Writer: Kevin Jones
Director: Matthew Holmquist
Reviewer: Beth Steer
Set in Porter’s The Other Room – which has been transformed into a shabby 90s boozer, complete with sticky carpets and uncomfy stools, Cardiff Boy is a one-man show about growing up in one of the Welsh capital city’s estates.
Set to a 90s soundtrack, think indie Oasis, Jack Hammett as our protagonist, darts about the set, sharing anecdotes about his friends, kids in school, nights out, trips down the Gower, and house parties – ending in one fateful night, where it all went wrong.
As a long-time Cardiff resident, the 55-minute-long piece fosters a real sense of community and nostalgia – name-dropping bars that everyone frequented as teenagers, long closed or refurbished, and local hot spots that will mean something to an audience that knows the city. The writing, the language, and the accents are spot-on, making you smile, thinking yep, that sounds about right.
The staging, lighting, and soundtrack are clever – conjuring up the exact atmosphere of a typical Cardiff night out, from the starting drinks at the pub to the way it ends up, inevitably, on chippy lane. There’s a good range of music, and the cassette player on set is a nice touch.
But, unfortunately, the piece doesn’t quite have the depth it needs to carry off some of the themes it handles. It touches on a broad range of difficult topics – depression, addiction, anxiety, grief – but only really scratches the surface; there’s no opportunity to explore these moments more deeply. As a result, you’re left with questions, and wanting more – to know what happened next, or what someone else thought, or how they reacted, but they’re answers you don’t get.
For a local audience – or for those who are connected to the very specific circumstances the play covers – it’s an interesting watch that’ll make you smile, or sit back and think. Sitting back though, is hard to do, as the seating arrangements will leave your neck aching, and you’ll be fidgeting uncomfortably before the end. Unfortunately, rather than being immersive, it’s distracting.
Hammett does well to hold the room’s attention on his own for nearly an hour, and the piece has got real potential to be a powerful coming-of-age retelling, exploring how poverty, anxiety, and tragedy affect us throughout our lives. For it to be transferable, though, it needs to broaden its scope, where it’s currently very narrow, for a wider audience to learn or feel something meaningful.
Runs until 11th November 2018 | Image: Kirsten McTernan