Corrine Cox

Review The Cherry Orchard, Sherman Theatre by Corrine Cox

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

Gary Owen and Rachel O’Riordan’s radical reimagining of Chekhov’s classic masterfully transports the narrative of The Cherry Orchard from pre-revolutionary Russia to early 1980’s Britain at the outset of the Thatcher regime. The parallels of the two landscapes, both on the cusp of societal upheaval, provides an apt setting for Owen’s exploration of class equalities, guilt and grief.

At the beginning of the play we meet Rainey, returning to the family home in West Wales and the memories of the son that continue to haunt her. With no money left and the future of their home increasingly uncertain, could an agreement with former tenant Lewis save the property from impending auction?

The one set staging creates an intimacy and surprising relatability between the family and the audience which transcends class preconceptions through the sense of a shared space which we co-inhabit over the course of the 3 hours. The clever use of space enables us to effortlessly join Anya in the Orchard, envisage the view down to the shore and experience the poignancy of Rainey and Dottie’s moment in the grounds. The presence of Josef is hauntingly conjured throughout.

Whilst Richard Mylan and Alexandria Riley provide us with a great deal of the humour throughout, it is Riley’s Dottie who most poignantly captures the extent of the injustices that class inequality can create; for in a society where time is money, who is afforded the luxury of the time to grieve? Juxtaposed with just how detrimental this ‘indulgence’ has rendered Rainey – a decade of alcoholism and guilt – we are left to un-judgingly straddle the vast void between the extremities of each’s experience.

A powerful, thought-provoking piece and one not to be missed.

Cast
Simon Armstrong
Denise Black
Matthew Bulgo
Morfydd Clark
Hedydd Dylan
Richard Mylan
Alexandria Riley

Creative
By Anton Chekhov
A re-imagining by Gary Owen
Director Rachel O’Riordan
Designer Kenny Miller
Lighting Designer Kevin Treacy
Composer and Sound Designer Simon Slater
Casting Director Kay Magson CDG

Get the Chance member Corrine Cox.

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    Review: Sunny Afternoon by Corrine Cox

    With speckled references to the hits throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.

    5 Stars5 / 5

    As we’re teased with references to the iconic You Really Got Me in the opening sequence there’s already a palpable sense of anticipation pulsing around the auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre as the cast of Sunny Afternoon prepare to take us on a 2½ hour musical journey through The Kinks rise to stardom. From the early days in North London; their debut on Top of the Pops; the infamous American tour; through to their triumphant comeback, Joe Penhall ingeniously weaves the hit songs from the 60s into the storytelling of one of the most influential bands of the era.

    Our story begins in Muswell Hill, with performances by Ryan O’Donnell & Mark Newnham perfect characterisations of the often tense professional relationship between the rebellious Davies brothers, as they navigate the initial tensions to discovering the bands distinctive sound, the start of a journey which would shape a unique musical identity that would inspire generations. Throughout the evening O’Donnell, Newnham (a highlight performance), Gallo, Rhys and the supporting ensemble, blend effortlessly to recreate the iconic sound of the band, in what is a moving portrayal of both the professional and the personal lives of the band and their adjustment to the pressures of stardom. With references to the hits speckled throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.

    Throughout the exploration of the soaring highs and the frustrating lows the band encounter, we join the cast in a celebration of how four working class musicians from North London changed the music scene for generations to come. Dead end street, weaved masterfully into Penhall’s narrative, particularly highlighting how the bands upbringing proved an ongoing source of inspiration for Ray’s writing with the majority of the works involving similar elements of social commentary, which inevitably played a large part in their then and ongoing appeal.

    The staging enables the cast to create a certain intimacy during acoustic interludes including This Time Tomorrow and Thank you for the Days, contrasted with the gig feel of the iconic All Day and All of the Night & roof raising end sequence, and quirks of the choreography and use of props lend themselves especially well to the playfulness of numbers such as Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

    The universal appeal of Sunny Afternoon makes it a must-see irrespective of whether you know the band or the songs. If you know The Kinks you’ll love it, if you don’t know the Kinks you’ll love it. A feel good musical and a moving portrayal to one of the defining bands of the 60s who will continue to inspire generations to come.

    Ray Davies – Ryan O’Donnell
    Dave Davies – Mark Newnham
    Mick Avory – Andrew Gallo
    Pete Quaife – Garmon Rhys
    Music & Lyrics – Ray Davies
    Book – Joe Penhall
    Original Story – Ray Davies
    Director – Edward Hall
    Designer – Miriam Buether
    Choreographer – Adam Cooper
    Lighting – Rick Fisher
    Sound – Matt Mckenzie
    Musical Supervisor – Elliot Ware

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      Review Swarm, Fio by Corinne Cox

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      A reminder that we are all human.’

      5 Stars5 / 5

       

      As we congregate outside Butetown History and Arts Centre, our identity stripped back to little more than the number in our hand, Fio invite us to consider what life might be like if we were forced to leave everything we know and love behind in order to escape war and violence.

      Civil war has broken out in the West. People are dying at the hands of the dictatorship and escape is the only option. The East can provide opportunities for some, but the fast track is only available to those with the right papers and the desired skills and experience. With our social media and newspapers plastered with news and images of mass migration to Europe, it is this reversal of roles which makes Swarm particularly interesting, directly provoking the audience to consider ‘What happens if this happened to us?’

      “You’ve got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life” ­ David Cameron, July 2015

      A defining feature of the media narrative surrounding immigration has undoubtedly been that of the dehumanisation of migrants. Swarm captures this brilliantly through Cara Jayne Readle’s portrayal of a Media Representative, reporting on the ongoing tragedy in the war struck west for the no doubt passive consumption of those back home.

      As we are herded into the overcrowded transit centre where we wait to be processed, tensions run high amongst overstretched medical staff. Natalie Edward-Yesufu’s heart-breaking performance of a young nurse as she struggles with her feelings of hopelessness to change the devastating tragedy around her and the possibility of hope and a new life in the East.

      As we navigate our way through the building certain aspects of the set create a particular degree of poignancy; a section of Ruth Stringer’s #2868 boats installation, a paper boat to represent the life of every Syrian refugee drowned or missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far in 2016;  children’s colourings created by members of the community cast as part of the performance created on pieces of paper bearing statistics of the unbelievable scale of death and devastation that the East has faced; screens with images of the horrifying conditions migrants face and the overplay of refugee voices all add to this already captivating narrative which examines how people in these situations are forced to act and interact with the circumstances placed upon them.

      This timely and poignant site-specific performance reminds us, if we really needed reminding, that this is a human crisis.

      Cast: Mathew David, Christina Dembenezi, Natalie Edward-Yesufu, Natalie Paisey, Cara Jayne Readle
      Director: Abdul Shayek
      Assistant Director: Chantal Erraoui
      Producer: Alan Humphreys
      Designer: Lizzie French
      Stage Manager: Katie Bingham
      Filmaker: Kym Epton
      Community Cast: Jasmine Camilleri, Sahara Camilleri, Tia Camilleri, Josie Harding, Mira Lukawiecka, Stefan Lukawiecki, Donna Males, Geraint Stewart-Davies, Ananya Upadhyaya, Ayushi Upadhyaya, Akram Yasseen, Amani Yasseen.

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        Review Blavatsky’s Tower 3 Crate Productions by Corinne Cox

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        4 Stars4 / 5

        This week at Chapter Arts Centre, the final stop of their 4 week tour of Moira Buffini’s 90s play, emerging Welsh Theatre Company 3 Crate Productions treat audiences to a unique insight into the lives of the Blavatsky’s. Choosing never to leave their top floor apartment in order to avoid ‘the crushed’, when Dr Tim Dunn enters their lives (bringing with him our socially constructed perception of normality) the company’s exploration of the family’s unusual relationships leads us to question the very notion of what it means to be ‘normal’.

        The back story to the tale had distinctive parallels with Ballard’s 1975 High Rise through Hector Blavatsky’s visionary plans for his architectural masterpiece and how the result failed to realise the utopia of his vision. In Hector’s case this results in the descent of a veil of disillusionment and subsequent abstraction from the outside world, turning his back on the society that rejected his vision and barricading himself and his three children (emotionally rather than physically) within the four walls of their apartment in search of a higher meaning. Even as we see him on his death bed, Tony Leader’s portrayal of Hector Blavatsky makes it clear to the audience that despite his frailty his tyranny has undoubtedly defined the lives of his family, evidenced in the mixture of the love and slight resentment they have for him.

        Audrey, the only Blavatsky to leave the house on account of being the breadwinner for the family, has a distinctive hold over her siblings and the power play enacted between the characters is extremely well executed. Hannah Lloyd’s portrayal of younger sister Ingrid perfectly captures the vulnerability of a character who is simultaneously curious of the tantalising outside world and altogether fearful of leaving the apartment, particularly heightened by Audrey’s antagonising. Through the sister’s interactions we experience first-hand the heightened tensions that social isolation can bring to relationships and the need that Audrey seems to feel to be in control of at least one aspect of your life, in this case through her power over her siblings.

        Yet as we watch the squabbly interactions between the siblings we could equally be looking into the living room (although significantly less furnished) of any contemporary family and despite their idiosyncrasies we don’t doubt the close bond between the Blavatsky’s in spite of how this has been defined by their experience at the top of the tower.

        3 Crate Productions make us laugh with the eccentricities of characters who have interacted only with each other but also challenge us to question our own preconceptions of what it means to be normal.

        BT Photo

         

        Director: Peter Scott

        Assistant Director: Matt Rushmere
        Marketing Manager: Rachel Kinchin
        Photography: Kirsten McTernan
        Print Design: Rich Chitty at Ctrl Alt Design
        Original Music: Loui Milne

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          Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Corinne Cox

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          4 Stars4 / 5

           

          Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.

          Ava is on the cusp of adulthood. 16 next month and facing a future outside the care home, all that currently lies ahead of her is an expansive and overwhelming unknown. Her mum doesn’t want her to come home, sheltered accommodation will be miles away from manipulative Lee, and Dan might just like her. Luckily, as best friend Tash reassures her, they always have the option of just flying away…

          As we join Ava as she navigates her way through this minefield of complex relationships, from the exploitative to the genuinely heartfelt, Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.

          The stand out performance for me was Siwan Morris’s portrayal of Ava’s Mum, Claire. Throughout her interactions with Ava there was a stark discrepancy between what I was seeing and how it made me feel. We witness a mother, riddled with jealousy, rejecting her daughter time and again, in complete denial of the fact that her judgement of a new partner could be at fault. Yet underneath this front we feel the desperation of Claire’s intrinsic love for her daughter, a love that perhaps blinds her to the fact that she could ever have wronged her to this extent. A denial which continues to define both her and her daughter’s lives. Morris draws us in with her subtle portrayal of Claire’s own vulnerability as she asserts, as if to convince herself more than us, that she ‘had no choice’.

          Georgia Henshaw’s portrayal of Ava is brave, raw and heartbreakingly funny, achieving a sensitive balance between Ava’s anger and her innocence, which is frequently represented in the damaging relationships she enters to fill the void that the desperation for a sense of belonging can create. Georgia subtly teases out these different levels of Ava, from the frantic energy that exudes from the character when she is engaging with her mum, to the fiery exchanges her evident frustration at her circumstance often results in these exchanges resorting to.

          What is undoubtedly a challenging view is softened by some stark moments of tenderness – beacons of hope which the audience cling to desperately amongst the evident turmoil Chandler’s characters are facing. The unfiltered emotion in Dan and Ava’s embrace, Ava’s raucous cackling as she’s tickled by Tash, Claire’s reluctant admittance that she may in fact have got it wrong; moments such as these provide some light relief for the audience and humanises the characters.

          The world premiere of Katherine Chandler’s Bird at Sherman Cymru this month immerses audiences in a range of difficult themes which more often than not simply aren’t provided with a platform. By giving a voice to those who are increasingly marginalised by society and the media, Chandler humanises individuals in Ava’s position, providing a refreshing alternative narrative which challenges established preconceptions and explores the individuals behind the circumstance. Bird is a thought provoking piece and an accolade to Welsh new writing.

           

          Director- Rachel O’Riordan

          Writer- Katherine Chandler

          Designer- Kenny Miller

          Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater

          Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin

          Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy

          Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

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            Review Fear of Drowning Black Sheep Theatre Company by Corrinne Cox

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            Tensions run high in Black Sheep Theatre’s debut production Fear of Drowning at Chapter this week; it’s Elli and Steve’s wedding day, the bride has gone AWOL and Steve’s best mate Deano is waterboarding her brother Tim in the hotel bathroom.

            After an initial flash-forward to Tim’s unfortunate predicament, the play begins with Elli and her brother, Harry Potter fanatic and ardent Environmental Warrior, Tim arriving in a budget hotel (whose lightbulbs we quickly learn do not meet international efficiency standards) having fled Elli’s imminent vows to possessive partner Steve.

            Elli’s feeling out of her depth. Is marrying Steve a massive mistake or maybe commitment really is for her? To know for certain, she resolves the only solution is to go and see her ex, Ben, one last time. When Steve and Deano turn up, Tim is quick cover for Elli, resulting in a stake out in the hotel room where underlying class tensions come to a naturally humorous head.

            Fear of commitment, possession and both the loss and perceived pejoration of identity through a new shared one are recurring themes throughout this eclectic piece of drama which is as funny as it is a clever statement on underlying class prejudice. There is a brilliant irony in Tim’s unshakeable belief that he is saving Elli from Steve’s possessive ways whilst simultaneously trying to shield her from the tragedies of Steve’s ‘type’, fuelled by an insurmountable fear of losing his sister that itself borders on obsession.

            Through Tim’s sense of helplessness as he slowly loses his sister (and of course his very literal experience of being water-boarded by Deano); Elli’s uncertainty of the unknown and reluctance to take the plunge and commit to Steve and Deano’s evident feeling of treading water in a dead-end position where he is underpaid by his supposed best friend, the play is a perfectly realised metaphor of drowning which reflects the intricacies of each characters unique situation and lack of control.

            When Steve abandons the others in a last-ditch attempt to pursue Elli we encounter what was undoubtedly the most surreal and wholly unanticipated scene of the play; Lee Mengo’s comically menacing portrayal of Deano lightly ridiculing Tim quickly escalating into a ketamine induced recollection of how he first met Elli aboard HMS Genesis a post-apocalyptic research ship on a Mission named Noah’s Ark… On Steve’s return, the continuation of this notion of being out of control, only this time in a very literal sense, escalates further still, manifesting itself in the pairs decision to waterboard Tim.

            There is a slightly unsettling scene at the end with Tim in evident turmoil at the loss of his sister who despite everything decides that Steve is the one for her. Yet this is once again interrupted by more of the unexpected absurdity which made this play so enjoyable.

            From Deano’s holographic memory, a ketamine riddled BLT and the moral conundrum of whether or not you can waterboard a trouser-less man, Black Sheep Theatre combine sharp wit with a stark and honest portrayal of class prejudices to produce a work well deserving of its place as Runner Up in the inaugural Wales Drama Award. Fear of Drowning is a credit to writer Paul Jenkins and Black Sheep Theatre and a sign of great things to come.

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