Review: Branwen: Dadeni, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Branwen: Dadeni, a new musical by Wales Millennium Centre and Frân Wen which reimagines the iconic story of Branwen from the Mabinogion opened on Wednesday evening. 

After a bloody civil war, Branwen, the charismatic young princess who has won the people’s hearts, is eager to move her country forward, but her brother, the king, won’t listen.  During an unexpected visit by the King of Ireland, she sees her opportunity believing she will have the power to change things.

Graeme Farrow, Artistic Director of Wales Millennium Centre, explained that the musical had been in development for some years. Starting during the pandemic, the musical developed into a series of workshops, before outgrowing the Weston Studio and moving towards the Donald Gordon Theatre.

Mared Williams gives a beautiful portrayal of Branwen which captivates the entire auditorium, but the highlight for me were the sections where she performed with her siblings Efnisien, (Caitlin Drake), and Bendigeidfran, (Tomos Eames).  Even though they seem to be singing separate songs they all blend together beautifully.

Rithvik Andugula is witty and funny is his portrayal of Matholwch, often having us laughing at what he said or did. It’s hard to believe that this is his professional debut.

Bendigeidfran, Tomos Eames, has a stunning voice and gave Bendigeidfran great character, especially when showing how much he wants to protect his family and country.

Caitlin Drake playing Efnisien has some of the best scenes in the musical and even though her character has done so many things you still empathise with her decision making.

The Book was written by Hanna Jarman, Elgan Rhys and Seiriol Davies and is full of twists and turns you would never expect and these are enhanced by lyrics and music by Seiriol Davies.

While the set design was minimal, it still captured the time of the piece, which was enhanced by the lighting giving the musical a dark, brooding atmosphere throughout.

A wonderful production full of dramatic scenes, Branwen: Dadeni is a powerful Welsh language production you will never forget, and if your not a Welsh speaker there are captions so you never miss a detail of the edge of the seat action throughout.

Branwen: Dadeni continues at Wales Millennium Centre until November 11. For ticket availability visit Wales Millennium Centre’s website

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