Tag Archives: Omnibus Theatre

“Sad” at the Omnibus Theatre

There are solid performances and Marie McCarthy’s careful direction to enjoy at Victoria Willing’s new play. Unfortunately, the script is not a success. Aimless and indulgent, its baby-boomer characters become a bore.

It’s brave of Willing to make her heroine Gloria (who suffers from seasonal affective disorder) unsympathetic. It’s a big part for Debra Baker, who is faultless. But it’s hard to make someone moaning for 90 minutes interesting.

Even worse, there’s little insight into Gloria’s problems. She is grieving for her mother and dissatisfied that her life hasn’t turned out as planned. There’s a mass of detail that is messy and it is too confusing for us to feel sorry for her.

The play becomes distracted with subplots about Gloria’s affair, her best mate from Slovakia and… the housing crisis. These provide difficult roles for her husband and friend, who Kevin N Golding and Izabella Urbanowicz tackle with skill. Desperate efforts to provide back stories that add depth to both roles fail and intrude further on the main story. And there’s a dire role as the next-door neighbour for Lucas Hare, who tackles some terrible dialogue bravely. 

Debra Baker

Some of the scenes might work as stand-alone sketches but, joined together, Sad amounts to less than the sum of its parts. Is there a lust for something random I’m missing here? There are plenty of coincidences in the piece. Gloria is supposed to captivate (and, goodness, Baker tries) as a former punk and free spirit. Lucid dreams and mentions of storytelling intrigue – she’s even writing a memoir, albeit one even she knows isn’t very interesting. It’s a shame some of this isn’t elaborated on. If some kind of crazy is the aim, Willing needs more originality.

Worst of all, the play is flagged as a comedy. And it took me far too long to work out why. A handful of lame one-liners and deadpan remarks indicate the intention to be funny. This seems to be the only excuse for Hare’s character (or that someone in local government really pissed off Willing). This creepy, clichéd council official is odd rather than comical. I’ve seldom seen a more humourless play, despite the efforts of those on stage.

Until 30 April 2022


Photo by Dan Tsantilis

“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

“We Were Having A Perfectly Nice Time” at the Omnibus Theatre

Shy of half an hour in length, Pedro Leandro’s play isn’t reticent when it comes to its themes of friendship and unrequited love. For such a short show, this two-hander is hugely satisfying.

The flatmates who discuss a possible romance between each other, made all the more awkward by their shared pessimism, are great characters with distinctive world views. Neither woman suffers fools, or each other, gladly. It’s hard not to like them very quickly and admiration for Leandro’s cleverly written banter instantaneous too.

Much praise goes to director Evan Lordan and performers Stephanie Booth and Hannah Livingstone whose deadpan deliveries bring out the humour in the piece. It must be tough to react so subtly, especially when the scenario is touching and heartfelt. That both women get so much meaning out of a monotonous delivery is fantastic.

This brand of miserabilism is smart. And, yes, appropriate for our times: that love is described as “like the flu” works well too. Cynicism isn’t always appealing but here it creates sincerity as both women realise that, beyond their negativity they want someone to “see us and say yes”. If you think the two would probably make a great couple, it only makes Leandro’s text all the more bittersweet.

Until 24 October 2020