EVENING OF IRONY IN DOCKLAND
Review by Penny Simpson
A Blow to Bute Street, currently showing at the Sherman Theatre, is very funny, very ironic and rooted in the public arena with its backdrop the redevelopment of Cardiff’s dockland.
The play will probably become a talking point locally for months to come – the least it deserves. The characterisations are superb, the plot carefully structured and the central arguments more than sound.
The central character in Laurence Allan’s outstanding new play for the Made In Wales Stage Company is Vic La Costa ( Tommy Eytle), an eighty year old saxophonist who for ten years has been confined to a Radyr nursing home.
He makes up his mind to return home to Bute Street, unaware of the fact that the place has been altered beyond recognition by town planners, among them his son-in-law Philip (Bill Bellamy).
Kim Kenny’s set uses a striking visual shorthand to show the docks area in its state of transition. A huge backdrop covered in graffiti is fronted by builders’ skips, bricks, rubble and pieces of scaffolding, a chaotic scene that reflects the confusion Vic feels on his return.
The contrast between Cardiff past and present is cleverly evoked by Allan in his dialogue – some times in word pictures that evoke a sense of loss, at other times in sharp one liners that have the audience laughing and applauding in recognition.
Tommy Eytle was a winner from his first entrance – doing press ups dressed in a pair of long johns. Vic was not a senile or pathetic old man in Eytle’s hands but a strong, vigorous character who radiates optimism in spite of the devastation he finds around him.
In the final scene he patiently sets out to rebuild his house from loose bricks lying on the stage – a powerful statement that is lost on Philip who wants him to return to the sanitised nursing home.
It was a spirit caught by the other docks residents who also make a dignified stand against what is being imposed in them.
Mal Henson, Terry Jackson, Myfanwy Talog and Clive Roberts gave marvellously energetic performances in these many roles.