The Traverse’s new season of A Play, A Pie and A Pint opens with Matthew Trevannion’s Leviathan, and this collaboration with Sherman Cymru gets things off to a flying start.
The Leviathan portrayed here is the relentless black dog of depression. Three generations of women from a Welsh family sit in their back garden in the fading sunshine: the almost catatonic Karen (Claire Cage), her “functioning alcoholic” mother Mavis (Siw Hughes) and her bolshie daughter Hannah (Gwawr Loader).
Mavis may think she is functioning, but cannot come to terms with her daughter’s problems; her idea of looking after Karen is to leave her sitting in the garden in the sunshine. The return of wayward granddaughter Hannah, outwardly stroppy but inwardly fearful for her future, adds to the pressure. Hannah is both ill and pregnant, and the pregnancy is complicated by the fact that her much older boyfriend has had the snip. “I’ve narrowed it down to three” she says brightly when her gran asks who the father might be.
Although central to the play, Cage only gives voice to Karen in monologues. Lost in her memories, taking refuge in an internalised world that seems to provide her with no more solace than the day to day existence of the others, she is oblivious to the verbal sparring of her mother and daughter.
Quietly convincing, Trevannion’s dialogue reveals one family’s struggle to cope with mental illness while simultaneously trying to cope with problems of their own. Leavening the bleakness with a black humour, the characters ring true thanks to three expertly judged performances, none more so than Loader – so natural that at times it was hard to believe that she wasn’t just someone who’d been persuaded on stage to recount her own life.
If the rest of this season lives up to this, there won’t be a better value theatre experience to be found.