Produced by Moya Productions, Dyl chronicles Mark Weinman’s playwriting debut at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington. With a variety of previous acting credits, Weinman follows in the footsteps of playwright Nina Raine, whose earlier works also presented at the theatre, and whose most recent piece Consent is currently showing at the National Theatre.
Directed by Clive Judd, the Artistic Director of the Old Red Lion, Dyl is a sad comedy that follows the character of James as he begins his career as a rigger 400 miles from home. His work is a balance between two weeks onshore and two weeks offshore; and his daughter Dyl is present in neither area of his life.
Instead, he holds the company of Ryan, his live-in landlord, and commits himself to a journey of self-discovery. In doing so, he isolates himself from his family and friends, and buckles under the responsibilities of young fatherhood, all the while jeopardizing the very relationships that keep him grounded.
Designed by Jemima Robinson, the set, walls, and floor of the stage were coated in black and the air was heavy with the smell of wet paint. Indeed, fresh ebony ink crawled down the walls, leaking through the ceiling and into what was revealed to be Ryan’s flat. There was a black sofa sat centre stage, across from a set of kitchen cabinets, fridge and working microwave, and a black plastic veneer oozed across the floor, like oil floating on the surface of the ocean. Strings and carabiners swung from above, and were later used by James to literally rig the stage floor and ceiling. The world of the play has been created with great attention to detail, and it shows.
Sound Designer Giles Thomas and Lighting Designer Will Monks also added to Robinson’s expert construction. Carefully choreographed, scene changes were charged with the sound of adrenaline. Angry music accompanied blinding lights (and strobed on occasion) in this passing of time. These moments became part of the action, and were used effectively to support the narrative.
Dyl came to life through a powerful cast of four. Laurie Jameson was particularly likeable as the character of Ryan: a salesman with a thick Scottish accent and a slight obsession with Lucky Charms. His good nature and comedic temperament was well balanced against Scott Arthur’s James – a young father with a tortured soul and inability to come to terms with the past.
Joyce Greenway gave an earnest portrayal of his concerned Mother, and the relationship between the two felt startlingly genuine. Rose Wardlaw played James’s ex-partner Steph, and is the mother of their daughter Dyl. Her role, although smaller was by no means less impactful, and her performance had a great effect on the emotional conclusion of the piece.
One unfortunate directorial decision by Judd, however, managed to eclipse what would have been powerful moments of emotional tension. Frequently, actors would stand at the edge of the stage with their back turned to the audience. Not only did this obscure their faces, but it created a massive obstacle for the spectators, who were no longer able to see the action past them.
Despite this, the company have created a compelling production, no doubt furthered by Weinman’s excellent writing. The dialogue demonstrated a wonderful awareness of comedy, and featured well developed and relatable characters. He has done well to have created a piece with such depth, considering that this is his first endeavour as a playwright. This is a very promising debut from Weinman, and he is definitely one to watch.
Dyl is playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre until June 3.