Gary Owen’s Amgen:Broken, in English and Welsh, is something of an experiment

Gary and Gareth in Amgen:Broken

Steven Meo and Simon Watts play Gary and Gareth in Amgen:Broken

Sherman Cymru, Cardiff
May 1-9
Tickets £12/£10/£8

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.



Filed under Reviews

2 responses to “Amgen:Broken

  1. Hi Jessica,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to review the play. Would you be prepared to say something a little more personal about your response to it. For example, you say English speakers might well feel excluded – did you?


  2. Jess Shankleman

    Hi Gary,

    I think ultimately I did feel excluded by the language barrier.

    Since I saw it, I read your interview in the Echo and realized I was wrong about a few things in the story. Like the fact that Gareth is Gary in a parallel universe and that it’s set in Cardiff.

    I really enjoy physical theatre so am used to the fact that there are often some parts of a play I don’t fully grasp, but in this case I felt more excluded because I knew that other audience members who spoke welsh did understand it.

    The other strange think which came out of the experience was that it made me feel like I was living in a foreign country despite having grown up in Cardiff. How much of Cardiff life do I miss out on by not being able to speak Welsh?

    Hope that helps


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s