Leslie Herman Jones

Gwanwyn Funds Wales First Hot Tub Salon

Wales first Hot Tub Salon took place on September the 23rd 2017.

The topic: Creative Listening. The event was coordinated by Get The Chance, delivered by Third Act Critics, and presented as part of the Gwanwyn Festival of Creativity for Older People in Wales, funded by Wales Government and the Arts Council of Wales.

Creative Listening followed Advantages of Age successful season of hot tub salons in London. Advantages of Age received funding from Arts Council of England and were recently featured in The Sunday Times and this first event was, for all intents and purposes, the launch of Advantages of Age, Wales. Thanks to Suzanne Noble from Advantages of Age for her support for this first event.

You can read a blog post from Leslie Herman Jones on the background to this first event, here 

In Leslie’s words “We will be a gathering of human beings investing a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in September sitting in and around a hot tub exploring what creative listening means.”

We can share a video of this first event and some of the participants responses below. Many thank to everyone who supported.

What effect, if any, has this Gwanwyn Festival event had on you?

Made me think more imaginatively about how we talk to each other, how we listen – I’m used to using creative activities to engage people so that they feel relaxed and safe and can then discuss harder subjects but a hot tub? Wow. Well outside my comfort zone but it worked!

It was really great to get together with ladies of different ages to share our perspectives on a topic of common interest. It has helped my confidence presenting myself and my take on things to a larger audience. It has also helped my listening skills as so many of us had something to say and share so it was a great opportunity to practice the pause.

This opportunity has stimulated my thinking and encouraged me to rekindle the importance of creativity in my life. Sharing time with like minded people, most of whom I’d not met before, in such an unusual setting, was indeed food for thought! I would say that the event has definitely strengthened my belief in myself as a person who thrives on creativity on a daily basis. Since the event, I feel I have pursued ideas and ventures which might not have happened otherwise.

It made me more aware of the importance of listening and the value and power of being listened to.

It was an incredible experience. It really opened my mind to other ideas, and to be a lot braver.

Please tell us in your own words about your experiences today and how you feel they have benefitted your creativity and wellbeing. If there was any way the event could have been improved please let us know that as well. 

I was initially very uncomfortable with the idea of sitting in a hot tub with strangers – too far fetched for me – but I actually loved it. The meditation piece beforehand was definitely not me but I understand the thinking behind it and the value it might have for others. We needed more time – we just touched on our subjects – there was so much more to say. It was very well facilitated and organised by Lesley; a very professional and accomplished event and I was very pleased to have been a part of it.

As an Aries I am often a person who does a lot of the talking and favours leadership and presentation so it was an interesting challenge to be immersed in this informal group setting to work on my creative listening. I enjoyed the whole event, the hot tub, the lovely new friends I made and the examples they presented of how they use their creative listening skills in their every day lives; which really inspired me to join more groups and take part in more local creative activities. The hot tub was the perfect place to get to know each other and relax so that we could take part in a non-pressurised environment and the snacks and refreshments were wonderful and lovingly prepared. I enjoyed sharing my thoughts on the act of conscious listening and felt that what I had to contribute (metaphysical/esoteric perspective) was well received by most. This was also a great chance for business networking as well as making new friends and improving my health and well being. I think the next session could be a little more structured so each person could bring something they have prepared so that we don’t fall over our words. 

I was naturally a little nervous about exposing my views on creativity and talking openly in a hot tub with people I hadn’t met before. The introduction to the event was well delivered by Leslie and we were put at our ease as she explained the purpose and makeup of the event and what could be expected. We had a getting to know you activity and by the time we entered the hot tub, the atmosphere was relaxed and there was an upbeat sense of expectancy. The physical sensation of the warm bubbly water in the fresh light rainy open air was quite exhilarating and in a very short time, we were relaxed and engaged as a group. The act of speaking and listening flowed well and Leslie facilitated the conversation very efficiently so that everyone had a chance to express views and to engage with one another. She was highly skilled in allowing a relaxed conversation to take place, as well as encouraging focus on the themes of creativity and listening. As a facilitator Leslie was mindful of the timescale and brought the conversation to a natural close. By doing so, there was no doubt that the topic we had begun to explore could be developed and continued and this was a very positive outcome of my experience of the event.

I enjoyed meeting new people and listening to their stories. I felt a bit more alive and stimulated at the end of the experience.

I was so so nervous. And then more nervous! I am not very good at meeting new people even if there are people there I know. I did not know really what to expect but as I arrived I immediately felt I had done the right thing. Leslie was incredibly encouraging, kind and welcoming. I was still feeling uncomfortable during the discussion and ‘meditation’ but it felt similar to going to one of those serious situations where everything seems so serious you just want to laugh and I realised that others too were delving into the unknown.. I say ‘do something that scares you’ to the people I encourage and support in the week, and thought I should self prescribe. It was the fear of wearing.my swimsuit, a fear of sitting in water, very close to load of strangers which actually petrified me, the fear of people looking at me – a fear I have whether in a swimsuit, which I discovered had lost all its elasticity, or fully clothed. But once in pool, after hilarious clambering in a non-lady-like fashion, and supported on the arm of a very good friend with a great sense of humour. The fall of laughter, much of it my own, made me realise that actually I was starting to have a really good time. The focus was actually about being in a hot tub, relaxed and free to discuss creative listening, and god was I focused on listening, rather hoping that the incredibly floating ability of my upper regions would not pull focus. The gander of ladies, incredibly intelligent, bright, charismatic, funny, kind and quirky in and out of the pool made me realise how lucky I was to be there. The discussion took us in a direction I never really felt confident to discuss, but I was, and people were listening. Learning needs thrown to the side, my inability to sometimes get my words out, fear of failure and sounding like a right numpty forgotten, the discussions were helpful, interesting, thought provoking and engaging. The time went too quick and if I was going to make suggestions for the future, make it a whole day experience or even a weekend. I have made new friends, I am starting to look at the world in a different light and if I was going to suggest anything for the future it would be ‘more please!’

Leslie Herman Jones

Iphigenia in Splott, a conversation in text by Leslie R Herman Jones

This response started as a real text convo between me in NYC and Joel (JF) in our home in Adamsdown, Cardiff. It inspired me to continue in this format. Instead of commenting that the language in the play was strong, and potentially offensive to some audiences, the response enters into the spirit of the drama and uses its vernacular. The other person in this scripted response is my daughter Tillie as TJ, who attended the performance with me. – LJ.

LJ: I saw Iphigenia in Splott in NYC on Wednesday night.

JF: What was it about?

LJ: A drunken slag on Clifton St….

JF: Anyone I know?

LJ: Her world; her straight-talking shit-faced attitude.

JF: Was it set in the Clifton pharmacy getting her methadone fix?

LJ: I said a drunk not a druggie.

JF: Oh….

LJ: Her hopes, fears, delusions… how the world impacts on her and she impacts on the world…

JF: What’s her name?

LJ: Iphigenia. Effie for short.

JF: How did it go down?

LJ: New York is a pretty gritty city, you know…

JF: You would know, born and bred there.

LJ: Yes I would. So, I think they got it. Apart from a smattering of laughs in the right places (but not all the right places), Sophie Melville’s Effie silenced the house throughout with her intimidating, in-your-face performance of this real toughie from Splott, Cardiff.  New Yorkers understandably missed a few laughs for  which you’d really have to be there to fully appreciate. As well, some of the micro-cultural and geo-specific references may have gotten lost in translation, but overall the impact was powerful.

JF: And you knows your Caadiff, too, innit love?

LJ: Living in the ‘Diff for 35 years and off Clifton Street for ten of them ? I’ve got the T-shirt, love,… with the distinct privilege of calling The Clifton my local…

JF: We’ve seen a bit down the Clifton…

LJ: I’ve definitely avoided the likes of Effie down Clifton Street, the wounded urban warrior, bruised and battered but still standing; spitting and swearing, daring you and scaring you just by staring at you…..

JF: Yep….

LJ: Melville’s impressive performance as Effie clearly kept the audience gripped — holding on tight while she soared (Bar scene) and sank (Birthing scene) and dragged us ducking and diving through the gutter of her frenzied and high-risk out of control life.

JF: Woa! Who wrote the play?

LJ: Gary Owen.

JF: Fair play. Sounds like she did justice to the part.

LJ: She did, though she may have missed some of the nuances of the authentic Splott voice and persona that are thoroughly embedded in Owen’s script, falling just short of the highest highs and the lowest lows possible with such a tragic figure.

JF: Who directed it?

LJ: Sherman Theatre’s, Artistic Director, Rachel O’Riordan. And quite strategically. The simple set (Hayley Grindle) served this small stage. A few chairs scattered randomly, and a light fixture of fluorescent strip lights, some falling off (Lighting Designer, Rachel Mortimer) reflected a cheap and nasty flat above a shop on Clifton Street.

JF: Grunge chic…

LJ: Charting Effie’s movements across the stage was great sport — if you’re into sports and sporting analogies.

JF: Sure, I could be…

LJ: O’Riorden’s tactical staging cleverly anticipated the high points of the story by directing Effie to, say, shift a chair a number of beats beforehand, then having her double back to start a scene in order to arrive at that chair at just the right point, to score!

JF: lol

LJ: And with a pivot or a dart or a scramble across around and through the Cardiff landscape, satisfying-for-natives references to Cardiff landmarks throughout the script, O’Riordan’s use of this minimalistic set, with zero props, demanded that Melville command the space and permitted the beautifully steely script to tell the story.

JF:Sounds like you enjoyed it.

LJ: TJ cried. It was rather sad, but I didn’t cry.

JF:Why didn’t you?

LJ: I suppose it was all a bit too real. Its was so close to real life, it hurt more physically than emotionally. I ached for a while afterwards.

JF: Come back, Cardiff misses you.

LJ: I’ll be back in August.

Iphigenia in Splott played at 59E59, NYC as part of their Brits Off Broadway season, from 9 May to 4 June.

http://www.59e59.org/moreinfo.php?showid=283

 

Review Yr Ymadawiad/The Passsing by Leslie Herman Jones

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Welsh filmmakers have an advantage over others: world-class landscapes on tap.

Shooting in Wales, filmmakers don’t have to go very far or search very hard to find breathtaking locations that will serve them, are deserving of top billing, and require very little in the way of lighting or design or any other customisation for that matter. Wales’ landscapes can be taken ‘off-the-peg’ and are ‘ready to wear’.

Landscapes in Wales speak volumes, with eloquence, intensity, romanticism, or whatever else filmmakers wish them to evoke; they would speak Welsh if they could. And they give Welsh films signature visuals to be proud of and grateful for, but a film cannot succeed by landscape alone.

The location in Yr Ymadawiad (The Passing, Welsh language with English subtitles, Severn Screen production in association with Boom Pictures) a huge old farmhouse on an expansive plot of remote woodlands in late Autumn/early Winter, is awesome and is captured magnificently (Director, Gareth Bryn; DOP, Richard Stockland; Production Designers, Tim Dickel/Siani Palfrey). With exteriors on tap (apart from the well, perhaps?) the designers were able to focus all their attention on the interiors, which I’m sure required a fair bit of research and deft prop acquisition to make it look and feel like it, too, was found as is. (Unless it was?)

The man we watch with great interest at work in the landscape, his intensity and brutish physique quite profound, adds further grim authenticity. Mark Lewis Jones’s performance as Stanley is consistently strong throughout. The attention to detail in vision and in sound (Composer, Jeremy Holland-Smith credits/Cranc, Post-production sound) are apparent in a way the genre permits; the sound scape works like a treasure map – dropping clues like mad — and the audience excitedly keeps track as they stack up. The amount of time spent on these establishing shots, our prolonged watching of Stanley work and live in exquisite silence, is characteristic of Welsh filmmaking, and the opening scenes are captivating. The absence of the spoken word serves his character well: a simple, lonely and emotionally oppressed man, a man with a secret.

I don’t think the minimalist dialogue serves the other actors or the story in the same way. Use of the fewest possible spoken words seems an intentional stylistic decision (Story, Ed Talfan and Peter Watkins-Hughes), but the combination of this, and other style points — the production’s reliance on landscape; and perhaps, a foreknowledge of Welsh history, and an understanding of its allegorical cultural references to tell the story, hinder the success of the film. Even those in the know want more from a film: they want to hear more, be told more, have to assume less.

Until the other characters, Sara and Dyfan, appear, the film works. Their appearance raises questions. Some are the suspense of the story, others are due to the flaws that impede its flow. Their performances (Annes Elwy as Sara; Dyfan Dwyfor as Iwan) are admirable, but the script does not enable them to fully exhibit their relationship or tell the story. Though beautiful to the eye, as the camera follows with languorous shots, Sara’s passive gazing or her curious meandering though the bare, thick-walled exquisitely-lit rooms, the premise remains unclear for too long, mere snippets of dialogue creating a tension that was less edge of the seat and more an urge for a gear shift. Equally, Iwan’s erratic behaviour raises questions, but the script’s reduced dialogue offers no opportunity for answers, increasingly reducing the impact of the action, and ultimately the pay off.

I was ready to make a lot of space and time for the film as it began to unfold, but I gradually began to feel as though I didn’t want to keep investing in this story because it wasn’t giving. It took too long to get to the point. In all its glory, it languished. The Passing could have been a short.

The Passing is not entirely dissimilar to the collective pool of Welsh films that also treat landscapes, pace, dialogue and storylines this way. Huge credit to film industry professionals whose networks have grown and grown up, taking the Welsh product to a substantially broader marketplace and to the savvy of the producers (Ed Talfan/Kate Crowther) who will have ensured The Passing will be seen on multiple international platforms. I am confident that new audiences will devour it and praise it for the same reasons indigenous audiences are calling for more from Wales’ filmmakers.

“It’s All About the Bus” 3rd Act Critic Leslie Herman Jones on Sherman 5 and access to drama.

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(You know) It’s all about the bus…

When is a bus not a bus? When it’s a cycle bus or a walking bus. Please read on….

Guy O’Donnell coordinates Sherman 5 at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff. This Sherman 5 event supported a group of older people to see Happy Hour (written by Anita Vettesse; directed by Gethin Evans; and part of the Òran Mór series: A Play, A Pie and A Pint); and have a discussion afterwards.

When I pulled up on foot outside of The Sherman Theatre, I saw all these busses (as you do outside of a theatre on a performance day)…. and for some reason, this image resonated. I stored it away inside my writer’s brain, and went inside. And then I learned that when you join Sherman 5, and you book a ticket to see a range of the Sherman Theatre’s productions, you do not have to worry about getting there. Because (you know) it’s all about the bus, you can choose the Sherman 5 coach (which is a bus by another name), or you can choose the walking bus or a cycle bus.

I’d never heard of a walking bus or a cycle bus before now. Walking busses, I have since learned, operate for Sherman 5 family productions; and a lead cyclist will accompany audiences from the four Communities First areas of Cardiff to the theatre on Sherman 5 nights. That’s the Cycle bus. For further information, on this or any aspect of Sherman 5, please contact: –

Guy O’Donnell, Sherman 5 Coordinator, Sherman Cymru.
Tel 07703729079
E-mail guy.odonnell@shermancymru.co.uk
http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/sherman5/

Also steering this bus with Guy were Artistic Associate (and Happy Hour Director) Gethin Evans, and the Sherman’s Creative Learning Associate, Andrew Sterry.

This was an early matinee, 11am on a Thursday. That was just about the most perfect time for this event to occur. Five stars on timing, guys. And, instead of a pie and a pint, a cake and a cuppa were offered – very well received, thanks again!

As a dramatist, I can’t help but find symbolism in everyday occurrences, and like the busses, I knew that somehow the overturned milk jug during the interval would serve me. The play is about a dysfunctional family. ‘The family have gathered in the back room of the pub ready to scatter Dad’s ashes which currently reside in a Nike shoe box. But bitter resentments and long-held grudges might hinder Dad from resting in peace…’ Their ‘stuff’ (like the milk that accidentally spilt all over the Sherman foyer floor during the interval), spills across the pub floor in a tragic and hopeless way, as did the ashes in the penultimate scene….

The only ‘happy’ in this play was in its title. Happy Hour was not an easy play to watch; it left me feeling quite bereft. Personally, I am compelled to seek happy endings or at least a glimmer of hope in my own work; and I prefer to leave the theatre with some sense of promise so, when I asked on the day, I said I didn’t ‘like’ this play. But in retrospect, perhaps its dark rawness was its strength and perhaps it was necessary. (Perhaps Vitesse is writing a sequel? The characters were deep and full, and I was invested in their drama. I cared about them, and would like to know what has happened to them.)

I’d bet that the majority of older people in the audience, if not the world, can relate to family dysfunctionality in one way or another. By the time you’ve reached 50 it’s inescapable to have encountered it in one shape or form. And the discussion afterwards gave voice to their varied experiences. Respectfully, Andrew made the group aware that ‘the language of the Glasgow pub lives and breathes in the piece’. As the discussion again proved, there were not many in the group who hadn’t experienced vulgarity sometime or other in their lifetimes.

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The post show discussion

The happiest part for me was observing an audience of older people at the theatre for a challenging production. The team had considered age and appropriateness, and deemed Happy Hour fit for purpose. They also considered all the logistics and variables to ensure the success of experience. The discussion was well-led by Andrew Sterry, who genuinely made everyone feel welcomed and valued; and the extra added bonus of the STAR Communities Volunteers on site offering hearing-aid testing was a stroke of genius.

Leslie Herman Jones
Third Act Critic
8 December 2015