Dir. Ffion Dafis
Last year Theatr Genedlaethol showcased three new pieces of original writing. Caryl Lewis wrote a script entitled ‘Marjory’, a piece which explored one girl’s ability to talk to the dead. Theatr Genedlaethol has developed this for their production Y Negesydd with Ffion Dafis directing once again.
In partnership with Theatr Felinfach, Y Negesydd, meaning ‘The Messenger’, is set in 1950s’ Ceredigion. The play follows Elsi, a young girl with the ability to speak to dead people, who grows up having to repress her gift in fear of what the neighbours might say. Seen as a devilish act by her selectively religious and socially conscious father, Elsi literally has the ability beaten out of her. Geraint Morgan plays the tormented father, haunted by the death of his little sister, which he believes to be his fault. Morgan gives a fantastic performance, a man plagued by memories which drives him to the bottle. His chemistry with his onstage daughter is, at times, electric.
Sara Lloyd-Gregory gives an equally outstanding performance as Elsi. She ranges from the innocent schoolgirl, unable to understand her father’s concerns, to the emotionally exhausted young woman who is forced to close the door on her conversations with the dead. Lloyd-Gregory plays the part with the perfect amount of restraint; it may sometimes be tempting to play the character as raving mad, but she pulls it back from anything exaggerated and executes a poignant performance. Aled Pedrick and Lisa Marged play the grieving couple who have lost a young son, and who turn to Elsi for reassurance. Elsi, jilted by Pedrick’s character Ifan in her teenage years, communicates false messages to the grieving mother, unable to hear the voices after suppressing them with medicine and an operation. The production’s greatest strength was undoubtedly its talented cast.
The set, although aesthetically pleasing, was not entirely practical. Set out as an open house, the bedroom, where Elsi experienced some of her most dramatic scenes, was masked in gauze. Combined with the fact that it was a small room, the scenes did not feel as intimate as they should have. Problems with lighting meant that those on eye-level with the attic room were able to see scene changes and members of crew through the gauze quite clearly as the performance continued on the lower levels. There were hiccups with lighting in general on this specific evening, with actors being left in darkness, but admittedly this may have been an isolated occurrence.
The script was well-written and contained a satisfying narrative arch which allowed the audience to invest in the story. There is a brilliant climactic last scene which sees Elsi tormented by the voice of her dead father as he reassures her that he will stay with her always. Voices of the dead are played on audio, which does slightly detract from the overall atmosphere of the piece. Occasionally, effects were used which improved the quality of the audio.
Theatr Genedlaethol undoubtedly possess a fine selection of Welsh actors and each performance boasts an impressive set and design. Although a solid script onstage is satisfying once in a while, it would be interesting to see the theatre breaking convention a little bit more for their next production, pushing the boundaries and creating new, challenging pieces of theatre.