Tag Archives: Sara Lloyd

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)

 

Crossing the Bar by Lucy Gough

Performance

Chapter, Cardiff, Wed 9 March 2005 £3 on the door

Cast

Nun – Sara Lloyd

Boy- Dyfan Dwyfor

Keeper/Gaoler –Gareth Potter

Director

Elen Bowman

Review

Lucy Gough’s remarkable two-hander is one of those plays more revered than seen – written twelve years ago, it gets very rare outings despite its reputation.

It is a brave soul, indeed, who takes on this intense, wordy, complex but exhilarating trip through religion, sex, metaphysics, love, death, redemption and salvation, so all credit to the On The Edge series of rehearsed readings for reminding us of Ms Gough’s lyricism, ambition and originality.

The challenge is compounded by the lack of clues we get at the outset: in Chapter’s sparse so-called studio space (aka the media centre, aka the upstairs bar) all we see at the outset is two young people in casual clothes who don’t know each other in a room with two candles burning, rather than the instant signs we’d get in a full production – the script clearly says that the boy has “Cut Here” tattooed on his neck, the girl to be dressed in a nun’s white habit.

It takes time, then, to realise that we have a young criminal and someone from a medieval religious order, two conflicting cultures and times, thrown together in a kind of limbo between heaven and hell.

The boy seems hardly fazed by his companion’s strange cod-archaic speech, she unperturbed by his inarticulate obscenities. Both novices of kinds, they share a cell she calls Dread where a mysterious gaoler/keeper appears occasionally with messages.

Now there comes a time not long into Crossing the Bar when we might think it would work better as a radio play – for one thing, the language is so dense you have to concentrate very hard to follow – especially as the characters are not in costume. The beautiful ambiguity of the rehearsed-reading genre, however, comes into its own when the actors actually perform as well as just read – and in Elen Bowman’s sensitive production of Crossing the Bar you realise that you do need to watch as well as listen.

The developing relationship between the two caught between heaven and hell, between life and death, is here not just in the words but in so much more: the space each inhabits, the physical contact, their faces, their interaction, all portrayed subtly and strikingly by Sara Lloyd and Dyfan Dwyfor.

Indeed, we realise more than any personal reading of the text might suggest that they are falling in love, that in her he sees the girl he has left behind when he hangs himself in Swansea goal.

There is a moral to this tale, however, and it depends on the final scene, which I have no intention of revealing. But on the way to the crossing of the bar a lot happens to that young boy, who is not only a criminal but, perhaps inevitably in a drama laden with religious references, can be seen as a Christ-like saviour of us all.

The play is, I suspect, a work that could not ever be performed to complete satisfaction – and, indeed, we wouldn’t want it to yield all its secrets, because we will find more in it every time we see it (or, more likely, read it). But this very committed production, even if it is script-in-hand with minimal rehearsal, does more than hint at the power and mystery of the piece, thanks to a great extent to Sara Lloyd’s finely-nuanced portrayal of the nun as a young naïve figure who can talk so scatologically and fart ferociously yet express a mix of innocence and sexual awakening.

David Adams (Western Mail)