Sherman Cymru, Cardiff,
Wed 15 Feb,
words: MAB JONES
Leaves litter the stage. An old man shuffles about as if searching for something – eyes wide, mouth agape. He sweeps the air with his eyes; as we take our seats, and the lights dim, his gaze comes to rest upon us…
From the outset, then, this is a play that intends to engage our emotions. The leaves, we learn, have fallen from the peach tree in the garden where the drama is set; at various points within the play, the characters find this fallen fruit, and bite into it. This is only one of several metaphors intimating the fact that life’s pleasures are as flavoursome as they are fleeting. Flocks of starlings are seen (migrating?) overhead; there is talk of cave paintings and their long-dead creators. There is even a skull, given as a gift from Margaret to William while they are still young; this then is re-found by Maggie and Billy when, after 40 years of marriage (and its end in sight), they begin clearing out the attic.
So, we are given plenty of scope for musing on life’s mutability; and, of course, the visible contrast between the young, lithe, smiling couple and older, frailer, worried couple is perhaps the most palapable of these. We see Maggie in her glory days, dancing nimbly with her partner; then, the scene turns and she is at the kitchen table, unable to sleep, pain etched into her features. This interweaving of past and present, with Margaret/Maggie and William/Billy moving through the same space, across each others’ paths, and even then dancing with their younger/older partners, is exremely well done. “What if there’s a dimension where events occur in sequence?” muses William, or indeed playwright Abi Morgan, for that is what she has created for us here.
As an emotive piece, then, this is a success. It is beautifully written, acted, and staged. There are some very deft and unexpected exits/entrances, and some lovely synchronicities between the older and younger couples. A cool critic like me might see the emotional manouvering but, who cares? It still works, and is still very much worth seeing.
Tickets: £15-£25. Info: 029 2064 6900 / www.shermancymru.co.uk