One of the mantras of Bristol Old Vic artistic director Tom Morris is to tackle innovative work in conjunction with other theatre companies. The theme is much in evidence in this opening Studio production in the newly restored Theatre Royal, the world premiere of a tough and challenging play by young Welsh writer Katherine Chandler, presented in collaboration with Sherman Cymru of Cardiff.
Craig Gazey and Harry Ferrier in Before it Rains at the Old Vic, Bristol Photo: Farrows Creative
Chandler, who currently also has a play for the under sevens out on tour, offers up a slice of raw life on a dead-beat Cardiff housing estate, although, as Sherman Cymru’s literary manager Sian Summers points out, it could be everywhere else for that matter.
The protagonists are Lisa Palfrey’s vodka-drinking, and at first couldn’t-care-less, single mum Gloria - her autistic son Michael (played by Craig Gazey), trying to find the answer in the soil of his allotment, and Harry Ferrier’s wild and explosively feral neighbour Carl, the catalyst for the play’s exploration of ways and means of surviving on the edge of modern living.
A single incident of gratuitous violence against an estate cat sparks an explosion of violence, mirroring the pattern of Rudyard Kipling’s Law of the Jungle, which draws the audience right into the heart of how we cope with intimidation from outside and within.
This is a thought-provoking first link between the two companies, boosted by three committed performances under Roisin McBrinn’s disciplined direction. Hopefully it won’t be last.