Chapter Arts, Cardiff.
Sat 17th December.
Where is home? Somewhere you feel you belong? Or under the love of a parent who will forever disagree with you but with the best of intentions?
Rebecca and Alice: a mother and daughter divided by a generation, religion and men. In the dead of night Alice returns to the maternal home and Rebecca wakes, only for light to be shone on the darkest corners and for truths and revelations to come out.
It takes Alice the entire length of the play to answer Rebecca’s simple repeated question ‘Why are you here?’, continually changing the subject and disagreeing over the way things had been. Rebecca never seeing Alice’s pain or loneliness growing up in a valley where nothing changed or moved and being concerned with the way things are supposed to be – ‘What would the neighbours think’ and the Welsh Methodist mindset. Alice never seeing her mother’s joy at her little girl and giving her everything she could. Yet their lives following such similar paths as it is both husbands resort to violence, though one through drink and the other through God. The Grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
A small thing struck me, although it never slowed the plays pace or strong impact, the combination of American dream images and those of the ‘Mormon’ church are polar opposites. As the Church of Latter Day Saints believes in a simple life, banning much of everyday modern life whereas the American dream is big houses, cars and easy ready money. Or is it simply showing Rebecca’s limited understanding of the wide world outside her small Welsh valley? We are after all no different – there are striking similarities between the beliefs of both churches. Except of course the familiar ‘more tea’ and the very Welsh way of tea and talk solving every problem under the sun; something that always brings a smile. Routed firmly in Welsh Valley mentality and custom, the play used those conventions skilfully and without cliché or stereotype.
Utah Bride is the first full length play by 1.618 Theatre Company, written by Carmen Medway-Stephens and as a play in development was shown script in hand. The director, actors and writer were given a week to explore the text for the two nights of performance in Chapter and even with everything stripped back and a simple a set, it was about more than just the words in the play as some script in hander’s can be but the play itself. With alternative endings on each night, the Saturday ending fitted perfectly, leaving the audience with the emotions of a turbulent night in front of them yet completely satisfied.
Utah Bride was a piece of theatre to feed the soul and make you think. I wish the writer and team all the best in taking it to a full performance and on tour, particularly as it is now going to be translated into Welsh.
Picture is the plays promotional material/poster
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