The Chair

Kids, Performance
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

This spooky storytelling experience dives into a dark world of a mysterious barber.

It may be set on the docks of Tiger Bay in Cardiff, but  Lewis Gibson’s fantastical, spooky play for ages seven and up takes you to many more unexpected places. Bald-headed barber Owain Sawyers, cutthroat razor in hand, transports us to India, America, Egypt and back again as he blends an intoxicating mix of old-world yarns.

‘Who’s next?’ Owain booms as he proffers his bashed leather armchair to the audience, his smirking smile moving around the room. With each customer – plucked from the audience – he begins a new story. There’s the tale of the mermaid in an American saloon bar, the search for an ancient Egyptian artefact that leads to a ghostly entombed spirit and, darkest of all, the story of a barber who is tricked by a reflection in the mirror and offers up his soul for success and fame.

The stories are great, but it’s Louie Whitemore’s set and Gibson and Christopher Preece’s sound design that really make this piece come alive. The audience are sent down a gloomy wood-panelled corridor, through a low door and into the world of the barber. Great white sails hang from the walls of his shop, Victorian oddments sit high up on the walls, strangely luminous jars glow on shelves and an old, out of tune piano is in the corner. At times the set literally is an instrument too: without warning things brush against each other: metal chimes eerily on glass.

The set and soundscape work in total harmony and together they are a magnificently atmospheric creation. Some moments provoked delighted screams of terror from the young audience as the piano was crashed into and a huge mirror smashed dramatically into pieces. Gary Lagden as Owain is a master of suggestion and misdirection, he’s also the man who swiftly and easily tones down the frights and re-sets the atmosphere. Preece is also on stage the whole time and performs some of the longer music moments which include haunting sea shanties. It’s all spine-tingling, shiver-inducing fun.

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