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.
I attended the Chapter performance of the latest in the On The Edge“Deadlier Than The Male” season of work by female playwrights :- “Gryfhead” by Lucy Gough, an everyday story of boy meets girl, girl’s brother kills boy, girl digs up boy’s body and keeps his head in the fridge. Based on a story from Boccaccio, via Keats, it starred Katy Owen as the feisty heroine, James Ashton as the unfortunate lover, Robert Harper as the unhinged, thuggish brother, and Alastair Sill as the Poet who alternates between observing, devising and participating in events, ultimately losing control of his creations, as Ella inconveniently refuses to fade prettily away. Less densely poetic than previous Lucy Gough plays that I’ve seen, “Gryfhead” is a grippingly gruesome tale of female empowerment set in a sink-estate/Grimm fairytale landscape (although it could probably have worked without the lupine trimmings). Despite the inevitable, distracting moments of awkwardness involving the juggling of scripts and props, this being a semi-staged reading, director Sita Calvert-Ennals kept things moving, striking a good balance between tragedy and absurdism. I went expecting edification, and ended up being thoroughly entertained.