Tag Archives: Ffion Williams

Change by J O Francis

Performance

Chapter, Cardiff Wed 18 Oct 2006, 8pm. £3 on the door

Cast

John Pricce (an old collier) – Gwyn Vaughan Jones

Gwen (his wife) – Anwen Williams

John Henry }                                                  – Richard Shackley

Lewis               }  (their 3 sons)                – Gareth John Bale

Gwilym          }                                                  – Leon Davies

Isaac Pugh – John Cording

Lizzie Ann ( a poor relation) – Ffion Williams

Sam Thatcher (their lodger) – Lee Mengo

Twm Powell –Rhys Parry Jones

Dai Matthews – Huw Davies

Jinnie pugh – Sara Lloyd

Director

Sarah Argent

Review

Almost a century has passed since J O Francis’ intense domestic drama was first seen yet its central theme of a family ripped apart by social, political, cultural and economic change rings true to us down the generations.

Add to this acting of quite remarkable passion and utter conviction in this rehearsed reading and this offering from the On the Edge, State of the Nation season, had the audience literally on the edge of their seats.

The story is of a mining family in the Rhondda just before the First World War, when coal was king but the mining communities were its serfs. But change is in the air with the rash of strikes, the burgeoning Labour movement, and political rather than pulpit oration offering salvation.

On the family scene we have a hard working God fearing father John Price, played by Gwyn Vaughan-Jones with a wonderful combination of strength and vulnerability. He has made sacrifices throughout his life so his sons can have the education and chances he never had. His sole ambition is to have one of his sons become the minister – the accolade of success. His wife is played by Anwen Williams and a more moving and exhausting performance I have rarely seen. She has a simpler ambition, to have her family around her.

But these are changing times. One son Gwilym played as a gentle yet deeply observant child by Leon Davies has consumption and is to live with a relation in Australia. Another son John Henry, sympathetically played by a Richard Shackley, turns his back on the ministry and chooses, shame of it, the stage. The third son Lewis, played with fire in soul by Gareth John Bale, chooses firebrand politics as his religion. John Price has the preacher son he always wanted but with socialism rather than Christianity his message.

The lodger Sam Thatcher (ironically appropriate surname for a play about struggling mining communities) is played by Lee Mengo as the outsider, a disabled rover from Canning Town whose mantra is to go with the flow.

Set against a montage of actual industrial disputes including confrontations with strike-breaking soldiers, the plot follows the break up of the family as the father cannot understand his children’s values in the changing society. One by one they depart leaving their mother a broken woman.

Yes, the symbolism of the characters seems a little heavy handed and obvious to us today but remember there are still plays and musicals even still being written that follow what over the following century has become a hackneyed and clichéd dramatic convention in Welsh drama.

Mike Smith (Western Mail)

 

Slaughter on Grand Avenue by Alan Osborne

Performance

Chapter, Cardiff, Fri 8 July 2005 £3 on the door

Cast

Antonia – Katy Owen

Hogarth – Jason Camilleri

Alicia – Clare Isaac

Puffin- Ffion Williams

Isaf- Lloyd Everitt

with Henry Johnson on drums.

Director

Michael Kelligan

Lighting

Dan Young

Review

Calling a theatre festival Passion is, I guess, provocative enough: to launch it with a group of scantily-clad dancing devils and an off-the-wall play about poetry, pornography and patrimony is even more interesting.So Passion, Cardiff’s first-ever city of drama festival, was launched at the New Theatre by the Lord Mayor, complete with chain and formal speech, but just as she stood up to the mike she found herself assailed by the suggestive close-up shimmying of a man wearing blue paint and little else, with a trident and his gang of squirming Trinidadian Blue Devils, just flown in to make their presence felt throughout the Passion festival and for the Mas Carnival in the Bay on July 30.With hips shaking and red tongues shooting in and out, the troupe were not really the sort of event normally encountered in the New Theatre bar or by civic leaders. You could almost see the think bubble above Cllr Freda Salway’s head as she waited for the gyrating and drumming to abate so she could open this exciting 25 days of drama in the city: HELP ! it said silently.

And if you thought that Chapter’s theatre was going to offer a refuge from the crazy and the carnivalesque – well, when does it ever ?

Alan Osborne, that remarkable polymath, can however express just what the Lord Mayor said when she did get to make her speech: the culture of Cardiff is unique and it is one created by the different communities who have settled there.

Osborne has always been interested more in the fringes of that culture – the dispossessed, the inarticulate, the odd and the plain loopy. Bull, Rock and Nut, Redemption Song and In Sunshine and In Shadow remain a trilogy of exception force and unconventional lyricism.

Those three plays are now known as the Merthyr Trilogy but his new play, Slaughter on Grand Avenue, harks back to the subject matter of one of his earlier plays, working-class Cardiff. Johnny Darkie, through, was based on dockland while his new work, as yet unfinished, is set in Ely and the road that runs through it.

Here we find Alicia J. Rummell, porn queen and entrepreneur, rap poet Hogarth and his girl, Antonia, who cons disability allowance by acting mental, “doing poetic illness”, and an odd couple in fancy dress, Puffin and Isaf, who turn out to be Hogarth’s half-siblings whom he and his father had abandoned in Swansea.

Just what happens, or why, is not terribly clear, especially in this script-in-hand production from Michael Kelligan as part of his On The Edge season of rehearsed readings, with its mainly young cast not seemingly sure of how to deliver Osborne’s often opaque if lyrical speeches.

Osborne’s stylised writing, I suspect, demands a very special kind of actor (I recall Dorien Thomas as the perfect performer to voice Osborne’s words) and while Katy Owen is fine, quirky and highly talented oddly I didn’t find her convincing as an Ely freak; and while Ffion Jenkins impressed considerably she did make her scenes seem, perhaps not unsurprisingly, to be more from Ed Thomas country than the even crazier world of Alan Osborne.

Clare Isaac grounded the play to an extent, Jason Cazmilleri was a convincing rap poet (after all, he is one) and Lloyd Everitt showed promise – but none, it seems to me, created that distinctive real-but-unreal place inhabited by Osborne’s larger-than-life characters.

Even so, I enjoyed the show enormously, if only because Alan Osborne has got just what this festival is all about: passion.

 David Adams