The youthful company was set up by Royal Welsh College graduates Tom Cullen and Alexander Vlahos because they were frustrated at the lack of theatre available that spoke to them. Today, they develop new writing, acting and directing talent in the city and put on accomplished, relevant theatre.
Undeb-velopment this weekend showcased early script-in-hand performances of their current work in celebration of Undeb's first birthday. The evening's rough and ready double-bill debuted two new plays from the artistic directors Cullen and Vlahos.
Actor Iddon Jones started off proceedings, playing Ed in Vlahos' emo-tive monologue Island. Standing centre stage, awkwardly confident in the Emo Park uniform of hoody and skinny jeans, Ed introduces us to his teenage life where youthful awakenings of lust are eclipsed by bigger things. Like many pubescent boys, music is his way of explaining and showing emotions. Through compellingly but ropey performances of tracks by The Ramones, Lou Reed and Joy Division, we learn that the deepest scars are not the lacerations of self-harm of his peers, but those Ed has kept hidden.
A fuller cast interpret Kingfisher – the very first draft of a full-length play from emerging theatre writer Cullen. "I am very, very nervous," he exclaims before passing over to the performers. It is a move that could be dubbed brave, and luckily for Cullen it proves not to be stupid. The dramatic, fledgling script shows plenty of promise as 30-year-old lead Lewis Fisher (Gareth Jewell) returns from 12 years in prison to the darkness of his past. As he tries to recompense for teenage mistakes and reconcile with his youngest, incredibly disturbed, brother Toby (Adam Scales) the audience wraps up in the provided comfort blankets – gripped and shocked by the violent plot twists. Lighter moments of relief are provided by smatters of laughs and real-time uncomfortable pauses.
Undeb are growing, both in confidence and maturity, and we like it. As works-in-progress, inevitably there are holes to be patched and scenes to be tightened. But as a good night out Undeb have triumphed – the event was affordable, challenging and entertaining, and the audience could take their cocktails into the show. What more do you want from a Saturday with your mates?