Having missed it first time around, the chance to catch the restaging of Llechi seemed too good to miss. Originally performed as part of Pontio’s opening season, this eclectic mix of visual, musical and aerobatic art forms was a fascinating watch. It was engaging from start to finish, featuring a host of performers, all of whom played their part in making this a thoroughly enjoyable and captivating show. Despite its fluency in the Welsh language (with the exception of poet Martin Daws), I, a humble learner of the lingo, still managed to be entertained and entranced by the spectacle on offer. It was a delightful performance that offered plenty of emotion and a real sense of place.
Originally curated by alt-folk group 9Bach, the Welsh sextet returned to lead a talented cast in this fresh and innovative approach to storytelling. Taking us on a journey through the history, culture and traditions of the slate industry, this performance brought to life, in a new way, the story of local Welsh slate – the people, and the landscape. Full of experimental sounds and a mix of genres, it spans the centuries. This huge timescale is reflected in the song choices: from a spine-tingling rendition of Welsh hymn Dyma’r Gariad to the bass-fuelled beats of ‘90s rave music. There is no clash of musical styles here however. Instead, 9Bach have managed to create a very diverse yet complimentary soundtrack. The changes of tone, mood and tempo that take place throughout are at no point jarring. Instead, with help from the lighting, each transition is smooth and natural. It is something that could so easily have been a disaster. Here, though, it not only works well. It works incredibly well.
Alongside the musical prowess of 9Bach, choreographer Kate Lawrence and her team offered up some stunning physical performances in the air. It helped being seated on the lower balcony to watch these four talented dancers move across the auditorium. It was clear that many of their actions were reflecting the movements of quarrymen. But their pieces also featured an elegance that conveyed something of the local landscape too. Their graceful movements made for a mesmerising sight. But it also brought to mind, as a result, the ethereal and mythic quality of the mountains and the quarries. This was complimented perfectly, at one point in particular, by the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Lisa Jen Brown. Truly evocative, the backdrop of images that featured in the show were sometimes superfluous as a result. It was a strangely immersive experience.
I came away from Llechi desperate to buy the soundtrack. The music was wonderfully inspirational, eclectic and truly evocative of its Welsh setting. 9Bach have delivered a beautiful collaboration that is full of heart. It is a love story that awakens the senses and births a spirit of hope. It says that this land is not forgotten to another age. Instead, it evolves, becoming the place of the next generation who follow in the footsteps of their forbears whilst carving out new paths of their own. Sadly, the soundtrack isn’t available to buy (hint to anyone who may be able to change that.). Nevertheless, it will stick in my mind for a long time to come. Llechi is a truly memorable piece of contemporary Welsh art.
The initial moments of ‘Celebration’ are an obscure, wild, and dramatically unique combination of movement, dance and silly string. Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet exhibit both an outstanding mutual dynamic as well as a consistent youthful vivacity that was carried expertly throughout the (unfortunately brief) fifty-five-minute performance. I was so immensely impressed by their talents (varying from acting to accordion playing), that being reminded that they were merely students made me feel, in comparison, unaccomplished. I left the theatre feeling rather smug that I had witnessed an early performance of some potentially very successful future performers.
The production’s mixture of live music, electrifying dance and movement, as well as the profoundly effective drama, produced a poignant and evocative piece, that was nonetheless fun, vibrant, and an absolute pleasure to spectate. There was little pretence – most costume changes occurred on stage, and there was not a typically theatrical plot (really, it was rather Brechtian), but I felt consistently immersed in the poetic flow of each monologue and song, just as I would have done if this were a traditional piece. In fact, I am thoroughly relieved that these two young students so bravely dared to defy conventional theatre, and succeeded in delivering such an individual and positively eccentric performance. If this is where theatre is going, I’ll certainly continue to attend.
Hi Campbell Great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
My name is Campbell Lawrie and I am the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. This is my ninth year with the company but have been working as the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator for the last three years.
So what got you interested in the arts ?
In first year of secondary school my English teacher thought drama and storytelling would help boost my confidence because at the time I was quite shy. Drama wasn’t a course that was offered at my school so my teacher helped me find courses across Ayrshire – where I’m originally from. As soon as I started performing I fell in love with bringing a story to life and witnessing the effect this can have on others. I was hooked after that and knew that I wanted to use theatre as a tool to change people’s lives.
You coordinate the Paul Hamlyn Club at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Can you please tell us more about this initiative and your role?
The Citizens Theatre was very lucky to be one of five venues across Britain to be gifted a sum of money to identify and tackle the barriers that local, disadvantaged people may encounter when trying to access the arts.
My role is to coordinate the different strands of work we deliver in order to do this and also to create relationships with those affected. The role is very hands on. I regularly visit groups and their members in the local community and also welcome the individuals we engage with into the theatre and gain their feedback.
The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is funding the Paul Hamlyn Clubs to “Attract and build relationships with audiences from disadvantaged groups within their local communities.” How has your organisation approached this objective?
The Citizens Theatre was originally approached because of the amount of work we were already carrying out in the local community and across Glasgow. Using the gift we were able to refocus our efforts in attracting the local community to the theatre and there are currently four different strands of work under the Paul Hamlyn Club banner helping to achieve this objective. For those who live in Gorbals area of Glasgow, where the Citizens Theatre company has been based for the past 72 years, we offer heavily subsidised tickets to those who sign up to the Gorbals Card scheme.
The area is still one of the most heavily deprived areas of Scotland and ensuring our neighbours can attend our shows is our way of thanking those who have supported us over the years. We also run a Deaf Theatre Club working alongside Inkblot Collective to deliver an accessible programme for our Deaf audience and we work with two local schools to help engage a new generation of theatre goers.
The Paul Hamlyn Citizens is the fourth strand of work. This involves visiting local organisations and charities to discuss the barriers faced in accessing theatre and inviting them to join the PHCitizens to access tickets to shows throughout the year at 50p per ticket. Our PHCitizens ambassadors are always on hand during shows and events to answer any questions or queries those attending through the Paul Hamlyn Club may have.
Have your new audiences chosen to see any specific type of work at your venue?
We have learned that our new audiences are willing to engage with most types of work because they know they have nothing to lose through attending. Our new audiences see coming to the theatre as a social event more than anything and the shows, the free interval ice-creams, the post-show chats etc are all just added extras. There is an amazing atmosphere at Paul Hamlyn events as many stay behind to discuss the shows and this in turn helps create a larger community network. In saying this, comedies and musicals, especially if they are Scottish shows, prove to be more popular than most but Shakespeare, classics and new writing still appeal and have drawn in equally large numbers.
What impact has had this project in your venue had on the larger organisation?
The impact of the project can be seen across the organisation. Every department has been involved in its delivery in one way or another: backstage have provided talks and presentations, FOH ambassadors greet and welcome the wide range of new patrons who come through our doors and one of our box office assistants is even completing Level 3 BSL. Our community work which has been aided through Paul Hamlyn has also been recognised in helping secure some money for our Capital Project. Accessibility is always at the forefront of people’s minds and this has helped emphasise our stance that we are the Citizens Theatre – we exist for and because of Glasgow’s Citizens.
In the current funding climate many venues and organisation have very limited budgets. Is it possible to share some of your learning that organisations could implement to support new audiences that doesn’t require large amounts of funding?
Funding obviously plays a huge part in making theatre accessible to all but small things like listening to your local community and sharing your resources/spaces with local organisations or individuals can help strengthen relationships. Finding out what your patrons want you to be and how else they would like to use the building is important in making the patrons feel comfortable in coming through the doors. An extension of this is having dedicated, friendly staff to welcome your new audience. We held an open day event, for example, to promote the theatre and our learning work to local, disadvantaged people.
We held workshops, talks and demonstrations throughout the building while outside a local band played and local organisations and businesses promoted their produce and work. The event cost very little because the local community were very generous in donating nearly everything we required and this in turn strengthened our network and individual relationships. I feel that a lot of the time people prefer putting names and faces to the organisation. Offering unsold tickets to your local contacts is also a good way to engage your new audience.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision In relation to your own project are you aware of any barriers for audiences to access cultural provision.
I think the barriers faced will vary greatly depending on where you are based. The Citizens Theatre is in a highly deprived area with an extremely diverse cultural background meaning we have encountered barriers such as language, affordability and childcare. Some people also feel intimidated entering a building they have only ever walked past or think it isn’t physically accessible. We have heard that a lot of people think theatre is elitist and “not for them”. Transport and programming also come up as common answers to what stops people coming along. Thanks Campbell, finally some more personal questions. What excites you about the arts? What was the last really great cultural activity event that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
The cast of My Country with director Rufus Norris, gatherer Campbell Lawrie and some of the interviewees from Glasgow.
I genuinely get excited when a theatre show tackles social issues and politics head-on. Any piece of art that encourages debate or triggers a passionate response from its audience while also being entertaining has, in my eyes, achieved its goal. I was very lucky to have worked on the recent production of My Country by National Theatre. My role was to gather information from the Scottish people on their views on Brexit and the political climate following the Brexit vote. Listening to each person’s unique story on how they decided they were going to vote and knowing that snippets of these stories were going to heard by people all over Britain really excited me because the project, like the issue, encouraged debate but this time it was a debate between everyday people – not the media and not the politicians.
There is, on the other hand, one show that has stuck with me for ten years and remains my favourite piece of theatre – Headlong and Citizens Theatres production of Angels in America in 2007. I have no words to describe how that show made me feel but it did make me want to work at the Citizens Theatre. I guess in that way, that show changed my life.
Rob Auton’s The Sleep Show is like something I have never experienced before. This sounds negative but it is meant in every positive way.
The premise of the show is looking at sleep through comedy and spoken word. Beginning with a ‘support act’ which is Auton himself, we are eased into his unusual sense of humour and warmth as he engages with us personally. The support act is against the show’s title, but more giving us an introduction, a literal warm up to pumping music, and made us feel as if Auton was our friend, not just a performing stranger.
The Sleep Show itself was a roller coaster of emotions. Moments are of elation with comedy, ad libbing and times of going off topic. Auton is not afraid to come away from structure and script to find different paths, always returning back somehow but this shows skill and a comfortability in his performance style.
Other parts see a real deep and meaningful look into sleep, into the way we live, metaphorically and literally and brought new perspectives, poetic and theatrical approaches to the subject and was a beauty to listen to and watch how invested he is in his skill.
We found during the show the unfortunate events that come with such performances – hecklers. A woman who openly shunned the performance and Auton to his face, showed little respect and perhaps a naivety/lack of understanding of the performance type. Auton does well to change this into humour, taking my tweet to him earlier in the day and assigning the reviewer status to her. Without owning up, it was interesting to see how he used life events not only in my contact with him but in the relationship building with this woman and how he is able to think on his toes to come back in control.
Auton reminds me a lot of a mixture of James Acaster, The Mighty Boosh and Rick and Morty. A certain cup of tea, I really enjoyed the new and interesting approach he brought to the stage and encourage everyone to try him at least once.
Smart hand-drawn backdrop. Black and white lines of a kitchen-living-room. Strange distorted dystopian home of the bored and disaffected. With a loo off the side. A few spots of red from some flowers in a painted jar. She is black and white too.
This is a very odd start. A woman neatly dressed piddling noisily, then stroking her hair back from her head with her wetted hands. What a thing to remember so clearly. How shocking it is. How very very personal. And so it continues.
Intense, in your face, curiously flamboyant. Radio triggers a reminder of passions unspent. English at first. German later. This is an extraordinary physical breakdown of a woman tried by her own life, afraid of engaging with the outside world, trapped in her silence. It is her world and she seems ok with that.
Till she changes half way. When her hair comes down.
One very able dancer expresses the need for company and contact through a very emotional, tight series of movements which I long to become fluid and sloppy, warm from cold. Which they do, just for a short while, not long before the end, not long before she eats the red roses, dropping their bloody petals onto her green dress. Her mouth crammed with sadness, her tears quite real.
It seems completely inappropriate to applaud. Wrong. Hurtful.
The audience slopes out. A few check out the set, taking pictures, reverently whispering. Me too. I do not ask anyone what they think this time.
Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.
The Request Show – Cooperativa Maura Morales
The Request Show (Cuba/Germany)
Performed by Maura Morales
Music composed by Michio Woirgardt
I have seen Profundis before and I loved it. I described it as a Kandinsky come to life. Colourful, clever, witty and thoughtful: it is a kaleidoscopic trip into the nature of things. This time, it is slicker, clearer, funnier, more confident in its story-telling, more engaged with its audience. It is less distracted and even more enjoyable. I feel that the dancers are actively seeking our attention and allowing us to show our shock, confusion and joy. It is a delight. I love it still.
Now, The Green House is a difficult thing. Definitely verdant. As a dancer sitting beside me said, dance makes you feel emotions you didn’t know you had. This is an uncomfortable piece. I cannot take my eyes off the green dancer rolling then scrubbing his green apples against his green skirt, picking them up, putting them down, in the bowl, in the sideboard, in the bowl. He is on the furniture, scrubbing his eyes, picked up, put down, on the floor. Hard stuff this.
You see, I got this wrong. I thought it was The Green Room. This made sense of the ON AIR sign and the APPLAUSE. The waiting around to be called. The back of another room on show. The green. I was wrong.
The Green House. Hot, confining, controlling, use the windows, the door, keep it in, shut it out. It is a dance of all of these things. It is disturbing, beautiful, green. There is just enough lightness, there are just enough laughs.
The group pieces are, as always, exquisitely choreographed. Painfully perfect. I would watch this again and again as they go round and round in their green world. I can’t bear it and I can’t leave it alone.
The solos are dervishly wild and tight and someone says to me, how do they learn this, how can they repeat something that looks so improvised, so in the moment, so free? I have no idea.
I reel from this. 43 minutes of green gilded anguish and heartache. I am going to see this again. And again.
As a huge fan of Eddie Ladd, Deborah Light and Gwyn Emberton, I have been excited to see Caitlin for a long time – missing the chance when it came to London, my visit to Brecon happily coincided with their Welsh tour.
Directed by Light and choreographed and performed by Emberton and Ladd, the story of the piece is based upon the poet Dylan Thomas’s wife, Caitlin, her turbulent life with the Swansea celebrity and her alcoholism beginning before and continuing after his death.
Set out in a circle of chairs, the story unfolds before us as an AA meeting but the words are simple sentences and the rest purely physical. The chairs soon became metaphors and symbolism for lovers, baby chairs and Thomas’s gradual success until his death where he (literally) falls from grace.
I do feel slightly biased in the fact that these three dancers are such huge inspirations to me, but I couldn’t express how fluid and creative the movement were. Times where you could only imagine pain and impact of the body seemed so gentle and as if they did not hurt the performers was astounding. And they used every bit of space and every chair. It was a wonderful take on Caitlin’s life.
My only argument would be that I wanted more of the physicality and less of the chairs. While I completely understood the reasons behind the chairs, as a fan I just wanted more – perhaps that’s just me being greedy!
To accompany, the music was interesting, with no social/cultural significance but only to heighten the movement. And no particular theatrical lighting, giving the room a naturalistic feel rather than something created for theatrical purpose.
Caitlin, as all of Light, Ladd and Embertons work as a group and as individuals is a triumph. A beautiful representation of love, addiction and pain.
Directed by Deborah Light
Devised with and performed by Eddie Ladd and Gwyn Emberton
Sound by Siôn Orgon
Costumes by Neil Davies
Images by Warren Orchard
Over at Sadler’s Wells we were taken into a smaller studio to the side of the usual theatre. This venue was very welcoming and intimate which I thought was ideal for the dance come performance arts pieces.
Both pieces were conceived by Graham Adel noted for his work challenging the social norm and focussing on people.
First half of the show was a piece called Gender F**k (er). Featuring one woman, Keren Rosenberg, the 50mins performance aimed to cross the barriers of gender. A relatively slow piece, Rosenberg transforms her body from masculine to famine throughout with astonishing movement and physical change. There are times where clothing or props are used to help create these different ideas but the transformations are fluid and at times mixed showing stereotyped differences but also highlighting realistic opinions of little difference .
Very adult in its content, it is quite raw and almost hypnotic as Rosenberg manages to fill the space with her movement.
The second half saw Dan Daw in On One Condition. The set was a like a above view / blueprint version of his family home giving it anonymity but also taking away any emotional ties. The piece shows his life in a snapshot with short spoken tales and movement to catchy music.
Daw has a disability that affects his movement but uses this to create beautiful images and movement highlighting a key message in the piece about not letting things stop you in your dream and the ability for everyone to do anything. It isn’t a hindrance but actually inspiration and used to its advantage.
He’s also very comical, not only poking fun at himself and at his disability but wider humour in satire of dance themes and genres. What I loved so much about this piece was the sheer intelligence in the concept and creation but also the honesty.
Two very different pieces, it was interesting to have a mixture of concepts and the clever ways both Graham and Dan Daw create a narrative; sending out vital messages about today’s society.
I don’t know very much about ballet. In fact, this was my first time ever seeing one. I was completely swept away by the beauty and the elegance of it.
I did manage to follow the story. Although at first I was definitely a little lost. I did pick up the conflict between choosing passion or choosing love, and the eventual consequences that come to light as a result of the character’s decisions.
The dancing was gorgeous. Every single person on stage managed to look beyond elegant, and way beyond beautiful. The music alongside was amazing to see. Everything was so in sync and perfectly aligned, like the cat wasn’t well-practiced, but more like dancing to it was intrinsically within them and not something they had to even think twice about. Like I said, I don’t know very much about ballet. My eyes aren’t critical to the specifics of the dances, but I was unaware of mistakes and critiques in a borderline blissful way. I enjoyed something pretty and stunning. And I really, really liked it.
The setting was cunning, and extremely clever. There were things I didn’t expect to be used at all – like shadows, or smoke, the front of a train, audio of clapping – which I did mistake for the audience – and so forth. The ideas behind the production seemed big and well-thought out. Something daring but equally safe.
Get the Chance have been announced as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award at the 2017 Epic Awards organised by Voluntary Arts. The ceremony took place on Sunday the 19th March at the Sage Gateshead as part of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival.
The Epic Awards were set up in 2010 by Voluntary Arts, an organisation that works across the UK and Republic of Ireland to promote participation in creative cultural activities. They celebrate the amazing contribution voluntary-led creative groups make to their communities.
The Celebrating Diversity Award is selected from across the full shortlist of 32 groups by a panel of judges representing teams in each nation. This award celebrates groups that have taken an innovative approach to highlighting the positive effects that come from living in a diverse society and is something that is central to the work that Voluntary Arts does all year round. Get the Chance were unanimously praised by the Epic Awards judges for
“The project’s unique approach to encouraging a diversity of voices”
Guy O’Donnell, Director of Get the Chance said;
“Get the Chance is honoured to be selected as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award. We strive to reflect the diverse nature of society in our voluntary membership. We learn from our team about barriers to sport and cultural provision and seek to work together to provide responses which are representative of all citizens in the UK.”