falk head

Patrick Bridgman as Stephen, Connie Walker as Winny and Chloe Harris as Kayleigh. Picture: Graeme Braidwood

Folk

Birmingham Rep Studio

*****

TOM Wells is a new writer who excels in telling the story of people that we see every day, but to whom we never really pay any attention.

Folk shows the unlikely friendship between three very different people and links them together with humanity and love. In his three-hander, Wells brings together the lives of Winnie, Stephen and Kayleigh who rely on each other.

The story is a beautiful account of daily life. With the slick and emotional direction from Tessa Walker, Wells’ powerful story highlights the magic of friendship, trust and folk music.

Bob Bailey’s set is an exact replica of most Irish Catholic household’s post 1970. The Sacred Heart of Jesus takes pride of place next to the front door and images of saints and crucifixes are scattered over the walls, including the legend Pope John Paul II smiling proudly. The set is incredibly detailed giving the feeling of a small and humble living room, not forgetting the map of Ireland on the back wall.

Winnie and Stephen spend every Friday night together and as a treat, they share songs over Guinness while Stephen plays guitar and Winnie sings.

After getting a brick thrown her window one Friday night, instead of calling the police, to Stephen’s dismay, Winnie invites the culprit in. We then meet Kayleigh whose teenage life seems out of hand. Kayleigh’s fascination of song and the ability to learn the fiddle incredibly fast leads Winnie into the idea organising a night of folk music for the parish.

What makes this production so moving is the fact that Wells brings out the essence of each character. His incredible writing is indeed a beautiful thing and the story becomes a by-product of the life within each character.

Watching the story of Winnie, Stephen and Kayleigh, the audience feel as if they know each character individually. With the contagious enthusiasm from Winnie, Stephen and Kayleigh learn how to deal with their own problems by looking at life through Winnie’s eyes.

The sceptical and closed Stephen makes a brave journey, from not wanting to talk to Kayleigh at all, to sharing his innermost thoughts and teaching Kayleigh to play music. Wells shows that the love of Winnie effects everyone’s lives for the better, even when they don’t find themselves in the best situation.

Of course, Wells’ charming script would not be complete without the aid of the cast to bring out the beautiful and touching characteristics of the trio. Connie Walker takes the role of Winnie with great ease, being the typical Irish nun, it could be very easy to cross the lines of caricature, but Walker knows exactly how to play her and the audience are in safe hands.

Winnie is the driving force of the story and it is clear that her essence is what Stephen and Kayleigh feed off. Walker’s depiction of the excitable and loving sister is a wonderful delight. Through Walker, we see every colour of Winnie, from waiting all week for a Friday night hoolie and trying her absolute hardest not to be stopped with her own matters of ill health. Walker represents a woman with the purest of souls.

An excellent performance from Patrick Bridgman too with his portrayal of Stephen. From thinking that nothing can be worse than performing in front of a crowd, to opening up about his troubles of being made redundant. Bridgman captures the shy Stephen in a touching manner as we see the hard journey from not wanting to engage at all with Kayleigh, to being inspired by Winnie’s selflessness.

Kayleigh is played by Chloe Harris with such maturity and a command that is inspirational. From finding Winnie and Stephen, Kayleigh discovers that her life can be so much more than she anticipated. Harris brings the feeling of hope to her character and indeed the rest of the story. She tells us that it is fine not to know the direction of where we are in life at one particular point.

Wells describes Winnie as ‘no ordinary nun’. On the contrary, Winnie is an exceptional human being and shows what all nuns should be like. She exudes a love for life so incredibly rare and touching that it is enough to bring tears to the eyes. Through Winnie, there is no judgement, but a love and for everyone that is inspiring. To 30-04-16

Elizabeth Halpin

19-04-16 

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