MY LAND’S SHORE
Music & Lyrics by Christopher J Orton.
Book & Lyrics by Robert Gould.
3 Stars ***
Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre, 53-55 Hoe Street, London E17 4SA to 26 February 2017.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Man Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8520 8674.
Review: William Russell 10 February.
Lots of wails in Wales
Described as “the Welsh Les Mis” this ambitious musical- getting its world premiere at this enterprising fringe theatre which specialises in musical revivals – has been through a number of workshops over the last decade or so. A few more would do no harm.
Orton’s score is pleasant, has some good power ballads and decent choral numbers, but that essential killer ballad is missing, and the book drags. There are also too many characters each of whom has to be given a song.
It is based on true events. In 1831 miners in Merthyr Tydfil went on strike for better wages and working conditions. The leader of the rising, Lewis Lewis, was found guilty and sent to the penal colony in Australia; Dic Penderyn – called Richard Lewis in the musical – was sentenced to death by hanging for stabbing a soldier with a bayonet. It was a trumped up charge.
There is no reason for this happening not being the basis for a perfectly good musical, but the decision to have three couples competing for attention – the two Lewises and their wives, the local chapel minister and his wife, as well as three villains in the form of the mine owners, one of whom once raped the woman now Richard’s wife when she was servant in his household – complicates things horribly.
They all get songs to sing, when some of the roles should simply be acting parts. Another problem i it opens with a long choral number sung by the miners about their plight. Words matter. There is nothing wrong with the singing but what they are singing about is a mystery. They might as well be singing It’s a wonderful day today at the opening of a panto.. There are lessons to be learnt and this run might provide some of the answers – like do not kill the ending with yet another song when the climax has been reached.
The cast, young, talented and enthusiastic, is good and Aidan Barnard and Michael Rees sing lustily and well as the two leaders of the strike, as do Rebecca Gilliland and Kira Morsley, as their wives. The band under Aaron Clingham does full justice to the score and, being at the back of the somewhat cumbersome set behind various various wooden constructions, does not drown the singers, something which can happen in this auditorium. But just why the flashback scene in which the wicked owner Jenkins rapes Richard’s wife when she was a maid in his household – she has an eight year old son, no surprises as to who is the father – is a cue for a song is a mystery. Also while the miners and wives are all suitably dirtied up to suggest poverty everyone clearly has access to rather good dentists, their molars shining bright every time they line up – as choruses in shows like this always do – to warble a big number full frontal to the audience.
It is a case of back to the drawing board, but a journey worth making.
Richard Lewis: Aidan Bayard.
Angharad: Rebecca Gilliland.
Lewis Lewis: Michael Rees.
Rebecca: Kira Morsley.
Morgan: Aled Powys Williams.
Elizabeth: Emma Hickey.
Mari: Caitlin Jane Williams.
Arianwen: Lucy Elson.
Jenkins: Taite-Elliot Drew.
Josiah Guest: Hywel Dowsel.
William Crawshaw & reverend Price: Andrew Truluck.
Jonathan: Samuel Bailey.
Ianto & Abbot: Ifan Gwilym-Jones.
Megan: Hollie Evans.
Sean: Raymond Walsh.
Seamus: Richard Dawes.
Angry Wife & Whore: Caitlin McKee.
Director: Brendan Matthew.
Musical Director & orchestrations: Aaron Clingham.
Choreographer: Charlotte Tooth.
Set Designer: Joana Dias.
Costume Designer: Celestine Healy.
Lighting Designer: Sky Benbury.