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> > > Review: Hijinx, Odyessy present Whispers on the Waves

Ian Gibbons as Ben in Whispers on the Waves by Odyssey, Hijinx Theatre's inclusive community group. Photo by Simon Gough

Hijinx Theatre presented a new production from inclusive community group, Odyssey, at Wales Millennium Centre from 6-8 December. Whispers on the Waves eavesdrops on stories from the last century as they wait for Christmas to turn the corner. Review by Tom Wentworth

As the weather has grown dramatically colder and the nights have been drawing in, I’ve not really been feeling in the festive mood. That is until I attended a performance of 'Whispers on the Waves' on Friday night at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. This Christmas cracker of a show was being presented by Hijinx Theatre’s inclusive community group Odyssey with a story that really does bring together Christmas from the past, present and future.

The story centres around a modern day couple Sam and Ben, played by Sara Pickard and Iain Gibbins, whose excellent performances bring a great deal of light and shade to the production. Sam is worrying about how she will cope becoming a mother for the first time and whether Ben will support her.

Meanwhile they find themselves exploring an abandoned shed where they uncover the stories of passengers on the ill-fated Titanic in 1912. Written by Philip Mitchell, the play is part ghost story; with an extra-special helping of Christmas magic thrown in. The production delivers the feel-good factor, whilst still maintaining a poignant and believable love story at its heart. (There were more than a few sighs of contentment from the audience when Ben promised to stick by Sam!)

Gaynor Laugher and Jain Boon have done a great job directing a sizeable cast who all seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. Special praise should go to performers Nia Morgan and David Jones who managed to make my eyes fill with both tears of emotion and subsequently tears of joy and laughter with their wonderful set piece about the power of photographs and the cards that life chooses to deal us.

Ironically, however, the inclusion of quite a large number of projected photographs, alongside newsreel clips, throughout seemed to unconsciously detract from the countless excellent performances that were being presented to the audience on stage.

It’s true that 'Whispers on the Waves' radiated a huge sense of warmth to its audience right until the final moments but that’s not to say that the production is without its chill factor. Musical Directors Alice Baxter and Joe Hickles, from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, should therefore be congratulated for providing this show with a really dark sense of foreboding by way of subtle underscoring, and in particular for creating an eerie re-working of ‘Deck the Hall’ which I know will haunt me for many Christmases to come.

The great sadness as always is that more people aren’t able to experience what these talented performers bring to the stage; combined with the impressive, creative and innovative company that is Hijinx Theatre. I feel very lucky to have been able to see yet another example of their fine work.