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.
Hi Matt, can you give our readers some background on this new production?
In 2012 I became a father and, it might be a bit of a cliché but, it changed the way I saw the world. It changed the kind of work I want to make and who I wanted to make it for. As our daughter grew we took her to see lots of different types of children’s theatre from Theatr Iolo’s baby show, Out of the Blue to Peppa Pig, Mr Tumble to pantomime; and it started me thinking about what kind of work I’d make for children. When we were making Light Waves Dark Skies in 2016 my partner Jacqui (production manager), Nia (producer) and me were having a conversation about the bedtime stories we read our children, and their traditional view of the world.
It surprised us that in the 21st century the majority of children’s books still have a very stereotypical view of gender roles. How many stories have a Princess waiting to be saved by Prince or a girl who likes sparkly dresses and a boy who gets muddy? There are of course great exceptions to this and a growing range of literature that tries to redress the balance.
ThanksMatt, how did this then lead into the development of this new show?
Over the course of our conversations an idea started to form, so when we began to discuss what our next project would be I had my pitch ready. “I think we should develop a show for young audiences based on Rapunzel, where she doesn’t need saving by the prince” – and from these little seeds Last autumn we spent three weeks researching and developing the show at Blackwood Miners Institute and WMC, who came on board as partners in the project. We started to play with ideas for narrative, images, songs and worked with a parenting group in Caerphilly to help us understand what works for children and what they (and their adults) want. We’re now in the exciting / nervous part, where set designs are being finalised, marketing materials agreed and I’ve just got an email confirming all the cast have accepted; so now we just have to make the show!
All rehersal photographic credits Kirsten McTernan
As a company how do you create and develop your work?
The company’s name, We Made This, tries to make explicit that making theatre is a collaborative act. So whilst I’m the director the best ideas might (and often do) come from someone else – be that a performer, stage manager or audience member. I’m in the process of distilling what we learnt in the R&D into a rehearsal script, it’ll be more fluid than if we’d commissioned a writer, and will have big gaps in it for us to fill in during rehearsals – but that’s part of the excitement.
It sounds like you embrace the risk?
For me making theatre is a live process – which should surprise me. So it might have been my idea, but if it turned out exactly as I’d imagined it I’d be disappointed – as I wouldn’t have allowed all the other brilliant ideas and minds in the room to shape the work and make it the best it can be. It’s undoubtedly riskier than a more traditional process, and each time we make a new piece we try to refine the process, and learn from our previous mistakes, but for me the end result is so much richer for it.
Family productions are often many audience members first points of access to live theatre. Is this something you ever consider when developing new work?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to make a show for children and families. I want there to be people in the audience who haven’t been to the theatre before, and we’re working with our partners to make that happen. I still remember my first experience at the theatre as a child – panto at Loughborough town hall. And I want the work we’re making to have a lasting impact on the audience – the experience will be memorable and sensory, complex not simplistic.
The marketing materials for the production reference lots of popular fairy tales. With increased competition for live performances from on demand TV like Netflix. Do you think theatre can offers something different for audiences from film and TV?
There’s a massive difference between being in a room and sharing an experience with an audience and sitting at home watching something on iPlayer. I will happily spend an evening in front of the TV, catch up on something I’ve missed or watch an old series on All4, but being in a space with a group of other people, watching the same thing is different. Theatre is an ephemeral experience. It’s about what happens there and then. You can’t see it again the same way. What I see, is a different view to you – we direct what you see but can’t control it in the same way – it’s a very much more sensory and immediate experience.
The production has BSL/Relaxed performances and a Touch Tour can you please tell us more about these and why you feel these are an important part of your offer for audiences?
I think providing these performances should be the norm, particularly in work for families and young audiences. If we want to ensure that children grow up with access to quality work we need to ensure that family work is accessible. Watching Cbeebies, you see makaton and BSL used, so why not in live performance?
It’s also important to say that these are the more visible ways in which access is supported. We’ve worked hard through the development of the project to try and make the show accessible to as wide a group as possible. So that means working with groups who might not normally consider going to the theatre and asking their opinions, it means making the ticket price accessible, and it means writing about the show in a way which is including rather than full of arts speak and buzz words.
Thanks Matt and finally can you sum up the production for anyone interested in attending?
I can try! This Easter join us with Rapunzel, her Mam, and her new friend Daf in the forest as they set off on an adventure, for which they’ll need your help. The Girl with Incredibly Long Hair is a new family show from We Made This which reimagines the story of Rapunzel for our times. You can catch the production on the dates and times below:
Blackwood Miners’ Institute
4 April, 4pm
5 April, 11am & 3pm
6 April, 11am (Relaxed Performance and Touch Tour)
Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre
10 – 15 April, 11am & 3pm
13 April, 11am & 3pm (BSL Interpreted Performances)
14 & 15 April, 11am (Relaxed Performance and Touch Tour)
Get the Chance is collaborating with Dirty Protest Theatre Company to embed a new or existing Get the Chance team member into the rehearsal process of their new production Light Speed from Pembroke Dock and develop a range of critical responses to this new play. “Dirty Protest are Wales award winning theatre company leading the development, promotion and production of new writing for performance.”
Please find some information on this new production below
“1979. When Star Wars superfan Sam discovers that the Millennium Falcon is being built in his home town, his life is turned upside down. Determined to get inside the cockpit; his only obstacle is his stepdad Mike, guardian of the secret hangar where the legendary ship is being built in Pembroke Dock.
2014. Sam’s daughter Lizzie goes missing, forcing him into a desperate hunt to bring her back to safety before it’s too late. Never mind saving the galaxy, sometimes you just have to save your own world. Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock explores what happens when Hollywood’s best-loved spaceship lands on your doorstep. This is a story of hope, courage, and how to be a family when it seems the universe is against you.”
Playwright Mark Williams
Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock is a new English language play from writer Mark Williams (Jason & the Argonauts, Horrible Histories: The Frightful First world War, Horrible Science) and critically acclaimed company, Dirty Protest.
You will be able to spend time with the company during the rehearsal process. The rehearsals will take place at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff from the 12th of March-1st April. You will also be able to interview members of Dirty Protest Theatre Company and some of the creatives involved in this production. You will also receive a ticket to the press performance of Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock.
Mentoring and additional workshop support on critical response methods will be offered by the Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell. You will earn Spice Time Credits for this activity, up to a maximum of 20 Time Credits.
You will be invited to develop creative responses to this process. Responses can be in a variety of forms including, text, sound, and photography and film. Responses will be hosted on the Get the Chance website
If you are interested in this unique opportunity can you please email Guy O’Donnell, Get the Chance Director at email@example.com Please state why you are interested in this project in your email.
Its likely you will attend at least half a day of rehearsals per week, as well as spending time with company members and also reviewing the press performance at Chapter Arts Centre. Exact times TBC.
You can read more about this exciting new production in our exclusive interview here
Mae’r Flamboyant Bus Tour Wedi Derbyn Y Golau Gwyrdd Ar Gyfer Gŵyl Y Gwanwyn.
Dim ond bws sydd angen arnynt yn awr. . . .
Mae’r 3rd Act Criticsa Get The Chance yn falch i gyhoeddi y byddant yn trefnu Gŵyl y Gwanwyn a’r Flamboyant Bus Tour sy’n cael eu hariannu gan Age Cymru y Gwanwyn hwn!
Meddai Leslie R. Herman, Cynhyrchydd Y Digwyddiad a’r 3rd Act Critic, “Mae’r Flamboyant Bus Tour yn adeiladu ar lwyddiant y Salon Hot Tub ar gyfer Gwanwyn 2017. Rydym yn cael cryn lwyddiant ac yn cynhyrchu digwyddiadau sy’n herio’r hen ystrydebau wrth heneiddio. Dim ond bws sydd eisiau arnom yn awr!”
Bydd y cyllid ar gyfer Gwanwyn yn fan cychwyn i’r digwyddiad ond er mwyn mynd un cam ymhellach a rhoi’r digwyddiad gwych hwn ar y ffordd, bydd angen i ni ganfod mwy o gyllid er mwyn ariannu cost llogi bws awyr agored am rai oriau.
Dywedodd Emma Robinson, Swyddog Datblygu’r Celfyddydau a Chreadigrwydd ar gyfer Gwanwyn; “Rydym wrth ein bodd yn cefnogi’r prosiect hwn; rhywbeth sydd ychydig yn wahanol ac a fydd yn cwestiynu’r hyn yw heneiddio creadigol gan roi cyfle i unigolion fynegi eu hunain yn y ffordd y maent am wneud hynny. Mae Gwanwyn yn bodoli er mwyn dathlu henaint fel cyfle ar gyfer adnewyddiad, twf a chreadigrwydd a bydd y digwyddiad hwn yn gwneud hynny. Os allwch helpu, dewch i gyfranogi!”
Mae’r digwyddiad wedi’i ysbrydoli gan Flamboyant Bus Tour , The Advantages of Age yn Llundain, sef ei digwyddiad mwyaf llwyddiannus yn 2017. Denwyd sylw’r wasg a’r cyhoedd o weld grŵp mor lliwgar o unigolion, oll yn 50+ yn teithio drwy strydoedd Llundain.
Yn arwyddocaol, yr oedd y digwyddiad yn Llundain yn drobwynt ar gyfer Advantages of Age, nad oedd, hyd hynny wedi cael cyfle i ddod â’i aelodau at ei gilydd yn y fath fodd o’r blaen. Roedd y daith fws yn gymorth i aelodau gydnabod eu bod yn rhan o un gymuned. Yn ystod y daith fws, ffurfiwyd sawl cyfeillgarwch. Mae aelodau’n parhau i gynnal gweithgareddau poblogaidd sy’n dathlu’r gred ar y cyd y gall mwynhad ysbrydol gael ei fwynhau, beth bynnag yw’ch oedran!
Mae trefnwyr digwyddiadau The 3rd Act Critics a Get The Chance am roi cyfle i bobl hŷn yng Nghymru fynegi eu hunain yn eu ffyrdd unigryw eu hunain. Nod y Flamboyant Bus Tour yw bod yn hwyl, yn ystyrlon a chofiadwy. Bydd y bws yn teithio ynghanol dinas Caerdydd ar brynhawn Sadwrn ym mis Mai. Bydd yn teithio ar hyd llwybr penodol er mwyn sicrhau’r gwelededd mwyaf posibl a bydd cyfle i gyfranogwyr dynnu sylw atynt hwy eu hunain ar hyd y ffordd. Bydd y Flamboyant Bus Tour hefyd yn gyfle i herio naratif y cyfryngau ynghylch tyfu’n hŷn ac yn gwahodd cyfranogwyr i ymateb i’r cwestiwn – A yw Heneiddio’n Ffurf Gelfyddydol?
Mae’r 3rd Act Critics a Get The Chance yn rhan o’r rhwydwaith Spice Time Credits. Am bob awr y bydd unigolyn yn cyfrannu at ei gymuned neu i wasanaeth, bydd yn ennill un Credyd Amser. Gall Credydau Amser gael eu defnyddio i wneud gweithgaredd sy’n awr o hyd ac sy’n cael ei ddarparu gan amryw o bartneriaid corfforaethol a chymunedol.
Dywed Anne Marie Lawrence, Rheolwr Rhanbarthol Spice Time Credits De Ddwyrain Cymru; “Mae Spice Time Credits yn falch iawn o allu cefnogi’r Flamboyant Bus Tour ar y cyd â’n gwaith ar Heneiddio’n Egnïol gan ddathlu’r ymglymiad gwych y mae pobl hŷn yn eu gwneud i’n cymunedau ledled Cymru ”
Mae trefnwyr digwyddiadau The 3rd Act Critics a Get The Chance yn awyddus i gydweithio ar y prosiect hwn â sefydliadau sy’n cefnogi dinasyddion hŷn. Mae’r angen am gyllid ychwanegol a nawdd ar gyfer llogi bws yn gwbl hanfodol i lwyddiant y digwyddiad hwn. Apeliwn felly ar gwmnïau bysiau a gweithredwyr bysiau am eu nawdd caredig.
Am ragor o wybodaeth ac os oes gennych ddiddordeb i gefnogi’n gwaith, e-bostiwch Leslie Herman firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Advantages of Age’s Fabulous and Flamboyant Bus Tour, London 2017
The Flamboyant Bus Tour Gets The Green Light From Gwanwyn
Now, they just need a bus…
The 3rd Act Critics and Get the Chance are pleased to announce that they will be organising the Gwanwyn Festival Age Cymru-funded Flamboyant Bus Tour this Spring!
3rd Act Critic and Event Producer, Leslie R. Herman, comments, “The Flamboyant Bus Tour builds on the success of our Hot Tub Salon for Gwanwyn in 2017. We are on a roll, producing creative events that challenge the clichés about aging. Now, we just need a bus!”
The funding from Gwanwyn will kickstart the event, but in order to go the extra mile and get this fabulous event on the road, funding to cover the hire-cost of an open-top bus for a few hours is needed.
Emma Robinson, Arts and Creativity Development Officer. Gwanwyn, comments:-
‘We’re delighted to support this project; something a little different that will pose the question of creative ageing and provide the opportunity for people to express themselves in the way they want to. Gwanwyn exists to celebrate older age as a time of opportunity for renewal, growth and creativity and this event will provide exactly that: if you’re able to help, please do get involved!’
Image Advantages of Age’s Fabulous and Flamboyant Bus Tour, London 2017
The event is inspired by Advantages of Age’s Fabulous and Flamboyant Bus Tour in London, which proved to be their most successful event of 2017, and which drew attention from the media and the general public who were encouraged to see such a wonderfully colourful group of men and women aged 50+ as they travelled through the streets of London.
Significantly, the London event proved to be a turning point for Advantages of Age which, until then, had not had the opportunity to bring together their members in such a way. The bus tour helped members recognize that they were part of one community. During the bus tour friendships were formed. Members continue to hold popular activities that celebrate a collective belief that spirited enjoyment can be had at any age!
The 3rd Act Critics and Get the Chance event organizers want to give older people in Wales the opportunity to express themselves in their own unique way. The Flamboyant Bus Tour aims to be fun, meaningful and memorable. The bus will tour Cardiff City Centre on a Saturday afternoon in May. It will travel along a set route to ensure maximum visibility and participants will ‘strut their stuff’ along the way. The Flamboyant Bus Tour will also be an opportunity to challenge the media narrative about getting older, and invite participants to respond to the question, Is Ageing an Artform?
3rd Act Critics and Get the Chance are part of the Spice Time Credits network, for every hour that an individual contributes to their community or service, they earn one Time Credit. Time Credits can be spent accessing an hour of activity provided by a range of corporate and community partners.
Anne Marie Lawrence, Spice Time Credits, Regional Manager, South East Wales, comments, “Spice Time Credits are delighted to be supporting the Flamboyant Bus Tour in conjunction with our work on Active Ageing and celebrating the fantastic contribution that older people make to our communities all across Wales”
The 3rd Act Critics and Get the Chance event organisers are keen to collaborate on this project with organisations that support older citizens. Vital to the success of the event is our need for additional funding and sponsorship to hire a bus, with a particular shout out to bus companies, coach operators for sponsorship in kind.
For more information and if you are interested in supporting our work, please email Leslie Herman, 3rd Act Critic and Event Producer email@example.com
I am particularly looking forward to the 13th Brecon Baroque Festival. Maestro violinist Rachel Podger, a Brecon resident, will present her annual baroque extravaganza in such wonderful venues as Theatr Brycheiniog and Brecon Cathedral from 18th-22nd October 2018. YTou can visit the dedicated website to read reviews of the 2017 Festival at http://www.breconbaroquefestival.com/
Matilda, Wicked, Wales Millenium Centre
A trip to Chicago
Looking forward to seeing the big hitters this year at the WMC: Matilda (which I’ve already seen in the West End) and Wicked (which I saw at the WMC on the 2013 tour).
My major highlight this year will be an extended trip to Chicago. I’m hoping to see some new comic talent at ‘Second City’ theatre – the place that launched the career of great comics John Belushi and Tina Fey. I’ll also be paying a visit to some of Chicago’s best Blues venues – Kingston Mines and Buddy Guy’s legends. These are places where you can re-live the glory and timelessness of songs from legends like Muddy Waters and BB King and really get to appreciate the genre, which has fallen out of popularity over the years. It’s also one of the few opportunities you’ll have in life to witness 3 blues bands in one venue, order catfish from a little hatch and pop a tip in a little hat that passes around the tables – from artists who have actually played with these greats. A true Chicago experience!
Tremor Sherman Theatre.
I’m looking forward to this exciting new work from Brad Birch, Tremor at Sherman Theatre directed by David Mercatali, Birch is always an engaging and challenging writer. This work promises to be an exciting edition to 2018 theatre and one to give audiences much to talk about.
Red Bastard : Lie With Me
This year I am looking forward to Red Bastard : Lie With Me at London’s Vault Festival. Since my performance training many years ago, Red Bastard had been introduced to me as a example of Bouffon theatre in my studies and from then on has always intrigued me. I have always wanted to see him perform, and now is my time to live out that dream.
Grav, Torch Theatre
‘There’s plenty of great theatre in 2018, both local & national, from star-studded Shakespeare to Hamilton to The Madness of George III with Mark Gatiss. But my personal highlight is a short tour in Jan -Feb of ‘Grav’, the one-man show about Ray Gravell. A simple, extraordinary play about a simple, extraordinary man.’
Barbara Hughes Moore
Dublin Carol, The MotherF***** in the Hat and Tremor, Sherman Theatre
Young Frankenstein, The Musical
In 2018, as always, I’m looking forward to the new slate of shows at the Sherman Theatre. Ever innovative and always daring, their spring ’18 lineup includes plays by Conor McPherson, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Brad Birch. I’m excited to finally be seeing the Young Frankenstein musical in London in January 2018 – as a super-fan of the original Wilder/ Brooks 1974 comedy-horror magnum opus, I’m intrigued (and a little anxious) to see how it translates to an on-stage musical. And as for cinema, no upcoming film excites me more than Black Panther in February 2018. Having cried and cheered throughout Ryan Coogler’s masterpiece Creed, I’m tremendously excited to see his vision of one of Marvel’s finest superheroes. Personal hopes include world peace and finishing my PhD thesis.
Ten Plagues, Sherman Theatre
I’m really looking forward to Mark Ravenhill and Conor Mitchell’s upcoming piece of music theatre entitled Ten Plagues, which will be shown at the Sherman Theatre on the 13th of March. It sounds really fascinating–it’s set during the height of the Great Plague in 1665, yet parallels will be drawn between this particular epidemic and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. I’m really interested by any work of art which thematically connects distant historical periods, as it encourages us to view contemporary struggles in an entirely different light. Hopefully this play will be as gripping and as thought-provoking as I’m expecting it to be!
Karis Clarke Price
Great Expectations, Of Mice and Men and A Midsummer Nights Dream and The Great Gatsby, Theatr Clwyd.
I am very excited about Theatr Clwyd’s Spring program bursting with classics such as Great Expectations, Of Mice and Men and A Midsummer Nights Dream! After watching the BBC’s A Christmas Carol goes wrong I am looking forward to the slap dash comedy of The Play That Goes Wrong. However my main must see is the eagerly awaited The Great Gatsby. I have seen on social media announcements that Theatre Clwyd will be adapting an old manor house in the local area and a community cast has been assembled to bring to life the razzmatazz of the roaring twenties offering an interactive audience experience, what’s not to love!?
Cinema wise I can not wait for Marvels Infinity War and on the small screen it has to be will the Dr make it as a lady?
Sunset Boulevard, Wales Millennium Centre
It has to be Sunset Boulevard at the Wales Millennium Centre! I’m so excited at the thought of seeing this production starring Welsh actress Ria Jones. Ria has already received great reviews for her portrayal of the ageing Hollywood star Norma Desmond. We need more shows like this one!
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella and The Last Ship both at The Wales Millennium Centre
What the Ladybird Heard, New Theatre, Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, Sherman Theatre and Milkshake Live , St David’s Hall
Working with Get the Chance is great because it actually prompts me to look at what is coming-up on the varied arts scene in Cardiff. A couple of productions in particular at the Wales Millennium Centre have caught my eye. The first is Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella. I have been lucky enough to see two of Matthew Bourne’s previous productions, and his all male Swan Lake still ranks in the top 3 live performances I have ever seen in my life. To me it was perfection – strong, masculine dance style, humour, incredible costumes and of course the wonderful classic score that everyone knows at least some of. I am less familiar with the music of Cinderella, but the story still holds magic from my childhood and everything Matthew Bourne does is worth watching – so consider giving this a try.
The other production at Wales Millennium Centre that intrigues me is ‘The Last Ship’ this is because I had never heard of it but notice that the music and lyrics are by Sting. To the best of my knowledge this is the first musical written by Sting – an artist whose music I have loved since his first singles with the Police and through-out his whole solo career. The story is based on his childhood experiences of growing-up in the shadow of a ship building yard at the time when the industry was struggling and ship yards were closing.
I also enjoy taking my 4 year old son to the theatre, and so other performances I am considering are: ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ at the New Theatre. This is currently his favourite Julia Donaldson book and inspired his current obsession with becoming a policeman. Previous stage adaptations of Julia Donaldson’s books have proved a big hit with him and his friends so this promises to be a great way to spend an afternoon this coming half-term holiday. Another Julia Donaldson favourite, Tiddler and other Terrific Tales is on over two days at the Sherman this half-term giving you the opportunity to see both of these wonderful stories brought to life.
Other stage productions to appeal to the younger audience include: Milkshake Live at St Davids Hall- a veritable feast of all your children’s favourite characters from TV, and guaranteed to include at least one of their favourites but sadly it’s scheduled for the same day as What the Ladybird Heard – so you’ll have to choose between them!
Amelia Seren Roberts
Object Performance continues @ Primary with ‘Thusly’ by Sophie Yung.
Where: Primary, Seely Road, Nottingham.
When: Preview: Thurs 18 January 2018, 6-9pm, Exhibition: 19 January-24 February 2018.
Concluding the Object Performance series at Primary in Nottingham, Sophie Jung will present a new installation employing both sculpture and video.
“This programme aims to consider what an expanded form of sculpture might be today, where objects, images, text, performance and sound are interwoven.
Each of these commissions explores the ways in which objects can be activated, whether as prop, performer or instrument, with the seven performances continuing to expand how we see, use and relate to the objects, things and materials in the world around us”.
Other artists that’ve shown at Primary as part of the Object Performance series include Sahej Rahal, Remko Scha, Jan Vorisek, Guillaume Pilet, Andrea Neumann & Anna Susanna Woof, and William Hunt.
I’ve made it along to most of the events and commissions presented in the series so far and am yet to be disappointed. Expanded interpretations of sculpture recently exhibited at Primary have proven to be exciting and strange. It’s often best to visit during Primary Lates, an evening event where all of the galleries and associated galleries at Primary open simultaneously – yaaas for time-strapped art-goers. Grab a Black Iris brew if it’s not too late//
Ye Funa: From Hand to Hand @ Nottingham Contemporary
When: 17 Feb 2018 – 04 Mar 2018. Exhibition Launch: Fri 16 Feb
“Ye Funa’s practice is concerned with the boundaries between daily life and contemporary art. Her work explores the effects of new media and globalisation on cultural identity and gender. For our exhibition, Ye will produce a new episode in her online Peep-Stream series, addressing society’s current desire to display ourselves through selfies, webchats and social media. Ping-Pong Stream, an interactive live streamed performance, will focus on China’s waning interest in ping pong in favour of celebrity sports of basketball and football.
The final video will be embedded in an immersive installation that converts the Project Space into a nail salon. Here, nails become the exhibition space through which Ye artificially reforms the natural extremities of the body”.
This exhibition sounds like my cup of tea. From the press release it comes across as if it’s going to be relatable, relevant and not take itself too seriously. The opening nights of shows at the Contemporary are always packed so it’s probably best to pop down to the show a second or third time if you want to absorb any of it. Though there’s usually a free drink on the night of the launch if you manage to turn up on time (thnx).
Coming Out: sexuality, Gender and Identity @ Birmingham Art Gallery
When: 2 Dec – 15 Apr 2018.
Where: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham.
“This major exhibition will feature over 80 modern and contemporary artworks by internationally renowned artists who explore themes of gender, sexuality and identity in art”.
I’m cheating with this one, I’ve already seen it once but I’m definitely going to get down there to see it a second time before it disappears in April (that sounds so final – there’s probably a book??).
Marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts in England and Wales this exhibition maybe feels like a cabinet of curiosities of/for the queer (a dress worn by Grayson Perry stands in a glass vitrine and the list of artists involved reads like a queer phonebook) but the general hum of the gallery is positive and feels very much like a cosy book that you keep returning to, finding some exciting little sentence you hadn’t quite grasped the time before. I want to spend more of my time here – like this.
“Visitors will see works by Andy Warhol, Sarah Lucas, Grayson Perry, David Hockney, Francis Bacon, Steve McQueen, Derek Jarman, Sunil Gupta, Chila Kumari Burman, Linder, Richard Hamilton, Gillian Wearing, Eric Bainbridge, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Robert Colquhoun, Kate Davis, Jez Dolan, Mario Dubsky, Harry Diamond, Mark Francis, Anya Gallaccio, Colin Hall, Andrea Hamilton, Margaret Harrison, David Hurn, Bob Jardine, Isaac Julien, Karen Knorr, Hilary Lloyd, Robert MacBryde, Zanele Muholi, Catherine Opie, Hadrian Pigott, Charlotte Prodger, Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings, James Richards, Derek Ridgers, David Robilliard, Maud Sulter, Keith Vaughan, John Walter, Annie Wright and Vanley Burke”.
2018 is the year to ‘come out’ to anyone you haven’t already divulged to at 3am in a loo <3
Film Free and Easy @ Primary.
Where: Primary, Seely Road, Nottingham.
When: Thurs 4 May, 19:00-22:00 or Sat 26 November 20:00 – 00:00.
“Film Free and Easy happens three or four times a year. It is an event devised by artists to explore new ways of showing moving-image works based on the audience bringing along the material that will be shown. Every Film Free and Easy night is a unique mixture of projections, installations and performances shared by an audience who enjoy the unexpected and the surprise of discovery”.
Get down to this if you can. It’s always a good night and the works are more often than not surprising and clever – plus you’ll probably recognise the artists in the audience (those living and partying locally). Everyone tends to end up in the Organ Grinder (pub) following the event which is a fab opportunity to buy an artist a pint.
Dog Man Star @ MPND, Loughborough
Where: Modern Painters, New Decorators, Unit 33, Carillon Court Shopping Centre, Loughborough, LE11 3XA.
When: Opens: Sat 20 Jan 11am-2pm. Exhibition: 20 Jan – 3 March, Wed-Sat 11am-5pm.
An exhibition of works by Jackie Berridge and Sam Francis Read hosted by Modern Painters, New Decorators.
“Jackie Berridge and Sam Francis Read are both artists based in the East Midlands who make paintings, drawings and prints which reference fables, fantasy media and iconography – combining anthropomorphic characters with an often-dark sense of humour. Behind the façade of the narratives and characters they use, both artists are interested in human behaviour, social isolation and the group dynamics that can occur anywhere from the playground to the boardroom”.
I’m already familiar with the work of both of these artists having seen Jackie’s work at the Nottingham Castle Open and Sam’s at HUTT (and having exhibited with him, Craig David Parr and Alice Hicken at 2 Queens). I flippin love them both. This exhibition is going to be fun and both artists are skilled makers/story-tellers.
“Modern Painters, New Decorators is a not-for-profit art organisation running art projects and building creative communities in Loughborough, East Midlands”. <<<< Support this art spaceeee.
Follow all of these on Instagram if you can — I <3 everything they post: @samfrancisread @j4ckieberridge @mpndprojects
Everything Went Heavier 2018 @ Rough Trade, Nottingham.
When: Sat 10 March. Doors open at 1pm / Curfew 12am.
“This is a special one-off benefit gig for Chris Kaye (Witch Hunter Records/Bumsnogger) and his wife Tracy. Tracy has been diagnosed with a rare form of bowel cancer called Signet ring cell Carcinoma and is currently undergoing treatment. We hope that we can raise some funds through the power of heavy metal to help them and their growing family at this difficult time”.
A welcome break from the well-behaved and too-often hushed/polite arena of contemporary art this all-dayer will knock your socks off and it’s for a great cause. I’m pretty sure the Doom Metal heavy ‘Everything Went Heavier’ will in practice be the antithesis of “doom and gloom”. We’re a cheerful bunch at shrunken heart <3 Expect a marathon of distortion and limited choreography.
Lineup Includes: CHARGER, WITCHSORROW, IRON WITCH, LET IT DIE, BARRABUS, WIDOWS, LIMB, MAGE, WOLFBEAST DESTROYER, UNDERDARK, KING OF PIGS, ANTRE…
Have a good one.
The Assassination of Katie Hopkins: A New Musical, Theatr Clwyd
The piece of theatre I’m most looking forward to in 2018 is…….
The Assassination of Katie Hopkins: A New Musical , Theatr Clwyd
Perhaps one of the more intriguing titles of 2018… The title alone has peaked my interest sufficiently. The fact that it’s a musical is simply a bonus. There’s not much to go on plot-wise as it will be the world premiere. But it has the ‘Made by Theatr Clwyd’ stamp on it, whose seal is always a mark of high-quality entertainment in my view.
Jon Boden, Pontio
‘I am particularly looking forward to catching Jon Boden at Pontio in Bangor, North Wales in April. Sheffield born former frontman of Bellowhead (whom I was lucky enough to see on their farewell tour in 2016), Boden has now gone on to carve out a successful solo career and is touring throughout the UK this year.’
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Wales Millennium Centre
I’m seeing Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella on April 7th and after seeing The Red Shoes, I’m immensely looking forward to it. My introduction to ballet is slow and purposeful (I didn’t much understand The Red Shoes at first without explanation, so a fairytale I know well will be easier to follow, I believe) but I’m getting there at a pace I enjoy and being brought the opportunity to by people I love.
It seems like 2018 is going to be another great year for new theatre in Wales. Having seen a development stage of Cwmni Pluen’s next show, I’m really looking forward to seeing a final production from them this autumn. Pluen has a definitive performance style which I’m always excited to see. They’re also working in collaboration with charities during the development of the piece which I think sets a great precedent for future companies making new work. I also can’t wait to see National Theatre Wales’ Love Letter to the NHS. While the NHS is under siege from; medical companies charging them a fortune for treatment; government cuts; surgery closures; and an all time waiting list high; it’s important more than ever to support and celebrate our National Health Service in face of adversity.
My personal hope for the year is to successfully tour Motherlode’s next production Exodus. The piece was developed in Aberdare with generous support from our long term collaborators and co producers RCT Theatres and will be part of their year long 80th birthday celebrations, which includes lots of new work by exciting artists. Exodus is also supported by Creu Cymru, Bristol Old Vic, Night Out Wales and Chapter, touring to 12 venues across Wales before running in London. Gulp… I just hope we pull it off!”
Gareth Coles, Voluntary Arts Wales Director / Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru
Recently I’ve been losing myself in the acoustic EPs of the guitarist Yvette Young who also writes and performs with the band Covet. She will be releasing a piano EP early this year, and having heard some snippets, I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.
On a personal creative note, I’m hoping to develop my drawing this year. I seem to have spent most of 2017 hurriedly sketching, but having developed the habit of drawing daily, it’s time I started working on some longer and more thoughtful pieces. I have also just started playing the piano again after many years’ hiatus, so I’m hoping my rusty playing will become slightly less objectionable by the end of the year.
Simon Coates, National Theatre Wales’, Head of Creative Development
The Terra Firma Spring Tour by NDCWales including the mesmeric Tundra by Roy Assaf. EXPERIMENTICA Festival at Chapter will back again for another year of live art from all over the UK and further afield in April.
And finally I am hoping to make it along to Abercych to join one of their experimental Twmpaths with Simon Whitehead and his collaborators.
Geoff Cripps, Board Member, Theatr na Nog, Creu Cymru and musician with Allan y Fan
At the end of January I am delighted and privileged to return to Glasgow as one of the 180 delegates to Showcase Scotland – a very important element within the world’s greatest mid-winter music festival. The five days I will spend here will definitely kick away any lingering vestiges of mid-winter blues! Don’t know yet which artists I will see/hear in total but I am pleased that in the festival’s 25th anniversary year the Showcase Scotland partner is Ireland. Still hoping that one year Wales will create something of lasting value like this event which has had such a powerful impact on the development of Scottish Artists in an international setting.
I have yet to pick what to see closer to home in the valleys but am looking forward to visiting RCT Theatres, The Borough Theatre and Blackwood Miner’s Institute on several occasions during the year.
My personal hopes for 2018 include doing my best to ensure that Theatr na nÓg builds on the great achievements of 2017, that Creu Cymru continues to be the essential organisation for the theatres and arts centres of Wales and, on a real personal note, that my band Allan Yn Y Fan have our most successful concert ever in Blackwood Miner’s Institute on 28th March!
I am sure that every other contributor will make their feelings known about “Brexit”, “POTUS”, the “Maybot” etc. etc but I am deliberately trying to keep this light-hearted.
Let’s hope that despite everything the Arts In Wales continue to deliver life-changing experiences, uncover nascent talent, connect more deeply with their communities and audiences. Finally I hope that BBC Wales finally delivers a year-round coverage of the Arts In Wales.
My personal hope is to be continued to be inspired and surprised by writers and artists pushing boundaries and creating work that moves me and reminds me what it is to be human.
Peter Doran, Artistic Director, Torch Theatre Company
On a personal level, I’m really looking forward to directing our next production, The Wood by Owen Thomas; its always exciting to tackle a new piece of writing, one never really knows if it will quite come off as expected or hoped. Giving the success we had with Owen’s last play Grav (shortly to go to New York), we have high hopes but we know that there’s a great deal of hard work in front of us. I’m also working on it with two actors, whom I’ve never directed before (Ifan Huw Dafydd and Gwydion Rhys), so that gives an extra frisson.
Elsewhere, I always look forward to Vamos coming to the Torch; Vamos are a full mask company who do wonderful work, this season they are touring a piece about the war in Afganistan called A Brave Face, one to look out for. I loved Liverpool Everyman’s repertory season last year and I’ll be interested to see if the second season is as successful – A Clockwork Orange sticks out as a highlight for me.
My personal hopes? That the true value of art and culture is appreciated and not seen as the icing on top of the cake. It’s not a commodity that can take it’s stand in the market place and compete; it has to be nurtured, supported, fed – if not, it will wither away and die.
Tom Goddard, Artist and Criw Celf Coordinator
In a time when Netflix is elevated to the role of religion, Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan satisfies our obsession with marathon box set watching, with this ten part film series. First at last year’s Venice Biennale and the series continues now at Mostyn, Llandudno in March.
Ragnar Kjartansson, Artes Mundi 6 nominee, will return to Wales to present a brand-new performance piece, The Sky in a Room which will feature a series of revolving local organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ.
Chapter’s Experimentica, will roll into town again in April and is always guaranteed to raise a smile and challenge in equal measure with a real range of refreshing voices and ideas from the world of live art. NS Harsha,Artes Mundi 3 winner, will return to Wales at Glynn Vivian in Summer 2018 presenting screening printing, installation, sculpture and drawings.
Glynn Vivian will also be opening late once a month offering performance, music, workshops as well as curatorial opportunities for young people.
Simon Harris, Playwright and Director of Lucid
It would be a bit matey of me to select 2018 highlights from Wales, so the two things outside of Wales that I’d really like to see are Chris Goode’s staging of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee which has been at the Royal Exchange n Manchester and is going to the Lyric Hammersmith. Because punk’s not dead. The other is Dead Centre’s new production at the Schaubuhne of Shakespeare’s Last Play – partly to see the work and partly to go to Berlin as I’ve never been there and I’d like to go before the world ends.
I’m a little overwhelmed by how far away we are from how I’d like things to be in 2018. There’s so much to do in so many areas, it would be easy to give in and give up. But I’m drawn to some of the determined spirits out there and so my main hope for the sector is that we move to a more productive, more innovative, less hierarchical approach to making work. I would like to see some of the fake differences between Arts Council Wales portfolio and the remaining group of artists and companies done away with. I’d like to see individuals and companies allowed to apply for larger sums and for more extended periods of work, instead of one-off projects. Most of all I’d like to some vision that can lead to the release of the amazing potential of artists in Wales and their work. Oh, and a bit more honest dialogue and a lot less self-referential, self-congratulatory bulls**t.
Steffan Jones-Hughes, Director Oriel Davies
There’s so much exciting art to see in 2018!
January sees Nova open at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. An exciting exhibition of young contemporary artists originated by the Royal Cambrian Academy. Look out for inaugural award winner Paul Eastwood, and also Catrin Menai, Rory Duckhouse, and AJ Stockwell. Aberystwyth Arts Centre- 25.1-1.4 2018
February I can’t wait to see The Sky in a Room by Icelandic Artist, Ragnar Kjartansson. The exciting performance will see a series of revolving organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ, and will run from 3 February to 11 March at National Museum Cardiff.
June sees The Oriel Davies Open inviting artists from Wales, UK and internationally through Open Call to show work. I’m on the selection panel along with Jane Simpson (artist & Director Galerie Simpson), Matthew Collings (writer and curator), Sacha Craddack (curator and writer. TBC), and Alex Boyd Jones, Curator OD. Oriel Davies Open 2018 23 June – 5 September.
My personal hopes are that 2018 will be a time of unleashing potential, harnessing prosperity and celebrating the power of community within society.
Paul Kaynes, Chief Executive Officer, National Dance Company Wales
Firstly the home team: NDCW are about to set off on our long Spring tour taking in all of Wales, the UK, Austria and Germany with works by Resident Choreographer Caroline Finn (in Cardiff you have another chance to see her beautiful, haunting FOLK) and the mesmerising Tundra by Marcos Morau – already an international hit. Later this year watch out for a contemporary dance-opera we’re presenting with Music Theatre Wales in October/November. It’s a beautiful work.
To finally see every organisation in Wales tackling all barriers to access, rather than relying on one or two organisations. Saying this, we have to upskill those creating the work at grassroots level for this to be achievable, so I hope to see lots of money being ploughed into this.
I hope my production of the musical The Last 5 Years comes to fruition and tours Wales Autumn 2018 as this has access at its heart and supports BSL as a culture.
I look forward to seeing our Opera Bites event expanding a little as well as some exciting developments with our 10 Minute Musicals project come to fruition. We have a sharing of this work at Millennium Centre, February 25th, Blackwood Miners Institute, February 27th and then we are sharing it at Focus Wales 2018 which is hugely exciting for this project and all the artists involved.
There is a piece I started to develop last year with Eddie Ladd based on Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy which we hope to pick up this year. It’s a piece very dear to me therefore I hope we make this work for us. Building in this there may be another exciting collaboration with Eddie in the pipeline. Watch this space. Our work compliments each other wonderfully.
I hope to see more of my daughter this year, drink less rose wine and get back into the gym at more regular intervals. I am also hoping to renovate my kitchen and become a better cook!! I have also vowed to explore the landscape I live within this year and reconnecting with nature a little.
Bethan Marlow, Writer
2018 feels like a fresh year. There’s a lot of courage in the air, people are standing up and shouting out, dirty secrets are no longer protected and new manifestos are being drawn. I’m crossing all my fingers that this also means that we’ll see fresh and courageous cultural activity all over Wales in all languages.
I hope we all, and I’m very much including myself here, have the courage to dig deep and create what we need and want to create this year. Not what we think people will go and see or what we think will tick funding boxes but what our guts are screaming for us to make.
David Mercatali, Associate Director, Sherman Theatre
I am hugely excited to be working with the fantastic Welsh writer Katherine Chandler and the next generation of acting talent on the world premiere of Buddy. The play is part of NEW:2018 and is a co-production between RWCMD and Sherman Theatre.My wish for the New Year would be for anyone living in Cardiff who hasn’t been to the theatre yet to give it a go!
My personal hopes for 2018; In light of the funding threats to my local arts centre at Pontardawe, I hope that the people who make these detrimental decisions recognise the importance of the arts and their effect on our wellbeing. I hope that communities begin to make more use of all local arts centres and that artists and creatives have the freedom and funding to encourage and inspire those that are blind to its relevance in our society today.
Mae son bod cynhyrchiadau newydd ar y gweill gan Mercury, Neontopia a Triongl, a gobeithio bydd Na’Nog yn atgyfodi Nye and Jennie gan i mi ei fethu yn y Metropole yn Abertileri,a pwy a wyr pa ddanteithion daw i’n diddanu pan ddaw’r Eisteddfod i Gaerdydd ym mis Awst.
O’m rhan fy hun mae gen i brosiectau gyda’r Theatr Genedlaethol, Na’Nog, Theatrau RCT a Canoe a dwi’n gobeithio bydd fy sioe un menyw am Rachel Roberts (Yn Gymraeg) yn digwydd o’r diwedd!
I am looking forward to Theatr Genedlaethol’s latest productionY Tad ( Le Pere) by Florian Zeller trans. Geraint Lovgreen (Touring 21 Feb- 16 March) with Dyfan Roberts as the father. Dyfan and I began our careers together back in 1970! Also Theatr Pena’s production Women of Flowers by Sion Eirian after Saunders Lewis (Touring 1Feb-9 March) with the amazing Sara Lloyd Gregory as Blodeuwedd. I shall venture to Pontrhydfendigaid for a poetic and cinematic recreation by Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes as they embark on a three year project with NTW under the title The Storm Cycle with Nothing Remains The Same (15-17 Feb) and they promise seating- indoors! And fireworks! In a timely production about minority languages Theatr Gwalia presents Inheriting The Gods by Carmen Stephens about a relationship between a young man from the Wampanoag tribe and a young Welsh Woman and is touring Feb 26-March 24. The amazing Dirty Protest celebrate their tenth birthday with Mark Williams’ play Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock (Touring 4 April-5 May).
I hear that Mercury, Neontopia and Triongl are preparing exciting things and I hope Na’Nog will revive Nye and Jennie as I missed it at the Metropole in Abertillery, and who knows what delicacies the Eisteddfod will bring when it comes to Cardiff in August!
I have writing and performing projects with Theatr Genedlaethol, Na’Nog, RCT Theatres and Canoe and I really hope my one woman show about Rachel Roberts (in Welsh) will happen this year!
Catherine Paskell, Independent Theatre Director
I’m looking forward to loads of new original performance work happening in Wales this year, but if I had to pick only two, I would choose:
Jordan Brookes Body Of Work at Chapter on 2 June. I saw this show in Edinburgh, and Jordan was nominated for the 2017 Last Minute.Com Edinburgh Comedy Award for best show. That’s what the Perrier Award is now called, so it’s a pretty big deal and this was a pretty awesome show. It was one of the best comedy shows I saw in Edinburgh last year when Dirty Protest was there with Sugar Baby. I love Jordan’s comedy – I first saw him when he was living in Cardiff a few years ago and it was fantastic to see his work get the recognition he deserves. He’s on the performance art-end of comedy (but without being up its arse) and he’s one of my favourite weirdos.
Also, I really cannot wait for Split Britches’ Unexploded Ordances at the Wales Millenium Centre for a week this March. Peggy Shaw is a world renowned artist and I saw her show with Clod Ensemble Must: The Inside Story ten years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe. It made an impact on me then as she transfixed a Victorian anatomy theatre with a raw story full of poetry and heart and pain and medicine and art. It’s a real privilege for us to see artists of this calibre creating original work in Wales and this experience will be a must see, or rather as it’s interactive art: a “must do”.
Rachel Pedley Miller, Artistic Director, Avant Cymru
In 2018 Avant Cymru are planning a busy year with Forget Me Not in January and Blue Scar in the summer.
We are working with Rufus Mufasa on her album launch on the 16th of January. Looking forward to working with Rufus and Unity further on Welsh Hip Hop projects.
Jac Ifan Moore, Director and Co-Director of Powderhouse
Theatre Dublin Carol – Sherman Theatre
Coming up in a few weeks at the Sherman. Connor McPherson, killer cast and directed by Matthew Xia. Come on, what more d’you want?
All But Gone – The Other Room
I’m really excited to see what Dan Jones will do now that he’s at the helm of The Other Room. This will be his first production as AD, and it’s a chance to see how he’s going to put his mark on that ambitious company.
Book Tribe – Sebastian Junger
Collection of essays that span history, autobiography, anthropology and psychology. What we can learn from tribal societies, what we’ve lost, and why in the modern world we’re still craving companionship and meaning.Film
The Shape of Water – Dir. Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro’s latest film gets its UK release in February, and I’m looking forward to his particular mix of strangeness. Set to the bleak backdrop of 1960’s Baltimore, it’s apparently a love story between a mute woman and a water god. Yes please.
Lucy Owen, Journalist and writer
I’m looking forward to the Cardiff Kids Literature Festival in April this year. There will be loads of events going on and it’s a great chance to meet authors and illustrators and inspire children to pick up a book.
I am super excited that a book I’ve written for 6 – 8 year olds will be published in September too. It’s called ‘The Sea House’ and I’m really hoping children will love all the characters, particularly my favourite – a brave, sparkly little fish called Fabulous!
Marc Rees Creator and curator of installation and performance
You might have seen my crestfallen face captured on the news when it was announced that Swansea didn’t win the UK City of Culture crown for 2021? Perhaps if we’d gone with the abbreviated SUKCOC ( Swansea UK City Of Culture ) it might have been a different story?I really did think that it was Swansea’s time to shine and to quote the city’s very own big haired 80’s pop icon … we could have turned it around . However there are still exciting plans afoot and one that is very close to my heart is still under wraps till the end of January but I want to mention it as it’s certainly something that I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into in 2018.
Essentially it’s an immersive Requiem that will kickstart the Swansea International Festival 2018 – written by a twice Oscar nominated composer with a libretto by a BAFTA Cymru winning writer, sung by a world renowned choir and with a wrap around narrative led by the formidable force that is Eddie Ladd. Watch this camouflaged space.
For 2018 I’m very much looking forward to hearing more cultural stories being told by people of a diverse background. Great things are happening already but there’s still such a way to go. ‘Fio’ are doing some amazing work right now providing opportunities for BAME actors, writers and directors to showcase work and are providing a great accessible outlet.
I’m involved in TWO amazing plays with full diverse teams this year. One of them which tells a story from voices we don’t often hear from. I am working with phenomenal actors all from diverse backgrounds and I cannot wait! The plays are wonderful and I’m really honoured to be a part of it all! The theatres we are performing in are equally brilliant! Wales is a place of character, diversity and rich culture. So I look forward to us continuing to move forward within the arts and really show what we are made of.
Keiron Self, Actor and Playwright
I’m very much looking forward to Light Speed from Pembroke Dock, a family friendly and Star Wars friendly theatre show from Dirty Protest as part of their 10th anniversary. I have been lucky enough to have a few pieces perfomed by them and their stalwart crew and have a soft spot in my heart for all involved. I also saw an Rand D of the show and it touched a nostalgic string in my heart, it being about fathers and sons and a certain sic-fi film – essentially a taste of my youth.
I’m also looking forward to films coming out in February The Shape of Water Guillermo Del Toro’s new fantasy masterpiece about a love affair between a woman and a Black Lagoon-esque creature in Cold War America. I’m a great fan of Del Toro, especially Pan’s Labyrinth, and this ranks right up there next to them. Also in February Lady Bird is a film from Greta Gerwig, a fantastic indie actress making her directorial debut with a well observed coming of age talk between a mother and a daughter starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.
I’m very much looking forward to a bumper year of culture in 2018. Many people interested in the arts in Wales will already be filling up their diaries.
One of the events I’m especially looking forward to is the National Eisteddfod (3-11 August, Cardiff), as it takes place this year right outside my office window in Cardiff Bay. For the first time in decades, the “Maes” (the festival site) will not be held in a field, and visitors will be able to come in and out as they chose, paying for each event individually. The “no-fence” Eisteddfod offers exciting opportunities to try out new activities, appealing to a wide range of audiences and celebrating the best of Welsh culture in all its forms.
For a relatively small country, Wales punches well above its weight in terms of literature festivals. As well as the world-renowned Hay Festival (24 May – 3 June), many more have appeared in recent years, including the excellent Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival (21-29 April) and the Cardiff Book Festival (7-9 September 2018). I’m particularly looking forward to the newest addition to the calendar, the Seren Poetry Festival at the Cornerstone building in Cardiff (16-18 February).
Pembrokeshire should take the prize for being the most bountiful county, with literature festivals in Solva (The Edge Festival – 2-5 August), Llangwm (10-12 August) and Rhosygilwen (PENfro Book Festival – September). These festivals would not take place without the dedicated efforts of community activists who believe in bringing people together and sharing a love for words. And the success of many depend on their brilliant local independent book shops.
If your dream is to take part in one of these festivals as a featured writer one day, then you should consider booking on one of the courses at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre: www.tynewydd.wales. The many highlights include a Creative Writing for Welsh Learners course (16-18 March with Bethan Gwanas and Eilir Jones), Songs and Lyric Writing (9-14 April with Willy Russell and Stewart Henderson), Poetry: Writing about Life (20-25 August with Lemn Sissay, Sophie McKeand and Zoë Skoulding) and Writing a Novel (24-28 September with Louise de Bernière and Wales Book of the Year winner Alys Conran). There is something for everyone this year at this very special place.
I’m looking forward to seeing the completion of the epic 50ft mural by artistPete Fowler on the iconic Water Tower at Cardiff Central Station. Inspired by the stories of the Mabinogi, the mural is part of the Weird and Wonderful Wales project by Literature Wales and Cadw. The work began before Christmas, but was suspended because of bad weather. The work will continue soon and remain in place throughout 2018, when visitors from all across the globe will see it when they visit Cardiff for events such as the Volvo Ocean Race as part of Year of the Sea.
The Wales Book of the Year award is set to be another great event this year, with the ceremony scheduled to take place in the summer. Announcements will be made in March – so keep an eye out on Literature Wales’ website for details. In the meantime, I was thrilled to see that last year’s winner Pigeon(Parthian Books) by Alys Conran, is being serialised in the Western Mail. Also, the Roland Mathias Poetry Evening will take place on 23 February at The Muse, Brecon, featuring John Freeman, winner of last year’s Wales Book of the Year Roland Mathias Poetry Award, with Jonathan Edwards chairing the event.
Last year the National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn, with funding from Welsh Government and support by Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers (1914-1918), created and toured a multi-lingual multi-media show on poet Hedd Wyn called Y Gadair Wag/ The Empty Chair, directed by Ian Rowlands. It premiered at Yr Ysgwrn, the poet’s home at Trawsfynydd which recently opened as a visitor’s centre. By popular demand, the hope is to tour more extensively in 2018, taking in locations throughout Wales, as well as the UK and Ireland. 2018 will see the announcement by Literature Wales of a new Young People’s Laureate, as Sophie McKeand’s hugely successful two-year stint comes to an end in spring.
2018 marks 70 years since the creation of the NHS, which was established by the great Welsh politician and orator Aneurin Bevan. It’s worth keeping an eye out for cultural celebrations of this significant milestone, including a series of productions throughout Wales by the two national theatre companies, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and National Theatre Wales.
In other art-forms, I’m looking forward to the return of Festival of the Voice to the Wales Millennium Centre (7-17 June), the Urdd Eisteddfod celebration of youth culture at Builth Wells (28 May – 2 June), the Swansea International Festival (October 2018) and the international art prize Artes Mundi at National Museum Wales (from 27 October). National Dance Company Wales’ Terra Firma tour takes place in Spring and will be well worth a look. Last year I very much enjoyed the collaborative concerts between the orchestras of WNO and BBC NOW, and I hope to catch a few this year as well. I can also highly recommend Rungano Nyoni’s debut award-winning film funded by Ffilm Cymru Wales, I Am Not A Witch, which will be out on DVD in February.
Like many others, I was very disappointed that Wales missed out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, having enjoyed myself immensely in France in 2016. However, this year I can kick back, enjoy the games relatively stress-free, and pick a couple of nice countries to support. Come on Iceland!
Alastair Sill, Audio Describer for Theatre
I’m really looking forward to watching Owen Thomas’ new play, The Wood by The Torch Theatre. The Wood is inspired by a true story and commemorates the centenary of World War I. Yes, I can’t wait for that one. Another highlight has to be the Festival of Voice between 7th June and 17th June, at locations around Cardiff, created by the Wales Millennium Centre. I really want to try and get down to The Other Room this year because there’s nothing else like it in Cardiff. And anything by Gagglebabble is always fantastic!
Then personally first of all, I hope I have a happy, healthy and fun year with my two boys and girlfriend. Second, I hope York City FC find promotion to the National League, the first step back to the football league. And last, I hope to record lots of funny little anecdotes from my two boys and write a children’s story inspired by their unique craziness!
Jennifer Ruth Sturt, Assistant Producer, Wales Millennium Centre
Thinking ahead to what 2018 has in store is at once terrifying and overwhelmingly exciting. This year is set to be full on, but hugely inspiring year for us at the Centre. With the launch of two new seasons of programmed work in the Weston Studio and ffresh alongside the return of our biannual international arts festival, Festival of Voice. This year, we’re creating a number of co-productions with some incredible Welsh artists and companies and I’m really proud to be part of the team helping to make them happen. As Cardiff embraces it’s title of Music City, the in-house Festival of Voice team have created a programme of work that really celebrates voice in all it’s guises and alongside an ambitious Creative Learning programme allows us to explore the positive impact of collective singing and creative expression. With just six months to go, I can’t wait for what this year’s festival has in store.
Personally, I’m looking forward to many more adventures in 2018 with plans to travel to New Zealand and Canada, see my best friend get married and all being well, get back out on the road and finally get a half marathon under my belt- fingers crossed.
Geinor Styles, Artistic Director, Theatr na nÓg
My cultural highlights would be anything Theatr na nÓg does – obvs… and also the things I am looking forward to seeing and then probably missing because I’ve double booked myself or completely forgotten they were on…
So if someone can remind me then that would be great…
Then the show I will definitely want to see before it heads off to New York, because I missed it the first couple of times round is Grav, an amazing achievement for a theatre company in far west Wales – The Torch to get it to the stage in New York after sell out shows here in Wales and Edinburgh. Congratulations to the creative team for taking a true Welsh hero and exporting it far and wide.
Even though I hate overhyped shows, I must see Hamilton this year. I think the story is incredible and an important one to hear and see in this strange uncertain time. – even though he did the music to Moana!
I also hear that Fleetwood Mac are going to tour this year specially for my birthday, so be rude not to!
Adele Thomas, Director
The play I’m most looking forward to in 2018 is John by Annie Baker, in a new production at the National Theatre. Annie is probably our greatest living dramatist. She writes with a delicacy and a humanity that make Checkhov look positively cartoonish. Her plays The Flick and Circle Mirror Transformation are amongst my favourite evenings in the theatre, and James McDonald (who directed Circle Mirror Transformation) is directing John, which makes it doubly exciting. I can’t tell you anything about what the play’s about.
My New Years Resolution is “Avoid the Algorithm”. So much internet noise and being in the industry means that by the time you’ve read the endless marketing and faced the constant stream of twitter criticism you go into the theatre too equipped to watch the play. Imagine being in the first audience for Macbeth or The Cherry Orchard or Blasted or Machinal. You would be entering the auditorium with true openness. As an audience member you might be shocked or bored or moved to tears, but your experience would be an truly honest one, a direct and unadulterated relationship between you and the play. What a gorgeous idea
Sami Thorpe, co-founder Elbow Room Theatre Company and BSL Interpreter
Sami shares her thoughts in BSL in the video below
There is so much to look forward to in 2018. I cannot wait to see Jonny Cotsen’s ‘Louder is Not Always Clearer’, it’s so important to see diverse stories on the stage and, as someone who has been involved with the Deaf community for a number of years, I’m very excited by it. I’m also looking forward to the drag acts coming to Cardiff this year, especially Klub Kids’ ‘The Twisted Circus’, which I shall be fangirling all over!
My personal hope for 2018 is that as an industry we work together to continue to diversify our audiences, sharing ideas and good practice is key. Be brave, take risks, learn and grow.
Nickie Miles-Wildin, RTYDS, Resident Assistant Director, Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre
I’m sat at my desk at The Royal Exchange Theatre and there’s so much that I’m looking forward to this year. Being Resident Assistant Director in this amazing building is opening up many great opportunities for me. My highlights are Frankenstein directed by Matthew Xia. 200 years after its publication in January 2018 Matthew is directing a new version by April De Angelis – a writer whose work I enjoy. (Playhouse Creatures is brilliant) Being assistant director on this show I am already in the depths of research and know that the cast is going to truly bring the story to life on our stage.
I’m also looking forward to working with the Young Company up here on their production of Mix Tape. Working closely with Matt Hassall – Programme Leader for the Young Company and composer James Frewer, Manchester will be given its own mix tape.
In the summer I can’t wait to be my alter ego Beryl as I tour a handful of festivals with Bingo Lingo alongside my co-star Daryl and his alter ego Cyril. It’s Bingo on a Paralympic Scale. The Without Walls festivals are an absolute joy to be at and to discover new work.
For me 2018 will be one of exciting creative work indoors at the theatre and a summer of amazing interactive playful outdoor work.
And Deaf actor Nadia Nadarajah being part of the new ensemble company at the Globe. Hopefully we’ll see more Deaf and Disabled creatives leading the way.
Matthew Xia, Director
I’m really looking forward to making some work across England and Wales this year. I’m starting with Dublin Carol – the Conor McPherson play about an alcoholic Undertaker being confronted with the life he has lived, and the others he has broken. It’s playing at Sherman Theatre in Cardiff from the 5th of February for two weeks. I then head up to the Manchester Royal Exchange to make a brand new Frankenstein adapted for the stage by April de’Angelis before directing the premier of the Alfred Fagon Award winning play Shebeen by Nottingham writer Mufaro Makubika. The show, starring Karl Collins will be presented at the Nottingham Playhouse and Theatre Royal Stratford East in June.
Hi Jonny Great to meet you. Can you tell us about yourself?
Hello. Great to meet you too! I call myself a Consultant, Theatre Maker and Facilitator in the Arts. I like to make interesting things happen. I work with theatre/arts organisations and venues to develop their work to be more accessible to deaf audiences /members which gives me a lot of satisfaction.
As well as giving talks on access and running inclusive workshops, I am a facilitator. I work with people of all ages with different abilities, exploring ways drama can be inclusive, accessible and more importantly … fun!
I am also a performer and I am just about to tour my solo show, ‘Louder is Not Always Clearer’, starting at Chapter Arts Centre in February and then on to other venues across Wales. The show is being produced and directed by the brilliant ‘Mr and Mrs Clark’.
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?
I am currently listening to ‘Royalties Overdue’ which is a compilation of songs from the record label Mo Wax. It’s a double sided compilation with various artists that have been assigned to the Mo Wax label founded by James Lavelle.
The album was released around 1994 when I was at Art School and I heard one of the artists DJ Krush collaborating with a jazz artist, Ronnie Jordan’ at a gig and I was blown away so I had to buy it. It was released around the time when Hip Hop was really starting to evolve into mainstream music; artists such as Massive Attack, Portishead, Morcheba etc were influential to the Mo Wax label. Although its been nearly 25 years since it was released, I still love listening to this album!
I am deaf and I’ve always struggled with music especially understanding lyrics but I think it’s the deep and slow beats that makes this album more accessible to me. It’s just the way I hear music. The last year or so, I sort of lost my way listening to music and even stopped attending gigs. This was partly because I am now more involved with theatre which is more accessible to me as I can watch interpreted or captioned performances. However, very recently I bought new hearing aids which are not only super-powerful but I can play music from my phone to my hearing aids via bluetooth. So I have the added advantage of not wearing headphones (which are such a pain when you are a hearing aid user!) but also the clarity of the songs is so much better through the hearing aids. It will never be perfect, nor can I listen to music like a hearing person but it is definitely making a difference!! Thanks to my new hearing aids, I have started to enjoy listening to music again. ‘Royalties Overdue’ was the first album I wanted to listen to with my new hearing aids and I have been stuck listening to it ever since! I just can’t stop listening to it!
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 is a difficult one as it changes every week! Here we go…
Duran Duran – Rio. This was the first album I ever bought. The lyrics were always printed on the back of the vinyl or in the in-lay sleeves which was brilliant as I was able to follow and learn the lyrics to all the songs quite clearly. This album has been my favourite of all the Duran Duran albums. I still enjoy singing ‘Save A Prayer’ tunelessly around the house much to the annoyance to my neighbours!
Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Under The Bridge. When I was at my lowest, this song reminds me how much I have achieved since then. I was in a dark place and this song was playing on the radio and I needed do something about it and I did. I saw RHCP live in Cardiff and I had a very emotional connection with the song when they played it.
Matisyahu – Live At Stubbs. I went with a friend to see this American guy who was a Rabbi with a huge beard and dressed in black. This Rabbi can sing and he was good!! Incredible voice and possibly the best gig that I have ever seen. People have compared him to Damian Marley and I think that is a huge compliment. Matisyahu can rap, sing and beat-box. I love listening to this album whenever I have a dead-end moment and it gives me a buzz. Matisyahu doesn’t have a beard anymore, or wear the black clothes but I still like him!
Beastie Boys – Check Your Head For the obvious reasons Beastie Boys are so much fun to listen to. My older cousin always used to play Beastie Boys stuff when I visited him. I never really got ‘rap’ as there was no way I could follow or understand the lyrics but this album uses a lot of instrumental stuff in the songs. Yes, I’ll admit I did steal the VW badge off a car and tried to wear it just to be as cool as the Beastie Boys.
James Taylor Quartet – Do Your Own Thing During my university days I listened to a lot of jazz, acid jazz, trip-hop and hip hop but JTQ were my favourite. They are a British four-piece jazz funk band, who were renowned for their live performances. Their live sets focus on accessible rhythm driven music which I have always enjoyed listening to. I think they set the standard for the coolest sounds in funky acid jazz and amongst all their brilliant albums, ’Do Your Own Thing’ is my favourite of all them.
Thanks Jonny, 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 am going to use my deaf card and pretend I did not hear the question as I am going to chose this song – Happy 70th Birthday Bob Marley – Could You Be Loved [Acapella Version 2015] #MARLEY70. The song consists of different individuals doing an acapella/beat-box version of ‘Could You Be Loved’. All vocal and no instruments. When my partner was pregnant with our daughter throughout the pregnancy we played this song to her belly. We played it a lot and we never got tired of it. A friend told us about it and we are forever grateful. We still play it every now and then; not sure if our daughter remembers it from in utero but wouldn’t be cool if she did.
The Chimes, an adaptation by David Willis and Conor Linehan
Having walked along the Southbank, mulled wine in hand, I had no idea about how I was about to be changed by an extremely powerful piece of political theatre but more importantly relevant political theatre! Upon entering St John’s Church, Waterloo, expecting to see a congregational theatre set up, I was immediately captivated or captured by the world in which I had been invited. A simple yet focussed performance space was encouraged in the traverse with subtle hints reminding us of the Dickensian time period of the narrative. However, director Judith Roberts’ vision did more than visually encompass us in what we were about to experience. Through the use of integrated recordings of various political speeches we were subconsciously being alienated by the waffle in which we were hearing; barely audible over the power of the organ making the point that a lot of these times they aren’t even worth hearing!
Dickens’ second Christmas Story, after the infamous Christmas Carol, took a somewhat subtler route to reminding us of the dangers of neglect at Christmas. The supernatural element of the unknown still occurred in the form of teaching the protagonist; Trotty, sincerely played be Matthew Jure, a well-deserved lesson in valuing family and friends and appreciating time. The first act, with creative use of ensemble and simple, yet effective, mise en scène, took us on a powerful journey into the impoverished life of Trotty and his daughter Meg as they struggle to survive the harsh reality of London in 1844. We quickly arrive at the rising action as Trotty is caught eating Tripe, which is being rationed to women and children only, despite it being a gift from his daughter Meg – Alderman Cute, a rich gentleman, and his cult, threateningly warn Trotty and menacingly show interest in his daughter who he holds most dear; too dear to let her marry her honest, hard working courter, Richard.
Through this powerful first act, Trotty is constantly drawn towards the bells which were made for the production by Nigel Shepard from recycled aluminium scaffold poles which really resonated with me in that it makes a clear point to commercialised theatres and productions within the UK that you don’t need to spend millions in order to create a captivating story which can still create a spectacle and change an audience! The week before I took my foster brother to see a Christmas Pantomime at a local theatre and was astounded by the money that had gone into making the show entertaining and at the end when asked for donations I couldn’t help but think: if this production had never been created and all the money for resources had been donated straight to charity, yes there would have been no entertainment for children which ironically coincides with the point for this production (teaching us of the necessity for sharing Christmas) but it also would have made a massive impact in changing many lives as opposed to the huge salaries of the actors and reluctant donations of the public as they realise they still haven’t paid for parking.
Despite this production being a partnership with the homeless charity The Passage, the standard of acting was so high that there were very few moments where I wasn’t flawlessly following the story and those times were not due to the actions of the ensemble from The Passage! This was especially clear in the ensemble numbers – the connection to the text and through line of the action was incredibly clear by the likes of John Watts, Joy Aaron, Allissa Christie, Hanna Kaley, Pixie Maddison and Yvonne Wickham, who all played various characters in aiding the narrative, however it was the sincerity by which they shared this powerful story with us which made me feel changed when I left the theatre and made me think about the injustice of the way we often perceive someone who is homeless. Disregarding simple human values and giving the hard shoulder whether it be because we think they got what they deserved or because we think they are cheating us of our charity. More often this is not the case and we are blinded by our thoughts when we should be treating all people homeless or not with the same respect!
Further information on the production can be found at the link.
Get that Chance has interviewed a range of creatives from/or based in Wales in 2017. We caught up with some of them again recently to ask them for their own cultural highlight of 2017. If you click on the links below it will take you to an interview with each contributor.
As an audience member I still remember event Killology at Sherman Theatre when Sion Young gestured at the end of Act 1. I nearly didn’t return for Act II, the power behind the movement still stays with me today. Very powerful acting and directing.
On tour with Killer Cells, I sat opposite a woman at the end of one of the performances, her friend held her shoulders and we talked for an hour about her experience of loss and of having found out she too had a high level of UNK Killer Cells. The opportunity to share and come together with another individual who had experienced loss in the same way as you had, was empowering for us both – theatre making us feel less isolated in society.
Working with Ann Davies, who has been a community champion for years, who is now having her work (at the age of 65) performed for the first time in the public domain. After years of being isolated as carer and after suffering at the hands of a dodgy home start building scheme, seeing her confidence grow and her feeling more confident, has been a happy result of collaboration.
Well I’ve been on maternity leave most of the year so haven’t seen anything unfortunately but I’ve absolutely loved returning to work with such a wonderfully supportive creative team on Flossy and Boo, The Alternativity. I haven’t laughed so much during meetings or felt so at ease discussing concepts and ideas!
Gareth Coles / Voluntary Arts Wales Director / Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru
My cultural highlight of 2017 was an exhibition in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, which I returned to many times. Displayed in a darkened room, Nature’s Song: Chinese Bird and Flower Painting, was a breathtaking collection of beautiful ink paintings. As an artist myself, with a regrettable tendency to overwork my drawings and get lost in details, I learned so much about the expressive and economical use of a single brush stroke: representing shimmering leaves and blades of grass, and evoking whole landscapes.
I would have to go for the National Theatre’s productions of Angels in America. Firstly what a dream to see such an iconic piece of theatre in such a wonderful space. Secondly, the imagery Tony Kushner writes is spellbinding and how they staggering, breathtakingly captured these images was extraordinarily. How can you not like a piece of theatre which has this line written in it? ‘I don’t understand why I am not dead? When your heart breaks, you should die’.
Patrick Jones, Poet and playwright
Comedy Mark Thomas
TV Motherland. People Just Do Nothing
Poetry Pascale Petit Mama Amazonica
Music Godspeed You Black Emperor Luciferian Towers
BooK The Poetry Pharmacy by William Sieghart
Theatre Touch by Vicky Jones (Soho Theatre)
Poetic and profane, the Jean Michel Basqiuat retrospective at The Barbican stood out. Not only were we given insight into the man and the 80’s New York art scene, the paintings had room to speak for themselves.
My professional cultural highlight (for work that I was involved in) was Disgo Distaw Owain Glyndwr Silent Disco by Light Ladd & Emberton – an entertaining and meaningful production which engaged hundreds of people, and has since been nominated for a tourism business innovation award.
My personal cultural highlight was reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet with CardiffRead – an absorbing and detailed book about a historical murder that built to an intense climax, through twists and turns, and at the end, left the reader as the judge… It was nominated for and should have won the Booker prize!
To choose one personal cultural highlight when despite all else culture has delivered so many uplifting and joyous moments in my life is invidious but (and apologies to Celtic Connections Glasgow, Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band, Girl from the North Country, Rhiannon Giddens, Black RATs’ One Man Two Guv’nors and Nye & Jennie) my singular choice has to be Theatr na nÓg’s “Eye of the Storm” at Taliesin Arts Centre Swansea last month. Inspirational, realistic, provocative and all delivered by a superbly talented cast bouncing off a superb script from Geinor Styles and a wonderful soundtrack penned by Amy Wadge. I maybe now the proud chair of that company but this would have made it anyway on merit!
My cultural highlight for 2017 was Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide which played at London’s Royal Court – breathtaking in the way it dealt with a tricky subject matter with such heart and rigour as well as being formally inventive as three timelines play out simultaneously I both enjoyed the production at the time and have returned to it in my mind since. I hope that in 2018 I will write something half as good – the memory of it spurs me on.
My cultural highlight of 2017 was Tai Bach Panto in Port Talbot. This year was Cinderella’s Golden Ball which marked the pantos 50th anniversary. Written, produced, directed and performed by a cast of mainly steelworkers (who work their socks off for the love of it!) It brings the town together for a good old knees up. Debaucherous, anarchic and definitely not for kids – I laughed so hard my face hurt!
Alex Griffin-Griffiths in Dirty Protest’s Sugar Baby by Alan Harris. Sion Daniel Young in Killology directed by Rachel O’Riordan and written by Gary Owen at the Sherman. Lastly Seanmhair by Hywel John directed by Kate Wasserberg at The Other Room.
My cultural/personal highlights of 2017 were 1) Seeing Anatomy of a Suicide at the Royal Court 2) Being invited onto the Emerging Writers Programme at The Bush and 3) Securing funding from Arts Council Wales to research the need for a Queer Arts Collective in Wales.
My cultural highlight of 2017 has to be an extraordinary weekend spent in Hwacheon, South Korea, in September, where I was lucky enough to watch Welsh, Korean, Japanese and Indian artists collaborate with each other and the local community, as part of our Artists’ Playground residency. Seeing all these great artistic minds swapping ideas, trying new approaches, finding common ground and different perspectives – often despite real language barriers – was awe-inspiring.
For me – Reasons to be Cheerful from Graeae – uplifting and deeply unashamedly political. Slava’s Snow Show – always stunning – always magical! And finishing on a high with the wonderful Likely Story’s The Giant Who Has No Heart in His Body. Oh and I also enjoyed Flossy and Boo’s Alternativity… great to see some strong female led work and wonderful to see so much clowning!
Joe Fletcher, Lighting Designer and scenographer
I would have a special mention for Sugar Baby written by Alan Harris and produced by Dirty Protest at Edinburgh. Also the screening of Macbeth in cinemas by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and the screening of PARADE by National Dance Company Wales on BBC4 all rather rather special!
Gavin Porter Film Maker and Clore Fellow
My Welsh highlight was RATS, written and directed by Kyle Legall, a theatre production and director that isn’t afraid to break conventions. My national highlight was Barber Shop Chronicles at the National Theatre, an intelligent, energetic and beautifully written show.
Matthew Bulgo Actor and Playwright
My cultural highlight for 2017 was PALMYRA at Summerhall during the Edinburgh Fringe. In turn both hilarious and arresting, witty and profound.
We asked our team to choose their three cultural highlights of the year, along with a favourite event and/or organisation. Enjoy reading their individual responses below.
Young Critic, Gareth Williams
Junkyard: A New Musical (Theatr Clwyd, Mold) Real, raw, inventive, inspiring; provoking and entertaining social commentary; one of the most original pieces of theatre I think I’ve come across this year, with an exceptional cast, script, and set design.
Alice in Wonderland (Storyhouse, Chester)
A truly charming and inventive take on this well-known tale; a talented cast who brought the characters of Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s classic to life in vivid detail; perfect family viewing; the standout show of Storyhouse’s opening season.
Broken (BBC Drama Series)
Sean Bean was excellent as the passionate yet broken priest trying to make a difference in a Northern working-class community; as always from writer Jimmy McGovern, a piece which dealt with contemporary social issues in an engaging, challenging and no-nonsense way; a beautiful portrait of contemporary Christian faith.
The opening of Storyhouse in Chester
A wonderful addition to the North Wales/North West England arts scene. A stunning building with a beautiful theatre, modern cinema, integrated library, and plenty of communal spaces. An arts space that is truly for the community, that is already making a positive impact on the city and its people through various projects, shows and initiatives.
Community Critic Kevin Johnson
Hamlet. Andrew Scott gave what I can only described as an Irish Hamlet, sad, bittersweet and quietly morose. He sees the humour through the madness and the sorrow, yet his heartbreak was always just behind his eyes. Like some romantic hero of legend, dark and brooding, he used this masterfully to make us care for the Dane all the more.
The setting was modern, innovative and intriguing. The play began with coverage of the funeral straight from a Danish cable news channel. The play within the play took centre stage, the cast sitting in the front row among us, their faces thrown by video onto screens around the auditorium. A clever use of old and new. They wore tuxedos as if at the opera, and were covered by cameras as such.
In other modern twists Polonius had dementia, Rosencranz and Guilderstern were a couple, and both Hamlet and his mother spoke with Irish accents, unlike Claudius. A superb and thoughtful production that gave me new insight into the play.
My second choice is Angels In America, the first London revival since the original in 1992. With Andrew Garfield taking the lead of Prior Walter, this was a huge play, both in ambition, talent and scope. Performed in two parts, it’s just over eight hours in total, but amazingly the time went by so fast.
Garfield won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor but Nathan Lane is equally as good as the venal Roy Cohn, hurling racist insults from his sick bed at his nurse, and threatening his doctors with lawsuits, it was still hard not to be moved as he fought for his life using every dirty trick in the book.
Although I thought it slightly bloated, and perhaps too self-indulgent in places, the sheer audacity of the play steamrollers over such quibbles. This was a tour de force if ever there was one.
My third production is The Cherry Orchard, a homegrown reworking of Chekhov set in Pembroke in 1982. It made me so proud to see such a great play from a Welsh company, easily the equal of anything I’ve seen in the West End.
I’ve been a fan of writer Gary Owen since seeing Iphigenia In Splott, and Killology, also Sherman Theatre productions, and this was the ‘cherry’ on the cake, pun intended! The whole cast contributed to making it truly memorable, with Mathew Bulgo in particular creating a nuanced performance that defied good or bad and was just human.
Unsurprisingly then, my favourite company and venue of the year was the Sherman Theatre. As a theatregoer, I’ve been welcomed by every member of staff, it’s foyer is roomy and full of comfy chairs and sofas, and they continually produce work of the highest order, on both the small theatre and the large. Outstanding.
My cultural highlight of the year is a little unusual, given so many wonderful choices, but I’ve chosen Slava’s Snow Show. Premiering in 1992, it has toured all over the world, usually at Christmas. I’ve missed seeing it so many times, so when it played the Millennium Centre I was determined to catch it. And catch it I did.
Simply put, I was enchanted. When I tell you that I don’t like clowns, and that the entire cast are dressed as sad, world-weary clowns, you can see what an achievement this was!
There was no dialogue as such, no plot, and I can’t even begin to describe what went on, yet it evoked such joy and wonder in me that I remembered what it was like to be a child again. Suitable for ages 3-90, I’ve never seen anything that unites all the generations this way.
Created by Slava Polunin, a Russian clown and mime, its won several awards around the world, including the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. I think that sums it up nicely.
This is difficult as this year, I was very selective and so was privileged to experience some truly brilliant performances. With one exception. My top top event, was the Hot Tub extravaganza and in part because of my involvement and also because it was so outside my ken. Talking about our engagement with the arts here in Wales and as inconvenient wimmin of a certain age, was most refreshing!
A Judgement in Stone– A classic murder mystery that left the audience on the edge of their seats. An amateur sleuths idea of heaven.
My Cultural event of 2017. Celebrating the New Year in London watching Cinderella the Pantomime at the London Palladium and watching the fireworks from along the river bank.
My company of 2017 is Cinderella at the London Palladium. A stellar cast that really did bring everything to the pantomime. With names including Paul O’Grady, Julian Clary, Lee Mead and many more it was ‘the’ theatre experience of 2017.
I would like to highlight the work of Rachel Pedley and Avant Cymru during 2017.
A venue of great importance to me during 2017 has been The Factory, Jenkin Street, Porth RCT.
Community Critic, Hannah Goslin
Running Wild, Theatre Royal Plymouth
The production took a book from the well known writer Michael Morpurgo (of War Horse fame) and just like War Horse, transformed the stage with great creativity to take us to different places, and make us believe that the animals were real on stage with intricate puppetry.
Flossy and Boo: The Alternativity, The Other Room, Cardiff
This show brings a different taste to the usual Christmas shows full of kids entertainment and religious entail. Flossy and Boo create and exciting, fun and fully adult show to get you in the Christmas spirit but laugh at it satirically. Full of unusual concepts, music and lots of comedy, The Alternativity really gets you in the mood for Christmas.
Fourteen Days, BalletBoyz, Exeter Northcott
An arrangement of dance pieces, all with different concepts, BalletBoyz manage to astound yet again with their seamless movement, great acting and wonderful stamina. Balletboyz seem to only get better and better.
My Company of 2017 must be BalletBoyz. They are just incredible!
The best exhibition I have seen this year is : Swaps – David Hurn – An outstanding and important exhibition at the National Museum Wales .
Young Critic, Sian Thomas
Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival, particularly the event in mid July (but all the events were stunning) where I read some of my own work. I met great people and had a wonderful time and it has definitely shaped my year. I’ve become more confident with sharing my own work and have enjoyed events later into the night too, which isn’t something I did enjoy before this festival.
Layton’s Mystery Journey. Even though I didn’t enjoy the game I think playing it and experiencing a franchise I’ve loved in the past in the present was important for me. It made me realise that things don’t always survive my rosé-tinted glasses of nostalgia, and upon taking them off I’ve grown a little as a person. I know my interests much better, I know what upsets me in media much better, and I know my inner circle of friends much better, based on how we all reacted. Sometime positive can come from something initially negative, and I’m glad something has.
Iain Thomas’ “300 Things I Hope”, something I read very early on in the year and something that has been the brightest spot of almost literal sunshine on my bookshelf ever since! It’s a book I’ve traded with friends so we can see which ones stick out to us, it’s a book that spurred me on in my own below-the-radar poetry endeavours, the book that hundreds of sticky notes stick out off, and it’s the book that I like to pull down every so often and flip to a page and remember exactly why I love it.
My company of 2017 would again be Cardiff Fringe. Discovered it this summer and have been attending the monthly fringe cafes in The Gate ever since! It’s been a great time and one I hope to carry on attending. I look forward to see where it goes in 2018!
My personal cultural highlight would probably be the day I finished the first draft of my book – August 12th, 2017! I’m making progress on my goals! I’m on a second draft right now, and could not be more thankful for this year. I’ve had a really great one!
The best company for me in 2017 is Fio for pushing the boundaries of theatre and creating thoughtful and impactful pieced by working with community groups. They also incorporate hard to reach voices in to their work.
The best venue for me in 2017 is Sherman Theatre for the work they do in supporting new voices in theatre, and the efforts they go to in order to make theatre an inclusive, accessible experience.
But I suppose two of my biggest personal highlights this year were finally getting to see the American Folk/Indie group Bon Iver. I’ve followed them for many years and never been able to get tickets for as they typically sell out instantly and cause websites to crash, etc. I once even considered flying to Hong Kong to see them on their Asian tour before realising that was a bonkers idea. My husband surprised me twice this year with tickets to see Bon Iver headline the Forbidden Fruit Festival in Dublin in June, then again in September at Blackpool Winter Gardens. My husband isn’t the biggest Justin Vernon/Bon Iver fan but it meant the absolute world to me. Through the concerts, I was also introduced to the work of Lisa Hannigan and The Staves, which I’ve really enjoyed since the Dublin concert. I wouldn’t say I am massively up to date, experimental or fashionable when it comes to music – I like what I like, but despite the horrendous rain and mud, these two concerts were so meaningful for me. I’ve promised my husband I won’t make him sit through any more whiny Justin Vernon music in 2018. But this of course now means I will be dragged to some kind of weird Cajun/Zydeko/Blues music fest. There’s always a trade-off!
Young Critic, Vicky Lord
Woman in Black. New Theatre, Cardiff. It was something truly different. Obviously it was still scary to the point of terrifying but there were just so many layers of meaning that were left unsaid so that the audience could figure them out it was just truly flawless.
In terms of inspirational organisations in 2017, I’d pick National Museum Wales for being genuinely collaborative and inclusive. I have loved their 2017 programming (especially Artes Mundi, Gillian Aires, Agatha Christie photos and Who Decides?) I am also following the exciting developments and vision for St Fagans.
Artes Mundi was personal cultural event of 2017. I found Lamia Joreige’s Beirut piece really interesting and loved Bedwyr Williams’ Big Cities – I think I went back to see the exhibition four times I enjoyed it so much!
I’d have to nominate Sherman Theatre for my venue of 2017. We on the Law and Literature module at Cardiff have been linked up with Sherman Theatre since 2016, and they have been nothing but supportive, encouraging and welcoming – we have even built in their plays, performances and most recently a post show discussion panel into our module – and I was honoured to be on the post show discussion panel for The Cherry Orchard. They have also kindly come in to speak to our students at lectures – most recently Tim Howe, Communities and Engagement coordinator, led a very successful session on Law, Theatre and Performance, and our Law and Lit students were highly interested and engaged.
My favourite cultural event of the year was Pride 2017/ Return of the Big Weekend. It was my first Pride and it was utterly joyous, especially (or perhaps deliberately & defiantly in spite of) all the dreadful things that happened earlier in the year & the year before. It was beautifully, joyously defiant.
Young Critic, Eloise Stingemore
Funny Girl, Wales Millennium Centre. Sheridan Smith was outstanding, any misconceptions I had about her being the right person for the role where blown out of the water the minute she belted out the first song of the show.
Grease, Wales Millennium Centre. A show that I never wanted to end, a truly spectacular musical in every sense of the word, I want to hand jive baby for days after.
Dinosaur Babies, National Museum of Wales. A truly amazing exhibition for all ages and is worthy of going on tour all across the country with ‘made in wales’ (and with a little bit of help from America) being proudly stamped on it.
My personal cultural of event 2017 was the way the whole of Wales not just the Capital got behind our boys in wishing and dreaming them in qualifying for the World Cup. It seemed that the papers and even just people on the streets whether the be commuting to and from work or having a drink in the pub where talking about it and with so much pride that it made my proud to be Welsh.