Gary Owen’s Amgen:Broken, in English and Welsh, is something of an experiment
Sherman Cymru, Cardiff
Despite the Welsh-English divide, this play is moving and, as it is set in Bridgend, topical. It is difficult to address a theme of mental illness but Mr Owen succeeds through the use of two opposing characters.
Amgen:Broken has a cast of two. Steven Meo plays English-speaking Gary, who suffers from a mental illness. He stands alongside Welsh-speaking Gareth, played by Simon Watts.
Together on a platform, litter surrounds them, but they are not friends and their relationship is unclear. As Gary narrates his path of recovery, Gareth is there to fill in the gaps, by telling the parts of Gary’s life he is ashamed of and sometimes acting as the other people in Gary’s life.
Although the squalid scenery and Gary’s narrative draw the audience into his unstable mind, the presence of skeptical Gareth keeps them at a safe distance to remain somewhat detached. But that seemed easier for the Welsh speakers in the audience who actually understood him.
Running at two hours, the second half of Amgen:Broken is stronger than the first for the simple fact that the stakes are higher. As Gary recovers, he has to face the real challenges life throws at him rather than the perceived challenges in his mind. The audience was on tenterhooks to see if he would be strong enough to battle with life.
English speakers might well feel excluded by the fact that a lot of the play is in a language they don’t understand, but some of that exclusion is balanced by the fact that Gary is also excluded from the Welsh and complains about it.
English speakers also miss out on most of a storyline about a girl called Lowri, and there a few times when the bilingual audience laughed at something Gareth says. English speakers simply miss out on the joke.