"The Devil Inside Him"
My first experience of a National Theatre Wales production was a preview performance of “The Devil Inside Him”, the earliest extant play by John Osborne, staged at Cardiff’s New Theatre, directed by Elen Bowman. Set in a small, family-run guest-house in a Valleys village (Osborne having been Welsh on his father’s side), it predates “Look Back In Anger” by about six years but is, surprisingly, rather less creaky. Its ostensible hero is the tormented teen poet, Huw, played by Iwan Rheon (of E4’s "Misfits"), although the voice of reason turns out to be Burn, the holidaying medical student (Jamie Ballard). The other ingredients are the stern, religious father (Derek Hutchinson), his apparently meek wife (Helen Griffin), the comic-relief busybody housekeeper (Rachel Lumberg), the disastrously flirty servant girl (Catrin Stewart), the pompous minister of religion (John Cording), and a commercial traveller (Steven Elliot), who retires early on, having lit the blue touch-paper. The tone is Ibsenesque, but with some humour at the expense of Welsh stereotypes, and it’s compelling throughout, building towards a devastating climax; the heartfelt scene in which Religion and Rationalism fight for the soul of the Poet is especially arresting, and the final tableau was remarkable. There were some technical issues (such as the blinking lamp which might have represented Huw’s tortured soul, but was probably accidental), and I got the impression that I wasn’t the only audience-member squinting to make out what was happening during the night-time scenes (obviously intentional, but distracting). On the whole, though I felt this was a play well worth disinterring, and a production which deserves to live on.