Category Archives: Music

Review Ready Player One by Jonathan Evans

 

(2 / 5)

 

“Hey, that’s *blank from so-and-so. I love that movie/game” “Ah! They quoted/referenced that movie/TV show I love!” This is the reaction that Ready Player One seeks to get out of you with every moment it has onscreen. It pulls from so many pieces of instantly recognizable pop culture that there will be something that everyone will be able to recognize, whether it be a character walking by, a vehicle, or a line of dialog. Yet it has almost nothing to say or do anything inspiring with said big toys at its disposal. The experience is only surface deep.

We see a future where the rich have gotten richer and the poor are indeed poorer. Trailer park neighborhoods are in abundance but so much so that they are stacked up high on top of each other. It is a gray, muddy place to live and is not the hardest thing understand that people would want an escape. So they go to The Oasis, pretty much the internet that you can virtually enter. Our guiding character for the story is a young man named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), that just wants to get to The Oasis as fast as he can each day and search for the great McGuffin that exists there.

The Oasis was created by a man named James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and the great programmer was also a big aficionado on pop culture and hid three keys in this world that will allow the owner of all three to take a final test and become the owner of The Oasis.

An undeniably strong element to the movie is its worldbuilding. Worldbuilding is the construction of a fictional world and how it operates. In bad worldbuilding, it doesn’t make any sense and you are just left with questions, good world building you understand how it operates and has a solid grasp on how you would live in it. Because The Oasis has become so integral to life everyone logs in and when they win games they earn coins in the game that earns them money in real life. They can buy equipment that allows them better reflexes in-game and feels the touch of the world itself, also ordering stuff.

What bothers me greatly about the way the world is conveyed is that there doesn’t seem to be anything nourishing to the art. I believe that real art, be it cinema, literature or music exists to enrich those who consume it in some way. The world portrayed before us it seems like it’s just about seeing all high-status pop-culture movies out there and memorizing every facet of it, nothing about what it means or how it has shaped them as people. This is a world where the people can make anything, yet they all they do is recreate someone else’s creations.

A fundamental flaw as the movie was playing out is that Halliday is revered amongst the people in The Oasis, they have learned everything they can about him, his favorite movie, favorite pizza topping, quotes he lived by. He made a list of every movie he ever saw and when. I don’t think they realise how sad this man is. He lived his whole life alone, apart from one friend who he eventually kicked out. This is a man to learn from by avoiding all his mistakes.

As a movie what this offers is the chance to have nearly everything that is classic popcorn, crowd-pleasing entertainment. There is a race scene, martial arts fight, shootouts, dancing, sneaking around etc. Of course Speilberg is one of, if not the, greatest living visualiser working today and he clearly and effectively brings them to life. It’s just that it lacks a should because I feel how empty it is, I wasn’t invested in the characters goals because I just wanted them to log out, get outside and read a real book, see the sights and interact with actual people.

If this was an episode of Black Mirror or handled by Satoshi Kon then it would probably be taken to a much darker and interesting place. Truly examining why humanity rejects the real and takes comfort in the artificial. But this isn’t either of those and is only here to push your joy button.

Going into the big battle near the end I did start to feel a connection for the characters and understood that there were real stakes. Remove all the characters from movies, TV shows and video games and what you have is a well-composed battle where you understand the geography and key players bring contribute different things to it.

In the end, the message for this movie is that you should maybe spend a little less time dwelling on pop culture and spend some time in the real world and form actual relationships with people. Duh! I don’t need a movie to tell me that and it should be so intrinsically built into us that we shouldn’t need to spend over one hundred and fifty million dollars to make a movie to project that message.

In the end, I want so much more. I’m not against or even above being charmed by references, far from it. But I want them to take the essence of those precious moments I love and channel them into something that can stand on its own. This shows a world where originality seems to have fizzled out and all we can do is regurgitate the same.

For a movie with a similar premise but with much more depth and heart, I point you towards Mamoru Hosada’s Summer Wars. This, there is a good chance you’ll be tickled by all the appearances but everything else is so shallow.


Get the Chance in the running to be named Wales’ most deaf friendly organisation.

 

Get the Chance in the running to be named Wales’ most deaf friendly organisation.

Get the Chance is in the running to be named as one of Wales’ best organisations for being accessible to deaf people.

The shortlist has been announced for the Excellence Wales Awards 2018 – the annual awards run by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru.

The charity’s awards recognise businesses that take steps to make their services accessible to the 575,500 people in Wales who are deaf or have hearing loss.

All organisations either nominated themselves or were put forward by a person who is deaf and has received a good service in the past year.

The shortlist is now in the running to be awarded one of four titles;

  • Service Excellence
  • Excellence in Health
  • Excellence in Arts and Entertainment
  • Excellent Employer

The awards will be decided by an independent panel, made up of people who are deaf or have hearing loss. A People’s Choice Award will be chosen by the public, to vote for Get the Chance in this category please click on the link  here.

Rebecca Woolley, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru said,

“The judging panel now have a difficult job to decide the winners from an impressive shortlist. All the shortlisted organisations prove that simple changes can really improve the lives of people with hearing loss. I hope that organisations across Wales are inspired by this shortlist and start thinking about the simple changes they can make to ensure their services are accessible to the one-in-six people who are deaf or have hearing loss.”

Guy O’Donnell, Director, Get the Chance said,

“Our volunteers produce unique content which supports Deaf audiences and artists to ensure a range of opinions are seen and read relating to sport and cultural provision. We are honoured and humbled to be shortlisted as part of this years awards.”

The awards will be held at Cardiff’s St David’s Hotel on 4 May 2018, presented by ITV Wales News reporter Megan Boot.

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella by Sian Thomas

 

(5 / 5)

Last March I was lucky enough to have a relative key me into ballet. I saw Matthew Bourne’s “The Red Shoes”, and when I was invited to see his take on Cinderella, I already knew I was bound to have a wonderful time – and I did. Though The Red Shoes will always harbour a soft spot in my heart because it was my first ballet, I think it’s safe to say I liked this one much more. First of all, as a novice, I think it’s pretty important that this time, I knew what was going on. The story of Cinderella does not escape me even as it harbours a few changes (like being set in London 1940 and having a war theme, and Cinderella’s family being bigger than I remembered).

Costumes were incredible, and I think by “costumes” I mean “Cinderella’s dress”, because if we’re being honest, I was excited to see what it would look like as an audience member, rather than in pictures and pamphlet photos. And it was stunning; truly. Even her costume before the dance was lovely. I’m always a fan of flowing skirts and dresses, so seeing the way they moved as people danced was such a treat to my eyes. So, in that vein, the dancing was incredible. Still, a year later I don’t know much (or anything) about ballet or dancing in general and my eyes continue to be unaware of mistakes and unable to form any critiques (not that I have any at all, actually).

When I left The Red Shoes, I remember I came out on a high, as if I could suddenly redirect my life even though it was 10pm and I would be going home to bed afterwards. The same high followed me out of the theatre after Cinderella. An odd kind of high, one that left me sitting quietly and thinking and reflecting and just trying to figure out what words I would use to really show how much I loved this performance. I couldn’t find many. It’s definitely a “you have to see it to understand” kind of thing (which is why I’m going a step further to place some links here: in case anyone becomes interested in going).

Five stars because it really was wonderful and I’d love to see it again and I know I would enjoy it just as thoroughly every single time.

Sharing Positive Action to support Access, Inclusion and Diversity

In this article we interview a range of arts professionals to share good practice in the areas of Access, Inclusion and Diversity.

Meredydd Barker 

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a playwright, artistic director of Narberth Youth Theatre and the west Wales rep for Youth Arts Network Cymru – YANC

 Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

It begins with the young. Youth Arts Network Cymru – YANC – is doing tremendous work in this regard in the hope that as the young people involved grow older and, perhaps, make a career in the arts, best practice can spread through the industry . Then, one day, access, inclusion and diversity will not be issues that have to be continually addressed. They won’t be issues at all.

Helena Davies

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi, I’m Helena Davies, and I’m a linguist with a background in Technical Translation and English as a Foreign Language. I have a BA in Italian and Spanish, an MA in Literary Translation and I am currently preparing for my Welsh Mynediad exam in June. I moved to Cardiff from London last year, and over the last couple of months, I have been training to become a Captioner, working on producing film and TV subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. I recently received audio description training from Dr Louise Fryer, BBC Radio 3 Presenter and Audio Describer, and Anne Hornsby of Mind’s Eye, both pioneers in UK audio description. I am now looking to establish a career in Captioning and Audio Description. I dance samba de gafieira and samba funkeado, and am passionate about media and arts accessibility.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

With a strong interest in dance and accessibility, I was delighted to be invited by Carole Blade, Creative Producer for Dance in Wales, to attend a three-day audio description training course based on the Family Dance Festival at Chapter Arts Centre. Over an intense three days, we learnt how best to audio describe dance, which is considered to be one of the hardest mediums to describe. We all concurred that “Drifter” by Jukebox Collective, featuring the talented Kate Morris, was by far the trickiest to describe. The Family Dance Festival is presented by Bombastic and Coreo Cymru, and features four short audio described dance performances in Welsh and English, with accompanying touch tours. It is a great initiative and exciting to see dance being opened up to all. The Family Dance Festival is running from 24 March to 14 April 2018

Elise Davison

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m the co founder and Artistic Director of Taking Flight Theatre Company, the company I co founded with Beth House in 2008. Before this I was an actress for 10 years, a teacher, a presenter and a facilitator. Taking Flight is an inclusive company originally set up to break down the barriers, or perceived barriers to participation in the arts. We have been integrating access tools into our work for a long time now and act as creative access consultant for many other theatres companies. We have produced over 17 tours of Wales, run many residencies and trained many facilitators in our 10 years. We have recently become a disability led organisation, as over half of our Board of Directors identify as disabled, and this is really important to us.

Currently we are touring our inclusive family show You’ve got Dragons which gently raised the issues of Mental Wellbeing in young people and accompany this with free resilience building ‘Dragon Taming’ workshops which have been created in collaboration with clinical psychologists. This is touring the whole of the UK and is a really exciting development for the company. It’s been great to find so many theatres in England keen to programme inclusive work. We are a company that seeks to nurture the next generation of theatre makers, we have taken risks with casting, with our creative access, with our marketing materials. As creatives we take risks with everything else we do so we need to be prepared to do so with regards to diversity and access. It’s great to see some of our former employees ‘take flight’ and set up on their own e.g. Sami Thorpe and Chloe Clarke of Elbow Room and we continue to wish them every success on their new adventures. TF offer support and advice when we can and do everything within our power to ensure we make our work and our process as accessible as possible. We make mistakes, we often get it wrong and we continue to learn and to develop our work and we love to collaborate…many heads are better than one!

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

Fio – Abdul is doing so much to raise the issues around the lack of diversity in Wales and is producing some cracking work. We hope to work more closely with Fio in the future.

Mess up the Mess – a ‘quietly inclusive’ company that really nurture the young people they work with creating strong, independent theatre makers with excellent ideas about access. Can’t wait to work with them again – we continue to learn from them.

Hijinx Theatre – producing excellent touring work and taking the international scene by storm, this company is changing the attitude towards in inclusive work featuring learning disabled actors. Meet Fred continues to tour across the world and the next show The Flop is sure to be another success. Additionally the academies which are now running pan Wales are a real example of the kind of training that we need to have in place to nurture the next generation of learning disabled performers. We would love to have the capacity to run an ongoing training forum for D/deaf/HOH and disabled performers and are in conversations with a number of organisations about this.

Ramps on the Moon – an amazing initiative in England which is placing disabled performers and accessible productions on main stages and in producing houses across the UK.

Stopgap Dance – they have been so generous to us over the last year, giving us advice and putting us in touch with like minded organisations and really are the leading lights in inclusive dance. Love their work. www.stopgapdance.com

WMC – Jenny Sturt is making massive changes and embracing access and inclusion in a huge way. Her drive and passions is infectious!

Yvonne Murphy – has produced some excellent all female work and is enthusiastic and determined to challenge any inequality which may lead to people being excluded from the arts.

Bath Spa and The Atrium – I’ve worked with both these organisations as a creative access consultant and have worked to integrate a BSL interpreter ( the wonderful Julie Doyle and Tony Evans) into their shows and to integrate audio description. It’s great that the Universities that are training the next generation of actors feel so strongly about making accessible work. The students have loved the process and have been inspired to think more creatively about access as a result. Long may it continue!

Creu Cymru and hynt – Still doing fab work with venues via the hynt card scheme. It’s also been great to host our 4th access symposium Wales – a diverse nation? at Theatr Clywd with Creu Cymru in Feb, such a great bunch of people attended and so many ideas were generated and will hopefully start to be put into play. As a result we are hosting free access meeting – practical access solutions at WMC once a month and the first one sold out in 12hrs! So there is obviously a want to be more diverse and a desire to be part of the conversation, we all just need to be a tiny bit braver and not worry so much about getting it wrong!

Ucan go! app – also needs a mention here – an app to help orientate blind or partially sighted visitors at theatres, it’s so great it would be wonderful to see more venues investing in this.

Adeola Dewis

Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Adeola and I am an artist and researcher working across visual arts and performance. My practice engages conceptual, performative and aesthetic notions on Carnival, ritual, folk and emancipatory performances.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I highlight Carnival as an area that exemplifies good practice in terms of inclusion, diversity and access.

Jacob Gough

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Jacob Gough, I’m Production Manager for National Theatre Wales, which in a nutshell involves the logistical planning for productions.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I would like to highlight the amazing work of companies that don’t just champion but incorporate access into their shows; companies like Taking Flight, UCAN Arts, Hijinx, Llanarth Group and artists like Jonny Cotsen amongst others. Companies and artists are doing a lot more work now to provide captioning, BSL and audio-described performances, which is great to see. Access forums are a fantastic mechanism to help organisations and artists share knowledge and learning, and a lot of new technologies are being developed that help accessibility; all of which helps develop this all-important feature of the arts.

Jafar Iqbal

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a freelance artist and arts critic. I’ve written for publications such as The Stage, WhatsOnStage and Wales Arts Review, as well as regional and online publications over the course of my career. I’m also a scriptwriter and storyteller.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I’d like to raise awareness about Where I’m Coming From, a monthly Open Mic event hosted by writers Durre Shahwar and Hanan Issa. Currently at the Tramshed in Cardiff every month, the spoken word event is aimed predominantly at the BAME population. Going to one of these events is an enlightening experience, as its attended by people who you usually wouldn’t see at other such events. It’s become a safe space for writers to express themselves in a welcoming environment and, for many of these people, the first time they’ve ever shared their creativity to an audience. A fantastic event.

Rachel Pedley Miller

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I run Avant Cymru. At Avant we aim to be acceptable creating work with audiences and delivering projects that are accessible to many individuals. In the past we have used apps such as swipe to caption our performances and we have worked in venues which are acceptable to those with mobility issues. We work with the community into raise our awareness of the needs. We also look to highlight a range of needs especially through our continual drama Rhondda Road, which is directed by Shane Anderson. Rhondda Road will be starting again in May 2019 and we would love to have a character in the show who would want to raise further awareness of the difficulties people who have a disability have accessing the arts. As a dyslexic person living with a chronic illness, I refuse to let my conditions prevent me from trying new things and will always work with audience and cast members to make the shows as accessible as possible. To date Avant have not produced one show without BAME cast members, we have also employed LBGT cast members on various projects. This has not been something that we have shouted about as we have seen our staff as the best people for the job, the fact that they identify as disabled, LBGT, disabled or from a BAME background is for them. We just see everyone that is hired as the best person for their role and we are proud that we see diverse people as equals.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think that it is important to look at each project, Consider if it is relevant to 2018. What I mean is if there is a pre-written script is it possible to make it appealing or relevant to audiences now. Because if it isn’t then Avant are not interested in producing that show.
When we have established a compelling idea we look to hire someone who has the correct skills, energy and enthusiasm to create the work. Looking for a cast member who can ply the role with the right drive, rather than worrying if they can tick a diversity box. Seeing each individual on their own merit and supporting them to make a career in the arts, or to participate in the arts should be considered on a person by person basis and implementing various tools to make work and audience opportunities accessible to all should be considered. We always evaluate after each show, so far our audiences have been happy that they have been able to access Avants work. We need to keep evolving to have more tools in place so we are able to cater for different individuals.

Yvonne Murphy

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I run Omidaze Productions. I set it up back in 2008 specifically to use drama and theatre to shake stuff up, entertain new audiences and inspire change. We make politically grounded theatre, run workshops in schools and produce annual Summer Schools for young people which give full scholarship places to those for whom economics make the arts harder to reach. Our first production and tour (Things Beginning With M) examined how women learn from each other about everything from Motherhood to the Menopause, Miscarriages, Menstruation, Masturbation, Men, Money, Marriage, Mysogyny, Media Images and Maturity. Everthing begins with M!

I am really interested in smashing down boundaries between different art forms and exploring the difference between for example a visual art installation and set design or dance and movement/physical theatre. I love to smash the fourth wall and explore how audiences behave when you break the rules, or even have none at all. I like theatre to break beyond the confines of the designated space and like using unusual public spaces to entice and spark curiousity in those who might not otherwise enter a theatre.

I use visual artists, stand-up comedians, circus choreograhers and aerialists and movement directors to help me discover what will entice new audiences into the theatre and allow text to become relevant, accessible and visceral.

I created, directed and produced the Shakespeare Trilogy (co-productions with the Wales Millennium Centre) which consisted of two all-female productions immersive site specific productions in the WMC roof void (Richard III 2015 & Henry VI 2016) a ‘gateway’ Shakespeare production which strived to reach younger audiences and used a BAME strong and gender balanced cast.

I am deeply concerned by the inequality within our society and within the theatre industry where we tell and share our stories which help us to connect and make sense of our world and what it is to be human. I therefore strive to make work which challenges myself and the status quo and attempt to raise awareness of that deeply ingrained inequality, issues of social injustice, conflict and stuff which I believe needs to shift and change through my work.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

The Young Vic did some good work on how we should think and act differently as cultural organisations when recruiting. Where and how we recruit for positions at all levels is key. Recruitment processes could be so much more creative and reach people from different sectors and walks of life. They have walked the talk with the recruitment of their new Artistic Director, Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Taking Flight have taught me so much about inclusivity in theatre and I would love to see the day when they no longer need to call themselves an inclusive theatre company because EVERY theatre company should be an inclusive theatre company.

The Clore Leadership Programme gave me phenomenal training in so many areas including governance and is striving to change the face of cultural leadership within the UK and make it more equally representative. It made me realise how key governance is and if the board of an organisation is not leading the way in challenging systemic inequality then the organisation most likely won’t be either. Any board which is truly diverse and ensures that trustees step down after a set period of 5-6 years is good practice.

Kaite O’Reilly

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi of course, please find some information on myself below,

Kaite O’Reilly is an award winning Playwright who works both in the so-called mainstream and disability arts and culture. Awarded the Peggy Ramsay award & Ted Hughes award for new works in poetry for ‘Persians’ with National Theatre Wales (NTW). A leading figure in disability arts and culture internationally, she received three Cultural Olympiad commissions and her Unlimited commission production with NTW of ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ was part of the official festival celebrating the 2012 London olympics/Paralympic and created an important political and cultural precedent – the first production written from a disability perspective with an all Deaf and disabled cast performing on such a high profile national platform. She is currently touring ‘Richard iii redux’ – reclaiming Richard iii as a disabled icon and her 2018 Unlimited international commission ‘and suddenly I disappear – the Singapore ‘d’ monologues’ premieres in Singapore in May and comes to U.K. to tour in September. Her acclaimed collected ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ are published by Oberon. She is patron of Disability Arts Cymru and DaDaFest and publishes widely about diversity, inclusion and disability.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think it’s about changing the whole way performance is made, how, about, and with whom, it’s the content and material as much as including innovative use of the aesthetics of access. Theatre is supposed to be the study of what it is to be human and yet it still has a very narrow perspective – we need to broaden this in the stories we tell, the protagonists we create and the theatre languages we use (integrated Sign interpretation, captioning, audio description, etc).

I have written widely about what I call ‘alternative dramaturgies informed by a Deaf and disability perspective’ when AHRC creative fellow 2003-06 and 2010-2017 when fellow at International Research Centre in Berlin. We could be far more inventive – and work, like mine, had been going on for decades but is still marginalised. We need to make this central . But not just access as add-on – we need disabled and Deaf writers, makers, directors, designers, performers etc and this should be mainstream not ‘inclusive’ for brownie points.

You can read more from Kaite on this subject matter at the links below,

The Necessity of Diverse Voices in Theatre Regarding Disability and Difference

Cripping the Crip—Is It Time to Reclaim Richard III?

Chloe Philips

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m Chloë Clarke, a visually impaired actor, director and theatre maker and cofounder of Elbow Room Theatre Company in Cardiff. I have been working as a performer for 8 years and now focus on making my own work, both as an individual and with ERT partner Sami Thorpe, which champions creative access and truthfully representing disabled people within the arts. ERT is committed to producing new writing that does the same while showcasing relevant and cutting edge work.

I also work as an audio description consultant, which means I work with companies, venues and artists to integrate AD into their work through joining their devising and R&D process, or find creative ways to add it to existing work in a way that is inherent to the piece’s unique style.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

The recent discussions and debates surrounding diversity in the arts, within Cardiff and on a global scale through events like the Oscars and the promotion of the inclusion rider, are vital and long overdue. If you’re not from a minority it may not seem relevant, it may in fact feel quite uncomfortable, but we all have a responsibility to ensure that we, as artists, provide fair representation of our society through all facets of our practice, and to date we have fallen worryingly short of this. However, the very fact that these debates are taking place in our industry is a very positive sign. Now it’s time to act.

I, for one, can only speak from my own experience as a female disabled artist. As well as stipulating the need for wider and truer representation of people like me in the arts, I’d also like to highlight the importance of considering access from the outset of any project – namely the writing of a script or the start of R&D wherein a piece is being devised. Once we start committing to this idea across the board the arts will become fairer.

I will always advocate for creative, integrated access rather than ‘traditional’ methods (an attitude that I have encouraged and nurtured within many companies I have worked with over the years to great effect), as this is the best means by which access can become relevant to every audience member and not just those with access requirements. It’s wonderful that the collective consciousness is growing in this regard and that more creatives are becoming aware of the opportunities afforded them by considering access as inherent to their work – we just need more. More awareness, more action, more choice.

We still have quite a way to go to overcome a lot of the barriers faced by audiences, performers and companies, but as long as we talk AND act (and start engaging diverse people in these conversations rather than just listening to white, straight, middle class, non-disabled people talking about what ‘they’ need) the positive changes we’ve started to notice happening will gain momentum.

So, no one shut up! Let’s keep this going and hear from the diverse array of people we actually have in this industry.

Good practice (very generally speaking) is to openly discuss issues surrounding diversity rather than shying away from them because they’re awkward. In more specific terms, Graeae are the obvious UK trailblazers with regard to best practice surrounding access, particularly for d/Deaf audiences and performers. As everyone who works in disability arts knows, nobody ever gets it 100% right all the time, that’s where open dialogue needs to be continual. It never hurts to ask questions.

Gagglebabble really impressed me with their commitment to having a VI consultant involved from the outset on one of their latest of projects and their commitment to auditioning VI performers for at least one role in the show. They have taken a very natural approach to it without any hint of wanting to tick a box, and their high standards can only help to improve general perceptions of what a quietly integrated cast can do.

If all ‘mainstream’ companies could adopt the same attitude – very openly and naturally deferring to those with lived experience to guide them on best practice and having the intention of also representing this on stage, while not making a big song and dance (sorry, couldn’t resist) about it – things would move forward much more smoothly and there would be little need for drum-banging from those of us who are marginalised.

Elena Schmitz,  Head of Programmes at Literature Wales.

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Elena Schmitz and I am the Head of Programmes at Literature Wales. In this role, I am responsible for the development, effective management and operational delivery of Literature Wales’ varied programmes including high-profile projects in Community Participation; Arts & Health; International Development and Writer Development. So quite a varied role. I am particularly interested in collaboration, co-production, interdisciplinary work and in achieving social change through arts provision.

We have been running many inclusive literature community projects for a number of years, most notably the South Wales Literature Development Initiative (SWLDI) which is now called Lit Reach and has been extended further to areas in North Wales. We are also currently facilitating a number of health and wellbeing projects, including the delivery in Wales of the UK-wide Reading Friends Project, as well as our new Health & Wellbeing Funding Scheme.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think many arts organisations in Wales are exemplary in this and others can learn a lot from their approaches. Some of them have focused on access, inclusion and diversity for years and this is absolutely part of the raison d’être of the work that they do. For example, Hijinx Theatre is brilliant at co-producing high quality theatre with disabled and non-disabled artists, while Valleys Kids focuses on providing opportunities for disadvantaged families. Head4Arts has worked tirelessly in providing meaningful, empowering arts experiences to the disadvantaged communities of the heads of the valleys. NTW’s TEAM is a great model of widening access for larger arts organisations and allowing for more shared decision-making and wider reach of the organisation’s work. The new BAME community-led Where I’m Coming From collective organises regular literature events in Grangetown in Cardiff, arising from the need for more diversity in the literature sector.

Across the UK there are a number of really inspiring projects. One that I find very powerful is the Fun Palaces initiative, conceived by writer and activist Stella Duffy. At the heart of this growing and influential project lies the believe that everyone is an artist and everyone a scientist, and that creativity in the community can change the world for the better. Fun Palaces is an ongoing campaign for cultural democracy, with an annual weekend of action every October. The campaign promotes culture at the heart of community and community at the heart of culture.

I think the model of co-producing work with (rather than for) communities and shaping things together is increasingly important for all arts organisations. Arts and culture that truly matters and changes minds needs to be shaped by all, not just by an elite minority.

Sami Thorpe

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi, I’m Sami, I work as a performer and also as a qualified British Sign Language/English Interpreter. I am also a cofounder of Elbow Room Theatre Company. I have a longstanding passion for inclusion and accessibility in the Arts ever since training at a unique degree course at the University of Reading; Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I thought it might help to share the dates for the British Sign Language Interpretation for the productions below over the next few months which I am providing.

All But Gone – The Other Room Theatre,  7:30pm (plus post show talk) 05/04/2018 (Thurs)

BSL video info:

Almost Always Muddy – Wales Millennium Centre
11am & 3pm, 08/04/2018 (Sun)

The Girl With Incredibly Long Hair – Wales Millennium Centre
11am & 3pm, 13/04/2018 (Friday)

Fleabag – Wales Millennium Centre
8pm, 27/04/2018 (Friday)

The Effect – The Other Room Theatre
7:30pm, 03/05/2018 (Thursday)

Rhiannon White

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a Cardiff born, Cardiff based theatre director. I mainly work with my theatre company Common Wealth but I also work on freelance stuff which has ranged from taking a circus to Gaza to making a show on a beach.

I think it was growing up in St.Mellons, Cardiff  that got me into theatre. We didn’t have very much growing up but what we did have is loads of kids to play with. I spent my childhood playing in the street, dressing kids up in my mums old clothes and on plays on in the garden. I think that’s where my DIY spirit came from in those early lessons of making the most of what you’ve got.

My company Common Wealth grew out of those roots – we were a group of people that came together to make theatre. We started with nothing, making shows in large empty buildings, without funding and with the generosity of people who wanted to get involved.

Over the years Common Wealth has grown, we’ve made work in many different places, with incredible groups of people and have worked  on shows in places like Neath, Chicago and Germany.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

Last year I completed a report called  CLASS  ‘The Elephant in the Room’s it was researched, written and performed as part of my Arts Council Wales supported Clore Fellowship (2015 – 2016) and was funded by the Arts Humanities and Research Council. The purpose of CLASS The Elephant in the room is to investigate the inherent social conditions that exist in the creative industries today; social conditions such as social class and geographic location that can influence and determine a career in the arts. It pays attention to the contradictions that play out where class is considered, and how these contradictions continue to reproduce and reinforce class divisions.

It is an auto-ethnographic study that draws from my own personal experience and combines it with interviews with others who share a similar position. It provides a personal testimony on working in a sector that is dominated by white, middle-class, males.

This report was first and foremost delivered as a live performance debate that provides a resource for theatres, artists and institutions to use if they would like to form their own discussions around the themes of diversity and class.

You can access the full report at this link

 

Common Wealth are also starting a Youth Theatre Lab in Cardiff. The aim of this youth theatre is not to play games or train to become an actor (although this might happen too.) The Youth Theatre Lab is about developing the skills to make theatre that has something to say. The YTL will be a place of experimentation – we will collaborate with highly experienced theatre practitioners, choreographers, visual artists and composers to develop important work by and for young people. The Youth Theatre Lab is  FREE but booking is required. Its or ages 13-18 6pm-8pm and starts on Wednesday 4 April.

Nickie Miles-Wildin

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Nickie Miles-Wildin and I’m a theatre maker. I’m currently Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme, Resident Assistant Director based at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. I am also Artistic Director of TwoCan Theatre Company based in Gloucestershire, where I’m originally from. Alongside my colleagues Becky Andrews and Louise Partridge we set up TwoCan to promote diversity in the arts and enable D/deaf and disabled people access to the arts, something that was lacking in the county. We have a successful youth theatre and have produced work made by professional disabled actors, writers and directors.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I would highlight the work of Graeae as they have been going for 30+years and continue to push the barriers of access. They have taught me what I know and I continue to admire their work. Ramps On The Moon builds on the Graeae model and will hopefully change the views of directors and audiences as it progresses. In Wales I admire the work of Elbow Room who are challenging us all about creative use of audio description. We all fall in love with sign language (have our epiphanies) and Elbow Room are making us do the same abut audio description.

Any companies pioneered by D/deaf and disabled artists are the ones for me. We face the biggest barriers as sometimes we can’t even get into buildings to see work. Or even into training establishments. Extant, Birds Of Paradise, Fittings, Access All Areas, Daryl Beeton theatre maker, PAD Productions  are all up there as some of my highlights.

 

C2C: Country to Country Festival 2018, 5 UK Country Music Acts to Watch by Gareth Williams

For most people, country music evokes images of Stetsons, cowboy boots and the deserts of the Deep South. And though these are perfectly legitimate symbols, this increasingly popular genre is a whole lot more diverse than one might ordinarily assume. To gain some understanding of how broad a church this music really is, I would recommend a visit to the annual C2C: Country to Country Festival which takes place at the O2 Arena in London. Here, you will find an incredible range of sounds that might seem completely opposite to one another and yet, in the world of country music, sit happily alongside each other in perfect harmony. There is no better example of this than from this year’s event, which I have recently returned from. Within a couple of hours on Sunday night, there featured mod-inspired rock, gospel-infused folk, and bass-laden pop. In no other genre would you get such an array of musical styles playing to the same enthusiastic audience, one after the other. Yet this is the joy of country music. It embraces almost every musical style. The only necessary ingredient is good storytelling.

Country music is a genre that is growing in popularity on both sides of the pond. But its rise in Britain has been especially notable in the last couple of years. Many point to the emergence of The Shires as the starting point for the growing interest here. Indeed, their debut single Nashville (Grey Skies) resulted in my own conversion to country. Whether it began before then, there is little doubt that their subsequent success has opened a door for British country music artists, and the success of C2C has further demonstrated a huge appetite for the genre. Having attended the event for the first time last weekend, it was so pleasing to see and hear the quality of the British acts on show. Don’t get me wrong, the Main Stage concerts, featuring the big stars of American country, were incredible. Yet I was especially excited by the range and wealth of talent on show from this side of the Atlantic. To this end, I would recommend any number of review sites to read about the fabulous talent that was on show from across the pond. Here, I simply want to highlight five British country music acts in particular that I think you should look out for in the coming weeks and months:

Elles Bailey

Bristol-based Elles Bailey combines rock, blues and country to create a mature, soulful sound. Her high-energy performance went down a storm on the Big Entrance stage. Touring to smaller venues around the UK and Europe, be sure to check her out. You are sure to be thoroughly entertained.

Katy Hurt

Soaked in country music from a young age, Katy Hurt is now maturing into one of the UK’s finest singer/songwriters. With a debut album on the way, these are exciting times for this young female artist who is a great advocate for country music here in the UK.

Clara Bond

Having discovered Clara Bond during my early forays into Twitter, I was already well acquainted with her music before seeing her play live on the Busking stage at the weekend. Her debut EP Out of Towners is a brilliant record, full of country pop vibes and catchy lyrics. She is definitely one of my top female UK country music artists to listen to.

The Adelaides

If you love the gorgeous harmonies of Wildwood Kin and Ward Thomas then The Adelaides are sure to be your thing. These three girls create such beautiful melodies and have such a sweet rapport on stage. Be warned though. You’ll never look at jelly babies in the same way again after their song of the same name…

Twinnie

Why hasn’t this lady released an album yet?! With vocals to rival that of Imelda May and a sparkling personality to boot, Twinnie is surely going to be a major breakthrough act at some point in the near future. A Yorkshire lass with a dry wit and a soulful sound, I think it’s fair to say that she’s the Kate Rusby of the country music world.

These guys are just a small selection of the fabulous talent that is emerging on the UK country music scene. Exciting times are ahead, of that there is no doubt!

Connor Allen on Opportunity

In 1964, There was a little girl sitting on her mother’s floor in Milwaukee watching the 36th Academy Awards. She watched as Anne Bancroft opened the envelope for Best Actor and said five historic words: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’

This little girl had never seen a black man being celebrated for his talent and to quote her “I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses

That little girl grew up to become one of the most influential people on the planet – Oprah Winfrey.

And at that moment of celebration at the 36th Academy Awards she was truly inspired by what she saw. She watched history unfold from her cheap seat, took inspiration and the rest as they say is history.

Fast forward over 50 years and Oprah has joined Sidney Poitier in becoming a recipient of the Cecil B DeMille award and when accepting the award she recounted that memory of the cheap seats and went on to add “there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award

At that moment and later on in her speech all over the world girls and boys and men and women were inspired and in awe. With that inspiration and determination those little girls and boys will become the next Oprah Winfrey or the next Viola Davis or indeed the next Denzel Washington.

After the #OscarsSoWhite movement two years ago The Academy has implemented drastic diverse change and many others have followed suit because after years of feeling unappreciated and uninspired and pretty much fed up, many people thought enough is enough.

If we don’t show diversity in our nominations and winners then how are the next generation meant to be inspired like Oprah was all those years ago.

By having more diverse nominations and shortlists you are giving the opportunity for the next generation to be inspired. And the key word here is opportunity.

Now more than ever we need the next generation of BAME talent to be inspired and its so great that the #OscarsSoWhite movement has taken effect and we are now finally seeing a hugely diverse and more equal nomination and shortlist spectrum. Closer to home in Wales its not the case. The Wales Theatre Awards for one have not embraced the diverse change needed to inspire the next generation of BAME talent.

Now Wales is quite small in comparison to the rest of the world but we’ve still managed to nurture brilliant talent in all fields and all I ask is that diversity is implemented like with the Oscars and many other global awards. That way the next generation of actors of colour can have a platform to look to and aspire to be on. That way we can inspire and empower the next generation of BAME talent. That way young actors like myself can look to the awards and be inspired to work harder and be in a position to celebrate their talent like Sidney Poitier was all those years ago.

We need to ask ourselves how do we encourage the next generation of artists and creatives to strive and aim for the stars? A big factor in encouragement is inspiration. If they never see role models they can relate to win awards how are they ever encouraged to become the next Octavia Spencer or the next Steve McQueen.

But let me take you back to that word I mentioned a few lines ago.

Opportunity

Because when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion, opportunity is a massive factor.

If opportunity is not given to people then how are we ever going to be in a position where we can showcase our talents?, be nominated for awards? and inspire our peers and the next generation?

Diversity has become this big hot topic over the last couple of years and its just about equality. Being treated the same regardless of your skin colour, disability, religion, gender, sexual orientation and many other labels that are handed out in our day and age. We are all equal. We are all human.

Finally in our society we have seen a positive shift in diverse action and we cant afford to get left behind whilst others continue to implement that change. We have to embrace it.

Without embracing it we risk loosing much talent to other locations. A prime example of this is the current crop of actors going overseas in search of better opportunities. Idris Elba highlighted it during his recent speech to Parliament.

John Boyega, Daniel Kaluuya, David Oyelowo, Naomie Harris and Lenora Crichlow are just a few other names who have also ventured along with Mr Elba over to the States in search of better opportunities.

A statistic recently showed that according to government data from 2013, there was a 500% increase in one year in approved visa petitions for UK actors and directors seeking to work in the US.

That number is staggering but only goes to show that this issue surrounding opportunity and representation is real.

We live in a multi-cultural world and this isn’t being represented on stage or screen. If we don’t see ourselves or our culture on stage (and screen for that matter) how are we meant to be engaged? If young people don’t see themselves represented on stage they won’t go to the theatre, if they don’t see themselves represented on TV they’ll turn the TV off. We have to show all walks of life to engage all people. Period.

That same situation is at risk of running its course here in Wales. If we don’t champion opportunity and give representation the platform others have then we run the same risk of loosing home grown talent to the likes of other more diverse locations like London, Bristol or Manchester for example. For many new and upcoming actors/performers America simply isn’t attainable yet but the likes of closer inclusive locations are very much a reality. For minority actors to be considered for awards they have to be cast in productions. To be cast in productions they have to have the opportunity to be seen for the roles.

Once again I echo the key word in all of this … Opportunity.

Seeing that I’ve mentioned him already I will bring up the case for Daniel Kaluuya. Daniel Kaluuya has got huge attention lately as he earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in the film Get Out. With this nomination, Daniel becomes the first black actor under 30 to garner a nomination. Only one word can be used to describe that achievement and that is phenomenal.

But many people think that this success just happened off the back of one movie. They don’t realise that Daniel put in years of hard work from his time at the Royal Court in Sucker Punch.

to Blue Orange at The Young Vic

to his time on Black Mirror to name just a few. But without opportunity would he have got to this stage in his career where he is now the first black under 30’s actor to be nominated for an academy award? Who knows?

And then we have the global box office hit that is Black Panther and the success that has followed this movie.

As I write this article the global box office of the movie stands at $704 million and its broken into the top 20 for highest grossing movies of all time. There are even rumours of it becoming the highest grossing Marvel movie so far. Not bad for a movie with a predominantly black cast featuring a black superhero in the title role.

But why is this movie such a milestone many people will ask. Well simply put 1) Its massive progress in a positive direction and 2) Its shown that you CAN invest in diverse talent and it CAN be successful.

All they needed was the opportunity.

I guess what I am trying to say and I will echo Viola Davis here when I say that “All that separates actors of colour from anyone else is opportunity

Talent is everywhere in all shapes and sizes. So we have to make an effort to go and seek this talent out. Look for it. Everywhere.

So with all this being said I’m going to challenge every person who holds a degree of power to embrace the positive shift that has begun and implement change so that we don’t get left behind. Don’t hide away because if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.

This goes for everyone in all industries, not just people in the creative arts. Embrace and Implement. Those two factors will allow diversity and talent to flourish magnificently. The world is now beginning to show us that our possibilities are boundless. And we have to keep on striving to achieve every possibility. Striving to achieve every dream.

Keep dreaming

Keep striving

Much Love

Connor Allen

Breaking Out of the Box 4: ‘Wales: a Diverse Nation?’ by Emily Garside

The fourth ‘Breaking out of the Box’ symposium- a series of events to discuss the issue of diversity in Welsh Arts, took place at Theatre Clwyd on 16th February. Subtitled ‘Wales: a Diverse Nation?’ An access symposium’ the focus of the event centered on the question of how diverse are we, and what can we do to change things?

Opening the event was Nick Capaldi, Chief Executive, Arts Council Wales.  He spoke about the history of the Arts Council and Diversity- citing reports from as far back as the 90s into the issue.  He acknowledged the responsibility as  a publicly funded organisation towards diversity:

Capaldi also noted the need to do more to reach communities and the idea of ‘changing hearts and minds’. While this contribution from Arts Council Wales was welcome, and well intended it was let down by a lack of representation from the organisation throughout the day. The focus of the day around galvanising towards action, having an engaged representatives from the Development teams at ACW could really have helped the organisations present to make practical steps in their next projects towards diversity. We all know ACW funding is at the heart of the work made in Wales, and a level of practical support and real engagement on the day from the organisation would have made a huge difference to what could have been achieved. While Capaldi’s support was welcome, and his words supportive, it felt like a missed opportunity from ACW.

Following Capaldi, my own talk. Which focused on turning questions back on the audience to reflect on for the day.

Reflecting on the discussions already taking place, a call to keep talking and keep fighting through these issues

As hoped this provocation moved into an engaged discussion about the many areas that need addressing- from programming to the access needs of audiences.

Following a break we heard from Jamie Beddard, one of the UK’s leading disabled theatre practitioners,  Jamie talked through his experiences as a disabled performer.

Jamie’s experiences, and the video clips he showed of projects in England he’s been a part of showed that the sky literally is the limit for what can be achieved.

Jamie was part of a couple of amazing circus projects where disabled performers worked alongside able bodied performers with no  barriers or prejudice around what they were or weren’t expected to do. That this kind of work is possible can be an example for companies in Wales to aspire to.

Keen for the day to have some practical take-aways there were two workshops on accessibility led by Elise and Beth from Taking Flight Theatre Company. Elise took people through some simple steps to make a rehearsal room more inclusive, while Beth talked through making accessible marketing materials.

These practical elements were a really useful element of the day for the group-providing some tangible next steps that are relatively easy to incorporate and help slowly change the nature of diversity and accessibility.

Finally, the last two provocations of the day. Michele Taylor, Director for Change for Ramps on the Moon and critic Jafar Iqbal. Both proved to be a rousing call to action. Michele punctuated their talk with the repeated phrase ‘Seriously are we still talking about this?’ Sharing her frustration but also experience in creating active solutions through ‘Ramps on the Moon’ this was a non-nonsense call to get things done. And one which also called out well meaning sentiment with again, a call to concrete action.

Challenging all of us on everything from our choice of language to what we believe to be exclusivity Michele provoked passionate discussion about how we really enact change. There was also a clear desire from the room to mimic the ‘Ramps on the Moon’ initiative in Wales.

Finally Jafar Iqbal  talked about the lack of change we’re experiencing in Wales. Criticizing those at the top for a lack of action while others repeatedly shout for change.

Drawing on his own experience as a British Asian, Iqbal has often wondered if he’s in a room to ‘tick a box’ but is also conscious that he’s benefited from that in his career. And despite personally benefiting, being conscious that this approach isn’t good enough any more.

Acknowledging the recent controversies in Wales,  Iqbal talked about the need to change being felt across the sector, but a lack of action being taken. And actually giving us a fairly simple way to start solving these issues:

Further discussion in the room, following this final clear provocation was to that end- the time for talking (and social media debate) has passed and it’s time for action. The very clear notion however, was that this needs leadership. And that is something the movement for diversity in Wales is lacking. Not from those engaged in the arts, but from those organisations with the power and scope to be really influential in making change. And this remains a frustration.

Despite continued frustrations, it was a galvanizing and productive event. Connections between organisations developed during discussion and networking time and there seemed a real commitment to move forward from the event with a new sense of purpose.

Let’s hope that soon an event won’t be asking the question of Diversity in Wales but simply celebrating it instead.

The event was organised by Hynt, Creu Cymru and Taking Flight Theatre with support from Arts Council Wales. 

More information about Ramps on the Moon and the work they have done to date can be found on their website.

Emily Garside

Review The Poetry We Make, Flugelman Productions, Vaults Festival by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

What is wonderful about the Vault Festival is the eclectic mix of theatre and performance on show.

Last week I faced the refugee crisis and misogyny and this week, a LGBTQ+ story of change and pain.

The Poetry We Make sees the story of a loved up couple, the decline of the relationship and the change when Robin begins to realise that they are the wrong gender. Elliot struggles to face this truth and we see the decline of not only their love but their friendship, along with the questions, curiosity and frustration behind such a huge life change. And then there’s Dolly Parton – you cannot go wrong!

We affiliate so much with the characters’ – the loved up couple, their painful break up and the coping afterwards. We recognise the ladies man best friend, void of feelings for women but a laugh all the same. And Dolly Parton is there, creating comedy and musical interludes.

The performer’s bring such a honest and heartfelt approach to the characters, letting us not only relate but also question ourselves in their situations. The story is tough and it is great to see it brought to the forefront through theatre.

My only issue with this is that it is written from the perspective of Elliot. We see her decline, her pain and frustration at knowing Robin is not the gender they once were and questioning their relationship and love. I see that perhaps this highlights the issues of loved ones and even outsiders when they feel personally victimised, threatened or even frightened by something that is not ‘the norm’ and the general approach LGBTQ+ persons sometimes come accross. But at the same time I would have liked to hear more from Robin and what they were going through and their feelings.

The stage is simple yet effective; easily changed to fit the scene and does not need any huge changes to do so. The acoustics of the tunnel of the Vaults only helps to add to this vibrating feeling of a sensitive, funny and honest piece.

The Poetry We Make is heartfelt, not afraid to tell the truth but also full of comedy. A culturally significant piece of theatre.

 

 

Review, Wild Silence, The Wandering Hearts by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

Following on from the success of The Shires, The Wandering Hearts are surely the next big breakthrough act in the world of British Country Music. On the evidence of their debut album, Wild Silence, it would be hard to argue otherwise. The recipients of the ‘Best Emerging Artist’ at last week’s Americana Awards have produced something of incredible scope. Here are twelve tracks that seamlessly flow into one another – a musical river of harmonies carving its way through a landscape of various genres and musical arrangements. The inclusion of such a vast array of influences into their songs could so easily have gone wrong. Yet far from a cacophony of sounds, here we have an album that triumphs in the audio equivalent of cocktail making. It shakes together a number of musical ingredients to create a drink bursting with flavour. Such a diverse recipe – including folk, rock, pop, country, and bluegrass – in the wrong hands, has the potential to be a disaster. Yet The Wandering Hearts have created something that packs an authentically tasty punch. It is an incredible and delicious sound.

This four-piece group are far from one-trick ponies. The album takes us on a journey through a soundscape that twists and turns at regular intervals. It is not only between each song, but within each song too, that such changing of musical direction and pace takes place. Opening track “Rattle”, for instance, begins with the floating harmonies of Tara Wilcox and Tim Prottey-Jones. Then, with a single drumbeat, the gravelly tones of AJ Dean-Revington are introduced and we are suddenly exposed to heavily-laden rock. The switch from one style to another is unexpected. Yet it is far from disjointed or off-putting.  Similarly, “Laid into the Ground” begins as a sea shanty before rising to a crescendo of electronic rock. Again, it is unexpected, but surprising alluring. It seems that The Wandering Hearts have refused to sacrifice their multifarious influences in favour of one over all others. Instead, they have sought to incorporate all of them to one degree or another. As a result, it makes for a hugely enjoyable album that defies categorisation.

An inability to generically label The Wandering Hearts makes it hard to offer up comparisons. However, as I listened to Wild Silence, I couldn’t help thinking of Rend Collective. Both band’s albums are of an eclectic nature, and there is a definite similarity between the vocals of their female leads. There is also an ethereal quality to Wild Silence that is produced in a similar way to that found on the albums of Wildwood Kin and The Pierces. In all of these cases, it is the vocal harmonies of their members that manage to evoke such a transcendent sound. Certainly, during the title track for instance, I found that I was transported out of myself somehow. Not so much ‘our only sound’ as a holy sound.

I cannot speak highly enough of The Wandering Hearts. They have produced a stunning first album that deserves to be lauded with every award going. Wild Silence blends together an assortment of styles to create something that is distinct and hugely enjoyable. It is certainly my new favourite thing. Whether you’re a lover of the great outdoors or someone who loves to party on a Friday night, you are sure to find something that fits your mood here. Wild Silence is a musical selection box, full of tasty treats. I urge you to go and unwrap it now, and experience its beautiful, almost sacred, sounds.

Click here to visit their website

Review Coco by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

 

Pixar’s Coco reminds us that this studio and the people working in it are creating some of the best, all ages animation out there right now and for years to come. That they are able to take colour and sounds and manipulate them to craft a journeys and characters that invoke laughs and tears within us.

Opening the movie is a story of a family told to us through the visuals of cut-out flags. So the visuals and information is very clear and smoothly delivered. It begins with a father, his wife and their child living their lives, the father wants to live his life of playing music for the people, so he leaves his wife and daughter. The mother doesn’t let this get her down so she becomes a master shoemaker and bans all music from her life, which becomes the way of her family.

The mother passes on and she is remembered for their Day of The Dead. The daughter remains as the very old Coco (Ana Ofelia Muruia, who the movie is named after), she doesn’t register much and mostly just sits in her wheel-chair. The head of the family is definitely the grandmother (Renee Victor). Everyone in the family is committed to the craft of making shoes and remembers their dearly departed loved ones, except for their great-great grandfather who abandoned them. But the youngest in the family Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) loves music and wants to spend his life playing guitar and idolizes the deceased musician Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Miguel loves his family but also loves music and wont feel complete if he doesn’t pursue it. Going against his families wishes he enters a music competition, his grandmother smashed his guitar so he needs to find another, he sneaks into Ernesto’s memorial to use his, being that tonight is the Day of the Dead with one strum of the guitar Miguel is transported into the perspective of the dead.

Now his quest begins to find a way back to the land of the living before the sun rises, because if he doesn’t get out before then he’ll be stuck there forever. Through his journey he acquires companions (which must happen), there is Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) a spirit that wants to get to the world of the living to see his daughter one last time and Dante a street dog that serves as his animal guide.

To say that the movie is well animated and the textures are convincing almost seems like a given. It’s Pixar, they’ve never delivered a movie that is lackluster in terms of the visual technology. As the years proceed the technology develops the graphics become sharper and sharper. What is more important than the mere sharpness of everything is the way it is used to clearly express emotions. They way you see a character’s face have an emotion clearly expressed and then it turns to something else shows an understanding on how to convey it to an audience.

Michael Giacchino creates a rousing Latino based score. Filled with trumpets and acoustic guitars.

I wont ruin anything but he does something were a song gets played again in different context and it is a masterful use of tone. I did find it ironic that there was a musical score playing over the scenes with the family, perhaps it would be better if the scene was completely without music while with the family.

Being that the majority of the movie takes place in this land and the people in it are skeletons they truly show their ability to work within limitations. I do feel a bit weird seeing skulls express, because they cant, because of their bones. But I digress, they get a vast amount of different character designs from skulls having them all shaped differently, they have a distinctive movement and pose and work in just about all the physical jokes you can out of skeletons, jaws dropping, eyes popping out, limbs being pulled off etc.

This movie comes out so close to The Book of Life. However this also goes to show how movies can distinguish themselves from merely the concept stage.

I have seen my share of movies and am aware of most of their tricks and the way things unfold. I don’t consider myself the hardest to please but I’m not the easiest of targets. However if a movie truly invokes a reaction from me then it means it has indeed done it’s job. In this movie I laughed an appropriate amount, was rather awed by the visuals and when it got near the end I did indeed shed tears (twice). This is a sign of the movies effectiveness and sincerity with it’s material.

Coco is the story about the love from your family, perusing your goals despite the odds and living your life so that the ones that remain when your gone have something to remember. No other culture exists that is about embracing what life has to offer while being aware of it’s inevitable end, so while were all here, lets make it worth it.

Jonathan Evans