Bruised is the first play by actor Matthew Trevannion continuing Theatr Clwyd’s commitment to new writing and make no mistake, no puns intended, but this is a hard hitting piece of work that really packs a punch.
Played through without an interval it is 105 minutes of gripping drama which is full of tension but not without its many moments of humour. There are some cracking one-liners to lift the gloom of some of the scenes. Noah returns home after several years to find nothing has changed and yet everything is different. Not an ornament has been moved in the splendid set designed by Max Jones. It is a masterly recreation of a sad high rise flat in which the fourth wall has been removed. For the audience it is like peering through a picture window into the boxed room and we feel the claustrophobia of these bruised people unable to escape.
From the first few lines as Shane expects Wendy to run after him there is always this feeling of something unspoken which continues after the prodigal son’s return home. At first you think it is the awkwardness after a long parting but it is much more than that – it is the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and this has been like that for years.
Kate Wasserberg’s taut direction draws you into the story and her fine ear for the tempo of the piece keeps you gripped throughout. She elicits totally committed performances from the cast that make you believe you are watching real people and your empathy and understanding shifts as various past events are revealed. It is written, directed and acted like a good thriller that is a real page turner leading to a shocking but satisfying ending. And as an added bonus the play is thought-provoking ensuring you leave wondering what will happen next and what exactly did happen in the past.
As Adam, Rhys Wadley gets the play off to a great start with his intriguing character and Kristian Phillips brings humour and warmth to the simple Lugs. Simon Nehan’s Shane moves effortlessly from charm (sort of) to tough in seconds and Bethan Witcomb convinces that she has endured a lot in her short life but has retained some naiveté beneath her apparent hardness. Her birthday scene has humour, warmth and touching vulnerability.
Sion Pritchard as Noah who sets the train of events in motion reveals a string of emotions and conflicting feelings that really reaches out to the audience. Completing the cast is Sara Harris-Davies as Wendy the mother/mother figure to all these others and she gives a stunning performance. In her face, body language and voice she shows the sum total of her current situation and the back catalogue of her life. She is riveting, so true and so moving. A great performance.