Category Archives: Music

Review Sŵn Fest by Emma Mazey

2016 saw the 10th anniversary of the legendary Sŵn Fest in Cardiff. If you’re not familiar (have you been living under a rock?) Sŵn Fest is a festival ran over three days and in 10 venues around central Cardiff from Buffalo to The Tramshed hosting small, indie bands and singers. It’s a fantastic opportunity to find new bands and artists that go under the radar. This year the talent was explosive, from the bad boy sounds of the Cradles to the more mellow sounds of The Gentle Good, there’s something to tickle everyone’s taste buds.


Monico Blonde

I had the opportunity to view the set of a fantastic upcoming band, Monico Blonde. A quartet of four young lads whose talent hits you across the face, had the challenge of opening up the venue on Saturday 22nd in O’Neills bar. If they were nervous it didn’t show, the crowd were enraptured despite the sober atmosphere (it was 2PM in the afternoon after all!).

The Welsh indie band only formed a few months ago but it certainly doesn’t show, they were gentlemen of the stage and no one could take their eyes off the stage. After their set they were more than happy to answer the eager press of which I was part of.

They credited Swn Fest with giving ‘up and coming bands an audience to play to and to get their name out there,’ they also said ‘Its nice to play a festival that’s sheltered from the rain!’ Clearly they are no strangers to the unpredictable Welsh weather!

However, the Welsh natives don’t plan on keeping close to home and have big plans to go as far and wide as they can. After months of rehearsing and practicing and recording their plan now is to ‘gig, gig, gig, gig, gig and gig some more!’

Monico Blonde, who have the silky charisma of a band that’s been together for years profess their ambition to ‘headline a gig in the Castle’ as in Cardiff Castle by the summer ‘so hopefully with gigs like this such as Sŵn Fest we will get a big enough name to be able to do that within the next few years.’

Their single is coming out at the start of December; they will also be back in Cardiff around this time.


The Cradles

Another highlight for me at Sŵn Fest was the Cradles, the indie rock band who are ever so reminiscent of the Beatles performed to the packed out venue of the Moon Club with the professionalism of a band twice their age.

Sŵn Fest will be back next year so keep an eye out for more opportunities to catch some great new bands!

Thanks to Get The Chance for the opportunity of a press pass!


Review Sŵn Festival by Emily Jay



(4 / 5)


I can usually be found at one venue or another on Cardiff’s Womaby Street most weekends, so when Sŵn Fest time rolls around it can feel akin to a party in your own living room… only with more bunting, balloons, and bands of course. This is just one key element to Sŵn’s enduring success; the sense of community between organisers, venues, acts and fans alike. Whether you’ve travelled from far and wide or you live ten minutes away like I do, everyone’s there for the same reason – to discover the most exciting up-and-coming bands and artists, filling Cardiff’s best-loved intimate venues with a welcoming and buoyant atmosphere. 2016 sees the festival reach double figures, and I was lucky enough to join the party and celebrate as Sŵn turned ten years old!


This year, Sŵn Festival begins early for me. On Wednesday, 19th October Pembrokeshire-born filmmaker Kieran Evans brought ‘Be Pure. Be Vigilant. Behave.’ to Cardiff’s Premiere Cinema for its global premiere. As a dyed-in-the-wool Manic Street Preachers fan, a one-off screening (for now, at least) of any of Evans’ work with the band, complete with a Q&A hosted by the inimitable Simon Price, is not to be missed. The film, shot during several dates of the Manics’ 20th anniversary tour of their groundbreaking 1994 album The Holy Bible, is as uncompromising and unrelenting as the record itself. Evans had pre-warned me in a short Twitter exchange that “there will be strobing…”, but after attending two dates on the THB20 tour myself, I knew that would only serve to make it a true account of the gigs; I was seeing black spots in front of my eyes for days afterwards. Evans’ focus on the fans, as much as the band, throughout the film illustrates the impact the album continues to have on its audience – not one face is captured missing a lyric, nor a word of the excerpts that have come to be such a distinctive feature of the record. They sing every song back to the band, their eyes never flickering away from the stage, with, dare I say, even more conviction and fervour than James Dean Bradfield himself.


After the “visual and sonic assault on the senses”, as Evans’ describes the film, we are treated to a Q&A session where he reveals he is working on a “more personal” documentary with the Manics, provisionally titled ‘Escape From History’, to follow on from the more fact-based ‘Freed From Memories’ film that was included in the 20th anniversary boxset edition of Everything Must Go. This time, Evans says, there will be more focus on how the three remaining band members coped with the disappearance of their long-time best friend and fourth Manic Street Preacher, Richey Edwards, in February 1995, the difficult question of if and how to carry on as a band, and the resulting album Everything Must Go. Evans also deals with pleas from audience members for ‘Be Pure. Be Vigilant. Behave.’ to get a DVD release or other screenings around the country, mostly passed on by other fans that were unable to make it to Cardiff. While he makes no promises, particularly as “DVDs don’t sell anymore”, I think it would be a real shame for Manics fans across the world not to have the opportunity to see the live expression of an album we all hold so dear. Evans also reveals how the film’s title was settled upon, in keeping with the tradition of naming his album-based works with the band after lyrics from their songs (see: ‘Culture, Alienation, Boredom and Despair’ and the aforementioned ‘Freed From Memories’). During discussions with the band’s bassist Nicky Wire, the idea of ‘Suntan and Napalm’ from “ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart” was suggested and so, less seriously but perhaps just as fittingly, was ‘Sterilise Rapists’ from “Archives Of Pain”. Joking aside, Evans’ assertion that The Holy Bible is “a cultural statement unlike any other” is a description truly befitting of the Manics’ masterpiece and how vital it evidently remains more than twenty years on.

A couple of days later on Saturday afternoon, I collect my press pass from the warm and welcoming volunteers at the Castle Emporium and set off to find my new favourite bands. Unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to explore the Music Museum – a joint venture between Swn and Cardiff University – in the Castle Arcade over the weekend but having been told it will be open until mid-November, I’ll definitely be whiling away a couple of hours there sometime in the coming weeks!


My first port of call from the wristband exchange is the BBC Gorwelion/Horizons stage, housed upstairs in O’Neills, to see North Walian four-piece Fleur De Lys. Their brand of indie rock comes complete with non-stop catchy hooks and striking Welsh language vocals, while the sense of joyful abandon inherent in their live shows makes them an unforgettable first find of the weekend.


My obsessive habit of arriving early for gigs pays off in style when I get to Clwb Ifor Bach half an hour early for Matt Hitt’s Drowners. I squeeze into the very back of the packed-out downstairs room to catch a few songs from Bryde, and I’m immediately glad I did. Moving seamlessly between powerful chords and gentler melodies, and with a voice that is equal parts PJ Harvey and Stevie Nicks, I’d like to think it was meant to be that I stumbled upon Bryde’s performance as I haven’t been able to stop listening to her music in the days since. Bryde plays Clwb Ifor Bach again on 2nd November for Swn’s Hair Of The Dog That Bit You gig, a “one-off post-Swn new-band-chaser” that is not to be missed.

Dashing upstairs to join the already sizeable crowd collecting for Drowners, I don’t have to wait long before the band grace the stage exuding New York cool. Expecting an aloof, detached performance I’m pleasantly surprised to see a band who unashamedly look like they’re having a great time, and promptly check my preconceptions where I stand. I’d been sold on seeing Drowners after learning that frontman Matt Hitt was a Rhondda boy and that the band were named after Suede’s debut single – a surefire winner with me. But although their name might come from Brett Anderson’s boys, their sound is more akin to The Smiths and The Cure mixed with more modern indie flavours like The Walkmen and We Are Scientists, destined to fill indie disco dancefloors here and across the Atlantic.


As I wind my way back downstairs, the growing audience for Shells catches my attention, and my decision to join them turns out to be an excellent one. Distinctive vocals on a bed of dreamy melodies helps the captivating delivery of her songs stick in your mind long after the performance, and it’s little wonder she drew such a big crowd at one of the busiest periods of the day, surely leaving everyone who saw her enraptured.

After catching up with friends at a nearby bar and sharing all the tips we have for who to try and catch tomorrow, we cross to the other side of Womanby Street to The Moon Club and we’re lucky enough to get there before they are forced to employ a one-in-one-out policy, evidence of the venue’s popularity and stellar line-up of acts. As we thunder upstairs, I’m unable to hide my excitement that I’m finally getting to see Mclusky* live! After being a fan for a mere twelve years, they don’t disappoint and are an obvious highlight of the whole festival for me. I’ll treasure the memory of being part of a packed-to-the-rafters crowd, screaming along to every witty, clever lyric that I never really thought I’d get to hear anywhere else than through my headphones sat on the X4 bus.


Post-Mclusky*, I escape the sweatbox that The Moon Club has fast become and get my breath back on my way to O’Neills for Tibet who are closing the Gorwelion/Horizons stage. It’s the perfect finish to the night with Tibet’s energetic indie pop sounding bolder than ever, and there’s a belief shared between everyone I speak to that the band will be playing on bigger stages and to bigger crowds in no time at all.


My first visit on the Sunday afternoon is to see Cardiff’s own Winter Coat who are declaring the Girl In A Band stage at Clwb Ifor Bach open. Carving their own niche in the dream pop genre, Winter Coat strike a wistful note between melancholy and careful optimism, and are the perfect antidote to the chilly October air with their melodies evoking a fresh, Spring-like feeling.


Winning the award for Best Band Name of the weekend (against fierce competition from Strong Asian Mothers and Scott And Charlene’s Wedding) are Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS? One of my favourites of this year’s festival, HYESTJFAV (because I can’t keep typing that out!) have come all the way from Finland to fill the top floor of Clwb with their synth-laden garage rock. Running from 60s girl group melodies to 80s electro-pop and back again, HYESTJFAV continue the rich tradition of wonderfully alternative bands from Scandinavia and I, for one, can’t wait to hear what they’ll do next.


Another big draw to The Moon Club comes in the form of Let’s Eat Grandma, a teenage girl duo from Norfolk who I’m highly excited to see as I’ve heard so many plaudits thrown their way already. Hearing their darkly ethereal alternative pop, with influences far beyond their years, leaves me in no doubt that the praise is completely warranted. Imagine if Kate Bush and Robert Smith had a child and left Nico to babysit, and you’ll be somewhere along the right track towards the thoroughly unique brilliance of Let’s Eat Grandma.


CwCw are next on my list of must-sees over at Undertone, the basement venue beneath 10 Feet Tall on nearby Church Street. Hailing from Blackwood, around eight miles from my hometown of Tredegar, I’m not about to miss the opportunity to support talent from my little neck of the woods. Formed at school (just like another Blackwood-born band I’ve previously mentioned!) if this taste of the band’s indie-folk sound is any indicator of what’s to come from them it won’t be long until their dream of being snapped up by a record label is realised. Special mention must be made to the tireless Young Promoters Network for curating such a successful stage at Undertone on the Sunday, and for slinging a free lei my way on entry!


My final show of the weekend comes from Stealing Sheep, an all-girl trio from Liverpool signed to the wonderful Heavenly Records, who are appearing on the Make Noise stage upstairs in O’Neills. Doing my research beforehand, I saw the term “genre-defying” used a lot in regards to them, but I’ll give it a try… Let’s say, early-80s influenced electropop with a psychedelic edge, given an unexpectedly folk-like slant. Sort of. I’ve always admired bands that are difficult to pigeon-hole, and Stealing Sheep are no exception. With their live show full of energy and conviction, they are the ideal way for me to finally wear myself out and sign off from Swn 10.

It cannot go without saying how much work goes into making Sŵn Fest such a success, from the organisers and volunteers to the venues and the acts themselves, so a huge thank you and congratulations for a thoroughly enjoyable weekend has to go out to everyone involved! As someone who is constantly looking to discover new music, the weirder and more wonderful the better, Sŵn is continuing to prove itself unparalleled in offering fans of just about any genre the opportunity to enjoy the best venues in Cardiff and uncover the next big things!




Review Clear Cut OUT by Kimberley Pennell

After attending the last Clear Cut, I was apprehensive that its relocation to The Globe would negate a little of the intimacy it held in the tightly packed gallery space at MADE. Where the audience, sat at the knees of the performers, were close enough to catch every facial tic and viscera of emotion. Yet, by the end of the night, moving shoulder to shoulder with strangers on a makeshift dance floor, I felt the familiar sense of closeness. The new, rather more auspicious, platform, rather than forcing distance, allowed the artists to explore and subvert traditional space through both their work, and proximity.

Without introduction, two female voices, disjointed and distanced by static, swelled through the darkness. On a continual loop, the cycle of barely discernible phrases and jarring feedback quickly superseded the instinctive need to distinguish language and became a haunting norm, as if it were the voice of the space itself. Heightening the tension, paper aeroplanes poured down from above, which revealed, when unfolded, texts that were as tangled and mired in themselves as the surrounding soundscape. The experience was displacing, emphasised when the performer stepped into, through and over the audience, speaking into a megaphone, becoming the physical manifestation of the voices that both invited and rejected the act of listening, participation and belonging.

Will Salter


The exploration of our transformative interactions space, whether physical, mental or negative, was articulated most convincingly by the poetry of Rosie Bufton. Her intimate portrayal of the truncating nature of prison, stemming from her work with inmates, details the devastation inherent in incarceration. The reality of the lives laid to waste in the “concrete womb,” are made apparent by her references to fathers, brothers and men, that without the possibility of a future, are left to languish inside the structure of the poem, even after we had finished listening. Bufton moved from the physical prisons, to the abstract, but no less damaging, emotional and mental prisons that are built by trauma, and policed by us. Moving and relatable, Bufton urges that despite how trapped we may feel inside our own minds, at least with self-agency, there is hope for breaking free.


Turning Worlds

Turning Worlds, a complex, multi-disciplinary, and ultimately, beautiful performance – both visually and sonically – was so layered upon completion that it almost defies summary. Exploring and deconstructing the stiff structure of formal, and specifically, courtly, dance, Turning Worlds related the subversion of free and fluid movement to a revolt in wider society. The combination of music, spoken word, technology, video and dance worked in perfect symbiosis, culminating in something fresh, exciting and not to be missed.

The similar physicality of Livia Frankish’s clarinet performance of Three Ephemera posed, and answered, the question of how much a performer can give to a pre-constructed piece of work. Watching Frankish lean into her instrument, her chest ebb, her shoulders rise, her face articulating the emotion in each note, the act of creation appeared so intimate I felt voyeuristic watching. With a surprising amount of comedy she exaggerated the toll the piece takes physically to play, eventually superseding the voice of the clarinet with her own, almost tantrum like crescendo of notes, asserting the creativity and control of her interpretation.

A Leap of Faith

Artist Robyn Hobbs took to the stage in what I described in my notes as a “dope ass Mrs Rotherham outfit”. With a heavily outlined nine-yard stare, the collaborative team of artist and band, lead by Ben Thomas, engaged in an elaborate call and response. Hobbs moved from frenetically painting, to enacting a progression of symbols and allegories that turned in tone with the seamless transitions of the music. The Leap of Faith alluded to by its various tropes, was sinister and wild in its expression, a literal and metaphorical precipice exemplified by the near edge of the stage. By the end, both band and artist declined into an entropic chaos, a stream of consciousness both verbal and aural that reflected a fall into a metaphysical madness, creating questions that lasted long after they departed the stage.

Particularly poignant was the collaborative dance and film based piece, Knots Cymylau. The film made visible the struggle of a body working through the trauma of mental illness. Heavy with the metaphor of its proximity to the cliffs edge, the camera work contrasted the vastness of the landscape, versus the macro shots of the body stretching and recoiling, emphasising the instability of identity anxiety with pulsating music and red screens. Especially when, perhaps unintentionally, it was followed by our compere’s poem, begun with repeated “shhhhs.” Reflecting the stigma that often dogs conversation of mental illness.

Nevsky Perspective

Finishing, was the atmospheric, complex and full-bodied music of Nevsky Perspective. Pure vocals looped over industrial beats in an intricately layered soundscape that built and built, until its full weight settled into some sort of profound sonic experience. The set acted, not as a song-by-song showcase, but as an experience in its entirety, moving from hauntingly delicate moments to room engulfing sounds. A slow, aural burn that demands, and is truly worth, your investment.

As ever, no Clear Cut event is ever fully complete without the inimitable Will Salter. The vast spectrum of adjectives I could use to describe his performances will always pale in comparison to seeing the man and his extraordinary enunciatory prowess. Acting as the vessel for a DaDa-ist entity, his guttural and phonetic utterances stretched out of his body in a way that seemed improbable, and, despite our human mouths not being nearly as gymnastic, managed to get the audience shouting along before the first act had even started.

Clear Cut OUT is a unique event that manages to be both magnificently curated, yet totally organic. Consistently constructing programmes that offer a diverse range of experimental performance art, Clear Cut is an accessible and entertaining entryway into the fringe of local and national talent.

Find out more about the event here:

Or have a taster here:

Props to Glyn Owen and Sarah Vaughan-Jones for the images.
Special thanks to The Globe, Sarah Vaughan-Jones and all contributors and performers for the organisation of this event.

Get the Chance to be a music journalist at this years Sŵn Festival


Are you aged 14+?

Interested in brilliant contemporary new music ?

Want to Get the Chance to see and review Lonely The Brave, R Seiliog, The Gentle Good, Wolf Girl, Tender Prey and loads more amazing artists at this years Sŵn Festival?

Want to access a free workshop which will give you an insight into the role of a music journalist?

Then, this is for you!

What’s involved?

You will take part in a 2 hour workshop with Guy O’Donnell Director of online magazine website Get the Chance at a venue to be confirmed.

You will need to be free the Weekend of Fri the 21 st -Sun 23rd of October

To apply contact Get the Chance director Guy O’Donnell All applicants need to be aged 14+


Review ‘Mamma Mia The Musical’ Wales Millennium Centre by Sarah Debnam


Mamma Mia the musical opened at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff this week and the buzz and excitement surrounding it meant that expectations were high.

Let’s start by saying the show began as expected, with Sophie posting the invites for her wedding to her three potential fathers, showing determination and emotion as she did so, a perfect opening scene and introduction to one of the main characters. We were also introduced to Lucy May Barker’s singing voice and what a voice! Brilliant!

We then meet Sophie’s friends, Donna and her friends and the other main characters, including Sophie’s Fathers. All of whom I think we’re perfectly fitting for their roles. Especially Donna. Sara Poyzer that plays Donna, had a hint of Meryl Streep in her energy, however a phenomenal voice to carry those fantastic ABBA songs to every corner of the room, and have every person there enthralled.

As the story moves on we were treated to classics such as ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’, ‘Our Last Summer’ and of course the entertaining ‘Does your Mother Know?’ Which happens to be one of my favourite parts in the film, and Emma Clifford that plays Tanya did it justice. Also the men showing off their dancing skills and choreography was outstanding, especially Louis Stoical who plays Pepper with his jumps, energy and humour!

It’s worth noting the simple but very effective scenery and spectacular costume designs, as well as the incredible orchestra really bring the whole thing together.

Of course the show had to find its ending sadly and even though it’s hard to compare the stage show with the film, the wedding preparation and wedding certainly lived up to expectations, ‘Slipping Through my Fingers’ no doubt caused a few teary eyes and certainly felt like a special moment.

The party like atmosphere at the end had everyone up from their seats dancing and singing along to ‘Dancing Queen’, inhabitations lost and I’m sure everyone left that room feeling great!

The audience were clearly hooked from beginning to end, with oohs and ahhs and plenty of laughter, the cast did an absolutely amazing job of entertaining everyone last night, and even though the film was a hit, this show was funnier, livelier and had more energy. I can understand the buzz surrounding Mamma Mia now, and might even try to catch it again before it leaves Cardiff!

Review The Overtones, St David’s Hall by James Briggs

(5 / 5)

On Friday the 2nd September Cardiff was treated to a one off concert from the amazing vocal group ‘The Overtones’. Much anticipation built in St David’s Hall as we awaited ‘The Overtones’ appearing on stage but before that there were two very talented warm up acts. The first performer was a band called ‘WHO’S MOLLY?’ in the form of one band member Luke who performed many of their songs with a little help from the audience. The second warm up act was a real crowd-pleaser as it was X Factor’s Jay James. Famous for his appearance on the well-known talent show he delighted the audience with many songs new and old.

X Factor singer Jay James

X Factor singer Jay James.

After a short interval it was time for the main attraction and the arrival of ‘The Overtones’. To a rapturous applause the five members of the group walked on stage and took their places at the microphone stands. As the music began we could tell we were in for a real treat. Due to the nature of the concert opposed to them doing new songs from their current album they were performing a wide range of songs from their very first album to the latest. Some of the many songs performed were ‘Gambling Man’, ‘Sh-Boom’, ‘Reet Petite’, ‘Runaway’ and ‘Why Do Fool’s Fall in Love.’

With such a wide range of music and styles being performed there really was something for everyone in the concert and I have to say the show soon turned into a party opposed to a show and you were hard pushed to find someone who was not standing and singing with them. The Overtones were utterly astonishing and I had previously only listened to them on their CD’s and so to hear them live was amazing. Their voices were so powerful and the music was just as spectacular. With some inclusion of Acapella songs it really meant the audience could hear just how could their voices are which was a real treat.

A real highlight of the evening was when ‘The Overtones’ came down off the stage and sang amongst the audience. Certain lucky female members of the audience were invited up to the stage to be serenaded by the boys.

All of the group members were dressed very smartly with tuxedo and black tie on with the main singer Timmy Matley wearing a velvet tuxedo. All of the group members were full of energy and their dancing was something to be admired with all five members keeping in sync and filling the stage.

The Overtones. From the left Mark, Darren, Timmy, Mike and Lachie. 

The final song performed by ‘The Overtones’ was ‘Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight’ which was a lovely way to end their magnificent show. However, it turned out that it was not their final song and like a gift that keeps on giving they performed a further two encore songs which were just as amazing. I am sure I speak for all of the audience at the show when I say we didn’t want the show to end. I urge everyone to see ‘The Overtones if you get the chance because they are utterly amazing and you are sure of an amazing night spent singing and partying with them.

To book tickets for ‘The Overtones’ nationwide Christmas tour starting in Blackpool on November 25th 2016. Be sure to check out the tickets available via this link-

Review Clear-Cut 6 M.A.D.E. – by Amelia Seren Roberts


Origami Reinkarnasjon performed by Simon Gore and Jack Rees

Traditional Sephardic lullabies, liberated CCTV Footage and choreography merging Jane Eyre with the tunes of PJ Harvey are among the diverse acts at Clear-Cut 6 programme of experimental performance arts.

The audience clamours for position in the gallery space at M.A.D.E; spectators gather at the back and the edges of the room, whilst others nestle amongst the many cushions and pallet boxes laid out for our comfort. The atmosphere is one of anticipation, but also of fun and togetherness. After reading through the programme at the beginning of the evening, I find myself curious about each of the seven experimental acts in turn. Clear-Cut is an event unlike anything I have attended before, and the diversity of the audience and acts alike is immediately apparent. The evening is a showcase of video works, dance, spoken word, performance, visual arts, new music and more. To experience this diversity of performance in a single event is impressive. It’s something of a one-stop culture stop.

Where genres collaborate and collide”, Clear-Cut 6.


Will Salter, host of the evening and Dada performer

Will Salter is our animated host; himself performing Dada poetry at intervals throughout the evening to great effect. His verbal explosions punctuate the spaces between acts, and mischievously disrupt the audience should they grow too comfortable. Dada retains a long history with experimental performance related to (or in denial of) the fine arts, which makes the presence of the genre particularly appropriate on this occasion.

Our agenda for the evening is jam-packed, prompting fears that we might not achieve all seven acts. In actuality, the evening is well-structured whilst maintaining a casual and friendly atmosphere.

Marega Palser merges literature, illustration and popular music in, ‘Jane Eyre, The DarkSide...’ Initially inspired by Paula Rego’s illustrations of the novel by Charlotte Bronte, Palser’s performance really is a highlight of the evening. The artist said of the inspiration for the work, “each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting…” Palser describes the piece as, “a thought in progress…” and the work curiously encompasses elements of the unknown. The piece reveals something of an internal conflict, which ultimately dictates movement, yet there is undeniably confidence in the madness.


 ‘Jane Eyre, The DarkSide…’ performed by Marega Palser

IdentiTTy’ by Arnaldo James and collaborators is a film which asks more questions than are answered. “Does ethnicity or origin come through when skin tone is homogenised? Is morphology reflected by environment? Can identity be conveyed through dance and abstract non-verbal storytelling?“ The potentially fluid and reactionary nature of cultural identity is explored in this choreographed video work. Referencing Japanese Butoh and Creole traditions alongside more indigenous Trinidadian movement the piece claims to examine, “the similarities that occur in different cultures through movement and music”. The piece is visually stunning.

Nicholas Morgan & Margot Przymierska perform as the collective, ‘Parallel Lines’. In, ‘That’s the family you have’ Nicholas and Margot divulge separate yet intertwining stories, “improvising around box-set narratives and the immediate, subjective experiences of our own lives, collapsing characters, time & space, fiction & reality”. Their simultaneous telling of the circumstances surrounding the funeral of a relative, alongside an audio description of moments from the popular series ‘Game of Thrones’ captivated the Clear-Cut 6 audience and was at once sensitive and hilarious.


 ‘That’s the family you have’ performed by ‘Parallel Lines’,  Nicholas Morgan & Margot Przymierska

Meanwhile, above the performance space, the gallery plays host to a film and sculpture installation by contemporary artist, Merran Singh Dubb. ‘Temple of Consciousness’ explores the relationship between the declining condition of the natural environment and the similarly marred spiritual condition of humankind. “It is evident that we are destroying the planet but ultimately, we are destroying ourselves”. The installation thoughtfully presents imagery representing spirituality alongside the elemental extremes of natural disaster and climate change.

To close the event, ‘Trio Ladino‘, consisting of Angie Kirby, Bethan Frieze and Eloise Gynn are a trio of musicians and vocalists performing adaptations of Arabic and Sephardic traditional lullabies. The trio describe their sound as, “ancient melodies fused with more contemporary musical perspectives, anchored by lullaby-like themes and romantic narratives”. The performance is a calming and captivating conclusion to the Clear-Cut programme.

On reflection, improvisation and experimentation were certainly the order of the evening with every act proving both valuable and unique. The atmosphere was at the same time informal, friendly, supportive and progressive. Clear-cut is unlike anything I have seen and I will be attending from here on!


 ‘Trio Ladino’ performers Angie Kirby, Bethan Frieze and Eloise Gynn

For a taste of Clear-Cut, visit:

Image credits to Glyn Owens and Sarah Vaughan-Jones.
Special thanks to M.A.D.E Gallery, Sarah Vaughan-Jones and all contributors and performers for the organisation of this event.


Review Performance at The New Theatre by Lois Arcari



(4 / 5)


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

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

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


The ensemble for ‘Performance’ 2016

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

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

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

Director: James Williams

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


Review Chicago Wales Millenium Centre by Barbara Michaels



Music and lyrics: John Kander & Fred Ebb

Book: Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse

Choreographer:  Ann Reinking

Musical Director: Ben Atkinson

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

(4 / 5)

Red-hot and sizzling, the multi-award winning musical Chicago, based on real life events in 1920s US, is back at the Wales Millennium Centre and judging by the bookings as popular as it was when it came here four years ago.  With its theme of greed and corruption, the contemporary relevance doesn’t need to be spelled out although the main action takes place on Death Row, where nightclub singer Roxie Hart is standing trial for shooting her lover and the feisty Velma Kelly is up for double murder.  Strong stuff indeed but the dark undercurrent of the story and plotline cannot be ignored, and neither should it be.

But – moving on – this is musical theatre, so let us not dwell on this.  The wonderful musical numbers, toe-tapping and fast, are what makes this show so popular, along with the fast-paced choreography. Chicago is above all a showcase for the original choreography of the legendary Bob Fosse.  The tunes come thick and fast, plunging straight into it with All That Jazz in Act I and never letting up, and the dancers amazing…

Chicago has been performed on stage countless times, plus the memorable film version starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, and every director understandably wants to put his or her own mark on it in terms of character portrayal.   Hayley Tamaddon is a low key Roxie with an air of fragility about her that belies the fact that this is one tough lady who will stoop as low as it takes to escape the death penalty.  Although Roxie’s story is pivotal, it is her opposite number Velma who is the strongest here and Sophie Carmen-Jones give the role her all in no uncertain manner, displaying a versatility and, in Act II, an acrobatic ability that is truly amazing.  While Carmen-Jones has the character to a T, Tamaddon’s Roxie is at times almost girl-next-door in her naivety.

Alternating in the role of Prison Matron Mama Morton, who believes in looking after ‘her girls’ – as long as her favours are reciprocated – are Gina Murray and Sam Bailey. Murray’s Mama threatened to bring the house down on press night as she belted out the iconic When You’re Good to Mama full throttle.  Great stuff!  A clever little cameo too by Francis Dee as ‘Not  guilty’Hunyak.  On the same evening, Kerry Spark took over the male lead in place of John Patrtridge, who was absent, in playing unscrupulous defence lawer Billy Flynn always on the lookout for number one and lining his pockets by defending about-to-be convicted murderers.  Amos, Neil Ditt is an experienced actor who ‘gets’ the role of Roxie’s husband, the pathetic, incompetent and ignored ‘Mr Cellophane’ (to use the title of his song) off pat.

The staging is atmospheric and costumes a delight for the eye with deftly wielded chorus line feather fans in one of the later scenes, while the  onstage orchestra under musical director Ben Atkinson, is superb, providing not only musical backing throughout but continuing to entertain after the show ends.

Runs until Saturday 30 July 2016


Last Night of the Welsh Proms 2016, ST DAVIDS HALL BY JAMES BRIGGS

Following a simply wonderful week packed full with all types of music, the Welsh Proms 2016 drew to a stunning close on Saturday evening. The Last Night of the Welsh Proms, at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, is a celebration of what it means to be Welsh and how important music is for Welsh people. The celebrations began before the audience entered the auditorium, with a band playing outside the hall enticing passer-by’s into the concert hall.

As the show began the audience welcomed The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London and the resident Last Night Of The Welsh Proms conductor Owain Arwel Hughes CBE. With a marvellous programme of songs set for the evening the audience knew there would be a great evening in store.

As well as the upbeat recognisable pieces played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the Last Night is also about some serious music, and this year’ concert featured three world premiere performances of brand new orchestral pieces.

The first of these was ‘Cambrian Serenade’, by Arwel Hughes, the father of our conductor for the evening. The piece featured heavily on Classical FM where they held a competition for the listeners to name the song and the winner would get to see the music performed on The Last Night Of The Welsh Proms. The second of the world premiere pieces was ‘Aberfan’, by Christopher Wood, the emotional piece which was very moving was written to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. The Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic landslide of a colliery coal tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, on 21 October 1966, which engulfed a Primary school and killed 116 children and 28 adults.

The third piece making its World Premiere was ‘Mr Dahl’, by Bernard kane Jnr, which was a beautiful piece written to commemorate 100 years from the birth of the great Welsh writer Roald Dahl.

Some of the first half highlights included Coates ‘Dambusters March’, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ and Mendelssohn’s well known and loved ‘Wedding March’. The real showstopper that ended the first half was the soundtrack to Star Wars which took your breath away. Nothing can really prepare you for when you hear the opening few bars of the theme played by the brass section. It is almost like you are expecting Darth Vader or Yoda to appear on stage and greet the audience.

As with the tradition of the Last Night Of The Welsh Proms, it was really after the interval that the fun really began with an influx of flag and banners being brought into the auditorium in preparation for waving along with the music.

The second half opened with a personal favourite of mine Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No.1 and it wasn’t long until conductor Owain Arwel Hughes soon had everyone on their feet and singing ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ enthusiastically to the music. Strauss Radetsky March proved popular with the prom goers as we all clapped along when told by the conductor.

The final songs of the evening came in the form of ‘Fantasy On Welsh Songs’ arranged by Gareth Wood. This part of the concert involved a great deal of singing with the orchestra as some of Wales’ most famous songs were played. With songs such as Cwm Rhondda, Men Of Harlech, Ar Hyd Y Nos, We’ll Keep A Welcome, Myfanwy, and I Bob Un Sydd Ffyddlon there was plenty of choice. One song played Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn had a great deal of meaning for my Mum who I attended the concert with as it was the song she performed for the Queen when she visited Wales in 1977 for her Silver Jubilee celebrations.

The national anthem Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau provided a fitting encore to end a wonderful evening of music. Conductor Owain Arwel Hughes promised the proms would return bigger and better next year, which is definitely something to look forward to. I urge everyone if you have the chance to attend the Last Night Of The Welsh Proms be sure to go because you are sure to have a magical evening of music and culture.