Union Theatre, London
Writer: Liam Holmes
Director: Michael Neri
Cast: Liam Holmes, Tanwen Stokes
Running time: 80 minutes including interval
Dates of run: tour of Wales from March to follow London performances, January 10-11.
Nearly 60 years on, the tragedy of Aberfan haunts us, not least because it could have been avoided.
If only the local mine had not begun to dump colliery spoil on the mountainside above a village school. Given that it did, if only the catastrophic slide had happened a day later when the children would have been safely on half-term holiday.
There is no consolation unless you turn to art. Then the dramatic tension between what was and what might have been becomes theatrical gold in the hands of Liam Holmes as he makes his play-writing debut.
Holmes also takes on the role of the young Stephen Jones, who had potential to be a talented rugby player, and could have also been the requited lover of co-protagonist Tanwen Stokes as Angharad Price, a local nurse, older than he is and posher than he is in that she doesn’t have the accent of the valleys.
Under Neri’s direction, the casting, the pace, the pauses, the delivery are expertly judged as the audience’s rapt attention is focused on the tragedy of the survivors.
Before the suffocating torrent claimed him, Jones’ young brother was at least happy in his final thoughts of how the heroic elder brother would surely win the rugby final. The reality is the elder brother may never again fully experience happiness, as he tells his father in a furious monologue that he desperately wants to be a conversation. His father, the other Mr. Jones, never says a word and never appears on stage, and yet is terribly present.
As more than ever, we regard climate-warming coal as a force of evil, this could be an overtly political play.
Holmes instead makes it powerfully personal and lets us draw our own political conclusions about the wasted lives of those who cannot move on from tragedy.
Barbara Lewis © 2024.