Category Archives: Film & TV

Review Pokémon Detective Pikachu by Rhys Payne

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

When I first heard they were making a Detective Pikachu film and that Ryan Reynolds was voicing Pikachu I was unsure if this was a movie I would enjoy. But instead of the traditional optimism and joyfulness of the classic Pokémon films, this film more focused on a darker more mysterious vibe to the film. The story revolves around a boy called Tim Goodman who is voiced by Justice Smith, whose father is involved in a mysterious car crash and Tim and his new detective partner Pikachu go on a quest to find the circumstance surrounding his father’s supposed death.

Instead of classic Pokémon films which are fun-filled and enforce positive feelings, this film was dark and discussed a possible murder/loss of a loved one. This is a nice touch because it reflects the audience. It is well documented that the toy story aged ‘Andy’ to be the same age as the people who watched the original film. For example, they timed the release of the films so that when Andy was going to university the people who were old enough to watch the original film were also going to university around the same time. When the original Pokémon films were released the target audience were children and so the positivity and joyfulness would have been appropriate and the main character in this film is twenty-one (similar age to myself who was a child when the original films were released) and also it dealt with the issue of losing loved ones which is a more mature issue that would be appropriate for the older audience which was a nice touch and a detail many people wouldn’t have noticed.

This film was a nice throwback to my childhood. Being a massive fan of the Pokémon games as a child, it was nice to see some of the original Pokémon in this show. However, bar Pikachu, Mewtwo, and ditto, most of the Pokémon were almost just cameos in the opening scene to life in ryme city. Most of the Pokémon were accurate animations but I was however disappointed in the animation of Snorlax. Snorlax is supposed to be a massive creature who is but this animation was not as big or scary as I thought he would be and as he is my personal favorite Pokémon  I was a little disappointed with this. But apart from this one the rest of the Pokémon were cool to see. Especially Pikachu himself.

The Pikachu animation was so cute and created many ‘awwwwh’ moments from the audience which was only added to be the selection of Ryan Renynolds to voice the character. The character suffered from amnesia and so couldn’t remember part of the Harry’s (Tim’s father) disappearance. We learn through the film that Pikachu was Harry’s Pokémon partner but he managed to get away from the incident. The flashbacks as Pikachu remembered new details added to the drama and helped create the tension of new details. This was great for the audience as it kept them on the edge of their seats. The climax of the story, towards the end, was the highlight of the entire film. The whole film contained unexpected twists and turns and the end was both incredibly emotional and unexpected. This caused a silence from the audience as they took in everything that had happened which means that the story was executed effectively.

This is a film that managed to provide a throwback to childhood while also creating a new and new image for the Pokémon franchise films. If you were a fan of any of the Pokémon ‘strands’ eg films, game or tv show, etc. then I would recommend that you catch this film before it leaves the cinema, I would rate this film as 3 and a half stars due to the blend of shocking drama and family-friendly themes.

Review: Romeo a Juliet – Ballet Cymru, The Riverfront, Newport by Jack Hill

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Infused with that distinctly Welsh edge that sets this company apart from others, the opening night for Ballet Cymru’s 2019 tour of Romeo a Juliet was a breath-taking spectacle of love, loss, power and pain. Featuring choreography from Darius James OBE and Amy Doughty, alongside Prokofiev’s classic score, a number of new dancers to the company (and to Wales) joined the more experienced faces that will be familiar to followers of Ballet Cymru. This performance demonstrated the real depth of talent that the company attracts, nurtures, and advances.

In her premiere professional performance, dancer Danila Marzili embodied Juliet with infectious passion and grace, effectively conveying the playful and childlike elements of the character as well as the inimitable pain and heartbreak leading to her death. In her opening scene, Marzili and Krystal Lowe (portraying Juliet’s friend, her confidante, rather than her nurse) expressed such a tangible affinity with one another that, immediately, I was transported directly from Newport into Juliet’s chambers. The scene ends, along with Juliet’s childhood, as she is introduced to her arranged fiancé, Paris, danced energetically by Joshua Feist in his own premiere performance with Ballet Cymru.

Opposite Marzili as Juliet, Romeo was performed by Andrea Maria Battaggia. Battaggia is a skilful dancer who returned to Ballet Cymru this year from Ballet Ireland. Having portrayed the role in 2013, this performance demonstrated the reasons behind this reprisal in 2019. His strength and passion deliver the character’s impulsiveness, tenderness, and emotion with expert flair.

Two real stand-out performances for me were two characters that are usually side-lined as secondary in the story of Romeo and Juliet. Alex Hallas and Beth Meadway, portraying Lord and Lady Capulet, conveyed strength, coldness, wealth, and power through their bodies in such a way that every time they stepped on the stage, they owned it. The costumes adorning these two characters were highly effective at complementing their status. Meadway’s dramatic poise and striking elegance as Lady Capulet was phenomenal; only to be given more depth by the implied affection between her and Tybalt (performed adeptly by Robbie Moorcroft) and her subsequent breaking down into anguish and distress at his death. This performance makes it vastly clear that these dancers are also capable actors, with every performer fully embodying and embracing their roles on the stage.

Perhaps it’s cliché to mention, but I am unable to write a review of Romeo a Juliet without referencing the balcony scene. Expertly choreographed by James and Doughty, and skilfully danced by Battaggia and Marzili to express curiosity and the passion, this famous and relatable interaction proved hugely popular with the very diverse audience present in the theatre. The setting of this scene took my breath away; the projection of a grandiose window and the stage lighting to define the setting accompanied a simple yet effective podium to demarcate the balcony. For my daily work, I spend a lot of my professional time at the headquarters of Ballet Cymru in Rogerstone, Newport. From the first sighting of this balcony while the company were in early rehearsals, I had a real desire to go full-Romeo with, “but soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” but alas, my acting days were short-lived and I struggle to keep a straight face anymore!

Image credit Sian Trenberth

Minimalistic sets are indicative of the work of Ballet Cymru. Predominantly on the stage were moveable sheets of hanging chains which conveyed elements of wealth, grandeur, and battle. Designed by Georg Meyer-Wiel, this feature was highly effective in delineating space, serving as backgrounds for projection, and expressing the well-known building blocks of the plot of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Meyer-Wiel also designed the dancers’ costumes, with some real stand out pieces (I couldn’t decide which I preferred: the powerful black costumes of Lord and Lady Capulet, or Friar Lawrence and his entourage dressed in leather). One small criticism, however, is that I feel Paris’ green- jacketed costume was too similar in colour to that of the Montagues, and perhaps would have been more prominent if it reflected those of the senior Capulets.

Every piece of work produced by Ballet Cymru that I have seen has had intrinsically Welsh notes running through. Led by Artistic Director and proud Newport local Darius James OBE, it would be surprising to see a show from this company that didn’t include at least a few nods to Welsh culture and heritage! Romeo a Juliet did not disappoint: the title itself, a nod to the Welsh language; the projection of underneath a Newport flyover during one of the fight scenes, open to interpretation but definitely Newport; the incorporation of traditional Welsh clog dancing in time with Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights/Montagues & Capulets… Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect of clog dancing mashed up with ballet (and neither were my parents, who were visiting from across the border), but when the dancers were clogging in reasonably good time with the music – masked in hoods that covered their whole faces – Lord and Lady Capulet entered, performing in a more classical ballet style befitting of their characters. The strength demonstrated by the dancers – particularly Robbie Moorcroft (Tybalt) – whilst clogging was palpable. It is this kind of flair that sets Darius James and Ballet Cymru as a real formidable force in Wales, because this scene worked. It was memorable; it was powerful; it was Welsh. And it worked.

Ballet Cymru, Artistic Director, Darius James OBE
Image credit Sian Trenberth

An integrally important responsibility of Ballet Cymru, and many other arts organisations around Wales, is to improve diverse representation within their audiences and share their art form with people who may never have entered a theatre, never mind seeing a ballet. Ballet Cymru’s Duets programme, which seeks “to support people to access dance, regardless of background, finances, race, belief, ability, and gender/orientation”, invited a number of its scholars (participants) from Moorland Primary School in Splott, Cardiff to perform the curtain-raiser at both tour dates in Newport.

Students from Moorland Primary School, Splott

Aptly named Romeo and Duets, the young people danced with skill (and to rapturous applause!) to Karl Jenkins’ Palladio, as performed by Escala. To complement this, complimentary tickets for the show and coach travel back to Cardiff were made available for the young people and members of their families. As a male adult beginner of ballet myself (I’m still aching from my second ever class as I write this!), it was refreshing to see how many boys were involved in this curtain-raiser.

It is always stimulating to see audience members experience something for the first time; four people sat on my row had never seen a ballet before, and were supporting their children in the Duets curtain-raiser. Ballet Cymru’s diverse audience, particularly when on home turf in Newport, creates a fresh and responsive feel amongst the audience which in turn connects them to the ballet they are watching. A real audience favourite was the ever flamboyant, provocative, and playful Mercutio (portrayed perfectly by Miguel Fernandes); a real excitement built up in the auditorium when he graced the stage with his presence, and almost tangible grief (at least on my row!) when Tybalt took his life at the end of Act II.

Ballet Cymru’s 2019 tour of Romeo a Juliet will continue across the UK throughout June and into July. In addition to this, in partnership with Wales Arts International, the company will be touring three cities in China throughout September 2019. Clearly, the sky is the limit for this dynamic, engaging, and passionate company and I’m excited, as ever, to see what Ballet Cymru has planned next!

REVIEW: School of Rock – London 25th May 2019 by Patrick Downes

What you get it you cross a film from 2003, one of musical theatreland’s legends plus add in a little piece of youthful magic – School of Rock!

Based on the 2003 film that starred Jack Black, overly enthusiastic guitarist Dewey Finn gets thrown out of his band and finds himself in desperate need of work. Posing as a substitute music teacher at an elite private elementary school, he exposes his students to the hard rock gods he idolizes and emulates — much to the consternation of the uptight principal. As he gets his privileged and precocious charges in touch with their inner rock ‘n’ roll animals, he imagines redemption at a local Battle of the Bands.

Set at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, the theatre has more a studio feel than an auditorium, but this brings everyone closer to the sound. I was fortunate enough to get the ticket lottery for the evening performance, meaning I paid £30 for a pair of tickets valued at £160 – and good seats too!

Craig Gallivan stars as Dewey (he was Stella’s son Luke in the Sky 1 show), and for those who weren’t aware, the boy can sing, plus has the Jack Black act to a tee. As for the kids, what can be said? Very talented musicians in their own right – plus having proud parents – one of which was sat in front of me!



Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes would not be the first two people I’d associate with a production like this, but underneath, every part of the production is polished. From the stage direction, the sound, and the performances.

Generally speaking, musicals based on films can be a little fractious with songs crowbarred in, but School Of Rock bucks this idea with having a plot and musical cues to suit.

It’s the perfect way to introduce children into the theatre, it’s entertaining with an all rounded quality cast and production. You’d be put into detention if you didn’t consider School of Rock as your next London musical adventure!


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Review: Patrick Downes

REVIEW Aladdin the Musical #London 27th May 2019 by Patrick Downes

A little bit of Disney magic, one of musical theatres most loved lyricists & composers, and some of the most iconic musical sequences in animation history all add up to Aladdin the musical in London.

Nearing the end of it’s time at the Prince Edward Theatre, you still have a matter of weeks to catch this before 24th August 2019.

In the town of Agrabah, Princess Jasmine is feeling hemmed in by her father’s desire to find her a royal groom. Meanwhile, the Sultan’s right-hand man, Jafar, is plotting to take over the throne. When Jasmine sneaks out one evening, she forms an instant connection with Aladdin, a charming street urchin and reformed thief. After being discovered together, Aladdin is sentenced to death, but Jafar saves him by ordering him to fetch a lamp from the Cave of Wonders. There’s a lamp, and where there’s a Genie, and once Aladdin unwittingly lets this one out, anything can happen!

It’s everything you could expect from a Disney musical, although it took a few songs for the sound to flow through the theatre. There was a tendency for it to be a little bit panto at times, but generally speaking I was entertained all the way through.



Aladdin played by Matthew Croke might be a reformed thief, but Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie, stole the show. The set pieces of Whole new world, Friend Like Me, and Prince Ali all make this one incredible production. The staging and the ensemble sounded brilliant, but only thing that stops me giving these five stars is some parts of the singing felt a little “screechy”. Maybe that’s just my opinion but it didn’t spoil what was a magical flight on a magic carpet ride.



It closes at the end of August to make way for the other Disney masterpiece that is Mary Poppins, so you’ve got limited time to enjoy some Arabian Nights.

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Review: Patrick Downes

REVIEW: Waitress #London 25th May 2019 by Patrick Downes


Back in 2018 visiting New York for a few days I happened to chance upon Waitress. The main reason for this being the theatre was 50 metres away from our hotel (honesty being the best policy I believe). That aside, it also had an extra bonus in that Sara Bareilles – the composer & lyricist was appearing as Jenna.

If you don’t know much about Waitress, it was a quirky little film from 2007, written by the late Adrienne Shelly and starred Keri Russell in the lead role. It was bought by Fox Searchlight pictures for about $6 million, and went on to make $16 million, winning plaudits along the way.



It tells the story of a young woman trapped in a little town, a loveless marriage and a dead-end job as a waitress, who falls into the next trap of an unwanted pregnancy. Escape beckons when she falls in love with her gynaecologist, but he hesitates to leave his practice and his wife.

It began in London earlier this year with Katharine McPhee (American Idol runner up) in the starring role.

Staging wise it’s like nothing you’ll have seen before. There’re not the effects like Wicked, or Frozen, but in its own way, the Adelphi Theatre is a small venue and that adds to the cosiness of the musical. It’s a little piece of small town USA in the heart of London town (plus the smells of pie resonate throughout the foyer and bar areas).

Musically, it feels right – with lyrics written and performed by Sara Bareilles. It has a country contemporary feel that oozes emotion with each note. Before seeing it in NY, I’d not heard any of the score, but once was enough and it left me wanting more – so much so, upon arriving back in the UK I bought the original cast album and Sara’s album of songs from the musical. And since it’s been a regular playlist in my car.

It did start a little rusty, but within a few numbers, you could feel the production spring to life.

As the lead, Katherine McPhee brings to the role something special. I’d go as far and say that her “She used to be mine” is the best I’ve heard in any musical production.

Marisha Wallace as Becky (a role once taken by Keala Settle – her that now is part of The Greatest Showman), together with Laura Baldwin as Dawn provide the perfect harmony and backing to the main story, and both excel with their own story arcs.

David Hunter as Dr Pomatter plays Jenna’s love interest with brilliant comic timing and voice, as does Jack McBrayer as Ogie for Dawn. His “Never ever getting rid of me” performance ranks as one of my favourite musical theatre moments, plus he’s the voice of Fx It Felix from WreckIt Ralph!

After seeing the NY production I did question whether would this work with UK audiences? The musical style is intrinsically American country – so would audiences in the UK buy into it? Simple answer, yes!

If you’re a fan of Sara Bareilles, the film Waitress, or a beautifully written musical that will send you away with a song in your heart, and the taste of pie in your belly, this is for you.


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Review: Patrick Downes


NB. Katherine McPhee and Laura Baldwin will be ending their runs shortly, with Laura returning after the Summer.

Review, Educating Rita, Theatr Clwyd By Donna Poynton

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Most will be aware of Educating Rita thanks to the multi award winning 1983 film starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine. I know this was my first introduction to the play and one which I was in awe of; the portrayal of these wonderfully different characters, the comedy, the literary irony and Rita’s yearning to change, to grow and to the be valued. Don’t we all feel like this at some point in our lives? Hence, Willy Russell’s Educating Rita will continue to be a success. At first, I wondered, why this play again? How can it be different now? And on the surface there weren’t any huge differences; no big scenic aplomb or special lighting effects but the issues and themes addressed are universal and perhaps particularly relevant in our current political climate; Frank despises the changes he sees in Rita once she’s been given an education; does he realise life can be much more enjoyable if you’re ignorant to it all?

Although the play is not strictly an autobiographical piece, it does draw on Russell’s own struggle to get into education having left school destined to work in a factory for the rest of his life. Like Rita, Russell worked in a hairdressing salon whilst achieving an O Level in English Literature at night school. Rita’s tutor Frank turns out to be a frustrated poet and dedicated drinker who, although initially unenthusiastic about taking on an Open University student, comes to grow extremely fond of Rita and realises how much they can teach each other.

I cannot praise Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson highly enough. I often feel for actors who take on such well-known, beloved characters who have already been portrayed by some of the nation’s most loved performers (in this case Julie Walters and Michael Caine). However, Tompkinson and Johnson slip effortlessly into the roles; it’s as if they’ve been doing it for years. Johnson is reprising her role from 2017 at Gala Durham and it’s as if she was born to play it. Her comic timing is spot on, her accent never falters, and she perfectly transforms slowly throughout; reminiscent of Pygmalion, her body language and tone of voice very subtly developing as Rita makes her transformation into an educated woman. Tompkinson’s portrayal of Frank is to be commended also. He plays out the character’s constantly changing emotions perfectly and, in conjunction, doesn’t overplay the ‘drunk’; as an audience we warm to him rather than taking a dislike to him for his love of liquor.

The set design is simple yet effective; the whole play set in Frank’s office at the university, filled with books, artwork and enough bottles of hidden alcohol to open a pub! The setting doesn’t change but Johnson does, and each costume change is dealt with, with ease (Rita has a lot of wonderful, of-the-era sweaters and dungarees!) Something else worth noting is the time between scene changes. There is an obvious effort to keep the action flowing and so we only ever see two full blackouts, one at the end of the first act and another at the end of the second act. This keeps us, as an audience, in the moment; time shifting implied by a drop in lighting, a costume change or delicate movement from window to desk.

Willy Russell really did write a hilarious, timeless piece of theatre in creating Educating Rita and Tompkinson and Johnson really have kept it alive, and with gusto! Educating Rita plays at Theatr Clwyd, Mold until Saturday June 1st, 2019 and goes on to play at several venues across the UK, finishing at the Darlington Hippodrome on Saturday August 17th, 2019.

Theatr Clwyd, Mold

May 20th-June 1st, 2019

Writer: Willy Russell

Director: Max Roberts

Designer: Patrick Connellan

Lighting Designer: Drummond Orr

Sound Designer: David Flynn

Cast includes Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson

Top Tunes with Rachel Trezise

Photograph of Rachel credit Jon Pountney

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

I’m a novelist and playwright, probably most well known for the Dylan Thomas Prize-winning short story collection ‘Fresh Apples.’ My plays include ‘Tonypandemonium’, ‘We’re Still Here’ and ‘Cotton Fingers’ which will be touring parts of Ireland and the UK this year.

In 2007 my nonfiction book about the Welsh music scene ‘Dial M for Merthyr’ was published. Somewhat bizarrely, Guns ‘n’ Roses bassist, Duff McKagan listed it in his autobiography as one of his all time favourite music books.

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?

‘The Girl from Chickasaw County’ box set was released in September last year, commemorating the legacy of country music singer Bobbie Gentry. There are eight CDs in all so I’m still digesting it. My mother was a huge country and western fan. She played Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Bobbie Gentry, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette throughout my childhood. Gentry was always my favourite. I was about nine when I really started listening to the lyrics and realised the songs were all short stories. I’ve had a lifelong obsession with ‘Fancy’, a song about a girl called Fancy who’s mother sells her into prostitution: ‘I might have been born just plain white trash but Fancy was my name.’

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?

1 Appetite for Destruction – Guns ‘n’ Roses – Guns ‘n’ Roses have been my favourite band since the age of around thirteen. They are my coming-of-age soundtrack. People have often asked me how I can be a feminist and love songs famed for so much misogyny.

I’ve tried to answer this question in an essay titled ‘Nothing for Nothing’ published in ‘Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women And The Women Who Love Them’ edited by Rhian E Jones and Eli Davies.

2 Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes – I listened relentlessly to this album while I wrote and rewrote my first novel ‘In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl’. I quoted a lyric from one of the songs on the flyleaf. The themes in it are guilt, alienation, childhood trauma and adult inadequacy. They are also the themes in my novel. At the time I was listening mostly to Metallica, Pantera and Megadeth. A female singer-songwriter, and piano music in particular was quite a departure for me.

3 The Holy Bible – Manic Street Preachers – The Manic Street Preachers were the first Welsh thing I was proud of. Growing up in the 80s, Welsh culture was all about Max Boyce and Aled Jones, then here was this intelligent working class band telling the real story of the boredom and alienation I knew growing up in a south Wales destroyed by Thatcherism. By extension, the Manic Street Preachers made reading literature something to be proud of rather than slightly embarrassed by. I still listen to this album every few months.

4 The Clash – Combat Rock – Whereas country was my mother’s thing, my brother who’s ten years older than me was always listening to UK punk: The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Generation X et al. Via him I discovered one of my favourite bands, The Clash. Combat Rock is a controversial choice but it includes my favourite song ‘Straight to Hell’ which talks of the immigrant experience and the death of industry in Northern England, but was mostly considered their ‘American album’ because it dealt with the aftermath of the Vietnam war, the hypocrisy of the American dream and referenced Taxi Driver. The Clash have always been relevant and seem everyday to grow more so.

5 The Future – Leonard Cohen – It’s difficult to choose one Leonard Cohen album but I’ve gone for ‘The Future’ which includes the song ‘The Future’ which is how I discovered Cohen via the movie soundtrack for ‘Natural Born Killers’ produced by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor.

Cohen said once that the demographic of people who like his songs could be called ‘the broken-hearted.’ I do go to him when I’m sore and looking to be mended. I listened to his early albums a lot after my mother died for example. I have the much-celebrated ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ lyric from ‘Anthem’ tattooed on my arm to remind me that however imperfect I am, I am enough. It works sometimes.

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?

IfwhiteAmericatoldthethruthforonedaytheworldwouldfallapart by Manic Street Preachers. I haven’t stopped thinking about this song since Trump got into power.

Ones To Watch from Focus Wales 2019 by Gareth Williams

Focus Wales in one of the nation’s premier music showcase festivals. Held in Wrexham, it brings together some of the best people in the music industry for three days of talks, meetings, and, of course, musical sets. The best of both emerging and more established talent from Wales and beyond featured on various stages around the town centre. Headliners on Friday night, 9Bach were excellent, as per usual. But apart from these giants of the Welsh folk scene, who else stood out? Here are my personal ‘ones to watch’ from this year’s festival:

Hannah Willwood

Hailing from Snowdonia and currently studying in Leeds, Hannah Willwood and her band created the most incredible sound during their set. Blending jazz, folk and indie, her music is at once familiar yet fresh and unique. With resonances of an earlier era, it is a sound that intrigues, mesmerises, and captivates. This girl is going places.

Katie Mac

If I had to pick a winner for Best Performance at this year’s festival, I would award it to Katie Mac. The singer-songwriter from Huyton played an absolute blinder from start to finish. She delivered such an enthralling set that I became completely absorbed in the experience. Here was a prime example of quality songwriting overlaid with some incredibly accomplished musicianship.

Albert Jones

He proved popular with the Old Bar No.7 crowd. And it wasn’t just his interaction with the audience that made this performer standout. Take a listen to Albert Jones and you will find a vocal that is incredibly soulful and wonderfully versatile. Comparisons with James Morrison are inevitable. But to try and pin down his sound is much more difficult. Whether blues, country, folk or pop, it seems that Jones can turn his hand to anything. A really engaging performer.

The Dunwells

What a stonker of a set from The Dunwells. Full of energy, enthusiasm and real excitement, every song seemed to be a crowd-pleasing anthem. They not only succeeded in winning over a raucous, increasingly drink-fuelled crowd. They managed to encourage some well-judged audience participation that only added to the feel-good factor, rounding off the festival (for me at least) in style.

If God Were a Woman / Beta Test

The inaugural Focus Wales Short Film Festival had an excellent shortlist of eight films. All independent, all made to a high standard, my personal front-runners were If God Were a Woman and Beta Test. The former is a provocative and thought-provoking spoken word from Evrah Rose, made all the more so by the choice of director Joe Edwards to film in a derelict Church. The latter is an American production that is very much in the mould of Black Mirror. It sees Eric Holt enter into a simulated world to relive some of his favourite memories. But then a glitch in the programme leaves him facing much darker stuff.

gareth

Review The Curse of La Llorona by Jonathan Evans

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

This is a movie that is competent on the mechanics of it’s genre but lacking in originality. Though a substandard script can be elevated through true effort in the other elements.

The Curse of La Llorona is about a ghost from long ago that was scorned and now torments the living by praying upon families. Her latest victim is the Garcia family. Anna is a single mother who’s also a social worker, when she checks in on one of her clients that has locked her two boys in a closets and violently attacks her when she inquires whats inside she is taken away. All this seems like the perfectly sane thing to do but this is a horror movie so not all is as it seems, the boys are killed and Anna has inadvertently caught the attention of La Llorona, so begins the proses of denying, researching, surviving and then exercising the ghost, or they all die, it’s gotta be one or the other.

Everyone here is a fine actor but the biggest one is Linda Cardenelli as Anna. She has to do a lot in this movie and she does them all very well. But one thing she excels at is being scared and brave at the same time. There is one moment early on where La Llorona pays her and her family a visit and she is terrified that this spectre has suddenly appeared, she grabs a baseball bat and warns the spirit away, she is clearly terrified but also ready to defend her home and her family. These are two heavy emotions that are difficult to convey effectively by themselves and to balance the two of them at the same time deserves great praise. Which has been paid.

La Llorona herself is a suitable monster movie. She wears a white wedding dress which the production designers have kept in-mind so she pops within her surroundings and gives a distinguishable silhouette. She also comes with grey, veiny skin that is revealed in close-ups that adds a disturbing element.

I have to admit that I wasn’t scared during this movie. It got my heart pumping a few times but that’s just because something really loud suddenly happens when there was a long stretch of quiet. That isn’t scary, if someone sounded a horn while you were quietly reading a book would that be scary? No, it would just be something unexpected. These jump scare tactics and they only really work for one viewing. When you see it again you know when the thing will go “Boo!” and you’re not really engaged and just seeing the events unfold.

Though to be fair, like slapstick there is an art to jump scares, they both require understanding and delivery of setup, passing and delivery. Someone is going about an activity, the camera follows them and also conveys something else within their environment that will be important later on, a sound or movements thats a little out of the ordinary gets the characters attention, they observe or investigate and when they are reaching or walking towards it there are a good few moments of silence, at this point the thing will either go “Boo!” now or it will be fine, defusing the situation only to have the thing go “Boo!” from behind them.

Whenever you make a story about something supernatural the story isn’t really or shouldn’t be about the supernatural element. The supernatural serves as a metaphor for the deeper human fear. This one is about the fear of harm being done to your children and your house being broken into.

Throughout this movie you buy that the characters are scared. This is the right decision, if we are to be along for the ride with these characters then they need to feel things and we see them and empathise with them engage with that. If theres is some kind of a threat and the characters don’t take it seriously, be it a monster or some kind of disaster then we as an audience won’t.

This is a horror movie that isn’t really scary but it does know it’s craft, has a heart and has a truly endearing performance in Linda Cardenelli. It’s good for one watch but sometimes a good enough first watch is enough to be satisfied and get your moneys worth.

Becoming Oneself on Stage. Robinson. The Other Island. Behind the Curtains, Part 3 By Eva Marloes

Production photograph by Jorge Lizalde

Robinson. The Other Island, the latest production by director Mathilde Lopez, fuses Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe with Michel Tournier’s version of the story in Friday.

Robinson is stranded on an island for 28 years, Bianca, played by Luciana Chapman, is alone in her flat reading about Robinson. Defoe’s and Tournier’s stories of Robinson come together in Bianca’s reading. In turn, Bianca, as a reader, identifies with Robinson, gets angry at Robinson, and feels sympathy for him. The multiple layers of theatre reminded me of Pirandello’s layers of reality. We watch a story that has a story within itself and discover that we are part of it. This is made possible by the ingenuity of John Norton’s binaural in-ear mics that takes the audience into the heads of the actors

We are Robinson experiencing the loneliness of the island, but also Bianca who reads about Robinson in her own loneliness, and spectators who discover their own loneliness by being isolated through headphones.

Robinson is a reflection on loneliness. It cuts deep into human experience and fragility. It is universal; yet it is conveyed through the particularity of the characters and the actors. Robinson Crusoe is a 17th century man with a colonial mindset, Bianca is a 21st century woman in Cardiff. Luciana Chapman, who plays Bianca, is a 25-year-old Dutch-American black woman living in Cardiff. As a black woman, she feels anger at Robinson’s misogyny and racism. She feels disgust at Robinson having sex with the island. As a human being, she sympathises with his isolation. She tells me,

“He speaks so lightly about slavery, about the ‘negros’ … it closes up my throat, makes me feel very angry, I have tears behind my eyes. You have to tell yourself that it was a different time. I find it very difficult. … Yet, when he speaks about thrusting his penis into a mossy crevice, the woman in me cringes and finds it disgusting, but as a human being thinking of that as a need for contact, something everyone craves, all of a sudden it becomes a beautiful moment. He’s really making love to that piece of earth. It sounds weird, but it’s pure emotion.”

Luciana says that today she cannot be made into a slave as in the past, but there are still people who see her as an object, sometimes as a woman she’s seen as a sexual object, sometimes as a black person she’s seen as not human. Luciana, as a black woman, experiences Robinson from her own particular identity; yet, as an actress, she needs to go beyond that and connect with her own character. Luciana tells me that she’s ‘an involuntary method actor,’ her character often slips into her own life. She says,

‘I was in Tesco and I found an orchid and I absolutely fell in love with her. I never bought a plant in my life and all of a sudden now I’m in a play that is all about plants and my character has her own plant, I, as Luciana, find this plant and take it.’

Acting allows one to go beyond the characters we create for ourselves in our daily lives. It lets free all those parts of us that are out of place, silenced, or simply not required. That, I believe, is why Luciana finds theatre ‘real’ for her and freeing. It is not deceit or mere representation, but the acting out of personas who are passive inside of us. She says,

‘In a weird way, theatre is real for me. Yes, I’m acting but when I’m doing it right there it is all real. It’s a play but it’s real. I’m really going through the emotions, I’m really feeling them. … The character comes alive in me. … Certain characters and plays bring out other aspects in me and I blow out those types of aspects, but it’s always a part of me with a different name.’

Acting allows experiences and the expression of feelings to be lived within a structured framework. The actor might be vulnerable as they tap into their own emotions, yet the set lines, movements, and space provide safety. Luciana tells me,

(Acting) is when I feel most free because I find real life really confusing, because things always happen and no one tells you how to deal with it, there isn’t really a booklet on how to deal with things. But in theatre you study things for so long you know what’s coming and you can wholly have that emotion safely in that moment and people seeing it. That’s beautiful.’

Acting is never a lonely experience. It presumes an audience. In theatre, the physical presence of the audience makes the feelings the actor feels and seeks to convey a shared and intimate experience.

‘I love that I can feel something and have people feel it with me. I’m removed from people … but it’s so extremely intimate because they’re all watching you. I feel like I’m around people in a safe way. I love the attention … I love making people feel things.’

Luciana becomes Bianca on stage, who becomes Robinson by reading the book. At one point in the play, she stands tall on the stage and commands the ‘Governor’s coat’ be fetched and brought to her. She wears the coat, as Robinson did in asserting his colonial power over the island. While Robinson does so in broken sentences, giving his back to the audience, Bianca exudes strength; yet when she confronts Robinson and tries to hit him, she sees him in all his vulnerability and gives up. Luciana says,

‘There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean you’re a victim. Everyone needs much more vulnerability. Then we can console each other.’

Bianca experiences anger and pride, loneliness and compassion. It is in the portrayal of contradictory feelings that we glimpse our shared experience of being human.