Jane Bissett

Review Wait Until Dark, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett

(4 / 5)

As I made my way to the Theatre on a dark and wet November evening I was unaware of the theatrical experience that is Wait Untill Dark would have on my walk home – in darkness…..

WAIT UNTIL DARK is a cautionary tale set in the mid 1960s. About a young photographer (Sam) who in agreeing to assist a fellow passenger on an aircarft flight from Amsterdam sets in motion a chain of events that will affect his household in a way he could not fore tell nor indeed understand.

Human beings are either able to embrace darkness or have an inate fear of it. There is something about the isolation of being in the dark which enduces our inner fears of the things we cannot see or understand.

This story centres on Susy the newly married wife of Sam. Susy is blind and learning to live her life in darkness following an accident.

As the story unfolds we watch as a small gang of vilains are trying to discover the whereabouts of a missing doll which has been used as a carrier for drugs.

The gang mistakenly believable Susy knows the whereabouts of the doll although is unaware of its value. They set in motion an elaborate plan to retrieve the doll by deception and fear.

Using a tried and tested method of operation the gang gain access to the basement flat and conduct their search with the assistance of Susy who now believes her husband is in danger and if the doll is discovered in his possession he maybe under suspicion of a murder of the woman who originally asked him to take care of the doll.

Despite her blindness Susy soon becomes aware of what is happening as she hears and senses the strange behaviour of the men and is suspicious of their real motives.

With the assistance of her neighbours daughter she sets out to change the power balance to her advantage and to keep herself alive until her husband can get home.

Although set in the 1960s this story could have taken place at any time and in any context and is the stuff that good thrillers are made of.

All the action takes place in a basement flat and the set design was true to the time period in which it was set. A mention must be made of the use of the stair case and we can only commend the cast on their fitness levels as they negotiated the stairs all evening.

Katrina Jones portrayal of Susy was outstanding, a smart woman, in love with her husband and astutely aware of her surroundings. Indeed it was only at the curtain call that it entered my mind that Jones was actually blind.

Shannon Rewcroft gave an amazing performance as Gloria (age 12), so much so that it became believable that she was 12.

The gentlemen of the cast brought the play to life and Tim Treloar’s performance as the gang mastermind ‘Roat’ sent a shiver up the spine.

The whole atmosphere of the play hinged on the set design, lighting and sound and to this end I must commend David Woodhead, Chris Withers and Giles Thomas for bringing to the stage the visual and audio experience that left us all wanting more.

During the final act, as the story reached it climax, the effects on stage not only heightened the scenses of the audience but pulled them further into the action that was taking place in front of their eyes and the tension was almost tangible.

Playwright Frederick Knott’s (1916-2002) legacy to the theatre was believable drama where he set the scene and delivered a thriller that has stood the test of time.

Director Alistair Whatley gave us an evening of sheer pleasure and this amazing cast brought the play to life to create an unforgettable evening of thrilling theatre at its best.

WAIT UNTIL DARK plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 November at 7.30pm

On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.

For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

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    Review Deathtrap, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett.

    DEATHTRAP

    By Ira Levin

    (2 / 5)

    Deathtrap is the age old story of a man who wants more than he has and is prepared to go to any lengths to gain it.

    The action takes place at the home of playwright Sidney Bruhl’s home that he shares with his wife of 11 years, Myra.

    We see Sidney, a man who has not written a successful play for a number of years receives a manuscript from a aspiring young playwright. This is the opening of a plot that will change the course of the lives of Sidney and Myra in ways that we, the audience, will not have imagined.

    The story covers four weeks in the life of Sidney Bruhl where he, Sidney, plans and plots to create a better life for himself at any cost.

    The three main characters played by Paul Bradley (Sidney Bruhl), Jessie Wallace (Myra Bruhl) and Sam Phillips (Clifford Anderson), despite all being well known to us in former stage and television roles, were believable and I particularly liked Wallace’s portrayal of Myra Bruhl.

    Despite not being familiar with the story and not having seen any other adaptation I didn’t find it as thrilling as I had anticipated. There were a lot of question marks about the relationships between the characters which were never addresses in either dialogue or behaviour except for the ending of act one. This isolated engagment between characters didn’t actually appear to have any relevance to the storyline and left the audience somewhat confused. Perhaps it was meant to shock? Either way it really didn’t work.

    That said, the outstanding performance for me was Beverley Klein. She gave a wonderful performance as Helga ten Dorp, the Bruhl’s psychic neighbour. Her portrayal of ten Dorp single-handedly brought the thrills, drama and humour to the stage and was a delight to watch.

    The set design worked well and the lighting created an atmosphere for day and night that worked particually well. The sound was spot on and certainly on cue for the moments we all jumped out of our seats! It would be unfair to elabarate further as it would certainly create a spoiler for anyone going to see the play.

    Scene changes were prompted by the showing of vintage thrillers on screen in black and white which worked to great effect and enhanced the experience. The video design which was by Duncan McLean gave a sort of scrap book feel to the presentation and perhaps gave an insight to the mind of a thriller writer, their inspiration and method of work?

    DEATHTRAP plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

    Tuesday 10 October – Saturday 14 October at 7.30pm

    Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday Matinees at 2.30pm.

    For further details or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

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      Review Around The World In 80 Days by Jane Bissett

      (5 / 5)

      By Jules Verne

      Adapted by Laura Eason

      Phileas Fogg is a mysterious and wealthy man who while at his London club wagers his life’s fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.

      Joining him on this mad cap and most impossible adventure is his loyal french valet, Passepartout. Leaving Victorian London behind they race against time and tide to fulfill their undertaking and to ensure that they return home in 80 days to the hour for Fogg to win the wager.

      This production is a wonderfully funny romp around the globe with Fogg as our leader and Passepartout as our guide. From the exotic subcontinent to the American Wild West over land and sea there are laughs a plenty and audience participation. The fast moving pace leaves you almost breathless and it is impossible to believe that the 125 characters you see on the stage are only played by a cast of eight!

      The energy of this magnificantly talented cast is inspiring as they move from trains to boats, across land and even travel by elephant!

      There is also a daring rescue,four fights, three dances and two circus acts and they even manage a wedding!

      The highly skilled performances for the non-contact fights including slow motion was punctuated by sound effects and comic timing which looked effortless. This was stage craft at its very best and the action just went on and on.

      Director, Theresa Heskins, has achieved the impossible by bringing the world to the stage and the cast and creative team rose to the challenge of bringing it all to life by the use of stage, props, lighting and sound.

      Whilst this was truly a whole cast performance, Michael Hugo as Passepartout was outstanding. He had the audience joining him on stage and off to great effect laughing at him, with him, and also at themselves.

      This is a truly enjoyable show for which you need to take along your inner child and leave your inhibitions as home.

      Prepare to go on a journey that will see you laughing your way around the world and leave you wanting more.

      At the final curtain, when the cast returned to the stage the beaming smiles were a clear indication that they, the cast, had enjoyed performing as much as the audience had enjoyed the performance.

      Around the World in 80 Days plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

      Tuesday 19 September – Sunday 24 September at 7.00pm

      Thursday, Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2.30pm.

      For further details or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

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        Review The Wipers Times by Jane Bisset

         

        (4 / 5)

         

        By Ian Hislop and Nick Newman

        Based on a true story from World War I, The Wipers Times is an insight as to life and amazingly laughs in the trenches.

        Following the discovery of a printing press and indeed paper during an advance, Officers’ Captain Roberts and Lieutenant Pearson decide instead of allowing it to be smashed and pieces used to bolster trenches that they would use it to produce a publication and bolster the moral of the men instead.

        The publication, The Wipers Times, quickly gained notoriety and a following in the trenches which in the dreadful and soul destroying conditions the men were in must have been a tonic in itself.

        There is something typically British in the way that the men went about ensuring that the Times was printed no matter what and despite disapproval by the senior officers it became something for the men to look forward to and for the editorial team and production team something to lift spirits and keep going for.

        Ian Hislop and Nick Newman must be commended for the wonderful way that they have brought this story not only to the stage but also into the public consciousness. Roberts and Pearson were real people who certainly made a great contribution to the moral of the troops and did by the vehicle of their publication encouraged many soldiers to write.

        Hislop and Newman take little credit for the written material of the play. Instead they let the content of memoirs of the men who were there and the Wipers Times tell the story for them.

        The set was atmospheric and with minimal and slick scene changes were accompanied by the men singing war time song, which were actually poems that has been published in the Wipers Times set to music.

        James Dutton and George Kemp gave credible performances as Roberts and Pearson, that said Officers’ are only as good as the men they command and the cast brought the soldiers from the past to the stage to warm our hearts and to believe that in the face of adversity their strength of character and determination was what got men through these most dreadful of time.

        Dora Schweitzer (designer), James Smith (lighting), and Steve Mayo (sound) are to be commended for an exceptional job of giving us a true feel of life at the front line which was believable and bearable.

        War of course is not clever, not funny and is certainly not a holiday destination. In the blackness of war The Wipers Times was an antidote to the reality of the horrors surrounding them and the awfulness of everyday life. In true British style humour is what keeps us going and the more inappropriate and condemed by the ‘establishment’ the better we like it.

        At the beginning of the evening I felt a little uncomfortable in even considering the war to be funny but as a true brit it wasn’t long before I, along with a packed auditorium, was laughing and indeed wanting more.

        After the war Roberts and Pearson returned to civilian life and to occupations they were both familiar with.

        The Wipers Times is their legacy of life and laughs in the trenches. The discovery of the printing press was by chance but the production of the paper was a concious decision to try to make best of things and to improve the mens’ moral.

        It is thanks to Hislop and Newman that these two men will be remembered and after far too long Roberts and Pearson were recognised by the Times broadsheet newspaper when they published obituaries for the men.

        Us Brits are a strange breed and our humour often does not transfer to other nations well. However, amidst the laughter, we must be thankful for all those men who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom to laugh at the things we do.

        And to people such as Messrs Roberts, Pearson, Hislop, Newman and all the anonymous men who have produced humour in uniform, we salute you.

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          The New Theatre, Cardiff – A Theatre Tour by Jane Bissett

          As you step through the doors of the New Theatre, Cardiff you can feel the air of anticipation for what lies ahead. The warmth of the welcome, the buzz of the audience as they gather to enter the auditorium and witness the delights of being entertained by live performers. But what about all the supporting cast?

          ‘The Theatre Tour’ is a chance to see at first hand all the behind the scenes magic and  meet the people that make stars of the performers before our eyes.

          Everyone who lives in Cardiff will be familiar with the exterior of the New Theatre as it has been a landmark in the city for over 110 years. This beautiful Edwardian theatre has changed little from the outside over that time but the interior has seen more changes and all of them improvements from performers and theatre goers alike.

          As you walk through the doors with an air of expectation for the performance ahead you are absorbed into the very world of this wonderful old theatre and the people who are the beating heart that brings it all to life.

          So for me, the chance of a behind the scenes tour of the New Theatre was not to be missed.

          Visitors arriving for an evening at the New Theatre are always assured of a warm welcome by the front of house staff. So it was no surprise that when we arrived for our tour of the theatre we were met with genuine hospitality by the volunteer ushers, Colin and Linda who’s job it was to ensure we navigated the theatre in safety without getting lost or left behind.

          Our host was Matt Smith, who has been involved with the theatre for many years and is somewhat of an expert when it comes to the history of the building and its previous owners.

          We started our tour in the bar where Matt gave us an overview of how the theatre was built. The first owner, Mr Robert Redford and his wife Grace although not from Cardiff, held the city in high regard and Mr Redford worked for many years at another theatre in the city but felt that Cardiff needed a New Theatre, so he built one.

          The foundation stone was laid by Grace in March 1906 and the theatre opened with its first production, William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in the December of the same year.

          The foundation stone is now set in the wall of the ground floor bar alongside the ceremonial trowel which was given to the theatre in its centenary year after being held by the relatives of Robert and Grace who had emigrated to Australia.

          At the stage door, we took the route of all actors and performers back stage to the dressing rooms. These were functional, ready and waiting for the next occupants to make them their own for the duration of their stay.

          Dressing rooms are located over two floors and in keeping with the old traditions there are even fold down seats for the dressers to wait in the corridors for the arrival back to the dressing room of the actors (it is not considered etiquette for the dressers to be in the actors dressing rooms when they are not there).

          It was then time to visit the ‘Fly Floor’ this is where all the scenery and effects are put onto the rope and pulley systems to ensure that they can be lowered and lifted into place at the correct time during the performances.

          Del, who is now a ‘Technician’ but who started his career in the theatre as a ‘fly man’, clearly loved what he did (If he didn’t then he was the best actor of them all!). He gave us the opportunity to look back at times past and the hemp rope system which worked on the same lines as sails on a ship by ropes being locked off with a cleat system. Del demonstrated how the scenery would have been flown in and out being worked by a team of 13 burly men on either side of the stage and would have communicated through whistles and hand gestures.

          Hemp rope tied off to a cleat.

          The system used now is operated using counter weights. Sounding straight forward, it takes much skill and knowledge to get the backdrops and scenery where they’re meant to be, on time and seamlessly.

          Exiting the Fly Floor you are on the level of the upper circle. This was a great location to be able to enter the auditorium and have an overview of the theatre. Being close to the ceiling it also gave the opportunity to take in the beautiful architecture that is so familiar but often overlooked.

          The highlight of the tour was of course stepping ‘on stage’. There was no roar of the crowd, smell of the greasepaint or limelights but there was the chance to see how the lighting works, explore the role of the assistant director, and the chance to see the all important safety curtain from the other side as well as understanding how it works and why.

          Standing on the stage, which is a 1 in 4 rake (this means that it slopes down towards the audience), with the house lights down and the stage lights up it was easy to see why the theatre is indeed a magical place for actors and audiences alike.

          The last stop on this tour was at the back of the stalls in the control room where the mixing and control desks are. A sophisticated environment overseen by someone who admitted to coming to the theatre for work experience, and never really left, and having done various jobs has worked his way up.

          The tour of the New Theatre leaves you in awe of everyone who works there and brings the touring productions to life.

          Theatres and their staff are often referred to as a family, well family or now they certainly are a close knit team and are the unsung heroes behind all the magic and drama that we witness on the stage. From the lady (or gentleman) who mans the stage door to the fly man and the ever diligent fire officer who sits unseen at the side of the stage for every performance to ensure the safety of the actors, the audience and the theatre.

          The beauty, history and heritage of this Edwardian theatre is only surpassed by the welcome of its staff. Their love of theatre and their dedication to their craft will continue to make our visits to The New Theatre, Cardiff, special, entertaining and magical.

          For further details about forthcoming productions visit www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

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            Review Shirley Valentine by Jane Bissett

            3 Stars

            Shirley Valentine is a middle-aged housewife who talks to the wall. She is married to Joe and has been a faithful wife and mother. Stuck in the rut of an unfulfilled marriage of routine and domestic drudgery she longs for another life.

            Shirley’s best friend Jane, who is unattached since she discovering her husband in bed with the milkman, seems to enjoy a carefree existence and is able to experience a world that Shirley can only dream about.

            This however, changes when Jane books a holiday to Greece and not only invites Shirley but gives her the tickets so as to make her decision more difficult.

            Of course Shirley wants to go but how does she tell Joe, a man who for the whole of their married life has considered their annual holiday to the Isle of Wight – abroad.

            Whilst the holiday is only three weeks away, Shirley struggles with her desire to change her life and become Shirley Valentine once more and leave drudgery behind. As a wife and mother she is caught up in being the constant in the lives of her family and wonders if she should go at all.

            Eventually, she decides that she cannot let this opportunity slip away, whilst also knowing that if she tells Joe he will throw a fit, talk her out of it and tell her how stupid she is being.

            So confiding in the kitchen wall, to whom she constantly chats, she plans to accompany Jane to Greece.

            With all her domestic plans in place, Joe’s meals cooked and in the freezer, her mother coming over to defrost and microwave for him, Shirley buys new clothes for the new her that will go to Greece.

            On the day of departure Shirley leaves by taxi and her adventure begins.

            Once in Greece Jane hooks up with a man and Shirley spends the first few days by herself. She enjoys the freedom of not being at the beck and call of anyone else and she spends her days exploring the island and soaking up the sun and culture and slowly but surely a new Shirley is reborn – Shirley Valentine of her youth has returned.

            With the scales peeled from her eyes she sees the people around her in a new light. The holiday makers at her hotel and the local population, Shirley has gone ‘native’.

            Her transformation is complete when she meets Costas, the owner of a local tavern, who helps her fulfill her dream of drinking wine by the sea in the country where the grapes are grown.

            Promising not to take advantage of her, the following day he takes her out for the day around the islands in his brother’s boat. The experience is life changing for Shirley, bolstering her confidence in herself and her attractiveness.

            On the day of departure, as they are stood in the airport check-in queue Shirley realises she cannot go back to her old life and with the shouts of Jane and fellow passengers following her “come back!” she walks out of the airport and away from her old life and into a new one as she decides to stay in Greece and ask Costas for a job.

            When she gets to the tavern Costas is already ‘chatting up’ the next woman, but Shirley hasn’t come back for Costas she has gone back for herself, the youthful, carefree, adventurer who was buried deep inside and who has finally emerged.

            Now working evenings at the tavern, Shirley has fielded several phone calls from Joe demanding that she come home. Now, he has decided that his only course of action is to go to Greece to bring her back. Shirley on the other hand has no intention of returning and is sure that Joe will pass her by before recognising her as the happy changed woman she has become.

            Shirley Valentine is the creation of writer Willy Russell. She is a manifestation of the 1960/70s middle-aged woman who married young, brought up a family and supported her husband.

            Playwright Willy Russell was brought up in Liverpool surrounded by a family of strong women. At the age of 15 he left school to work at a womens’ hairdressers before returning to education and his career as a writer. It is clear that his observations of the women that surrounded him have had an effect on his writing as he has captured their essence as well as the secret dreams and aspirations of women of this time perfectly.

            As a one-woman play Shirley Valentine is a triumph of female characterisation. As Shirley, Jodie Prenger skilfully develops her personality as the play unfolds and she tells her story. As she works her way around the kitchen and talks to the audience and of course the ‘wall’ you are drawn into her world and even the younger theatre goer gains a greater understanding of the life she leads and the life she dreams of.

            It did feel as if it was a little bit of a slow burn, but this character could not have been rushed as she bared her soul and inner dreams before us.

            Prenger’s portrayal of Shirley was a realistic and believable one. The audience was biased towards women, it has to be said of a certain age, who were empathetic to the character and her situation. The unsuppressed laughter at Shirley’s description of her life and encounters was encouraging as you realised that the audience ‘got it’.

            Glen Walford has directed this production with the imagination and skill that you would have expected given her directing pedigree.

            Although there are only two scene locations both felt familiar. The kitchen, the heart of the home, and the beach in Greece. I particularly liked the subtle lighting effects that gave movement to the sea it added to the atmosphere without distracting.

            If there is one take away moment it has to be watching Prenger actually cooking chips’n’egg on stage, and as the lights dimmed for the next scene I couldn’t help smiling to myself as a male stage hand came on to clean the kitchen area. Something that her Joe would have been horrified at seeing, but then I wondered, would any of the younger women in the audience have even noticed?

            Prenger did not disappoint as Shirley and received a well deserved standing ovation for giving us two hours of sheer pleasure.

            Shirley Valentine plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

            Tuesday 27 June – Saturday 1 July at 7.30pm

            On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.

            For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

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              Review The Graduate, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett

              (4 / 5)

              The stage production of The Graduate  is Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the 1967 screenplay for the film of the same name. The story of the Graduate was written by Charles Webb and was his first novel written at the age of 24. Whilst it is not considered directly autobiographical, Webb’s own life is very much reflected in what he wrote and he has drawn on his own experiences to portray the, what was then, young Benjamin Braddock.

              The play, set at the time it was written, gives us an insight into the world of the 1960s up and coming affluent American families and their aspirations for their offspring.

              In contrast Benjamin shows us a confused young man who having graduated is unclear of his route ahead. His parents want him to follow a career path that will lead him to a secure future both financially and socially, however, Benjamin does not view this life with such optimism.

              On the day of his graduation party he is propositioned by a friend of his parents, Mrs Robinson, a woman clearly bored in an unfulfilled marriage that denied her of a career and life before her life as a mother and housewife began and has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Shocked and knowing the close relationship between his parents and the Robinson’s he rejects her. Curious, bored and wanting to experience life Benjamin later begins an illicit affair with Mrs Robinson that lasts the summer. However, he quickly realises that he wants more from life and from a relationship.

              Behind the scenes Mr Robinson and Benjamin’s father have been matchmaking and have arranged for him to take the Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, on a date. Disinterested Benjamin takes her to a venue that he is certain she will not like and he isn’t disappointed. Benjamin and Elaine continue to date much to the disapproval of her mother, his former lover, and when Elaine finally returns to college Benjamin announces to his parents that Elaine Robinson is the woman he will marry.

              Benjamin then pursues Elaine, declares his love, only to be brought home by his father after the discovery of his affair with Mrs Robinson. As far as his parents are concerned his issues stem from his childhood and as a family they go to see a therapist.

              The discovery that Elaine is to marry spurs Benjamin into action and his timely arrival at the church stops the wedding…. does it have a happy ending? Only time will tell but Benjamin and Elaine do end the play by running away together.

              In Webb’s life his college romance with Eve Rudd (aka Fred) faced disapproval from her parents and despite numerous barriers put before them it went on to be a lifelong relationship that endured the tests of time and that of family life as they had two sons.

              This production was set at the time it was written and had a very retro feel to the set design and the way in which the scenes changed. There were some up-to-date touches with dream sequences being projected as a film in the background which I felt visually worked well.

              Jack Monaghan’s portrayal of Benjamin Braddock was very reminiscent of that given by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film of The Graduate. His slow American accent accentuated the personality of Benjamin and indeed allowed us to consider his age and thought processing of the situations that he found himself in. Whilst in 2017 a young man of 21 is worldly wise we have to remember that this was certainly not the case in the families of the new up and coming affluent classes of American society of the 1960s.

              From the moment Catherine McCormack (Mrs Robinson) sets foot on the stage we see a bored middle aged woman who is desperately trying to cling on to her youth. Her marriage is unfulfilling and she has taken refuge in alcohol a poor excuse, even then, for her behaviour. As the story unfolds we see a woman who has lost control of her family and resents her daughter for having all the advantages she did not but who does not have the personality and enthusiasm for life that she considers young women of the liberated 1960 should have.

              All the cast members enhanced the main characters and gave credible performances in their own right. It was a thought provoking and enjoyable production and never before have I seen a bed with so much stage presence and a the ability to move seamlessly between scenes.

              The Graduate needs to be viewed in context to its time and place in history. From conversations around me, many of the audience had seen the film and clearly were enjoying this performance, the only thing that was missing was a Greyhound Bus.

              The Graduate plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
              Tuesday 20 June – Saturday 24 June at 7.30pm
              On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.
              For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

              http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/the-graduate/

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                Review Not Dead Enough, New Theatre Cardiff by Jane Bissett

                 

                (5 / 5)

                NOT DEAD ENOUGH

                Review by Third Act Critic, Jane Bissett

                NOT DEAD ENOUGH – if ever there was a understatement for a title of a play this is it. This adaptation, although from a book of the same title, was a very much alive, fast moving drama which moved at a pace that ensured the audience was running alongside, wanting more but never left behind.

                Peter James is an acclaimed author of crime fiction and Not Dead Enough is the third book in a series of 13 featuring DS Roy Grace. As a writer of crime fiction James has researched extensively interviewing convicted murderers and has a great insight into the criminal mind and indeed that of the seasoned detective. As an avid reader I am always in awe of the person who has the ability and imagination to adapt a book for the stage but Shaun McKenna has this cracked. He has done an outstanding job of bringing the story to life in the most believable way and I am sure with the approval of the novelist, Peter James.

                All credit to an amazing Creative Team of; Director, Designer, Lighting, Sound, Production, Costume and Props who have created an environment before us of a Pathology Laboratory, a Police Station and an outside scene where it is as easily believable as the more sophisticated setting of the lab. In fact the staging of this production is the key to its ability to draw the audience into the world that James’ has created for us.

                It is difficult to talk about the story line without giving away too much. If you have read James’ novels then you will be familiar with DS Grace and know him already and you will be entranced as the James’ characters are brought to life before you.

                I guarantee this crime thriller will have you on the edge of your seat. Indeed at one point the gentleman sat next to me exclaimed out loud, in reaction to DS Grace searching for something, “It’s not in the box!” clearly this audience member was totally immerced in the investigation, as were we all.

                All productions have their leading roles however, in Not Dead Enough all the characters were of equal importance to the storyline and you would be easily convinced that they were police officers who had worked together for years not actors playing a role.

                However, that said I have to mention Gemma Stroyan who played Bella Moy and Gemma Atkins who played Sophie Harington.

                Stroyan gave us a confident portrayal of a female police officer which was seamlessly believable at every level, comfortable in her skin and confident in what she was about. I would like to think that maybe James would take her character in the future and promote her to the central character in her own novel(s).

                Atkins also gave a polished performance as Harington keeping us guessing about who she really was and what (if anything) she was really up to.

                During the interval the auditorium was alive with chatter and theatre goers were talking not only amongst themselves and also with neighbouring audience members as to what they thought was going on, who had done what and making predictions about how it was all going to conclude.

                Like DS Grace, I wanted to believe the main suspect, but how could we?! What was the evidence showing us? Who was safe? Who was next? WHAT WAS GOING ON?!

                It would be wrong for me to tell you more but be aware it is not over till it’s over and even then not all the questions will have answers.

                At curtain call the volume of the applause was only just that above the whistles of approval. This is an unmissable crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting more all the way until the end.

                I for one will be looking more closely at James’ novels and perhaps it will be my summer reading for 2017.

                And for the record, on the way out people were still chatting and animated about what they had just seen.

                NOT DEAD ENOUGH plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
                Tuesday 13 June – Saturday 17 June at 7.30pm
                On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.
                For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

                 

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                  Review The Woman in Black by Jane Bissett

                   

                  (4 / 5)

                   

                  The tale of the Woman in Black comes from the pen of the acclaimed author Susan Hill and I guarantee this stage adaptation, the legacy of the talented playwright Stephen Mallatratt, will not disappoint you.

                  It is 27 years since this production was first taken from the page and brought to the stage and its longevity is testament to the art of storytelling and the drama of theatre. The ability to tell a gripping story is a thread which runs through time itself and is as deep seated in us today as it was when stories were passed down by the telling of  tales and before the Viking Sagas were written down. Every culture has its own myths and legends to draw on and before the advent of electricity and modern technological it was common for families to gather together in the evening, in the dark glow of the fireside to recount tales that would capture the imagination and transport them to times and places of both the past and the future.

                  Susan Hill’s novella, The Woman in Black, is a Gothic tale of love, loss, fear and revenge. As with all ghost and horror stories it has an unexpected ending,  a twist in the tale, which sets us thinking and is the hook that makes us remember the story and gives us the ability to tell it to others again and again.

                  At the start of the play, in scene one, we are introduced to the two characters, Arthur Kipps and an Actor who he has engaged to assist him in the telling of the story that changed his life and his future. It is clear right from the start the importance for Kipps in telling his story, as not only a warning to others but as a means of trying to exorcise his own demons. In the telling of this tale it holds up a mirror to us all to examine our own fears of what we know and believe and indeed what we do not.

                  This is the story of solicitor, Arthur Kipps, recently widowed and who four years earlier had been sent from London to the coast to put in order the affairs of a recently deceased lady. The subsequent events of that journey will haunt Kipps and change his life forever.

                  As a way to exorcise the spectre of the Woman in Black and indeed as a causionary tale, Kipps employs an actor with whom he shares his manuscript of the events that happened.

                  In the play that unfolds before us we see the actor coach Kipps to perform all other parts other than his own and the story begins…..

                  As a lover of Gothic Horror and Ghost Stories in general I really enjoyed this production. Both David Acton (Arthur Kipps) and Matthew Spencer (The Actor) gave wonderful performances which transported the audience out of the theatre and onto the marshes. We joined Kipps and the Actor, spell bound as they told of the events surrounding the Woman in Black, eventually revealing her tale from within Kipps chilling story.

                  Both Acton and Spencer gave gripping performances as Kipps and the Actor in this two handed play in which you just got so much more that two chaps on a stage. The range of sound effects (Gareth Owen) and the dramatic and atmospheric lighting (Kevin Sleep) created a spellbinding backdrop on which the tale was told. There is no elaborate staging to distract you which means you are only limited by your belief in the tale and your own imagination.

                  There was audience participation in the form of fear and gasps and I am not 100% sure I did not hear, at one point a lady scream or was that coming from the stage?

                  This is a must see for anyone who loves a well told ghost story that will send a shiver up the spine. but be careful on the way home, you may not have left the theatre alone……

                   

                   

                   

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                    Review Dinosaur Babies, National Museum Cardiff by Third Act Critic, Jane Bissett

                    (5 / 5)

                    If you want an adventure with history this summer then step back in time and visit the National Museum Cardiff to experience their wonderful new exhibition – Dinosaur Babies.

                    The exhibits, many discovered in China, are on loan from the United States of America and have never been on public display in the UK before.

                    As you immerse yourself in the lost world of the dinosaurs you will come face to face with many familiar dinosaurs and others not so. The breath taking skeletons are brought to life by the many wonderful colour illustrations by Luis V. Rey, who working alongside the palaeontologists involved with the research of these dinosaurs, has given us visual imagery for the creatures we are walking amongst and a clear depiction of what they and their environment may have looked like when they walked the earth.

                    This exhibition has been specifically designed to be child friendly and it has certainly achieved its aim. There are a range of activities that engage the visitor whatever their age and the wealth of information is staggering.

                    Dinosaur Babies will enthral, enlighten and educate, as you venture into the never before seen world of motherhood amount these fascinating creatures. There are nests, eggs and even embryos intact inside their shells, a sight that will awaken the curiosity in everyone, alongside a desire to learn more.

                    The discovery of these dinosaurs in their many family groups has enabled scientists to build up a more comprehensive picture than ever before. They are able to establish a better idea and understanding of how these magnificent creatures lived in social groups and how they nurtured their young and now for the first time we are able to join them on this journey.

                    For the younger visitors there is a range of activities that will suit any age, whether it is conducting your own mini archaeological dig to find fossils, dressing up as a dinosaur or creating an art work to take home as a reminder of what you have seen.

                    This really is a great exhibition that caters for the whole family. Whatever your age or level of interest in dinosaurs, you are guaranteed to take away a wonderful Natural History Experience that you’ll be talking about all summer.

                    This exhibition forms part of Wales’ Year of Legends and runs from 27 May – 5 November

                    https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/9487/Dinosaur-Babies/

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