Category Archives: Literature

Review Professor Marston & The Wonder Women by Jonathan Evans

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

She is one of the most iconic female characters in pop culture. She is instantly recognisable and you most likely know her name. She stands for truth. But in creating her secrets had to be kept to preserve love.

Earlier this year the mass audience were introduced to Wonder Woman through her first film. Now she is more popular than ever, this is the perfect time to tell this fascinating story of the deep psychological ideas that went into her creation and first few stories as well as the just as interesting behind the scenes situation of the people that inspired her.

The man who co-created her was man named William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), a university professor who teaches psychology. He would go on to invent the lie detector machine. While there with his wife one of his students catches his eye. His classes teach about the mindset of giving yourself up to an authority figure in a relationship.

Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) is his official wife whom he has known since childhood, she has dark hair and is more than qualified to be a lecturer at any University, but because she is a woman she cannot gain any diploma. Her and Marston enjoy heated debates. Olive (Bella Heathcote) is blonde, a few years younger and even though she is descended from two of the most outspoken and radical feminist of her time was raised by nuns so is timid and tacked but still very intelligent.

He loves his wife, however he also loves Olive and they love him as well as each-other. What are they to do? The love is real but the society in-which they live will never accept them, is it even worth trying?

Luke Evans himself is a gay man and the writer/director Angela Robinson is a lesbian. They are both open about their sexuality but the world still does not fully embrace people of non hetero sexuality so they are probably the perfect people to tackle this material.

Adding to the revealing nature of the movie is the layering of the actual Wonder Woman comics that were written by Marston and indeed do feature Wonder Woman herself and other women caged, tied-up, spanked etc. The fact that they were able to get approval for the actual material shows and bravery and how unashamed on behalf of DC Comics. This is the story and ideas that went into the character and are addressing it.

The theory of loving submission isn’t just all about getting tied-up and/or spanked (though the physical acts are a part of it) it is about letting go of control, it has been said that you cannot love someone and control them, the acts allow the others to be the master to ones who would otherwise not be.

Being that this takes a look behind the public perception of a famous character and shows the story of the real people behind the scenes one will probably be reminded of Hollywoodland (an equally good movie).

This movie tells the story of love that is still rather unconventional now and seemingly impossible at the time it happened. There are details about the production of the character of Wonder Woman that are skimmed over as well as a few other moments that take a leap in time in order to fit the correct running time. But the story it tells is one of love and understanding and it effectively conveys that message.

Jonathan Evans

 

Dubliners (James Joyce) Revisited by Rhys Morgan

James Joyce is regarded by many as one of the most significant writers in the history of the novel. He is most famous for his contributions to a form of prose fiction known as literary modernism; a style of storytelling which emphasises, among other things, a stream of consciousness technique, which allows the reader to quite literally get inside the heads of characters and to experience their world through their own psyches. However, due to the convoluted style that Joyce often employs, he is regularly seen as a rather ‘difficult’ author to get into, one whose work sometimes borders on the incomprehensible. Ulysses, for example, constantly flicks back and forth between first- and third-person narratives, while Finnegans Wake is, let’s be honest, barely written in English.

James Joyce c. 1918

This simply isn’t the case with his first novel, and it is this novel which I consider (perhaps controversially) to be his true masterpiece. The work I’m referring to here is of course Dubliners, first published in 1914. While technically not a novel per se—it’s actually a collection of short stories—Dubliners certainly reads as if it were a singular novel because all the stories within are tightly interwoven and constantly overlap. The clarity of the writing is astonishing: even by today’s standards it often reads as fresh as paint. Throughout, Joyce employs a very straightforward style of narrative which makes use of some brilliant poetic prose and is replete with striking metaphoric imagery. On this basis alone it really is a joy to read.

Each story revolves around a very simple plot. For example, Eveline is about a woman torn between staying in Dublin and fleeing with her lover to Argentina; Two Gallants deals with a pair of criminals in their attempt to steal from a young woman’s employer; whilst Ivy Day in the Committee Room focuses on the failures of Irish nationalist politics in Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century. And in true modernist fashion, each story begins by throwing us straight into the middle of its characters’ environment and circumstances. There’s no messing around with developing the story’s background or context beforehand; instead, both background and context emerge as the story unfolds.

Yet despite the simplicity of the narrative you are always aware that there’s something incredibly complex going on underneath, and this really strikes at the heart of why Dubliners is so masterfully written. The individual fine details contained within the text eventually build up to reveal a strikingly detailed picture of Dublin and its inhabitants during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Deep-seated religious tensions, economic hardships, social mobility, even the Catholic Church’s implicit acceptance of paedophilia—all of these themes are dealt with, and many more. As you read Dubliners, Dublin becomes your entire world, and the sheer levels of detail you encounter about this city are almost ethnographic in scope. You can pick up this novel feeling like you know nothing about Dublin, and once you’ve finished you can walk away feeling like you know everything there is to know.

On the other hand, in amongst all of this social complexity are characters that are instantly identifiable and which conjure in us a mixture of different feelings and emotions ranging from admiration to downright pity. The character of Maria in the story Clay is that of a woman who is trying her best to be as kind and as helpful to those around her as possible, despite the fact that the circumstances within which she lives are frustrating and monotonous. The old man in the story An Encounter, however, is a character whose sexual promiscuity is so great that at one point he indulges himself in a spot of public masturbation. When referring to the work of Shakespeare, the rapper Akala once said that the power inherent in plays such as Hamlet or Macbeth lies in their ability to portray ways of being human that transcend the time and place within which they were written. I believe that this certainly applies to the work of Joyce as well, and particularly to Dubliners. Whether we like it or not, we can see a little bit of ourselves in each of Joyce’s characters, and as a result they each force us to think about our own human character and the ways that we conduct ourselves.

Grafton Street, Dublin, at the turn of the twentieth century

Overall, Dubliners is one of those ‘classic’ novels that really has stood the test of time and is absolutely still relevant today. I believe the reason that not many people have read this novel is because they’re perhaps put off by the avant-gardism of Joyce’s later work. But I recommend Dubliners to anyone who is a fan of literature, and I think it has the capacity to surprise you, so it’s well worth having a go.

By Rhys Morgan

Review/Discussion: Of Mice and Men

During the afternoon of Saturday, October 28th, I took a little journey back in time. As an English Literature student at University some of the books I studied back in GCSE feel like a lifetime away. So, when I was given the opportunity to see Of Mice and Men, one of the most well-known of these GCSE books, brought to life on stage at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre I was immediately intrigued.

This production put on by August.012, has unfortunately finished it’s run at the Chapter Arts Centre. So, for this article, I’m still going to include some aspects of reviewing the production but I’m mainly going to focus on the adaptation of the text specifically and any intriguing differences which were included and I’ll discuss how these changes affect the text and its place in today’s culture. Just a little heads up, there is so much in this production that this is going to be a long article but if you just want a review of the production you can read Troy Lenny’s review here.

Mathilde Lopez directs an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s 1937 novella that tells the story of two unlikely travelling companions Lennie Small and George Milton. They travel from ranch to ranch in California seeking work during the Great Depression in order to achieve their very own American Dream of independence and security. Along the way, they encounter themes of loyalty, injustice, race and even sexuality. Thanks to both the education system and the internet the spoilers concerning the end of this novella are widely known, but I will still attempt to be sensitive to those who may have managed to avoid spoilers so far.

This production constantly blurs the line between the setting of the Great Depression and the 21st Century. The setting of the ranch is still the same and the theme of the American Dream is still very strong. However, there are changes to the script which flicker between major and minor that addresses 21st century elements like the set, the microphones and even prawn cocktail crisps. The more major changes will be addressed below when I talk about specific characterisation. While these flippant mentions of 21st-century aspects were certainly startling when I first sat down they certainly made the difference between our time and theirs starker but also more familiar.

In my opinion, this production uses this blend to bring out themes that aren’t normally connected with Of Mice and Men. For example. Curley’s fight with Lennie is commentated on like a modern boxing match by Slim and George through the microphones. To me, this brought out the theme of observation and watching, especially connected with the lack of context the other characters have concerning Lennie and some of his actions. Another example of this comes in the ending. The final recitation of George and Lennie’s American Dream in this production, to me, had a more solid connection with heaven or at least a heavenly state that was an unobtainable state on Earth. The level of acting in this moment is really something special as this becomes more George’s realisation despite it affecting Lennie more directly.

A cast of just five carries this show. I found this aspect very intriguing as certain actors had to double up. George and Lennie remain completely grounded throughout the whole show but I was amazed by the flexibility of the three actors who had to constantly switch from character to character. I like to think that one of the most intriguing switches shows just how far we have come from this period of racial segregation. The character of Crooks is always an integral part of any reading or performance of Of Mice and Men because of his comments regarding his experience and actual implementation of racial segregation. However, due to the actors doubling up the ranch owner and Curley’s father is actually played by the same actor as Crooks. While there is no added comment on the ranch owner being of any different ethnicity it is certainly an intriguing angle to take considering the setting of the text.

I found Curley and Curley’s Wife being played by the same female actor very interesting as John Steinbeck himself, to paraphrase, stated that Curley’s Wife is not a person, she is a symbol and, specifically, a threat to Lennie. She is also mainly examined as an example of a wife being the property of her husband, so to have these two characters played by the same actress not only emphasises how she has no independence beyond her husband it also highlights that Curley has barely any independece beyond her. I think that this is a very intriguing way to give Curley’s Wife more prominence and, in my opinion quite rightly, play down any threatening nature Curley may have had.

In my opinion, I liked how this production gave Curley’s Wife more weight. Sara Gregory’s vehemence when talking to Crooks makes Curley’s Wife far more threatening than I ever remember her being and I love it. While in her main scene they move away slightly from the original text I think that these additions are certainly useful for younger audiences to see what must be added to the dialogue and her character to make her a woman you may see in the 21st century and how this differs from the text’s setting. She is far more hysteric and actually goes to the point of reigniting her denied dream of acting in Hollywood and reaches the point of leaving her husband. This vital addition makes her death all the more tragic as a comment that a woman in the setting of not only the ranch but also the Great Depression could never leave her husband, let alone achieve her long lost dreams. It’s certainly an interesting take on a deliberately vague character who was written to be barely human.

Even with these intriguing differences, one of the most interesting and outstanding parts of this play for me was actually seemingly a throwaway line from Lennie. He says it so quickly that some may have missed it but it actually is a massively important line to insert into the direct dialogue of Of Mice and Men. It is clear in the book and subsequent films that Lennie is, in some way, mentally disabled. However, it is never directly stated in the text what form this takes. The closest we get is George’s fabrication that Lennie was kicked in the head by a horse but Lennie questions this and it becomes clear that all we got was a fabricated explanation from George. This production completely changes that. Lennie states that George has said he has Dyspraxia.

This is another monumental change that may seem small but it highlights the vast difference between the setting of Of Mice and Men and the 21st Century and between ambiguity which makes Lennie quite frightening to those who don’t know why he is different and a time where the condition is known and labelled. I also like that this then adds weight to the questions of intent and knowledge from an outsider’s perspective concerning Lennie’s character. Is the reason that George sticks by Lennie after all of the bad things he has done because he has knowledge of Lennie’s specific condition and he knows that he is not a bad person because of this? It certainly adds so much more to their relationship.

The production also stood out in the way the deaths of certain characters were presented. There are two main deaths of human characters in Of Mice and Men and both have become very well known to the point of fame. This production did not let down this reputation. The first was very brutal and clear in its use of physical action to show exactly how that death came about. The second brought a spectacular building of tension which I felt directly despite knowing what was coming. The lighting in this finale was also spectacular and I like that they decided to use lighting rather than loud sound effects.

The only death depiction that I wasn’t a fan of was how the death of Candy’s dog was handled. I understand that Of Mice and Men can get quite heavy but I just wasn’t a fan of the use of audience participation which turned the shooting of Candy’s dog into a more comic moment. I really liked how Carson came in with (in the setting of the play) the dog’s blood on his arms and this could have been a very dramatic moment but it was mismatched with the comedy that came before.

In conclusion, as a student who has studied this book to see it put on stage in such an intriguing way with some inspiring changes that highlight both how far we have come and also how close we still are to the troubling time and setting of America’s Great Depression despite the difference in the country. For the most part, the execution of these changes was also very well done by August.012 and I would be very interested in seeing how they could take on other books and forms of literature because I was so intrigued and impressed by this tackling of one of the most well known and controversial of novellas. For this reason, I’m giving this production four stars for its adaptation of Steinbeck’s classic.

Review The Cherry Orchard, Sherman Theatre by Corrine Cox

 

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

Get the Chance member Corrine Cox.

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/

Kevin Johnson

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.

Troy Lenny

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.