Ramesh Mayyappan’s Skewered Snails is a darkly comic tale following a son who escapes his brutal home. Maggie Hampton from Disability Arts Cymru, caught the theatre piece at The Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 28 June.
This was the first time I have seen Ramesh Mayyappan performing with a company, being more familiar with his one-man shows. I had not read previous reviews and went expecting comedy; Skewered Snails was anything but comedy. This was an hour of the most breathtaking, dramatic physical theatre.
The stage at the Weston Studio was hung with ropes all beautifully lit and the actors’ characters were strongly established from the start; opening with Ramesh’s boy character being bullied by his rather unpleasant sister. The parents were immediately strange, the father a creepy authoritarian, the mother inadequate and inconsistent.
Straight away the hanging ropes were brought into use; the actors made them into doors, windows, trees, even beds. The story unfolded beautifully, everything crystal clear. There was not a movement or an expression too many. The costume and set design were understated and exactly right for the story. The music created the perfect atmosphere.
All of the actors were extremely accomplished. Ramesh of course was the star, but I believed in all of the characters and enjoyed all the performances. As the story developed, the characters became more twisted, sad, tender and gruesome. My heart wept for the boy, the horror of what he went through at the hands of his family. When he went to live in the trees, creating a new world high up on the ropes. Far away from hurt, the fantasy was completely believable.
I was swept up in the whole thing, poor boy, awful sister, abusive father. As for the mother... I just prayed for her to see the reality! She clearly loved her children, but let the awfulness go on. To me, Skewered Snails sums up what good theatre really is. It took me away into a fantasy world where I spent an awful, wonderful hour, anxious to know the outcome but not wanting it to end.
I could not easily slot this production into the ‘disability arts’ or ‘deaf arts’ boxes, though some of the gestures were recognisable as sign language. The issues were simply about abuse and cruelty in a malfunctioning family; so not simple at all. Skewered Snails was what it was, a really, polished piece of theatre that worked brilliantly.
Skewered Snails, the follow-up production to Ramesh Meyyappan’s solo work, Snails & Ketchup, is showing as part of the London 2012 Festival at the following venues: