Last night I attended Sherman Theatre in Cardiff to see the much anticipated How My Light Is Spent by Alan Harris. As usual, with anything I’ve not seen (or read) before, I like to go in with an open mind and heart, ready to hear what each performance has to say to me as it unfolds.
Firstly, any performance in Sherman’s studio is usually presented with a quirky edge, so walking in and seeing a platform in the centre of the room (with seating either side) didn’t surprise, but intrigue me. I wanted to see how a performance could work in this kind of catwalk-style design.
The play opens with Jimmy losing his hands. He’s disappearing and the only person he can turn to is Kitty, a sex-phone worker he’s been calling every Wednesday evening when his Mum is out of the house. He’s lost his job and he needs Kitty’s help, before he disappears for good.
Alan Harris is firmly on my radar now, his writing is beyond interesting, witty and honest. This is the kind of play I’d have lost myself in at college. It’s a reflection of our time; a job seeking, masturbating, life affirming performance with all the honesty an audience could ever ask for.
For me, both Jimmy and Kitty resemble lost souls, weaving throughout life and slowly disappearing. Kitty’s sense of loneliness leapt out at me, struggling to grasp at something, anything to make her life feel more complete. But when she meets Jimmy and things seem to click, she pushes him away, trapped in the vicious circle of a lonely life…
I particularly like the realistic portrayal of the current state of the Job Centre, even in Cardiff I’ve seen bouncers on the doors, and as for zero hour contracts, anyone who has ever been in search of work will relate to Jimmy’s struggles. The contrast of Jimmy (looking for work) and Kitty (keen to study) is an interesting one, because we’re stuck in a time where, financially speaking, neither pays off…
It’s almost as if we’ve been brainwashed by the elite, the classes dividing until we’re completely isolated from one another. Nobody can really win in the rat-race for cash, when deep down we all know that people should be our focus, not money.
I related to Kitty’s character a lot, always the sense of feeling unloved, pushing people away and avoiding any sort of ‘connection’ with another human being. Alexandria Riley was a force upon the stage; she was quite simply fantastic. I watched Kitty move about the space with an air of uncertainty, she was lost but found, but instead of choosing the one person who truly loves her, she chooses to ‘fall for’ the one person she can’t get close to. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, loneliness breeding loneliness…
I loved Jimmy from start to finish, he fascinated me and I felt he was a true representation of the people. Rhodri Meilir was always going to be outstanding (he studied at Aberystwyth University!) but in all non-biased seriousness, his performance of Jimmy was superb; his timing perfectly comic during some dark and depressing real life moments, such as losing his job or seeing his estranged daughter for the first time. He held my attention from the off, and I’ll never know how he jumped from a South Walian accent to an English one between each sentence, word or scene.
Jimmy’s story is a very sad one, and one I’m sure most people can relate to. The idea of fading away, disappearing and nobody notices or even seems to care. The concept of mental health and how some people view it can be summed up in the exchange between Jimmy and his mother:
Are you ever going to get up?
Don’t feel well, mum.
Is it the job thing? Are you now going to develop some form of depression?
I feel this resembles the state of understanding in our current world, this kind of ‘brush it off and get on with it’ attitude that’s causing people to teeter on the edge.
The chemistry on stage was undeniable, I felt as though this performance had been rehearsed to perfection. They both seemed to connect and work incredibly well together, and I was super impressed as they spoke broken and cut off sentences between each other.
I think my favourite scene is a phone conversation between Kitty and Jimmy, where they talk about all the things they’d do together. It reminded me of the life I finally chose with Warren, after many years of being alone and lost, he found me, and luckily for me, he never gave up. It was these elements of the play that really hooked my heart.
The last section of the play is where the two lost characters finally meet again, and it’s with such understanding, trust and love that they are able to truly connect. I adore the descriptions of Newport in the last part of the play, and I love the moment Jimmy and Kitty connect physically, lighting up the entire city.
How My Light Is Spent is clever, quirky, honest and real. It has moments of despair, tonnes of humour and, most importantly, it has the feeling of hope.
How My Light Is Spent is running until 27th May 2017 and tickets are £16.
Disclosure: I received tickets in exchange for review. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.