Everyone’s vexed in this show, though some have clearer reasons to be than others. Mrs Driscoll (Tameka Mortimer) is struggling with a home life that is far from ideal, with not much (if any) help from the off-stage Mr Driscoll, who she suspects is seeing someone else on account of his frequent absences from their house. Vincent, her son, has apparently been thrown out of the local Catholic parish church – quite why, like so much else in this play, is never fully explained. His friend Gerard (Andy Rush) ends up being the one oozing with guilt in adulthood, while Gerard’s mother, Mrs Harte (Sioned Jones) is rather acid-tongued, with far more putdowns of people, overall, than compliments.
The set is largely made up of long rectangular blocks, moved around as far as they can be moved around. Otherwise, every scene looks the same as the one before, whether the scene is in a workplace or at home. What begins as a series of seemingly unconnected first-person narratives eventually comes together to form a somewhat coherent whole, though I found myself, with alarming regularity, completely baffled as to who or what the characters were talking about. For instance, in a late scene, Vincent concludes, “I don’t blame him, I can’t blame her” – I am at a complete loss as to who ‘him’ or ‘her’ are, or what he does not and cannot blame them for.
I’m not sure, either, whether the storyline is in forward chronological order (I doubt it). I couldn’t warm to any of the characters in the end. Gerard and Vincent begin as teenagers getting up to mischief, as though they were schoolboy versions of the pensioners in Last of the Summer Wine finding things to do to relieve their boredom. Later in the play, however, there’s a long and largely philosophical scene in which Gerard gets so irate he barks at Vincent, “You belong to me”, with his line of argument being, “Because I say so”. I was just as baffled as Vincent was by this, and it was far from the only occasion in which someone suddenly burst out with a bizarre and disjointed statement.
The production portrays the impact of the past on the present and future well enough. The show is apparently based in Cardiff, although one wouldn’t have figured that out from the characters’ accents. If only that were the only issue with this production: portrayed differently, there would perhaps have been a greater understanding (or even an understanding in the first place) that there are certain things that were left unsaid in an era when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. Here, there are expressions of love between the two men on stage but for some reason, despite the private setting of their conversation, it doesn’t quite convince.
Sexual orientation is not, in any event, the central point of the show, which appears to be more to do with exploring why it is that people are driven to behave in certain ways, including being taken by their own hand. The cast do well with what they are given, but the script is over-elaborate, with largely irrelevant descriptions of people, places and objects. Steadily paced, this may have been more engaging as a radio play.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Journey back home to confront the truth and find the moment that defined you. Peter Gill’s poetic masterpiece receives a timely revival.
Set on the east side of Cardiff in the 1950s and 70s, Small Change centres around Gerard, a troubled man at the end of youth, trapped by his past. He relives his vibrant childhood, trying to grasp what made him the man he is.
WRITTEN BY PETER GILL
PRESENTED BY BOTH BARRELS THEATRE
Sioned Jones – Mrs Harte
Tameka Mortimer – Mrs Driscoll
Andy Rush – Gerard
Toby Gordon – Vincent
Directed by: George Richmond-Scott
Movement director: Rachel Wise
Set and Costume Design: Liam Bunster
Lighting Designer: Ali Hunter
Sound Designer: Lex Kosanke
Production Manager: Gabriel Finn
Casting by Jane Frisby
Photography credit: Jon Holloway
14 SEPT – 2 OCT 2021