Emily Garside

Chippy And Scratch Does the Diff- Chippy Lane Productions

Chippy And Scratch Does the Diff

Following their sell-out night at the London Welsh Centre last month, Chippy Lane Productions brought (half) their 2017 scratch night home to the ‘Diff. Following an audience vote on the night 4 of the 8 pieces were selected for performance in Chapter.

As these are works in progress this isn’t a strict review, but a chance to reflect on the pieces presented and share some comments on these great new writers as well as the talented young directors and actors.

 

You Gotta Go There to Come Back – Poppy Corbett

The story of the Welsh girl desperate to leave Wales- and the slim pickings of Metros – definitely struck a chord with most of the room, both in London and back in Cardiff. We’ve all heard the same Welsh jokes when living and working over the border, and we’ve all felt the push and pull of family, opportunity and the big question of ‘what if?’ that lies with leaving where you’re from. Filled with references that anyone who grew up in South Wales will certainly recognise but also full of heart and a universal story about leaving behind the familiar. The ten minute extract of Corbett’s longer piece was brilliantly funny- particularly thanks to Michelle Luther’s energetic engaging performance- but also highly poignant and touching.  The story of the conflict between roots and dreams, about the importance of where we come from but our own independence is one that will resonate with audiences universally, however the ‘home touches’ of growing up Welsh gave it a particularly poignant feel. More importantly Catrin is a character a lot of women will identify with, and giving voices to women’s stories and women’s experiences on stage is a vital one. Corbett has a real voice for capturing that experience and it’s one that should be heard.

 

Tiny Mad Animals- Neil Bebber 

Any story that combines a debate about lasers with tea drinking is worth anybody’s time. Neil Bebber has also managed to come up with the greatest description of children with that title. ‘Tiny Mad Animals’ sees a pair of old friends and flatmates reflecting on past and future as one of them prepares to move in with his girlfriend. There’s an easy but witty dialogue between the two characters and it’s easy to imagine their long friendship (and nights spent stoned, chasing each other around the flat talking about lasers). But there’s also a real sweetness to their story, and a sensitivity with which Bebber’s writing addresses their feelings for one another. It’s a piece that really left a question mark over what might happen next.

Outside Blisters- Ruth Majeed

Blisters of the title is a nightclub in Bargoed, and this piece forms part of several short plays Majeed is putting together to reflect contemporary Valley’s life. Anyone who has lived or worked in that part of the world will immediately feel like they know these characters. And even if you’re a generation or two apart from the selfie-taking e-cigarette smoking girls in the play, their world is still familiar. It’s a great take on contemporary life, the language the girls speak in is pitch perfect Valleys and really brings the vibrancy of their world to life. It’s a genuinely funny but also very real slice of life and shows how a simple moment- three girl having a smoke outside a club, can be a real window into so much more. Again these are voices we hear rarely- both women, and women from working-class backgrounds, outside major cities. Majeed in this extract and her wider piece is bringing these stories to audiences, and showing both the uniqueness of that particular slice of life, and the universal elements of their stories. At the same time it’s a brilliantly funny piece of writing that will have most audiences either saying ‘I know that girl’ or ‘I am that girl’.

 

Cardiff Boy- Kevin Jones 

If ‘Outside Blisters’ captures a slice of the current generation, ‘Cardiff Boy’ spoke to another generation in the room- the 90s kids. No sooner had R Kelly blasted out while Jack Hammett described a night out in Lloyds, than every person of a particular age could smell 90s Cardiff in an instant. The clever use of musical cues to divide up aspects of the story, as well as the nostalgia they induce was a great framing device for this look back at life growing up in Cardiff.  Nostalgia aside it felt like there was a lot to say about Cardiff in the 90s through the eyes of a young working-class man. Not just the wider stories of the city shaping him, but the challenges and struggles within in that time from teenager to adult. Hammatt brought to life a fascinating slice of life in the short extract. A combination of detailed knowledge of the subject- niche references to Cardiff itself but a broader sense of working class life for teenagers in the 90s, makes this a great piece for locals and others alike. Underneath the music and the nostalgia there’s also an important story of masculinity, working class life and growing up that is an important and interesting story to explore. Jack Hammett brought to life the story with engaging and endearing charm and it’s a play and a performance that hopefully will continue to grow.

Following the success of the 2017 London scratch night, these 4 pieces were a brilliant ‘homecoming’ for Chippy Lane productions. Their support of new writers in the short time they’ve been a company (just 16 months) is a marker of commitment to supporting new artists in Wales, and these scratch nights have been a great opporturnity to see that work both in London and on ‘home’ turf.

Chipppy Lane Productions can be found at:

@chippylanprod

www.chippylaneproductions.co.uk

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    Review Where Do Little Birds Go?- No Boundaries Theatre by Emily Garside

    Where Do Little Birds Go?- No Boundaries Theatre, Cardiff Fringe Festival 

     

    (4 / 5)

    The lesser known stories of history are generally the more interesting ones. In this case the story of a woman embroiled in the work and the legend of the Kray Twins is a fascinating one. In the story of the Kray Twins, the chapter on East End gangster Frank Mitchell – also known as the Mad Axeman- being broken out of prison, and later killed at the hands of the Krays, is well known. Liza Prescott often features as barely a footnote in this story. She was 18 and kidnapped by the Krays as a ‘companion’ to Mitchell while they held him in a East End flat. Later a witness in their trial this young woman’s story has become an almost forgotten part of the Men’s narrative.

    Camilla Whitehill gives the re-named Lucy a voice in ‘Where Do Little Birds Go?’. And the use of ‘voice’ through song is a brilliantly executed device in the play. The title reference to a song made famous by Barbara Windsor grounds Lucy in the East End girl trying to make good- having travelled to London she is trying to make it as an actress, while working as a barmaid, and then a nightclub host. Music becomes an extension of Lucy’s voice, from ‘Bobby’s Girl’ welcoming the audience to her while snippets of other songs from the 50s and 60s interject, reflecting Lucy’s mood, or her dreams. Music, or lack of it when she violently shuts off the record player drive the piece forward as well as giving a real sense of time and place through the music of the era.

    The men in the story are peripheral, it’s Lucy’s voice we hear. Men feature in influencing her story- the useless boyfriend she bites, then leaves, the landlord and club owners that turn a blind eye to her age, her kind Uncle Frank and of course The Krays. But in telling the familiar tale of East End life, and Gangster dealings from the point of view of a young girl who happened to witness it, gives it a new, even more harrowing spin. The final moments where she recounts begging not to speak in court, and of her resignation to being at the job that brought her to the mercy of the Krays to begin with, speak volumes about the way women find themselves caught up and spat out again by both the men in their lives, and the justice system. More importantly history tells us what happens to the men in these stories, we know next to nothing about Lucy.

    Despite the dark subject matter, it is an energetic and engaging piece of writing, filled with great humour. Capturing the youthful exuberance of Lucy, Kate Elis welcomes her audience in from the very first- as she sits at her make up table singing- we’re drawn into her world. Engaging with audiences in close proximity is never easy, but Elis worked the space and the audience effortlessly, making it feel like we were individually being told the story by a friend in their living room. It takes a lot to hold an audience single headedly but Elis’ likeable enthusiastic demeanour brings in an audience, until we then see her vulnerability as Lucy’s story unfolds.

    It’s an uncomfortable watch at times. As the story darkens and Lucy is held captive by the Krays, the fear about her fate, and a brutal honesty about what that experience would have been like make for difficult viewing, particularly for the women in the audience. A clever combination of movement and dialogue play out the sexual assault Lucy was subjected to and it’s a necessary, but deeply uncomfortable and upsetting sequence to watch. Elis demonstrates her intelligence as a performer that the combination of vulnerability but also the mask of self-preservation that Lucy needed to retain are conveyed perfectly. Meanwhile it’s a tribute to Luke Hereford’s sensitive, and intelligent directing that this element of the story is handled without restraint, but with sensitivity. It is of course Elis that is drives the whole piece, a true tour de force performance going from youthful exuberance to a woman broken down but still defiant by the close.

    The production, as part of Cardiff Fringe, is given an excellent opportunity to make use of the performance space giving the piece an almost site-specific feel. The bunker of Little Man Coffee is both cosy enough to feel, with the ramshackle selection of seating, like we are in Lucy’s bedroom. And later, claustrophobic enough to feel like the dingy East End flat she’s kept in. Most alarmingly ‘the vault’ has an old vault door-thick metal like a safe, and a barred door like a cell in front. So, when Kate Elis pushes the door closed at the start of the performance we feel as if we’ve been brought into that world, trapped by the Krays with her. When later she fights against the door, banging the steel grill backwards and forwards the sound in the small room was deafening and the sense of being trapped very real. This element of using unconventional performance spaces really shows in this piece the effectiveness of location for performance. Another layer director Luke Hereford can add to an already brilliantly executed piece.

    ‘Where Do Little Birds Go’ is an important and fascinating piece of writing. Giving voice to the women on the side-lines of history is a vital part of storytelling. Even more so giving voice to women to perform their own stories, is equally vital particularly in theatre. Camilla Whitehall’s play is handled with grace and given the status it deserves by Hereford and the team. In Elis they have found a performer with a real voice and presence for Whitehall’s writing. Cardiff Fringe/No Boundaries was the Welsh Premiere for this piece and it deserves, particularly with this team, a longer, further reaching life.

    Cardiff Fringe Festival runs from 15th- 22nd July in various venues across Cardiff:

    http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/

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      Review La Voix- Ffresh, Wales Millenium Centre by Emily Garside

      Let’s talk about Drag. Most people have probably encountered a Drag Queen of some kind in their lives. (If not please, reassess that situation after reading this review) Whether it’s as part of a Hen Party or Birthday Party at the local Drag Bar- hello Minsky’s and Wow- or on TV via (if you’re my age) Lily Savage presenting Breakfast or tea-time TV (those were the days) or on Netflix with the glory that is Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Obviously if you’re a drag race fan the next sentence will not be a surprise but: Drag is an artform.

      Once again: Drag is an artform. Cabaret is an artform. Drag as Cabaret is an artform. So easy to dismiss as someone in exaggerated make up in a wig in a dark bar you visit once in a blue moon. But real Queens work a room and a crowd tougher than most comedians. Most Queens have worked their way up through dingy back rooms and hiking on outfits in toilets. All Queens are not the same either. All Queens are definitely not created equal. But the best are an utter masterclass in entertainment.

      La Voix is an utter masterclass.

      All the above said too, it’s really important to say how brilliant it is that Ffresh at the WMC invited a Drag Queen to be part of this season. That alongside the National Theatre’s production of Jayne Eyre in the main theatre, La Voix was invited to do not one but two nights.  It’s both important in recognising that performance given space in arts venues shouldn’t be on a hierarchy- although some patrons might sniffly ask why a Drag act was in a theatre, not back in a club where they no doubt think that sort of act ‘belongs’ but also to show audiences ‘yes we welcome all kinds of performance here’. It’s also important as reviewer to have the experimental Jazz group last week, included on the same programme as a Drag Queen. It’s about saying there’s sophistication, and training, and creativity across all kinds of performance, so let’s do away with these divisions. Finally, it is also about- particularly in ‘Pride Month’ the idea that LGBTQ+ performers and audiences, and work that historically wouldn’t have been welcomed in such spaces is. It’s only 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised, and Drag and other Queer performance was not so long ago an underground scene or at the most related to a certain kind of club. To see then a drag performer in the flagship venue for Wales, and with a diverse audience is not something to be taken lightly.

      All this politics and history however is taking away from talking about the Diva herself. And that isn’t on really. La Voix is a force of nature. She got to the semi- finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2014, where her name meaning ‘the voice’ and is known for her on-point impressions of famous Divas.

      Winning many prestigious awards which include Best act at the London Cabaret awards, Winner of Drag Idol and most recently the Gold award winner for Best act at the Boys Scene Awards. And was in the Ab Fab film.

      So, for the past 10 years La Voix has been taking on the big divas and making them her own, on both stage and screen. And last night’s tour of the Divas didn’t disappoint. Resplendent in a turquoise gown and trademark red wig, she reminds the audience that ‘I didn’t get this dressed up to not have pictures taken’ before adding ‘If your flash isn’t on…I’ll wait’. The audience interaction is, as with any drag show and after storming on with ‘the voice’ filling the room, there’s some delightful patter with the accompanist (Fresh from Hawaii with accompanying shirt) and of course with those lucky (unlucky depending on your take) to be in the front row. There were clearly a cohort of die hard fans in the audience who know the show possibly better than La Voix, but also allowed for some great banter between them. Drag Queens are known for both cutting, and a times filthy humour. And while it was certainly un-PC at times, the jokes never strayed into the borderline offensive that some other acts might take on. No doubt that changes with the venue and crowd, a skill again knowing how to work an audience, meant those in the audience unfamiliar with the Drag style of humour wouldn’t have been too shocked- and I defy them not to have laughed.

      Songs take centre stage, as do the Diva’s who deliver them. While to some degree sticking to the demographic most in evidence at the show- the over forties, Diva fans- there was enough contemporary reference mixed in to make the show feel fresh. So, while Adele might not have been performing at Wembley that night, La Voix brought us Liza does Adele.  The audience was given a masterclass in performing the Divas from Cher through Liza to Judy and ending on a Welsh flavour with Shirley Bassey. A personal favourite as a musical theatre fan was Liza doing Mein Herr from Cabaret…but as if she tried it now at 76. I didn’t know I wanted it until I saw it. There’s such a detailed familiarity with the Divas from La Voix that goes far beyond simple mannerisms and vocal impersonation, and there’s also the love of a Diva in general that fuels the act. So while they are mercilessly mocked, there’s a sense of love and respect there. Something that’s very much at the heart of a really great Drag Queen too.

      Also at the heart of any good Queen’s act is how to make an entrance and also an exit. And the closing numbers do not disappoint. Audience already primed 2 songs earlier, for the exit and cheering her back on stage La Voix returned decked in Ostrich Feathers and white (soon to be put in danger by a misplaced vodka cranberry). Dame Shirley was taking the final bow, and the crowd loved a home-grown Diva. And finally, as a sing-along closing number, Bonnie Tyler. In which the crowd also proved that giving a Welsh audience a chance to sing and they will attempt to upstage any Diva. But really what more fun can you have on a Saturday night than singing at top volume to ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ with a Drag Queen dressed in white?

      There’s a lot to be said for bringing Drag to wider audiences, and respecting just what a skill not only Drag but working a live cabaret audience is. La Voix thanked the crowd for coming out and supporting live cabaret noting that in these times it’s live entertainment- particularly at this end of the spectrum- that suffers. She also said that in these dark times we need that entertainment. And that’s the crux of it. At the end of a long day or week, La Voix gave us an escape- a fabulous, sequin clad, feather trimmed Diva-esque escape. Merci La Voix, Merci!

      https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/ffresh/LaVoix17/

       

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        Chippy And Scratch by Emily Garside

        On Tuesday 27th June, on a fittingly wet night in London a group of Welsh writers, directors and actors gathered to share a host of Welsh work.

        Chippy Lane Productions (set up by Rebecca Hammond in 2016) was hosting it’s second Chippy and Scratch night in which 8 playwrights had been selected to share short pieces or extracts from longer works.  All performed by Welsh or Wales based actors, and directed by Welsh/Wales based talent.

        It’s a great idea, one that brings the Welsh trained/born talent of London and beyond together, and gives those living back in Wales a place they can gather and share work outside of Wales. We know we create great work, create great talent in Wales, and that we have a great community here. But it’s also important to facilitate sharing that with the wider world, and allowing those based elsewhere to feel a part of that community.

        I was joining in as a writer. My piece ‘Party Like it’s 1985’ is an extract from a longer piece and something I’ve both wanted to and put off writing for a long time. It wasn’t written specifically to share on this night. In fact, I finally put pen to paper in a fit of rage to submit to another company just to prove a point that they would never, ever select my work. I was right. They didn’t. Herein lies lesson number one in writing: don’t give up. Lesson number 2: not everyone will like you but someone will. Lesson number 3: sometimes a bit of rage will do you good.

        So, I was thrilled to be accepted into the scratch night and have the opportunity to both hear the work aloud and to get to collaborate with a fantastic team who have proved so important already to developing the work further. Director Luke Hereford, whose other work I’d seen late last year, shares a great many of my theatrical tastes, and both respects and shares my passion for the subject matter. Writing an LGBT piece, as an LGBT writer, and having a director who without asking gets the importance and sensitivity of what you’re trying to convey is a dream- particularly for scratch night and so early in the overall process of developing my play as a whole. The cast assembled were also an utter dream. The marvellous Delme Thomas whose other performance I’d seen and greatly admired, along with Toby Vaughn and Melissa Bayern made up the fantastic team that brought to life my little piece.

        For my own work then the process of being involved was as important-if not more so- than the night itself. Hearing the work was fantastic, and as a writer sparked off a whole series of reactions and associations in my brain that I now can’t wait to put into action. As ever the actors discovered things and surprised me and gave me a whole array of new interpretations on my own work. As well as the equally important knowledge of what doesn’t work, or what could work better. And that should be the core of a scratch night- for everyone creatively to experiment, grow their work and learn from each other. In that respect for me that was a great success.

        The other important element of a scratch night is the opportunity to see so many different writers in one evening. So, for this we had: Chris Harris, Kevin Jones, Neil Bebber, Melanie Stevens, Jacob Hodgkinson, Ruth Majeed and Poppy Corbett. Such an array of styles of writing, from one person pieces to ensembles, laugh out loud funny to reflective. That there were a range of experienced writers and newer artists was also significant, feeling like there really is a chance for everyone to be involved. And significantly, a 50:50 split between male and female writers- a balance that we certainly don’t see elsewhere.

        There isn’t time to do justice to everyone involved. From the funny surreal piece by Melanie Stevens with ‘When Opportunity knocks’ (and excellent Hagrid impression involved in the performance). To love stories with a twist from Chris Harris in ‘Love you in a single Brain cell’, to the intriguing world Jacob Hodgkinson painted in ‘DIBYNAIAETH’ There was a real array of approaches and styles on show.

        Four pieces are going to be seen again at Chapter in Cardiff on the 18th of July, giving the writers a chance to develop the work further. Kevin Jones the winner of the night with ‘Cardiff Boy’ will be joined by Neil Bebber’s ‘Tiny Mad Animals’ Poppy Corbett’s ‘You Gotta go there to come back’ and Ruth Majeed’s ‘Outside Blisters’. From Corbett’s hilarious but touching tale of moving from Wales to the big city, to Majeed’s hilarious account of a night out at a Valley’s nightclub, to the 90s backdrop of Jones’ monologue and the quietly touching piece by Bebber these pieces show a great snapshot of the wider talent on display.

        As well as showcasing the writing, and the talent of the performers and directors involved, what the night also offered was a chance to yes, network, but also community build. Those conversations in the bar afterwards will hopefully lead to more collaborations both in London and back home in Wales. As a writer however, the most valuable thing I could have was to get to work with a my team and see what I’d done brought to life. Seeing those 10 minutes of it was great, but it’s the before- the preparation and what that offered- and the after, and where it leads that is the real opportunity for writers to seize onto. So thanks to Chippy Lane for giving me and my slightly oddball, but hopefully interesting piece a chance and I can’t wait to see where it, and everyone else’s work goes next….(after the whole team goes to the Chippy of course!)

        Chippy & Scratch Night

         

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          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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