Beth Clark

A response to Casgliad 2018 – Nurturing Youth Arts in Wales By Beth Clark

I am going to explore with you the invaluable discoveries and perspective gained from participating in the YANC event held at the Wales Millennium Centre over last weekend.

Firstly, a massive thank you to YANC and Get the Chance for the opportunity to be part of this event. Ground breaking engagements are being made by YANC with a diverse scope of arts practitioners and young people of today pushing boundaries in delivering up to date masterclasses, whilst providing and facilitating the relaxed and required networking opportunities. I loved the fact that YANC seemed to be almost inclusively driven by what the Youth want out of these sorts of occasions, with lots of brain storming and idea throwing activities around.

As soon as, I walked in, I was greeted by Sarah  Jones, YANC network’s Chair and artistic director for Mess Up the Mess. Sarah kindly told me exactly what was going on and where. A welcome pack was provided in English and Welsh, this included the days schedule where you would choose what masterclasses you wanted to attend which was also sent by email prior, a feedback pull-out, a substantial list of delegates names, company and their email was provided (invaluable data!), when your wish to pursue contact with people that you have met. This handy touch further enables the networking continuing process, after the event, something that is sometimes missed at previous events similar to YANC’s.

The types of delegate in attendance

There were various freelancer’s in attendance, dramaturgs’ and performers’ from many companies and practitioners, many having toured throughout the UK, ladies from SPARC theatre and Valley Kids, Various personnel from Mess up the Mess Theatre, tutors from CAVC and RCT, Flossy and Bo, Opera Sonic, Rawfest, Ethnic minorities and youth support, Team Wales (EYST), Narbeth Youth Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre, 20 stories High, Circus practitioners, Theatre Na nOg, Jukebox collective, Young Identity, Common Wealth theatre, and Paper trail.

I especially enjoyed my chats with a young man called EZ Rah, a Cardiff based Mike Controller, who has recently won an award for his contribution in attendance at Jason Camilleri’s Radio Platform held at the Millennium Centre and that was launched last year. It was also good to see, such a myriad of people from all over Wales and even outside of Wales enjoying and interacting creatively.

Masterclasses

Young Identity

Young Identity is Led by outstanding facilitators, versatile poets and established spoken word performers. Shirley A May @thegirldreams is one of the founders of Young Identity, someone who I found talks deeply from the heart.

It was herself, her daughter, practitioner and spoken word artist Nicole May and Reece Williams, an artist development advocate and one of BBC1 Extras Words First Finalists, that delivered to the group.

The session starts with interactive word, action and mind play. “Hulla hulla Dance, Dance – Hoop, Dance. It was extremely interactive with competitions from the offset. After all that dancing about and whilst our adrenaline was pumping, they asked us to talk about our life stories. They used their own life experiences to encourage people talk about theirs. “Today I was feeling” and you were then asked to write for 5 minutes about this. Some were spoken aloud, then significant sentences were drawn out, through a thought provoking process they taught. “Cloudy with a chance of rain” and, “I often get nervous around people, but I love them”, were proudly spoken by others. Many other practical skills and ways of creating structured poems in the conventional and un-conventional ways were explored and I ended up coming away feeling I could literally carry on with the process they taught and explore the whole concept a lot more having been in attendance.

Shirley May talked about visiting Picasso’s house in Malaga and the journey that Picasso took to get to the end art product and breaking form. She said Art; whether, it’s in written form or whether its structured to everyone’s approval or not, it is about developing but not discarding the old forms and the characterized elements like rhyme, line length, and metrical pattern.

Young Identity encouraged participants to always read; whatever that may be. To push yourself to overcome barriers, stance and with practice how, power can come through your body. The no disclaimer policy whereby you are not allowed to say anything to support or condemn your own words before talking. This is great because it encourages equal levels when delivering this art form. Another thought concept noted, “Is it even a poem, if we cannot hear you speak it?” Reece Williams told us that we could click our fingers also known as snapping, instead of clapping our appraisals and that this is becoming more and more popular in today’s culture.

Young Identity is part of the Frankfurt International school, but sadly has had their funding cut recently from the government. For me an absolute shame, as the work they are doing as like YANC and Common Wealth Theatre needs to be done.

Common Wealth Theatre

Common Wealth make site-specific and award-winning theatre events that encompass electronic sound, new writing, visual design and verbatim. Their work is political and contemporary – based in the present day – the here and now. Described by Lyn Gardner from the Guardian, “a company that bursts open our consciousness”, a statement, I wholly agree with.

Facilitating this event was the absolute amazing Rhiannon White. Rhiannon is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Common Wealth and a Cardiff local. I received an outstanding energy from Rhiannon and the depth of her work is liberating. This part of the day is where I felt I was intensively challenged positively, enforcing collectiveness and the freedom of individual thought. Rhiannon did this well, by firstly asking us to speak to people and tell them random things about yourself, what we are most proud of etc. Before I knew it there was fully grown and smaller humans of all walks of life, dancing around imitating Body Builders, their Fathers after a few, and people in-love.!

It was hilarious, but a respected art form at the same time. Jumping back into the thought pool you were asked to write down three things to do with each thought induced subject. The subjective answers of individuals were then placed into a centred bundle, we talked about these, using different forms of expression, whether voice, movement or complete silence. The range of ways that you could respond in felt like art in present and was moving, emotional and sometimes philosophical.

Rhiannon talked about her projects, what she feels about theatre and how we can all be a part of it. WOW is a festival that celebrates the achievements of woman and girls, also looking at the obstacles woman face across the world. They are holding think in sessions and big public planning meetings starting Wednesday 2nd May at Butetown community centre and around Cardiff at various locations over the period of four days. I would highly recommend attending one of these sessions, which are open to everyone, woman, men, girls and boys.

Last but not least

The YANC Meeting

The very important YANC meeting took place, minutes were provided and accounts. Why did this happen at the networking event? I was thinking this at first then it come to me. If you are going to buy a membership and invest in this group, then surely you would want to know where the money is going? It was a brilliant way of demonstrating just how much work and support is provided. Also, how most of the work done is voluntary, reflecting just how much this group wants to help the youth sector.   There is to be a lot of role swapping and the inclusion of new people this year which is hoped to bring for new and exciting projects. YANC will be supporting RawFfest this year and planning more Casgliad events.

Overview

I need to be honest and give you how I saw attending this event from my very personal view. I had been looking forward to this event for weeks, but I suffer with acute anxiety. My anxiety stopped me from attending the first day as I hadn’t been to this sort of event for some time, I felt I was totally out of the loop, but with help from the fantastic Guy O’Donnell, I attended Sunday and I am elated from the experience. My barriers were instantly broken down, I was enjoying myself, learning, laughing, meeting new people and wondering why the heck I was scared to go in the first place. So, If you are reading this and you too, have anxiety, about these sorts of events, then get in touch with YANC because these meetings are so inclusive, down to earth and real in approach you will worry about nothing and instead be in one creative bubble to the next. They also offer support and membership through email and social media interaction and one to one meets if necessary as well as these fabulous events.

Beth Clark

Review The MotherF**ker With The Hat, A Tron Theatre Company & Sherman Theatre Co-Production by Beth Clark

(5 / 5)

Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis

By Stephen Adly Guirgis, Director Andy Arnold, Designer Kenny Miller, Lighting Designer Simon Hayes, Sound Designer Sam Jones, Casting Director Kay Magson CDG

Cast : Francois Pandolfo Jackie, Alexandria Riley Veronica, Kyle Lima Cousin Julio, Jermaine Dominique Ralph, Renee Williams Victoria

Based in Manhattan, America and with a strong Portuguese/Cuban dialect, you are soon captivated by the comical attributes of these fine actors and actresses, portraying logistical humour from the above parts of the world and engulfing the audience into blurts of laughter throughout. This play and the way it was presented managed to still possess all the gory attributes that accompany life for Jackie being an ex-con and a recovering user. Jackie is on a mentoring and sponsor programme and his life partner is still an active user. His life is turbulent to say the least!

A wonderful job was done in creating three separate places/scenes, almost like three stages of life on one set by Designer Kenny Miller. Jackie was on the bottom trying to work his way up, elated by the news of a new job, he returns home early to his partner Veronica to celebrate his news, all seems well until the mother f**ker and the hat emerges, and he feels that he has lost everything.

“Leaving hats around like Zorro leaves Z’s” Hysterical!

He is then staying with his sponsor/mentor Ralph and his wife Victoria. This is when the truth really comes out! What does Jackie do, live and learn or act out? He is complexed he wants to be good person, but he is far from perfect as we find in many propelling scenes of violence, the seeking of hope and faith, the dark reality, and the rejoice or kind of. I particularly liked the scenes in the top tear with his cousin Julio. Julio told a story of their youth that kind of brought Jackie back down to earth. His cousin is someone who speaks from the heart in such a funny way and who is truly there for Jackie. When the lights went down on Veronica, I felt a tear, it was gripping.

Renee was the only one of the cast that I had seen perform previously and was impressed with how diverse her acting is. Overall everyone one of the cast really went for it and it was full of intensity from the off and throughout. After the show another theatre goer said that they wanted to know more about the fate of Veronica and Jackie’s relationship, but I was content with the ending. What will be will be, they seemed to both be at least trying to be more mature about things at that point, so who knows.

Hands up to all involved. Brilliant, current and thoroughly satisfying.

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/the-mother-with-the-hat/

 

 

 

 

Review Zero For the Young Dudes! Sherman Youth Theatre by Beth Clark

Photos Nick Allsop Photography

A loud scene popping, time hoping, exuberant and absorbing piece of theatre. Is it a school? Nope, a camp, maybe? Where is it? When is it? Why are they there? Why just the children and why only until the age of 21? Can things get any worse? Where is the rest of humanity? How, how, how?

This play written by Alistair McDowall, directed by Anna Poole and performed by the Sherman Youth Theatre gets you thinking from the off and leaves you walking away thinking and conversing with others.
The story telling and understanding of their reality through advocacy, music and individual actor characteristics make the play flow perfectly and therefore held my attention right the way through. All the individual elements of this creation stood hand in hand. The parameter of time channeled through artistic design and production was together, impressive and it was only through clues in the play to current events you could gage time, but then that was still questionable.

The outstanding performances from the cast from the Sherman Youth Theatre really put this play on loudspeaker and handsfree. They were fantastic and worked together so well. Masses of determination and desire has clearly gone into the production and it has paid off! I must give mention to the set design by Finola Redshaw  as it was surprising as to how many actual sets were achieved in that time, clever!

I laughed quite a lot throughout evidently enjoying the humour on show. I could also strongly feel the passion projected too, as in one of the scenes, hands were raised, voice cords bellowed, just wow, they shook the place. Revolutionary, they certainly give it some strong-hold soul!

I still cannot believe how young and diverse these actors are and I hope them the best of success!  I love it when the unexpected happens! Reality checks and reflections are imposed. This production is fantastically achieved,  a super-sonic thumbs up from me!

Review : A Regular little Houdini by Beth Clark

(5 / 5)

 

An exciting and turbulent story of a boy who is born in Wales but comes from Irish decent. He is part of a large working class family who all live under one roof.

Set in the heart of Newport’s South Wales’ busting docks, the actor Daniel Llewelyn-Williams; impressively also the writer of the play gets your full attention from the out by representing a real, personal and historical account of how things were back then. An imaginative and determined boy who displays extreme courage whilst being subject to one of the many catastrophic occurrences which unfortunately happened during the British industrial revolution.

Harry Houdini; very famous of the times was a direct influence and inspiration to the boy promoting a hopeful and escaping duality for him. When some aspects of the boy’s life have been shattered another aspect or dream is materialised. Quirky and fun-loving, the boy’s relationship with Gammy as well as his dad, sisters and friend is something that brings a warming feel to the boy’s character and overall feel of the play.
Daniel played the one man show so intriguingly, it was like he was telling the story as his own and I wondered if this was in fact a real story from his family’s history. Who knows? Honestly, it was that good it certainly felt real and I would strongly advise anyone to go and see the play regardless of a specific style of play you might like, as I believe this play ticks all the boxes. There was absolutely no time whatsoever in that hour that I thought of anything other than the play, the characters or their feelings and perspectives. The actor was completely captivating and with reference to lots of welsh-ness, I found it relatable and moving but not only because I am Welsh as I believe anyone will feel this way. Even though the play does have heartache, the joy it brings overpowers that completely making it a pleasure to watch. The fact that you are drawn to other characters in the story with only one actor representing all characters is infatuating for the audience. It was directed, written, composed and performed to a such a high and entertaining standard that I would absolutely go and view it for a second time.

In my eyes when you can hold an audience with just one man and a box to that standard you are winning in life. Well done Daniel Llewelyn-Williams you smashed it!

A Regular little Houdini
Produced by Flying Bridge Theatre Ltd
Written and performed by Daniel Llewelyn-Williams
Directed by Joshua Richards
Music by Meg C

Review : The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon by Beth Clark

 

(4 / 5)
Conor Mitchell, associate artist at Sherman Theatre and fronting the Belfast Ensemble has enlightened us with his creation as writer, director and composer of the chilling play The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon.

The role of Catherine of Aragon is flawlessly performed by the award-winning actress Abigail McGibbon also part of the Belfast Ensemble creating the perfect duet between music, theatre and emotion. The play is a live concept album, each scene created resembles a live music track combined with performance; a powerful voice (without singing) and action! The way in which it was performed was beautiful.
What made this play so great? I felt as though I was inside the head of Catherine at times, a very tormented and religious woman grasping at straws when her reality as Queen is taken from her. The play takes us through her memories, through history, through war, the good times and the bad and of course the biggest divide in country, known to date.

When you walk into the theatre there is a strong smell and this sets the scene. The lighting, the costume and the make-up together with absolute discipline in role give Catherine a haggard, used and torn look about her with a modern twist, not something you would expect for our once Princess of Wales and Queen.
Mitchell’s absolute slay of music and scene setting was completely special and new for me. How often do you get to lie on the floor and watch an astounding actress bellow pain and abandonment whilst observing the composer, director and creator of such an art, almost dance with every touch of the piano, passionately stomping his direction to the violinists and leading us into deep historic heartache? Not often!

The music was intense, strong single cords and contemporary build ups. I especially enjoyed the scene where microphone techniques where used to full affect, almost like a horror movie. It was emotional and has had an effect my own story perspective. Have I made up my mind as to the real story of Catherine Aragon? No, not yet. Although, I do believe that the King was capable of anything and that she did seem very devoted, probably what sent her nuts in the end.
If you like history and appreciate magical contemporary music and art through theatre this is for you. It was absolutely… for me!

Review Owen Pallett, Portland House, Cardiff by Beth Clark

Owen-Pallett-Gig-Poster-Cardiff

I had heard through various people that Owen Pallett was renowned for putting on outstanding performances and from local knowledge to worldwide reports this was not near enough a statement worth reckoning with; as this being his performance in Portland House, Cardiff it was not only heart touching but body rocking, he proceeded to take “outstanding” to a whole other level!

Looking around the music hall and speaking with people in the audience I noted that this feeling of “another level of outstanding”was mutual felt with everyone there and the age groups of people in attendance were as wide-ranging as his music.

From start to finish the ambience at Portland House was electric not just because the genius Owen Pallett performed but from the supporting acts some of which being local to Cardiff to the venue , the feeling embarked was surreal. Soloist act Scriber who classes himself as a folk artist to King of Cats band and then to the grand hall with tall ceilings, pillars are stone engravings and that ancient medieval feel which carried the music perfectly creating a very special feeling of appreciation in myself. I really did feel honoured and lucky to be there.

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Portland House, venue interior

I arrived at the venue at about 8.30pm to catch the last fifteen minutes of Scriber who I am glad I didn’t miss. Scriber seemed to be singing from the heart and playing the guitar, cord plucking his way into the audiences hearts also. Everyone was quiet in the audience and showed great respect for this solo artist as his version of folk was very captivating.

scriber

 

Scriber

During the interval myself and a friend went to grab a dink at the bar where the staff were very friendly and inviting. I indulged in and enjoyed the range of beers from local to foreign influenced tastes and the pricing was deemed very modest considering the overall experience was anything but for your average night out!

King of Cats (the band before Owen Pallettt) is a band made up of males and one female but fronted by the very interesting Max Levi. Putting their hands to most instruments and styles this band really did give the ultimate performance. Max Levi’s voice is the squeakiest voice you may hear but that put together with a clean-cut life desire for music made the show even more interesting. Quoting “history, Plate, Pallett, I am a creature of habit” was just a small taster of some of the verses included in their new album “Microwave Oven”. This band could be deemed controversial as their topic approach is very alarming for some but for me it was perfect.

Another short interval commenced before the star of the show Owen Pallett was to bless us with his skill of enlightenment!

I never imagined Owen to grab the audience’s attention quite as he did but I wouldn’t change it for the world. His skill on the violin together with the looping of his own music to his keyboard skills then right down to social skills were berserk!! Owen was very involved with the audience and was chatting to them from the stage giving it a very personal and intimate feel. He showed a great sense of humour and I can definitely see why this gentleman is so loved all over the world. Owen appeared on stage by himself at times and was accompanied by an extremely talented drummer and guitarist at other points, throughout the one and half hour showing . Collectively noting their clothes, style and skills they seemed like very different people but together they seemed very connected, and almost as one! This on stage projection made me feel the show even better in my eyes. With Owen Pallett and the band putting an end to touring together this year and from what Owen said looks to be the foreseeable future I can honestly say that I am almost heart-broken as I would have booked to see them again absolutely and without hesitation.

I would like to give a big thank you to everyone at Portland House Cardiff to the artists and behind the scenes people for making this happen as I had a wonderful musical experience that I have never had before.

Review Iphigenia In Splott, Sherman Theatre by Beth Clark

effie_featured7

I give absolute credit to the author Gary Owen for connecting the two stories of current troubles with the historic tale of “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia” (17th century – greek mythology). The story depicts Agamemnon‘s sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia in order to save the army of Troy. Her name has been noted to mean “strong-born”, “born to strength”, or “she who causes the birth of strong offspring”.

‘Iphigenia in Splott’ was performed in the Sherman Studio theatre. It’s somewhat small and dark compared to the main theatre at the Sherman, but that made the performance more personal and intimate.The solo star of the show “Effie” appears on stage with absolute impact. The disoriented lights on the stage bellowed out and the audience is on edge. I for one was excited and was surprised as to how effective the monologue style of performance was!

Effie is angry, hyped, she’s shouting at us the audience, “You lot, sitting back, taking it easy, waiting for me”, I was shocked! “To – what? Impress you? Amaze you? Show you what I’ve got?” Then goes on to say, “well I’m afraid not!!” Effie seems like she doesn’t care what the audience thinks of her. “She knows what YOU think”, directing the statement to the audience, or as she’s telling the story; the people in the street who see her drunk in the morning, the people who cannot look her in the eye!!

I feel as if I am a person in the street as well as a person of the audience, it creates a three-dimensional presence. She continues to run herself down and  says “you think” of her using cringe worthy language that provokes shock throughout the theatre. She refers to “you lot” again, being the audience/slash people in the street, “every single one”, “you’re in my debt” “I’ve come to collect”. I was confused, in her debt?…The kind of threat like “your in my debt” is something you would not like to have said to you by some raging woman on the street, the character evokes feelings of fear and caution towards her with this don’t care, I’m in control attitude.

Sophie Melville (Effie) is a powerful actress with a strong stage presence and both Effie and Sophie both being powerful, have my full attention. After the first scene, I was asking myself questions and instantly wanted to know more. Why was Effie so troubled? And what has happened to her for her to display this hostile attitude?

Effie is unemployed and shares a flat in Splott, urban Cardiff, with her friend Leanne. She drinks and takes drugs and has a boyfriend that she does not speak very highly of called Kevin. She talks about her Nan. I notice that in the play at first instance and as from what I can remember she does not give any mention to her parents. Maybe a breakdown in her family structure as like so many others in her age group/area has got her in this position? Maybe? But I don’t think this is the only reason Effie finds herself in this position in life. I believe there has been a multitude of short comings for this young girl.

This strong-willed character talks about a woman on the street and there are scenes where she is shouting at the woman and talking about the roots in her hair. I thought this attitude was uncaring and selfish as she doesn’t know the woman’s struggle. It could be the mere fact that this woman couldn’t afford hair dye as she was on a low-income struggling to survive but Effie doesn’t care about these details, they are irrelevant to her at this time. You are given the impression of a wayward woman with a terrible attitude towards the community, but also a wayward woman who feels the community does not care for her, highlighted by Effie giving the audience the finger. My impression of Effie surprisingly is sure to change throughout and this probably happened to the majority of people who have had the pleasure of watching this play.

One of the statements Effie makes in the play is; “Disaster, It’s Monday morning, and I’ve got a brain functioning on full power. That’s not normal, it is not normal. And it’s definitely not safe”. I get the impression that Effie feels stronger drunk but it begs the question; why cannot she deal with her life sober like so many other troubled people of her age who are living subject to social depression? And why are the people on Clifton Street unable to look at her, as she says “Face on I’m too much for you to handle”. This play is shockingly raw, but the truth is Effie is correct, most of these people cannot face her.

Through Effie’s struggles she meets a man on a Cardiff night out called Lee, he was a soldier and she instantly falls in love with him. When she meets Lee you instantly see a change in her characteristics. The loud, brassy, carefree and what seemed selfish Effie becomes compassionate. As the play progresses we learn more of Effie’s life and the consequences or her relationship with Lee. We see in her actions ways in which the playwright Gary Owen links this contemporary tale of sacrifice with the Greek myth “Iphigenia”.

Effie is an intelligent young girl but she does not have the knowledge or education to convey herself articulately.  The consequences of this are a a tragic series of events occurs and we heartbreakingly see in front of us the struggles we all face in the economy and how spending cuts on the NHS and similar cuts can affect us more closely than we care to imagine.

A serious question that is at the heart of the play is  What happens to the people or young persons who get rejected from the system, who do not conform? Are they now lost in system and forgotten? Let’s hope not and let’s hope that there is a follow on play, highlighting positive moves in Effie’s life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this play and can confirm that it has further inspired me to not judge people as you never know a person’s story or the struggles they face. ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ is a saying that most definitely springs to mind when thinking of the moral of this story. I can genuinely say I would definitely encourage more writing of this type at the Sherman Theatre.