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The Sleepers' Den

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Peter Gill writes about people living in 1955 in a deprived area of Cardiff where he was brought up in a Roman Catholic environment. It is a study of helplessness and the disintegration of the mind, created by the stress of appalling living conditions

Julia Berndt’s multiple set creates the squalid atmosphere immediately. A side area serves as a hall where Frank can park his bicycle – obstructing all those who wish to enter. This is a world where there is no practical help at hand – only Mary, the visitor from the Roman Catholic mission has come to provide help and comfort with – not money – or even a bunch of grapes – but with prayers. She makes them kneel with their rosaries and repeat the Lord’s Prayer and endless Hail Marys.

There are moments of humour which add a sweetness to the production, most especially the scene between Mary and Frank who seem to achieve some kind of bonding together when she accepts his offer of a cigarette and he confides some of his secrets to her.

But the tour de force is the long monologue at the end of the play as we witness Charlotte Moore as Mrs Shannon, lightheaded from hunger and tortured by stress, escape in the only way possible. The acting throughout is first class and it is sympathetically directed by Adam Spreadbury Maher

- Aline Waites


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