Category Archives: Dance

Review Chicago Wales Millenium Centre by Barbara Michaels

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CHICAGO

Music and lyrics: John Kander & Fred Ebb

Book: Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse

Choreographer:  Ann Reinking

Musical Director: Ben Atkinson

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Red-hot and sizzling, the multi-award winning musical Chicago, based on real life events in 1920s US, is back at the Wales Millennium Centre and judging by the bookings as popular as it was when it came here four years ago.  With its theme of greed and corruption, the contemporary relevance doesn’t need to be spelled out although the main action takes place on Death Row, where nightclub singer Roxie Hart is standing trial for shooting her lover and the feisty Velma Kelly is up for double murder.  Strong stuff indeed but the dark undercurrent of the story and plotline cannot be ignored, and neither should it be.

But – moving on – this is musical theatre, so let us not dwell on this.  The wonderful musical numbers, toe-tapping and fast, are what makes this show so popular, along with the fast-paced choreography. Chicago is above all a showcase for the original choreography of the legendary Bob Fosse.  The tunes come thick and fast, plunging straight into it with All That Jazz in Act I and never letting up, and the dancers amazing…

Chicago has been performed on stage countless times, plus the memorable film version starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, and every director understandably wants to put his or her own mark on it in terms of character portrayal.   Hayley Tamaddon is a low key Roxie with an air of fragility about her that belies the fact that this is one tough lady who will stoop as low as it takes to escape the death penalty.  Although Roxie’s story is pivotal, it is her opposite number Velma who is the strongest here and Sophie Carmen-Jones give the role her all in no uncertain manner, displaying a versatility and, in Act II, an acrobatic ability that is truly amazing.  While Carmen-Jones has the character to a T, Tamaddon’s Roxie is at times almost girl-next-door in her naivety.

Alternating in the role of Prison Matron Mama Morton, who believes in looking after ‘her girls’ – as long as her favours are reciprocated – are Gina Murray and Sam Bailey. Murray’s Mama threatened to bring the house down on press night as she belted out the iconic When You’re Good to Mama full throttle.  Great stuff!  A clever little cameo too by Francis Dee as ‘Not  guilty’Hunyak.  On the same evening, Kerry Spark took over the male lead in place of John Patrtridge, who was absent, in playing unscrupulous defence lawer Billy Flynn always on the lookout for number one and lining his pockets by defending about-to-be convicted murderers.  Amos, Neil Ditt is an experienced actor who ‘gets’ the role of Roxie’s husband, the pathetic, incompetent and ignored ‘Mr Cellophane’ (to use the title of his song) off pat.

The staging is atmospheric and costumes a delight for the eye with deftly wielded chorus line feather fans in one of the later scenes, while the  onstage orchestra under musical director Ben Atkinson, is superb, providing not only musical backing throughout but continuing to entertain after the show ends.

Runs until Saturday 30 July 2016

 

Review Chicago, Wales Millennium Centre by James Briggs

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts “and so Cardiff welcomes the touring production of Chicago. In a first for the Wales Millennium Centre the smash hit musical Chicago has arrived to entertain packed audiences. Chicago is based on the real life events in the roaring 1920s. A nightclub singing sensation Velma murders her husband, and Chicago’s smoothest lawyer, Billy Flynn, sets out to act has her defence. But when Roxie ends up in prison on similar charges, Billy takes on her case too, turning her too into a media sensation. Neither of the two women will be surpassed in their fight against each other for fame and celebrity status.

As the audience sat down before the performance an announcement was made informing us that John Partridge who plays  lawyer Billy Flynn would not be performing due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and therefore the role would be played instead by his understudy Kerry Spark. Despite the obvious disappointment by some audience members we needn’t have worried as Kerry Spark gave an excellent performance.

This revival tour of Chicago showed a whole different side to the show by stripping the production back to its bare bones, with a full band positioned on a podium on stage, minimal costumes on the performers and some chairs. As an audience member, you seem to have the feeling that the music is the main star of the show and the thing you should be concentrating on most of all.

In the performance, Sophie Carmen-Jones played Velma Kelly, the tough performer awaiting trial for the murder of her husband and sister. Sophie Carmen-Jones delivers a brilliant Velma who is very confident and self-assured but still beneath her many layers is highly vulnerable.

Hayley Tamaddon is utterly sublime as Roxie Hart. Hayley Tamaddon brings out a different version of Roxie with slightly more comedy and shyness in Roxie than audiences will not have seen before. There are many moments during the performance where Roxie really comes into her own and shines like a star.

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In my opinion, the two leading ladies are perfectly matched and when they come together and perform the ‘Hot Honey Rag’ to the end of the show they are wonderfully in synch with each other bringing a smile to every audience member.

The Matron of the Cook County Jail, Mama Morton was played by Gina Murray. The role is usually played by former X Factor winner Sam Bailey however she took a break from the tour. Gina Murray was brilliant as Mama Morton and has a good mix of being stern and kind to the inmates. Her performance in the song ‘When You’re Good To Mama’ was amazing and received a loud applause from the audience.

One of the real stand out characters during the musical was A D Richardson as Mary Sunshine. Each line of the song ‘A little bit of good’ is presented with a strong sense of carefulness and delicacy. It’s an extremely gruelling role that can be extremely difficult to sing night after night, but you get one of the best vocal performances I have seen. Without giving a major plot spoiler away it is unbelievable how good the characters voice is considering the circumstances.

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Roxie’s all loving and walked upon husband Amos Hart is played by Neil Ditt. Extremely well performed, the character is worked, used and mistreated by Roxie and Billy but it is a truly wonderful performance by Neil Ditt and this is especially shown in the song Mr Cellophane which demonstrates to the audience how this extremely bland man is constantly striving to be noticed by others.

‘The 6 marry murderesses of the cook county in jail in their rendition of the cell block tango’ are outstanding with the cast consisting of Sophie Carmen-Jones, Lindsey Tierney, Ellie Mitchell, Nicola Coates, Frances Dee and Chelsea Labadini. This performance is very powerful and each character portrayed is very different with a stand out personality that draws in the audience.

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It would be very wrong to not mention the utterly divine band for the performance led by the fantastic Ben Atkinson. It truly is the icing on the cake for this touring production. All through the show the energy levels of the band were extremely high and the music blasted out around the Wales Millennium Centre. The two real highlight moments of the band was during the Entr’acte and Playout because it was then they came into their own. Ben Atkinson was conducting upside down leaning over a wall and climbing over the staging while leading his band. He finally ended up draped over the piano upside down with his band dancing around the stage. An utterly amazing performance.

You don’t want to be ‘Mister Cellophane’ so make yourself seen and go and watch Chicago: The Musical at the Wales Millennium Centre. The musical is showing between 25th  Jul – 30th  Jul 2016. Tickets are selling fast so please make sure you get them via this link-

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/Chicago15/

Lucky Trimmer: Made in Wales! by Helen Joy

3f390b2aae         #luckytrimmer Does Wales! 

As always, a warm welcome to all of us from the National Dance Company Wales as we pile into their building.

A welcome compounded by a delightful duet of introduction from the Lucky Trimmer co-ordinators & we all settle into our seats to watch & wait, excited & curious.

So, piece by piece here we go:

How Should I Explain

Dark stage, thick music, a bright light character in green & white confronts us & we are off to a great start. Dachauer’s punchy performance to the familiar & comforting Viennese Waltz is athletic, energetic & when she smiles broadly at us, as welcoming as our hosts. I do not know the story she is telling perhaps as well as I should but enough to follow, enjoy & find amusement here & there. The relishing of the power of her body controlled through dance is palpable.

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Foscarini is incredible to watch. I don’t notice the music. I don’t notice the audience around me or my friend beside me. She is mesmeric. Hard, blunt physicality spot-lit; flashes of memory in dance. When the lights go out, I hear her patter across the stage & we hold our communal breath waiting for illumination. It is beautiful & crippling.

Moments – Performatives Spazieren

Well. Clever clever stuff, Taguchi. A floor unpicks itself in an empty room. Its wooden planking parades around Berlin to music, making music & cutting its own path as is dances through streets & parks & people. It is very funny but we do not laugh much as the inanimate lives & breathes & becomes a floor once more. I am reminded of the first time I saw a pianola. It feels strangely out of place yet perfectly placed.

El Pie (The Foot)

And more on the theme of morphe & matter, resurrection, the bringing of life.

Her body falls in front of us & Marote lies dead to us. One foot revives quickly & playfully, angrily, sadly, cleverly cajoles & bullies its owner back to life. Macabre, hilarious, kind & tear-jerking, this dance plays with us. I think on horror stories of hands having lives of their own, of puppetry, of people painting with their feet & toes holding brushes as well as any fingers. Of electricity forcing body hearts to beat, of the lust in the living to will the dead to live. And the utter joy when breath is taken & the lights come on. I love it.

Floating Flowers

Tsai & Chen – one flower, two dancers; two dancers, two flowers; two flowers, one dancer… pretty, quirky, surreal & complicated, this homage to beliefs & traditions I can easily believe will send away bad luck & bring happiness – how could something so delightful, not?

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Lefeuvre is less stripped than the others, faintly lumberjacky, plaid & chappy, clutching his lump of wood. This doesn’t feel like a dance. It feels like a séance, a spirit creeping out of the log & into his arm & into his senses. It is hard stuff. Difficult to watch. A take-over, a trick, a phantasmagoric illusion. I like this least but am sure I will remember it the longest.

Bernadette

I’ve seen this before, recently obviously. I loved it then & I loved it still. Expectation made it a little quicker, less comical & more tragic. She was longer lying on that table this time I thought, a little sadder. Does that say more of me than Bernadette?

Finn is a confident performer, a cool dancer as much at home with her apple pie as with her cold chicken, a story-teller & a mimic, a giver of life.

4 Stars

 

Event:              Lucky Trimmer Does Wales!

National Dance Company Wales

 

Seen:               7.30pm, 16th July, 2016

Reviewer:        Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:          16th July, 2016

Cost :                 £10 / ticket

 

Links:               www.luckytrimmer.com

www.ndcwales.co.uk

 

 

Review Guys and Dolls, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

 

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Still popular well over half a century since it opened on Broadway, everything rests on the roll of the dice in Guys and Dolls, the iconic musical set in Manhattan and based on the short stories of Damon Runyon. Gangsters and their molls are at the centre of the action as con man Nathan Detroit struggles to find a venue for his upcoming illegal crap game. High-rolling gambler Sky Masterson offers a solution, but only if Nathan can come up with an attractive enough bet. And he does – in the shape of uptight Evangelist missionary Sarah Brown. The subsequent shenanigans take us from Times Square via the dance clubs of Manhattan to the sewers of New York City.

This latest revival, fresh from the West End stage, proves once again what a great musical this is. This time round it has the plus of being staged with choreography masterminded by the brilliant Carlos Acosta. It is difficult – I might go further and say well-nigh impossible – to find a dancer and choreographer who can equal Acosta for Latin American rhythms that sizzle with white-hot heat. As the action switches to Havana there is just about everything here – rumba, samba, cha-cha – you name it. Ballet – of course. Full marks to the multi-faceted ensemble for coping with it all.

So bristling with talent is this Chichester Festival Theatre production that it is difficult to know where to start with the accolades, but one must begin somewhere so let us be logical and begin with the two male leads whose crap games and on-off romances form the pivot on which the plot revolves. As Sky Masterson, Richard Fleeshman cuts a debonair figure in the role of the gambler willing to take on any bet if the stakes are high enough.  Fleeshman has a great tenor voice, heard to advantage in the number I’ve Never Been in Love Before at the closure of Act I. The target of his bet, with whom he ends up falling in love, is the Bible-bashing Evangelist Sarah Brown, played by Anna O’Byrne who belts out the lyrics with gusto.

That accomplished actor Maxwell Caulfield plays Detroit with a great sense of timing and a wry humour. His evident relish for the role is infectious. Caulfield’s Detroit is a likeable rogue, despite his dragging his feet where marriage is concerned: a fourteen year engagement seems a trifle overlong by any standard! The lucky lady is Miss Adelaide, lead singer and dancer at the Hot Box, the night spot where much of the action takes place. Louise Dearman, as Detroit’s fiancée whose dreams of domestic bliss are taking forever to come true , is superb, notably so in that wonderful number Take Back Your Mink. Dearman has the role down to a T – to the extent of almost stealing the show at times.

Detroit’s and Masterson’s fellow gamblers are all perfectly cast, with Jack Edwards as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and the lugubrious Craig Pinder as Harry the Horse, while Mark Sangster is a nimble-footed Benny. Boys – you were splendid. The live orchestra, under the direction of Andy Massey, provides the accompaniment to the memorable musical numbers which include that well-known Luck Be a Lady and the foot-tapping Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/guys-dolls/

Runs until Saturday 9th July

Guys and Dolls New Theatre Cardiff

Music and Lyrics: Frank Loesser

Book: Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

Director: Gordon Greenberg

Choreography: Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

 

Interview Adeola Dewis “Art can allow new, creative ways of seeing the everyday to emerge”

 

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Hi Adeola, You are currently a Visual Artist and Research Fellow at the University of South Wales. Is it possible to give our readers some background information on yourself?

Yes, I am actually coming to the end of my research fellowship. It was an 18 month contract with the University of South Wales and part of a large AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded project called ‘Representing Communities.’ I am an artist, researcher,  a mother of 3 boys and a Caribbean woman resident in Wales since 2003. A lot of my work is informed by my day to day experiences.

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You held a President’s Award scholarship for PhD research at Cardiff University, Wales and have received several grants from the Arts Council of Wales to develop and realise collaborative arts projects. Was there a moment in your career when you knew the areas you wanted to focus on?

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When I was little I wanted to be movie star! (laughs) Drawing has always been part of my life from as far back as I can remember, and dance as well.  I knew I loved art and always wanted to be an artist or arts practitioner. I have very supportive parents and they really fostered my love for culture and always believed in my art, what I could do and the difference art could make to circumstances. It was during my first degree in Trinidad that I actually became convinced that I could be an artist, that I could make art and have exhibitions. My lecturers were also great examples of successful practicing artists. Being Trinidadian, Carnival was always part of my life. It was during my MA at Howard Gardens that I became interested in Carnival performance as a way of engaging the ideas of integrated arts. This Carnival interest has evolved to include ideas around re-presenting self in public spaces and what that means for social issues around notions of belonging and un-belonging, visibility and how we react to social, political, personal situations through temporary transitory performances and rituals.

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You mentioned your parents I wonder if there are any individuals or organisations that helped support you in developing your skills and knowledge?

 I have a long list of individuals that have helped in the development of my work but again I think the core always goes back to family – my parents, my sisters, my boys, my husband and so on. When I moved to Wales I felt in some ways as if I had to start again, to prove myself, make new contacts and forge my own little space within this art world. It was a really insecure space to be in to be honest. I joined organisations like W.I.D (Welsh Independent Dace) and C.A.D.M.A.D both of which no longer exist. S.W.I.C.A (South Wales Intercultural Community Arts) helped a lot as well, providing a space to explore and meet other artists with a range of different skills. My first solo exhibition in Cardiff was in g39 when it was on Mill Lane which was funded by the Arts Council of Wales. I feel like an ole timer now! The Butetown History & Arts Centre was also a great support to help me show my work. They too have recently lost their funding. I think the key thing though is about meeting people, travelling, experiencing, talking about your work and interests and being true to what you want to do. As part of this current research I have developed connections with the Butetown Community Centre and individuals working with and in community.

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Awareness of Carnival (which you have a great deal of personal experience and knowledge in) as an art form is growing. In your opinion what is needed to help the art form develop?

 That’s a great question. Carnival can be seen as a public participatory celebration of a people. It is moving and fluid and reflects issues within a society through song, dance, costume and so on. Development is a tricky word, because what does that really mean and for whom? In some regards Carnival development needs an injection of cash and government support. But I would argue that a Carnival really belongs to the people and ‘development’ could also be about handing-over and seeing what emerges over time. I am still learning about this Welsh space and I think there are carnivalesque ’emancipatory’ performances that occur in spaces like stadiums and on the streets on rugby match days. Carnival to me, becomes meaningful if the people need it. It’s tricky when it is just another fashionable purely aesthetic street parade.

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You are currently focusing on first generation Caribbean migrants associated with Butetown, facilitating ideas of community re-presentation. How did this project develop and what responses have you had to date?

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I have absolutely loved being a part of this project! I had the opportunity to work with Elder Caribbean migrants and to be immersed within Butetown learning about their rich history and why the space was so attractive to people travelling from the Caribbean. The project has culminated in several exhibitions including one at the Cardiff Story Museum, one in the Butetown Community Centre that includes a series of photographs of the Butetown Domino Club members by local photographer Simon Campbell.

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The other end-of-project exhibition is on the Network Rail wall opposite Loudoun Square on Bute Street. It is a series of portraits by different photographers who have made Butetown a focus in their work – Simon Campbell, Keith Murrell, John Briggs and Andrew McNeill. We even managed to get a photo by Bert Hardy.

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This Bute Wall exhibition looks at Butetown, the diversity, the elders and ideas of community wellbeing and representation. Generally responses have been positive.

Butetown Elders by Simon Campbell

Do you think that arts and culture in Wales represents the diversity of the citizens and communities you have worked with?

 Well I think if we look closely enough we will see people representing themselves in so many ways. I think representation is crucial and the diverse fabric of Wales has been actively engaged in places like Cardiff Story Museum and Glamorgan Archives. In my experience I am not convinced that the diversity is always reflected in the visual art world but again, it is about where we look, what is made visible and what inevitably becomes less visible. But I feel positive. I think there is good work happening, a lot of talent and room for alternative ways of engaging arts.

You frequently support workshop activity with members of the public, do you think this type of activity is important and why?

 Yes, I think workshops are important. As an artist working with the public opens you up to different people and conversations and experiences which as I mentioned earlier are crucial to art development and relevance. Also, I think one of the aims of art is that it is for everybody. It can challenge, inform, educate and really allow new and creative ways of seeing the everyday to emerge. Workshops are an opportunity to share art with different people and it also allows you to think about ways of making art-making/doing accessible and relevant to a diverse groupings

by John Briggs

What are the opportunities for those interested in carnival in Wales?

Carnival is huge! There is room for everybody. First there is the question of what aspect of Carnival interests you. I know the performance department at the Atrium are starting to actively use carnival as part of their teaching. Any formal art – music, costume and set design, painting, sculpture, dance can lend itself to Carnival. The main ingredient especially with performance is not the qualification but the desire and passion to want to do it. We have the Butetown Carnival on the bank holiday weekend in August. It is a great opportunity to create and explore the potential of a Carnival in Wales. Those interested can contact Keith Murrell founder of BACA (Butetown Arts and Culture Association) at the Butetown Community Centre.

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If you were in charge of funding the arts in Wales what would be your priorities?

 My priority will probably be informed by spending time with different artists and communities and seeing how their visions relate to the broader political agenda for the country.

When you aren’t involved in culture or research what do you like to do in your spare time?

 I feel like I am always involved in one kind of culture or another. I love spending time with my boys. I love drawing. I love dancing and laughing and learning. I also enjoy watching world cinema.

Many Thanks for your time Adeola

 Thank you!

Review Billy Elliot The Musical, WMC, by Barbara Michaels

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

The wow factor is very much to the fore in this production of Billy Elliot – one of the most heart-warming of musicals, it tugs at the heartstrings from the moment it opens. Brought up in the tough environment of a small mining town in the north-east of England during the 1984/85 miners’ strike, young Billy’s passion for dancing leads him to follow his dream. Abandoning his boxing lessons, he secretly joins a ballet class. The only boy, Billy is the subject of much speculation and teasing – some of it malicious. On the home front, it’s even more so. Billy’s elder brother pours scorn on Billy’s dancing and does his best to nip the young boy’s emerging talent in the bud. Spurred on by his ballet teacher, who knows talent when she sees it, Billy is determined to carry on dancing.

Of the four boys who alternate in the super-demanding role of Billy, Lewis Smallman was the one chosen to open in Cardiff. His was a Billy that we all know – a schoolboy going straight to the biscuit tin when he gets home. But this Billy is still grieving for the loss of his mum, and Smallman manages this part of the role with an expertise beyond his young years, but it is his skill as a dancer that rightly steals the show.

There is star quality here. This Billy is equally at home in the comically camp dance number in which Billy and his friend Michael (Elliot Stiff) dress up on girls’ clothes to the elegant precision of a version of Swan lake performed with an older Billy (Luke Cinque-White)in a dreamlike sequence in the second half – not in the original film but blending in perfectly. Martin Walsh, as Billy’s Dad, struggling both with the deprivations of the strike with no money coming and the problems of a recently bereaved father trying to bring up a young son on his own, brings a depth of understanding to the role, displaying both toughness and vulnerability. As Billy’s dancing teacher Mrs Wilkinson, who knows talent when she sees it, Annette McLaughlin has the role off pat – under no illusions as to her own teaching, and generous in spirit, cigarette puffing when the opportunity arises and with the big-hearted generosity that characterises the north.

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Peter Darling’s choreography for the tour differs slightly from the West End production, particularly in the foot-tapping number ‘Born to Boogie’ but most of the sensational dance numbers are the same – and pretty amazing they are, too, doing full justice to Elton John’s lyrical and swinging score in musical numbers that make you want to jump from your seat and join in. A small caveat –which seems almost invidious in the face of such talent – is that several cast members, including Smallman, have not entirely overcome the difficulties of the north east of England dialect.

The darker side of the story is the miner’s strike, and the stand-off between Thatcher’s government and the National Union of Mineworkers, with scenes played out at the pit face of one of the mines threatened with closure, and in the working men’s club where the miners hold their meetings, and the soup kitchen which is established there for the hungry miners and their families during the strike. Light relief is there, too, in the shape of Grandma – not always quite with it (she hides her pasty in the bedclothes much to her grandson’s disgust!). Andrea Miller’s Grandma is a great cameo, displaying a love and empathy for, and with, Billy and his dreams with which many grandparents will identify.

Overall, though, Billy Elliot belongs to the young, and the ensemble of dancers and singers more than do it justice. Bravo!

Runs until 16th July at the WMC

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/BillyElliot/

Writer: Lee Hall

Music: Elton John

Choreographer: Peter Darling

Director: Stephen Daldry

Review Billy Elliot WMC by Gemma Treharne-Foose

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Fans of the original Billy Elliott movie, also directed by Stephen Daldry can expect a little bit of extra magic from the Wales Millennium Centre’s hosting of the hugely successful Billy Elliott production.

Charismatically led by the mesmerising young actor Lewis Smallman, the show takes us on a pleasing detour from the original film script. We not only see brand new additions to the story but lengthier explorations in to the characters of Billy’s Mam, Nana and Michael (who you may remember has a penchant for his sister’s clothes and has a soft spot for his friend Billy). There are plenty of cheeky exchanges and gritty working class banter courtesy of the superb ensemble cast and the kind of unguarded and politically incorrect observations and comments reminiscent of drunk uncles or grandfathers at Christmas. This was the eighties, after all!

The show respectfully and tastefully contextualises a time of great fear and a sense of national panic about the fate of mining communities, punctuated by the innocence and childish sense of fun of Billy and his fiend Michael. The two battle with conforming to the unwelcome stereotypes and limitations placed upon them in the masculine mining communities during the miner’s strike. Throughout the whole production, the community is at war with the police on the picket lines and the sense of hatred towards Margaret Thatcher is palpable. There are sprinklings of ‘Maggie Maggie Maggie Maggie – out, out, out!’ chants, naughty jokes, insults, political Thatcher and Heseltine puppets and an incredibly designed giant Margaret Thatcher (milk snatcher) model emerging from the stage at one point, which will remind you of the ‘Spitting Image’ years. There is a simply spectacular scene where Billy and his ballet classmates are in the middle of a lesson while dancing coppers clash with picketing miners…the story telling in Darling’s choreography, use of pace and the physicality of the actors was a powerful highlight for me.

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I loved the additional scene in the musical where Andrea Miller’s character Nanna paints a picture of what life was like for women when ‘men went out to mine’. For all the much-romanticised community spirit and camaraderie of the mining men…life was pretty shit for the women left behind.

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Nanna’s rebelliousness and Joie de vivre as she literally gives the finger to gender stereotypes and misogyny is infectious and this nod to gender politics and male chauvinism was later echoed when Billy caught Michael trying on dresses. Michael innocently asks ‘What’s wrong with being dressed as a girl?’, as if dressing as a girl is worse than actually being one. There is a fantastically camp and cute scene where Michael and Billy deliver an incredible call to action during their energetic and playful dance piece: be who you want to be – dress and all!

While Daldry’s movie gave us pacy cinematic editing and a razor sharp script, it’s fair to say the script for the on-stage production doesn’t quite match the quality of the original film script. Some of the lyrics and exchanges are a little simple and at times clichéd. On the first night of its long run, some of the Geordie accents were a bit ropey and there were some sound issues with a creaking set BUT we are more than compensated with incredible choreography thanks to Peter Darling. This is a real shot of adrenaline in the arm and a classic feel-good show. Go see this show, take your Mam…wear a tutu, even – you won’t regret it.

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Title: Billy Elliott
Venue: Wales Millennium Centre
Dates (15th June-16 July), PN 15th June.
Book and Lyrics by Lee Hall
Director: Stephen Daldry
Design: Ian Macneil
Technical: Costume by Nicky Gillibrand; Lighting by Rick Fisher, Sound by Paul Arditti.
Cast includes: Anette McLaughlin, Martin Walsh, Andrea Miller and Scott Garnham.
Producer(s) Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn and Sally Greene.
Running time: 3hrs

 

Review Alternative Routes NDCW by Helen Joy

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Dance. In a space I didn’t know existed. I am not proud of this fact. I am not proud that I know embarrassingly little about dance too.

We are met at the door by Paul Kaynes and his team and they welcome us with huge smiles and enthusiasm. Everyone chats and enjoys the view over Cardiff Bay from the rooftop of this marvellous building. We are given an introduction to the evening and invited in to the auditorium.

The seats are packed with colour and youth. I become slightly obsessed with wanting to swap this audience with that grey-haired one at the Cathedral earlier in the week. And as the evening progresses, I want to do this more and more. I want the opera lovers to be here, with me, sharing this beautiful experience. Oh to pull it all together somehow!

I confess, I don’t read programmes before I see something. I don’t want to be influenced. I want it to speak to me and me alone. This is about Voice, after all.

It begins with a woman and a man dancing to what feels like Eighties rave music with strobes and UV and hoops and planets and they tell a little love story through dance and gymnastics and ballet and they are so beautiful, just so beautiful. Luminously lovely. And I want to be Degas – I want to capture their shapes somehow. It is not enough to watch them.

Darkness. A spotlight. A man dances through a series of emotions and I feel I am watching his collapse into sadness. He makes me think of the loneliness of communication – the struggle to be understood. It is a deeply moving performance. I am relieved when finally he stands in the centre of the light.

A woman prowls onto the stage. She talks to us through her movements and I am desperate to interpret them. The music is sweeping and classical and it is all very pretty and acceptable and then it changes in a moment, it swells to panther proportions and I am watching a wild animal and the movements become the language of the wolf. Her body is not her own – she is absorbed in her passions and she is perfect in her credibility.

And then we break.

And I sit with Daniella. A student of dance. She looks me straight in the eye and tells me how wonderful it all is, how all she has ever done is dance, she has danced since she was a little child, it is who she is. She is enraptured by the second piece but she has loved it all. In her face I see that the gift of dance is a good one. There is such power in using dance to communicate – no-one else’s story, just your own; no tool as messenger, just your thoughts sent out there through your body.

It feels so loose, so uncontrolled, so unrepeatable. What an ability these people have and what a task to choreograph and to make it seem so easy every time!

We are asked to stand around the stage. It is a big space but we are shoulder to shoulder forming a square around a Crossword of 4 dancers. Each performs within a square, a battenburg cake of dance. Singly, together, this is an argument, a joke, a party, a series of opinions agreeing and clashing. I want to see it from above, see the patterns they make. It is gorgeous to watch and to be so close. I can see that I am not alone in wanting to join in – we all want to be part of it, to be understood.

We return to our seats. What now? Well. We get more cake, we get Nigella. We get a menopausal woman breaking the bonds of housewifery – as well as a few eggs! It is quite the most unusual performance I have ever seen and it is brilliant. I laugh! It is me!

I chat to others as we leave – what did you think of that last one? Oh yes, I do that – well, I want to do that…

I have loved it. Every minute of it. It has been challenging, beautiful, sad and funny. A novel in dance. And I still want to swap those audiences – bring those different voices together somehow and we will all be the wiser for it.

Event:                                       Alternate Routes

At:                                               National Dance Company Wales

Production:                           WMC, RWCMD & National Dance Company Wales for Festival of Voice

Artistic Director:               Caroline Finn

Choreographers:                Matteo Marfoglia, Camille Giraudeau and           Josef Perou

Chief Exec:                             Paul Kaynes

Seen:                                          6.45pm, 9th June, 2016

Reviewer:                                Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:                                   09 Jun – 11 Jun 2016

Links:

http://www.ndcwales.co.uk/en/what-s-on/alternative-routes-20161/

http://www.ndcwales.co.uk/en/about/latest-news/national-dance-company-wales-and-royal-welsh-college-of-music-and-drama-inspires-the-next-generation-of-choereograghers-and-designers-through-alternative-routes/

 

Star rating:                4

 

 

Review The Merchants of Bollywood, Peacock Theatre by Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Back again to the Peacock Theatre, one of the wonderful houses of dance in London. From my first experience in ‘the hood’ where urban myths unfold on stage, to a cultural, vibrant and full of life story of Bollywood vs Traditional Indian dance.

The story follows the relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather and the distance caused between them with his want to keep tradition alive and her eagerness for fame and the Bollywood scene.

We encounter flashbacks vs the current storyline, emphasised by the narration of the progress of the story. With this and the occasional comical and melodramatic scene, we are given the sense of Bollywood humour; an almost Shakespearian technique of throwing in comic relief amongst serious storylines. There is also a slight hint of satire, not just at Bollywood, but of all films across different cultures – pointing out the basics of storylines and how underneath the differences that producers give to a film, they are fundamentally the same.

Majority of the storylines they pick on are girl meets boy romances; the obstacles they face but the ultimate reunion of the characters, conquering all with love. This is mirrored cleverly itself with the storyline of the production – the main character reuniting with her childhood sweetheart after being whisked away by fame and fortune. A cross-culture concept of tradition vs modernisation and the affect it makes on heritage is also picked upon by highlighting through dance and costume the current trend and the more traditional.

The Merchants of Bollywood is full of life and colour – the energy brought to the stage through dance is palpable; the music is catchy and enjoyable; the characters are well formed in their blocks of serious characters and the comical relief. Some of the more serious moments become a little hammed up and caused laughter rather than an emotional expression. I continued to think of this, comparing it to the rest of the production – from my little knowledge of Bollywood, it does have a sense of melodrama and the Soap Opera tint on its stories and characters. By adding these moments to that ideal and taking account of the audience members who this made a positive impact on gauging from reactions, it would seem that playing off the over dramatic Bollywood genre is well constructed by imputing this through these moments; another satirical but celebratory nod to the film genre.

Overall I love The Merchants of Bollywood. As westerners, we have this concept of India as a beautiful, colourful place, steeped in history and tradition, but also in some aspects moving with the times. The story and construction of the production emphasises all of this; coming away without having a good time is pretty impossible.

http://merchantsofbollywood.com.au/the-music/

http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2016/the-merchants-of-bollywood/

 

Review Black Stuff Earthfall by Helen Joy

blackstuff

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

 

It is late but still light in Cardiff Bay. I am rushing back to the foyer to regain my handbag from the cloakroom, when I am stopped by another member of the Black Stuff audience: what did you think of it? You want me to be totally honest? Yes. Ok, I am hungry and I was bored. Me too, she says, I was watching the audience to see whether it was just me. So was I, I say.

Why bored when there is energy – this unrelenting, grubby energy in the piece?

The manic desire of 4 performers to activate their audience in the filthy black, broken building of Cardiff’s coal black past begins with the usual introduction of the heroic industrial past, the rise of hateful capitalism and the loss of jobs. A facile, lazy, predictable position.

A loose plot of past characters all real and one still living, uncomfortably atop a wonderful, surreal story of miners and hangmen.

Hard to understand, hard to hear the words, hard to follow the perambulatory plot through the rotting rooms. Gratuitous fire and semi-nakedness with a moment of light with Anna Karenina and a cricket match in a corridor over rail tracks. Oh and some nervous amusement over the dining table. Smashing. Grim.

Let me just run over a couple of scenes.

One. A big dark room smelling of damp is lit by a flame at a far corner. 3 men mine lumps of dusty coal from a thick layer of the black stuff neatly carpeting the floor around us. They writhe in it, dance in it, they move it across the space like rocks in Bent. Their movements are assured; working hard and fast, balletic and athletic around our living, Spanish centrepiece and she is glorious in her command.

Another. That dining room with that dining table. Our coal streaked men of nations sit around a polished surface in high backed chairs. They philosophise. They are served soup slopped into their bowls by their opinionated lady. They eat and talk and slaver and drool their words and food dripping over them. Bowls are there for smashing.

So much effort goes into this production and it feels so cruel to be so cold about such a hot topic. But, sometimes theatre can be too clever, sometimes effects override a good story. The location is impressive, the ideas are sound and the performers are exciting – they don’t need to try so hard to impress us for so long. It is exhausting. It becomes monotonous, dull in its efforts to share that energy.

After the finale of rolling and crashing big blue drums around a collapsing ballroom of an office, the applause from the people backed against the walls is long and loud.

In the foyer, I ask another person what she thought: I am reeling, she said, it gave me so much to think about. She is happy and fulfilled by her experience. She is probably not alone. Not bored at all.

Theatre / performance art/dance
Black Stuff
Wales Millennium Centre, Cory building
Tue 17 May 2016 to Sat 28 May 2016
Directed by Paul Davies
Movement Director: Catherine Bennett
Design: Cadi Lane
Lighting Design: Ben Stimpson
Production Manager: Dan Taylor
Performers: Rhys McLellan; Neal McWilliams; Barbara Sarmiento Araña; Aled Bidder
Video: Erin Rickard
Original Sound: Adam Howell
Thanks to Betty Rae Watkins, Sarah Pace and the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru – See more at: http://www.volcanotheatre.co.uk/whats-on/black-stuff#sthash.45gW7ytc.dpuf