Review: Possible (National Theatre Wales, online)
Shôn Dale-Jones presents this new piece to online audiences
The capacity of the personal to involve an audience and reflect more general themes is tested to its furthermost limits by this heart-felt show devised and performed by Shôn Dale-Jones for the National Theatre of Wales.
Streamed live from the Riverfront theatre in Newport until July 2, and then available online, it plunges us into Dale-Jones's life from the moment coronavirus hits when he has just been commissioned by the long-suffering director of NTW Lorne Campbell to write a show about love.
Saint Lorne, as Dale-Jones takes to calling his boss, decides the show must go on, but as the pandemic proceeds and lockdown intrudes, it becomes a show about the show he doesn't write, a recollection powered by the unprecedented events that are happening around him which force him to sell his home and confront unpleasant moments in his past.
It is nevertheless at its best when it is still a piece about love, and in particular the love Dale-Jones feels for the three most important women in his life – his wife Stefanie Mueller, who co-directs and designs, his mother, and his daughter. Each of them is conjured with simple images – a chair by a window, a rumpled post-it note, a photograph.
Dale-Jones describes himself as a story-teller and at first his tale is a bit irritating; we've all lived through this time, after all, and many of us have worried about our loved ones, parents facing dementia and loneliness, children beached by a disruption that derails their lives. But his narration has substantial dollops of warmth and honesty. It works best in the details: the mad WhatsApp group of concerned siblings who worry about the way their mother is making scones in the middle of the night; the pleasure of a trick with a chocolate salami.
The staging is attractive too, infinitely enhanced by the fluent videos of Bear Thompson and the music of John Biddle which fill the stories with movement and life, using a variety of techniques from graphics to film, from a remastered track from Grandmaster Flash to a song which simply states, over and over again, "making scones after midnight, it's a bad sign".
The writing is conversational, involving, and occasionally profound. "Turning your house into a home is an act of slow-motion magic," Dale-Jones asserts as he contemplates selling up because he can no longer afford the mortgage. But though difficult things happen, the show avoids self-pity. In fact, it presents a rather cheering picture of humanity under pressure yet pulling through with decency. It's a slight piece but enjoyable.