AVANT CYMRU THEATRE
BY ALEXANDER DEFERT
A EMPATHETIC AND MUCH NEEDED PERFORMANCE
It is an ironic truth of language that, whilst it is often used to lavish attention on the unimportant, those matters in most dire need of description are often left to languish in the realms of subtext or unspoken silence. Such is the case with Avant Cymru's latest production, which boldly tackles the little discussed effects of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy in the modern day.
The painful struggle undergone by those poor families that suffer from such repeated heartbreaks is poignantly portrayed by the lead actors Rachel Pedley and Yannick Budd; their depiction of the heavy toll such misfortune takes on a couple's relationship both extremely well delivered and elegantly nuanced. It is a testament to both actors that, despite the heavy subject matter, at no point did the audience feel clubbed over the head by a point being made. Particular praise must go towards Pedley's quiet despair and to Budd's captivating portrayal of frustrated misery. The emotions involved in having to bear a burden oneself, whilst wrestling with the crippling sense of uselessness in the face of your loved one's torment were palpable at every turn. Credit too must go towards the other cast members, whose largely functional roles were unselfishly tuned to create an environment in which the main characters' story could flourish undiminished.
Despite all these positives, or perhaps because of them, the few missteps in the production were made more glaring than maybe they should have been. The writing, though largely excellent, stumbled noticeably in places. Sara Lewis' script bore the strain of its topic relatively well, yet some of the lines skipped the attempts at subtle connection (so admirably present elsewhere) in favor of heavy handed poetic language that did little to weave the story elements together. The occasional , flowery prose didn't offend or belittle its subjects, but its confusing dance from unrelated metaphor to cliche metaphor and back again dragged proceedings down perceptibly. The narrative's beautifully painful pulling on the audience's heartstrings suffered accordingly.
There was also a rather gratuitously placed physical theatre sequence that popped out of nowhere so suddenly that I was left turning my head to other audience members with raised eyebrows. Whilst efficiently, if over simplistically, performed, it accomplished very little. Such sequences can be very effective if sprinkled throughout a production, or if their choreography mirrors the thematic elements of the story told, yet this did neither.
Putting it's more obvious criticisms aside for a moment however, it must be said that Killer Cells does an incredible job. It is simple. It is effective. It is educational without being condescending, and it addresses a subject which affects millions of people every year and yet given very little attention. The statistics on mental health support for those involved, of research into medication, and the horribly accurate portrayal of the obvious discomfort and detachment that the medical profession takes when dealing with the victims of miscarriage; all are presented to the audience in much the same manner as a doctor. Blunt, painfully to the point, and stripped back of anything resembling genuince connection to their hardships. To tackle this invisible matter is both brave ad sorely needed, and Avant Cymru must be applauded in tackling it. It may not be perfect, but Killer Cells, for those who see it (and I recommend you do), is a piece whose fractious nature will deeply impact the most stony audience.