Category Archives: Literature

Review: The Cherry Orchard

5 Stars5 / 5

Gary Owen and Rachel O’Riordan’s radical reimagining of Chekhov’s classic masterfully transports the narrative of The Cherry Orchard from pre-revolutionary Russia to early 1980’s Britain at the outset of the Thatcher regime. The parallels of the two landscapes, both on the cusp of societal upheaval, provides an apt setting for Owen’s exploration of class equalities, guilt and grief.

At the beginning of the play we meet Rainey, returning to the family home in West Wales and the memories of the son that continue to haunt her. With no money left and the future of their home increasingly uncertain, could an agreement with former tenant Lewis save the property from impending auction?

The one set staging creates an intimacy and surprising relatability between the family and the audience which transcends class preconceptions through the sense of a shared space which we co-inhabit over the course of the 3 hours. The clever use of space enables us to effortlessly join Anya in the Orchard, envisage the view down to the shore and experience the poignancy of Rainey and Dottie’s moment in the grounds. The presence of Josef is hauntingly conjured throughout.

Whilst Richard Mylan and Alexandria Riley provide us with a great deal of the humour throughout, it is Riley’s Dottie who most poignantly captures the extent of the injustices that class inequality can create; for in a society where time is money, who is afforded the luxury of the time to grieve? Juxtaposed with just how detrimental this ‘indulgence’ has rendered Rainey – a decade of alcoholism and guilt – we are left to un-judgingly straddle the vast void between the extremities of each’s experience.

A powerful, thought-provoking piece and one not to be missed.

Cast
Simon Armstrong
Denise Black
Matthew Bulgo
Morfydd Clark
Hedydd Dylan
Richard Mylan
Alexandria Riley

Creative
By Anton Chekhov
A re-imagining by Gary Owen
Director Rachel O’Riordan
Designer Kenny Miller
Lighting Designer Kevin Treacy
Composer and Sound Designer Simon Slater
Casting Director Kay Magson CDG

 

Review The Cherry Orchard, Sherman Theatre by Kevin Johnson

This is not a new version of the Chekhov classic, but a ‘re-imagining’ by Welsh writer Gary Owen, of Killology & Iphigenia In Splott fame. Owen relocates it from 1890’s Russia to the Pembroke coast in 1982, just prior to the Falklands War, which makes for a very interesting choice.

It feels like every dysfunctional family drama you’ve ever seen, until you realise Chekhov originated the idea of real characters, with real problems, talking like real people.

Family matriarch Rainey, who has crawled into a bottle after the death of her son over a decade ago, followed soon after by the suicide of her husband, is virtually dragged back to the family home from London by Anya, her youngest daughter. Her self-destructive lifestyle has lead to the family home on the Pembroke coast being auctioned off to pay the debts.

Val, her eldest daughter, has held things together, but they need Raynie’s permission (and signature) to save it. All agree that the only viable option is to sell off the ancestral cherry orchard for redevelopment, but will she see it that way?

This play is incredibly funny and well-worth seeing, if only for the way Owen makes it so accessible to Welsh eyes. The ‘Russian peasants’ now come from housing estates, the decaying aristocracy are English interlopers, and the Communist revolutionaries are now Thatcherites, sweeping the past away without a thought or concern.

At the heart of the play is the idea that the future is farther away than we hope, while the past is always closer than we’d like. The characters here are continually haunted, not by spirits, but by the ghosts of memories, taunting them with remembrance.

Rainey tries to forget through excess, her guilt at losing her son gnawing away at her, like a rat sown inside her skin. In the end it causes her to take drastic action, and Denise Black brings all this out in a masterful performance that makes you feel sorry for her, even while she’s being a monster to all and sundry.

The entire cast take their moments when offered, yet still make this a true ensemble piece. Morfydd Clark is sweetly sensual as the young Anya, while Hedydd Dylan as her elder sister Val, shows us a woman who tries to run other people’s lives, but fails at her own.

Simon Armstrong as Gabe, Rainey’s brother, is amusingly ineffectual, yet quietly sharp. When Val talks about Rainey not telling him about her plans to leave he replies “We’ve been brother & sister half a century. Through awful things. Do you think saying ‘goodbye’ makes any difference?”

Alexandria Riley gives us a Dottie that is down to earth yet shows the love/hate relationship she has with the family, while Richard Mylan is funny, while also imparting a wise naïveté to Ceri.

Mathew Bulgo, given the task of Lewis, the ‘poor boy made good’, effects a performance of subtlety that defies the historical villain the role has been seen as. With the insults he endures from the others, and denied the role of ‘family saviour’ by Rainey, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him.

Writer Gary Owen conveys a situation full of layers, and also offers some nice ironies. Ceri’s expectations of Margaret Thatcher getting the blame for the Falklands War being one, Gabe’s job offer as an investment banker another.

When you add all this to Rachel O’Riordan’s deft direction, Kenny Miller’s intriguingly skewed set, and Kevin Tracey’s ingenious lighting, the Sherman Theatre demonstrates yet again that it is punching well above its weight in the theatre world.

There is so much going on here that I actually re-read the script in one go afterwards, and was still as gripped as I was by seeing it. The play is funny, ironic, witty, sarcastic and quietly heartbreaking. It is a story of loss, of people, places and things, and how memories both haunt and define us.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed: ‘We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past‘.

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/the-cherry-orchard/

Review The Snowman by Jonathan Evans

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

The snow covers the entire land, only in scenes that take place indoors is it nowhere to be seen. People dress in thick coats to try and  be as warm as possible. If something was as cold on the inside as the environment, it would be a snowman. Like in Fargo or even directors Tomas Alfredson’s previous movie Let the Right One In, the snow itself is more than just a setting, it is a character itself. It plays into the theme of the movie, of a cold world where only the strong can survive.

This is one of the most disturbing murder mysteries you’ll see (along with The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo). It shows you just enough visually to make you wince and cut away at the right time so make up the worse bits yourself. This is the world it seeks to show and it stands by its very harsh mentality and images.

The premise is basic, someone is going around killing women. Before or after the act a snowman is built.  This is their calling card, or signature. Whoever it is they are always watching the main characters and seem to be unaffected by the cold. Taking up the case is Detective Harry Hole (played by Michael Fassbender)which seems to be the best cure for his hangover.

Detective Harry Hole is one of those rugged detective characters that’s good at their job but a very dysfunctional human being in nearly every other category. He drinks and forgets personal obligations, though not so bad as other portrays of this type of character. He clearly wants to do right and when he forgets he feels bad, it’s just that he priorities the job more. You can see someone like Bogart take this role if it was made a few decades ago. Fassbender fill’s the role very well, you are able to see and understand that this man (like Sherlock Holmes) lives for the case, he needs to wrap his brain around these twisted acts of violence, because if he doesn’t he falls into the bottle.

The average, or at least less keen eyed movie watcher will probably let some scenes go by without thinking twice. However if so do you will pick up on some leaps in realism. Some things like where does the killer go exactly? Or isn’t the timing a little to convenient? And some other things that simply allow things to happen.

Through the use of them I have a feeling that the movie seeks to make Snowmen scary, at least the ones here. Snowmen just aren’t, they do their best, actually giving them minimal features so they can be easily registered and more invoke the feeling for the act of the killer rather than the snowmen themselves. They are an effective icon for the movie, both while it plays and for it’s promotion.

I was able to predict the identity of the killer, is this a negative to the movie? Well in a mystery it isn’t about being able to hide who it is, it’s about telling a good story. Millions of people will most likely see the movie and some of those people will at least guess correctly, that’s just statistically likely. A good writer isn’t trying to trick you, they’re trying to engross you. While watching you will understand the characters and their points of view of the world and the reveal does add up. So it’s fine.

Leaps in logic can be forgiven if the overall product can suck you in. This movie has very good acting and crisp cinematography as well truly creating a scene of the cold environment that the characters inhabit. Everything’s sturdily constructed, allowing for some blank spaces. In terms of modern Gothic mystery’s this one is quite well made.

 

Review Of Mice and Men, August 012 by Troy Lenny

All photographs credit Studio Canno

4 Stars4 / 5

Of Mice and Men is a story of loneliness and misunderstandings. I remember studying this literary art in high school, but I didn’t  notice the finer details, only the outline.

On Wednesday I watched Of Mice and Men presented by August 012, at Chapter ArtCentre. The outline of the story is two friends, George Milton and Lennie Small who are two workers in the Great Depression. To escape their cruel reality they share a distant dream that persuades them they will own their and land, “an’ live of the fat of the land.” This dream swirls colours of great happiness into their lives.

I do not want to cut curiosity out of the plot, so I will express little of this element. There are two stern problems blocking their dream. Lenny has an intellectual disability, and naively often strokes problems at work. And George and Lennie need ‘stake’ (money) from work so they can whirl their dream into reality.

I rate this production four stars. Why? Because the production was extraordinary. It had a partial modern theme which drew out the connection that many of the problems in Of Mice and Men still exist today, if you thin your eyes. Additionally, the production style conflates imagination with reality through dreamy description and because the audience’s seats are placed on an empty stage an immersive reality surrounds you (plus you may be able to play cards with the characters!)

I would  recommend anyone reading this to book a ticket, and visit the world Of Mice and Men because its performance style will enlighten tenebrous learnings. One element of the production  I noticed during this production was all of the characters were Greatly Depressed, but they wiped their tears and some tried to smile and others frowned. For example: Callous Curley, always had a curled fist most likely because he felt lonely, but due to his expected masculine role he couldn’t express his feminine emotions so he was always steaming frustration. Consequently, Curley’s wife felt lonely, and wandered looking for company and due to expected feminine roles she likely thought the only way to attract a man’s attention was by swirling hips.

I would like to thank all involved in the production Of Mice and Men for their creative minds, and extraordinary performance style – it was striking.

 

Preview of Little Wolf, Lucid Theatre. A retelling of Little Eyolf by Henrik Ibsen, Roger Barrington.

Little Wolf is a  revision of a comparatively rarely performed 1894 play Little Eyolf by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. LUCID’s new production tours   venues  in South Wales in late October and November 2017 and promises to be a worthwhile enterprise.

It has been given a contemporary revision, by LUCID’s award-winning director Simon Harris.

PLOT OF LITTLE WOLF FROM LITTLE EYOLF BY IBSEN

The action is set over a period of thirty-six hours at the home of Alfred and Rita Allmers. Alfred is an occasional teacher, intellectual and landowner. Their home is located near a fjord and some distance from the nearest town, thereby emphasising Ibsen’s naturalistic style of people influenced largely by the environment they live in. Their isolation from the remainder of the community also extends to their own marital relationship, which is on a steep downward curve due to the event that had caused their nine-year old son Eyolf to be partly paralysed. The boy’s handicap having been due to him falling off a table in babyhood, where he had been left whilst his parent’s engaged in making love. The feeling of guilt over this accident provides the backdrop to the events that ensue.

THE PRODUCTION

LUCID was formed in 2012 by Simon Harris and its aims are:

  • To act as a catalyst and resource for artist development
  • to be a producer of innovative and distinctive theatre projects

Simon has an impressive C.V. having been associated with the National Theatre and the Soho Theatre Company as well as Artistic Director of Script Cymru the national company for new writing in Wales. In 2009, Simon won a highly-prized Creative Wales Award to enable him to develop new and innovative theatre projects.

INTERVIEW

I interviewed Simon about Little Wolf.

RB: Little Wolf is a comparatively rarely performed Ibsen classic. Why do you think that is?

SH: Well, Little Wolf is my version of the Ibsen classic Little Eyolf, and  A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, Peer Gynt , these are the really well known plays, and Little Wolf comparatively, certainly in Wales, (I’m not aware of any productions in Wales to be honest), but comparatively in the UK, it is less performed. The peculiar thing is that when I speak to people who know the play, – I bumped into a couple of people in London, friends of mine who are directors a couple of weeks ago, and they said, “What are you doing?” and I said that I was doing this play based on Little Eyolf and they all went, “I love Little Eyolf!”, so I think part of it is that it is a challenging play in its content for some people, but it’s also an incredibly beautiful play –

RB: Yes, it’s a very intense play, I presume there is no interval, do you think the audience is emotionally able to cope with that, because it is a very demanding play on the emotions isn’t it?

SH: Well I think audiences these days are up for emotional engagement. If you look at the kind of television that people are tuning into these days, they’re sucking up the box sets, they really love the kind of deep engagement with characters they really get, and I think that this is the kind of offer that this play makes, it kinds of opens up its soul and lets you in a really profound and beautiful way. I think that this is a time when people are looking for an opportunity to empathaise and reflect a bit more, and if you compare with what is going on in the world at this moment, you know there are a lot of extremes in the world at this moment, and this is a play about the nuances of human behaviour and our ability to work through adversity towards a more hopeful position, so I think that aspect of the play that people should welcome.

RB: Going on from that, I know that the Little Eyolf play has an open ending, slightly optimistic, but it’s an ending that in 1894 when the play was written, but do you think it works well today, because the Allmers were landowners, quite wealthy people that would devote their wealth to the poor, what with a Social Security system which does that today? Do you think that translates well today, or have you done something different with it?

SH: Yes, I have done something different with it, so my connection with the play goes back a long time. I happened to see a version of it on the BBC, it’s a lovely production and I didn’t know the play at all, I didn’t know about Ibsen, but as soon as I landed on the channel that it was on, I was hooked, I was deeply deeply hooked into it and it made a lasting impression on me, so when I came to thinking about working on a new piece, I thought I would have a look at that, and when I read it I was quite surprised to see how different it was from the memory that I have of it. There were still things that were incredibly powerful and I thought very urgent and relevant, and some aspects of the play that felt very awkward to me – something that a modern audience wouldn’t identify with, so that’s why I felt that it was very important to do a different version of it, rather than a modern day version of an old play.

RB: Little Eyolf is always a play that has divided critics. I know the Ibsenist Michael Meyer regarded it as his favourite Ibsen play, and there are others who rate this at the top of the tree… Now I understand that your working is set in the contemporary day and is set in Norway?

SH: Yes.

RB: Did you consider moving the setting to Wales for example. Would it work?

SH: There is something similar about the non-conformist culture. Ibsen was fascinated about how we live, and the sometimes self-deluding behaviours that we have and hypocrisies that we have, so I think that may resonate fairly strongly for a Wales with a Non-Conformist chapel tradition. I didn’t really feel that gain that much from the setting of it in Wales. I’ve seen that done a few times, but I think it shows up some tensions in the production, and I always thought the best thing to do with it, and I’ve talked about this in one of the little films we’ve done on this on Facebook, is that we feel that we have absorbed the Norwegian culture aspect, but it’s not in your face, it’s not very overt,.

RB: I want to ask a question about Rita. She has been described as a monster, and one of the reasons why I like Ibsen is that he writes about very strong-willed heroines, I’m thinking about Svanhild in Love’s Comedy, Nora of course in A Doll’s House. How do you compare Rita to these heroines? Are you sympathetic to Rita, is she, in fact a heroine?

SH: I’m deeply sympathetic to her. I think that’s a very Victorian judgmental attitude to Rita to call her a monster. I think what is so difficult for people is that she is in a relationship with a man who is withdrawn from her, (and perhaps it’s a little more explicit in this play compared to the original), blames her conclusively for the past incidence that informs the whole of the play. Our version explores that much more comprehensively, and I think she is magnificent. She’s resilient, she’s loyal, she’s intelligent, she’s witty, she’s driven and the main thing is that she has a foundation in the love the two characters had for each other. She holds on to that. She knows what that meant in the past, and is the one who insists on it repeatedly in the play. That makes her strong. I think there’s an incredible resilience in her and it’s a beautiful journey in a way in that it moves from adversity to a new honesty and ability to move forward.

RB: Finally, I would like to ask about LUCID. Perhaps you could tell us something about the Company?

SH: This is the first theatre production of the company. We’ve been doing a variety of different works, some of it behind the scenes, working upon developing people, artists’ development, leadership development work, but I also had a piece by Chekhov that I developed as well, when I did a contemporised version of an early Chekhov play that I was interested in, so that might be something for the future. It’s early days for the company. The thing that interests me at the moment is the value of old stories. I’m slightly concerned that in the rush towards a more experiential theatre presentation. that we might lose touch with some of the dramatic traditions as well, but it doesn’t mean to say that because you interested in the dramatic tradition that it’s necessarily old-fashioned or out of date or anything else. The tradition goes back two thousand years, and I’m worried sometimes that we might be throwing the baby out with the bath water. I believe in a very pluralistic theatre culture, this work is about re-framing old stories in new urgent relevant ways. Hopefully in a way that audiences will appreciate  and engage with.

RB: And presumably with the title of your company in mind, lucidity is something that you empathise  in the delivery?

SH: Well I’d love that. That’s what we aim for. The LUCID name came about because I set the company up when what I considered was a lack of dialogue around what was happening in theatre, and I wanted to get people talking and thinking about some of these issues , so it was a kind of hint towards a hope for greater clarity.

RB: Thanks for your time.

Little Wolf is a rare opportunity to see a reworking of a great Ibsen play. The contemporary setting should resonate with the trials and tribulations that many of us go through in our daily life today. Ibsen was a very forward-thinking playwright for his time and his themes are as powerful today as they were when written one hundred and twenty years ago.

This promises to be an exciting production and I would urge you view it as it goes on tour around South Wales. The dates are as follows:

CARDIFF:

Chapter 20, 21, 23 – 28 October at 7.30

https://www.chapter.org/little-wolf

Post-show talk after the performance of the 23rd

SWANSEA:

Volcano Theatre  1-4, and 7-11 November at 7.30

http://www.volcanotheatre.co.uk/whats-on/little-wolf

BRECON

Theatr Brycheiniog 16 November at 7.30 and 17 November at 2

https://theatrbrycheiniog.ticketsolve.com/shows/873578721?locale=en-GB

NEWPORT

The Riverfront 22 November at 7.45

https://tickets.newportlive.co.uk/en-GB/shows/little%20wolf/info

Suitability: 14+

Duration: 90 mins (no interval)

BACKGROUND MATERIAL

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZmGDzDKzWI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbOodTNGP24

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Eyolf

https://lucidevent.wordpress.com/about/

 

 

 

 

 

Review Goodbye Christopher Robin by Jonathan Evans

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

Goodbye Christopher Robin is, at the start, about the rejuvenating ability that thinking as a child can help people through dark times and then becomes about the corruption of success and fame.

We are introduced to A.A. Milne (Domnhnall Gleeson) who has survived the First World War but is shell shocked and angry at the world. He lives rather comfortably in London with his wife Daphne (Margo Robbie) but he cannot get over the trauma, he introduces one of his plays but the spotlight reminds him of the lights in the trenches and cannot get through it. In his disgruntled state he decides to move his wife and son (Will Tilston) out to the country.

Whilst there Milne seems to be much more interested in woodwork and walking rather than writing. Daphne grows ever more bored and frustrated so she leaves for some city time, coinciding with her leaving the nanny (Kelly MacDonald) must also go for three days to see to her sickly mother. So now its just the two of them.

During the time they are away it falls on Milne to step up and take care of his son. He is not the most patient man so they have tension in deciding what breakfast to make and him needing quite. But he gets sucked into the world his son creates with his stuffed toys. We then hear other names and phrases and can connect the dots that these elements will be used to tell the tale we all know.

He of course writes it down and is a tremendous success. But with success comes fame so he is constantly being called and asked to make appearances. Even Milne, who wrote the book is always asked about his son. Public appearances, signings, interviews all in abundance. He can hardly go anywhere and not be recognized. Even in their country home people come looking for him.

Being that this is about the behind the scenes story of a popular work of fiction I couldn’t help but think of Finding Neverland and Saving Mr Banks. Out of all of these movies the best one is Finding Neverland but this is also a different movie. It shows the damaging effects of too much fame for someone that cant handle it.

This is a very handsomely shot movie with attention to detail in the living areas, wardrobe and the sunlight having a truly golden quality to it.

The movies message is a simple one and the story of what when on with the people behind the material is interesting. A few moments of cool transitions, attractive production value and very solid performances help make it more worth seeing it those elements weren’t there.

 

An Interview with Eric Ngalle Charles

 

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

My name is Eric Ngalle Charles, I am a Cameroonian born Wales based writer poet and playwright.

So what got you interested in writing and the arts?

I wrote my first poem when I was about 8years old, I wanted to compliment my mother, for she was my father. However my mother did not understand my humour, she thought I was mocking her for the fact that many men went through her bed chambers. ‘’Dearest mother, you are beautiful like the snowflakes of Siberia, everybody knows where you are, no one dares’’ this earned me my first banishment from my village. I moved to my maternal grand father’s house where I started reading African newspapers posthumously. My maternal grandfather was a British Colonial governor and had the luxury of newspapers being delivered albeit three months late.

Your run a company called Black Entertainment Wales, an arts organisation that provides a platform for artists in the BME communities to showcase their work. Do you feel BME creatives in Wales are supported?

The bar for support for BME creatives is too high. Plus the very fact the Wales itself is a minority in the grand scheme of things means at times it doesn’t know sometimes how to deal with its BAME creatives. Organisations are making strides in the right direction, I am now on the board of directors for Literature Wales, We have FIO making strides, and we have support from other creatives like Charlotte Williams and Isabelle Adonis. There’s hope.

You are also a playwright how do you approach writing in this art form?

I guess I am fascinated by ‘’blindness’’ What can provoke someone or something to invoke blindness from the gods. I am not an ‘’OBWANJE CHILD’’ as described by Ben Okri in Famished Road, however I carry such marks, and I strongly believe that we must not cut off that link between the land of the dead and that of the living. I write to maintain the link. In most of my plays, I perform rituals, either through singing an ancient song that my ancestors used when communicating with the gods, or simply pouring liquor or water onto the ground and invoking the gods. During my last performance in Palas Print Caernarfon for the Literature festival in June with Ifor Ap Glyn the National Poet of Wales, I performed Molikilikili (stick insect, who insist on bringing down the great Iroko tree by pushing it to the ground, most people mistook its antics for press-ups) and I did an invocation using Welsh leaves and Welsh water. Yes, the gods are playwrights, they use us to poke fun and make merry.

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 equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?

The way information is dispersed, community centers, libraries are not stocking the right information, and institutions that have powers that control information on activities do not have foot soldiers. There is disconnect between creatives and those institutions that should support them.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?

Two of such organisations have been helpful and healthy to me because I am very persistent, other people once you knock them they lose the ability to stand up. I believe in the power of my story, I know what I write and I am willing and learning to learn how to write.

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

Public performance arts. We should encourage young and emerging talents to showcase their work and to get paid for doing so.

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Event’s organizers such as the Hay Trust, Hay Festival are embracing diversity, for me I am currently talking with the National Trust to see if I could perform my plays around their various premises. I just came from Cameroon last month as part of a ‘’Bridge Building’’ initiative supported by Wales Arts International which will see Artists from Wales going to Cameroon and Vice versa. As a result of my first visit, I have been invited back to Cameroon by the authorities to perform at the South Cameroon Cultural Festival. Effectively I am passing the baton to the future generation.

An interview with Mathilde Lopéz, Artistic Director, August 012.

Mathilde with the Of Mice and Men Company. Photographic credit Studio Cano.

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to with Mathilde Lopéz, Artistic Director, August 012. We discussed her career to date, her new production Of Mice and Men at Chapter Arts Centre this October and her thoughts on theatre in Wales today.

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

Hi, I am a theatre director and the artistic director of August 012.  I was a founding member of National Theatre Wales, used to be Literary manager at Theatre Royal Stratford East and before directing, I worked as a scenographer. I trained at Central St Martins and Birkbeck College. I am French, I am of  Spanish origin and grew up in Morrocco and the West Indies.

 So what got you interested in theatre and the arts?

Drawing, painting and sculpting were first, then theatre happened. I don’t remember a particular moment so I either forgot or it was always there.

August 012 Yuri, Credit Studio Cano.

 Your company August 012 describes itself as “developed, shaped and questioned by the way we live here and now, and therefore profoundly and structurally relevant to the nation today.” Is it possible to explain how you approach this methodology when creating work for the stage?

I am interested in how we live today and where we make the work. Everything I do is profoundly anchored in our times, our current technical equipment, our politics and the space and people we make it with. I often work with new participants along with trained actors and set tangible challenges- either through space or casting- in the rehearsal room so that we all wrestle not only with the ideas of the play today, but its embodiment.

August 012 Caligula, Credit Studio Cano

 In October, August 012 is performing Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck at Chapter Arts Centre. I wonder if you can discuss why you choose to direct this play?

I love Steinbeck. Particularly Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. I read them in a loop for a couple of years when I was a teenager. In French and in Casablanca and it felt very close, I sometimes think that the combination of poverty with the sea and the sun-like Steinbeck Californian characters- must have had something to do with it. I also read Of Mice and Men which felt then and still feels now, like the essence of the United States of America in all its grandeur and catastrophe. Ultimately, I always wanted to do Steinbeck, and I might carry on, his novels are so generous and compassionate that they do help to breath.

Wil Young who will play the role of Lennie

The role of Lennie will be performed by Wil Young. Wil is a company member from Hijinx North Academy, one of 5 Academies in Wales that trains learning disabled and/or autistic adults to become professional actors. Hijinx have pioneered supporting the work of disabled and/or autistic actors on our stages, how did this new collaboration develop?

I’ve reread the novel trying to establish a contemporary view on Lennie’s character with Cardiff School of Psychology researchers. We concluded that Lennie would potentially be on the autism spectrum and it felt right to work with an actor who would understand and confront himself with these difficulties on a daily basis. We contacted Hijinx  for advice and they quickly became collaborators. They were thrilled by the idea of casting one of their actor in a main role and were very helpful and supportive.

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 equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives? 

I am aware that you only realise that there are barriers when you are different yourself or know and share time with people who are. August 012 tries to minimise barriers in the way we make and produce theatre like many companies do –I see more and more theatre companies that invest in making work accessible-but I am sure we could all do more and are largely unaware. What has become apparent and is now crucial is that we keep organising regular opportunities for consultation with people with different disabilities, from varied age groups and from different social backgrounds. This is the only way to get things right.

Mathilde with the Of Mice and Men company,  credit Studio Cano.

There are a range of organisation supporting Welsh and Wales based theatre companies, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?

There are not enough opportunities in theatre in Wales but I think it is steadily growing.

I wish more was done towards creating bridges with international festivals and networks in the European Union and elsewhere, most of the efforts in Wales are UK centric (or London and Edinburgh centric) and I believe artists and cultural organisations ought to reach out particularly in the current political climate.

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

Fine Arts and Music. Because I think they inspire all the rest. Fine Arts definitely inspires me to create theatre. Always. I am not sure about the contrary.

Bedwyr Williams, Artes Mundi 2017

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers? 

Some companies and artists in Wales embrace their cultural difference and celebrate their particularity which goes well beyond language and I like that freedom. There’s a lot of freedom in theatre making here and cross arts form widely happened in Wales before it was even a term! So I enjoy the work that manages to connect this specific originality with the world, like Bedwyr Williams piece for Artes Mundi 2017 or in a different vein, the choir in WNO’s Khovanshchina.

 Many thanks for your time Mathilde.

An interview with actor Wil Young

Wil in rehearsals for Of Mice and Men

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to actor Wil Young. We discussed his career to date, his work with Hijinx Theatre, his role in a new production Of Mice and Men produced by August 012 and his thoughts on theatre in Wales today.

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

“Hi my name is Wil Young. I am 26 years old. I am based in Holyhead, North Wales. I’m a professional actor with autism. Through Hijinx Academy I have received professional training in acting, singing, dancing and mask work. My professional experience includes ‘Soup’ for the Hijinx Unity Festival. I can travel independently. I can learn and memorise scripts. I particularly enjoy my comedy acting.”

A performance of ‘Soup’ for Hijinx Unity Theatre Festival.

So what got you interested in theatre and the arts?

I’ve worked with Tim Baker on two productions. I’ve been with Hijinx for 3 years. I’ve been acting, if you can call it that, pretty much since I can remember.

Wil in rehearsals for Of Mice and Men

You are a member of Hijinx North Academy, one of 5 Academies in Wales. What activities do you get involved with in the Academy?

I do drama on Monday & Tuesday. I’ve done Unity in Cardiff & Caernarfon. The performances included ‘Soup’ which is a silent piece and ‘The Market’

You are playing the role of Lennie in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, produced by August 012 at Chapter Arts Centre during October. Can you tell us how you came to be involved in this production?

I actually heard through Hijinx that they were auditioning for the part of Lenny and I tried out.

Wil in rehearsals for Of Mice and Men

Lennie is a very famous fictional character, Of Mice and Men is a set reading text at many schools across the world. How are you going to approach your portrayal of this character?

He’s basically like a big kid, so I thought of playing him younger than I would normally.

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

I would invest in the Ucheldre Centre in North Wales, because it would also bring money to the island and the arts.

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers? 

There’s plenty of choice in Wales in terms of theatre. I recently saw the first Columbian Circus to be shown in Pontio, Bangor, North Wales. This was called Acelere by Circolombia.

Thanks for your time Wil.

Review: King Cetshwayo, The Musical, Theatr Brycheiniog by Helen Joy

4 Stars4 / 5

 

The opening night of any performance is usually pretty interesting This was something else. A royal visit, the hands of conciliation shaking across the decades, the welcome of the Welsh to the Zulus, the acknowledgement of the times past and present with no apology.

I cannot say that it was a comfortable feeling in the room when the British role in the taking of Zululand was portrayed. The massacre of British forces at Rorke’s Drift promptly followed by the razing of the villages and the kidnapping of the King. An unrecorded conversation between Queen Victoria and King Cetshwayo and his return to South Africa.

Some of us in the audience dared to laugh at what that conversation may have comprised, given the dear Queen’s proclivities! This lightened an otherwise confused response to a musical storytelling which did not portray our Empirical desires in a good light. But a portrayal generous enough to acknowledge the bravery of soldiers on either side. Bold enough to openly regard a mutual respect for the field of battle and conquest.

Beautiful in its dance scenes, fearsome in its warring, acute in its narration – comic in its mimicry of the gun-carrying redcoats. The skin-prickling returning cries of warriors in the audience. The poet. The costumes. The toe-tapping music. The beat. The heat.

This was a slightly chaotic, slightly shambolic, utterly brilliant rendering of a terrible business all round.

A theatre packed with dignitaries and artists; and the men stand for the Queen. A queen surrounded by family and protected by warriors. Splendid and significant, she spoke of their visit as an advance party whose report back would determine any subsequent visit by the King. I get that. This is not easy political fayre.

Dorcas Cresswell and her team should be applauded for their efforts in bringing these extraordinary and important events together in ways accessible to all of us. It was refreshing not to hear apology for events long past but acknowledgement; commemoration not dismissal. Art and theatre expressing easily subjects otherwise difficult to discuss openly.

I hope I shall never forget seeing Zulu warriors hop on a bus in central Brecon. I have a feeling I might not be alone in this. Never underestimate the impact of a well-placed assegai.

As part of this series of events you can still catch the event below

Now – end of October: Sibanye – Brecon Welcomes the Zulu’s!

Free, non-ticketed exhibition in the Andrew Lamont Gallery, top floor of Theatr Brycheiniog.

An exhibition of photographs that were taken during a visit in January 2017 to KwaZulu-Natal by five members of The Friends of The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, Brecon.

The visit was by invitation of KwaCulture – an organisation based in Durban and the visit coincided with the annual commemoration of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift which took place in January 1879.

The exhibition is part of the King Cetshwayo 135th Celebrations in Wales, August 2017 that has been organised by The Friends of The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum in partnership with KwaCulture and Maluju Charity.

The Andrew Lamont Gallery is open during Theatr opening hours and is fully accesable via the lift.