The Devil’s Violin performing “Stolen” at Neuadd Dyfi

Tonight I went to see Stolen at the Neuadd Dyfi by The Devil’s Violin.  I booked myself in with a very open mind but with no clear idea of what it would be all about.  Here’s the description that was given on the Neuadd Dyfi website:

The Devil’s Violin return with an enchanting blend of words and music. Brimming with dreamlike images that will haunt you long after the performance ends, The Devil’s Violin will take you on an epic journey to The Land Of No Return.  The essence of all cinema, theatre and literature is a gripping tale well told. Using live music and the spoken word, The Devil’s Violin return us to that essence.  Nothing is as detailed and rich as the world we can create with our own minds… Daniel Morden transports you to the Land of No Return, his story telling enhanced by the hypnotic string accompaniment of Sarah Moody and Oliver Wilson-Dickson.  The ensemble take you on an epic journey through a dream like land where you will encounter a King turned to stone, an old woman living in the claw of a giant cockerel and a glass man filled with wasps.

Stolen somewhat defies adequate description.  As the picture above shows, The Devil’s violin consists of three performers, a narrator (Daniel Morden), a violinist (Oliver Wilson-Dickson) and a cellist (Sarah Moody).  The narrator tells the story of the youngest and least courageous of three princes who goes on quest to retrieve the stolen Bird of Hope to restore the eyesight of his father, the king.  Along the way he finds similarly troubled people, all of whom have also been victims of the Pale King, who resides in the Land of No Return.   The young prince promises to search for help for these tragic beings in the Land of No Return.  Along the way he hears many stories, tells one of his own and he becomes a story in his own right.

Daniel Morden takes on all the parts in the narrative, be it a bird, a prince, an old woman or a princess, and there is a lot of humour threaded throughout, with lots of laughs from the audience.  The story is interwoven with music, sometimes the marvellous tunes being left to tell their own parts of the tangled tale, sometimes wild and joyous, often melancholy, sometimes doom-laden, but always phenomenally beautiful.  Pieces of it reminded me of Tartini’s Devil’s Sonata, but there were also layers of Irish fiddle music.  The interplay of the violin and the cello was simply superb, and the finesse of both the individual performances and the precision of their synergy was remarkable.

Just before the interval the audience was asked to make a decision about how the dilemma in the story that the prince tells in the Land of No Return should be resolved.  At the beginning of the second part, the lights were left up and members of the audience shouted out their preferred solution to the dilemma.  It was great fun to hear some of the more outrageous suggestions, and as Daniel Morden pointed out, there was a real gender division in the proposed outcomes!  There is a poetic ending, and the story comes to a satisfying close.  Overall, it was a mosaic of fable, parable, allegory, myth, yarn and poetry, delivered with humour, skill and real style and flair.

I had only been to the Neuadd Dyfi once to join the older people’s exercise spot on a Monday afternoon, which is in the large, light-filled back room, so I was by no means sure what to expect of the theatre venue.   My thanks to Aberdovey resident David Inman, who recommended the performances at the Neauadd to me, and he was spot on – it was a delight.  Comfortable chairs in well spaced rows were laid out in a crescent formation to face the stage, which was beautifully lit.  The acoustics are good and the atmosphere friendly and charged with anticipation. Everyone seems to know everyone else!  A swift glance around suggested that was a wide age mix, mainly of the over-40s, more generally the over-50s, but there was a smattering of younger people and even children there too.  Nice to have the mix.  There was a bar selling hot and cold drinks, including wine and beer, and the dress was generally smart-casual, relaxed.  I sat next to Gwenda, who is off to Bala tomorrow on the 57th anniversary of her wedding day to see the chapel where she was married.  What a super idea.

My thanks to The Devil’s Violin for a great evening, and to the Neuadd Dyfi’s Des George and his team for organizing it.   It was a splendid evening.  You can find out more about The Devil’s Violin, including their upcoming schedule, on their website.

I enjoyed the whole experience enormously and have already bought my ticket for The Mid Wales Opera’s SmallStages performance of A Spanish Hour:  Ravel’s L’heure espagnole, first performed in 1911.  See more about the performance on their website here, and you can book via the Neuadd Dyfi website here.

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