Hi I am Guy the project coordinator for Get The Chance. I am a trained secondary teacher of Art and Design and have taught at all Key Stages in England and Wales. I am also an experienced theatre designer and have designed for many of the theatre companies in Wales.
Following an impulse to escape the façade of filmic structure and actually learn something from “the craft” I ended up at the Harold Pinter Theatre in the most diverse auditorium I have ever experienced; culturally and demographically.
Very rarely do I attend a piece of theatre without an agenda to dislike it due to disproportionately high-ticket prices, however, tonight every penny and pound was well worth investing; Bartlett Sher’s production, for the National Theatre, was a lesson well taught on a difficult, sensitive and currently extremely relevant challenge; conflict. Sher’s direction utilised Brecht’s concept of the Verfremdungseffekt to scrutinise our judging behaviours towards what we all unintentionally practise as prejudice.
The face value of Rogers’ play concerning a peace deal between the Israeli and Palestinian governments is projected by Sher to have a much more powerful incentive than to educate the packed auditorium; but rather to reflect the severity of current conflicts that are erupting not only concerning Eastern Europe but all over the world and ever more recently our own door step.
Through the use of projected media images and live records we were transported from a piece of powerful political performance to the reality of the collateral damage on the streets of Gaza. The impact was further amplified as Mona, one of the Norwegian politicians, shares with us the impact it had on her as she “saw it. Two boys facing each other, one in uniform, one in jeans, weapons in hand, hate flowing between them. But their faces—and we both see this—their faces are exactly the same. The same fear. The same desperate desire to be anywhere but here.”[1)
The design of both the performance space and the play supplemented one another clearly to aid the storytelling. Despite not being a “well-made play” and transforming the Classical or Aristotelian unities; the majority of the story was shared in the same design of board room with minor differences to clearly define its different global locations; when a new location was introduced It would be so verbally by the Norwegian politicians whose story it was that was being told. This technique of storytelling in a single shared space via breaking the fourth wall encouraged me to believe in the storytelling even more, as I was seeing the events from the perspective of history, whilst hearing the events from the recollections of the Norwegian politicians who experienced it.
Regardless of being a contemporary spectacle at times, the play still adhered to a classical structure accurately climaxing in moments of extreme tension which was cleverly juxtaposed with moments of estrangement juggling with my hope – to ideally end in a resolution which would leave me feeling proud to be a part of the human race – however, this was not the case. Here is where the story telling became more important than whether the play was “a good one” according to the structural critics; the resolution was promised and upheld and peace was planned, however Sher once again brought us back to the reality of the current conflict reminding us this is not just a play.
Based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo, Tom Morris’ direction of the Grinning Man; written by Carl Grose with score by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler is a unique story told at the heart of the West end in Trafalgar Square neglecting the usual audience pleasing fairy-tale templates. The story was told with a huge variety of creative yet engrossing techniques and mediums from the use of clowning to the expert puppetry all supporting the story telling of the unique story which came alive through many a medium.
The Trafalgar studio was packed thrice the volume of when I saw the Philanthropist earlier this year and the reason was clear from entering the auditorium: Jon Bausor, set designer, had turned the Trafalgar Studio 1 into a fairground circus with posters and fliers lining the walls, bunting and macabre fairy lights littered the upper space – the closest thing to a portal out of London had been created!
As I sat in a packed auditorium amongst tourists, avid theatre goers and well-known actors, we were all treated with the same status by Julian Bleach playing Barkilphedro, the court’s clown introducing the folly along with the characters keeping within the rules of good ol’ Freytag’s structure – to my surprise, despite the leap from introduction into sung introduction, the story was still told clearly and the new medium didn’t distract from the storytelling and perhaps even furthered the narrative as the repetition of lyrics enhanced our knowledge of the given circumstances introduced.
The pace of the first act was perfect as it did not take too long until we were introduced to Ursus played by Sean Kingsley, whose band of performers and puppeteers retold the tale of the Grinning man leaving out guilty details which Ursus did not yet want to reveal to the audience or his performers; this idea of multiple worlds was manipulated effectively by Kingsley who acknowledged and appreciated from the get-go that he was telling the story not only to Trelawny visiting his “show” but also to us audience experiencing this show within a show and this was easily set up by Kingsley agreeing that “this will be a private performance, with the exception of you few on-lookers”. The exciting action to follow was sharp and snappy as the puppets of GrinPayne and Dea were made the vulnerable source of our entertainment as the story unfolded of how the past became the present in which the puppets were left to the show within the show and the actors took the present role of GrinPayne and Dea; this clarity of past and present gave the story an immersive experience as it was easy to feel sorry for the puppets and relate this to what the present characters had suffered.
Overall I think that the execution of the play was greatly entertaining and at times affected the audience in ways beyond ‘just a play’, however I think the second act lacked a new exciting force meaning that there was a hole between the climax and the resolution.
Having researched briefly, and confused myself greatly on what on earth the Heisenberg principle was, I had a vague understanding that, at the very least the play would involve “momentum”. I also knew that there was some involvement from the cast and creatives from “The Curious Incident Of The Dog in The Nighttime”, however, I was unaware of how intimately different this play at Wydham’s Theatre would be!
After an initial uncertainty, if you pardon the pun, having met the character of Georgie and being overwhelmed by her insanity, I finally understood that mental instability was staring us in the face and Anne-Marie Duff portrayed this genuinely enough that I started seeing this insecurity in my own relationships. This mental state of Georgie was enhanced further by the minimalistic staging in which the size of the performance space was tailored, sometimes physically, by the shifting of walls to fit the discourse of the given circumstance creating a whole different atmosphere when Georgie and Alex played by Kenneth Cranham were in the park as to when they were in the bedroom – however I do think that at times Anne-Marie Duff relied on these walls forgetting the imaginary given circumstance for example when shouting outside her place of work and neglecting the potential consequences.
The story was fuelled and propelled by the soft yet harsh, plummeting yet inching relationship between Alex and Georgie. The relationship almost seemed to be unfurling real time rather than under the time pressure of 90 minutes; partially down to the slick unit/scene changes in which Alex and Georgie portrayed the passing of time and emotional developments in frequent every day movements. Reminding us how ordinary they were and how much of their character’s live in so many unaware people.
The use of vefreundem’s effect was subtle yet very present in the every day, relevant for example in the concept of a relationship differing overtly in age, even more so in the lack of subtext. It felt like a relationship was forming successfully as everything was being shared and “man’s” patience and acceptance was caring and understanding.
Overall, I think the play taught me how important it is look after what you have and don’t take things for granted. It has given me the impulse to go see a loved one just to tell her how much I appreciate and love her.
Hi Angharad and Beatbox Tangent great to meet you both , can you give our readers some background information on yourselves please?
Angharad: Hi I am a theatre director, educator, facilitator and lecturer. I studied and worked as a performer before turning my hand to directing. I have worked for many organisations throughout Wales, but am now a freelance director and Artistic Director of Leeway Productions. I am also a mam and the proud owner of cuddles the cat. I love Women’s rugby and until I broke my ankle a few months ago was scrum half for Merched Clwb Rygbi Cymru Caerdydd.
Hi I am Beatbox Tangent I am a beatboxer from the UK, I currently live in Cardiff but I have performed gigs; workshops and collaborations all around Wales. My love of art and music inspires me to create compositions that take vocal percussion to extraordinary heights.
So what got you interested in performance and the arts?
Angharad : I have always been actively involved in the performing arts since the age of 10. I guess my Welsh language education was quite enabling as I was steeped in the traditions of the Eisteddfod and therefore had plenty of opportunities to perform so to speak. It was a toss up between sport and the arts though as I was a nifty rugby and hockey player, but am glad I choose this path.
Angharad in Hen Rebel Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru
Angharad, Beatbox Tangent has recently been involved in your 10 Minute Musicals initiative, can you please tell us more about this innovative project?
Angharad: 10 Minute Musicals is an innovative development programme to support musical theatre professional in Wales, with a particular focus on the writers and composers. Organised and delivered by Leeway Productions the development project 10 Minute Musicals is held three times a year at The Other Room in Cardiff and is also rolled out across the Regions as a part of our ‘Best of’ project.
We aspire to encourage and nurture new and existing creatives to write for musical theatre in Wales.International collaborations between artists is of huge importance to us. Over the next few months, we will be calling out to some more creatives who are keen to try their hand at writing a musical, and also, more established artists who may want to up skill and network with new creatives and artists. Creative participants can include composers, playwrights, librettists, poets, musician and lyricists.
10 Minute Musicals includes networking, development of current practice and examining and providing the support artists need when evolving, progressing and advancing their writing skills for this genre.
We encourage a continued conversation with creatives and believe that this creative development project is a great springboard towards casting a new light on how you usually work. Leeway Productions provide mentorship support throughout the process, and support artists as they find their way through what could seem like a daunting task. There is a sharing of your work at The Other Room as a culmination to the process and the participants’ hard work.
Thanks Angharad, as you mentioned 10 Minute Musicals has supported artists who wouldn’t think of writing for the musical theatre genre. Beatbox Tangent as you have mentioned you are a primarily a beat boxer do you think you have developed new skills through the process of being involved in 10 Minute Musicals?
Beatbox Tangent: I think I have to be honest. Collaboration is always an integral part of pushing your practice, so doing different activities and working creatively, especially with my partner on the project Rufus Mufasa has really pushed me as an artist and I’ve explored different avenues of creativity. Also, to break down those conventional barriers and really explore something new and using the Welsh language to do that has really opened my mind up to possibilities of language and music.
Musical Theatre as a form is rapidly developing and embracing new forms and styles. Musicals such as ‘In the Heights,’‘Hamilton’ and companies like ’20 Stories High’ are utilising a range of urban art forms in their work. Do you think this can bring new audiences to theatres which might be thought of as predominately white, middle classes cultural spaces?
Angharad: I don’t think we should burden artists with thinking about their audiences when we create work. I think that by activating all forms of culture to write for musical theatre, what willl happen is that the stories they want to tell will resonate with their communities, thus giving context and relevance to the work we create in Wales. We have a terrible habit in Wales of lifting existing models that work outside of our own communities and Country and imposing them onto our own landscapes. What this creates in a standardised approach to the arts. I am not personally interested in building mini London’s and mini England’s within our artistic infrastructure in Wales. We have a terrible obsession with critics outside of Wales, and 5 star reviews, but what about our audiences who are still terribly disenfranchised. So I guess the short answer to your question is, start with a story an artists wants to tell. Throw out all the pre existing models and build our own.
Beatbox Tangent: As an urban artist, I would say yes because the boundaries of Beat Boxing and vocal percussion are being pushed every day. Beatboxing has a very theatrical element to it. We have some great performers now, the likes of ‘Berry Wam’ from France who do all these covers of great commercial songs but some of them are classically trained, and you could easily take your whole family to see one of their shows. So yes, I believe it can pull new audiences in and ‘waw’ them. Beat Boxing is basically vocal percussion and what is musical theatre? It’s using the voice.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Access for diverse citizens is a key priority for a range of arts funders and organisations Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
Beatbox Tangent: We are living in a very interesting time. We are living in a time where, how I like to describe it is a half light environment. We are living in the dark as well as the light when it comes to diversity and equality. We realise it’s important and relating this with music, and Welsh Culture, well…. actually, I believe the Earth is but one country and mankind is a citizen, so I believe I am a World citizen and although I have a nationality I belong to this earth. I think when it comes to arts and music it’s so important that you have that diversity. It’s like a man and a woman are two wings of the same bird and creativity doesn’t rise within one sex or culture. It’s a gift and as long as we have projects that bring different people together from every background I think we can create something so very beautiful and really expand Welsh Culture because we have so much to give.
Angharad: There are many, as there are barriers to a whole host of other provisions in Wales. I am currently working with D/deaf artists developing a musical and the infrastructure to support this kind of work is still very ambiguous and fragile. We have to work with artists who are deemed to have ‘protected characteristics’ (I hate buzz words by the way), in order to reach those diverse members of the public we seem to be forgetting about constantly. If the artists themselves are not represented then why would the audiences come and watch a story which is not relevant to them? Artists need more spaces at the heart of this cultural provision, within communities, to create work in order to reach out to a much more diverse audience. We are still so reliant on venues, and I believe this is a barrier in itself. There is such a drive for ‘excellence’ in the arts at the moment. Well, ‘rising tides raise all ships’ and I don’t know that giving so much focus to our venues helps with this little quote. I am such a believer in this quote and I am very concerned that the divide in this ever confusing world is growing and growing. The arts have a role to play here, because it is through storytelling we find truths and remind ourselves what humanity should look like.
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
Angharad ; This is a tough one to answer as it’s such a complex time for funding in particular in Wales.The word ‘career’ in the arts is a dangerous one, because unless you work within an organisation, I don’t know that there is such a thing. Is there? I know of established artists who are still only earning about £13k a year, having worked for years and years. I’m not sure how this is sustainable to be honest, especially when kids come along, so then you get a fall out, and once again it’s all about ’emerging artists’ because all the established artists have had to take other jobs in order to survive, a vicious circle. So at a time when artists are ready to create outstanding work, they just can’t afford to do it. I have no answer, but this is a reality. I think venues have a duty of care towards artists, and Welsh artists, because they are the lifeblood. Jut to add to this also, because funding has become so fragile we don’t seem to be taking risks on those artists who create work that splits audiences right down the middle. That explores the extremes. I would much rather hate or love a piece of work rather than just sit through another piece which panders to the status quo.
Beatbox Tangent: I would like the help to be more visible. More transparent. At the moment, it’s hard to find those organisations. But it’s a learning curve. There are so many schemes at the moment, especially within education, and it’s great for me as a looper, beatboxer to have those opportunities to share my practice within schools, I just wish I could find the opportunities much easier.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
Angharad: I would give 10-20 freelance artists a paid yearly salary and give them the flexibility and trust to self regulate the work they do within certain communities in Wales. Simple. No box ticking. I believe this could foster sincere change at grass roots and community level, because they would not be working towards prescribed objectives and would be able to shape shift and respond accordingly to what is in front of them. Artists like to make, I would give them absolute freedom to do just this.
I would also de-centralise our monster cultural epicentre in Cardiff, which consists of the Wales Millenium Centre, The Senedd, BBC Orchestra, Wales National Opera it goes on and on. What’s that all about? Lol. It feels like a case of ‘ all the great and good may reside here’, and I don’t believe that is healthy at all.
Beatbox Tangent: There are more and more different types of creative art forms all making a contribution to Welsh culture and society. This will only increase through social media. I always feel in Wales though that people are not empowered and empowerment is necessary for them to feel confident about their practice. More funding is needed from different organisations to help creative practioners, empower other creative practioners. Thats why the Creative Practioner training is vital as you are linking up with other artists. It gives different artists the change to make connections. I am a beat boxer I might meet a skate boarder how can we work together to create something awesome? The Welsh Government really needs to understand that no matter what happens in our economy if its Brexit or something else, I don’t want to get political but the arts need to be at the forefront of everything in our society, money can be stretched, I believe everything that we have in our society is because of the creative arts.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
Angharad: We are in a privileged position that we can foster relationships and networks which can be cohesive because we are such a small Country. Artists excite me. I have been working as a Creative Agent for Arts Council Wales for three years now and the artists I have come across are breathtakingly beautiful. There are art forms I had never even heard of and a generation who are creating and nurturing new and innovative art forms for themselves. I love this.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Beat Box Tangent : The UK Beatbox Championships were incredible! Foe me personally getting the chance to work with Angharad on the 10 Minute Musical performances have been amazing. I am interested in pushing the boundaries in Beatboxing in Wales.
Angharad: I took my 10 year old daughter to see Slava’s Snow Storm at the WMC. A poetic, visual piece of brilliance when it comes to story telling. My daughter turned to me 10 minutes in and said ‘Mam, there are no words’. I explained that communication is not about words. It is about a visceral tempo rhythm one finds within the piece they watch. That communication begins with a buy in to a moment. She was confused. She kept watching. She came out and she cried. I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘I don’t know. I just feel really sad’. That’s my kind of theatre. It hit her in a space and place she could not articulate.
The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Artist Emily Jones. They discussed her training, being named runner-up in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 for graphic short story: Dennis and June and her most recent work for Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.
Hi Emily great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hello, I grew up in Tyneside but I’ve lived in Cardiff for many years now. I studied illustration for children’s books at art college as that’s the branch of illustration I’m really passionate about. Although, I do enjoy drawing cartoons of Donald Trump and other political figures that I find ludicrous! Being an illustrator isn’t my full time job as I prefer the balance of being able to draw and paint when I want, without the worry or pressure of relying on it for an income.
So what got you interested in Illustration?
I had two lovely teachers in primary school and they encouraged me to draw. They made me realise that you could draw pictures for a living. I loved picture books in particular and I had my favourite illustrators who I aspired to be like. I think I’ve always been fascinated with images and how someone has created them.
How has your career as an illustrator developed?
A few years ago, I began renting out an art studio so I had the space to work in a more professional manner rather than just working at home in front of the TV. This really changed things and along with posting my work on social media, I have slowly but surely become busier and better.
Your personalised pet portraits are particularly popular with your work appearing in 1000 Dog Portraits by Rockport Publishers? Can you tell our readers how you got involved in pet portraits? Do you have a favourite animal to illustrate?
I painted my partner’s dog Scooby and it all started from there. I showed the painting to a few people and before long I was being asked to paint their cat or dog. I think painting pets is a great way for any artist to get commissioned as it’s artwork that is really accessible for people to buy. I love painting all sorts of animal but the more animated the creature is, the more fun I find it to be.
Well I begin by doing a lot of research on how other artists have illustrated these classic stories. I then do my best to create an image which is original as well as instantly recognisable. The images have to grab attention of both children and adults and hopefully it will make people want to see the show.
The image for Hud Y Crochan Uwd/The Magic Porridge Pot, Sherman Theatre.
Your Wind in the Willows illustration has been developed into an animated trailer this year. Is this a first for you?
Yes it was and it was brilliant to see the image move! The artwork I create for Sherman Theatre is always created in separate layers. This enables the designers to move around the different components to fit whatever format the advert will appear; be it posters, flyers, web-banners etc. Of course, this also enabled the designers to create an animated trailer which is just awesome!
Do you have any illustrators or artists that inspire you?
There are tons! Quentin Blake has always been there as a favourite, as has Edward Gorey. They are experts at depicting characters with seemingly simple pen lines. Shaun Tan’s work is incredible and I wish I had a fraction of his talent! I love Júlia Sardà, David Roberts, Isabelle Arsenault, Alex T. Smith, Michael Sowa, Mateo Dineen, Rebecca Dautremer. They are a just a few! I study their work and try to figure out how they do what they do. They make me feel totally inferior but at the same time, inspire me and enthuse me to create my next best piece; which is definitely a good thing.
Images by Júlia Sardà, Shaun Tan, Edward Gorey and Quinten Blake
Congratulations on being named runner-up in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 for your Graphic short story: Dennis and June. This work is in a digital medium can you discuss how this differs from your painted work?
I recently bought a Huion Graphics tablet so I can draw and colour digitally. It makes illustrating in this comic style so much faster. When I heard about the graphic novel competition, I knew I’d have to create it digitally as painting the way I do, takes so long. Plus, the comic style suits the story much better. Creating digital work has a freedom to it. Mistakes can be easily erased and colouring is instant but physically painting an image will probably always be my favourite way to illustrate.
An image from Dennis and June you can read the full story at the link above
If any of our readers are aspiring illustrators what advice could you offer them?
Draw as often as possible. It seems obvious but you have to practice. Drawing from life is a brilliant way to improve your skills and develop your style. Having a recognisable style is important and it’s something I haven’t mastered yet. But the more work I do, the more I learn and develop. I just wish there was more time in the day to draw!
What do you have planned for the future?
Well, I’ve been having various successes in illustration competitions and I’m hoping this will lead to greater things in the publishing world. I have a couple of children’s books to work on, more images for children’s theatre and when I find the time, I’ll create another graphic story.
I’ve created images for The Sherman for a while now and it’s always a proud moment seeing my artwork representing their shows. The Sherman has given me huge confidence in regards to my ability as an illustrator and I hope to work with them for years to come.
Image for Hugan Fach Goch/Little Red Riding Hood
Image for Alice in Wonderland
Thanks for your time Emily.
You can check out more or Emily’s work at the link
I’m also a founder member of Slung Low, a theatre company based in Leeds, and have written around a dozen shows with them that have been performed at The Barbican, The Liverpool Everyman, car parks, fields and whole city centres both nationally and internationally.
This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
At the moment I’m listening to some of my favourite records of 2017 so I can put together a ‘best of’ list that nobody will care about. Currently in the running is Currently in the running is: Adios Senor Pusscat by Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band; New Energy by Four Tet; Peasant by Richard Dawson; Black Origami by JLin; Arca by Arca; Dust by Laurel Halo; and Drunk by Thundercat. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar is probably my most played in the car, which is always a good sign.
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
This could be fifty albums long and change from week to week, so here goes:
1 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: I’m sure fellow reggae snobs will turn their noses up at this but it’s a record I remember my dad playing all the time as a kid in the front room. One of his claims to fame is going to see Bob Marley live and telling Tony Wilson to sit down because he was stood on his chair ‘acting the goat’. I also drew a really terrible picture of the sleeve, of which I was very proud at the time but now recall looking a lot like an ill Howard Donald from late-period (first incarnation) Take That. Every time I hear Stir It Up I’m transported to that front room as a seven year old kid.
2 Hunky Dory – David Bowie: Bowie was also a big part of growing up and is one of the few artists whose death genuinely affected me. My mum’s younger siblings were a bit obsessed with him, and apparently my uncle once got caught stealing my aunty’s blouse to wear in the Bowie/Roxy room at a Manchester nightclub. This album, although not my favourite Bowie, holds special memories as it was the first of his I bought for myself. I got it in Tenby on a family holiday, the same day I picked up What’s Goin On by Marvin Gaye. It was an auspicious day for me and my Walkman.
3 Deep Heat 89: Fight The Flame – Various Artists: I think my obsession with dance music started with this fine double cassette. It has some absolute stormers on it including Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald (still in my all time top ten), Strings of Life, Stakker Humanoid, Promised Land… I’d like to say I was a regular at the Haçienda back then but I was ten. This was when, if you weren’t old enough to go clubbing or didn’t have an older brother or sister, the only way to hear this sort of music was the odd late night radio show; compilations like this; and the sincere hope that the specialist chart on ‘The Chart Show’ that week was The Dance Chart. I still remember seeing the video for Aftermath by Nightmares On Wax on that show and, shortly after a trip to John Menzies, my dad’s speakers were never quite the same again.
4 Definitely Maybe – Oasis: It was either this, Screamadelica, or the first Stone Roses album as representative of this period of my life but, if I’m being totally honest, Definitely Maybe has to be the one. It’s not the best of those records but being 15/16 when this came out made you feel like a king and walk like a fool. I saw them in ’94 at the Academy and it was life-changing (thanks for taking me, Aunty Paula), and their singles coming out were genuine events — the B-sides! Through them I discovered all those other bands they ripped off and for that, if nothing else, they deserve my undying love.
5 Tri Repeate – Autechre: On the personal statement in my Record of Achievement from school, it says my favourite bands are The Stone Roses and Autechre — just in case an employer wanted to know how incredibly cool I was in 1995. Autechre are brilliant. How they’ve developed and created a space totally their own over the last three (!) decades is an inspiration to any artist. There are records they’ve made that I’m still making sense of but this is their best and they are the DNA for many of the really great experimental electronic artists around today (the aforementioned Arca being one). I love them and imagine they have a sensational collection of outdoor wear.
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
I’m going to pretend I misread the question and pick Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell because it was the first dance at my wedding and when Marvin goes ‘whoo!’ at 1min 39secs a bolt of sheer joy fizzes through me.
Dirty Protest blasts off into 2018 with launch of project inspired by Wales’s claim to Star Wars fame.
“Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock, a co-production between Wales’s acclaimed new writing company, Dirty Protest, Chapter and the Torch Theatre, takes the 1979 Pembroke Dock building of the full-scale Millennium Falcon as its inspiration
The Millennium Falcon under construction in Pembroke Dock
Set in Pembroke Dock in 1979 and 2014, our hero Sam is a Star Wars obsessed kid in 1979 and a single father in 2014. His father is a redundant shipwright, employed to build the Millennium Falcon. Incredibly, far from being from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away; the ship featured in the second film in the Star Wars saga was constructed by a small army of tradesmen in the Pembrokeshire town’s Western Hangar. All were sworn to secrecy as the ship came together far from prying eyes. Now, Dirty Protest brings the story to the stage in a production that combines the thrill of 1980’s adventure movies with an intergenerational family saga all of its own.”
We caught up with Catherine Paskell, Artistic Director of Dirty Protest Theatre Company and playwright Mark Williams to discuss this exciting new project.
Playwright Mark Williams
Hi Mark great to meet you, so what got you interested in writing?
I’ve always loved stories, and was a big reader of books and comics from an early age. I had a great teacher in primary school, who encouraged me to let my imagination run wild in creative writing lessons. I remember vividly the moment when I realised that in a story, you could transform the world, in any way you wanted to. As I got a bit older, I became interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ world of TV and film. Magazines and movie tie-in books often had interviews with writers, and that opened up the idea that writing was a process, and something it was possible to do as a career.
Catherine Paskell Artistic Director of Dirty Protest.
Thanks Mark, Catherine can you please tell us more about your role?
I’m Catherine and I’m the Artistic Director of new writing company Dirty Protest. I have recently directed Sugarbaby by Alan Harris which Dirty Protest took to Paines Plough’s Roundabout Summerhall venue with Wales in Edinburgh last summer. I was a founding creative associate of National Theatre Wales – it was this opportunity that brought me back to Wales. I love what I do and connecting to people with theatre making in Wales.
Mark you are a playwright can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a theatrical production ?
So far, every production has followed a slightly different model. Sometimes my role has more or less ended when rehearsals began. Other times, I’ve been more actively involved, right up until the show opens, and during the run. There can be lots of factors determining the writer’s role, ranging from how the director likes to work, to the needs of the producing company, or your own time commitments on other projects. Ideally, I love it when the process is as collaborative as possible.
As a playwright you reference and are inspired by a range of elements of popular culture, why do you think this is?
George Lucas on the set of Star Wars with Mark Hamill (Luke Sywalker)
Many of the artists and writers that inspire me have always been proud of the eclectic mix of pop culture that informs their work – Ray Bradbury, Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Russell T Davies, and, especially in relation to this new production Lightspeed, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Pop culture is what first inspired me to write, and continues to do so. I think negative value judgements are sometimes made on aspects of it (perhaps less so these days, now it’s all-pervasive!) But as well as being entertaining, I love the fact that you can stumble on depth and substance in unexpected places, if you keep an open mind and a curious eye.
Steven Spielberg on the set of Jaws
And to continue the query above is this something you consider when thinking about developing audiences for your work?
Yes, always. When it comes to audiences for your own work, you start to think about what you can bring to the table yourself. How that can inform your own characters and stories, and connect with an audience’s own experiences.
CatherineI wonder if you could reflect on Dirty Protests’s journey from script in hand performances in the yurt in Milgi’s to this new production?
It’s been 10 years getting us to this point! We’ve staged plays in tents, fields, kebab shops, hairdressers, basement dives, attack bars and even theatres. Dirty Protest started in August 2007, with crowds of people crammed into the yurt in Milgi’s backyard, craning their necks to see the performers, reading from scripts-in-hands, stood amongst the beds and sofa cushions.
Script in hand event at Milgis
It was a must-be-there new writing event, and ever since then Dirty Protest have spent the last decade at the head of a revolution in Welsh new writing, building a community and being a place for theatre makers to belong. Now we work across Wales, with fantastic Welsh co-producers, theatres and venues. We have worked with over 250 writers and collaborated with fantastic partners outside Wales, including legends like the Royal Court, the Almeida, Paines Plough, Traverse Edinburgh, and Latitude. We have kept the same ethos and ambition to nurture a community, and forge new spaces and higher profile platforms for exceptional Welsh new writing to be performed in and out of Wales. We have always kept ourselves busy but so far, our 10th year anniversary is our busiest time yet! We have performed at least one event each month since our celebrations began in August. As I mentioned earlier we took Sugar Baby by Alan Harris to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of Paines Plough’s Roundabout programme. The show was well received, we were 1 of only 8 shows added to the British Council Showcase, alongside Soho Theatre, The Bush Theatre, Tobacco Factory and National Theatre of Scotland. We were so chuffed with that! But not content to just take one show to the Fringe, we also staged 5 additional new short plays by 5 Welsh writers at the Fringe to show international audiences just how fantastic our new writing talent is in Wales.
Production image ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ with Volcano.
Back home in September and October, we then created our Welsh language short play event Protest Fudur with our partners Galeri in Caernarfon, and staged more short play events with Wales Millennium Centre and Fuel, staged a 10-year take over of The Other Room, and celebrated that It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) with Volcano for their Novemberfest in Swansea. This December, over 4 days we are staging a development production of a brand new Christmas monolougue, Cut and Run by Branwen Davies with the incredible performer Catrin Stewart who will bring the story to life in the most beautiful way. This development Christmas monologue follows in the steps of our previous annual anti-panto Christmas shows, including the hugely popular Last Christmas by Matthew Bulgo (which was The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh’s studio Christmas show last year).
All that, and we are only 5 months into our anniversary year! So then we will deserve a Christmas breather before January kicks off with us producing a Contemporary Theatre Festival with the University of South Wales, before we travel across Wales trying to meet as many writers and actors and directors as possible. We will be developing writers and new plays with venues across Wales in the lead up to the Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock tour.
I can’t wait for the culmination of the tour: a Star Wars-inspired arts festival in Pembroke Dock, called the May the Fourth (be with you) festival happening on – yes, you’ve guessed it! – Saturday 4th May.
There’s still lots more planned that we can’t announce yet and loads more ways that people can get involved. Our 10 year anniversary isn’t just about what’s passed – it’s about what’s yet to come. I really hope that people will come and be part of Dirty Protest all across Wales and help us create the theatre of the future.
Mark, what do Dirty Protest mean to you as Welsh playwright?
Firstly, via their short play nights and events, they provide a brilliant opportunity for new and emerging writers to get their work read by actors in front of an audience, and for more established writers to try out new ideas, and have fun in a relaxed environment. Secondly, they’re fast becoming a leading producer of new writing in Wales, helping writers to get their work made, toured, and seen further afield. Their commitment and enthusiasm to actively developing both of these strands is a vital part of the arts in Wales.
Catherine this will be Dirty Protest’s third fully staged drama? is this correct? With your biggest tour to date, what does this mean for the company?
Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock is actually Dirty Protest’s sixth fully staged drama since 2007, on top of numerous development productions and short play events which bridge the gap between rehearsed readings and full-scale productions.
This production is hugely exciting for us because we can join the Rebel Alliance of Welsh theatre! It’s our chance to tell a story that is uniquely Welsh, connected to the people and society of Pembroke Dock, but also places Wales at the heart of one of the world’s biggest film franchises. It’s our first show that is specifically created for audiences of all ages. If you’re old enough to see a Star Wars film, you’re old enough to see Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock!
We are excited to be working with two collaborators – writer Mark Williams and director Julia Thomas – who have been with Dirty Protest since the early years, working with us on numerous short play events over the last 10 years. It’s fantastic that they will be making a fully staged production together with us and explore a new area of theatre making for Dirty Protest, as they are both experienced in making theatre for all the family. Julia is currently directing Leicester Curve’s Christmas Show, George’s Marvellous Medicine and I remember seeing a stage show of Horrible Science that Mark had written, where I had to wear 3D glasses so digital poo could fly out of a toilet into my face!
We can’t wait to take Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock on tour all across Wales and to meet new audiences who won’t have ever seen Dirty Protest before. We will be returning to some venues where we have performed previous hit plays like Last Christmas by Matthew Bulgo and Parallel Lines by Katherine Chandler, or staged our short play nights.
We are also going to new venues who we’ve wanted to visit for years, and now we can! I really hope that people who already know us, and people who we have yet to meet, will come and join us as we blast across the nation on our newest adventure.
Thanks you both and finally do you have a favourite character from the Star Wars movies and why?
Mark Han Solo. Who wouldn’t want to fly the Millennium Falcon?
Catherine Lando Calrissian from Episodes V and VI. He’s funny, and dramatically interesting and complex: he’s a kinda bad guy – he’s a gambler who loses his ship the Millennium Falcon to his friend Han Solo, and he also tricks his friends so they get captured by Darth Vader. But he then has a turn of conscience, helps his friends escape and joins the Rebel Alliance! So he turns into a good guy! He’s the epitome of what Star Wars is about, to me – growing up, surviving the galaxy, and being there for your friends.
The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Photographer/Videographer/ AV designer and Projection Mapper Jorge Lizalde. They discussed his training in Spain, his most recent work with Lucid Theatre Company on Little Wolf and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.
Hi Jorge, great to meet you can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi, I am Spanish and was born in Zaragoza and moved 12 years ago to the UK when I finished my art studies in Salamanca and then Madrid. When I arrived in the UK I worked for four years as a cinema projectionist at Vue Cinemas at the Angel (London) as well as The French Institute (London) where the projection is still old school, swapping film reels every hour over two projectors, a job that I loved but digital cinema has killed it. In 2009 I moved to Cardiff and since then I have been freelancing as Photographer/Videographer and most recently as an AV designer and Projection Mapper.
So what got you interested in the arts?
My grandfather Jose Luis Cano (on my mother’s side) was a famous watercolour painter from where I come from, his son, Jose Luis Cano (both my grand father and uncle, share the same name as it’s a Spanish tradition to name your son after your father.) my uncle, is a well known painter/illustrator, he creates the satiric daily drawings on the local newspaper, Heraldo De Aragon. My grandfather had an art studio, known as Studio Cano that’s why I trade commercially with that name, which is my second surname, in Spain we keep both surnames from the father and the mothers side. The different people I encountered at Studio Cano learned different painting styles and disciplines at the studio. I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years there, painting, drawing, etc. It is where I got ready for my University access as in Spain to study a BA in Fine Arts you need to know how to draw a life model as part of your A Levels. At Uni I learned many different disciplines of painting, sculpture and drawing as studies are quiet traditional, making my own canvas, paints, etc. My father was into photography just as an amateur but his brother was a commercial photographer. I didn’t really got interested in photography until my father passed away 18 years ago and I was passed down his heritage and his equipment at the end of my first year at Uni. In addition, many friends of my parents are ceramists, architects, etc. Art was always around, so I guess it was inevitable that my brother (classical/flamenco guitarist) and myself would finally become involved in the arts as a career.
Jorge Lizalde, “Mnemonic” at G39 gallery
You have a wide variety of film and photographic skills. When you are photographing a theatrical production how do you approach the process of taking an image?
With every shot I treat it as individual, my camera settings and focus are manually set so I have total control of the shot. Having started as self-taught on film, before digital photography took over, has helped me to have a good understanding of the tech, so I just have to pay attention to what’s going on in front of me (actor interactions, movements, reactions, expressions etc.) I don’t like to retouch pictures afterwards in post-production, I just readjust the white-balance that sometimes the camera can get wrong. Foe example theatre lights can have new LEDs which can be can be really tricky on temperature and contrast, but what you see on the picture is normally what I initially capture. What I do particularly like is to move around a lot as this gives me some perspective and creates more interesting shots that just an on the spot view from the auditorium. From a dress rehearsal session I can get around 150 usable shots, its then the job of the producer or the person in charge of marketing to choose the final images.
Credit: Gamta School by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
What makes a good image for a theatre production?
A well composed and focused picture of a scenario or situation that through the actors expressions tells you exactly what’s going on. If on top of that it gives you a sense of the stage or space that to me is a hell of a picture.
Credit: Roberto Zucco – August 012 by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
You also design and map Audio Visual projection for live performance, with new technologies this is a rapidly developing area, how do you see this art form developing?
LePage is known for some great experimentation and mapping projections, that production is 17 years, believe it or not! What it is really developing fast it is the technology is becoming faster and cheaper. What a projector could give you 10 years ago in terms of quality for £25,000 you can have it now for just £1,400 and in a 1/5 of the size too. It’s the same with computers, they are faster to process the video codecs, I can edit and program a video on the middle of the tech session if needed, something unthinkable a couple of years ago, so AV is no longer part of a privileged group with lots of money it can be also part of small budget productions or projects.
Untitled.mp4Credit: Clockwork Orange / Curve Theatre – AV Mapping by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
Continuing this theme of embracing new technologies you also utilise drone camera footage in your work, most recently in “Little Wolf” by Lucid Theatre Company. Can you tell us how you have developed your skills in this area and again how you see this art form developing in the future?
I bought my drone this summer for my own project about Brexit and what it means to be an EU citizen today in the UK, as at the moment I feel we don’t belong to any land. The model I bought has some great features as well as a quality image, you can control it with the hand. I took it this summer to Finland where I was part of Oulu Hack Week organised by Taikabox, three days of experimenting with new technologies and dance where we tested it and created a little presentation or dance piece with it.
Now I am developing and experimenting a bit more with its possibilities and limits for the stage. I will have a hack day with Lara Ward at the end of November and hopefully refine its use in the future to create a little performance with it . Since I bought it I haven’t stoped using it, for example as you mention with Little Wolf where I created some footage overlooking water, – a swimming pool, a lake and the sea, it was really helpful. It’s still early days to say where this tech will go but it has become cheap and really fast so I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone owns one, even if it is just for selfies which it is what my little drone was designed for in the first place!
Credit: Little Wolf / Lucid – Av mapping by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
Yes I am really aware, I am Spanish and have an accent that in many cases is judged as not educated or a knowledgeable person. I haven’t been able to get some jobs because of it. At the beginning it was annoying when people tried to maximise their mouth motion and slow their pronunciation when talking to me because they think I didn’t understand but now I just do the same to them if they do, I slow my talking and maximise my pronunciation, maybe that’s why I don’t get the jobs but who wants to work with someone that diminishes you by your accent? Also, I have been involved with Taking Flight Theatre Company
As well as other theatre companies developing live subtitles, I have been working on creating theatre which is more accessible to all audiences. I believe I am the only person in the UK using the software I am working with, or at least this is what a programmer recently told me! It is software created for film cinema subtitles but I adapted to theatre. It can be projected over projections, it can be programmed to be part of the stage and interact with actors, it can be shared in any device, Android or Apple, phone or pads and via a local network which can be used in a promenade performance without access to the internet. In addition I am developing live speech to text subtitles (same language or a live translation of it as for example Welsh-English or Spanish- English) but the technology is not there yet, hopefully with the development of home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa the interpretation of the language will get faster and better.
Credit: Yuri / August 012 | Subtitles and picture by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
I think it is pretty healthy, a bit more funding would be great, especially after so many years of having cuts in the arts budgets. The only problem I am facing this days is, I am in my late 30s so there are no prizes or opportunities for that age or not as many, most are focused on early career or under 30s. If you are a mid 30s or early 40s creative and want to start an art career there are not many opportunities to build a good portfolio and be quickly part of the art community.
Credit: Own Installation, “Editing my father” at Ffotogallery
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
To choose an specific area would be to discriminate against the others. I never understood targeting specific areas, all areas, race, social, cultural backgrounds, etc should be considered every year for equally and fund them according to the excellence of the projects and their outcomes. If that means some stablished organisations loose funding after many years receiving it because independent or small projects are creating better projects to present, so be it.
Credit: “Cymru & I” Collaboration with Japanese choreographer Yo Nakamura
What really excites me it is the size of the art community, it is not big, so you soon know most of the artists working in Wales. This also makes it really accessible, and that gives you great freedom to experiment and collaborate with other artists and start new projects or enterprises. It creates opportunities for pop up exhibitions, zines, performances, etc. I don’t think there are enough links with work which is part of a performance or the theatre/artistic community with visual or more modern arts groups but hopefully in the future there will be more collaborative work between art galleries – g39, Ffotogallery and Chapter – with the performance festivals – Festival of Voice, Cardiff Dance Festival – or venues like the WMC or Chapter – as well as artists from both backgrounds. When they have collaborated in the past at events such as Experimentica or Artes Mundi there are more interesting projects happening and everybody really gains from it, creatively and culturally.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I have always been interested on working with lights and mapping lights structures these are getting more and more interesting, especially with LEDs stripes, with them you can have as many different colours and sync as you like. A good example of it is Robert Hencke’s Lumiere III laser lights installation which I saw at the Barbican main theatre at the beginning of this year and it was one of the greatest art experiences I have ever seen.
Thanks for your time Jorge.
You can find more information about Jorge and his work at the links below. Personal Commercial
The director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently met with writer Dr Branwen Davies. They discussed her training, career to date, a new work in progress ‘Cut and Run’ which will be performed at Chapter Arts Centre this December and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.
Hi Branwen great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I initially trained as an actor at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff after being involved with National Youth Theatre Wales as a teenager. I was interested in performing but realised I was a better writer than an actor and decided to focus on writing instead. My training gave me a really good grounding and introduction to theatre, plays and performance as well as the opportunity to meet some great people who I have been lucky to collaborate and work with later in life. I think actors can be great script editors – knowing what is needed and not needed in scenes and what can be conveyed without text. I think my actor training helped me become a better writer and theatre maker.
The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff.
So what got you interested in writing and the arts?
I’ve always written and I’ve always been involved in theatre in some way shape or form. I wrote plays as a child, took them to school and forced the class to perform them! I wrote whilst at RWCMD and after working as an actor for a few years decided to do a Creative Writing Masters at Bangor University. Whilst doing my MA I was commisioned by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru to co-write the Welsh language play DOMINOS that toured Wales. I’ve since been combining freelance writing work, lecturing and various theatre/performance projects with various companies in Welsh and English.
The writers of DOMINOS, Mared Swain, Branwen Davies, Manon Wyn, and Angharad Llwyd.
It’s been an eye opener talking to young people regarding the hard-hitting production of Mwgsi which is about a young girl who at the end of her A levels discovers she has Leukemia. I admire the young people’s honesty and frankness. They know what they like and don’t like and are able to communicate well their thoughts and reactions to the play. I feel it’s important that a play produced for young people is reviewed by young people – i.e the target audience and that Fran Wen – a company who aim to create exciting theatre that challenges young people with content and form approach schools and offer the opportunity. I’ve had many interesting discussions the past few weeks and enjoyed discussing what a review can be and should be and how to create a vocabulary to talk about performance and theatre and elements involved in a production in an engaging way.
I believe you have been working with older citizens. Can you tell us more about the project you have led on?
It was a privilege to work with the older citizens on the project Lleisiau/Voices with Pontio and Friars Secondary School in Bangor. We spent time with the residents at the old people’s home Plas Hedd at Maesgeirchen Bangor who specialise in care for people with Dementia. We created a verbatim piece of theatre after the students befriended the residents and talked and interviewed them. Seeing the frindships that were formed between the generations was heartwarming. Being able to see the residents as real people with stories and a past rather than patients in a chair and most importantly being able to give them a voice was very rewarding. I have never laughed and cried so much during a project. It really hit home the power of theatre, communication and engaging with the community. The stories that were shared were priceless – Mable’s fun and frolics with the Land Army, Margaret training to be a nurse and escaping from the window after lights out and Morus playing the piano whilst his father sang and his brother played the trombone. The end result was read to the friends and families of everyone involved and was a celebration really of the resident’s lives. But the process of befriending and giving the teenagers an opportunity to get to know the older generation and to share and learn from them was the real power of the project and seeing the residents light up and enjoy sharing and laughing and having fun.It was very real, very human and touching.
Gwanwynn celebrates creativity in older age, with an increasing older population in Wales is their enough support for the creativity of our older citizens?
I don’t think there is enough support for the creativity of our older citizens. There are some important and rewarding projects going on but there needs to be more. I feel we tend to forget or ignore our older citizens when they need to be celebrated. They have so much to share and we have so much to gain from them. Loneliness is such a huge problem with our elderly citizens and I feel an output for creativity would be a huge benefit to combat loneliness and eradicate the stigma of old age.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists?
Get the Chance do a great job. There are always barriers and always people fighting for equality and for more diversity. It’s the money element that worries me. The expense and cost of opportunities – even visiting theatres or booking a space! I wish there was more funding to collaborate with different artists on a research and development level. Introducing different artists to each other to experiment and play with different ways of working.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I would like to see more funding for children and young people’s theatre – theatre that provokes without preaching. Some of the most memorable performances I have seen have been for younger audiences. I still remember some productions that came to my primary school and feel that it is a mistake to steer away from visiting schools and performing at schools. It is the only opportunity some children will have of theatre. I would like to see more funding for the less obvious and less traditional forms of theatre and theatre making too and development of new work. Would be good to take a risk with funding and support less known and less experienced artists – we miss out by playing safe. There is room to push boundaries.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
What excites me? The talent!The practitioners and artists we have in Wales across the board – actors/directors/writers etc I just wish there was more opportunity to showcase the talent across the border and internationally.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I have just experienced a weekend at Ty Newydd in Llanystumdwy at a writing retreat where I was mentoring 6 new young writers with Elgan Rhys for Fran Wen.
Branwen working with one of the young people at Ty Newydd.
It’s a magical place and a weekend collaborating, talking and sharing was invigorating!
Elgan Rhys working with one of the young people at Ty Newydd.
Photographic credit: Mark Douet
Performance wise I recently saw National Dance Wales and Marc Rees’s P.A.R.A.D.E – yes I’m biased because I collaborated with the text for the performance but I enjoyed the experience, excitement and the spectacle of it all.
Photographic credit: Mark Douet
And lastly to finish what are you currently working on?
Cut and Run is a work in progress that Dirty Protest are developing/performing in the run up to Christmas at Chapter as an alternative Christmas show. You can catch it at the studio in Chapter December 20th-23rd. It’s a one woman show with mosquitoes, Texan tourists and a ticking biological clock!
As part of Dirty Protest’s 10 year anniversary celebrations, the company present a development production of a new Christmas monologue, Cut and Run by Branwen Davies. Branwen wrote for Dirty Protest’s very first short play night in 2007 and this is her first full length play for the company.
Cut and Run follows Dirty Protest’s tradition of alternative Christmas offerings and will be performed at Chapter 20th – 23rd December 2017. Tickets can be booked here
(The review below is from a preview performance, accessed through Spice Time Credits)
So off I went out out (no slippers) for my first Spice Time Credit spend in several months. It was so good to get out, I’ve been bit unwell again, just coming through the other side, treats like this make recovery fun and what better way than to go and see a fab new show like Tiger Bay The Musical with friends and family thanks to Spice Cardiff and the Wales Millennium Centre.
Tiger Bay is a beautifully crafted musical based in Cardiff around the boom time of the coal industry. Its about the people who lived and worked there, tales of love, hardship, hope and tragedy (be prepared to experience a gamut of emotions). John Owen Jones voice is commanding and lyrical, it was so lovely, Dom Hartley Harris voice is like velvet, ‘Ianto’ is played by a little star to be and Noel Sullivan got the best boo as a baddy I’ve heard since I saw the Baron in La Traviata.
Suzanne Packer back to a Kairdiff accent as not seen on Casualty was excellent, her part induced some lovely giggles and we forget at times the lady is an accomplished and talented singer, an excellent performance by all.
The staging itself is incredibly clever, with a few set pieces that move and it immediately changes the scenery and ambiance, one minute you are on a ship by the dock, the next inside a local hostelry and the next inside a castle.
I think my favourite part was the stage lighting, I certainly applaud the director/designer of that, the intense lighting/spotlighting and placement of the actors and other players induced dramatic silhouettes (the smoking lady in Morgans) or made it seem like there were three times as many people on the stage, (triple shadows), the sinister giant stretched shadows in the darker scenes, it was an excellent bit of staging.
The choreography and choral arrangements and orchestra were amazing, some parts where you have a three different singers I think its called polyphonic chorus, didn’t always work for me and I lost the story but I soon caught up, however you cannot deny its very clever and brilliantly technical and all credit to the professionalism of the cast and indeed the very young cast that these choral sections were so superb.
So any negatives?, I have to say yes, it’s slightly too long, I’m disabled and sitting for three hours can be uncomfortable, I was getting quite fidgety towards the end, not because I’d lost interest, but because I had a numb bottom and a complaining hip. I think some of the linking to scenes was tenuous and some overlong, but really its a tiny complaint and did not deter my enjoyment of the show. I truly recommend you get a ticket to go if you can, it was a really lovely evening, whats not to enjoy about being entertained by a well written show performed by talented people?
Bravo, I say Bravo!
Ceri Ann Goddard
Ensemble — Jamal Andréas
Rowena Pryddy — Vikki Bebb
Leonora Piper — Liz May Brice
Donkeyman / Ensemble — Lee Dillon-Stuart
Cadi / Ensemble — Lucy Elson
Ensemble — Kit Esuruoso
Ensemble — Soophia Foroughi
Mali / Ensemble — Zoe George
Donkeyman / Ensemble — Daniel Graham
Themba — Dom Hartley-Harris
Ianto — Louise Harvey
Ianto — Ruby Llewelyn
Lowri / Ensemble — Elin Llwyd
Ensemble — Carl Man
First Mate / Locke — Rhidian Marc
Ensemble — Kayed Mohamed-Mason
Klondike Ellie / Ensemble — Busisiwe Ngejane
John Stuart — John Owen-Jones
Marisha / Ensemble — Suzanne Packer
Fezile / Ensemble — Luvo Rasemeni
Yusef Mohamed / Ensemble — Zolani Shangase
Ensemble — Cilla Silvia
Ensemble — Ernestine Stuurman
Seamus O’Rourke — Noel Sullivan
Donkeyman / Ensemble — Joshua Tonks
Bosun / Ensemble — Adam Vaughan
Arwyn — Ian Virgo
Ensemble — Emma Warren
Ensemble — Stephanie Webber
CREATIVE & PRODUCING TEAM
Music by — Daf James
Book and Lyrics — Michael Williams
Director — Melly Still
Co-Director — Max Barton
Designer — Anna Fleischle
Lighting Designer — Joshua Carr
Sound Designer — Christopher Shutt
Music Supervisor and Musical Director — David Mahoney
Choreographer — Melody Squire
Casting Director — Jim Arnold CDG for Pippa Ailion Casting
Additional Casting — Charlotte Sutton CDG
Producer — Maris Lyons
Executive Producer — Pádraig Cusack
Additional Welsh Lyrics — Daf James
Associate Director — Shelley Adriaanzen, Richard Tunley
Associate Designer — Loukia Minetou
Associate Lighting Designer — Peter Small
Associate Sound Designer — Greg Pink
Associate Choreographer — Lungelo Ngamlana
Fight Director — Kev McCurdy
Voice Coach — Nia Lynn
Orchestrations — Jeff Howard
Additional Orchestrations — Nathan Jones
Costume Supervisor — Natasha Prynne
Production Manager — David Evans
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