Photo Credit: Simon Gough Photography/Holly McCarthy
Theatr Pena – Women of Flowers
Richard Burton Theatre, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
Saturday 18th February 2018
The myths of The Mabinogi is something we would like to see more of in theatre. There have been some attempts to revive the canon in recent arts, such as James MacMillan’s opera The Sacrifice and the series of novels setting the stories within contemporary means. Yet, there is no constant reprisal of the Mabinogi…
In blossoms The Woman of Flowers by Saunders Lewis (with an English translation by Siôn Eirian). Telling the tale of Blodeuwedd, said flower maiden she has many duties thrust upon her. Made by Llew, his own baggage is caused my a highly problematic family of other worldlys who holds epic grudges and can create hellish havoc on one another. Blodeuwedd, has wild urges which makes her lusts for Gronw, as her husband trots off for a few days. Forming a passionate affair, the both plot to kill Llew, to remedy their fickle lives. Llew is foolish enough to inform his wife of the only way he can die (one of the most absurdly specific deaths in all of myth) and surprise, surprise what happens? Though there is talk that the plot did not kill him. Is he alive? What will he do now?
Theatr Pena have taken perhaps the most famous branch of the Mabinogi and breathed new life into it once again. Whilst these stories would have been shared orally, Lewis’ play is tightly woven and Eirian has broken away a barrier to most theatre goers by translating it into English. It still remains an operatic affair, most audience members would no doubt, compare it to Game of Thrones (I only watch the new Twin Peaks). There is till the expected exposition that comes naturally with fantasy work and the Welsh names in themselves are a remarkable feat in pronunciation. The infuriating young man sat next to me frequently yawned and scratched his beard. I guess fantasy is not for everyone…
Directed by Erica Eirian, this is an electric production clad with mighty screens, flower petals and some curious costumes. As our Woman of flowers, Sara Gregory is a revelation as Blodeuwedd. Her wildness is matched by her lust, as the character who is essentially void of developed feelings other than love. Oliver Morgan-Thomas is Llew, a needy character who is defined by his absent mother. He character arch is slight, since he is really only the one person keeping Blodeuwedd from spearding her wings. Arianrhod, played by Betsan Llwyd is the might diva seen lurking in the background, drinking in the events unfolding before us. Her epic portrait is perfect for the themes and to she her in more work of myth would should never be underplayed.
Rhys Meredith is Gronw, the tall, affirmed hero who has naughty time with the lady of flowers. Perhaps a little too stern here, I think a little more passion and fury is needed. As Gwydion, Eiry Thomas is a sort of Loki character, gender neutral yet brimming with sexual deviancy. Cheeky and also fairly menacing, she was a welcome addition, who did not haunt our stage for a long enough time. Olwen Rees plays the maid Rhagnell, who is both loyal and concerned about her mistress of flowers. The part leads to a tragic end, though Rees does all she can for this small part.
Lovers of myth and all things Welsh should go and pay a visit to the Woman of Flowers.
Rating: 4 stars
Woman of Flowers continues on tour around Wales.
This review has been supported by the Wales Critics Fund.