What an excellent revival of Peter Gill’s play, Small Change. It is now playing at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham. Once again they’ve picked a winner. Theatre director, George Richmond-Scott has brought to our attention a play that excites, entertains, informs and provokes with intense but delightfully light performances too. Both Barrels Theatre company have a production here that deserves a wider audience.
Peter Gill’s play (set in Cardiff in the 1950’s and 70s) explores memory and family relationships as well as significant connections with neighbours and friends. It makes for a panoply of rich experiences, both complex and simple all at once. The script oscillates from the poetic to the mundane but is never without interest as it repeats and revisits dialogue and action in subtle ways so as to expose our on going needs and desires while we probe for our sense of self.
Mothers and sons with absent fathers, forever present, always overshadowing moments of intimacy and exploration as boys become men. Memory is tested, truth challenged, same old same old with images of the past making moments of the present – similar yet different, comforting yet restricting. We have mothers who tell us they want for nothing and some who want for everything along with sons longing to escape – all their hearts scolded and remoulded again and again. Love of course runs throughout in all its forms. At times it is taken for granted, at times just taken, yet in moments it is found anew only to be lost and re-found and reshaped rather like the sands left behind after the tide has gone out – same but different. With each ebb and flow of love moments build to make memories shaping who we are to become. Time passess with small changes as the present echoes the past.
At times characters are released or confined in equal measures; connections with mam, or neighbours, friends or environs serve to resonate a sense of belonging, helping to create the men and women we are – passionate, confused, happy, yet deluded and searching. Work, play, church and chums living through an exploration of self that is both new and old all at once. Gill draws us in to this poetic journey, from boyhood to manhood, capturing moments that serve to make the man when youthful revels evaporate. The making of the young man is a troubled journey and love binds and breaks his pathway in a delicate and moving fashion.
As the troubled man Andy Rush (playing Gerard) seamlessly portrays an imaginative youth and querelous man of some complexity. He reveals a range of emotions that entertains and excites, sometimes with anger and confusion but always with a truth that holds our attention. Rush excels as Gerard and does great credit to Gill’s poetic phrasing and emotional exploration as his identity is shaken and stirred. Likewise, Sioned Jones playing his mother, Mrs Driscoll, moves us with joy and compassion at her sense of resignation and at times confusion, as to why the world turns as it does. Jones’ response to not having cleared the back yard is heartfelt as we realise it is not just the youths who feel shortchanged. She manages the switch of times, age and emotion with skill and delivers a steadfast, totally engaging and entertaining performance.
Toby Gordon, playing Vincen, the cause of so much angst in the lives of others, glows with a masculinity that draws the moths to the flame only to burn them – a striking delivery handling Gills text with a confident relish as he grapples to explain what matters most – if anything. Tameka Mortimer plays the emotionally distraught neighbour. Gill has her desperate to please, yet she is drowning under the emotional needs of family life. Mortimer plays the one time innocent girl with some real passion as she tries to understand her role as mother and wife, with a man hardly known before her wedding day.
The script is heart wrenching as it deals with the poverty of of love, money and status and under the direction of Richmond-Scott the Both Barrels company rise to deliver a performance that should not be missed.