Love and Loss through the eyes of the only Welsh Prime Minister
The wizard, the goat and the man who won the war
Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD
2nd March 2012
To create a one man show about a politician who has been dead for 67 years that is still relevant to a modern audience would be a challenge to any writer or director. Thankfully D.J. Britton took David Lloyd George as his inspiration; the only Welsh speaking prime minister (although he was born in Manchester) whose private life and flirty charm make him an exciting and interesting man to study.
Brought to life by the utterly brilliant, BAFTA-winning actor Richard Elfyn, we got to see all the sides to the man the media called the Welsh wizard, the Goat (for his reputation as a flirt) and the man who won the war to end all wars.
On holiday in Antibes, France to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary to his wife (whilst sending his mistress back to England) this fictionalised portrayal of the great man was firmly rooted in fact. He was indeed there for his anniversary and he also had a mistress called Frances; but how he felt about these two women and how he juggled the two amid all his political duties is explored through Britton and Elfyn’s beautiful collaboration.
Elfyn danced around the bare stage, with only a bench for set. With minimal props, a walking stick became an umbrella, a golf club and even a beautiful young woman to dance tenderly with. He addressed the audience as the sea and touchingly pondered if it was the same sea that caressed the shores of his beloved home in Wales. His performance was so absorbing, so truthful and so engaging he even had the audience singing along to the Welsh classic ‘Myfanwy’ in a parody to the story that Lloyd George would get the members of his cabinet around the piano to sing at Number 10.
Richard Elfyn as Lloyd George (photo by James Davies)
It wasn’t all light-hearted though as he began to question himself. How could a man who claimed to be a protector of the poor, who established the beginnings of the welfare state, risk so much to gain more personal wealth? How could a womaniser claim to be a champion of non-conformist Christianity? Did he abandon Wales or did Wales abandon him? And how could one normal man from a small town in Wales deal with the guilt of losing of a child to a preventable illness?
This was a truly inspirational piece of theatre, perfectly crafted and brought bang up to date with witty asides about The News of the World and brothers competing in politics. Underneath all the showboating was a true sense of the man who did not care for a Union Jack but desperately longed for the Ddraig Goch of home. My only worry is that it is a Welsh piece at home in Welsh theatres and I’m not sure how it would travel, with its use of the Welsh language and patriotic passion that only those who have lived here can truly understand.
Lyrical and absorbing, quite how Elfyn kept the one man show so engaging I will never know. The role of ‘Hamlet’ is notorious for being challenging but in this production Elfyn had over twice as many words as the ill fated prince, and was certainly twice as likeable.
Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard
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