The Welsh Boy: Sexual scandal and singing in the 18th century

Julian Mitchell’s production of The Welsh Boy at the Bath Theatre Royal’s Ustinov Studio is a play fashioned from James Parry’s memoir; The True Anti-Pamela. Written after he had been chased through the courts by her mother, it is an unforgiving account of his intense love affair with his pupil Mary Powell.
Sion Daniel Young leads the small cast of the terrific five actors in the title role, playing James Parry. Within the first few minutes of the play we are treated to hearing his beautiful male soprano voice, an unexpected and faultless pleasure. The reference early on in the play to the Castrati only serves to highlight what singers in that time would have gone through to have a voice like his, and how lucky we as an audience are to hear one like it today.
Peta Cornish; as the pupil turned passionate lover, performs well as Mary Powell, although her singing voice for me did not match her acting ability. She had a sweet sound, but against Young’s talent it failed to impress – perhaps this was deliberate? However it didn’t show her in the best light possible, which I felt was a shame. Ed Birch was one of the highlights, playing all of five different characters and almost unrecognisable from scene to scene, standing out particularly as the debaucherous older brother.
A beautiful play, set against Ti Greens minimalistic set, was perfectly suited to the intimate studio setting, and Matthew Lloyd should be applauded for his clever and sensitive direction.

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