The Theatr Clwyd debuted play, 'A Pretty Shitty Love', is inspired by the true story of a Welsh woman that was buried alive by her abusive partner. 

This new play, by aclaimed playwrite, Katherine Chandler, delves into toxic love, torment, abuse and survival. 

The play was workshopped at Theatr Clwyd and ends with their final peformance at the venue on Saturday (July 23) before moving onto Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff from 27-29 July.

After leaving the outdoor auditorium, following the standing ovation from the entire crowd, I noticed a contemplative silence from the audience.

For myself, and I'm sure many other audience members, the astounding talent and sensitivity of both the actors, director and writer had rendered me speechless. 

The Leader: A Pretty Shitty Love Theatre Clwyd by Andrew AB PhotographyA Pretty Shitty Love Theatre Clwyd by Andrew AB Photography

The 90 minute performance followed characters Hayley and Carl as they navigated the complexities of love and life, dreaming of love, living in fear and finding the strength to pull yourself out.

Director Francesca Goodridge weaved the actors seamlessly through various settings making use of powerful imagery and props to signify environments, emotions and actions. 

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The set, which was made up of clear perspex, a pile of sand, a chair and various microphones, transformed into the beautiful Carbis Bay, a gym, a prison cell and a terrifying flat. 

The actors, Danielle Bird as Hayley and Daniel Hawksford as Carl, gave a powerhouse performance which captivated the audience at every turn as the tension built to the inevitable climax of the show. 

The Leader: A Pretty Shitty Love Theatre Clwyd by Andrew AB PhotographyA Pretty Shitty Love Theatre Clwyd by Andrew AB Photography

Danielle Bird was memorising in her portrayal of Hayley which encapsulated the characters humour, romance, torment and strength. 

They beauty of the writing and directing, in my opinon, is the presentation of Carl, played by Daniel Hawksford, as disgustingly violent and flawed, but at times eerily familiar to people we may have known or seen.

Both actors encorporated movement and physicality into their performance, which helped to deal with violence and abuse both sensitively and impactively.

READ MORE: Mold hospital treated to Theatr Clwyd performance

Acclaimed writer Katherine Chandler fell into her stride and really captured the nuanced nature of Swansea colloquialisms.

I especially enjoyed the line describing Wales as "made with gods own hands."

The play was inspired by the true story of Stacey Gwilliam, from Swansea, who clawed her way to survival after she was buried alive by her abusive boyfriend at the time, Keith Hughes. 

Speaking of creating a play based on true events, Francesca Goodridge said: "I think with any true story, you feel responsible to do it justice.

"I felt shocked that it had happened and frustrated that it wasn't being talked about more for people to be made aware."

The Leader: A Pretty Shitty Love Theatre Clwyd by Andrew AB PhotographyA Pretty Shitty Love Theatre Clwyd by Andrew AB Photography

Francesca has a close connection to the story as she is a family member of Stacey Gwilliam.

She said: "[...]It's inspired by her story of strength and resilience, fictionalised to be a more universal story of the strength of women and all survivors."

Whilst the play was shocking and extreme, it reflected on events that happen every day to hundreds of people across the world. 

In the year ending March 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics, the police recorded a total of 1,459,663 domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes in England and Wales.

When asked what she wanted the audience to take from the play Francesca reflected that: "This is just one story but it's universal, and more people may be experiencing hard times than you think."

On entering the theatre the audience was warned verbally and via the programme of the triggering nature of the production. 

READ MORE: Signs of domestic abuse and what to do if you're concerned

The play touched on common patterns of domestic abuse such as obsessive behaviour, jealousy, controlling and isolating the victim and physical violence. 

The production team and Theatr Clwyd worked with domestic abuse charities across North Wales throughout the rehearsal process to support the cast, crew and future audience. 

In an effort to support audience members, volunteers from the charities set up a stall during every performance for people to find out more about the charity. 

The Leader: A Pretty Shitty Love Theatre Clwyd by Andrew AB PhotographyA Pretty Shitty Love Theatre Clwyd by Andrew AB Photography

One such charity is the Domestic Abuse and Safety Unit, which provides professional coordinated and targeted interventions to people experiencing domestic abuse across Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham. 

READ MORE: How Police work with perpetrators to tackle domestic abuse

The charity was also on hand in case the performance triggered any distress for audience members. 

Theatr Clwyd's 'A Pretty Shitty Love' is a beautiful, thought-provoking piece that takes on this traumatic true story with impressive vulnerability and at times, even humour. 

Tickets for the final performances can be found here.