Absolutely beautiful – the colours of India, the sentiments of its time, the tragedy of love over birth – exquisite.
It makes me cry. I have loved the music from this rarely performed opera for years and years. It is absolutely beautiful. And the characters are all visually believable – both leads are young and lovely looking, their voices ardent as their passion. No one is miscast, no one is out of place.
It is as gentle and as curiously English as a Wildean play but with the underlying expectation of tragedy teasing us along the way. It is Madam Butterfly meets Passage to India. I wonder whether I may feel less or more affected were it sung in the original French and conclude a handsome, manly colonialist colliding with a hidden jewel of a local lass will sound the same in any language where it is sung with conviction.
The clash of backgrounds, religions, family and commitments is very predictable and the terrible messy tragedy of it all plays out predictably too. Delibes opera is based on Pavie’s story. But this is a predictable tale prettily told, beautifully visualised and fabulously well sung.
The Flower Duet between Lakme and Mallika is exquisite, Lakme’s Bell Song heart-achingly lovely with the sopranos comfortably balanced by the tenor of Gerald and the bass-baritone of Nilakantha.
The set feels a little clumsy initially but its simplicity allows us to concentrate on the opera and enjoy the music, the period costumes and the sublime singing. How lovely it is to revel in Lakme performed as it might have been at the turn of the last century.
But yet again, I leave a performance wishing I could take it home with me somehow – I want to listen to it all again and again and I can’t – I want to take Lakme home with me, fill my house with her voice, send it out into the darkness of the night so others can hear her, feel her hope and her sorrow, scent the flowers in her garden, scream at her not to take the poisonous datura…
I am left bereft.
Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.
7 March, 7.30pm
Concessions: £2 off
Under 25s: Half price
By Léo Delibes
Director Brendan Wheatley
Pre-show talk: 6.15pm
Running time: 135 minutes (20 minutes interval)
Tour dates: http://www.swanseacityopera.com/productions/lakme/
- Lakme – Madalina Barbu
- Lakme – Hannah Sawle
- Gerald – Luke Sinclair
- Gerald – Daniel Joy
- Nilakantha – Håkan Vramsmo
- Mallika – Katarzyna Balejko
- Frederick – Mark Saberton
- Ellen – Georgina Stalbow
- Rose – Jess Robinson
- Miss Bentson – Rhonda Browne
- Hadji – Bo Wang
- Tenor chorus – Richard Hansen
- Tenor chorus – David Fortey
- Bass chorus – Simon Grange
- Musical Director – John Beswick
- Director – Brendan Wheatley
3 / 5
The opera Lakmé is possibly best known for the popular Flower Duet, composed by Delibes as a showcase for sopranos and performed in Act I by Lakmé and her maidservant Mallika. Lakmé is the daughter of Nilakantha a Brahmin Priest, and the story, set in British-governed India in the 19th century, centre around the love story of Lakmé and a British officer, Gerald. Nilakantha has been forbidden to practice his religion by the British and, full of hatred for the occupying force combined with an obsessive patriarchal love, vows revenge. When he discovers Lakmé has become attracted to Gérald, Nilakantha sets a trap for the soldier and knifes him. Lakmé hides Gérald in the forest and nurses him back to health, but his officer friend Frederic appears to remind him that he has been posted elsewhere. Duty calls – with tragic consequences.
All photographic credits Guy Harrop
The atmosphere of British India comes to the fore in the picnic scene in Act I with the two Army officers, their English girlfriends and governess, with a neat cameo role by New Zealand mezzo-soprano Rhonda Browne as the governess Mistress Bentson, permanently clutching her black Gladstone bag as if it were her saviour.
Romanian born soprano Madalina Barbu’s delicacy of appearance are ideal for the role of Lakmé. Barbu has performed in a number of demanding operatic roles,but does not cope well with all the high notes in the Act II aria Bell Song – a long-time favourite with coloratura sopranos – which is a pity given the high standard of other solo arias and in particular her duets with Gérald (Luke Sinclair). However, Barbu’s diction is not always clear, especially in Act I. Sung in English, it should not be a problem but surtitles would have helped.
As Gérald, Sinclair’s rounded tenor is first class, outstandingly so in his solo arias and duets with Barbu. His interaction with Mark Saberton’s Frederic is also good. As the Mr Nasty of the piece Nilakantha, Håkan Vramsmo bestrides the stage with lofty disdain and a powerful bass, while in the role of Nilakantha’s slave Hadji, Bo Wang gives a neat and well timed performance.
As both director, artistic director and set designer Brendan Wheatley has his work cut out. With the exception of the colourful market scene in Act II, Wheatley’s minimal set is just that, resulting in much of this opera’s Oriental ambience and emphasis on the natural beauty of flowers and trees being lost. There is not a tree or flower to be seen, unless you count the solitary lily thrown on stage in the final act. Surely, Mr Wheatley, you could have run to a token miniature tree or so, and maybe a flowering bush? A local garden centre might be pleased to offer them gratis in return for a programme mention. For greenery, Wheatley relies heavily on the lighting to engender atmosphere, and full credit to lighting director James Thomas for doing his utmost to comply.
With its melodic score and passionate themes of love and persecution, this is opera to tug at your heart strings and this production by Swansea City Opera does that on all fronts. Considering the restrictions of opera on a shoestring – the company was rescued by funding from the Arts Council after Swansea withdrew their support – all credit to them for staging a most enjoyable performance. However, despite manful efforts, the small orchestra struggles to cope with the richness and delicate orchestration of Delibes score.
Lakmé, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
Music: Léo Delibes
Libretto: Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille
New English Translation: Bridget Gill
Director: Brendan Wheatley
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
Madam Butterfly & Le Vin Herbe
Love’s Poisoned Chalice
Welsh National Opera at Wales Millenium Centre
Sweet little Butterfly is but 15. A child. A beautiful, lost child to us.
Pinkerton is to our eyes horribly unattractive, horrible in deed, fact and person. I don’t want him anywhere near her.
But, she is in love and he is in lust.
He is the archetypal American soldier – overpaid, oversexed and over here. He has the tacit and overt support of his colleagues. He blinds Butterfly’s friends and family with his pomp and wealth.
It is an arranged marriage. Butterfly enters into it with enthusiasm and a love for Pinkerton which is not reciprocated.
He, of course, leaves her. She brings up their child with the help of her servant, Suzuki, over the 3 years of his absence in hope and penury. Pinkerton returns with his American wife and they assume the boy as their own. Butterfly kills herself. She has loved too much.
Not a new story in any sense. It is utterly predictable and pitiful. And honest.
I have seen this production before but I have not heard or seen such an utterly perfect Butterfly before. She is a little light burning into the sepia staging. She sings with her soul on fire.
Le Vin Herbe
The story of Tristan and Iseult the fair. Accidental lovers brought together by circumstance and potions. Their love is inconvenient and uncontrollable. Their exile and their isolation disrupted by a secret visit from the king, Iseult’s husband to be, who leaves his sword to show his lenience. The lovers overthink his intentions and return to their respective lives at court.
Tristan marries Iseult of the white hands who takes her revenge on his love for the ‘other woman’ when he is dying. Iseult returns to die over his dead body. The brambles entwine their bodies for eternity.
An outstanding production. Skeletal, dark, passionate, ironic. Show-stealing leads against an outstanding chorus. This is a well-known story well told and chest-beatingly hot.
A few thoughts:
Now, both of these operas are about love and life and fate and death. They both imply you can love too much. They both sing to us of the nasty twisty business of chance and tell us that passion will end badly. They both show us women who give up their hearts to their men, to their lords and masters.
Butterfly sees a way to a happy, comfortable, settled life with her soldier and gives up her faith, family and friends to do so. Iseult gives up a husband, crown, wealth and status to follow her knight into the woods to live in a poor shed full of flowers.
Pinkerton makes no sacrifices; he is not in love. Butterfly, Tristan and Iseult are all in thrall to love and make the ultimate sacrifice. Pinkerton is rewarded for his disinterest.
Messing with fate is clearly a bad idea but the music it invokes is not. These are two visually and vocally disparate operas with similar stories to tell. They are well chosen, well cast and masterly.
Madam Butterfly’s Un Bel Di Vedremo is Puccini at his best; Le Vin Herbe is opera at its best.
Event: Madam Butterfly, Puccini
Seen: Feb 10, 2017
Running: Friday, February 10, 2017 – Saturday, April 29, 2017
Director Joachim Herz
Revival Director Sarah Crisp
Designer Reinhart Zimmermann
Costume Designer Eleonore Kleiber
Chorus Master Stephen Harris
Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton Jonathan Burton
Goro marriage broker Simon Crosby Buttle
Suzuki a servant Rebecca Afonwy-Jones
Sharpless the American consul David Kempster
Cio-Cio-San (Madam Butterfly) Karah Son
A Welsh National Opera production, sung in Italian
Event: Le Vin Herbe, Frank Martin
Seen: Feb 17, 2017
Running: Thursday, February 16, 2017 – Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Conductor James Southall
Director Polly Graham
Designer April Dalton
Lighting Designer Tim Mitchell
Storytellers Full Company
Iseult’s mother Catherine Wyn-Rogers
Iseult the Fair Caitlin Hulcup
Brangien, companion Rosie Hay
Mark King of Cornwall Howard Kirk
Tristan his nephew Tom Randle
Duke Hoël a nobleman Stephen Wells
Kaherdin his son Gareth Dafydd Morris
Iseult of the White Hands Sian Meinir
Solo narrators Anitra Blaxhall, Rosie Hay, Sarah Pope, Joe Roche, Howard Kirk, Stephen Wells, Catherine Wyn-Rogers
A Welsh National Opera production, sung in English
Mid Wales Opera’s exciting new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute opened appropriately in the Company’s home venue of Theatre Hafren in Newtown to a packed audience, proving once again that opera, once regarded as mainly for the elite or the cognoscenti, is gaining in popularity across Wales. And rightly so, given that Wales has given birth to some of the best singers in the world. Mozart’s sardonic fairy-tale, with its contending forces of good and evil, has more than a hint of the pantomimic, but is none the worse for that, consisting as it does of some of the composer’s most memorable arias and lyrical duets.
This opera has it all – romance, comedy and mysticism. The connecting link which runs throughout is the quest of Tamino, a Prince no less, who sets out to find and rescue Pamina, who has been kidnapped.by the villain Monostatos by order of Sastro, head of a mystic cult. Tamino is helped by the magic flute and Papageno, the birdcatcher who lives in a hut in the woods and whose idea of heaven is hearth and home with Papagena, the girl of his dreams, and a clutch of little Papagenos to make it complete. The story, with its mix of wonderful music , soaring arias, lovers’ tiffs and misunderstandings, set against a background of birdsong and mysticism, also manages to reference the power of womanhood and the number three, the latter being a send-up of the Masonic w which is both spooky and hilarious.
In the role of Tamino, William Wallace is a perpetually perplexed fresh-faced Tamino with a clear tenor, heard to advantage in his duets with Pamina. Frederick Long’s Papageno pulls out all the stops in a performance that bears evidence of Long’s familiarity with the opera and grasp of the role – truly a delight. The latter also applies to Papagena, sung by Laura Ruhi Vidal, who makes her appearance in Act II,
This wouldn’t be opera without the element of evil, the equivalent of the Wicked Fairy in pantomime, here in the shape of the Queen of the Night, Pamina’s wicked and scheming mother ( making a change from the classic wicked stepmother.). This is possibly one of the most demanding soprano roles in the history of opera, with an incredibly high range with which even the most accomplished of soprano can struggle.
Full credit to soprano Samantha Hay who, cocktail-hatted, masked and black ball gowned, takes command of the stage with confidence, soaring to the difficult top F. A creditable performance deserving of the calls of “Brava!” awarded to her at the end. The forces of evil are well represented, with Matt R J Ward as the sinister Monostatos, swooping down like a predatory crow on the unsuspecting and naïve young Pamina, sung prettily by Moscow-born Galina Averina, who has worked with Dame Kiri Te Kana and WNO’s Dennis O’Neill.
Mention must also be made of the three ladies, an enthusiastic performance and some great costumes – I particularly like the red cross outfits in Act I. The orchestra, under the baton of conductor Jonathan Lyness, segues seamlessly between the familiar themes despite Lyness’ reduced orchestration.
Scenically, the production is helped by Declan Randall’s excellent lighting – a necessary facto, as, due no doubt to budget restrictions and the difficulties of touring, scenery is kept to the minimum, a lack particularly noticeable in Act I. Not even a token bush or tree in sight in the opening scene set in a forest, although designer Richard Studer’s ploy of using a backdrop of a giant sun /or moon works to some extent.
THE MAGIC FLUTE Mid Wales Opera, Theatre Hafren, Newtown
Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto: Emanuel Schikaneder
Artistic Director: Richard Studer
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
You can listen to Barbara reading her review at the Soundfile below just click on the link.
Madam Butterfly Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff
Music: Giacomo Puccini
Libretto: Guiseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Director: Joachim Herz
Revival Director: Sarah Crisp
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels4 / 5
That most heartrending of operas, Puccini’s Madam Butterfly is staged by Welsh National Opera as the second in their Love’s Poisoned Chalice season. Following on after La Boheme, which opened the season, Butterfly is, like the former, one of the most popular operas and as a consequence – in these days of cuts to the arts funding – one of those most often performed.
Once again, it is a case of reach for the tissues as the story of the Japanese fifteen-year-old geisha, Cio-Cio San, who gives her heart to, and marries, a bounder of an American naval lieutenant, one Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton who doesn’t take the marriage seriously, unfolds towards its tragic end. In restaging this opera which they first performed back in 1978, WNO have wisely adhered to the original format directed by Joachim Herz and first performed at La Scala Milan in 1904.
Sepia toned sets emphasise that this is old Japan – and the gulf between the two worlds and their values runs as an undercurrent throughout, at times becoming more prominent. The political undertones are emphasised throughout the libretto, epitomised by recurrent musical themes in the orchestration, as well, as in the repeated playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
This time round WNO has honed and polished their performance of the poignant story set to Puccini’s wonderful score to a state of near-perfection. This is due in no small part to Karah Son’s portrayal of the central role of Butterfly. Not only has the South Korean soprano a voice of the utmost clarity, with a seemingly effortless ability to soar to the high notes which the role demands, but Son excels both in Act I, as the innocent young girl who believes in true love everlasting (only to be thoroughly deceived and let down by that cad and absolute bounder Pinkerton) and in Act II, where she achieves the difficult shift to the more mature Butterfly, bringing depth to the tragic denouement This requires not only a change in characterisation but in style of singing, and this Son does, notably so in the beautiful aria One fine day..
In the role of the bad guy (and what a cad Pinkerton is to abandon his young wife so callously) Jonathan Burton’s tenor is pleasing, particularly in his duets with Son. His portrayal of the callous and worldly Pinkerton contrasts well with the naivety of the young Japanese girl who has never been further than Nagasaki, but Burton does at times lack facial expression. One could perhaps argue that this is intentional on the part of the director in that Pinkerton is a reflection of the attitudes that existed during that era. Nevertheless I would have liked a tad more expressiveness from Burton, as this can at times make him appear a tad wooden in the role.
Welsh baritone David Kempster brings gravitas to the role of the Consul who does his best to avert the tragedy, while as the bowler-hatted marriage broker Goro, Simon Crosby Buttle skips around the stage in great form. As ever, the WNO chorus is an added bonus, particularly so as the posse of Butterfly’s geisha friends in Act I, and the rendering with the orchestra, under conductor Lawrence Foster, of the humming chorus in Act II.
A production honed to near perfection which should not be missed. Catch it if you can.
Runs at the Wales Millennium Centre 17, 18 February, then touring,
Interested in theatre, dance, visual art, gigs, poetry, film and more?
Want to access a free workshop which will give you an insight into the role of a critic?
Then, this is for you!
You will take part in a 1 hour workshop with Guy O’Donnell Director of online magazine website Get the Chance http://getthechance.wales
During the workshop you will be given an insight into the role of the arts critic. You will be given instruction on how to create a review and upload your response online. Participants will look at blogging, video, social media and much more! All workshop participants will get the opportunity for their reviews to feature on the Get the Chance website.
If you have one please bring a laptop, tablet and/or smartphone.
Workshops are on Saturday the 14th at 11.30 and 1.45 pm at Venue Cymru as part of Take Part 2017
In the article below our members choose a range of productions and events they are looking forward to in 2017.
Young Critic Amelia Seren Roberts
Rosalind Dance 4/James Cousins Company
“I’m looking forward to a production called ‘Rosalind’ by Dance 4 and James Cousins Company at Nottingham Lakeside Arts”
“I am looking forward to hearing more from Artes Mundi, and to see Castle Ruins (a show by artists rejected from the Nottingham Castle Open).”
“The New Art Exchange has an interesting show coming up called, ‘Untitled: Art on the conditions of our time”
“Leon Sadler has a show coming up at Syson Gallery that I think is definitely going to be something worth going to see:”
Young Critic Beth Clark
Killology The Sherman Theatre Cardiff and Royal Court Theatre
“The show that I am most excited for this year is “Killology” at the Sherman Theatre, written by my absolute favourite Gary Owen and directed by my also favourite Rachel O’Riordan. Two of the most moving and real life productions of the last two years are Iphigenia in Splott which I saw in Cardiff and Violence and Son which I travelled to London to watch so you can imagine my excitement. I love Gary Owens raw approach on controversial, gritty and jaw dropping subject matter. “Lie out darkest fantasies, but you don’t escape their consequences” a line used in the write up to the play… it gives me goose bumps as I know this play will take the viewers on a phycological trip they wouldn’t have imagined possible.I hope this play is in the studio theatre as the intense momentum that can be built up in there will be electric, with director Rachel O’Riordan no doubt pulling out all the stops.”
The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
“I am particularly interested in seeing this play as the writers and creative team alike are unknown to me so I am eager to enjoy and observe their styles and approaches in tackling such a controversial and historical topic. I have recently watched the BBC drama “Six Wives with Lucy Worsley” which give quite a different perspective of Catherine to that I had imagined and observed to date. I wonder whether this show will evoke more feelings and insights into the life of Catherine of Aragon for me and can it change my strong views I already have on the story? We will see!”
I, Daniel Blake the film at Chapter Arts Centre
“I am so relieved that Chapter are doing more viewings of this as I have read epic reviews of this over last few months by some established critics. Always a good sign!”
Drones Comedy Club at Chapter Arts Centre
“Operating monthly at Chapter Art Centre and rated in the the Big Issues top ten things to do in Cardiff it is definitely a Friday night option and something I am looking forward to throughout 2017.”
Zero for the Young Dudes as part of NT Connections at The Sherman Theatre
“I am also drawn towards Zero for the Young Dudes performed by Sherman Youth Theatre which will be used as their competition entry to NTC festival. In attending the NTC festival in 2016 I am aware of the quality produced by these young individuals and in some circumstances when experiencing barriers which is always extremely insightful and inspiring to me. It’s also a good opportunity to catch glimpse of the up and coming stars that are going to rock the world of theatre in Wales and beyond for years to come!”
“Firstly, Legend and a tribute to Bob Marley 28 January at the Globe being a 7 piece band which is noted to be a flawless musicianship. I am attending with a fellow reggae lover so set to be a fun evening.
I am gassed for Cardiff’s very own asteroid boys who will be championing their recent success of their sold out tour and signing by Sony records and will be supporting Wiley at Y Plas event in one of my most memorial venues in Clwb ifor Bach”
Im looking forward to any events for 2017 from Pryme cut and Rhyme cut entertainment incorporating Wild boys wasted and likes of Brave Mugraw, Crash, Lord Bendtner, Two Putt and more on battlers… Performers.. Saykridd, Jake the Ripper, Ferny Mac, Chew, Conrad Lott and Beatbox Hann plus much more as the events over the last two years have been something to shout about. These nights are open to any performers any styles making them completely diverse perfect for our very cultural city of Cardiff.
I am also looking for anything to attend that includes again Cardiff’s own Baby Queens with their album being released the latter end of 2016 and being noted in BBC online top 100 single. This band are the ones to watch.”
Get the Chance Creative Associate Jonny Cotton
The House of Bernarda Alba
By Federico García Lorca, Directed by Jenny Sealey
A Royal Exchange Theatre and Graeae Theatre Company co-production
Graeae has a new play, ‘The House of Benarda Alba’ which will be coming out in Feb and will be performing at The Royal Exchange in Manchester so I will be looking forward to see that.”
“My dream or wish is to see a disability-led organisation to come to Wales in 2017. Although I don’t mind travelling to see the likes of Fingersmiths, Graeae, Birds Of Paradise I would like to see them perform in Wales. That would be my wish! I think the difficulties is because of the Arts strands and lack of support from venues which preventing these organisations coming to Wales. We need to see a change in that!”
Young Critic James Briggs
“I am looking forward to this year there are two which I have already got press for in St Davids Hall and they are ‘Anton and Erin’ and ‘Riverdance’.”
Anton and Erin and Lord of The Dance/Riverdance
3rd Act Critic Chris Howell
Sunny Afternoon at the Wales Millennium Centre
“I am particularly keen to see Sunny Afternoon. It started its journey at the Hampstead Theatre, one of my favourite venues in London. Then, as most good productions it is home to, it made it successfully to the West end and now there is a touring company. It’s also the start of an era for me as the Kinks played the Capitol in May 1965, I was there and witnessed the altercation between Dave Davies and Mick Avory”
Community Critic Emily Garside
Killology by Gary Owen
“I am looking forward to another new work from one of Wales’ most interesting playwrights.”
Young Critic Kat Leslie
“I’m looking forward to seeing Thunder playing live in March.
I’m also going to see Footloose performed in June at the Wales Millennium Centre
I am also going.to a festival that I go to every year in August called ‘Solarsphere Astronomy and Music Festival.”
3rd Act Critic Barbara Michaels
“Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes which is coming to Cardiff. I was fortunate to be given house seats at Sadlers Wells on Christmas Eve. It is arguably the best thing Bourne has ever done. On the home front WNO start the new season with La Boheme. A great atmospheric production and an excellent on to enjoy if you have never seen opera before. “
Young Critic Lauren Ellis Stretch
“I am looking forward to Killology at the Sherman Theatre and Funny Girl at the Wales Millennium Centre . The Other Room’s Spring season also looks thrilling!”
3rd Act Critic Helen Joy
A rather controversial topic perhaps but one which raises its curious head regularly in conversation if not in print.
Having touched on this in my review of Bafta Cymru, I feel a personal need to explore the impact of Welsh identity projected in the Arts on audiences.
Opera & Dance
Having absolutely adored having access to so much of both through 2016, I plan on deepening my knowledge through further attendance at performances, continuing to draw at open rehearsals and through interviewing performers and artists.
Leaving events in Cardiff at night has opened my eyes to the problem of homelessness. The stark contrast between the opulent glories of the stage and the plight of living on the streets has been brutal to witness, far more brutal to those who live it. Everyone has a story and I would like to help those stories be heard.”
I am a woman who is rarely lost for words. I have no idea where to begin on this one.
So, let’s go with my first thoughts:
I witnessed an opera audience splutter and stutter into laughter and whoops of delight as a show became progressively funnier and livelier and more and more colourful.
My dear, this isn’t opera… it’s, um, a musical.
Shock horror! The Welsh National Opera does musical all right. It’s borderline panto.
It is singing, talking, dancing, ballet, tap – it is Baltimore, it is Shakespeare, it is Cole Porter.
We rush from dusty backstage to technicolour onstage with a rapacious love for the piece which infects everyone in the building.
There is even a stuffed mule.
Not funny, dear.
Oh it is. It is carry me out of here laughingly funny! It is a showcase for this multi- talented cast and how much they seem to enjoy their moments in the spotlight. Revelling in the bawdiness, the burlesque and the slapstick.
Asses seem to have quite a prominent role, one way and another.
It reminds me at times of The Good Old Days, vaudeville at its finest, people laughing at themselves in the story, in the audience. I fancy we should all be wearing doublets and bodices. A round of the Old Bull and Bush at the end wouldn’t go amiss, such is the atmosphere.
Well, I wasn’t expecting that!
Kate sings the songs of the wild and sexy and shrewish, Petruchio was an operatic twinkly eyed pirate, the gunmen do one of the best duets since Michael Ball and Les Dennis in Hairspray; and Bianca and Lucentio are utterly joyous in both song and dance.
It is obscenely good entertainment.
We come out to Christmas trees and misty cold, buzzing with that warm fuzzy feeling you get from a performance well done.
But this is Cardiff, a city, like many others, with a dark underbelly. There, under the lit arches of the Wales Millennium Centre, is a man completing a broadsheet crossword. I give him the change I find in the bottom of my bag – it is a paltry amount but it is the only cash I have. I apologise for my meanness. He smiles and calls me back.
Look at this, pretty lady.
My friend and I turn back and he shows us a magic trick with a 20p coin and wishes us a Merry Christmas.
Event: Kiss Me Kate
Seen: 06 Dec, 2016
Reviewer: Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics
Running: 06 Dec – 10 December 2016
Cost : Tickets: £7 – £43
Running time: Approximately 2 hour 50 minutes with one interval
5 stars – spectacular
A Welsh National Opera production, sung in English
Conductor James Holmes
Director Jo Davies
Set & Costume Designer Colin Richmond
Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell
Choreographer Will Tuckett
Fred Graham / Petruchio Quirijn de Lang
Lilli Vanessi / Katherine Jeni Bern
1st Gunman Joseph Shovelton
2nd Gunman John Savourin
Music and Lyrics Cole Porter
Book Bella and Samuel Spewack
Critical Edition David Charles Abell and Seann Alderking.
Get the Chance recently organised a morning of creative conversations called Creative Citizens Cymru. The event was funded by the Arts Council Wales Sharing Together. “A strategic initiative to encourage the development of networking opportunities.”
The event took place at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Participants shared their views on a variety of issues including, the on-going relationships between arts critics, venues, producers and artists, critical responses to Welsh venues’ work as well as new and existing collaborative working methods. Get the Chance (GTC) is a social enterprise that supports members of the public to access and respond to sport and cultural provision. GTC was specifically interested in generating conversation relating to ways to support the development of Creative Citizens acting as critics, ambassadors, volunteers, advocates, promoters, workshop leaders and more.
Representatives from a range of organisations discussed some of their work in this area including,
Geinor Styles Artistic Director, of Theatr na nÓg and Ani of the Ambassadors discussed their Ambassadors scheme.
“The Theatr na nÓg Ambassadors scheme started in January 2016 in order to support and mentor the new generation of theatre professionals.
Aimed towards 16-25 year olds, the scheme offers full access to the company where you will learn by observation and get hands-on experience at rehearsals, on productions and events. The Ambassadors have already supported na nÓg in our production of ‘TOM’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, performed as cast members on ‘The Amazing Adventure of Wallace and Bates’ at Cardiff Museum and the Eisteddfod as well as supporting the production of ‘The Ghost of Morfa Colliery’ at the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea.
We want to work with as many young people as possible through the medium of both Welsh and English and by offering our support and resources, we hope to contribute to the development of new skills that they will be able to use at na nÓg and elsewhere in the industry.”
Nia Skyrme Freelance producer/promoter
Nia works with local community representatives to support marketing opportunities for touring productions. Shanon Newman was local promoter on a recent production supported by Nia.
“My name is Shannon and I am currently an ‘on the ground promoter’ working on Motherlode’s The Good Earth. That means that I am helping to spread the word to as many people as possible about this show which tours Wales in September.
Motherlode’s tagline is Tireless New Theatre, Made in Wales. I saw the last run of rehearsals for ‘The Good Earth’ at Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy a few weeks ago. I feel extremely lucky to be working to engage people in the Cardiff area and to have got the chance to watch the performance just before it went on tour to New York. I’m delighted to help spread the word about this production; the themes that it touches on evokes awareness on what has affected Wales as a country in the past and its reaction to moments of hardship. It is an important message of strength and unity, especially during a time when we seem to be so divided.
‘The Good Earth’ echoes concerns over the threat to the Welsh identity and community with its close relation to the Aberfan and Tryweryn tragedies. The play made me feel nostalgic about situations I’ve never personally experienced, and empathetic for the characters’ cause to maintain the integrity of their way of life. It reminded me of Wales’s role in modern Britain, and how drastically that has developed over the years. It was the backlash against apathetic and unjust authorities that helped to fuel the surge of Welsh nationalism that we see today.
The singing, though not appearing to be its fundamental feature, significantly intensified the mood of the play. It had a meditative effect. Kudos to the actors for managing to convey the emotions of deeply relevant issues in many Welsh communities. I am so excited to see the show alongside a Welsh audience when it returns from NYC.”
Peter Gregory and Hilary Farr from Arts Council Wales, Night Out Scheme.
Peter and Hilary gave us all a brief overview of The Night Out Scheme
“The Arts Council of Wales’ Night Out scheme works in partnership with the local authorities to help groups of volunteers across Wales bring the arts to the heart of their communities.
Community groups (known as Promoters) can choose from a huge range of great professional performers and put them on in community or village halls and other non traditional venues across the country. If you want information on how the scheme works and promoting events visit the Become a Promoter Section.
Each year close to 600 shows are booked through the scheme by nearly 350 different community groups. Alongside the main scheme we also run the Noson Allan Fach scheme which offers small shows for member led organsiations such as WI or Merched y Wawr.
Working in conjunction with the local authorities of Wales, the Night Out team operates a guarantee against loss for events where we pay the performer fee and the community promoter pays back ticket income made at the door.
We never take more than the performer costs so as a promoter you will never be worse off by using the scheme. The more money promoters make back the more funds we have available to say yes to another request.
Our promoters are free to book a wide range of professional artists. Many come to Night Out for advice on appropriate high quality shows suitable for small community venues.”
Sophie Mckeand and Christine Smith are Night Out Young Promoter Coordinators and talked about their work in this field.
“The award winning Young Promoters Scheme works with groups of children and young people taking them through the process of becoming the promoters for an event in their community. You can download an information leaflet here
“The whole scheme was very straightforward. Everything was clearly explained. The support we had from the Arts Council staff team was superb …The young people were extremely proud of what they had achieved. They have grown in skill and confidence and can’t wait to do it again” Sharon Campbell Colwyn Bay Youth Centre
The Night Out Young Promoters Scheme is an ideal way of giving practical skills to children and young people and improving the relationship between young people and their schools and their local community.
Operating since 2005, the scheme has worked with hundreds of children and young people aged between 7 and 18 throughout Wales, giving them the unique experience of organising and enjoying a performing arts event in their local hall. Projects involve a facilitator, working alongside a teacher or youth leader to enable a group of young people to experience the “behind the scenes” work that goes into organising an event. Though a series of workshop sessions groups are taken through aspects of Box Office, Front of House, Stage Management and Marketing / publicity and Sponsorship. The Young Promoters get to make all the decisions – and do all the work!
Groups are able to have fun as part of a creative learning process and to develop personal, social and work related skills. When run in schools, the scheme can be utilised to deliver specific elements of the national curriculum since it includes aspects of literacy, ICT, mathematics, numeracy, art and design and event management.”
Kai Jones, Gig Buddies Coordinator, Accessible Information Officer, Learning Disability Wales.
Kai discussed the new Gig Buddies initiative.
“Making choices about how you live your life is an important part of being independent. We want to make sure that people with a learning disability can choose to stay up late and go to gigs. A gig is another name for a music concert.
We know that many people with a learning disability love music, but don’t ever get the chance to go to gigs and see their favourite bands live. To help change this we are starting a new project, called Gig Buddies. The project will match people with a learning disability with volunteers who share the same music tastes so they can go to gigs together.”
Anne-Marie Lawrence, Senior Project Manager, Spice Time Credits, South East Wales.
“Time Credits make a sustainable difference to a range of organisations across the community, housing, health, care and school sectors. They are proven to increase the number of people involved in the community and are able to help sustain that involvement over time, bringing about a range of transformative outcomes.
Time Credit systems work on a simple hour-for-hour basis: for every hour you give to your community you earn one Time Credit, which you can then spend on an activity of your choice.
You can give time in ways that match your skills and interests, and spend your Time Credits with our diverse range of fantastic partners across the UK who offer everything from swimming to learning a language.”
Much of the morning was spent working as a large group sharing learning opportunities and informal networking.
During the second half of the morning the group were tasked with further developing some responses to questions which developed from the initial conversations and areas Get the Chance wanted to focus on. Some of the responses can be seen in the images below.
An online survey was also created to continue this conversations. The survey is till live and we invite anyone interested to complete it.
Get the Chance has another event planned in North Wales in the spring of 2017
Guy O’Donnell the director of Get the Chance organised a similar event a few years ago and a blog post on this event can be found at the link below.