Category Archives: Art

The Get the Chance 2019 Cultural Highlights

Sian Thomas

1) http://getthechance.wales/2019/10/30/review-heartsong-by-tj-klune-by-sian-thomas/. I was so excited for this book to come out and it really delivered. It’s on one of my favourite series with an exceptional way of world building and atmosphere, and the way the characters act towards each other and their surroundings is incredible. It’s funny, loving, and full of action, and I love it.

2) http://getthechance.wales/2019/05/02/review-every-word-you-cannot-say-by-iain-thomas-by-sian-thomas/. Another amazing book from Iain Thomas. Also it’s very new and different! Bright, too. Since the I Wrote This For You collection all have white/grey colour schemes, this one being bright blue was a lovely change. I adore it – it’s got some really powerful words in it, too.

3) http://getthechance.wales/2019/03/02/review-how-to-train-your-dragon-3-by-sian-thomas/. End of an era! I loved this series when I was in my early teens and kept a close hold of it all the way until the end. I cried when I saw it in the cinema, at the end, when Hiccup and Toothless went their separate ways and then saw each other again a good number of years later. An amazing film about people and creatures and their relationships. Also, visually stunning. Animation is a top tier medium.

Personal: I finished my first year of university this year, and did so well in my classes that the university gave me a cash prize. There was a chance for people to win £1000 by getting a really good mark for their first year, and I had no idea about it until I received an email saying I’d won. Which was amazing news! It made me really proud of my both my actual work and my work ethic from the first year. It was a big academic confidence boost!

Barbara Michaels

With such a cornucopia of goodies on offer theatre-wise during the past year, it isn’t easy to single out just three.  For my money, two of these have to be musical theatre productions: Kinky Boots and Les Misérables, both staged in the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre.

First on my list has to be Les Misérables.  Cameron Mackintosh’s production, first staged almost a decade ago to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Les Mis, once again proved what a sure-fire winner it is. Grand theatre at its best, top of the tree for music, lyrics, storyline et al.  A privilege to watch, all presented by a multi-talented cast, among them Welsh actor Ian Hughes as a nimble-footed Thenardier who brought the audience to its feet on opening night with his uproariously funny rendering of Master of the House. 

Closely followed, I must admit by Kinky Boots which was, start to finish, a joy to watch.  So much more than “Just another musical,” it has at its heart a subject which nowadays is treated in most cases empathetically but which was by any means the case only a few short years ago.  I refer to transgender. Kinky Boots tackles this head on, with the occasional heartbreak mixed with the fun and verve which is characteristic of this amazing show, all dished out by a superb cast.

On to number three – also at the WMC, home of Welsh National Opera who once again proved what a top-notch company they are with their new production of Bizet’s Carmen. An operatic sizzler with wonderful music, the story of the torrid but doomed relationship of the gypsy girl Carmen and her solder lover is given a contemporary twist by director Jo Davies which works brilliantly, with the added advantage of French being the native tongue of mezzo soprano Virginie Verrez in the title role. With the mesmeric Habanera in Act I, wonderful music and at times gut-wrenching libretto, this Carmen is proof – if, indeed, proof was needed – that a new slant on an old favourite can actually work.

And now to the best “Cultural experience.”  I am going to go off piste here, for to my mind it has to be the film Solomon and Gaenor, given a twentieth anniversary screening at Chapter with the film’s writer/director Paul Morrison, producer Sheryl Crown and leading lady Nia Roberts on stage afterwards for a Q and A.  The Oscar-nominated and BAFTA award-winning film, with dialogue in Welsh, English and Yiddish, set in the Valleys back in the time of the Tredegar riots, tells the story of forbidden love between a young Jewish peddler and a young girl from a strict Chapel going family. 

Pinpointing how attitudes have changed, despite still – as Morrison commented during the discussion afterwards – having a way to go, Solomon and Gaenor, shown as part of the Jewish Film Festival, is riveting from start to finish in a drama that is upfront and unique in its presentation.

Barbara Elin

2019 was a brilliant year for Welsh theatre, a real abundance of riches across the stages of Cardiff. American Idiot started off the year with a bang, Peter Pan Goes Wrong brought comedic chaos, and Curtains brought the kind of vintage charm you can only usually find among the bright lights of Broadway and the West End. Narrowing it down is a tricky task, but there were a few shows that stood out among the rest for me…

#3: The Creature (Chapter Arts Centre)

In what daily seems like an increasingly unkind, apathetic world, The Creature was a beam of hope in a dark time that didn’t shy away from trauma or tragedy but which held with it the promise of a better future – if we fight for it. It seemed perfectly tailored to me and my research interests – a modern take on the criminal justice system via a pseudo-Frankenstein adaptation, it hooked into my soul and still hasn’t let go. I’m eagerly anticipating the future endeavours of this fantastic creative team.

#2: Cardiff Does Christmas – Cinderella (New Theatre) and The Snow Queen (Sherman Theatre)

The Christmas shows this year were the best I’ve had the privilege of seeing in quite some time. Cinderella was the show that reignited my long-dormant love of panto and saw the season in with festive cheer, while Sherman Theatre’s The Snow Queen was brimming with Christmas magic and a sweet tale of friendship, courage, and the fight against seemingly-insurmountable odds – a message we could all use about now.

#1: Hedda Gabler (Sherman Theatre)

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that the Sherman is the soul of contemporary Welsh theatre – consistently producing creative, fascinating and timely plays ‘rooted in Wales but relevant to the world’, as AD Joe Murphy said of his artistic vision. Their staging of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler was an utterly stunning adaptation that haunts me to this day – and Prof Ambreena Manji and I were blessed to be able to bring our Law and Literature students to the production as we’re studying the text this year. You know it’s a roaring success when the students want to write their coursework on Hedda!

Reviewing for Get the Chance has been my cultural highlight, which includes being continually in awe of the kindness and generosity of the Sherman, New Theatre and Chapter: the future of Welsh Theatre is in good hands indeed!

Losing Home, My 2019 Highlight, Les Misérables, Eva Marloes


As 2019 comes to a close, so vanishes the last hope of stopping Brexit. It is decided. Parliament has agreed our ‘divorce’ from the EU. Some feel elated, some relieved, some dejected. The morning after the 2016’s referendum, some people in Britain woke up and felt stripped of their very identity. The EU question was never about rules and regulations, trade agreements or sovereignty; it was about identity. In the political debate, only the Leave side appealed to identity. The European identity of many Remainers was and still largely is neglected. This is what makes Mathilde Lopez’s interpretation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables so poignant. It gave voice to the emotional attachment to the EU some people have always felt or have begun to feel once that belonging came under threat.

The beauty of Lopez’s take on Hugo’s masterpiece lies in interweaving the ‘small’ lives of individuals with the ‘big’ events of history. It is personal and political. It speaks of today by reaching into the past. With Les Misérables, Lopez brings together the battle of Brexit with that of Waterloo. It is a tragi-comedy that makes the lives of ordinary people part of history. Amidst the blood of Waterloo, the crisps devoured while listening to the referendum results, and the summer music of holiday-makers, we experienced the banality and significance of the Brexit decision.

The play was fun and moving. It was original, innovative, and thoughtful. It wasn’t perfect and wasn’t the best show I’ve seen in 2019 (that should go to WNO’s Rigoletto), but it was the most significant of what the country is going through. By mixing the escapism of the holiday feel with the horror of Waterloo and the shock of people watching the referendum results coming in, Les Misérables captures the closeness and distance we feel when caught in events of historical significance.

In one night, something changed radically. For European citizens in Britain, Brexit has created insecurity about their status, brought extra costs to get documentation that might allow them to stay, and has made them vulnerable to attack and insults. They don’t belong. The nostalgic identity the ideologues of Brexit have conjured is too narrow and homogeneous for some British people too. They too don’t belong. As Britain seeks to close its borders and refashion a nationalistic identity, some of us have lost their home.

In my review of Lopez’s Les Misérables, I wrote that the play appealed to faith, hope, and love. It was an acceptance of defeat without despair, a search for strength in love, not distance. Hugo described Waterloo as ‘the beginning of the defeat.’ As the first phase of Brexit concludes, it is tempting to use Hugo’s words for Brexit as the defeat of the dream of an inclusive and welcoming society, but it is not over. Nostalgia is incapable of meeting the challenge of the present, let alone of envisioning a future. That is for us to do. It is for all of us to imagine our future and rebuild our home. It begins now.

(My behind the scene article on the production Les Misérables can be found here)

Rhys Payne

Bodyguard at The WMC

The biggest and boldest production I have ever seen with music that has become iconic.

Meet Fred, Hijinx Theatre Company

A fantastic piece of theatre thy showed the true meaning of inclusivity while also showing an unique art form of puppeteering.

Stammer Mouth

A fantastic and modern piece of theatre that literally gave a voice to someone who doesn’t have one.


Gareth Williams


Pavilion, Theatr Clwyd 

A sharp and witty ode to small town Wales, Emily White has produced a great piece of engaging drama out of the mundane, the everyday. With recognisable characters brought to life by a hugely talented cast, this represents an excellent debut for a Welsh writer whose talent is sure to be noticed. 

35 Awr 

Writer Fflur Dafydd continues to demonstrate why she is one of Wales’ foremost scriptwriters with this intriguing mystery drama. Her intimate characterisation and weaving narrative kept viewers gripped right to final moments of its eight-part run.


Anorac

A really important and culturally significant film, providing a fascinating insight into the Welsh language music scene. Huw Stephens deserves huge credit for spearheading it. I urge you to see it if you can’.

Samuel Longville

Cotton Fingers, NTW by Rachel Trezise and On Bear Ridge, NTW by Ed Thomas, both at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. Having returned from University in Brighton this year, it was brilliant to see the Sherman Theatre flourishing as much as it was when I left Cardiff 3 years ago. The detail that went into Cai Dyfan’s set design for On Bear Ridge was incredible to witness. His level of craftsmanship, often only found in commercial and west end theatres, was a delight to see on a smaller, regional stage.

Meanwhile, a more stripped back Cotton Fingers let its script do all the talking and was skill-fully delivered by actor Amy Molloy.

Shout out must go to Katherine Chandler for her play Lose Yourself, also at the Sherman Theatre. Although I did not review this play, it was definitely one of my highlights of 2019. Gut-wrenching for all the right reasons, its finale left the audience silent. I’ll never forget heaviness in the air at the end of play felt by everyone in the audience who just experienced something very important together.

Personal cultural event of 2019: Slowthai at Glastonbury – never before have I been so instantly hooked on an artist I’ve never listened to before. The way he riled up the crowd with his boisterous, unapologetic stagemanship was incredible to witness and I haven’t stopped listening to him since.

Richard Evans

Christmas Carol, Theatr Clwyd

A thoroughly enjoyable interactive performance that communicated much of what Dickens intended yet had a lightness of touch, an impish humour and a sense of occasion that made it well suited to a Christmas show.

Yes Prime Minister,Theatr Clwyd

Review HamletMachine Volcano Theatre By Lois Arcari

For anyone who is inclined to believe they’re not a fan of performance art, Hamlet Machine is not a baptism of fire, but a baptism of dirt and UV lighting. I’ll start off with the good parts. The way that the company transformed Volcano’s space was simply amazing, sets changing sometimes only half an hour after their debut dressing.

Particularly impressive were the more overtly interactive spaces.

This is where the play shines, immersing yourself in world of the playwright and putting the audience inside the fishbowl of spectatorship. When it works, it lifts to the show to something far livelier than the sum of its parts. The set and script prompt you to respond directly to the actors at various points, poke holes in the play’s logic or simply try to position yourself with more power.

One thing I was sceptical of was the fact that the actors were occasionally instructed to touch the audience. While personally I only found it momentarily irritating it’s easy to show imagine some people reacting badly to it in an already sensory assaulting show. I’m not fundamentally against it – but the fact that there was no prior warning isn’t entirely sensible.

The decision to allow audiences to bring in their drinks to the show was also badly thought out – even if you don’t spill your drinks onto the floor of the interactive sets, you’ll feel them churn with discomfort throughout the play.

The actors were all superb in each of their facets, their voices blending with intermittent physicality. You could believe every turn of despair and mundanity. As a chorus, however, individual talents are lost in the repeated chant.

And in the script itself. The scatological reprises got stale quickly. The ultra-metaphor became bland just at the point of discerning meaning.

While the story behind the story is incredibly moving – a harrowed survivor of WW2 and post war Germany, anything truly profound is buried in the bluntly hammered points. For something created to shock and question, it’s a shame that I can remember no standout lines or even phrases. (Except for one which caused my eyes to roll.)

While the play is meant to represent a total loss of innocence, the absurdity is childlike in itself. Oddly enough, the play generated more goodwill as a deconstruction of creative work than as a meditation on cruelty. Somehow the sheer reach diluted the horror, from profound to merely irritating.   

The theatre of the absurd is often loved but I was struggling to decide whether the audience’s intermittent laughter was out of shrewd appreciation or sheer manic exhaustion with the show.

Quite possibly both.

I think the small ‘introductory tour’ that we had before the play would have been much better positioned afterwards, to give a more enriched sense of context, and the opportunity to grapple with it in somewhat ‘real time.’ An enhanced sense of conversation might have generated more appreciation for the play.

To give the play its credit, I’ve researched the reception to other staging’s of the play and the bare text. While a significant majority of critics have given the live play rave reviews, the reception of the bare text is somewhat oddly more tepid. Leave this one to those audiences who will enjoy the fruitless task of interpretation more than they hope to enjoy the play itself. The rest of us, uncultured as we are, are probably better off sitting at the bar.

An interview with Artist Jeannie Clarke

Hi Jeannie, so what got you interested in the arts?

I have been drawing and painting ever since I was a child – and I went to a Grammar school where the only subject I excelled in was Art – so it was inevitable that I would go on to try to make a career in the Arts somehow!!

You are fairly new to drawing and painting contemporary dance, can you tell us more about your work in this area?

For a time my professional work was centred around racehorses – As a child I was obsessed with drawing and painting them and especially the way they moved. I have always been interested in the human figure too – not particularly portraiture but the figure itself, especially in movement.

Only a year ago I was invited to a National Dance Company Wales, Open Rehearsal in London where the company were rehearsing for a show that night – that was my introduction into seeing dancers at work and I have been trying to capture my response ever since!

How has your relationship with National Dance Company Wales developed?

Well, I think I am hooked! Since that first encounter with the dancers I have worked almost exclusively on studying the way they “work”, whether they are resting or rehearsing and have been fortunate to be able to come to Cardiff and spend some days with them in the studio sketching and photographing and in particular I am building up a body of work depicting their production of “Rygbi” which I hope to exhibit next year, fingers crossed…The dancers themselves are hugely enthusiastic and supportive of what I do and are genuinely intrigued to see what I produce. As for me, I am completely in awe of what they do – obviously!!

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for artists?

Hm… for artists? I haven’t personally hit any barriers in that sphere. I was a teacher in mainstream education many years ago before I left to pursue a career in commercial art. but I am sure that my own involvement with the art world has placed me in a bubble which has shielded me from exposure to barriers and I am sure they DO exist.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts what would this be and why?

For some years after I left mainstream art teaching, I worked with children and young adults who had special needs and varying disabilities (as they were then called)… Our art and creativity sessions were a joy! Hugely beneficial but hugely underfunded and undervalued and certainly would get money!!

What excites you about the arts ?

Wow, where to start!……how much space have I got?….Lets put creativity, in whatever form, back into peoples lives! … Its transformative and life enriching…..

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

You mean apart from watching the dancers from National Dance Company Wales almost flying across the stage so beautifully and bringing me to tears……it don’t get much better than that!    

National Dance Company Wales are touring Roots to venues across Wales this autumn.

Mold Theatr Clwyd Thursday 7 November 2019, 19:45 BOOK

Friday 8 November 2019, 19:45 BOOK

Cardiff Dance HouseTuesday 12 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Wednesday 13 November 2019, 13:00 BOOK

Wednesday 13 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Thursday 14 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Blackwood Miners Institute Tuesday 19 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Ystradgynlais The WelfareThursday 21 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Narberth The Queens Hall Friday 22 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Aberdyfi Neuadd Dyfi Sunday 24 November 2019, 19:30 01654767251

Caernarfon Galeri Tuesday 26 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Pwllheli Neuadd Dwyfor Wednesday 27 November 2019, 19:30BOOK

Review : Coma, Darkfield By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What would you do, what CAN you do when you can only hear your surroundings but lack the power to help?

Coma by Darkfield, one of their many shipping container immersive experiences, engulfs us in an idea of medically induced coma states, while other frightening and disturbing things happen around us, completely out of our control.

Darkfield are very good at creating experiences that mainly function on the power of persuasion, listening to a narrative and following our own imagination. But equally, what happens in our heads, can be just as disturbing.

In a clinical yet odd style ‘hostel’, we are asked to lie down on 3 tier bunkbeds, encouraged to make ourselves comfortable and to take a little pill – though this is our choice, as we are told taking it or not taking it makes little difference either way.

Plunged into darkness, with our headphones on, we are influenced by commentary, by sounds that sound very near us and at times further way, adding to our imagination of what we already know the room looks like. Like all of Darkfield, there are moments of fear, of climaxes, but to tell you these only destroys what you experience.

My only problem with Coma, is more dependent on the audience member. To really throw yourself into this piece, to feel in a ‘coma’ you need to really engage in a meditative state and give yourself fully to the relaxation in your body to get the full extent of what they are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, for me, while used to meditation, it just didn’t come easily for me this one night and perhaps lead to me missing out on being more immersive that I would be another day.

Coma is equally intriguing, exciting, and scary – go on, be brave, and engage in something you have never experienced before – but fully commit, to come away with something fantastic!

Review: Flight, Darkfield By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

As someone who is scared of flying and therefore takes sleeping pills to get through, this is probably not the best production to see.

Rightfully nervous, with knowledge of Darkfield, experiencing ‘Séance’ at the beginning of the year, my flight fear has gotten better after travelling, but the nerves are still there for this next experience.

I particularly liked how the Steward was very much into the process of Flight – before entering the container, his language was all reminiscent of a host on a flight, stating ‘We are a full flight today so please sit in your allocated seating’

Like any flight, the inside is highly reminiscent of modern planes, but with a hint of the past – small flip down screens above, which are little know these days, playing a video of a hostess, which seems dated. From the beginning, with out headphones on, things are already going wrong – the video flickers, saying chopped and changed, and frightening phrases – we hear the pilot and his conversation we should not hear.

Into the darkness, we hear through our headphones, cleverly positioned to give the sense of encroaching hostess up the aisle. We give into our imagination, and this unordinary flight feels calming, yet we anticipate what happens.

As any Darkfield show, there are moments of shock, of fear, elements of the set change, even now, with me thinking whether I dreamed seeing that or not. They play on our minds; the experience feeling like a dream state, when something disastrous happens, everything becomes normal again – did that really happen?

If you have a fear of flying like me, you are in safe hands with Darkfield, and will come away having such a unique and unordinary experience. If you don’t, well… needless to say you will have equally an interesting and unusual immersive experience. These containers are for all.

Review: Art Heist, Poltergeist, Edinburgh Fringe Festival By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What happens when three thieves break into a gallery, the same night, to steal the same painting? A hilarious series of events full of comedy, gasps of close calls and complete chaos.

Art Heist by the company Poltergeist, in partnership with Underbelly and New Diorama Theatre, bring us a high energised and full of calamity production featuring three thieves and a gallery guard. All have different motives, different personalities and bring their own humour and likeability. At some point the characters are all bound to bump into each other, but there is a sense of a tense atmosphere while waiting for this, along with near misses. Once they do, the interaction is surprising, well thought out and full of comedy.

There’s hardly a break in this production for anyone – reminiscent of Monty Python, come Mischief Theatre’s ‘Comedy about a Bank Robbery’ with a hint of alternative reality/game culture, the narrative and actions are both fast paced and with quick thinking, yet perfectly accomplished with every comical intent hit.

Each character narrates their actions, sometimes with interaction from the guard who throws spanners in the works. This reminds me of watching a video game, with planned out thoughts that not always come to fruition.

The staging and lighting is simple – characters are always on stage but always engaged. We get different levels away from the main action, without a single person breaking character.  Multimedia is used with cameras, sound effects, lights e.t.c. to give the emphasis of a gallery but also to layer the action.

The performers themselves are hysterical – fully involved in their characters, there is freedom to ad lib and go with the chaos, especially when the audience are encouraged to interact. The simple ‘guard training’ that the audience undertake is hilarious in itself; again, it is simple but well put together.

Art Heist will steal your heart and rob your laughter – coming away, there is admiration of the energy of these performers and great smiles at how much fun we have in just an hour.

Review Saethu Cwningod/Shooting Rabbits, PowderHouse by Eva Marloes

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

‘If I Can Shoot Rabbits, I Can Shoot Fascists,’ is the strapline of the first play by PowderHouse in association with the Sherman Theatre and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. It comes from the Manic Street Preachers’ song ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next,’

This in turn is inspired by the involvement of Welsh volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. The play Shooting Rabbits seeks to evoke the experience of a young Welshman travelling to Spain to fight against fascism in the 1930s while seemingly hinting at a similarity between fighting the authoritarian oppressor in Spain and the strife of Irish, Welsh, and Basque nationalism, given a new life by Brexit. Such an unwieldy subject matter could only fail on stage, especially when it is conveyed through a stream of consciousness dramaturgy that leaves the audience confused. Nonetheless the play succeeds in capturing the ambiguity of any proclamation in the name of ‘the people.’ 

Production Images credit Studio Cano

Shooting Rabbits co-directed by Jac Ifan Moore and Chelsey Gillard begins with a Northern Irish actor auditioning for a role in Wales. The casting director asks him to do a ‘more Irish’ accent, meaning one that is from the Republic of Ireland. The director expresses sympathy with the Irish, ‘Solidarity with you,’ ‘Wales stands with you,’ ‘Your people.’ The ‘solidarity’ is borne of the alleged ‘shared struggle’ against the ‘neighbours across the borders.’ The actor, played by Neil McWilliams, launches into a tirade questioning the very premise of ‘the people.’ Who are his people? Republicans, Nationalists, the IRA, Unionists, the DUP? The reduction of the heterogeneous reality of a country to one group betrays not just an ignorant and condescending attitude, but one that delegitimises whoever does not fit the image of the country, a country that is always an ideal, never a complex reality. This is nowhere more evident than in the impassioned and seductive speech of Francisco Franco performed by Alejandra Barcelar Pereira in Spanish. It appeals to the defence of the country and faith in the country, but it is a country that repudiates all those who do not abide by the script.

The appeal to ‘the people’ is a dangerous weapon that is wielded against the very people it professes to protect. ‘The people’ erases people as a heterogeneous empirical reality, disregards and delegitimises theirs diversity, their different perspectives, lifestyles, values, customs, and, above all, their overlapping identities. This is what the European Union aims to promote: unity in diversity. That is why Catalan, Basque, Scottish, and Welsh nationalist movements, to name a few, are often supportive of the EU. Thus, the EU does indeed undermine the nation state, conceived as a unitary and homogeneous entity, by giving voice to communities inside nations and across them. Today, the EU is embattled, but the crisis is not a battle between fascism and liberal democracy; rather it is more the result of established structures and politics being out of step with contemporary society and economics. That is why it is risky to draw any comparisons between today’s crises and the 1930s, as Shooting Rabbits seeks to do.

Shooting Rabbits is at its best when it exposes the naivete of the romantic ideal of fighting against fascism and of claiming to represent a ‘people.’ The young Welshman in 1930s Spain does not know what to do and begs to be told what to do. In front of the horror of the civil war, the volunteers of the International Brigade repeat that it was not meant to be this way. The play makes fun of political divisions and polarisations that create enemies. It is evocative and exhilarating. It is acted beautifully in Spanish, Basque, Welsh, and English by Alejandra Barcelar Pereira, Gwenllian Higginson, and Neil McWilliams, and it is supported by the music performed live by Sam Humphreys. It is also a missed opportunity. Shooting Rabbits flounders due to a superficial historical analysis and a stream of consciousness structure that disorients the spectator instead of bringing clarity.

Review Missing Link by Jonathan Evans

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Laika likes to be grand, go ambitious and portray the unconventional. They latch onto stories about characters that don’t quite fit in and meet other such outsides and plots that take them to unique places. They also are not content with doing what they know they can do, each time they want to be challenged with their craft and artistry in some way. So here is their next feature, Missing Link, a story about an odd pairing if ever there was one and all the other trails and characters they meet along to way for them to reach their goal.

From the opening, we get a firm understanding of who the main character is and what kind of adventure we are in for. We open on a footprint of a large creature, then it wipes to a skinny boot print then the camera glides above the water of a lake to a little boat, it rises up to a fancy tea set being poured and then up to the man having it, he complains that it’s gotten a bit cold. His assistant apologizes but sets things up for capturing evidence of the Loch Ness Monster. The creature does appear, with the encouragement of bagpipes, and proceeds to eat the assistant and dive down, but through some bold adventuring by the gentleman, he saves his assistant, however, the camera which would have captured proof of the monster gets smashed.

This gentleman is Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), an explorer of the strange, unique and often dangerous. Which leads to his latest assistant quitting. While browsing through his pile of mail he finds one crudely written letter saying that if they follow their directions then he will find proof of the legendary Sasquatch.

He goes to the Gentlemen Explorers Club that is filled with stuffy, pompous, thickly mustached, or bearded or sideburned old men in black and white suits that gather around a fireplace and a reminisce about how they shot an animal or killed some foreign people. They have no interest in granting Frist membership because he is unconventional and he always failed to bring back proof of his oddities. So a wager is made, if he can bring back proof this time then he will be granted membership,

Within this scene, you can see Laikas talent for not just animation but comedy. This scene serves as pure exposition, needed to spell out his motivation and what will be the goals going forward. These scenes are usually the dullest and slowest parts of any movie unless they are done right. While these men are standing around talking they really on unique character movement, visuals and fun inserts of comedy that keep us looking and listening. This is something essential yet you’d be surprised at how many movies have these scenes and put nothing unique or even fun in it to keep you interested.

When he arrives at the specified location and does indeed find the Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis), however, he is most surprised to find out that he is able to speak, English! Rather well and also that he was the one who wrote him the letter. The Sasquatch is all alone in the forest, which is being diminished by trees being cut down, and believes that he has relatives in the snowy mountains, the yetis! Frost agrees to help him reach his relatives if he gives him proof of his existence so he can join the Gentelmens Explorers Club. However the sasquatch needs a name, Frost suggests Mr. Link which is also humorous because it’s like missing link, the sasquatch doesn’t get it.

Mr. Link has very little experience with people or interactions of any kind. He takes things at face value and is very literal so he needs tuirns of frazes explained to him and if asked to do something he literally does it. Take one scene when he is passes a rope and a grappling hook and asked to “Throw this over the wall” he does, all of it in one go. This is the main type of jokes we get from him and you eventually get wise to it and they become the weakenst part of the movie. 

While traveling they realize they’ll need a map of the Himalayas, luckily Frost knows where to find one. Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) has it, her and Frost were a couple years ago but he was more interested in his adventures and so she married his best friend. As you would expect his just showing up after not being in contact after years and only doing so to get a map that her late husband died for does not go over well. But they desperately need it so they come back in the night to steal it, she isn’t happy of course but she also realizes she hasn’t been living her life, so this duo becomes a trio.

It seems like they went for sheer impressive spectacle with Kubo of the Two Strings and here they want to try out some more subtle things. Not to say that this movie is devoiud of a grand ambition or has scope, far from it, but they want to get smaller details down. Take one scene that takes place on a boat, theres a conversation between Frost and Adelina, it’s goining through some harsh waves so it rocks, while the conversation unfolds the room itsef is swaying ever so gracefully, so the characters have to adjust their footing to balance and furniture slides around, sometimes very slowly others abrubtly. Other times when they have a camera that moves along with the character and shifts angles when they change direction. All of this must be discussed, planned, built, painted and then finally animated, one frame at a time. Or other times when Mr. Link is standing with the wind hitting him and every chunk of his fur blows in the wind.

Laika operates as Disney did in the old days. Art challenges the technology, technology informs the art. They constantly embrace and seek out the odd and fascinating. Like Mr. Link himself there is nothing else like this movie, flaws yes, but why be safe if you can be bold and beautiful.

Behind the Curtains of Les Misérables By Eva Marloes

Up the ramps of steep metal stairs, in a room in the Loft, outside of the main building of Chaptert Arts Centre, the theatrical company August012 are rehearsing for their unique take on Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The music begins. It’s a military tune. It’s 1815, the battle of Waterloo. The fighting, the casualties, the hollow victory. Then, at a stroke, it’s 2016, in Cardiff, the night of the EU Referendum. The battle of Waterloo and the battle of Brexit come together through a meeting and clashing of sounds, words, music, and dance making for an immersive sensory experience.

Rehearsal images credit Jorge Lizalde

The tragedy and horror of Waterloo is juxtaposed with the carefree and indulgent pleasure of holiday-makers in 2016 ahead of the Referendum and the comic coming to terms with the result. It is a kind of estrangement that seeks to bring awareness of the historical implications of Brexit through rhythm and fun. All the pieces, the description of the battle, the drums, the music, a man chocking on a Dorito, Farage, and soldier-dancers, come together with perfect timing. The creativity fuelling Les Mis comes from the collaboration of Director Mathilde Lopez, Choreographer Matteo Marfoglia, and Composers John Norton and Branwen Munn, the latter working from West Wales.

The coming together of French-Spanish, Italian, and Welsh talent with diverse national and cultural backgrounds makes gives an extra dimension to the careful multi-layered assembling of sound, words, and movement. It is the collaborative and supportive nature of these relationships that stands out as I watch the rehearsals. There is no hierarchy, no instructions, no neat division of labour, but a coming together to harness the talents and creativity of one another. Mathilde says, ‘We can do that,’ not ‘Can you do that?’ She is not imparting instructions, she listens to others and makes suggestions. The work emerges from this shared effort and fun. They’re working hard but they’re also having fun.

The atmosphere is so relaxed and friendly that I wonder how a comment from me might be received. I comment and I’m struck by Carwyn, one of the actors, turning to me and nodding. It is a listening environment, where each member of the company can make suggestions and is listened to. John Norton, the composer/DJ, is surprised I’m surprised. ‘This is theatre,’ he tells me, ‘If you want control, don’t do it.’ Unpredictable, brittle, never finished, theatre is always in the making. Precision is impossible, flexibility is key.

Mathilde likes the challenge that music and movement present to her as a theatrical director. She needs to limit herself to give space to John and Matteo. Her listening and collaborative frame of mind includes listening to actors and non-actors who participate in the production. When auditioning for the play, Mathilde asked them what they were doing on the night of the Referendum. The piecing together of different perspectives and experiences reinforces the nature of this production of Les Mis where different worlds coexist.

Choreographer Matteo Marfoglia tells me that the idea is to have two worlds side by side in the same space: the world of the actors and the world of the dancers. The two worlds do not interact. The dancers and the actors are on different journeys. The dancers, as soldiers, evoke with their movements and sounds the tragic sense of the historical dimension of both Waterloo and Brexit. Actors and dancers come in and out of the space interweaving the present with the past, connecting and disconnecting history with our daily lives.

Les Mis speaks to our own reality. It is this sense of the real and dance as a way to communicate real life that brought Matteo to Wales. Classically trained, Matteo first moved to Amsterdam and Rotterdam to become a contemporary dancer and, six years ago, he came to Wales to be part of the National Company Wales. He left classical ballet because it did not meet his thirst for something more authentic to human experience. He believes that contemporary dance allows the individual expression of emotions to come to the fore.

Matteo is training to become a ‘Gaga’ dance teacher. Gaga dance has been developed by Israeli dancer and choreographer Ohad Naharin. At its core, Gaga dance is about embodying the inward emotions of the dancer and how they connect with other dancers. The individuality of the dancer is expressed outward flowing into the shared consciousness of the group. ‘We feel the same emotions but we do so differently,’ Matteo explains, ‘We’re all connected through an emotion but this emotion is expressed in one’s unique and individual way.’

The emotional dimension of Les Mis is a pervasive sense of loss and futility contrasted with seductive pleasure and a hangovered awakening to the aftermath of the Referendum. As European nationals, Matteo and Mathilde experienced a deep sense of loss after the Referendum. They felt ‘under attack,’ as Matteo puts it. All of a sudden, they became foreigners, their presence questioned. Mathilde, who has been living in Britain for 20 years, is married to John and has British children who speak Welsh, felt the pain of exclusion, of being told to ‘go back home.’ She never needed to be formally British, she was part of British society, then Brexit struck.

Brexit has shown that being foreign is an identity that stays with you no matter how long you live in your ‘adoptive’ country, no matter of many changes you make, no matter how much you absorb of the local culture. The ‘in-betweeness’ that has characterised Mathilde’s life became problematic with Brexit. Europe allowed overlapping identities that don’t stop at national borders. Europe, for Mathilde, is the wider project of togetherness. It is complicated and Europe often does not live up to the dream. The way the EU functions right now doesn’t work for many countries, she tells me, but they don’t question being part of it. ‘It’s like moaning at your parents,’ Mathilde says, ‘you moan, you don’t kill them.’

The vote brought sadness to Mathilde and also anger. She found that anger was more ‘socially acceptable’ than sadness because it makes one look strong, but she found it tiring. She needed compassion. She plunged into reading classics, such as Steinbeck, Camus, and Hugo. Classics were her way to get her head around what had just happened and avoid a reductive perspective. ‘When you’re angry at the Americans, you read Steinbeck, when you’re angry at Italians, you read Dante,’ Mathilde explains. Literary classics allow her to go beyond the narrow contingencies of today’s events, put things in perspective, and nourish compassion.

For Mathilde, Les Mis is a personal journey from sadness and anger to compassion. Compassion is in the ability to listen to one another, work together, and produce a work that is accessible to all.‘Will my grandmother get it?’ Mathilde asks herself when writing. She wants something accessible, not limited to regular theatre-goers. She wants to be open to others, wherever they come from culturally, socially, and, of course, politically. Some members of the production voted Leave.

‘It is our duty to be compassionate,’ says Mathilde, ‘to find strength in accepting defeat, not despair.’ It is compassion that allows to overcome division, to appreciate human complexity, and find strength in togetherness. Mathilde finds compassion in being supported by Chapter Arts Centre, in working together with actors, non-actors, and dance students, getting inspiration from all.

Mathilde, Matteo, and John tell me working together requires humility, respect, and trust. As John tells me, ‘you need to sense the time when to follow someone else’s lead, when to defend one’s position, and when to let go of it.’ You need to abandon the need to take control. This deeply collaborative and inclusive production of Les Mis is fruit of mutual trust and compassion. It is what the UK needs now.

Review ‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ Re-Live by Kiera Sikora

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Re- Live’s new theatre show ‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ is a moving, courageous composition of sadness, truth, celebration and sacrifice.

It begins at St Fagan’s Museum entrance where we are taken on a welcoming walk to Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, listening to various accounts of the thoughts and memories of the people connected to Oakdale. They tell us of the beauty of ‘devouring books’ from the library which was a rarity then, the joy of choc-ice treats and how Oakdale invited a ‘thirst for knowledge’ in the Institute.


We then reach the Oakdale’s Workmen’s Institute where (after a lovely cuppa tea) we are thrown into a World War I Victory Ball in 1919. The bunting is up, the tea is flowing, the Bara Brith is out and we are entertained with song, story and striking truths of what it was to be a soldier, a friend, a woman and a mother during The First World War. We are shown the thrill of the beginning of war, and the heartache it created during a time when so much was unknown medically about the after affects of battle and sacrifice.


The piece moves through dialogue, solo performance, touching physical imagery and choral singing with a nod for the audience to join in on a few wartime tunes. And there’s the beauty of Re-Live right there. Yes, it’s a show, a performance, but it’s a cwtch too. A really important, poignant, ‘so glad to be home’ kind of cwtch. The cast open their arms to you, smile at you, pour their hearts out to you and allow you to feel something about how they feel and have felt. Re- Live’s mission is to work with communities and to tell stories and truths from their lives and ‘Y Dychweliad’ is a beautiful shower of these things. These stories, this history, the effect war has on people around us and still has to this day are subjects that we must talk about. If we don’t talk about these things, if we don’t remember the history of our times,  and the affects it has on us still- will they be lost? Will we learn? Will future generations know these wonderful, war time songs, even?



Karin Diamond and the team have created a gorgeous concoction of story, song, music and poetry and a beautiful memory for all that see the show. The production ends as fuelled as it begins, with a personal poem ‘Mother Wales’ written by one of the cast- which makes your heart beam. The thankful, heartfelt, emotional response at the post show discussion is unforgettable. Talks from the cast about their own experiences, and how much support we must continue to provide for our Veterans is integral.

One of the cast said ‘ Once you leave for war, and go over there, coming back is.. alien. You’re petrified. You come home. But you’re never the same.’ Reading through the Oakdale information book, one Veteran writes (of working with Re-Live) ‘The project has saved me because it’s given me something to look forward to, it’s given me a purpose again. It helps me control my anxiety too. This is the one place I can come where I know I won’t be judged.’

And that’s Re-Live. Sharing words and feelings from people, to people and for people. With the utmost care, gratitude and heart. ‘Keep the Homes Fires Burning’, indeed. 



‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ runs from 14-16 March/Mawrth, 

Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, St Fagan’s National Museum of History/ Sefydliad Y Gweithwyr Oakdale, Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru