Rhys Payne

Review Robin Hood, Cardiff Players By Rhys Payne

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

We recently attended the opening night of Robin Hood the pantomime performed by Cardiff Players in the YMCA and it was everything and more that you would expect from a community pantomime! 

All production images Sanne Rietveld

The thing with any pantomime, specifically this one, is that the more you personally get involved and accept it for what it is the more you will enjoy the show.  When the show opened I was taken back by the over-the-top-ness of the show but as time passed and I gave myself over to its crazy nature I actually had a really enjoyable evening filled with constant laughs and so much audience participation. Robin Hood was classic community theatre at its finest with every person having lines to say/ something to do in the show which is obviously great to watch and, I imagine, even better to be a part of.  It’s fantastic to see ever person being used because fundamentally theatre is all about people having something to do and feeling involved which Cardiff Players did excellently.

It was very clear that this was the opening night of this production as a there was a constant feeling of opening night nerves. We did have some points where actors had forgotten lines and had to be cued by the backstage team who were off-stage. Although this is not usually what you expect in production, it was great to see the other actors on stage helping each other and working through it. Also due to the nature of pantomime, this is more expectable just because of the fun nature of the show. I believe on any other night this would not have happened as it was clear the actor had worked really hard and knew his lines but it was a shame this happened. Also, there was a hook placed on the side of the stage where a hat was supposed to be hung except this didn’t happen and the hat fell to the ground. This again was a shame but the everyone worked through it really well and played it off really well which showed that everyone had a massive sense of professionalism and were experienced performers.

This show followed the classic pantomime traits and brought all the fun/campiness of this style of performance. It had tremendous amounts of audience participation which was incredibly fun. We had the classic “He’s behind you” and “Oh yes he is” call-outs from the audience but at times it was difficult to gauge what the actors expected the audience to shout out. As an audience member, there were certain points where I was unsure of what the correct thing to shout out for the call outs. Also, there was a very embarrassing moment where I thought the actors were asking the audience to get involved with a joke so I shouted out the punch line but this was not supposed to be an audience involvement section. This meant I trampled on the actors next line but if I got confused then I believe many other audience members will also get confused. It must be made more clear by the actors when and where audience participation is desired otherwise more awkward moments like this one will occur. But the awkwardness of this was not all the actors fault as the audience also share some of the blame. Obviously, pantomimes are designed for children however there was not a single child in the audience which obviously clashed with the nature of the show. Despite this, I did hear my favourite ever call-our from any show I have ever seen when the audience was asked: “Where did Maid Marion go?” And someone in the audience replied “Stage right I think” which had the entire audience rolling in laughter from the rest of the scene.  

One of the highlight in this show was the role of Simon Scowl (which is a very clever and hilarious name for a pantomime villain which the writer should be proud of) /The Sheriff Of Nottingham played by William John Richardson who was just the perfect pantomime villain. He was evil and grumpy in that over-the-top way and was almost a caricature of every villain ever which was very enjoyable to watch. He performed excellently and managed to banter with the audience in a smooth and excellent way. This role included a hilarious rendition of “bad guy” by Billie Eilish which was both a really clever choice of song (due to this character being the “bad guy”) but also hilariously funny which had the audience in fits of laughter throughout. 

The other highlight in this show was Nurse Norma Snockers (again incredible name of this character) who was played by Jordan Forse. This was the equivalent of the dame in classic pantomime as this a character in drag. Jordan delivered such a camp and over-the-top performance which fitted perfectly with the nature of the show. He is an extremely talented performer who had the audience in laughter whenever he was in the stage. I actually spent the majority of the show looking forward to the next time he was on stage as he was that excellent and hilarious! At the end of the show, Jordan actually sang and he had an incredible voice and wish there was more of opportunity for him to showcase this talent. What was brilliant about this character is that every time he graced the stage the beginning of the song “Girls just wanna have fun” was played which fitted this character to a tee. 

The role of Peter Pan was played Elinor Howe which obviously honoured the pantomime tradition of Peter Pan being played by a female performer. Elinor is clearly an extremely talented dancer and one pure showcase of this was during a scene in which where Maid Marion was singing “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars and Elinor performed a stunning ballet routine as a shadow which was beautiful to watch. This was excellently performed but also was a credit to the technical team who were able to execute the shadow casting excellently. The show opened with rhyming introduction spoken by the fairy LouLou (played by Catrin Maid Griffiths) who managed to perfectly encapsulate the fantastic and mythical nature of the role. However, she does have to be cautious about the pace of her speeches as sometimes jokes were given enough time for the audience to appreciate what was being said. Apart from this minor issue, Catrin was excellent in this role. What I was extremely surprised by in this show was the role of Friar Tuck who was played by Chris England. During a scene, Chris walked out holding a violin and at first, I was expecting him to do the ridiculous mining that so many productions are doing at the moment. But to my surprise, he actually played the violin live which was incredible to see someone showcasing a skill that is rarely seen. This is a unique moment that very few shows actually utilise which makes this show actually stand out from the others I have seen.

Overall, this was a classic community pantomime that allowed everyone to feel involved and showcased many unique skills that were not just classic performance-based ones. It was hilariously funny and fabulously fun which is perfect for an evening entertaining young children. I would rate this performance 3 stars and would encourage parents to take the young children to see this show as it is entertaining for all ages! 

Review Ghost, Kinetic School of Performing Arts by Rhys Payne

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

I walked into Kinetic Theatre Arts performance of Ghosts knowing very little about the story. I obviously knew it was based on the movie which involved Patrick Swayze and I was familiar with the iconic pottery with a ghost scene but apart from that, I knew nothing. So I was really excited to watch this production and it did not disappoint. In fact, this show was one of the most professional feeling amateur shows that I have ever seen. Every single person who was involved in this show clearly worked extremely hard to make sure everything was perfectly ready for the audience to watch.

The lead character of Sam Wheat is a massive role to take on especially in this musical as it was played in the movie by the legend Patrick Swayze, on top of this in the musical it is a very difficult part to perform as the vocal ability required is very high but Jack Williams (who played this character in Kinetics performance) did seem fazed in the slightest. He was boldly confident throughout, stayed in character constantly while on stage, his singing was amazing and he also appeared to have a great relationship with all the other cast members which was clear to the audience through the dynamics on stage. He clearly has a bright future ahead of him and is some to look out for as I know he will make it big someday. The only issue I have with this character is not based on Jack’s portrayal but rather a creative decision. There was a guitar on stage which was used for the song ‘Unchained Melody’ and while I understand the importance of guitar playing in this song it was quite distracting for the actor to be mining playing the guitar. This is not an issue with jacks acting as he tried very hard to make this look as realistic as possible but it was clear it wasn’t him playing which was very off-putting for the audience.

Molly who was Sams love interest in this story was played by Sophie baker who blew everyone away with her incredible singing. She posses an extremely strong powerful voice and was able to manipulate the audience’s emotions perfectly. One of the stand moments for this character appeared in the song “With You” which was a pure showcase of Sophie singing talent. It was beautifully performed and had many audience members very close to tears. Despite the power of Sophie’s voice, she was also able to balance the more vulnerable and weaker side of character excellently. Jack and Sophie clearly have great chemistry as there two characters gave a realistic and believable performance as a couple which was fantastic to watch. There duet ‘Here Right Now’ was impeccable. The voices blended beautifully together to deliver this emotionally charged song in a way that it was heartfelt and felt real to the audience which is obviously very important for any performer.

Sam and Molly’s closest friend in this story is a character called Carl who was played by Taylor Morris who is also an extremely talented performer. Taylor has a kind and lovable air to him which he utilised in this character perfectly and made the shocking revelations even more impactful. The partnership of Taylor and Jack was clearly very strong and they have wonderful chemistry with their friendship clear to see on the stage. Their two voice combined beautifully in songs which they appeared together and they are I excitedly wait for another production was these two stars in the making get to work together again. Taylor managed to portray both sides of the character perfectly as well as having the internal plucky desperation that fitted his character to a tee. This role played on every one of Taylor’s strengths and he seemed to excel in a darker role than I am used to seeing him in. With this in mind, I am excited to see where he ends up and look forward to seeing him play some more sinister roles specifically in the future.

The highlight in this show was Oda-mae who was played by Rhian Holmes. I have to be honest at first I was apprehensive of the iconic role (originally played by the remarkable Whoopi Goldberg) being adapted to fit the cast available but Rhian’s portrayal was OUT OF THIS WORLD! The creative team who developed the scene in which Oda-mae makes her big entrance absolutely nailed it. This scene did everything it needed to and more. From the inclusion of two sparkly dresses support actresses (Taylor-Paul and jasmine Muscat) to the choreography, costumes to Rhian’s actual physicalisation of the character everything was just so spot on. This character goes on a journey from the audience perspective from a clear fraud and theft to a loveable character by the end of the story and this is done, I believe mostly through her songs. Songs such as ‘Out of Here’ and ‘Do you Believe?’ were excellently performed by Rhian who had the audience laughing through with her quick wit and sarcastic nature as well as demonstrating here wonderful singing. Rhian is clearly a very talented and professional performer as there was a small mistake with a prop and instead of her letting that put her off, she simply continued the scene, swiftly turned her back to the audience when the prop was in use which many people in the audience would not have noticed something was wrong which goes to demonstrate Rhian quick thinking and professionalism. Ignoring the performance side of this character he best thing about Rhian’s portrayal was that she was evidently enjoying her time on stage and was having fun in the role. She had a sensible sense of joy and fun which was the icing of the top of this wonderful cake.

Lewys Ringham’s portrayal as the hired hand/thug Willie Lopez was extremely good that it was actually unsettling for the audience when he appeared on stage. He provides one of the most shocking moments in the entire show which had an audible gasp from the audience. My only qualm with this character is that is was clearly written for a Mexican influenced actor with the vocabulary and vernacular clearly demonstrating that but instead in this version, Willie spoke with a Brooklyn accent which obviously adds to the threading nature of the role but was a bit surprising to listen to. The subway ghost in this production was played by Ethan Davies who also gave a very aggressive and intense portrayal of the character. Due to the costume and characterisation, this roles did give off Neo (from The Matrix franchise) vibes which actually worked excellently. His song ‘Focus’ was very entertaining to watch while also being very tense which is very difficult to do and show Ethan’s talent for performing. In general, the entire show contained a superb ensemble who clearly worked just as hard as and felt just as valued as the lead roles.

I was surprised at how an amateur  production can feel so professional and nail all the technical aspects of this massive show. The opening set of a newly discovered room was incredible. It was everything it needed to be to demonstrate a room while looking artistic and stylish. This amazing set did, however, make some of the other backdrops of the scene a little disappointing but the standard raised again during the official based scenes. The set used for the scenes that take place in a train was beautiful and allowed the actors to have a space to perform complex fight scenes while the audience can clearly see they took place in a train. This was again incredible to see. The actual death of the characters were somewhat confusing. After they died they were carried off by mysterious men in black which were cleverly done but the actual deaths were unusual. Each person had a sort of body double (although they looked nothing like the person they were supposed to represent) and when a character died the body double has become a dead body and the original actor would become a ghost. While I understand why this was done and I personally can’t think of a better alternative, this was very confusing to follow for the audience. We also had someone who was evidently missing a prop at the beginning of act two and while they didn’t appear dazed and they continued the number anyway, it was clear a prop was missing which did look strange from the audience perspective.

In general, this is an incredible show that had a truly professional feel, and Insanely talented cast and obviously an insane team working behind the scenes. There isn’t many amateur productions that I have seen where the cast receive a standing ovation from every member of the audience. I would rate this show 4 and a half stars and would recommend everyone to watch ghost before it departs and keep an eye out of Kinetics next production as they are not to be missed!

Review Heaven On Their Minds at Christmas by Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Having seen the last heaven on their minds concert the bar was set very high and this show did not disappoint. The fantastic thig about this show is was that it was just like a traditional Christmas service with every single performer visably having a good time and we’re excited to share their passion for Christmas with everyone who attended.

This show opened with fantastic group rendition of “Its Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” which was an incredible way to start the show due to what the song is about. On top of this, the harmonic singing towards the end of the song was beautifully performed and gave the audience goosebumps. This was the perfect way to start the show and help inform the audience that they are in for a night of incredible singing. My only issue with this song was that there was a point where one of the performers sang the wrong lyrics and the other performers were visibly confused which was obviously unsettling for the audience. When I watched their last production I commented on the fact that the group numbers weren’t as polished as the solo performances, this wasn’t the case in this show. The group numbers in this show were of a much higher standard and even rivalled the solo performances which shows how well these performers work together but also how talented they each are individually which makes for a much more enjoyable viewing experience.

A highlight in this production for me was ‘Silent Night’ which was another group song but they had creatively performed his song in Welsh, English and signed the words. Not only was this song beautifully sang but the inclusion of these different mediums was incredibly heartwarming and moving. This could have been a perfect way to end the entire show but instead, it was closed by ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Fun Run Rudolf’ which was again beautifully performed but I think the emotional nature of Silent Night would have really helped punctuate the Christmas spirit of the show. Unlike the previous show, this performance contained a small amount of dance and small amounts of acting that set up songs. I think that this was at time unnecessary as it was a concert and it’s not what people expected. Don’t get me wrong they were entertaining but these theatrics were at times distracting from the songs and really the singing should remain the focus of the show. 

All performers in this show were insanely talented and were a joy to watch due to their passion for sharing the Christmas spirit. Nicky Taliesin was one of the performers I had never heard before this concert but he clearly has a great future ahead of himself. He clearly had the most Christmas spirit out of the performance and had a massive sense of joy which made his performance even more enjoyable to watch. Nicky performed an extremely Christmassy rendition of ‘Belief’ from Polar Express, which is a song I personally had never heard of but has now been added to my Christmas playlist due to the stellar performance by Nicky. He also performed one of my personal favourite Christmas songs ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ which was amazing to listen to. 

Nicky and Ben-Joseph Smith performed a playful version of ‘Santa Baby’ with the two voices contrasting each other and on stage banter which joined together to create a very enjoyable and fun song to witness. Ben was another talented performer who seemed to excel in the duets including ‘ Santa Baby’ and ‘Cold Outside’ the matter of which he performed with Harriet Taylor. The only issue with the latter was it contained a lot of theatrics which distracted from the performance at times. But the sound of these two performers singing together was out of this world. They clearly have great on and off-stage chemistry which really worked well with the nature of this song. 

Harriet performed took on the massive task of performing the Iconic Christmas hit ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ by Mariah Carey, which is a massive song to take on and Harriet did not appear phased at all. She performed this song in a unique and interesting way which was great to see.  Another new performer that I had never experienced before was Chloe Rolland who is an extremely talented performer and again has a great career ahead of her.  Chloe helped deliver some witty and entertaining anecdotes between songs but also performed one of the best rendition of ‘Oh Holy Night’ I have ever heard.

Although the signing in this show was as near perfect as possible it was clear that this was not the main purpose of the show. The majority of the songs in this show were popular songs everyone knew, even with a singalong of White Christmas at the end of the show, this alongside the theatrics demonstrates that this show was all about generating Christmas feeling and having the audience to be overcome with emotions which it most defintley did. This was an amazing show that did exactly what it needed to while also being a showcase of talent and I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars! I would encourage people to keep an eye on ’Heaven on Their Minds’ as it is a show not to miss and is clearly destined for great things in the future!

Review Lovecraft (not the sex shop in cardiff), Carys Eleri- By Rhys Payne

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Walking into Fresh at the Wales Millennium Centre, I had no idea what to expect from the show titled Lovecraft. Strangely the thing that sprung to mind was that it is a sex shop (I have heard!) located in Cardiff which was a joke repeated many times throughout this show. However, this isn’t just crude and hilarious show but also carries a very important message about combatting loneliness which is an issue that affects many, many people even today.

This show was co-produced by Carys Eleri alongside Wales Millennium Centre themselves. Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff) is a one women show that was ‘hosted’ as such by Carys herself. She was an incredibly awesome host as she possesses a very loveable and friendly personality which the audience instantly warm to. The material within the show was relatable to all ages (above about 16) as she discusses issues such as relationships, alcohol and social media which made every single member of the audience, despite their age, feel as if Carys was talking directly to them and talking about issues they may have ever experienced. This was very clever and helped to make the comical aspects of the show even more hilarious as it was all based on real-life experiences. She delivered these touches of humour moments excellently but also managed to carefully manipulate the mood the incorporate the more serious and important messages of the show such as relationships going wrong and loneliness etc.

This show does contain very strong language, mature themes and sexual references which means it is not appropriate for children and also young audience members may not relate to the messages of the show as much as more mature members of the audience would. Some of these ideas were portrayed through song which is, in my opinion, very unusual but in this case, it worked excellently. Obviously many of these songs were comical but Carys has an incredible voice and so it was actually marvellous to listen to the singing itself instead of just the lyrics. Carys is clearly a very talented performer and she managed to develop a way to showcase her skills excellently in this show without it seeming like she is showing off which was great. In fact, the album of the songs is available across all music streaming platforms so if you want to have a listen just search for Lovecraft and have a listen.

The combination of hilarity and musicality of this show makes it an excellent choice if you are looking for someone to watch of your next girls night as it would be a fantastic thing to watch with a group of friendship and you can even grab a bottle of wine in the bar to complete the evening.

What was also unique about this show was that towards the beginning the audience were encouraged to turn to the person next to them and give them a hug as a way to test the chemical reactions in the brain and also towards the middle of the show the audience were each given a piece of lint chocolate. Both of these things are things I have never experienced before and helped add to the uniqueness of this show.

All that I knew about this show is that it had been performed at the Adelaide fringe festival and it is clear this show has been designed accordingly. The ‘set’ is simply two screens and a microphone but Carys has a huge sense of stage presence which means that anything else would be a distraction. This makes the show very easy to transport and your around and one day I hope to see a huge nationwide tour of this production as it is a unique show that everyone (age-appropriate) needs to see. As well as being hilarious and musical it is also somewhat educational. It was billed as the ‘science musical about love’ like it at certain points teaches the audience about the chemicals involved in love and how they are caused etc. This was something I did not know before walking into this show as so it was an educational experience for me personally.

Overall this is an incredibly uniquely hilarious musical that is unlike anything I have ever seen before with a fantastically talented host and moments of education. If you are interested in a comedy musical journey through love then this is the show for you. I would rate this as 4 and a half stars out of 5 and would recommend it as your next girls night out show. This show will be in the Millennium on the 29th and there will be a special welsh version of the show on the 30th so I would encourage you to catch it if you can!

Review Les Misérables, Cameron Mackintosh, Wales Millenium Centre By Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Many people have said that you can’t call yourself a true musical theatre fan unless you have seen Les Miserables and I have to be honest I watched the movie for the first time two weeks ago and while that was good, this production at the Wales Millennium Centre knocks spots off the classic film. The show managed to touch on many keys moments from the film for people who are only familiar to Les Mis through the film (myself included) but also managed to alter it enough as a stage show to be different to the other versions going around.

The thing about this show is that most people have heard of it or seen it and as there have been so many adaptations and versions the bar is already set very high. But still there manages to be a massive excitement about the show, inside the actual theatre you could feel the excitement in the air before the show even started and even during the interval. After the show, there was a massive buzz that every single person could feel. It says a lot about a show where every single person in the audience gives a standing ovation at the end. Like the film, this musical is an opera and so there is no dialogue in the entire show but instead, the whole thing is sung. This is obviously a fantastic way to promote this genre as many people say “I hate opera” but at the same time ignore musicals such as Les Mis and Jesus Christ Superstar as operas. Seeing an opera in mainstream musical ‘world’ is obviously great and it may encourage people to watch other operas when they can.

One of my criticism for the film is that the time frames are at times hard to follow (I enjoy laughing about this fact in the film, every time I looked at the screen Hugh Jackman was a different age) but this stage version managed to make this one setting easy to follow. When the opening show discusses the backgrounds of certain characters, there was a blackout with the title ‘Les Miserable’ spread across the backdrop sort of like there would be in a film etc. This was obviously done to signify that the opening scene took place before the main part of the story and allows the audience to take in key and important details that will reappear later in the show. I never thought that Les Mis would be a very tech-based show as I thought it was just about authentic drama and singing but the effects they used specifically in this production were incredible. Some key technical aspects to look for in the show were how they managed to excellently stage the gunshots with lights, how a certain iconic suicide is staged and the use of high-raise buildings on stage. These buildings were flawlessly used to help cover the scene changes that happened while other scenes were taking place which was a genius way to keep the show going while also being beautiful to watch.

Every member of the cast was fantastic in this production and a special appreciation needs to give to the ensemble of this performance who clearly worked very hard both acting and singing was to support the key characters. The choruses singing was amazing and really helped to add to the drama of the show. A lot of the pressure was set on the shoulders of Dean Chisnall who took on the role of Jean Valjean as this is one of the most important roles in this musical but Dean seemed to reveal in this pressure and turned out an excellent performance. His voice was incredible throughout but a highlight for me was ‘Bring Him Home’ which was so powerfully performed that many of the audience members were moved to tears. He also managed to portray the various stages of this character perfectly including the later part of his life which shows Dean’s range of acting ability.

Marius is the character which is Supposed in love and Pursuing the daughter of Jean Valjean. This character was played by the fresh-faced Felix Mosse who fitted the role perfectly. He has a massive sense of naivety, innocence and likability about him which is perfect for the love-hungry character. Also, Felix has a youngish appearance which worked really well with this character who is apparently a student. Not only this but yet again Felix was a very talented singer who performed songs such as ‘Empty Chairs, Empty Tables’ both incredibly heartfelt and beautifully. His duet of ‘little fall of rain’ alongside Frances Mayli McCain (who played Eponine) was incredibly emotional to watch and these two clearly have great chemistry on and off stage. Felix Mosse is an actor who I look forward to seeing in future productions as I believe he has a very bright future in the performing industry. Nic Greenshields, who played Javert was absolutely incredible. His physicalisation as Javert was perfect as it showed his sense of superiority over the rest of the villagers. His voice was that of an authoritative person but also he managed to blend to the desperation of the character beautifully. Nic clearly has a high level of professionalism and experience which he truest showcased in this role. The highlight of his character, however, was their singing inability. ‘Stars’ was out of this world! It was beautifully performed with a strong sense of power behind it. Nic excelled in this role and I cannot wait to see where he end up in the performing world as he clearly has massive talent.

The two gems in this performance were Thenardier and his wife (who were played Ian Hughes and Helen Walsh respectively) who delivered many of the comical moments in this show. There were hilarious throughout and didn’t miss a single joke which can be very difficult in musical. ‘Master of the House’ was an excellent number that was not only performed excellently but also involved an astonishing sleight of hand tricks which wowed even me. The quick movement of and stealing of objects was a marvel to watch and clearly they had worked hard to make this scene as smooth and flawless as possible which should be applauded. Also, the musical number ‘Beggars at the Feast’ was also performed by this double act which they performed excellently while wearing the most elaborate and over the top costumes I have ever seen.

Overall this was a near-flawless introduction into the musical world of Les Miserable and it is definitely a musical that I would watch again if I had the chance. This is a show that loves drama and delivers it by the bucket full throughout so if you are into that sort of show them this is definitely one for you. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars.

Review Behind the label, Theatre Versus Oppression and Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Behind The Label is a production by Theatre Versus Oppression supported by both the Wallich charity and Wales Millennium Centre itself (which is where this production was held) is a very important piece of awareness of important issues that anyone can face.

The name in itself is an incredible creative decision. The show is called ‘Behind The Label’ and it is about a group of people who are judged and many people have negative pre-convinced ideas about. But by these people telling their real stories, they are portrayed as normal everyday people who have gotten into bad situations (like anyone can) it is literally exploring the people ‘behind the label’s. This is defiantly not a family-friendly show and is clearly targeted at a more mature audience due to the nature of this show. It includes references to addictions, sex and drug use as well as very strong language.

The show is about a group of people who share their stories of how they ended up homeless but also discusses how some of them ended up in prison, addicted to drugs etc. There are only a few ‘characters’ in this show (namely the air hostess) but everyone one is simply playing themselves and talking about their personal experiences. These are normal everyday people who have lived through horrendous experiences and helps the audience understand how easy it is to end up in similar situations and that it isn’t always necessarily the individual’s fault/choice.

One of the many ideas people nowadays about homeless people is that’s it’s their choice and that they are doing it just for the money but this show aims to dispel those types of myths. This show defiantly gives a voice to those who are literally and figuratively ignored both in real life and in theatre by allowing people who have actually experienced these things to talk about everything that happened. Because of the real-ness of the narratives, this is an incredibly moving and emotional show that had the audience and even members of the cast in tears. However, the whole show isn’t all serious and deep there was a very hilarious sketch that occurred as a replacement for in-flight entertainment. They used a massive projection screen (which they also used to show interview-style scene) to show a recording of the exact same cast on stage recreating the iconic Britney Spears song ‘Toxic’ while this was hilariously funny, it also worked really well due to the lyrics relating to the nature of the show.

At first, I thought the fact that this play was set on a plane with the name ‘Easy Inject’ was really strange. But after a while, this became very clear. Many things in the show related to the plan such as not belonging as you don’t have a ticket, taking a leap of faith and actually the Toxic video was historically also set on a plane. This inclusion was a very clever way to transition from story to story as were all of the tying together key ideas in the show. The other unusual thing about this show is that from my perspective the script didn’t particularly matter as it was about each individual story rather than a bigger overarching narrative. In fact, that was a moment towards the end of the show where one actor forgot their lines and someone else helped them on stage which didn’t take anything away from the show in the slightest.

The issue I had with this show was not at all the cast or the creative team but rather with the audience. During the production, I watched there was a member of the audience who decided to shout empowering messages throughout. While I understand being incredibly moved by the stories being told, I do think that this was distracting for the other audience members and clearly put off some of the cast. Ignoring this though, overall this is an incredibly important piece of theatre that is all about giving a voice to the voiceless. It did everything it needed to do and had the audience feeling the full range of emotions. I would rate this play 5 out of 5 stars and would encourage people who interested in how theatre can be used to empower people, to catch this show before it’s gone!

Review Heaven on their minds, Calvary Baptist Church By Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This is the best concert-style show that I have ever seen in my entire life! This was an incredible show vocally but on top of this everything about the show was well throughout and planned. Ben Smith who organised this event had a very clear idea for the type of show he wanted and was able to execute this perfectly.

This show ran inside Calvary Baptist Church which firstly provided a beautiful backdrop for each singer. Secondly the whole premise of this concert was songs that had a connection to religion whether this was through lyrics or songs from musicals that have religious connections (eg Joseph, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar etc.) having a concept that ties together the whole show just makes for a consistent, easy-to-watch show that the audience can follow in a logical way. Ben had come up with a very clever theme for the that allowed a wide selection of songs to be sung as well as being relevant to the venue itself which is incredibly clever.

The name itself together tied the two ideas of ‘church’ and musical theatre as ‘Heaven on Their Mind’ is a song from the faith-based musical Jesus Christ Superstar which is again the entire concept of the show. I can’t express how impressed I am with Ben and the other organisers who managed to come up with this incredible branding and theme of the night as it is tremendously clever so they should be proud of this. Despite the importance of musical theatre in this night, it was made explicitly clear that this is not a musical theatre night. The show had a mixture of songs from popular shows that everyone would know to shows even the most theatre crazed people would struggle to name. Some people there would know all the musicals the songs are from as some would know none and so it was not a celebration of musical theatre rather the overall concept of the show being executed. Even those you had never heard of a musical would be able to enjoy the songs which made the show more accessible to a greater range of people.

The standard in this show was already incredibly high set from the opening number from Godspell and it seemed to just increase constantly as the show progressed. In a non-competitive way, each performer appeared to listen to the previous song and then try and top it which helped to keep the audience engaged. Every person was amazing and managed to play perfectly to their strength and so the person who chose the songs should be proud they were able to fit the songs to every singer so perfectly. This was like a west-end level show for the price of a local show, actually, this show was higher quality than many of the west-end professional shows I have seen. The talent was only aspirated as the focus was solely on the performer and their vocals. This show had no dancing, no props, no fancy lights and no MC instead the focus was just on the singers and so each person was able to fully showcase their ability and amazing talent. Even from a non-performance aspect, each individual was dressed in their smartest attire which helped elevate the event and made the audience feel as if they are witnessing an exclusive and high-calibre event (which they were.) I am not sure if this a part of a stated ‘uniform’ as such but if so, then this worked as it should have and gave the right effect to this effect while still making it visually accessible to everyone.

Ben-Joseph Smith, who is a recent graduate from the Welsh academy of music and drama, sang the opening solo of this show which was a beautiful city from the musical Godspell. This song was sung beautifully and he managed to blend the softness and intensity of the song in the most perfect way. Later on, we had a section from Les Mis where Ben sang a very intense version of Stars which again sounded incredible.

Simon Jennings, who is a pastor and worship leader based in Eden Church Penarth also graced the stage with his operatic and powerful voice. His Rendition of Close every door to me from Joseph and his amazing technicolour dream coat was incredibly moving and in fact, I was in tears by the end of it. Being able to create such strong feeling from this song is an incredible act and only goes to show Simon’s talent and ability. Simon also was involved in the Les Mis section were he sung Bring him Home which is perfectly in his skill set. His powerful voice worked perfectly within this song and he was able to easily achieve the range of this song. He also covered a song I didn’t know about titled ‘why God why’ from Miss Saigon which is a song that I now have to listen to more as it is so moving and relevant in today’s society.

The biggest highlight for me was the rendition of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar which was sung by Ashley. Ashley is known for recently playing Jesus Christ in Everyman Cardiff’s open-air festival which is regrettably missed this year. To cover such an iconic and difficult song is a very big task but Ashley seemed to not even flinch at this mammoth song. I have listened to a wide range of people covering this song from local people singing a somewhat shaky version to Ben Forester in the arena tour to John Legend in the most recent adaptation but this cover was the best I had even heard. He blew spots off even the most established and professional performers who had taken on this role and he received a standing ovation from the crowd which is even more astonishing as it was the end of act one. Ashley visibly poured everything into this performance which led to an out of this world cover. This song on its own was worth more than the price of admission and now I am devastated that I missed JCS over the summer.

The opening group number from Godspell was a little shaky as people did look visibly uncertain about entrances and parts etc but it was so bad that it affected the show. In my personal opinion, the solos in this show we’re better than those in groups or duets etc as it allowed each person to fully showcase their skills and so possibly next time this should be the focus. Also, there were a few tedious links within this show to tie the theme of the show and the actual songs sang such as certain songs from Les Mis as it contains the words ‘God’ in them but this is a tiny issue that can be sanded out possibly in the next show.

Overall this is a phenomenal concert that demonstrated the skills and talents of each performer which led to a fantastic evening of performances. In all honesty, I would probably prefer to return to this event over many of the professional shows I have seen. The show itself was well thought out and constructed which was the ‘icing’ on the already ‘incredible cake’ which helped with constancy from the audience. If this show returns with a similar cast I would strongly recommend you buy a ticket as it an evening of West-end quality singing for a fraction of the price. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars and would give it 6 out of 5 stars if this was possible.

Review Playhouse creatures, Everyman Theatre By Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Playhouse Creatures, which landed at Chapter Arts Centre and will remain there until the 26th October, is an interesting play that follows the lives of the first women to be involved with English theatre after Charles the second became King and reinstated theatre in mainstream life. This is a very clever play which is influenced by and includes references to Shakespearean classic theatre which give the play multiple layers which makes it very interesting for the audience. As this was a play all about women being ‘allowed’ to participate in the theatrical arts the show contained an all-female cast which is fantastic. What complicates this play is there are men involved in the story but they never actually appear. The focus of this play is on these women, so I think this creative choice to not have any male actors in the scenes helps with the female centred theme of the show and is fantastic.

The staging of this show mostly stayed the same throughout, which again helps keep the focus on these women, the set involved a ‘stage’ on the stage. The story gets a little complicated as it follows these women as they perform in plays. This means from the audience perspective they are watching a play within in a play and the reason for the stage on a stage was to allow the play-caption to occur in an easy to follow the way from the audience. On top of this, cleverly the light designers had devised a light arrangement to again signify the difference between the ‘audience’s play’ and the ‘actors play.’ As the lights were constant throughout the whole play, the lightening and creative team have done something clever that benefitted the experience of the audience.

Another, lighting design that was significant was the lights during the witching scene towards the end of act one. This scene was incredibly scary and the red lights were incredibly striking and unsettling which was fantastic. The colour ‘red’ itself shows danger but the same effect was used during fire scenes which were again very clever. The costumes used in this play were amazing. Not only were they visibly appealing and looked nice but also they blended traditionally female costumes with conceptual ideas of the thoughts of women in theatre at the time. One of the underlying ideas of the play was that women were objectified and seen as something people can try to take home and have their way with. The way they managed to combine all these ideas is insanely clever and so the costume team on this production should be proud of this. This idea helped inspired the companies branding and advertising for the show itself. On the programmes, there is a corset which helps carry the female-centric show and the sexualisation of women (through clothing) which fits perfectly with the show.

Most of the characters in this play are based on real-life actresses of the time which helps with the authentic feel of the show. Nell Gwynn, who is based on Elanor Gwynne who was a long-time mistress of Charles the 2nd, who was played in this production by Lucinda Curley who played a relatable and common character.

Doll Common is the only character who is not inspired by real-life people but in my opinion, was one of the best characters in this play. This character was played by Linda Vickers who debatably was the strongest person in the play. While being the most common character (as the name suggests) she also created the majority of the comical moments in the play which had the audience rolling in laughter. Linda nailed every aspect of the character and fitted the role perfectly.

Mrs Rebecca Marshal, who was played by Sarah Green in this play, is based on the sister Anne and Rebecca Marshal who famously had many issues with ‘annoying men in her audience.’ Mrs Marshal carried a fan for the majority of play which fitted the character perfectly. This prop managed to combine the sass and fierceness of the character which was an excellent choice. Having seen Sarah Green take on many iconic roles such as Carries Mother in Carrie the musical and Gladys Pugh in He-De-Hi at the Cardiff Open Air festival, I am constantly astonished by Sarah acting talent and her ability to portray contrasting characters perfectly.

The other roles of Mrs Elizabeth Farley and Mrs Mary Betterton (played by Robyn Hough and Sarah Bawler) helped to portray the greatest character progression who the involvement of real-life and relatable issues. The former had a very emotional scene in which she talked directly to the audience which was delivered so strongly and demonstrated Robyn’s acting talent.

Overall, this is a historic play that gives a voice to people who we often forget about. Having discussed in length in University about the reinstating of theatre and the ‘allowing’ of women in theatre, I have never thought about the struggle and issues the founding women would have faced and so in that regard this is a unique play. It is cleverly written and performed by an incredibly talented cast which also demonstrated the power of theatre.

Review Meet Fred, Hijinx Theatre by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Having never seen a Hijinx theatre production before I was very excited to watch ‘Meet Fred’ in the Sherman Theatre. What I realise about Hinjinx as a company is that they know how to do theatre in its purest form with an important emphasis of inclusivity which is fantastic to watch. Meet Fred itself is a deeply layered piece of theatre which allows the audience to read into the story as much or as little as they want to.

The story follows Fred who through the story realises they are a puppet but what he wants is to be is a regular guy. In the story, he is threatened with the loss of his PLA (Puppet Living Allowance) and this causes his ‘life’ to spiral out of control. Because of this, the play includes some very mature scenes and very strong language making it not appropriate for a younger audience.

The clever thing about this play is that as Fred is aware he is a puppet he becomes aware of his puppeteers, the Director etc which means when they include references to the audience or when the actors attempt fourth wall break it makes logical sense which makes a much more enjoyable watch.

This play showcased the traditional Japanese form of puppetry called Bunkraku. I was constantly surprised at the skills of ventriloquism and how the puppeteers expressed emotion which is especially astonishing as the puppet is completely blank with no face. The talented puppeteers (Llyr Williams and Nick Haliwell and especially the voice of Fred, Bryn Fitch) were able to perfectly physicalise the puppets emotions and bring Fred truly to life. Puppetry is a very difficult skill especially if you are an actor as the traditional forms of expression are not applicable but the performers didn’t seem to struggle at all which is a testament to their skill and talent.

Hijinx is a theatre company that focus on inclusivity of theatre and this play demonstrated that perfectly. To start with there was a BSL interpreter on the stage throughout which is where other theatre company would stop but Hijinx went a lot further. One of the highlights in this show for me was Martin (played by Gareth John) who played the Stage Manager. As stated in the Directors notes, he has Down Syndrome, he was one of the funniest roles in this show and also tugged in the audience heartstrings during the more emotional parts of the show. He managed to manipulate the audience emotions perfectly which shows his life acting talent. It’s not just the people in the show that show how the story aims to improve inclusivity.

A very important message that many people might have missed is the importance of the puppeteers in the message of the play. The puppeteers help Fred live his life and it is an obvious reference to dependence many people with disabilities have on others. The inclusion of PLA (Puppetry Living Allowance) as obviously a play in words of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) which again only adds to the reference of disability and inclusion. Another nice touch was the inclusion of stage management as an on-stage role which brings this often unnoticed role into the spotlight is beneficial for those in the backstage crew (myself included.)

Overall this was an incredible piece of conceptual theatre that contained a strong sense of inclusivity. Feeling many different emotions throughout and showcased a relatively unknown art form. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars and cannot wait to see what Hijinx will produce in the future.

Review Entrée, Jose Pedro Fortuna By Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In a one-person performance, there is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the actor as the whole narrative is told through them and they have to keep the audience engaged and enthused. Which is clearly very difficult but Jose Pedro Fortuna didn’t seem to even hesitate in his one-man production of Entree performed at USW Atrium Theatre.

The plot of this play was pretty simple as it was about a master of ceremonies going to deliver some sort of speech. But as he gets ready start to go wrong and hilarity ensues. This shows a modern and contemporary interpretation of the classic art form of clowning by using magic tricks (which were incredible and mind-blowing to watch) and sound effects. One of the highlights of this concept was a trick where Pedro made a dropped card float from the floor to the top of a ladder where he was stood. This art form (clowning) is fundamentally very comical and Pedro also included traditionally physical theatre tropes such as being stuck in a curtain, the constant dropping of his bow-tie and misplacing props to create a piece of theatre that respected the tradition of clowning while also bringing it to the 21st century.

Pedro decided to make some other creative decisions such as having no dialogue in the entire play, a focus on physical comedy and having it be a nice easy production to watch. Because of all this and the nature of this show, I think the show would work better as a dinner time entertainment in a fancy restaurant rather than in a theatre as a play. Pedro has devised this play so that it built in a logical and natural way. Each prop was introduced in its own sketch before being included in the final set up which was really nice to watch. As a performer, Pedro was entertaining and jovial but also as a magician he was able to manipulate the audience attention and focus so he could perform his sleight of hand trick and certain comedy skits which worked excellently. It was especially fantastic to see the blending of magic and theatre which was a unique blend that I personally had never seen before but I definitely want to see explored again in the future.

This was a thirty-minute show which only added to how easy it was to catch. There were discussions about expanding it to an hour show in the future. This clearly shows how the play is in a sort of developmental phase. On top of this there were feedback forms handed out to find out what the audience enjoyed or not but also a Q and A at the end of the show (which was a fantastic idea as it allowed the audience to find out about the show making process etc) during this we found out that some aspects of the show are improvised and also that Pedro introduces new skills and tricks in different performances. This all means that no two shows of Entree are the same which makes it a very exciting piece of theatre.

In conclusion, Entree is a modern piece of clowning that had the audience laughing throughout. It is a unique show that is one not to miss. I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars. Entree is a really entertaining piece of theatre that’s shows a side of clowning that many people have not seen before.