Emily Garside

Review Delta Autumn, Ffresh, WMC by Emily Garside

Ffresh the new cabaret venue at the WMC continues its latest season of music with the eclectic and unusual Delta Autumn. Asked to describe them it’s difficult to pin down a band who describes their influences from Autumn’s hip-hop, glitch, pop, rock and jazz. Performed with electroacoustic compositional techniques they were initially conceived as a studio only project by Robbie and Luke, Delta Autumn later expanded to take in Thomas and Ric. An unusual band, provoking curiosity they are the perfect addition to the latest season at Ffresh.

The venue itself is relatively new to the WMC and is conceived as a space to host a variety of gig-style events. Though the Cabaret style work of visiting musical theatre stars such as Caroline Sheen and the ever-popular Hello Cabaret nights, would seem the logical choice for the WMC’s venue gigs like this prove its versatility as a venue. Among the rest on offer include An Israeli contemporary solo bass player, a Welsh country and folk musician and a Leonard Cohen tribute and a winner from RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s something fresh (pardon the pun) and exciting for a gig venue in Cardiff not to feel restricted by genre or target audience.

The venue itself has also been revamped for the new cabaret setting, with the back half of the bar now an intimate collection of shabby-chic cabaret tables, framed by bronze leaf trees that give the place a slightly ethereal feel. With the front tables, practically on the stage it makes for an intimate feel that is missing in many of the live music venues in Cardiff. The fact that it’s seated, with drinks gives the place a ‘grown up’ vibe. Table service from the excellent WMC staff means there’s no bar scrum and even at full capacity this wouldn’t feel like an overcrowded venue.

Delta Autumn’s gig was a low-key affair, and although the audience was on the small side there was a supportive and attentive vibe from the crowd. Indeed, it was a small but vocal crowd for last night’s gig. The band clearly have a dedicated following who knew their work well, but they also commented on how nice it was to see new faces in the crowd. The band also joked that as their only released music was only 15 minutes long then two 45 minute sets were going to be a challenge. They needn’t have worried however, their set comfortably filling the time and veering between low-key melancholy sounding tracks and upbeat synths was as fascinating musically as it was entertaining.

Best described as an electronic jazz sound that barely scratches the surface of the musical influences covered. And they were as fascinating to watch-working across multiple instruments and mixing live- as they were to listen to. Mixing up their sets with piano and guitar solos really showed off what the band are capable of. Despite the skill on show individually there is a strange alchemy to their work together. Hard to believe they were originally intended as only a studio project, their live performance was masterful. It’s sometimes difficult to listen to an entire evening of unfamiliar music but Delta Autumn create something so unique it’s impossible not to be won over.

Touring the country this summer, at a variety of festivals Delta Autumn are well worth an encounter, you’ll be fascinated and also hugely entertained.

 

 

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    ‘Here We Go Again’ Emily Garside on the Dirty Protest Election Night Special

    I first encountered Dirty Protest about 9 years ago, after just moving back to Cardiff. I wasn’t aware at the time they were just starting out (stay tuned for some brilliant 10th Birthday events later this year!) But I did know they provided what I thought I wouldn’t see in Cardiff- and frankly what there wasn’t a lot of in Cardiff then- new writing, non-traditional work and most importantly a welcoming attitude. As an audience member, one who was apprehensive about a theatre scene in Cardiff that always seemed a bit ‘not for me’ they were a breath of fresh air. Almost 9 years later, I’m pleased to say that as a writer they are just as welcoming and still just as much fun to be around.

    It’s fair to say Dirty Protest didn’t plan on having a June new writing night, but when like the rest of us, they were surprised by the announcement we were having an election, well the opportunity was too good to miss. Dirty Protest were having an election night special.

    I heard about this through being invited by co-founder Matthew Bulgo to write a short piece. Having thought about it for about 30 seconds I accepted. As ever, there was a theme to respond to, this time ‘Here we go again’. The added guidance being to listen to this wonder from Dolly Parton.

    Fuelled by in part by Parton, in part by election energy (or fatigue) we were set loose. With less than three weeks to pull together a piece, it was certainly writing under pressure. But , writing creatively to a deadline is a really great exercise for any writer. Writing to a theme also, forces you out of your comfort zone, and instead of being restrictive forces a more creative approach.

    My response to the brief (and Dolly!) was to take the idea of election night, and the sense of ‘repetition’ that ‘here we go again’ implies and visit two election nights- one in 1987 and the one we were about to experience in 2017. Using two people talking in a bar meeting for the first time that night, with different views on politics seemed an effective way to take on the theme. With a little twist in a link between the two pairs, and a hint of romance (because even on election night there might be romance). No writer ever really feels ‘finished’ with a piece, and despite working on it amid a ‘day job’ and various other competing deadlines, I was pleased with what I eventually sent off.

    With us writers only having a matter of weeks to put it together, the assigned directing and acting teams had only a matter of hours to make what we put down into something performance ready. With a team of 8 actors sharing the scripts between them, it’s a great achievement that they pull of such great work in so short a time.

    The night of the election arrived, and I can’t speak for the rest of the audience but the chance to escape endless news coverage for a couple of hours was more than a welcome distraction. Dirty Protest have always performed in non-traditional theatre spaces, and this time had taken over Outpost a combination Emporium and Coffee shop in the heart of Womamby Street. These non-theatre venues are great for audiences and creatives- it makes for a welcoming space for those who don’t usually attend theatre (and usually plenty of alcohol available too) and for the creatives, the more relaxed space takes the pressure off a bit, feeling a bit more informal (and the alcohol availability helps there too).

    The great part of Dirty Protest and their approach to giving a brief and letting writers run with it, is the variety of topics it always returns. Even with the dual ‘election’ and ‘here we go again’ theme, there were such a variety of pieces offered it makes for an entertaining and fascinating evening.

    This time around there was the hilarious opener from Sam Bees in which man and woman (from Mars and Venus respectively) seek to repopulate the earth. Equally hilarious was Kieron Self delivering the opening to the second act with Katherine Chandler’s Whose Line is it Anyway? Which saw him as an ill-fated comic sent to entertain Wales on election night. Another more direct take on the election was seen in Trust by Dick Johns while Nicola Reynolds used the election to make serious points about the wider issues created by past governments in Hannah. Relationships took centre stage in Kelly Jones’ sweet karaoke driven ‘Here We Go Again’ and Jafar Iqbal’s more serious piece ‘Oscar and Me’ while Kit Lambart combined relationship based comedy and political reference in ‘Here we Go Again’. The range and style of the pieces proving just how broad a response a simple brief can create. And as a writer, being among such broadly different pieces, from different styles really helps as instead of feeling competitive you end up feeling inspired by the other work drawn from the same source.

    The audiences who come to Dirty Protest nights really make the experience, and having a supportive crowd ready to laugh, concentrate and even join in when called upon (thanks to Katherine Chandler and Kieron Self) is a great indicator of the kind of audience they have built up over 9 years.

    As a writer, I had a brilliantly supported, creative experience writing for Dirty Protest’s election night special. As an audience member, I had yet another hilarious and fascinating evening of theatre. And I didn’t have to think about election results for a few hours on a very strange night.

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      Review The Far Side of the Moon, ExMachina, WMC 24th-25th March 2017 by Emily Garside


      It is a rare opportunity to see Ex Machina, company of renowned theatre maker Robert LePage, perform outside of London in the UK, and the opportunity to see such a trailblazer of theatre practice first hand. The Far Side of the Moon, originally conceived and performed by LePage himself, now in the more than capable hands of Yve Jacques.
      LePage, founded Ex Machina in 1994 and quickly gained attention with their early works notably The Seven Streams of the River Ota (1994) and Elsinore (1995). LePage’s work fuses styles and disciplines, he does not characterise Ex Machina as a theatre company, and nor does his work, either in performance or in film does not slot easily into traditional descriptions. LePage has become known for his fusing of film and performance, of multimedia across his work- video projections, soundscapes and projected dialogue sit alongside puppetry and performance and choreography. Meanwhile his interests as an artist similarly span multifaceted and multimedia approaches incorporating science alongside philosophy and art. It is fitting then, in 1999 when beginning work on The Far Side of the Moon, it was the question of science alongside art that is a catalyst to the narrative.
      In parallel narratives- one public, the story of the space race, one private, the story of two brothers, LePage explores the nature of humanity, and the direction of life. The story unfolds of two brothers, one gay one straight, one confident, one shy, the younger seemingly successful, the younger still struggling. Their domestic narrative is played out against the backdrop of the Space Race and younger brother Phillipe’s endless fascination with the cosmonauts, pitted against their ever more glamorous American counterparts the American Astronauts. The parallels between the struggling student and his glamorous and famous weather presenter brother are clear.
      The storytelling is tightly woven, and complex, veering across Phillipe and Andre’s lives, touching on their childhood and adolescence, through their current situations and frustrations. It is a highly domestic, family oriented tale at its heart with everything circling back to the death of their Mother, and the realisation of what life is like without any parents.

       
      The technical elements of the show are, as expected, astounding. In the hands of a lesser company the might come off as gimmicky, but here the fusion of projections alongside The performance is truly theatrical in its reliance on Jacques performance to encapsulate both brothers and a variety of peripheral characters, but also in the use of stage and props in a very traditional way. Although LePage is perhaps best known for his fusing of film and theatre, here although the film and multimedia elements are moments of brilliance, it is moments of simple theatricality that highlight the skill and attention to detail in the performance. When an ironing board becomes a bike, for example, and later a bed, or when through subtle costume change and mannerism Jacques becomes another character. The brilliance of LePage’s work is the fusion of these elements, and despite being a work of technical precision, it also has a very instinctual, organic feel that comes back to the engaging storytelling at its heart.
      As LePage’s creation is always about fusion of elements, the bringing together of The Far Side of the Moon rests on the performance of Jacques. An intimidating ask to take on the very personal story that LePage wrote- he draws on his own Mother’s death, as well as hinting at his personal struggles with depression and coming to terms with his sexuality- as well as taking on the piece that LePage performed himself. However, Jacques having toured this piece for several years, has an easy stage presence which makes the precision performance of both hitting technical markers to allow projection, puppeteer or set to take over the storytelling, while also delivering two hours of single-handed narration while embodying Andre and Phillipe’s characters. Jacques does it with an engaging personable warmth that also brings the audience into what for those uninitiated might see as the daunting prospect of LePage’s theatrical world.
      Robert LePage sets out to create fusion in his work- fusion in performance through multimedia, traditional and innovation, and through thematically, addressing issues side by side that might not traditionally be addressed. These elements alone could be a cold exercise in performance for performance sake, experimentation for experimentation’s sake which could leave the average audience alienated. It is the credit of LePage and the company that his work does not do this, while The Far Side of the Moon is a great introduction to the theatrical style Le Page is known for, while it is a challenging fascinating study of performance methods, it also keeps at it’s heart the element of storytelling. So while audiences may be intrigued, puzzled and hopefully challenged by seeing what may be a new approach to theatre for them as this work tours the UK and the world, they will also be invited in, and moved by, the story that facilitates the performance.

      http://lacaserne.net/index2.php/theatre/the_far_side_of_the_moon/

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        The 25th British Academy Cymru Awards by Emily Garside

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        British Academy Cymru Awards, Special Award recipient Terry Jones with Michael Palin, © Jonathan Hordle/BAFTA

        On Sunday 2nd October 2016 BAFTA Cymru celebrated once again the best of Welsh film and television talent. From documentary makers, to actors, directors and make up and special effects, the spectrum of filmmaking talent in Wales and around the world was celebrated. Thanks to alterations in the eligibility criteria, works by Welsh artists outside of Wales are now eligible, which means from Downton Abbey to Hinterland and everything in between the awards honoured the talented work from and in Wales.

        On the red carpet for this year’s awards Host Huw Stevens stopped by to discuss the awards before heading inside to prepare. After a brief chat about the earlier excitement of Cardiff’s Half Marathon (he watched at home in his pants) he was keen to share his excitement for the awards. Emphasising how important it was to showcase Welsh talent in the capitol city, and just how much talent Wales had to show, Stevens also noted that he got ‘the best deal’ because he got to read out a lot of the nominations.

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        Ceremony host Huw Stephens arrives on the red carpet.© Jonathan Hordle/BAFTA

        As Stevens headed inside to get ready for the show, other guest and nominees began to arrive. The Get the Chance Team got to chat to a lot of the arrivals, and find out just who they were excited to see nominated (and possibly win). Early to arrive were BBC Newsreader husband and wife team Lucy and Rhodri Owen, who talked about the range of real quality drama that they enjoy from Wales including the ever popular Hinterland/Y Gwyll. We also chatted to Torchwood stars Gareth David Lloyd and Eve Myles, there to present awards. Later a fantastic arose opportunity to talk to Yu-Fai Suen, the managing director of Pinewood Studios, who talked enthusiastically about all the talent available in Wales, both in front and behind the camera-and hinted of some big opportunities for the future of filmmaking in Wales!

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        Eve Myles signs autographs for fans on the red carpet.© Polly Thomas/BAFTA

        There was also chance to catch up with nominees on the Red Carpet, with best actor nominees Aneurin Barnard and Richard Harrington, both talking about the great opportunity to celebrate work done in Wales presented. A longer, more personal chat with Tim Rhys Evans-best known as musical director of Only Men Aloud- talked about the more powerful side of the awards, in raising awareness for issues within the drama and documentaries produced. Rhys-Evans was part of a brave documentary that followed his struggles with mental health, and he talked passionately about both the film’s power as a talking point and opportunity for people to begin to end the stigma around mental illness. He noted in particular, that the chance to talk to press once again about the film having been nominated, was another opportunity to continue talking about mental health, and hope that having used the film to talk about his own experience others would do the same and get help when they need it. And as much as this night was about celebrating the talent of those involved in film, Tim Rhys-Evans’ brave documentary is a reminder that there is also often a broader impact to the work made.

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        Tim Rhys Evans collects the Single Documentary Award for Tim Rhys Evans – All in the Mind.© Jonathan Hordle/BAFTA

        In watching the awards ceremony, itself, it is clear there is powerful drama and documentary made in Wales, alongside wonderfully entertaining work. Tim Rhys Evans – All in the Mind went on to win two awards, one for Madoc Roberts for editing, and one to the production team for Best Single Documentary. Roberts thanked Tim Rhys Evans and said ‘What a thing to do to help others’ while Rhys Evans in accepting the award with the team commented it seemed odd to receive an award for ‘a particularly shitty time in my life’ but went on to say that as statistically a quarter of the audience tonight would be affected by mental illness, that we should continue to keep talking and end the stigma.

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        Lowri Morgan and Ffion Dafis with Rondo Production Team winners of Live Outside Broadcast Award for Cor Cymru: Y Rownd Derfynol.© Polly Thomas/BAFTA

        Elsewhere in the factual categories Wales’ musical side was reflected in the factual categories with Les Miserables Y Daith i’r Llwyfan in the Entertainment Programme category and Côr Cymru – y Rownd Derfynol in the Live Outside Broadcast category. And Factual Series was won by Music for Misfits: The Story of Indie given to Siobhan Logue, which she dedicated to ‘All the misfits out there’.

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        Lee Haven Jones winner of Director: Fiction for 35 Diwrnod Apollo, Cwmni Boom Cymru. © Polly Thomas/BAFTA

        In drama the directing award-a competitive category spanning drama made inside and outside Wales, and featuring an episode of ITV powerhouse Downton Abbey- was picked up by Lee Haven Jones for 35 Diwrnod – Apollo. Deservedly for a masterful piece of drama, and a career that is going from strength to strength, Haven Jones lamented that his Mother was going to kill him for not bringing her for the second time, and dedicated the award to his partner Adam who he ‘Moans with a lot, but also dreams with’ Elsewhere in Drama, best actor winner Mark Lewis Adams for Stanley in Yr Ymadawiad thanked both his co-stars and the hair and makeup team for helping him to create and inhabit his character every day, and dedicated the award to his wife. Meanwhile best actress winner Mali Harris for DI Mared Rhys in Y Gwyll/Hinterland thanked the show for the opportunity to ‘Play cops and bad guys’ for ten months of the year.

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        Robert Pugh with Mali Harris winner of Actress Award for Dl Mared Rhys in Y Gwyll/Hinterland – Hinterland Films 2Ltd/Fiction Factory/BBC Wales/S4C. © Polly Thomas/BAFTA

        The special awards for this 25th anniversary were particularly poignant. The Sian Phillips award being given, for the first time to a makeup artist, Sian Grigg. And was awarded by the namesake herself, Sian Phillips, who declared the award ‘from one Sian to another’. The special presentation was accompanied by video messages from Ioan Gruffoad and Leonardo DiCaprio, who both worked closely with Grigg over the years. Girgg dedicated her award to her Mother, also a makeup artist, for being her inspiration.

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        Sian Phillips with Sian Grigg winner of Sian Phillips award. © Polly Thomas/BAFTA

        The Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television award was given to Terry Jones. This celebration was, it’s fair to say, tinged a little by sadness with the news that Jones has been diagnosed with a form of dementia, and is suffering its effects, including a loss of communication skills. Accompanied to the ceremony by friend and fellow Monty Python star Michael Palin-who led the tribute to him-and his son, Terry was still able to come on stage and accept his award. And in true Terry Jones style, despite not being able to communicate through speech, he still conveyed his feelings perfectly, waving down the standing ovation and putting the BAFTA to his face to wear like a mask.

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        Bill Jones and Terry JonesTerry Jones, BAFTA Cymru Awards, Ceremony, Cardiff, Wales, UK – 02 Oct 2016. © Jonathan Hordle/BAFTA

        Clearly happy to be there, and supported by a dear friend and family it was still an opportunity to celebrate his achievements. Despite this, when his son made a short speech, and struggled to hold back his emotions, it was a difficult and touching moment for everyone. But to see Terry Jones, clearly thrilled to be honoured in his home nation, for all his achievements over the years, was a truly fitting end to the 25th Anniversary BAFTA Cymru celebrations.

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