Sian Thomas

I'm Sian, an aspiring writer and an avid (if not constant) reader. Literature is borderline my lifeline, and it is something I love to pursue in any way, shape, or form, including reviews! So here I am.

Review: Laurie Black Live by Sian Thomas

Seeing Laurie Black: Live was so much fun. Straight away it was easy to tell it was a show perfect for me. Though I could sit quietly in the background and mind my business, I still felt lovingly included and seen. It began relatable and topical and brilliantly on my wavelength.

Her songs had a very specific feel to them. An almost gothic or witchy vibe (which I personally find a lot of fun; I’ve always enjoyed those kinds of aesthetics although I haven’t really lived them) that also rang with a lot of emotion I didn’t expect to find but was glad I was shown, anyway. I kept an interest in them overnight (I’ve found only really good shows do that to me. Sometimes they just end, sometimes I just go home. Other times I keep it in a corner of my mind, look it up online for a little bit longer, dedicated a little more time to finding things out about this. With this show I looked up some other music, I saw the kinds of things sold in the merch store, and I thought ‘yep. This show’s the winner’.). I’m happy to say I’ve found some new songs to listen to.

The participants portion of the show was good! I’m glad I didn’t have to do it myself and I was glad I felt alright blending into the background and just having the opportunity to watch on and see what other people thought, which was really nice! That and, it was more enjoyable watching other people have fun on stage.

The make up was great. It was glow in the dark. Which I didn’t expect to adore, but I did. I thought it was a really nice touch with the rest of the flashing lights and the way the windows of AJ’s Coffee House were blocked out. For an apocalypse show, I thought it was a nice and extravagant detail; the kind of extra mile you definitely couldn’t go if the world was really ending unless you really, really tried.

Laurie Black herself was affable and fun, definitely undeterred in her show, unstoppable in how she created laughs, a supportive and laid back atmosphere, and unquestionably a wonderful performer. It’s always nice to watch people just be themselves on stage, unafraid to swear or mess up or anything else. It was almost cathartic to watch; I wish I could have related. Although I definitely related to some other points during the show – I think those were enough.

This event was the one to mark the end of the fringe festival, so I’m pleased to say I attended to watch it go out with a bang. I’ve had an immensely wonderful time seeing all these different kinds of shows and going to all these different kinds of events. I wait with bated breath to find out what’s coming next year, and I hope I get to experience the same wonderment and awe for my third year in a row. These last two really have been something special; I’ve had fun with the people I’ve gone with and I’ve been able to see shows I wouldn’t have otherwise ever known existed.

I’m voting for Laurie Black: Live for my favourite show, this year. A close second was Camp Be Yourself. Although it will forever remain that the Open Mic Poetry Night is my all time favourite free fringe event, Laurie Black: Live was most definitely my favourite show this year. None of them left quite the lasting effect as this one had.

Sian Thomas

Review: Becoming Human, Pinocchio Retold by Sian Thomas

Seeing Becoming Human: Pinocchio Retold was an experience and a half. The show was abundantly expressive from the very beginning, and remained so the whole night. The vibe was energetic and the atmosphere was apparent and welcoming, and it felt nice to be a part of a show like that.

At first it was loud. I remember wondering whether those downstairs could hear the show and whether or not they would think it was alluring based off of how it sounded, as sound was an important factor to this play. Reminding me somewhat of a show from last year, Stories Of The Silver Tree, sound effects were so viral and also so interestingly done. By a person on the floor (who, honestly, I didn’t notice for a while. I thought it was a recording and that the leafs had amazing timing) but when I found out one person was doing all that right there in the moment, I was moved. I was impressed! The sounds were just as energetic and fun as the story and the characters, and I really did like how it was done. Clever and well executed, to say the least.

Again, the venue was lovely. I’ve got myself quite a fondness for the space above Ten Feet Tall, even if it was stuffy and warm, it still worked to create a wonderful space for a wonderful show. The stage fit the play nicely. There was such a good use of space and imagination to fill in such space where props may have been. I liked that props were hardly used. It drove home the important of the one prop that was used (a small glowing ball to represent a conscious; which I thought was very cool) and worked to inspire an audience to use their imagination even when out to see a show. I thought that was quite a sweet touch. And once more, sound. Projecting into the room nicely and always sure to have an impact. Lastly, the lighting. I like the disco ball. I really do. I’m glad it was used.

Becoming Human: Pinocchio Retold has such a great story, and a really good message. I liked the way string was used to emphasise how our lives intertwine and attach us to one another. The message of growing up and valuing those around you was lovely to see, and a good thing to actively do. Always important. Showing love and fondness I think is sweet and that message was put forward incredibly as the character searched for parental figures and found themselves and went through many changes in such a short space of time.

Lastly, a touch I did really like was the way the actresses went from the story characters (multiple at once, sometimes! A feat, if I say so myself) to people walking us through the story and commenting on the truth of the tale. All I remember from Pinocchio is that Disney covered it, and even then I don’t remember much from that. It was nice to see a rendition of the story that was more accessible and fun, made less for kids and more for people who just wanted to have a fun time.

The Fringe isn’t on for too much longer! I’m hoping that my last few plugs will do well for it, as it deserves as much attention as it gets and even more than that. http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/

Sian Thomas

Review: Open Mic Night by Sian Thomas

The Fringe’s Open Mic Night was my favourite event last year, and it was the very same this year. Last year and this one, this event was a charming little free one; open to all those who want to share and to those who don’t and just feel like watching on. I’m glad all over again that I’ve gotten the chance to attend it, and share my work with a tightly packed room full of people who want to know what it sounds like because they know just what it feels like to write and want to share, too. It’s an event that has me perfectly in my element, enveloped by people who understand so fully what I’m feeling, and that in itself is irreplaceable.
I was lucky, I think, to have found the event during my first Fringe Festival experience last year, and to see it return and to be able to return myself was such a great feeling that there isn’t really a place in me that I can place it. I enjoy the feeling of a homey cafe and a safe atmosphere where there’s no shame in flubbing one’s words or losing one’s place or anything even remotely like that. It really drove down my nerves and calmed me while I was up there, reading out things I’d written that I’d always assumed would only ever be read in one’s (maybe even just my own) head. I had my reservations at first, also, but they were quelled much faster than I expected, and I don’t doubt in the slightest that that’s down to how supportive the mood in the cafe felt, how everyone was rooting for each other.

It was good, definitely, to watch other people get up and prepare themselves and read their own work. It was nice to be a part of that safe and supportive atmosphere and hope that someone else felt I was doing for them what they had done for me. It was nice to see the differences, too; people with one notebook, three notebooks, their phones, or no scripts at all – just them and their heads and all the words inside them. It was nice to watch the mood shift with each person’s piece or pieces. Some were funny, serious, topical, and so on. Everyone was different, and I really liked that.

The hostess, Alice Downing, was just as great this year as she was the last. This event wouldn’t be the same without her, I really believe that. So I’m glad, all over again, that she was there and the perfect person to eject support and a sense of calm into this room full of slightly apprehensive writers.

Most importantly, I had fun. I hope that everyone else did, too.

So much of the Fringe is still happening in these last five days. I myself only have two more events that I can make it to. I’m having fun, it’s been good, and I know it’ll continue to be great. http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/

Sian Thomas

Review: Camp Be Yourself by Sian Thomas

From the get go of this show, Camp Be Yourself, I saw that there was a lovely theatre space being used. I hadn’t been aware of 10 Feet Tall in the first place, nevertheless the kind of atmosphere it was hiding upstairs. A nice rustic feeling to it and it’s plush chairs, I felt like I was in for a good evening in a space so suitably equipped for creating just that. There was an atmosphere that had definitely existed since it was built and decorated in the way it was (disco ball? Rustic looking wooden furniture? Soft blue couches? Dotted around fairy lights? All of those are right up my alley) which had an impact on the feel of the show. What I had expected had been much different or what had been delivered. What I’d thought I’d be seeing was a more sombre or rather, a more serious, at least, show about growing up being oneself in the world where it feels like everything else is more important. I have a tendency to look at dates and times of shows and go, sometimes more than seeing what the show is about first. What was delivered however was so different, but still so good in that different way: two girls running a camp and preparing for a talent show while one finds a passion and the other opens up about her past and they do it in a way that unrelenting in their comedy.

The performance was lively from the very beginning, also, what with leagues of “hello campers!” And “nice! High fives!” going all around the room and making it back to the stage. I thought for a while there would be more audience participation, which lead me down the “oh NO!!!” path I’d been down recently with Fringe shows but quickly overcome, but to my relief I was allowed to sit and kick back and be shown. It was nice, I really think, to be able to watch. And it will also be nice to give them five stars based on things I saw and felt, not on things I did and joined in with. Both of these things are good in their own right, but it was really nice to experience this one after experiencing two bouts of the other.
There was a lot to pick up on, as well. Fun costumes, firstly – that, in all honestly, were exactly what I’d picture for a camp-based story. Yellow t-shirts with a white outline, jeans, those eternal trackies that are somehow always everywhere. Also, bunches and high ponytails, because yeah, of course.
There was such a good use of space and effects! I hadn’t known what the theatre space had looked like beforehand but what it was hadn’t been what I’d expected but it seemed such a good fit for the show. A semicircle(ish) arrangement of seats and a nicely black and white striped wall of the stage, a disco ball (really loved that touch) and an array of lighting choices. A number of songs used, of laughs created, of amazing jokes told.
Five stars are normally used because the book was so good it must be bought or there’s more showings of a performance and I am yelling into the internet hoping someone will take my word for it and go to that other showing. I’ve broken that rule a couple times and given one time things five stars and felt weird about that even though I enjoyed them so heartily it was unbelievable. But I don’t feel bad doing that things time! There is a second showing of Camp Be Yourself, in the very same lovely little theatre space, and I can’t recommend enough going to see it (http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/).
One last thing was that I think it’s wonderful and I think it’s important that this show was two women cracking us all up and how full the seats were, too. I really liked that. It’s nice to see women in all fields, especially comedy. They really hooked me in, that’s all I can really describe about that. I really want to put my kudos forward; I loved the two girls, the energy they had and the laughter they created. I hope the show goes on to do well!

Sian Thomas

Review: Godden And Barnes by Sian Thomas

Coming in to see this live show, to see Godden and Barnes, there was a swelling atmosphere in the Sherman Theatre foyer. A trepidation centring when the piece would begin and exactly what it would entail, because I certainly didn’t know, but I’m glad I went to find out. Gearing up, the microphone (and microphone stand) was used and quickly the height difference between  the two was staggering (and relatable: I’m short, everyone else isn’t. I’ve been told to do my fair share of things and only been able to stare up at them and stare back at the person). I remember that being the moment that I was tipped off and knew I’d be having a fun time.

Audience participation is still (and probably always will be) both spring upon me and terrifying. I’ve said this previously and I’ll probably continue to stand by it based alone on that “oh no what are they doing oh my god what’s happening oh NO” feeling that occurs very quickly. The sudden realisation that I could be up in a crowd unprepared and anxious is so frightening. Which is kind of weird, then, that this time I got up and joined in. I don’t normally do that, but it was nice to. Normally participation like this has an overwhelmingly intimidating feeling to it, but the two did a good job of deflating that tension before it could really arise. So I jumped their taped line and I ran around in a pencil skirt (a feat, if I say so myself) and I danced (ISABELLE IF YOU’RE READING: thank you SO much for being there, helping creating the Fringe, all those things too, but especially for: dancing with me in that moment. I have no idea how to dance and you saved me from what would have definitely been me embarrassing myself. Thank you).
I’m giving this show five stars in the hope that 1) it returns and 2) because it got me out of my seat and the whole time I wasn’t in it I wasn’t acutely terrified – which is also a feat, if I do say so myself.

I normally like to keep myself under wraps at any show. I have a huge preference for staying inside my own head and sorting my own thoughts to be laid out, often in a piece like this, later on in a day or so. I like watching a performance, and bookmarking in my mind how I feel about it. I have, as well, a tendency to look quite blank while I do this (I swear I was enjoying the show, I was just doing this, and I was shy about laughing too loud in the foyer that could have echoed if I’d have let loose).  I also wasn’t aware that some of my favourite jokes must be impressions but based on the noise I made when I heard an impression of Owen Wilson’s “Wow” (something I already find funny, mind you, because I’m young and know that that is a popular joke) must make it true.

The two used the space they had really well. I didn’t even know the foyer in the Sherman had a balcony that could be used in the way that they used it. It made me think that the show itself must have to be quite flexible and the placement quite malleable in order for things to work in the order that they did the night I saw how it would flow.This production was also just an hour long (another easy thing to give! Just a slice of time reserved for the laughs we all need) It felt like a lot less; I heard myself say “Oh?” When they told us they were done (the time that they meant it, though).
The Fringe will press on in good time, continuing to carry shows I’m excited to see. (http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/).

I was sorry to hear that the show will be stopped for a little while, but I’m sure enough that it’s for a good reason and will yield good results for the future. I hope that whenever the show returns, I might be able to see it again, and enjoy it all over again.

Sian Thomas

Review: Just A Few Words by Stammermouth by Sian Thomas

Yesterday I attended my first official 2018 Fringe Festival event, knowing based on last year and based on the Fringe Cafes that I would have a wonderful time – and I did. This festival already means quite a lot to me, so to be able to kick off its return again this year was a very visceral feeling that was nothing but positive. I was excited, and I was ready to go in straight away.

Just A Few Words was a show that I wanted to see because every aspect looked appealing; seemed short and sweet, seemed like the venue was in a good place, seemed like it was going to be funny with a quietly serious undertone – something I would realise later in the night the Fringe seems good at picking up. That alone was nice, a story with laughs and jokes layered thinly over something a little more hearty and gripping.

My first thought when watching the play was that there was a lot of realness to it. The talent and skill on stage was real and easily spotted; good techniques like idiosyncrasies and a swing in moods that rose the audience up and settled us back down in the right places for the mood. I value that a lot more than I think I really did; the ability to really touch my heart with a script and a practiced performance rather than having it just be “oh, I saw a play.”.

A really fun medium was used, too! One I haven’t experienced before. The Fringe must do this well, too, as I have fond memories of a fun medium used in Stories Of The Silver Tree from last year. This one, rather than audio, was cards. Things the audience could read, that played well as jokes and dialogue and what felt like a whole other character. It was different in a way that suits the Festival well; new and upcoming and hopefully does well for itself. An interesting take like this deserves to go further than what was our little theatre and a charmingly mismatched set of chairs and church pews. There was also audience participation! Which was sprung on me and terrifying (two things it always seems to be), but as it was pushed more and more I got a little more into it (and a lot more thankful for whoever was more confident than me and could lead me into it). I never expect audience participation to be singing, also, but there we all were: chiming in and harmonising and then some. The show had a nice runtime (just an hour! An easy thing to give) which made me see how the Fringe isn’t demanding of its guests. Everything is lax, and feels safe. The atmosphere at these events always feels good, and I always feel a little bit more included and integrated into the theatre scene when I go, so I’m excited to keep going! All in all, the evening had a wonderful vibe to it. A good feeling of artsy-ness and a good balance between safety and trying boundaries. After all, the story seemed to show that: trying fervently to say ‘I love you’ when the stammer itself prevents that and it’s easier to say nothing or to talk how you already know to.

I had fun, at the end of the day. I really did enjoy myself there. I know these reviews are important because feedback always is and I cannot hammer home hard enough that my feedback is positive and I hope with so much of my heart that these kind of plays and these kind of events never worm their way out of our lives. They’re important, and they make me happy. I’m giving it five stars, and I don’t think that’s a surprise.

There are so many more events coming over the two week period of the Fringe Festival, and I’m already excited for so many of them now my own attendance of it has finally truly kicked off! My next will be Live Show #1, at the Sherman Theatre, and I’m looking forward to it and going in with high hopes I don’t think will be dashed any time soon!

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/ 

Sian Thomas

Review Cardiff Fringe Theatre Cafe by Sian Thomas

I went to a handful of Fringe events last year, and I was very efficiently swept up into that kind of theatre world. The Fringe Cafes, as well as the majority of the Fringe festival events themselves, have a very specific kind of feeling to them. One that I firstly associate with summer, since that’s when the festival really kicks off, and another that’s associated with quiet fun.
Not too jam-packed, and neither too empty that it could be kind of awkward, last night’s Fringe Cafe managed to achieve a really good balance and really open a door to a good night in a room full of people who were minded like me; who love theatre and jokes and that same quiet fun.

The night consisted of two acts and a quiz. The acts were good; performed well and low-key, the kind where there was no shame in flubbed words or coughs and honestly, I really liked that. It ties back into the vibe of the festival; it’s safe, and there’s a supportive feeling all throughout it. I was more partial to the second act, though. Both were monologues, but I did have more fun listening to the second. Something about it was a little more accessible; the trials of dating and trying to have a good time except you don’t have any money. I enjoyed it!

Admittedly, the quiz was my favourite. It made me the right kind of nervous when answers were being called out, and the right kind of excited when prizes came into the picture. It was fun to take a break; to enjoy the time with who I went with and be posed questions I definitely did not know the answer to at all, and ended up guessing (we still won a prize though, which was nice!).
I had a really great night; I enjoyed myself a lot and I was so glad I went to experience this last Fringe Cafe before the festival really kicks off!

I’m so sincerely looking forward to the rest of the events I can attend. I had an astounding time last year and I’m already sure I’ll have a brilliant time this year, too. This festival very quickly became very meaningful to me, and based on last night, I’m sure that’ll stay the same for this year.

I’m particularly excited for the open mic night at Deli Rouge on June 10th. I went to this event last summer and had such a wonderful time and it was there that my confidence had a huge boost. I’m very indulgently hoping that the same will happen this year, and I’m looking forward to hear the kinds of things people have written this year, to see if improvements make themselves known to my ears.

I’m happy the festival is back. I really am. Please, go to it. Enjoy yourselves as much as I have and as much as I am sure that I will.
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Sian Thomas

 

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella by Sian Thomas

 

(5 / 5)

Last March I was lucky enough to have a relative key me into ballet. I saw Matthew Bourne’s “The Red Shoes”, and when I was invited to see his take on Cinderella, I already knew I was bound to have a wonderful time – and I did. Though The Red Shoes will always harbour a soft spot in my heart because it was my first ballet, I think it’s safe to say I liked this one much more. First of all, as a novice, I think it’s pretty important that this time, I knew what was going on. The story of Cinderella does not escape me even as it harbours a few changes (like being set in London 1940 and having a war theme, and Cinderella’s family being bigger than I remembered).

Costumes were incredible, and I think by “costumes” I mean “Cinderella’s dress”, because if we’re being honest, I was excited to see what it would look like as an audience member, rather than in pictures and pamphlet photos. And it was stunning; truly. Even her costume before the dance was lovely. I’m always a fan of flowing skirts and dresses, so seeing the way they moved as people danced was such a treat to my eyes. So, in that vein, the dancing was incredible. Still, a year later I don’t know much (or anything) about ballet or dancing in general and my eyes continue to be unaware of mistakes and unable to form any critiques (not that I have any at all, actually).

When I left The Red Shoes, I remember I came out on a high, as if I could suddenly redirect my life even though it was 10pm and I would be going home to bed afterwards. The same high followed me out of the theatre after Cinderella. An odd kind of high, one that left me sitting quietly and thinking and reflecting and just trying to figure out what words I would use to really show how much I loved this performance. I couldn’t find many. It’s definitely a “you have to see it to understand” kind of thing (which is why I’m going a step further to place some links here: in case anyone becomes interested in going).

Five stars because it really was wonderful and I’d love to see it again and I know I would enjoy it just as thoroughly every single time.

Review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay by Sian Thomas

I’ve recently finished The Witches of New York by Ami McKay. For quite some time, the book was the base of my “Big Pile of Books I Need to Read” – purely because it was the largest one. I thought it intimidating at first – I hadn’t expected it to be the size that it was. However, by the time I reached the end, I found myself wishing that it was longer. The book has potential, I do believe, but I’ll get to that later.

For a while now, stories with a strong aesthetic have appealed to me more than stories with some unfathomably-mind-blowing plot twist that I never asked to be on the other end of. This book, this style of writing, was right up my alley that it and I more or less lived in the same block of flats. It was so gorgeous – all this talk about a tea shop, girls, style, soft magic, attraction (straight and gay). Even the way littler things would be described; colour, cups, plants, glass, feathers on a bird, silk of a dress, the appearance of ghosts. All of it just seemed to constantly scream out for me, and it was what I enjoyed about the book the most. I have things that agree with me, the things I find pretty or such, and this book just seemed full of them. I love the way a tea shop exists; quiet and usually more than meets the eye (as was the case here). I love little glass bottles filled with things like glitter or seeds (as was, also, the case). I love small keys, things kept on a chain because of how important they are, I love different blends of teas that all, above having their own flavour, seem to also have their own meanings. There just seemed to be so much care and effort put into every little detail with this book, and I really loved that.

The characters and the story both I’ve decided not to go into very much. The characters, Eleanor, Adelaide, and Beatrice, were all intrinsic, individualistic, and all in all, just quite lovable. I’d rather people went into the unravelling of both them and the plot blind, but I will say: I did enjoy it; the story was gripping and the characters were lovely. It touched on a lot of things I like (amongst the already incredible scenery and the like) and I relate to: the subtle fear of pushy men that every girl seems to know and knows how to combat, the camaraderie of women. While intriguing, it wasn’t too fast. It really was enjoyable. I think a lot of people all sorts of ages would enjoy this book.

Back to potential: the book has it. Ending happily, but with just enough of a nudge in some characters direction, I feel like I did certainly have closure, but just a tiny smidgen of it was withheld. I suppose I may have become fond of stories with a neat little bow wrapped around them and then encased behind glass for the rest of time. That’s on me, I do think, but you’d catch me picking up a copy of any book that would follow at the heels of this one, that’s for sure.

Review: Gaslight by Eloise Williams by Sian Thomas

I read Gaslight by Eloise Williams recently. What pulled me to it was definitely the setting – I love a story set somewhere I was born, somewhere I continue to be (and probably will remain – I’m certainly happy for that to be the case). Cardiff has a history, it has looked so many different ways, been so many different things (which can continue to be true as we all trudge through time together). I really did enjoy experiencing it in the Victorian Era. Something about knowing my home completely differently while I also have the pleasure of following a story was lovely.

This may be a peculiar thing to lead off with, but I really liked the line under the title on the cover of the book: “Have you seen her?”. Sometimes words strike a chord with me; this did. I like the mood this seems to create from the very get-go. The book does have quite the atmospheric feel to it. From cover to cover, there’s something enchanting about the intricacies of the character and the setting she resides in. “Have you seen her?” makes me feel as if I should be looking; as if hints of the character (Nansi) or other characters or even of this version of Cardiff’s past are still all over the place, waiting for the kind of attention only I can give them, because I’m already where they were. Something about that, that co-existence, is pleasing.

The story itself I don’t want to spoil, but the allure of a theatre story (definitely with some other things thrown in) in this era was a good combination. It was nice to imagine, and it was just as nice to be led into imagining it and down the path of the story. There was a moment I liked in particular; Nansi steals a piece of sea glass for a show, and during the show that piece of sea glass is used to really sell an act. The way the audience’s rapture is described, and the way the ploy plays out and the anxiety and nerves of Nansi’s surrounding it, was always a scene that had me hooked because of how easy it was to get lost in it, to become enraptured myself.

I think the book is good for a lot of ages. I enjoyed it, and I’m sure that relatives my age or younger (or older!) would, too. There is something about a young person’s endeavours (in this case, Nansi discovering the truth of her mother’s disappearance and her family in general) and watching them grow from their starting point of “clueless” to a stronger character with an ending to be proud of. It’s nice in a sense, to watch someone grow like this. To watch a character stand up for people who can’t, to stand up against people she hadn’t dreamt of standing up to before. I am immensely pleased to hear that Gaslight won the Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year 2017 award. Being good for all sorts of ages, and a story of fair intrigue, I’d say it did deserve it – and the four stars I give it.