One of the dominant themes at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe was that of the challenges faced by young carers. However, this is far from a new issue, as proved by Sean Mathias’ play A Prayer for Wings, which premiered 35 years ago in a production directed by Joan Plowright.
The play was recently revived as part of a season at the Swansea Grand, celebrating the city’s 50th anniversary, this time directed by the playwright. Mathias’ intimate production fits snugly on to the King’s Head stage.
While the style of the writing may have dated slightly, the message of the play rings out loud and clear.
Rita is barely out school but her life has been overtaken by caring for her mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Reliant on welfare, Rita finds adventure and a little extra cash as a sex worker while she dreams of a life away from her oppressive routine.
Mathias hammers home this routine with repetition, as the relationship between Rita and her Mam slowly disintegrates in an unhealthy spiral of resentment and fear.
Alis Wyn Davies intuitively captures the sense of futility and fatigue faced by Rita as she goads her mother (Llinos Daniel), whom she both loves and resents.
Mathias offers a little insight into Mam’s past life in a moment of rare conviviality between the two, but it’s short-lived as the story draws to its tragic, if predictable, conclusion.
The real tragedy is that, three decades on, so little has changed to help young people in the same situation.