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Bloodwued – A Deep and Meaningful BUST Performance

Saunders Lewis’ play (English translation by Joseph Clancy) depicts a modern interpretation of the welsh tale, “Mabinogi”, the tumultuous life of a woman made from flowers, trapped in conflict, betrayl and her own journey to freedom. Rife with infidelity, well kept secrets and murder, this certainly was a dramatic night.

Last week, Bath University Student Theatre group (BUST) performed Blodeuwedd, the woman made of flowers. I know that I approach this review with some bias, being a Bath University Student Musical Society member (BUSMS) and lover of theatre, but uhhhhh… ..shut up, let me info dump about how amazing this play was! 

The production team for Blodeuwedd blew it out of the park with this one, stripped back, this story is powerful and interesting and full of rich characters, so with what PT gave to this production, made it so much more. Based on the concept of a woman made of flowers, BUST brought colourful costumes, movement pieces, bright lighting and set.

It must also be noted that the program and many lines were given with the Welsh translation, something that I know the directors valued, paying homage to the original play and origin of the text, not forgetting where the story came from.

With the set, no matter where they were on stage they were walking ontop of this design of the flowers, taped to the stage, which I felt helped the story have more of an impact, as we were still somewhat in the story, even in the interval. Putting down that tape honestly would’ve driven me crazy so I was very impressed at the backstage team for making such a pretty symmetrical shape that glowed! 

The reviews of this play are not the only thing that was glowing, Rhagnells glow in the dark braided hair was and incredible feat of attention to detail from the actors and directors. After she was almost strangled to death with it, her character came back for act 2 (after a 1 year time jump!) with her hair down. WHATTT!?!?  Crazy! This change of appearance, although subtle, made strides for what we can learn about Rhagnell and Bloudewedds bond, the blind but cautious loyalty these two share, shines uniquely in this story of treachery. 

The bond and chemistry that the actors created between Blodweudd and Rhagnell showed an admirable level of trust and friendship. Incredibly, this bond was never truly vocalised, created with meaningful stares and deeply emotional teary eyes. I noticed this a lot in the entire play, that what’s conveyed unspoken is what truly highlighted the talent of BUST. I do believe that the effort that these two actress gave to this relationship was summarised by the powerfully delivered line “I am a woman, you are a woman, I would never betray you”.

The sorcerers working to create such realism in bringing Llew back to life was superbly detailed aswell, as the 3 actors worked together to create an incredibly real spell. What sets apart some of the actors in BUST is their dedication to characterisation. The hatred that Arianrhod brought to the curse upon her son, the authority the solider conveyed and the power that Gwydion brought to all her lines  made this story so immersive. I was particularly amused by the dedication from the actor who played the sorcerer, Math, arms up, presumably casting spells at all times, waltzing around the stage. Due to the layout of the theatre and my seat, amazingly, I could see that Math remained in character like this, even offstage.  

The play had a key theme of the patriarchy and what a womens place within marriage is, with Blodeuwedd undergoing this immense personal journey to find purpose, meaning and freedom within a life she was forced into. Llew, as her husband gave a great deal to this tale as well, I loved how he played the character with kindness, compliments and naivety, which helped to highlight Blodeuwedds pain, gone unnoticed for years from her husband, unaware of the oppressive nature of their relationship. Whilst also battling with his own pain from his family. 

These actors were creating a story of such deep and meaningful concepts and stayed true to the characters intentions and purpose, or at least, who I interpreted them to be. Two moments I’d like to highlight that blew me away was an argument the Llew and Blodeuwedd had about their argument, with Llew strife with love, confusion and conflict, whilst with Blodeuwedd, the only thing that seems true to her character is her turmoil. This pain and confusion they conveyed particularly with the powerful line, Blodeuwedds voice thick with tears and pain, “I was your wife before I was a woman,” genuinely was incredible. 

Then came Gronw, a man who represented choice and agency for Blodeuwedd, which the actor brought so much to. The shift in his character was incredible, the way the actor played Gronw so soft and full of love and appreciation, which slowly turned to hardness and dissatisfaction was incredible to see. His turned coldness to Blodeuwedd made me miss this actors loving appreciation that “Life is outrs and to love is to be free”, which was one of my favourite lines.

Blodeuwed, Gronw and Llew took on great responsibilities in delivering long monologues and heavy worded lines, trusted to portray the journey their characters go on in love, duty and betrayal, is deserving of so much praise. (As a BUSMS member, I will never complain about how many lines I have ever ever ever again…) 

Of course all of the praise above could not be what it was without the the Director Essie, Assistant Director Darcy, Producer Nellie for bringing their ideas to fruition, as well as the incredible backstage team with their beautiful lighting and set design. And if you, the reader, didn’t get a chance to see this BUST play, make sure you grab tickets to the next one! 

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