A Prayer for Wings – King’s Head Theatre, London

Writer and Director : Sean Mathias

Reviewer: Margarita Shivarova

The revival of A Prayer for Wings, performed in a 110-seated fringe theatre at the back of a London pub, offers an emotionally rich transaction between the cast and the audience. Such that is fuelled by the struggles in caring for an elderly family member, relevant today as much as they were in the mid-1980s. Undeniably the key to this is writer and director Sean Mathias, renowned for his work across the UK and abroad including West End productions like Waiting for Godot and more recently Ian McKellen on Stage. The true feeling of a post-World War II era in the poor town of Neath, Wales conveyed brilliantly through the set and cast performance contribute to ease the ride of a journey to the darkest and most sacred corners of one’s mind.

On a daily basis Rita (Ali Wyn Davies), a girl in her early twenties, gets her ill mother out of bed, makes her tea and toast, helps her move to the wheel chair, cleans up after her, serves lunch, does the grocery shopping and jerks off a street boy for 50p. Meanwhile her desire to meet a man, a friend, truly fall in love and go to America remains a recurring daydream that seems to help her survive her days of satisfying other people’s needs. The individual battle of striving for independency and having a duty to abide by is tearing Rita inside, while her mother hardly ever sees beyond the horizon of her needs as if a child and not a 40-year old woman. Yet Mam’s character (Llinos Daniel) is also greatly pitied especially in the moments of great pain and inability to move which are portrayed with incredible intensity in both voice and physicality. In contrast, the moments of silence balance out the pace and finely highlight the realism within the play. The tiresome everyday defined by poverty, lack of employment and sense of being stuck seems to have eaten up everything to the bone of these two souls and left out room only for the devilish. As the latter circulates, their place of living situations can evolve so quickly that the audience could even find themselves in danger, metaphorically and literally.

Apart from comical, the plot around Rita’s dream becomes rather insignificant compared to what she has to give up at the end of the play. Full of irony, this play amuses and moves. The plethora of human feelings put on display by the talented actors give the piece its strength in asking questions and bringing recollections.

Runs until: 23 November 2019

Review Overview

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Strikingly realistic

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