The Other Room, Cardiff
Alun Saunders’ original play A Good Clean Heart follows the story of two brothers who, separated at a young age, find each other again after 18 years. The play poses questions about identity and asks whether languages and cultures are a part of who we are or whether it’s possible to push all this aside in the search for the true self. The play, which is bilingual, is a heart-warming piece which sees the collision of two completely opposite worlds.
It is Hefin’s 18th birthday and his parents have something important to tell him; letters from his half-brother in London have been arriving for years. Hefin always knew he was adopted, but there’s still an anger in him which causes him to explode during a Welsh lesson at school. James Ifan as Hefin is likeably believable as the frustrated young man and captures the energetic confusion of a teenager throughout the play. In his temper, Hefin sends an email to his brother Jay and hastily books a bus to London to meet him. There’s just one problem; Jay is on a curfew and his tag means he has to take Hefin, a naïve, hymn singing rugby lad from Wales, back to his mother’s drug riddled flat in London.
Naturally things go from bad to worse as Hefin snorts his first line of coke and sings karaoke with his estranged mother. The evening ends in turbulence which results in Hefin’s adoptive mother Ros joining forces with Jay to search for Hefin on the streets of London. Dorian Simpson is perfect as Jay; animated and hilarious. The pair make a strong cast, flawlessly weaving in and out of other characters with appropriate accents whilst still maintaining the pace of the play. The plethora of supporting characters played by the two actors could quite easily make this an ensemble piece but any confusion was minimal and is testament to the talent of the cast and crew.
Mared Swain’s directing was simple and effective, the small set with use of levels was well utilised. The use of surtitles was useful and interesting as both languages were translated into the other, not only from Welsh to English. This is fundamental to the production as Hefin has lived most of his life through the Welsh language. Jay, on the other hand, is perplexed at how alien Welsh is to him as a Londoner. This element widens the gulf between the brothers and exacerbates their sense of distance from one another. The multimedia back screen was used to display text and Facebook message screens between the characters which was particularly engaging and also useful if any words were lost in the natural chat between the two boys. Combined, this interactive element gave the piece a modern, self-aware and contemporary feel.
The script was effortlessly bilingual and did not shy away from the use of colloquialisms and profane language. This seventy minute performance was a heart-warming, uplifting tale of two brothers trying to reconnect and establish a relationship after being separated during childhood. As a home for original writing, Porter’s is an ideal venue. The intimacy really does create a familiar atmosphere which makes the themes more identifiable. The piece is suited for a smaller stage; it speaks to the audience in a more personal way.
A Good Clean Heart plays at Porters’ The Other Room until the 16th of May.