You know that scene in Pride, when the young woman stands up in the working man's club, and sings out in her lilting Welsh accent about bread and roses, making everyone in the room a bit weepy eyed? Yeah, I totally wasn't thinking about that when I booked to see a show at the Bread & Roses pub.
If anything, it was a spur of the moment decision. Perhaps driven by my recent bread-and-theatre ponderings at the Hen & Chickens, or maybe subconsciously influenced by the rose-print dress that I put on in the morning. Or, more likely, because the marketing copy promised the presence of a female serial killer and I am right into that. I'm all about equal opportunities, and I don't see what the criminal classes should get off easily in the battle against the patriarchy.
Still, it didn't stop me getting a little bit itchy around the eyes when I stepped through the door and saw the line "Our lives shall not be sweetened from birth until life closes. Hearts starve as wells as bodies: Give us Bread but give us Roses" written in a scrolling script over the bar. It's right next to the sign for the theatre, making it quite clear what the roses are in this analogy.
The roses however, are not on view just yet. A red rope cordons off the entrance to the theatre.
I find a good leaning spot against the wall and wait it out. Unfortunately my spot is right next to the stage. The other stage. For the band that will be playing later on. They're warming up. Loudly. Very loudly. Like, ear-splittingly loud. They're not supposed to start until 9pm, and it's not even 7, so I can only hope that they're just getting their levels set or something before the performance upstairs starts. Somehow I don't think this place has invested in top-notch soundproofing.
At least I know it will be a short show though. Gotta be done in time for the gig.
I'm not the only one keeping an eye on the theatre entrance. A couple wander over to have a look. Ten minutes to go and it's still roped off.
A moment later, someone disappears under the rope. That looks promising. I hope they are going upstairs to check if they're ready for us up there. And... yup. Sure enough, he's back. He unhooks the rope and reaches over to the bar to grab the bell. "Anyone for the theatre?" he calls out, giving the bell a good ring.
There's a general unfolding in the pub's clientele as people get to their feet and try to locate their bags.
I go over to the door.
"One ticket?" he says as he places a mark next to my name on the clipboard. "On the first floor."
There's a small landing half-way up the steps, with a window that's been frosted to reveal the pub's URL, the calling card of a 21st century Jack Frost. I stop to take a photo, but there's someone behind me.
"Sorry," I apologise. I hate getting caught with my camera out.
"That's okay," comes the sweet reply. "Take your time," he says.
But I'm embarrassed and I hurry up the remaining steps to the first floor.
The door to the theatre-space is just around the corner.
Inside, there’s a stage taking up most of the room, with chairs arranged on three sides. That makes it sound like a thrust stage, and I don’t mean that at all. The chairs are in a single row. If anything, I felt like I was picking where to sit at a dinner party because our host for the evening has neglected to make place cards.
I head for a corner seat. For bag dumping reasons.
I immediately regret this decision.
Two actors are already on stage, and one of them is painting, daubing at a small canvas with a very long brush. I can’t see what she’s working on and I’m immediately desperate to find out.
“The best seating in terms of the view is this side or that side,” comes a voice as more people traipse in. She points to the two long rows of seats. A woman on the end, discovering that she is in inferior seats, bursts out of her chair and hurries over to the row opposite my own.
I decide to stay where I am.
This must be the first raised platform I've seen used in the round (or, almost round. Three quarters of a round). Certainly in a venue this small. I like it. Does away with those pesky questions of whether you're allowed to walk across the stage. You'd have to be very committed to stage-walking to get up there and start crossing over.
But that does lead to a lot of shuffling as people try to make their way between the chairs and the stage.
A few knocked-knees later, the seats are beginning to fill up. The advice regarding the view stops, and the sad little end row is eventually occupied.
We’re ready to begin.
Just to Sit at Her Table, Silver Hammer & Mirabilis is billed as a trilogy of woman plays, but instead of running one after the other, they decide to play them all at once, cutting between the three monologues, jumping from character to character in a fast-paced exploration of three different women’s lives.
All very different. And yet, curiously, similar.
Apart from the being women thing. That’s a given.
Joined by themes of psychology, religion and art, they each tell their stories, demonstrating duel natures to their personalities. The sex worker using wordplay and double entendres as she talks to her clients, the serial killer’s abstract paintings are influenced by the bodies of her victims, and the dancer reaches a heightened plain of spirituality as she purges herself of sustenance.
They even look similar. Tayla Kenyon, Ellen Patterson, and Sirelyn Raak are all white, blonde, young, and pretty.
They pad around the stage in bare feet, weaving past one-another, talking to the audience, but unseeing of one another.
I can almost imagine them as echoes of each other. The lives unlived. The paths not taken.
“Do you want us to help with the get out?” a woman asks her neighbour as the applause chases the three actors off the stage. I can only presume her neighbour is connected to the show, or that is be a very strange offer. (For those not hot on the theatre lingo, a get out is when… well, it’s literally when everyone gets out - breaking down the set, packing the props, crowbarring the actors away from the bar and leaving the theatre ready for the next set of props and players for their… get in).
He politely declines and they decide to meet up in the pub instead.
I have my own getting out to worry about. I seem to be stuck in my corner.
“Sorry sweetheart,” says the get out lady as she realises I’m blocked in.
Oh, theatre people. They truly are the best creatures in the world.
As I make my way to the door, I remember something and double back. I skirt round the stage until I'm on the far side, standing in front of the easel.
I can definitely sense the dead bodies that went into making this.