A little troupe of members from TEAM took up Rachel Rosen’s offer to see My Body Welsh by Tara Robinson and Steffan Donnelly last Thursday at Galeri in Caernarfon. The play is a monologue, exploring ‘the role storytelling plays in constructing national identity’ and it is BRILLIANT (and it’s not just me saying that – see Wales Arts Review for a thorough and eloquent review ).

One aspect I was really struck by, and that I wanted to reflect on, was the power of the production in inextricably drawing the audience into a teenage ‘space’ (physically and metaphorically), and holding us there for an hour. This disarmingly honest, physically and emotionally engaging space meant that idealism, humour, gaucheneess, uncertainty, selfishness and disaffection were experienced on a personal level. So it wasn’t just an exploration of personal identity within the context of the national for Steffan, but for each of us: It was not possible to maintain the ‘certainty’ of an adult identity. It opened a space of questioning and uncertainty that has stayed with me since the show.

 

It’s hard to dissect what exactly contributed to this. It was a disarmingly open and engaging production right from arrival at the theatre, with the option of buying the script before the show (for just £3) and the personal meet and greet and sharing of Smarties. So the scene was set early. The superb script and delivery by Steffan himself was central to the success, of course. And the set, consisting of multiple diverse water containers (from plant sprayer to antique glass vases, from bird bath to tin bath) held a playful, teenage intuitive symbolism – time, emotion, blood, danger, blessing, things slipping through your fingers…. And finally, there was Jordan Mallory-Skinner seated nonchalantly at a table with his Mac, mixing sound, as if in someone’s garage.  The immediacy, quality, humour and inventiveness of the live mixed bilingual sound drew all the aspects together - the audience included - into the heart of the production.

 

As an adult, going back to reassess where my identity now lies, as an incomer to Wales, and an integrationist/adoptee/Welsh learner, within the context of current global events was sobering. It came to a head with the ending. Although to be honest I can’t remember exactly what happened in terms of the story line, it left me with a deep sense of unease. Steffan had been coopted - complicit and disaffected.  

 

My fledgling Welsh identity (pride in knowing the myths, events and preferences he had alluded to), ownership of ‘stuff’ (property included), the rejection of the lands of my ancestors, my dwindled activism – deafeatism even - in the face of long-fought battles on things like Climate Change and democracy, all suddenly require urgent review and contemplation. I also find myself wondering how I could create more ‘teenage space’ in my own events, because this contemporary, activist, Welsh, Adrian Mole-type creation is powerful stuff.

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