Hi Adele, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I am a theatre and opera director. I am from Port Talbot originally and live in Cardiff now. I’m about to make my Royal Opera House debut with Handel’s Berenice.
This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
I am obsessively listening to Berenice as I’m about to direct it! So my iPod is pretty much given over to that and to some of Handel’s other operas. It’s good to get a sense of where this piece fits into his wider body of work.
But the latest thing that I saw and was blown away by was a gig by Hen Ogledd. Their album, Mogic, has just come out and it’s just sensational. I’m a vinyl lover, so I’ll be listening to it on the record player!
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 1
Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles
I’m going to immediately preface this by saying that this is by no means The Beatles’ best album (for me, that’s Revolver) but it is the one that changed my life. I was struggling to fit in in my teens in a world of grey concrete and everyone in head to toe adidas block colour tracksuit and gangster rap. After one very late night of underage drinking, a friend took me back to his house and said “check this out”. He put the film of Magical Mystery Tour on and immediately my entire world opened up. The colour, the surreality, the clothes and, of course, the music! I became obsessed with the backwards tapeloops, the kaleidoscope camera, the technicolour kaftans. I binned the tracksuit and immediately became a 60s throwback. That one encounter opened up everything to me: art, counter culture, the music scene, a whole world of new friends. And I can still quote that film word for word.
His ‘N’ Hers – Pulp
When my school mates did all start listening to Oasis and Blur I was firmly in the 3rd camp: I was a massive Pulp fan. Different Class is the album that cemented them as working class hero for the wierdo amongst us, and This is Hardcore saw them reach the pinnacle of their orchestral ambition, but His ‘N’ Hers is my favourite. It captures something very real about being an outsider in the 90s: when charity shops were packed full of incredible 60s clothing for pennies, the seedy glamour of the beachside dirty weekend B n Bs along Mumbles road, sticky indie clubs and lager and lime. It’s an album that celebrates the trashy, sexy, the working class. Jarvis Cocker is still my hero and nothing makes me dance and cry at the same time like “Do you Remember the First time”.
Work and Non-Work – Broadcast
I wrestled between this and Dots and Loops by Stereolab (which is a masterpiece) but Broadcast just pips them for me. Warp records seemed to be the coolest thing on the planet, and Broadcast’s music touched a nostalgic nerve for a period I didn’t even know. Their music seemed to be the subconscious by product of an alternative past: the mulch creepiness of Dario Argento’s fits, the sun saturated photography, the trippy wierdness of Public Information films. This album is incredibly beautiful and cinematic: every song on it lends itself to a film that has never been made. And perhaps the thing that pushes Broadcast’s work up the list for me is the tragic death of their singer and heart of the group Trish Keenan. She was a fashion icon and a poetic mind who went too soon.
The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell
One night my boyfriend and I were driving very late down a pitch Black Country lane and we were listening to a radio show of Prince’s favourite songs. Suddenly this piece came on and it was so overwhelmingly beautiful, so totally perfect that we had to stop the car and just sit there in the dark listening. That song was Edith and the Kingpin from this strange and haunting album by the one and only Joni Mitchell. Poetically, every listen glistens with new meaning and her use of language is so incredible. “The helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof/ Like a dragonfly on a tomb”. Exquisite. Especially coming at you through that pure voice.
Wozzeck – Berg
I discovered that I wanted to direct for stage when I sat down and watched Richard Jones’s production of Berg’s complex and terrifyingly hard opera based on the Buchner play. That production tore away any concepts I had of what theatre could be. The world on stage was so strange, so complete, and the performers were incredible musicians and amazing actors (Christopher Purves’ performance in that was one of immense human detail. All while singing some of the hardest music you’ve every heard over a full orchestra). Now I’m finally directing opera, this production is still the benchmark for me of what can be achieved. It’s really worth listening to: yes the music’s complex, but the tragedy of the story is brilliantly served here. Please note the version Adele describes is not available online. Instead we present The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra, The Chorus of the Hamburg State Opera, Conducted by Bruno Maderna, Directed for television by Joachim Hess. Set design: Herbert Kirchhoff Costumes: Helmut Jürgens Recorded 1970, Hamburg State Opera.
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
I’m going to chose Babies from His N’ Hers because I think it shows how complex pop music can be. Melancholic, strangely profound: it captures the sense of teenage boredom on a rainy Tuesday evening between school and… But it also never fails to get everyone on the dance floor, and it builds into a euphoric, semi-spiritual exorcism of raw sexuality and kitchen sink drama. I can’t listen to this without dancing!
Hi Lleucu great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I was raised in Talgarreg, Ceredigion and went to Ysgol Dyffryn Teifi in Llandysul. While still at school my friends and I set up the Welsh-language rock festival, Roc y Cnapan, in Ffostrasol. We had amazing bands such as Y Cyrff (who later became Catatonia), Ffa Coffi Pawb (later, Super Furry Animals), Crumblowers, Cerrig Melys and Datblygu playing in front of thousands of young people who came to the festival from all over Wales. After school I travelled around South America for a while and studied English literature at New College, Oxford. After working at various media and arts companies I ended up where I am now in Literature Wales. Poetry, spoken word and hip-hop have always inspired me, and I love the way these genres have developed and intersected over the years.
This chat is
specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and
professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
These days I’m enjoying listening to Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Stormzy, Dave (the young political rapper from London. Check out his song Question Time) – exciting music with a message and an edge.
There’s also a lot of great music coming from Wales, such as Los Blancos, Adwaith, Y Pencadlys. And Olion by Mr has been playing endlessly in our house for the last couple of months.
We are interviewing a
range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5
records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
1 Velvet Underground & Nico – a funny, louche and weird album with surprisingly catchy songs. I listened to it a lot as a teenager (and still do), and it made me fantasise about moving to New York, wear black and live in a loft.
2 Ride On by Christy Moore – my friends and family can vouch that this gets played a lot in our house and I know every single word to every song. His voice is hauntingly beautiful.
3 It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy – extremely influential album when I was younger and the band still sounds as fresh and urgent now. I saw them play at the Tramshed a couple of years ago and they were amazing.
4 Libertino by Datblygu – without a doubt the most influential and exciting band ever in the Welsh-language, if not in any language. The combination of the musical genius of Patricia Morgan and the poetic desolation of Dave R Edwards makes any of Datblygu’s albums worthy of intense listening.
5 Gold: Greatest Hits by ABBA – dancing round the kitchen to ABBA songs is a tradition I’ve proudly passed on to my children. Fun, classy, catchy, genius pop disco tunes which should be part of everybody’s lives.
Just to put you on the spot could you choose
one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
A toss-up between Cân i Gymru from Libertino by Datblygu and Dancing Queen by ABBA. Or perhaps Ride On by Christy Moore, or Don’t Believe the Hype by Public Enemy. I really can’t choose!L
In the article below a range of Welsh and Wales based creatives share with us a selection of cultural events they are looking forward to this year. Thanks to all of our contributors.
Connor Allen, Writer and Actor.
My cultural highlights for 2019 would have to include Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre starring Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Cox. One of my favourite Pinter plays and one hell of a cast, so it should be great!
Another one I’m ecstatic for is Tree by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah at the Manchester International Festival. The vision of both those artists is nothing short of superb so we are in for a treat whatever they create.
And speaking of the Manchester International Festival Skepta is doing an immersive experience called Dystopia987 and even if you’re not a lover of grime I can bet that it’ll be worth the watch.
Closer to home in Wales I’m looking forward to Mathew Bourne’s Romeo & Juliet coming to the Wales Millennium Centre as previous productions from Mr Bourne have been astounding in terms of choreography and storytelling so I am very much looking forward to his take on Romeo & Juliet.
Also I’m very eager to watch Tigerface by Justin Cliffe at The OtherRoom in Cardiff. I’ve no doubt that it will be an awesome piece and being that I missed previous sharing’s of it I am excited to see the piece in its entirety.
A personal hope of mine for 2019 is that more people and companies are taking risks, especially with minority groups. We’ve played it safe for many years now. Let’s shake it up. And also accepting other people’s views even if they are different from our own. We all come from different walks of life and with that we bring different views and opinions. Let’s show compassion and accept or at least acknowledge other people’s views. We can all learn and grow from each other.
Meredydd Barker, Playwright.
From the 14thof June to the 10thof November, Tate Liverpool is hosting the first, major UK exhibition of artist and activist Keith Haring. Because his work decorates T-shirts and tea towels it tends to be forgotten how subversive he was. This is a superb opportunity to be reminded of how urgent his response was to issues such political dictatorship, racism, homophobia, drug addiction, capitalism and the environment. He died 28 years ago but is as relevant as he’s ever been.
It didn’t happen last year but I will get to see The Idles live this year; I will, I will, I will…
If I make it, I will be 50 in September and hope to be in Chicago to celebrate. There’ll be a World Music Festival on at the time – think Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, but in Chicago – so I’ll dip in and out of that while going to as many shows, plays, bars as I can. Nothing planned for definite, but I think just going to Chicago – and New York beforehand – counts as a cultural event.
I’ve just bought tickets to see Ruby Wax – How to be Human: The Show, “answers every question you’ve ever had about evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, sex, kids, the future and compassion.” I think she’s astonishing, one of the great documentary makers of our time and times.
I always promise myself that I’ll go the Machynlleth Comedy Festival and it never happens, but I am going to make a super-human effort to get there this year.
As for me I’m writing a play called The Huntsman for the brilliant Torch Theatre in Milford Haven. It’s pencilled in for perfomances this Autumn. I’m piecing together the first draft as I write. I have to remind myself to breathe as I do so. It’s about Pembrokeshire when serial killer John Cooper was at large. And along with a brilliant film-maker called Nick Swannell I’ve just begun the process of starting a film company called The Holding Cell. I’m very excited about that indeed.
Be Excited. Be Bold. Be Kind. That, I hope, will be the themes for this year, and these horribly uncertain times.
Mawgaine Tarrant-Cornish, Casting Associate, National Theatre Wales.
First up I’m excited about BLUE, a new play by Rhys Warrington which has a stellar cast. It’s at Chapter from next week.
At NTW, I’ve been working with Mike Brookes to cast STORM 3: TOGETHER AND ALONE and I can’t wait to see these performers together on stage in March. They’ll be taking over a venue in Newport with this experimental show about how we figure out our place in the world.
Also in March, NEW, from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, will hit the Sherman Theatre. It’s your chance to catch this year’s graduating actors collaborating on four brand new plays by up and coming British playwrights. For Wales’ offering, Hannah Noone will direct Jacob Hodgkinson’s BETWEEN ETERNITY AND TIME.
As part of Diffusion 2019, in April, Matt Wright and Janire Najera will create an immersive visual score for JUNIPER, Slowly Rolling Camera’s latest album, which they’ll play live.
At National Museum Wales, the Women in Focus exhibition
continues into June. Part One introduced me to Charlotte James and her Ffasiwn Project with Clémentine
Schneidermann so I’m looking forward to discovering many a new girl crush
in Part Two: Women in Front of the Lens.
I’d love to see DYSTOPIA987 by Skepta at MIF this summer and there’ll be loads more to get excited about in that programme, I’m sure.
Artes Mundi Tour with John Wilson. I have been campaigning for many years to try and get John Wilson to curate and lead a BSL tour at one of our brilliant museums/galleries. John is one of the most experienced Deaf curators in the UK and for him to come to Wales to led the Artes Mundi exhibition at the National Museum, Cardiff was fantastic!
The event took place two weeks ago and sold out pretty quickly. My background and passion is visual arts and to see this happening in Wales was a personal dream for me. I have been to hundreds of exhibition tours and I usually only understand about 20/30% of what is spoken, for this tour I understood 100%.
I think having a Deaf curator makes a bigger impact because of the language they use and it resonated with a Deaf audience. There was a real mixture of people in attendance; some have never been to a museum before, some attending liked Art but have limited opportunities to see an accessible tour, some just wanted to see John. The feedback was really positive and I hope to bring John back more for more BSL tours in other museums around Wales. You can read and exclusive interview with John and Jonny about this event here.
Mr and Mrs Clark ‘Louder Is Not Always Clearer’. I might be biased because I am involved in this but it is going on another tour from May to June then will be heading for a month at the Edinburgh Fringe at the Summerhall. Louder Is Not Always Clearer has also been selected for the national rural touring and will be visiting rural communities in the UK. Exciting times and we are looking forward seeing wider and more diverse audiences!
Cardiff Deaf Centre Arts Festival – After it’s success 5 years ago for young deaf people, it is back again in April at the WMC with a range of exciting Deaf artists running workshops.
Hijinx and Frantic Assembly ‘Into the Light” at Sherman Theatre. Always exciting to watch both organisations but to see the two combined… wow!- I am looking forward to see more disabled-led events in 2019. Kaite O’Rieily’s ‘Peeling’ directed by Taking Flight looks interesting as well as the brilliant Graeae’s new production of Sarah Kane’s ‘Blasted’. I am very excited to hear Deafinitely Theatre are creating their version of ‘Horrible Histories’ called ‘Dreadful Deaf’ which is going to be touring later in the year. I am really excited to see what Paula Garfield (Director of Deafinitaly Theatre) is going to do with this. I am sure it will be fun, visual, accessible and mad!
I am also hoping to see Extraordinary Bodies new fully inclusive outdoor touring show ‘What I am Worth’. British Paraorchestra’s ‘Nature Of Why’ is touring and will be coming to WMC. They are the world’s only large-scale ensemble for professional disabled musicians so I am very excited they are coming to Wales.- I have been looking at festivals where we can take our 2 year old daughter along so we are going to head back to the Blue Lagoon Festival in West Wales which we have been many times and its brilliant. We are also thinking (if i can get tickets) of going to the Just So Festival because it looks amazing. I have never been to the Machynlleth Festival so I have made sure it is on my list to visit this year.
Branwen Davies, Writer.
My cultural delights or highlights for 2019? I’m still recovering from the cultural smorgasbord of 2018! The end of the year in particular was a whirlwind of exciting and engaging work that inspired and moved me. I’m still discussing and thinking about some of my favourites – Clean Break’s ‘Thick as Thieves’ at Theatr Clwyd, John Rea’s ‘Atgyfodi’ at Sain Ffagan, the Sherman’s production of Meic Povey’s ‘Fel Anifail,’ good cop, bad cop’s ‘Phantom Rides Again’ at Chapter and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s verbatim musical ‘Nyrsys.’
Other theatre productions I don’t want to miss this year are Fran Wen’s powerful one woman show ‘Anweledig.’ Be Aware’s Turkish/Welsh production ‘Y Brain/Kargalar.’Cwmni Pluen’s ‘Woof’ and Ed Thomas’s new play ‘On Bear Ridge’ (a co-production between NTW and the Royal Court). As one of the Dirty Protest gang I’m excited that we have a new production touring in the spring. Sian Owen’s one woman show ‘How To Be Brave’ is set in Newport and is a love story to the city. On the art front I’m intrigued to see the work on show and the work being developed at Shift and Rugart/Celfryg and the possibilities of these contemporary art spaces at the Capitol Shopping Centre on Queen Street. Another highlight I’m looking forward to is London Sinfonietta Synergy Vocals at St David’s Hall (Steve Reich being hailed as one of ‘the most original music thinkers of our time’)
I want to enjoy more live music this year. I just hope there will still be vibrant and individual venues left to be able to do so. I’m heartbroken that Buffalo and Gwdihw in Cardiff have been forced to close down.
I recently saw Cate Le Bon at The Gate, Lleuwen is performing a series of acoustic gigs in chapels across Wales following the release of her new album ‘Gwn Glân Beibl Budr,’ and Mr (Mark Roberts + Band) is also touring. I love his first solo album, Oesoedd.
My personal hope is to collaborate more with different artists who work differently to me and to have more creative discussions. I’m keen to work more with music and sound and challenge the way I write and create. I’m also keen to explore the possibilities of political plays in Wales. Where are our political plays especially in the current political turmoil we’re facing in Wales and beyond?
Peter Doran, Artistic Director, Torch Theatre.
2019 will start with a theatrical explosion for me, I’ve booked for Wise Children, the first production of Emma Rice’s new company at Bristol Old Vic. Emma Rice is one of the most exciting directors in the UK, her work with Kneehigh was phenomenal. I directed Brief Encounter at the Torch a couple of years ago, unashamedly based on her production with Kneehigh and was probably one of the highlights of my career as a director. Wise Children, I’m told has all the hallmarks of a knee-high production and with two fantastic Welsh actors in the cast, Katy Owen and Gareth Snook and no bridge tolls to pay, this will be a cracking start to the year.
Laura Penneycard and Liam Tobin in Torch Theatre production of Brief Encounter by Emma Rice.
From a Torch perspective, we have Grav back for it’s fifth tour, it’s now like welcoming an old friend back to the theatre; staff, audiences, they all love Grav, it creates such a great atmosphere in the theatre; it’ll be great having him back at the Torch and to take him to London for a short run at the Hope Theatre in Islington! Who would’ve thought that a play about a boy from Mynedd y Garreg would perform in New York, Washington DC and London all in the space of twelve months.
Gareth Ford Elliot, Get the Chance critic and playwright.
My personal highlights of what I’m looking forward to are the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival and The Other Room’s Spring Fringe. It will be excellent to see so much work in the first half of the year in Cardiff.
As for specific projects, Spilt Milk’s ‘Five Green Bottles’ by Joe Wiltshire-Smith looks to be an absolute hit. It was a brilliant show at last year’s Cardiff Fringe and to see it with a few extra months work and some changes is a very exciting prospect. Wiltshire-Smith is one of the upcoming Cardiff-based writers and working with Spilt Milk who have contributed so much to Cardiff’s arts scene in the last two years is a combination not to be missed.
David Evans, Head of Production, National Theatre Wales.
I am intrigued to see the The Mirror Crack’d – the WMC’s Co-Production with Wiltshire Creative that will be on at The New Theatre, Cardiff. Agatha Christie shows have been the staple of mid scale touring for years, populated by people “off the telly” in the twilight of their careers. But this is apparently a completely new take on the hoary old country house murders and I am fascinated to see what they have done.
After “Now the Hero” I am eager to see anything that Marc Rees is up to, I don’t know what his plans for 2019 are but whatever they are I will be there.
Matthew Gough, Faculty of Creative Industries, USW, Senior Lecturer Dance
I’ve been looking forward to 2019 for some time, it will bring the first graduates from BA Hons Dance, at the University of South Wales. Some 20 years after my own graduation I will be watching our students with pride as they present their dissertations (March), Perform at MAP festival, and Agor Drysau (March), a repertoire night with work from Wales based choreographers (April), and our end of semester performances at Dance House Cardiff (April, & May). National Dance Company of Wales, and Groundwork Pro are both in a period of new leadership and their plans for future delivery are exciting and progressive. A number of dance artists have (re)established themselves in Wales and, the sector will benefit from the diverse perspectives, and experience they bring. Cardiff Dance Festival always brings a richly curated, international focus to the sector, and I anticipate the next edition will bring more dance delights (November). Overall I look forwards to the Welsh dance sector, adapting, reimagining, and revitalising itself depicts the challenges, and uncertainty that we know 2019 will bring.
Rebecca Jane Hammond, Artistic Director Chippy Lane.
I think topping ‘2018’ will be difficult as there was so much work of great quality being developed and produced. New companies thriving, venues reaching wider audiences and winning awards and most importantly the community rallying together to ensure our work is met with joy and love and great support for one another.
My cultural highlight for 2019: NEW: 2019, Between Eternity and Time Written by our Jacob Hodgkinson, directed by Hannah Noone, commissioned by Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and Sherman Theatre “I am beyond excited to see this team of collaborators working together and Jacob’s writing getting the recognition it so deeply deserves in Cardiff and London.”
19 – 21 Mar, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama 2 – 5 Apr, The Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, London
As for our own cultural highlight it’s important I mention BLUE, Chippy Lane’s second production and first foray into new writing. Boasting an authentic Welsh and Wales-based creative team and published by Methuen Drama (Bloomsbury Publishing). This is an enormous achievement for a company not yet three years old. We will also continue our other projects and initiatives by producing more of Chippy Lane’s Podcast and running our Welsh Female Writers Group. We hope you can continue to support us as we continue to create great theatre and provide opportunity.
Paul Jenkins, Theatre Director/Dramaturg/Writer.
I’m looking forward to new plays from Elgan Rhys & Ed Thomas. Woof, directed by Gethin Evans, is first up at The Sherman and is sure to be a theatrical force from the creative force from the creative team behind Mags last year. Then the brilliant Ed Thomas, whose gritty surrealism defined Welsh theatre in the 90s makes a welcome return with NTW. On a personal note I’ve been inspired by the locals of Taibach while recording responses to the Banksy that appeared over Xmas. This street art asks difficult questions about the economic foundations of Port Talbot and yet has been embraced by the entire community. Freelance theatre-makers like myself rely on the big producing theatres to pick up exciting ideas & support emerging talent, so I’m very much hoping the Banksy story will find a good home and become an essential highlight of 2019.
Zosia Jo, Dance Artist.
Most of the things I am looking forward to in 2019 are still awaiting their funding! Cardiff Dance Festival for example, and my own production- Songs for the Body- which will be a promenade live action concept album with dance, music and spoken word taking over Chapter in October half term.
However one thing that is confirmed is Groundwork Pro’s funding and they will be offering workshops, events, classes and residencies for dance and movement artists throughout 2019. There will be so much opportunity for discussion, training, sharing and professional development. I am really excited to be part of it.
Angharad Lee, Director.
Firstly, I am looking forward to seeing Hadestow which tells a version of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a musical adaptation of the folk Opera concept album by Anais Mitchell.
I am silly excited about attending an intimate evening with Stephen Schwarts in Manchester. It’s the first he has done in the UK. I am thrilled to see Wales Millennium Centre devote their Curious Season to mental health later in the year and can’t wait to see what’s in store there. Draw Me Close at the Young Vic looks fascinating also.
Having had a frantic year last year, most of my own creative enegrgies this year are being ploughed into the new BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre Course which will be up and running this September. It’s the first ever undergraduate course in Musical Theatre in Wales and am delighted to be a part of it. Details here,get in touch if you think you would like to apply and come and chat .
In the meantime I am directing Pippin by Stephen Schwartz and The World Goes ‘Round, both with the fabulous students at Canolfan Berfformio Cymru, UWTSD. Leeway Productons’ 10 Minute Musicals will be rolled out again a little later in the year with some fabulous partners including RCT Theatres who work so hard as a team. We are also thrilled to be working on a lovely Welsh Language production with some young people from Merthyr in the Summer. Hopefully, this year will feel a little more relaxed than last year!
David Mercatali, Director.
My highlight of the year ahead is to see the continued development of the 15-18 year olds in my Introduction to Playwriting group at the Sherman Theatre. Mentored by 3 brilliant writers, Matt Hartley, Branwen Davies and Brad Birch, their work is already showing so much talent and I can’t wait to see what they do this year. My personal hope is to see more new plays produced for longer runs in Wales. There’s many exciting voices with stories to tell.
Rachel Pedley Millar, Artistic Director, Avant Cymru.
Happy 2019 everyone. Avant have an important year lined up, where we have a focus on mental health and well-being. Our Hip Hop theatre piece has a focus on mental health and we hope to head to New York to attend the Hip Hop for metal health conference held by Doug E Fresh and partners. We aim to undertake research on ‘how art can aid those living with mental health conditions?’ Working with other artists (including Sadlers Wells) and our community in RCT.
The Valleys have a celebrity year with it being 80 years since Llewellyn wrote ‘How Green Is My Valley’, we want to find out ‘How Green is Our Valley Now? We are always interested in what everyone in our community has to say. Including other artist and we hear Motherlode have exciting plans this year and we can’t wait to hear more about them.
Have a happy, healthy New year everyone. “For all sad words of mouth or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been.” – John Whittier.
Fearghus Ó Conchúir, Artistic Director, National Dance Company Wales.
As a newcomer to Wales, there’s a lot for me to learn about, lots to see. Starting closest to home, some of the events I already know I’m looking forward are in our varied activity at NDCWales: our Awakeningprogramme that tours Wales and England in the Spring with magical new work by Brazilian choreographer, Fernando Melo and by our resident choreographer, Caroline Finn, as well as the Roots programme that will tour across Wales in the Autumn with pieces by new choreographic talent.
As a recently-arrived Artistic Director, I’m mostly at a stage where I get to be an excited cheerleader for other people’s work in our programmes, but I’m also happy that in 2019, I’ll get to make work myself, with the company’s professional dancers, with other artists and with different groups across Wales who will all inform the new piece. I knew about Cardiff Dance Festival before I came here, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in this year’s programme. And one more dance highlight for me will be the BBC’s #DancePassion on 5th April when the BBC’s social media channels will showcase dance in the UK, with livestreaming (including from NDCWales) and the chance for audiences to interact. I’m looking forward to seeing the diversity of dance that this event will bring to the BBC’s wide public.
Because I’m interested in what bodies get to be visible and to fulfil their potential, I’m inspired by work that shows me what’s possible and pushes me to expand my vision. For that reason, Mission Control, NTW’s collaboration with Hijinx that will be performed in November is something for me to look forward to with its cast of professional neurodivergent and learning-disabled actors as well as members of the Only Boys Aloud choirs. I won’t get to see Splish Splash, the NTW collaboration with Oily Cart that’s made exclusively for children in special schools across Wales and England, but I love that it’s going on and that it’s going to be a cultural highlight for people who mightn’t be included in other events.
Jasmine Okai, Assistant Producer, Fio.
Fio: Futures’ production of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Fear and Misery of the Third Reich’ showcasing in RawFfest April 2019. This timeless story of the rise of fascism is unfortunately still as pertinent today as it was in the 1940s. Brecht’s play presents a series of vignettes on the everyday lives of German citizens, including Jewish people, living under this oppressive regime of Nazi fascism during World War II. After the success of ‘The Island’ UK tour in October 2018, Fio have since established Fio’s Young Company, Fio: Futures, who will be bringing these important stories to the stage.
William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, as reimagined by Jo Clifford. Shakespeare productions are a classic and, some would argue, integral faction of theatre. What makes this production so exciting is that while keeping the main story of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, Jo Clifford uses gender reversal within the main characters to switch up the dynamics of the play. How refreshing!
Catherine Paskell, Theatre Director.
Believe. If I Could Turn Back Time. Just Like Jesse James. Gypsies Tramps and Thieves. Bang Bang. I can’t wait to see Cher’s concert. Her tour in October 2019 will be her first live UK dates in 14 years. Her songs, her films, her outfits, her political activism, her Twitter feed. Her music video for If I Could Turn Back Time was too much even for MTV because we could see her tattooed bum cheeks either side of her thong as she straddled that cannon and strutted in front of the navy – so it was the first video to be banned by the channel. Cher’s career and musical evolution embodies the transitions of American cultural forms. She is outspoken, honest and authentic as an older woman in a male-dominated field. It’s going to be an ambitious, theatrical and entertaining show – Cher is my cultural highlight of 2019.
Films – Toy Story 4, and Star Wars IX. I mean, do I need to justify those? Reuben Ostlund’s Triangle of Sadness starts shooting 2019 but I’m not sure it’ll be released.
Theatre – Richard III by Headlong will be brilliant. And it’s great that Ed Thomas has taken a break from counting money to write another play so I’m excited about ‘On Bear Ridge’ by National Theatre Wales. Berberian Sound Studio created by designer Tom Scutt and playwright Joel Horwood at the Donmar warehouse. Home, I’m Darling at Theatre Clwyd, I missed it first time around. The Funeral Director by Imam Qureshi won the Papatango Competition this year and is being toured by ETC. Nos Sadwrn O Hyd by Roger Williams is a brilliant monologue revived in Welsh for the first time by Theatr Gen.
TV – What We Do In The Shadows has been turned into a TV show released in 2019. I’m also super excited about Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone, and a new True Detective series. Channel 4 have produced a new 4 parter from Lucy Kirkwood about the porn industry called Adult Material, fellow Cynon Valley boy Gareth Evans has his first TV series out Gangs of London on HBO and Sky Atlantic.
Event – Blue Dot at Joddrell is a brilliant mix of science, astronomy big ideas and music – Gruff Rhys and Hot Chip play this year under the mighty Lovell Telescope. It looks amazing.
Catrin Rogers, Press and PR Manager, National Theatre Wales.
I’ve booked tickets to see WNO’s The Magic Flute, and I have high hopes for that. They’ve just announced their next season, including the return of Bryn Terfel, which is great.
I’ll try to catch at least one of Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s touring plays, by Catrin Dafydd and Roger Williams – two writers I admire very much – in the Spring.
I’ve also booked tickets to see National Dance Company Wales’ Spring tour, Awakening. It includes Tundra, which I’ve seen many times but never, ever tire of – honestly, it takes my breath away every time I see it.
In the coming weeks I’ll go with my family to catch the Artes Mundi Exhibition, which I’ve been reading a lot about.
2019 is set to be another fantastic year for the arts. Even though the production won’t be until 2020 I’m excited to see what project will be chosen from National Theatre Wales’ Radical Creatures callout, I think it’s a great initiative and a great choice for female identifying and non binary artists to take more of centre stage in the current arts scene.
From a more selfish point of view my theatre company, CB4 Theatre, will be presenting our inaugural production 10,316, a new devised piece marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We’re all so excited to get stuck in to the already thriving grassroots arts scene here in Cardiff, so watch this space for dates!
Aside from the arts, 2019 is definitely going to be a bumpy year. With Brexit looming and pressing social issues plaguing the country I really hope that art can do what it does best; listen, respond, discuss, create, inspire, protest. At a time where it’s easy to give into divisions I think it’s more important than ever for the arts world to take a strong stand against hatred and fascism.
Music-wise, I’ll keep my usual eye on Warp, Hyperdub, and Heavenly. Nubya Garcia is playing Clwb in May, so I’ll try to get down to see her. Mostly though I’ll still be dreaming of SFA making another album and hoping Doves get their arses in gear after the dates they’re playing.
In art, I’m looking forward to seeing how John Abell’s new place, RUG develops over the coming year. 2019 also looks like it’s going to be a brilliant year for new fiction, and the novel I’m most excited about is Niven Govinden’s ‘This Brutal House’, which has been described as a queer protest novel set in the drag ball community of New York City and, therefore, fierce as all fuck.
As far as theatre goes, How To Be Brave by Sîan Owen is coming via Dirty Protest and I am doubly excited to see this full scale show, especially as it is set in my adopted home of Newport and pitches up in the one and only Le Pub. As for my personal hopes: I just hope there is a miracle of some sort that puts a halt to the madness we can see coming our way, and Liverpool and Manchester City lose every game they play between now and the end of the season.
Abdul Shayek, Artistic Director Fio.
So for me, 2019 has started off with a bang- one of my cultural highlights has already happened, Sri Lanka and the Galle Literature Festival, where the amazing spoken word artist Nicole May performed! It also featured writers such as Sir David Hare, Mohammed Hanif and Vahni Capildeo amongst others who I had the pleasure of meeting. I was also lucky enough to find out about the amazing arts and cultural activities taking place across the South Asia region, supported or directly delivered by the British Council, as I joined their bi-annual Arts regional meeting, in my capacity as an Arts Advisor.
Personally, the next cultural highlight will be my trip to Australia as part of the British Council Australia Intersect Programme. It was brilliant when my counterparts came over to the UK, which included a visit to Cardiff in 2018. Now it’s the turn of the UK participants to visit Australia, learn and understand what the diversity and inclusion picture looks like. We will be visiting Sydney and Melbourne and meeting with a range of cultural leaders. We will also be part of the Fair Play Symposium
Other than that I have a number of other projects and ideas that are currently in motion, all very exciting and some have international elements to them, however, quite a few are funding dependent, so fingers and toes crossed. Other cultural highlights for me include: Manchester International Festival in general, but really looking forward to Trees by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah and the collaboration between Flexn and Young Identity will be very exciting.
I am really looking forward to seeing King Hedley II at Theatre Royal Stratford East with Lenny Henry. In Wales, I am really looking forward to Rawffest and in Cardiff at the WMC, I am sure it will do what it was initially set up to do and really engage young people from a diverse range of backgrounds. I am also really looking forward to Mission Control the NTW and Hijinx – collaboration. In terms of non-theatre highlights, I can’t wait to see the final season of Game of Thrones, also looking forward to Star Wars IX and the remake of the Lion King. In terms of gigs, I am hoping to catch Tank and the Bangas on their European tour, Anderson Paak when he visits London and Skepta at Manchester International Festival. I’m sure there will be loads more cultural offers which will entertain, inspire and most importantly keep me nourished during 2019!!!!!
George Soave, Producer, He/Him/They/Them, The Other Room.
We are kicking off 2019 with an almighty bang. Spring Fringe is the latest addition to our programme here at The Other Room. February and March, traditionally the home to our self-produced work, will now be occupied by eight weeks of imaginative and bold Fringe Theatre. Spring Fringe will champion home-grown companies and provide a platform for non-native touring companies to perform their breakthrough work here in Cardiff. Presenting work from Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Cardiff Fringe and others from across the UK and internationally! Our diverse programme will present eight productions over eight weeks that capture the essence of the fringe – telling imaginative stories in ingenious ways.
What about our self about our self-produced work? The Other Room will remain champions of well-made, daring modern drama and are as committed as ever to producing our own work – if anything we’re pushing the artistic envelope even further in 2019 and this Autumn will see our self- produced work return so watch this space.
And that’s not all! In the spirit of the fringe, this Spring we are embracing our Cardiffian cultural cousins… the rugby. There’s no avoiding that each spring Cardiff is ignited by the Six Nations Championship, so we thought, if you can’t beat them join them! All five of the Welsh rugby matches will be screened in both Porter’s bar and in the theatre as a part of our Spring Fringe programme. So come on in and enjoy a play, a pint and a match.
Kully Thiarai, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales.
I’m biased I know, but I’m looking forward to Ed Thomas’ new play ‘On Bear Ridge’ that will open at The Sherman in September. He has written a beautiful, poetic and poignant work.
Taking Flight Theatre Company’s production of Peeling by Kaite O’Reilly is touring Wales so I planning to catch that on the road somewhere. I missed it when it was first produced by Graeae Theatre Company many years ago.
More immediately Artes Mundi 8 has had another great year and finishes soon so catch it while you can! National Museum, Cardiff is also showing the rarely displayed drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci as part of a UK wide simultaneous exhibition.
I’m very excited by Yoko Ono’s Bells for Peace that will be opening event for Manchester International Festival in July. Thousands of diverse voices and an orchestra of bells sending a message of peace to the World seems like a very apt thing to be doing in 2019. In the same festival Idris Elba and Kwami Kwei-Armah will be making a new work called TREE – sounds like a great collaboration to me, combining music, dance and film.
Rachel Trezise, Novelist and Playwright.
Finally this year I get to road test a piece of my own work that’s been on my table for seven years, a play about the Pontypridd boxer Freddie Welsh, said to be one of the inspirations behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. I’m going to be working with RCT Theatres and Motherlode Theatre to determine if the work is suitable for public consumption.
Also I’m really looking forward to travelling to Northern Ireland where my monologue ‘Cotton Fingers’, commissioned by NTW for the NHS70 Festival last year, will open in May. The monologue is set in Belfast and concerns abortion laws in Northern Ireland but I haven’t been to Belfast for twenty years.
Most of all I’m looking forward to the publication of short story-master Amy Hempel’s new collection ‘Sing To It’ in late March, her first new work in over a decade. My personal hope for the year is that the UK, and Wales in particular, manages to get through the Brexit withdrawal process without much more trauma. We should know by the end of the year whether the tunnel that connects the Rhondda to the Afan Valley will be able to open as a cycling and walking track. I think that would be a great thing for both valleys.
Get the Chance critic, Sian Thomas
I’m awfully excited for the third How To Train Your Dragon movie. I really enjoyed the films through my teens and have actually managed to make that enjoyment infect others, too. It’ll be nice to see a cushy family film with the family this year.
Personal hopes are to read at least 20 books this year – and review the ones that take my fancy (not the ones I have to read for uni, haha). I’m looking forward to this because it means I’ll easily work on two new year’s resolutions: read more, and review more!
Hi Megan, this chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
At the moment I’m listening to the Lazarus soundtrack, it’s the current CD in my car and I haven’t changed it for about 6 months, so I often listen to it on short journeys around Cardiff – for me it’s the perfect mid-point between three things I really enjoy: story-telling, musicals and David Bowie. I was lucky enough to see Lazarus at it’s run in London in 2015 – it was brilliantly written by Enda Walsh, and the staging was a great balance between rock concert, performance-art and play. I especially enjoy Michael C Hall’s version of Lazarus as I still find the David Bowie recording quite painful to listen to.
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
David Bowie – Underground
I had to think for a long time about which Bowie track to include in this list. To say his work has been an influence on my life would be an understatement. Like lots of people my age, Labyrinth introduced me to Bowie, and as a fantasy-obsessed 9 year old, you can only imagine appeal of the mysterious Goblin King. My mum was happy to cultivate the interest and began to introduce me to his other albums; she even bunked me off school to see his Reality Tour at the NEC when I was 14 and the Lazarus a few years ago (I burst into tears at the end, it was all very embarrassing for her).
Bowie’s influence has woven itself through me in fashion, philosophy and art as well as music. He is the poster-boy of reassurance for strange young minds that it’s cool to be weird; and whilst I have other favourite Bowie songs and albums, Underground was the catalyst.
Dick Dale – Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, Misirlou
I could have picked any track from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack to remind me fondly of my university years. As a young scenography student Simon Banham (who I’ve been lucky enough to cross path’s with again in a Professional capacity at NDCWales) decided we would study and create studio work based on Tarantino’s cult film.
I fell in love with the movie and learned loads during the project. For me, the driving pace of this track takes me back to the craziness of deadlines. As soon as I hear Yolanda say the iconic opening words I’m always grinning, reminded of some of the best friends and best work I made at that time.
Nick Hennessey – A Rare Hunger
I’ve always loved songs that tell a story, I’d enjoyed musicals from a young age but not really considered a mixture of spoken word and song before going to a Story-Telling event at my local arts centre. Nick Hennessey (a singer, songwriter, storyteller and harp-player) quickly became a firm favourite in my playlists, and the more he toured, the more CD’s I was able to get my hands on. I’ve been able to see him live a few times now and he has a unique way of weaving vivid tales whilst also possessing the most wonderful voice. A Rare Hunger is my favourite album he’s produced so far, the perfect relaxation for the active mind prone to imagination.
Johnny Hollow – Alchemy
I occasionally moonlight as a burlesque dancer, and whilst its certainly more of a hobby than a career; Alchemy is the track to one of my most requested acts, it’s carried me to some exciting shows both in the UK and further afield and allowed me to meet some incredibly inspiring women as well as life changing friends. I was introduced to Johnny Hollow whilst part of a devising society at university. They have an affinity for creating emotive and atmospheric tracks that easily stir the imagination.
Adam Hurst – Midnight Waltz
This is track that fills me with pride every time I listen to it. It features as part of Caroline Finn’s Folk a contemporary dance piece that has become well known as part of National Dance Company Wales’ repertoire over the last few years.
I’ve been working for NDCWales for 7 years now and have heard lots of music, there was plenty to choose from; but I can’t hear this without picturing Folk with joy. For me, it’s a reminder of some of the highlights of my career so far (and arguably highlights for the Company too) Like a few of my other fav tracks, it’s quite fantastical and evocative.
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
Oh Gosh! To pick a favourite from the list above would be like saying one part of my life has been a more important part of growing up than another – but without question if you ask me my favourite musician, I’ll tell you Bowie; so lets go with that.
Ahead of the 2018 Brecon Baroque Festival, Roger Barrington had the chance to chat to it’s Artistic Director, Rachel Podger about what to expect this year and also about her own flourishing career as one of the world’s leading violinists.
The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Rachel Boulton, Artistic Director of Motherlode, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and Motherlodes new production ‘Exodus’ which premiers at the Coliseum Theatre, Aberdare on the 5th of October before touring.
Philip Ridley’s acclaimed one-act 2000 play, “Vincent River” tells the story of a mother whose son Vincent has been murdered in a homophobic attack. In the aftermath, she learns about her son’s homosexuality. An interview with Director Luke Hereford.
The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and her new production ‘Murmur’, taking place on Fri 14th September 2018 at Memo Arts Centre, Barry.
The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with playwright and actor Joe Wiltshire Smith.They discussed his background, creative opportunities for young people in Bridgend, his new play Five Green Bottles and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.
The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones. They discussed her background and training, a current project Gravida and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.
We asked our team to choose their personal three cultural events of 2018 along with a favourite performance and/or organisation. Enjoy reading their individual responses below.
2018 has been quite a year; when I submit my thesis on New Year’s, it will be the culmination of four years of intense research, and quite the end of an era (and hopefully the start of a new one). So I’m lucky that, in between the furious bouts of writing and the dreaded editing, I’ve been distracted by some truly brilliant productions, too many to narrow down – from the vicious Motherf**ker with the Hat to the inventively-staged Turn of the Screw and the impressive evocation of character in This is Elvis and At Last: The Etta James Story, 2018’s theatre and dance landscape has provided an embarrassment of riches. So I’m going to cheat a little bit in narrowing down to my ‘top 3’…
No two productions have made me laugh this year more than these two – and though they share a common thread of entertaining ingenuity, they’re vastly different from each other. The former showcased the talent of Mischief Theatre’s on-the-spot improvisational skills, the latter was a tightly-wound machine of script, song and silliness. Both of these productions demonstrated how creative and clever the craftsmanship of theatre is – all while making you laugh too!
I love a good musical, and these are two of my favourites in recent memory. The original Young Frankenstein movie is in my top 3 movies ever, so I worried a musical version with a whole new cast could never do justice to the original – well, it did with bells on! Brilliant songs, spectacular setpieces and an original evocation of that original cast made this a must-see. And I have such special memories of seeing Rock of Ages for the first time, so it always has a place in my heart – it’s also one of the only truly great jukebox musicals I’ve seen, and this new cast reinvigorated an already raucous, rip-roaring ride! Can’t wait to see it a fourth time…
These two productions utterly blew me away with their beautiful, haunting performances – both reimagined old classics in new, intriguing ways and were utterly gripping from start to finish. There are moments in both shows that I will never forget, and without doubt they are the best productions of 2018 for me.
Personal Highlight: It’s only appropriate, given my research into Frankenstein and the bicentennial of the novel’s publication, that I started and ended 2017 with Frankenstein-related productions – Young Frankenstein on the West End in January and Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein on the tail end of November. So my personal highlight of this year would be presenting my research in Bologna for the Frankenstein bicentennial conference. I’m so grateful to Prof Anthony Mandal and the CRECS/ RomText team for this wonderful opportunity.
Venue of 2018:The Sherman Theatre’s dedication to inclusivity, accessibility and innovation remains unmatched in my opinion, and their post-show panels are always a joy to be a part of. Many thanks to Tim Howe for involving me.
Company of 2018: Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein did the impossible – reimagined Mary Shelley’s classic almost wordlessly, in imaginative new ways with stunning moments and dark, modern twists. Bravo!
For number three I’ll say Cheer by Kitty Hughes at The Other Room. This was fun and alternative and out of the things I reviewed, definitely one of the best.
For number two I’d have to say Humanequin by Kelly Jones at Wales Millennium Centre. This was an important piece of theatre and despite not being the best was definitely the most important piece I saw this year.
For things I’ve reviewed I would definitely have to say Cardiff Boy by Kevin Jones at The Other Room is number one. This was the best all-round show I saw outside of the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Every aspect of it was brilliant and it’s up there with one of my favourite shows I’ve ever seen.
For the cultural events, things I didn’t review, I will say Five Green Bottles by Joe Wiltshire-Smith and Spilt Milk Theatre as part of the Cardiff Fringe Festival. This was an excellent script produced independently. Joe is one of the best upcoming writers in Wales and Spilt Milk are one of the most passionate theatre companies. Together they produced an amazing show which I can’t wait to see again, developed, at the Sherman Theatre in 2019.
With underlying serious issues about the struggles and problems of working class Valleys people, Rachael Boulton and her team have created a funny, clever, relevant and thought provoking piece of theatre that strikes a chord with its audience; a reaction that can be heard in their laughter and the warmth of their response. Suspend your disbelief and climb aboard Exodus airways, it’s better than Easyjet!
All credit must go to what must have been an incredible amount of hard work from all of the performers, creators and collaborators. I was unexpectedly riveted to the story they told and absorbed in the whole aspect of the show.
Best thing in 2018 overall was listening to Bruce Springstein’s autobiography (actually published in 2017) which I had on Audible and listened to it twice. What an amazing story – and such a fantastic storyteller. All my life I wasn’t a fan until I read this book.
My favourite arts event I have attended this year was Casgliad hosted by Youth Arts Network Cymru! Such a brilliant weekend with so many awesome creatives!
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella
I’ve only seen two ballets ever and this was the best one. I followed the story and I really liked the subtle changes they made to it and the way it was performed. Lovely show.
Had to include the Fringe! It was the most fun thing I did this summer! Because god I just really really adore this event and I really hope it’ll be back next year – I always love testing out my writing on an audience there. It’s such a safe space and such a confidence booster! Lovely atmosphere, people, and always a lovely summery evening!
Still because he recognised me, the group, and my old review. Loved feeling seen by an author I admire. The story was fab, the representation was great, and it was a lovely book to read to take one’d mind off things. Also ended with a great cliffhanger! I get so excited when he tweets about new books of this series come up. So this is definitely my #1!
My cultural event:
The fact that I wrote 100,000 words of the second draft of my novel!! I’m just super, super proud of myself. There’s not much to be told: I work on it when I can, work on it slow and steadily, make sure everything is okay, and it’s building itself up into something (hopefully) spectacular!
My Three Best of 2018
With such a plethora of good theatre now available to us in Wales, it is difficult to select just three among the cornucopia of events that has been on offer – from the grandeur of Welsh National Opera, up there with the best in the world, to more humble productions working to tight budgets. For my money, here goes:
The multi-talented Rachel O’Riordan’s last production for the Sherman before departing for the Lyric Theatre in London. O’Riordan pulled all the stops out, with the result that this was fun – as a Christmas show should be – but also showed the dark side of Lewis Carroll’s well-known story. Musical numbers were a delight, with several of the characters on stage musicians and rising to the challenge. Not staged as a musical, but one waiting in the wings perhaps? A cunningly designed black and white set allowed for the full range of Carroll’s famous characters – White Rabbit, Mad hatter and even the Caterpillar – to be displayed to advantage.
This new production of a classic breathed fresh life into thetrue-life story of Eva Peron with a brand-new cast who more than justified their selection. Following in the footsteps of Elaine Paige who made the role her own was never going to be an easy task and Lucy O’Byrne’s heart-rendingperformance of ‘Don’t Cry for me, Argentina’ at what was Eva’s last appearance before her death brought tears to the eyes. It was also good to see some of the emerging talent coming out of Wales in the shape of Swansea-born Mike Sterling as Peron.
First on my list is WNO’s La Traviata A revival, true, but excellently staged and performed and with Verdi’s wonderful score rendered with a master touch with two sopranos experienced in their roles and Roland Woods’ sonorous baritone lending gravitas to the role of Germont pater, how could it fail to please? An opportunity for the remarkable WNO chorus to shine and for the ladies among them to enjoy wearing elegant ballgowns. The excellent director David McVicar wisely chose to keep to the traditional, with a sumptuous period setting whose opulence reeked of decadence.
For me, it has to be musical theatre and The King and I, which I saw in London. A sheer joy from start to finish, with Kelli O’Hara as Mrs Anna and Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam taking on the iconic roles made famous by Yul Bryner and Deborah Kerr and performing them with enthusiasm and expertise. First class. Enhanced for me, I have to admit, in that I was accompanied by a posse of grandchildren helping me to celebrate a big birthday!
Theatre Clwyd and Sherman Theatre excelled this year with Lord Of the Flies, with its all female savage cast had me jumping out of my skin and seat whilst offering a critical insight to the frailties of humanity.
However it is the rip roaring, toe tapping hand flapping Great Gatsby from Theatr Clwyd/Guild of Misrule that topped the bill for me in 2018. This innotive, interactive piece held in a run down pub in town was totally engrossing, a brilliant use of venue and a talented cast not just of professionals but community too. (More of this in 2019 please Theatr Clwyd!)
On the whole 2018 was pretty dull in the cinema however one film stood out as been worth the trip to the big screen ” Marvels Infinity Wars” I am an Averger fan girl and this film ticked all the right boxes, it was the ending to the origional Averngers story arch, all the Marvel films todate were building up to this battle … it was worth the wait and the bitter end just left me wanting more. Of course this doesn’t see the end of the Avengers, but it will be the end for some of the best loved characters and the begining for some new… I only hope the sad passing of the wonderful Stan Lee does not mean we loose the style and wit the MU has created.
E. M. BLESS’ON III
The Black History Month grand finale at RWCMD was my personal cultural event of 2018 because it attracted a broad spectrum of the community. Attended by many dignitaries including the outgoing First Minister – Carwyn Jones AM, newly-elected First Minister – Mark Drakeford AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport – Vaughan Gething AM, young people and several elders from various communities in South East, West and North Wales, it was a celebration of diversity in Wales.
From its humble beginnings as Un Bore Mercher on S4C, I could never have imagined that this drama would prove to be so popular with UK audiences. Subsequently broadcast in the English-language on BBC1 Wales, it would become the most downloaded show ever on BBC iPlayer before being shown on primetime BBC1 in the summer. Deservedly sweeping the board at the BAFTA Cymru Awards, I will be outraged if Eve Myles is not at least nominated for a BAFTA in 2019. Her portrayal of Faith Howells, whose world is rocked by the disappearance of her husband, is deeply emotional and utterly captivating. This is surely her defining role.
If I had to pick one album to recommend from 2018, it would Wild Silence by The Wandering Hearts. When I first heard it, it was their incredibly refreshing and genre-blending sound that captured my attention. The more I’ve listened to the album, the more the lyrics have come to the fore and I’ve discovered another fascinating layer to their fabulous array of songs. To finish the year seeing them live in Liverpool confirmed my belief that these guys are destined for bigger things.
My theatre highlight this year has been this co-production between Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre. With its life-size house for a set, its bold and brash set design, and its wonderful costumes, the overall look is enough to pull you into its 1950s world. Starring Katherine Parkinson and Richard Harrington as the couple living it up in a lifestyle of nostalgia, its saccharine exterior slowly melts away to reveal a darker and very pertinent narrative that will have you firmly gripped from beginning to end. Another triumph for Artistic Director of Theatr Clwyd, Tamara Harvey and her team.
2018 has been quite the Franken-tastic year. With conferences a-go-go and a veritable funfair of Frankenreads events, the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s game-changing masterpiece has been quite fully, and rightfully, celebrated en masse. Having studied the book in-depth for thesis-y reasons over the past four years, I’ve consumed the story in myriad mediums from the filmic, to the televisual, to the orchestral, including a gender-swapped web series and that icky Sean Bean show loosely ‘inspired by’ Victor’s dodgy dealings with the (un)dead.
So I was thrilled at the prospect of Cascade Dance Theatre* translating the tale in their latest much-lauded production. I’d seen the Royal Opera House’s lavish stab at a Franken-centric ballet on TV a couple of years ago – but found their faithfulness to the source material resulted in a less powerful whole that, while visually spectacular, was ultimately undermined by the rushed, soap opera-esque ending. How, then, would Cascade fare with six performers, two musicians, and a single simple set?
Beautifully, as it turns out. Artistic Director Phil Williams (winner of Wales’ Best Male Dance Artist Award at the Wales Theatre Awards 2017) has carefully assembled an excellent adaptation that is small in scale but large in style and ambition, fulfilling the heart of Shelley’s tale in creative new ways. The ensemble is excellent across the board, with Stuart Waters as a suitably haughty, believably tormented Victor, and Jordi Calpe Serrats in an endlessly vibrant and deeply sympathetic turn as the creature. Their connection is compellingly ambiguous: there is no directly analogous relationship to theirs, meaning that Victor is in turns the creature’s God, father, masculine ideal, romantic interest and romantic rival. Their bond could have set a positive precedent for humanity; but their mutual violence to one another and people close to them renders them variously perpetrator and victim to the other until their battle concludes in bloodily Biblical fashion.
Although Frankenstein was written by a woman, and especially one with such a famous feminist mother, there is a curious dearth of female characters in the text that are afforded the same active roles and complexity as their male counterparts, being mostly passive recipients of male violence. It’s a lovely reversal, then, that the women of Cascade’s Frankenstein are the absolute highlight of an already-stellar production. Caldonia Walton shines particularly brightly as Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s far-superior fiancée; Walton imbues kindness, strength and a genuine warmth of character to what is often a thankless role, and lights up the stage whenever she graces it. And the tremendous trio of Anna Cabré-Verdiell, Desi Bonato and Luca Dora Bakos steal the show entirely – case in point…
…We open on a truly haunting image: the creature, encased in chrysalis-like bindings, being meticulously inspected by a trio of women whose white strobes cast the only light in a sea of darkness. At first, they seem like explorers; archaeologists hungrily inspecting the excavated remains of an ancient burial site. But as the drama unfolds, the trio’s more otherworldly nature is revealed; they seem at times to be angelic guardians, at others mischevious sprites, even mythological beings like the Graeae, the three sisters of Fate from Greek mythology, and their spiritual descendants in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Bonato, Bakos and Cabré-Verdiell (who doubles as the female creature) not only dance superbly, but inhabit multiple roles with ease and panache, and I felt at times that they acted as Mary Shelley’s muses, helping her to tell her story two hundred years later on that appropriately dreary night of November 2018.
The sumptuous performances are complemented and enhanced by the rest of the production’s creative endeavours, not least Hristo Takov’s atmospheric lighting, and Paul Shriek’s spectacular set and wardrobe design. The set is evocatively uneven, making the most out of jagged inclines and the morgue-like slab on which the creature is brought to life, and on which Victor ends as his creature started; the costumes are artfully-tattered and ethereally expressive with shades of Vivienne Westwood. All of which is tied up in a gorgeously Gothic bow by Jak Poore and Ben Parsons’ eerily emotive score, composed and performed live by the two on stage like Romanticism’s answer to Daft Punk.
There are scenes in this production so haunting and beautiful that I will never forget them, and are well worth the price of admission alone – you won’t believe how they perform the sending of a letter, but it’s an unexpected delight. The programme promised a more creature-centric narrative, and they definitely delivered – one scene follows his flight from a macabrely-masked mob who taunt and beat him. You totally feel the creature’s pain and the endless cycle of fear, frustration and rejection from which there seems to be no way out. And I’m not sure Mary Shelley would have envisioned her creature bumping & grinding at an Eyes Wide Shut-inspired rave, but Cascade makes it work (plus I think the rebellious Mary would have approved): a masked group writhe and worship at the monolithic neon altar of SHELLEY’S BAR, escalating in impressively incendiary fashion. And the dance between the two creatures, one living and one lifeless, was utterly breath-taking: Serrats and Cabré-Verdiell transform what could have been a deeply awkward encounter into the show’s emotional apex.
Not everything lands; having affectingly conveyed the creature’s birth, rejection, and loneliness without the need for words, it was jarring for Victor to suddenly start monologuing the ‘dreary night of November’ speech when we had literally just seen it happen before our eyes. The creative team should have had more faith in its superbly talented cast to convey the story through performance alone. If there had to be words at all, it would have been infinitely more effective if they were more sparingly used – though the creature’s first word being ‘father’ was an effective moment, Victor’s sporadic speechifying was not. And though Elizabeth’s letters were nicely presented, I still find the exposition a little clunky in an otherwise elegant retelling.
It was on a dreary night of November that the creature beheld the accomplishment of his toils; standing before the same slab on which he was birthed, on which now rests the bodies of his victims. He wraps them in the bindings that once imprisoned him, and retreats across the stage into darkness once more, all the while unfurling that umbilical cord-like tether, his last tie to humanity. It’s a fittingly melancholic end to a stunning production that I cannot recommend highly enough. Whether you’re a Frankenstein fanatic like myself, or if you have the most passing familiarity with the text, you’re sure to find Cascade’s adaptation wonderfully rewarding. It’s been touring around Wales since 1st November, but you should definitely catch one of the last two performances of this remarkable show either tonight or tomorrow (30th Nov/ 1st Dec) at Chapter Arts: https://www.chapter.org/frankenstein, http://www.cascadedancetheatre.co.uk/
*In co-production with Taliesin Arts Centre; supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government and the National Lottery, with additional support from Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Ty Cerdd and Creu Cymru.
Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”
We were very pleased to see some of the priority areas in the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”
In particular we were interested in Commitment 2 below
We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.
ACW then go onto make a series of intentions (below) for where they want to be in 2023 (5 years)
We will be able to demonstrate clearly that all our funding programmes promote and contribute to equality and diversity
There will be a narrowing of the gap between those in the most and least affluent social sectors as audiences and participants
We will develop the creative work of disabled artists by funding “Unlimited” commissions and developing a scheme similar to “Ramps on the Moon” operated by Arts Council England
We want to introduce a “Changemakers” scheme placing BAME and disabled people in senior executive positions in the arts
We want to see a doubling of the number of disabled people in the arts workforce
We want to see a doubling of the number of Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds in the arts workforce
We want to have introduced an Arts Council Apprenticeships scheme designed to provide opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds
We will have achieved a trebling of the number of BAME and disabled and on APW boards of governance
We have been in discussion with a number of colleagues in the arts sector in Wales to request a personal response to Commitment 2 and are pleased to share their responses below. Please do get in touch if you would like to contribute.
ACW are currently asking for responses to their Corporate Plan and future Lottery funding priorities from members of the public, you can make an online response at this link .
Or attended one of the physical meetings. The public meetings associated with the consultation will take place at Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham (30 November), Volcano, Swansea (10 December), Riverfront Newport (7 January 2019), Aberystwyth Arts Centre (11 January 2019) and Pontio, Bangor (21 January 2019).
Further details are available on the Arts Council of Wales website. The consultation closes on 15 February 2019.
Carole Blade, Creative Producer
During 2019, Bombastic and Coreo Cymru will be hosting Family Dance Festival, a 70-minute entertaining and interactive dance programme for families, presented free of charge in theatre foyers and outdoors during the Easter holidays. Piloted in 2017 and further developed in 2018, Family Dance Festival features three Wales-based professional dance companies and local youth groups at each venue plus taster workshops for all, framed within a bilingual (Welsh/English) context and supported with accessible shows and feedback systems.
Our 2018 programme delivered an accompanying training and seminar event to promote Audio Description, resulting in the first Welsh language audio described live performances. In 2019, we will also offer BSL interpreted shows and focus on developing an audience and appetite for these services by actively forging relationships with members of the blind and D/deaf communities. We will do this through visits to local support centres, clubs and groups, offering programme insight and critically supporting a dialogue, asking questions to inform our deliver methods and to reveal a wider view of general provision, requirements and needs. Working in collaboration with Creu Cymru’s Hynt and the local venue, we will gather data to support general approaches to accessible practice in Wales starting with visits to local clubs and later request feedback relating to their FDF experience.
We will again work with Audio Describer Ioan Gwyn, who benefited from FDF2018 bespoke training programme and toured with the company offering both Welsh and English language descriptions. We will also work with experienced BSL interpreter Sami Thorpe of Elbow Room, to support the text based work and our reach. Their understanding of the target audience and experience within the performing arts, coupled with our plans to consult with individual service users through visits to their respective clubs and groups, prior to the tour, will enable the means and structure for a quality service. Ioan and Sami will work with the Front Of House staff at each venue to ensure quality customer care of our accessible audiences, positioning themselves at the box office to welcome and familiarise. Where possible we will integrate Ioan and Sami into the actual performance to positively reinforce inclusiveness and will create specific feedback forms to inform delivery and methods.
Gareth Coles / Voluntary Arts Wales Director / Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru
The second commitment in the Arts Council of Wales’ new Corporate Plan recognizes that the challenge is to increase and diversify participation in the publicly-funded arts. But levels of participation in different forms of creative activity may actually be very high, as people practice their creativity in libraries, church halls, pub function rooms and on kitchen tables and bedroom desks. Voluntary Arts Wales estimates that there are around 4,000 community and amateur creative groups in Wales. But these voluntary and everyday creative activities may not benefit from public subsidy, and therefore may not regularly appear on the radar of public funders.
There is a rich and diverse ecology of the arts in Wales: an ecology that we believe includes amateur, everyday creativity as well as the professional arts, and in which all elements are interdependent and mutually supportive. An attempt to engage more people in the publicly-funded arts might start with an appreciation of the creativity that people choose to practice themselves. Rather than see a deficit of engagement in the arts, we might recognise the cultural assets and activities that already exist within communities across Wales, and build stronger links with the publicly funded arts.
In 2016, Voluntary Arts conducted a project called Open Conversations to improve our understanding of creative cultural activity in Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities across the UK. We convened an Advisory Panel of experts in BAME creative activity, who made introductions, accompanied staff on visits, and met regularly throughout the project to discuss findings. Voluntary Arts staff and Expert Panel members conducted long, unstructured and informal conversations with practitioners across the UK. At the end of the project, we invited the Panel members to become Trustees of Voluntary Arts, and now 5 of our 11 Board members are from BAME backgrounds. As a result of this work, we became the first arts organisation to win a Charity Governance Award for Board Inclusion and Diversity.
We have also sought in recent years to celebrate the excellent work that exists in the voluntary arts sector to champion diversity, through our annual Epic Awards. Get the Chance was a recipient of the Celebrating Diversity award in 2017.
Our Drawn Together project, a partnership with Coast Lines, has engaged over 2,500 people of all ages in producing over 5,000 observational drawings – creating a collective visual representation of Wales in 2018 (now on display in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff). The feedback shows that 96% of participants felt happier and more positive as a result, but the majority weren’t creatively active, or involved in any arts or community groups. We believe this worked because we took the project to places where people convene: in existing community groups, libraries, cafes, care homes, workplaces and schools. We worked with Big Issue vendors in Cardiff, residents living with dementia in a care home in Pembrokeshire, RNLI volunteers in Aberystwyth and farmers in rural Denbighshire. A majority of project participants now want to continue their creative practice.
I welcome this commitment. We all should. We all benefit from a wider diversity of people enjoying and taking part in the arts.It needs to be ever evolving and new energy and life bought in. We all have skills, experience and stories to share. Quite often I find we are ignorant or unaware of challenges facing others and it needs to be addressed and challenged and become second nature not a box ticking exercise.
In uncertain times socially and politically, especially where people feel threatened and surrounded by divisions and threats, the arts can play a pivotal role in confronting fears and open channels of communication. We are social animals. We need to seek each other out. We need to go knocking on doors and meet face to face and not rely so much on social media to connect.
I constantly bang on about the transformative power of the arts! It’s life-enhancing – music, theatre, images, installations, dance etc in all it’s glorious forms. They enable us to communicate, engage and express ourselves and that positive experience can spill out in to all areas of life. It gives us an emotional literacy and helps us try and make sense of the world and our surroundings. It infuriates me that music and drama and literature are constantly threatened within the education system and that there are less opportunities from an early age to engage and benefit. Mental health issues, anxiety and lack of confidence is on the rise in schools and I am in no doubt there is a direct link. The arts are essential to our wellbeing and the earlier we are exposed the better. It is also vital to ensure that there are opportunities for all ages and that it isn’t all focused on youth but continuous in to old age.
It has to start with a conversation – what are the complex needs of different cultures, genders and abilities in Wales? For a small nation our diversity and needs are huge! There is no one size fits all. What are the present weaknesses and gaps and challenges and how do we approach change and a new model of addressing and implementing things for the benefit of all? It’s essential to give a voice to those who aren’t usually given a platform and we must empower those who don’t think their story is of value. We also need to showcase and showoff what we can offer so that people are aware of the possibilities and the work that is and can be created.
The image of the arts needs to be changed so that people feel that they can take ownership and that it belongs to them. It’s up for the current gate keepers not to just welcome and implement an open door policy and a willingness to listen but to actually do the ground work and seek people out face to face. This connection and nurturing needs to be sustained. We have the talent, skills and expertise in Wales but we need, especially in times of funding cuts to pool resources and collaborate and communicate much better than we already do and to be in regular contact and communicate and share knowledge with each other.
My background is in playwrighting and one positive experiences I have had was ‘The Fresh Ink’ initiative with the Sherman Theatre where over a period of 10 weeks I visited St Teilo School in Llanedeyrn, Cardiff. I worked with a group of students who had never visited the theatre and who had little confidence or interest in writing. Allowing them to step away from thinking and writing academically, encouraging them to find their own voice and to take ownership of their language and rhythms of speech the students grew in confidence and produced extremely moving and passionate short plays that were then performed by professional actors at their school in front of their peers. Their reaction and their pride in their words and stories was empowering. For the first time some of them felt they had created something of worth and value and were proud to share it. The Sherman are currently running a playwrighting scheme for similar students to whom opportunities have been limited. The weekly sessions are free of charge and transport is provided. The students work will be performed at the Sherman in the spring.
Artist, researcher, academic and TV presenter
I have just read the corporate plan. I feel little excitement although I think the targets are attractive. My main contribution to this goes back to the idea of getting out of offices and on to the streets, into community spaces without an agenda and seeing what one can learn.
This feels like wanting to do research and already knowing the answer. I think its problematic in its genesis.
Of course the key is the youth, the next generation but I also believe that bodies like the ACW already have a public image and in order to broaden its public perception (increase participation and attendance in publicly funded arts), honest work will need to be done from the inside, beyond inviting token BAME individuals to be on their board. This crucially involves getting to know who you are working with and for and perhaps getting your ‘targets’ from the people and what matters to them rather than the governments with their outward facing strategies.
I am struggling to articulate a coherent response to that as I believe the response would need to be rooted in research. What I mean is, we are talking about arts participation, but that is just ‘our’ arts. There are groups and communities making ‘arts’ and doing their thing that get washed over for various reasons. What is at the core of the desire to increase participation? What are ‘more diverse’ communities and groups already doing and how do we foster conversations that facilitate an equal space for voice and visibility and limits the threat of appropriation.
First of all, the fact that these goals and priorities have been set is fantastic because it means we’re really acknowledging that this is a problem. There are many, many people still feeling excluded from the arts (not just as audience members but as people wanting to work in it too) so having a goal to change that can’t be anything but a good thing.
How will it actually be achieved?…….. action. Action by all. Everyone, every single one of us currently working in the arts needs to assess our ways of working, our processes and avenues of finding collaborators and we need to really question how inclusive we’re been the past. And if we haven’t been inclusive, or inclusive enough, we MUST, must make change. From hiring to casting to finding audiences we must continuously ask ourselves whether we’re doing enough to make sure that ALL people feel invited. I sometimes feel like I’m the P.C police these last few years (I’m sure my co-workers feel it to!) because I have made a conscious decision to ask the difficult questions and speak up for those not in the room. And it’s not always comfortable. It makes people uncomfortable but the only reason we all feel uncomfortable is because we know there’s a problem. “Have we gone to all lengths possible to find BAME actors that can audition for this part?”, “Our focus should be on finding female musicians”, “have we considered Welsh learners for this part?” I don’t ask these questions to make people feel guilty, I’m doing it so that we can create active change so that we’re not guilty of being exclusive. We need to keep reminding each other of being inclusive until it becomes second nature.
Director of Fio
I guess my major reflection on this has to be that whilst we have a statement being made by ACW which I believe is the right one. What seems to be missing is the response from arts leaders who have the resources to really make a difference. I guess unless a firmer and clearer picture is presented in terms of the sharing of power and resource, the inevitability is that this will remain words on a page. We, have to question how a sector which is led by same people will suddenly decide this needs to be prioritised just because ACW has said so, we need to go further and find other more innovative solutions where power is shared more equally?
Ladies, have you ever encountered a situation when engaged in a spot of on-line dating that, with great anticipation, you arrange to meet for the first time, your Mr. Rights, a suave, slim, handsome, rich, witty, successful, etc. guy…and someone like me turns up?
Well, if you have, you may well feel mightily let down, a feeling that I had when viewing the Russian National Ballet production of “Swan Lake”. “Russian National Ballet” – grandiose title, so they must be good. National – state endorsement in a country that prides itself with its plethora of ballet companies and academies, that, no other country can rival for it’s quality in depth – well you can imagine my sense of anticipation.
Oh dear! Wrong! Not the Russian National Ballet performing – just producing.
Wrong! Not a state endorsed ballet company but a family run business.
Wrong. Not a Russian Company at all, but one from Belarus. That used to be the annoying country to the south of Russia, that you needed a visa to visit or travel through, as I found out to my cost hen planning a rail journey from London to Moscow. Nowadays you can have 30 days to sample the delights of this country, not exactly on the tourist map.
The Russian National Ballet’s mission, is to keep the tradition of classical Russian ballet alive, “by bringing various ballet theatres from Russia and Belarus who embrace the traditional nature of this refined genre.
I know this, because it says so in the programme. This also informed me that I was watching the “State Academic Theatre of Belarus”, a fact that I didn’t realise until I returned home after the performance. For many in the audience, who didn’t buy a programme, they most probably still believe that they had seen the “Russian National Ballet” in action.
I googled the “State Academic Theatre of Belarus” but couldn’t find any reference to an institution by that name. There is one with a similar title in capital Minsk, so I guess this must be the home of the corps de ballet on display.
Having kind of sorted all that out, I turn to the ballet itself. There are many versions of “Swan Lake” that have evolved from its first performance by the Bolshoi Ballet on 4th March 1877. This version is the shortest swanning in at the two-hour mark, which includes a 20 minute interval.
After a rather flat (literally) start the company gradually got into gear. I wondered whether their rather inauspicious start was down to the gruelling schedule that the company have endured since commencing their UK tour on 3rd October. By the time they reach Brecon, five weeks later, they had already performed at 31 venues in all countries of Great Britain. A punishing schedule by any standards, but for one as physically demanding on the body as ballet, it is almost suicidal. They must really love their Art because, unless you are a principal dancer or a soloist, you don’t enter this profession to become rich.
Another consideration, is that the dancers have to get used to the dynamics of the stage they are performing at, because they would have had little, if any chance to rehearse.
I won’t bore you with the familiar story of white and black swans, wizards and handsome prince Siegfried., whose a little too fond of hunting for my liking.l
A you would expect, choreography follows the traditional work of Imperial Russian Ballet (later became the Kirov) Master Marius Petipa and his collaborator Lev Ivanov. Tchaikovsky’s beautiful and well known score was piped in. Unfortunately, I found the recording to be a little uninteresting – solid but not the most romantic of interpretations that I have heard.
Odette was played by Elena Germanovich in this performance. A leading soloist of the Company, she performed with the elegance of beauty required of her. Her pa de deuxs with Prince Siegfried, (Alexander Misiyuk) were competently performed and balanced.
Misiyuk’s solos possessed both power and exquisitely accurate timing to the music.
The standout performer for me was Yoshiki Kosaka’s exceptionally springy performance as the jester. He displayed a lot of humour and charm in his performance and effortlessly became the audience’s favourite.
Decent support is provided by the corps de ballet, and a very charming rendition of the “Dace of the Little Swans” by Sofia Krivushkina, Mayko Ono, Alexandra Derevianchuk and Ksenia Meleshko proved a highlight in Act 2.
It’s a solid production if not a brilliant one, and has a couple of outstanding performance. The audience left happy with what they had seen if not appreciating who they were actually watching.
I must begin by making a confession. Being a critic, you should be able to define what is good or bad abut a production from an informed position.
This is my inaugural dance review and I am not writing from an informed background. I used to watch occasional contemporary dance theatre in London, and in Montreal, but it must be nearly twenty years since I last saw something in this genre, and this is the first time in Wales.
Not wishing to make a song and dance about this, I tentatively submit the view that maybe in this particular art form, this isn’t too big a problem. This point, I shall return to when I review the third and final piece in this production.
The programme consists of three short pieces and collectively provide a European flavour.
The first dance, Omerta is choreographed by Italian Matteo Marfoglia.
Matteo acts a Rehearsal Director for “Roots” and is very passionate about the subject matter of “Omerta”. When he talks about it, he does so in an engaging manner. I happen to know this, because, by chance, ( well I think it was by chance), Matteo happened to be seated next to me, so I was in the ideal position to bombard him with questions. Despite my naivety, he answered these questions with great patience and humour and the insight he provided gave me a clearer idea of how this piece was devised.
“Omerta” concerns the role that women in Italian society, located in areas still largely under the influence of the Mafioso, combat the oppressive nature of their existence. Dressed entirely in black, and beginning with veiled faces, the four female dancers are strewn across the space, each with pails carrying water.
The background music starts with a metronomic beat and also ends in the same way. I interpreted this to mean to mark the endless passage of time that the conditions the Mafia has imposed on Italian society, and women in particular, within that void, and assisted by the nature of its masculine domination. The spotlights highlighting individual dancers fleetingly, and the four dancers collectively, heighten the tension and focus your attention as the dancers repeat their actions of carrying and cleansing themselves with the water they are carrying.
I put it to Matteo that could the black veiled attire and the pseudo-religious music that followed, be interpreted that the four women were widows, victims of Mafioso vendettas and that the music represented the powerful influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Italian society. Matteo answered in the negative, that the dress and music represent the region of Southern Italy that the piece represented. Maybe I was thinking too much about Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy at this time.
With the removal of the veils the dancers sweep into a more expressive form that signify their impassioned attempt to break the shackles of this oppressive society of murder, extortion and fear.
I asked Matteo if he would like to present this piece in Italy and how it would be received there in contrast to Wales. His eyes immediately lit up and he answered that he would love to, but the nature of the piece would make it explosive to perform in certain parts of Southern Italy where the Mafia hold is still strong. He was inspired to create the piece after the murder of four judges in Sicily in the early 1990’s and the resultant protests by a group of women to these assassinations. Their courage in a very dangerous environment moved Matteo to create “Omerto”. I likened this to the Peace Movement instigated in Northern Ireland during The Troubles and he agreed.
Matteo Marfoglia is the recipient of a Creative Wales award from The Arts Council of Wales. He has also been awarded a research grant which he is currently undertaking. He trained in Amsterdam and formerly was a dancer for the NDC Wales before branching out recently on his own and becoming a freelance choreographer. He is recognised as a future leader in British dance and on the evidence on show in “Omerta”, it is easy to understand why.
The second piece “Bernadette” is a solo work choreographed by Caroline Finn and performed by Camille Giraudeau.
Caroline is NDC Wales’s Resident Choreographer and she also acted as Lighting and Costume Designer for this piece.
The highly effective background music is provided by French band Nouvelle Vague, “In a manner of speaking”. The lyrics of which have a real connection to this piece.
in a manner of speaking
Semantics won’t do
In this life that we live
We only make do
And the way that we feel
Might have to be sacrificed
The dreamlike quality of the sound also enhance the dance.
The piece which I found to be amusing at times begins and ends with a taped male cooking guru giving cooking tips that are received by the dancer in, almost a robotic, catatonic state.
As she starts applying these technqiues in her cooking preparation, she suddenly and totally unexpectedly throws herself across the kitchen table, projecting an egg that explodes in front of front seat audience members forcing them to involuntarily take evasive action.
This is repeated, not only with eggs but with flour, so by the time the performance has finished the space had resembled being hit by a bomb.
When dancer Camille breaks free from her catatonic existence she snatches off her wig and dances with great abandonment before resuming her original “Stepford Wife” existence as the guru’s voice re-emerges over the background soundtrack.
I felt that this piece, in a way, is a companion to “Omerta”. I recently read that a mother’s life bringing up up a young family is the equivalent of working 2.5 jobs. The feminist slant to this work, shows the unnoticed work that many women have to endure in the household and their ambition to break free.
Caroline Finn has a growing reputation for her work and a previous NDC Wales composition, “Folk” and this one have received rave reviews.
The final piece, “Atalay” is choreographed by Spanish artiste Mario Bermudez Gil.
Mario is Artistic Director of Marcat Dance Company. “Marcat Dance connects to the human spirit and finds inspiration from world cultures, rituals, and landscapes” according to its website and all come to notice in this production.
Atalay is Spanish for Watchtower and reflects a personal experience that Mario and his wife have when walking to a viewpoint near their Southern Spanish home. At this place is a watchtower and Mario feels a close sense of existence to the elements at this place and the natural landscapes of the mountains and the undulating land. He thinks about the four walls of the watchtower that reach out to the four points of the extended compass and imagines the fusion of the different cultures, exemplified through their dance and music. He takes you on a journey using a wide range of culturally orientated music and invites you to connect emotionally through the movement of dance. It is a personal odyssey of spiritual emotions and Mario encourages the four dancers, two of each sex, to input their own feelings revealed through the unique form of dance.
I struggled to find meaning in this composition and voiced my confusion about what the individual segments of the piece, were telling you. I put this question to NDC Wales Artistic Director, Fearghus Ó Conchúir who was with the four dancers post performance. The question met with an initial hesitation from Fearghus and when I glanced at the performers they collectively seem to have that “don’t ask me, I’m only the dancer” look on their faces. However, a consensus was arrived at that basically reached the place that I found to be what Mario’s intentions were.
So maybe I was searching for a meaning that doesn’t exist. That it is the journey and the emotions that you feel through the expression of dance, that is the thing. If there is one lesson that I learnt in this experience is that there doesn’t have to be a precise definition to contemporary dance, then it has been worthwhile.
The piece itself did convey feelings of strong emotion and beauty, love and humour, and the strong costume design and lighting made it a fitting conclusion to a wonderfully diverse programme.
The dancing is excellent throughout. I feel that not only are the dancers putting body and soul into their dancing, they appear to be thoroughly enjoying it along the way.
One unusual feature that I particularly welcomed is how Artistic Director Fearghus Ó Conchúir introduced each piece and immediately afterwards invited you to speak to your neighbour in the audience about it and to examine each others feelings that came out of it. In addition, at the end of the programme, the audience has the opportunity to put questions to the dancers. Together, this is a great innovation and helped a contemporary dance ignoramus such as myself to engage more meaningfully in the experience they are experiencing.
I came out of the dance space questioning myself on why . I had missed out on a generation of experiencing an artistic genre that is a medium for mixing dance expressionism and technique, music, costume and lighting in a collaborative way that is utterly cool.