Category Archives: Literature

Review 300 Things I Hope, Iain S Thomas by Sian Thomas

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5 Stars5 / 5

 

Iain Thomas has, for a long time, been one of my absolute favourite authors. This title of favourite has not wavered since I read I Wrote This For You: Just The Words some few years ago, and continues to stand strong as his other works, such as this, find a place in my hands and a home on my shelf. I come short of saying I adore him, his writing, his books, his style. All of it has meant a lot to me, and this has not fluctuated – ever.

300 Things I Hope is, at the title suggests, 300 things that he hopes. For you, me – for us – the readers. They are simple sentences, little lines, all of them hopes I do not doubt are wholeheartedly sincere and stretch all the way from the author straight to me, here. A part of it I can’t deny is a little odd. To be talked to through pages like this, indirect and directly, not in a way that’s exactly poetry or a story or an article. I know there are more people than only me that these words are going to be reaching, but it always feels like they were written just for me to read and love (which I do).

I like words. There’s the brunt of it. I love words, and I love writing, and I love reading. I love finding work that somehow manages to shake up my thoughts and make me remember this so clearly. I put post-it notes on my favourite pages, because they did just that. For example, number 84, “I hope love moves through your heart like light moves through glass” because is that not a gorgeous sight to see? The glass on my front door reflects rainbow coloured sunlight on to my floor, and the idea that it could equate to love was such beautiful imagery that in went the post-it note because I felt changed, because I felt reminded of words and what they can do. They did this, after all.
Or, number 101, “I hope that any noise you hear in the night is only someone you love coming home” because I have a lot of fears about things like this, and I was soothed.
Or, number 144, “I hope that if something bad happens to you, that the world suddenly starts turning backwards and it unhappens to you” because a word that isn’t a word is used but it makes sense, and I liked that.
Or 161, “I hope you find something unexplainable on the side of the road, like it was left there just for you” because I liked the idea of writing something that could stem from this idea myself, in all honesty.
Or 211, 212, and 213: “I hope you write a message, put it in a bottle and throw it into the sea”, “I hope it’s a secret, and that someone, somewhere, knows it.”, “I hope you are someone’s secret and that somewhere in the ocean, there’s a bottle with your name in it”, because this also sounded like something lovely to write, and they way I imagined that glimpse into a story from a simple three phrases was so captivating that I didn’t want to let it go. Also, I think everyone quietly romanticised the idea of putting a message in a bottle and hoping someone, somewhere, picked it up. I did, even though I’ve never done it (though I have found one, once – it was, I assumed, a child’s drawing of a house. There was a lot of blue.) – but after the little helpful push from these three hopes, could I not do it through words? I could, I think, and I would like to.

I’m trying to say that I love words. I love this book. I love this author. Not many other words or books or authors have pinched my mind and stolen my interest and held it, inspiring me to do something of my very own, and never letting me forget the spark in me at words strung together in a way that makes me so immeasurably happy.

Five stars, because I have a lot of love to give, because this deserves every piece of it I am able to give.

Review How They Met And Other Stories, David Levithan by Sian Thomas

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3 Stars3 / 5

 

This book was a collection of short stories about love. Plain and simple.

I like reading about love which is why this book caught my eye a good while back, and gained itself a solid slot on my Christmas list.

I managed to finish the whole book in just a few short hours. I was utterly lost in numerous glances into numerous worlds of act, love, consequence, and situation, each of them varying and bringing me new stories, new characters, new plots that I loved.

I was expecting your usual love stories, in total honesty. And I enjoy those, and I definitely did get some (people who meet on an plane, for example. Or the classic high school era of classes or prom). I didn’t, however, expect that the majority of the stories would be LGBT-centric stories. And I was pleasantly surprised! I said once or twice or five hundred thousand times in my life that LGBT representation (among various other types of representation) is important and still stand firmly by this view. So to be so swept up by such a surprise was such a lovely way to spend Christmas Day, for me.

I also didn’t expect the drawing of my own inspiration for writing. I’ve heard or read or seen enough couples meet on a plane or one partner chase through the airport for the next five of my lifetimes, and I thought at least I take the inspiration from the idea of travel as an act of meeting which changed lives or an act of leaving which also changed lives. Maybe change the method of transportation. I’ve seen one separation by travel be done by boat, and I am fond of description, so I don’t doubt I could do my own but set in the docks. Or a train station. Who knows. But I’m glad I read the book through and through and found something to guide me to this idea.

It was something fun to read. Before this I’ve lately been having to read far more serious books (e.g. The Colour Purple) so it was a nice breath of fresh air to step back into my comfort zone of cushy love and cheesy YA. I can’t lie, I like those kinds of stories. So to read them, and so many of them in one single book, I was delighted.

This is a book, one of very few, where I’ve stuck little post-it notes at the start of the stories I liked the best. These three were, “Starbucks Boy”,  “Princes”, and, “Breaking And Entering”. Starbucks Boy because I love a good coffee shop story. There are certain plot points or story clichés I think everyone quietly adores. This is one of mine.
Princes because it was the sweetest story, I think, out of them all. A younger brother approaching his Bar Mitzvah fights against their parents in order for them to let his older brother, our main character, bring along his boyfriend. Which was, like I said, sweet. And funny – granted the context of the story. Finally, Breaking And Entering because I absolutely love a spot of angst amongst all the blossoming love stories.

It was undoubtedly a good read, and one I’m glad has reintroduced me to books after so long a break because of school and the like.

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Review Benighted, The Old Red Lion Theatre by Hannah Goslin

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2 Stars2 / 5

In yet another one of London’s beautiful Theatre Pubs, I attended the show ‘Benighted’. Based on the 1927 novel by J.B Priestley, this adaptation by Duncan Gates and directed by Stephen Whitson sees a group of travellers lost in a storm in amongst the mountains and valleys of Wales where they stumble upon a lonely house, only to experience one of the most memorable and frightening nights of their lives.

Firstly what struck me as lovely about this production was their stellar use of the space. A compact room, it seemed full but not busy and somehow opened out the story to us; with only a few additions and one change of a door appearance, the use of staging and space is intriguing and does not feel cramped. To add to the scary, dark atmosphere and to give a ‘olden day’ sense to the 1920’s based play, the whole scenery was of a dark wooden look, with hazy lighting to give us some spook.

Unfortunately, this is all that really impressed me. The performers were well rehearsed, giving wonderful performances as much as they could, hitting the speech and mannerisms of persons of the times – exactly what we would expect. And therefore, I cannot fault them. However, it all felt a little stunted. Benighted, known as a comedy/horror, is famous for inspiring Rocky Horror Picture Show and other comic/thriller/horror plays and films, I expected something more. We all know how clever and catchy Rocky Horror […] was and is, and yes, it contains tunes that even the younger generation can now sing word for word which gives it a slight advantage but it had a spark that this production of Benighted just missed. Moments of fear played along with comical moments felt as if the play could not make its mind up of what genre it wanted to be and lacked combining the both fluidly.

Despite this, if you are looking for an easy watch, little giggle and some tense scenes, Benighted is a nice production to pop along to see for something different on a weekday night.

Review Testosterone, Rhum and Clay, New Diorama by Hannah Goslin

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4 Stars4 / 5

Trans/Transexual. A topic that some know much about and others very little. I think it can simply be described as a person who is born one gender but feels like the other. Someone who goes through medical transformation to help become who they truly are.

Kit Redstone, writer and performer of the piece Testosterone uses autobiographical content of his own transformation into a man and what this really means. What is a man? Is the female he once was still there? And all the questions in between and onwards.

The play is based upon his first entrance into a male changing room, spending time to flash back to his life before this moment, his concerns and intrigue of the future and how to blend in as a male.

The performance in mostly as a narration from Kit himself – without prior knowledge of the honesty of the piece, it is wonderful to see something so true and without verging on parody or trying to compliment the LGBT community. Some writers and performers have slight fear at portraying this industry without offending or getting it completely wrong, or even not doing the community justice. The beauty of Testosterone is that it is from Redstone, and him taking the main role gives the sheer honesty of his life without sugar coating it.

And I realise I am making it sound heavy – it is not in the slightest. There are short moments of speech, followed by short hammed up and comical scenes relating to metaphors and nods to popular culture. It’s a little camp and then it’s a little comical by pointing out the fragility of masculinity. These performers are skilled well enough that their movement through different characters, the ability to poke fun at society and yet compliment the true nature of the piece is a triumph.

Testosterone is just a fantastic piece of work – sometimes autobiographical pieces try to be too black and white, but Redstone has taken his life and ensured we laugh at nature, at society and yet still join him for his emotional and interesting ride of life.

http://newdiorama.com/whats-on/testosterone

 

Review The Snowman Peacock Theatre / Sadler’s Wells, By Hannah Goslin

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4 Stars4 / 5

Growing up, I have been watching The Snowman and its cousin Father Christmas, every Christmas, every year. When The Snowman and The Snow dog came out, I think my tear ducts weren’t expecting the initiation of another short film to encourage them further.

With one of my brother’s being of the orange haired persuasion, growing up we always joked that my brother was the boy in the film. We even had the bedsheets with him and the Snowman on. And while this was all in jest, what kid did not want to be the kid in The Snowman?

So as you would expect, I know the story off by heart, backwards, forwards, up and down! And so the inner child in me felt nothing but excitement and apprehension of seeing magic come alive on stage.

Boy did it! For those living under a rock, The Snowman is about a boy who makes this frosty creature who comes to life. They spend a short night on Christmas Eve having adventures in his house where his parents sleep and then flying across the world to meet Father Christmas and a range of other Snow men and women.

Many of you may be thinking, it’s November and a little early for Christmas – but once you are taken a-hold of all the joy, the pomp and circumstance of The Snowman on stage, you soon forgive it.

Staging is beautiful – seamlessly moveable into new scenes, when the Snowman and the boy are exploring, everything is a little oversized and cartoonlike which makes it comical and child friendly. To fill out the two hour show, the original content has been adapted, adding a love interest for the Snowman, a bad guy who is triumphed over and some dancing fruit. All of these additions are welcomed and give a more modern twist to the 1982 classic.

As this is the Peacock Theatre, of course it is full of dance. Animal characters, our new villain and damsel in distress are all dancing editions, with the use of classical ballet and contemporary, they beautifully grace the stage, moving with little sound and much grace. Music provided by a live orchestra, it’s hard to not feel ‘christmassey’ with the instrumental sounds and live singing which accompany the stage presence well.  We even get a little drum and bass and mixes of the music to again make the piece more modern.

The Snowman is a feel good family show that appeals to all generations – from the young who are being introduced to the story, to die-hard fans like myself and the parents and grandparents who also know the story like the back of their hand – it’s hard not to enjoy and not to come away elated, your inner child bursting to get out.

http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2016/the-snowman/

Review The Children The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

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5 Stars5 / 5

A simple kitchen – nothing special, nothing lavish, a simple country kitchen, on a slight slant, suspended in the middle of the stage gap. This is the basis for the next two hours, and this is nothing but intriguing and interesting.

Now two hours – or just under as the usher informed me – with no interval seems daunting. It’s only fantastic writing, acting and general execution that could pull this off. The Children has all these attributes and more and is more than successful at achieving our attention and full indulgence in the performance.

Based in said kitchen, we meet three 60-odd year old characters – once all friends, it has been 38 years since they were reunited and we are introduced to their past, present and future, full of emotion, complications, witticisms and intrigue. The three are retired physicists from the local nuclear power station which in the last few years has had a malfunction causing a disaster in their local community.

This brilliant writing by Lucy Kirkwood does not exactly beat around the bush – we are delved into the lives of these people and all their emotions, problems and being forced to acknowledge possibilities of our own future and the likelihood of this situation in our own lives. We are also coaxed into looking at our fragility as human beings and the question of age and responsibility – the ability to be carefree when young and how this slowly boils down to the dependency of others.

The performers are fantastic – with age comes talent and experience and they are at home on the stage. As naturalistic as a play can be, we feel as if we are intruding and watching real life – the actors ability to bounce off one another, make text seem flawless and executed brilliantly along with personal touches to bring to life the characters, their feelings and interactions.

Without harping on about this miniscule fact – those two hours fly by. We do not want to leave these characters, we want to find out more, we want to see more and we want to be with them, through thick and thin. The Children not only tickles you, but it wakes you up to honest facts and leaves you feeling thoughtful but also entertained.

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The Launch of Creative Citizens Cymru

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Get the Chance recently organised a morning of creative conversations called Creative Citizens Cymru. The event was funded by the Arts Council Wales Sharing Together. “A strategic initiative to encourage the development of networking opportunities.”

The event took place at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Participants shared their views on a variety of issues including, the on-going relationships between arts critics, venues, producers and artists, critical responses to Welsh venues’ work as well as new and existing collaborative working methods. Get the Chance (GTC) is a social enterprise that supports members of the public to access and respond to sport and cultural provision. GTC was specifically interested in generating conversation relating to ways to support the development of Creative Citizens acting as critics, ambassadors, volunteers, advocates, promoters, workshop leaders and more.

Representatives from a range of organisations discussed some of their work in this area including,

Geinor Styles Artistic Director, of Theatr na nÓg and Ani of the Ambassadors discussed their Ambassadors scheme.

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“The Theatr na nÓg Ambassadors scheme started in January 2016 in order to support and mentor the new generation of theatre professionals.

 Aimed towards 16-25 year olds, the scheme offers full access to the company where you will learn by observation and get hands-on experience at rehearsals, on productions and events. The Ambassadors have already supported na nÓg in our production of ‘TOM’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, performed as cast members on ‘The Amazing Adventure of Wallace and Bates’ at Cardiff Museum and the Eisteddfod as well as supporting the production of ‘The Ghost of Morfa Colliery’ at the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea.

 We want to work with as many young people as possible through the medium of both Welsh and English and by offering our support and resources, we hope to contribute to the development of new skills that they will be able to use at na nÓg and elsewhere in the industry.”

 http://www.theatr-nanog.co.uk/na-nóg-ambassadors

Nia Skyrme Freelance producer/promoter

Nia works with local community representatives to support marketing opportunities for touring productions. Shanon Newman was local promoter on a recent production supported by Nia.

“My name is Shannon and I am currently an ‘on the ground promoter’ working on Motherlode’s The Good Earth. That means that I am helping to spread the word to as many people as possible about this show which tours Wales in September.

Motherlode’s tagline is Tireless New Theatre, Made in Wales. I saw the last run of rehearsals for ‘The Good Earth’ at Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy a few weeks ago. I feel extremely lucky to be working to engage people in the Cardiff area and to have got the chance to watch the performance just before it went on tour to New York. I’m delighted to help spread the word about this production; the themes that it touches on evokes awareness on what has affected Wales as a country in the past and its reaction to moments of hardship. It is an important message of strength and unity, especially during a time when we seem to be so divided.

‘The Good Earth’ echoes concerns over the threat to the Welsh identity and community with its close relation to the Aberfan and Tryweryn tragedies. The play made me feel nostalgic about situations I’ve never personally experienced, and empathetic for the characters’ cause to maintain the integrity of their way of life. It reminded me of Wales’s role in modern Britain, and how drastically that has developed over the years. It was the backlash against apathetic and unjust authorities that helped to fuel the surge of Welsh nationalism that we see today.

The singing, though not appearing to be its fundamental feature, significantly intensified the mood of the play. It had a meditative effect. Kudos to the actors for managing to convey the emotions of deeply relevant issues in many Welsh communities. I am so excited to see the show alongside a Welsh audience when it returns from NYC.”

Peter Gregory and Hilary Farr from Arts Council Wales, Night Out Scheme.

Peter and Hilary gave us all a brief overview of The Night Out Scheme

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“The Arts Council of Wales’ Night Out scheme works in partnership with the local authorities to help groups of volunteers across Wales bring the arts to the heart of their communities. 

 Community groups (known as Promoters) can choose from a huge range of great professional performers and put them on in community or village halls and other non traditional venues across the country.  If you want information on how the scheme works and promoting events visit the Become a Promoter Section.

  Each year close to 600 shows are booked through the scheme by nearly 350 different community groups. Alongside the main scheme we also run the Noson Allan Fach  scheme which offers small shows for member led organsiations such as WI or Merched y Wawr.

 Working in conjunction with the local authorities of Wales, the Night Out team operates a guarantee against loss for events where we pay the performer fee and the community promoter pays back ticket income made at the door. 

 We never take more than the performer costs so as a promoter you will never be worse off by using the scheme. The more money promoters make back the more funds we have available to say yes to another request. 

 Our promoters are free to book a wide range of professional artists. Many come to Night Out for advice on appropriate high quality shows suitable for small community venues.”

Sophie Mckeand and Christine Smith are Night Out Young Promoter Coordinators and talked about their work in this field.

“The award winning Young Promoters Scheme works with groups of children and young people taking them through the process of becoming the promoters for an event in their community. You can  download an information leaflet  here 

 “The whole scheme was very straightforward. Everything was clearly explained. The support we had from the Arts Council staff team was superb …The young people were extremely proud of what they had achieved. They have grown in skill and confidence and can’t wait to do it again”  Sharon Campbell  Colwyn Bay Youth Centre

 The Night Out Young Promoters Scheme is an ideal way of giving practical skills to children and young people and improving the relationship between young people and their schools and their local community.

 Operating since 2005, the scheme has worked with hundreds of children and young people aged between 7 and 18 throughout Wales, giving them the unique experience of organising and enjoying a performing arts event in their local hall. Projects involve a facilitator, working alongside a teacher or youth leader to enable a group of young people to experience the “behind the scenes” work that goes into organising an event.  Though a series of workshop sessions groups are taken through aspects of Box Office, Front of House, Stage Management and Marketing / publicity and Sponsorship.  The Young Promoters get to make all the decisions – and do all the work!

Groups are able to have fun as part of a creative learning process and to develop personal, social and work related skills. When run in schools, the scheme can be utilised to deliver specific  elements of the national curriculum since it includes aspects of literacy, ICT, mathematics, numeracy, art and design and event management.”

 Kai Jones, Gig Buddies Coordinator, Accessible Information Officer, Learning Disability Wales.

Kai discussed the new Gig Buddies initiative.

“Making choices about how you live your life is an important part of being independent. We want to make sure that people with a learning disability can choose to stay up late and go to gigs. A gig is another name for a music concert.

We know that many people with a learning disability love music, but don’t ever get the chance to go to gigs and see their favourite bands live. To help change this we are starting a new project, called Gig BuddiesThe project will match people with a learning disability with volunteers who share the same music tastes so they can go to gigs together.”

 https://www.ldw.org.uk/information/news/2016/10/gig-buddies-survey.aspx#.WDlPhjc42lY

Anne-Marie Lawrence, Senior Project Manager, Spice Time Credits, South East Wales.

“Time Credits make a sustainable difference to a range of organisations across the community, housing, health, care and school sectors. They are proven to increase the number of people involved in the community and are able to help sustain that involvement over time, bringing about a range of transformative outcomes.

Time Credit systems work on a simple hour-for-hour basis: for every hour you give to your community you earn one Time Credit, which you can then spend on an activity of your choice.

You can give time in ways that match your skills and interests, and spend your Time Credits with our diverse range of fantastic partners across the UK who offer everything from swimming to learning a language.”

Much of the morning was spent working as a large group sharing learning opportunities and informal networking.

During the second half of the morning the group were tasked with further developing some responses to questions which developed from the initial conversations and areas Get the Chance wanted to focus on. Some of the responses can be seen in the images below.

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An online survey was also created to continue this conversations. The survey is till live and we invite anyone interested to complete it.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/W27RC3Q

Get the Chance has another event planned in North Wales in the spring of 2017

Guy O’Donnell the director of Get the Chance organised a similar event a few years ago and a blog post on this event can be found at the link below.

http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profiles/blogs/critical-feedback-to-the-response-event

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Review Wolfsong TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

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5 Stars5 / 5

I recently read Wolfsong by TJ Klune. Even now, as I begin writing, I can only hope I have the best words to convey my astonishment and amazement at how spectacular this book truly was. I don’t even know where to begin.

Maybe I do. After a little thinking. I’ve read a handful of books that have touched my heart so deeply. I love reading because I love stories. Even if I find them not the most enjoyable, even if they had a lacklustre ending, even if I did enjoy them, but probably only once, the few books I’ve read that have whisked my heart away are something else entirely. They are always so full of emotion and immeasurable intensity. This book was that. This book was that, and more. So, so much more.

I’ve read a handful of books that touched my heart deeply, yes. But there’s only one other book I’ve read that I’ve had to resist reading all at once. Or resist reading it because there was unimaginable emotion flowing straight from the words straight into my mind and heart and soul. Even this book succeeded that. While I read both with enforced breaks (maybe for my own good, I fear my heart may have pounded out of my chest) when I wasn’t reading this one, it was just quietly (sometimes loudly) on my mind. I wondered where the next chapter could possibly take me, I wondered how it could possibly end, and I was more than happy – ecstatic – to get my answers.

Every time I let myself crack open this book and carry on, I felt like I was somewhere else entirely. Everything about it just felt so real, all the relationships and emotions and turmoil and actions, they all felt so real. And while I like fantasy-esque novels a whole lot (they seem to have the best stories for me), and this was one, and it was way out there because it was about werewolves (which I did realise by the title and the cover but for some reason it seemed to float away from me, though I caught it when there was talk of family nights and smells and a lot of talk about the moon. Oh boy, did it hit me then. I waited for the main character, Ox, to get hit with that twist with eager anticipation) it was new and enticing and everything inside just felt so predominant and so real.

I think it’s something I find in a lot of books that are shelved and never really reread – that they never felt quite real. Usually, they are all story. Which is nice, too, but in a different way, I think. But with this book, with Wolfsong, there was the story and then feelings were also the story. I loved that. I loved that so much it made my heart ache because I want to write and that’s what I wish I can someday have the ability to write. Something like this, where the feelings are such a gigantic part of everything – because, isn’t that how things are? In day to day life? You do things depending on how you feel, right? It’s why the kind of books that I don’t reread, that are all story, stay that way – they’re usually dutiful. Having to do something because it’s them, they are the main character, it’s their duty. They didn’t have a choice.

Wolfsong reiterates that you do. You have a choice. The main character, Ox, he has a choice. He picks what he does because of how he feels. I loved that so much. So much. This was a book that I was raring to read to know what happens next, who will do what next, what’s coming over the page, but this was also a book that I wanted to stop and slow down and cherish every second and just – revel in it.

And what makes it better – it had leagues of LGBT representation. Love, just anywhere. Everywhere. No fear, no worries. Ox openly stated he was bisexual. In other pieces of entertainment I’ve experienced with bisexual characters, they never seem to say it. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong pieces of entertainment, or maybe writers just don’t want to do it, but to finally see it done was so refreshing – it was like I hadn’t stepped outside for years and suddenly I was racing around the streets or the woods or just anywhere. Air, everywhere. Like I could breathe easy by just keeping on reading. Green relief, like it says in the story. I think it was that. Green relief in the fact that neither of the characters in the main LGBT relationship died, either! I was a little worried, I do admit. I know that with the life-or-death situations all throughout the book it could have happened, and I really did believe one of the two were going to be killed off, and that it would have fallen into the Bury Your Gays trope (where one person who is LGBT dies, usually needlessly, usually after finding a partner) and I have never felt astounding relief and been so glad when it didn’t happen. I was invested. In the story, in the main relationship, and I was afraid that it was going to happen. And then, it didn’t. It didn’t happen, and I felt such amazing relief and thankfulness. Again, like it was all a breath of fresh air.

The writing itself was extraordinary. It was dialogue and emotion and plot, and it seemed to be more, somehow. I suppose I could describe it as being written jaggedly? Either way, it fit perfectly. With the character, Ox, and the others. It fit with the story and how it unfolded. It fit with me, how it was jagged. I understood. I understand.

There were scenes that amazingly hilarious, too. Jokes, or just how they seemed to play out. Things that were funny because of who said or did what and the reaction. I loved it. While it seemed serious and like important things were always happening, there was always room reserved for humour.

There were so many characters. There were so many people to give your love to in the story, there were so many people to root for and fear for, to hope for and to just plain admire. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

I don’t want to give anything away, I really don’t. I went in wholeheartedly blind and I came out the other side in awe. I think that’s how it should be for anyone else.

I give it five stars. It is probably the best thing I’ve read all year.

Review Performance at The New Theatre by Lois Arcari


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4 Stars4 / 5

 

Director James Williams was placed, alongside the producers at Arts Active Wales, with the admirable but ultimately unenviable task of threading together a week’s worth of workshops, carried out by young people who had never before met, together into a show worthy of the New Theatre.

Despite the insularity that is always a potential threat to any of these types of projects, they always expand outside their form – making it a real shame this performance, perhaps weighed down by the somewhat awkward virtue of its name, wasn’t a tad more well marketed. What the Sherman NT Connections festival did so well with interpreting set theatre pieces this project did for new material.

There were, of course, lots of layers of interweaving. The more complex ideas with the weaker ones, the reasonably large age gap of performers aged 14 – 25, and of course the disciplines of circus, design, dance, art, music and the spoken word. The poetry, overseen by Literature Wales was one of the highlights, although a few themes might’ve meandered, and there were moments where politics seemed a little indelicately transposed onto some performers. Having sat in on the workshop, any chinks in the material were minute distractions against the obvious double edged sword of the time frame, and the integration of every workshopped piece into the whole.

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The ensemble for ‘Performance’ 2016

Community Music Wales where also very active in the show but where better executed and more memorable when used as a backbone for the other artforms. The Art and Design elements were the most sporadically used but well done; a Dali like background to an intense, exhaustive dance piece the most effective example. Impressive puppetry was also used, although the flashy teddy bear, turned Gothic by the lighting, would best be appreciated of those who, unlike this critic, have not been subjected to the ‘wonders’ of FNAF by younger family. No Fit State’s Circus performances showed the two most obvious flavours, a humorous but slight juggling gag to trapeze, but there will be no world in which the mastery of the latter doesn’t inspire some kind of awe.

All the elements worked well together, but Earthfall Dance had a monopoly on the night. Contemporary dance is one of those things all too easy to get wrong, viewed by the general public with cynicism, and even sometimes within the arts with a gentle wryness. In this show, it was stunning, performed by the trained dancers, with natural acting talent alongside passionate energy. It whipped up the most natural commentary and narrative of the night whilst seeming absolutely effortless. As always, simplicity was king and queen alike. Even though others without dance experience were involved, they too seemed totally natural. Whether swift and pulsating or tender and subdued, it was perfectly executed.

Overall, the pieces which were meant to form more of a cohesive story than a thematic connection were too brilliant not to hinder the more standalone pieces which would otherwise be fine if unengaging but it rather accurately depicted the current arts scene, whilst showing plenty of scope for new forms of talent. The difficulty in reviewing this was that any flaws are part of its form and therefore, any commentary can’t seem too constructive, but trying to bring young talent out of its usual spheres and into the general stage is an admirable thing. It was never going to be perfect or show any calculated insight, but it was certainly vibrant and showed plenty of the organic kind. Very much worth keeping an eye out for next year, but keeping it in context is essential for the ride.

Director: James Williams

Producer: Arts active
Assistant producers/collaborators: Literature Wales, No Fit State, Earthfall Dance, Community Music Wales, Criw Celf
Running time: 1 hr 20 mins

 

Review, Romeo and Juliet, Everyman Theatre Cardiff, By Hannah Goslin

De Ja vu ensures when I arrive once again for the second time that day at the Everyman Theatre, this time for Romeo and Juliet.

The basis for the staging is the same as before, with the added props and different lighting. It does become a different scene and clever recycling of the set. As before in Peter Pan, performers had head mics, this performance has a microphone at the front of the stage that picks up the entire area. This does dip in and out with parts being louder than others – a slight lack of consistency. This is where the performers should have compensated for this potential eventuality with their own voices. The lighting itself was below average.  It felt as if the technician was testing the lighting on the night itself and times when the sky was dark, the staging was not sufficiently lit or had drastic changes in light that felt uncomfortable and a little annoying – taking attention away from the performance.

The cast  were a large range of abilities and ages. Feeling as if I am pulling away from supporting my fellow young performers, it felt as if the older performers were the best- whether this comes from experience or more understanding of the play. Others seemed to lack understanding of the text, evident in their stunted execution. At all times performers were on stage, watching the scene intently if not in it but this was only effective when it was consistent – I found myself being drawn away by performers who lost concentration and looked bored as their eyes drew away from the performers.

Marketing the show, we expected to see a traditional dressed production – which is hard to get wrong in performance. This performance had taken a modern approach to the performance and this was fine for what it was. The producers could have worn any clothes and it would have been the same. An abstract and metaphorical approach was taken at times, using basic physical theatre to represent parts. Again this lacked consistency – we either wanted an emotional and real interpretation or a physical theatre piece. It unfortunately did not seem to gel in this case.

Romeo and Juliet unfortunately felt confused and lacking a clear path. While the performers seemed to work hard, it did not always pay off and I came away feeling a little uninspired.

1 Stars1 / 5