The Good Review

Pen-Blwydd Poenus Pete, or Pete’s Painful Birthday in English, is the latest offering for a family audience from the rather brilliant Theatr Iolo. This play begins with a dad (Pete) who, when distracted by his new mobile phone, eschews any attempts by his family to organise a party for his impending birthday. He’s “far too mature” for such a celebration he absently declares.

However, the following day when he realises his wife Beca and two twin children, Twm and Siân, heeded his advice and organised nothing, he reacts in the only way a self-confessed mature adult would; by promoting chaos and wreaking (good natured) revenge on his offspring with aid of his pet cat Cadi, played exuberantly by Meilir Rhys Williams. As ever, it’s down to the mother to restore order and, in doing so, reveal her own birthday woes.

A reoccurring motif in this great story is the fact that Pete is a Welsh learner. This is no coincidence since the play was written by Gary Owen – who learnt Welsh more than 20 years ago – and is directed by a Welsh learner in Kevin Lewis. Richard Nichols, who plays the Welsh-learning Pete, is himself a Welsh learner in real life. As a Welsh learner myself, I related with many of the jokes, puzzlement and occasional embarrassments of trying to pick up a new language as an adult. Given the massive demand for Welsh language medium education in south Wales – where a majority of parents cannot speak the language – there will no doubt be many adults in the audience smiling and laughing knowingly during the many comedic capers. Despite not being fluent in Welsh, I found the dialogue fairly easy to follow and that was without reading the helpful programme notes which provides often used vocabulary and a general synopsis of the three acts.

The last Theatr Iolo production I attended was Grimm Tales, which is an unvarnished take on the brutal stories of the brothers Grimm. It delighted my daughter and I in equal measure so expectations for Pen-Blwydd Poenus Pete were somewhat high. I’m pleased to say that Pen-Blwydd Poenus Petedid not disappoint. You’re never far from a laugh in this show yet there is more than a smattering of serious content drawn from the often frayed relationships that can characterise the family household in this modern and busy age. The five strong cast were all brilliant but the parents, the afore-mentioned Richard Nichols and Jenny Livsey as Beca, shared a great chemistry between them and were totally convincing as a couple in an imperfect but loving relationship.

The final verdict? Excellent, or ‘gwych’ as we say here in Wales.

Gareth Llewellyn

The Good Review

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