Writer & Director: Andrew Sterry
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Love Cardiff: City Road Stories captures the community, diversity and culture of Cardiff found just a stone’s throw from the commercial city centre.
City Road is arguably the heart of the Roath area of Cardiff; a long street of predominantly independent shops, restaurants and bars and a real melting pot of cultures and cuisines from around the world. This production is the result of a collaboration between Sherman Theatre, The Cardiff Story Museum and madeinroath, collating the stories of the real people of City Road in Cardiff into a truly community piece in every sense.
The cast is made up of real people from the Roath community and reflects how diverse and multicultural the area is. Each has an interesting and engaging story to tell of their life around City Road, from the Cardiffians that have lived there for decades to the more newly arrived immigrants and asylum seekers. Being a community cast, some performances are more confident than others but that just makes the piece all the more real. The stories are smattered with humour and poignancy and hearing them directly from the people living through it adds to the richness and diversity. Some of the cast reveal during the piece that they are professional performers and their presence helps a great deal to drive the performance and keep the pace. Thaer Al-Shayei is the thread that holds the piece together, with a City Road story that spans almost his entire life and a strong performance that takes us on his journey and binds the piece together.
In putting the piece together, director and writer Andrew Sterry, has not been afraid to address the problems that can be found in multicultural areas as well as embracing the many positives, giving balance to the piece. It is a shame then that, towards the end, the message of love and peace is hammered home a little too much. The stories speak for themselves and prove that community is important without having to push this on the audience. It is unfortunate that a piece that has real importance in the current political climate tips the balance from thought-provoking into cheesy.
The backdrop for Love Cardiff: City Road Stories is projected captioning of the stories. In a piece that embraces diversity, it follows that the piece be made more accessible in this way. The captions also enable the cast to express themselves in the language that they feel most comfortable without any of their story being lost. Photographs, by Kirsten McTernan, are also projected as part of the piece. These capture some wonderful portraits of the characters of City Road but do not quite encapsulate the diversity and history of the area. More images showing the different cultures living side by side and the buildings and businesses that feature in the stories would be welcomed.
Lighting, by Ceri James, is predominantly a simply white lit space, enabling the people and stories to be the focal point. Some occasional patterns are projected on the floor, providing interest when there is little more than walking happening in the performance space (something that there is a little too much of) and giving a clean, modern feel. The soundscape of music and city noises, created by Sam Jones, compliments the piece well. It is a shame then that there are some small but basic sound problems throughout.
Love Cardiff: City Road Stories is an important and insightful look at not only the community around City Road but society as a whole, bringing to light stories that need to be told in a personal and human way.
Runs until 15 April 2017 | Image: Contributed