Guy O'Donnell

Hi I am Guy the project coordinator for Get The Chance. I am a trained secondary teacher of Art and Design and have taught at all Key Stages in England and Wales. I am also an experienced theatre designer and have designed for many of the theatre companies in Wales.

An interview with Rachel Trezise

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to writer Rachel Trezise. We discussed her career to date, theatre in Wales, and access to literature/cultural provision.

Hi Rachel great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I’m a writer from the Rhondda valley. I’m most well known for winning the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006 with a collection of short stories about life in South Wales called ‘Fresh Apples.’

So what got you interested in writing and the arts?

Initially I wanted to be a journalist. I started writing a music fanzine when I was fifteen because I loved music and writing about it so much. Between the time I left school and throughout university I wrote my debut novel in my spare time because I couldn’t wait to start writing for a magazine or newspaper. The novel was published just before I left university and I stuck with writing fiction as well as some freelance journalism.

As a writer you work across a variety of forms from novels, short stories to plays. How do the different disciplines differ for you?

 There are different levels of involvement and different amounts of time required to complete each. Short stories are my favourite simply because of their brevity and the fact you needn’t have to hold a whole world in your head which you have to for a novel and to some extent a play. But the writing or the aim of the writing is always the same; to realise each character and their circmstances.

 Your first play Tonypandemonium for National Theatre Wales was autobiographical and from a predominantly female perspective. I believe the cast of your next play ‘We’re Still Here’ for NTW is predominantly male and developed from first hand interviews with steelworkers? Can you discuss how this process differs?

Tonypandemonium National Theatre Wales

Credit Mark Douet

 Actually it doesn’t differ. Although Tonypandemonium was autobiographical and We’re Still Here is a form of non-fiction both works come via my own world prism. I’ve worked hard to ensure the steelworkers in the play reflect the people I met and spoke to in Port Talbot but I always try to make sure my characters are authentic to their own locality and situation in any case. What is different I suppose is that the characters in We’re Still Here are predominantly male. But they are working class men working in the rapidly-vanishing realm of heavy industry which, much like the de-industrialised setting in Tonypandemonium is an environment that’s underrepresented in literature and theatre. I’ve tried to make the characters as honest and soul-bearing as the men I interviewed and to completely avoid the more common strong and silent male character trope we see everyday in film and on TV.

 For ‘We’re Still Here’ you are working with Rhiannon White from Commonwealth Theatre. Much of their practice is a socially engaged form of theatre making which has obvious links to NTW’s hugely successful production The Passion with Michael Sheen. Do you feel involving citizen in this way can create new audiences for what can be seen as an elitist art form?

The Creative team on  ‘We’re Still Here’  Kully Thiarai, Evie Manning, Rachel Tresize and Rhiannon White 

Of course. From start to finish we’ve engaged and will continue to engage with the people of Port Talbot. We’re making a show for the town rather than just about it. In fact Commonwealth Theatre and NTW have set the ticket price lower for residents of Port Talbot which is a very direct way to engage a local and perhaps previously unaccustomed audience and we have a large community cast. NTW worked in a similar way during the run up to Tonypandemonium at the Park and Dare in Treorchy, creating a community cast and inviting the community into rehearsals which gave Treorchy some ownership over the event.

https://www.nationaltheatrewales.org/were-still-here

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or specifically writers?

 Nothing that isn’t already being identified and addressed but there are always factors that are beyond our control. I loved doing an intensive creative writing workshop with Literature Wales and the South Wales Literature Development Initiative throughout 2013, working mainly with three groups: Young carers, Comprehensive school students and Valleys Kids. All the young people I worked with were eager and receptive but I remember a couple of young people outside one of my Valleys Kids classes who didn’t have the confidence to come in and have a go and whatever I said I couldn’t encourage them because they thought creative writing was somehow academic. I just think it’s a bit of a tragedy that an initiative like that hadn’t reached them a bit earlier in their lives and made the arts seem less threatening.

 

southwalesliterature.co.uk

 There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?

 Yes, it does feel healthy to me at the moment. My experience, although more with my literature than with drama work, is that it’s been difficult to get work reviewed widely. The literary quarterlies in Wales are always a few months late, the Welsh newspapers aren’t interested in reviewing the arts in any depth and the national media might not necessarily understand the setting of Wales-based work. (I still remember a headline from The Telegraph the day after I won the Dylan Thomas Prize: ‘Rural tales of despair scoop £60,000.’ I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams describe the post industrial south Wales valleys as ‘rural’.) All these issues make getting your work out there difficult but I know that Get the Chance, Wales Arts Review and NTW have been doing a lot of good work in this area.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

 Libraries. My life would be very different had I not discovered Treorchy Library whilst my mother was a cleaner there and I’d like to think that every child has a well-stocked library within walking distance where they can access thousands upon thousands of worlds very different to their own.

Treorchy Library

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

 Work on the script has been manic for the last few months so I haven’t got out much. One thing, which of course it was my duty to see, was an adaptation of one of my own stories ‘Hard As Nails’ by three Treorchy Comprehensive School drama students in association with RCT Theatres and Motherlode. The girls adapted the story, directed and acted in the fifteen minute performance at the Park and Dare and the Millennium Centre. It just made me very proud to have such talented and enthusiastic young people coming straight out of school and diving so fearlessly into the arts.

 

 Many thanks for your time

 

 

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    An Interview with photographer Nigel Pugh

    Hi Nigel great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

    I’ve been a practicing artist for twenty four years, concentrating solely on photography for the last seven years.  I was born in Mid Wales the woods and rivers that surrounded me were my playground, place of solace and exploration. I absorbed the wildlife and it’s nature, whilst intuitively responding to the ever-shifting light upon the abundant textures and landscapes. During eighteen years of living in Mid Wales I began to note the ecology dwindling, and left wondering, why? Forty years on I estimate that 80% of the river ecology alone, has disappeared.

    I went to Art College to study photography, typography and illustration. Four years later I returned to Wales to build and run a successful arts business in Cardiff. I became a father to two lovely children then returned to explore environmental and social themes in an attempt to seek answers to unresolved questions. Photography appeared to me as a modest way to retain a little bit of an ephemeral state; a record of what has been lost, to be lost, or regained.  I began to explore my photography practice as my part to play in the promotion of living within environmental constraints and the promotion of a more sustainable, symbiotic relationship with nature, the promotion of a more socially equitable society. I chiefly focus on environmental and social themes; the actions, narratives, interactions of individuals and their relation to their environment and community. I have sought to promote sustainable community resilience, to live within environmental constraints. My nature photography usually documents and promotes native ecology and the worth of its reinstatement. Over many years I have campaigned for, promoted and supported many environmental organisations, that adhere to the above principles.

    So what got you interested in the arts and specifically photography?

    My fathers relationship with us was often via a lens, he was a very good photographer. We had several family albums in our home, since I can remember, when at the family home they would always be poured over. I loved the documentation, the relationship with moment, place, time and people. I was always praised for my art work, never imagined doing anything else. The hardest thing was settling on a medium. Even though photography was part of my degree, it took having children and being a full time dad to return to this medium. I never liked the blank canvas, although I have created, sold, exhibited, both 3D work and illustration. Photography re engaged my sense of community, took away the blank canvas, fitted perfectly with my social and environmental campaigning and activism. Initially as a medium of evidence, then increasingly as a component part of story telling, socially engaged arts practice, given over to creating positive change.

    As part of Refugee Week you are currently showing at Wales Millennium Centre with an exhibition called ‘Creating Sanctuary’ can you tell us more?

    ‘Creating Sanctuary’ identified human commonalities of purpose, work, security of home, family, friends, community, creativity, camaraderie, healing, sharing loss and grief. The subjects sort shared the commonality of volunteering their time to working with refugees. Refugees, whoever they are and regardless of where they are from, have had their basic human requirements wholly or partly removed. Creating Sanctuary recognises and illustrates the core human requirements that volunteers, or the ‘sanctuary makers’ are assisting to recreate and reinstate. The exhibition was co-ordinated to coincide with Volunteers’ Week and Refugee Week and my hope was that the project will encourage others to accept and assist in the integration of refugees in Wales, and lead to increased voluntary action; to further Wales’ journey in becoming a ’Nation Of Sanctuary’. The exhibition features six volunteers that have worked with refugees in different ways, from right around Wales. Three portraits of each, loosely based on the themes of, voluntary work, home and community. These portraits are then followed by quotes extracted from written responses to seven questions that I asked of the volunteers before taking their portraits.

    “I have held a teenage girl while she cried for her mother who she will probably never see again and heard women speak in hushed tones of their past that they struggle to share even with women who suffered the same. These people are just people, alone in a new place, they are professionals, students, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers.”

    Catrin – The Birth Partner Project

    Barry & Cardiff, South Wales.

    https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/350509/350514/

    Link to an audio interview with Nigel on FFoton.

    https://www.ffoton.wales/interviews/2016/5/nigel-pugh

    ‘Get the Chance’ works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or audiences? 

    The Arts Council; I feel is doing its best in ‘out reach’ and ensuring accessibility to all. It will always be extremely difficult to cover all bases, due to cost. All Arts Council funded Arts Centres should do their utmost to reach into disenfranchised, or non-engaged, disadvantaged communities.

    If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

    If I were to wave a creative wand, it would create ‘creative hubs’ central to all constituencies. These hubs would have affordable co working spaces, and would house access to facilities to deliver a wide range of the ‘creative arts’. Many a creative is born from a bedroom with an online connection, a computer, and the related software to be able to explore, learn, create and deliver. This access should not be a privilege. Think ’Creative Arts Youth Centres’

    What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers? 

    In all honesty, I barely have time to see enough of the Arts from right across Wales. I am usually tied up with what I am trying to achieve, whilst parenting two children. What does excite me is, if all had the realisation that where ever you are from in Wales if you raise your voice Welsh politics is extremely touchable. If you work together we can create more localised viable economies which include the Arts as a vocation, as being viable, without having to permanently move to a city region. Or if you wished to return to your birth town with your acquired skills it is an option.

    Days of Melancholy © Tatiana Vinogradova

    As a photographer living in Cardiff I was lucky enough to be included in the ‘diffusion festival’. The exhibition or works that touched me the most within ‘diffusion’ was Tatiana Vinogradova’s ‘Days of Melancholy’ a series focusing on the life of gay people in Russia. Works such as this strongly illustrate the relative freedoms that we do have in Wales to express and be, whoever we wish to be; this should be a right, again, not a privilege.

    Lastly, the best things that I have experienced of late on a personal level, were 1) being awarded an Arts Council Grant, 2) getting to work with caring compassionate people from across Wales, 3) completing a project and seeing it on the walls of the Wales Millennium Centre, 4) how positively ‘Creating Sanctuary’ has been received.

    It was a journey, that I fully intended to extend further, but whole heartedly not just for my own wellbeing, as my photography is not separate to my activism, or to who I am.

    http://www.nigelpugh.co.uk/-/galleries/social-documentary/creating-santuary-final

    nigelpugh.co.uk

    Nigel gives an overview of the images from ‘Creating Sanctuary’

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      Top Tunes with Emily Garside

      Hi Emily great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

      I’m a writer and researcher with a love for theatre. Having been an academic for several years while writing my PhD I’m now getting back to writing my own plays again too. Born and raised in Cardiff I came back after time in London and Canada and Nottingham and I love being home. I’m a first class nerd, which I take as an absolute compliment. My first theatrical love was musical theatre as I’m sure my music choices show!

      I’ve recently written for Dirty Protest in their “Election Night” event as well as had pieces on at the Southwark Playhouse. My most recent work “Party Like it’s 1985” is being performed as part of Chippy Lane Productions 2017 scratch night on June 27th.

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      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?

      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?

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      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?

      Currently listening to; The Groundhog Day musical cast recording. Written by Tim Minchin it’s quite simply one of the best new musicals I’ve seen in the last 10 years. It’s also witty and catchy while also being a really quite emotional listen.

      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?

      Rent- Original Broadway Cast Recording. Quite simply I wouldn’t be who I am personally or professionally without this album. At 19 like many a musical theatre kid, I discovered Rent. I fell in love with the music and my love of that musical shaped my theatre-going life. It also shaped my professional life. From writing first my undergraduate dissertation on the musical, to Rent being a key part of what became my PhD. The music, and composer Jonathan Larson himself are some of the greatest influences on me. Personally, it was a gateway to so many things, including friends. One of my closest friends lives on the other side of the world, but we’re friends because of Rent. Last year we both stood on stage in a Broadway theatre with one of the original cast from Rent. This girl from Cardiff, who never was part of the theatre world, getting to stand on stage on Broadway, with a friend I’d never have, from the other side of the world, having written a PhD on something this actors was in, all because of this music. So Rent is pretty special to me.

      Sister Act-Soundtrack. Choirs have played a big part in my life since I went to University, both giving me a creative outlet and allowing me to make some great friends and have some amazing experiences. Coincidentally both choirs I’ve been in over the last 10 years or so have taken the music of Sister Act as an inspiration. I think the message of the films, about the power of music and friendship has been integral to what makes my current choir so special, so the music of these films will always be special to me. (And in a couple of weeks I get to do my best impression of ‘little redhead Nun’ which my singing teacher always used to say was me- looks small and quiet but makes a lot of noise when pushed)

      Company- Stephen Sondheim (2006 Broadway Cast recording). Because musicals have ended up a part of my professional life, and even if they weren’t forensic analysis of them is part of my personality as a fan, I can’t leave out a Sondheim musical from this list. Company I’ve chosen because firstly it’s one that in a lifetime of analysis I’d still find new things to uncover and talk about. Added to this, as I grow older and ‘grow into’ the story of Company it becomes more relatable and more emotional. The 2006 production, and recording and the combination of Raul Esparza’s Bobby- I find it hard to imagine any better interpretation of the role- and John Doyle’s re-imagining of the piece- for me will probably always remain the benchmark for this musical. It’s a rare and wonderful thing to have a recording that challenges you intellectually still but also has an emotional resonance that keeps growing.

      Sarah McLachlan- Mirrorball. We all have an album that shaped our teenage years and this was mine. I was never cool enough to rebel and be a rocker, so some soft indie-rock was where I ended up. This album just sounds like being 18 again to me.

      The Boy From Oz- Cast Recording. Even though I rarely listen to it any more this musical was a big part of my life when I first got it. The first musical I ever saw ‘live’ and part of the path that took me to being both a theatre lover and to my professional career as a researcher. It was my gateway to a world of theatre and musicals, and still remains one of the best theatrical memories I have- discovering musicals with my Mum who is still by my side for a lot of theatre. And it’s a musical that has ‘Wolverine’ (Hugh Jackman) dancing and singing in Hawaiian shirts and gold lame trousers- a guaranteed smile to the face memory!

      Of these my ‘One track’ would be ‘Will I?’ from Rent. Not the most famous, or even perhaps the best piece on the recording. But for me it was both the moment I fell in love with the piece, the most emotional moment (actually in theatre ever) seeing it live, and my benchmark for a good production. Hearing that track takes me back to a time and place but also always reminds me a bit of who I am, what inspires me and why I do what I do.

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        Top Tunes with Matthew Bulgo

        Photographs of Matthew by Jon Pountney

        GRID

        Hi Matthew great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

        Hello! I’m Matthew Bulgo. I’m an actor, playwright and dramaturg based in Cardiff and I’m also an Associate Director of Dirty Protest, Wales’ guerrilla new writing theatre company. I grew up in Swansea, studied in London and stayed there for a chunk of time before settling in Cardiff.

        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’ve been a huge music fan ever since I hijacked my father’s vinyl collection when I was about 10. I listen to a lot of music. I listen to music when I work, when I’m making food, when I’m having an unwind, when I go running. It’s a really important part of my life. Currently, I’m listening to Hippo Campus, Froth, Ezra Furman, Angel Olsen, Yeasayer, Darwin Deez, Real Estate, Dick Diver, Lord Huron, Will Butler, Maximo Park, Hinds, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Soccer Mommy, Public Access TV…I’ve also rediscovered Blondie this week so I’ve been binge listening their entire back-catalogue at the moment.

        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?

        The Strokes – ‘Is This It?’ – I love the energy of this album. Once you get past the first track, it feels like a runaway train that’s threatening to derail itself. It just has this real sense of abandon. It’s up there for me as a modern classic. There’s not a single dud track on there.


        Arcade Fire – ‘Funeral’ – Now, I’m not a fan of dancing but there are a few tracks on here that are just so galvanising that I just can’t help myself. Again, like The Strokes, this album has this really boundless energy.


        The Beatles – ‘Abbey Road’ – This was the first ever vinyl that I bought with my own money when I was about 10. I think my dad had pretty much every other album by The Beatles but this one was missing from the collection. ‘Come Together’ was an immediate favourite, just such a cool riff.

        When I started my first band when I was about 16, that song was top of the set-list. And then there’s the extraordinary B-side to the side to the album where all of the songs segue into each other. As you get to those final few tracks, you can sorta hear that it’s the last thing these four people are going to record together. They’re saying “this is it, and now we’re going to go out with something really spectacular”.


        Belle and Sebastian – ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ – Now, this album reminds me of a really specific time in my life. I was into the music that no-one else really liked and I didn’t dress how people expected me to dress. I started to going to this club night in Swansea that played all the music I loved and I suddenly discovered all the outsiders who were into the same things as me. It was just as this album came out, so these songs felt like the soundtrack to that whole period.


        The Smiths – ‘The Smiths’ – The Smiths are lyrically just exquisite. I loved how they were able to be cool and witty and pithy and fey all at the same time. I could have picked any of their albums really but this has one of my favourites, ‘Still Ill’ on it.

        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?

        Ooo, maybe ‘Last Night’ by The Strokes. Great song, super-cool video and a melody that is best shouted rather than sung.

        You can purchase a range of the latest vinyl records and classics from Outpost Coffee and Vinyl Cardiff.

        http://www.outpostrecords.co.uk

        Many thanks for your time Matthew 

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          Review Der Rosenkavalier, WNO, Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

          Photographic credits Nilz Böhme 

          4 Stars4 / 5

           

          “Age doth not wither her.” The old adage definitely can be applied to Rebecca Evan’s portrayal of the demanding central role of the Marschallin in a new production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. Evans is at the top of her scale, with a soaring soprano and equally at ease in Act I as the skittish Bichette (her lover’s name for the Marschallin) and in the final scenes as a mature and gracious lady, bowing to the inevitable.

          Right from the start there is poignancy behind the comedy, as a lone figure portraying the Marschallin in age is seen either seated in a chair or wandering around at the back of the stage. A nice touch of individuality in that the (non speaking) part is played by actress Margaret Bainton who was in the chorus of the WNO for thirty-seven years and played a child in Der Rosenkavalier fifteen years ago

          The Marschallin is married to a high-ranking Field Marshall who is conveniently away on duty as she enjoys a bit of rumpy pumpy with her young lover, Count Octavian (nicknamed Quinquin) , only to be most inconveniently interrupted by the boorish Baron Ochs, up from the country and hell-bent on acquiring a young wife with money. The machinations become more and more involved, as Octavian is nominated to carry the obligatory silver rose – the Der Rosenkavalier of the title and traditionally symbolising and engagement– to the Baron’s prospective bride. What no one has bargained for is that the two young people are instantly smitten with one another and fall in love.

          As often with operatic comedies, there is a hint of pantomime. The young Count Octavian is a female role, performed here by the delightful Canadian mezzo-soprano Lucia Cervoni, making her debut with WNO and singing the role with evident relish. Brindley Sherratt’s Baron not only shows perfect timing but his mastery of a difficult bass role, requiring as it does a range that is rare, Sherratt being one of the few who have this accomplishment. The Baron’s intended is Sophie, daughter of the daughter of nouveau riche businessman Faninal. Singing Sophie is the delightful newcomer Louise Alder, in Cardiff for Singer of the World and only the night before shortlisted as a contender for the title, while as Faninal her social climbing father with dreams of grandeur, Adrian Clarke is a Hitler-like figure of hand-rubbing nastiness.

          Strauss’s wonderful music, bound together with its string of memorable waltz melodies, is a given, but in the hands of WNO’s new young conductor Tomáš Hanus takes on new dimensions, underlying the comedy and recognising the poignancy beneath. A small caveat – there is a sight hesitation, no more than a breath, in Act II when the tempo drops, otherwise this would have been five star. All in all – a masterpiece culminating in the superb singing of the trio as the opera draws to a close. Director Olivia Fuchs and designer Niki Turner are to be congratulated. Turner has resisted the temptation to go overboard, and instead opts for a single glittering chandelier that reflects the opulence of 1911 Vienna against elegant pale grey walls. An added pointer to the theme of the opera are the sands of time running out from above onto the stage, much appreciated by the audience but a nightmare for the stage hands.

          Music: Richard Strauss

          Libretto: Hugo von Hofmannsthal

          Director: Olivia Fuchs

          http://www.wno.org.uk/event/der-rosenkavalier

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            Top Tunes with Sam Bees

            Hi Sam great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

            I’m a playwright and actor-musician from the Rhondda Valley.
            From the age of 13 I’ve been playing guitar and singing in bands.
            I found my feet in 2010 when I met Elise Davison and joined Taking Flight Theatre Company. Their Shakespeare tours are always very music orientated.

            I spend my summers as a sort of ‘wandering minstrel’, which is a joy. I am currently part of the cast of Taking Flights production of The Tempest which is currently touring Wales and England.

            http://www.takingflighttheatre.co.uk

            What are you currently listening to?

            I’m currently listening to James Blake – The Colour in Everything.
            Beautiful and virtuoso electronica and sublime songwriting. I urge you to give it a go if you haven’t done so already.

            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?

            To pick out just five albums is tricky, but here goes;

            Radiohead – The Bends

            One of the first albums I ever owned. Radiohead are and always have been pioneering and non-complacent with their songwriting, and have never stopped experimenting. This makes them one of the most exciting bands in the world to me.

             Reuben – Very Fast, Very Dangerous
            Probably the best British band that never quite ‘made it’.
            Bilious, angry tunes.

            Stereophonics – Word Gets Around


            Along with Radiohead, these were the band that got me into playing guitar. Every song is a classic, and even all these years later I still know it word for word.

            Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise.
            It’s just superb. The man is a genius.

            Nirvana- Nevermind.
            I think this one is self explanatory. If not, you’re either too young or a troglodyte.

            Thanks for your time Sam

            Top Tunes is brought to you in collaboration with Outpost Coffe and Vinyl.

            http://www.outpostrecords.co.uk

            Photograph of Sam Bees and Chloe Phillips by Jorge Lizalde Cano

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              Review Not Dead Enough, New Theatre, Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

              2 Stars2 / 5

               

              Aficionados of the crime novels of multi-award winning playwright Peter James and their central character, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, will no doubt have been thrilled (forgive the pun) to discover that another of James’ books – the third in the series – has been adapted for the stage.   In Not Dead Enough, DS Grace has still not come to terms with the unexplained disappearance of his wife ten years ago. The DS’s present relationship comes to the fore in a complex murder case with the main suspect claiming to have been sixty miles away when he murdered his wife – despite the fact that all the clues add up. Intriguing, eh?

              Unfortunately, there is a caveat. What promises to be a gripping evening’s entertainment is a slow burner with a lack of pace that does not bode well; the wait for the kettle to boil seems interminable. Director Ian Talbot does his best, but this world premiere production, adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna, whose adaptations of James’ previous two crime novels worked so well, fails to get going until almost the end of Act I. It is difficult not to become bogged down in a surfeit of minutiae, most of which ignore the sound advice of “show not tell.” Do we really need quite so much technical info as to what goes on behind the scenes in police investigation of murder? (Murders, actually – there is more than one.).

              After a three year run in ITV’s Emmerdale, Bill Ward stars as the dishy DS, focussing on the man rather than the senior police officer. This is all very well, but at times it can make one feel irritated. When he does manage to keep his mind on the job, Ward’s Grace could be more emphatic. Opposite him, television presenter Laura Whitmore makes her professional theatrical debut as Cleo, Grace’s amore, who spends her working hours in charge of the mortuary and her off-duty time with Grace – when he is not off seeking the solution of the wife whose disappearance is still a mystery. Stephen Billington is suitably outraged as Brian Bishop, the chief murder suspect but could give a more sympathetic performance.

              The action moves between Brighton and Hove police station and the mortuary. For those of a macabre taste, the latter setting may have added an enjoyable chill to the proceedings, but might have worked better if designer Michael Holt had been given the go ahead to design two separate sets rather than the split set used, with front of stage as the former with the freezers and cold rooms of the mortuary at the rear. Lighting designer Jason Taylor comes to the rescue to some extent with lighting that chills in all the right places.

              The DS Grace crime novels are deservedly best sellers and the previous two books adapted well for the stage. Their popularity almost filled the theatre on opening night in Cardiff with an audience already on the edge of their seats with anticipation. Muted applause at the end was a reflection of the feeling that what works on the page doesn’t always cut the mustard on stage.

              Runs until Saturday 24 June at the New Theatre Cardiff.

               

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                Top Tunes with Kelly Jones

                Hi Kelly great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

                Hello- I’m Kelly – I’m a playwright- originally from Dagenham in Essex- But I’ve lived in Wales since 2010. I studied my final year of my degree at Swansea Met and started theatre making/self-producing when I graduated. I took various solo shows up to Edinburgh, Norway PIT Festival and The Yard theatre in Hackney.

                 

                My passion for writing came from feeling like there were no parts for me or that represented where I grew up. Also as a gay woman I feel quite under represented on the stage, so I write to try and combat that. In 2014 I won the Wales Drama award and since have had plays produced by The Other Room, Sherman and Oran Mor. I’m about to start a year long writing attachment at The Bush Theatre In London, where I’ll be developing a new play.

                This Thursday one of my short plays will be performed by Dirty Protest as part of ‘Here We Go Again’ an Election Night special at Outpost Coffee and Vinyl, Cardiff.

                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 love to listen to music when I write! And whatever I listen to has to feel like it’s the soundtrack to what I’m writing. At the moment I’m writing a new play and listening to Tom Waits and The Stranger Things soundtrack- a lot!

                On my walk into work, I’m usually listening to songs for new burlesque routines I’m working on. I’ve been listening to Lady Sovereign Ft Missy Elliot ‘Love Me or Hate Me’ on repeat for a gig I’ve got coming up. If I’m not listening to that then I’m listening to Rag n Bone man’s album, Beatrice Eli or 90’s dance tracks!

                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 such a hard question! I think I had a list of about 20 albums and various shortlists. Here goes….

                In the Mix- Dance Revival!

                Not sure if choosing a compilation is cheating, but…

                I’ve chosen this because it reminds my best friend back home. When we were teenagers, I used to go round his on a Sunday night and we’d drink Malibu straight from the bottle, play this CD (all three disks) and pretend we were in Ibiza! It has a very fond place in my heart and drunkenly dancing to ‘Call on me- Eric Prydz’ was the closest I’ve ever got to going to the gym

                Luckily, I managed to track down a copy to give to him as a present when he was best man at my wedding last year.

                Skunk Anansie- Post Orgasmic Chill

                It’s hard to choose just one Skunk album, but Post Orgasmic Chill is epic. Skunk Anansie are one of my favourite bands of all time. I was very lucky to get to see them in Brixton a few months back, it was one of the best gigs I’d ever been to. I’ve wanted to see them for so long and kept having to pinch myself that I was actually there and Skin was literally in front of me! I was completely blown away.

                Charlie Big Potato is a personal fav!

                Pink – Funhouse

                I prefer her earlier R&B stuff, ‘There you go’ is a TUNE!!!!

                This album is probably my favourite though, because it’s got my wedding first dance song on it- ‘Glitter in the air’.

                Me and my wife have both grown up listening to her and we always do Rees duets to her songs in the car on our road trips.

                Ripple and Murmur – Reverie

                These are a Swedish duo that I got introduced to when I was performing a show in Norway PIT festival. They were performing in a show called Underman by Cirkus Cirkor– which was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I kind of took a punt and bought their CD after the show and its been on my Ipod ever since. Their quirky lyrics are really charming and right up my street- Have a listen to ‘Riddles in the dark’ and their new album The Swimmer.

                It reminds me of my time in Norway and what a step forward it was for me in my career to perform there.

                Finally…

                Funeral for a friend – Four Ways To Scream Your Name

                So, I was a teenage emo and FFAF we’re one of the first bands I saw live and they’re welsh! I saw them in Camden Koko in 2003 along with 36 Crazy Fists and My Chemical Romance- it was the first time I’d ever moshed and crowd surfed, but definitely not the last.

                Their song ‘This years most open heart break’ is still on my Ipod!

                I’ve seen them live a lot, mainly at Reading and Download festival – and although I haven’t listened to them for a while, whenever I hear one of their songs I just want to dance.

                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?

                Without a doubt it’s got to be: The Source feat. Candi Staton – You Got The Love (Original Mix) from In the Mix. Not only does it remind me of the Sex and the City finale but it feels very fitting, especially at the moment when there seems to be so much hate in the world.

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                  Top Tunes with Catherine Paskell

                  Hi Catherine great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself?

                   Hi Guy, sure, I’m an independent theatre director. I’m from Cardiff and I run a new writing theatre company called Dirty Protest. We develop and produce new writing for performance, and that includes full length plays as well as our short play nights.

                  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’m currently celebrating Janice Long coming back on the radio. I used to listen to her late night Radio 2 show and at the start of this year, the BBC made a mistake taking her original programme off air to broadcast repeats and playlists. I can’t believe they replaced her with repeats. But, Janice and her original programming is back! BBC Radio Wales has given her her own show and brilliantly, she is choosing her own music playlists rather than having to stick to what she’s told. I love her, and she loves music – I have discovered new bands through her playing upcoming artists on air, as well as music I already love. I’m so pleased she’s back – and broadcasting from Wales!

                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rg266

                  In terms of artists, at the moment every day I’m listening to Lady Leshurr’s “Mode” EP – it’s so catchy and I like the comedy mixed with social commentary and the production is great. She brings me joy. There’s a really catchy track called “Juice”.

                  Weirdly, I’m also watching the “OJ: Made in America” documentary right now, so the two seem to go together, I keep shouting “I got the juice!”

                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08qldj6/storyville-oj-made-in-america-part-1

                  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?

                  McAlmont & Butler “The Sound of McAlmont & Butler”  This record came out when I was a teenager and it sums up that period of my life for me. I’m transported back to 1995 when I listen to it. But also, it’s a real album, in that I have to listen to it from start to finish, in song order. I don’t do that so much today because on a day-to-day level, I listen to Spotify and have thousands of songs I love playing on shuffle. I love the feeling of something I love coming on unexpectedly and I can have a boogie about. My culture of how I listen to music has changed. But this record for me sums up the artistry of the album as a long play listen. And David McAlmont has an incredible soaring voice.

                  The Mamas & The Papas “If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears” This was the first album I had. It was on cassette and I was in Primary School at Eglwys Newydd, Cardiff. I was enthralled with the sound they created and I went to Whitchurch Library and read a book all about hippies and 60s counterculture. I remember vividly the description of the drug-fuelled parties the Mamas and the Papas used to have and how they had a pool table covered in a drugs buffet. I imagined all the coloured pills and tabs, like very tiny pool balls. I think you’re always influenced by the music you grew up with and that was music my parents introduced me to, as well as contemporary musicians played on Radio 1. I feel lucky that I have a vast access to music, which my parents didn’t have when they were growing up – because I’ve got all the music that they listened to AND the music that’s created now. There’s just a much bigger treasure trove to dip into and discover. And I think this influenced my interests (I did an American Studies degree because I thought that was the most interesting way to become a theatre maker, by learning about the world and travelling to the States and training there). My favourite Mamas and Papas song is “Twelve Thirty”, it sums up what I love about them, it’s beautiful in its sadness and totally pure, with no cynicism.

                  “Now 30”  1995 was obviously a glorious year for music, well I think so! It was peak Britpop and we had loads of amazing albums that I still love, Pulp’s “Different Class” is one of my favourite albums of all time and came out that year.

                  Also, Oasis’ “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory”, “The Great Escape” by Blur, Supergrass’ “I Should Coco”, all of these big Britpop bands had landmark albums that year. But I’m picking “Now 30” because when I listen to it, I remember exactly what was happening to me and the world in that year. And also it’s a fantastic way to keep your nostalgia in check, when you remember that not all the music in 1995 was great. That’s the nature of a Now album. Which is a good thing I think. I’m wary of “oh things were better in my day” – that’s kind of what some people were voting for in Brexit. And we see things with these rose tinted specs. But “Now 30” reminds me that in the year we had such glories, we also had Sean Maguire turning his heel from EastEnders to pop singing and the Outhere Brothers releasing “Don’t Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)”.

                  Leonard Cohen “Songs of Love and Hate” When Leonard died last year, his was the artist death that really affected me. Leonard is my favourite artist of all time.

                  He’s been with me my whole life – apparently he was my birthing music! I saw him live and it was transcendental. I cried when he died and for weeks after. A few days after he had died, I went to an event in ITV Studios and whilst I was waiting, there was a huge wall of tellys tuned to ITV. And they had the news on. There was some sort of news piece about Leonard and I just sat there in the foyer weeping, when a production assistant came to collect me. Even now when I listen to his albums I have a tear. “Songs of Love and Hate” is another LP that benefits from listening from start to finish, to get the story Leonard is telling us.

                  “Diamonds in the Mine” is an extraordinary song. I love the quality of his singing and the words: a mix of comedy, drunken, angry growling, and a juxtaposition between grandiose and beautiful images, and the everyday. The last chorus makes me laugh and it’s quite shocking too: the way he sings the last “there are no chocolates in your boxes anymore” has such contempt to the way he spits it out. I think when people think of Leonard, they don’t think of that performative side to him. It sounds to me like the song sums up the end of the idealistic 60s. The album came out in 1971 when it was all crashing down. I think Leonard wrote it at a time when everything was also falling apart for him. And I kind of empathise with that sentiment. 10 years ago, it felt like there was a lot of hope. Now, with everything that’s going on in the world, and how the arts in Wales are developing, people feel caught between the natural optimism that artists have, wanting to imagine and create the world we want to live in, whilst we are caught in the reality of the way things are right now. Every time I listen to Leonard’s songs I discover something new, in the lyrics, in the cadence of his voice. All of his songs can morph to fit the time you are listening to them in. He’s always contemporary. I truly love him.

                  Erasure “Wild”  I am so excited that they are back with a new album. They are one of my favourite bands of all time, maybe because I listened to them when I was young and they have always been around making music that elevates me. I love Vince Clarke’s synths, I love Andy Bell’s voice. I love how when I went to Brazil to direct “Merchant of Venice” last year, the artists and producers also all loved Erasure, and we had a wonderful moment of all coming together through dancing to “Blue Savannah” from the “Wild” album. It’s soaring and uplifting and I love music for how it can bring people together in a shared experience, just like theatre.

                  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’ve already pre-empted this by talking about some tracks already, haven’t I! “Yes” by McAlmont and Butler. Because whenever I put this on, it’s positive and uplifting. It’s about being strong, about recovery. I love how grandiose the production is, from the first soaring strings it makes my chest burst. Yet the lyrics are very low key, “Yes I do feel better, Yes I do I feel alright”. I love the contrast because that feels very human, to feel a heightened emotion but not have the words to match.

                   Thanks Catherine. What’s next for Dirty Protest?

                  Our next short play night is coming up on 8th June and it’s happening here at Outpost Coffee & Vinyl. It’s happening on Election Night and it’s our response to the general election. The theme we have asked 8 writers to respond to is “Here We Go Again” and it’s going to be a great night.

                  We also have a lot of Welsh language short play events coming up: we are working with Tafwyl here in Cardiff, as well as the Eisteddfod and Galeri in Caernarfon to stage these around the country.

                  Then this summer, we are working with the amazing Paines Plough to produce our new play, Sugar Baby by Alan Harris in the Edinburgh Festival as part of their Roundabout programme. Then come September, we start our year of celebratory year of events to mark our 10 year anniversary! We are really looking forward to that, it’s going to be brilliant and everyone can get involved, so it should be a year-long party!

                  http://www.dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk/comingup/

                   

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                    An Interview with Campbell Lawrie, Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

                    Hi Campbell Great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

                    My name is Campbell Lawrie and I am the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. This is my ninth year with the company but have been working as the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator for the last three years.

                    The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

                    http://www.citz.co.uk/about/paul_hamlyn_foundation/

                    So what got you interested in the arts ?
                    In first year of secondary school my English teacher thought drama and storytelling would help boost my confidence because at the time I was quite shy. Drama wasn’t a course that was offered at my school so my teacher helped me find courses across Ayrshire – where I’m originally from. As soon as I started performing I fell in love with bringing a story to life and witnessing the effect this can have on others. I was hooked after that and knew that I wanted to use theatre as a tool to change people’s lives.

                    You coordinate the Paul Hamlyn Club at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Can you please tell us more about this initiative and your role?
                    The Citizens Theatre was very lucky to be one of five venues across Britain to be gifted a sum of money to identify and tackle the barriers that local, disadvantaged people may encounter when trying to access the arts.

                    Paul Hamlyn Clubs

                    My role is to coordinate the different strands of work we deliver in order to do this and also to create relationships with those affected. The role is very hands on. I regularly visit groups and their members in the local community and also welcome the individuals we engage with into the theatre and gain their feedback.

                    The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is funding the Paul Hamlyn Clubs to “Attract and build relationships with audiences from disadvantaged groups within their local communities.” How has your organisation approached this objective?
                    The Citizens Theatre was originally approached because of the amount of work we were already carrying out in the local community and across Glasgow. Using the gift we were able to refocus our efforts in attracting the local community to the theatre and there are currently four different strands of work under the Paul Hamlyn Club banner helping to achieve this objective. For those who live in Gorbals area of Glasgow, where the Citizens Theatre company has been based for the past 72 years, we offer heavily subsidised tickets to those who sign up to the Gorbals Card scheme.

                    http://www.citz.co.uk/about/gorbalscard/

                    The area is still one of the most heavily deprived areas of Scotland and ensuring our neighbours can attend our shows is our way of thanking those who have supported us over the years. We also run a Deaf Theatre Club working alongside Inkblot Collective to deliver an accessible programme for our Deaf audience and we work with two local schools to help engage a new generation of theatre goers.

                    http://www.citz.co.uk/Take_part/deaf_theatre_club/

                    The Paul Hamlyn Citizens is the fourth strand of work. This involves visiting local organisations and charities to discuss the barriers faced in accessing theatre and inviting them to join the PHCitizens to access tickets to shows throughout the year at 50p per ticket. Our PHCitizens ambassadors are always on hand during shows and events to answer any questions or queries those attending through the Paul Hamlyn Club may have.


                    Have your new audiences chosen to see any specific type of work at your venue?
                    We have learned that our new audiences are willing to engage with most types of work because they know they have nothing to lose through attending. Our new audiences see coming to the theatre as a social event more than anything and the shows, the free interval ice-creams, the post-show chats etc are all just added extras. There is an amazing atmosphere at Paul Hamlyn events as many stay behind to discuss the shows and this in turn helps create a larger community network. In saying this, comedies and musicals, especially if they are Scottish shows, prove to be more popular than most but Shakespeare, classics and new writing still appeal and have drawn in equally large numbers.

                    What impact has had this project in your venue had on the larger organisation?
                    The impact of the project can be seen across the organisation. Every department has been involved in its delivery in one way or another: backstage have provided talks and presentations, FOH ambassadors greet and welcome the wide range of new patrons who come through our doors and one of our box office assistants is even completing Level 3 BSL. Our community work which has been aided through Paul Hamlyn has also been recognised in helping secure some money for our Capital Project. Accessibility is always at the forefront of people’s minds and this has helped emphasise our stance that we are the Citizens Theatre – we exist for and because of Glasgow’s Citizens.

                    http://www.citz.co.uk/press/release/2.5_million_regeneration_capital_grant_fund_award_marks_new_milestone_in_ci/

                    In the current funding climate many venues and organisation have very limited budgets. Is it possible to share some of your learning that organisations could implement to support new audiences that doesn’t require large amounts of funding?
                    Funding obviously plays a huge part in making theatre accessible to all but small things like listening to your local community and sharing your resources/spaces with local organisations or individuals can help strengthen relationships. Finding out what your patrons want you to be and how else they would like to use the building is important in making the patrons feel comfortable in coming through the doors. An extension of this is having dedicated, friendly staff to welcome your new audience. We held an open day event, for example, to promote the theatre and our learning work to local, disadvantaged people.

                    We held workshops, talks and demonstrations throughout the building while outside a local band played and local organisations and businesses promoted their produce and work. The event cost very little because the local community were very generous in donating nearly everything we required and this in turn strengthened our network and individual relationships. I feel that a lot of the time people prefer putting names and faces to the organisation. Offering unsold tickets to your local contacts is also a good way to engage your new audience.

                    Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision In relation to your own project are you aware of any barriers for audiences to access cultural provision.
                    I think the barriers faced will vary greatly depending on where you are based. The Citizens Theatre is in a highly deprived area with an extremely diverse cultural background meaning we have encountered barriers such as language, affordability and childcare. Some people also feel intimidated entering a building they have only ever walked past or think it isn’t physically accessible. We have heard that a lot of people think theatre is elitist and “not for them”. Transport and programming also come up as common answers to what stops people coming along.
                    Thanks Campbell, finally some more personal questions. What excites you about the arts? What was the last really great cultural activity event that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

                    The cast of My Country with director Rufus Norris, gatherer Campbell Lawrie and some of the interviewees from Glasgow.

                    I genuinely get excited when a theatre show tackles social issues and politics head-on. Any piece of art that encourages debate or triggers a passionate response from its audience while also being entertaining has, in my eyes, achieved its goal. I was very lucky to have worked on the recent production of My Country by National Theatre. My role was to gather information from the Scottish people on their views on Brexit and the political climate following the Brexit vote. Listening to each person’s unique story on how they decided they were going to vote and knowing that snippets of these stories were going to heard by people all over Britain really excited me because the project, like the issue, encouraged debate but this time it was a debate between everyday people – not the media and not the politicians.

                    http://citizenstheatre.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/my-country-work-in-progress-divides.html

                    There is, on the other hand, one show that has stuck with me for ten years and remains my favourite piece of theatre – Headlong and Citizens Theatres production of Angels in America in 2007. I have no words to describe how that show made me feel but it did make me want to work at the Citizens Theatre. I guess in that way, that show changed my life.

                    https://headlong.co.uk/productions/angels-america/

                    http://www.citz.co.uk

                     

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