Tag Archives: Karin Diamond

Burned by Othniel Smith


Chapter, Cardiff, Wed 23 March 2005, £3 on the door


Mair Meredith ( A school teacher) – Lynn Hunter

Ruth Niyonzima (A nurse) – Karin Diamond

Donald Llewellyn (An accountant) – Brian Hibbard

Alun Meredith ( A doctor, Mair’s brother) – Jeremi Cockram


Hugh Thomas


The On The Edge theatre season in Chapter’s Media Centre has proved to be a fascinating series of events – some underrated classics, some new work still needing development and now a real cracker from a writer whose work we don’t see enough on stage.

And Othniel Smith’s previously-unperformed play also offers a rare genre: the domestic political comedy, as a family in bereavement take us from black humour to chilling realpolitik. It’s not farce, a la Dario Fo, but a calculated manipulation of an audience from getting us laughing at witty one-liners to searching our consciences and weighing moral issues: quite a journey.

In the archetypal situation of a run-down South Wales valley town four people gather: the daughter, a single primary-school teacher, the son, a doctor doing aid work in Palestine, a family friend, a local politician and accountant, and the nurse who had attended the dying mother.

It starts amusingly with all those familiar tensions, the revelation that the old dear had taken to drink after a lifetime of abstinence, the family friend is a randy old goat, and so on. There are tensions: why is the doctor son late for the funeral, why is the friend so suspicious of the nurse, what’s the development deal he’s involved with ?

Then things lurch into really tough areas and we are confronted not just tales of African genocide and Middle-East suicide-bombing but into abstract dilemmas: is morality relative, where does personal responsibility begin and end, what is individual integrity, what’s the divide between the personal and the political, who should feel guilt ?

And how refreshing to have a play that not only is full of ideas but, unlike most of the little political drama we do get, offers the audience an open debate with the only possible conclusion that no-one is innocent, we are all complicit, we hide beneath a veneer of respectability or the cloak of political rectitude.

The script-in-hand format of the On The Edge productions is actually ideally suited to a play of ideas like Burned. There is no real action and one suspects that a full production would not have the intensity of this taut argument carried out in a small intimate space with the audience inches from the performers.

What makes it work well, and without which it could seem horribly worthy or wordy, is an experienced company under the direction of Hugh Thomas: Lynn Hunter, Brian Hibbard, Karin Diamond and Jeremi Cockram are all actors who would give weight to any production.

That we can engage with the dilemmas, tease out the issues of identity, ethnicity, ideology and power, sympathise with and despise the central character, the disillusioned socialist, is due to the immediacy of the performances.

It is, inevitably, very tv-influenced as we can imagine the close-up shots, the pans and zooms that make the speeches more digestable – except, of course, any tv version would involve cutting and simplification.

Does this deserve a full-scale stage production ? Perhaps – but this rehearsed reading, small-scale, stimulating, provocative, accomplished, was just fine.

David Adams (Western Mail)


A Blue Heron in the Womb by Ian Rowlands


Chapter, Cardiff , Mon 8 Nov 2004 £3 on the door


Man – Sean Carlsen

Sister – Kathryn Dimery

Woman – Karin Diamond

Mother – Anwen Williams

Father – Gareth Potter


Michael Kelligan


We haven’t heard much from Ian Rowlands, not so long ago heralded as one of Wales’s finest playwrights and a possible director for a national Welsh-language theatre company, so it’s good to be reminded that he is indeed one of the most erudite, provocative and literate craftsmen in contemporary Welsh drama.

His work isn’t easy, operating on many different levels, but it’s always stimulatingly aggressive and engaging – Blue Heron in the Womb, the last of his more familiar works (it was premiered in Glasgow six years ago and I recall it in a not-altogether successful staging at Mold the following year), has that recognisable signature theme of a guilt that’s mixed up with language and sex expressed in dialogue whose passion and poetry harks back to an earlier age of lyricism and wordplay.

Rowlands has been be accused of verbosity and most of his twenty or so plays (Marriage of Convenience is held to be his classic, but Pacific, Love in Plastic and Glissando on an Empty Harp are also well worth revisiting) are often better read than seen, but it’s an unfair charge – as this admirably simple production from Michael Kelligan as the final event in his season’s fascinating series of play-readings proves.

Here the gradually-evolving narrative – the gathering of a family to scatter the ashes of a dead child, with twin sisters revealing their tortured and tortuous relationships with the same absent lover – is as clear as it can be, although it isn’t exactly straightforward. The action swings back and forth in time and place with themes woven around Rowlands’s concern with nationhood – the play ends with the birth of another child and the consequent reversion of all the characters to Welsh, and we are reminded that it was written immediately after the vote for devolution.

Such allegorical content may or may not enhance the quality of the audience’s experience. Do we need to know the original Dylan Thomas use of the heron as a symbol of death ? Do we need to be aware of the way other writers have linked men’s dominance over women to imperial oppression ? Do we have to be aware of the recurring metaphors of the family, absent fathers, aborted children, mourning and so in the albeit limited canon of contemporary Welsh drama ?

Do we, indeed, need to know that much of this is based on the playwright’s own life ? Not really, but the degree to which it seems like an extended confessional is even more noticeable now than when it was first staged, even though the final speech used in this production is not the very personalised original one.

But too much concern with seeking out meanings can spoil our enjoyment of any play and it’s to the credit of this ad-hoc company that it worked, in the intimate environment of Chapter’s second space, so effectively as a startling piece of theatre.

Blue Heron the Womb is my favourite Rowlands play and I have to say that although this production was script-in-hand it more or less did the work justice and there were some excellent and committed performances, of an intensity and mastery that is quite unexpected in such events as these, from Sean Carlsen, Kath Dimery, Karin Diamond, Anwen Williams and Gareth Potter.

The rather peculiar genre of the “rehearsed reading” was actually exploited well, with some full-on performances and just minimal choreography that caught the balance between a full production and a lower-key staging that allows us more time to absorb the words. Considering the play starts with the stage direction “A man hovers six feet above Wales” and includes one attempted suicide leap from a mountain and one suicide by drowning, that’s no mean feat.

David Adams (Western Mail)