It seems rare that a piece of theatre that is based around the subject of being gay is able to stay away from cliched boy-meets-boy narratives and camp dialogue. It’s great to finally see a show which isn’t all a-sparkle with gay glitter, but has a deeper, sentimental focus too. Llwyth (which means ‘tribe’) was originally produced by Sherman Cymru in 2010, but was such a success that the production is now being co-produced with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and is part of the British Council Showcase at The Edinburgh Festival (the first time a Welsh play has featured in the showcase).
Llwyth sees a group of gay friends come together for an evening of celebration, dancing and friendship-strengthening. They reminisce about the times they’ve had, sneer and shudder at some of their sexual escapades, and (naturally!) drink and dance the night away. Of course, it would be foolish to think that this is just about the drinking and the drugs of a gay-lifestyle night out. Dafydd James’ play has undertones of troubled relationships and strained family ties – we may laugh as the characters cringe at sex stories, but our emotions fly low when the ties of friendship are taut from emotion. James has an ability to take his audience through the journey of his characters with precision.
The production values of Llwyth are certainly concrete, too, compared to much of the work at the Fringe. Tom Rogers’ design has created a flexible space that acts as the various locations of the evening. Lighting Designer Johanna Town has worked closely with Rogers to make the most of the space through lighting, individually pinpointing areas of focus, or creating a club-like essence for dance scenes (no easy task when your show is programmed for midday).
Simon Watts as Aneurin is exceptionally good at driving James’ narrative onwards throughout Llywth, especially in the closing moments of the production when the emotional drive of his character takes place. Watts is supported by an equally robust cast, who double-up throughout. The cast seem to have developed an energy between them that allows them to easily push themselves in the piece. As they switch between Welsh and English you can appreciate the complexities of Arwel Gruffydd’s direction. It’s not the easiest of tasks to produce a fluidity of time and space, with differing languages, but Gruffydd’s direction makes it seem easy, and enjoyable to watch too.
Llwyth has all the right touches of laugh-out-loud enjoyment, with tender reflections on characters that are deeply portrayed and written. As a piece of gay theatre, it doesn’t preach gay rights or troubles, it offers the audience the chance to appreciate a friendship that is built around sexuality but not because of sexuality. Llwyth is camp but grounded, it’s distinctly Welsh, but also universal, and is certainly worth a visit to St George’s West to enjoy it during the Edinburgh Festival.
Llwyth is playing at St Georges West at the Edinburgh Festival until 29th August. For more information and tickets see the Remarkable Arts website.