Leviathan

Leviathan, produced in association with Sherman Cymru and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, is among the best plays to appear on the Òran Mór stage this season or last. The dialogue is rich with both high-flown and naturalistic poetry, the performances are perfect, and the whole thing is imbued with such a gentleness of heart that it allows you to travel through its distressing subject matter without being broken by it.

Matthew Trevannion’s script places emphasis right where it should be, on his characters; as a result, they are drawn with piercing insight.

The play takes place in the back garden of a council house in the Welsh Valleys over the course of a couple of sunny days. Karen (Claire Cage) sits in an armchair in the sun, unresponsive to her family and almost catatonic, but she shares her disjointed internal monologue with us. Her daughter Hannah (Gwawr Loader) and mother Mavis (Siw Hughes) talk to her and over her, sometimes trying to draw or goad her into the conversation, sometimes ignoring her completely.

Matthew Trevannion’s script places emphasis right where it should be, on his characters; as a result, they are drawn with piercing insight. Karen, though she has very little dialogue, emerges with clarity from the moments of memory she shares with us. Hannah, on the surface a vulnerable young woman who hides behind a veneer of confidence, is only on the stage about five minutes before it’s clear she’s so much more than that. Mavis is perhaps the most complex character, but so naturalistically drawn that she emerges effortlessly from the play. The whole thing is wrapped up in a script that has a very strong understanding of how to write realistic dialogue, but which also understands that it has license to be poetic too.

The already superb characterisation is helped along by a flawless cast. Cage’s Karen is troubled and self-destructive as she silently articulates her complex feelings about her daughter, while Gwawr Loader brings an essential defiance and fragility to her character that is fascinating to watch. Even in such company as this, however, Siw Hughes manages to stand out as being uniquely wonderful. She gives a magnificent performance as Mavis. She feels completely authentic, and there is such a depth of understanding underneath her words that it is rather difficult to treat her as a fictional character at all.

In all, this is a brilliant piece of theatre, and a strong reason to hope for more collaborations of this kind in the future.

Reviews by Grace Knight

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

“Will you look at the day? Beautiful, ah? Summer throws you one of these just before it all goes west.”

As three generations of the same family soak up the last of the sun’s rays in their back garden, beers in hand, the underlying tensions between the three are brought to boiling point thanks to revelations long buried, whilst also trying to stop the cat from murdering more defenceless birds.

In this tale of familial ties, Matthew Trevannion casts a darkly humorous eye over the changing fortunes of people trying to unmoor themselves from their past.

Matthew Trevannion was the author of Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s Bruised, which was nominated for the Writers Guild Award at the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards 2012

Matthew also wrote, Ours of the day for 21st Century Dylan, part of BBC Radio Wales’ Dylan Thomas centenary celebrations.

He is also working on another project in development with National Theatre Wales and has been invited to join the first National Writers Group at the Royal Court.