Tag Archives: Steffan Cennydd

Review of The Melting Pot – 4 Stars

Melting

The Melting Pot

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 4th December 2017

★★★★

“the key themes throughout the play chillingly relate to our current social and political climate”

 

In the midst of the current refugee crisis it seems only appropriate that Israel Zangwill’s The Melting Pot: The Great American Drama is revived for the first time in the UK since 1938. The play revolves around a family of Jewish immigrants set decades before the atrocities of the Holocaust were committed. It is rather unnerving to think that the key themes throughout the play chillingly relate to our current social and political climate.

This is particularly evident when Quincy Davenport, a character who is set to inherit his family’s oil money and actively disassociates himself with the latest arrivals from Ellis Island, refers to the immigrants as a ‘swarm.’ Sound familiar? I believe it was our former Prime Minister that referred to the crisis as ‘a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean’ only two years ago.

The story of The Melting Pot follows young composer David Quixano, who, after fleeing the conflict from his home in Russia, speaks passionately about the idea of America being a multicultural hub hosting a range of nationalities. He falls for a Christian Russian immigrant causing great tension within both families. Whilst the story itself arguably lacks a little depth, it is ideal for displaying the ways in which history can easily repeat itself, and why seemingly small parallels are important to recognise.

The story came alive, albeit with a couple of slip-ups, through a well-chosen cast, the most notable performances coming from Alexander Gatehouse as Quincy Davenport, and Steffan Cennydd as David Quixano. Both actors embodied their characters spectacularly, with Cennydd fully embodying a Jewish New York accent which clashed well with Gatehouse’s depiction of an upper class elitist, also from New York.

The Finborough was the ideal theatre venue for such an intimate drama. The proximity of the audience to the action allowed for an intense piece of storytelling with a minimal set and immense focus on the action. This however, often drew more attention to small hiccups throughout the performance.

Overall, I hope this will be the beginning of several revivals or adaptations of Zangwill’s play over the next few years as the message within is incredibly relevant. It is important to highlight these parallels in order to start asking questions as what we, as a society, can do to prevent history from truly repeating itself.

 

Reviewed by Claire Minnitt

 

 

The Melting Pot

is at the Finborough Theatre until 19th December

 

 

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Review of Under Milk Wood – 4 Stars

Milk

Under Milk Wood

The Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 26th October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“The Watermill provides a perfect backdrop to Thomas’s bucolic celebration”

 

‘To begin, at the beginning’. Dylan Thomas wrote his ‘play for voices’, Under Milk Wood, for the radio. After a US premiere as a stage play, its first UK performance was on the BBC in 1954 with a starry cast that included Richard Burton, Sybil Thorndike and Emlyn Williams.

The piece is more like an extended poem than a play and it unfolds as a series of funny and touching vignettes all on one Spring day in an entirely fictional Welsh seaside town called Llareggub (‘bugger all’ backwards).

Dylan Thomas was a poet, intoxicated with the power of words. Who can forget a phrase like ‘the sloeback, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat bobbing sea’? His writing is rich with wonderfully descriptive language that paints a vivid picture of the interlinked lives of his many characters.
After its radio debut, this joyful celebration of a kind of picturesque Welshness soon won a loyal following. A stage version in which the cast sat on stools for most of the performance was a big success, and in 1972 Burton reprised his role as narrator in a film. An animated version and several TV productions all followed.

The delightful Watermill Theatre at Newbury is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Its rustic setting provides a perfect backdrop to Thomas’s bucolic celebration. Director Brendan O’Hea’s staging, with design by Anna Kelsey is fittingly simple for a voice-driven play, with some atmospheric lighting (Wayne Dowdeswell), much (but not too much) mist and hardly any props. The talented cast of six give passionate and physical performances, sharing over 30 male and female roles. Some sympathetic new music (Olly Fox) has been added and they make good use of the auditorium as well as the stage.

First on is Welsh-born Lynn Hunter as old Captain Cat. She gives a wonderfully warm performance in this role and later also as Mrs Organ Morgan. As the Voice, Alistair McGowan (‘The Big Impression’, ‘Have I Got News for You’) rightly does not attempt to imitate the lyrical intensity of Richard Burton’s performances. His accent is light. He moves around the action, providing an adept commentary to it.

Charlotte O’Leary gives a particularly memorable performance as ever-nagging house-perfect Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard who calls her two long-suffering ex-husbands back from the grave to recite their daily tasks, in order. Steffan Cennydd won the Richard Burton Award before graduating this year. His acting is passionate and compelling. Without leaving the stage, he switches easily between male and female roles, with some wonderful comic moments as Mae Rose Cottage (‘Call me Dolores, like they do in stories’).

Polly Garter is one of the play’s most memorable characters, forever mourning her lost lover, little Willy Wee. Caroline Sheen sang and acted to great effect both as Polly and as Lord Cut-Glass who ‘scampers from clock to clock, a bunch of clock-keys in one hand, a fish-head in the other’. Ross Ford is 6’5” tall, an unusual height for an actor. He is well-cast as the sinister poisoner Mr Pugh, as Nogood Boyo, who never catches anything but a whalebone corset, and the boozy Cherry Owen.

The play closes as ‘dusk is drowned’ and ‘the windy town is a hill of windows’. A delightful and memorable evening in a perfect setting.

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Philip Tull

 

 

UNDER MILK WOOD

is at The Watermill Theatre until 4th November

 

 

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