Some would say that the best art imitates real life – if that’s the case, then The Good Earth is definitely onto a winner.
Inspired by true events which took place in the village of Troedrhiwgwair, the emotive, explosive show sees music married with physical theatre with intense results.
In 1973, the tiny village built on the mountainside at the tail end of Tredegar in the shadow of a coal heap was nearly wiped off the map over fears it would suffer the same fate as Aberfan. Amid worries that heavy rain could cause a landslide, the residents fought to prove their natural mountain was safe.
Back onstage, schoolgirl Jackie Adams, arrestingly played by Emma Vickery, meets a man with a purpose when she’s up on the mountain in The Good Earth.
Inquisitive and innocent, in spreading the word to her family and friends that there may be trouble ahead, she is unwittingly setting the community on a collision course, as their dismay at being told to leave their homes turns into disapproval at the council’s heavy-handedness and subsequently anger which begins to rule their actions.
Director Rachael Boulton has spoken of how the play is not written in a conventional sense, but devised through improvisation.
Watching Jackie Adam’s childlike grasp of the events of import, it’s interesting to see how it’s developed in that unconventional way.
The action uses the verbal and the visual to play out the tale of community crisis, with the five-strong cast leaping and striding around the space with astonishingly perfect rhythm.
Alongside the words they speak are Welsh language folk songs which elevate the action from a story to an event. The cast harmonise throughout, with highly effective results.
Beating a tattoo on tables, chairs and even the floor, the musical interludes allow time to reflect upon the fight which they feel they mustn’t lose.
It’s a forum where identity goes head to head with reality but in the event, the issues begin to turn families against each other.
Unsettling and engaging, there’s a bit of magic as Jackie’s brother James, the skilled Max Mackintosh, finally rues his choices on a darkened stage.
The show continues at the Wales Millennium Centre tonight