Category Archives: On The Edge Ian Rowlands Season 2013

THEATRE producer Michael Kelligan will focus on the works associated with one of Wales’ most interesting and exciting playwrights during the ninth On The Edge season of hand-held performances. A friend and colleague of Kelligan for more than two decades since their acting days, Ian Rowlands’ work is now seen on both sides of the Atlantic.

It was at New York’s Lark Theatre that Valleys-born author Rowlands, pictured right, heard one of the plays which will feature in the new season – The Way of Water. Written by New York writer Caridad Svich, the play was performed alongside Rowlands’ Desire Lines. It deals with the huge oil spill disaster of Mexico Bay in 2010 and its effect on the lives of the coastal people. Kelligan said: “Ian was struck by the beauty of the writing in this play and sent me a copy of the script suggesting I should stage a reading of it in the next On The Edge season.” The Way of Water will be staged at venues in Wales in March.

In the meantime, the season opens next week with another premiere performance of A Nice Drink by Penarth-based Jude Garner. The sensitively written play won the Drama Association of Wales’ Best One Act Play Competition in 2012, which was judged by Rowlands. It has now been developed into a full-length play, the writer working in close co-operation with Kelligan’s Welsh Fargo Stage Company, which presents the On The Edge series. Actors Nathan Sussex and Polly Kilpatrick, who have both made many appearances with On The Edge, will take the leading roles.

A Nice Drink by Jude Garner


Chapter, Cardiff, Tues 12 Feb 2013, 8pm, £4 on the door

The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea, Wed 13 Feb 2013, 7.30pm, £4

The Riverfront, Newport, Thurs 14 Feb 2013, 7.45pm, £4




The Way of Water by Caridad Svich


Chapter, Cardiff, Tues 19 Mar 2013, 8pm, £4 on the door

The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea, Wed 20 Mar 2013, 7.30pm, £4

The Riverfront, Newport, Thurs 21 Mar 2013, 7.45pm, £4

Bethan Morgan 



The latest in the Welsh Fargo Stage Company‘s series of “On The Edge” play-readings at Chapter provided a rare opportunity to sample the work of the kind of playwright whose work routinely runs off-Broadway: “The Way Of Water”, by OBIE-Award-winning Caridad Svich; a piece which has received many readings over the past few years, but apparently (and inexplicably) no full productions.

The action focusses on two couples in their thirties, former high-school friends struggling to survive, both physically and financially, in the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Jimmy and Yuki scratch a living from fishing, their wives Rosalie and Neva from handicrafts; all around them people are falling ill, probably (but unprovably) due to contaminated water, and now Jimmy is starting to suffer from seizures…
The writing is poetic in a naturalistic way, apart from a few lapses into monologue (some of which seemed to break the coherence of the piece); the tone is gloomy in terms of politics (lives and communities torn apart by uncaring capitalism) but optimistic re the human spirit – “The Grapes of Wrath” is explicitly referenced. The cast, as usual, is exemplary, director Bethan Morgan encouraging Nick Wayland-Evans to make the most of his imposing physicality in the pivotal role of the broken former wrestling hero Jimmy; Dick Bradnum and Polly Kilpatrick spirited and engaging as Yuki and Rosalie; Rebecca Knowles as the pregnant Neva hinting at a hidden darkness (there is a mention of rehab which is not pursued).

Not exactly a barrel of laughs, but warm, poignant and beautifully realised.

Othniel Smith (



Fragments of Journeys Towards the Horizon by Ian Rowlands


The Town Hall Theatre, Galway, Sun 21st April

Chapter, Cardiff, Tues 23 Apr 2013, 8pm, £4 on the door

The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea, Wed 24 Apr 2013, 7.30pm, £4

The Riverfront, Newport, Thurs 25 Apr 2013, 7.45pm, £4


Russell Gomer


Ian Rowlands



There is an alluring simplicity to any art form that has been stripped back to its fundamental foundations – it offers a sliver of opportunity to understand the essence of the craft, without the cluttering aesthetic burden of over-complication. This nakedness of performance, when all but the essential ideas of thought and form are exposed, can often reveal the fragility and purity of an artist’s motivation and vision. This is the seductiveness of a script-in-hand theatre production. It is naked, untrammelled and raw – it is the actors, the audience and an idea.

Fragments of Journeys Towards the Horizon by Ian Rowlands is a fine example of a stripped-down theatrical experience where emotions and ideas are laid bare. The set is little more than a void, dimly lit and oppressively black, save for three wire-frame lecterns that allow the protagonist the freedom to move with a purpose. Horizons is ushered in by a penetrating hissing that immediately discomforts and confuses the wary audience.

As the beginnings of a collaborative piece, between Ian Rowlands and Jeroen van den Berg, Horizons offers the audience a chance to glimpse the start of the creative process. The play itself is conducted as a highly unusual conversational monologue between the two fictitious writers at the beginning of their own collaboration; the Welsh protagonist Ian (Russell Gomer) and a Dutch friend, who is unseen and unheard. As the title suggests, the conversation is the fragments of Ian’s journey through his own life as he endeavours to discover why he can not trust another writer with his ideas. Relaying story upon story, Ian confronts his past demons, from lost friends to the terror of abandonment in lifeless, stark and alien environments. But always he returns to his own anguish as he remembers his rejection of others, as he seeks protection in solitude.

In this thinly veiled autobiographical piece, Rowlands attempts to understand the nature of theatrical collaboration through the exploration of friendship, loss of control and the impact of landscapes upon a person’s psyche. It is this final theme that makes for the most interesting study – how our subconscious is shaped and contextualised through our environment. Distinctions are implicitly pondered between the broad horizons of the Dutch Lowlands, in which the vast expanse of sky offers seemingly limitless opportunities, and the enclosed mountains of Wales which, it is hypothesised, can insulate and curtail personal ambitions. This metaphor allows the protagonist, Ian, to constantly question his ability to collaborate with anyone who does not share his perception of the world – attempting at every opportunity to discourage himself from a cooperative work.

The most sincere and challenging sections of Horizons are the fragments that Rowlands draws upon of his own personal experiences of loss and collaboration. The barely concealed hurt at the death of Ian’s Irish friend, Fergus, relies heavily upon Rowlands’ own recent experiences – indeed mention in the programme is given to Michael Diskin, ex-Director of The Town Hall Theatre, Galway, whom Rowlands describes as a ‘dear friend’. These passages elevates an intriguing examination into the nature of collaboration to an intense and captivating production that allows the audience to emotionally invest in an otherwise selfish and capricious character.

There has been a recent rise in script-in-hand theatre productions (honourable mention to Dirty Protest, a Cardiff based theatre company that has challenged many of the conventions of staid and traditional theatre) with varying results in quality. But Russell Gomer’s central performance is both enthralling and genuinely touching – the script-in-hand can often be clumsily handled, too often actors do not naturally engage with the audience, as if the script offers a physical and metaphorical barrier which is a burden to overcome. However, in Horizons, this is not an issue. Gomer ably traverses the potential pitfalls of stilted speech and awkward silence by making the script almost invisible; especially considering the sole focus of the audience’s attention is on the only figure in the void.

As with the start of any creative process, there are issues and limitations – the two-dimensional representation on the invisible Dutch friend who appears to be responding to Ian’s considerably more rounded character in simplistic national stereotypes, is an obvious concern. However, as this script is in development and is due to be reworked by Jeroen van den Berg, these reservations are little more than minor concerns. This play is the beginning of a process, with future readings at Oerol Theatre Festival (the largest site specific theatre festival in Europe), before returning to Wales in the autumn. It will be intriguing to see how Fragments of Journeys Towards the Horizon develops.

Ben Glover (Wales Arts Review)