Review: Iniquity (Camwedd), Princess Royal Theatre, Port Talbot

Andy Howells reviews Iniquity (Camwedd), a new play based on the true story of Dic Penderyn and the Merthyr Uprising of 1831 written by Stuart Broad (who also directs), Robert Jelley and Sarah Wilsher. The play is dedicated to the chief historian the late, Steffan Ap Dafydd.

Based on true events of the 1831 Merthyr Uprising and the subsequent trial of the Welsh working-class martyr, Richard Lewis AKA Dic Penderyn, the play Iniquity (Camwedd) returned to two Welsh Theatres last week prior to its premiere on the World stage at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Iniquity (Camwedd), a community-built initiative directed by Stuart Broad was originally performed at Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre, in July 2021 and was the first indoor theatrical experience performed in Wales since the pandemic halted all theatre events the previous year. One year on and the play returned to the same venue on July 27th for the first of two special performances (the second at Merthyr Tydfil’s Redhouse on July 28) prior to its debut on the world stage at this August’s 75th Edinburgh Festival Fringe debut.

At just over three hours, Iniquity (Camwedd) is a comprehensive tour de force, rich with strong dialogue, performances, and frequently immersive scenes (as cast characters occasionally break the fourth wall and say their lines from the auditorium). The set is necessarily minimalistic to encompass a variety of swift scene changes from Richard Lewis’s cottage to the streets of Merthyr and ultimately the courtroom where Lewis is tried. However, meticulously researched props, costuming and make-up all play their part in setting the scene for this 19th century drama.

What helps keep Iniquity (Camwedd) driven is not only the story of Welsh labourer and coal miner Richard Lewis, (known as Dic Penderyn), but also the carefully observed stories of those caught up in the events. These include his wife Elizabeth, Lewis Lewis (a primary figure in the uprising) and figures such as Dr William Price (effectively a mediator between the laborers and the rich), Special Constable James Abbott and Joseph Coffin, President of the Court of Conquests.

James Morgan brings fire and passion to the role of Richard Lewis, a man who wants the best for his fellow workmen and ultimately his family. One of his strongest moments is the powerful scene he shares with Stuart Broad’s militant Lewis Lewis as they are chained and imprisoned, awaiting trial. As Broad’s Lewis hails the virtues of potential martyrdom, Morgan’s Lewis becomes a broken man seeing the sheer absurdity of the situation and wanting to return home to his family.

Non Broad gives a magnificent portrayal as Richard’s loving wife Elizabeth, a woman struggling with the difficulties of raising a young family in the early 19th century while been a support to her husband. Her portrayal includes many emotions including the conflicts of love and confusion. The opening scene of the second act where she contemplates taking not only her own life, but also that of her child is very moving.

Adding to the drama is Stuart Broad’s highly volatile Lewis Lewis, Gabrielle Radford’s feisty Morfydd Mortimer, Cy Foxx’s troubled Dr William Price, Stephen Paul McCarthy’s sly Special Constable James Abbott and Tim Pottinger’s devious Joseph Cotton. There are also strong performances from Dai Rees as the pompous Judge Bosanquet and Keith Milward as dour prosecutor, William Henry Maule.

Each member of the ensemble cast should take immense pride in their individual performances as the resulting production is one of the strongest and most enjoyable, I have seen in many a year.

Celebrating a pivotal moment in Industrialised Britain, Iniquity (Camwedd) also aims to create new history by securing a posthumous pardon on the name of Richard Lewis (Dic Penderyn). It is therefore the ultimate tribute and a living legacy in the next chapter of the Dic Penderyn story.

  • Iniquity (Camwedd) will be performed at The Thistle Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe on August 6, 8, 10, 12. For full information and ticket details, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.

One thought on “Review: Iniquity (Camwedd), Princess Royal Theatre, Port Talbot

  1. I love the play if you want to see a good play watch this one mate it really good and a true story about wales

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