Saethu Cwningod/Shooting Rabbits
Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, Thu 2 May
Saethu Cwningod/Shooting Rabbits is a politically-charged, physical piece of theatre that boasts an incredible cast and a provocative showcase of movement, language and music that sometimes loses itself in its technical prowess.
It tells the tale of a passionate young man who travels to Spain during the Spanish Civil War in the ‘30s to fight for his beliefs, unprepared for the choices he will be forced to make. At the time, 300 Welsh people were recruited into the International Brigades to combat fascism in Spain; Shooting Rabbits focuses on the relationship between Wales and Europe in this time of tension and ambiguity.
The first thing that strikes about Shooting Rabbits is the stellar acting. From their first moments onstage, Neal McWilliams (representing Irish forces – the actors seem to represent nations rather than individuals), Alejandra Barcelar Pereira (representing Spanish forces) and Gwenllian Higginson (representing Welsh forces) display depth, charisma and passion with their performances, showcasing how a cause can become misguided very easily.
Combining abstract physical, multilingual and vocal elements, the performances are pitch perfect from scene to scene. I was shocked to find how genuinely humourful the performances were; Shooting Rabbits will have you laughing throughout, punctuating its profound elements with a smile.
A standout aspect was the music, performed and composed by Sam Humphreys. His compositions soundtrack the entire show, providing a layer of context and meaning that cuts through the language barrier of a multilingual show. With intense and provocative acoustic guitar rhythms and bombastic synth beats, his spellbinding music elevates every element during its runtime.
Complimenting the soundtrack is the superb lighting. In parallel with the three actors are three suspended strip lights, which provide a stark sense of place, with war-related imagery such as bunkers and bombings with sharp flashes and use of strobe.
That said, at times the superb direction and production can detract slightly from the narrative of the piece. For all its interesting visuals, it can be difficult to follow your place in the story and while this could be to create a sense of disillusion, it didn’t quite work for me and left me confused at several points, especially considering the historical content. While the multilingual narration provided an interesting concept, showing how people of all languages and creeds can get caught up in conflict, it can detract from the narrative content and dialogue.
Regardless, Powderhouse have produced an incredibly immersive and powerful piece of theatre here, that casual observers and hardened critics can enjoy.
words Dylan Bellis
Saethu Cwningod/Shooting Rabbits is at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Thu 9 May and Ammonford Miner’s Institute on Fri 10 May. Tickets and info here