Weds 26 Sept
Words: Rachel Williams
Gloria, Michael and Carl are three individuals inextricably linked by circumstance. Carl is the catalyst that grinds Michael’s ordered world to a halt, and forces Gloria to shed her carefree persona. Katherine Chandler’s Before It Rains is the first co-production between Sherman Cymru and the Bristol Old Vic. The play is set in a battered, down-and-out Cardiff estate, laying bare the harsh realities of life when landed with other people’s decisions. It shines an unforgiving light on the social problems many areas across the country face, but balances that light with the unconditional love Gloria has for Michael.
Near feral, Carl (Harry Ferrier) has grown up without the gentle love of a mother and under the unforgiving gaze of an abusive father. Craig Gazey’s gentle Michael lacks the influence of a father, is very easily swayed, and spends his life looking for answers in the soil. Gloria (Lisa Palfrey) is the happy go lucky, vodka drinking single mother struggling to raise her autistic son in safety and normality, and all three deliver powerful, convincing performances with a chemistry that brings out the raw emotions and moments of heart-rending pain to engage the audience at all times. Two speeds exists throughout the 90 minutes, switching between a breakneck pace filled with a thinly veiled malice and manic streams of speech as if life is far too short, and a slow-dance speed crammed with tension and menace that highlights the desperation in their lives and the dangers lurking in every dark corner, making the audience hold their breath.
The trouble starts right from the outset as Carl bounces his ball in the eerie silence, cementing the beginning of this unconventional friendship by stealing a sandwich from Michael, slowly his influence wears off on Michael and things change. The trouble moves up a notch when ‘our kid’ (Carl’s brother) nails a neighbour’s cat to the door. With further animal cruelty gossiped about over the estate, Gloria sheds her fun-loving exterior and fights to protect Michael from further trouble. However her actions culminate in further violence as Carl reacts and attacks Michael. In a moment of still calm after the storm, Gloria’s parental instincts take over and in a completely unexpected yet utterly plausible moment of vulnerable humanity, the threat is removed by one single act and Gloria didn’t need that spade after all….
Alyson Cummins’ set enhances the character’s relationships and key features: Gloria with her earth, Carl his concrete and Michael being pulled between the two strong personalities. Between concrete pillars, a bare iron balcony and a mound of earth, it mimic’s the look of a bare, drab council estate.
Before It Rains is a thought provoking and heart-rending piece of theatre about the human condition, parenthood and surviving modern day life.
Before It Rains continues at Sherman Cymru until Sat 6 October.