Far away from the opulence of a grand stage (or even the ambience of a studio), Dirty Protest’s latest offering was in a cramped and stuffy café basement. There was very little in the way of decoration. Chairs and a table acted as set design. And if you sat towards the back of the audience, you couldn’t always see everything.
But here’s the catch: it was bloody beautiful.
Not because of any major transformation or innovation – quite the opposite, in fact. What made TAXI such a wonderful night of theatre was the stripping-away of the non-essentials. For a little bit over an hour, the spotlight shone on three simple things: actor; writer; director.
To talk about the seven pieces with a critical eye would be doing them a disservice. Nights like these aren’t for reviews or star ratings. They’re for celebrating the joy of theatre in its most simple form. Where a grown man spends ten minute acting like a dog. Where two actors can’t keep a straight face because the material is too funny. Where an actor sitting on a chair reads a monologue off a script, and still reduces audience members to tears. Where an entire room full of people – artists and audience – are there because they love the art, not the spectacle. And, just in case you were wondering, the plays were superb. Sharply written, solidly directed and performed brilliantly by five top-notch actors. To me, it didn’t matter if the plays were good or not. That they were as brilliant as they were was a welcome bonus.
In the same week as TAXI, Cardiff was treated to critically acclaimed theatre from Motherlode, Cwmni Pluen and otherMother. Dirty Protest will have played a part in some of those theatremakers’ development, a testament to how important it is to Wales. This isn’t just a theatre company or a hub for new writers; it’s a loyal community of passionate artists and passionate audiences. In these uncertain times for the arts, Dirty Protest is exactly what we need.