Review Cracked, Emily Hinshelwood by Judi Hughes.

Cracked by Emily Hinshelwood

Pontardawe Arts Centre, 15 Feb 19

Review by Judi Hughes

Excellent writing from Emily Hinshelwood, who loves words and is brave enough to share hers with us

On a surprisingly balmy February evening, a warm welcome greeted us at Pontardawe Arts Centre, a busy and chatty crowd were waiting eagerly in the bar. Being a small, local theatre many people knew each other, familiar faces including that of Emily Hinshelwood exchanged greetings and created a lovely pre show atmosphere. Emily lives fairly local to Pontardawe and is fairly well known there, particularly for her poetry. She also runs the Script Café at the arts centre, a regular series of workshops with professional scriptwriters and theatre-makers to advise, critique and inspire new writing.

We headed into the theatre and were greeted at the door by the Theatre Manager, who along with her team has supported the production of Cracked. It is so important for theatres to support local artists, who in return bring innovative theatre to their programmes and audience members that follow their work. From experience I know that this takes additional funding and a lot of hard work, so well done to everyone who was involved in the production and touring of Cracked. The high quality of the resulting performance must have made it all worthwhile.

The audience were excited and talkative before the show; in front of them an impressive set, a solid scaffold-like structure with different levels and shapes within. The bright and clear programme helped to set the scene. The audience ranged from teenage to older age, a real mix of people. The theatre, the welcome and the programme delivered a safe space to those who had taken the chance tonight on a new drama that promised to be ‘a moving, thought-provoking play about vulnerability, mental well-being and the universal need for love’.

The cast of 5 were supported by a versatile set, clever lighting and a soundscape with non-intrusive familiar sounds that helped to affirm the perception of place, whether in school or by the sea. The 6th member of the cast was a puppet of Mick, the main character, appearing as a young boy and whose integral part gave us the background to the story.

Whilst Mick (Tom Mumford) was the central character, each of the other players were essential to the story and all of their performances gave way to that moment where you let your imagination go and begin to believe that they really are those characters before you. Most convincing in this was Dick Bradnum in his portrayal of Mr Jackson, that brash, self-important and misguided teacher who just gets it wrong. In this moralistic tale, he also plays the voice of Dad, but never appears.

Joe Wiltshire Smith plays Stewart Skinner, the unruly pupil who’s a bit of a joker, with a hidden backstory whose offensive and defensive manner gets him into trouble. Shelby (Frances Keyton) provides the balance and understanding in her character that blends concern with clumsiness in action and words. Both build relationships with Mick that take him on a difficult path, but in the end show a much needed glimmer of hope.

Cavelle, played by Catriona James, is the character that only Mick can see, that imaginary friend, conscience and other self that we all converse with, portrayed in the form of a crow. At one moment proud, loving and supportive, at another undermining and mean, she accompanies Mick throughout the play as he makes decisions on which path to take. Along with the puppet of the young Mick, she tells the story of his past, his loss and his insecurity that leads him to the present and into the future.

Location is important in this play, set in the South West and near to the sea. The coastline here is a geologist’s dream with fossils, layered rocks and a history that includes dinosaur’s footprints and volcanic eruptions. Mick teaches Geology and it seems that the writer has a strong interest in this subject with references to tectonic plates, trilobites and the historical shifts in land and sea that have shaped Wales’ coastline.

The show begins with a scene of distress, with Mick about to jump of a cliff, giving us a glimpse of the possible future that beholds him and then melting into the start of a school day and the beginning of this episode of his life that provides the thought-provoking and often difficult scenes that emerge.

The play has a good pace, moving swiftly through scenes and circumstances that confront Mick as both the teacher and boy; a story and a sense of impending doom gradually emerges as more information is revealed. The performance was engaging throughout; some scene changes were a bit rough and the pace lessened towards the end, but this portrayal of the human condition was delivered with strength and determination.

There is lots of humour, relevant and with underlying pathos. The play makes many reference to issues that young people experience such as home schooling, difficult circumstances, illness, mental health, death and loss. It recognises the ways that society, schools in particular, deal with this and how what is intended to protect can often cause harm. It shows human kindness and human frailty in a way that is often difficult for the audience to watch, but gives voice to subjects that need to be addressed.

In the programme the writer makes it clear that it doesn’t aim to come up with answers, but invites discussion. The workshops and daytime performances that have gone alongside the evening shows of Cracked are very important, giving the opportunity for teachers and secondary pupils to attend and take part. Yes, there’s some swearing, but it’s really inoffensive and I would recommend this play to be seen, read and studied. Cracked deserves a longer life than this short tour.

For me, I am part of that older audience that appreciated the play for its honesty and bravery. For the actors who all played their parts so well and for the excellent writing from Emily Hinshelwood, who loves words and is brave enough to share hers with us.

If you haven’t been there before, Pontardawe Arts Centre is a gem of a theatre, just 10 minutes’ drive from junction 45 of the M4. Check out their programme and make a date for yourself – there are also some nice restaurants in and around the town for pre or post show dinner. Check out their events at .

Review Hansel, Gedeon and the Grimm’s Wood, Odyssey by Chloe Clarke

Hansel, Gedeon and the Grimm’s Wood.
Wales Millennium Centre, 6-8th December 2018.

A Christmas treat, Hijinx Odyssey cleverly put their unique slant on a delightful but dark compendium of Grimm’s classic tales, centred around a trepidatious Hansel and cheeky, daring Gedeon, deftly played by Danny Mannings and Mathew Mullins respectively. Venturing into the forbidden forest against their parent’s wishes they encounter a host of colourful characters – from partying princesses (Kirsty Rosser and Jen Lacey) to Odyssey’s very own Rolling Stones the Musicians of Bremen (Keith Richards being a highlight, otherwise known as Donkey, played by Matthew Cook), The well-timed physical comedy of The Boy Who Went Looking for Shivers (Freddie Holcombe) and the sinister Wolf and his evil cohorts.

Most impressive was the incorporation of beautifully constructed puppets in the form of the Wolf, Thirteenth Wise-Woman, The Ugly Stepsisters and Witch, constructed by hugely talented University South Wales students as well as a stunning, colourful set and costume design from Kitty Callister. The puppets were skilfully operated by cast including Andrew Todd, Jen Lucey, Andrew Tadd, Geraint Stewart-Davies, Sara Pickard and Sian Fouladi.

A touch tour was offered before the show so I got to experience these magnificent features up close, and audio description provided by Alastair Sill ensured that I had access to the show throughout. All shows were BSL interpreted by Sami Thorpe so that D/deaf audiences had as much choice as hearing audiences in which show they’d like to attend.

The Odyssey Christmas show is always a pleasure to partake in – there’s a fantastic, supportive, familial atmosphere of anticipation and excitement as people of all ages are welcomed in. The fact that audience members are invited to come up on stage at the end to meet the actors and puppets enhances this. The company’s humour and unique character comes through beautifully and this gets stronger each year thanks to the continued commitment of the group, their director, volunteers and support staff.

The show was very clear in terms of structure thanks to cleverly considered and witty writing from Llinos Mai and insightful, creative direction from Jon Dafydd-Kidd, ensuring that the talented cast kept us engaged and laughing throughout. This is a fun and frivolous show that celebrates and maximises the talent of the Odyssey team – ‘team’ being the optimum word – in which every single member is vital and dedicated, all the while not being afraid to go to dark places: something that a lot of inclusive groups are often too afraid to do. Colourful, dark and funny, we were swept up on the journey all the way to the Grimm’s Wood and back again.

Chloe Clarke

A response to Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”

We were very pleased to see some of the priority areas in the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

In particular we were interested in Commitment 2 below

We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.

ACW then go onto make a series of intentions (below) for where they want to be in 2023 (5 years)

We will be able to demonstrate clearly that all our funding programmes promote and contribute to equality and diversity

There will be a narrowing of the gap between those in the most and least affluent social sectors as audiences and participants

We will develop the creative work of disabled artists by funding “Unlimited” commissions and developing a scheme similar to “Ramps on the Moon” operated by Arts Council England

We want to introduce a “Changemakers” scheme placing BAME and disabled people in senior executive positions in the arts

We want to see a doubling of the number of disabled people in the arts workforce

We want to see a doubling of the number of Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds in the arts workforce

We want to have introduced an Arts Council Apprenticeships scheme designed to provide opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds

We will have achieved a trebling of the number of BAME and disabled and on APW boards of governance

We have been in discussion with a number of colleagues in the arts sector in Wales to request a personal response to Commitment 2 and are pleased to share their responses below. Please do get in touch if you would like to contribute.

ACW are currently asking for responses to their Corporate Plan and future Lottery funding priorities from members of the public,  you can make an online response at this link .

Or attended one of the physical meetings. The public meetings associated with the consultation will take place at Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham (30 November), Volcano, Swansea (10 December), Riverfront Newport (7 January 2019), Aberystwyth Arts Centre (11 January 2019) and Pontio, Bangor (21 January 2019).

Further details are available on the Arts Council of Wales website. The consultation closes on 15 February 2019.

Carole Blade, Creative Producer

Coreo Cymru

During 2019, Bombastic and Coreo Cymru will be hosting Family Dance Festival, a 70-minute entertaining and interactive dance programme for families, presented free of charge in theatre foyers and outdoors during the Easter holidays. Piloted in 2017 and further developed in 2018, Family Dance Festival features three Wales-based professional dance companies and local youth groups at each venue plus taster workshops for all, framed within a bilingual (Welsh/English) context and supported with accessible shows and feedback systems.

Our 2018 programme delivered an accompanying training and seminar event to promote Audio Description, resulting in the first Welsh language audio described live performances. In 2019, we will also offer BSL interpreted shows and focus on developing an audience and appetite for these services by actively forging relationships with members of the blind and D/deaf communities. We will do this through visits to local support centres, clubs and groups, offering programme insight and critically supporting a dialogue, asking questions to inform our deliver methods and to reveal a wider view of general provision, requirements and needs. Working in collaboration with Creu Cymru’s Hynt and the local venue, we will gather data to support general approaches to accessible practice in Wales starting with visits to local clubs and later request feedback relating to their FDF experience.

We will again work with Audio Describer Ioan Gwyn, who benefited from FDF2018 bespoke training programme and toured with the company offering both Welsh and English language descriptions. We will also work with experienced BSL interpreter Sami Thorpe of Elbow Room, to support the text based work and our reach. Their understanding of the target audience and experience within the performing arts, coupled with our plans to consult with individual service users through visits to their respective clubs and groups, prior to the tour, will enable the means and structure for a quality service. Ioan and Sami will work with the Front Of House staff at each venue to ensure quality customer care of our accessible audiences, positioning themselves at the box office to welcome and familiarise. Where possible we will integrate Ioan and Sami into the actual performance to positively reinforce inclusiveness and will create specific feedback forms to inform delivery and methods.

Gareth Coles / Voluntary Arts Wales Director / Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru

The second commitment in the Arts Council of Wales’ new Corporate Plan recognizes that the challenge is to increase and diversify participation in the publicly-funded arts. But levels of participation in different forms of creative activity may actually be very high, as people practice their creativity in libraries, church halls, pub function rooms and on kitchen tables and bedroom desks. Voluntary Arts Wales estimates that there are around 4,000 community and amateur creative groups in Wales. But these voluntary and everyday creative activities may not benefit from public subsidy, and therefore may not regularly appear on the radar of public funders.

There is a rich and diverse ecology of the arts in Wales: an ecology that we believe includes amateur, everyday creativity as well as the professional arts, and in which all elements are interdependent and mutually supportive. An attempt to engage more people in the publicly-funded arts might start with an appreciation of the creativity that people choose to practice themselves. Rather than see a deficit of engagement in the arts, we might recognise the cultural assets and activities that already exist within communities across Wales, and build stronger links with the publicly funded arts.

 Diversifying governance

In 2016, Voluntary Arts conducted a project called Open Conversations to improve our understanding of creative cultural activity in Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities across the UK. We convened an Advisory Panel of experts in BAME creative activity, who made introductions, accompanied staff on visits, and met regularly throughout the project to discuss findings. Voluntary Arts staff and Expert Panel members conducted long, unstructured and informal conversations with practitioners across the UK. At the end of the project, we invited the Panel members to become Trustees of Voluntary Arts, and now 5 of our 11 Board members are from BAME backgrounds. As a result of this work, we became the first arts organisation to win a Charity Governance Award for Board Inclusion and Diversity.

We have also sought in recent years to celebrate the excellent work that exists in the voluntary arts sector to champion diversity, through our annual Epic Awards. Get the Chance was a recipient of the Celebrating Diversity award in 2017.

Increasing participation

Our Drawn Together project, a partnership with Coast Lines, has engaged over 2,500 people of all ages in producing over 5,000 observational drawings – creating a collective visual representation of Wales in 2018 (now on display in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff). The feedback shows that 96% of participants felt happier and more positive as a result, but the majority weren’t creatively active, or involved in any arts or community groups. We believe this worked because we took the project to places where people convene: in existing community groups, libraries, cafes, care homes, workplaces and schools. We worked with Big Issue vendors in Cardiff, residents living with dementia in a care home in Pembrokeshire, RNLI volunteers in Aberystwyth and farmers in rural Denbighshire. A majority of project participants now want to continue their creative practice.

Branwen Davies

Writer/Theatre Maker

I welcome this commitment. We all should. We all benefit from a wider diversity of people enjoying and taking part in the arts.It needs to be ever evolving and new energy and life bought in. We all have skills, experience and stories to share. Quite often I find we are ignorant or unaware of challenges facing others and it needs to be addressed and challenged and become second nature not a box ticking exercise.

In uncertain times socially and politically, especially where people feel threatened and surrounded by divisions and threats, the arts can play a pivotal role in confronting fears and open channels of communication. We are social animals. We need to seek each other out. We need to go knocking on doors and meet face to face and not rely so much on social media to connect.

I constantly bang on about the transformative power of the arts! It’s life-enhancing – music, theatre, images, installations, dance etc in all it’s glorious forms. They enable us to communicate, engage and express ourselves and that positive experience can spill out in to all areas of life. It gives us an emotional literacy and helps us try and make sense of the world and our surroundings. It infuriates me that music and drama and literature are constantly threatened within the education system and that there are less opportunities from an early age to engage and benefit. Mental health issues, anxiety and lack of confidence is on the rise in schools and I am in no doubt there is a direct link. The arts are essential to our wellbeing and the earlier we are exposed the better. It is also vital to ensure that there are opportunities for all ages and that it isn’t all focused on youth but continuous in to old age.

It has to start with a conversation – what are the complex needs of different cultures, genders and abilities in Wales? For a small nation our diversity and needs are huge! There is no one size fits all. What are the present weaknesses and gaps and challenges and how do we approach change and a new model of addressing and implementing things for the benefit of all? It’s essential to give a voice to those who aren’t usually given a platform and we must empower those who don’t think their story is of value. We also need to showcase and showoff what we can offer so that people are aware of the possibilities and the work that is and can be created.

The image of the arts needs to be changed so that people feel that they can take ownership and that it belongs to them. It’s up for the current gate keepers not to just welcome and implement an open door policy and a willingness to listen but to actually do the ground work and seek people out face to face. This connection and nurturing needs to be sustained. We have the talent, skills and expertise in Wales but we need, especially in times of funding cuts to pool resources and collaborate and communicate much better than we already do and to be in regular contact and communicate and share knowledge with each other.

My background is in playwrighting and one positive experiences I have had was ‘The Fresh Ink’ initiative with the Sherman Theatre where over a period of 10 weeks I visited St Teilo School in Llanedeyrn, Cardiff. I worked with a group of students who had never visited the theatre and who had little confidence or interest in writing. Allowing them to step away from thinking and writing academically, encouraging them to find their own voice and to take ownership of their language and rhythms of speech the students grew in confidence and produced extremely moving and passionate short plays that were then performed by professional actors at their school in front of their peers. Their reaction and their pride in their words and stories was empowering. For the first time some of them felt they had created something of worth and value and were proud to share it. The Sherman are currently running a playwrighting scheme for similar students to whom opportunities have been limited. The weekly sessions are free of charge and transport is provided. The students work will be performed at the Sherman in the spring.



Adeola Dewis

Artist, researcher, academic and TV presenter

I have just read the corporate plan. I feel little excitement although I think the targets are attractive. My main contribution to this goes back to the idea of getting out of offices and on to the streets, into community spaces without an agenda and seeing what one can learn.

This feels like wanting to do research and already knowing the answer. I think its problematic in its genesis.

Of course the key is the youth, the next generation but I also believe that bodies like the ACW already have a public image and in order to broaden its public perception (increase participation and attendance in publicly funded arts), honest work will need to be done from the inside, beyond inviting token BAME individuals to be on their board. This crucially involves getting to know who you are working with and for and perhaps getting your ‘targets’ from the people and what matters to them rather than the governments with their outward facing strategies.

I am struggling to articulate a coherent response to that as I believe the response would need to be rooted in research. What I mean is, we are talking about arts participation, but that is just ‘our’ arts. There are groups and communities making ‘arts’ and doing their thing that get washed over for various reasons. What is at the core of the desire to increase participation? What are ‘more diverse’ communities and groups already doing and how do we foster conversations that facilitate an equal space for voice and visibility and limits the threat of appropriation.


Bethan Marlow


First of all, the fact that these goals and priorities have been set is fantastic because it means we’re really acknowledging that this is a problem. There are many, many people still feeling excluded from the arts (not just as audience members but as people wanting to work in it too) so having a goal to change that can’t be anything but a good thing.

How will it actually be achieved?…….. action. Action by all. Everyone, every single one of us currently working in the arts needs to assess our ways of working, our processes and avenues of finding collaborators and we need to really question how inclusive we’re been the past. And if we haven’t been inclusive, or inclusive enough, we MUST, must make change. From hiring to casting to finding audiences we must continuously ask ourselves whether we’re doing enough to make sure that ALL people feel invited. I sometimes feel like I’m the P.C police these last few years (I’m sure my co-workers feel it to!) because I have made a conscious decision to ask the difficult questions and speak up for those not in the room. And it’s not always comfortable. It makes people uncomfortable but the only reason we all feel uncomfortable is because we know there’s a problem. “Have we gone to all lengths possible to find BAME actors that can audition for this part?”, “Our focus should be on finding female musicians”, “have we considered Welsh learners for this part?” I don’t ask these questions to make people feel guilty, I’m doing it so that we can create active change so that we’re not guilty of being exclusive. We need to keep reminding each other of being inclusive until it becomes second nature.

Abdul Shayek

Director of Fio

I guess my major reflection on this has to be that whilst we have a statement being made by ACW which I believe is the right one. What seems to be missing is the response from arts leaders who have the resources to really make a difference. I guess unless a firmer and clearer picture is presented in terms of the sharing of power and resource, the inevitability is that this will remain words on a page. We, have to question how a sector which is led by same people will suddenly decide this needs to be prioritised just because ACW has said so, we need to go further and find other more innovative solutions where power is shared more equally?

Review The Mash Report by Judi Hughes

The Mash Report – live audience

Review by Judi Hughes

I was fortunate to be allocated tickets to be part of the live audience at the Mash Report recording of Series 3, Episode 3. The ticket offer came as a bit of a surprise as I had applied to be part of a number of BBC shows some time ago. I received an email saying that we’d been allocated tickets, but this didn’t mean we would definitely get in. The show was being filmed at Pinewood Studios in Slough and since we’ve never been there, my husband and I decided that it was worth a punt and planning for the trip began.

I’m giving full details because I think it’s important to let people know what’s involved in a trip like this. The tickets were free but travel and accommodation were not. is my goto website for overnights and I booked a night at the Pinewood Hotel for the night of the show, which we were told would finish around 9pm (£88 including a delicious breakfast, not bad for outer London). I chose this hotel because of its good reviews and convenient location – it’s about 5 minutes’ drive from the studios where there was plenty of free public parking. We decided to drive down, an uneventful journey which was made pleasant by sunshine and the amazing colours of autumn leaves.

The hotel was easy enough to find and we were soon ensconced in our room with a bit of time for R&R and a freshen-up before we headed off for the show. The rest of this information is pretty important if you decide to venture to one of these live audience shows and the first piece of it is to do read their copious instructions and follow them as well as you can.

Top of the list is arrive early. We ummed and ahhed about what time to get there and decided on 5pm even though the studio doors didn’t open until 7pm. This was a good decision. We weren’t first in the car park but there were plenty of spaces and we didn’t have to walk far to get to the waiting area (a large marquee with a very small expensive bar and some portable toilets). After passing through security (don’t take a pen knife like the bloke in front of us) were invited to sit in a row of plastic chairs and wait for announcements to be made. Important advice here is to stay in the seats you are allocated as entry to the show is done mainly on a first come, first served basis.

As advised we took sandwiches (M&S ones for a treat) and drinks in plastic bottles as no glass is allowed in the studios. We waited for around an hour, made trips to the loo (do this early as there’s a rush just before the show) and ate our pack-up as more and more people arrived. Then we were issued with wrist bands – lilac for us, red for the people who had come later and white, silver and gold ones for the more important amongst us. We speculated on the reasons for the colours and after a short time it became clear that our early arrival had paid off. It’s worth saying that the organisers had definitely considered access as wheelchair users were called through to the studio first, followed by the important bods then the lilac wristband holders (us!) and followed up by the red wristband holders who weren’t all guaranteed a seat. I don’t think everyone got in – the process if that happens is to offer those who missed out a tickets to another show and guarantee entry.

Pinewood Studios was not the salubrious experience that we had been expecting; we walked past a jumble of buildings and ended up in a sort of storage bay before we were led into the studio itself. A working space with the expected stage set-up and a mix of flat and raised seating. Much to our amazement we ended up in the 3rd row from the front so we had a really good view. Cameras were above and behind us and it was fascinating to watch how the show was filmed, the use of the space and back screens to create the effect of the actors being outside. Observing the process was as much a part of the evening as watching the show.

The audience waited and chatted excitedly for what seemed like ages but was probably only about 10 minutes. Then the warm-up guy appeared and explained how it would all work, how and when we should respond, laugh and clap and really put us at our ease. Nish Kumar then came on stage and talked to us a bit more about the show, who the guests were to be and all the time being titivated by make-up and wardrobe people. Finally we were all set to go.

Nish introduced the show with his familiar satirical rant about topics of the week. The objects of his rhetoric included the Spice Girls, Trump, the USA Mid Term Elections in which a dead brothel owner was elected and also the rise of American women getting into power. Trump was splendidly ridiculed for his treatment of the press.

Over to the News Desk with Steve N Allen and reporter Susan. Their headlines covered the end of Big Brother, the ‘Living’ Wage, the British fixation with the weather and people wearing massive poppies, supported by some very funny reportage featuring Tom Bell, Freya Parker and Jason Forbes.

Back to Nish to introduce Rachel Parris who spoke about the weird rhetoric used when the media and our politicians talk about Brexit: “the conjuring of nostalgia associated with WW2 to argue for Britain exiting Europe”. Farage was the object of her ridicule along with others including reports of David Davis throwing a tantrum and giving up. She painted a ludicrous picture of the war years when instead of wearing tights you just painted your legs with creosote, rising out of the rubble for a good old sing song. Rachel is a genuinely funny lady who delivers her report in an upbeat manner, showing the positively silly side to all the Brexit shenanigans.

Nish then interviewed comedian Geoff Norcott, known for his right leaning views, although on this occasion not particularly a fan of Theresa May’s dancing. He compared Corbyn to a gangster’s wife in the vein of ‘I was present but I wasn’t involved’. His main target this week were the Lib Dems and it seems that they are so low key that he and Nish have been on Question Time more times than they have. He had a go at pretty much everyone, even the Greens, so in the end a very equal opportunity satirist with a slick delivery.

In a rant direct to the audience Nish covered the United Nations investigation, a serious topic about them visiting Britain to explore the impact of a decade of austerity – his lighter comedy tips advised that all the trains would be late and they might be photographed and end up looking fat on Twitter, which had recently happened to him. Some interesting facts here including that Britain is the 6th largest economy in the world yet 20% of the population are living in poverty. He also covered the rise of in-work poverty, with low wages failing to cover the cost of living. He derided the ‘end of austerity’ reporting that people will be worse off under Universal Credit, which has £3billion a year less funding than the previous system. He cited George Osborne’s political choice to feed the rich “this is George, he systematically made life harder for millions of people for a decade – he didn’t give a s**t and he’s minted”. Philip Green got it in the neck and even the Queen didn’t escape with Nish referring to her having diamond hat and a Netflix show about the hat.

The final News Desk told us “Guy Fawkes urged to have another go” and more digs at the Spice Girls: “Susan were you a fan of the Spice Girls?” “Yes, but I was a lot thicker when I was a teenager”.

Susan, played by Ellie Taylor, is the person I enjoyed watching the most on the Mash Report. She can change from chatty to serious in seconds, creating a believable ‘news face’ as she tells an incredibly funny story without laughing. She’s about to leave the series as she’s pregnant so we watched her perform extra items to be aired in future series as well as taking part in the current show. She was so professional and at ease in her role.

Switch back to Nish and an interview with young Ahir Shah to talk about housing which was very London centric but funny all the same. Ahir told Nish that the government’s only option was to “build more f*****g houses mate”. A bit about stereotypical views on immigrants included this old gag: “Brexit Dave – what a guy – thank you for telling me to go back to a country I’ve never been to”. He suggested building on the greenbelt – the bits that don’t look very green. To prevent intergenerational warfare he suggested a meeting of young and old minds, a sort of ‘Stormzy meet Mary Berry’ – the sound track would be excellent and the catering exquisite. He was funny enough but his delivery wasn’t up to the standard of Geoff Norton’s.

A final goodnight from Nish and then we were treated to about 20 minutes of corrections so we had to laugh and clap things we’d heard before. Not a problem as they were often funnier on second hearing.

All in all we had a brilliant time and I would recommend this trip to anyone who likes good satirical humour delivered by a lefty Asian comedian.

If you want to apply for tickets to a variety of shows you can do so on the BBC website: SRO Audiences

Review Passion, NDCWales/Music Theatre Wales by Judi Hughes



Photo credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL;

Wales Millennium Centre, 23 October 2018

Review by Judi Hughes

(4 / 5)


Passion is a work for voice and body, dance and opera, written by French composer Pascal Dusapin. Written in 2008 it is based on the Orpheus legend. This production was created in collaboration by NDC Wales and Music Theatre Wales.

Directors: Michael McCarthy & Caroline Finn

Conductor: Geoffrey Paterson

Him: Johnny Herford (Baritone)

Her: Jennifer France (Soprano)

Design: Simon Banham

Lighting design: Joe Fletcher

Sound: Sound Intermedia

Dancers: Cyril Durand-Gasselin, Nikita Goile, Ed Myhill, Julia Rieder, Malik Williams, Queenie Maidment-Otlet

Vocal Ensemble: EXAUDI

Ensemble: London Sinfonietta

To give some context to this review, I decided to see Passion for several reasons: I like the work of NDC Wales, I have seen some of Caroline Finn’s choreography and feel I like and appreciate the way her mind works; I have seen several pieces by Music Theatre Wales and like the alternative aspect that they bring to their work; I have seen some great dance with live music and more recently I have begun to appreciate opera. A contemporary performance that puts all these things together seemed to be something I shouldn’t miss.

Grateful to the programme for some useful advance information, I was armed with the basis of the story based on the Orpheus legend and the roles that the characters played. I was a bit disappointed with the publicity for the show, which gave no indication of the splendidly staged production that I was about to see.

I sat in the audience waiting for this opera dance to begin and when it began I thought, ‘how is this going to work then?’ Slowly and step by step all the elements grew together and what seemed to be impossible came together to make the whole.

The lighting & design were amazing and essential parts of this production. All the elements of dance, opera, live music, vocals and soundscape worked together and were enveloped by it. The blue ladder was so engaging that it was almost another character and watching the production scene by scene became like seeing a series of beautiful paintings over and over again.

At first the ‘others’ seemed surplus but gradually they were woven into this complex collage, responding to the music and soundscape, giving rhythm and life to the work. The sounds of an intake of breath were haunting, nightmare-like and helped to create the atmosphere of the imagined underworld.

The quality of choreographer and skill of the dancers worked seamlessly alongside the male and female opera singers. Both had strong voices and whilst I couldn’t always make out the words, their interpretation and vocal agility was wonderful to hear. Together they told this tale of lost and dying love, dramatic and ethereal in their presentation.

The stunning imagery created by the set and lighting designers, especially commissioned for this project are absolutely central to the work. Production images by Clive Barda are available on the Music Theatre Wales website:

‘Lighting always plays a big part in the emotional dramaturgical path…the set is absolutely beautiful. Simon’s work is such a joy to light because it has this wonderful contrast in texture and colour…’ Joe Fletcher, Lighting Designer on Simon Banham’s design.

All credit must go to what must have been an incredible amount of hard work from all of the performers, creators and collaborators. I was unexpectedly riveted to the story they told and absorbed in the whole aspect of the show.

The production is currently touring and can next be seen at


Tuesday 6 November


Saturday 10 November

Review The Island, Fio by Hannah Ladd

The Island presented by Fio

Directed by Abdul Shayek

Performed by Joe Shire, Wela Mbusi

In this two hander between John (Joe Shire) and Winston (Wela Mbusi), we see two prisoners serving sentences for “crimes” at the infamous prison of Robyn Island. We see the two characters battle with the injustice of their situation. This is expressed through them attempting to put on the play Antigone. This is a clever choice of play for these prisoners to present as it talks about the injustice of Antigone’s sentence that completely echoes John and Winston’s suffering. We hear their stories and the terrible happenings in South Africa at the time of apatite.

Wela Mbusi and Joe Shire 

I think Fio has selected a clever choice of play here as it is a true reflection on what can happen in a country if we don’t address problems with Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality. In today’s current climate these discussions are more and more important to be having. Putting on such work is a reminder of the progress we made but still how far we have to go. It makes us not forget about things that can be so easily forgotten.

Joe Shire and Wela Mbusi are the heart of the production, their chemistry on stage and energy kept my engaged throughout this piece, particularly in some of the more humorous parts of the production. There were moments of magic between these actors that made me invested in this story.

At points the production was a little long and maybe could be shaved down, but overall this is an important piece of theatre to see. I enjoyed very much.

I was lucky enough to see the production in the community of Pill in Newport an incredibly diverse working class town. The fantastic thing Fio manged to achieve at this event was a full capacity audience with the room bursting at the seams. With 83 members of the public coming out to see this production. Making this piece of theatre a community event as a posed to just a show. Fio  invited an audience that quite possibly wouldn’t feel theatre is the place for them. But simply having some food a raffle and some other production related activities made this event something to be inspired.

Hannah Ladd

Review Podcast: 99% Invisible by Judi Hughes

I am a podcast fan. I listen to podcasts on long journeys, while I’m cooking dinner, while I’m gardening and to help me off to sleep. There is a world of fascinating knowledge and stories out there that I can’t get enough of. The first of these, recommended to me by my son, is the encyclopaedic purveyor of unusual facts, 99% Invisible. Produced in Oakland, California it is part of the Radiotopia network and whilst rooted in the USA, has a truly international outlook. I find it delightful.

If you visit their website, the ‘about’ section tells us that “99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” Fascinating enough, but it’s much more than that. To date there are 325 episodes that you can download, beginning in 2010 and carrying on to the present, they have covered what I consider to be everyday wonders of the world. If you haven’t listened to any of them yet, you’re in for a treat. I wish I could start from Episode 1 again – in fact I may well do that because there are many that I would like to hear again.

Each episode begins with an introduction from the velvety voiced Roman Mars, with the inevitable but very important messages from their sponsors (independent means they need the advertising). “I’m Roman Mars……” and proceeds to tell us about some fascinating thing that we’d really never thought about but might just observe now, like the way that large buildings are designed to make people behave in certain ways – in airports for instance in Episode 126: Walk This Way, and Episode 93, which tells us why we should always use the revolving doors.

Then there are my all-time favourites: Episode 160 Perfect Security reveals that “in the entire history of the world, there was only one brief moment, lasting about 70 years, where you could put something under lock and key — a chest, a safe, your home — and have complete, unwavering certainty that no intruder could get to it.” The story of Bramah, Chubb and the lock controversy of 1851 unfolds. Episode 164 tells us how the discovery of Bakelite helped to make the awful practice of creating billiard balls from elephant tusks come to an end – did you know that by the mid-19th century, elephants were being slaughtered for their ivory at an alarming rate, just to keep up with the demand for high-end billiard balls – no more than eight balls could be made from a single elephant’s tusks. Closer to home is Episode 316 The Shipping Forecast featuring interviews with that reassuring voice of Peter Jefferson that anyone who listened to his dulcet tones late at night in will appreciate.

Wherever you get your podcasts try listening to 99% Invisible. It’s a whole new world. Check out their website:

By the way, they don’t like Trump, so all is safe in their hands.


Judi Hughes, 22 October 2018

Review Exodus, Motherlode by Edward Lee

Exodus follows Mary (Gwenllian Higginson), the disillusioned manager of her local River Island, who alongside her old schoolmate Gareth (Berwyn Pearce), mute violinist Kujtim (Karim Bedda), and middle-aged ex-serviceman Raymond “Raymondo” Jenkins (Liam Tobin), decide to fly away from it all in an old plane Raymond’s keeping in his allotment.

From the get-go, one of the most immediately engaging qualities of Exodus is the sheer exuberance of the cast. Their emotion across both jovial and sombre scenes was contagious by the sheer energy and precision given to each movement and utter of punctuation in Rachael Boulton’s direction of her own script. Indeed, one of the greatest strengths here is the timing of the piece and its performances, the sense of rhythm and punch in the work being palpable. While the level of energy here can occasionally be overbearing, with Pearce and Tobin’s performances remaining distracting until some more sincere moments later in the play, the three speaking parts are effectively counteracted by Bedda’s pinpointedly monolithic performance as Kujtim.

As the play progresses, Boulton’s script settles into a familiar mix of scene types, with the piece consisting of a rigidly separated pattern of traditional multi-character dialogue scenes, purely physical theatre scenes, and lengthy monologues given by each character. While certain comedic scenes drag on somewhat, and I found some of the physical theatre to be removing time from what could have been the progression of Exodus’s genuinely engaging characters, the pattern in scene construction here keeps the play fresh and varied to prevent these issues from fully manifesting.

It is in the play’s many monologues where the writing, direction and performances truly shine, with characters reflecting on their pasts and expressing topics as varied as their passion for the Valleys, and disenchantment with modern society. While these moments present character reveals rather than any overt sense of interaction or progression, the writing is handled with a deftness which effortlessly blends personal histories with wider societal commentary and various thematic samplings. Indeed, the monologue format is subverted in one of the piece’s most powerful moments, a violin solo by Kujtim which acts as much as an elegiac cry as any of the spoken word monologues given by the other cast members.

Ultimately, it is the blend of such subtly sorrowful moments with the sense of abundant joy, personality and hopefulness elsewhere which truly lifts Exodus off the ground. I was lucky enough to meet Rachael Boulton and hear about both her approach to the piece and her plans for the future of the Motherlode Theatre Company. With Exodus’ strong ties to community, creativity and opportunity being thoroughly present in Boulton and Motherlode’s aims ahead, this is a piece and group well worth seeking out and supporting.

The production is currently on tour

News:The Insole Court Book Club

The Insole Court Book Club is a monthly book club that specifically explores a diverse range of authors, for those who want to discover something new. The book club is a friendly and social club, where we can get together to discuss the book (even if you haven’t finished it, life is too short to read a book that you don’t enjoy!) have a glass of wine or coffee in beautiful surroundings, and meet other readers.

Insole Court will be offering alcoholic beverages for sale, and I will provide a range of hot drinks.


The Reading Room, Insole Court, Cardiff, CF5 2LN. There is plenty of free parking on site, access for cars and pedestrians is on Fairwater Road. Further details can be found here.


The last Tuesday of every month, 7 – 9pm.
The first book club meeting will be Tuesday 30th October.


The book club is open to anyone who is interested in getting involved. The book club will be hosted by myself Kelly Barr (Offbeat Book Club).

Anyone can read-along and join in the conversation on my blog, where I will post a summary after event club meeting, so even if you can’t come to the club meetings, you can still get involved.


If you’d like to come along to the first session, please just let me know via reply


Americanah by Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie is available at the Insole Court Visitor Centre shop, widely available in book stores and local libraries and on Amazon here.

If you have any trouble finding the book, please let me know and I will source one for you.

Thanks again for your interest and I look forward to welcoming you to the club!

Kelly Barr