Guy O'Donnell

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.

AN INTERVIEW WITH CRACKED WRITER, POET AND PLAYWRIGHT EMILY HINSHELWOOD.

Emily is a writer, performer and arts facilitator, working in schools, community centres and adult education. She is an award-winning poet and has won competitions for her scriptwriting, animations, and illustrations. She enjoys collaborating with other artists (e.g. she recently toured with harpist Delyth Jenkins) and finding ways to make her ideas accessible.

She originally trained as a social anthropologist. This foundational interest in people, social systems and the way we interact with our world continues to inform all her work. She worked for 14 years in London and overseas (including Iraq and Gambia) before moving to Wales in 1997 for a lecturer post at Swansea University.  She settled in Tairgwaith, a small mining village at the foot of the Brecon Beacons where she and her partner co-founded a community energy charity Awel Aman Tawe.

Her poetry is published by Seren Books and she has been writer in residence at many diverse events e.g. Span Arts Festival of Dying, Dylan Thomas Centenary travelling writing shed, IKEA, several EU conferences on Climate Change amongst others. She worked for Women’s Arts Association for 2 years, and ran a programme of Arts and Climate Change projects for 4 years.

She has worked as a creative writer in over 100 schools (from nursery to year 13), ran the Neath Port Talbot Young Writers Squad for 4 years and has led many writing courses for adults eg at Ty Newydd, and in the community, eg a recent Stories of Change multi-university creative writing project.

She has done several long-distance walks to inform her work, e.g. walking the length of Manhattan picking up a piece of litter from every street to create a long found poem; and walking across Wales asking every person she met 3 questions about climate change. She co-founded Peacock Vein ScriptShop in 2004, a forum for scriptwriters, and continues to co-host the monthly Script café in Pontardawe Arts Centre. She produces collaborative plays and has had several of her own plays produced locally eg: Dylan Thomas, Dylan Who?, Sitting it out in Merthyr and Buoy.

She is a committed Welsh learner, and won the Chair last year at the south Wales Learners Eisteddfod. She has two daughters, and keeps bees.

As a published poet, how did you make the move into script writing?

I’ve always loved dialogue. I love listening to people, the way they talk, their turns of phrases. I’m interested in the way people interact, the spaces between them, what they say and what they hide. I have used dialogue in my poetry since I began writing, and have produced many verbatim poems. So the shift to writing scripts wasn’t a hard one. But what I have concentrated on in creating Cracked is how to put more of my approach to poetry into my process of scriptwriting. I started with a series of poems which included “the Surgical Removal of the Voice” These poems led the play in a fundamentally different way to how I’ve written scripts before – primarily through metaphor.

What made you write Cracked?

Aged 9, I wrote a story called The Very Lonely Man. In this, the lonely man’s desperate search for friends leads him to be publicly shamed. The story continued to resonate with me all my life and, in a sense, Cracked is a reworking of The Very Lonely Man.

I’m interested in the subconscious motivations for our actions; how childhood trauma can profoundly influence us even in adulthood, often without us being conscious of it. I know from my own experience, as well as from research, that our inner critic can be a huge obstacle to a happy and fulfilling life. From my creative work in schools, I find many pupils suffering from an overactive inner critic. I wanted to create a piece – for both young people and adults – that explored ‘the life of an inner critic’; something that could trigger a discussion on how we can respond to the negative voices inside our minds.

Another big influence on Cracked were 2 teachers who supported me at a difficult time at school. One of them used to invite me (+ 3 others) to her house during the holidays. This would be totally unacceptable now. Another supported me in school every Wednesday on an informal one to one basis. This play is partly a tribute to them.

Can you tell us little about the development process? How the idea of Cavelle has ultimately become the touring play Cracked?

Cracked has been through many incarnations. It originally began as a piece for the Pontardawe Arts Centre Script slam, and then I was selected for the Chrysalis programme through which I received support to develop it. Louise Osborn, as dramaturg, directed the process of helping me explore, with actors, the issues I’m interested in. We examined together the concept of the inner critic and the storyline of Mick and Stewart. I was particularly keen to see how Cavelle (Mick’s inner critic) could be manifested on stage. I was really lucky to work with Louise and a team of great actors in two R&D processes over two years. We shared the play at various stages with live audiences selected specially for feedback on the issues raised and the script has been through a great pile of revisions until finally, I feel it has gelled into the play I wanted it to be.

Why do you think Cracked is important?

‘Voices’ inside the mind are part of the human condition. They help us to make decisions, to understand situations and to comfort ourselves. But sometimes and for some people they can be more negative than positive. Sometimes the inner critic can be crippling and can lead to anxiety, fear and depression. Yet in spite of the universality of it, and the similarity of our inner critics’ messages, we barely talk about it. I would like the play to stimulate discussion about this very real phenomenon, discussion that can lead to practical ways of diffusing the power of the critical voice.

I also think it’s important to consider the storyline of Mick and Stewart. How can we support vulnerable young people in schools without compromising the need for child protection. While the play doesn’t come up with answers to this, it raises the question of what point Mick crossed the line and how he could have managed his support for Stewart in another way.

Who do you think will enjoy the play?

From the sharings we have held during the development of the piece, it received very positive feedback. Young people, parents, youth workers, teachers, therapists as well as a general drama audience enjoyed it.

With a cast of 5, an exciting set, puppetry and live music, I feel this play will be enjoyable and thought provoking to a wide audience of adults and young people.

©Kirstenmcternan 012

You can see all of the tour dates at the link below

https://www.literaturewales.org/lw-event/cracked-by-emily-hinshelwood/

Top Tunes with Megan Pritchard

A portrait photograph of Megan Pritchard.

Hi Megan, 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 the Lazarus soundtrack, it’s the current CD in my car and I haven’t changed it for about 6 months, so I often listen to it on short journeys around Cardiff – for me it’s the perfect mid-point between three things I really enjoy: story-telling, musicals and David Bowie. I was lucky enough to see Lazarus at it’s run in London in 2015 – it was brilliantly written by Enda Walsh, and the staging was a great balance between rock concert, performance-art and play. I especially enjoy Michael C Hall’s version of Lazarus as I still find the David Bowie recording quite painful to listen to.

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? 

David Bowie – Underground

I had to think for a long time about which Bowie track to include in this list. To say his work has been an influence on my life would be an understatement. Like lots of people my age, Labyrinth introduced me to Bowie, and as a fantasy-obsessed 9 year old, you can only imagine appeal of the mysterious Goblin King. My mum was happy to cultivate the interest and began to introduce me to his other albums; she even bunked me off school to see his Reality Tour at the NEC when I was 14 and the Lazarus a few years ago (I burst into tears at the end, it was all very embarrassing for her). 

Bowie’s influence has woven itself through me in fashion, philosophy and art as well as music. He is the poster-boy of reassurance for strange young minds that it’s cool to be weird; and whilst I have other favourite Bowie songs and albums, Underground was the catalyst.

Dick Dale – Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, Misirlou

I could have picked any track from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack to remind me fondly of my university years. As a young scenography student Simon Banham (who I’ve been lucky enough to cross path’s with again in a Professional capacity at NDCWales) decided we would study and create studio work based on Tarantino’s cult film.  


I fell in love with the movie and learned loads during the project. For me, the driving pace of this track takes me back to the craziness of deadlines. As soon as I hear Yolanda say the iconic opening words I’m always grinning, reminded of some of the best friends and best work I made at that time.

Nick Hennessey – A Rare Hunger

I’ve always loved songs that tell a story, I’d enjoyed musicals from a young age but not really considered a mixture of spoken word and song before going to a Story-Telling event at my local arts centre. Nick Hennessey (a singer, songwriter, storyteller and harp-player) quickly became a firm favourite in my playlists, and the more he toured, the more CD’s I was able to get my hands on. I’ve been able to see him live a few times now and he has a unique way of weaving vivid tales whilst also possessing the most wonderful voice.  A Rare Hunger is my favourite album he’s produced so far, the perfect relaxation for the active mind prone to imagination.

Johnny Hollow – Alchemy

I occasionally moonlight as a burlesque dancer, and whilst its certainly more of a hobby than a career; Alchemy is the track to one of my most requested acts, it’s carried me to some exciting shows both in the UK and further afield and allowed me to meet some incredibly inspiring women as well as life changing friends.  I was introduced to Johnny Hollow whilst part of a devising society at university. They have an affinity for creating emotive and atmospheric tracks that easily stir the imagination.

Adam Hurst – Midnight Waltz

This is track that fills me with pride every time I listen to it. It features as part of Caroline Finn’s Folk a contemporary dance piece that has become well known as part of National Dance Company Wales’ repertoire over the last few years. 

I’ve been working for NDCWales for 7 years now and have heard lots of music, there was plenty to choose from; but I can’t hear this without picturing Folk with joy. For me, it’s a reminder of some of the highlights of my career so far (and arguably highlights for the Company too) Like a few of my other fav tracks, it’s quite fantastical and evocative.

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?

Oh Gosh! To pick a favourite from the list above would be like saying one part of my life has been a more important part of growing up than another – but without question if you ask me my favourite musician, I’ll tell you Bowie; so lets go with that.

Interviews and articles from 2018

Please find below a range of interviews and articles from the Get the Chance team published in 2018.

Welsh and Wales based artists respond to the new Arts Council Wales Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”  

Guy O’Donnell.

A response to Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

Ahead of the 2018 Brecon Baroque Festival, Roger Barrington had the chance to chat to it’s Artistic Director, Rachel Podger about what to expect this year and also about her own flourishing career as one of the world’s leading violinists.

“Gramophone Artist of the Year” Rachel Podger in conversation ahead of Brecon Baroque Festival 2018

In this article we interview a range of arts professionals to share good practice in the areas of Access, Inclusion and Diversity.

Sharing Positive Action to support Access, Inclusion and Diversity

I am going to explore with you the invaluable discoveries and perspective gained from participating in the YANC event held at the Wales Millennium Centre over last weekend.

Beth Clark.

A response to Casgliad 2018 – Nurturing Youth Arts in Wales By Beth Clark

In this article we look forward to a range of cultural highlights in 2018. Thanks to all of the creative artists involved for their own personal response.

Guy O’Donnell

Looking ahead in 2018 Culture, Creativity and Change!

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Rachel Boulton, Artistic Director of Motherlode, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and Motherlodes new production ‘Exodus’ which premiers at the Coliseum Theatre, Aberdare on the 5th of October before touring.

An interview with Rachel Boulton, writer and Director of Exodus.

Philip Ridley’s acclaimed one-act 2000 play, “Vincent River” tells the story of a mother whose son Vincent has been murdered in a homophobic attack. In the aftermath, she learns about her son’s homosexuality. An interview with Director Luke Hereford.

Roger Barrington.

Preview with Interview of “Vincent River” at Jacobs Market, Cardiff 19-21 September 2018

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and her new production ‘Murmur’, taking place on Fri 14th September 2018 at Memo Arts Centre, Barry.

An interview with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance

An audio/subtitled interview with Carole Blade, Director of Coreo Cymru and Creative Producer for Dance in Wales. Editing by Roger Barrington.

An audio/subtitled interview with Carole Blade, Director of Coreo Cymru and Creative Producer for Dance in Wales. 

Top Tunes with Jonny Cotsen

Top Tunes with Jonny Cotsen

Get the Chance values the role Welsh or Wales based playwrights bring to the cultural life of our nation. Here is the latest interview in this series with actor and playwright Matthew Trevannion.

An interview with Matthew Trevannion

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with playwright and actor Joe Wiltshire Smith.They discussed his background, creative opportunities for young people in Bridgend, his new play Five Green Bottles and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An interview with Joe Wiltshire Smith

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aisha Kigwalilo. They discussed her background, a new arts project called G.I.R.L. Xhibtion and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An interview with Aisha Kigwalilo

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones. They discussed her background and training, a current project Gravida and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An Interview with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones

An interview with BSL interpreter Cathryn Heulwen McShane

An interview with Cathryn Haulwen McShane

The Get the Chance team choose their cultural highlights of 2018

We asked our team to choose their personal three cultural events of 2018 along with a favourite performance and/or organisation. Enjoy reading their individual responses below.

Barbara Elin

2018 has been quite a year; when I submit my thesis on New Year’s, it will be the culmination of four years of intense research, and quite the end of an era (and hopefully the start of a new one). So I’m lucky that, in between the furious bouts of writing and the dreaded editing, I’ve been distracted by some truly brilliant productions, too many to narrow down – from the vicious Motherf**ker with the Hat to the inventively-staged Turn of the Screw and the impressive evocation of character in This is Elvis and At Last: The Etta James Story, 2018’s theatre and dance landscape has provided an embarrassment of riches. So I’m going to cheat a little bit in narrowing down to my ‘top 3’…

3) For ingenuity and fun, Mischief Movie Night/ Murder for Two

No two productions have made me laugh this year more than these two – and though they share a common thread of entertaining ingenuity, they’re vastly different from each other. The former showcased the talent of Mischief Theatre’s on-the-spot improvisational skills, the latter was a tightly-wound machine of script, song and silliness. Both of these productions demonstrated how creative and clever the craftsmanship of theatre is – all while making you laugh too!

2) For pure, joyous entertainment, Young Frankenstein / Rock of Ages.

I love a good musical, and these are two of my favourites in recent memory. The original Young Frankenstein movie is in my top 3 movies ever, so I worried a musical version with a whole new cast could never do justice to the original – well, it did with bells on! Brilliant songs, spectacular setpieces and an original evocation of that original cast made this a must-see. And I have such special memories of seeing Rock of Ages for the first time, so it always has a place in my heart – it’s also one of the only truly great jukebox musicals I’ve seen, and this new cast reinvigorated an already raucous, rip-roaring ride! Can’t wait to see it a fourth time…

1) For powerful and haunting work,

Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein 

Theatr Clwyd/Sherman Theatre, Lord of the Flies

These two productions utterly blew me away with their beautiful, haunting performances – both reimagined old classics in new, intriguing ways and were utterly gripping from start to finish. There are moments in both shows that I will never forget, and without doubt they are the best productions of 2018 for me.

Personal Highlight: It’s only appropriate, given my research into Frankenstein and the bicentennial of the novel’s publication, that I started and ended 2017 with Frankenstein-related productions – Young Frankenstein on the West End in January and Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein on the tail end of November. So my personal highlight of this year would be presenting my research in Bologna for the Frankenstein bicentennial conference. I’m so grateful to Prof Anthony Mandal and the CRECS/ RomText team for this wonderful opportunity.

Venue of 2018: The Sherman Theatre’s dedication to inclusivity, accessibility and innovation remains unmatched in my opinion, and their post-show panels are always a joy to be a part of. Many thanks to Tim Howe for involving me.

Company of 2018: Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein did the impossible – reimagined Mary Shelley’s classic almost wordlessly, in imaginative new ways with stunning moments and dark, modern twists. Bravo!

Gareth Ford-Elliott

For number three I’ll say Cheer by Kitty Hughes at The Other Room. This was fun and alternative and out of the things I reviewed, definitely one of the best.

For number two I’d have to say Humanequin by Kelly Jones at Wales Millennium Centre. This was an important piece of theatre and despite not being the best was definitely the most important piece I saw this year.

For things I’ve reviewed I would definitely have to say Cardiff Boy by Kevin Jones at The Other Room is number one. This was the best all-round show I saw outside of the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Every aspect of it was brilliant and it’s up there with one of my favourite shows I’ve ever seen.

For the cultural events, things I didn’t review, I will say Five Green Bottles by Joe Wiltshire-Smith and Spilt Milk Theatre as part of the Cardiff Fringe Festival. This was an excellent script produced independently. Joe is one of the best upcoming writers in Wales and Spilt Milk are one of the most passionate theatre companies. Together they produced an amazing show which I can’t wait to see again, developed, at the Sherman Theatre in 2019.

Judith Hughes

Exodus by Motherlode

With underlying serious issues about the struggles and problems of working class Valleys people, Rachael Boulton and her team have created a funny, clever, relevant and thought provoking piece of theatre that strikes a chord with its audience; a reaction that can be heard in their laughter and the warmth of their response.  Suspend your disbelief and climb aboard Exodus airways, it’s better than Easyjet!

Passion, NDCWales/Music Theatre Wales

All credit must go to what must have been an incredible amount of hard work from all of the performers, creators and collaborators. I was unexpectedly riveted to the story they told and absorbed in the whole aspect of the show.

Best thing in 2018 overall was listening to Bruce Springstein’s autobiography (actually published in 2017) which I had on Audible and listened to it twice. What an amazing story – and such a fantastic storyteller. All my life I wasn’t a fan until I read this book.

Hannah Lad

My top 3

3.Dick Johns – Lets Talk about Death Baby!-Really enjoyed just watching a truthful story with no pretences!

2.Dirty Protest: Light Speed at Pembroke Dock – A lovely heart warming story that reintroduce play to theatre!

1.Comedy at Howl, International Women’s Day – Just so good to have such a diverse group of women together in one room!

My favourite arts event I have attended this year was Casgliad hosted by Youth Arts Network Cymru! Such a brilliant weekend with so many awesome creatives!

Sian Thomas

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella 
I’ve only seen two ballets ever and this was the best one. I followed the story and I really liked the subtle changes they made to it and the way it was performed. Lovely show.

Open Mic Night (Cardiff Fringe) 

Had to include the Fringe! It was the most fun thing I did this summer! Because god I just really really adore this event and I really hope it’ll be back next year – I always love testing out my writing on an audience there. It’s such a safe space and such a confidence booster! Lovely atmosphere, people, and always a lovely summery evening!

Ravensong by TJ Klune

Still because he recognised me, the group, and my old review. Loved feeling seen by an author I admire. The story was fab, the representation was great, and it was a lovely book to read to take one’d mind off things. Also ended with a great cliffhanger! I get so excited when he tweets about new books of this series come up. So this is definitely my #1!

My cultural event:

The fact that I wrote 100,000 words of the second draft of my novel!! I’m just super, super proud of myself. There’s not much to be told: I work on it when I can, work on it slow and steadily, make sure everything is okay, and it’s building itself up into something (hopefully) spectacular!

Barbara Michaels

My Three Best of 2018

With such a plethora of good theatre now available to us in Wales, it is difficult to select just three among the cornucopia of events that has been on offer – from the grandeur of Welsh National Opera, up there with the best in the world, to more humble productions working to tight budgets. For my money, here goes:

Alice in Wonderland at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

The multi-talented Rachel O’Riordan’s last production for the Sherman before departing for the Lyric Theatre in London.   O’Riordan pulled all the stops out, with the result that this was fun – as a Christmas show should be – but also showed the dark side of Lewis Carroll’s well-known story. Musical numbers were a delight, with several of the characters on stage musicians and rising to the challenge.  Not staged as a musical, but one waiting in the wings perhaps?  A cunningly designed black and white set allowed for the full range of Carroll’s famous characters – White Rabbit, Mad hatter and even the Caterpillar – to be displayed to advantage.

Moving on to Number 2:

Evita.  

This new production of a classic breathed fresh life into thetrue-life story of Eva Peron with a brand-new cast who more than justified their selection.  Following in the footsteps of Elaine Paige who made the role her own was never going to be an easy task and Lucy O’Byrne’s heart-rendingperformance of ‘Don’t Cry for me, Argentina’ at what was Eva’s last appearance before her death brought tears to the eyes.  It was also good to see some of the emerging talent coming out of Wales in the shape of Swansea-born Mike Sterling as Peron.

First on my list is WNO’s La Traviata  A revival, true, but excellently staged and performed and with Verdi’s wonderful score rendered with a master touch with two sopranos experienced in their roles and Roland Woods’ sonorous baritone lending gravitas to the role of Germont pater, how could it fail to please? An opportunity for the remarkable WNO chorus to shine and for the ladies among them to enjoy wearing elegant ballgowns. The excellent director David McVicar wisely chose to keep to the traditional, with a sumptuous period setting whose opulence reeked of decadence.

Personal best:

For me, it has to be musical theatre and The King and I, which I saw in London.  A sheer joy from start to finish, with Kelli O’Hara as Mrs Anna and Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam taking on the iconic roles made famous by Yul Bryner and Deborah Kerr and performing them with enthusiasm and expertise. First class.  Enhanced for me, I have to admit, in that I was accompanied by a posse of grandchildren helping me to celebrate a big birthday!

 

Karis Price

Theatre Clwyd and Sherman Theatre excelled this year with Lord Of the Flies, with its all female savage cast had me jumping out of my skin and seat whilst offering a critical insight to the frailties of humanity.

However it is the rip roaring, toe tapping hand flapping Great Gatsby from Theatr Clwyd/Guild of Misrule that topped the bill for me in 2018. This innotive, interactive piece held in a run down pub in town was totally engrossing, a brilliant use of venue and a talented cast not just of professionals but community too. (More of this in 2019 please Theatr Clwyd!)

On the whole 2018 was pretty dull in the cinema however one film stood out as been worth the trip to the big screen ” Marvels Infinity Wars” I am an Averger fan girl and this film ticked all the right boxes, it was the ending to the origional Averngers story arch, all the Marvel films todate were building up to this battle … it was worth the wait and the bitter end just left me wanting more.  Of course this doesn’t see the end of the Avengers, but it will be the end for some of the best loved characters and the begining for some new… I only hope the sad passing of the wonderful Stan Lee does not mean we loose the style and wit the MU has created.

 

E. M. BLESS’ON III

The Black History Month grand finale at RWCMD was my personal cultural event of 2018 because it attracted a broad spectrum of the community. Attended by many dignitaries including the outgoing First Minister – Carwyn Jones AM, newly-elected First Minister – Mark Drakeford AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport – Vaughan Gething AM, young people and several elders from various communities in South East, West and North Wales, it was a celebration of diversity in Wales.

Gareth Williams

Keeping Faith

From its humble beginnings as Un Bore Mercher on S4C, I could never have imagined that this drama would prove to be so popular with UK audiences. Subsequently broadcast in the English-language on BBC1 Wales, it would become the most downloaded show ever on BBC iPlayer before being shown on primetime BBC1 in the summer. Deservedly sweeping the board at the BAFTA Cymru Awards, I will be outraged if Eve Myles is not at least nominated for a BAFTA in 2019. Her portrayal of Faith Howells, whose world is rocked by the disappearance of her husband, is deeply emotional and utterly captivating. This is surely her defining role.

Wild Silence – The Wandering Hearts

If I had to pick one album to recommend from 2018, it would Wild Silence by The Wandering Hearts. When I first heard it, it was their incredibly refreshing and genre-blending sound that captured my attention. The more I’ve listened to the album, the more the lyrics have come to the fore and I’ve discovered another fascinating layer to their fabulous array of songs. To finish the year seeing them live in Liverpool confirmed my belief that these guys are destined for bigger things.

Home, I’m Darling, Theatr Clwyd

My theatre highlight this year has been this co-production between Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre. With its life-size house for a set, its bold and brash set design, and its wonderful costumes, the overall look is enough to pull you into its 1950s world. Starring Katherine Parkinson and Richard Harrington as the couple living it up in a lifestyle of nostalgia, its saccharine exterior slowly melts away to reveal a darker and very pertinent narrative that will have you firmly gripped from beginning to end. Another triumph for Artistic Director of Theatr Clwyd, Tamara Harvey and her team.

Review Saturday Night Fever, Wales Millennium Centre by E. M. Bless’On III

Needless of an introduction, the original Saturday Night Fever is unarguably one of 70’s top cult-classics. The film depicts the life and times of the disco-dancing legend, Tony Manero (John Travolta) as he moves on the dancefloor of Brooklyn’s club scene and the ups and downs of life, career, money, family, friends, relationship and love.

Having watched the original, the main question is whether this Tony (Richard Windsor) would have the energy and flair to match Travolta. He did not disappoint. Tony sprang to life bringing with him characters hitherto buried in our fond memories. The picture in the first disco scene (in Bay Ridge) was vividly painted as live as a real 70’s disco. It sure would have been nostalgic for any party-goers of that generation and one would not hesitate to transpose into it. The choreography, ambience, costume, stage management was faultless, even through my eagle eyes.

In view of the current concern around Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts, producers surely have paid attention and addressed any concerns that could have arose. The cast was fairly gender balanced. In addition, there was a sign language translator. It is imperative that sign language or any language for that matter, as well as cultural characteristics are contextualised with the most accurate depiction that include emotions and mannerism. The translator did just so. She was as much of a hit too with her dance moves from start to climatic finish. Maria and Cesar brought in the Afro-Latino flavour on the dancefloor, whiles the club MC with his energy, rich and electrifying voice was exuberant and so natural that he reminds me of a real Hype Man in a rap group with his exclamations and interjections.

The only disappointment is the occasional burst of unnecessary swearing and derogatory language, which would be off-putting to many. There were young people, possibly young teenagers in the audience. The show is decent enough to make it as a family show but in terms of the language – I sincerely believe the producers dropped the ball. Nonetheless, just like after a Saturday Night out, there was a takeaway for everyone. Apart from the obvious entertainment, there was the lesson about family, friends, wellbeing and suicide. Tony, preoccupied with his career and faintly aloof love life, failed to be a support to his friend Bobby C. at a time when he needed him most. Bobby was expecting just a phone call, that never came and the disappointment eventually led him to commit suicide.

If there is any homage one can pay to such an iconic movie on stage, then this, did just that. It was nothing short of passion, drama and entertainment with classic hits from the 70’s. It was almost a psychedelic torture as one had to control involuntary twitching (really!?!) and just sit (seriously!?!) to watch a musical with songs such as Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love, More Than A Woman (yes, really seriously!?!). When all was said and almost done, those in the audience who were clearly suffering from the 2 hour BDS (Boogie Deficiency Syndrome) could not help but spring into dancing during the last song. The climatic closing was more of a celebration of a legend reborn, with the theme tune Saturday Night Fever on full blast!

By E. M. Bless’On III

Review Hopeless, Camden Peoples Theatre by Tanica Psalmist

 

Hopeless is a solo production, written and performed by Leyla Josephine.  The beginning started off with overwhelming music that was reflective of tragic love lives, sung by Adele and Sam Smith. Leyla was presented mid stage with a huge, snuggly duvet over her head in bed; which conveyed how bed at times is our dwelling place to escape from the world as well as a nest to rest our minds when we’ve exhausted ourselves and have no more energy to persevere.

Hopeless contained compelling, empowering and outspoken, spoken word performed by Leyla that drastically tackled political and social aspects demoralising our system, persona, mind-sets and attitude in our everyday lives to create change and aspire our everyday life choices. The hysterical elements were when Leyla would use breaking the fourth wall techniques, as it instantly helped form a relaxing atmosphere and a connection to her character as she wore no makeup, was shameless about voicing her opinion and shared personal experiences she encountered during her stay at a children’s refugee camp.

Hopeless is a stimulating production, as Leyla takes you on an epic emotional rollercoaster of deep, thought provoking content in poetical form of the global dysfunctions that surround us but we may act oblivious to; to avoid discussion due to us feeling helpless or hopeless to concern ourselves if the problem isn’t an inflicting issue within our community.

Leyla from the start of the play states that it’s not an ordinary play the audience has come to watch but a self-awareness piece, with realisation of how feeling hopeless can affect our consciousness and she artistically paints a vivid description to why humanity does feel hopeless; breaking down the counterparts of climate change, why disasters can be sexy, how the news at times forgets the human parts, emptiness in bank balances, expression of the ‘big boys’ highlighting the rich get richer and poor gets poorer concept and metaphorically referring to how lives can feel like the sinking of the titanic when life gets too tough!

Hopeless is an eye-opening, convicting and rational play; which presents healing of the mind and inspiring words during her spoken word pieces, an enlightening, factual performance.

Tanica Psalmist

 

Audio Information on The Last Five Years by Leeway Productions

Leeway Productions supported by Wales Millennium Centre, and in partnership with Blackwood Miners Institute presents

THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Written and composed by JASON ROBERT BROWN ­­­­­­­­
A hit both off-Broadway and internationally, The Last Five Years comes to Wales for the very first time.

This ground-breaking production combines an emotionally powerful score with sign language and beautiful movement by award-winning deaf choreographer Mark Smith.

This intimate musical charting New Yorkers Cathy and Jamie’s passionate five-year relationship is an affecting tale of love found and lost. By turns funny and poignant, with catchy tunes and a clever chronological twist, The Last Five Years will keep you riveted from beginning to end… or should that be from end to beginning?

Supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government and the National Lottery.
Every performance of The Last Five Years is accessible to D/deaf, deafened and hard of hearing audience members, with open captioning and integrated sign language to be enjoyed by all.

For full tour dates and booking information, visit www.leewayproductions.com

 

Leeway Productions â chefnogaeth gan Ganolfan Mileniwm Cymru, ac mewn partneriaeth â Sefydliad y Glowyr Coed Duon

THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Ysgrifennwyd a chyfansoddwyd gan JASON ROBERT BROWN

Ar ôl llwyddiant eithriadol oddi ar Broadway ac yn rhyngwladol, daw The Last Five Years i Gymru am y tro cyntaf erioed.

Cyfuna’r cynhyrchiad arloesol yma sgôr ddirdynnol gydag iaith arwyddion a dawnsfeydd hardd y coreograffydd byddar mawr ei glod, Mark Smith.

Mae’r sioe gerdd onest yma am gariad a thorcalon yn dilyn hynt Cathy a Jamie, cariadon o Efrog Newydd, gan daflu golau ar bob cam o’u perthynas pum mlynedd tanbaid. Gan blethu’r doniol a’r teimladwy, gyda chaneuon bachog a chronoleg stori glyfar, bydd The Last Five Years yn eich cadw chi ar flaen eich sedd o’r dechrau un hyd at y diwedd… neu dylwn ddweud o’r diwedd i’r dechrau…

Mae pob perfformiad o The Last Five Years yn hygyrch i aelodau cynulleidfa sy’n drwm eu clyw neu’n fyddar, gyda chapsiynau agored ac iaith arwyddion yn rhan annatod o’r sioe.
Cefnogwyd gan Gyngor y Celfyddydau Cymru, Llywodraeth Cymru a’r Loteri Genedlaethol.

Y Daith: www.leewayproductions.com

Owen Pugh on Audio Description training with Taking Flight Theatre Company led by Louise Fryer

“This week I have had the absolute pleasure of learning how to become an Audio Describer with Taking Flight Theatre Company led by Louise Fryer, an audio describer and trainer extraordinaire .

 

As well as the brilliant Amelia Cavallo.

We had the added bonus of being able to put the work into practise by working alongside Illumine Theatre Company’s fantastic production of ‘2023’.

The training has been squeezed into a week and we have been educated in a multitude of skills and thrills of what goes into making work that is inclusive and accessible to people who are blind or visual impaired. We have looked at good practise in audio describing; from the many techniques into what is required vocally to the practicalities of where we set ourselves up, greeting users at venues, audio introductions and the touch tours before the performances.

We’ve been able to have fantastic discussions on how to script and present the work, the realities of the length of time it takes to do all of this as well as many discussions on how to implement this across Wales specifically. The hope being that this could be a core of people based in Wales who can make this type of access available in any venue anywhere in the country.

It’s been an extremely rewarding and challenging week. There has been a huge amount of information thrown at us, but it has been very much worth it.  A huge thanks goes out to Elise Davison and Beth House from Taking Flight for putting the training on, it has inspirational and I feel very proud to have been able to be a part of it.”

Owen has also taken part in Audio Decription training for Dance with Coreo Cymru and the Family Dance Festival. You can read and listen to an interview with Owen here

by Owen Pugh

Stephanie Back on 2023 by Illumine Theatre

2023

Cardiff, 2023 – a law passed in Westminster in 2005 has just come into force. Children told they were born from donated eggs or sperm, upon turning 18, are now entitled to know the identity of their donor parent.

Mary seeks out sperm donor Chris, knocking his world asunder. In this new era, where racial tensions run high, she wants answers. Who are her half-siblings? Could she have inherited her deafness? And is Chris prepared to risk his marriage and own family plans to help her feel she belongs?

2023 has been developed with support from academics and researchers in the fields of gamete donation and D/deafness.

By: Lisa Parry
Director: Zoë Waterman
£12/£10

Preview 3 October £10/£8

BSL interpretation: 11 October

Post show talks:

5 October: Science and Ethics in ‘2023’
11 October: Talk with cast and creatives (BSL interpreted)
Every performance will be captioned

Produced by Illumine Theatre, with support from Arts Council Wales, the Unity Theatre Trust and Chapter.

Age: 14+ (contains swearing and sexual references)

Tickets can be booked at this link