We are so used to the Disney versions of our traditional fairytales that we forget they come from a dark place. Tales of babies being cursed at birth, young women being locked away or made to sleep for 100 years. I am, it has to be said not a natural lover of ballet. I sometimes find it a little sterile for my personal tastes, however there is something about Matthew Bourne’s productions that I absolutely adore.
The theatre is plunged into darkness, a crack of thunder sounds and the menacing outline of Carabosse appears, played superbly by Adam Maskell. This is a lavish production, a return to the gothic roots of this fairytale. Bourne takes us on a journey from 1890 ( the year this ballet was first performed) through to the present day. It’s a twisting turning adventure through a dark ride. From the birth of the baby Aurora and her subsequent spiriting away to an underworld where she sleeps for 100 years, everything is beautifully choreographed. There is not one wasted movement. The thing I particularly love about this production is that the stripping away of some of the traditional elements of ballet puts the dancer’s skills totally in the spotlight. I can see the muscular physicality of their movements, the sheer hard work of their effortlessness, the way they communicate with every single part of their bodies. It is a stunning feast of dance and the dancers themselves are superb. The title role is played with elegance and power by Ashley Shaw and having watched her on stage I can only be excited at the prospect of her taking the lead in Bourne’s next production The Red Shoes which will be coming to the Wales Millennium Centre in 2017. Ashley is more than ably supported by Dominic North as Leo and Christopher Marney as Count Lilac together with a cast of exquisite dancers.
This stunning production uses a lush opulent set design to convey a dark gothic Victorian age and an Edwardian garden party before thrusting us into a stark underworld and a sinister costume ball. The use of puppetry for the baby Aurora is a stroke of genius introducing some lighter notes of comedy at the beginning of the ballet before unleashing a duel between the fairy kingdoms with a vampire thrown in for good measure all swept along by Tchaikovsky’s score. The whole production is a wonderful spectacle returning the tale of Sleeping Beauty to the place it truly belongs.
Emma (second left jumping) with Motion Control Dance members
Our project coordinator Guy O’Donnell recently spoke to Emma Mallam Director E-Motion Dance and CEO at MCD – Motion Control Dance
Hi Emma, can you tell me how you got involved in your area in the arts?
I have been dancing since the age of 3 and loved performing on stage so I always knew I would make a career in the dance world. When I began to look for jobs during my BA Hons degree, I was devastated to find out that I would not become a performer as I was too small being only 4ft11″ when the average height for a professional dancer at the time was at least 5ft4″!!!!!! I was lucky to be accepted onto a PGCE Dance at Secondary School degree – there were only 2 universities that were delivering the course back then in 1996 and mine was one of them. After graduation I got a job at a high school in Ashford, Surrey teaching dance and drama then moved to a school in Birmingham when they changed my job role to that of a PE teacher. A year later I found my dream job in Stantonbury Campus in Milton Keynes teaching dance across all levels of KS 3 & 4, GCSE and BTEC Dance. I moved back to Wales in 2000 when my husband fell terminally ill and I began to develop community dance classes in the Vale of Glamorgan as a freelance teacher who saw a niche in the market – my first street dance class held in a small community hall had 74 girls turn up for it! From there I was employed by a voluntary youth organisation in 2005 as a dance co-ordinator and my programme has since grown from there.
You describe yourself as Director at E-Motion Dance and CEO at MCD – Motion Control Dance Can you explain what this means?
After being made redundant in 2014, I had a choice to either have a complete career change or take on the dance programme that I had been developing as my own independent venture – I decided to take the leap on my own as we had over 200 young people dancing with us each week. I created E-Motion Dance as a sole trading dance school but had my mind made up that I wanted to create Motion Control Dance into a charitable organisation rather than just another dance school as I wanted to leave a legacy of the great work that we had produced over the years in the community. We were successful in May 2015 to be registered as a CIO so E-Motion Dance is now part of the Motion Control Dance charity. Being a small charity there is only me and a handful of wonderful and dedicated freelance staff who produce outstanding results with all whom we work with and our reputation is highly thought of in our area. As the director and CEO, I wear a lot of different hats every day to keep the organisation thriving – teaching, co-ordinating, monitoring, developing, admin, funding, marketing, film making etc – its hard work but I love it! I am hoping to create a bigger team in the near future so the organisation can continue to grow from strength to strength.
Motion Control Dance Members
Was there a moment when you thought this is the career for me?
I always knew I wanted to have a career in dance but I think the turning point was when I went for an interview to be a medical secretary in college at the age of 15 because the career’s advisor said it paid good money! It was then I realised that I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk all day doing a job that I didn’t have any passion for!! So I went back to school to do my A levels and got a place in Laban College in London and I thought my life as a dancer was beginning. But my dream was cut very short as that year the government stopped all discretionary grants I was told I couldn’t go to Laban. I was heart broken and then had to wait for clearing day to apply to all other dance colleges only to find they were all full! I found a place for a BA Hons dance degree at Bedford College which turned into De Montfort University while I was there – I graduated in 1996 with a 2:1 – so my dream to work in the field of dance was still alive. I have been very privileged to have created my own career path teaching dance and becoming my own boss, enjoying every day in work – something that not many people can say!
Are their any individuals or organisations that helped support you once you realised a career in the Arts was for you?
My mentor in university was the person who inspired me to pursue a career in teaching dance in education. Her name was Jacqueline Smith-Autard, the acknowledged world-leading exponent in dance education, Chief Examiner for the dance GCSE and was a founder member of the National Dance Teachers Association and a pioneer in the use of technology to extend and enhance dance pedagogy. From her I developed my passion for teaching dance to children and young people and also the realisation that I was good at it!
I also owe a lot to the youth voluntary organisation Vibe Experience who believed in me when I told them that I would develop a successful dance project when no-one would hire me on a full time basis after my husband died. I couldn’t support myself and my young son as a freelancer – I needed the security of a salary and if they hadn’t taken me on I expect I would have gone to work in a dead end job that I hated just to make ends meet.
Can you tell us more about the two dance projects your run?
E-Motion Dance runs weekly dance sessions at the Barry YMCA in street dance, break dance, hip hop and creative dance for ages 3-30yrs. Groups perform at local community events throughout the year and our street dance team compete at local & regional competitions and have achieved great things! We bring guest tutors down occasionally such as Carlos Neto and Xavi from Pineapple Dance Studios to work with our dancers but the sessions are mainly taught by our A Team freelance faculty who are very passionate and highly motivated to produce great results through dance.
Motion Control Dance aims to ‘advance the education of people all ages, living in the Vale of Glamorgan and the surrounding areas, in the performing arts, particularly the art of dance, for the benefit of the public’. Through provision of classes, workshops, training and performance opportunities, we have created many memorable experiences for over a decade, working closely with schools and agencies in the Vale of Glamorgan with disadvantaged groups. Our mission is to give the community ‘A Chance 2 Dance’ – we are very proud of our award winning group of disability dancers the Local Motion Dance Company who started with us in 2008 that was funded by Children in Need for over 6 years. We also run training courses for Dance Leaders and provide volunteering opportunities with the MV Awards. Motion Control Dance also provides holiday schemes and organises trips and workshops with professional dancers such as Candoco and National Dance Company Wales.
Motion Control Dance Members
Do you have any advice for anyone interested in following your career path?
Follow your dream and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t – it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of passion with a relatively low income but it is worth it as each day is never the same! I would suggest they train in all forms of dance to understand the many techniques so you can break down the styles correctly to teach. I am a great believer that you can never stop learning – there are always new methods of teaching to discover and new trends to understand. I advise anyone wanting to get into teaching dance to volunteer to help out with classes in their local area to gain valuable experience of behind the scenes of the dance studio as too many young people think that teaching is easy and that they can just grab a stereo, play some hype music and show off a few dance moves but it takes a deep understanding that everyone learns in different ways and you have to accommodate for all abilities to ensure everyone gets an enjoyable and high quality dance tuition. I would also advise them to take part in performances for themselves so they understand what it takes to get up on stage and have the confidence to perform in front of others like they will expect their students to do. I would also advise anyone interested in following a career in dance teaching to ensure they have studied at University level and undertaken one of the many teacher examinations with a credible board, this will give you good reputation of being skilled and knowledgeable in your subject. There are so many more opportunities nowadays for those wishing to dance as a career than back in my day! They also must be a people person and love kids!!!!!
What are the opportunities for those interested in dance as a career in Wales?
I always tell any students who want to pursue a career in dance to study with a variety of teachers of different styles to give them a broad range of teaching methods. I also advise them to get involved with extra dance projects such as the National Youth Dance Wales or AdVance Dance. I understand Bridgend College has a wonderful dance and musical theatre programme that they can study at for 2 years and then I would strongly recommend Rubicon’s Full Time One Year Dance Course before going on to either the BA Hons Dance degree at Cardiff Met or University of Wales St Davids. Of course most dancers choose to focus on finding a place in England such as London or Manchester as that is where there are more opportunities for dancers but over the years we have lost a lot of talented young dancers who have never come back to Wales, which is a shame.
How do we get involved in your dance projects?
We offer a range of services in the Vale of Glamorgan for those wishing to take weekly sessions, those who want to pursue a career in dance, those who are looking to gain work experience or a university professional placement or organisations wishing work in partnership with our organisation.
If anyone would like to get involved with our dance projects please visit our websites
Please contact Emma Mallam by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
I opened the door to the dance hall at Chapter Arts Centre, lots of unknown faces turned their heads and peered at me. There were two long rows of chairs facing each other with an aisle running down the middle. The one woman who was standing said ‘hello’ and I quickly chucked my bag on the floor and placed myself onto an empty seat. The standing woman faced away from me and carried on with her performance, if she had ever stopped. I had no idea what to expect but I was certainly intrigued.
The woman was attempting to dance. I say attempting because she would interrupt her movements, stop herself and start again, trying to achieve something, I wasn’t quite sure what, commenting on what she was doing all the while. It was unclear whether I was watching a wholly scripted piece or a workshop for dancers which was more spontaneous and organic. This blurring between reality and performance was clearly a theme they were playing around with. Comedy was created through her almost childlike frustration at the inability to fully let go. The audience was kept in suspense as we waited for the dance to flow.
‘Maybe you could do it like this’ piped up someone from the other side of the room. Jo Fong stepped into the space. Her energy was immediately captivating. Fong talked a lot about her energy, expressing how she was bringing it into the room and giving it to the audience. There was definitely a sense of the performer enthusing the audience; her movements were big and bold, she had something inside her which didn’t know how to get out. Again, there was that tension. It seems to be a comment on how people struggle to give in to their emotions, stopping themselves from being totally free. Fong at one point did this sporadic movement with her arm which she called the ‘contemporary arm’, stating it ‘wants to express itself.’ There was a battle for control over the body, limbs did not perform as wanted and had a mind of their own.
After advising the first performer on how she should move, a third dancer, Beth Powlesand, came up and took to the floor. They all seemed very natural in the space, making the most of the strip between the rows of chairs. The further it went on, the more I realised how much of it was staged, which didn’t diminish the piece as we were supposed to be aware of its constructed nature.
There was a key element which really made it a unique and original experience; the audience. The show was shaped by the audience as the performers were continuously responding to the people watching, to the energy of the room and incorporating it into the performance.
As people started to understand what the show was about and got more relaxed, there was a change in the power dynamic. One audience member controlled Powlesand like a puppet on a string, the dancer imitating her as she freely moved her arms. It was a fascinating development because we were no longer just watching the show, we were a fully-functioning part in it. I’ve always been very interested in audience interaction and the relationship between performer and viewer and the show explored this wonderfully. Laura Lee Greenhalgh, the woman who said hello to me at the beginning, noticed I was furiously writing notes and commented on it; she looked down at the paper and read aloud ‘who is the leader? Who is being lead?’ It seemed to create a strange electric current between her and Powlesand, who were mirroring each other, and they rapidly danced down the room together as though fired up by the observation.
Near the end of the show, Powlesland invited people to get up off their seats and follow her movements, they were now the puppets. Quite a few practically leapt out of their chairs and joined in with enthusiasm. Yet, I think one of the most memorable moments was when Fong said ‘do you think I’m going to sit on a chair and do nothing like you?’ and proceeded to give the most emotionally charged performance of the evening. Her movements became more aggressive and the tension that had been building up throughout finally came to a head. She shouted ‘I just want to get this out of my body!’ with an intensity that resonated. It’s the sort of frustration I think everyone can relate to; this sense of being trapped or being unable to feel totally uninhibited. It’s felt honest and that’s why it stuck with me.
The concept of the show for me was about breaking down barriers, not just between performer and audience but internal barriers too. It’s about trying to fully experience an emotion and letting it flow through your body without fear. However, there’s a conflict there because can you really achieve this if your are performing? It would interesting to ask Jo Fong and the other dancers whether they think they have ever had a moment of pure release while doing the show. We are constantly reminded that what we are watching is a construct while are also actively participating in forming the performance. Without the audience, the piece would not have been what it was but it can also adapt to whoever is watching. Thus we all become performers and like the three dancers, we are all in pursuit of freedom.
With the exciting news that Jukebox Collective have recently become a new Regularly Funded Organisation funded by Arts Council Wales. As well as supporting their young dancers to perform in Groove on Down the Road at the Wales Millennium Centre. Young Critics Wales project coordinator Guy O’Donnell caught up with Liara Barussi, Company Director and Zoe Munn, Development Manager to discuss the companies past present and future plans.
Hi both, thanks for taking the time to chat, firstly can you tell me about the background of Jukebox Collective?
Jukebox Collective is a creative company based in Cardiff, focused on the delivery of the highest quality street dance education, performance and consultancy. The creation of Jukebox in 2004 was a reflection of the increase in demand, as well as the need to provide an outlet for some of the most talented young dancers in the UK. Over 10 years since its creation, we still keep the core emphasis on nurturing fresh young talent up to professional level, as well as producing high-class work for stage and screen.
The Jukebox mission statement is – “Founded on the principle of excellence in street dance being a right for all, our mission is to inspire, create and educate through street dance and hip hop culture”.
Thanks I wonder if you can tell us how you apply this in practice?
We apply this through the development of a multi-strand approach: Participate, Theatre, Creative Services and The Academy. The approach developed is based on a deep knowledge of the dance forms taught with a growing understanding of the different avenues for dance. By bridging the gap between community and professional work, we provide the platform to support talent from grassroots through to professional. We continue to work with respected industry artists to inspire dancers and support our vision of excellence and education being accessed by all.
The company has its own premises and has held events like the Social Saturday’s can you tell us more about the intention behind these events?
Jukebox is all about sharing and exchanging dance, and these events are needed to create a sense of community within what we do. It’s important to keep an open door and have free public events so that anyone can access what we do. We want to get people together, to enjoy and exchange, to have fun and to explore something different. We want people to leave with memorable experiences and a taste of what dance can bring to them. These events allow us to reach out to new people, introduce dance styles that may be unfamiliar, and to showcase that street dance forms are a vibrant and vital part of the cultural narrative and to local communities. The get together’s are also a chance to encourage collaboration between dancers as well as with other art forms.
Liara you and Jukebox Collective have been very involved in the annual Breakin’ the Bay Weekend at the Wales Millennium Centre. It appears the WMC have been very supportive of Hip Hop culture. I wonder could you tell us more about your relationship with the WMC and involvement in this event?
Yes, I have been involved in curating the festival since its creation, over 10 years ago. We support Breakin’ the Bay to enable the Welsh dance community to become internationally recognised, as well as educating, inspiring and connecting them with other dancers across the world. This year we focused on sourcing some of the freshest national & international talent in Europe including dancers from France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland & Sweden. Jukebox’s reach on the International Hip Hop scene has attracted dancers from around the world to spectate and participate in the annual event. It’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate Hip Hop culture and all its diversity and bring it to the center of Wales. This year we also introduced a new “Experimental’ category, not only specific to this event but to the local dance community. This was very exciting and showcased a dynamic approach to street dance fusion.
Arts Council England have invested funding in Breakin Convention which takes place at Sadler’s Wells and companies such as Zoo Nation to support their touring. We note that Jukebox company members have just been involved in Zoo Nations ‘Groove on Down the Road’ (which also forms part of Cardiff Dance Festival) at the WMC 13-22 Nov. Could you tell us more about your involvement in this performance?
It’s great to see not only Arts Council England but also the theatre venues across the UK welcoming street dance and making it available to mainstream audiences. The involvement gives further opportunities to local youth to develop professionally and consider a career in street dance theatre. The Groove on Down the Road production features Jukebox Collective dancers – Jo-el Bertram, Shakira Ifill playing ‘Little Wiz’, and Renee Brito playing ‘Wicked Witch of the West’. We are delighted to participate and work in collaboration with Zoo Nation.
Arts Council Wales have recently named Jukebox as a Regularly Funded Organisation, congratulations! Can you tell us what led the company to apply?
Thank you! We applied as we felt with the support of ACW we could collaboratively grow the organisation to its full potential. Becoming a Regularly Funded Organisation provides us with more opportunity to produce creative work and to realise initiatives that support and celebrate talented creatives. We will also be able to plan further ahead and work more strategically. We are looking forward to developing this partnership and creating some fresh new work.
Your work supports a wide demographic of participants, I wonder if you think your organisation works with young creatives who wouldn’t otherwise be engaged in mainstream arts in Wales?
Yes, absolutely, we attract a diverse group of participants with our programs, and continue to have a point of view that talks to all people, regardless of location, gender, race and income. We are able to relate to a diverse group of people and cultures through their shared common interests. This commitment to equality and diversity is at the heart of all the work we do.
Welsh Assembly Government culture minister Ken Skates has been supportive of your company, Liara could you tell us more about your relationship?
The progressive discussion that the Minister is encouraging is very exciting, and the support really highlights the progression of our arts community in Wales. We are seeing the Senedd opening up to hear younger voices in the arts, and I’m very excited to be a newly appointed member of the Welsh Government’s Arts and Creativity Forum.
What are the long term plans for Jukebox?
We will focus on creating and expanding our dance Academy as well as continuing to produce compelling high quality dance productions. We want to keep creating opportunities and working closely with the local community, as well as touring professional work, and creating bespoke work for special events and campaigns. We are keen to support the development of young creatives in all aspects of performing arts. We want to work with local businesses and form partnerships to support all the strands of our work, aiming to build a healthy, sustainable company.
My aim with the creative work is to build a collective of dancers who develop a language that can be pushed to the very edges of expressive, aesthetic and visual possibility. I want to make collaborative work that pushes the language of dance to new, deeper levels – exploring the edges of possibility through movement and expression.
And finally how do I find out more if I want to get involved?
To get involved in any strand of the company, from professional development and performance or just for fun, if you have collaboration in mind or would just like to hear more about our work, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep a look out for our new website, which will be launching in January 2016.
Ballet Cymru’s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is really one to go and see.
The way that Beauty played by Lydia Arnoux dances really helps you understand the ballet with no words but her facial expression to movement it is all quite beautiful and elegant. I also loved the music that gave the production a forest like atmosphere and at some points tense feeling, the Beast played by Mandev Sohki made the iconic character come to life. The Beasts costume created a towering imposing monster from the wearing of stilts gave him height and created an awkward and stubbing effect that helps Beauty fall in love with him and helps him to dance. The characters in the play like Beauty’s sisters, brothers and friends helped the scene changes they changed into dancing candles this made the play dynamic and different. The costume design was stunning and delicate my favourite outfit would have had to have been Beauty’s sisters red dresses I love the way that they moved when the sisters danced.
The scenery of the play was very simple but also interesting, I really liked how they initially showed Beauty’s house having a fire-place and then the outside snowflake background. Another thing that I thought was a good part of the ballet was when before it stated they had the rose from Beauty and the Beast projected on the screen, this begins to explain the story of the fairy tale and how children will believe anything that you tell them. In my opinion I think the production is brilliant and well worth going to see.
An audience of twenty, forming a circle, are the co-participants with Caitlin (wife of poet Dylan Thomas) in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Walking into the lower room in Montgomery Town Hall, where the performance was staged, felt just like the home of a small town AA – complete with that faint hint of disinfectant. We were directed upstairs to a circle of plastic folding chairs – the red ones to be left empty. No lighting, no scenery just those empty red chairs and a few plastic glasses as props.
Deborah Light’s production, embracing dance, movement and speech with a backdrop of music and sound, is riveting from start to finish. As Caitlin, the elfin and lithe Eddie Ladd is perfectly balanced by the muscular dynamism of Gwyn Emberton as her talented alcoholic husband. Their expressive interpretation of these deeply flawed human beings shows every nuance of their relationship in all its turmoil: Caitlin’s love and passion for Thomas countering her rage and jealousy at – in no particular order – his three mistresses: his work, his drink and his other women. Her resentment at the repetitious, circular drudgery of her day to day life is flung in the face of his fame and success as a counterpoint to their passionate, and at times ferociously feral, relationship.
Perhaps the highlight of Gwyn’s portrayal of this genius is his enactment of the writer’s creative process – the agony, the boredom and the striving for what, in his mind, is an unattainable perfection as he negotiates a maze of words, as if plucking the pieces from a box to complete a jigsaw.
Mention must also be made of Light’s clever strategy in using those red chairs, seemingly brought to an inanimate life as they balanced, towered, swirled and fell as they were hurled around the floor, to add an extra dimension in reflecting the turmoil of the Thomas’s lives.
Gregynog Festival brought this production to Montgomery’s Dylan Thomas Centenary Weekend following earlier performances in Cardiff and Swansea, as Thomas’s, A Child’s Christmas in Wales was filmed here. It is Emberton’s home town and doubtless as a small boy watching the production he was set upon his artistic career. It showed in his passionate performance.
It was one of those rare evenings when one comes away, not talking about “the show”, “the performance” or even “the story” but engaged in and with the issues and pain portrayed – the last time I truly did that was in 1978 after seeing Tom Conti in “Whose life is it anyway?” With an audience of only twenty this deserves to travel from venue to venue for a very long time to come.
Light, Ladd & Emberton’s production simply entitled ‘Caitlin’ was commissioned by the National Library of Wales as part of this year’s centenary celebration of Dylan Thomas’ birth. Directed by Deborah Lightand devised and performed by Eddie Ladd and Gwyn Emberton, the piece explores the life of the often overlooked wife of the famous poet through movement.
The audience is invited into the studio. There are chairs set up in a circle, representative of an AA meeting. Ladd sits with us and introduces herself as Caitlin, an alcoholic. She then launches into an energetic one hour performance which explores the trials and tribulations of Mrs Thomas.
The piece is punctuated by small chunks of dialogue; sentences such as “My husband was a very famous poet” are repeated over and over. Caitlin often lived in the shadow of her husband, and so this repetition serves well to emphasise this. Her husband’s success must have, at times, infuriated her. She tells us that she “was going to be a famous dancer”, but as the audience is aware, this never happened and only adds to the poignancy of her character.
Emberton stands on a chair, hand in pocket in that iconic Thomas pose, rotating and puffing out hot air as Caitlin watches from below. She tells us that she had three babies, although it felt like four as her husband was a ‘professional baby’. Ladd and Emberton cleverly use chairs to represent highchairs in order to communicate this message.
The movement ranges from loving, playful embraces to frantic, violent encounters, representative of the nature of the Thomas’ relationship. Ladd tells us of her affairs, of Dylan’s affairs and combines these pieces of dialogue with sensual movement.
Chairs are used most creatively to illustrate a number of different things, from a highchair to a straight-jacket, a pushchair to a bed. Music from Sion Orgon compliments the piece beautifully and works well to dictate the pace of the piece.
One of the most difficult things to do with a piece of movement theatre is to effectively communicate a narrative, but Ladd, Emberton and Light do this expertly. Some sections are perhaps slightly ambiguous, but this only helps to provoke the audience into questioning what it could potentially mean. A truly fantastic piece which gives a rare insight into the life of Caitlin Thomas.
‘For nearly thirty years, Lloyd Newson’s DV8 Physical Theatre has produced original and challenging dance theatre unafraid to push audiences out of their comfort zone’
During my performance training from the age of 15, I was introduced and inspired by DV8’s work. Thirty years of bringing thoughtful and impacting theatre into the forefront of audience’s minds. After seeing ‘Can We Talk About This?’ in Truro a few years ago, knowingly, DV8 brings a great approach to discussions that can be taboo, or if beginning to be spoken more about, still laid bare, and this has always had an amazing impact on me.
John was no exception. A simple rotating staging was easily turned into several different locations with little change; just the addition of occasional props. The performance was about the story of John, not stage and lighting trickery and attempt to astonish audiences in this way.
John’s life was from verbatim – a production based on a solo interview with a normal human being and how his turbulent life from childhood to his present shaped who he was, what he wanted and despite a possible more negative life compared to some, something relatable … wanting someone to love and love us.
A combination of physicality and spoken word caught the eye and ear of every audience member. A pin could be heard within the theatre as John’s story of the horrors he had experienced and the life he was entering were laid in front of us, with no fear or cover of the truth. For some, this blunt-ness of the taboo subjects may have been much to handle, with, at times, comedy with topics that could make the strongest person cringe but what would DV8 be without this?
The versatility and fluidity of the performers brought interesting scope to the spoken word ; each one was astonishingly capable of beautiful movement and never took away from the intent of their words. How their ability to contort themselves and move in such a way and still easily and with steady breath speak their lines was inspiring. And ensuring that their words still gave as much meaning as the movement, left myself in tears of awe and from the impact of the story.
DV8, as usual have brought a fantastic and must see performance into the public eye. It is almost impossible to come away without a feeling of elation at seeing theatre at its best.
Choreography: Deborah Light, Eddie Ladd and Gwyn Emberton
Director: Deborah Light
Caitlin; Eddie Ladd
Dylan: Gwyn Emberton
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
Based on the writing of Caitlin, the wife of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, this dance production tells of her life with the poet through the medium of a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous which she started to attend some twenty years after his death. Similar in style that of the one-woman show performed at the Sherman Theatre in 2003, it could equally have been named ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy.’
Caitlin’s recognition of the destruction wrought upon her life is portrayed in a series of dance moves, many of them violent in the extreme. In focussing on the turbulences of the Dylan marriage, director choreographer Deborah Light adheres closely to Caitlin’s own perception of her alcoholism and her life. The athleticism and technical skills of Eddie Ladd as Caitlin are showcased brilliantly, although there is a tendency to over- use of repetition, which can be tedious at times. One thinks of Ladd as a dancer but Light also allows her to speak, albeit briefly. Her speaking voice enthrals as much as her dance technique and makes a considerable contribution to Ladd’s characterisation. Her reiteration at intervals throughout that, while Dylan was a poet, “I could have been a dancer” adds poignancy to the overall projection of chaos, with dancers and furniture crashing around the stage for much of the time.
Ladd’s boundless energy is phenomenal, as is that of Gwyn Emberton, as Dylan. Many of Emberton’s dance moves require him to roll around the floor or balance precariously on a pyramid of stacked tubular and plastic chairs that teeter ominously. The said chairs are an integral part of the production, being used by the dancers use not only to represent actual objects – a baby’s pushchair, for instance – but also mood. There is no set, and these are the only props, barring a paperback book and four glasses of water with sweets in. Seated on some twenty chairs of the same ilk are the remainder of the cast (actually the audience), representing the members of the AA meeting which Caitlin is addressing.
In the year which marks the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth and the 60th anniversary of the iconic Under Milk Wood, it was inevitable that all aspects of his life would be explored in theatrical performances both nation and world-wide. His lifelong battle with alcoholism has been well documented; that of his wife Caitlin possibly less well so, In portraying this, and showing that while in some aspects it bound them together, Light’s production shows how eventually it destroyed not only their marriage but both of them.
Runs at Chapter for two more performance: Thursday October 30th at 6.30 and 8.30
Performances on Mon 3 + Tue 4 Nov at Volcano, The Iceland Building, 27-31 High Street, Swansea.
Bianco’, performed by ‘No Fit State Circus’ was the last show I went to see at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I left the circus tent shaking in awe. When a performance has given you a lump in your throat that makes it hard to even cheer or clap, you know they have done well. Every section beautifully designed that was enhanced by the power of the live band.
There were no individual stars but an ensemble of talented performers, each bringing their own expertise to the stage. Even though this was a stereotypical contemporary circus show, they brought so much emotion to the way they performed that it stood out from any other circus acts. The music and the lyrics especially helped create this emotion and made mini-narratives for each section. There were moments in this show where I felt I’d left reality behind and stepped into a dream. It was aesthetically pleasing in every sense that I couldn’t believe it was happening before me. I never wanted it end. What was more interesting is that I felt like I was part of the production myself. The constant change of positions to re-arrange the performance space made it become even more immersive. Sometimes it took away from the essence of fantasy, yet it was necessary.
It was evident that every aspect of the show was well thought out and infused with professionalism. Every person so physically fit it was inspiring to watch. Overall ‘No Fit State Circus’ is heightened with pure talent, innovative imagery and a set to be admired at. Step into this tent and leave reality behind.
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