Living Pictures have proved that all you need to make great theatre is an intriguing story, a team with great attention to detail and one actor with awe-inspiring charisma.
13 June, 7.45pm
Taliesin Arts Centre
01792 602 060
18 June, 7.30pm
01286 685 250
05-06 July, 8.15pm
Tobacco Factory, Bristol
0117 902 0344
10 July, 7.30pm
Y Ffwrnes, Llanelli
0845 226 3510
03-25 August, 4pm
Venue 13, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
07075 161 620
Salt, Root and Roe
Theatr Clwyd Cymru
Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2
8th May 2013
The run down house of elderly twin sisters Anest and Iola seems to rise up out of the sea and if the stories are to be believed they themselves were found in a lobster pot by their father who was half merman!
This feeling of Welsh fairytale runs deep through Tim Price’s beautifully written play and it gives the sense that the twins are somewhat ethereal and otherworldly. Indeed we soon find out that they do not have long left in this world, having decided to take their own lives to release themselves from the torture of Iola’s ever-worsening dementia.
Early moments did (for me) feel somewhat melodramatic but soon a beautifully directed rhythm of highs and lows really captured the sense of Iola’s good days and bad days. Sara Harris-Davies sensitively and convincingly played Iola, skilfully navigating both the tender and the violent aspects of the septuagenarian’s illness. Combined with the tender love pouring out of Betsan Llwyd’s Anest the pair were genuinely heartbreaking and certainly had the audience in tears on more than one occasion.
One of the only things keeping the pair alive is their tie to Anest’s daughter Menna (Catrin Aaron) who rushes to their Pembrokeshire home as soon as she receives a letter from Iola telling her niece that she plans to kill herself. Tragic Menna already has a lot to deal with; she seems to suffer with crippling obsessive compulsive disorder centred on a fear of germs. Her desperation to rekindle her Welsh origins and reignite the older women’s passion for life whilst dealing with her own demons was moving and made an initially cold woman human and relatable.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom; whenever caring local policeman and family friend Gareth (Brendan Charleson) entered he seemed to bring a ball of positive energy with him despite having his own problems at home. His chemistry with Menna was wonderful to watch as the two slowly grew more comfortable in each other’s company.
In what is already a charmingly slow-burning play unnecessarily slow furniture changes sucked any pace from proceedings. Although this suited the gentle nature of the dialogue it was frustrating when the stage was left empty with only off-stage murmurings to keep you engaged.
Having said that, the words and the acting were so expertly crafted that the production did not once lose the audience’s attention. It was refreshing to see a contemporary play that dealt head-on with one of the most controversial topics of healthcare today. Not only did it provide a heartbreakingly honest portrayal of old age but it also had an obvious and well reasoned pro-euthanasia stance without being pushy or overtly political. Here were two old women who could be any Welsh Mamgu trying their best to come to terms with human frailty.
Photo Catherine Ashmore.
Bumbags, Curtain-cuts and Ecstasy!
Mercury Theatre Wales
Chapter Arts Theatre
2nd May 2013
Bum-bags, curtain-cuts and ecstasy, add in a hypnotic rave track and you have the perfect ingredients for a night out in 1993!
Mercury Theatre completely transformed the theatre in Chapter, removing the seating and replacing it with a bar, DJ booth, a seated “chill-out zone” and dance platforms. The black walls, laser projections, film clips of clubbers and heavy soundtrack really made it feel as though we had been let into a top night spot.
The bouncer on the door frisked some of the men, while the rest of us had a smiley face stamped on our hands and were given neon glosticks to get us in the mood to party. It was surprising how easy it was to be caught up by the music (not at all to my taste!) and soon most people were at least bobbing their heads in time to the beats, some were really going for it and could have fit in nicely with the cast.
Up on the platform beautiful and innocent Angel (Sian Davies) lets the music control her body as she writhes seductively unaware of the attention she is attracting. She has certainly caught Gary’s (Rhy Downing) eye – he looks on longingly, after trying to convince his mate Sean (Jason Marc-Williams) to take some “painkillers” to help his headache. Sean is there to see his girlfriend Donna (Holly Fry) , they live the typical Welsh valley’s life – get a job and settle down young, but is this enough for DJ wannabe Donna?
The inspiration for Donna’s goal comes in the form of DJ Johnny (Lee Mengo) who started out with a passion for music but somewhere along the way he got distracted by the women and the drugs. Linking all these characters together is Angel’s mother’s boyfriend – Steve (Jason May) a businessman proudly showing off the latest in technology – his huge mobile phone. He is also a casual drug dealer who just can’t stop using himself.
There was just enough narrative cleverly woven into the quieter moments of music but unfortunately quite a lot was lost due to microphone volume (possibly intentional, but seemed like an error). Cleverly choreographed movement scenes were slick and impressive, really expressing the feelings of euphoria that this kind of club culture is associated with.
Having seen this as a work in progress as part of the Wales Millennium Centre’s Incubator scheme I was pleased to see how much the work has come on. New video art by Holly Genevieve and music by renowned DJ Jimpy really enhanced the authentic club feel. On the other hand the dialogue and characters were still somewhat clichéd and certain plot points – a sudden (drug related?) collapse – were never fully explained or explored. Having said that more dialogue would have weighed down the fast pace and disturbed the immersive nature of the production.
The cast were excellent, not to mention unbelievably fit, to keep up that level of energy and give believable performances is no easy task. Special mention must go to Lee Mengo as DJ Johnny who bought an easy going, natural charm to his performance and Jason May as slightly past it Steve. As the oldest member of the cast Jason gave the most heartbreaking and convincing performance as a man trapped by his own addictions and fears, he was completely believable as a real hardcore clubber who doesn’t know when it’s time to just go home.
This really is a company to keep your eye on, here they have created a truly original and innovative piece of work that is sure to leave the audience with a smile on their face and a sudden desire to don their best shell suit and hit an underground rave.
The tour continues:
8th May – Aberystwyth Arts Centre
15-18th May – Volcano @229 High Street, Swansea
23rd May – The Riverfront, Newport
25th May – Theatr Soar, Merthyr Tydfil
For more on Mercury Theatre Wales –
For more reviews : www.HyperCriticReviews.blogspot.com
NoFit State Circus
Wales Millennium Centre
3rd May 2013
To describe exactly what happened would be to somehow diminish it – words could never give you the same feeling of excitement, wonder and fear as the daring feats performed by the cast of Bianco right above your head!
In their daring promenade performance NoFit State invited the audience up onto the WMC main stage where the performance took place around, in and above the crowd. Huge pieces of mobile scaffolding were manoeuvred to constantly redesign the performance space and unveil the next spectacle.
True to their style there was no concrete narrative through the piece, just reoccurring themes particularly that of shedding what is unnecessary in order to achieve more. One particularly striking scene presented immaculately dressed blonde bombshell Ariele Ebacher traversing the tightwire in high heels. Gradually she shed her tailored dress, shoes and even the blonde wig to reveal an even more agile, strong and athletic brunette – her at her best.
As if there wasn’t already enough to entertain you a fantastic live band played throughout. Their range of styles was incredible; from moody and tense to upbeat and stereotypically circus-y. Sometimes they provided an abstract narrative to the aerial action that was particularly striking when combined with the powerful grace of August Dakteris.
Some moments were truly touching, a duet performed on a suspended frame seemed to say all there is about love. The finale in which beautifully tattooed Sage Cushman joyfully performed dance-trapeze whilst a blizzard fell around her was again stunning.
These incredible moments of finely crafted theatre were sadly diminished in places by the constant movement of the huge set and more could have been done between the set changes to keep the pace as high as it was in the breakneck ensemble pieces. Also on the rare occasions that the performers poke it was impossible to hear them.
The lack of storytelling allowed the company to focus on creating a series of otherworldly and breathtaking images. This experiment into promenade circus theatre although flawed in places was certainly exciting and engaging.
Love and Money
Almost hidden in the corner a small fish tank filled with its very own barcode striped set mirrored the stage. As the small goldfish swam aimlessly around it was impossible not to draw comparison between this small creature and the characters that are all trapped by their own compulsions, passions or self-imposed restrictions.
Although Love and Money is a very wordy play, mostly consisting of monologues and dialogues, there was never a lull in the tension. Spiralling backwards in time Jess’s parents (played by the perfectly cast Rebecca Harries and Keiron Self ) share their horror at the huge monuments being built on the grave next to their daughter’s. Their love for their child is obvious but they can’t help but ask “why didn’t we help her?” Finally settling on the answer “She’ll never learn if we always bail her out.”
Like the goldfish the play doesn’t really go anywhere due to the big shock of the narrative happening at the very beginning. Yet the energetic and completely engrossed cast carried the performance on waves of dark humour and heartbreaking honesty.
Don’t miss out on this challenging and inventive production.
Tour dates and more info: www.wakingexploits.co.uk
The Bloody Ballad
At Volcano, Swansea
15th April 2013
Murder, incest, kidnapping and arson don’t sound like the perfect ingredients for a feel-good rockabilly music show yet Gagglebabble’s The Bloody Ballad is guaranteed to leave you with a huge smile on your face (and possibly a nauseous feeling in your stomach).
Meet Mary Maid (Lucy Rivers) and her band The Missin’ Fingers. Mary’s had a tough week and would like nothing more than to share her tale with you before the authorities catch up with her.
After a few warm up tunes – including a brilliant rendition of Johnny Cash classic ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ by guitarist Dan Messore and an astonishing drum solo from Tom Cottle – Mary tells all about ‘What my Daddy Done (in A minor)’ pun most definitely intended. Knowing her back story it doesn’t come as a surprise when Mary falls for the first man to show her real romantic attention – a mysterious, shifty yet charming wanderer Connor (Oliver Woods) who works his magic on the whole audience with his velvety vocals.
After a week-long whirlwind romance Connor betrays naive Mary and the consequences for him are not pretty at all. Mary may be young but she can sure look after herself – leaving a trail of blood and bodies behind her. Including the body of Connor’s psychotic, snakeskin wearing Mama played (with more energy than can be safe) by Hannah McPake.
Lucy Rivers is perfect as our ill-fated heroine, with a tortured look in her eye and a mean singing voice, a bit like True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse but a lot more kick-ass! By the end the stage is littered with severed fingers, a snake’s head and a whole lot of blood!
Drawing on clichés of 1950s Mid-West America – the isolated gas station, the mysterious wanderer, hillbilly culture – the cast get every bit of humour out of the brilliant script (also written by the hugely talented Rivers). The amount of musical skill on the stage is phenomenal, every member of the cast could play, sometimes multiple, instruments and all had brilliant bluesy vocals.
It’s so refreshing to see such a raw and passionate production that, although professional, doesn’t take itself too seriously. The performers’ love for the show was so infectious and it was an absolute crime that more people weren’t there to share the unforgettable experience!
Not only will the toe-tappingly good tunes replay over and over in your head but the great flair for simple storytelling will ensure the tragic tale of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks will haunt you for a long time.
A truly original and daring production that smashes through so many genres –part folktale, part Tarantino violence and part rock and roll gig – 100% unmissable!
This is THE best touring music show you will see.
Seriously get yourself a ticket for the tour then go see it again in Edinburgh!
For more on the company : www.gagglebabble.co.uk
Gwyn Hall, Neath
Date & Time: 17th April, 7.30pm
Box Office: 0300 3656677 / www.nptartsandents.co.uk
Tickets: £9, £7 members, £5 students
St Donat’s Arts Centre, Vale of Glamorgan
Date & Time: 19th April, 8pm
Box Office: 01446 799100 / www.stdonats.com
Tickets: £12.50, £10.50 conc
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
Date & Time: 24th April, 7pm
Box Office: 01267 67 6669 / www.ticketsource.co.uk/tsd
Tickets: £6, £4
Torch Theatre, Milford Haven
Date & Time: 25th-26th April, 7.45pm
Box Office: 01646 695 267 / www.torchtheatre.co.uk
Tickets: £12/£10 conc/under 26s £7
Soho Theatre, London
Date & Time: 29th April-4th May, 7.30pm
Box Office: 020 7478 0100 / www.sohotheatre.com
Tickets: £10 Mon + Tues, £15 (£12.50 concs) Weds – Sat
Preview – To Live, To Love, To Be
Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2
Once a month, every month, a sinister band comes together to summon the spirits of years gone by. Last month they entered dangerous territory by summoning the spirit of Adolf Hitler. This month they have gone for an ‘easier’ option – William Shakespeare. But will their investigations into the Bard’s background be as safe as they think?
To Live, To Love, To Be is a newly commissioned play by award-winning dramatist D.J. Britton, who also penned Sherman Cymru’s take on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. The unusual script aims to explore why Shakespeare wrote what he did and what influences inspired his imagination. Around the 6 metre revolving table debate is sparked between Shakespeare’s Welsh grandmother, his father – Mayor of Stratford, travelling players, Ariel from The Tempest and other characters from his plays.
Company 5 consists of 13 members between the ages of 18 and 61, some with no previous theatre experience at all! In a chat with Director Phil MacKenzie he stressed the importance of the company’s open door policy, “there are no auditions, all that’s needed is commitment.” The result is an incredible mixture of people from all kinds of backgrounds; one is a professional actor, others are drama students, some just have a passion for theatre. For those new to treading the boards, what a way to make their theatrical debut!
Phil says that even in the week before the show he is not completely sure what the finished production will be. “If you think of the process as a hill – we are nearly at the top of it now. By next week we will be at the top of the hill and the momentum will just carry us through.”
Despite being unsure what to expect as the audience comes in Phil’s passion for the project is characteristically infectious. Staging such as experimental and unusual production with a group such as Company 5 could be a huge risk if the actors were not completely on board with the idea, but whilst watching them rehearse it was clear that every person on that stage is committed to putting on a high quality performance that will begin to bridge the gap between amateur and professional theatre.
In Sherman Cymru’s Theatre 2 it seems that every company finds a new way to use the adaptable space. Company 5 have decided to take the idea of performing in the round to the next level. The huge revolving séance table takes up most of the stage meaning that the audience are placed above the action on the balcony looking down on what Phil calls “the mysterious world of the afterlife.”
The set is incredible and it’s hard to believe that this isn’t a professional production with a large budget. The attention to detail is astonishing and extends to the lighting, costume and even the smell in the room.
One of the most impressive parts of the production is, without a doubt, the music, which has been specially created by Welsh composer John Rea. He has constructed atmospheric soundscapes to accompany the action that Phil grandly calls “sonic provocations”. They certainly live up to their name adding a dark tension to the room. As if this wasn’t already a hard enough job John had the extra challenge of creating the sound only from music that has been composed in response to Shakespeare’s work. The final result is perfect for the mysterious and somewhat sinister production.
Although this was a rehearsal in which details were constantly changing with actors having to redo sections over and over there were still some eye-catching performances. There is a clear ensemble approach and it is obvious that the company have done a lot of work on movement and text meaning that they are free to experiment and produce something new and exciting.
This is sure to be yet another daring and innovative production from Sherman Cymru’s Company 5. By the time the audiences are coming in this is sure to be a polished and exciting production. If you are a Shakespeare buff, a new writing fan or are just looking for something a bit different get your tickets now!
To Live, To Love, To Be will be at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff from 17-20 April, 8pm. Tickets : £8 / £6 conc / £4 under 25s.
Tickets and info: 029 2064 6900 www.shermancymru.co.uk
The project has been supported by RSC Open Stages and The Paul Hamlyn Foundation both of which stress the importance of high quality experiences and the importance of maximising the potential of everyone.
The Paul Hamlyn Foundation: www.phf.org.uk
Royal Shakespeare Company: www.rsc.org.uk
To Live, To Love, To Be
Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2
17th April 2013
Being in the audience of To Live, To Love, To Be was like being a witness to some occult religious ceremony; the atmosphere was heavy with expectation and a sinister sense of danger never left the room. Sitting on the balcony looking down at the huge revolving table as incense filled the room was the beginning of our initiation to the mystical world of Shakespeare’s mind.
Around the table various figures from Shakespeare’s past and fantastical imagination debate the source of the Bard’s genius. His school teacher believes that education is the key, a travelling player says that they inspired Shakespeare as a young man, Ariel from The Tempest argues that he has the heart of a fairy and Macbeth claims that the famous poet adapted stories from history to suit his own means.
For a community group to be able to perform a specially commissioned script, with such high production values is incredible. Every element of the design was better than some professional companies. The lighting design by Ceri James was breathtaking; it had the power the change the space from the dark passages of Macbeth’s castle to the sunny Stratford of Shakespeare’s youth, whilst always maintaining a sense of the supernatural.
An investigation into Shakespeare’s past and motivation is always going to be very intellectual and the wordplay was at times beautiful but the atmosphere was so engulfing and mysterious that some of the very down to earth humour was lost among the incense and grandeur. This lack of humour made the production, although visually impressive, very dry and academic at points.
Considering that this is such a challenging text and the company run an open door policy, whereby anyone can get involved with no auditions, the standard of acting was very, very high. Some of the younger members are also involved with the Sherman’s Youth Theatre and they are undoubtedly getting an excellent introduction to the world of theatre. Certain performances showed real professional potential – Eifion Ap Cadno (Shakespeare), Andreas Constantinou (Macbeth) and Giorgia Marchetta (Lady Macbeth) to name a few. Among all this talent the stand out performance of the event came from the highly talented Nerys Jones as William Shakespeare’s Welsh grandmother who argues passionately (and convincingly) that his talent comes from his Celtic blood.
A really interesting production that is an absolute master class in building tension and atmosphere. It will be fascinating to see where the company goes from here, they have set themselves a very high standard to maintain.
By Kate Tempest
At Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2
23rd March 2013
Once in a while a production will come along that creates a huge buzz. When you miss a show like that you know that there’s usually no way you’ll ever get to see it. Luckily for those who missed it first time round Wasted came back for a second nationwide tour. If you missed it this time you really have missed out!
Three friends, who are maybe more than friends and maybe less, are forced to face up to all the opportunities they wasted because they were…..well, wasted. On the tenth anniversary of their childhood friend’s death they ask what went wrong and how can I make it right. But is the middle of a rave in South London really the place for these twenty five year olds to make a change for the better?
The pace of this short play is staggering, during the twenty-four hours we follow the three disillusioned Londoners no part of their lives is left unexamined. Why doesn’t downtrodden Ted (Cary Crankson)leave his Ikea loving girlfriend and get the job of his dreams? When will Danny (Bradley Taylor) realise his band is going nowhere? And how did Charlotte (Lizzy Watts) fall out of love with her calling to be a teacher?
Written by performance poet and rapper Kate Tempest, her theatrical debut is nothing short of amazing. Tempest has a way of bending words to make them fit into her beautiful urban poetry that never once sounds forced or insincere. In fact her down to earth and rhythmic approach to word play ensures the production is hard hitting, honest and true.
Naturalistic scenes in parks, cafes and clubs are broken up by bare-all monologues and stylised choral scenes directed straight at the audience that are worthy of any music stage. The actors do an absolutely stunning job of navigating the rhythms and layers of Tempest’s words, slipping effortlessly between their characters everyday life and the choreographed group sections.
As if there wasn’t enough to be entertained by already the innovative use of multimedia added yet another level to the polished show. A large screen provided clues to the setting of each scene; a neon sign telling us the cafe is open or a beautifully shot pub interior. During the powerful monologues the screen showed close ups of the actor’s face that were cleverly matched to the onstage lighting and added yet more emotion to the already intense words.
A beautiful symphony of words, music and technology. This is the kind of theatre that gets people excited, makes them talk and inspires them to make a change. The innovative combinations of media and poetry make this rather straightforward study of modern urban life something unmissable. Let’s hope they will be back by popular demand for a third outing soon!
A Paine’s Plough, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Roundhouse production, in association with the National Student Drama Festival and Latitude Festival.
For more about the show and producers Paine’s Plough: www.painesplough.com
For more on Kate Tempest: www.katetempest.co.uk
Dressing Up Too
|Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre , Sherman Cymru , February 23, 2013|
To get nearly 100 young performers on stage is no mean feat, yet Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre’s inventive catwalk show was engaging and unusual. In form and content it covered material that is completely out of the normal comfort zone of other youth theatres. There were no ‘lead roles’ for the star performers, no mediocre chorus – just a group of talented young people who worked together to produce a polished and touching show.
The production explored the dichotomy between what we show on the outside and what is going on inside each of our minds. Described by Head of Creative Learning, Phil Mackenzie, as a ‘catwalk circus of fractured narratives’ the show jumped between each of the five youth theatre academies. Each one having worked on separate narratives that all linked to the theme of social perception and inner turmoil.
A deeper layer of meaning was given to the performance by the presence of a group of elderly citizens who remained onstage throughout. At intervals each would come forward and share a story from their life, often humorous, sometimes tragic. One of the older women amused the audience with her phobia of finding a dead body around every corner and then proceeded to ask ‘do you think I watch too much TV?’
One of the highlights of the night was undoubtedly the story of Harry who is different, quirky, unaccepted by his peers. After a mysterious visit (just like Harry Potter) our Harry goes away to school but this time he is to become a cardboard box. After finishing school Harry becomes a fashion icon and soon everyone is wearing his cardboard creations. Everyone except a young woman brave enough to be different, she’s a tin foil girl. This clever commentary on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook was light enough for the age group but still touched on the hugely important issues surrounding cyber bullying and isolation. Political theatre from young people is so rare but clearly much needed.
Any casting agents out there should definitely keep their eyes on the members of the oldest group of young performers – Company 4. In their late teens and twenties the group is chock full of focussed and talented actors. Their group work was flawlessly timed and each of their sections was intense and emotional. With plenty of youngsters to take up the mantle this group is sure to be strong for years to come.
Mention has to be made of the beautiful costume design by Deryn Tudor, combined with hair and makeup by Alice Pattillo that added so much drama to the more traditional theatrical sections. Also the multimedia aspect of the show (John Ingham ) ensured there was a constant visual feast that captivated and intrigued.
For young performers to be given the opportunity to develop such highly polished and professional work is amazing. More importantly however, they all seem to love what they are doing and put their all into giving great performances and making sure everyone there has a great time. With the ages of the young performers ranging from 11-26 the skills they will pick up will be invaluable – confidence, focus and teamwork.
Any young person with an interest in performance should get involved with these groups; they will constantly be creating stimulating work that they can be proud of.
To find out more visit: www.shermancymru.com
To read my interview with Phil Mackenzie : http://hypercriticreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/you-must-see-this-show.html
Chelsey is a member of the Young Critics Scheme, fur further information on the scheme contact