Category Archives: Film & TV

Review Yes Prime Minister, David Ball Productions, Theatr Clwyd by Richard Evans

Living up to a legend?

Undoubtedly, the BBC series, Yes Minister and its sequel, Yes Prime Minister have provided us with many comic moments and fond memories.  To recreate that show on stage, doing justice to those original characters yet producing something fresh is a challenge that is met with panache in this show at Theatr Clwyd.  A combination of a great script and excellent delivery make this a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

While the script was at times complex and wordy, it captured the spirit of the original TV programme in a contemporary story that was easily understood and well communicated.  It struck a balance between political satire and farce that engaged the audience throughout.  

The lead actors were true to the characters portrayed in the original series yet not hidebound by them.  In fact, theybrought their own persona and comic touch to bear successfully.  Of particular note was Peter Forbes as Sir Humphrey whose handling of complex obfuscating sentences was an exercise in memory and diction that was passed with flying colours.  Paul Bradley, who for several years has played in TV series like Eastenders and Holby City was an excellent Jim Hacker, producing a comic performance naturally,combining a shambolic ingénue and streetwise politician well. I particularly liked Sarah Earnshaw as political advisor Claire Sutton, who had a confident, relaxed charm as she outfoxed the seasoned civil servants around her.

This was not a production that had me rolling in the aisles but it will live long in the memory and had many one liners that had the audience chuckling.  “We are here to serve the people, not to do what is right!’

I would recommend this play to anyone with a memory of the sitcom or who feels a frustration whenever they listen to those politicians who never know how to answer a straight question. That’s probably most of us then.  It serves as a good night out and left me with a warm, feel good factor.  A thoroughly worthwhile theatre experience.

Dance and Audiences at Neuadd Dyfi with Sarah Verity

Hi Sarah great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I have been dancing since the age of 3 and have trained in many dance styles such as ballet, modern, jazz, street dance, freestyle and Cheerleading. I completed the IDTA Dance Teaching Diploma in Freestyle and Modern Jazz with Distinction and I am qualified Cheerleading and Fitness Instructor. I have been privileged to work alongside many industry professionals such as Wayne Sleep and Darcey Bussell.

Since graduating from the University of Manchester, I performed and taught overseas before moving to Leeds to own a dance franchise which involved teaching dance in schools and the wider community.

I was a member of the National Youth Theatre and have gained much Musical Theatre experience over the years. Since recently moving to Aberystwyth I have already acquired many dancing opportunities and teach at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Dreams Dance School and set up my own Dance School ‘The Sarah Verity School of Dance’ as well as teaching freelance in local schools and the wider community.

So what got you interested in the arts?

I have danced since the age of three and despite my peers stopping dancing in their early teens, I have always had the desire to continue. During my academia studies at school and University, dancing and the performing arts has always been an escape for me and a form of self-expression.

You run your own dance school called, The Sarah Verity School of Dance. Your dance provision is obviously very important as its the only dance school in the area and teaches a range of dance styles to all ages, including adults. What do you hope to achieve with your dance school?

The positive effects of dancing whether it is as a hobby or as a career are significant and I have been fortunate enough to live in different places across the UK where dancing has always been an option. Therefore I wanted the people of West Wales who live in the more remote areas to have the same opportunities, without having to travel a great distance. I have been fortunate with my dance career and have seen the positive impact dancing has on children and adults. My aim is to continue to have a positive impact on people’s lives through dance.

You are collaborating with National Dance Company Wales to support a Day of Dance at Neuadd Dyfi,Aberdyfi on Saturday the 23rd November from 3-5pm. Do you think its important for organisations like NDCWales to work with community dance organisations such as your own?

I think it is amazing that we can offer the opportunity for people in this area to be able to work and be trained by National Dance Company Wales and have the experience of watching them perform, without having to travel to the city. I hope it will be a valuable experience for the National Dance Company Wales artists too, to work with dancers with mixed abilities and dance experience.

NDCWales then play at Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdyfi on Sunday the 24rd November as part of their autumn Roots tour. This is the first time the National Dance Company has performed at the venue, what piece of work are you most looking forward to seeing from the Roots programme and why?

I’m looking forward to seeing Why Are People Clapping!? by Ed Myhill as it has similarities with the musical ‘Stomp’ which I have been a fan of from seeing it at a young age. I love the simplicity of making a rhythm out of a simple sound and then gradually layering different sounds and movement onto the beat to produce an amazing result.

Neuadd Dyfi,Aberdyfi is an Arts Council Wales Night Out touring venue and is clearly an important asset to the local community. We interviewed Des George who runs the venue, in 2017,  how is the venue important to you personally?

Theatre Rum Ba Ba performing “L’Hotel” at Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdyfi, under the Arts Council of Wales ‘Night Out’ scheme Sunday 14 August 2016 ©keith morris

The venue has ‘West End’ standard facilities such as amazing lighting and sound equipment and sprung floor rehearsal space, which we are so fortunate to have in a small village in West Wales. We were able to rehearse and perform our dance school shows at the venue, which is so important for the pupils and their parents to have this opportunity as it is the largest venue in the area.

Theatre Rum Ba Ba performing “L’Hotel” at Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdyfi, under the Arts Council of Wales ‘Night Out’ scheme Sunday 14 August 2016 ©keith morris

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to accessing high quality Dance provision?

In deprived areas, it is difficult for parent/guardians to have extra income to pay for their children’s dance tuition. Therefore cost of dance tuition is reduced which means that the income is also reduced for the dance teacher. Even reduced fees may still be a considerable expense for some of the parents paying it.  

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

Enabling funding for underprivileged children to be able to partake in dance lessons.  

What excites you about the arts ? 

In a world of ever changing political situations, climates and technological advances, the arts still remain a form of liberation from the pressures of modern society, yet it also has the opportunity to enable expression around such issues and has the potential to influence the future.

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

Despite living far from the city, we are very fortunate to have a local cinema that portrays the ‘live theatre screenings’. Therefore last year Matthew Bourne’ s adaptation of ‘Cinderella’ did a live performance from Sadler Wells that was screened to our local cinema in Tywyn. It was an hour to watch. We are lucky enough to have his latest version of ‘Swan Lake’ coming to our cinema as live screening at the end of November, which I am very much looking forward to.

Many thanks for your time

Review Heaven on their minds, Calvary Baptist Church By Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This is the best concert-style show that I have ever seen in my entire life! This was an incredible show vocally but on top of this everything about the show was well throughout and planned. Ben Smith who organised this event had a very clear idea for the type of show he wanted and was able to execute this perfectly.

This show ran inside Calvary Baptist Church which firstly provided a beautiful backdrop for each singer. Secondly the whole premise of this concert was songs that had a connection to religion whether this was through lyrics or songs from musicals that have religious connections (eg Joseph, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar etc.) having a concept that ties together the whole show just makes for a consistent, easy-to-watch show that the audience can follow in a logical way. Ben had come up with a very clever theme for the that allowed a wide selection of songs to be sung as well as being relevant to the venue itself which is incredibly clever.

The name itself together tied the two ideas of ‘church’ and musical theatre as ‘Heaven on Their Mind’ is a song from the faith-based musical Jesus Christ Superstar which is again the entire concept of the show. I can’t express how impressed I am with Ben and the other organisers who managed to come up with this incredible branding and theme of the night as it is tremendously clever so they should be proud of this. Despite the importance of musical theatre in this night, it was made explicitly clear that this is not a musical theatre night. The show had a mixture of songs from popular shows that everyone would know to shows even the most theatre crazed people would struggle to name. Some people there would know all the musicals the songs are from as some would know none and so it was not a celebration of musical theatre rather the overall concept of the show being executed. Even those you had never heard of a musical would be able to enjoy the songs which made the show more accessible to a greater range of people.


The standard in this show was already incredibly high set from the opening number from Godspell and it seemed to just increase constantly as the show progressed. In a non-competitive way, each performer appeared to listen to the previous song and then try and top it which helped to keep the audience engaged. Every person was amazing and managed to play perfectly to their strength and so the person who chose the songs should be proud they were able to fit the songs to every singer so perfectly. This was like a west-end level show for the price of a local show, actually, this show was higher quality than many of the west-end professional shows I have seen. The talent was only aspirated as the focus was solely on the performer and their vocals. This show had no dancing, no props, no fancy lights and no MC instead the focus was just on the singers and so each person was able to fully showcase their ability and amazing talent. Even from a non-performance aspect, each individual was dressed in their smartest attire which helped elevate the event and made the audience feel as if they are witnessing an exclusive and high-calibre event (which they were.) I am not sure if this a part of a stated ‘uniform’ as such but if so, then this worked as it should have and gave the right effect to this effect while still making it visually accessible to everyone.


Ben-Joseph Smith, who is a recent graduate from the Welsh academy of music and drama, sang the opening solo of this show which was a beautiful city from the musical Godspell. This song was sung beautifully and he managed to blend the softness and intensity of the song in the most perfect way. Later on, we had a section from Les Mis where Ben sang a very intense version of Stars which again sounded incredible.


Simon Jennings, who is a pastor and worship leader based in Eden Church Penarth also graced the stage with his operatic and powerful voice. His Rendition of Close every door to me from Joseph and his amazing technicolour dream coat was incredibly moving and in fact, I was in tears by the end of it. Being able to create such strong feeling from this song is an incredible act and only goes to show Simon’s talent and ability. Simon also was involved in the Les Mis section were he sung Bring him Home which is perfectly in his skill set. His powerful voice worked perfectly within this song and he was able to easily achieve the range of this song. He also covered a song I didn’t know about titled ‘why God why’ from Miss Saigon which is a song that I now have to listen to more as it is so moving and relevant in today’s society.


The biggest highlight for me was the rendition of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar which was sung by Ashley. Ashley is known for recently playing Jesus Christ in Everyman Cardiff’s open-air festival which is regrettably missed this year. To cover such an iconic and difficult song is a very big task but Ashley seemed to not even flinch at this mammoth song. I have listened to a wide range of people covering this song from local people singing a somewhat shaky version to Ben Forester in the arena tour to John Legend in the most recent adaptation but this cover was the best I had even heard. He blew spots off even the most established and professional performers who had taken on this role and he received a standing ovation from the crowd which is even more astonishing as it was the end of act one. Ashley visibly poured everything into this performance which led to an out of this world cover. This song on its own was worth more than the price of admission and now I am devastated that I missed JCS over the summer.

The opening group number from Godspell was a little shaky as people did look visibly uncertain about entrances and parts etc but it was so bad that it affected the show. In my personal opinion, the solos in this show we’re better than those in groups or duets etc as it allowed each person to fully showcase their skills and so possibly next time this should be the focus. Also, there were a few tedious links within this show to tie the theme of the show and the actual songs sang such as certain songs from Les Mis as it contains the words ‘God’ in them but this is a tiny issue that can be sanded out possibly in the next show.

Overall this is a phenomenal concert that demonstrated the skills and talents of each performer which led to a fantastic evening of performances. In all honesty, I would probably prefer to return to this event over many of the professional shows I have seen. The show itself was well thought out and constructed which was the ‘icing’ on the already ‘incredible cake’ which helped with constancy from the audience. If this show returns with a similar cast I would strongly recommend you buy a ticket as it an evening of West-end quality singing for a fraction of the price. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars and would give it 6 out of 5 stars if this was possible.

Working with Welsh Playwrights at Coleg Gwent

Get the Chance is a strong supporter of Welsh/Wales based Playwrights. Wales as a nation does not have a literary department to support Playwrights. When we found out about the exciting Playwright module from lecturer Viv Goodman on the Extended Diploma in Performing Arts course at Coleg Gwent we got in touch to find out more this new initiative.

Hi Viv, great to meet you, what got you involved in the arts and education?

I loved Drama in school from a very young age and it was always going to be something I would pursue further. About the time I was in sixth form in Cardiff I decided I wanted to teach Drama; I had gained so much from my own teachers and through provision such as The Sherman Theatre Youth Project. I did the Secondary Drama teaching degree that was run between what is now Cardiff Met and RWCMD, then went straight into working in secondary schools. I’ve been at Coleg Gwent for 12 years now; moving to FE was the best thing for me, I have really loved working on a vocational course with the students.

You are about to embark on an exciting new project with a range of writers, please tell us more!

Certainly, my year two actors are on the Extended Diploma in Performing Arts course at Coleg Gwent. The project is an assignment for two units, Performance Workshop and Exploring Theatre Practitioners.

Year two actors on the Extended Diploma in Performing Arts course at Coleg Gwent


We start on 24th Oct when we go to see Pavilion, Emily White the productions writer will be coming to us the following day to do a workshop about the play. I anticipate that some of the students will select an extract to rehearse for performance. Owen Thomas will be able to join us for several workshops during November, we will be exploring extracts from his work Grav, An Orange in the Subway, Richard Parker and The Night Porter. The pieces will all be performed on 11th/12th December at Coleg Gwent and will be delivered as a promenade theatre experience, touring the audience between different locations that create the right mood/atmosphere for each play. Jeremy Hylton Davies will also join us in November, he will be taking a workshop on TV and radio acting/writing and sharing some of his BBC scripts with the students.

Why do you think its important for your students to engage with living playwrights?

I really want the acting students to have interaction with performing arts professionals, it’s something I am currently trying to develop for the Level 3 Year 2 Acting course. Working with these three playwrights will give students the opportunity to understand a bit more about the writing process, but mostly I think it will make the scripts and professional world seem more real somehow; I’m sure that very often a playwright or an author can appear simply as a name on a book and this project will allow them to talk to real people and work with them to bring their concepts, themes and characters to life.

What has been the response from the writers as regards getting involved in the project?

I am genuinely bowled over and delighted by their response to the project! All three playwrights came my way during August while I was considering materials and projects for the new academic year. I knew I wanted to do something contemporary with the Year 2 group during the first term before they go on to a classical/historical project, but I couldn’t decide on a play. I was in touch with Emily first and got swept up in the excitement for Pavilion! I knew that she wanted the play to reach a younger audience and I felt that the students would connect with this. She was thrilled to learn that we were coming to see it at the Riverfront and was really happy to come and see us for a workshop. I then got in touch with Owen, having also read his Get the Chance interview and learned a good deal more about his work.

I was really interested to know more about The Night Porter as we had done a ghost storytelling project at Coleg Gwent a couple of years previously. He was also very positive about coming in to share his work with us and it was at this point that the idea of making it into a project occurred to me. I asked to meet Owen, he was involved with the Edinburgh Festival, taking West to NAFoW and then a research and development week on An Orange in the Subway, so by the time we finally managed to catch up I had about 50,000 questions for him… but I managed to rein myself in and keep to the matter in hand! He was very enthusiastic and supportive. I was also delighted to hear back from Jeremy; his writing across the fields of theatre, BBC TV and Radio Drama really interested me and he will be invaluable to our students. He has local connections as well, so it’s great that he is able to come and work with us. Everyone has been incredibly kind.

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

I would love to see more funding for youth drama projects. Early opportunities and building self- confidence, self-esteem and a sense of belonging to something are essential to well being and growth; during my time as a secondary school teacher in particular I noticed that the pupils involved with Drama, Music and Sport were usually the most content and fulfilled learners.

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

I loved On Bear Ridge at the Sherman Theatre, incredible writing and performances. A number of people have commented on how great it was to see the auditorium full for a new play. I’m glad Jeremy will get a chance to see it at The Royal Court!

Playwright Owen Thomas tells us more about why he got involved in this new initiative.

When Viv first approached me about working with her students, I accepted immediately. As well as writing plays, I have taught Drama for almost 20 years and I have always thought it essential in their development that young people have the experience of working with people making their living and working in the arts. It is vital that people who have experience of making work are able to interact with the next generation. If there is anything that I have learnt in my writing career then I would be glad to share it, be they tips for how to be successful or some of the many mistakes I’ve learnt from.

You will be running workshops during November, where the students will be exploring extracts from your plays Grav, An Orange in the Subway, Richard Parker and The Night Porter. How will you approach this process and what do you hope the students will gain from studying your work?

With a play like ‘Grav, it has only ever been performed by the brilliant Gareth John Bale. I am excited to see how a younger performer will approach it. I would certainly encourage them to be bold and to give it their own unique stamp. ‘Grav’ and ‘Richard Parker’ are the two plays of mine closest to my heart in terms of the doors they opened and the people they introduced me to. ‘Richard Parker’ has been performed by a range of companies over the years, and I am often struck by how different people interpret the play. I have seen it played as an out and out comedy, or as a more darkly sinister piece.

‘An Orange in the Subway’ and ‘The Night Porter’, are new plays of mine, and for my own development I am interested to see how these young performers interpret them. Having had the pleasure of doing research and development on both of these plays in the last 12 months I am always excited to learn new things from actors and directors who always come at projects with their own unique viewpoints. It is great to think that a group of talented performers will be spending time with my words and creating a kind of retrospective. I am sure it will make me feel old. I am excited to see what they do. Above all, I hope they enjoy the project and I am looking forward to meeting them.

Do you feel the role of the Playwright is sufficiently understood by those studying drama?

Overall, yes, but a lot depends on how they are taught. One of the good things about GCSE, AS and A Level Drama is that young people are encouraged to study plays. The earlier this can happen in school, the better. Often young people are initially attracted to study drama by the urge to perform. It is important that they learn about the ground breaking writers and directors as well as actors. I have worked with young people who have been inspired to give playwriting a go after studying Playwrights such as Arthur Miller, Shelagh Delaney or Roy Williams. Without the Playwright, there is no play.

What one piece of advice could you share with any aspiring Playwright?

When you are starting out as a Playwright there is nothing more valuable than seeing and hearing your work being performed. With my first play, ‘The Dead of Night’, I roped in various friends and called in favours to help me to stage it. I learnt a huge amount from this process. How what looks good on the page doesn’t always translate into the mouths of the performers, or the fact that what a writer might spend two pages wrestling to communicate, a good actor can communicate with a single look. One of the things that first attracted me to being a Playwright is that, if you have the passion and the time, all you need to stage a play is a script, willing performers and a space. Don’t sit and wait for a theatre to approach you. Get out there and make new work. Trial and error. It is the best way to learn.


Playwright Emily White tells us more about why she got involved in the new exciting initiative.


I am really passionate about getting more young people coming to the theatre, so I had already agreed to lead some workshops while Pavilion was running at Theatr Clwyd as part of their engagement program, in order to try and encourage some of their younger groups to come and see the show.  So when Viv from the Extended Diploma in Performing Arts course at Coleg Gwent reached out to me on Twitter and said she was bringing her students to see Pavilion and would I consider meeting with them I was totally up for it.  I’m new to running workshops but I think it’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes, theatre and dance meant everything to me when I was young if I hadn’t found that calling I’m not sure what I would have done.  I was really lucky to have the opportunities I did, so I want to give something back.

The students will be going to see your play Pavilion at The Riverfront Theatre in Newport. You are then going to run a workshop with the students. How will you approach this process and what do you hope the students will gain from studying your work?


I really feel this play in particular is exciting for young people to watch because there a large number of young characters that they can identify with, it takes place at a bar/nightclub so it’s fun but it also addresses harder hitting issues that they are facing.  Out of all the feedback we’ve received about the show, my favourite comment was that one of our techies brought his 16 year old son to see it, and he loved it so much he went and bought himself and his girlfriend tickets with his own money so he could see it again.  I was really happy to hear that it spoke to him so strongly.  We’ve also had students from Wrexham come along to the show and some members from my old youth theatre MPYT (Mid Powys Youth Theatre) and they have all responded positively to it and wanted to study or perform it, so hopefully the Newport students will feel the same.   Viv and I have talked about a Q&A session and then some work on particular scenes.  I think these workshops will be primarily about performing whereas the ones I lead at Clwyd were writing exercises on developing character.  Although some of those exercises could apply to performers as well in terms of creating a backstory for your character that goes beyond the information given to you in the text.  For example asking the students to list twenty things a character remembers, twenty things they want etc. to help to build a more complex inner world.


Do you feel the role of the Playwright is sufficiently understood by those studying drama?

In a word: no.  At least I didn’t fully understand it – I did a BTEC in Performing Arts at Hereford and we did a bit of devising/writing and at RADA we did a little writing but mostly of monologues as a way into characters but I didn’t really start to understand playwriting until I tried to write a play.  Only once you try, and get feedback, and then redraft and redraft and redraft, can you start to understand how much work goes into writing a play.  Acting is in a walk in the park compared to writing as far as I’m concerned.  Even with all the theatrical experience I had as an actor and having read loads of plays (I love reading plays so I buy them more than I buy other books) I didn’t have any idea about how a play is structured.  Characters reveal themselves to me quickly but structure and plot I find much more difficult.  I had no idea how much editing and rewriting went into playwriting. 
I’ve never worked on a play with a living playwright so I had no idea what to expect going into the rehearsal process for Pavilion in terms of what would be expected of me and I’m not sure any of the actors did either.  We were still rewriting bits and adding lines or editing lines out, right up until press night.  Plays can take years to write and then years to get on – Pavilion started four years ago and then right at the end of the process it becomes a collaboration – so I was on my own for years and then for the last few months I’ve had all these other collaborators come in: literary advisors, producers, directors, movement directors, fight directors, designers, sound designers and of course a company of actors and suddenly it’s not yours anymore it becomes a company effort: everyone is there working really hard to make your imagination come to life which is overwhelmingly moving.  It’s also strange and exciting and frightening too because you have no control anymore.  And of course if Pavilion ever receives another full production it would be completely different again, with a different set of people involved, creating a entirely different show.  That’s one of the unique things about plays as opposed to other art forms, it’s never finished, it gets recreated and re-imagined every time… and I’ll probably still be doing rewrites.

What one piece of advice could you share with any aspiring Playwright?


Get some friends together (actors if at all possible) and get them to read your play out loud and then have a discussion about it afterwards.  It is a short cut to knowing what works, what nearly works and what will never work.  You’ll hear what bits are heavy handed and overwritten, you can make notes as you go along and then you can redraft.  This is really helpful even in the very early stages of writing a play and may spark ideas that will help you create new scenes or even new characters.  

Writer Jeremy Hylton Davies us more about why he got involved in the new exciting initiative.

I think Viv and I bumped into each other online and she found out that I come not so very far from Crosskeys originally and I do often write Welsh themes or use Welsh characters, including in network drama. Viv asked me if I could help out and I was only too pleased to. I think looking at the world of professional theatre and film and TV, it can seem like it’s made by a select club which is difficult to join. I would think all of the professionals involved would say that they want to demonstrate that that’s not the case and you just need the urge and the will to get involved and make it your working life, if you want to.

How will you approach this process and what do you hope the students will gain from studying your work?

Well, by happy coincidence some of my work has just been broadcast on tv and radio and the students will be able to compare the scripts with the transmitted versions. There can be many changes along the way, not least due to demands of budget and schedule (anyone who works in drama or television will tell you all about those!), but reading the scripts also gives a good insight into how to write to the technical demands of a particular medium and how these demands differ, ie with regard to tv and radio. In radio you can say ‘Here we are on Mars’ and the audience is instantly with you on Mars. In tv or film, if the story is set on Mars, it’s pretty much got to look like Mars. And recreating Mars is expensive!

Do you feel the role of the Playwright is sufficiently understood by those studying drama?

If you say ‘writer’, then it’s a broader question. In theatre the writer is paramount (unless they don’t want a writer at all!), but in film and especially in television, you are part of an enterprise that is dictated by schedules and money, as above, ditto technical demands, but also deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, especially in continuing (serial) drama. There’s a cast, crew and back office production team of about 80 waiting for your script to land – so you’d better land it.

In a historical context, playwrights and writers are also subject to social and political forces of their times. So getting the work staged and finding an audience are difficulties in themselves. A novel you can write in isolation, a play needs an audience if it is to come off the page.

The role of the playwright is tied with the role of the theatre. We live in times when journalism, or at least fewer journalists, are really holding power to account. And when opinions are supposed to be binary, my view vs. the other view. What’s missing is the examination of the degrees of experience and the fact that humans are complex and contradictory beings. Theatre and drama can do that.

But, really, the role of the playwright has been debated since Aristotle – and probably before him! So maybe that the question needs to be constantly asked is an indication that the role of the playwright is actually alive and well and continues on.


What one piece of advice could you share with any aspiring Playwright?

Watch all you can, see and hear all you can. Be curious. Don’t be scared. Write what you want to write. But write. Always write.


Series Review, Pili Pala, S4C by Gareth Williams

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It is a rare but pleasant site to see North Wales used as the setting for TV drama. The mountains of Snowdonia offered a bleak and stunning backdrop to last year’s hit Hidden. Now, it is Conwy’s green and rugged coast that provides the scenery for Pili Pala. Translated as ‘Butterfly’, this four-part series stars Sian-Reese Williams as Sara Morris, senior consultant in a Fetal Medicine Department. When she agrees to take on her pregnant friend Elin (Fflur Medi Owen) as a patient, it is against the advice of colleagues. Their concern appears to be warranted when it becomes clear that there is a problem with her baby’s growth, resulting in both Sara and Elin facing some difficult decisions that will have significant repercussions.

Sian Reese-Williams (Sara)

Pila Pala may be a slow burner, but it is worth sticking with it. Unlike Keeping Faith, where the drama unfolds out of extraordinary circumstances, here it gradually builds out of the ordinary, the everyday. The first episode may feel slightly pedestrian in pace and tone. However, as the characters make choices in the various moments of their daily lives, it is the consequences that come with them that make this a progressively engaging narrative. In particular, I appreciated the writer Phil Rowlands’ exploration of the personal and professional blurring, on both an ethical and human level, and the interactions, pressures and problems that arise as a result.

It is just a shame that his story was restricted to a mini-series. Its steady build-up of tension and the strains and stresses that are placed on the characters lead to so many different and fascinating strands being produced. Yet they all feel as if they are required to suddenly be tied up in the final episode. Reese-Williams’ performance was beginning to show signs of Eve Myles-like frustration with the situation that her character finds herself in. Instead of being given the space and time to fully explore the ramifications and resultant emotions however, it appeared that (production? budget?) constraints cut short what should have ideally been a 6-8 episode run. It warranted as much. The characters certainly had so much more to give.

Fflur Medi Owen (Elin)

Despite its all-too-brief stint, Pili Pala achieves much. It deals with what might be considered a controversial issue with unashamed ease. It is unafraid to show and explore the impact of high-risk decisions on individuals and their relationships. Sian Reese-Williams is as composed and accomplished as ever. It is refreshing to see Owen Arwyn (Jac) occupy a more sensitive role than the ‘hard man’ we are used to seeing him play. Fflur Medi Owen brings a wealth of nuance and subtlety to Elin. There is certainly nothing wrong with the performances here, only that they haven’t been allowed to flex their acting muscles to their full potential. The momentum that was crafted so brilliantly through the first three episodes seemed to come unstuck in the fourth. Perhaps a second series would solve this. I’m unsure. But S4C must be commended for continuing to invest in original drama. Pili Pala is not a disappointment by any means.

Click here to watch the full series.

gareth

Review And she, Bonnie and The Bonnettes by eva marloes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The perfect antidote to autumn blues, And She is a fun and moving exploration of our relationship with our mothers. It is a play, a musical, and comedy gig. Dressed in bright orange costumes, the talented trio Hattie Eason, Rebecca Glendenning and Cameron Sharp, re-enact the conversations they had and have with their mothers. They do so by intersecting dialogues, monologues, and pieces of life.  

The audience eavesdrops on the trio’s conversations with their mothers, their memories, their misunderstandings and excuses, and their drunken singing. And She strikes the right balance of comedy and drama. The mothers have gone through bad marriages, breast cancer, alienation and reconciliation with their child, have given up work to look after their children and care for grandma, and have dared wear sexy lingerie with a curvy body on stage. These mothers are great and ordinary. And She is distilled everyday life.  

The show is sophisticated without pretension; yet it is let down by songs that never really take off. The move from comedy to drama could be helped by a change in colours in terms of costumes and lights. This would help accentuate the more emotional parts. Bonnie and The Bonnettes celebrate their mothers in style and remind us that family relationships cannot and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Off to call mum.

Lenny Henry in Conversation : Preview By Hannah Goslin

One of the many British Kings of Comedy – I will be attending the Autobiography release and talk by the one and only Sir Lenny Henry at The Southbank Centre.

Notable for his Stand Up, Sketches, and his huge influence in Comic Relief, we will be listening to him, interviewed by British Comedian, Romesh Ranganathan talk about his life in his own words.

With Ranganathan also on stage, it looks to be a night of complete hilarity!

Review to follow!

Lenny Henry in Conversation

SouthBank Centre

30th September 2019

Photo Credit – Jack Lawson

Top Tunes with Katherine Chandler

Hi Katherine, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I’m a writer that works mainly in theatre and I’ve done a bit of film and TV and radio.

I love words and people and questioning things so I think being a writer is probably where I always would have ended up. I’m not from a theatre/arts background at all, I left school  before A levels like all my friends. I was more or less always working from leaving school. Me and my friend worked for her Dad on the markets and street trading for a while and I was a waitress for different places. I did a stint on the breakfast shift in the Angel Hotel, Cardiff and also a few years in the Masonic hall for the Masons. When I didn’t have work I signed on and I was put on a YTS scheme that was for kids that had left school like me without qualifications. I happened to be sent to the Sherman Theatre , Cardiff and it changed everything for me.

The exterior of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff in the 1980’s

I was in the finance and admin dept but loved being around the shows. Phil Clark who was Artistic Director at that time (Phil is the Director of a play I wrote ‘Peggy’s Song’ by National Theatre Wales which is about to go on tour) encouraged us all to go and see whatever was on. It was the late eighties, the time of Willy Russell and John Godber, perfect plays for someone like me who never went to theatre. I just loved it!

I worked at the Sherman for six years, I was always hanging around the production office and started volunteering to do stuff on the shows. So I chaperoned a bit and shadowed stage management and helped out on the Sherman Youth Theatre that sort of thing. When I was twenty-four I applied to Welsh College to do the Stage Management course, I didn’t have any qualifications so I really was surprised when I got on. I stage managed for a bit and then when I had kids I started writing. I had a very tough few years personally in my twenties and early thirties and it really changed the way I looked at life. I decided not to waste any more time, I wanted to be a writer and so that’s what I did.

I’ve never done any kind of writing course but I think just being around performance for all of those years gave me a sense of how to write for theatre. I believe that anyone can write a play, that’s what I love about script writing, I wish more people from backgrounds like mine would give it a go, it’s been a real joy for me to be able to do something that I love.

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 James Brown and Aretha Franklin. I have to choose some songs for Peggy’s Song All the music used in Peggy’s Song is by artists who have died. Ghosts that stay with us.

When I write I more often than not have music attached to the play, which the director may or may not choose to use. Before it Rains was The Super Furry Animals, Bird was Curtis Mayfield, Thick as Thieves was Nina Simone and Lose Yourself was The Commodores. Sometimes when the show has finished it takes a while before you can go back to those songs because you are transported back to the play.

Before It Rains, Bird, Thick as Thieves, Lose Yourself.

Peggy’s Song has lots of music in it because the main character Danny played by Christian Patterson is a hospital DJ.

Christian Patterson in the role of Danny, Peggy’s Song by National Theatre Wales

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? 

Five is so difficult but I think it’s going to come down to memories for me.

  1. Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder

It’s a masterpiece. Everything about it, the production, the lyrics, the groove, the voice.

I could have chosen a few of his albums because his work from the early seventies is genius, he’s up there with the Beatles for me but this is the album.

I don’t talk a lot about losing my sons but an interesting thing happened and this album leads me to that. In the period around and a few years after they died I really wasn’t able to listen to a lot of music. I think probably because you’re too raw and music gets into you. You put a hard shell around you, I think so you’re able to function and music was too manipulating. This was one of the only albums I listened to during that time. I remember playing it in the car a lot when my daughter was little, driving her around to different clubs and singing ‘Knocks Me off my Feet’ to her. It always makes me think of the kids being little and precious times with them and Guy. It’s a sunny day, windows open, album. Love and happiness.

2. Saturday Night Fever – The Motion Picture Soundtrack

Just because it takes me back to my childhood. Family parties, Christmases’, Discos, A Benidorm holiday in 1979, my Dad, my Uncle, my sister, my cousins. We’re a family that likes to have a good time. You could rent us for a disco or a wedding to fill your dance floor to this album.

I love Disco. Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire, Chic, Chaka Khan, Odyssey. I have most of our disco albums from the seventies that I still play. I also love the Bee Gees but ‘If I Can’t Have You’, Yvonne Elliman is the song for me from this album, her voice is so full of full of heartbreak and drama.

3. Setting Sons – The Jam

The Jam and Paul Weller could have taken three of the five albums for me. I love Dig the New Breed, Sound Effects and Wild Wood but I keep coming back to Setting Sons.

I used ‘Thick as Thieves’ as a title for a play; it’s one of my favourite songs. Paul Weller is a master lyricist. We really felt he was speaking for us as teenagers. I think there’s a wave of working class kids who are now in their forties and fifties that hold Paul Weller in the highest regard, it’s like a club we all belong to. This album takes me back to my early teens, there was a mini mod revival. All the boys were wearing stay press trousers and Harringtons and Fred Perrys and Y cardies. Our youth club did a Thursday night disco and it was all The Jam or The Specials, The Selector or The Beat. Me and my friends Cath, Sheenagh and Lisa would go to the Northern Soul disco in the Transport Club in Grangetown on a Saturday. My love for Motown and Soul comes from that time and it’s the music I still listen to the most.

4. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin

I mean. If I wanted to lose myself this is where I’d go. Perfection. ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ is the song for me from this one. Such a sassy song. She’s not asking him to do right by her, she’s telling him. I love it.

5. An Eighties Hits Compilation

I can’t decide the final one so I’m going for an eighties compilation record that has New Order, Depeche Mode, Human League, Yazoo, The Police, Wham, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, The Style Council, George Michael, Paul Young, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Madonna, Bananarama, Scritti Polliti, The Cure, Aztec Camera, Tears for Fears, Spandau Ballet, REM, Luther Vandross, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Cyndi Lauper, Crowded House, Talking Heads, Tracey Chapman, Anita Baker and many, many more.

I wanted an eighties album. It was going to be Prince, Purple Rain or George Michael, Faith but then there’s Human League Dare and and and – so I’ve gone for a compilation. A big one with loads of songs on. Full of memories.

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?

It has to be ‘Knocks Me Off My Feet’ Stevie Wonder. My kids and Guy are Love and happiness for me and that’s also what this song is.

Many thanks for your time 

Tickets for the tour of Peggy’s Song produced by National Theatre Wales are available to book below.

Riverfront Newport – 25 September, 7.45pm BOOK NOW

Pontardawe Arts Centre – 26 September, 7.30pm & 27 September, 1pm & 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon – 1 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl – 2 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Hafren, Newtown – 3 October, 7.45pm BOOK NOW

Taliesin Arts Centre,  Swansea – 4 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Richard Burton, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff – 5 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Borough Theatre, Abergavenny – 7 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Blackwood Miners Institute – 8 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Torch Theatre, Milford Haven – 9 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Ffwrnes, Llanelli – 10 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Lyric, Carmarthen – 11 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Review midsomar by Jonathan Evans

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

One of the worst movies last years was Hereditary, though it generated a lot of buzz and gathered quite a bit of critical acclaim it fell flat with this critic. To me, it was indulgence in the frankly unpleasant and awkward, not the scary, and meandered around until it gave up on the plot and simply ended, leaving nothing but ash in my mouth. But it was a success so writer-director Ari Aster is back and with probably even more creative freedom and budget.

When the movie opens, it is, actually, pretty good! We see a young woman named Dani, who is nervously scouring her e-mails, she’s conversing with someone who doesn’t sound right. She phones her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) that talking with his other friends about how he doesn’t want to deal with her anymore, but he still takes her calls and essentially gives support through autopilot. We learn that Dani is conversing with her sister who has been suffering from mental health issues and these specific words she’s been using make her nervous, she’s stopped e-mailing back. Dani calls the police and the go and investigate but its too late, her sister has killed her and their parents. This scene is unnerving, atmospheric, efficiently establishes much about the characters and their relationships and is genuinely scary. Then the rest of the movie happens.

We cut to six months later and Dani and Christian are still together, really because now would be a terrible time to break up with Dani being very fragile. It’s learned that Christian is planning on going abroad to Switzerland to visit their friend Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) home village and also write their thesis on the place and their culture. The other friends are Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Mark (Will Poulter). Out of comfort Christian invites Dani along but assures the boy’s shes not really coming, she comes!

But as soon as they arrive in the town the movie nosedives and it never stops, it just keeps going and when it hits rock bottom it just keeps going.

Florence Pugh made a name for herself with the Park Chan Wook mini-series Little Drummer Girl, then went on to impress further in the Wrestling movie Fighting with my Family. Here is a project where she really gets to demonstrate what a talent she is, she has to convey complete polar opposites of emotions to the extreme and a whole bunch of other shades in between.

I’ll give credit where credit is due this one starts on solid ground and that is used to push the characters and the narrative further going into the movie, but once we get to the place it all starts to unravel. You don’t know where the plot is going and you really start to not care as it goes on and on because it has all just become a series of weirdness and unpleasantness and indulgence. When the movie finally ended I was exhausted and one of the last images they present us with is something I suspect that the filmmakers believed was scary but was frankly hilarious, I would have been laughing except I was just too damn tired of being here.

One of the great crimes of the movie is its cinematography and the unique accomplishment of the color correction. These are meticulously composed shots, with imagery that sticks in your mind, this will probably go on to be a very iconic movie. Color grading is a process where they take the raw footage and it is processed so that it either looks more saturated, less saturated, deeper blacks, etc. What they’ve done here is make the image look like an old pastel painting. It has this grainy, flat, but also vivid look to it that I haven’t seen in a movie ever. Such effort and panache, wasted on this dismal project.

I have never hated the experience but been so in awe over the craftmanship in a movie. The sounds, the images, the performances, but it all goes to waste on an experience that I think means something but looses its meaning in its own indulgence and style. I guess this is better than Hereditary but also weaker. Just another journey of draining and unpleasantness.

Review Brightburn by Jonathan Evans

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

A while after seeing Man of Steel and making very clear my dislike for it one of my friends posed this question for me “Is it that this is a bad movie or just that this is a bad Superman movie?” Interesting question, could it be that I’d be easier on the movie if it wasn’t meant to represent my favorite character? Well it does have Supermans name in it and the filmmakers knew that, so either way no point dwelling too much on that. But now here is Brightburn which is clearly taking the concept of the Superman origin story but pushing it through a horror filter.

Taking the concept but not having it directly be the exact thing gives the creatives the freedom to twist, reinvent and add any kind of layer over it they wish. Creatively I’m sure that’s a great luxury and could absolutely lend itself to some good stuff. But lets stay focused, we see a kindly young couple of the Breyer’s, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman), they have a farm and are very much in love and want to start a family, it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for them, until one night they hear a loud crash outside and go to investigate, it leads them to the smoking crater, then cuts to years later and they are now parents of a young boy (any of this sounding familiar?).

The boy’s name is Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), he’s a shy kid, that likes to draw and gets bullied at school. He’s not what you would call the most sociable, but seems gentle and nice, except for one night when he seems compelled to go into the barn and something underneath is calling him. He also realizes that he has super strength, invulnerability, can fly and laser eyes (know of anyone else with those powers?). Underneath the barn is the pod that he arrived in years ago and it seems to send a message into his head. From here on he knits himself a red mask that resembles a gas-mask, dawns a red cape embraces the use of his super abilities.

From here on it is a series of him talking down each person that annoys him in extremely brutal and quite frankly fetishized ways. Not just due to the fact that the murderer has superpowers but that they dwell on all the gory elements we are just left to watch a series of brutal murders with the aid of superpowers

Everyone here is a very good actor, they sell the moments of leisurely downtime and humor and excel when they need to be scared. When Brandon toys with them like a cat with a mouse they are so worried about their lives and it shows. I’ve said it before but in an action movie you can have someone face down an insane threat and look cool as a cucumber doing it, but in a horror movie we need to feel the fear and one way you do that is to cleary show that the characters themselves are afraid.

There is the old saying “All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” but I prefer how Robert Caro put it “What I believe is always true about power is that it always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do.” But maybe this is adding too much, the point is that this movie doesn’t really have any of this in mind, is it that Brandon was always a psychopath? Did the message from his ship rewire his brain to make him perform these horrendous acts? I’m not sure and I’m also sure neither are the filmmakers. I just feel like they wanted to take the concept of a character that embodies optimism and hope and put their own, mean spirited bleak icing over it.

Ultimately this is a movie without a soul and means nothing. Is about a kid who just seems to be a bad seed and because he is of a species that has superpowers can inflict his sadistic tendencies upon helpless humans, or a case of a bad seed, or the corrupting ability of power? It says nothing about why someone would be like this, about the corrupting element of power or the redemptive or limits of parental love. It wants to take a concept about pure goodness and put it own, cynical, malicious spin on it and I have, frankly, no patience or appetite for it.