Marian Pashley

Review: A PRAYER FOR WINGS at The King's Head Theatre

A Prayer For Wings This play was originally performed in 1985, and explores the realities of high unemployment, unending poverty and the blight of hidden carers, the offspring who are burdened with the necessity of looking after a chronically dependant parent. The fact that, over thirty years later it's only the price of the "hand jobs" that young carer Rita (Alis Wyn Davies) gives to the boys on the "rec", that has changed, should be a matter of outrage. It won't be, of course.

Lee Newby's set is envisioned as a claustrophobic, dingy home that once was a church, the significance of which is relentlessly hammered home as Rita's mother (Llinos Daniel, a puritanical demi-tyrant) attempts to instil a fear of men, and God, into her frustrated, but reluctantly dutiful, daughter. Rita is as much trapped by her M.S. stricken mother's demands, as she is by the wider lack of opportunities proffered in her home town, where the percentage of unemployment is in double figures. Talk among the youngsters is of giros and sex, because, as Rita points out, what else is there?

There is a deliberate relentless quality to Sean Mathias's script, but the circular repetition of Rita and Mam's daily grind serves to very effectively suck the audience into their toxic dance of enforced mutual dependence. We get to a point where we too want to raise our voices and plead, along with Rita, for an angel of change to end this suffocating dearth of joy. 

A change of tone does come in a beautifully played scene, a giddying fleeting tenderness between the terrific Alis and the very skilled Luke Rhodri. It makes you want to scream with relief...but be careful what you wish for. 

The cast are very engaging, as they direct their monologues to the audience. Alis's eyes are like searchlights as she scans the people in her gaze, imploring us of our humanity. My only quibble would be that the crescendo moments could be made more jagged. The plate Rita smashes against the wall when she explodes at her wheedling mother, does not fly quite fast enough, and the sudden menace one of Rhodri's young men, come to be serviced by the naive, unselfconcious Rita, could be made more of.

A Prayer for Wings is a tough watch that is justified by a skillful cast, and a shameful relevance that has sustained for over thirty years. I would recommend you to go with eyes wide open.