Unprotected by Bethan Marlow
Venue: Wales Millenium Centre, Weston Studio
Directed by: Sarah Bickerton
Dates: 8th – 9th December 2010
Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard
Photographs from www.velvetensemble.co.uk
The moment you suddenly realise you are out in the world without mummy and daddy there to hold your hand is a daunting prospect for anyone, more so if you have lived a sheltered life until that point. This is the exactly where we find the innocent Violet (Rhian Blythe), in a new flat that she hopes will allow her a new, more independent life.
The set was a simple raised square, with a ¾ bed and boxes full of Violet’s few possessions. The only way to distinguish outside and inside was through lighting changes that were executed flawlessly. Subtle red lighting was also used in scenes of high tension or passion, although a slightly overused technique it was ideal for laying Violet’s emotions open for all to see. This simplicity suited the performance, highlighting Violet’s isolation and vulnerability.
Rhian Blythe in the poster for Unprotected
Throughout the play we only see two actors even though other people are present and even spoken to in one sided conversations. This choice was brilliant; it exaggerated the sense of Violet being completely alone apart from her strained connection with Tom (Gareth Milton) and helped maintain intensity in the small venue. Having said this the absence of Violet’s parents was slightly odd as we were led to believe that they were over protective and defensive, the fact that they wouldn’t try to get in contact with her, or that she wouldn’t worry about them more is perhaps a slight oversight in characterisation. I could be completely wrong with statement as we soon learn Violet is a compulsive liar and she could in fact have parents who don’t care at all, but then where did she get the money for the flat from?
This is Velvet Ensemble’s first full length production and is also Bethan Marlow’s first English language play (her first language being Welsh). Watching the production you would never guess this; the script is complex and unpredictable much like the character of Violet, the words and direction manage to skirt around clichés and the acting was superb. Due to a combination of these things the characters of Violet and Tom were solid, three dimensional and most importantly believable.
Rhian and Gareth in rehersals
Velvet Ensemble aim to redress the male/female balance in theatre by producing plays that have female lead characters. Although this particular production was very much about Violet’s world we were given great insight into Tom’s motives and at no point was the play anti-male. In fact, of the two, Tom was in many ways more likeable, with Violet being a combination of innocence and unreasonable behaviour that stemmed from her need to please others. The theatre company have definitely achieved their objective as this project was a brilliant showcase of female talent in all areas, especially Rhian Blythe who was absolutely perfect as oddball Violet with perfect gestures and tone of voice.
Any young woman or indeed man watching the production would be able to take some comfort in the fact that it is ok to fall in love and do silly things. Normality is different for each one of us and everyone has a piece of the eccentric, extrovert side of Violet and the shy, embarrassed qualities of Tom. Hopefully people will also take the message that it is ok to be your true self and that you should never change for anyone.
I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone involved in this production the VERY best. I can’t wait to see more Velvet Ensemble productions and more writing from Bethan Marlow both of which are sure to have brilliant futures.
For more info on Velvet Ensemble visit: www.velvetensemble.co.uk
For more reviews and an interview with VE producer V John and writer Bethan Marlow visit: www.hypercriticreviews.blogspot.com