DramaReviewSouth West

The Land of My Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People – Bike Shed, Exeter

Writer & Performer: Rhys Slade-Jones

Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts

Programmed as part of The Bike Shed Theatre’s From Devon With Love Festival, and with a previous outing at The Boat Shed pop-up theatre, Land of My Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People is a one-man show about two people, and a horse, that fall in love. There are bingo slips, a giant fabric horse mask, Welsh flags just about everywhere, and that’s before anyone’s even taken their seats.

Set in Treherbert in 1977, The Land of My Fathers… explores the budding romance of Slade-Jones’ parents. In an era of polyester and disco, two people’s eyes meet across the smoky dance-hall above the gender-divided bar at the Rugby Club. The rolling hills of the Welsh valley are the backdrop for this burgeoning love story. A love story which is funnier than it should be, with all responsibility lies with the unimpressed narrator. 

Reading straight from his mother’s diary, Slade-Jones gives her not-so-detailed account of the courtship in a tongue in cheek daily style rendition. Accompanied by projected photographs of the places and people mentioned and recorded audio from inside the Rugby Club itself, the performance jumps somewhat awkwardly between mediums, with Slade-Jones drifting between stand-up comedy and performance art. There is no doubt he is an actor of many talents, but the production would benefit from a greater sense of focus.

This production is a work in progress and can, for the moment, feel like a series of ideas being thrown together with little structure. There are uneasy and sometimes chaotic transitions, and creator/performer Rhys Slade-Jones’ openly questions where he is within the performance at any given time.

That said, however, there is a charming warmth within the performance and beautifully composed visuals. These flashes of greatness elude to what could be a very promising show, but just hasn’t quite come together yet.

The underlying heart is what really drives the performance and although sometimes undermined by throwaway jokes, this strong narrative is something solid to build on. The production has emotional and personal depth, coming from a son telling the story of his young parents and the community that surrounded them, past and present. There are some striking visuals and beautiful moments, and in its current incarnation, feels as though it is on the verge of something great.

Reviewed on 17 Jan 2017 | Image: Contributed

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Charming Chaos

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