Review Robinson: The Other Island, ‘Give It a Name’ by Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Robinson: The Other Island, performed by the ‘Give It a Name’ theatre company at Chapter Arts Centre in Stiwido Seligman, follows two people who are stranded in two completely different worlds. This stage play is based heavily on the Novel ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe which was done in an intriguing and exciting way.

The first thing I noticed when I entered was the studio was that there were headphones on all the seats which at first made me apprehensive as I thought the use of headphones would be a distraction but in fact, it actually really helped with the creation and development of the play itself.   The concept of this play was that Bianca played by Luciana Trapman wanted to escape the modern world through the ‘portal’ of the pages of the three-hundred-year-old book. At the same time, Robinson Crusoe played by John Rowley is trying to escape the island which was clear within the play itself.

Rehearsal images by Jorge Lizalde

The two contrasting characters, the modern day young woman and the shipwrecked old man, provide the perfect contrasts which allowed the audience to easily follow the story and portrayed the area, date, and context of where each ‘part’ was taking place which was cleverly done. As an audience member, we can see the staging being built in front of us which only added to the immersive-ness of the play. The company had engineered the headphones so the audio is split between the left and the right ear which means you can be apart of both of the ‘worlds’ at the same time. While we could hear the calming reading of the book from Bianca in one ear we could also the sounds of the stranded island (e.g. sea noises, voices, etc.) This was done to illustrate the fact that when a person reads a book it helps build a visual picture of what is being described in the book. Due to this the audience is an external third party, we can see Bianca reading the book and the story being created in front of us. This was a really ingenious concept from the director Mathilde Lopez. As a literature fan I could easily recognise and relate to this. The use of headphones made this play unique, modern and contemporary.

Robinson Crusoe was clearly shown as a shipwrecked man and was based on the description as described in the book. The character did look as if he could have been shipwrecked and his voice suited the role perfectly. The character, however, did have some problems. The first time we encounter the character was at the beginning of the play when he delivered a speech about laws and legislation of the new island. However, this speech was done on top of a step ladder into a microphone, which was done facing away from the audience. It may be a personal opinion but having a speech done away from the audience and not being able to see the actors face is confusing for the audience especially considering the headphones make it had to locate where the sound is coming through. After this, we walked across the stage to collect props which sort of detached the character from this the deserted island. The stage could have done with an exit from one side of the ‘stage’ to the other. As Robinson, walking across the stage distracted the audience that could have been avoided. This collecting props was a problem throughout the play. As the prop table was sort of on stage we could hear all the rustling and banging which broke the calmness and soothing-ness of Bianca’s voice.

The actress who played Bianca had a very calming voice. The almost whispered tone was really soothing through the headphone which was really nice for the audience. Her voice was almost ASMR like which was very nice. However, this character was very relatable. She was portrayed almost like a teenager who experiences the struggles of the modern world. Due to this she does use swear words which clashed with the ASMR voice used while reading. This was a little confusing but the actress used two distinct voices for reading (which was the ASMR style voice) and a normal conversation voice she used when chatting to her father etc.

A really nice touch was that when her phone was ringing we could actually see the screen on her phone that told us someone was ringing which was really cool and helped to add to the realness. In conclusion Robinson: The Other Island was an intelligently designed show which was contemporary, unique and unlike another play I have seen before. If you are interested in plays and wonder how theatre can evolve in the future then I advise you to watch this production, it is not to be missed! I give this play 4 out of 5 stars as it showed me a side of theatre I never knew existed!

Review Calendar Girls, The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Calendar Girls, The Musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth is currently playing at The Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. This production isn’t just about women stripping for a calendar, it’s about sisterhood, it’s about friendship, and it’s about togetherness. 

I personally need to demolish the idea that these shows that include characters taking their clothes off are just about stripping. Like the Full Monty, both stories are heavily embedded with political, moral and general life issues. But with that in mind, this play is definitely targeted towards an older audience. This is obviously due to the fact that the characters involved are older women who are part of a Womens Institute and this show has very little movement throughout the whole show. In fact, I was one of the few youngest people in the audience but there were some things I can take away from this show.

To start with this show is set in Yorkshire with the staging reflecting Yorkshire countryside with hills in the background. This set didn’t change much throughout the show which did cause some confusion. Obviously, it is supposed to be set in the countryside but without the set changing, the cast put chairs on the stage to represent the Womens Institute meeting room so to the audience it looked as if these women were meeting in the middle of a field. 

They could have done with a small build on the stage of a meeting room or something similar, as a lot of the story took place in this hall. I believe that this show would work perfectly in a more intimate venue such as the New Theatre. Personally, I have an issue when there are raised platforms on the stage in musicals as the audience are already looking up to the stage and so putting the cast even higher up is often unnecessary also the actually raised pillars are often left undecorated which becomes an eye-sore. All of this show took place on a raised stage and it was never really explained, in terms of the story, what the lower part of the stage was supposed to be.

Unfortunately it was very obvious to the audience that this was Calendars Girls opening night as many small things went wrong during this production.  Firstly, towards the end of act one, there is a scene in which Ruth, played by Julia Hills, carries a huge box of scones to the spring fair. Many of the scones actually fell out of the box and onto the floor which meant the other cast members had to pick them up. This was a distraction from the plot which wasn’t particularly needed also in this same act in a scene the spotlight started, almost randomly racing across the top of the stage which again distracted the audience from the story. I think through we can accredit this to opening night nerves which is understandable and also they were only tiny errors.

This show was supposed to be and is a very relatable show. In my opinion, the whole premise of the show is to empower the audience by showing a group of normal everyday women who grow in confidence to create the calendar. With this is in mind, the play was designed in such a way to make this concept as obvious as possible. The cast was not meant to be fantastic singers or incredible dancers, there were very few staging or props and the dialogue was done in a type of conversational speech that people would recognise. For the audience, the cast was supposed to be just like them and if they can feel empowered so can they. This effect was only added to by the inclusion of a Danny, played by Danny Howker, who is a teenage boy. I, also as a teenage boy, found it really easy to relate to Danny, Especially in the scene in which he appears drunk. When everyone first drinks alcohol they do go overboard which is exactly what this character did. So not only were there characters that the older generation to relate to but also the younger generation. This worked perfectly for relatability but meant that some number were lacking. In Act Two there is a really funny song titled “I’ve Had a Little Work Done” which is sung by Celia, played by Lisa Maxwell, which is written as a typical musical number which should have been a big chorus number with a chorus line but it did not. I do understand why they didn’t include all this (to keep the relatability of the musical) but it meant this number fell a little short of what it seemed to want to do.

Despite all this when the entire company came together for songs such as “Yorkshire” and “Sunflowers of Yorkshire” they were amazing. Their voices complemented one another and the harmonies were incredible. It was just in some individual solos that the nerves could be seen. This supports the idea that the play is all about friendship. On our own, we may struggle but together we are stronger. This musical was really funny and made everyone feel good about them by specifically empowering the older women in the audience. In Act One the song “Who Wants a Silent Night?” sung by Marie, Judy Holt was really entertaining and fun. This song made the whole audience want to get up and dance. This was a continuous thing through the whole musical; the cast appeared to have a lot of fun on the stage which made it a lot more enjoyable to watch. A highlight of the entire musical was Jessie, played by Lesley Joseph and her song “What Age Expects” this was a relatable, heartfelt and at times comical song that Lesley performed perfectly.

In General, Calendar Girls was an uplifting musical that had the audience laughing for the majority of the songs. I, however, may have missed aspects of the show due to my age but there was defiantly some elements of the characters that I associated with.

Review The Patient Assassin, Anita Anand by Judi Hughes

10 April 2019 saw the centenary of the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab, an event that I had never heard of until I read Anita Anand’s insightful and brilliantly written book The Patient Assassin published by Simon & Schuster.

I really appreciated her fascinating account of events that gave me knowledge of a part of British history that I hardly knew existed. Put simply it’s about an heroic deed that avenged a horrific act, but it is so much more than that.  

I knew little of any of the history of British rule in India despite growing up in Leicester, a city where people from many parts of the Indian subcontinent live. I went to school in the 60s when the history I was taught was very white, very British and full of propoganda. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to find out more about the dark past of British Colonialism.

The book is set during the rule of the British Raj and concentrates specifically on the intriguing life of Udham Singh, from his experience of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 to his death by hanging for the assassination in London of Michael O’ Dwyer, the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India, in 1940. Udham, with his eye constantly on the prize, lived his life in many places, with stolen identities and in subterfuge for over 20 years until he was able to accomplish his goal.

I can’t tell you more because you have to read the book to discover this well told story which affected so many lives, meticulously researched and brought to life by Anita Anand.

This story for her has a personal perspective as her grandfather survived the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh. At her own admission she struggled to distance herself from it, yet she wrote it with a graceful objectivity that allows the reader to hold final judgement. Anita Anand is an accomplished author who I had only known previously as the presenter of Any Questions. I highly recommend this book and will definitely be moving on to more of her works. @tweeter_anita congratulations on  this great book.

Review Bully, Unsolicited Theatre, WMC By Rhys Payne

Bully was a one person play performed in Ffresh at the Wales Millennium Centre. It was written for Unsolicited Theatre by playwright Tom Wentworth.  This was a work in-progress reading which makes this play difficult to review. This play follows the story of Eddie a gay rugby player who becomes disabled during an accident. He becomes angry and frustrated and takes this out on the people closest to him.

The character of Eddie was played by an actor who was a wheelchair user and so this served as a visual reference that Eddie is disabled. Due to prior knowledge and experience this made the character justified in his anger as he was confined to his chair which was discussed heavily through the play. This production was raw, somewhat realist and very emotional. As this play was a work-in progress reading and had no staging and props (excluding the wheelchair itself) the focus should have been on the acting or performance of the play, instead it was focussed on the script and its story. But unlike Bump I seemed to focus on the page turning of the script. This script reading became very obvious as it was held by a metal arm attached to the wheelchair and sometimes appeared in front of the actors face. This took the focus off the actor and onto the paper script itself which was something I did not think should happen but understandable with it being a work in progress.

This play was told by a friendly and approachable character in a wheelchair. His mannerisms and speech patterns made me feel as if this character was somehow related to me. We have all experienced a uncle or family friend telling us a story about when they were young and doing silly things to try and warn us against it. As this story was about something that happened in the past it felt like one of these stories. On top of this the story contained many funny lines which made the audience chuckle which only added to the relatability of the character. The section of the play where Eddie discussed being in the crash and being in the hospital was very vivid and realistic. To the point where I could image myself experiencing the accident while the words were being said it created a clear imagine of the hospital in my head.

This production was a lot less moving and emotional than Bump which may have been to the actor moving across the stage, while this did allow for change of topics and a chance for the audience to understand what had happened and to add to the realism of the piece. At times it created unnecessary pauses and forced my attention to the captioning (where parts of speech were missed out and certain words were incorrect, which would have caused problems for people who needed them.) The thing that confused me most about this production was why was it called ‘Bully?’ On Unsolicited Theatres website it states the character becomes a bully while being disabled and them becomes bullied. I think this concept was missed in the production. The events at the end of the play are somewhat like a bully but I felt as if it appeared more as a loss of anger then something he would do respectively. But this may have been due to the fact I felt a connection to the actor and so unconsciously refused to accept him as a bully, which is a sign of good writing. Either way, Bully is a hard-hitting play that gives an insight into how it feels to become disabled which made for a very interesting watch.

Review Bump, Unsolicited Theatre, WMC by Rhys Payne

Bump was a one person play performed in Ffresh at the Wales Millennium Centre. It was written for Unsolicited Theatre by playwright Kelly Jones.  This was a work in-progress reading which makes this play difficult to review. As Kelly had the script in her hand while on stage this meant there was little (although there was some) acting or performance, instead it was focussed on the script and its story.

I can definitely see the potential in this script and a venue such as Ffresh worked and would work as a full production.  This production contained no props and very little staging (all they used were two chairs on the stage) this meant the focus would, eventually, just be on the character of Jo but due to this being a work in progress reading and the character not being fully realised .The focus was on the story. Despite this however, Kelly’s performance was amazing and she did ‘perform’ certain aspects of the script.

This play was unlike any play I have seen before. I must confess that I tend to not enjoy plays, just out of preference, but this reading was unique. This story follows the character of Jo from the modern day, back to fifteen years and then back to modern day again. The audience discover that Reggie had to drop out of school to look after her new-born nephew and deals with some very controversial and complex issues.  As the story was set in the past fifteen years, it was relatable. The story was also contemporary as it involved concepts such as Facebook, laptops and mobile phones. I felt as if this story was based on something that could have easily have happened recently. This meant the audience could easily empathise with Jo and relate to her hardships. The script was written to portray to the audience that Reggie had really experienced what had happened. At times the character would talk about things that were off topic, she would make jokes and experience things/emotions that everyone at one point or another had gone through. This all made the story and the character seem like a normal person and so made it relatable for the audience. The monologue of the character was spoken as if it was meant to be direct to each audience member. The actress playing Reggie,  forced eye contact to the audience and the script used conversational language which made everyone feel part of the story. As a result of this, the entire play was emotional and moving for everyone experiencing it.

This play covered some very controversial issues but did so in a respectful way. The character of Reggie was a lesbian but this was not the main focus of the story or a ‘big reveal’ set up in the play, instead it was a casual remark (she being female and saying she was dating another female) which is an important thing for modern theatre. This helps audiences become more aware of the the sexual preference of homosexuality and makes people who are part of the LGTBQ community feel more like everyone else and accepted in society, which can only be a positive thing. It also discussed the act of motherhood and how many people are not sure if they could look after a baby. Or what to do with a new baby which, while comical at times, would have put new mothers at ease and made them feel as if its not just themselves who are stressed and confused. The play also dealt with the role of family on someone’s upbringing from childhood even into adulthood and the important/effects of perspectives.

I would have to give a warning to people wanting to watch this play as it does contain a lot of swearing which many people may find uncomfortable. But also, as stated earlier, this play deals with many topics (acts of terrorism, homosexuality) which many people may not be comfortable with.  Due to this being a work on progress reading there is a limit on how well I can rate it as I’m rating it’s potential rather that the performance  I actually saw. It displays a grittier and real side of life through the medium of drama which avid theatre fans would enjoy.

Review The Bodyguard, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

All images credit Paul Coltas

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Before watching ‘The Bodyguard’, at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff I was very excited. The songs are many of my favourites and so I knew it would be an enjoyable performance, but this show did not disappoint. At first, I thought it would be similar to Motown in which the songs are great and popular, and people would sing along to, but the narrative is somewhat less important, but I could not have been more wrong. In fact, I would consider ‘The Bodyguard’ as one of the best all-round productions that I have seen. Having some of my ‘guilty pleasure’ songs included in this production was the icing on the cake.  The last time I saw Alexander Burke in a production was in ‘Sister Act,’ which I felt she didn’t suit but this powerful ballad-based character was a lot more suited to Alexander and her singing style.

The production’s opening was a striking shadow-projected scene, which had loud sound effects, which caused audible gasps from the audience. This was a fantastic way to grab audience attention in the first few minutes of the show. It was easy to spot that this scene would be book-ending the whole production and a similar scene would take place at the end of the show. This is the first time, in my experience, that this type of structure is used which made me keep the image in my head to see how the plot would lead to it again in the end. This meant the entire time I was thinking about this opening scene, which was not a distraction in any sense but would be considered an effective opening scene. The opening number however was flawless. The production values of staging, light and pyros was superb and the dancing was incredible. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I instantly drew comparisons of the character ‘Rachel Marron’ both are super successful artists, costumes show similarities to one another and the ‘performance’ of their songs (especially this one) were of the highest quality. However, I believe that this performance topped the Beyoncé performances I have seen live and this number could have easily been a show in itself. It would not have been out of place as a concert/performance in somewhere like the 02 Arena. The one small drawback to this number was, Alexander Burke, who played Rachel Marron, is an incredible singer and actor but her dancing is the weakest of the three (all of which are obviously of a high level but her dancing is not quite as good as the other two) which could be noticed through the big dance numbers such as this one and also during the opening number there was a short scene of dialogue which took place. Due to everything that was happening on the stage (lights, dancers, music etc.) I missed a lot of this dialogue which was clearly not what the directors would have wanted. The bold opening scene and awe-inspiring opening number contrasted each other perfectly and ‘set the scene’ for the rest of the production. This show alternates between these amazing, popular songs and tense dramatic scenes, which the opening sequences set up for the rest of the show beautifully.

Many of the supporting characters in this production were very relatable and believable which is important for productions like this. The young boy who plays Fetcher was an incredible dancer, which was shown in one of the dance rehearsals scenes towards the beginning of the musical. He was amazing and I would say upstaged some of the other dancers. They used the young boy to perform lifts and flips which obviously would have been easier due to the size of the actor. Although, during this scene the character crawled through a table which I believe did not quite fit the rest of the choreography, but this is a minor detail. This character would have primarily involved to provide an ‘awww’ factor as he is the young son of Rachel who gets caught up in the events of the stalker. This did build the sympathy toward Rachel and ‘hatred’ toward the stalker. The stalker (played by Phil Atkinson) was a key character although he is barely on the stage, even when he wasn’t on stage his presence could still be felt. When he was on stage when he is silent and is in almost darkness, which was an extremely effective way to build tension, and it is only in act two that he speaks. The whole presentation (including casting) of this character was perfect and this character-built fear from the audience. Although it was a bit strange that this character spent a lot the time without a top on.

One of the most enjoyable scenes in the whole show was a karaoke scene not because of dramatic staging, of phenomenal singing or whatever it was just a fun scene. It opened with three girls drunkenly singing ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ it was really funny and I felt like I have seen the same scene in real life. A group of girls singing a popular song like that in karaoke while ‘butchering’ the song, but the difference was in this show these actresses were doing it intentionally. This seemed to be a common theme in this production. Later in this scene, Frank Farmer, the bodyguard (played by Benoit Marechal) goes onto karaoke to take on Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ which I have personally been tempted to do but never have had the guts to due to the power of the song. However, Frank combated this by ‘talking’ the song, which had the whole audience rolling in laughter. Which was really nice to see the softer side of frank. This scene was ended by the iconic song ‘I Have Nothing’ which was beautifully sung by Alexander. Which was obviously sang to and about Frank as we found out they have an attraction between the two of them.

The final scene of this act was in a club. It revolved around Frank and Tony Scibeli, the security guard (played by Craig Berry) protecting Rachel from any potential threats in the club. In this scene the spotlight illuminates the stalker. This meant my eyes were following the stalker’s track around the stage, which only added to the tension and drama. IThis scene looked more like it took place in a nightclub due to the flashing lights and music rather than a normal club but apart from this the scene was well staged and executed.

The beginning of Act Two had a big dance number to the song ‘I’m Every Woman’, which is a song I know very well. The dancers in this scene were excellent and the acrobatics were a spectacle to watch. However, at certain points in the number there were movements that were supposed to be done at the same time and were actually out of time with one another. But I really enjoyed this opening, as its ‘over-the-top ness’ was a perfect way to regain the excitement after the intermission. There was a few people in the audience singing along with the music which I personally find great as it shows they are enjoying the song etc., but I know some people are against this, so this is worth noting.

In one scene the staging changed from a luxurious mansion to a log cabin. I really liked the concept of the staging as a log cabin suggest warmth and safety, which was exactly what it was supposed to do within the story. The contrasts between these two setting also helped shift the focus from Rachel and her fame/money etc. to family. This is added to be a heart-warming rendition of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ between Nicky Marron, Rachel and Fletcher. Fletcher however did struggle with this song as it is a complex rhythm and strange vocals but as he was a child this was somewhat ignored. The lights and effects were continued to be used to make the Stalker actually terrifying as he appears from nowhere at points and disappears quickly after.

Probably the biggest and best number in the entire production is the classic ‘I Will Always Love You.’ This song was kept right until the end to act as an emotional tribute to everything that happened throughout the narrative. As the earlier ‘rendition’ by Frank in karaoke, was comical this final number was show stopping. The staging, costume and lights worked perfectly to add to the emotional nature of the song and Alexander’s vocals were outstanding. She did change some of the vocal trills from the original, which were fantastic. During this song there was a montage projected onto the stage of the Rachel and Frank and their story so far. I found this to be somewhat distracting from the song and could have done without it, but the montage was not a cheesy and unnecessary  it was heartfelt and emotional. After all this happened the entire cast sung ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody.’ This involved solos from different members of the cast, including the Stalker (which was a nice inclusion in my opinion), dance sequences and ‘party’ lighting. This was when the audience were encouraged to sing and dance. The two songs (I Will Always Love You and I Wanna Dance with Somebody) obviously contrasted each other and helped cement the pairing of drama and fun.

This production was well thought out and planned. Everything from music, lighting, costumes to props used all worked perfectly together, which was really nice to watch. The production aspects of the show were fantastic and one of the best I have seen. Alexander Burke’s portrayal of the iconic role is on par with Whitney’s (which is high praise) and this a show not to miss.

Review Awakening by National Dance Company Wales, Taliesin Arts Centre by Judi Hughes

Taliesin Arts Centre has always felt welcoming to me. I particularly enjoyed collecting my tickets from the box office and having a smooch around the shop and gallery. Sadly the gallery is no longer there and a smart little box office has been established on the upper level. My ticket on this occasion, along with a very useful programme, is handed to me by a representative of the company and I am made very welcome.

Programmes are very important to me as I like to know a bit of background on the company and its creatives, and what I am about to encounter. The programme for Awakening is well written, with just enough information about everything I need to know. A summary of each piece and a brief description, with an extra word from the choreographer gives me just enough of an insight of what I am about to see without giving the game away. We are told that Awakening intends to ‘offer audiences diverse perspectives on the world’. The selection of 3 pieces shown tonight do that and more. It begins with Tundra, an entertaining and relatively accessible work, leads us into the very clever Afterimage and brings us finally to Reveller’s Mass, an unexpected and wild collage of religious iconography. A complimentary programme of work that does what an internationally acclaimed dance company should do – please, excite and challenge perceptions.

The audience is very mixed in age range, Taliesin Arts Centre and National Dance Company Wales have done well in their development of audiences for dance. I understand that Awakening has done well across its tour. Observing the marketing which includes stunning images and great trailers as well as the dedication to outreach work, I can see why it has been such a success. I expect that the company’s reputation and the quality of the work has meant that word of mouth, always the best form of advertising, has had a lot to do with it too.

The first performance of the evening, Tundra, is an excellent start to the evening. We are presented with a red square, with a dark and somewhat foreboding image of a tall dancer, making its first statement. We enter then a stage lit by 2 strip lights, the width of the stage, which whilst stark in appearance often alter in their brightness. The company of 7 dancers appear like Russian dolls, with patterned tops and long a-line skirts performing what I understand to be the traditional Beryozka dance, which just looks amazing; the dancers are so clever at this illusion of floating I wonder whether they are wearing Heelys to glide around the stage. The soundscape and subtle lighting design play their part here and throughout the piece; I feel as if I am looking into a time tunnel, a sort of digitally remastered version of these folk dancers, chained together and stuck in a time warp. Echoes of Russian folk music, throat singing and sounds of natural elements help to give a feel of otherworldliness captured in time.

Divested of their skirts, the dancers are now fully adorned in fabulously patterned body suits, reflecting the gaiety of folk costumes and with more contemporary colours, particularly the striking ice blue. With white socks they look at once like ice skaters and then like gymnasts; their precise, linked movements, performed in almost perfect unison, along with the lighting continue to make them appear Tron-like, as if they are trapped together in a computer memory. This is the thing I like best about contemporary dance, that it can be interpreted by the viewer in whatever way we want. Whilst the programme gives minimal instructions, there is plenty of room for my imagination to take me on that journey.

The choreography of Tundra is joyful, with so much to draw on, even including head bobbling, taking the reach of the Russian state into Asian territory. The soundscape continues throughout from thunderous crashes to the echoing sound of a child singing. The choreography relies on patterns and format; there are imperfections with a foot placed differently and a kick not quite in line, but I am tending towards intentional imperfection here, almost like a glitch in the system. The focus moves from marching upright to legs and feet, where once again the costumes come into play. I always marvel at dancers’ feet and these white sock clad movements continue the fascination. I am not surprised that this is such a popular piece.

Afterimage – the mirror that constantly reveals – is mesmerising in a totally different way. Initially I believe the set is 2 tables, 1 behind the other with 1 male sat at each. An illusion, as the whole work is an illusion set to confuse and play with our visual perception. A letter is delivered to the rear table using the method of Pepper’s Ghost, described in the programme as an effect originally used in carnival sideshows to conjure ‘ghosts’ in séances. The piece continues with reality and ghosts intertwined; 6 dancers, male and female, perform effortless movement and develop relationships that engage the viewer as their eyes adjust to see the dancer, the reflection and the ghost in a mirror that is so clear it feels like you could reach through it. It is strangely enticing to see the opposite view of the dancers as they move in and out of vision. The story of the piece is based around the letter, eventually opened and read, leaving the viewer with questions as to its content. Did she die? She looks like she died. Did she leave? It feels quite sad. Whatever the story, the effect of the female dancer walking away with one of the tables is a powerful ending to a piece that provides mysterious fascination to its end. Altogether a technically clever piece, although I fear that once viewed, the spectacle is gone.

Revellers’ Mass is everything it promises to be. As featured in the programme we are presented with a long thin table, its width almost covers the stage. This is the centre-piece, the table of the last supper, which eventually reveals that it holds the water and the wine as the dancers splash in it and perform on it. Candles placed along the ‘table’ are lit as church bells ring; an atmosphere of calm is created as people mill around. Strange looking broken mannequins with arms or bits missing, reminiscent of Da Vinci statues, complete the set. The costumes of black lace dresses worn by male and female in almost androgynous fashion look Italian or Spanish. A piano plays in the background, and then music – loud, dramatic, vocal, operatic enters the fray and the dance begins. It is a bizarre display, at times pious and at its most dramatic, irreligious. I don’t try to understand at this point, just to observe and enjoy, because the audience is silent and rapt in this feast of extraordinary choreography. It is as if we can see the Sodom and Gomorrah of the world behind the religious iconography. Dutiful gestures are mixed with what appear to be acts of disobedience; the choreography is untamed and appears to reflect different cultures and beliefs. The mannequins are brought into play, one carried around as if it symbolises a religious statue. A scene of wildness is created, with a central figure carrying a broken mannequin that pours gold onto the stage and is followed by an almost crawling figure that hankers after it as it spills from its guts. A false finish then, which on reflection feels intentional, as the movement stops, the lights lower and the audience begins its applause, which lasts for some time until we realise that there is more. The priest-like figure comes to the front of the stage and stands staring, whilst to the sounds of Piaf’s ‘Je ne Regret Rien’, the stage is cleared of its detritus by the rest of the cast. When we are sure that this is the end, the audience applauds loudly, showing their appreciation of this fantastic piece, which reflects the mess of the world in which we live.

A fabulous evening of dance, beautifully crafted, carefully performed and very well received.

Awakening is currently on tour and can be see at Aberystwyth Arts Centre 24th April, Sherman Theatre 1 and 2 May and Theatre Severn 7 May.

Review STORM.3 TOGETHER AND ALONE, National Theatre Wales by Harriet Hopkins

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Created by Mike Brookes

When booking to see a National Theatre Wales production, there is an expectation for something thought provoking, intense and different.

The STORM cycle is a series of multimedia works that aims to explore the themes of truth and testimony, it includes original texts, specially created sounds and novel physical-acts TOGETHER AND ALONE succeeded in including specially created sounds – the composition was eery and worked to punctuate the piece. It also drew on Simone de Beauvoir’s Pour une moral de l’ambiguite, a work that explores the varying ethical attitudes of people and how they relate to the idea of “freedom”.

TOGETHER AND ALONE presents, through 8 different people, a different view of freedom and what their freedom means to them.

It is an interesting concept showcased against a high-impact backdrop; the cast and audience all stranded together on a stage that could be the prow of a ship, or the floor of a warehouse, or a holding area for refugees. Strewn around are clear plastic bin bags rammed and bursting forth with clothes, as if people have packed to leave, or have donated to charity, or have left somewhere in a hurry. Two large screens display statements that seem like negative rewrites of inspirational quotes.

The spectacle of this, when entering and waiting for the action to start, boded well. But the reality, when things “got going” was that there would be no action. As tremendous as each actor may have been, it was impossible to enjoy their hard work – the words delivered were a series of self-reflective testimonies and as much character as the actors tried to put in it was stripped away by the overwhelming monotony of it all. Perhaps this was the point – we live in a world where we talk about, think about, tweet/insta/facebook/snapchat about ourselves; we are so preoccupied with ourselves and how we see ourselves within the world, and how we think and want others to see us, that we do nothing of real importance. (I understand this is a generalisation, just to make everyone clear…in case you think ill of me, because that’s not something I want…now should I put a winky face emoji here to make it clear I’m making a joke? Hmmm…)

Whether this was the point or not, it simply felt tedious. I was working so hard to take in the words, but the movement and interaction that was there (and, be assured, the actors did as much as they could), just wasn’t enough to fill the gaps of character and story; the total absence of energy meant that I missed all the substance, the nuances, the political leanings, because I was too busy worrying about how long it would take for my knee to start hurting from all the standing, and thinking about how it could be made more dynamic and engaging. Convincing myself that my lack of engagement must be a mental fog which, surely, must indicate the early onset of the menopause!

The monologues/statements the characters were making were extremely well written, but the voices (no matter what accent they were in) still sounded the same. Yet as standalone tracks they could have been truly engaging; in podcast form, for example, the audience could listen and explore at their own pace, if they had something to watch too, or something to do (fold clothes and bag them, perhaps). I appreciate this is easier said than done though and, as usual, NTW has staged something different and risky – unfortunately, the biggest risk for me is how alienating a piece of theatre like this can be.

National Theatre Wales presented STORM.3 TOGETHER AND ALONE at The Neon in Newport from 21st-23rd March so you can’t go and see it now but, to be honest, if you’re anything like me you’d have spent more time thinking about whether there’d be time for a glass of wine at Le Pub than being moved by the work, anyway.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yn cyhoeddi cast, Merched Caerdydd / Nos Sadwrn o Hyd

Theatr Clwyd, Yr Wyddgrug: 13–15 Mawrth

Pontio, Bangor: 19 + 20 Mawrth

Canolfan Garth Olwg, Pentre’r Eglwys: 22 Mawrth

Theatr Borough, Y Fenni: 25 Mawrth

Canolfan y Celfyddydau Pontardawe: 26 Mawrth

Theatr Mwldan, Aberteifi: 28 Mawrth

Canolfan y Celfyddydau Aberystwyth: 29 + 30 Mawrth

Canolfan S4C Yr Egin, Caerfyrddin: 1 + 2 Ebrill

Galeri, Caernarfon: 4 + 5 Ebrill

Ffwrnes, Llanelli: 8 + 9 Ebrill

Stiwdio Weston, Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru, Caerdydd: 10–13 Ebrill

Canllaw oedran: 14+. Yn cynnwys iaith gref.

Mynediad i’r di-Gymraeg drwy gyfrwng ap Sibrwd.

Manylion y cynhyrchiad

Dwy ddrama gyfoes wedi eu lleoli yn y brifddinas, gan ddau o’n hawduron mwyaf beiddgar.

Merched Caerdydd (gan Catrin Dafydd)

Caerdydd yw cartref Cariad, Liberty ac Awen. Er eu bod nhw’n troedio llwybrau gwahanol iawn i’w gilydd, mae ganddyn nhw fwy yn gyffredin na’u dinas. Dyma dair o ferched ifanc disglair ac, efallai, annisgwyl y Gymru gyfoes sy’n ceisio gwneud synnwyr o’u bywydau blêr. Merched sy’n ymrafael â’u gorffennol wrth geisio llywio’u dyfodol. Ond a fydd newid yn bosib? Neu a ydi eu ffawd eisoes wedi’i benderfynu?

Nos Sadwrn o Hyd (gan Roger Williams)

Wedi i Take That chwalu perthynas Lee a Matthew mewn clwb nos yn y brifddinas, mae Lee yn cymryd camau cynnar, melys ar lwybr carwriaeth newydd.  Am gyfnod byr mae bywyd yn fêl i gyd, ond ar ôl bob nos Sadwrn daw realiti oer bore Sul.  Ac fel mae Lee’n darganfod, does dim byd yn para am byth.

Roedd 2018 yn flwyddyn arbennig iawn i Catrin Dafydd, sydd yn nofelydd, bardd a chyflwynydd radio, ac yn un o awduron Pobol y Cwm (BBC Cymru). Enillodd y Goron yn Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Caerdydd, a hynny’n fuan ar ôl ennill Gwobr Ffuglen Gymraeg Llyfr y Flwyddyn 2018 am ei nofel arbrofol Gwales. Comisiynwyd Merched Caerdydd yn wreiddiol gan Bwyllgor Llên a Drama Eisteddfod Caerdydd, ac fe’i datblygwyd a’i chyflwyno gan Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru fel rhan o raglen Theatr Gen Creu yn y Steddfod.

Mae Nos Sadwrn o Hyd yn drosiad Cymraeg gan Roger Williams o’i ddrama boblogaidd Saturday Night Forever. Llwyddodd ei fersiwn Saesneg gwreiddiol i ddenu canmoliaeth gan gynulleidfaoedd ac adolygwyr fel ei gilydd. Comisiynwyd yr addasiad Cymraeg hwn gan yr Eisteddfod a Stonewall Cymru, ac fe’i cyflwynwyd am y tro cyntaf yn Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Caerdydd 2018 gan gwmni OOMFF, fel rhan o raglen Mas ar y Maes, sef prosiect newydd ar y cyd rhwng yr Eisteddfod, Stonewall Cymru a’r gymuned LGBTQ+. Mae Roger yn enw adnabyddus ym myd y ddrama yng Nghymru, yn arbennig felly am gyfresi teledu poblogaidd felCaerdydd aBang.  Enillodd Bang nifer o wobrau nodedig, yn cynnwys Medal Efydd Gŵyl Gwobrau Teledu a Ffilm Ryngwladol Efrog Newydd 2018 – Rhaglen Adloniant Orau (Drama Drosedd), ac enillodd wobr Drama Teledu BAFTA Cymru 2018. Mae gwaith Roger ar gyfer y llwyfan yn cynnwysTir Sir Gâr (Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, 2013).


Mared Swain (Merched Caerdydd)

Aled Pedrick (Nos Sadwrn o Hyd)

Cynllunydd Set a Gwisgoedd:

Heledd Rees

Cynllunydd Goleuo:

Elanor Higgins

Cynllunydd Sain a Chyfansoddwr:

Dyfan Jones

(Cynllun sain Nos Sadwrn o Hyd yn seiliedig ar gynllun gwreiddiol gan Heddwyn Davies)


Emmy Stonelake

Gwenllian Higginson

Hanna Jarman

Sion Ifan

Cynhyrchiad Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru mewn cydweithrediad ag Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru, Mas ar y Maes, Stonewall Cymru ac OOMFF, gyda chefnogaeth gan Theatr Clwyd.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yw’r cwmni theatr cenedlaethol iaith Gymraeg. Rydym yn creu profiadau theatr beiddgar, uchelgeisiol, cynhwysol a chofiadwy wrth galon ein cymunedau, mewn canolfannau theatr traddodiadol a lleoliadau annisgwyl ledled Cymru a thu hwnt.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru announces the cast for Merched Caerdydd / Nos Sadwrn o Hyd

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru is pleased to announce the full cast for the production Merched Caerdydd / Nos Sadwrn o Hyd which will tour Wales between 13 March and 13 April. Merched Caerdydd is a new work by Catrin Dafydd which was presented as a rehearsed reading of a work-in-progress to large audiences at the Cardiff National Eisteddfod in 2018, and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd is an adaptation by Roger Williams of his own popular play Saturday Night Forever. Two contemporary plays based in the capital city, by two of Wales’s most distinct voices.

The cast are Emmy Stonelake, Gwenllian Higginson and Hanna Jarman (Merched Caerdydd) and Sion Ifan (Nos Sadwrn o Hyd).

Joining Emmy Stonelake, who took part in the rehearsed readings of Merched Caerdydd (Theatr Gen Creu yn y Steddfod), will be Gwenllian Higginson and Hanna Jarman. Gwenllian Higginson returns to Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru following previous appearances in Macbeth (2017), Yr Hwyaden Fach Hyll/The Ugly Duckling (in co-production with Sherman Theatre, 2014/15) and Dyled Eileen (2014). Gwenllian also appeared recently in Exodus (Motherlode Theatre). Hanna Jarman joins the company for the first time. Her recent theatre credits include Hud y Crochan Uwd/The Magic Porridge Pot by Sherman Theatre and she’ll be appearing soon in Merched Parchus on S4C which she co-wrote with Mari Beard.

Sion Ifan returns to play Lee in Nos Sadwrn o Hyd, following his widely acclaimed performance when the adaptation was first staged at the 2018 Cardiff National Eisteddfod. Sion has appeared on S4C in programmes including Byw Celwydd, Y Streic a Fi, Tir and Teulu and has performed with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru in Pan Oedd y Byd yn Fach, Y Fenyw Ddaeth o’r Môr, and Tir Sir Gâr.

Mared Swain, Neontopia’s Artistic Director, directs Merched Caerdydd. Her recent directing credits include Tuck, A Good Clean Heart and Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff). Her television credits include Storyline ProducerforGwaith Cartref. Aled Pedrick directs Nos Sadwrn o Hyd. Aled is best known as an actor on the popular series 35 Awr and Parch and he recently appeared in Sherman Theatre’s acclaimed production, Woof.Aled has also directed for Theatr Clwyd and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (Pan Oedd y Byd yn Fach, 2016).

These two one-hour-long plays will be presented as a double bill with a 20-minute interval. The production opens in Theatr Clwyd before touring throughout Wales, and the tour comes to an end in Cardiff with a series of performances at the Weston Studio as part of the Wales Millennium Centre’s Performances for the Curious season.

Tour details:

Theatr Clwyd, Mold: 13–15 March

Pontio, Bangor: 19 + 20 March

Canolfan Garth Olwg, Church Village: 22 March

Borough Theatre, Abergavenny: 25 March

Pontardawe Arts Centre: 26 March

Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan: 28 March

Aberystwyth Arts Centre: 29 + 30 March

Canolfan S4C Yr Egin, Carmarthen: 1 + 2 April

Galeri, Caernarfon: 4 + 5 April

Ffwrnes, Llanelli: 8 + 9 April

Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff: 10–13 April

Age guidance: 14+. Includes strong language

This is a Welsh language production. The Sibrwd app provides English-language access.

Details of the production

Two contemporary plays based in the capital city, by two of Wales’s most distinct voices.

Merched Caerdydd (Cardiff Girls) by Catrin Dafydd

Cardiff is home to Cariad, Liberty and Awen. Whilst they each tread a very different path in life, they have more in common than their city alone. Here are three young, bright, and perhaps unexpected women from contemporary Wales, each trying to make sense of their messy lives. They are women trying to come to terms with their pasts whilst navigating their futures. But will change be possible? Or has their fate already been sealed?

Nos Sadwrn o Hyd (Saturday Night Forever)by Roger Williams

Following a messy break-up, sound-tracked by Take That in a city centre nightclub, Lee goes looking for love and finds it. For a short while life is sweet, but after every Saturday night dawns the harsh reality of Sunday morning and, as Lee discovers, nothing lasts forever.

2018 was a very special year for Catrin Dafydd, who is a novelist, poet, radio presenter and a script writer for Pobol y Cwm (BBC Cymru Wales). She won the Crown at the Cardiff National Eisteddfod, very soon after winning the Fiction category in the Welsh Book of the Year Awards 2018 for her experimental novel Gwales. Merched Caerdydd was originally commissioned by the Literature and Drama Committee of the Cardiff National Eisteddfod and was developed and presented for the first time by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru as a work-in-progress as part of the Theatr Gen Creu yn y Steddfod programme.

Nos Sadwrn o Hyd is a Welsh language adaptation by the playwright Roger Williams of his own popular play Saturday Night Forever. The original English version was well-received by audiences and reviewers alike. This adaptation was commissioned by the National Eisteddfod and Stonewall Cymru and was presented for the first time at this year’s Cardiff National Eisteddfod by OOMFF as part of the Mas ar y Maes programme – a new project arranged jointly between the Eisteddfod, Stonewall Cymru and the LGBTQ+ community. Roger Williams is an established writer in the world of Welsh drama, particularly for his popular television series such as Caerdydd andBang. Bang has won a number of notable awards, including the Bronze Medal at the New York International Television and Film Awards 2018 – Best Entertainment Programme (Crime Play). It also won the BAFTA Cymru/Wales Award 2018 for a Television Play. Roger’s work for the stage includes Tir Sir Gâr(Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, 2013).

A Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru production in association with the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Mas ar y Maes, Stonewall Cymru and OOMFF, supported by Theatr Clwyd.


Mared Swain (Merched Caerdydd)

Aled Pedrick (Nos Sadwrn o Hyd)

Set and Costume Designer:

Heledd Rees

Lighting Designer:

Elanor Higgins

Sound Designer and Composer:

Dyfan Jones

(Sound design of Nos Sadwrn o Hyd based on an original design by Heddwyn Davies)Cast:

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru is the Welsh-language national theatre of Wales. We create bold, ambitious, inclusive and memorable theatre experiences in the heart of our communities, at traditional theatre venues and unexpected locations across Wales and beyond.

Please note this is a paid for article