It was a dark Autumnal Valleys night where under feet the gravel crunched, it was almost like walking on cornflakes; curtains were drawn like closed eyes on terraced houses in the village. It was a cold night, with the mist draping the mountainside like a cosy quilt.
Ahead on the hillside, stood the whiteness of Carmel Chapel in the Rhondda Fach Village of Blaenllechau where Brian’s General Store, in partnership with the Blaenllechau Community Involvement Group and Blaenllechau Village Hall Project proudly announced a concert with guests the Tenovus Choir and Timeline.
Inside the Chapel there was a warm welcome with refreshments available as the choir began rehearsing their repertoire and people began arriving. The Chapel began as two wooden buildings built in 1858 – thus making it the oldest chapel in the Rhondda Fach Valley – its denomination was Presbyterian at birth, but since 2002 it has been an Independent Chapel which holds an Evening Service at 5.30 pm every Sunday, with Owen Griffiths as the Chapel’s Pastor.
The Tenovus Choir Pontypridd are one of the largest in
Wales, they are a mixed group of people who have suffered or know someone who
has or had cancer; their combination of singing and the message of enjoyment it
brought to all was well received. The Choir were arranged into rows of
musicality, they wore mostly black, and some with Tenovus T shirts but the main
colour was prominent. There were wigs, a boa stole, a cowboy hat, ties and
sleeves with jewellery that were the entire colour of pink. The message was for
Breast Cancer Awareness Week stating that men can get breast cancer too. Their
Choir Leader is Iori Haugen, he leads two Tenovus Choirs, and there are 16 in
Wales. The Charity itself will be 75 years old next year and the Let’s sing for
Cancer Project has been going for 10 years. Its aim is to raise funds for
similar units (to the Mammogram ones) which will bring Chemotherapy treatment
closer to the home of the patients. For further information please contact info@tenovuscancercare,org.uk.
Using backing tracks the Choir sang several songs which
highlighted their talent, “Mr Blue Sky”,
“We are Warriors” and “Sing a Song” particularly stood out.
The second group to entertain the audience was TimeLine, comprising of Gary, Nigel and Keith, a well-known trio of male singers from the area, formerly the Gooseberries with their formulae of songs which had the chapel rocking to the rafters. A trip down memory lane of “Waterloo Sunset”, “I’m a Believer” complete with the awesome “Hallelujah” which I am sure reached out well beyond the valley.
Special Guests were Deputy Mayor Councillor Susan Morgans (Ferndale Ward) and her Consort, Councillor Jack Harries (Maerdy Ward) both representatives of the local authority of Rhondda Cynon Taf. A presentation was given to a local couple by Cllr. Morgans consisting of a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a basket of goodies. Compere Brian Jones (in his pink shirt) of Brian’s General Store, Blaenllechau announced the results of the Raffle being held at the event comprising of wine, chocolates and homemade cakes.
In her speech Cllr. Morgans – who will be Mayor of RCT in
2020 with Cllr. Harries as her Consort, concluded that we are all one community
and that as one we should help one another. Cllr. Morgans has named Cancer
Research as one of her Charities for her tenure as Mayor.
The Valley was alive with song rocking the chapel to its rafters to be heard well beyond as the Tenovus Choir, TimeLine and the audience ended the night combining together with the Elvis song “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”
With thanks and appreciation to all IN THE PINK of health
Forget revision, intense study (I remember those days well) Forget the “clipped” British film version or the American theme portrayed on Venice Beach – (seemed strange with those costumes and a “Californian Dreaming” background, unless of course, you are an ardent fan of Leonardo DiCaprio). This was a thoughtful retelling of Shakespeare’s tragic play “Romeo and Juliet” directed by Matthew J. Bool and skilfully performed by Avant Cymru.
The Amphitheatre at Penrhys – built over 20 years ago as a Project by world wide students – became the 21st Century Globe Theatre as the area sparkled like a magnificent gem linking an intricate necklace from its vantage point on high above the two Rhondda Valleys
was a murmur of anticipation hanging in the air; we were all seated on the
amphitheatre stone steps, almost like elephants sitting on top of lollipop
sticks. Sunhats, sun cream, drinks and cushions were necessities. Bird song and
traffic could be heard in the far distance, then silence as we were all
transported to our very own Verona high in the mountains of the county of
Glamorganshire. Guitar music and song emanated from a trio of cast members as
the Chorus/Nurse introduced us to the famous story.
The story is as of old, boy meets girl, they fall instantly in love but they are from opposite sides in an age old vendetta between the two families. They find themselves as star crossed lovers, marry secretly, Juliet discovers that her parents have arranged a marriage. There are fights and Romeo’s friend Mercutio is killed by Tybalt (who through the couple’s marriage is now a kinsman of Romeo). Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona.
A desperate plan is needed; Friar Laurence provides Juliet with an herbal draught which will induce a “deathly” sleep. He has promised to notify Romeo of this scheme. Juliet will awake and be reunited with Romeo and all will be well. Alas the message goes undelivered. Romeo, fearing the worst buys a phial of poison which he imbibes on finding Juliet in the Capulet Family Vault. Juliet wakes to find her beloved dead, a last kiss and using Romeo’s dagger she kills herself. The families are reunited in their sorrow.
Freyja Duggan as Benvolio was like a happy sprite, full of mischief and mayhem. Matthew J. Bool as Mercutio was like a supercharged Jack in the box, in turn volatile, serious and sensitive to the varying moods Romeo was in. As friends of Romeo, they try to lift his spirits believing that he is not in love with his present amour, Rosaline, just besotted. On a whim Romeo decides to gate-crash the Capulet Family Masked Ball thus lighting the touch paper in this conflict. Douglas Guy plays the romantic Romeo who, on meeting Juliet, played by Gabrielle Williams, believing her to be pure, dreamlike with her beautiful hair flowing like a waterfall, he loses all senses; their combined emotions wobble like a blancmange in an earthquake. There is no denying the ignition of passion, they do not realise how the situation will implode – they only see each other.
Jamie Berry, who plays Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, is steadfast and strong in his role pursuing the family feud. Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt, as a result of which Tybalt mortally wounds Romeo’s friend, Mercutio. Romeo ends up killing Tybalt for which he is sentenced to banishment from Verona. Romeo seeks the counsel of his mentor, Friar Lawrence played by Eleri Bowden who is busy as a bee reporting everything via an IPad. A secret marriage ceremony is performed little realising that an arranged marriage has been organised by Juliet’s parents to Paris, a cousin of the Prince of Verona. Juliet is in worse despair as Friar Laurence comes up with the desperate plan to fake her death.
Nurse, played by Menna Sian Rogers is a delight; a Valleys Mam/a “Bopa”
(neighbour, not related but still an Aunt that would look out or after the
children) a knot of gossip, almost supplying a comedic wordplay to the tragedy
as it unfolds.
is set, Juliet is found presumed dead the following morning; taken to the
Capulet Vault to lie in state. The uncompromising Lord Capulet, played by Shane
Anderson and the fair Lady Capulet played by Rachel Pedley crumble in their
anguish. Romeo, learning of Juliet’s “demise” buys himself a phial of poison
for his life is nothing without her, he comes to the Vault closely followed by
Paris, played by Jack Wyn White, they cannot console each other, the stakes are
too high, there is a fight and Romeo kills Paris. In his grief, Romeo imbibes
the poison and lies down beside Juliet.
Juliet awakes to find her beloved dead; her final act is to kiss Romeo
and uses his dagger to kill herself.
It was a wordy and worthy adaption of the play. We have all grown up in the time of HRH Elizabeth II with social media fuelling the age of selfies and such emoji’s making their impact on lives.
This was what it would have been like in the reign of Elizabeth I, a play performed in the round, people eating conversing as the story enfolds. To think of it as a blank page, like a story book awaiting a tale to tell. It brought Shakespeare to life and we were all part of it. The staged fights were expertly choreographed by Jamie Berry – and when he was mortally wounded we wondered what happened to him as he disappeared into the “other valley”. We were concerned about the actors playing the main roles as they expired hoping that the sun wouldn’t cause more harm to their fatality!
part of it all, as a scene that has been repeated over the years with barriers
such as the Berlin Wall separating East from West, the Gaza Strip. Love stories
amidst the differences of creed, colour and religion.
Small sadnesses, great tragedies link us all in love. Never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo
A review by Ann Davies from RCT Creative Writers Group on the topic of topic of Taste
What’s on the Menu?
What music do you like? Tastes can vary; they can be mood
shakers; a melody can bring a seemingly lost memory to mind. Emotions can be
laid bare. This was the night of Yeah Yeah.
Were we ready for this high octane enhancing performance?
I guess it all depended on your taste and the performing artists certainly lived
up to a life of their own. What was on the Menu? as the theatre group “Yeah,
Yeah” showcased their act in the lounge of the Park and Dare Theatre in
“Are you ready, Treorchy?”The Haka cry came amidst the burst
of strobe lighting and the throb of music every sound resounding off the
glistening disco ball overhead. Two people strode out, one male one female;
they each had a story to tell. They looked like trapeze artists one with an
enlarged Rod Stewart wig that looked as though it was plugged into an electric
socket. With a fitted costume, accentuating her nubile body, his female partner
embraced the music. Acrobatically and gymnastically the music and story was
revealed as the opposing tastes for musical theatre and rock music battled it
Adult humour laced with music and dance. Changes of
costumes – some more titillating than others were the ingredients for the
night. Their interpretation of known
songs from the musicals and rock classics were exemplary. It awakened deep
seated memories that you would never see or hear a song that you loved in the
same way ever again. It was an experience of tasting selections of melodies
like a club sandwich combining the savoury with the sweet.
During the interval, the duo presented their own adverts
over the lounge speakers.
There was Swan Lake on points overwhelmed with feathers
(now you know where the feathers have gone from your bed linen). The lady’s limbs
were used as an air guitar; the drum set lost its setting the motorbike that
raced to the music of Meatloaf. OMG was the revelation a Smorgasbord special. A
spicy concoction of a recipe, boiled but scrambled, culminating in a Crockpot
of creative juices that would have put Nigella to shame.
Morgan Thomas and Tori Johns were engaging in their tale.
It was colourful; it was crazy, different and an entire work out for your
laughter muscles. Many of the audience would still be laughing at their first
encounter with the company called “Yeah, Yeah”
A tasty dish to savour long after the evening was over.
Music echoed around the valley, the time had come. Radio Rhondda had come to the Rhondda Fach with its supporters and volunteers. The hills surrounding the area, nestled between the villages of Tylorstown and Ferndale were alive with the sounds of people enjoying themselves as the music reached out on the airwaves. Community radio had come to the communities of the Rhondda Fach.
A beautiful sunny day, the pleasant and atmospheric venue of the Scoops & Smiles Diner/Parlour in Oakland Terrace which had been the premises of the former Lockyer and Pacey Garage and forecourt. How many cars had been bought or stopped to refuel there over the years? Present day traffic hooted as they drove past; water fountains were available to all (as were toilet facilities) plus a cool area inside the Diner or at the rear of the building.
Colourful balloons adorned the area provided by ‘Just for you’ of Ferndale, there were stalls offering information on Cancer Research and Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water as they continue their essential work throughout the area renewing water pipes. Representatives from the Police were also present. The central part of the programme was the Official launch of Radio Rhondda in the Rhondda Fach, which was performed by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Susan Morgans (Ferndale Ward) and Councillor Jack Harries (Maerdy Ward). The diner offered all the delights and descriptive flavours of ice cream in cones and tubs – marshmallows on crepes – plus their usual food fare. Children dug deep into sweet bottles that were offered to them, finding themselves lucky to receive various extra goodies. Face painting with the logo of the station was available. Free key rings and notices promoted the event. A Raffle was held with prizes donated by local businesses.
Commentators promoted the Radio station, introducing their main
programme holders and interviewing local people. There was a miscellany of
music provided by their own presenters, including Lorraine Jones and a chat
about gardening from Terry Walton. Musical compositions were provided by the
group Fiddlers Elbow (where were you, Gerhard Kress?) The Arts Factory Ferndale
duo of Ben and Louise provided a melody of songs which received phone calls
from people who knew them having tuned into the station. Thanks and appreciation
to Louise for mentioning our group RCT Creative Writers.
It was a warm day, which offered entertainment and
conversations with people who soon became friends. Sun cream and Sunhats were
the essential requirements on this day.
Thank you to Radio Rhondda and all who supported and
volunteered for this event. Please come again.
Perhaps like WAM (Mike Church) and Voices from the Bridge
(Rob Cullen) you should go “On Tour” People
in the Rhondda Fach are friendly and creative persons although we often feel forgotten!
It was a dull dismal December day as people enter the Lounge of the Park and Dare Theatre in Treorchy, they are met with the anticipation of Christmas as members of Avant Cymru begin to assemble ready for their presentation of Episode 4 of Rhondda’s very own soap opera “Rhondda Road”. Band members, dressed in Christmas jumpers, practise their chords. The time is ripe as like an apple, the drama begins to peel.
“The Fourth Wall Café” is open; Liam who lives in the flat above the café is helping to arrange the tables. Megan, co-owner of the café, walks in bringing with her an overnight bag; she queries where her partner Alex is. Liam can only answer coyly that Alex is planning something
“Something that you won’t believe”, he notices the bag and asks Megan if she is going somewhere. Megan explains that she is going to stay with a friend for a few days, she gasps as she discovers betting slips behind the café bar believing them to belong to Alex with his own secrets.
“Oh yeah, they’re mine!”
“Nice try, Liam” Megan acknowledges his comment as Abbie the niece of Ieuan enters the café.
Megan enquires whether Ieuan is coming to the evening’s party
“He says he’s not coming” Abbie answers as Liam interjects that Alex has stated that he is bringing Ieuan.
Izzy sees her Mother’s overnight bag and shouts “You can’t go!” Izzy is annoyed
“I’ll have nothing to do, come on Abbie” Izzy leads Abbie to another part of the building.
“Are you leaving?” Charlotte, Megan’s half-sister asks “Can I go with you?”
Megan can only answer that as Charlotte does not get on with the friend she is going to stay with, that Charlotte should stay with their Mother.
“Stay with Mam, there’s nothing wrong with her partner, Marla – except for turning Mam gay”, Megan changes the subject “Where did you get to last night?” Charlotte explains that she saw Ioan at her mother’s home; Ioan had asked her about Sion (who, we had learnt in a previous episode, is the father of both Megan and Ioan).
“I’m not frightened of Sion or whatever he calls himself” Jess, their Mother, states as she enters the café, noticing that Megan is packing, and with a concerned tone asks
“You can’t run away from things … Is it Alex?” Jess is worried for her daughter; Megan can only reply that they are fine, they just need to talk. Jess wishes to talk with Charlotte as she believes she has an eating problem that she is skin and bones
“Have you ever seen her eating here?” Jess cries as Megan answers negatively.
“Years ago Marla had an eating disorder and nearly died. It’s really serious; you’re her big sister, talk to her” Jess challenges her younger daughter to tell them the truth.
“Where is he?” Sion’s accusing tone breaks the conversation.
“Where is MY son?, Ioan hasn’t been home or at school” he continues as Charlotte repeats that Ioan is not there, Sion is adamant, as with vehement intent, he moves towards his daughter.
“JOHN, you take your hands off MY daughter, keep away ….”
“You’re making a scene!” Sion admonishes her
“You come near my family again, and I will kill you!” Jess warns as Sion states that he hasn’t laid a hand on Megan.
“I’m not scared of you, Sion or whatever you call yourself now. Do you know why Ioan came to me? He was scared of you, scared that you were going to hit him ……”
“That’s NOT what happened …. “ Sion pleads his innocence
“A leopard never changes his spots Johnny, he knows everything about you; our marriage, what you did. I didn’t tell him a single word; I just gave him my diaries to read ….”
“I burnt them!”
“The diaries were not the only notes I kept. Staying inside, hiding my face – everything was in them – EVERYTHING” Jess emphasises “ and your son has now read every single word, so Ioan knows about how I once loved you, how your own daughter loved you …”
“I’m not that person now”
“You hit her, you hurt her. Do you remember our Anniversary, John? You know how it ended.
We ended up in hospital; battered the pair of us. Listen to me now, you hurt or hit any of my family or even your ownson, I WILL kill you” the couple exchange a conversation in loud startling tones.
“That was another time, I have changed I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for 20 years. You’ve got it all wrong”
“That’s it, blame the drink. You’re a control freak!”
Sion continues to argue his case, “I’ve come back, I’ve bought this place. I have offered it to Megan. I wanted to make a better life for Izzy and you. Tell her Megan” Sion implores
“I will NEVER take it from him” Megan admonishes him.
“Hey” Alex enters only stopping to adjust his Father Christmas costume that would look better on a Sumo wrestler. “You’re not going to have to give us anything. I am going to buy it off you” Alex motions to Sion. “Today I’ve been to my first Meeting with Gamblers Anonymous” Alex announces to everyone; only the sarcastic prolonged clapping from Sion is heard.
“Well done Alex, that’s the first step, but you’re penniless ….”
Alex explains that something else has happened, an unexpected windfall, he wants to make a future for them all as he holds both Megan and Izzy close to him. The money is not enough to buy the building but it is sufficient to secure a mortgage, they can get married.
“We don’t want your gift, all we want to do is secure our future – as long as you are happy” Alex offers an olive branch to Sion who remains silent; realising that the battle is lost, Sion shakes hands with Alex.
“WHERE IS HE?” Ieuan storms into the café with intent, he wears a similar costume to Alex, there are hints of muffled laughter from the café occupants as the two men, now much larger than in real life face each other, their puffed out costumes making them look as though they should be nesting rather than about to wrestle.
“Calm yourself” is all Alex can offer as Ieuan shouts “I HATE YOU, You trekkie”
“I am honestly so sorry ….” Alex begins as in a ruffle of spitting words Ieuan tries to explain that years ago a relative of Alex got shares in the merchandise of a film making company, models were given to Alex but he never played with … the film was “Star Wars” and the merchandise is rare
Alex presents Ieuan with a gift, and attempts to embrace his friend but their ample costumes are barring them from doing so.
“Storm trooper? I’ve got them!” is all Ieuan can find to say, as they exchange a friendship pact known only by them, in a fashion that looks like two peacocks mating.
Part time Waitress and Carer Seren enters the café with her Mother, Cerys
“I want to thank you for helping me get that job” Ieuan states to Cerys who looks a little perplexed “You were Titania.”
Charlotte faces Seren, they have been good friends in the past she now realises that things have to change “You like Ioan don’t you? Right, I’m going to give you a chance, he’s a nice boy. Ask him to the party”
Ioan and Seren meet and awkwardly exchange comments; Seren takes a deep breath and asks him to join her in the seasonal celebrations. Coyly, Ioan answers and Seren seals a kiss on his cheek as they shyly move on.
Liam with his arms around Eleri enters the café, closely followed by Eleri’s daughter Hannah.
“When did THAT happen?” Ieuan is incredulous as he asks Alex “I thought I was in with a chance”
Liam hands a gift to Ieuan as he apologises for all that has happened between them
“I just want to thank you; you helped me when I had nowhere else to go” their friendship is restored.
The two Father Christmases face the audience and both announce
“It’s Christmas, we’re going to have a party. Let’s party” and we are all invited to the celebrations
As the group Hey Deity led by Sam Rees, who plays Liam, begins with their debut “Galaxies” followed by the assembled artists following a Congo like pathway through the café to the Christmas sounds of “Rockin’Robin”
The party is interrupted by the appearance of Dan from whom – in a previous episode, Alex had taken money loans to pay for his then, secret gambling addiction.
“We’re having a private party …” Alex attempts to explain as the man in the (almost) Christmas wrapping style suit looks around at the assembled people, his eyes are stunned by what he sees
“MEGAN!” he exclaims
Megan, captured like a moth in his intense glare, can only react on impulse, grasping her daughter tightly.
This is how Episode 4 of Rhondda’s very own soap opera “Rhondda Road” ended.
Appreciation was given to all the organisations that have supported Avant Cymru during their production of “Rhondda Road” in 2017 at the Park and Dare Theatre, Treorchy. Acknowledgement was given to the people who had suggested ideas from which themes had been taken for each episode. It was daring, direct and different, remaining true to present day issues wherever you may live. It was a reawakening, a genesis of performance that everyone could relate to. Real life is raw.
Secrets and emotions were laid bare, and we were there to witness such unravelling of souls.
Radio Treorchy and Radio Wales were present to record the dialogue and music of this episode; interview the Director of “Rhondda Road” Shane Anderson and Rachel Pedley, Artistic Director of Avant Cymru plus members of the audience who had enjoyed the accomplished performance.
We look forward to following the path of “Rhondda Road” in 2018.
People enter the Lounge of the Park and Dare Theatre in Treorchy; they remain expectant as actors arrive. Young people comment on how much they have relished contributing to the soap opera, in recent weeks. A tutor has brought her pupils to see how such a project works, a grandmother and granddaughter enjoy each other’s company as well as that of the theatre company’s cast. Members of a jazz club were worried that an accident might result in a broken arm to combine with the broken leg of a past episode (which they thought was part of the script!)
An intergenerational audience settle themselves at the café tables as we are all invited to watch Episode three of Rhondda’s very own live soap opera.
“Welcome to Rhondda Road” Shane Anderson, the producer proudly announces
“The Fourth Wall Café” is open, as part time waitress Seren catches up with café owner Alex protesting that she has not been paid for the last fortnight, she has her own concerns, she cannot continue working, she has the promise of another job. Alex strains to find an answer as Seren storms out of the café unrequited.
A man in a dark suit struts into the café, he look intently at all the café’s fixtures and fittings; Alex appears nervous, as the man queries if Alex is Ok.
“It’s just one of those days, Dan” Alex answers “How can I help you?”
There is an air of irritability as the man demands that Alex pays the money owed to him by the next day. He repeats the amount he is owed at the percentage of interest it has gained. Dan absently picks up a bunch of drinking straws from the bar, and deliberately drops them individually onto the café floor as he repeats the amount, the interest and the time they will meet.
“Got the message?” he states as he leaves.
“Interesting character” Sion announces having witnessed the conversation, “Friend of yours?”
Alex replies that they have done business before.
Sion opens and reads from his iPad, he confronts Alex.
“Alex I have access to your accounts, stock and everything else. Why is your expenditure more than your income?” Alex tries to explain about new ideas, new brands but Sion is firm in his knowledge.
“There is a large amount of withdrawals. Are you in trouble Alex? What have you been doing, drugs?” Alex shakes his head.
“It’s not funny when money goes missing from a business. How much debt are you in?”
Alex is in denial as Sion, realising the situation, offers Alex the chance of clearing his debt; he will transfer the money owned into the café account.
“We can help each other out, I’ll scratch your back, if ……I think Megan will listen to someone who loves her”, as he outlines his plan. His son Ioan has gone off the rails and Sion needs Megan to talk to Ioan.
“I don’t want her to say anything about the past, the Past IS the Past” he warns. “Talk to Megan and your debt will be paid off”.
“What’s the catch?”
“Simple, there is no catch, talk to Megan, get her on side, I’ll give you the money to pay your debt. Make me the promise, no more gambling”
Alex remains at odds with the plan but can think of no other way out of his dilemma “OK yes” as Sion sets the transfer in motion via his iPad “Job done” he states as Alex shakes hands reluctantly with Sion.
Liam strolls into the café as Alex storms for him to use the side entrance to access the flat. Sion asks Liam how his job search is going, Liam can only answer negatively. Sion hits on an idea that Alex needs help with the café, and Liam is looking for work. Alex is astounded “I KNOW where you’re going, this is not happening. We had a deal!” he protests.
“Just hear me out” the estranged father of Megan continues, not wishing to be denied “You’re short staffed and Liam is looking for a job”
“You can’t expect me to pay his wages..” Alex shouts
“I’ll pay his wages” Sion answers.
Alex can find no answers as he fires questions like bullets at Liam. Alex offers Liam a temporary job, although the situation only feels like more salt is being rubbed into the open wound that is a nightmare of his own making.
Megan enters the café with Cerys; the mother of Seren, looking for Seren, Alex can only offer the excuse that Seren is out shopping.
“I’ll have a gin and tonic” Cerys repeats several times, as Megan demands from Alex what he and Sion were talking about, as Alex explains that all Sion wants is for Megan to start speaking to Ioan. Cerys moves erratically around the café “There’s a stage here, I used to be an actress” she informs Megan as she is negotiated back to her café table repeatedly requesting a gin and tonic.
Sion explains to Megan that he just wants to talk; he has a bottle of wine in his hand
“It’s not what you’re thinking, it is still sealed. THIS is what I WAS” he emphasises holding the bottle aloft, and then addressing himself states, “THIS is what I am NOW”
Sion reminisces about seeing Ioan on his first day at school and how he was dressed, how he has grown into a young man.
“I remember my first day at school with second hand clothes… “Megan begins
“Times were different then”, Sion changes his tactics “Do you remember Barry Island?, paddling, building sand castles, finding seashells …”
“Looking for mermaids ….” Megan remembers other things too “THEN you needed a drink … Don’t touch it!” she storms at Sion, as she retrieves the bottle and places it in the dustbin.
Charlotte, Megan’s sister brings a sombre looking Ioan into the cafe, as Megan asks him what he wants to know
“What happened?” is Ioan’s response.
“He drank, drink made him bad, he was bad to me. Speak to Sion” is all Megan can offer.
“MY Dad was my hero”
“MY Dad was not a hero”
Seren enters the café, she attempts to comfort Ioan as he leaves, but he shuns her. Megan is worried about Cerys “I saw your Mam in the street, I thought I’d bring her here” as Seren explains that she wants to see Alex about her unpaid wages. Megan can only agree to help her sort out the problem.
“Can you give me a hand?” a call comes from Ieuan, who appears in the café with donkey ears upon his head
“What do you look like?” Megan covers her laughter
“A donkey! I need you to go over my lines with me. ALEX! “his cry reaches the skylight and resounds “I need your help”
“What the hell do you look like?”
“I’ve got an audition later today” Ieuan explains as Seren tries to gain Alex’s attention, he in turn asks her for two minutes.
Ieuan, as Bottom from Shakespeare’s”A Midsummer’s Night Dream” continues his speech.
“Bless thee Bottom what angel wakes me from my spell?” comes the voice of Cerys as she serenades a shocked Ieuan as they continue to exchange the Bard’s words
“I love thee methinks you should have little reason for thee thou are wise as thee Cobweb and Mustard seed” Cerys recognising her daughter Seren, “I was Titania. I was an actress” then confusingly she continues “ I don’t know where I am. I want to go home. Home now” she demands of Seren. As they leave Alex assures Seren that her wages have been paid into her account, as she reminds him that other people have problems too
“What is he doing behind the bar?” Ieuan storms as he sees Liam
Alex tries to explain that it was not his decision that it is Sion who owns the building
“Sion is paying him?”
“You’re taking Sion’s money? You haven’t told her …!” Ieuan confronts Alex
“This is a very different situation”
“What haven’t you told me?” Megan questions Alex
“Everything is getting sorted” Alex digs himself further into the hole of his own making.
Abbie arrives in time to defuse the situation
“Don’t ask!” Ieuan warns his niece as she is about to ask about his donkey ears, as Abbie informs Ieuan that she has talked with her parents and there are no more problems with their marriage, as they both leave the café.
“Why are you taking Sion’s money? What is Ieuan saying? ALEX, LOOK AT ME, tell me the TRUTH! We said we would have no secrets ….” Megan states
“There are complications, he’s just trying to help” Alex flounders as Megan storms out,
Alex hits his head against the bar grill as Liam enters from the cellar and picks up various items from the tables.
“GET OUT!!! Just get out” Alex storms as Liam is bustled out. Alex cries out, as in his waterfall of life becomes a torrent of anguish and despair. The truth comes out like oil on water.
To conclude to quote the Bard
“No legacy is so rich as honesty”
Let’s hope it all ends well
Be sure to find out at the next live episode of “Rhondda Road”
On Tuesday, 5 December at 4 pm in the Lounge Park and Dare Theatre Treorchy
As individuals, we are all unique there can be so many secrets deeply hidden; we can never walk in another’s shoes to realise just what they are going through.
Drink Wise, Age well as the Christmas Season approaches.
Let’s celebrate enjoy, be wise, drink aware, and take care.
Corona pop man (photo: Alan George, oldmerthyrtydfil.com)
The ‘Welsh Hills Works’ or Thomas and Evans of Porth, were the Universal Providers of most essential grocery items, with its Corona Pops, Stone Ginger Beer, Lemonade and other beverages being known as “absolutely unequalled for purity and flavour” from the late 19th century into the middle/late 20th century. This vast business empire was affectionately known throughout the Rhondda Valleys simply as “T & E’s”or Terry Stores.
In this the 21st century the Welsh Hills Works can be defined as a diverse and creative multimedia organisation with community ideologies, providing a stepping stone for the creative industry and a social enterprise network. It promotes artwork through its workshops, provides workspace that can be used by local artists as well as professional photographers/artists in its Art in the Attic. In recent years it has held various televised popular music programmes plus the original S4C production of the Jonathan Davies Sports Programme entitled “Jonathan’.
All Art is Subjective, Right? was the question asked by a group of creative artists whose Exhibition “An Interpretation of Art” was presented from Monday, 30 October to Friday, November 17, in The Robert Maskrey Gallery at The Factory. The Gallery itself is situated on the top floor of the Factory, it is accessed by four flights of stairs – a stair lift is available – and as with all Art Exhibitions held at this venue, it is entitled Art in the Attic. The Gallery is open Mondays to Fridays from 10 am to 4 pm.
On Friday, 3 November an invite to view was given to all. It was a great exhibition combining all local art in contemporary forms. All artwork are PriceOnAsking (POA). Artists exhibiting were:
Barbara Castle, Jeff Rowlands, Gervaise James, Jane Fox, Rhys Burton, Eric Thomas, Dawn Hoban, David Hoban, Joanna Israel, David Roberts and Oneill Meredith.
From the glistening glassware, the ceramic houses, the in depth landscapes that you could almost walk into, combined with contemporary displays. The use of clay moulded into exquisite sculptures that made you think, the vast array of photographic views that took your breath away, comparable to the face that appeared almost to be alive, like an ancient Pharaoh or Poseidon emerging from the Ocean. It was an eye catching event that held everyone captive. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this Exhibition showed the magnificence of creativity within the locality.
The Gallery itself was crowded with many relatives, friends plus people who knew their ‘Andy Warhol’s’ from their child’s ‘artistic’ blobs. The atmosphere was alive with the colours of the rainbow as the bronze bust of Dylan Thomas (£3000) created by Oneill Meredith, greeted everyone on entry. It was seemingly apt that the bust was placed close to the table offering wines, fruit juice or water. Next to an array of food lay a book where you were invited to make known your comments about the Exhibition; you nibbled as you deliberated. The number of people attending up to the time of the private view had been upwards of 90 which showed the strength of interest and knowledge of a reflective audience in the work of the local artists.
My one query on the night was
How did they manage to get all the pieces up the four flights of stairs, safely and securely, to the Gallery.
The swift answer came from husband and wife artists Dawn and David Hoban “Very carefully”
Dawn’s work shown was an accomplished collection of oils on the Fragility of Life and a series of Still Life in Brighter Colours, with her three Ceramic Collections entitled Progress with a Question Mark?. The assembly of which reinforced the Artist’s views of the history of the Rhondda Valleys and its people.
The Entertainment was provided by three musicians Gerhard, Phil and Rob, who, as they were all wearing hats, finally named themselves “MenInHats”.
The Gallery glittered, the audience as one provided compliments as families expressed the pride in their family members. The music played on well into the night.
William Evans (1864 – 1934) came to the Valleys a raw country lad from Pembrokeshire; he was a stranger to the heavy industrial changes that were affecting the area’s ancient industry of farming. It may be the tallest of the remaining existing buildings of Porth, (bearing on its turret side the title of Welsh Hills, the first brand name of the mineral waters produced by Williams Evans), as The Factory as it is now known is the heartbeat of the town. It throbs with life, as in a new era it rises with the development of the Rhondda Valleys.
Why not pop into the POP Factory Porth and see for yourself?
On Friday 8 November 1867, the whole district of Ferndale and Blaenllechau was shaken by two consecutive explosions at Ferndale No.1.
Rescuers were hampered by roof falls, and with the air so foul, with some trepidation the furnace which powered the ventilation was relit. It took a month to recover the remains of the 178 men and boys, with most bodies showing signs of severe burning, and many so badly disfigured it made identification impossible.
Teenage boys as young as 12 perished and at the subsequent enquiry, the lamp keeper stated that safety locks had been tampered with, and incidents regularly occurred that breached the company’s rules. Although reported to the mine manager, these breaches were ignored. This was later disputed by fellow miner’s from the Aberdare valley.
On Wednesday 8th November at 5.00pm, to commemorate the event the community will congregate for a short service at the Ferndale Miner’s Memorial in Greenwood Park (which was erected in 1988), with the community following in the footseps of many miner’s to Penuel Chapel, in Duffryn Street, Ferndale.
At 6.00pm at Penuel Chapel, the young men and boys will be remembered through an evening of reflection and reminiscing by children from Darran Park Primary School and songs from Cor Meibion Morlais and music from Tylorstown Silver Band. There will also be poetry readings, film and the launch of a community exhibition outlining the development of the coal mines, the disasters and what followed as a result.
Organisers Ferndale Grassroots are grateful for all the support received to date but are still seeking relatives of those who lost their lives or who have any memorabilia, photographs etc. relating to Ferndale Colliery, which could form part of the week long exhibition.
‘We are keen to ensure that those who lost their lives are remembered by all generations in the community and we have been working with both young and old to bring this significant event in the life of Ferndale to the fore. Thanks to a grant from RCT Together, we believe it will be an event fitting for the occasion.’
This is a ticketed event (due to capacity) and tickets can be booked via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook: Ferndale Grassroots or contact Catherine on 07792 423493.
“Rhondda Road” Treorchy’s very own LIVE soap opera continued with Avant Cymru Theatre actors and its Director Shane Anderson, when its second live episode was presented on Tuesday, 10 October in the lounge of the Park and Dare Theatre. An accident had certainly occurred since the inaugural episode, as one character proceeded to act out the whole performance on crutches. Such injuries happen in real life, and the wisdom of saying ‘break a leg’ should be given with a health warning!
The scene is set as you enter the confines of “The Fourth Wall Café”
A door slams as owner Megan rushes in with her daughter Isabelle close behind her.
“I’ve had enough!” Megan exclaims.
“LISTEN TO ME!” Isabelle cries out blatantly.
Seren, the part time waitress is busily attending to the tables, she asks a young girl sitting alone whether she would like a drink. Liam remains at one table, both Seren and Megan look on curiously wondering just what Liam is doing there.
Ioan and Charlotte sit on another side of the café contemplating a school project. Ioan only has eyes for Seren, as he implores Charlotte to give him information about Seren.
“Well, I MUST assume she fancies me…”
“She doesn’t fancy YOU!” Charlotte is adamant, as Ioan continues his line of enquiry until Charlotte replies conspiratorially “What I was told was confidential” Ioan is intrigued. Charlotte informs him that Seren is always late for school or work due to her ailing Mother, who has a ‘condition’; “Dementia” she concludes, “but I hope that won’t make any difference.” Ioan goes to the Bar to ask Seren for an order of drinks; he nervously exchanges opinions on the Project they are both undertaking, and then asks Seren how her Mother is. This leaves Seren in turmoil as she provides a drink for the young girl and then delivers their order to Charlotte.
“You told him!” Seren accuses Charlotte.
“Can I have a straw?” Charlotte asks.
Seren can only offer a Welsh language retort
“I heard that!” Charlotte scowls
“Your Welsh is improving then” Seren answers as Alex enters the Café walking with the aid of crutches
“Don’t ask!” he states.
Megan can only berate Alex for not being at the Meeting with Isabelle which has resulted in the case being taken to court. Alex explains that he was at the Drs, and apologises to a distraught Megan, attempting to change the subject he offers a consolation; he has visited a jewellery shop.
“What? The one with the gold rose ring and the special diamond cluster? You shouldn’t have told me, it’s supposed to be a surprise!” Megan admonishes and embraces him at the same time.
“I’ve got THEM!” Ieuan arrives flourishing two tickets excitedly in front of Alex
“You’re not going I remember the last time!” Megan defuses the situation as the two men protest their innocence.
“What happens in Panto stays in Panto” a light sparks in his eyes.”I KNOW we could have a tribute band Night here”
“Not another one, I remember your Shirley Bassey…
“The dress didn’t fit properly” Ieuan remonstrates, as he and Alex hum the Star Wars theme tune using the crutches as air guitars.
“What’s he doing here?” Ieuan recognises Liam.
“He’s meeting me!” Sion explains as he strides proudly into the café.
His estranged daughter Megan asks him to go.
“I’m here for Liam”
“DAD?” the startled cry comes from the lips of astonished Ioan; Sion can only look at him, “Ioan?”
“DAD?” Megan’s emotions threaten to overwhelm her, as she realises that her father is also Ioan’s father.
“Always keeping secrets” Megan states as Sion asks for the keys to the upstairs flat.
“You manage the café, I own the building” he proclaims with a gleam in his eye that is enough to unsettle any respectable lady in the neighbourhood. Alex hesitates knowing that Isabelle is upstairs; he issues the command ‘You’ll follow me”.
Ieuan warns Megan about Liam, “Promise me you won’t trust him” as Megan follows Sion upstairs.
Abbie questions her Uncle whether her Mother stayed overnight, Ieuan tries to explain that sometimes when you are married, things get difficult, that her Mam and Dad are going through a bad patch; he tries to reassure her that there will always be a place for her to stay with him. Ieuan hits out at the café furniture in frustration, then seeing Liam, singing with some satisfaction, on his way out of the cafe he storms “I’ve lost my family, my friends all because of you. I’ve lost all of my money to keep you. Would you do the same for me? WOULD YOU?” Ieuan cries out in anguish to a disappearing Liam.
Alex returns and building up his courage he asks Ieuan for a favour “Can you lend me some money?”
“Don’t ask me that now, I haven’t got any … “ Alex explains that he is under terrible pressure, that the present situation is doing his head in. Ieuan outlines his position: he has no job; he has to look for employment elsewhere, perhaps go to London. Alex states truthfully that he owes a lot of money, as Ieuan realises that his friend is gambling again and owes £5000. “I thought this was MY time” Alex explains.
“TELL Megan or I WILL” Ieuan states as he notices Anna sitting in the corner and discovers that she has been left there by her Mam. Anna hands over a note to Ieuan who, on reading it, rushes out of the café after handing the note to Alex. Meeting with Isabelle Alex explains that Megan has told him everything; he also queries Isabelle about Anna’s family life. “Her Mam is just like my Mam” Isabelle answers as Megan and Sion exchange explosive words as they come downstairs to the café.
“NO!” Megan storms
“Think about it, stop running away from me” Sion responds. “No strings attached”
“There’s always strings attached with you!” Sion leaves as Alex questions Megan
“He wants to give me the café as a Christmas present …”
“It’s all we’ve ever wanted ….”Alex states as he shows the note to Megan; a shocked Ieuan returns “Where’s Eleri?” Megan demands, Ieuan motions that Eleri is outside.
“Are you OK? You’ve done really well bringing her back, that’s really good” Alex reassures Ieuan, as a distressed and tormented Eleri shrivels up into the welcoming arms of Megan.
“It’s too hard, I can’t take it anymore. What have I done?” is all Eleri can manage to say as she is reunited with her daughter, as Ieuan leads her and Anna out of the café.
“Let’s go home” Megan gathers Alex and Isabelle close to her “We’ve got to get things sorted first.
No more secrets”
That is how Episode 2 of Rhondda’s very own soap opera “Rhondda Road” ended.
As in life, there are things that we do not tell each other; secrets that run too deep. Exceptional that in the week of World Mental Health awareness this topic was incorporated into the storyline.
Life, participant or spectator, involvement is the difference.
Episode 3 Tuesday, 14 November at 4 pm Park and Dare Theatre, Treorchy
So what do you think about soap opera in the Rhondda? Would it be full of soap adverts with an aria from a male voice choir entwined? Would it be in black and white or colour? This was no soap opera, this was diverse, this was real, raw and blisteringly true to present day issues!
“Rhondda Road” – was Treorchy’s very own LIVE soap opera safely in the hands of the Avant Cymru Theatre actors and its Director Shane Anderson, when its first live inaugural episode was presented on Tuesday, 12 September in the lounge of the Park and Dare Theatre.
As you entered “The Fourth Wall Café” you were invited to take your place at a café table, the owner hovered around clearing each table. Balloons decorated areas and a greetings banner was in the process of being aligned to the wall. We realised that a Birthday was being celebrated and realised that we were all invited. This was different.
The people began to talk – this was not eavesdropping, we were not busy bodies, we were there and their lives and emotions were being unravelled before our very eyes. It was interestingly engrossing to actually know what was going on, without being classed as ‘nosey parkers’.
Alex and Megan, partners in real life, run the café with their friend Ieuan. This day was the 13th birthday of Isabelle, Megan’s daughter. Alex, who has been attempting to build a relationship with Isabelle, has organised a surprise party for her, drafting in Ieuan, Seren, a part time waitress and young carer, and Charlotte, Megan’s half-sister to help with the preparations. Charlotte has already informed Megan that Isabelle is not coming, that there is something wrong, but won’t divulge any reasons. Abi, Isabelle’s best friend and Ieuan’s niece, has been given the duty of getting Isabelle to the café on time. Seren arrives late, having attended to her ailing Mother, she quickly attends tables placing cakes, serviettes and streamers on each one.
Alex’s emotions swing, as he exclaims that his offer for the café has been accepted. “It’s all we’ve ever wanted” he exclaims as he and Megan lovingly embrace; in his dreams they will marry and he will adopt Isabelle as his own daughter. Charlotte walks out in a huff as she witnesses their attentiveness.
Life is a rich tapestry and as such, other strands gel into the mixture. Ieuan is a struggling actor and is often seen using the café premises to prepare for auditions and devising ideas to attract people to the café. You suddenly hear a booming voice from behind you, and you literally jump out of your skin. ‘I am your Father’ is directed at the occupants of the café, as we watch Ieuan appear in all his ‘Star Wars’ attire, plus a bucket on his head. His announcement is almost prophetic.
Abi rushes into the café, Isabelle is not with her, and there are concerns that all is not as it should be as we await the arrival of the Birthday girl. Abi confides in her Uncle that Isabelle won’t talk to her anymore, whilst Ieuan quietly tells her to be there for Isabelle whatever is wrong.
Isabelle enters, as the streamers are popped, and Happy Birthday Greetings resound, but this girl is not in a celebration mood; she is distressed and unhappy and can take nothing in. In a quiet corner, Megan manages to prize the problem out of her, Isabelle is being bullied. The couple have to decide what course of action they will take next.
Ieuan has his own concerns as he prepares to cut the birthday cake. Liam, his homeless friend from Uni. arrives. Liam has stayed with Ieuan for what was only going to be a few weeks but has ended up staying for months. Ieuan instructs Abi to go home, he has run out of patience, there is a clash of opinions; enough is enough as Ieuan asks Liam to find other accommodation.
An older man walks into the café, looks around, senses the nervy atmosphere and sees the desolate Liam berating his own life, and offers him some consolation as they walk out together.
Seren, in the meantime, has her own problems; time is precious to her, her part time job and her caring responsibilities. Sometimes it proves too much, especially when she sees other girls her age not having the daily worries that she has to tend to. Life is further complicated by the attentions of love sick Ioan, who follows her around pausing for every word she speaks, whereas it is Charlotte who wishes to be by Ioan’s side.
The older man returns to the café, but this time his demeanour is not so serene and helpful. It is soon apparent that he is Megan’s Father, Sion. Megan, so strong and resilient, visibly shrinks under his stoic glare; remembering the damage he had inflicted on her during a traumatic childhood. Tempers flare and Megan attempts to guard her daughter from his grasp. Sion states that he has changed, he wants to be part of a family again, to get to know his granddaughter, but Megan stalwartly insists that this will never happen and leaves Alex and Sion alone.
Sion’s mannerisms change, there is no emotion, he is malevolent; his intentions are as clear as his final threatening words
“I’ll be back, I’ve bought this café”
That is how episode one ended. “Rhondda Road” showed life as it is wherever you happen to live, its concept and format is different and entertaining. You feel the emotions of the people performing, and in the final minutes, we saw such a difference in the character of Sion Andrews with his hurtful threats, that you almost wanted to cry ‘Boo! Hiss!” at the villain, connecting in every way.
It’s not black and white, it’s not colour, its Life and it’s RAW. It brings a format and a way of storytelling (or soap opera in this case) alive.