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Honey by Reaction Theatre Makers at The Cockpit Theatre | Review

Honey by Reaction Theatre MakersIt’s doesn’t quite bring back memories of TIE (Theatre In Education) productions I saw in my school days, but there are occasional whiffs in the many soliloquies in Honey of the BBC Television long-running series Blue Peter. The show is bookended by Anwen (Vey Straker) showing off a patchwork quilt – I didn’t think much of it, to be blunt, but it held sentimental value for reasons Anwen explains in a final soliloquy that went on a bit too long. I struggled to maintain interest in the thing on display, with so many details being given that it felt like it was an item being flogged on a television shopping channel.

In between the two unveilings of The Quilt, however, is a fair amount to ponder on. Caron (Callan Durrant) is 22 years of age and still living at home in Wales. This is not entirely of his own volition; being a person with autism, he is unable to function independently, not least because of his dislike of social situations, loud noise and verbal communication even with his own mother. His inner ‘voice’ speaks to the audience at one point, revealing an inquisitive and deeply philosophical mind – and he excels at what he devotes time into perfecting, whether it be, for instance, stitching, or demonstrating considerable dancing skill.

The rural country life, therefore, suits Caron, with plenty of open space for him to expend his energy. But he is largely expressionless as well as speechless. It is therefore hard to tell, but perhaps there might just be a longing for the hustle and bustle of city life: he is rather vibrant and enthusiastic whenever he performs a dance. There’s a metaphor somewhere when Anwen loses her temper and demands Caron stay indoors – a case of the parent throwing her toys out of the pram – he enjoys the freedom of open spaces but must remain cooped up in the house instead. There used to be a dog on my street who was a bit like that: when I would leave the house in the morning, he would bark loudly and incessantly while staring out of the window, as if complaining that I get to go out and earn a living while he must remain inside.

There’s plenty of folk music to be enjoyed – or, indeed, endured. For Anwen, a popular regional folk music radio show becomes a mixture of the two thanks to a (not very convincing) plot twist involving Armes (Jenni Lea Jones), the half-sister – if I have worked out the relationship correctly – of Anwen and Celandine (Jemma Lewis). All three have their own eccentricities, though Armes’ stands out: detailed visions of future events with enough accuracy to cause Anwen to be alarmed at how she could possibly know so much. A pity, I think, that she didn’t have a vision of next week’s Lotto numbers.

The show ebbs and flows – there’s nothing wrong with a change of pace every so often – but while the quilt is completed, there are narrative loose ends elsewhere. Do any of Armes’ predictions ring true? Celandine makes a sudden announcement to the audience but doesn’t share the news with the other ladies (and it is something that one would ordinarily share with immediate family).

There are glorious moments when Celandine does her best to follow Caron’s intricate movements. The play demonstrates well how nobody is truly independent – however indirectly, we are all in some way reliant on one another, like bees in a hive. But with the audience on three sides (as is usual for The Cockpit), the production could have better blocked. And it’s also telling when, in one late scene, the on-stage characters are chortling between themselves but the audience remain largely unamused. There are too many themes brought out in a single show: adherence to the old adage ‘less is more’ might have made the show more engaging than it was.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Honey is an intimate story that weaves together the lives of a young man with autism, his mother, her tattoo artist sister, and those that want to love them.
But Anwen is not always an easy lady to love and as her sister says, “Is her husband in the Middle East detonating bombs, or is he in Cardiff down at the Four Bars trying to carve out a new life for himself?”

This is not so much a story of those at war, but of the break down of community and those trying to find their own peace.

As with all of their work, RTM take a look at the changing landscape of people’s minds and the environment.
Woven throughout is the beautiful backdrop to this moving, charming and funny piece: A quilt stitched with hopes and dreams, pieced together throughout the performance as a present to root Anwen’s son to the earth, and a symbol of the strength of a community coming together.

Three hives help us navigate through a world that she has created. A simplicity of staging allows transition between the outer hills and home, a place to drink and a place to talk.

Lit by lighting designer Ben Hughes and with an original folk musical score by Joanna Karselis you will taste the honey, feel the richness of the hills, the air and hear the music that fill this small land.
The choreography is by Lizie Gireaudeaux.
‘Honey’ is performed by Jemma Lewis, Callan Durrant, Vey Straker and Jenni Lea-Jones.

Whilst developed for an adult audience, Honey is also a rare opportunity for younger people to be introduced to modern theatre.

Wednesday 18th to Friday 20th July – 7:45pm
http://thecockpit.org.uk/

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