By Mel Lynch
As a first time visitor to Chapter Arts I arrived optimistic about the quality of production I was set to view. For nearly half a decade Chapter has had the reputation as Cardiff’s cultural hub, facilitating new talent and showcasing the best of both Welsh and international creativity in their multi-artform space. Apart from knowing it would be a small cast and set in the future, I knew little more about the production I was about to watch, but can honestly say it was one of the most interesting pieces of theatre I’d seen in a long time.
2023 is set in Cardiff taking place in a post Brexit Britain in the near future. The central change we’re introduced to is the alteration of the laws of sperm donation, where any sperm/ egg donation baby now has the right to seek out their biological parents once they reach the age of eighteen. Chris (Richard Ellis) and John’s (Tom Blumberg) marital peace is disturbed when estranged donation daughter Mary (Stephanie Back) arrives at Chris’ work place, demanding answers about her siblings. In the endeavour to meet/ help others who have been born in such a fashion and try and make sense of who she really is. Whilst, the detrimental after-effects of a post Brexit Britain are partially touched upon, such as contempt towards immigrants, the main themes that arise are the discovery of one’s identity in the face of genetics and technological advancements.
2023 not only addresses issues of the omnipresence of technology in society, but it also excellently tackles the issues of deafness. Mary’s deafness is portrayed sensitively, yet realistically. Her character does not ask for pity from the audience, but affirms that her disability does not hinder her capabilities nor her determination to find out about her biological father and siblings. In addition to this, the choice of casting Stephanie Back who is actually deaf to portray Mary was a respected decision, her delivery was captivating and did justice to the thoughtful writings of Lisa Parry. The decision to include live captioning throughout the performance made the production accessible to all, which was another intriguing touch I appreciated.
In general, the acting was of a good standard but occasionally the delivery felt a bit overly dramatic. Chris and John’s relationship struggles were relatable yet it sometimes felt too many contemporary issues were trying to be tackled at once. This left the audience saturated with information in some areas but also curious about other parts of their world. Such as in the case of how immigrants were affected in the aftermath of Britain, which would have been an interesting storyline to develop, yet they seemingly brushed over it. Nevertheless, the stage design intelligently made use of the limited space, crafting different rooms with the subtlest of changes, this twinned with Higgins’ well executed lighting design set the tone of the production well.
Often plays set in the future can be slightly cringe-worthy and become dated almost immediately, however I genuinely enjoyed this production and I believe pieces of theatre such as this have the capabilities to start important conversations about identity we should all be having.