gan Gwenlyn Parry
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 19 February 2013.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 February.
1960s experimental drama in 2013. In Welsh. In London
Though set against the theatre’s splendid revival of John van Druten’s London Wall, Gwenlyn Parry’s The Doll Mender would have fitted with the previous main Finborough show, Iain Finlay Macleod’s Somersaults. It’s not just the Celtic connection, or the use of Gaelic for sections of Macleod’s play and this performance being in Welsh (with English surtitles). In both there’s a tension between the past and a new age.
Macleod’s central character moves between London and the Scottish Islands. Saer Doliau was written by someone who had lived some years in London then returned to Wales. Parry’s overalled, trudging doll-mender Ifans might seem a reliable working-class fellow, but within minutes he’s rejecting a consignment of dolls for mending because they’re Black. Throwing them into the cellar which increasingly seems a place of fear for him, a downstairs dustbin where the things his limited mind rejects remain a source of fear, emitting scratching sounds, while he’s sure someone keeps damaging the dolls (Notice: No Doll Is Mended During the Course of This Show).
Ifans could be the cousin of Davies in Pinter’s The Caretaker. This 1966 piece echoes Pinter also in the struggle for a room as a young woman, Merch, forceful, enigmatic and sexy, swaggers into the room, soon followed by Llanc, tall, Puckishly mischievous and provocative. They share an unexplained plan to scare him. The games they roughly play, taking control of his life, speeding it several paces, giving him barely time to argue, suggest a new sixties world swinging through the valleys and over the hills.
Director Aled Pedrick makes the point by updating the newcomers in dress and manner to the 21st century. She’s all black leather and white flesh; he has an androgynous threat. Both bring in a world unknown to Ifans, one of the “impotent people” living among a Welsh past “Brittle with relics” as R S Thomas wrote.
Only the cast will know what it’s like performing at close quarters to an audience, more than three-quarters of whom will not understand what you are saying. But they do a fine job with confidence and skill.
Ifans: Seiriol Tomos.
Merch: Catherine Ayers.
Llanc: Steffan Donnelly.
Director: Aled Pedrick.
Designer: A;ex Marker.
Sound/Composer: Tom Recknell.
Costume: Joel Tulley.