Link: https://www.theatrclwyd.com/event/secret-stream-5 (hopefully you can still go through the booking process to watch this. If not the youtube video is probably still active. It’s unlisted so I’m not allowed to post it here but maybe Theatr Clwyd can give you the link.)
Available until: Unknown
For Once is the latest play in the series of ‘Secret Shows’ presented by Theatr Clwyd. This is the fourth Secret Show play we’ve watched so I think maybe we missed the first two? Anyway, these plays are announced as Secret Shows and they give you the date and it’s only nearer the time that they tell you what the show is going to be. It is possible to book the sixth one now but it doesn’t say what it is.
For Once is written by Tim Price. It focuses on a family of three – a mum (April), a dad (Gordon) and their son (Sid) who is maybe late teens. Or a family of four if you include Neil the dog but he doesn’t appear. I wish he did. Online theatre lovers are always excited to see dogs on Zoom!
It is a very interesting play. The characters take it in turns to narrate something that happened to them and how they feel about it. The other characters interact with them if they’re part of the memory but if they’re not part of it they remain on camera (or I guess onstage) and just don’t take any part in it. There are other characters who are mentioned and the three characters we do see describe what they say and do but we never see the other characters.
The scenes are about their whole lives, the different problems they have to face but there’s one incident at the heart of it all – Sid was in a car accident and is now disabled, perhaps permanently. Even when the characters look back at incidents that happened before the accident, the shadows of the accident kind of hangs over the memory and makes them – and us – look at it in different ways.
The memories aren’t done in chronological order and sometimes we get the same incidents from more than one point of view. This could be really confusing but it actually makes complete sense. Francesca Goodridge is the director and she doesn’t have pauses or anything that shows the scene is about to change but the has got the actors to move from one scene to another with complete conviction and that is actually all you need to make each scene really clear because it’s all been written really clearly and this play has a really good cast who can switch from one scene to another.
It’s hard to believe the cast only spent a couple of hours rehearsing this. It’s such a good performance, they have all got their characters perfect and they’re working together so well even though they might only have met each other over Zoom. Also the whole play is about 1 hour 45 minutes so you wouldn’t have time to run it more than once in two hours. What they’ve achieved with this play would be really amazing even if they’d had a normal amount of rehearsal time so to do it all in two hours is a really great achievement.
Daf Thomas plays the role of Sid. He is really good at showing how Sid is a bit lost and a bit vulnerable and really struggling to deal with the physical, emotional and social challenges of the new situation he finds himself in but even in the scenes set after the accident, you get a really strong sense of who he is as a person. He seems like quite a relaxed, positive sort of guy, one of the lads but sensitive to other people’s feelings.
Sule Rimi plays Gordon. He seems like a really good man who always tries really hard to do the right thing in every situation even though he does have his way of escaping when he needs to. But underneath that you can see and feel in Sule’s performance the longing for something else.
Michelle McTernan is especially outstanding as April. She’s perfect as one of those people who means so well but tries just a little bit too hard? It’s a challenging role because like with Gordon she’s trying to do one thing but feeling something else and she gets herself into some really difficult situations. There are so many different layers to this character and Michelle does so well with expressing them all, sometimes more than one at the same time. She’s also the character who gets most deeply into her emotions and she is brilliant at this but when the scene switches, she has to switch from one emotion to another or just switch off her emotions and she is just flawless.
For Once is a thought provoking, moving and really lovely play and this is a really good production which is worth seeing so I hope you can!