This is Wales. This is the Lewis Family. This is the House of America.
Ed Thomas’s award-winning play, House of America, is set to be revived in a new production, directed by James O’Donnell, at the Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley, this June.
An explosive, passionate play about a Welsh family and the American Dream, House of America is an angsty, unsentimental work that ponders the lack of a national identity and the absence of a father figure.
The drama received international acclaim when first staged in Cardiff in 1988. It later transferred to the Royal Court Theatre in 1989 winning the Time Out award for best new play in London before being made into a feature film in 1996.
House of America is an obliquely structured account of a dysfunctional Welsh Valleys family living on the edge of an open-cast mine whose loss of self-worth and sanity is fatally accelerated by the imported dreams they fill their lives and bury their past with.
Abandoned by their father for a new life in California, siblings Sid, Gwenny and Boyo are left to care for their eccentric and domineering Mammy.
With the new mine encroaching in on the family home, their secrets are unearthed and dreams of America soon unravel. As tragedy unfolds, was reality ever what it seemed?
In a recent interview Thomas said: “I’ve always been obsessed by space. I lived not far from Banwen and it just looked like a flat kind of Utah to me and I’ve never forgotten that.
“And there’s this obsession with Sam Shepard. I knew that sometimes when you put these people, the rural poor, in some stories, and into this landscape, and take the volume down – are we really in Minnesota, Missouri, Ceredigion or Fochriw?
Because, put a wide lens on it – it’s interesting. And because we’ve had our tropes and our heroes, that’s inevitably going to feed into how we perceive our own culture. We constantly reference The Searchers, High Plains Drifter and more”.
Ed’s other work includes the cop series Hinterland/Y Gwyll shot in Welsh and English for S4C and BBC Wales.
He is also the founding member and creative director of Cardiff-based film and TV production company Fiction Factory.
Other plays include Flowers of The Dead Red Sea (1991), East From Gantry (1993), Song From A Forgotten City (1995), Gas Station Angel (1998) and Stone City Blue (2004) which have toured all over the UK, Europe and Australia, been translated into more than 10 languages, and played at venues including the Royal Court, Donmar Warehouse, Tramway Glasgow and Lyceum Edinburgh.
Free Fall Productions and Ysbryd London’s House of America runs at the Jack Studio Theatre from June 27 to July 15.