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Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock review at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff – ‘charm and warmth’

Sian Davies and Jack Hammett in Lightspeed from Pembroke Docks at Chapter Arts, Cardiff Sian Davies and Jack Hammett in Lightspeed from Pembroke Docks at Chapter Arts, Cardiff

After a proud 200-year history of shipbuilding at Pembroke Dock, it’s a curious fact that the last vessel to be constructed there was the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s iconic craft from the Star Wars saga, built then delivered in sections to the set in 1979.

Mark Williams – Pembroke boy and Star Wars fan – conjures a warm tale of fatherhood and rebellion echoing George Lucas’ work yet set firmly in modern Wales.

We simultaneously meet Sam in 1979 and in 2014. Twelve-year-old Sam (Jack Hammett, playing a little young) struggles to connect with his stepfather (Dick Bradnum), himself haunted by the death of Sam’s mother and the impending closure of the shipyard, while middle-aged Sam (Kieron Self on terrific form) has a rebellious daughter Lizzie (Sian Davies) to contend with while trying to make ends meet.

Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock’s themes of changing masculinity and the responsibilities of fatherhood are handled sensitively and with humour. For all the testosterone, though, it’s feisty teenager Lizzie, played with likeable spark by Sian Davies, who provides the story’s drive.

Director Catherine Paskell achieves the rare feat of creating a piece of smaller-scale work that’s satisfyingly appropriate for older families (suggested age 10 and above). The company overreaches in balancing two complex stories and 15 characters with a cast of four and a paper-thin set, and the lightspeed climax is a little underwhelming, yet the play’s charm and cast’s bravura leaves you humming John Williams’ score long after the end.

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The Force is strong in this enjoyable, if over-ambitious, show for families