.
Kate: Jenny Livsey.
Gerry: Simon Nehan.
Agnes: Alys Thomas.

Director: Kate Wasserberg.
Designer: Max Jones.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.
Sound: Matthew Williams.
Musical Director: David Westbrook.
Choreographer: Rachel Catherall.
Movement: Joseph Afford.
Dialect coach: Sally Hague.
Assistant director: Lora Davies.

2010-10-22 10:16:48

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