I was part of a full house in the Media Centre Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre to see a script-in-hand “On The Edge” presentation of “Love Forty”, an early play by Wales’ most popular playwright, Frank Vickery, dubbed the “Ayckbourn of the Valleys”; although this piece strays into Bergman territory, being a dissection of a forty-year middle-class marriage which was entered into cold-bloodedly. Producer-director Michael Kelligan, and Anwen Williams are Ralph (deceptively jolly) and Marcia (prickly and sarcastic), preparing to attend their Ruby Wedding celebration; they co-exist and increasingly interact with their younger, identically-dressed selves – James Aston and Naomi Martell. Despite some self-consciously laboured metaphors, and an ending which appears to verge on the glib (or maybe it was just rushed), the piece was both affecting and amusing. The author avoided the irritating phenomenon (fairly common in radio drama) where long-married characters have the kind of conversations which, realistically, would have to have occurred years before (“You mean you almost married Jim?”), since non-communication is inherent to the relationship; there were a couple of instances of “What’s that supposed to mean?”, however, which, in my view, is always worth taking the trouble to avoid.
THIS is a stark and disturbing piece of writing that worked perfectly as the opener to Michael Kelligan’s On the Edge series, now in its fourth season.I do have some worries, however, of the balance between how much of this is a reading and how much an acted piece. Yes, our two actors Nathan Sussex and Caroline Bunce wonderfully portray their brutally written personas through Gwynne Edwards’ translation of Egon Wolff’s original Spanish, with gesture and voice. But it gets a little muddled when we have the hand-held scripts being slightly folded when talking about making paper flowers and birds, etc. And why have actual tango dancers, wonderful as Julie Lutti and David Pays are? And why do our two protagonists partner the tango dancers at the end of the performance in a flourish of fancy footwork? Small points compared to the remarkable delivery of the text with its richness of character, social conflict and dramatic conflict. Yes, a lot of conflict. A mass of passion. Also, a hint of madness.
Chapter in mid-refurbishment proved as much part of the drama as anything onstage, as the audience worked their way through old corridors, up cracked tile stairwells and into the small and almost dingy space. It gave the feeling of a troubled place, almost a smell of seediness, of danger. Almost the world of our lower class anti-hero who invades the refuge of his middle-class victim, a gentle woman, past her prime and both divorced and lonely – therefore highly vulnerable.The dangerous Barracuda tricks his way into her life by helping her home one day and like a cancer, eats his way into her routine and then her affections. This malign presence verges between charm and mania. We are violently drawn into the human stories of these two people and it is this aspect of the evening that is most enjoyable and sympathetically handled. Perhaps more contrived is the analysis of the struggle between the lifestyles of the rich and poor.
Whether something is lost in translation, I’m not sure, but some of our working class hero’s attempts at poetry or philosophy lose their way.