First published in The Times, Wednesday March 11 2015
You know all is not well in this disappointing three-hander from the moment the lights go up to reveal Karen (Claire Cage) slumped in an armchair in her back garden, staring into the middle distance. Whey-faced and clad in jumpsuit and slippers, she launches into a staccato stream of consciousness before flopping back spent, the light going out in her eyes. Meanwhile, life goes on around her: the cat prowls the garden for birds; her neighbour mows his lawn incessantly; her mother Mavis (Siw Hughes) and daughter Hannah (Gwawr Loader) soak up the late summer sun.
Matthew Trevannion’s play is fragile, barely 50 minutes in length, but in the interactions between three generations of women, the Welsh playwright manages to touch upon a number of issues, from depression to pregnancy, cancer and bereavement, while also showing how people gain strength in adversity from small epiphanies. If the subject sounds grim, this is balanced by leavening humour courtesy of Hughes’s “tell it like it is” grandmother and a lyricism to the writing that has the potential to make us look with fresh eyes at the realism of the setting.
While Leviathan confirms Trevannion’s ability to apply his poet’s eye to everyday domestic tragedy, he is less adept at making the situation dramatically compelling. The static setting is compounded by the flatness of Rachel O’Riordan’s production – for A Play, a Pie and a Pint in association with the Traverse and Sherman Cymru – and performances that feel hesitant, particularly in the opening scene. Loader, as the daughter, breaks the monotony late on with a howl of fury at her own and her mother’s afflictions, accusing her stoic grandmother of using the word love “like a crowbar”. Leviathan could do with more moments like this to make the audience sit up and take notice of Trevannion’s writing – and to jolt us into caring.