Adam Zed ‘Aber’ review

Arts Writer for Leeds List. Published 28 March 2013.

Occasionally, it’s nice to listen to people tell stories. It’s a rare thing, to not talk for a while, for everyone to just shut up, and let a single voice spin a yarn. Emma Decent’s play, ‘Beyond Dreams of Aberystwyth’, is, simply, one woman telling a tale.

Beginning with her connection to her university town of Aberystwyth, and then expanding into an introspective history of her relationship with her father, the piece is moving, gentle and more than a little sad. We’re introduced to Decent’s dad through his various minor showbiz achievements.

You know that guy on the front of Sgt. Pepper who’s standing just behind Paul with his arm outstretched? That’s her dad. And you know the arresting officer on the shore at Macau in ‘Ferry to Hong Kong’? That’s him, too.

Throughout the play, Decent lives vicariously through her father, and we through her. The highlights laid out for us aren’t exactly gobsmacking, wowing moments. But, there’s something powerful in that fact. Decent’s ever-swelling pride when talking about her father is endearing yet complicated.

We’re not entirely sure how she feels about her dad now and there are some facets of his character which she seems to struggle with. It’s a very human portrayal of an unsteady but loving father-daughter relationship.

Decent takes us on journey from England, to Hong Kong, to the USA and back again. There’s plenty happening on stage, and the trinkets and keepsakes add a sweetness which helps to bring us closer to the story. The stage is both cluttered but organised, and the sense of a journey into a personal history is managed wonderfully.

Drawing on her immense talent as a performance poet, Decent’s delivery is calming and delightful to listen to throughout. We are her friend by the end of the piece, and her father is someone we know. Or, perhaps, someone we thought we might have known, once.

Many strands are left unwound, and many questions are left unanswered. You get a sense, through Decent, that living on in this mythic way is something her father would have approved of. His life story is one we’re glad we’ve heard, even if some parts are chin-scratchingly questionable. (That’s not really him on the cover of Sgt Pepper, by the way.)

‘Beyond Dreams of Aberystwyth’ Carriageworks, Leeds, 23 March 2013