CHAPTER IN ASSOCIATION WITH GARETH JOHN BALE AND OWEN THOMAS
This is very uncomfortable viewing in a very small intimate space. We are witnesses to a private life in a public space.
Laughing at jokes our present vox populi disdains. Awkward. Funny. Have we forgotten that some things are just funny? Not sexist, dirty, grubby, misogynist, vile, elitist. Just funny.
From the mid 1980s onwards, we start to judge. We start to create a view of things humorous according to an assumed view of things social, socially acceptable. We start to judge a man according to his popularity, his means. Mean, they said. Was he?
Was Benny even half the terrible things we said he was? How refreshing to get another view.
Not mean but normal. Not lecherous but admiring. Not base but witty.
Hugely popular for years, a hard-working comic who paved the path others trod. A quiet man. A man who sat in his chair and who we all like to think died in shame and misery and silence.
Silence, yes. Peace, yes. The peace of his own home, his own chair.
Why do we fear being alone in death so much? What else have we, the populi, also lost along with our ability to judge individually and in context?
Our vox seems louder than ever but is it shouting down the debate and silencing the dissenters? Uncomfortable viewing indeed.
An outstanding, enjoyable, humane performance by Liam Tobin. Clever direction, clever script. Enough hopping back and for through time to make it theatre, not so much as to make it contrived.
I absolutely loved the final scene – the main man, the person, Benny, playing out of the television and over his room, his chair, his body. Playing that tune, that background music to life as we know it.
Very, very good stuff indeed.
It is a grey audience tonight. How would a younger audience react, I wonder. It would be interesting to show a Benny Hill programme beforehand. Even more interesting to get each member of the audience’s honest reactions.
Could be a shocker!
Oh and I sat next to someone who knew someone who knew one of Benny’s Angels… and she had had a blast!
Performed by Liam Tobin
Written by Owen Thomas
Directed by Gareth John Bale
Reviewed by Helen Joy, 3rd Act Critic for Get the Chance, Friday 9th September
What an interesting evening! Enjoyable company, a suitably fringe-y venue complete with glitter ball and gold chairs and wine in a plastic goblet in the attics of a Cardiff bar and I’m happy. Nice bit of chatter in the foyer before and after and much to chat about. A very welcoming experience.
And Many Man begins. His little stage reminds me of someone moving house, just leaving, just arriving, in boxes, in transit. He is in our faces and alone. He is a comic, a stand-up, a young man telling us the ordinary story of his younger life and he makes us laugh.
The audience is mostly young men. I could be his mother. Their mother. I could be the woman in the kitchen of his past making chicken dinner on a Sunday. I could be the youngster bored with the comfort of the repetition of a safe and ordinary life. We all connect with something in his history and it is safe to laugh. But we know something is amiss. We glimpse his torture and we wait.
There are no breaks, no let up. We are strapped to our seats and braced for the ride. He is a phoney, a liar, a conman. He is an American, a Scot, a Welshman. He loses more than he gains in his efforts to be extra ordinary: to get the girl, to keep the girl, to love the girl and to love himself. It is not funny; it is tragic. And we are awkward in our responses. I can see people reaching for their drinks, looking away, no longer smiling but embarrassed, caught out.
It is a story of self-loathing. It is a breakdown. It is La Voix Humane and Many Man is singing his heart out through the window of the stage. For him, it is a long hour. It is a cleverly sculpted piece, still rough, still forming; hard and physical.
The church bells of St John’s ring in practice session and lend a certain resonating presence to the tale. I am not sure we like this man, this me.
Cast & Crew
Tobias Weatherburn – Writer, Performer
Becca Lidstone – Director
I know Anna, a bit. We worked together briefly in a local charity supporting people receiving mental health services. We stayed in touch as she moved her career into the arts. I interviewed her on Radio Cardiff about this play. Her play. Her life. Her tits.
Anyone thinking this was going to be about anyone else’s tits is mistaken. Any social-political commentary is suggestive rather than overt, Anna is her own one woman treatise on the elastic line between tit and breast, sexual objects and milk bar.
I really like the atmosphere as we walk in to take our seats. The room is dark, girls are dancing, pop is playing, pictures of breasts various on the screen. White Russians are handed out. Not sure we get the significance yet. Much clearer when the breast milk samples are offered ’round later in the performance.
The dancing girls insinuate themselves into the audience. Hecklers and fighters for the views of others on breastfeeding as it progresses. A messy milky fight for rights.
It is a monologue of Anna’s experiences, a voyage ’round her breasts from girlhood to adulthood to motherhood and beyond. She refers to her book, diary perhaps, along the way. Stories are started, we are left to draw our own conclusions.
Anna uses her heckling dancers to good effect. A male heckler is used to make the point that it is not a show for titillation, ‘though Anna is fearless and shares her body appropriately and willingly and with a gentle self-deprecating humour.
Now. Here’s the thing. I haven’t had children and frankly, I don’t know much about tits as mother nature never felt much inclined towards generosity in that department.
This is a play about Anna’s tits. I have no idea what she is talking about for most of the time. I can see that the audience loves it – mostly women, mostly women with children I would assume, they are nodding in agreement and laughing with Anna throughout. She relates back. It is very nicely done.
Anna is sharing the intimate details of her life and most of the women, and a few men, are with her. Laughing with the relief of their own confusion, pain, embarrassments and pleasures being given air-time.
The atmosphere becomes heady with love for Anna, for her honesty, for the sisterhood. But I am lost.
I am sitting next to another woman equally detached from the proceedings. We want to love her too but we can’t. We are not part of this. But we admire her, enormously.
Afterwards, by invitation, the foyer is full of women signing the cartoon tits laid out on tables, they are groupies waiting for their heroine, their voice, to join them. Something powerful is happening here.
The clue was in the title. This is a brave, funny, honest autobiography and like many things we don’t quite like, don’t quite understand, it will stay with me far longer than anything I have enjoyed more. It made me think about the changing roles of the breast in society and in nature. It made me slightly jealous.
PS typing this has been annoyingly tricky as predictive/corrective text replaces TITS with TITUS, BREASTS with BEASTS. Says it all really.
Seen: Friday, 7th July, 2017
Venue: Chapter Arts, Cardiff
Reviewer: Helen Joy for Get the Chance
Performer, producer, director, writer: Anna Suschitsky
It is indeed a rough magic. A clever, witty, kind sort of rough magic woven through this production of one of Shakespeare’s stranger tales.
Ambulating through Thompson’s Park, a space for the imagination if ever there was one, this charming, funny and imaginative version enchants us all.
Dull and colourless as this audience is in its raincoats and wellies, we provide a suitably leaden contrast to the spangles and sequins of the cast. Blue against the green leaves, gold against the grey bark. Barque. The puns are smart, the lines are clear. Nothing is left unexplained, untranslated, misinterpreted. It is all done with a competent amusement.
It is a marvellous interpretation. A 1930s cruise, flamboyant characters and the utter bonkersness which this Company does so brilliantly.
One of the things it also does so well is multi-casting. The comedy trio of Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban is just joyous. I absolutely love them – and this audience laughs back into their contorted faces. The three of them swap between roles smartly and provide that bit of Shakespearean slapstick we need between the heavy bits. Caliban is familiar, he reminds me of Moriarty, all cute and smarmy. Handsome as the glorious Miranda’s short (you will have to see it to get that) lover, he is captivating all round.
As is Prospero. A difficult and lengthy role which is delivered with assurance and terrific suavity. The compere of the evening, he is maitre d’ of his Island and of us all. He is appropriately edgy and advances on us loitering observers with confidence, making us fearful of his abilities. His soft voice persuades us to come closer, he is in charge.
Now. Ariel. The singer. The dishy sprite with the admiring backing group. Another tricky role and well played. As are all the roles. The exaggerated expressions, the songs, the comic timing, the acting, is all delightful. There is magic here. There is nothing not to like here. Shakespeare would’ve loved it, loved the inclusiveness of it all, loved the weather it played out in – can we ever control anything, anyone, however powerful we think we are?
We trip into the performance on bright blue boats and trip out wishing Prospero well in his new life. We have understood this complex play in a way we never have before, we have been entertained, educated and included.
Go see – take a lightweight, foldable chair & check the weather forecast as you may need a hat; sensible shoes are de rigeur.
Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.
Photography – Jorge Lizalde- Studio Cano
TAKING FLIGHT THEATRE COMPANY
THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare
Director- Elise Davison
Designer- Becky Davies
Composer and Musical Director- Dan Lawrence
Costume Maker- Angharad Gamble
BSL consultants- Jean St Clair and Daryl Jackson
Milton Lopes- Ariel
Dean Rehman- Prospero
Stephanie Back- Miranda
Sian Owens – Antonia/ ensemble
Paul Henshall- Gonzalo
Sami Thorpe- BSL Dance Captain
Sam Bees- Alonso/ Stephano
Ioan Gwyn- Ferdinand/ Caliban
Huw Blainey- Sebastian/ Trinculo
Shannon Davison- ensemble
Lauren Burgess- ensemble
Audio trailer- English
Audio trailer Welsh
*Please contact email@example.com or on 07785 947823 to discuss any access requirement. Touch tours and BSL introductions are available by arrangement.
Supported by Arts Council of Wales
Unless otherwise stated next to date, follow this link below for tickets.
Taking Flight Theatre Company (TFTC) was formed by Beth House and Elise Davison in 2008. Beth met Elise whilst working on a youth theatre project in South Wales. Having worked extensively together since then on a freelance basis, they decided to make it official and set up Taking Flight Theatre Company. Our aim with this company is to work with groups of people who have traditionally been underrepresented in theatre, film and television, and to make fully accessible and integrated theatre for all ages. Taking flight Theatre Company regularly tour to some of the most gorgeous open spaces across Wales (and occasionally England) with beautifully realised Shakespearean adventures every summer. TFTC have also led on a Welsh Government initiative tackling Disability Hate Crime for the last 3 autumns- reaching over 9,000 young people in the last 3 years. TFTC also perform festival and street theatre pieces during the summer. You’ve Got Dragons is their first production especially developed for theatres and professional and community performance spaces.
Taking Flight Theatre Company have an integrated casting policy which goes hand in hand with their belief in creating fully accessible and integrated theatre- employing the best creative talent regardless of visible and invisible abilities. Our philosophy reaches out to performers who might traditionally have been overlooked by mainstream theatre, and as such they often employ disabled, D/deaf and sensory impaired performers, placing positive disabled role models centre stage.
Follow us at: @takingflightco
Like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Takingflightco/
Selection of cast biographies
Following 4 years of touring theatre across Wales with various companies (Arad Goch, Bara Caws, Mess up the Mess), Ioan went on to study a Masters in Classical Acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Since graduation he has performed in a variety of classical plays such as Volpone, Cymbeline and a one-off performance in Shakespeare’s Globe of an unearthed play by Thomas Jordan, Tricks of Youth.
Aside from performing Richard III at The Tower of London, this is Ioan’s first outdoor theatre tour, and he looks forward to the inevitable performance in the rain!
Paul trained at Manchester Metropolitan School of Theatre.
He has worked extensively in theatre, and his TV credits include; Dr Dean West: Holby City, Paul Ball: I’m With Stupid, Michael Scant: A Thing Called Love, Ollie Beresford: Casualty, David Hobbs: Playing the Field, all for BBC. Prankster: Off Their Rockers – Blue Badge Special, ITV
Paul was the first disabled person in the country to gain a qualification in stage combat from the British Academy of Dramatic Combat, and in 2007 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Staffordshire University for services to acting and the promotion of disabled actors.
Paul is also a trained and registered Hypnotist, specialising in confidence, stage fright and phobias, and also performs comedy stage hypnosis shows
Smart hand-drawn backdrop. Black and white lines of a kitchen-living-room. Strange distorted dystopian home of the bored and disaffected. With a loo off the side. A few spots of red from some flowers in a painted jar. She is black and white too.
This is a very odd start. A woman neatly dressed piddling noisily, then stroking her hair back from her head with her wetted hands. What a thing to remember so clearly. How shocking it is. How very very personal. And so it continues.
Intense, in your face, curiously flamboyant. Radio triggers a reminder of passions unspent. English at first. German later. This is an extraordinary physical breakdown of a woman tried by her own life, afraid of engaging with the outside world, trapped in her silence. It is her world and she seems ok with that.
Till she changes half way. When her hair comes down.
One very able dancer expresses the need for company and contact through a very emotional, tight series of movements which I long to become fluid and sloppy, warm from cold. Which they do, just for a short while, not long before the end, not long before she eats the red roses, dropping their bloody petals onto her green dress. Her mouth crammed with sadness, her tears quite real.
It seems completely inappropriate to applaud. Wrong. Hurtful.
The audience slopes out. A few check out the set, taking pictures, reverently whispering. Me too. I do not ask anyone what they think this time.
Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.
The Request Show – Cooperativa Maura Morales
The Request Show (Cuba/Germany)
Performed by Maura Morales
Music composed by Michio Woirgardt
An invited audience to consider, critique and approve a new play from the Parama2 team, staged during Age Cymru’s Gwanwyn Festival 2017.
Examining and delighting in the lives of female factory workers in Wales
As part of a series of creative activities working with factory workers and the likes of us, the public
This time last year, I was one of a small number of women lucky enough to play a part in the MakingIt! creative writing workshops. Loosely addressing the broader project researching the lives of women in Welsh factories, we wrote and acted in our resultant plays. It was fantastic! It opened my eyes to these remarkable women and to the impact their lives had on ours; and a glimpse into the world of writing, producing and acting.
So, when I had an invitation to attend a sharing, a mid-way production of a play written and produced by the same team, I was delighted and very proud. It was joyous to meet my writing group again and we are very much looking forward to the next stage in our joint creative development, thanks to Parama2.
And as to the play itself. Well. What a thing.
Some things make you feel like you have seen them before. You haven’t. They just have something about them which you recognise, instinctively. They appeal on some very basic level. They are the stories you have heard all your life but never read.
This is how this play makes me feel. I know these women. They are the women I descend from. They would not know me at all. I would be English to them, posh, privileged; and they’d be right. I loved everyone of them. I wondered how my grandmother in the ribbon factory during the war would’ve fitted in.
Great characters all and very well played. Each one clearly defined early on, no messing. Nice clear scripting supported by simple direction and uncomplicated acting. Neat storytelling, relying on the punch of the words and their delivery. Everyone different and balancing against each other perfectly. Enough given away to know there is a bigger story or two out there in the wings but that we will have to wait to hear them. A precious ring and a grammar school kid for starters. Great stuff. Nothing spectacular, realistic and homely.
And funny. A terrific bombastic lead with a right few pals around her but no one hogs the show. This is partly because of the singing. We sing. We’re Welsh. We can’t help it, apparently. It turns a play into a musical and in those moments, we get the chance to breathe and to think and to piece it all together. The songs are clever, witty, sad and funny and really well sung. There are some really good voices on that stage and they add to the individuality of the women, they make them even more solid and agreeable.
And as a retired factory worker in the audience said,
‘We were on the bus and this woman wouldn’t stop singing – someone shut that woman up, they said. Shirley Bassey it was.’
We all like a tune to take home.
We are shown a film too. A touching vignette of a tea dance in Porthcawl wrapped up with Tom Jones. And there they were, some of them, sitting just in front of me. Truly delightful and very much part of the story of the factory workers but I wasn’t sure how this fitted in with the play. Perhaps it was just a reminder of the continuing zest for life they had, in spite of or perhaps because of, the hard work and their fights for rights. And to remind us that they are not all dead, it is not that long ago. Keep up.
Discussion afterwards is relevant and interesting. It has the feel of an audience wanting to be heard, full of ideas and histories.
More men comment than women. Maybe they still just shout louder. Different people from different backgrounds suggest different angles – more facts, more slog, more reality. There is enough of all of these. These women found fun in what did, they were the trailblazers for our freedoms and quite frankly, we could learn a thing or two from them.
This play will help them teach us, if only we listen.
I have seen Profundis before and I loved it. I described it as a Kandinsky come to life. Colourful, clever, witty and thoughtful: it is a kaleidoscopic trip into the nature of things. This time, it is slicker, clearer, funnier, more confident in its story-telling, more engaged with its audience. It is less distracted and even more enjoyable. I feel that the dancers are actively seeking our attention and allowing us to show our shock, confusion and joy. It is a delight. I love it still.
Now, The Green House is a difficult thing. Definitely verdant. As a dancer sitting beside me said, dance makes you feel emotions you didn’t know you had. This is an uncomfortable piece. I cannot take my eyes off the green dancer rolling then scrubbing his green apples against his green skirt, picking them up, putting them down, in the bowl, in the sideboard, in the bowl. He is on the furniture, scrubbing his eyes, picked up, put down, on the floor. Hard stuff this.
You see, I got this wrong. I thought it was The Green Room. This made sense of the ON AIR sign and the APPLAUSE. The waiting around to be called. The back of another room on show. The green. I was wrong.
The Green House. Hot, confining, controlling, use the windows, the door, keep it in, shut it out. It is a dance of all of these things. It is disturbing, beautiful, green. There is just enough lightness, there are just enough laughs.
The group pieces are, as always, exquisitely choreographed. Painfully perfect. I would watch this again and again as they go round and round in their green world. I can’t bear it and I can’t leave it alone.
The solos are dervishly wild and tight and someone says to me, how do they learn this, how can they repeat something that looks so improvised, so in the moment, so free? I have no idea.
I reel from this. 43 minutes of green gilded anguish and heartache. I am going to see this again. And again.
Absolutely beautiful – the colours of India, the sentiments of its time, the tragedy of love over birth – exquisite.
It makes me cry. I have loved the music from this rarely performed opera for years and years. It is absolutely beautiful. And the characters are all visually believable – both leads are young and lovely looking, their voices ardent as their passion. No one is miscast, no one is out of place.
It is as gentle and as curiously English as a Wildean play but with the underlying expectation of tragedy teasing us along the way. It is Madam Butterfly meets Passage to India. I wonder whether I may feel less or more affected were it sung in the original French and conclude a handsome, manly colonialist colliding with a hidden jewel of a local lass will sound the same in any language where it is sung with conviction.
The clash of backgrounds, religions, family and commitments is very predictable and the terrible messy tragedy of it all plays out predictably too. Delibes opera is based on Pavie’s story. But this is a predictable tale prettily told, beautifully visualised and fabulously well sung.
The Flower Duet between Lakme and Mallika is exquisite, Lakme’s Bell Song heart-achingly lovely with the sopranos comfortably balanced by the tenor of Gerald and the bass-baritone of Nilakantha.
The set feels a little clumsy initially but its simplicity allows us to concentrate on the opera and enjoy the music, the period costumes and the sublime singing. How lovely it is to revel in Lakme performed as it might have been at the turn of the last century.
But yet again, I leave a performance wishing I could take it home with me somehow – I want to listen to it all again and again and I can’t – I want to take Lakme home with me, fill my house with her voice, send it out into the darkness of the night so others can hear her, feel her hope and her sorrow, scent the flowers in her garden, scream at her not to take the poisonous datura…
Right, this is a hard one; I have thought long and hard about this review.
My conclusion is this: I am not here to comment on any of the pieces critically, I am here to congratulate and celebrate everyone involved in creating beautiful dance through giving all these extraordinary young people the chance to dance.
Every dance has a message for us and in essence I think it is this:
“Listen to us, we may be young and we may seem to have so little experience next to you, the big grown-up, but we have a voice and we feel and we want you to hear us and respond. Our need to express ourselves and to be understood is as great as yours and we will be heard, we will use clothes and colour and tears and anger; we will use movement and action; we will use dance.”
Each piece is so different, working so carefully with the ages of the dancers, their abilities and their stories. Some dancers have that special something – you can already see it, something in the way they look straight at you, something in the way they love the connection between their bodies and their minds, something just special. Every dancer in front of us performs as a professional – confident, charming, athletic and poised. Confident enough to use humour and we in the audience are impressed and laugh with them.
They dance of war and remembrance, of love and loss, of action and inaction, of communication and self.
I have no warm personal association with this – I was once in the wrong queue at junior school and accidentally arrived in the ballet class, surrounded by pink leotards and birds in cages. I was about 6. I can still feel the horror of it.
Yet, here I am wishing and wishing I had had the gumption these young people have and to have stayed in that class; wishing I had that gumption now too. What amazing young people they are, what remarkable people they will remain and in part because of this opportunity they have the gumption to take, to value and to work at – for none of this comes easy, I am sure.
I am sitting next to Luke, a dance teacher, and we discuss what makes the difference between the Associates’ piece and everyone else’s. There is something about the last piece which is more polished than the others, slicker somehow. Time is partly the answer – these dancers have been selected and given the time to train in a way the others do not have.
This suggests to me that it is time that we all must have to perfect what we do – all these young dancers deserve our support to give them the opportunities and the time they need to grow into the adults who will make our world more than just a little better.
To support ETC, Fantasy Feet, Rubicon and the NDCW, please see the links below.
Every young person should have the chance to dance, please help them to get that chance.
Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.
Curator: Caroline Finn, NDCW Artistic Director
ETC Youth Dance
Fantasy Feet (2 x pieces within their 12 minute slot)
Rubicon (Urban Flagship Group)
Joon Youth Dance Company
National Dance Company Wales Associates
An autobiographical tour of the constructed fear that society, religion and family place onto young shoulders.
Mr & Mrs Clark
There is someone in front of me who is bored, who doesn’t like it. There is much loud huffing and shrugging. But as far as I can tell, everyone else is in thrall to this captivating performance. Most of us are about the same age as Mr Clark and he is describing us. To a tee.
These are our fears too. Nostalgia and angst. Nuclear war and homemade bunkers. Overhead cables and safety belts. Clunk click. Superman y-fronts and God.
Being watched, getting a proper job, having sex, getting AIDS, getting a girl pregnant, not having children, having a mortgage, taking drugs and dancing. Hair, too much in the ears, too little on the head. Farting. Weeing. Keeping it in. Keeping it up.
God, this is so uncomfortable, so perfectly awkward as we confront the identities of our public information inspired youth and our middle age of worry.
It is inclusive – we want to bop about with him on his dance floor, we don’t want to admit to being the 1 in 3 who voted to keep immigrants out, we want to relax into our group hug. We remember terrorism then and now, we remember war, then and now. Why would you want to join the army? Get a proper job. Put your hand up if you have taken an AIDS test.
We all hide in our masks – our crocodile facade, we feel responsible for everything bad in the world and wonder constantly how we are still here, how we didn’t catch diseases from loo seats and get run over by trains. But we are being watched by God, by Jesus, by cameras, by the internet. Brilliant.
This is brilliant. It is funny, challenging, difficult, joyous, hard viewing. Mr C’s eye contact is hard to return. We feel guilty, the collective conscience of the ‘70s.
FEAR. And the really clever bit is its accessibility. Signed and spoken as part of the production, not something outside of it. This is most properly inclusive and even better for it.
Maybe we have learned something after all. It is these children who became the adults who changed our social makeup, who challenged the divisions between sexuality and race and class and ability, who invited everyone to join in, who broke the boundaries we inherited.
Perhaps FEAR is not always such a bad thing. I wonder what that man in front of me was really feeling.
Directed by: Agnieszka Blonska Performed by Gareth Clarkcroc
Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.