Small Village by Kelly Griffiths
The Etcetera Theatre
(This performance has now finished)
Kelly Griffiths’ Small Village is the perfect heart warmer for a gloomy January afternoon. Written from her experiences of living in a small village in South Wales and based loosely on conversations she’s previously seen and heard, Small Village is a fast paced, whimsical ride, that takes place over the course of the hour in which we follow Sheila Bevan, from Cwmdare, as she travels from the stance of homophobic ignorance, to an attempt at open-minded neighbourly friendship, albeit a struggle. It’s carries light political messages and isn’t hugely taxing, the kind of thing you can sit back and allow to happen.
It’s absurd, which is all part of its charm. Within seconds of meeting her, the lesbian neighbour has snogged Shelia – ‘probably the most homophobic woman in Wales’ (much to her horror and disgust), and before we know it this has resulted in Sheila being rushed to hospital. If anything, I would have appreciated twenty more minutes for relationships to develop, there were so many juicy moments like these which I would have loved to spend a few seconds longer with.
The humour of this piece lies largely in the clichés, the lesbian that snogs the homophobe, the friend with the secret crush and we all know too well that storyline of the bigot that has to face the Asian doctor, much to their horror – we laugh at the prejudice here, at the ridiculousness of it, it’s a good tactic, though I had possibly seen this cliché one time too many, especially in a current theatre climate that is in many areas trying to be more inclusive / create more main roles for BAME actors – not just the walk on doctor roles. But I understand, and appreciate for Small Village, the casting was so to fit the humour as it was written, it was also refreshing to see a momentary relationship develop between the two of them. Otherwise, the clichés were well laid, indeed funny and audience pleasing.
Griffiths is an on stage force, and is incredibly suited to the role of Sheila Bevan – great comic timing teamed with skilled character acting warmed the audience from the moment we first entered the auditorium. She did a great job in creating a 3D character, who although easy to loathe, eventually encourages audience empathy, and an invested interest in seeing her break through her prejudices for the better. Peter Halpin matched Griffiths’ performance with energy and equally adept comic timing. Great performances also to be noted by Emma Pearce as Susan James (Sheila’s neighbour) playing a non-stereotype (hurrah) and Shamir Dawood (Dr Shivram Balu).
The final scene was touching, we saw the change. A very subtle change, but that of Sheila beginning to address her own prejudices, and realising that perhaps her lesbian neighbour is an alright person – it perhaps happens all a little too easily, and doesn’t scrape the surface of how homophobia can really impact lives, but the message that begins to peek through is poignant enough for this style of storytelling. I look forward to seeing more of Griffiths’ work in the future, whether it be a development on Small Village, or something new, she has strong voice for storytelling, and uses it in an engaging and comic way.
(C) Amie Taylor 2015