Review: Idle, They Yammer, The Other Room, Porters, Cardiff

Andy Howells visits Porter’s, Cardiff to review The Other Room’s final production in their current location.

Everyone has a story to tell and Matthew Trevannion’s tragicomedy Idle, They Yammer, illustrates the concept of how we can wholeheartedly throw ourselves into the construction of our passions, while becoming semi-aware of other priorities, to our own cost.

The protagonists, two builders – Len and Pritchard, are building a tower, high above the earth. They have reached the final day on the project, which seems to have taken a lifetime, (or several lifetimes) to complete. One co-worker has already taken a leap of faith from the job, while another, Ash, (as we join the story) has taken his own life. As Len and Pritchard focus on fulfilling a prophecy, they begin to ponder their own hopes and experiences, even calling into question each other’s values and beliefs, as their work crumbles and the undead speak.

Trevannion describes Idle, They Yammer as “An ode to hard graft… a metaphysical conversation between people trapped by the very thing they’ve spent their entire lives building.” You certainly get the sense of entrapment combined with a powerful creative energy from the offset. The audience are drawn into Simin Ma’s intimate scaffold constructed building site set as it atmospherically dances with the colours of Garrin Clarke’s lighting and Johnny Edwards sound design. This works as a dual inner mind space of Ash’s final throes of life, while he delivers a distorted but glorious speech attempting to make sense of the speed of light.

The atmospheric lighting adjusts as day dawns on the worksite. The arrival of the contrasting, but unified personalities of Len and Pritchard seem unshaken and somewhat bemused by their colleague’s demise, thus adding an element of surrealness to the proceedings.  A strong element of black comedy and punchy dialogue becomes prominent with more than a hint of classical influence and delivery. At times, I felt I was witnessing a lost Shakespearean work, with a more contemporary relevance than I’ve ever experienced.

The characters don’t appear to be just on a building site, they are building stories, perhaps within a metaphorical ivory tower. As they struggle to make sense of their interpretations, they grasp to their own perception of reality. Lowri Jenkins’ Pritchard reflects on a life she has only dreamed about and Rhys Parry Jones’ Len hangs on to the reality of his contribution to his daughter’s future. The fine line between dreams and reality blurs as the story unfolds, especially as Dean Rehman’s undead Ash is used by “the powers that be” as a channel to determine the characters future.

Combining elements of mime (including a beautifully choreographed breakfast scene) with imagery depicting full-on self-harm and violence, the three actors give their all, blurring mental and physical energy beautifully. As a result, I was never certain if I was at the top of a building site or indeed in the muddle of our characters creative minds. Kudos to artistic director, Dan Jones and producer Jafar Iqbal for leading the creative team into striking a perfect balance.

A tale born out of the last days of The Other Room’s current Porter’s location, I am certain we will see and hear more of Idle, They Yammer.  A work for examination and debate, it’s a piece of live theatre you will want to experience again.. and again..

For Guidance : Content Warnings

Idle, They Yammer contains strong language, haze / smoke, sudden changes of lights and sudden loud noises. There are scenes depicting blood, suicide by hanging, violence, bodily mutilation and bones breaking. There are references to death, suicide, eugenics, war, genocide and the extinction of humanity / collapse in civilisation.

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