Bill Kenwright Ltd, Swansea Grand and Alex Turner Productions present
the London transfer of
A PRAYER FOR WINGS
Written and Directed by Sean Mathias
King’s Head Theatre
30 October - 23 November 2019
Review by Clive Burton
How many audience members will share King’s Head Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s assessment that A Prayer for Wings is a ‘beautifully passionate and vital piece’ that continues the theatre’s ambitious and adventurous policy of presenting plays championing diversity and raising issues that may not always get the exposure that some would wish is debateable.
In a production directed by its author Sean Mathias, the play remains relevant today with its examination of the many obstacles on the path to personal fulfilment, in particular those faced by young female carers looking after a disabled parent or other family member.
Whilst to some Wings will undoubtedly prove thought-provoking (as Spreadbury-Maher claims in his generic introductory programme note), assertions that it is both ‘exciting’ and ‘entertaining’ could well depend on one’s personal viewpoint.
Written 35 years ago, (when this production is presumably set if the textual clues are any guideline) Wings tell the story of Mam and Rita, a co-dependent mother-and-daughter living together in a de-consecrated church in the centre of Swansea, where only-child Rita is both minder and keeper to housebound MS mother ‘Mam’.
This debilitating illness affects their everyday routine and relationship, causing resentment on both sides and encouraging the spirited teenage Rita to snatch moments of freedom by pleasuring a group of local boys for a few pence - or a fiver when she takes them back home for vigorous ‘hand relief’ sessions.
Mathias makes it all seem less than the sordid reality it should surely be - perhaps because he used as a template how his own family coped with the gradual deterioration of his father through an illness for which his mother was the lifetime carer.
The play could also be meant to represent the dream world created by the sexually-inexperienced Rita to cope with the harsh constraints of her everyday life as she watches her mother deteriorate in front of her eyes.
Llinos Daniel's Mam embodies the warmth necessary to empathise with her situation and the voluptuous Alis Wyn Davies makes a spunky Rita.