Review – The Druid’s Rest, Finborough Theatre

Tuesday 8 September 2009

thedruidsrestYes, another trip to the fringe. We promise to break out of it soon.

Latest news on the poor, beleaguered Finborough Theatre: not only is there still no alcohol licence but there’s not even a bar any more. Drinks may be purchased at the nearby newsagent  and brought in to the auditorium in plastic cups. There is still no running water in the gents. The auditorium remains tropically warm.

So it’s saying something that despite all this the Whingers had a thoroughly enjoyable evening when they visited last night to catch The Druid’s Rest by the “Welsh Noel Coward” Emlyn Williams.

And bits of it are in Welsh!

Now Phil came over a bit Anne Robinson about this, not (as Andrew will attest) by suddenly looking years younger, but by struggling to suppress a long held resentment from his west country childhood when he could never understand why most of his English teachers were Welsh people who never ceased extolling the virtues of Wales. If it’s so good what are you doing in Wiltshire?

Anyway, Emlyn Williams is best known for Night Must Fall* and The Corn Is Green and The Druid’s Rest is principally notable for being the play in which Richard Burton made his stage debut in 1944. It’s a light comedy set in the small Welsh village of Ton-y-maes where the locals are in a state of excitement over the relocation to their area of the Eisteddfod (one of Andrew’s favourite words, incidentally, but one that casts a chill in Phil’s heart). A murderer is on the run from London and a mysteriously evasive stranger turns up at the inn…

Phil was very taken by the performance of an absurdly youthful looking (but not in an Anne Robinson way) Joshua McCord as Tommos the younger son, Rachel Isaac‘s chirpy Ruth-Madoc-on-speed performance as Sarah Jane Jehovah, and especially Bennet Thorpe‘s excellent comedic turn as A Mysterious Wayfarer. Anna Lindup‘s convincingly cockernee Kate (the cunning device by which the Welsh people are forced to speak English) was more excited about a sewing machine than the Eisteddfod which was a sentiment Phil could fully understand.

The Whingers were also very impressed with the cast members’ ability to stand (and even change costumes) behind the Welsh dresser (the exit behind it went no further) and they applauded the decisions to put all the seats in front of the action instead of along the sides (c.f. State Fair).

Phil might have even have forgiven the excessive Welshness of it all if it hadn’t been for the cast’s curtain call as a Welsh (almost all) male voice choir at the end. For Phil, only a skirl of bagpipes or newspaper on polystyrene produces a more painful sound.

But – Welshness aside – this is an amusing little play and charmingly delivered (although the elderly woman sitting next to Andrew said she was enjoying it in spite of the cast’s insistence on playing as if to a 20,000 seat auditorium).

After the show the Whingers decamped to the nearby Pembroke (continuing the Welsh theme) where they were thrilled to find themselves sharing a table with Eileen, the mother of the show’s director David Cottis. Despite pumping Eileen for embarrassing stories of Mr Cottis’s childhood the only thing she volunteered was that he had a very pattable head.

The Druid’s Rest plays at the Finborough on Sundays and Mondays: 13, 14, 20 and 21 September 2009.


* Filmed in 1937 with Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell and Dame May Whitty with the tag line “AMAZING! DIFFERENT! UNIQUE!”

2 Responses to “Review – The Druid’s Rest, Finborough Theatre”

  1. JohnnyFox Says:

    I wasn’t aware you had an aversion to Welsh Male Voice Choirs. This event on Saturday at the Tower of London should be your total nemesis …

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