As it enters its third year, The Other Room leaves in its trail a plethora of top quality theatre. Constellation Street. Blasted. Blackbird. Looking Through Glass. To name but a few. This exciting venue has hosted, if not produced, some of Wales’ most talked-about productions.
Sinners Club, quite frankly, trumps them all.
Under Katy Morison’s intense red glare, The Bad Mothers perform a recording session to a live studio audience. What starts out as a loose retelling of the life of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom, slowly becomes a surrealist fever-dream. The lines between past and present, fiction and reality, begin to blur. The only certainty is the band themselves, led by Lucy Rivers’ troubled singer.
In the lead role, Rivers is simply sensational. It’s a performance full of passion, heartache and rage, punctuated by a singing voice that harks back to Beth Gibbons in her prime. The entire ensemble is a joy to listen to, with guitars and drums mingling beautifully with tambourines and mandolins. Dan Messore (guitar), Aidan Thorne (bass) and Tom Cottle (drums) aren’t as strong in their acting, and this is where Rivers really excels. Constantly looking to the audience for validation, she teases them at times, pleading at others. It’s the ability she has to express pain through her voice and her face that leaves the audience so captivated.
Perhaps forgotten amongst the platitudes that Rivers undoubtedly deserves is Titas Halder’s direction. After directing Silence in the same venue last year, Halder returns to Cardiff to helm something altogether more complicated. Taking out the stage and filling the already-small space with as many people and instruments as possible, Halder creates a claustrophobic ambience that mirrors Ellis’ suffocating life. To facilitate Gagglebabble’s bold, experimental vision for this piece is no mean feat, and a testament to Halder’s confidence.
Sinners Club is a performance that lingers long after its 90-minute running time. Lucy Rivers’ performance; the music; the narrative; it is all breathtaking and unforgettable – a production of the highest quality.