By Rob Barnes
We are truly fortunate to have the Torch Theatre here in Pembrokeshire. As a resident of Pembroke, I feel even more fortunate now that I don’t have to pay a toll to get to Milford, and then another one to get back home. Is this what the County Council had in mind when they said that removing the tolls on the Cleddau Bridge would give a boost to the local economy? If so, good for them for their perspicacity.
Recently we’ve been lucky enough to see a couple of excellent productions at the Torch. The first was a touring production of Art, which came to Milford Haven as part of a national tour last October.
The production kept the original Paris references and French character names, which in one way makes sense (we don’t change it to Mrs Bovary, after all), but it does take a few minutes to get used to a guy called Serge having a Welsh accent.
The play has only three characters, a group of middle-aged friends, but really there’s a fourth character, an enormous, pure white canvas which one of them has bought for the price of a house, to the amusement and disdain of his friends.
The play had some very funny moments as well as some thought-provoking ones. It sped along, and it seemed shorter than its already short 90 minute running time.
But we got much more than 90 minutes of entertainment and interest from this trip. When you visit the Torch, it’s always worthwhile to check what’s on at the art gallery, downstairs from the main auditorium. On this occasion, there was an exhibition of works by GCSE Art students, and many of them were quite outstanding.
Our second trip to the Torch was to see One Man, Two Guvnors, in November, which was performed by the resident company. This time, unfortunately, the gallery was between exhibitions, but the excellence of the play more than made up for it. There is so much going on in this madcap play – it lasted nearly twice as long as Art, but again the time flew past – and I’m still trying to work out all the intricacies. It’s never quite explained what was in the letter that Francis Henshall ate, nor why Stanley Stubbers killed his future brother-in-law, but it doesn’t really matter, and anyway, perhaps I was the only one who wasn’t following everything, and the rest of the audience understood it all perfectly. The only important thing is that this is a hilarious play with some great musical interludes, and the whole thing was done to a faultless standard… or, here and there where it wasn’t, it was still funny. Even if you wouldn’t normally laugh at old men falling down the stairs, people grabbing each other by the crotch, or hapless bystanders getting completely soaked, you’ll laugh at each of them in this play, and while you recover your equilibrium, the excellent musicians come on and play some great music.
Next up is the Torch Theatre Company production of Aladdin, with many of the same players involved. Do yourself a favour and get down to the Torch between December 19th and 31st… see https://www.torchtheatre.co.uk/ for details.