Undeb Theatre: The Project
Cardiff Arts Institute, Cardiff.
Sun 14 Feb
If you were in any doubt about the health of theatre in South Wales, now is the time to start paying attention. The launch of National Theatre Wales’s first performance next month will show what can be achieved when you have the artistic and financial backing to make a real impact on the future of theatre as we know it. At the other end of the spectrum, however, we have Undeb Theatre, a grassroots production company that’s fresh out of university with big ideas and a thrillingly short attention span.
The first of tonight’s performances, Speed Theatre, is a case in point. Taking speed dating as its reference point, individual audience members are subjected to seven one-minute performances in quick succession, which are conducted a metre opposite the actor. Bombarded with a series of typically needy monologues from – for example – a flirtatious sex addict, a drunk who enjoyed watching her flatmate eat, and a girl with an ecclesiastical fetish, it felt a bit like being trapped in a therapy meeting at The Priory in the mid-00s, with a gaggle of reality TV contestants all competing to see who could unload the most improbable torrent of neuroses.
Not everybody warms to rapid-fire confessional bukkake in quite the same manner, naturally, so the second performance was a welcome change of pace. When Cheryl Was Brassic was achingly cool script-in-hand theatre that pulled a few cheap laughs from a central narrative that revolved around the sexual dysfunction of a pair of chavs – a pity, because its lesbian roleplay subplot (yes, really) was genuinely hilarious. Feedback, a touching love story that rounded off the evening, had fewer gags but felt more accomplished.
Undeb Theatre is still in its nascent stages, and it’s already exciting and energetic enough to appeal to people whose idea of a night out at the theatre is a few jars in the Prince Of Wales. That student obsession with chavs really has to go: it’s gimmicky slapstick that cheapens their outfit. But for exciting, unpredictable theatre in South Wales, they’re one of the most promising acts around.