Not pronounced as you’d expect, Seanmhair (Shen-a-var) is next up in The Other Room’s Outliers season and once again this production is nothing like you’ve ever seen before in the tucked away gem of a black box inside Porters bar. Written by Hywel John, Seanmhair takes us back to the dingy side streets of 1950s Edinburgh and the life of Jenny, at various points in time.
With an immediately haunting setting and opening monologue, the enclosed audience are drawn into a dark, grim alleyway with dingy lighting and flashes of strip lights and introduced to three women, all barefoot, all playing variations of the same woman. We’re introduced to an old woman trapped by a husband’s illness, lost of all vitality and tenacity, as he now only pecks at bird type food lost of all power, and then sent straight back in time to a young girl and her enchantment with the glimmer glimmer of the elusive Tommy on her way to school.
As their lives entwine, their naivety has disturbing and damaging consequences, and it is down to Jenny’s Seanmhair (Scotts Gaelic for Grandmother) to step in as all three actors take on multiple roles, switching effortlessly between bullying school girls, Tommy’s Mother and other members of Jenny’s family. Each actor is captivating in their performance, and their movement and synchronicity kept the audience entranced from the dimming of the lights. A certain level of concentration is required but it is very easy to slip into Hywel John’s world in this fast paced, tornado like script, and Kate Wasserberg’s direction keeps you both on your toes and glued to the window pane into this Edinburgh tale.
A haunting and incredibly powerful production, the three actors work seamlessly together as the tight knit script come to life in a claustrophobic and full throttle manner.
Seanmhair plays at The Other Room until 1st April and will also feature at the Edinburgh Festival this August. Follow @TORtheatre for updates.
So this week The Other Room opened it’s doors for the very first time and welcomed audience members to Cardiff’s one and only pub theatre. Kick-starting their programme with Sarah Kane’s infamous work, Porter’s cinema room has been transformed in to a black box theatre and in turn, a hotel room to create the set of Blasted. Not for the faint hearted or those looking for an easy watch at the theatre, Blasted was uncompromising, intense and raw from the dimming of the lights.
The dark story revolves around an odd couple who escape to a hotel room in Leeds: one older, sex-hungry journalist who drinks gin like water and one vulnerable young girl who can’t stand the smell of meat. A brutal and unhealthy relationship is instantly apparent (especially to those in the front row!) and it soon becomes clear that the violence and power is not isolated to the hotel room as a soldier later seeks refuge also. Sarah Kane’s vulnerable state is reflected instantly and throughout, as things turn from bad to worse and the war rages on and pain is inflicted upon the three characters as desperation, greed, dominance and lust hit hard.
As explosions hit, the space grew and the well-designed studio extended brilliantly to show off the outside terror, causing gasps amongst the crowd. Our window seat view allowed us up-close and personal access to the pain and terror inflicted as each character took it in turn to show off their vulnerable sides and their harsh, more dominant shells. Each performance was incredibly brave with an especially amazing demonstration from the talented Louise Collins as Cate, full of raw emotion and investment in her character.
A proper example of punch you in the gut, makes you want to vomit/curl up and cry in a corner theatre which left me a little shell shocked. An incredible start to The Other Room’s ‘Life in Close Up’ program with brilliant performances from a stellar and brave trio.
‘Blasted’ is at The Other Room at Porter’s Cardiff until 7th March.