National Theatre Wales have taken refuge in the ornate auditorium of the Park & Dare Theatre and have brought a season of dazzling, groundbreaking productions and showcases of new Welsh writing to the presumably bewildered residents of Treorchy (no offence to any Treorch-ites). And guess who’s written a play especially for the occasion? Rachel Trezise – a startlingly original (and Welsh) writer, winner of the EDS Dylan Thomas Prize and all-round DNA lottery winner, who is Welsh. Here, she has brought us Tonypandemonium – a scintillating tour-de-force displaying the turbulent but ultimately love-driven relationships between mother and daughter. To everyone who saw the title and smiled, this play is for you. And if you didn’t smirk at the title, well, go and see it anyway.
Our protagonist Danielle, clad in punk attire and armed with a tattoo needle, paints the skins of locals in her tattoo parlour with her own, wryly autobiographical artwork. However, when Danielle is told of her alcoholic mother’s diagnosis with cirrhosis of the liver, she is plunged back into her past and is forced to recall her entire tumultuous relationship with her. The audience are the recipients of this Proust-esque recollection, subjected to a succession of progressively vicious mother-daughter showdowns culminating in their mutual realisation of the attention and affection they desire from each other. Peppered amongst these ritual rows are a thread of past lovers that Deborah – the stumbling, vodka-swigging, Shirley Bassey-belting mother – had charmed. The finished product is a virtuosic display of Trezise’s versatility in writing, switching deftly from riotous moments of Welsh smut to raw scenes of drama, as well as a hugely exhilarating theatrical experience.
Staged in (or just about) the round, the audience never know where to look next, which is all the more exciting. Scenes explode in-yer-face, up-yer-nose, down-yer-trousers, behind-yer-back, on-yer-lap; it feels as though we’re inside this girl’s head. We are the spectators of Danielle’s jumbled, discordant memories. The set is an amalgamation of ladders, armchairs, microwaves and hospital beds that embodies the unstable psychological conditions of the characters’ mindsets and their experiences. Crying out for each other’s attention, the characters grab a microphone and deliver a clip comeback, riling the others to chat back in a manner that sounds shockingly similar to an ordinary Welsh family home.
The cast are just as phenomenal as the play. Tamara Brabon, Molly Elson and Sarah Williams maintain the feistiness inherent to Danielle as they span through the decades, strutting irreverently across the stage demanding our attention. Adam Redmore has the shoulders shaking with laughter as Deborah’s lover Tommy Sexton, giving progressively phony anecdotes of his encounters with rock stars. The real star, though, is Siwan Morris’ Olivier-worthy portrayal of the promiscuous, brittle, intoxicated mother, Deborah. Siwan Morris is an utter sensation and does the material the justice it deserves, and then some.
Get yourselves up and over the Bwlch to see Tonypandemonium. It’s a total riot.