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.

The Wizard, the Goat and the Man who Won the War, YC Review

The Wizard, the Goat and the Man who Won the War

POSTED BY  ⋅ MARCH 6, 2012 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT
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Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Fri 3 March

I first saw this fabulous solo performance two years ago on the closing day of the Dylan Thomas Festival. In its infancy the showing was its trial premier performance and now, having taken in audience comments from that day an earlier reading at Llanystumdwy (Lloyd George’s home town) and taken it on tour the play has evolved from an informed, solid piece into a stronger, funnier more lyrical performance.

The same concept of a one man oratory on Lloyd George exists; a fictional telling of a great man’s life based on a framework of well researched facts, comparisons are not necessary as I walked out of this performance with the same spellbound feeling.  “What went on in Lloyd George’s heart and mind, is of course, open to theatrical speculation” the programme explains, yet for a man faced with disapproval and scorn from his Welsh heritage and his standing in British politics and a known womanizer it might be easy to guess some of what pathways his thoughts took.

The first performance included a significant amount about his relationship with daughter Mair, his perfect image of the future and the belief’s they both hold about the other great British figure, King Arthur. The evolved performance has had the content on Mair reduced and introduced more about his Political and British life, weaving his grief for her into the wider WWI picture. Yet this does not detract from the passion, power and energy displayed, far from it in fact, it is simply that the narrative has changed tack slightly and Lloyd George’s love for the child is still strongly evident. He talks about events and people in his life; Mair, who died at 17, Frances his mistress and growing up as a child in Criccieth, fatherless. It soon becomes evident that his life is one large juggling act: between his wife and mistress; his Welsh identity and British image and his role as the people’s protector with his ever increasing wealth.

The cloth makers of Provence are the makers of his Union towel, commemorating his winning of WWI, but “Oh for a Ddraig Goch” he cries: what do the French know of a Ddraig Goch exactly? To Richard Elfyn’s Lloyd George, it is not he who has abandoned Wales, but Wales who has abandoned him, which to the real man may have been the truth.

The play is a mix of three languages with the English speech broken up by flashes of Welsh and French and whilst many in the audience may not understand the French or Welsh it adds to the atmosphere and the depth of the character before us.

Lloyd George would be at home in today’s political arena: a Liberal-Conservative coalition, political scandal, social reform and of course the press: an institution as prevalent to the politicians then as now, and it included The News of the World, a paper that has never changed its skins. Lloyd George’s actions alos exposed a corrupt system of peerages, something we are familiar with even now, having given newspaper proprietor’s Max Aitkin and George Rydell Lordships for a price. There are several political jokes, he notes Chamberlain leap frogged his elder brother to the top job, quipping “who in the world of politics would ever do that” a cheeky aside to the Milliband brothers.

What Elfyn undertakes for the show is a feat, for a one man show the energy hardly pauses and is kept at a high level throughout and the passion flows right though his oratory – keeping the audience entranced from the outset. With only a walking stick, towel and bench as prop’s he does extremely well to keep going – the stick a particularly useful tool, morphing from its traditional use to become woman in an his embrace as he dances, a golf club as he discusses the golf clubs and pointing at all sorts.  He addresses the audience as the sea, his stage vantage point being the beach at Lloyd George’s favourite resort of Antibes, yet through that abstract viewpoint Elfyn involves the audience: making one woman blush and as if on cue the audience join in his rendition of Myfanwy. The singing a throwback to the knowledge Lloyd George gathered his cabinet around the piano and showed off his Welsh heritage.

For more of my review’s please visit http://paradeisosgwynfor.blogspot.com/

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Create your own online community

The next step to social networking is building your own online community Tom Beardshaw, cofounder of NativeHQ, explains how National Theatre Wales created its very own social network

POSTED BY  ⋅ JANUARY 21, 2012 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT
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Tom Beardshaw who has supported the Young Critics Scheme has writen an excellent article on NTW’s use of social networking and the ning platform to develop its community.

Tom mentions YC in his article.

Thanks Tom

The Philosophers, National Theatre of Wales

Get closer: National Theatre Wales uses its online community to engage audiences beyond its productions. Photograph: NTW.

National Theatre Wales (NTW) was born in 2009 when social media was rapidly mainstreaming and a new generation was becoming so familiar with online sharing, discussion, collaborating and creating their own media that it was like a second language.

The task facing NTW, and other arts organisations on the verge of this social media wave, was to harness that enthusiasm for social sharing, and to make sure the new generation of arts, culture and heritage professionals were properly and actively engaged.

So with a vision for nurturing an open, participatory creative community in Wales, NTW asked our social media company NativeHQ to build a public online networking space using Ning’s social network platform and help the organisation use it effectively to build an engaged community with a culture of sharing and discussing NTW’s work and their own.

The National Theatre Wales Community has grown with a spirit of experimentation, including careful decisions about how social software shapes the way culture, art and relationships form. It has depended on the generosity and involvement of its members and the commitment of all the NTW staff, led by their communications team, to share their creativity, lead discussions and debates, form specialist interest groups and connect individuals to new opportunities for creative work.

Through hosting a space that enables everyone to talk to each other, whether in public, group or private settings, we have found a way for NTW to engage a young generation in its own development. By sharing and enabling discussion of its work, the people affected by its policies have a say in shaping them and allowing other companies and artists to do the same.

Early in the development of the company, the theatre held online discussions with the community about the work it should commission, with actors about casting policies, with writers on their approach to handling scripts and commissions, and with critics on developing their work to grasp the opportunities the web offers to involve anyone in the discussion of creative productions.

John McGrath, artistic director at NTW, was quick to highlight the importance of the social network and the success of the theatre. “I regularly find myself turning to our online community for inspiration and ideas,” he said. “The sense that there’s a real dialogue going on there encourages people of all ages and experience levels to get involved.”

And what have been the results? Well, one initiative that has emerged from all this activity is a Young Critics group, which enables 13-25 year olds to support each other as they try to enter the somewhat difficult world of becoming an arts critic. They visit live performances, then blog their responses to the community and their own website, inviting discussion with both audiences and the works’ creators.

From there, we made the platform accessible so that all members of the community are included and invited to post about their work, the work of NTW, or any aspect of Welsh or international theatre. Groups for actors, writers, directors, designers and creatives are hosted by key NTW staff, enabling focused, professional discussions and allowing anyone to create a connection with leaders in their field. Other Welsh theatre companies host their own groups in the network and regularly post events to the site, making it one of the most useful places to find outwhat’s on in Wales.

NTW has moved beyond the social media basics of Facebook and Twitter by creating its own network that can host numerous conversations and debates, and this is helping it tackle the problem of how to engage with a younger generation, by giving them a public voice in the theatre community, and encouraging them to use it.

Young theatre makers, artists and audiences in Wales are showing that in a culture that newly enables them to speak with seasoned professionals, they have a huge contribution to bring to the revitalisation and growth of creativity and debate in the arts.

Tom Beardshaw is a consultant to National Theatre Wales – follow him on Twitter @tombeardshaw and the theatre @NTWtweets

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To get more articles like this direct to your inbox, sign up free to become a member of the Culture Professionals Network.

 

 

PechaKucha Night Cardiff

PechaKucha Night Cardiff

POSTED BY  ⋅ JANUARY 28, 2012 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT
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The seventh ‘PechaKucha Night Cardiff’ was held in Chapter Arts Centre on Tuesday 24th January. Organised by local poet, writer and performer Mab Jones, this night is part of a worldwide phenomenon which sees over 1000 events take place in 400 cities each year.

For anyone who hasn’t stumbled across this ingeniously creative concept yet, PechaKucha Night started in Tokyo in 2003 as an event for young designers to showcase their work and network. PechaKucha takes it’s name from the Japanese word for “chit chat”, and the key to these events is their presentation format: participants show 20 images and talk about each one for 20 seconds. This simple idea aims to keep things moving at a swift pace.

The latest PechaKucha Night Cardiff was a collaboration with Literature Wales. It saw eight poets take to the stage to present their work and talk about their recent creative projects.

In the spirit of PechaKucha’s focus on the number ‘20’, I’m going to review each poet in 20 words:

Will Ford
Interesting opening about his father’s time in prison. Animated poetry reading about WW1 soldiers’ suffering. A bit over the top.

Clare Potter
This presentation felt experimental and song-like. The poet played with different voices. Timing slightly off with slides, but bravely unusual.

Gillian Brightmore
Talented poet with excellent style and pace. It’s a poetic ode to the city (and lover?). Mesmerising artwork accompanied it.

Philip Gross
Clearly a passionate and gifted writer, but this poetic attempt to make a pylon interesting failed to hold my attention.

Jack Pascoe
This humorous “punk poet” got the audience laughing with his cheeky verse. Prince Harry’s Stag Do poem was a highlight.

Naomi Alderson
A response to the May 2011 Japanese earthquake. This sensitive piece took the audience on an imaginative and poignant journey.

Susan Richardson
Four poetry readings from her recent book. Powerful writing on themes such as the environment and extinction, with well-selected images.

Mark Blayney
An amusing tongue-in-cheek ‘Boney M Studies’ lecture! People laughed, clapped and even danced in response. A lively and unique finale.

 

Overall, PechaKucha Night Cardiff provided a refreshing and accessible insight into the diverse poetry ‘scene’ in Wales today. And it wasn’t just me who was won-over. A group of men sitting behind me moaned and contemplated leaving at the start when they realised that only poets would be presenting. Yet by the end of the evening they were laughing and applauding as much as the rest of us.

This event was an entertaining reminder that poetry is at its best and most powerful when read aloud, rather than staying static in the pages of a book.

 

Visit Literature Wales’s YouTube Channel to see some of the poets in action.

For more information on future events, join the ‘PechaKucha Night Cardiff’ group on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter @pkn_cardiff.

Experimentica Festival Review

Experimentica Festival Review

POSTED BY  ⋅ OCTOBER 17, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT
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Experimentica is a festival for challenging, provocative and imaginative artworks. From 12-16 of October, the 11th annual event took place at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.

Experimentica 1.1 showcased both emerging and established artists from Wales and beyond. This year it focused on pedagogy, art and performance.

I’ve selected and reviewed my highlights, bringing you some of the best of what the festival had to offer.

Iwan ap Huw Morgan: Gweledigaeth/ Vision

The theatre at Chapter was turned into a sacrificial-altar-meets-builders-yard. Ladders, buckets and tools were interspersed with candles and mysterious objects such as twisted lumps of metal. This hinted at what the audience could expect from a work described as “ritualistic performance” and a “visionary experience.”

Gweledigaeth/Vision began controversially with Iwan ap Huw Morgan lowering his trousers, pushing aside his underwear and plunging a needle into his upper thigh. He then slowly poured the drained blood down his face and into his mouth. He seemed to be making a sacrifice to some unseen force in the room. Boundaries blurred between live art, ritual and self-harm.

Moving on instinct alone and rampaging angrily across the space, he released raw emotions, taking them out on the inanimate objects that surrounded him. It was intimidating and striking to watch as an audience member, yet seemed like a cathartic and meditative exercise for the artist himself.

I felt like my presence was incidental and unnoticed, as if Iwan was immersed in the primitive rituals he performed and cut off from reality. It would have been interesting if a greater level of audience engagement was incorporated into this performance, as it was with most other artworks at the festival. Or perhaps this would have broken the spell the performer was weaving over onlookers.

He appeared to undertake a series of quasi-religious ceremonies and rites throughout. Like a druid for the contemporary age, he performed ablutions over buckets of water, seemingly acts of spiritual purification.

Iwan proceeded to daub himself in paint, with echoes of a Celtic warrior preparing for battle. At the end, marking the climax of the performance, he cried out loudly. Was it in pain, or triumph? Anger or ecstasy? This felt like the culmination of a performance which was itself a rite of passage.

He then marched out of a side door, and the audience remained still, stunned into silence. Slowly people funnelled out of the theatre, and a woman declared: “Nobody clapped. You know a performance artist had done well when no one claps.”

Iwan ap Huw Morgan

Iwan ap Huw Morgan during his new ritual performance work, Gweledigaeth/ Vision

 

Elbow Room: Intercourse

Formed in 2010, Elbow Room is a cooperative of three creative practitioners which aims to develop creative activity in public spaces through a collaborative, open and engaged approach.

 Intercourse, the work they presented at Experimentica, explored ethical issues around themes of surveillance and public/private observation. The idea was for members of the public to enter a room in pairs. Isolated inside, they were free to perform any actions they wanted. This was screened live in the cafe bar.

Intercourse posed a vital question, not just about art but life itself: What are the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable in public?

I spoke to Cinzia Mutigli, Co-director of Elbow Room, about the ideas and inspiration behind this artwork. She described visiting Chapter’s Common Room and finding it a really interesting space. From there, the concept of Intercourse “built up quickly over a glass of wine”. Initially, they thought of installing a bed, but decided that was “too prescriptive”.

Staring competitions, hand stands and arguments are just a few examples of what the public did in the empty room during Experimentica. There were even a couple of people who pretended to be dung beetles while inside!

However, Cinzia revealed to me that, “so far nobody in there has pushed boundaries yet.” In a way I’m disappointed that I never saw anything truly outrageous and uninhabited take place during Intercourse. This was a space without rules: people could let go and take risks. Yet so far, no one really had.

Does this mean the work has been a failure? I don’t think so. It has at least succeeded in helping to answer the question of how far people are really willing to go in public.

 

Pester & Rossi: Survival!? Survive-It!

Survival!? Survive-It! is a product of the imaginations of Pester & Rossi, aka Ruby and Nadia, graduates from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. They describe their work as “an experiment in bizarre and unpredictable worlds”, and I couldn’t put it better myself.

 Survive-It! (part experimental laboratory, part quirky art workshop) involved the public thinking of items they would need to survive if they were ever caught up in a disaster, such as an earthquake. Pester & Rossi then crafted this for you out of colourful playdough. Their “lab” displayed an interesting selection of products, from torches to swords and even night goggles. There was nothing they wouldn’t have a go at creating. In return, you had to bring them an item to swap it with. Books and CDs were just some of the objects traded in.

When people ask me what I saw at Experimentica, it’s this work that has most captured their attention and imaginations. After telling people about it, I always get an excited and enthusiastic response.

Unfortunately though, it didn’t say in the brochure that you had to swap items in order to take part, so I couldn’t get fully involved. All I had with me was my purse, mobile, notebook and camera, and understandably I didn’t feel prepared to part with them! It would have been good if the trading aspect had been better publicised.

Nevertheless, this lively duo brought a sense of fun and play to the festival, which otherwise could have become a little too focused on learning in a strictly academic or intellectual sense. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in Cardiff and beyond in the future.

 

Mark Bell

The word karaoke come from the Japanese term for “empty orchestra”. Mark Bell’s experiment with “visual karaoke” adds a twist to this: instead of singing along to the lyrics, you have to move your body to match the images.

Dressed in a head-to-toe silver catsuit, Mark proceeded to launch himself around Chapter’s Stiwdio, as he tried manically to keep up with the characters displayed on the ceiling-high screen.

Visual Karaoke was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a concept that’s difficult to get your head around at first unless you see it, but it’s entertaining and addictive viewing.

One of Mark’s opening videos was a dance sequence by Vicky Lynne— a man in drag. It was interesting watching a man trying to copy the movements of another man who’s trying to move like a woman! During this performance, the audience couldn’t stop laughing.

My highlights were the performer’s attempts to mirror the movements of famous music videos. His efforts to keep up with Christopher Walken in Fat Boy Slim’s video for the song ‘Weapon of Choice’ were hilarious. So was watching him try to dance along with Kate Bush in her famous ‘Wuthering Heights’ video.

Mark’s performances were also punctuated with short videos of him discussing the ideas and inspirations behind his experimental work.

The event wasn’t a complete success though. Towards the end, Mark misjudged his audience, announcing he was going to do visual karaoke to the first twenty minutes of The Sound of Music. He might as well have said “I’ve got bird flu”, judging by how rapidly half the crowd exited the building. For a minute all I could hear was the sound of feet walking to the door.

It all started to go a bit wrong from there. The video began to stall, and he had to try and iron out the technical glitch before re-starting his performance. Mark must have been running late (or he was about to collapse with exhaustion from running around so much) as he fast-forwarded most of The Sound of Music. It ended quite anti-climactically, and people didn’t seem sure whether the show had finished, and if they should leave or clap.

Mark’s performance was thankfully redeemed by the audience-participation elements and sheer potential of his entertaining idea. Onlookers were encouraged to shout at him and guide him as he ran around the room. People were able to control the images on the screen to dictate his movements. The audience was even invited to put on suits and have a go at visual karaoke themselves. All this added to an uplifting sense that performance art can be fun and accessible.

Who knows, perhaps in a few years time Cardiff will have its very own visual karaoke bar? I certainly hope so.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Random People: Live Art Live Blog Launch

Random People was founded in Aberystwyth in 2007 as a platform for collaborative projects in the field of performance. They are the team behind the innovative LIVE ART LIVE BLOG. This blog aims to increase the visibility of live art events and improve access to live art, which is sometimes seen as exclusive.

A live art blog launch wouldn’t, of course, be complete without some live art itself. This came courtesy of artist Kathyrn Ashill, who proceeded to eat the Experimentica Manifesto in front of a surprised audience.

LIVE ART LIVE BLOG LAUNCH
Live Art Live Blog Launch (photograph courtesy of Random People)

Forever Academy

This session involved a lively discussion about antidotes to conventional art schools, and setting up alternatives. These new schools would become “pitstops” for people along their creative life. They would encourage artists to come together, form relationships and engage in conversation.

Current issues affecting artists, as well as their hopes for the future, were also debated.

FIND OUT MORE

  •  Want to join the debate? Check out http://www.culturecolony.com for an insight into the festival’s events and to be part of the conversation about them.

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About thebethanjames

Writer, thinker, dreamer. Media and arts obsessive. News junkie and night owl. Newbie blogger.

Time to Review Reviewing

Time to Review Reviewing

POSTED BY  ⋅ AUGUST 17, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT
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The arts in Wales are becoming increasingly innovative. National Theatre Wales, for example, have done much to take the performing arts out of traditional spaces and off the stage, challenging conventional artistic boundaries in the process.

This got me thinking: if the performing arts are transforming and evolving, should the way we talk about them be changing too? Do we as critics need to re-think how we review them?

It’s time to review the review itself.

I’m not suggesting that “traditional” reviews have no value when discussing the arts— you’ll probably be seeing a few of these posted by me on the Young Critics blog over the coming months! However, I feel in some instances there must be more appropriate ways of expressing my views, particularly in relation to contemporary art.

I believe a key place to start looking for ideas is social networks. Consider Twitter. Users can only post updates of 140 characters or less at a time. Imagine if critics did this when writing reviews. Would such constraints diminish and restrict critics in their role? Or would it encourage us to think more creatively, whilst appealing to new audiences in innovative ways?

That is, of course, only one of many ways criticism could develop and evolve. Another idea is using multimedia such as video to review the arts, rather than adhering to the written word. Here’s a recent example of a video review for the production Dark Philosophers posted on the Young Critics blog. Perhaps this offers a new way forward for critics, and could be used to help reshape what is meant by a review?

I don’t have the answers to all the questions I’ve posed, so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. But one thing feels certain to me: we need to become critics of reviews themselves, not just the artworks we review.

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Video Review of NTW Dark Philosophers Newport

Video Review of NTW Dark Philosophers Newport

POSTED BY  ⋅ JULY 17, 2011 ⋅ 3 COMMENTS
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We have tried experimenting with Flip Video cameras to review shows.

It creates a different type of ‘ feel ‘ to the review.

What do you think ?

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTmgkoQPop8?version=3&rel=0&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent]

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