Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Four gay men on a night out in Cardiff are forced to take a hard look at their relationships with eachother, their families and society.
‘Daffyd James writes beautifully’ , was a thought that repeatedly came to mind whilst watching Llwyth (Tribe). Depicting four Welsh gay friends coming together for a night out, which coincides with an international rugby match in Cardiff, the play interrogates modern gay life while also asking important questions about the price of ambition and what it really means to care for and support one another. James’ style is a witty patchwork of one-liners, pop culture references, poetry, song and the odd surreal dream sequence. Described as a ‘fantasia’, which when used in the context of gay characters always harks back to Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Tribe achieved some of the American play’s sense scale, depth and playfulness.
A largely Welsh language production this was subtitled, which occasionally, but of course unavoidably, distracted focus from the onstage action.
Aneurin a cocky aspiring novelist , played by Simon Watts, served as a worthy anchor for the shows action as he loses his London cool and declines into a drug induced haze. James has drawn four gay characters that manage to avoid yet at times playfully subvert gay stereotypes. Dada for instance, played by Danny Grehan, at firsts seems like an atypical musical loving camp queen, but the audience also see a man who gave up a successful career to come and care for his ailing mother. The strained relationship between Gareth (Michael Humphreys) and Rhys (Paul Morgans) was also compelling, as they played out the dynamics of their differing masculinities. In short all of the plot strands of this humane and funny play were involving, sympathetic and revealing. If this isn’t the mark of an extremely well written play, then I don’t know what is.
The stage design was simple, but effective, a slick city apartment changing to club then with the aid of projection into the outskirts of dilapidated council estate. A slight criticism was the representation of a club atmosphere, which seems inevitably to look a little bit mawkish, with characters stepping away to some faceless dance music.
The show ran a little long clocking in at one hour and forty five minutes without an interval. Don’t be put off by the subtitles, this is great piece of new writing, which uses the experiences of four gay men to make some important statements about things that we all experience. This for me feels like one of the great things about fringe theatre where stories that might initially feel alien and different to our own experience, show us just how similar we all are.