Tag Archives: Dic Edwards

Solitude by Dic Edwards

Performances

Chapter, Cardiff Tues 17 Feb 2009, 8pm – £3 on the door

The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea Wed 18 Feb 2009, 7:30pm – £3

The Riverfront, Newport Thur 19 Feb 2009, 7:45pm – £4

Cast

Lily – Carli De’La Hughes

Fin – Danny Grehan

Trecci – Dewi Savage

Detective – Tony Leader

Director

Michael Kelligan

Reviews

Michael Kelligan’s new “On The Edge” season kicked of at Cardiff’sChapter Arts Centre with a world premiere – a script-in-hand reading of “Solitude”, a new play from Dic Edwards, one of Wales most erudite and provocative dramatists. Inspired by the life and work of Alexander Trocchi, it’s a self-consciously writerly tale of sex, drugs and death amongst low-life poets, full of epigrams, allusions and bizarre motifs. Very clever, and well acted – with Carli De’La Hughes, Danny Grehan and Dewi Savage as the protagonists, and Tony Leader as the police officer who is eventually called in to inject a dose of reality – but since one of the central themes is shattered innocence, we are forced to wallow, somewhat, in the self-serving unpleasantness of the deluded amoral artist, which leaves a bit of a bad taste, which is probably the intention.

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DIC EDWARDS is possibly the most fascinating playwright in Wales.He’s a Welshman who forcibly resists any interest in national identity, sees himself as rejected by the Welsh theatrical profession (with notable exceptions) and assumes a position as an outsider or, in his phrase, The Evicted. And he manages to not only infuriate and exasperate but also delight and intrigue those prepared to listen – these days more as a poet than a playwright.

Not surprisingly his latest play, given its premiere as a rehearsed reading in Michael Kelligan’s On The Edge new season, is a rambling and often incoherent meditation on the poet presented as a kind of bio-drama. Despite the overwhelming force of the words from three characters who all consider themselves poets, there is a plot of sorts here: a 15-year-old girl is introduced by a gay man to a ranting drug addicted and infamously eccentric literary figure clearly based on Alexander Trocchi – his name here is Alex Trecci – who deflowers her and then marries her. Trocchi/Trecci has, he thinks, murdered the one-legged women living on the next barge to him and carries round with him her prosthetic leg.

You may start to get the tone: lots of wordplay knocking up against surreal black humour. And lots of cleverness that relies to a great extent on knowing that 1950s-60s scene that was the nearest Britain got to America’s Beat Generation. Solitude is a complex interweaving of the personal and the poetic, an unresolved story of alienation and despair that can seemingly end only when the poet finds the sought-after solitude in suicide.

It is impossible on a rehearsed reading to do justice to Edwards’ fragmented narrative, the purple passages that juxtapose poetry and pastiche, the very funny scenes and the provocative ones, and Kelligan’s somewhat bewildered presentation does little to convince us that this is anything but a misfired ambition that needs sensitive editing and experienced interpretation. Dewi Savage offers a parody of Trocchi; Danny Grehan does a lot with a little as the gay drug dealer and Carli De’La Hughes has an impossible task as the young innocent but has some fine moments.

David Adams (Western Mail)

 

Franco’s Bastard by Dic Edwards

Performance

Chapter, Cardiff, Thurs 5 Apr 2007, 8pm, £3 on the door

 


Cast

Carlo- Michael Kelligan

Serena/Ruby – Laura Carli Hughes

Ben – Richard Shackley

Sion- Alex Harries

Director

Michael Kelligan

Review

DIC Edwards’s savagely satirical attack on nationalism may be one the best-known plays of the century so far – it aroused almost as much outrage as did Caradoc Evans’s Taffy almost a century before – but it still lacks a good production. Sgript Cymru’s version in 2002 wasn’t and Mike Kelligan’s script-in-hand version as part of his On The Edge season certainly isn’t either. But although the play has not been well served to date the strengths still come through here – even when the lead had to be taken over at the last minute by the director following an illness in the cast.

Based on the implausible hero of the Free Wales Army, Julian Cayo Evans, Carlo Francisco Franco Lloyd Hughes is a mix of bravado, fantasy, frightening racism, sexism, erudition and plain loopiness. Whether it’s deliberate or just through having the role thrust upon him, Kelligan makes him seem a whimsical daydreamer rather than a figure of fun, much less the saviour of Wales, albeit one made more scary by his utter lack of intelligence. The whole nationalism project gets a general rubbishing by Edwards, with its leader here not only a fascist but the imagined illegitimate son of a fascist. Edwards is the sort of master of language that his hero would like to have been and his witty mixture of contempt and ridicule is coruscating.

One thing a rehearsed reading like this can do is simplify the narrative and, indeed, stripped of a set and any real characterisation, the play is revealed as very funny and surreal – the conscription of a mindless Cardiff lad to the liberation project on the basis that he’s on the run in West Wales after having allegedly killed his boss with a frozen fish. His short-lived sponsor is a dim-witted hardliner who can spend ages debating the colour of Welsh blood and whose devotion to Carlo has more than a hint of repressed homosexuality – his only vaguely sane colleague is a mixed-race holiday-job barmaid who may well, it transpires, be not only Carlo’s new mistress but his daughter. You’ll see the weaknesses of the script – yes, it’s intentionally ridiculous but also unnecessarily conventional in the introduction of a love interest and bizarrely unlikely in the girl’s attraction to Carlo and the flashback that suggests he begat her during a racist rape.

I suspect that a full production could exploit the absurdity and the politics. Kelligan has previously served Dic Edwards well, with a visceral production of Utah Blue, but Franco’s Bastard has eluded him as it did Simon Harris.

David Adams (Western Mail)

 

Utah Blue by Dic Edwards

Performance

Chapter, Cardiff, Wed 25 May 2005, £3 on the door

Cast

Gary – Dean Rehman

Mikal – John Norton

Nicole – Lisa Zahra

Bessie – Bethan Morgan

Director

Michael Kelligan

Review

The idea behind any so-called rehearsed reading is to give the playscript prominence – no set, no costumes, no lighting, no polished performances, just the words delivered with enough expertise to make the characters live. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.The On The Edge season at Chapter, which came to a close with Michael Kelligan’s direction of a controversial ten-year old Dic Edwards classic, usually does work, even if the most memorable events have been re-presentations of familiar work – and Mr Kelligan, whose brainchild this On The Edge project is, was clearly determined to go out (until the next season) with a bang not a whimper.Utah Blue’s main character is serial criminal Gary Gilmore, the murderer who achieved more notoriety after his death because of his fight to be executed rather than imprisoned, and it was immediately elevated to cult status with its production by Made in Wales at The Point.

But, like so many plays by that wayward wordy genius Dic Edwards, it has never been produced since, and it was remembered by some as simply a difficult play with lots of sex and nudity.

Well, you don’t do nudity in rehearsed readings and, to be honest, the hand-held scripts did rather get in the way in the simulated sex scenes (in a strange play there is still something bizarre about a couple turning folio pages and reading while attempting to copulate), but without the distractions of staging the more explicit moments it is the extraordinary text that we notice here.

And I (and the playwright too) felt this was a far more passionate, committed and rewarding staging of Utah Blue than we got in its full production in 1995 – thanks, perhaps, to a minimal direction and the policy of letting the actors find and deliver the richness, the complexities, the humanity and the challenges in Edwards’s script.

What we got in the small room upstairs at Chapter was an electric experience – shock after shock as ideas come tumbling out, as characters start to make sense then collapse into confusion, as elegant ideas knock against coarse sexuality. Reincarnation, karma, Spinoza, the value of art and the American Dream are debated alongside the sometimes cruel practices and conservative creed of The Mormons, in which Gilmore was reared, and the cynical sexual imperative that decrees that only thing man need know is how to eat pussy.

It is not an easy play to watch and certainly not an easy one to perform, but with relatively little rehearsal Dean Rehman as the central character, Bethan Morgan as his mother, and especially John Norton as kid brother Mikal and Lisa Zara as his lover Nicole, allowed to see the strengths and weaknesses of this abstruse but arresting study of contemporary Western culture.

I still don’t really understand the play but certainly this modestly-mounted production revealed the passions, the weird compulsive philosophy of this complex character, the fascinating playwrighting and the sheer eloquence and relishing of language of this most intriguing of contemporary Welsh playwrights. A good play to end this season.

 David Adams (Western Mail)