Martin Morley

A Life in Theatre & Television Design

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Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Hen Rebel  and Cysgod y Cryman reviews

Hen Rebel

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru , Canolfan y Celfyddydau Aberystwyth , October-23-05

Translated from the original Welsh review by Nicky John  by Google Translate

We now know that our National Theater has received mixed reports to date - to say the least. However, we know that it's easy to be critical; so I went on Thursday, October 20th, to a crowded theatre at the Arts Center, Aberystwyth, to expect, and hopefully with the rest of the audience to  experience a production worth praising this time.

Hen Rebel is a music drama, about an event over a hundred years ago, witness to  the Evan Robert’s Reformation. His religious movement was responsible for inspiring many here in small Wales.

Having taken our seats, we did not wait long before  some charming  singing is a sign it was time for the show to start. The combination of this beautiful singing, as well as the costumes and striking set of Martin Morley, gave a promising impression - but would the rest of the show please likewise? ...

During the first scene, we  meet the man himself; Evan Roberts, (David Lyndon), and see the response of his friends and family as he publishes his love to Christ, and proclaims his intention; namely to attend the preparatory school and the theological college to follow his dream - and become a preacher. We clearly saw the great pleasure this gave to a large number of his friends in Loughor ‘’’’

During the next scene I forgot about this fault completely, when I met the character of Stokes, (Maldwyn John) in the ship of the Ship and Bottle. Stokes is a stubborn  journalist; and if I was lending the term English, 'Cheeky Chappy' would be a perfect description. I cannot help to warm up to Stokes, but I feel that that is a thank you to Maldwyn John's acting standard rather than anything else. I knew his first moment he walked on stage, and opened his mouth to report his first line that this was a character I believed in and was convincing. In addition, it must be noted how beautiful it was to witness the relationship between Stokes and Barbara Bertha, (Carys Eleri). Again, this is a character thought through and it was a pleasure to see how both managed to play from each other, keeping the atmosphere light and curious.

Unfortunately, it was a pity to witness the effort of some other cast members, as they portrayed characters, and completely failed to convince them in the same way.

Many of the cast with northern accents were natural, and too many were applying to give a southern accent onwards - without being able to carry it through the whole performance. One example of this, especially, who has stayed with me - and many other people too - if what I heard in the hallway during the break counts at all ...

There is a scene in the Chapel, where Evan Roberts says his lines as the Holy Spirit comes to. Just when I read the program I've just discovered what David Lyndon was shouting during that scene ...


Nonetheless, David Lyndon was not the only one guilty of being entrenched in my seat at times. It is considered, for example, the character of Howell (Dave Taylor), and Mr Jenkins (Llion Williams), or Elin (Angharad Lee). A young boy is a first-born, who is against the concept of being touched by the reform - or anything else religious. Contrary to this is Mr Jenkins and Elin - two characters that are clearly wholly inspired by the work of Evan Roberts.

Having contrasting characters is essential in any story or drama, but the problem is that the difference in their morals has been emphasized until it is all too obvious here: a bit 'pantomime' - especially where Taylor was the question - 'the bad man rebels against the good people' ...

And again, the second half applied a new angle on things. There was a superficial scene where Dafydd Huw James was dressed in a Victorian dress and fake hair, such as Piano Accompanist to Owen Arwyn, the Hypnotist; as they sing on stage in 'Liverpool'; and their song was tortured by Evan Roberts as he began to suspect himself, as well as the message he was spreading across the country. As the Stokes and Bertha relationship that I mentioned earlier, the performance was valuable


A production of the highest standard


Cysgod y Cryman

Reviewed by: Rhys Hopkin

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru , Taliesin Arts Centre Swansea , February-19-07

 Cysgod y Cryman – Shadow of the Sickle – is widely regarded as the best Welsh Language book of the last century, and so, even though it is now over 50 years since it was first published, adapting it for the stage was never going to be an easy task. The novels strength was in the depth of its themes, and it was a pleasure to see that Sion Eirian’s adaptation and the strong cast had managed to transfer this to the stage.

As the two partriarchs, Dyfan Roberts and Owen Garmon filled the stage with their presence, and along with Christine Pritchard, showed why the three of them have been at the top of their game for so many years.

Since I saw ‘Wrth Aros Beckett’ last year, I had been looking forward to Carwyn Jones’ next performance, and in the lead role of Harri Vaughan he didn’t dissapoint, excellently portraying his feelings and internal conflict. Another cast member who impressed with his last outing for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru was Owen Arwyn, and he gave another solid performace as Karl, the German farmhand who falls for the daughter of the estate.

In fact, the entire cast were very good, but a special mention must go to the younger members who more than held their own against the more experienced in the company. Fflur Medi Owen was particularly convincing as Greta, sister of the lead character and object of Karl’s affections, and Lisa Jên Brown was excellent as Gwylan Thomas. Iola Hughes also gave a strong performance in her portrayal of Marged, but it was a shame that she also played another character in another location. Whilst speaking of playing multiple characters, I must mention Simon Watts, who over the two hours played three characters, and managed to convince as each one individually.

The entire production was tied together by a simple but effective set and Gareth Glyn’s fabulous musical score. This was never going to be an easy production, but Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru have again staged a production of the highest standard, and it was a pleasure to see Taliesin Arts Centre full for a Welsh Language performance.

The show is still on tour until March 10th.