Tag Archives: George Richmond-Scott

“Small Change” at the Omnibus Theatre

Peter Gill’s exceptional play isn’t easy. But, with the aid of this excellent revival from Both Barrels Theatre, it is an experience worth every effort. 

Even at its simplest Small Change is a play about memory as much as about the particular memories of a young man called Gerard. His life story shows us working-class Cardiff from the 1950s and 1970s that is interesting enough. But it is the telling of the tale that makes mind-blowing theatre.

Gill’s dense, poetic writing is beautiful, if demanding. This is a long play, but at times I wanted it to pause to appreciate the language more. As Gerard, Andy Rush’s delivery of the script – verse, really – is a marvel. The linguistic acrobatics are matched by a fantastic physicality to the whole production.

Gill’s subject is memory in general

As well as Gerard, we have his mother, his neighbour, her son Vincent, and their memories, too. Gill’s detail is so great – and the performances so good –that you might argue that the play is about any one of them.

Sioned Jones and Tameka Mortimer

Certainly, Gerard’s relationship with his mother is extraordinary and leads to a magnificent performance from Sioned Jones. For all her frustrations about her “swine of a kid”, their closeness shines through. From supportive to claustrophobic, the changing dynamics are riveting. 

The next-door neighbour’s mental health problems are explored by Gill with sensitivity and depth: qualities reflected in the performance from Tameka Mortimer. Small Change‘s angle on the lives of working-class women is authentic and inspiring.

Toby Gordon

Meanwhile Gerard’s best friend Vincent is as fully formed a character you could wish for. Toby Gordon’s wonderful depiction brings out a fascinating intelligence and independence. 

So maybe I’ve got it wrong? Small Change is about so much more that Gerard’s soul-searching reminiscences.  Because the memories recounted are brilliantly interwoven and seen from many angles. The life choices and trauma of each character are revealed from individual perspectives. 

The scraps of memories, conversations, observations (from different times of life) flow with dizzying speed. Wrongs and sufferings are circular as the give and take of personal relationships creates a web that’s powerful, but let’s be frank – hard to follow. Gerard is the vector of the “hard slog” of memory: working out the past and how it impacts the future isn’t easy for him or the audience.

“The hard slog”

Director George Richmond-Scott revels in the play’s complexity and his work is, as a result, bold and brave. It’s easy to imagine how static Small Change could be (it’s one of those plays that you want to read). But Richmond-Scott injects an energy into the production that matches the verse. Rush is eye-catching, but I became obsessed with the way Jones used her cardigan to show her character ageing. Wonderful stuff.

There’s guidance about what is going from Lex Kosanke’s excellent sound design. But it is the sculptural set from Liam Bunster that proves a revelation. The rust-coloured benches and a box look as if Donald Judd’s artwork has found a practical application. The set becomes a beach and a playground as well as a door or a window. Thanks to movement director Rachel Wise, it’s creatively negotiated around, jumped and balanced on, with images vivid enough to match the script. And, with this script, you can’t praise higher than that.

Until 2 October 2021


Photos by Lidia Crisafulli

“The Memory of Water” at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Shelagh Stephenson’s The Memory of Water was a big hit in the West End and won an Olivier Award in 2000. It is a clever choice for a fringe revival and a new production by Causality Theatre at the Lion and Unicorn provides a valuable chance to see it again. Director Eyal Israel gets to show us what he can do, controlling the performances and pacing the whole production admirably.

As three sisters come together for their mother’s funeral, family tensions gush forth. Sarah Borges as Mary shows a perfect understanding of Stephenson’s dark, dry humour. She tells her sister that they don’t argue, they just bicker, but Katherine Jones’ wonderfully unfolding performance as Teresa shows how wrong she is. The youngest sister, Catherine, is played by Jane Stanton, who arrives on stage as a neurotic whirlwind. Instantly establishing her character, she gives the production huge energy. Catherine’s vulnerability is never doubted but Stanton skilfully hints at a canniness that is truly unbalanced. Catherine’s narcissism brings the sisters together both to fight and have fun.

One of the things none of the sisters can agree on is the past. Their memories are fluid. Their deceased mother haunts them and seems to be getting a bad reputation, so it’s great when we get to hear her side of the story. Hilary Burns appears as a vengeful yet wise ghost. Setting the record straight with Mary she speaks out as she never did in life. Playful as well as caring and very much alive, she points out what her daughters deny but is staring at them from the mirror – what has been inherited from her.

As if all this were not meaty enough, memories meet the present for more drama. Teresa’s husband Frank (Dan Mullane) struggles to keep his exhausting wife under control and find space for his own future. Mary’s long-term partner is married. George Richmond-Scott skilfully manages to show a compassion not intended to convince us. His wife is supposed to be sick but, as the ever wry Mary points out after seeing her at a fete, “People don’t get out of their deathbed for a tombola.” Just one great line from a play as rich in humour as it is in emotion and performed with such sensitivity as to make this a night out to remember.

Until 31 July 2010


Written 16 July 2010 for The London Magazine