Lauren Ellis - Stretch

I'm Lauren - a theatre loving sixth form student enjoying the opportunity to watch as much as I can.

Review Small Fry, The Play Factory, Porth by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

With a refreshing focus on the lost youth in a forgotten valley, Small Fry is a love-story to family, and the hope of a future.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

For one night, the debut presentation of Small Fry in The Play Factory in Porth sparks a lot to be admired and celebrated. Originally conceived on the University of South Wales’ MA Drama course, and developed through scratch performances in the WMC and The Other Room, Small Fry is brought in full form, for the first time, to the people of Porth. This is a choice not to be underestimated as the power and compassion of its performance stays in the room long after the final bow. For the team of young theatre makers you can tell that this is just the beginning of many a successful future – an impression of optimism we unavoidably share for the play’s unexpected heroine Ellie Mathews. 

In this one-woman play, Yasmin Williams commandeers the space as the brazen seventeen year-old. Williams takes the audience captive to her story transporting us with her from Cardiff’s Queen Street, to the savoury section in Greggs, to cramped antics in messy bathroom stalls, and back home to Porth. Jones and Neal’s choice of staging ensures that the space never fails to evolve with Williams yanking and draging us restlessly through the many locations of her story. At the front of the room is a square of wooden boards, perhaps still sticky from a youth disco or an OAP zumba class. Bordered by a bouncy carpet and passive leather sofas, on chairs set either side, our feet grounded on the boards below, they merge with the space. Our presence is necessary. We’re here to listen to voice often forgotten. In their lack of resources, the economy of the set drives the storytelling to joyfully creative means. With only a worn wooden bench, the challenge for it to establish as many scenes as possible offers up the most dynamic moments within the piece. Williams is captivating and sensitively honest in her portrayal of a lost young woman fighting to do her best for herself and her family. When she is at her most playful and mischievous she is at her best. Her entrance is an electrifying moment of her savouring that exact essence: prowling the stage, and daring her audience. In future performances, which I sincerely hope the play has, I predict Williams’ bold and brazen performance will become a fire-rocket of energy and daring assurance. Paired with the tempestuous pace of its script the production will provoke striking effect.

Lloyd’s script is as ingeniously funny as it is sensitively humble. Her script balances on a knife’s edge, yet never falling to romanced sentimentality or dismissive silliness. It wrangles between charmingly acerbic declarations of love for corned beef, and sobering admissions of an individual’s struggle. Corned beef, often considered an iconically working-class treat, is offered at the foyer before the play, set in Morrisons sharing tubs. Ellie’s morning pursuit for the tantalizing treat even consumes the first three to five minutes of the play. It’s a symbol of pleasure and celebration. Lloyd’s play is a celebration of a working-class heroine, never in spite of her background, but in homage to all that’s made her, and everything that she can be. The narrative never indulges despair or embitterment. It’s the story of a young life, raring and ready for all possibilities. Small Fry is not a focused polemic against the gate holders of an oppressive and often punitive existence. Lloyd doesn’t come for parliamentary budget cuts, or an under-funded NHS; she’s speaking to what it means to protect and serve family. An example of true compassion and care which is political in its very presentation. Small Fry is a declaration of duty and honour be it for country or for those we love. It’s a short and well-contained piece, yet the audience are left with loose ends to pull at. Lloyd covers a lot of bases in 50 minutes, some more thoroughly than others. However, I can’t help but feel that this is a deliberate, if not quite necessary, decision. Here is a young woman tearing at the framework for an existence she could have. The chaotic blur of Ellie’s former life leaves the lasting image all the more powerful.

Small Fry speaks to the optimism of youth. As the audience leave hoping that this can be realised for Ellie they inevitably will think of the play’s young theatre makers. They may go on to conquer beyond borders, but I am quite certain they will not forget their beloved hometowns any time soon. 

Review Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock, Dirty Protest by Lauren Ellis – Stretch

Dirty Protest present a playful, dynamic and heartening journey from Pembroke Dock to Cardiff; from 1979 to 2014.

However, dirty their protest Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock is clear-cut and fast-paced.

All photographic credits Jorge Lizalde @studioCano1

Having the privilege of sitting in on rehearsals it became incredibly evident that the care and respect the cast held for one another – when moving set in rehearsals, common phrases overheard included ‘Lift with your knees!’ and ‘Watch you back!’ I assume that this kindness was integral as their process was so collaborative. The cast devised through play; following rules, such as they can only use a prop once and it cannot be used in the play as what it is in reality.

The theme of the intergenerational in the presentation of father/child relationships is key within Lightspeed. With Star Wars at the heart of the narrative and in the heart of Sam. The development of Sam’s passion, from 1979 in his childhood and his late night expedition to see the Millenium Falcon, to 2014 and his daughter, Lizzie’s wreckless expedition to the new Star Wars production company. Youthfulness play, drive and fearlessness is championed in this script partnered with a great empathy and love for fathers and their sacrificial nature.

Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock is not pro-creative industry/jobs, however, it is encouraging of the industry in Wales and its progression, as well as the self-fulfilment it offers its workers. A privilege of the arts that was certainly evident in the rehearsal room for Lightspeed as the group warm up with a exuberant and merciless round of an Eastenders themed game. Who doesn’t wish they could start their day at work screaming ‘Get out of my pub!’

Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock is an uplifting, loving and dynamic presentation of family, passion and creativity, and the creativity of the piece is infectious! I was so privileged to be able to watch such an incredibly talented, committed and caring creative team. Dirty Protest is a theatre company that everyone should be aware of!

Tour Dates:

Wed 4- Sat 7 April

Chapter, Cardiff

Tue 17 April

Soar Centre, Valleys Kids

Wed 18 April

Ffwrnes, Llanelli

Thu 19 April

Taliesin Arts Centre

Fri 21 April

Riverfront, Newport

Mon 23 April

Halliwell Theatre, Carmarthen

Tues 24 April

Pontardawe Arts Centre

Wed 25 April

Borough Theatre, Abergavenny

Thurs 26 April

Blackwood Miners Institute

Fri 27 April

Galeri, Caernarfon

Sat 28 May

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Wed 2 May

Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

Fri 4 – Sat 5 May

Torch Theatre, Milford Haven

Review hang, The Other Room by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

hang is a play that I don’t think I’m going to be able to escape for a very long time.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


It’s audience are hooked, latching on blindly to the arbitrary snippets of circumstance that debbie tucker green permits; pounded and cemented by the horror enchaining the character ‘3’ – played and endured by Anita Reynolds; writhing in the uncomfortability and awkwardness of lapsing social formalities; and laughing throughout.

The Other Room unwaveringly, and continuously are staging ground-breaking and bold theatre in Wales. In this partnership with Run Amok it is no different. Izzy Rabey’s direction is playful, fearless and truthful.

With an all Royal Welsh trained cast,  performances are dependably spellbinding, spirited and exploratory and harmoniously attuned in this weighty three-hander. Seren Vickers’ breezy and oblivious brashness is wondrously complimented by Alexandria Riley’s  assured discipline; eventually unravelling, grasping for an established formality. 

But, Anita Reynolds is exceptional – and a f******g heavy weight. After running into her a few days after the performance I could not believe that she was not, a) suicidal, b) homicidal, or c) a moody bitch – she was delightful as normal. Her transformation, the truthfulness of her performance with modesty, respect and introspection – I was in awe to see her practicing what she preaches from ‘the church of Anita!’ – exclusive to YAS students at Royal Welsh.

Although minimal, technical aspects were similarly attuned and sensitive in the baring of characters. Set by Amy Jane Cook was successfully dull and abrasively unsympathetic


hang is a play about boundaries, and morals, and empathy – and its limits – loneliness and entrapment and pain and consequence. I think it’s quite important; so book your ticket, head down to Porter’s a buy yourself an alcoholic drink, and enjoy.

by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

Review The Addams Family WMC

A nickelodeon remake of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’
In essence, you can categorise all performance criticism under two Cheryl Cole .circa 2008-11 X Factor, automated responses, ’you’re right up my street’, or ‘it wasn’t my cup of tea.’ ‘The Addams Family’ was not my ‘cup of tea’. It wasn’t even my dirty pint that I’d down – victim to peer pressure – on a Saturday night… but it was fun and harmless… unlike a dirty pint on a Saturday night.

‘The Addams Family’ gives you all that you’d expect – the characters’ dead-pan eccentricity, a fabulously ghoulish set, its beloved theme tune and numerous merchandise stalls to preserve its ever-inflating franchise. But it is niche exploited – the musical is farcical. Personally, I can’t quite accept that the self–contained world of ‘The Addams Family’ (on screen) – and the escapist voyeurism that it offers – can be exposed to a stage adaptation without making a mockery of the former.
‘The Addams Family Musical’ is basically a panto with an extremely high production-value, but, hell, sometimes a spiralling farce and a classic ‘dad joke’ will be perfectly suffice – for some – if you like that sort of thing… It’s a simplistic and worn narrative pardoned by pizazz!

Musical numbers were gloriously theatrical, and the voices of Samantha Womack and Carrie Hope Fletcher rang beautifully within the theatre. It was Fletcher’s portrayal of Wednesday Addams which is undoubtedly the highlight of the production. She has an inexpressible and innate draw; an attraction that defies an audience’s choice in the matter.

The set design by Diego Pitarch was innovative, transporting – it had a masterful subtlety to defining a scene with ease and interchangeability. Alistair David’s choreography, paired with the sheer vibrancy of the production’s costume and technical design, was a spectacle; combined, the chorus were an indispensable surge of energy.

‘The Addams Family’ is a spectacle, shallow, but a visual delight. If you’re looking for a show that the kids and grandma will enjoy look no further – just get yourself a vodka orange in the interval and you’ll find it just as funny as them.

by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

Review Jayne Eyre, WMC by Lauren Ellis-Stretch and Caitlin Whiteley

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)


Jane Eyre is fearsome and blazing, with an inevitably symbolic of the plays presentation of temptation and restless desire, the audience succumb, engulfed by the ferocity of its cast and the boldness of Sally Cookson’s direction.

Amongst the haunting moors, trepidation is a state of being and, yet, our female heroine embodies its antithesis – fired by generational anguish, past and contemporary, Bronte – mediated by Cookson – defies the societal dismissal of the wholly feminine nature of yearning and discontent. The National Theatre’s ‘Jane Eyre’ is soaring and liberated, necessary as an, ever-contemporary, evolved feminist narrative.

Hope, within the play, is almost embodied as a metaphorical rejection of the play’s desolate and dire setting, in its weighted suppression, through the stark opposition of the cast’s spirited elevation and weightlessness. Through Jane’s experiences of; the people she meets, the places she sees, and that which she cannot understand, she is subjected to sinisterism and character-dimming corruption – preaching a passive dignity, in  favour of her (societally embedded) feminine duty – yet, ultimately love is professed as the only true salvation. Conflicting, in nature, as she is bound through desire, love liberates Jane as simultaneously she is chained to one man for all eternity. Ultimately pre-occupied by the pondering of existentially-defying love, I do wonder how the Bronte’s would respond to Love Island.

The solidity and grounding conveyed by the set band embodied an inevitability of Jane and Mr Rochester’s unity through an unbridled and innate devotion conveyed by the all-encompassing folk instrumental. Originated within, what was considered, the English ‘country’, in its expression of working-class tradition, custom and superstitions, it is mystifying and fiercely optimistic in wanderlust.
Michael Vale’s set design, earthy and raw, preaches and idolises childlike innocence, as the cast boundlessly throw and exert themselves to-and-fro the minimalistic tree house. In the pure and sanctified white sheets hanging to enmesh the space it is the projection of our own thoughts, the play’s narration and the immorality of the characters themselves which taint and stain the clean, preserved walls of the godly, proper, Victorian society that they abide to.

Dan Canham’s movement spurred and propelled its cast with agitation, injected spirit, yet, ultimately, underlined an active mistreatment and suppression of Jane Eyre. The production’s movement and instrumental accompaniment evoked and transpired a wanderlust and disquietude from Jane unto us as the continuous action pounding from the stage beat within my stomach.
The production’s frenetic energy combined with the haunting spectre of Melanie Marshall’s Bertha Mason, a raw, wretched and pitiful operatic presence, magnified the sparsity of the set, with its bare isolation that, arguably, embodies the desolate origins that drew, boundlessly, the souls of Jane and Mr. Rochester to clasp together.

The halting, sharp scenes and the multitudinous use of rough sound gave the play the same raw emotion that categorises the book as such an elegant and unflinching exploration of the human heart. In the flurry, and succession, of such striking performances, the cast achieve flawlessness in their execution of truly turbulent multi-rolling with a rejoiced creative ferment.

Nadia Clifford was a spectacle to behold brimming with the fever of Jane’s restlessness. Feisty and crumbling, neither over-bearing, Nadia created the unrelenting independence and the secret longing that characterises the eponymous heroine. Nadia’s portrayal allowed Jane to be flawed, multi-faceted in her complexity, to the extent, at which, exposing Mr Rochester as a truly rigid and canvased enigma of a man. Devastated and defeated, yet hopeful and triumphant, in equal measure, the National Theatre’s ‘Jane Eyre’ was stunning, shocking and soaring.

Review Pink Mist Sherman Theatre by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Pink Mist, Owen Sheer’s highly acclaimed verse-drama, follows three cocksure Bristolian teens as they venture out of their mundane lives and into military, service and manhood. It is a story passed from generation to generation. What is duty and honour?

There is a reading below of Laurens review to listen to.

When discussing a piece of theatre – in those post-show discussions, with friends, when you are so casually trying to assert your immensely dominate intellectualism and philosophical nature over them – there always seems to be that continuous occurrence of certain words within your vocabulary, or maybe that repetition just shows my own intellect… but, to me, Pink Mist is simply beautiful. Beautiful, bold, and stunning. Heartrending, really.

Pink Mist is alight. Flickering then scorching, but that’s just good theatre, really. It is Sheers, however, that kindles the human psych through his poetry. I say poetry, not poetic language, not verse-drama, or monologue, because Sheers is massively contributing to the changing face of contemporary poetry. In a recent interview with Owen Sheers, he claimed that young people bring an electricity and an energy that cannot be compared, as audience members. It’s true. The school-trippers were out in mass, and they jumped, and they cried, and one girl gave the most, devotedly, dramatic gasp, I’ve ever heard! I’ve never seen an audience so willing to stand on their feet, other than in a school hall for their grandchildren. Teenagers really feel when given an outlet to do so. Young people really invest in stories, they’re less restrained and emotionally analytical, and they’re waiting for their own to begin. In Pink Mist that Sheers gives an extraordinary level of investment and empathy to the voices of these young people.

George Mann’s movement is captivating, compassionate and spirited. Technical aspects stimulated a sensory bombardment and affirmation. Both give scope to the artistic possibilities which the piece, furthermore, inspires. The piece, somewhat, enigmatic and abstract proves to challenge the given understanding, the status quo and the audience’s perception. And that’s why, I think, young people can fly with the piece. We’re spoon fed too much in today’s media. We’re capable of discovery because it is demanded by art – it is, and we are, more than the memorising and compressing of facts into some soul-devouring mock essay question that serves, actually, very little purpose to our society, to be honest with you.

Dan Krikler exudes charisma, Alex Stedman’s warmth, as an actor, is exemplary, and Peter Edwards’s Taff stands as perhaps the most endearing of all. However, the women of this piece, Rebecca Hamilton, Rebecca Kilick, and Zara Ramm, are exceptionally wholehearted; commanding a platform as pronounced as that of the boys’. The cast are one unity, a compact driving force. Yet, they’re either in isolation, or serving the microcosm which could deny a, certain, compulsive empathy. Perhaps it is through a dynamic distancing that provides an intensity, otherwise unattainable. So, I didn’t leave the theatre distraught, that night, like some very emotional valley girls (which was, actually, really funny), but I left upset; with a contentment in the knowledge that Pink Mist is a societal tragedy.

Pink Mist Tour
National Tour
31 Jan – 1 Apr 2017

Presented by Nick Williams Productions

31 Jan-1 Feb, Aberystwth Arts Centre
2-4 Feb, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
7-9 Feb, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
14-18 Feb, Oxford Playhouse
23-25 Feb, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
7-11 Mar, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
14 Mar, Pontio, Bangor
17-18 Mar, Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
20-21 Mar, Theatre Royal Winchester
23-25 Mar, Birmingham Rep
28 Mar-1 Apr, West Yorkshire Playhouse

An Interview with Owen Sheers by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

Owen Sheers is one of the leading contemporary writers, in Britain, today, a Professor in Creativity at Swansea University, and my immediate go-to subject of conversation when I don’t want to do any work in English lessons. Sheers was the first writer in residence at the Welsh Rugby Union – the first of any national rugby union team – which resulted in the publication of ‘Calon’ his non-fiction work on the Welsh team. His professional positions have included being Writer in Residence at The Wordsworth Trust and a 2007/08 Dorothy and Lewis B, Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library. So, with works varying from poetry, to novels and drama, said accolades, and praise for ‘contemporary literature’s renaissance man’ is hardly surprising. But, for me it is Sheer’s stage adaption of his original verse drama, ‘Pink Mist’, commissioned for Radio 4, that currently has me enthused! After speaking with Owen Sheers I ran to tell my friends how amazing he is and how beautiful his ‘phone voice’ is. I’m a groupie.

Originally, as you wrote primarily as a poet, do you feel like you come to all your work as a poet?

I used to say that ‘I feel like a poet writing in other forms’; I think sometimes that’s still true. So, with something like ‘Pink Mist’ it’s very much, it’s a poet’s play, and actually, in some ways, it feels like my closest relationship with poetry that I’ve had for a long time, because it’s verse drama. It relies very much on rhythm and rhyme and metaphor, but, I suppose, in the model of the dramatic monologue, the retrospect of the dramatic monologue. With ‘Pink Mist’ I very much feel like a poet writing for the theatre. I think what changed me recently was my last novel, ‘I Saw a Man’, where I realised that novels are such wonderful, but difficult beasts, that, actually, you have to feel like a novelist writing a novel, and I wanted ‘I Saw a Man’ to be a different kind work of fiction for me. I think my previous fiction, ‘Resistance’, ‘The Dust Diaries’, you could possibly describe them as being, I guess, a poet’s novels. But I wanted that ‘I Saw a Man’ to feel like a novelist’s novel, and I hope that the story, the book, and the way that the book is structured actually plays with the ideal of the novel, so it was really important to take that fuller step into fiction. So, maybe it’s starting to change for me, and actually funny enough I’ve just finished a second draft of a new play where I wanted to experiment with exactly that – I wanted to write a play as a playwright. Unlike my previous theatrical works which tend to have lots of soliloquys and monologues and a certain lyrical tone, this new play that I’ve just finished is very much dialogue driven and plot-driven, and it’s more like what you would define as a conventional play. I think I am in an interesting period of experimenting stepping more fully out of a poet’s shoes.

How was adapting a verse drama to the stage?

The fact that it was commissioned for radio first, I think, was very significant as with radio you are writing for the ear. And so, it felt instinctive to me to do, to write something that was lyrical but that was also to be very much oral story-telling, and that painted the pictures in a listener’s mind as that was all they got, the voice. But, also, because it’s a play where I’m trying to harness and be at conflict with the voices of others then that also can lean towards drama as it allowed me to invent characters, to invent language but all of it grounded in these thirty interviews that I did, to inform the piece. It sounds paradoxical but when the artifice is turned up – in a verse drama – I think, actually, in some ways, it becomes more accessible, it feels more relating to those original voices. Really the challenge to put it onto stage wasn’t mine, but the directors’. How do you take a play for voices and dramatise it? And that’s where, and I’m not just saying this, I think that the directors John Retallack and George Mann have done an extraordinary job, cause, I mean, it could have easily have been a mess! They’ve not only done it so sensitively but they’ve found a physical language and a dramatic language which feels completely inherited from that style of poetry – which is poetry, but which is grown from everyday speech. The movement in the piece is extraordinary; I could watch it all day long. Every single move you can see how it relates back to an everyday action. To be honest, the challenge, it lay very much with the director and the cast, and I suppose that’s how you can feel very lucky in theatre, when writing, cause you kind of hand over this thing which is blessing and a curse!

How much do you value the accessibility of your work, particularly with young people? And, do you think that poetry needs to be more accessible, or that people need to rise to poetry?

I think it’s both, I mean, I don’t think poetry should be more accessible because I think that you shouldn’t have, to have, the word ‘should’ in literature. A writer can do what they want. Then your job is to do it well, whatever your choices are. But, I think that what we think of as being accessible is sometimes not right and not true. ‘Pink Mist’ is a fine example, actually. All the way through to get it published as a book, to get it put on the stage has been a struggle because the conventional, cultural gatekeepers were quite resistant to the idea of a verse drama. They thought it would be alienating, it would be obscure, and where ‘Pink Mist’ found it’s the first audience was in schools and with university students, and I think with people who didn’t have any pre-conceptions about ‘Oh, verse drama, that sounds a bit strange’, they just responded to it. I think, for them, what was interesting was that they weren’t thinking of T.S Eliot, but they were thinking much more of Kate Tempest, and rap and spoken-word poetry. So, what I say is that I don’t think that we should go into things thinking ‘Is it successful, is it not?’ cause sometimes we’ll be surprised, you know. Something that verse drama does is that it is accessible, not necessarily on a level of meaning, but on a level of rhythm, on this subterranean level of communication. Is it important? It’s all in my work, I’ve always tried to broaden the reach in terms of audience, and broaden the depth. Going back to plays like ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie F’, my year with the Welsh Rugby Union, a lot of that wasabout both attracting the audiences, but showing both existing audiences that ‘actually, you know what, all of us can get this.’ There’s no magic trick. If it’s good stuff then people are, hopefully, emotionally moved and they’re made to think, whatever their background. That’s what is so important about this tour, for me, is that when ‘Pink Mist’ happened at Bristol Old Vic that was great but I really wanted it to get out – well I certainly wanted it to come to Wales, obviously being Welsh. I wanted it to get out to regional towns and cities where, in terms of young men and women, they are choosing to join the army, sometimes as a last option, sometimes because it’s offering things that everyday life isn’t; that can be anything from belonging to just the regular pay packet. It’s in these regional cities where people are really experiencing that the most, and so I was really keen, for ‘Pink Mist’, to travel to these places where, hopefully, the story will resonate as still something very current. So, yes, the answer is young people, with this play, are very important to me, but they’re also important to the play. When I’ve sat in theatres and there’s a younger audience you feel the energy of the play change, cause it’s a play about seventeen and eighteen year olds, and if you’ve got lots of them in the audience it’s just electric. It’s great.   

Would you consider writing work specifically targeted at young people, in the future?

Well, I think the important thing to say is that I didn’t target ‘Pink Mist’ at young people and teenagers. The story of the play is one that concerns them, but I think that I am constantly wrong-footed when I go into schools! If I try and, you know, pitch something which is what I think that age group’s level is, they always prove me wrong. ‘Uh uh, it’s way higher mate, it’s way higher.’ So, I’ve learnt that young people and teenagers are perfectly capable of absorbing and responding to plays written for adults – partly because I think it’s when you’re a teenager that you’re feeling and thinking about a world in a particularly vivid way. I quite often think that you care in a way that, sometimes, older people stop doing, which is a shame. But, I suppose yes, I keep wanting to write material and write plays that teenagers and young people feel are equally for them as they are for anyone else. I have started working a piece which is about young boys that were trafficked from Afghanistan to Britain when they were ten or eleven, and now at the age of seventeen, eighteen they’re being faced with deportation; I suppose that is a young person’s story.

Do you have any words of wisdom for young people who want be to artists, who want to create and tell stories?

Yes, well I don’t know if it’s words of wisdom, exactly, but I’d say, firstly, immerse yourself in the art form that you want to excel at. So, if you want to be a playwright see lots of theatre, read lots of theatre. If you want to be a poet, read lots of poetry. You want to be a film maker? Watch films, not just as a passive viewer but as a film maker. Look, how are people doing this? Watch the current language of the day. I’m always amazed at how many people want to be writers, and you ask them what they’re reading and they’re not reading very much. You wouldn’t imagine a rugby player who never watched rugby. Secondly, if you’re sure this is what you want to do, it is for you. The arts still, in Britain, I hope, there should be no barriers to entry, and I think on the whole there isn’t – there are still ways that people can be supported to enter the arts. It’s a very old thing what I’m going to say, it’s nothing particularly wise, but you know, work bloody hard. I still get rejected! Sometimes it’s for the right reasons, and sometimes it’s because someone’s not seeing it – which is then your job to make them see it. Immerse yourself in your art form, work hard, do believe it’s for you and believe that you can do it. Nearly every piece of work I’ve done it has been started with people telling me no. So, you’ve got to be quite stubborn!

How important is it, for you, to be a ‘Welsh’ writer?

Well, it’s an important part of my life, but that’s for me, because I am Welsh, and we all have an attachment to the physical landscape and the cultural landscape that we’re brought up in. But, what I don’t like is Nationalism, or jingoism. And I don’t like any narrowing of the horizons, artistically, through nationalities. It might sound like I’m spitting hairs but I quite often describe myself as a writer from Wales, because that seems truer to me – I am both. In terms of my family, and where I live, I’m from Wales, and how I was formed, I am from Wales, but to say I’m a Welsh writer is… I don’t want to be defined by borders. We partly write so we can write about anything, and we want to write stuff that people respond to everywhere. In Wales, of course, you’ve also got to be aware of saying that you’re a Welsh writer, and when you’re not writing in Welsh, then you’re not entirely describing it truthfully. ‘So, yeah, a writer from Wales.’ W. H. Auden once said that ‘A poet should aspire to be like a good cheese – locally produced, but internationally renowned.’ It’s an odd quote but that’s kind of what I aspire to. I think in terms of influence of the work, yeah of course. A lot of some of my earlier favourite writers were Welsh – the early poets who told me to keep going, keeping trying, like Dannie Abse and Robert Minhinnick were all Welsh. It’s where I first met the arts and saw theatre, so it can’t help but have an influence; I think the Welsh landscape has always influenced me, even when I haven’t lived here.

Although I was left unsuccessful in getting anywhere near to an actual definition, Sheers insists that it is the title’s ambiguity that spirals dramatic intensity.

It should, hopefully, come at you in the play.  It’s a title that is designed to slightly wrong-foot the audience. Every conflict produces its own vocabulary, its own lexicon, and ‘pink mist’ was a term that I heard several times from the young men, the young wounded soldiers that I was interviewing. It refers to an element of modern warfare, the asymmetry in warfare.

I think that once you know what it is, it changes from being something vague that sounds quite light to being something, really, very dark and sinister. But, it’s a title I had to fight for. When it was originally commissioned for Radio 4, right up to the control room, they didn’t want to use that title. And, at one point, probably, slightly over-dramatically, I literally down tooled, I stopped writing. ‘I’m not going to finish this play unless I’m allowed to call it ‘Pink Mist.’ So, then they relented and let me call it ‘Pink Mist.’

After informing Owen of the unfortunate conclusion many schools have had to come to –crippled (culturally and artistically) by the demand for high grades and league table success – regarding the expulsion of GCSE English Literature, for many students, this is what he had to say.

I think that’s terrible. The two go hand-in-hand. How are you going to develop English Language without the example of the rest of it in English Literature? Everyone can find a way into it (literature), and if a kid can’t find a way into it then that’s just bad teaching. As you can tell I feel pretty strongly about that, and I didn’t know that actually. In terms of studied – it’s a huge honour, because I’m aware that I met, I got to read poetry, like a lot of people, for the first time as part of studying, so, again, it’s a huge privilege. And, I’m quite humbled by it, actually. I think it’s very different being studied as to being read, and I would always rather be read. And, I would argue that that’s always the best form of study. It’s strange in the modern world because students can contact you, on Facebook, on Twitter, and via your website, and I’m still figuring out how best to deal with that. I think, if someone asked me a serious and a good question then I’ll always answer. But, actually, it should only be the work that they’re responding to, not me. I do try to still go into schools a lot, you know, I never had a writer come into school when I was there, and it’s great for the writers, and hopefully great for the schools as well. It’s a huge privilege being studied. I sometimes find myself apologising to students, ‘Ohh we have to study your book…’ ‘Well I’m sorry, sorry it’s me, but you’ve got to study someone!’

A review of ‘Pink Mist’ is still to come. Stay tuned my homies… (Mrs Harris)

All production shots of ‘Pink Mist’ were taken by Mark Douet.

Show Times of ‘Pink Mist’ at the Sherman Theatre include: Thursday – 7:30, Friday – 7:30, Saturday – 2:30/7:30

Pink Mist Tour
National Tour
31 Jan – 1 Apr 2017

Presented by Nick Williams Productions

31 Jan-1 Feb, Aberystwth Arts Centre
2-4 Feb, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
7-9 Feb, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
14-18 Feb, Oxford Playhouse
23-25 Feb, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
7-11 Mar, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
14 Mar, Pontio, Bangor
17-18 Mar, Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
20-21 Mar, Theatre Royal Winchester
23-25 Mar, Birmingham Rep
28 Mar-1 Apr, West Yorkshire Playhouse

By Owen Sheers

Directed by John Retallack and George Mann

Designer Emma Cains

Lighting Designer Peter Harrison

Sound Designer Jon Nicholls


Peter Edwards

Rebecca Hamilton

Rebecca Killick

Dan Krikler

Zara Ramm

Alex Stedman

Review The Weir, The Sherman Theatre by Lauren Ellis-Stretch


Valerie – Orla Fitzgerald | Jim – Richard Clements | Finbar – Steven Elliott | Brendan – Patrick Moy | Jack – Simon Wolfe (C) Camilla Adams — at Sherman Theatre.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) The Weir is encapsulating.

On a blustering night deep within the mystic Irish countryside, even in the comfort of community, friendship and booze there is little to be certain of. Conor McPherson’s ‘The Weir’ is a triumph in story-telling, and under the masterful direction of Rachel O’Riordan is not only chilling but compelling.

There is an odd contentment in the solace of shared experiences, and at the Sherman Theatre, on stage or off, the atmosphere was electrifyingly fused – it didn’t seem so nightmarish to be sat with strangers on either side. O’Riordan’s direction is so seamless that it thrusts and drags and clasps you into submission, before any digestion of what is happening. The audience were left desperate, grasping at any silence that could be appropriately filled with laughter.


Finbar – Steven Elliott | Valerie – Orla Fitzgerald (C) Camilla Adams — at Sherman Theatre.

To perform a piece stepped in Irish heritage and folk-law to a metropolitan audience in Wales’ capital, and have it received so graciously is a testament to its actors and their craft in story-telling. It is a two-sided agreement in which audiences must venture beyond ‘Les Mis’ and ‘Grease’, and all that inhabits their comfort zone to access unfamiliar culture. And, equally responsible, the Sherman Theatre, as well as various other art centres within Wales are evolving the country’s arts scene, in their community events and outreach programmes; offering a way out of our ostracised communities, and incestuous thinking.


Jim – Richard Clements | Jack – Simon Wolfe (C) Camilla Adams — at Sherman Theatre.

In Simon Wolfe’s execution of Jack there lies a particular tactful ferocity and subtlety. He is not once stereotyped or pre-empted, he is a man with principals, honour, and regret. Orla Fitzgerald as Valerie is wispy and engaging and proves less is more in her self-contained torture. She is humbling to watch. As a cast, Richard Clements, Steven Elliott, Orla Fitzgerald, Simon Wolfe, and Patrick Moy are sublime, generous and wholly complimenting as one. As each character took to share their own story, all around them would soften and their faces would become beacons in the darkness – you would go everywhere with them.


Valerie – Orla Fitzgerald | Jack – Simon Wolfe – Brendan – Patrtick Moy (C) Camilla Adams — at Sherman Theatre.

Designer Kenny Miller’s staging is bare and simplistic offering comfortability in a no clutter/bull shit ruling for the piece.

The Weir is truthful and raw, and is exactly what is needed to counter-act any audience’s consuming of ‘TOWIE’ or one of the many Kardashian spin-off series. It is a classic of contemporary theatre; empathetic, voyeuristic, and unnerving.

The Weir will be playing at the Sherman until the 22/10/16. It then transfers to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol 25 Oct -05 Nov 2016.

The Weir


Interview with Assistant Director of The Weir, Chelsey Gillard.


Chelsey Gillard

Get the Chance Young Critic Lauren Ellis-Stretch recently got the chance to chat to Chelsey Gillard Assistant Director of The Weir currently playing at The Sherman Theatre. They discussed her journey and experiences as a young director, generous tipping of bar staff, and the basis of the show itself.

What is the Weir about, for you?

‘Ahh -this is such a tough question. The Weir is such a multi-layered play that covers so many huge topics – the supernatural, grief, the depopulation of Rural Ireland, love…. the list goes on. At it’s heart I feel the play is about the ways we connect with each other as human beings and how we chose to relate to the natural world around us. Little acts of kindness play a huge role in the script and I really think it is telling us to do those things for others when we possibly can.

Through what training and experiences have you come to be an assistant director at the Sherman?

‘I applied to be the assistant director and had to attend an interview. Before this I have directed my own work and also been an assistant director for various venues and directors. This is my first time working at The Sherman on a main stage production. I studied English and Drama at university, all through my degree and in the two years since graduating I saw as much theatre as possible and tried to meet as many directors as possible to ask their advice on how to do what they do. Before that I was also a critic – a great way to see shows and think about them in a considered and logical way.

A video of Chelsey Gillard and Rachel Williams presenting at the National Rural Touring Forum on Bridgend Young Critics Project.

How did you prepare yourself for the role of assistant director on this piece?

‘I read the play – many, many, many times. I made lots of notes on the play looking for any parts that were of particular interest to me. The play takes place in a bar so I also made notes about who had what drinks and who paid for each round and other details that would be useful in the rehearsal room. As the play is also set in Ireland I did a lot of research about the kind of area the characters live in and the folklore that is mentioned in the play.’

Do you have an impressive ‘bar’ story?

‘Oh, I’m not sure. As a young freelance director I have to sometimes work other jobs to help pay the bills, so I will sometimes work as a bartender for one off events. When I was working at a really posh wedding the father of the bride decided he liked me – as my name is the same as his favourite football team. So thanks to my name I left that wedding with a crate of the most delicious red wine I’ve ever tried as well as a great tip!’

Is there anything specific you have learnt and will take from your time working on this play?

‘I’ve learnt so much watching Rachel O’Riordan the show’s director and Artistic Director of The Sherman Theatre in the rehearsal room – she is just amazing! It’s been great to see how to usefully bring lots of research into the rehearsal process in a way that is useful to the actors. I’ve also never worked on a stage the size of the Sherman main stage so that has been a really good chance to pick up tips on how to make a show feel really intimate even when it’s in a big space.’


Artistic Director of The Sherman Theatre and director of The Weir  Rachel O’Riordan (centre) with the cast of The Weir in rehearsals.

The Weir will be playing at the Sherman until the 22/10/16. It then transfers to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol 25 Oct -05 Nov 2016.

The Weir

Review, Not I and Scorch, Sherman Theatre by Lauren Ellis-Stretch



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

An audience constrained and submerged. Betty Jane Walsh graces a Beckett classic and leaves her audience weightless, like a punch bag.

Admittedly I will confess that until this evening I had never watched or ever read a Samuel Beckett play, so I don’t know if it’s normal to find one’s self in a state of fervent suffocation. Although written in 1972 the date is irrelevant Patricia Logue proves that Not I is timeless, unfortunately.

Walsh relentlessly grasps at a language of ferocity and intention transfixing an audience, enticed by her mouth, for the entire piece. In thirteen minutes we’ve lived a life, however messy and misunderstood – a hurricane of passion slammed into your chest. Not I pierces and cries of that lost, but leaves only an awe for the resilience of a woman.



5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Scorch is electrifying. It alights, and it shocks and it launches you, and it takes no prisoners.

Kessy and Kez are two very different people. Self-confessing and selfless. Simple and complex. True and false. Female and Male. We’re all just chasing happiness. But, what happens when we play within the vortex of a technological stimulated world?

Emma Jordan stimulates a circle of trust and the truth. Congregated around a grey carpet on a black stool, infected by an optimism and energy, Amy McAllister consumed me, as well as entire audience. We smirked and laughed as we saw clarity within the murk of a societal taboo – ‘you’re nodding!’ McAllister rejoiced. Never have I wanted an actor to look me in the eyes more than Amy McAllister. She was fierce without anguish, and she was light without compromise. She is your friend.

Sharp, succinct and slashing in movement. Choreography by Nicola Curry frees and enthrals, but always beats with the raging undercurrent of sexual identity and gender fluidity confessed.

Stacey Gregg’s words run. They drive and they dig and they stick. In the fragmented speech of a teenage stirring, Kez is heard clearly, bound to his knowing of self – dialogue erupts and translates a tale of our generation. Gregg exposes a sheer insignificance of your life, yet grounds and cements you in your very being, all at the same time. If all writers were as generous as Gregg, and all writing was of such sincerity, and humanity, the world might become a better place.

This season at the Sherman has already proved to be epic – don’t miss any of it.