Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Monday, May 04, 2009

"Amgen : Broken"

There’s a cliché in these parts that the perennial subject for Welsh drama is “What it is to be Welsh”, and the pre-publicity for Sherman Cymru’s production of Gary Owen’s “Amgen : Broken” (“amgen” meaning “alternative) seems to suggest that it touches explicitly on this theme, with its two characters being versions of the same person :- depressed, English-speaking “Gary” (played by Steven Meo); and the ostensibly less depressed, more complacent, more successful “Gareth” (Simon Watts), who has chosen, at a crucial point in his life, to become a Welsh-speaker. It’s a subtler piece than that, though, eloquently mining the depths of personal and social despair whilst remaining funny and engaging. As an experiment in bi-lingual theatre (about a third of the dialogue being in Welsh), it succeeds to the extent that it allows monoglot audience-members to identify with “Gary’s” feelings of exclusion and alienation while gaining tantalising hints as to the nature of “Gareth’s” parallel journey, an apparently smoother one which nevertheless brings him to a moment of near-terminal unhappiness as poignant as that of his counterpart. It goes without saying that the performances were excellent, and I particularly liked the set – strewn with discarded carrier-bags and fast-food wrappings. I think I may have missed a beat, however, in terms of the events which led to “Gary’s” final crisis of confidence, but I was probably distracted by the smoke.

The hit Edinburgh production to which I made a small but vital (my perspective only) contribution, “The Exquisite Corpse” is about to have its London opening, at the Southwark Playhouse which, apparently, is not quite in the West End. I look forward to seeing how it’s looking these days.


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