Review of Flesh and Blood (the play and Mike's birthday performance) by Willie Tocher
Flesh And Blood' is a play written by Helen Griffin, with a cast of four : Vernon, the Father of the Family (Brian Hibbard known to most as one of the Flying Pickets, who has appeared in many Theatre productions for over 30 years, as well as television credits including Coronation Street, Casualty, Making Out, Denziel And Pascoe, and whose Film appearances include Twin Towers, Rainbow Thief, House Of America and Rancid Aluminium) ; his wife, Marge (played by Di Botcher who previous credits include TV's The Bill,Kavanagh QC and Sunburn, to name a few, in addition to a long and impressive list of Theatre Productions) ; the daughter Serena (Michele McTernan, upcoming actress, who is also an experienced singer and dancer) ; and son Steve (played by Steven Meo, another rising star of the boards).Helen Griffin's play offers a new perspective of contemporary Wales (which has it's own unique social and political achievements and failures, but at the same time shares many universal experiences that can be found throughout Britain) – the lives of one family at the beginning of the 21st Century; something far from the promoted 'Cool Cymru' and far less glamorous. It asks some very difficult questions that, as an audience, we would sometimes choose to ignore; the negative side of nationalism, the destructive results of misplaced pride.With powerful acting and some superb humour from the four fine performers, the play asks those questions through the life of one family, making the issues accessible and understandable. It's a family that we all recognise. The play is a mirror that shows the naked truth of one aspect of life in Wales, but it could be any housing estate in any city in Britain. the issues and characters are universal and would be recognised by anyone.The arts community of Wales is well represented : The set painter, and photographer of pictures featured on the living room wall of the set are both Welsh; as are the writer Helen Griffin, Soundtrack writer and performer Mike Peters (exALaRM), the cast, the director Phil Clark, and many others involved with putting this excellent production together.
Mike Peters wrote the 13 songs for the soundtrack during a two hour sitting on Saturday 5th June 1999, when he read the 'Flesh And Blood' script for the first time. The opening song 'House Of Commons' was written during the reading of Scene One, then 'Life Can Beautiful' followed during the reading of Scene Two, and Scene Three gave rise to the title track 'Flesh And Blood'. This process continued, and by the completition of the first reading of the play Mike had written the entire basis for the soundtrack.
The 13 track 'Flesh And Blood' soundtrack was then recorded in two days flat, at the BBC Studios in Cardiff on December 3rd and 4th 1999. Mike was accompanied on the recording by former ALaRM bassist Eddie MacDonald, Poets of Justice bassist Dave Watkins-Clarke, drummer Tom Homewood, pianist Gill Edwards-Jones, a 12 piece string section from the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the Morriston Orpheus Choir. As producer, Mike wanted the album to have the clarity of a studio recording while capturing the tension and atmosphere of a 'live' performance. So, 50 people were invited to attend the first day and a further 200 joined them for the second day, midday to midnight sessions and as a result there is a real vibrancy to the recordings.
The running order of the album incidentally, stays exactly as when the songs were composed. Mike wanted to keep the order in which they were first inspired by Helen's script, so that the listener, if they hadn't already 'seen' 'Flesh And Blood', could still experience the unfolding of this brilliant drama.
The play has been running at the Sherman Theatre since February 10th and ends it's 17 date run tonight (Saturday 26th February), before the play plays 3 other Welsh venue's :
Swansea Grand National Theatre, 29th February to 4th March, Theatr Hafren; Newtown on 15th March,Torch Theatre on 17th and 18th March 2000 in Milford Haven, prior to a 19 date run at London's Hampstead Theatre, commencing 21st March and running to 8th April 2000.
The CD and Video recording of the 'Flesh And Blood' soundtrack can be bought from the MPO by calling 01745 571571.
If you haven't seen the play yet I recommend that you get along and see it, for it is 2 hours of fantastic drama, that is both funny and serious, entertaining and thought provoking.
The performance of the play (Friday 25th February) also coincided with Mike Peters Birthday, and he performed a blistering 80 minute set to the 500 capacity crowd.Renditions of both some of the ALaRM classics mixed with his own solo works from the past 9 years saw Mike at his acoustic best, and included a midsection where he performed half a dozen tracks from the 'Flesh And Blood' soundtrack, including the upbeat 'Lucky Numbers' and 'A New Wales'.Mike Peters even informed the crowd that he was on Radio 1 that morning – "On the Alive or Dead" Question!! A rendition of Happy Birthday greeted Mike as he appeared for an encore, as the whole audience left Mike lost for words (a feat not often heard of), before the four cast members then reappeared on the stage with Writer Helen Griffin and Director Phil Clark armed with a Birthday Cake and joined him for the closing number 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door'.
I'd recommend you all to catch the 'Flesh And Blood' play soon, and while you are at it, check out Mike Peters, a man who seems to improve more with every year. Here's to many more Birthday Party's Mike!
High On The Hill
We Are The Light
House Of Commons
Life Can Be Beautiful
Flesh & Blood
Staring Into The Thin Air
If I Ruled The World
St Davids Day
Walk Forever By My Side
A New Wales
Bells Of Rhymney
Into The 21st Century
Where Were You Hiding
Spirit Of 76
Blaze Of Glory
Knocking On Heavens Door