The Clink is one of Cardiff’s best restaurants and, attached to the city’s prison, it’s staffed by prisoners in the last phase of their sentences. For the waiters and kitchen staff the restaurant provides preparation for returning to their outside lives, a chance to learn skills and build self-confidence.
It’s an unlikely setting for a theatre production but director Bridget Keehan, and her company Papertrail, have forged a strong reputation of working with people at the fringes of society. In developing A Night in the Clink, Keehan and her three writers spent time with the restaurant’s staff before creating the overlapping stories in this play.
The three main characters spark off each other well. There’s Justin (Oliver Wood) anxiously awaiting a call from Costa after a job interview, and his loyal young sidekick Ricky (Aled ap Steffan) who seems less assured about his future outside. Finally, chef and Cardiff City hardcase Marky (Siôn Pritchard) waits for his partner and daughter to arrive so he can serve them their meal and make them proud.
For all the whipcrack dialogue and the threatening undercurrent emanating from the three leads, it’s the heavy sense of waiting that hits the audience most, a character almost in itself. Regret also comes through heavily. These aren’t people who beg for sympathy – they know they did wrong and they’re paying for it – but the actors and writers imbue the characters with such warmth and pathos that we leave wanting nothing but the best for them. An excellent drama.