Category Archives: Music

Review, Beginnings, Hannah’s Yard by Gareth Williams

4 Stars4 / 5

The release of debut album Beginnings is surely the start of something special for Hannah Layton Turner. The musical collective known as Hannah’s Yard have released a fascinatingly eclectic record. Here are 14 songs that span across a variety of genres. We have a mixture of folk, pop, country, jazz and swing. They combine to create an album full of musical flavour, that doesn’t sit neatly into one particular category. The opening song “Why Would I Know” offers a laid back, easy listening sound; “Doin’ It for Myself” is an inspiring and upbeat pop song; and “I Want You” is a gear shift into jazz and swing. Then, in another key change, Hannah duets with fellow band member Barnaby Pinny on country-sounding ballad “Here and Now”, with the country/folk influence continuing in later songs “Baby I’m There” and “Dance Our Way Back”. This mixture of musical styles works, in part due to the naturally confident and adaptable voice of Turner. Her melodic vocals make for a seamless transition between songs. Her purely vocal intro to final track “Amazing Grace” shows off her vocal prowess – a captivating sound that calls for a devoted listening ear. This last song is a nod to Olney, the small English town where they are based and where the original was first written in the 1770s. Surely Hannah’s Yard is destined to be known further than their Buckinghamshire base however. With such a range of musical tastes, they have produced a lovely and surprising album that would be a welcome soundtrack to many people’s summer.

Review Delta Autumn, Ffresh, WMC by Emily Garside

Ffresh the new cabaret venue at the WMC continues its latest season of music with the eclectic and unusual Delta Autumn. Asked to describe them it’s difficult to pin down a band who describes their influences from Autumn’s hip-hop, glitch, pop, rock and jazz. Performed with electroacoustic compositional techniques they were initially conceived as a studio only project by Robbie and Luke, Delta Autumn later expanded to take in Thomas and Ric. An unusual band, provoking curiosity they are the perfect addition to the latest season at Ffresh.

The venue itself is relatively new to the WMC and is conceived as a space to host a variety of gig-style events. Though the Cabaret style work of visiting musical theatre stars such as Caroline Sheen and the ever-popular Hello Cabaret nights, would seem the logical choice for the WMC’s venue gigs like this prove its versatility as a venue. Among the rest on offer include An Israeli contemporary solo bass player, a Welsh country and folk musician and a Leonard Cohen tribute and a winner from RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s something fresh (pardon the pun) and exciting for a gig venue in Cardiff not to feel restricted by genre or target audience.

The venue itself has also been revamped for the new cabaret setting, with the back half of the bar now an intimate collection of shabby-chic cabaret tables, framed by bronze leaf trees that give the place a slightly ethereal feel. With the front tables, practically on the stage it makes for an intimate feel that is missing in many of the live music venues in Cardiff. The fact that it’s seated, with drinks gives the place a ‘grown up’ vibe. Table service from the excellent WMC staff means there’s no bar scrum and even at full capacity this wouldn’t feel like an overcrowded venue.

Delta Autumn’s gig was a low-key affair, and although the audience was on the small side there was a supportive and attentive vibe from the crowd. Indeed, it was a small but vocal crowd for last night’s gig. The band clearly have a dedicated following who knew their work well, but they also commented on how nice it was to see new faces in the crowd. The band also joked that as their only released music was only 15 minutes long then two 45 minute sets were going to be a challenge. They needn’t have worried however, their set comfortably filling the time and veering between low-key melancholy sounding tracks and upbeat synths was as fascinating musically as it was entertaining.

Best described as an electronic jazz sound that barely scratches the surface of the musical influences covered. And they were as fascinating to watch-working across multiple instruments and mixing live- as they were to listen to. Mixing up their sets with piano and guitar solos really showed off what the band are capable of. Despite the skill on show individually there is a strange alchemy to their work together. Hard to believe they were originally intended as only a studio project, their live performance was masterful. It’s sometimes difficult to listen to an entire evening of unfamiliar music but Delta Autumn create something so unique it’s impossible not to be won over.

Touring the country this summer, at a variety of festivals Delta Autumn are well worth an encounter, you’ll be fascinated and also hugely entertained.

 

 

Top Tunes with Matthew Bulgo

Photographs of Matthew by Jon Pountney

GRID

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

Hello! I’m Matthew Bulgo. I’m an actor, playwright and dramaturg based in Cardiff and I’m also an Associate Director of Dirty Protest, Wales’ guerrilla new writing theatre company. I grew up in Swansea, studied in London and stayed there for a chunk of time before settling in Cardiff.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

I’ve been a huge music fan ever since I hijacked my father’s vinyl collection when I was about 10. I listen to a lot of music. I listen to music when I work, when I’m making food, when I’m having an unwind, when I go running. It’s a really important part of my life. Currently, I’m listening to Hippo Campus, Froth, Ezra Furman, Angel Olsen, Yeasayer, Darwin Deez, Real Estate, Dick Diver, Lord Huron, Will Butler, Maximo Park, Hinds, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Soccer Mommy, Public Access TV…I’ve also rediscovered Blondie this week so I’ve been binge listening their entire back-catalogue at the moment.

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

The Strokes – ‘Is This It?’ – I love the energy of this album. Once you get past the first track, it feels like a runaway train that’s threatening to derail itself. It just has this real sense of abandon. It’s up there for me as a modern classic. There’s not a single dud track on there.


Arcade Fire – ‘Funeral’ – Now, I’m not a fan of dancing but there are a few tracks on here that are just so galvanising that I just can’t help myself. Again, like The Strokes, this album has this really boundless energy.


The Beatles – ‘Abbey Road’ – This was the first ever vinyl that I bought with my own money when I was about 10. I think my dad had pretty much every other album by The Beatles but this one was missing from the collection. ‘Come Together’ was an immediate favourite, just such a cool riff.

When I started my first band when I was about 16, that song was top of the set-list. And then there’s the extraordinary B-side to the side to the album where all of the songs segue into each other. As you get to those final few tracks, you can sorta hear that it’s the last thing these four people are going to record together. They’re saying “this is it, and now we’re going to go out with something really spectacular”.


Belle and Sebastian – ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ – Now, this album reminds me of a really specific time in my life. I was into the music that no-one else really liked and I didn’t dress how people expected me to dress. I started to going to this club night in Swansea that played all the music I loved and I suddenly discovered all the outsiders who were into the same things as me. It was just as this album came out, so these songs felt like the soundtrack to that whole period.


The Smiths – ‘The Smiths’ – The Smiths are lyrically just exquisite. I loved how they were able to be cool and witty and pithy and fey all at the same time. I could have picked any of their albums really but this has one of my favourites, ‘Still Ill’ on it.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

Ooo, maybe ‘Last Night’ by The Strokes. Great song, super-cool video and a melody that is best shouted rather than sung.

You can purchase a range of the latest vinyl records and classics from Outpost Coffee and Vinyl Cardiff.

http://www.outpostrecords.co.uk

Many thanks for your time Matthew 

Top Tunes with Sam Bees

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

I’m a playwright and actor-musician from the Rhondda Valley.
From the age of 13 I’ve been playing guitar and singing in bands.
I found my feet in 2010 when I met Elise Davison and joined Taking Flight Theatre Company. Their Shakespeare tours are always very music orientated.

I spend my summers as a sort of ‘wandering minstrel’, which is a joy. I am currently part of the cast of Taking Flights production of The Tempest which is currently touring Wales and England.

http://www.takingflighttheatre.co.uk

What are you currently listening to?

I’m currently listening to James Blake – The Colour in Everything.
Beautiful and virtuoso electronica and sublime songwriting. I urge you to give it a go if you haven’t done so already.

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

To pick out just five albums is tricky, but here goes;

Radiohead – The Bends

One of the first albums I ever owned. Radiohead are and always have been pioneering and non-complacent with their songwriting, and have never stopped experimenting. This makes them one of the most exciting bands in the world to me.

 Reuben – Very Fast, Very Dangerous
Probably the best British band that never quite ‘made it’.
Bilious, angry tunes.

Stereophonics – Word Gets Around


Along with Radiohead, these were the band that got me into playing guitar. Every song is a classic, and even all these years later I still know it word for word.

Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise.
It’s just superb. The man is a genius.

Nirvana- Nevermind.
I think this one is self explanatory. If not, you’re either too young or a troglodyte.

Thanks for your time Sam

Top Tunes is brought to you in collaboration with Outpost Coffe and Vinyl.

http://www.outpostrecords.co.uk

Photograph of Sam Bees and Chloe Phillips by Jorge Lizalde Cano

Top Tunes with Kelly Jones

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

Hello- I’m Kelly – I’m a playwright- originally from Dagenham in Essex- But I’ve lived in Wales since 2010. I studied my final year of my degree at Swansea Met and started theatre making/self-producing when I graduated. I took various solo shows up to Edinburgh, Norway PIT Festival and The Yard theatre in Hackney.

 

My passion for writing came from feeling like there were no parts for me or that represented where I grew up. Also as a gay woman I feel quite under represented on the stage, so I write to try and combat that. In 2014 I won the Wales Drama award and since have had plays produced by The Other Room, Sherman and Oran Mor. I’m about to start a year long writing attachment at The Bush Theatre In London, where I’ll be developing a new play.

This Thursday one of my short plays will be performed by Dirty Protest as part of ‘Here We Go Again’ an Election Night special at Outpost Coffee and Vinyl, Cardiff.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

I love to listen to music when I write! And whatever I listen to has to feel like it’s the soundtrack to what I’m writing. At the moment I’m writing a new play and listening to Tom Waits and The Stranger Things soundtrack- a lot!

On my walk into work, I’m usually listening to songs for new burlesque routines I’m working on. I’ve been listening to Lady Sovereign Ft Missy Elliot ‘Love Me or Hate Me’ on repeat for a gig I’ve got coming up. If I’m not listening to that then I’m listening to Rag n Bone man’s album, Beatrice Eli or 90’s dance tracks!

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

This is such a hard question! I think I had a list of about 20 albums and various shortlists. Here goes….

In the Mix- Dance Revival!

Not sure if choosing a compilation is cheating, but…

I’ve chosen this because it reminds my best friend back home. When we were teenagers, I used to go round his on a Sunday night and we’d drink Malibu straight from the bottle, play this CD (all three disks) and pretend we were in Ibiza! It has a very fond place in my heart and drunkenly dancing to ‘Call on me- Eric Prydz’ was the closest I’ve ever got to going to the gym

Luckily, I managed to track down a copy to give to him as a present when he was best man at my wedding last year.

Skunk Anansie- Post Orgasmic Chill

It’s hard to choose just one Skunk album, but Post Orgasmic Chill is epic. Skunk Anansie are one of my favourite bands of all time. I was very lucky to get to see them in Brixton a few months back, it was one of the best gigs I’d ever been to. I’ve wanted to see them for so long and kept having to pinch myself that I was actually there and Skin was literally in front of me! I was completely blown away.

Charlie Big Potato is a personal fav!

Pink – Funhouse

I prefer her earlier R&B stuff, ‘There you go’ is a TUNE!!!!

This album is probably my favourite though, because it’s got my wedding first dance song on it- ‘Glitter in the air’.

Me and my wife have both grown up listening to her and we always do Rees duets to her songs in the car on our road trips.

Ripple and Murmur – Reverie

These are a Swedish duo that I got introduced to when I was performing a show in Norway PIT festival. They were performing in a show called Underman by Cirkus Cirkor– which was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I kind of took a punt and bought their CD after the show and its been on my Ipod ever since. Their quirky lyrics are really charming and right up my street- Have a listen to ‘Riddles in the dark’ and their new album The Swimmer.

It reminds me of my time in Norway and what a step forward it was for me in my career to perform there.

Finally…

Funeral for a friend – Four Ways To Scream Your Name

So, I was a teenage emo and FFAF we’re one of the first bands I saw live and they’re welsh! I saw them in Camden Koko in 2003 along with 36 Crazy Fists and My Chemical Romance- it was the first time I’d ever moshed and crowd surfed, but definitely not the last.

Their song ‘This years most open heart break’ is still on my Ipod!

I’ve seen them live a lot, mainly at Reading and Download festival – and although I haven’t listened to them for a while, whenever I hear one of their songs I just want to dance.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

Without a doubt it’s got to be: The Source feat. Candi Staton – You Got The Love (Original Mix) from In the Mix. Not only does it remind me of the Sex and the City finale but it feels very fitting, especially at the moment when there seems to be so much hate in the world.

Top Tunes with Catherine Paskell

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

 Hi Guy, sure, I’m an independent theatre director. I’m from Cardiff and I run a new writing theatre company called Dirty Protest. We develop and produce new writing for performance, and that includes full length plays as well as our short play nights.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

I’m currently celebrating Janice Long coming back on the radio. I used to listen to her late night Radio 2 show and at the start of this year, the BBC made a mistake taking her original programme off air to broadcast repeats and playlists. I can’t believe they replaced her with repeats. But, Janice and her original programming is back! BBC Radio Wales has given her her own show and brilliantly, she is choosing her own music playlists rather than having to stick to what she’s told. I love her, and she loves music – I have discovered new bands through her playing upcoming artists on air, as well as music I already love. I’m so pleased she’s back – and broadcasting from Wales!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rg266

In terms of artists, at the moment every day I’m listening to Lady Leshurr’s “Mode” EP – it’s so catchy and I like the comedy mixed with social commentary and the production is great. She brings me joy. There’s a really catchy track called “Juice”.

Weirdly, I’m also watching the “OJ: Made in America” documentary right now, so the two seem to go together, I keep shouting “I got the juice!”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08qldj6/storyville-oj-made-in-america-part-1

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

McAlmont & Butler “The Sound of McAlmont & Butler”  This record came out when I was a teenager and it sums up that period of my life for me. I’m transported back to 1995 when I listen to it. But also, it’s a real album, in that I have to listen to it from start to finish, in song order. I don’t do that so much today because on a day-to-day level, I listen to Spotify and have thousands of songs I love playing on shuffle. I love the feeling of something I love coming on unexpectedly and I can have a boogie about. My culture of how I listen to music has changed. But this record for me sums up the artistry of the album as a long play listen. And David McAlmont has an incredible soaring voice.

The Mamas & The Papas “If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears” This was the first album I had. It was on cassette and I was in Primary School at Eglwys Newydd, Cardiff. I was enthralled with the sound they created and I went to Whitchurch Library and read a book all about hippies and 60s counterculture. I remember vividly the description of the drug-fuelled parties the Mamas and the Papas used to have and how they had a pool table covered in a drugs buffet. I imagined all the coloured pills and tabs, like very tiny pool balls. I think you’re always influenced by the music you grew up with and that was music my parents introduced me to, as well as contemporary musicians played on Radio 1. I feel lucky that I have a vast access to music, which my parents didn’t have when they were growing up – because I’ve got all the music that they listened to AND the music that’s created now. There’s just a much bigger treasure trove to dip into and discover. And I think this influenced my interests (I did an American Studies degree because I thought that was the most interesting way to become a theatre maker, by learning about the world and travelling to the States and training there). My favourite Mamas and Papas song is “Twelve Thirty”, it sums up what I love about them, it’s beautiful in its sadness and totally pure, with no cynicism.

“Now 30”  1995 was obviously a glorious year for music, well I think so! It was peak Britpop and we had loads of amazing albums that I still love, Pulp’s “Different Class” is one of my favourite albums of all time and came out that year.

Also, Oasis’ “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory”, “The Great Escape” by Blur, Supergrass’ “I Should Coco”, all of these big Britpop bands had landmark albums that year. But I’m picking “Now 30” because when I listen to it, I remember exactly what was happening to me and the world in that year. And also it’s a fantastic way to keep your nostalgia in check, when you remember that not all the music in 1995 was great. That’s the nature of a Now album. Which is a good thing I think. I’m wary of “oh things were better in my day” – that’s kind of what some people were voting for in Brexit. And we see things with these rose tinted specs. But “Now 30” reminds me that in the year we had such glories, we also had Sean Maguire turning his heel from EastEnders to pop singing and the Outhere Brothers releasing “Don’t Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)”.

Leonard Cohen “Songs of Love and Hate” When Leonard died last year, his was the artist death that really affected me. Leonard is my favourite artist of all time.

He’s been with me my whole life – apparently he was my birthing music! I saw him live and it was transcendental. I cried when he died and for weeks after. A few days after he had died, I went to an event in ITV Studios and whilst I was waiting, there was a huge wall of tellys tuned to ITV. And they had the news on. There was some sort of news piece about Leonard and I just sat there in the foyer weeping, when a production assistant came to collect me. Even now when I listen to his albums I have a tear. “Songs of Love and Hate” is another LP that benefits from listening from start to finish, to get the story Leonard is telling us.

“Diamonds in the Mine” is an extraordinary song. I love the quality of his singing and the words: a mix of comedy, drunken, angry growling, and a juxtaposition between grandiose and beautiful images, and the everyday. The last chorus makes me laugh and it’s quite shocking too: the way he sings the last “there are no chocolates in your boxes anymore” has such contempt to the way he spits it out. I think when people think of Leonard, they don’t think of that performative side to him. It sounds to me like the song sums up the end of the idealistic 60s. The album came out in 1971 when it was all crashing down. I think Leonard wrote it at a time when everything was also falling apart for him. And I kind of empathise with that sentiment. 10 years ago, it felt like there was a lot of hope. Now, with everything that’s going on in the world, and how the arts in Wales are developing, people feel caught between the natural optimism that artists have, wanting to imagine and create the world we want to live in, whilst we are caught in the reality of the way things are right now. Every time I listen to Leonard’s songs I discover something new, in the lyrics, in the cadence of his voice. All of his songs can morph to fit the time you are listening to them in. He’s always contemporary. I truly love him.

Erasure “Wild”  I am so excited that they are back with a new album. They are one of my favourite bands of all time, maybe because I listened to them when I was young and they have always been around making music that elevates me. I love Vince Clarke’s synths, I love Andy Bell’s voice. I love how when I went to Brazil to direct “Merchant of Venice” last year, the artists and producers also all loved Erasure, and we had a wonderful moment of all coming together through dancing to “Blue Savannah” from the “Wild” album. It’s soaring and uplifting and I love music for how it can bring people together in a shared experience, just like theatre.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

I’ve already pre-empted this by talking about some tracks already, haven’t I! “Yes” by McAlmont and Butler. Because whenever I put this on, it’s positive and uplifting. It’s about being strong, about recovery. I love how grandiose the production is, from the first soaring strings it makes my chest burst. Yet the lyrics are very low key, “Yes I do feel better, Yes I do I feel alright”. I love the contrast because that feels very human, to feel a heightened emotion but not have the words to match.

 Thanks Catherine. What’s next for Dirty Protest?

Our next short play night is coming up on 8th June and it’s happening here at Outpost Coffee & Vinyl. It’s happening on Election Night and it’s our response to the general election. The theme we have asked 8 writers to respond to is “Here We Go Again” and it’s going to be a great night.

We also have a lot of Welsh language short play events coming up: we are working with Tafwyl here in Cardiff, as well as the Eisteddfod and Galeri in Caernarfon to stage these around the country.

Then this summer, we are working with the amazing Paines Plough to produce our new play, Sugar Baby by Alan Harris in the Edinburgh Festival as part of their Roundabout programme. Then come September, we start our year of celebratory year of events to mark our 10 year anniversary! We are really looking forward to that, it’s going to be brilliant and everyone can get involved, so it should be a year-long party!

http://www.dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk/comingup/

 

An Interview with Campbell Lawrie, Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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

My name is Campbell Lawrie and I am the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. This is my ninth year with the company but have been working as the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator for the last three years.

The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

http://www.citz.co.uk/about/paul_hamlyn_foundation/

So what got you interested in the arts ?
In first year of secondary school my English teacher thought drama and storytelling would help boost my confidence because at the time I was quite shy. Drama wasn’t a course that was offered at my school so my teacher helped me find courses across Ayrshire – where I’m originally from. As soon as I started performing I fell in love with bringing a story to life and witnessing the effect this can have on others. I was hooked after that and knew that I wanted to use theatre as a tool to change people’s lives.

You coordinate the Paul Hamlyn Club at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Can you please tell us more about this initiative and your role?
The Citizens Theatre was very lucky to be one of five venues across Britain to be gifted a sum of money to identify and tackle the barriers that local, disadvantaged people may encounter when trying to access the arts.

Paul Hamlyn Clubs

My role is to coordinate the different strands of work we deliver in order to do this and also to create relationships with those affected. The role is very hands on. I regularly visit groups and their members in the local community and also welcome the individuals we engage with into the theatre and gain their feedback.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is funding the Paul Hamlyn Clubs to “Attract and build relationships with audiences from disadvantaged groups within their local communities.” How has your organisation approached this objective?
The Citizens Theatre was originally approached because of the amount of work we were already carrying out in the local community and across Glasgow. Using the gift we were able to refocus our efforts in attracting the local community to the theatre and there are currently four different strands of work under the Paul Hamlyn Club banner helping to achieve this objective. For those who live in Gorbals area of Glasgow, where the Citizens Theatre company has been based for the past 72 years, we offer heavily subsidised tickets to those who sign up to the Gorbals Card scheme.

http://www.citz.co.uk/about/gorbalscard/

The area is still one of the most heavily deprived areas of Scotland and ensuring our neighbours can attend our shows is our way of thanking those who have supported us over the years. We also run a Deaf Theatre Club working alongside Inkblot Collective to deliver an accessible programme for our Deaf audience and we work with two local schools to help engage a new generation of theatre goers.

http://www.citz.co.uk/Take_part/deaf_theatre_club/

The Paul Hamlyn Citizens is the fourth strand of work. This involves visiting local organisations and charities to discuss the barriers faced in accessing theatre and inviting them to join the PHCitizens to access tickets to shows throughout the year at 50p per ticket. Our PHCitizens ambassadors are always on hand during shows and events to answer any questions or queries those attending through the Paul Hamlyn Club may have.


Have your new audiences chosen to see any specific type of work at your venue?
We have learned that our new audiences are willing to engage with most types of work because they know they have nothing to lose through attending. Our new audiences see coming to the theatre as a social event more than anything and the shows, the free interval ice-creams, the post-show chats etc are all just added extras. There is an amazing atmosphere at Paul Hamlyn events as many stay behind to discuss the shows and this in turn helps create a larger community network. In saying this, comedies and musicals, especially if they are Scottish shows, prove to be more popular than most but Shakespeare, classics and new writing still appeal and have drawn in equally large numbers.

What impact has had this project in your venue had on the larger organisation?
The impact of the project can be seen across the organisation. Every department has been involved in its delivery in one way or another: backstage have provided talks and presentations, FOH ambassadors greet and welcome the wide range of new patrons who come through our doors and one of our box office assistants is even completing Level 3 BSL. Our community work which has been aided through Paul Hamlyn has also been recognised in helping secure some money for our Capital Project. Accessibility is always at the forefront of people’s minds and this has helped emphasise our stance that we are the Citizens Theatre – we exist for and because of Glasgow’s Citizens.

http://www.citz.co.uk/press/release/2.5_million_regeneration_capital_grant_fund_award_marks_new_milestone_in_ci/

In the current funding climate many venues and organisation have very limited budgets. Is it possible to share some of your learning that organisations could implement to support new audiences that doesn’t require large amounts of funding?
Funding obviously plays a huge part in making theatre accessible to all but small things like listening to your local community and sharing your resources/spaces with local organisations or individuals can help strengthen relationships. Finding out what your patrons want you to be and how else they would like to use the building is important in making the patrons feel comfortable in coming through the doors. An extension of this is having dedicated, friendly staff to welcome your new audience. We held an open day event, for example, to promote the theatre and our learning work to local, disadvantaged people.

We held workshops, talks and demonstrations throughout the building while outside a local band played and local organisations and businesses promoted their produce and work. The event cost very little because the local community were very generous in donating nearly everything we required and this in turn strengthened our network and individual relationships. I feel that a lot of the time people prefer putting names and faces to the organisation. Offering unsold tickets to your local contacts is also a good way to engage your new audience.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision In relation to your own project are you aware of any barriers for audiences to access cultural provision.
I think the barriers faced will vary greatly depending on where you are based. The Citizens Theatre is in a highly deprived area with an extremely diverse cultural background meaning we have encountered barriers such as language, affordability and childcare. Some people also feel intimidated entering a building they have only ever walked past or think it isn’t physically accessible. We have heard that a lot of people think theatre is elitist and “not for them”. Transport and programming also come up as common answers to what stops people coming along.
Thanks Campbell, finally some more personal questions. What excites you about the arts? What was the last really great cultural activity event that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

The cast of My Country with director Rufus Norris, gatherer Campbell Lawrie and some of the interviewees from Glasgow.

I genuinely get excited when a theatre show tackles social issues and politics head-on. Any piece of art that encourages debate or triggers a passionate response from its audience while also being entertaining has, in my eyes, achieved its goal. I was very lucky to have worked on the recent production of My Country by National Theatre. My role was to gather information from the Scottish people on their views on Brexit and the political climate following the Brexit vote. Listening to each person’s unique story on how they decided they were going to vote and knowing that snippets of these stories were going to heard by people all over Britain really excited me because the project, like the issue, encouraged debate but this time it was a debate between everyday people – not the media and not the politicians.

http://citizenstheatre.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/my-country-work-in-progress-divides.html

There is, on the other hand, one show that has stuck with me for ten years and remains my favourite piece of theatre – Headlong and Citizens Theatres production of Angels in America in 2007. I have no words to describe how that show made me feel but it did make me want to work at the Citizens Theatre. I guess in that way, that show changed my life.

https://headlong.co.uk/productions/angels-america/

http://www.citz.co.uk

 

Review Sister Act – Venue Cymru by Karis Clarke

 

4 Stars4 / 5

Click on the link below to listen to an audio review of this production by Karis Clarke.

 

This was my first outing to Venue Cymru and I wasn’t disappointed. Set on the stunning North Wales coastline the venue was alive with activity.  The atmosphere was light and expectation high as several audience members dashed around in habits!

Sister Act is the musical comedy based on the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, and, unless you were living in a convent yourself back in 1992,  it is highly unlikely you don’t have some knowledge of the film. (It’s popularity has ensured a regular repeats on TV at least once a year since circa 1995).

The stage version, unlike the film is set in the diva disco era of the 70’s and features original music from  ALAN MENKEN,  and the general feel of the show has  Mowtown vibe that is more than fitting to the outstanding vocal talents of  the lead.

Alexandra Burke in a scene from Sister Act

But it’s not all about the star in this show.  Deloris Van Cartier is a fantastic character full of witty one liners, side ways glances and comical physicality that Alexander Burke pulls off admirably. However the ensemble made the show for me. The combined talents of the supporting cast were superior. Acting, singing dancing and playing a variety of musical instruments on set allowed for a fluidity which you can sometimes loose with  larger productions. However this cast owned the stage, literally, they knew every inch.  Their management of the stage movement is a credit to Revel Horwood’s direction.  The scene changes were flawless and were choreographed to perfection.

Credit should also be given to the set design, the main stay an impressive church interior yet with the cleaver use of lighting and props  it easily faded into the background and made the transition between church,  nightclub, street, police station and back to church with very little effort.

The musicality was, as one of the songs repeats, ‘Fab -U- Lous  Baby,’ unfortunately this was also a slight disappointment for me as none of the songs from the movie were featured. So although the end of the play saw the majority of the full house clapping and on their feet I am sure if “I will follow him” had been played the roof would have lifted. However the original score was witty, befitting and more than enjoyable.  It’s easy to see how Alan Menken has Oscars under his belt.

Stand out moments of the show were any time the “gangsters” featured. (They stole the show a little bit from the nuns).  …..Joe Vetch (playing Eddie the sweaty police officer who saves the day) singing “I could be that guy ……Sister Mary Robert played by Alice Stokoe, who had a stunning voice singing a very Disney esq type song called “The Life I Never Had”…….. and the scene when the Sisters stand together for Deloris.

All in all there was nothing not to like, the show delivered everything thing it promised. One particular moment I found touching was on the final bow Alexandra Burke broke the fourth wall and you saw her thank the audience.  She genuinely seemed to appreciate the standing ovation they received and this shone through as she skipped off stage laughing with co cast not as Deloris but as herself and within those few seconds, in my eyes I saw  true star quality.

So unless you have lead in your feet and no soul in your heart I defy you not to enjoy this 4 stars production. Unfortunately for North Wales the runs ends on May 27th but you can still catch performances around the UK up until the 3rd September check www.sisteractuktour.co.uk for more details.

Starring ALEXANDRA BURKE and Directed and choreographed by Strictly CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD, Set and Costume MATTHEW WRIGHT (based on TheTouchtone Motion Picture “Sister Act”)

Ward Thomas, Cartwheels Tour, The Ritz Manchester by Gareth Williams

Walking the streets of Manchester on Wednesday evening, it felt like any other visit to the city. With the exception of some TV cameras and a clear police presence, it seemed like business as usual for residents, commuters and tourists. Outside The Ritz, the popular music venue opposite Oxford Road station, heightened security meant that each individual was patted down on entrance. Inside though, it was standard procedure – find the bar, grab a drink, and wait for the music to begin.

There was plenty to be inspired by as a visitor to this city, coming less than 48 hours after a terror attack which left 22 dead and dozens injured at the MEN Arena. A spirit of defiance, to not let this savage brutality determine the way people go about their daily lives, was powerfully present, not just in the streets but inside The Ritz too. The decision of country duo Ward Thomas to go ahead with their planned gig here was met with widespread approval. They had postponed the Northampton leg of their Cartwheels tour 24 hours earlier, out of respect for those caught up in Monday’s bombing. Now, it was time to show solidarity with the people of Manchester, to stand together with them, and choose light over darkness and despair.

They opened with a song that, already powerful, took on a much deeper meaning in light of Monday’s event. Sung under ambient lighting, ‘Safe’ speaks of a place of rest, forgiveness and healing. It also features the incredibly moving statement, ‘You are not what happened to you’. It was the perfect song choice. It spoke right to the heart of this musical city. Here, on this night, were words of faith, hope, and love. Then, for a moment, this nightclub venue became a hallowed church: a minute’s silence to remember those who had lost their lives. Throughout the whole evening, as at this moment, the spirit of togetherness was extraordinary. The applause that rang out afterwards only echoed this further. It was all very moving.

After this emotional tribute, Catherine and Lizzy set about performing their planned set. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion of light and colour that hit the stage. In front of a black backdrop dotted with starry lights, the two sisters splashed great energy and enthusiasm over their country rock records. In contrast, their soulful ballads were marked with sweet harmonies and a simple spotlight. In both instances, the audience were full of applause after each song. It felt almost like a statement of intent. This was a celebration of this city’s musical identity. This is taking nothing away from Ward Thomas however. They deserve applause as artists in their own right. With ‘Cartwheels’, they have created a stunningly beautiful album. To become the first UK Country act to reach No.1 with their material is no fluke. These ladies really do deserve all the accolades that come their way. They write such powerful and emotional lyrics. They tell such great stories. There is a profound, and often universal, depth to their songwriting. And they can now add live performance to their ever-growing list of achievements. This concert, at least, was brilliant.

This concert was also inspiring. Ward Thomas played their part (as did Wildwood Kin, who were supporting them) but it was the audience who made this night special. Instead of staying away through fear, they turned up in their numbers. They responded in perhaps the best way one can to such a terrible, fear-inducing event. This simple choice of turning up, of coming together – this community spirit – sent a message. It was a message of hope, of solidarity, and a sign that love remains triumphant over hate. It was a real privilege and a great opportunity to be in the midst of such inspirational people. A moving and life-affirming night.

Review Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat by Jane Bissett

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is a familiar story taken from the bible. It is the tale of a younger son, of a favoured wife, being elevated by his doting father and put above his eleven brothers. The brothers, already jealous of their younger brother finally are pushed to action and when their father Jacob gives Joseph the gift of a wonderful new coat and their outrage is complete. The brothers plot to kill Joseph and thus dispose of the problem. However, they fail to complete their plan as they cannot bring themselves to actually commit murder. The answer to this dilemma comes in the form of a travelling slave trader from Egypt and they decide to sell Joseph into slavery. On returning home the brothers tell their father, Jacob, that his beloved son has met with an accident and has been killed by a wild beast and they show him the bloody torn coat as evidence. Meanwhile Joseph has been sold into the household of an Egyptian noble where he works hard and becomes a trusted slave.

However, he catches the eye of the Noble’s wife and is soon accused of wrongdoing. His master has him thrown into prison from which there seems to be no escape. In prison Joseph becomes know for his gift of being able to know the meanings of dreams and this quickly comes to the notice of Pharaoh through his butler, a man who has first hand experience of Joseph’s ability. Joseph is summonsed to Pharaoh’s palace where he is given the task of explaining the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams. Clearly nervous, Joseph tells Pharaoh what his recurring dream means. Egypt will have seven years of bumper harvests followed by years of famine. When the dream comes to pass Pharaoh places his trust in Joseph and puts him in high office and he becomes a trusted Egyptian. During the famine the people are starving and Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to try to secure food for their family. The last person they expect to see is Joseph and at first they do not recognise him. Joseph doesn’t make the reunion easy but the family of brothers are eventually reconciled and reunited with Joseph’s parents, so there is a happy ending.

Joseph is a roller coaster ride for the theatre goer of any age. From the moment to curtain rises the production is a vibrant mix of colour and sound to stimulate the senses. From the pens of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joseph is a triumph. They have successfully taken a biblical tale and transformed it into a secular story that bridges the gaps of time and its message has as much meaning now as it had when it was written. Its appeal spans the generations and this was evident by the diversity of the audience what ever their age, gender or religious belief.

Joe McEdderry, gave a convincing and captivating performance as Joseph, his energy on stage is infectious and his smile and demeanour grabs the audience from curtain up right to the last number when he and the cast received a richly deserved standing ovation.

Henry Metcalfe’s choreography was creative and inspiring with many unexpected twists in the tale and lead us to expect the unexpected on several occasions. The costume design was creative and complimented the performances of the actors against a backdrop of scenery which was uncomplicated and did not distract from the telling of the story which in parts had distinctly modern twists and turns and some unexpected characterisations.

The Narrator, Lucy Kay, linked the scenes and lead the viewer on an unforgettable journey of characters, places and far away lands. With the added voices of the children it is a magical experience in which the audience is absorbed into playing an active role and ends in a well deserved standing ovation.

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/DonaldGordonTheatre/Joseph17/