EXODUS is an ambitious and fun play amid despair. It highlights the innate ability of people to rise from the ashes, in this case quite literally so.
Set in South Wales, the play is built around four individuals who are cruel victims of economic circumstance. Ray is ex army who seems to have lost the plot along the way. Gareth cannot keep down a job to save his life while Timmy is an immigrant who is wordless because he has yet to master English or Welsh. He speaks through his beautiful and heartfelt violin playing.
Making up the quartet of desperadoes is Mary who despite the town’s decay (the main factory has shut) has done well for herself. She is manager of retailer Peacocks, a cheaper version of Primark. But even her best efforts are not good enough as she comes up against staffing issues that undermine her.
To escape the economic misery wrought on the town, Ray has decided it is time for extreme measures. Project ‘Escape from Aberdare.’ Not in the conventional way (finding work elsewhere) but by flying out of the town in a homemade aeroplane. Destination? Cardiff? No way. Argentina via Cuba (of course).
Yes, as a plot it is all rather barmy and as a play all a little noisy (apart from Timmy). But it somehow works, primarily because of the strong undercurrent of humour and some great movement as the four practice their flying routines before heading west. Watching them almost makes you feel airsick as they swoop, soar and swerve (movement director Emma Vickery has done a super job along the way).
Gwenllian Higginson is magnificent as Mary, a young girl made good, only to be undermined by the malaise that runs through the town like an open sewer. She is chippy, chirpy, loud, brazen and has attitude enough for an army of individuals. Higginson dominates the stage like a rampaging lioness.
Berwyn Pearce’s Gareth excels when acting out the role of an airline steward (all hands and fingers) while Liam Tobin’s Ray is a rather charming and loveable dreamer who seems not to have recovered from falling in love with a feathered friend while serving in the forces. Karim Bedda is a commanding stage presence, tall and with his violin for a mouthpiece.
Exodus is a crazy play from the pen of Rachael Boulton who directs with aplomb. All rather unbelievable with boxes representing Ray’s plane. But it works because of the craziness, not in spite of it. Hope springs eternal. Life affirming.
Exodus runs at The Finborough Theatre until November 20.
Title photo by Tom Flannery