Theatre

A Good Clean Heart by Alun Saunders at The Other Room

I am falling a little bit in love with The Other Room, Cardiff’s first pub theatre. There may well be an integral relationship with great company, great theatre, wine, and the convenience of location.

After seeing ‘Blasted’ which took a little while to absorb, I went back this week to see the final piece of the inaugural ‘Life in Close Up’ season. Written by actor-playwright Alun Saunders, the piece draws heavily on personal experience- Welsh culture and the adoption process.

‘A Good Clean Heart’ is the story of two brothers, separated through the adoption process, living in different cultures- family, lifestyle, education and expectation.

As we walked into the theatre, as always the penny dropped. A conversation with the fairy godmother about surtitles. My recent experience and dislike of them. (There is a logic in this, I am a reader, first and foremost, I am drawn to words, which felt at a recent production like a complete distraction from what was happening on the stage).

The penny, ‘cha ching’, I am about to go into a bilingual play, my GCSE Welsh from 20 (really!) years ago is unlikely to help. Surtitles, the only hope. Could this play see my gut reaction reversed?

Yes. Let’s just get that bit over and done with. 

Kicking the playground woodchip on the floor, watching the interaction between two actors, the lights dimming, and a separation.

Instantly into the life of Hefin, turning 18, a rugby trial imminent, the experience of a hangover, the ineptitude of ‘bad head’ being a suitable translation of hangover (pen-mawr). Because of course, this is being played out in Welsh.

As Hefin’s parents finally tell him what he’s always known, in spite of his bad head, that he is adopted.

That he might be expecting this news, that he is not surprised. Maybe by one piece of news, showing how our simplest foundations can be intrinsically crumbled.

Hefin might be English.

As Hefin’s absorbs and breaks under the weight of this, so he goes in search of his new hope, his brother.

And so, our first introduction to the integration of technology and stage, as the letter from Jaysen is absorbed (still lol-ing), emails exchanged and Facebook initiated.

It is fantastic, the dialogue between Hefin (James Ifan) and Jay (Dorian Simpson) is seamlessly intertwined, the direction of Mared Swain in creating this, Erin Maddock’s design and the video design by Zakk Hein, dialogues are integrated, combining cultures and upbringings. Glancing upwards provides the text to the vocal, the absolute clever of the ‘live’ dialogue of Facebook messenger being played out.

It is real, unfolding in front of you.

A Good Clean Heart - James Ifan and Dorian Simpson 2       (credit Pallasca Photography)

Credit Pallasca Photography

The small setting creating the intimacy, the pressure as the relationship unfolds, to Victoria Bus Station, to what is real: “Why are you black?” the initial unease, converted to want, to need, to bonding.

I loved the scenes on the bus journey, everything played out- proximity, pressure, stress, resolution.

To the living space, to Hefin meeting his mother, the amazing characterisation by James Ifan and Dorian Simpson of the mother and boyfriend, and later of Ros, Hefin’s mam, brought the additional dimension, making it real, the unfolding of the relationships, the absolute humour and appropriateness of ‘Bonkers’ being played out in English and Welsh, and to the breaking point.

A Good Clean Heart - James Ifan and Dorian Simpson (credit       Pallasca Photography)

Credit Pallasca Photography

And to the sentiment of the play, especially for this mum, the bonds of blood and upbringing, the never-ending complexity of parental love. The onstage portrayal by these two actors made an empathy possible, characterisations by two, of humour and poignancy, made the tears well up. To me, it is the humour which keeps everything possible, the ability to keep from sentiment and remain with our reality is tribute to the text, the script allows this to happen, the empathy of the path ahead, the reality of the potential. 

We each have our points of reference. For me, a Welsh mum bringing up her English children in Wales, with her English husband; the English husband accepting of the 3 year olds arriving home from nursery speaking ‘gobbledigook’; the friend at uni who was adopting siblings as I carried my first child.

Life. On stage. At home. It makes us confront, to experience, to understand, and to be.

A good clean heart furthers this journey. To understand. To move forward.

A Good Clean Heart is at The Other Room, Cardiff until 16th May 2015.

Disclosure: I received a ticket for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are my own.

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42 Comments

  • Reply
    hannah
    May 2, 2015 at 16:39

    This sounds like a good story, can’t remember last time i saw an on stage play x

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:11

      I stopped for a long time after moving away but it’s so nice to have as an option for a good night out! x

  • Reply
    Amy
    May 2, 2015 at 16:53

    I really don’t go and experience the theatre enough and as a welsh speaker this play really appeals to me. I may check it out x

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:11

      Oh you must! The Other Room are doing such wonderful theatre so it makes a great night out. x

  • Reply
    Mellissa williams
    May 2, 2015 at 17:55

    I didn’t know Cardiff had a pub theatre. It sounds intriguing, I must admit

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:12

      It does feel like one of those secrets you want to keep! But because I’m rubbish, it’s just opposite the Motorpoint Arena so great for parking and trains!

  • Reply
    Sarah Bailey
    May 2, 2015 at 20:13

    Oh wow what a great sounding night out and I love the idea of a pub theatre! x
    Sarah Bailey recently posted…Personalised pewter wine label and wine: ReviewMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:13

      It’s something I had never heard of before but it definitely a wonderful addition to a fab choice of theatre in Cardiff. x

  • Reply
    Cass@frugalfamily
    May 2, 2015 at 20:39

    I love the theatre but rarely get chance to go – I must make more of an effort x x
    Cass@frugalfamily recently posted…Free Printable Stick it on your fridge door and say goodbye to ‘Mum, I’m Bored’ forever!My Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:18

      It’s definitely a habit that I’ve felt better for initially making the habit, and now feeling better for knowing it’s in my diary. x

  • Reply
    Mina Joshi
    May 2, 2015 at 22:20

    This play sounds very interesting. I have not been to a pub theatre before. I am assuming that seeing a Play in a Pub is must be a unique experience.
    Mina Joshi recently posted…Kidney bean QuesadillasMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:19

      It definitely makes catching up with friends beforehand, and feeling no need to rush away afterwards a much more social experience. x

  • Reply
    Alina
    May 3, 2015 at 06:45

    Ooh sounds interesting – whereabout is this pub theatre?
    Alina recently posted…My Sunday PhotoMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:20

      Oh you will love it! Between Central and Queen St, opposite the Motorpoint arena… absolutely perfect for catching the train and both having a drink, and back for the .36 to Barry/ Rhoose. Definitely one to add to date repertoire 😉 x

  • Reply
    Ninja cat
    May 3, 2015 at 11:14

    I’d love to see a stage show again .

    I love the theatre .
    Ninja cat recently posted…Sunday May Bank HolidayMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:21

      It’s a nice habit to get back into. x

  • Reply
    angela hamilton
    May 3, 2015 at 19:18

    This sounds like a good story. It has been a long time since I have been to a stage show

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:22

      It’s taken me some time to start adding ‘grown up’ theatre back as well as taking the children, and I do feel so much more energised for it.

  • Reply
    Ness @ JibberJabberUK
    May 3, 2015 at 19:29

    What a brilliant story! It’s great to hear about new plays being performed as so many are just reworkings of old classics.
    Ness @ JibberJabberUK recently posted…Sunday Snap – The University CastleMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:28

      It is so good to find wonderful, ‘new’, talent, and to see such real life themes being handled so well.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    May 4, 2015 at 11:22

    I had no idea this place even existed, I must check it out 🙂 Brilliant review, it sounds like an emotional show!

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:30

      Oh you so should, you only need to try once… but then 😉 It is a wonderful addition to our wonderful city. x

  • Reply
    Michelle
    May 4, 2015 at 12:01

    I haven’t been to see a play for many, many years. A pub theatre sounds very different.

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:30

      Such an easy habit to get out of, but when someone puts ‘pub’ in the sell such a great one to get back into!

  • Reply
    Kara
    May 4, 2015 at 19:25

    What a fabulous idea – would love to go somewhere like this
    Kara recently posted…A Garden Tea Party Fit for a PrincessMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 4, 2015 at 21:33

      I hadn’t heard of this until a friend recommended and it seems they’re everywhere!! (Note to self: Must crawl out from under my rock more often than not 😉 ) x

  • Reply
    Michelle
    May 5, 2015 at 20:09

    This sounds really interesting, I’d love to see a play like this xx

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 22, 2015 at 23:29

      It is so good to get out and see something which makes you stop and think. x

  • Reply
    Cardiff Mummy Says - Cathryn
    May 5, 2015 at 21:24

    Oh, I am so keen to go to this. I do love a night at the theatre and especially something a little bit different and quirky. Sounds fab x
    Cardiff Mummy Says – Cathryn recently posted…14 amazing ideas for children’s birthday parties in and around CardiffMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 22, 2015 at 23:29

      It is so good to have so much variety in Cardiff- really looking forward to the next season! x

  • Reply
    Nayna Kanabar
    May 5, 2015 at 21:53

    I love going to theatre , this play sounds enjoyable.
    Nayna Kanabar recently posted…Pistachio and Rose Biscuits~ sugar freeMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 22, 2015 at 23:30

      It does feel like a special night out- and so good to have it fulfilled with great theatre.

  • Reply
    Jaime Oliver
    May 6, 2015 at 13:21

    this sounds like a really interesting play .. we love the theatre
    Jaime Oliver recently posted…WOW Toys – Dudley Dump Truck ReviewMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 22, 2015 at 23:32

      I love how wonderfully diverse the theatre has become- that there is something to suit everyone.

  • Reply
    Sonya Cisco
    May 7, 2015 at 10:51

    Love the idea of a pub theatre – and what a great way to see something new and vibrant from less established writers!
    Sonya Cisco recently posted…Look who’s voting now…and she made me think we can still change the world!My Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 22, 2015 at 23:33

      I know! I hadn’t heard of pub theatre but it seems Cardiff was behind the curve- I feel like a mission to discover the others now!

  • Reply
    Jess Helicopter
    May 11, 2015 at 11:07

    This looks wicked! Not sure i’d be that tempted by the Welsh though…. fy’n Gymraeg yn swbriel! But defo for an Englishy type play. Thanks for spreading the pub theatre word! 😀
    Jess Helicopter recently posted…Have Huff Post Parents Gone Too Far This Time?My Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 22, 2015 at 23:36

      Don’t go there 😉 The grade D GCSE will haunt me forever- but yes, season two to be announced soon and definitely cause for a night out 🙂

  • Reply
    Ickle Pickle
    May 12, 2015 at 14:30

    This sounds fab! And in Cardiff too, not too far away. Kaz x
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    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 22, 2015 at 23:44

      I do love our city! x

  • Reply
    Kate ✚
    May 14, 2015 at 12:58

    This looks right up my street. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Kate ✚ recently posted…The best smoothie recipe known to manMy Profile

    • Reply
      Debbie
      May 22, 2015 at 23:48

      It’s always good to find new places to discover.

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