Grace Patrick continues her roundup of reviews from the Welsh productions on show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In Part three, Grace looks at the continued collaboration between Theatr Clwyd and Paines Plough’s Roundabout with Charley Miles’ Daughterhood; the hip hop folk fusion of Martin Daws with Bardd; and the return of Carys Eleri’s Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff).
Daughterhood (Paines Plough and Theatr Clwyd): Summerhall Roundabout
In 1989, Arlie Hothschild published a seminal work, The Second Shift. This book introduced the idea that there is a burden of care which disproportionately falls on women, even those with busy professional and personal lives. After spending however many hours at work professionally, millions of women then begin the ‘second shift’, comprised of childcare, caring for relatives, and all the emotional labour attached. Perhaps in recent years this burden has become more evenly shared, but this work is still very much a fact of life. This is where Daughterhood meets us. In the house of a dying father, two daughters collide; one has given months, if not years, to the care of their father, and the other has barely broken off from her whirlwind life to come and help.
Unsurprisingly, this is something of an emotional catalyst: amid the firestorm of emotions, a complex past starts to emerge, informing the present in various ways. In practice, this isn’t an entirely positive aspect of the production. It sometimes feels pulled in too many directions, or as if it’s attempting to prove too many different things about the characters. While a play like this could never have a really happy ending, it does get where it’s going. However, it also seems to circle around the point on its way there.
At its best, this play contains some really pertinent observations on the nature of family and on how we can navigate rocky emotional waters. It taps into some very nuanced aspects of sibling relationships, especially those further complicated by age gaps. It’s a compassionate but open-eyed exploration of situations which, really, are simply unfair and which ultimately produce no winner. Charlotte Bate is particularly evocative on stage, handling the insecure frustration of someone who has given over her entire life to other people. In the weaker moments, some of Charley Miles’ dialogue doesn’t ring true, which in turn undermines the points that it is trying to make. However, Daughterhood rides on a strong enough concept that it can survive some harder-to-pin-down moments. Stef O’Driscoll has directed a smart play that resists all temptations to be emotionally manipulative.
To find out more about this show at the Fringe click HERE
Bardd (Martin Daws & Mr Phormula); Sweet Grassmarket
Drawing from a diverse musical background, Bardd is marketed as a synergy of hip hop and folk influences, although that feels a little too straightforward when confronted with the reality. Maybe the most impressive element of this show is its comfortable lyricism, shifting between English and Welsh as if there’s no real divide at all. Even the rhymes of former Young Person’s Laureate of Wales Martin Daws and beatboxer Mr Phormula flow from one to the other, synergising the two in a way rarely, if ever, heard in music. This is a theme that they return to several times, both in their lyrics and in between songs: the coexistence of languages and communities, and the creation of bridges through the destruction of walls. Led by Daws, the group treads the line between music and spoken word. Many of the tracks contain extended moments of speech, although these are never allowed to become long enough to drag.
Aside from the politics of language, it’s pretty clear that Bardd are socially engaged in other spheres as well. A stand out moment is a piece dedicated to the victims and circumstances of the Grenfell disaster, reflecting on what it meant for the West London community, and how it suggests our future as a society will look. It’s not always an entirely optimistic vision, but it is one which stresses, repeatedly, that it’s always possible to return to other people and to shift our focus back to the world around us. In other words, things will be alright if we make it so.
In some ways, it’s surprising that they’ve gone for an afternoon slot in a hotel, but the Edinburgh Fringe is full of such idiosyncrasies . The style of performance seems better suited to pubs and live music venues. Equally, however, the four man ensemble are more than capable of holding the space and working with their audience for their hour-long stint. In this very focused environment, it’s certainly easier to appreciate the details of their work, and the complexities of many of their sounds. Bardd is a genuinely innovative display of Welsh talent.
Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) (Carys Eleri & Wales Millennium Centre); Underbelly Cowgate
Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) bills itself as a “science comedy-musical”, digging into the hows and whys of our brains’ responses to the world around us. Armed with a beautiful powerpoint packed with some incredible cartoons of the brain and a variety of rat-based experimental anecdotes, performer Carys Eleri rummages through her own past, using her relationships as a way to consider the neurological processes which shape not only what we think about the things that happen to us, but also how they impact upon our memory and wider understanding of the world.
It’s a big ask from one individual who stresses that she is absolutely not in any way a scientist. However, where someone with a more scientific background could perhaps tell us more names and statistics, or offer more details, this could in no way substitute the emotional honesty and openness that Eleri brings with her to the stage. Given the nature of her show, there’s an enormous amount of her life on display, recounting episodes which were clearly hard enough to live through and, no doubt, draining to recall in such depth. Since opening this same show last year, Carys Eleri has experienced an unspeakably difficult time in her personal life, and she draws on this to discuss issues such as the paramount importance of genuine and developed friendships.
So often our emotions – especially those of women – are dismissed disturbingly easily. Words like “hysterical” and “over reaction” are tossed around as though they’re virtually meaningless, when what they cover for is an entire culture of brushing people’s experiences to the side. Eleri’s show, among many other things, functions as a direct response to this culture, countering it by repeatedly returning to the fact that our emotions really don’t come from nowhere. Cause and effect. Even when they feel not entirely reasonable – or unwelcome – they’re still a part of us.
Eleri also uses her platform to dig into the insidious, ever-present epidemic of loneliness. It’s surprisingly pleasant to have this acknowledged so openly, as it’s something that’s so much easier to just ignore. The emotional intelligence of Lovecraft actually feels quite profound. There’s real talent in being able to tackle such difficult topics with such a gentle presence, demonstrating that it’s brave to cry, but sometimes it’s even braver to laugh.
For more information about this show at the Fringe click HERE