16-17 April 2014
Reviewed by Judy Cera
Last night I went with my husband to the Millennium Centre in Cardiff to see The Good Earth, devised by Fragments and directed by National Theatre Wales’ Director, Rachael Boulton. We parked in the Pierhead Street Multi Storey Car Park which is very convenient for the Millennium Centre, and has an agreement with the theatre whereby theatre customers can pre-book a discounted voucher for the car park. The Millennium Centre is a lovely large modern building and we enjoyed a coffee in the café while we were there.
The Good Earth is inspired by true events and tells the story of Jacky, a young girl who lives with her mother Dina, her older brother James, and James’ fiancé, Sal. The family lives in a council house in a village in Wales and they have lived in the same house for generations. One day, a man from the council comes along and informs everyone in the village that they must leave their homes as the village is unsafe due to the nearby mountain which is at risk of falling down. The inhabitants of the village have a meeting and decide to refuse to leave. They believe that the village is not unsafe at all, and the council are just using the mountain as an excuse as they want to build a new housing estate of cheaply built homes. A new supermarket is built and the community is threatened as shops and businesses go bust. Many villagers take up the offer of a new home and a new job in an anonymous chain store, forgetting their roots and their community. Soon Jackie’s family are almost the only ones left in the village, and the abandoned houses are left in disrepair.
Things come to a head when Sal falls pregnant and wants to take up the council’s offer of a new home on the new estate. She does not want her child to grow up in an abandoned village of empty houses and closed shops, but on a bright new estate. James is torn between standing up for his principles and choosing the needs of his wife and his unborn child. At the same time, Jacky is hit on the head and injured by a piece of slate falling from the roof of an abandoned house while out playing, and this adds to the conflict felt by the family.
Jackie is brilliantly played by Emma Vickery. Her childish innocence and boisterousness, as well as her childlike mannerisms really make the audience believe that this is a young child. Dina is played by Anna-Marie Paraskeva. She portrays very well the passion of a hard working woman who is fiercely proud of her roots and willing to stand by her principles no matter what. James, played by Max Mackintosh, is a loving brother, son brother and fiancé torn apart by conflict, and wanting to do right by everyone.
All the actors played their roles with passion and great emotion. The stage is almost bare – the only scenery is a few chairs and tables which are moved around from one scene to another. This simplicity added to the bare emotion of the story. The story also included Welsh folk songs which were beautifully sung by the actors and made me wish I could understand the language.
This is a very moving play, brilliantly acted by a talented cast. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening.
Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AL
Telephone: 029 2063 6464 | Website: www.wmc.org.uk