Home » London Theatre Reviews » Making Bread and Babies – Popty Ping Productions | Review

Making Bread and Babies – Popty Ping Productions | Review

This is a good show to stick one’s teeth into for those interested in the conversations that go on behind the scenes of a production. The selected conversations from various Zoom meetings are not, however, focused on the technical aspects, or even the casting process, but about the volunteers involved in a community theatre project: who they are, what they are up to and how they have been coping with the consequences of the global pandemic. The stories, the audience is assured, are real (though in the name of confidentiality some names, places and very specific details have been altered), in the sense that they are what volunteers have actually said on Zoom.

Making Bread and BabiesBronwen (Ceri Ashe) gets palpably frustrated at not being in a rehearsal space and having instead to interact via the computer, and I found this helped dissipate some of my own frustration at seeing yet another online production in the form of Zoom meetings, with people sat at home and not much in the way of props or scenery. There was, however, Gareth’s (Kelvyn Lewis) birthday ‘party’ – inverted commas mine – which saw the group in party attire.

The Zoom meetings (in their edited form, at least) take on a form of group therapy. I shouldn’t really call it that, as there isn’t a trained psychotherapist facilitating discussions, but some of the benefits that the team obtain from their sessions are similar. According to the Verywell Mind website: “Group therapy allows people to receive the support and encouragement of the other members of the group. People participating in the group can see that others are going through the same thing, which can help them feel less alone.” That was very much evident in the group’s conversations, as they were able to empathise and understand one another’s situations – in some ways, of course, this is hardly surprising, given that ‘lockdown’ affected so many people in so many countries.

To be brutally honest, a production of this nature was never going to be utterly riveting from beginning to end: by its very nature, being in lockdown means the ‘usual’ activities that people would do are largely curtailed. Gwilym (Rhydian Watkins) isn’t participating in rugby matches, while Gareth was shielding at the height of the pandemic on account of being a heart attack survivor, and even now leaves the house just once a week, to shop for food at his local Tesco. It is, I suppose, a marked departure from a lot of shows, which can almost be overloaded with events, narrative points, subplots and plot twists: everyone is just hanging in there, taking each day as it comes, and this is paradoxically reassuring.

Ffion (Angharad Tudor) is both excited and apprehensive about becoming a mother for the first time. Nia (Izzy Gibb) is the production assistant to Bronwen, and despite saying she’s only really there ‘in the background’ she makes valued contributions to the group. Bronwen herself has her demons to fight, whilst David (Samuel Normington), an actor from London with a very different view out of his window to the picturesque views of Wales everyone else in the group has, puts smiles on everyone’s faces with his anecdotes and, in one case, misinterpreting a question about his experience working on the production with another one about 2020, inadvertently describing the former as “crappy, overlong and just a mess”.

While the reflections and life stories were intriguing, I would have liked to have heard the end result of the group’s rehearsals. I assume the production is trying to point out that the journey is as of much interest as the destination, but in the end, it feels as though one is watching one of those Saturday evening talent competitions that emphasises people’s backstories far more than their actual performances. That said, it’s well-acted and very, very convincing.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

This moving yet humorous show shines a light on the stress, worry and absurdity that lockdown restrictions place on family bonds. Including pre-recorded footage of the mystical Preseli hills, music from Pembrokeshire artist Paul Best, and live-streamed improvised theatre.

This project brings together a global cast and production team with professional actors from London & Cardiff (Izzy Gibb, Samuel Normington, Angharad Tudor), Pembrokeshire talent (Paul Best, Rebecca Ashe, Fflur Evans), volunteers from Span Arts (Kelvyn Lewis, Rhydian Watkins), director and script editor from California (Ami Lum) and Pembrokeshire film-maker (Jake Whittaker).

The shows are staying online until Sunday the 13th December 2020 at midnight.
Span Arts

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