The spectacle of the venerable Boyd Clack in a dress (and trousers) – a middle-aged man not quite pretending to be a woman. This is the latest treat provided by the Welsh Fargo Stage Company in their series of “On The Edge” readings at Chapter. Lucinda Coxon’s apparently little-performed monologue “I Am Angela Brazil”, directed by Hugh Thomas. Nothing to do with the children’s author of the same name, except that the title evokes a long-lost, girlish innocence as the protagonist, a tortured, adulterous woman, relays her troublesome dreams and fears. On a set consisting of a chair, and a table on which sits a glass of water, Clack is a reassuring presence, all charm, charisma and gravitas, only glancing occasionally at his script. The writing is elegant, poetic, occasionally profane, and captivating, despite the coldness of the character and the many levels of ironic distance between her and her audience. Beautifully done.
This is a powerful piece of writing from Aled Roberts that handles humour, pathos and deeply upsetting situations within a troubled family. It is similarly brought to performance by four excellent actors in a production that is sympathetically created by James Ashton making a quite exceptional directing debut.
If you are familiar with Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers there is nothing particularly new in the idea of brothers separated at birth, following different lives and the consequences of what happens when they come back together.This is actually a far more moving and poignant story of two half-brothers, one brought up by his maternal mother and the other by his mother’s sister. One goes to college and works in a bank, the other just lazes around the house. However, at the end of the play “successful” son Mog deeply regrets having been handed over to his aunty to be raised while the son that stays at home are bitter about his successful half-brother.
Along the way we have the two other key players, Da and Ma, splendidly acted by Anthony Leader and Clêr Stephens. The drama unfolds in their home with Mog coming to tell his “aunty” that he is going to college in London. It isn’t terribly hard to work out that she is actually his mum. The damaged relationship between Da and Ma is clearly because Ma has never come to terms with handing over her illegitimate child to her sister to bring up. It is also understandable that Alyn is as he is because he can see his mother’s idolisation of Mog.
The play is skilfully directed as we have no set, just a few props, and the sounds of an offstage kitchen. While the play lasts just an hour it includes the passage of time including the death of Ma and then the death of Da, leaving the two half-brothers (who now know the truth) to unsuccessfully deal with the fallout.
Tom Mumford and Alex Harries are two extremely talented young actors who take these two very different roles, make them their own with finely crafted characterisations. Clêr Stephens is a delight as MA while I have not been so impressed by any performance for a long time as Anthony Leader’s consummate performance as Da.