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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Invertigo In association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre present



Saer Doliau (Doll Mender)


Seiriol Tomos


by Gwenlyn Parry


In the Original Welsh-language


Directed by Aled Pedrick


Set Design by Alex Marker


Costume Design by Joel Tulley


Sound Design and Original Composition by Tom Recknell


Produced by Sion Alun Davies and Louise Best for Invertigo Theatre Company


Finborough Theatre


Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, 3 – 19 Feb. 2013



Saer Doliau, by the esteemed Welsh playwright Gwenlyn Parry, explores topics spanning modernisation, racial prejudice, sexuality and ultimately, questions the fragility of the foundations upon which we construct our own realities. The busy one-scene set at the ever-exciting Finborough Theatre depicts a quaint workshop with various tools and needy dolls arranged around a workbench and on shelving behind the set; the floor is strewn with wood shavings and the room has a remote, aged feel. Conservative-looking Ifans (Seriol Tomos) appears every inch the reclusive craftsman, fastidiously arranging his anorak on a solitary coat hook upon arrival, then addressing each of the resident dolls by name in a doting, almost fatherly manner. Tomos’s expressive features and considered performance are particularly strong in these lonesome early scenes. Before long, leather (but barely)-clad biker “Girl” (Catherine Ayers) arrives and forcibly inserts herself into the situation, she states her intention as stocktaking while her implied intention seems hinged around sending bewildered Ifans into a nervous, confused stupor. This absurd juxtaposition incites the unease with which the action will proceed amidst a bitter and ultimately tragic struggle between tradition and modernisation.

Subtitles are provided on a screen above the stage, helpfully for those of us who can’t fathom a word of Welsh but at times frustratingly sparse relative to the volume of lines being spoken. This is particularly prevalent during the numerous argument scenes when manipulative seductress “Girl”, and, later, scarcely-burgeoning apprentice “Lad” (Stefan Donnelly) arrive to disrupt Ifans’ notional peace. In spite of the fact that Welsh-speaking spectators will surely take more from the production than others, some elements, particularly the tragicomic and the absurd seem refreshingly undiluted by translation, as when Ifans wistfully recalls a bin he had that it “was a pleasure to put rubbish in”. All three characters are sufficiently expressive to ensure that the tone and atmosphere are consistently, unambiguously ominous, creating excellent dramatic tension. Original compositions by Tom Recknell further enhance a strange sense of foreboding at well chosen intervals throughout the uninterrupted ninety-minute performance.

Saer Doliau lays questions on thick. Is the omnipresent Gaffer, who Ifans rings in times of need in spite of apparently being his own boss, real or imagined? Are intrusive, explosive Lad and Girl actual imposters heralding a tidal-wave of modernisation or merely a manifestation of Ifans’ fear of change? His compulsive, angry habit of stowing anything “other” in a dark cellar which he never enters is patently symbolic of a solitary mind which has attempted in vain to compartmentalise much too much. Lad’s incessant, delighted probing of Ifans in his nervous state is, at times, almost grotesque. While Girl’s more subtle manipulation of both perturbed older man and this hapless, dubious, new-romantic is far more subtle and leaves a lingering impression long after the performance draws to its seemingly inevitable close.


Steffan Donnelly and Catherine Ayers
Box Office: 0844 847 1652
Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 Feb.
Tickets £14, £10 concessions
Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road, London, SW10 9ED

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