The latest in the Welsh Fargo Stage Company‘sseries 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.
“The latest in the On The Edge season of rehearsed readings in the theatre at Chapter saw a rare home town outing (and a near full house) for a play by Peter Gill, the Cardiff-born playwright and director who’s developed his reputation in London from the 1960s onwards. “Kick For Touch” (originally produced at the National Theatre in 1983) is a chamber piece about two brothers, Joe (Nick Wayland-Evans of Only Men Aloud) and Jim (Dick Bradnum), reunited in adulthood after a traumatic childhood separation, and Joe’s wife (Polly Kilpatrick) who finds herself torn between them. It’s a fascinatingly intense experience, with director Bethan Morgan’s use of lighting cleverly building a claustrophobic atmosphere, and the powerful performances quickly drawing us into the characters’ painful co-dependence. The precise nature of the incident in the distant past which might have a bearing on the brothers’ present predicament remains (intentionally) obscure, which is frustrating; but the piece as a whole provides a bracing emotional workout for actors and audiences alike.”