Review: Theatr Pena’ The Royal Bed, Newport Riverfront

A classical story steeped in passion, tension and unbound love. No, I’m not talking Fifty Shades of Grey, more fifty layers of passion and how it can affect us inwardly and outwardly with devastating effects. Theatr Pena’s The Royal Bed, Siôn Eirian’s adaptation of Saunders Lewis play Siwan is set here in Wales, nearly 800 years ago.

An uneasy truce exists between a divided Wales and England and at the court of the charismatic Prince of North Wales a catastrophe is about to unfold and dreams of a united Wales will crumble. At the centre of the drama is Siwan, the illegitimate daughter of King John and passionate, outspoken and politically astute wife of Llywelyn the Great.

The cold stark setting of The Royal Bed transported a packed Riverfront studio on Thursday evening, back to Medieval Wales in order to tell the story of Siwan’s adulterous affair with the young Marcher Lord, Gwilyn Brewys, and the terrible revenge exacted by Llywelyn when discovering the lovers in the royal bed.

Eiry Thomas wonderfully depicts Siwan from carefree lover to the real power behind the throne despite been incarcerated for her actions. A joy to watch in such a demanding role.

Hannah O Leary as self-assured chambermaid Alis also has some very powerful moments from recounting her brief but passionate marriage to describing Gwilym’s execution.

There are also two very strong male lead performances from Francois Pandolfo as Siwan’s lover Gwilym who displays unbound love up until his final moments and Russell Gomer as the brooding and occasionally dark Llywelyn.

With atmospheric music from Buddug Verona James and Delyth Jenkins, The Royal Bed opens up the beauty of Welsh Culture to the masses. A Valentine’s gift to Wales, embrace it as it embarks on its tour.

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