A Pretty Sh*tty Love Review

Theatr Clwyd, Yr Wyddgrug/Mold – until 23rd July 2022

Reviewed by Julie Noller


A Pretty Sh*tty Love is written by Katherine Chandler and directed by Francesca Goodridge. Based on the horrific true life story of Stacey Gwilliam who was 34 years old. In 2015 she was strangled and buried alive in a grave hastily hand dug by her fiancee. Knowing this I decided to go alone, having family and friends who have gone through similar scenarios I felt it best. I was glad I did as I was totally absorbed by the story unfolding before me.

The Mix Theatr is perfect its not a conventional theatre set up but more compact and almost cosy. The sand on the floor combined with the sounds of waves crashing and the sounds of birds crying overhead feels almost serene but absolutely works with the sweltering July weather outside. In the darkness I can see there’s perspex sheets forming the main body of the set covered with words many overwritten some hint at the drama yet to unfurl, along with the almost body shaped mound of sand in the corner.

I attended the matinee performance and I’ll be honest I was glad to walk out after what can be described as a brilliant and somewhat warped sense of entertainment into the bright sunlight to lighten my mood and clear my head. I did however drive home passing many people and found myself eyeing them in a horrendously judgemental manor. What happens behind closed doors none of us truly know.

A Pretty Sh*tty Love is a small cast of just 2, being honest no one else is needed this is an intimate story that is as graphic in words as any make up artist could achieve after all the pen truly is mightier than the sword. Danielle Bird is a bundle of energy, a breath of fresh air as Hayley. She first appears alone wearing a dress looking like a mermaid, you just feel something isn’t right is she dead? Hayley’s words run away with her, her short life has been somewhat traumatic using a long forgotten memory as a way of explaining her personality. Memories often mould us and as a parent I knew instantly she was a people-pleaser but equally craved excitement and love.

Daniel Hawksford is stone faced Carl played with stoicism surely he’s a hard character to play and yet somehow we begin the story feeling sorry for him. He is a victim too, a victim of circumstance. Watching your mother succumb to drugs and then seeing your brother follow the same path is harrowing enough. But to become immune to the failings of others and just wishing your brother dead is heartbreaking. He survives by petty stealing leading to house break-ins. He finds the gym helps gives him a sense of control in his rather mundane and sad life. Chance is the biggest impact, wondering into a café, served by Hayley. Hayley is bubbly like a little whirlwind who you find yourself warming to immediately you find yourself giggling when she does, you honestly want the best for her as she deserves it. Carl does nothing to draw you in, his guns (muscles) act like a brick wall no emotion exists in his world apart from anger that bubbles over as much as Hayley’s infectious love of life. There’s simple days, friends nights out and pure enjoyment that should be uplifting but to Carl it’s torture, driven wild with jealousy and the need to possess.

You know where everything is heading but you still need hankies and lots of deep breathing. It’s a tremendously hard subject matter but such an important story that needs continuously telling, awareness is part of the battle. I was glad to see that KIM and DASU charities were in attendance both to support where needed and to raise awareness. This story is almost like Beauty and the Beast without the fairytale ending. As a story it will stay with me for some time