Y TWR (THE TOWER) Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff 30 January 2015

 

 EXCELLENT IN ANY LANGUAGE

 

The Tower was originally a play written in 1978 by Gwenlyn Parry, a well-respected Welsh playwright. In plays such as the Tower he introduced Welsh audiences to the theatre of the absurd where plays stressed the irrational or illogical aspects of life, usually to show that modern life is pointless. The Invertigo Company has ‘translated’ and transformed the Tower into a one act play that retains much of the original content but has been given a fresh look.

 

The requirement of a one act play is that it should at least be good dramatic art. Director, Aled Pedrick’s revival of Gwenlyn Parry’s classic is a masterpiece of dramatic and literary expression. Cunningly wrought it visibly provoked the intended interest and emotional response from an audience that was captivated from start to finish.

 

The play tells the story of a man and woman as partners meeting and dealing with everything life has to throw at them in the real and imagined worlds from the time they were teenagers in love.

 

The performances of Catherine Ayers and Steffan Donnelly were mesmerising. They were outstanding both individually and as a couple. There were so many emotions running through their performances that at times you almost needed to take a breather.  

 

Ayers was remarkable especially for the free-flow of emotions and impulses expressed in her movement and voice. Her ability to show youthful exuberance as a teenager on the one hand and more latterly a woman who was growing old with dignity exemplified her versatility and immense talent.

 

 

Steffan Donnelly was outstanding in the male role, displaying the characteristics many of the audience would be all too familiar with and too easy to criticise if their portrayal was flawed. That was never going to be a problem – his performance was flawless. There was a feeling that Donnelly was genuinely experiencing and portraying the character he was playing throughout the play.

 

 

They were both excellent in creating the moment-to-moment acting necessary for the story to flow seamlessly to its conclusion moving seemingly without effort into all the emotional areas required by the play.

 

The dialogue clearly expressed the ideas and emotions of the characters particularly when the emotions were running high. While the dialogue advanced the plot, with a little help from the tower and its stairs, it also revealed more and more of the characters of the couples.

 

What of the stairs? Is there more to them than just being used as a place where things happen in the play? Is there a higher purpose for them and meaning to them? The answers to these questions rely on the interpretation of the audience and that may not be universal.

Stairs have often been used to symbolize certain types of emotions. In this case the act of going up the stairs of the tower seemed to be a disorientating experience, taking the couple away from security and into the unknown with the implied loss of control mixed with sexual overtones, and eventually leading to death. So, as well as being mesmerised by the excellence of the acting one appreciated the brilliantly conceived role of the stairs in supporting and promoting the plot.

The production is especially praiseworthy for its brevity, clarity, and spontaneity of the ‘spoken word’. In addition to expressing the ideas and emotions of the characters, these characteristics were a huge asset to the use of the surtitles. Although there was the occasional lapse in synchronicity the surtitles were vital to the understanding of the play for all those in the audience who were non-Welsh speaking. It is the opinion of the author of this review that the use of surtitles was a significant success.

 

Overall The Tower is a production that is familiar in concept but surprising in content. It is a masterpiece of which the whole Invertigo Company can be proud of.

 

Leaving the (almost) last word to the director, he has a favourite theatre quote:

“As actors, we are a company of friends, dependent upon the kindness of strangers.”

That kindness was warmly afforded by a highly appreciative audience that was captivated and emotionally aroused by the performance it was privileged to see.

 

 

  • Special thanks go to Savannah Photographic for the wonderful photographs used in this review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DYDDIADAU / DATES

 Tuesday 27 - Saturday 31 January 2015

Chapter Arts Centre - 029 2030 4400, www.chapter.org

 Monday 2 February 2015

Carmarthen Lyric - 0845 226 3510, www.theatrausirgar.co.uk

Tuesday 3 - Wednesday 4 February 2015

Galeri Caernarfon - 01286 685 222, galericaernarfon.com

Thursday 5 - Friday 6 February 2015

Clwyd Theatr Cymru - 01352 701 521, www.clwyd-theatr-cymru.co.uk

Sunday 8 February 2015

Arcola Theatre, London - 020 7503 1646, www.arcolatheatre.com

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