Hijinx Theatre, Chapter Arts Centre
Reviewer David Cox for remotegoate.com
As one of Europe's fastest growing cities Cardiff attracts visitors for its history and beauty as well as its major sporting and concert stadiums. Sadly, home-grown theatre companies are not generally recognised by the locals, let alone tourists.
This is a shame as groups like Hijinx Theatre deserve a wider following, especially as the Arts Council will no longer support their community tour. A lot of companies are suffering similar cutbacks but what seperates Hijinx from other companies is their inclusion of actors with learning disabilities.
This summer's production "Old Hands" revolves around the failing Skidbury-on- Sea little theatre. Set in 1935 they are struggling to keep afloat against more popular rival venues and manager Gus Delamere hires former star Miss Florrie Labelle. The drama of the piece comes from the revelation that she has smuggled in her brother who he describes as " a mong", an acceptable term in that era.
I thoroughly enjoyed their safe Christmas show " Silent Night" but the decision to face this still sensitive issue head on was both brave and impressive. It was also enlightening to see how this issue was dealt with historically. If we feel that anyone "different" is treated harshly nowadays this opened out eyes to how far society has travelled in the right direction since then. As the villain of the piece Gus pointed out "Baby" should have been locked away in Bedlam especially as his discovery would have destroyed Florrie's career.
This is an unexpected plot but as usual it needs good actors to make it interesting and believable. Here, the company was well served bu all members of the cast. Adam Timms beautifully encapsulated the sleazy aspect of some 1930's comic turns, Gareth Wyn Griffiths showed combined acting and musical talents to perfectly portray the sympathetic accompanist, but for me the star of the night was Eloise Williams. Not only did she brilliantly capture a woman lovingly trying to protect her brother from a cruel world but she delivered her songs and comic material in the true style of a top class 1930's act, an impressive feat.
Credit must also go to Andrew Tadd and Gareth Clark who both played their parts well and showed excellent chemistry together. They also provided the comic highspot of the evening by reacting brilliantly to the unexpected sight of the set collapsing around them at the end of the play.
Again, Hijinx have produced a bold and highly enjoyable piece which deserves a wider audience.