The Creature is a companion-piece, of sorts, to The Wolf Tattoo, the previous collaboration between playwright Lucy Gough and director Chris Durnall’s Company of Sirens. But while that play was set in a dystopian society menaced by feral youths, The Creature gives us access to an entirely private hell.

As the play begins, three figures are entwined beneath a bare, metal table. When they emerge and disengage from one another, we see that they are dressed in identical grey jogging-bottoms and hoodies. The ambience is austere, the only other design element being a demure blue dress suspended from the ceiling.

It soon becomes evident that we (the action unfolding in-the-round, the audience on a level with the actors) are in a prison cell, and that the three protagonists are, in fact, one—Matt Reed’s Son 1, and Sons 2 and 3, played by Jarred Ellis Thomas and Angharad Matthews (also the show’s designer), who represent the voices in his head—the female element the more sinister, the male more tentative. The boy clutches and obsessively quotes from a book taken from the prison library—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The visitor whose arrival he has been hoping for arrives—his father, played by Jams Thomas. We discover that the boy has committed a dreadful crime, and Father is only visiting because he has been pressured to by a television news interviewer. In fact, the two hardly know one another, since Father abandoned Son at a very early age.

Exchanges between the two are aggressive, the older man disgusted by the boy’s crime—he abducted and murdered a young woman, inflicting terrible injuries. The son, in turn, blames his father’s absence for his instability, the implication being that he was never taught to love properly, which led to an unhealthy obsession with his victim.

The piece was developed following workshops at Bridgend’s Parc Prison and, while the author does not minimise the horror of the crime and its impact on the victim’s family, The Creature is something of a plea for understanding—fatherlessness and trauma-induced mental illness being factors in much crime.

The Frankenstein theme is explicitly cited (“you made me and you left me to rot”—not an exact quote) and one is also often reminded of the scene in the 1931 film in which the monster accidentally drowns an innocent child—although the Son’s offence is no accident.

The piece is further coloured by the songs of recently deceased singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston, whose “Casper The Friendly Ghost”, about a boy whose promise goes tragically unfulfilled, is quoted throughout.

There is also a recurring motif throughout Gough’s surrealism-infused text: a bird, which symbolises many things—the freedom which the Son craves, inaccessible beauty, a reminder of his own past cruelty and, of course, the colourful, devil-may-care victim.

Reed is compelling as the tightly wound Son 1, believably disturbed without resorting to scenery chewing; equally, Thomas expresses Father’s revulsion and exasperation in a relatively measured manner, acting as the audience surrogate when he argues that, despite his own disadvantages, he never killed anyone.

Durnall’s directorial approach, as was pointed out during the post-show discussion, focussed on developing the physicality of the piece, utilising Thomas and Matthews (it was the director rather than the author who chose to make one of the “voices” female) as teasing, provocative aspects of the Son’s subconscious. While this is visually striking on the whole, there are occasional awkward moments which tend to undercut the tension. The glitchy lighting and unnerving sound design, though (overseen by Dan Young) ensure that the nightmarish tone retains a hold as the extent of the Son’s self-delusion becomes clear.

At just under an hour in length, The Creature is simultaneously tragic, horrific and poetic and never less than arresting. One imagines that if the piece is ever performed, as has been proposed, in the institution in which it was conceived, the residents will be as moved and intrigued as the Chapter audience.

Reviewer: Othniel Smith

THEATRE
REVIEW ‘THE CREATURE’, COMPANY OF SIRENS, CHAPTER ARTS CENTRE, BY BARBARA HUGHES-MOORE
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 2ND, 2019 BARBARA HUGHES-MOORE LEAVE A COMMENT

The Creature, Company of Sirens’ bold reinvention of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is not only a magnificent modernisation of the classic tale but a potent and poignant examination of what it means for society to deem someone a monster. The play, vibrantly written by Lucy Gough and dynamically directed by Chris Durnall, functions as a spiritual sequel to their previous collaboration The Wolf Tattoo, which explored knife crime and gang violence. The Creature picks up these thematic threads and shifts the action from a futuristic dystopia to the dystopian prison system of our own world; to a single cell in which a young man confronts his erstwhile father for his part in the son’s terrible crime.
The production is thematically rich and harrowingly rendered. Are monsters born or created? What makes us monsters? And who is responsible? These questions form the spine of the story, and Gough has a knack for exploring the universal in the specific. The central mystery of Son’s ‘monstrous’ act is elegantly unwrapped, with breadcrumbs – bird, heart, tree – keeping the audience guessing until the final reveal, which (as in a criminal trial) still only forms a partial glimpse as to the act itself. Thematically and tonally, it called to mind Carol Ann Duffy’s Education for Leisure (empathetically exploring the psyche of a person who commits violent acts), the Taviani Brothers’ documentary Caesar Must Die (humanising/liberating prisoners through theatre), and Charles Williams’ Descent into Hell (in which the central image of hell – descending a rope into a bottomless pit – strikes a chord with the metaphors of this piece).

The original soundscape is effectively squelchy and unsettling, with Angharad Matthew’s design impressively recalling the psychological minimalism of the Sherman Theatre’s Tremor, and Dan Young’s spectral lighting eerily recalls Frankenstein’s early foray into the visual medium. The performances are powerful and evocative, even if they can be a little overwrought at times, but Durnall’s direction imbues a fantastic sense of motion and movement, and the melodrama complements the story’s high emotions and Gothic origins. Sometimes the characters’ declarations can feel a little on the nose, and a few elements don’t read as powerfully in execution as they might have on the page (the “autopsy”, Father’s revelatory monologue), but the creative team’s skill and good intentions keep the drama grounded and thrilling.
Intriguingly, the character of Son is portrayed by three actors – primarily by Matt Reed, who brings a brilliant Toby Kebbell-like intensity to proceedings, but also by Jared Ellis Thomas and Angharad Matthews, who embody the various facets of Son’s character, occupying the roles of his heart and mind respectively. The trio’s sinewy, surreal entrance starts the play: the three, a tangle of limbs under a sterile table, emerge as if from the primordial ooze in a visually thrilling sequence that you simply have to see to believe.

The doubles’ aspect of the Son character is especially interesting because duality is a key theme in his beloved Frankenstein, in which the son (the creature) can be read as a dark double of the father (Victor). Father (Jams Thomas) enters as an imposing figure jangling a set of keys. At first, then, he seems like a Warden, until his aloof disdain makes him more akin to some remote deity who materialises to pass judgment. When he enters the cell, he identifies himself as Father – not just the Frankenstinian sire of this seemingly-monstrous Son, but also the manifestation of patriarchal enmity; a symbol of the society which has shaped, condemned and discarded people like Son.
It was a pleasure to stay for the excellent post-show panel, in which the creative team explained that, in developing The Creature, they collaborated with young offenders from Parc Prison in Bridgend – the vivid authenticity of their collective and individual voices lends the drama a tangible, believable quality even as the weirdness escalates. Much of what we witness is ambiguous, largely psychological, and steered by an unreliable narrator who leaves us in doubt as to whether what we have seen actually takes place in reality.
The play is not realistic in a literal sense, then, but in an emotional one. The feelings are raw and jagged; tension simmers and rises to boiling point, but there is no relief or release – because this is a snapshot into the mind of someone like Son, whose traumas are absorbed so deeply into his psyche that he relives them on an endless loop. Son’s nightmare – ‘I’m in a labyrinth being chased by a monster, but the monster is me’ – demonstrates a remorse that he never clearly vocalises, and it’s interesting that his quest for a clean slate and father figure doesn’t turn him towards religion (despite wearing a rosary, something which is never overtly mentioned by the characters). The play also has some fascinating meditations on gender/gendered violence which similarly harken back to its Shelleyan source.

 

The dialogue is frequently interspersed with songs by cult music icon Daniel Johnston, a loner and underground revolutionary of whom Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was a vocal admirer. The most striking of these is ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’, which hauntingly sketches Son’s predicament through the recurring lyric, ‘he was smiling through his own personal hell’. The penal system is its own specific type of hell on earth, imprisoning people in a monotonous cycle that is supposed to squeeze the criminal impulses out of them and depositing them back into society a changed person – or, otherwise, hole them up for the rest of their natural-born lives for committing a crime that society deems unforgivable. But it is almost impossible to imagine how the four walls of a barren cell can facilitate a moral and spiritual metamorphosis, especially because a criminal record can operate as an indelible mark on one’s character which jeopardises the prospect of ever finding a stable job, home, and life.
‘Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?’ Though never spoken in this version, the original creature’s plaintive repine appears to encapsulate Son’s rationale. Myriad social factors and personal traumas formed the disparate limbs of his identity that the root of his criminal actions is fragmented in neglect, abandonment, isolation, and (implicitly) issues of poverty, class and mental health. Monstrosity is a social phenomenon; it’s a word we use to label people whose actions are so repugnant that we as a society cannot condone. But monsters are the children of society – and, as Son urges Father, the responsibility for these monstrous acts are shared by us all. If society does not provide an opportunity for people to change, the vicious cycle repeats. The fact that re-offending is on the rise and people of colour (and especially black men) are disproportionately incarcerated accords with the notion that prison is a microcosm for the world: its injustices are the world’s injustices. The system punishes the offender rather than the social structures which contributed to that person’s crime, and as such can arguably never truly offer justice or closure.
The least we can do, as Son implores, is listen. The play wonderfully demonstrates how literature (and theatre) can help you make sense of the world – Frankenstein’s creature gives Son the words he wouldn’t otherwise have to describe the chaos in his soul. Likewise, this production gives us the chance to hear Son’s story and empathise with him just as we did with Shelley’s creature.
This is a four-star show with a five-star heart that resonates long after the striking final image. It’s not only a taut exercise in maintaining mystery and suspense, but a viscerally timely and harrowingly relevant work of art that urges us to take responsibility for what we create and, crucially, for each other. The Creature is playing at Seligman Theatre, Chapter Arts Centre from 1-5, 8-10 October (BSL-interpreted performance on 4 October): https://www.chapter.org/…/the-creature-company-of-sir…/4595/.

Georgia Winstone reviews The Creature, the latest production from Company of Sirens and playwright Lucy Gough.

When one human being takes the life of another, do they themselves retain their humanity; or are they now and forever considered an irredeemable monster? Drawing from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this is the question posed by The Creature which searches to understand the psyche of those who commit such terrible crimes. Developed in consultation with Parc Prison and young offenders in secure units, the presentation of multiple personalities and the deterioration of sanity whilst within the isolation of prison is complex and shocking. The set is intensely dark with moments of alternating coloured flashing lights indicating moments of psychological intensity and confusion. It is simple and sparse, yet the bleakness is in keeping with the unnerving nature of the production.

It begins with the murderer sitting beneath the table, entangled with the physical embodiments of his two other personalities. The layout of the set heightens the disturbing nature of the production, the chairs encircle the table and it is impossible for the audience to look away from the conversations which are simultaneously strained with confusion and filled with bitter anger and aggression.

It is his father whom the murderer, credited only as Son 1, blames for his actions and though he never denies what he has done, he begs for another to bear some of the weight of responsibility. Specifically quoting and referencing Frankenstein, the son believes himself akin to the creature of Shelley’s novel and views his father as the doctor who created the being only to abandon it. To this the father replies, “I didn’t make you, you just happened”; responsibility for such a heinous crime is fought over by the two in great emotional tirades and desperate pleas for sense and meaning.

The Creature does not sensationalise nor focus too heavily upon the graphic murder of the young woman that underpins this play, as many television and film dramas have recently been accused of doing. But rather writer Lucy Gough chooses to just briefly mention the act to allow the audience insight into how truly terrible this crime is. The murder itself is not the primary focus, but rather the murderer himself; his motivations, the consequences, and emotional responses to such an action. Yet it is during these small insights that the complexity of the young murderer’s mind is presented; his understanding of love and humanity is warped and so is his sense of responsibility and consequence.

The performances of Jams Thomas and Matt Reed are particularly superb, but they are often let down by a lack of nuance in the script. The direct quotes from Shelley’s Frankenstein and other literature of the time, such as Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, are often awkward and unnecessary. Oblique references, which are present, along the title itself, are enough to highlight the inspiration. The audience is often told, rather than shown, the ideas Gough wishes to convey; the monologues of the father are especially evident of this, as he continuously argues for his own innocence.

The most intriguing aspect of the play is perhaps that the murderer is portrayed by three actors, Reed being the primary, with Angharad Matthews and Jarred Ellis Thomas portraying what appear to be alternate personalities representing his mind and heart respectively; indeed, this is primarily what the dialogue of these characters involves. Son 1 attempts to ignore both and it is the mind which often overrules the pestering childlike innocence of the heart; the mind is cold and enjoying the discomfort, whilst the heart often questions and seeks to understand.

The Creature is an excellent presentation of the complexity of violent criminals, a play that gets in deep to the nature versus nurture conundrum. Past trauma and inhumane treatment from other human beings can have a lasting effect on the lives and actions of others, especially children. Though there is no denying the murderer acted monstrously, The Creature asks if he can truly be deemed an unhuman and irredeemable monster.

Review from New Welsh Review for last years production of Wolf Tattoo also by Lucy Gough

 

REVIEW by Nathan Llywelyn Monday
NWR Issue r26
The Wolf Tattoo
However hard the playwright tries, the theatre tends to be us and them. Usually, the audience return to a St Mellons, a Pontprennau or a Birchgrove. The curtain always closes, even if it isn’t visible. But this play was different. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ disintegrated into ‘the pack’ – not ‘me’, or a ‘him’, or a ‘her’.

I walked in from a heatwave into a hotter environment. Four bodies lay on the floor like biblical Nebuchadnezzars – sweating beasts clawing the ground. Waiting.

Cue the characters. There aren’t many. Avian Flu has taken its toll. Humanity is contracted to five individuals. Graf (Gwydion Rhys) and Rose (Sarah Morgan) are seventeen and in love. She is pregnant; he is part of this cultish gang which ‘pack’ at night on the concrete wasteland, dressed in real wolf skins. Another member of that gang, Shenks (Jarred Ellis Thomas), spends the play dribbling, sweating, swearing; he even pisses himself at the end. It’s a bit much actually. Then there’s Rose’s friend, Ash (Non Evans) and the curious tattooist called Snakeskin (John Rowley) – my favourite character.

There are some beautiful moments in the play which usually involve Graf and Rose, even though their dialogue is somewhat repetitive. I would have liked to have experienced more between them, instead of f*** this and f*** that. I don’t necessarily mean words. The programme does say that ‘language has broken down’. But language is much more than the spoken word, isn’t it?

I was both fascinated and disturbed by the opening scene, in which the cast writhe in a cultish, drug-fuelled agony. Apparently, this scene contains devised movement which Chris Durnall developed out of the physical vocabulary of British Sign Language. I didn’t necessarily pick up on that but I was thinking Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa on steroids!

We were arranged in a square. I felt the charcoaled ground and was surprised when I held chipped playground rubber which, in the half-light, built up this wasteland. The lighting flickered throughout the play; it was all a bit unheimlich and disorientating until a thread of red colour broke through the darkness. It was a welcome change, even though there was a sense of Star Trek’s ‘red alert system’ about it; coming on, as it were, when something bad was about to happen.

And a lot of bad things did happen. Gough explores the toxic gang-culture which scars our cities. She creates a culture that is dominated by masculinity – animalistic, primordial, and scarily current at the same time. Solo kill becomes an initiation in a world where the knife is strapped to the belt again. Even as I wrote this review, Malaciah Joseph Thomas suffered multiple stab wounds and died at a house in Corporation Road, Cardiff. He was only twenty-years-old and it happened a mile away from Chapter Arts Centre where I viewed this performance. The play carries on and is eerily mirrored in our neighbourhoods. Buttons may be pressed in distant deserts, but ultimately, this is a landscape where blood is spilt on the streets and hatred is seen in our eyes. The old ‘Cain and Abel thing’ kicks in again and again. I can hear you say, ‘It’s got nothing to do with me… I’m respectable.’ Wasn’t it Cain who said, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Nothing has changed. The same wolf lurks in each and every one of us. 
Here, evolution is portrayed like a memory and progression is a myth. The character Snakeskin is a mystery – does the name suggests a satanic figure who takes Graf’s soul? Or is he the absent gang leader – a cloaked Mephistopheles? Could he even represent the remnant (the skin) of religion, which separated good and evil; he tattoos hearts and wolves, wanders here and there, marking his words (like his customers) with wisdom and woe. Whoever he represents, I wanted more. But perhaps the whole point of Snakeskin is his absence and the uncertainty surrounding him.

Is there any redemption in the play? I think there is. Rose ‘chooses life’ and yearns after something more than the desolation of wolf and wasteland. There is a hope which is only ever whispered among the disillusioned characters. She carries the next generation, who, like every one of us, has both wolf and butterfly within. It will be up to that child whether they will embrace the natural instincts and wear the wolf skin. Or perhaps they will ‘choose life’ by saying ‘no’. 
I thoroughly enjoyed the play, and left its heat for the heatwave again a ‘wiser and sadder man’.

 

Nathan Llywelyn Munday won the 2016 New Welsh Writing Awards with his debut novel, Seven Days, A Pyrenean Adventure (Parthian).

COMPANY OF SIRENS present

 

The premier of a new play by Lucy Gough

 

THE CREATURE

 

Directed by Chris Durnall

 

‘Misery has made me a fiend’

 

When someone kills, when their crime is so terrible, so incomprehensible, can we still call them human?  Who is to blame?  Who and what creates monsters?

 

Taking Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as inspiration, THE CREATURE takes place in the mind and the prison cell of a young boy in a secure unit, as he attempts to avoid taking responsibility for what he has done, but also tries to understand it.

 

Following last years acclaimed production of THE WOLF TATTOO by Lucy Gough, COMPANY OF SIRENS present a specially commissioned play from the same award winning author that explores the origins of criminal behaviour and asks what it is that makes us monsters.

 

Developed through work with young offenders in prisons and secure units. THE CREATURE is a powerful new play dealing with an issue central to our lives.

 

“It is this feel of almost continuing menace that holds us throughout the gripping story and the extraordinary performances of the cast that gives us such an amazing and satisfying theatre experience” (Theatre in Wales review of The Wolf Tattoo)

 

“Gough’s text deftly shifts between the naturalistic and the surreal—the universe she creates encompasses not only lupine youths tearing people apart in forests, but also supermarkets and mobile phone signals” (Wales Arts Review on The Wolf Tattoo)

 

 

Presented with the assistance of the Arts Council of Wales and the National Lottery and Chapter.

NORMAN BATES IS INNOCENT!

 

How much do we really know each other, even those we love?

 

TWELVE CABINS TWELVE VACANCIES interlinks personal tragedy with the events of Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal sixties horror classic PSYCHO.

 

“Dad died during the first broadcast of Psycho on network TV. Earlier that evening it had been scorching hot in the back yard. There was no breeze. I was 12. And I knew.” At the same time Marion stepped into the shower. This is the moment”

 

Blending memory with poetic imagery COMPANY OF SIRENS new piece TWELVE CABINS TWELVE VACANCIES traces Marion Crane’s journey to the Bates motel and one boy’s entry into a world where things don’t remain the same and where foundations shake.

 

Written, conceived, directed and performed by Chris Durnall with Angharad Matthews, and  original music by Rhys Anderson, TWELVE CABINS TWELVE VACANCIES is about the nature of loss and how events are captured and treasured in the memory

 

COMPANY OF SIRENS have presented Welsh premiers of plays by Philip Ridley, Anthony Neilson, Jennifer Haley, Neil Labute as well as local writers Lucy Gough, Ian Rowlands, Tim Rhys, Mike James and Mark Ryan. Last years production of The Wolf Tattoo by Lucy Gough was called “an astonishing and powerful piece of pure theatre” (Theatre in Wales)

 

Tuesday 11th June at 8.30 and Wednesday 12th June at 6.30 and 8.00

 

Chapter Theatre. Box Office Market Road, CantonCardiff, WalesUKCF5 1QEt: +44 (0)29 2030 4400

 

      companyofsirens.jimdo.com

 

 

Chris Durnall is running a summer school from 29th July to 2nd August 2019 and again from 12th August to 16th August 2019 Places are limited and  details below. More details can be had by messaging Company of Sirens here or direct to Chris on cadurnall@googlemail.com

Suitable for professionals who want a refresher course or people serious on developing skills for camera and stage

SUMMER SCHOOL

The Workshop is now taking final bookings for the 2019 Summer School This five day non-residential course will take place at The Workshop’s studio in Cardiff Bay over two seperate weeks. The course is dependent on a minimum of eight participating students and the total fee is £ 250.00.

 

Course tutors, Chris Durnall and Peter Wooldridge. have devised a programme which explores a non-performance approach to acting, where the narrative is driven by thought process rather than text.

 

Two places left.  No payment will be required until commencement.

Photographs Jan H Andersen

http://getthechance.wales/2017/10/19/interview-chris-durnall/ New Interview from Chris

Company of Sirens new production will be The Wolf Tattoo a new play by Lucy Gough. The production is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Chapter and directed by Chris Durnall. It runs at Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff from 19th to 30th of June 2018 with further dates in Aberystwyth and Bridgend.

The Cardiff based company has presented acclaimed Welsh premiers of new work by authors including Philip Ridley, Anthony Neilson, Jennifer Hailey, Neil Labute and Ian Rowlands. The company are recognised for simple effective staging and uncompromising visceral productions.

“Company of Sirens work is vital and entirely unsentimental” Guardian

“Graf and Rose are seventeen and in love. She is heavily pregnant, he is part of a gang that pack at night out on the concrete wasteland, dressed in real wolf skins.

Language has broken down. Rose is Graf’s reason for living.

 

The Wolf Tattoo is about love and survival and what it is that makes us human.”

The production will be supported by four practical workshops at  Chapter,and preparation work with young people in Aberystwyth and Cardiff exploring the text and demonstrating the techniques developed during the companies recent R & D..

These workshops in Chapter will be open to all including deaf performers and will demonstrate how character can be developed from physical impulse.

 

 

The Wolf Tattoo

Wed 20 Jun, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.


There’s a sense of anticipation in the air tonight at the drama about to unfold on the floor in front of us at Chapter Arts Centre as award-winning writer Lucy Gough and Company of Sirens productions present their latest work The Wolf Tattoo.

In a post-apocalyptic world, survival means being part of a pack. If you aren’t part of a pack then you are dead meat. In a dog-eat-dog world (or in this case, wolf) the packs roam the concrete wastelands dressed in real wolf skins, taking what they can and killing when instructed. Graf, a young pack member is desperately in love with his girlfriend Rose, but when she finds out that she’s pregnant, the young couple are forced into making difficult decisions. Gwydion Rhys and Saran Morgan play the troubled couple, while Jarred Ellis Thomas plays Shenks – a fellow pack member, who brings a quite superb physical performance. Non Haf plays Ash, the best friend of Rose, torn between her loyalties to her friend and her knowledge of the pack while a mention must go to John Rowley, whose role as the tattooist Snakeskin gave the production a genuinely sinister feel. With a modest set, the actors excelled at using what they had to work with, turning a room the size of your average high school gym into an urban wasteland/homely setting/a tattoo studio with ease.

The production aims to deal with a lot of social issues that we are seeing all too often in young people, with gang culture and knife crime prevalent in modern society. Such is Graf’s loyalty to the pack that he finds it difficult to see another side to life, which is a story that can resonate with a lot of our youth and Shenks’ issues always seem to find closure with a knife. As the UK currently has the highest rate of knife-related fatalities it’s ever had, this feels rather prescient. Company of Sirens also looked to explore the potential of physical non-verbal language throughout the production and this is achieved in style, with the incorporation of sign language into proceedings. At around 55mins long, the pace of the production ran smoothly, giving what time there was to get maximum insight into the characters, but I felt that the last 10 minutes or so, seemed to rush to a conclusion. They could have put more time into a climax that ultimately left a bad taste in the mouth.

But that’s not to take away from the superb work from all involved and The Wolf Tattoo is as fantastic as it is thought provoking; well worth your time and money. Chris Andrews

Company of Sirens , Chapter , June-20-18

The audience is sat on either side of the narrow stage that runs the whole length of Chapter’s Seligman Studio floor. It is strewn with small black leaf-like, glittering pieces and the bodies of the actors, all but one who sits, enigmatically at the side of the stage.

The lights go dark, heavy rock music fills the air. The actors rise and gyrate menacingly to the music strongly setting the strong atmosphere of the play. The script, by award winning writer, Lucy Gough runs allegory and reality side by side. We seem to be in the world of youth, could be now, could be the future. The young men running in packs like wolves, while the young girls stand by almost innocently.

The two boys wrestle in a friendly manner. Away from them Rose, given a magnificent and tender performance by Saran Morgan, toys with a wolf skin that she has destroyed. She seems afraid as she struggles to force the life back into it.

One of the boys, Graf, another outstanding performance from Gwydion Rhys breaks away from the fight and joins her. She is clearly very much in love with him. His love is more uncertain. There is a strong moment between them. Seeing the audience on the other side of the stage, it might be thought would weaken the verisimilitude but in fact it heightens the strength of the theatrical experience.

Rose tells Graf that she is pregnant and asked him to break away from the ‘wolf’ pack and come and live with her, with her baby in the real world. It’s Graf’s struggle with this dilemma that gives us much of the continuing tight narrative of the play. A production so well sculpted by director, Chris Durnall.

Shenks, a hundred per cent committed pack member, a fine, rough performance from Jarred Ellis Thomas urges Graf to get back into the pack. Graf’s wolf nature seems to have been weakened. An elderly, philosophical tattoo artist, named Snakeskin, emerges from the blackness. Graf wants his lover’s name ‘Rose’ tattooed onto his skin inside a heart. The continuing gripping, overwhelming tension is intensified as Snakeskin, such a strong, quiet, penetrating performance from John Rowley, raises the needle to Graf’s arm.

Rose is aided in her fight by her good friend Ash, more innocence and strength from Non Haf. They seek out a place of rescue that is surrounded by huge hanging tubes of red light. Jacob Gough’s lighting of the whole play contributes very largely to the continuing taught atmosphere that now surrounds us.

The pace hots up as these compelling characters move towards their destiny. More tattooing and ‘skin’ poetry from Rowley. The action continues to hold us in its tight grip. It is this feel of almost continuing menace that holds us throughout the gripping story and the extraordinary performances of the cast that gives us such an amazing and satisfying theatre experience.

With The Wolf Tattoo, Company of Sirens ventures into territory it, under director Chris Durnall, has previously visited with Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur and Jennifer Haley’s The Nether—a dystopian future.

The seating in the Seligman Studio is laid out in traverse, and the central playing space is carpeted with charcoal chippings. Abandoned tyres and broken cellphones are artfully arranged on it as are, as we enter, the majority of the cast. Presently, they rise and begin thrashing about to Queens Of The Stone Age’s hymn to druggy abandon, “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer”.

Despite this being a recurring aural motif, however, it quickly becomes clear that Lucy Gough’s play focuses on more natural highs—love and violence. The wolfskins scattered amongst the detritus (costume design by Llinos Griffiths) indicate that we are in some kind of urban wilderness.

Gwidion Rhys’s Graf and Jarred Ellis Thomas’s Shenks are feral youths who run with a murderously vicious gang who either are or imagine themselves to be werewolves of some kind. Graf, however, has a loving girlfriend, Rose—Saran Morgan—who informs him that she is pregnant, and that his commitment to her should entail leaving the gang.

The cast is rounded out by Non Haf as Ash, Rose’s cynical but understanding friend, and John Rowley as Snakeskin, the tattooist to whom Graf turns in order to get Rose’s name inked on him as a sign of devotion. Snakeskin is the sole representative here of the older generation, whose actions have led to the world falling apart.

The action revolves around the fate of Graf’s wolf-pelt, his badge of acceptance into the gang. When Rose finally loses patience with what it represents, she takes action which endangers them both.

While the nightmarish, futuristic tone is palpable, courtesy of the drone-inflected soundtrack and Jacob Gough’s moody lighting design, the true theme of the play seems to be an eternal one—the complexity of adult relationships.

It seems logical to assume that it was Graf’s wildness which first attracted Rose to him. Now that she seeks stability, however, she needs him to become less wild. Their failure to reach an accommodation makes tragedy almost inevitable.

Gough’s text deftly shifts between the naturalistic and the surreal—the universe she creates encompasses not only lupine youths tearing people apart in forests, but also supermarkets and mobile phone signals. The performers are reliably skilful, but seem at their best when dealing with the realities of love, grief and world-weariness.

There are a few elements which don’t work as well as they might: perhaps a choreographer could have enhanced some of the more animalistic moments; and a “quest” strand seems to fall a little flat in the small performance space.

Nevertheless, The Wolf Tattoo is an intriguing and inventive take on “the pack mentality” and the difficulty of leaving childish things behind.

 Company of Sirens with / a good cop bad cop present the Welsh premier of / yn cyflwyno’r perfformiad cyntaf yng Nghymru

THE NETHER

The Nether by / gan Jennifer Haley | Directed by / Cyfarwyddwr Chris Durnall

“At the play’s end, the world - both real and virtual 

simply doesn’t look quite the same”

The Observer

Funded by the Arts Council of Wales and the National Lottery / by arrangement with Samuel French

Cefnogwyd gan Y Loteri Genedlaethol trwy Gyngor Celfyddydau Cymru

 

Company of Sirens with Goodcopbadcop present the Welsh premier of Jennifer Haley’s hugely controversial and brilliant play The Nether

 

The Nether is a virtual wonderland that provides total sensory immersion.

Just log on, choose an identity and indulge your every desire.

When a young detective uncovers a disturbing brand of entertainment, she triggers an interrogation into the darkest corners of the imagination.

The Nether explores the consequences of living out our private dreams and desires.

 

Dealing with issues such as pornography and the internet, ethics and freedom of speech The Nether is a haunting sci-fi thriller that explores the consequences of living out our private dreams

 

“This play is mind bend, ethically challenging and ingenious…..structured quite brilliantly, like a hall of mirrors” The Times

 

“The internet has changed us as a species, and The Nether asks big questions about how we go forward”

 

 

Company of Sirens recent productions have included Welsh premiers of Philip

Ridley’s DarkVanilla Jungle, Tender Napalm, Mercury Fur and Anthony Neilson’s

explosive plays Stitching and The Censor. These have demonstrated the company’s vision in creating emotionally charged, visceral productions of exciting new plays for the first time in Wales.

good cop bad cop have worked as professional performance makers in Wales since 1990, as key members of Brith Gof, Pearson/Brookes and as founders of Das Wunden. Their work has been characterised by a continuous willingness to experiment with both the form and content of performance practice. This has resulted in gcbc being acknowledged by the British Council as key exponents of contemporary British

performance.

The Nether brings together these two companies for the first time in an intriguing collaboration for Jennifer Haley’s award winning sci-fi crime thriller.

 

 

Seligman Theatre, Chapter, Market Road, Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1QE /

Theatr Seligman, Chapter, Heol y Farchnad, Treganna, Caerdydd, CF5 1QE

15th – 25th March 2017 at 20:00 and 25th at 14:30 /

15fed – 25ain Mis Mawrth 2017 20:00, a 25ain am 14:30

Tickets / tocynnau £12.00/£10.00 chapter.org/the nether

chapter.org / 02920304400

Age 16 plus / Oed 16

 

More information: Chris Durnall 07834600941

 

 

Philip Ridley at the opening night of Tender Napalm
Philip Ridley at the opening night of Tender Napalm

Company of Sirens

Present

 

Dark Vanilla Jungle

By Philip Ridley

 

Tour September/October 2015

 

With


 

Seren Vickers as Andrea

 

Directed by Chris Durnall

 

Following its acclaimed  Welsh premier in March  Company of Sirens are touring Philip Ridley’s extraordinary  one woman play about a young girls search for love and home.

Seren Vickers plays Andrea a young girl abandoned by her family, groomed and abused by sexual preditors and rendered homeless. Depressing? In part , but Ridley allows her spirit and sense of hope and possibility to shine through in sections of Bleak Humour that are breathtakingly brilliant.

What critics said  

"go and see this remarkable, unmissable performance now! Seren Vickers... gives the most, captivating, strong and charismatic performance"  Theatre in Wales

 

“I am speechless after Dark Vanilla Jungle  the best solo performance I've ever seen” New Welsh Review

“Committed performance, committed writing of the highest order. Relevant, topical, unbearable. Unmissable” Guardian


Astonishing Theatre. Vitally important work. All women should see this.Do yourself a favour..Go!” Big Issue

“Dark Vanilla Jungle is theatre with the additives taken out Company of Sirens make great theatre”

Supported by the Arts Council of Wales the National Lottery and Shelter Cymru

By kind permission of Knight Hall Agency, London

 

TOUR DATES

 

Old Red Lion

Islington

London

6th 7th September 8.00

08444124307

www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk

 

Riverfront Theatre

Newport

Gwent

11th 12th September 7.45

01633656757

 

Grand Theatre

Swansea

16th 17th 18th  8.00

01792475715

roselladalesio@yahoo.co.uk

 

Torch Theatre

St Peters Road

Milford Haven

19th September 8.00

01646695267

www.torchtheatre.co.uk

 

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Aberystwyth

25th September 8.00

01970623232

 

Mumford Theatre

Cambridge

10th October

08451962320

 

Lovely testimonial from Bizzy Day producer of The Other Room

Q "What's the best thing you've seen recently"?


A "It was actually a little while ago now but I honestly can’t stop thinking about it. Company of Sirens, in collaboration with Theatre Iolo and Chapter, did an astonishing production of Philip Ridley’s 'Mercury Fur' with young actors from the Royal Welsh College. I was absolutely blown away by the acting. Cardiff really is brimming with extraordinary talent and for that to be showcased in a gritty, challenging play was really special."