The Independent Theatre’s production of “The Corn is Green” is sublime. The intimacy afforded by the Little Theatre allows us a personal access into the spacious drawing room in which all the action takes place. Rob Croser and David Roach have designed and detailed the perfomance area to create both the atmosphere and utilitarian function of the room. Under the direction of Rob Croser it is expertly utilised throughout by an evenly balanced and talented cast and becomes part of the fabric of this smooth seamless production.
Residents of this late C19th Welsh household are Miss Ronberry, Jones and Idwal Morris, all seemingly house-keepers of varying status. They await the arrival of the person who has recently inherited the property. They patently expect a gentleman and are taken by surprise by the arrival of Miss Moffat who is accompanied by her servant Mrs Watty together with daughter Bessie Watty. Squire Treverby is not merely surprised but completely flummoxed by the appearance of a strong willed, well educated and singular woman. Miss Moffat soon announces her plan to open a school for young men who, by long tradition, are destined for a life time of work in the local coal mine. It is a notion that defies and challenges the accepted social order on every level.
Resident Miss Ronberry (Pru Pole) seems to be a woman of some small independent means. Pru invests her with an air of sensible reliability and honesty. She is won over to the idea of schooling the local lads and makes a tutor contribution with her not entirely confident grasp of mathematics. Greg Janzow as John Goronwy Jones injects his character with a distinctive butler-like aura. His slighltly bumbling yet most personable nature is appreciated by everybody. he and Miss Ronberry are a likeable duo. Idwal Morris is energetically played by Ryan Kennealy. He buzzes in and out providing the link both to outside happenings as well as announcing various arrivals.
David Roach is the consummate local Squire. He is not an academic by any stretch of the imagination but he has a complete understanding of the social order and his firmly planted place therein. His initial meetings with Miss Moffat are brilliantly conceived and controlled by both actors and provide performance highlights in the first act. Squire Treverby is ultimately won over to the idea that education might bring prestige to the community and becomes a convert (so long as it doesn’t jeopardise his personal status!) It is a finely modulated performance.
Jean Walker, as Mrs Watty, is a most natural and entertaining servant to Miss Moffat. She displays her new-born Christianity with the same enthusiasm as she does her tea making. She has found, understands and accepts her place in the social hierarchy and the audience loves her for it. Her daughter Bessie is also intelligently interpreted by Sophie Livingston-Pearce. She displays no affinity for the education of offer and, in the context of this play, becomes a practical example of one who turns her back on that opportunity. She has a rebellious streak and her pregnancy becomes a potential stumbling block to the denoument of the play. Mayhap, just like her Mother before her, she too might be eventually “saved”?
Lyn Wilson plays Miss Moffat with clever control and conviction. She takes care in ensuring that she displays just the right amount of confidence and self-assurance throughout. Even in moments of her character’s self doubt Lyn remains in complete control. She gives a very smart performance much admired by the opening night audience. Sharing the same level of accolade, Eddie Sims plays the student who shows great promise and who becomes Scholarship Boy elect, Morgan Evans. His initial hesitance and reticence about potential education pathways are both taut and believable. So too is Morgan’s blossoming acceptance and then rampant enthusiasm as projected during his “New World- My World” soliloquy delivered in Act two. It is a bravura performance by Eddie Sims.
Mine lads and school students all: Gabe Mangelsdorf, Ishan Rai, Lachlan Bosland and Rohan Cros combine for a most effective class and chorus. They are the prime means by which the poetry of the Welsh language and its inherent sense of nostalgia are aptly transmitted.
The passage of last night’s opening performance was flawless and seamless in its every aspect. The pace, the diction and consistent accent of all performers together with smooth scene modifications were all contributory factors that combined for a memorable night at the theatre.The end applause for the ensemble followed by the extra ovation for the lead roles played by Lyn Wilson and Eddie Sims said it all.