Originally written as a commission for “a young actress who wanted a humdinger of a role”, according to Mathias’ programme note, A Prayer For Wings has been revived 35 years later, and retaining a freshness and relevance with its concerns around poverty and the burdens of care. Whilst this doesn’t say much about the state of Britain today, it allows the play to feel less dated, less of a moth-balled period piece.
Essentially a two-hander, the play focuses on the lives of 20 year old Rita (ALIS WYN DAVIES) and her Mam (LLINOS DANIEL), who live in an old church on the outskirts of Swansea, scraping by on benefits and the money RITA earns selling sexual favours to the local boys down the rec. MAM is suffering with MS and relies entirely on RITA, whose frustrations grow daily into a murderous rage and a passionate desire to grow wings and fly – to America, where a handsome man will give her four children, four boys and she will be happy and free from the impoverished life she currently endures. Both actors put in stellar performances.
There are shades of Beckett in the dark notes the play strikes, especially in DANIEL’s performance in the final third of the play as her disease encroaches. Rita certainly is a humdinger of a role and DAVIES is entirely captivating as the audacious, curvaceous and love-hungry girl. LUKE RHODRI is cute as a button playing the boys, demonstrating an impressive versatility (an impressive butt, too).
LEE NEWBY’s set is sufficiently grimy and the direction (by Mathias himself) is, as you’d expect from him, skilfully engaging. The soliloquies and asides to the audience never feel forced or intrusive. The sparkling humour throughout carries you along to a heartbreaking denouement, and the music of the Welsh accents is a joy to hear. Try your hardest not to miss this.
Kings Head Theatre
Till Nov 23 2019
Review by Jonathan Kemp
Queerguru London Correspondent Jonathan Kemp writes fiction and non-fiction and teaches creative writing at Middlesex University. He is the author of two novels – London Triptych (2010), which won the 2011 Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, and Ghosting (2015) – and the short-story collection Twentysix. (2011, all published by Myriad Editions). Non-fiction works include The Penetrated Male (2012) and Homotopia?: Gay Identity, Sameness and the Politics of Desire (2015, both Punctum Books).
P.S. You can read the interview QUEERGURU had with SEAN MATTHIAS HERE