On Bear Ridge by Ed Thomas. The Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1 to 2 November 2019. 4****. William Russell.

By Ed Thomas.
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS to 23 November 2019.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 85 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: William Russell 28 October.

In a world facing catastrophe an elderly couple who run the village shop the family has owned for a hundred years are facing the end. Everything has run out, the shop is in ruins; the fittings are being used for firewood, and overhead jet planes roar, part of some battle raging down below. It is an apocalyptic world and they lament the lost past, their dead son, who was murdered, and the language people no longer speak. The play, which comes from the National Theatre of Wales, clearly had a lot to say to Welsh audiences about Welsh identity, nationalism and the language, most of which really do not come over in London. Here the resonances are wider, this is conflicts anywhere. When a half mad soldier bursts into their diminishing world – the shop, part green grocer, part butcher, part cafe gradually disappears before our very eyes – it is almost as if Godot actually turned up. Thomas has come up with his first play for fifteen years with one very much what you would expect from Samuel Becket. It gets a bit overblown at times, but the speeches that hit home do so with tremendous power, is played with consummate skill, has a brilliant set by Cal Dyfan and Thomas and Vicky Featherstone’s direction could not be bettered.
Rhys Ifans is a magnificently grizzled patriarch lamenting his lost world and that dead son Twm Siencyn, while Rakie Ayola as his wife Noni guards him and his memories with blazing devotion. If their time is past it will end together. As their butcher employee Ifan, a youth with nothing left to kill, lurking in the cellar and coming up from time to time, Sion Daniel Young is very moving as he reveals his love for the dead man, while Jason Hughes as the demented soldier who bursts in on this almost dead world to warn them to leave before it is too late is terrifying and tragic. Like them he has no future. It ends in a world transformed as the trio – the soldier has left – take tea from the best china, except there is no tea, no milk, and no sugar. Their world is over, destroyed by that world outside in which there is no longer a place for the likes of them. You can feel all that about Wales, Welsh language and loss of identity in this globalised world, but the play is about worlds beyond Wales. It is not a great play, it is wordy and at times goes wildly over the top, but it is still an evening in the theatre which packs a powerful punch.

Noni: Takie Ayola.
The Captain: Jason Hughes.
John Daniel: Rhys Ifans.
Ifan Wiliam: Sion Daniel Young.

Directors: Vicky Featherstone & Ed Thomas.
Designer: Cal Dyfan.
Composers: John Hardy Music.
Lighting Designer: Elliot Griggs.
Sound Designer: Mike Beer.
Production Photography: Mark Douet.

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