“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.
Lara Croft is really about the action set pieces. It has about six that where clearly in-mind when they were developing it and they rest was focused on connecting them together. So this movie’s quality should be determined by how much you care about the characters in the scenarios, how well do the connections from one to the other work and how engaging are said action set-pieces.
From what has been established in the other games and how she has been represented through advertisement Lara Croft is a cunning woman that is pretty much the female Indiana Jones in terms of her being a action star archeologist that finds herself in constantly escalating situations of peril. Her personality though? Well she’s cool, that’s pretty much it to be honest. That’s how she has been able to be sold in so many ways and be put into so many different scenarios over the years , her character is simple and you don’t need a deep complex character when you are controlling them in a video game cause you can project what you want onto them. But now that there’s a movie we need to deal with it. Alicia Vikander is one of the great young stars we have right now so she would seem like the right choice. She went through months of training to get into shape for the role and it shows a few times when she gets to expose her abs, but she also runs and climbs and generally traverses like a natural. I feel she’s a little too skinny to convincingly beat up these muscle bound dudes she goes up against but meh. But for the point of her personality she is more smiley and peppy that other interpretations, she cracks a few jokes and is more down-to-earth. She is also clearly very intelligent and driven, along the way she must present herself as heartfelt, bad-ass and vulnerable which Vikander is able to clearly convey with a few delicate expressions of the eyes.
The movie is filled with action sequences which range from chases to puzzles with deadlines to gunfight’s to fisticuffs. The goal of the movie and the scenes are to deliver a visceral experience so the camera shakes and the sound of fists hitting heads and bodies slamming is clear and feels hard. There are many shots where Lara is on the move (something she often is in the movie) and the camera is either behind or in-front of her, like the camera operator is along for the run. It creates a sense of engagement by making us feel the momentum of the running and the turbulent nature of traversing the area.
For reasons Walton Goggins plays Mathias Mogel, the villain of the movie. He has been on the island for seven years, unable to go home until he gets the treasure he’s been sent to retrieve. He has gone quietly mad, nothing too over-the-top but his eyes never blink and are very open, his voice wavers and there’s never any hesitation when he kills. It isn’t a great villain or a reinvention of the role but it does come with a little more control that we don’t usually get.
At the ending of the movie they force in a twist which isn’t even that clever and which is also a clear ploy to turn this into a franchise. The days of having standalone movies are not done but the days of having a standalone blockbuster do seem to be dead and buried, at least for now. Is is so bad to go to the theater, buy your ticket, take your seat, be entertained for ninety minutes to two hours and leave satisfied, not knowing that you will have to be back over a year later to see the story continue? Sequels have gotten better over the years but just because they are not longer the stake in the heart for the movie doesn’t mean that they are now a necessity. Well, at least the movie still works well enough on it’s own.
We seem to be getting a few movies that attempt to or at least put on the facade that they are witty plot twisters when they simply aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with a simple, clear story telling that does it’s job well. That was one of the reason why Kong: Skull Island got so much praise from me. One a technical, performance and adaptation level this movie is quite capable, go knowing that this is based on a video game so it is about making you feel like you’ve gone on a ride and you’ll leave having felt it.
It seems like 2018 is going to be another great year for new theatre in Wales. Having seen a development stage of Cwmni Pluen’s next show, I’m really looking forward to seeing a final production from them this autumn. Pluen has a definitive performance style which I’m always excited to see. They’re also working in collaboration with charities during the development of the piece which I think sets a great precedent for future companies making new work. I also can’t wait to see National Theatre Wales’ Love Letter to the NHS. While the NHS is under siege from; medical companies charging them a fortune for treatment; government cuts; surgery closures; and an all time waiting list high; it’s important more than ever to support and celebrate our National Health Service in face of adversity.
My personal hope for the year is to successfully tour Motherlode’s next production Exodus. The piece was developed in Aberdare with generous support from our long term collaborators and co producers RCT Theatres and will be part of their year long 80th birthday celebrations, which includes lots of new work by exciting artists. Exodus is also supported by Creu Cymru, Bristol Old Vic, Night Out Wales and Chapter, touring to 12 venues across Wales before running in London. Gulp… I just hope we pull it off!”
Gareth Coles, Voluntary Arts Wales Director / Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru
Recently I’ve been losing myself in the acoustic EPs of the guitarist Yvette Young who also writes and performs with the band Covet. She will be releasing a piano EP early this year, and having heard some snippets, I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.
On a personal creative note, I’m hoping to develop my drawing this year. I seem to have spent most of 2017 hurriedly sketching, but having developed the habit of drawing daily, it’s time I started working on some longer and more thoughtful pieces. I have also just started playing the piano again after many years’ hiatus, so I’m hoping my rusty playing will become slightly less objectionable by the end of the year.
Simon Coates, National Theatre Wales’, Head of Creative Development
The Terra Firma Spring Tour by NDCWales including the mesmeric Tundra by Roy Assaf. EXPERIMENTICA Festival at Chapter will back again for another year of live art from all over the UK and further afield in April.
And finally I am hoping to make it along to Abercych to join one of their experimental Twmpaths with Simon Whitehead and his collaborators.
Geoff Cripps, Board Member, Theatr na Nog, Creu Cymru and musician with Allan y Fan
At the end of January I am delighted and privileged to return to Glasgow as one of the 180 delegates to Showcase Scotland – a very important element within the world’s greatest mid-winter music festival. The five days I will spend here will definitely kick away any lingering vestiges of mid-winter blues! Don’t know yet which artists I will see/hear in total but I am pleased that in the festival’s 25th anniversary year the Showcase Scotland partner is Ireland. Still hoping that one year Wales will create something of lasting value like this event which has had such a powerful impact on the development of Scottish Artists in an international setting.
I have yet to pick what to see closer to home in the valleys but am looking forward to visiting RCT Theatres, The Borough Theatre and Blackwood Miner’s Institute on several occasions during the year.
My personal hopes for 2018 include doing my best to ensure that Theatr na nÓg builds on the great achievements of 2017, that Creu Cymru continues to be the essential organisation for the theatres and arts centres of Wales and, on a real personal note, that my band Allan Yn Y Fan have our most successful concert ever in Blackwood Miner’s Institute on 28th March!
I am sure that every other contributor will make their feelings known about “Brexit”, “POTUS”, the “Maybot” etc. etc but I am deliberately trying to keep this light-hearted.
Let’s hope that despite everything the Arts In Wales continue to deliver life-changing experiences, uncover nascent talent, connect more deeply with their communities and audiences. Finally I hope that BBC Wales finally delivers a year-round coverage of the Arts In Wales.
My personal hope is to be continued to be inspired and surprised by writers and artists pushing boundaries and creating work that moves me and reminds me what it is to be human.
Peter Doran, Artistic Director, Torch Theatre Company
On a personal level, I’m really looking forward to directing our next production, The Wood by Owen Thomas; its always exciting to tackle a new piece of writing, one never really knows if it will quite come off as expected or hoped. Giving the success we had with Owen’s last play Grav (shortly to go to New York), we have high hopes but we know that there’s a great deal of hard work in front of us. I’m also working on it with two actors, whom I’ve never directed before (Ifan Huw Dafydd and Gwydion Rhys), so that gives an extra frisson.
Elsewhere, I always look forward to Vamos coming to the Torch; Vamos are a full mask company who do wonderful work, this season they are touring a piece about the war in Afganistan called A Brave Face, one to look out for. I loved Liverpool Everyman’s repertory season last year and I’ll be interested to see if the second season is as successful – A Clockwork Orange sticks out as a highlight for me.
My personal hopes? That the true value of art and culture is appreciated and not seen as the icing on top of the cake. It’s not a commodity that can take it’s stand in the market place and compete; it has to be nurtured, supported, fed – if not, it will wither away and die.
Tom Goddard, Artist and Criw Celf Coordinator
In a time when Netflix is elevated to the role of religion, Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan satisfies our obsession with marathon box set watching, with this ten part film series. First at last year’s Venice Biennale and the series continues now at Mostyn, Llandudno in March.
Ragnar Kjartansson, Artes Mundi 6 nominee, will return to Wales to present a brand-new performance piece, The Sky in a Room which will feature a series of revolving local organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ.
Chapter’s Experimentica, will roll into town again in April and is always guaranteed to raise a smile and challenge in equal measure with a real range of refreshing voices and ideas from the world of live art. NS Harsha,Artes Mundi 3 winner, will return to Wales at Glynn Vivian in Summer 2018 presenting screening printing, installation, sculpture and drawings.
Glynn Vivian will also be opening late once a month offering performance, music, workshops as well as curatorial opportunities for young people.
Simon Harris, Playwright and Director of Lucid
It would be a bit matey of me to select 2018 highlights from Wales, so the two things outside of Wales that I’d really like to see are Chris Goode’s staging of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee which has been at the Royal Exchange n Manchester and is going to the Lyric Hammersmith. Because punk’s not dead. The other is Dead Centre’s new production at the Schaubuhne of Shakespeare’s Last Play – partly to see the work and partly to go to Berlin as I’ve never been there and I’d like to go before the world ends.
I’m a little overwhelmed by how far away we are from how I’d like things to be in 2018. There’s so much to do in so many areas, it would be easy to give in and give up. But I’m drawn to some of the determined spirits out there and so my main hope for the sector is that we move to a more productive, more innovative, less hierarchical approach to making work. I would like to see some of the fake differences between Arts Council Wales portfolio and the remaining group of artists and companies done away with. I’d like to see individuals and companies allowed to apply for larger sums and for more extended periods of work, instead of one-off projects. Most of all I’d like to some vision that can lead to the release of the amazing potential of artists in Wales and their work. Oh, and a bit more honest dialogue and a lot less self-referential, self-congratulatory bulls**t.
Steffan Jones-Hughes, Director Oriel Davies
There’s so much exciting art to see in 2018!
January sees Nova open at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. An exciting exhibition of young contemporary artists originated by the Royal Cambrian Academy. Look out for inaugural award winner Paul Eastwood, and also Catrin Menai, Rory Duckhouse, and AJ Stockwell. Aberystwyth Arts Centre- 25.1-1.4 2018
February I can’t wait to see The Sky in a Room by Icelandic Artist, Ragnar Kjartansson. The exciting performance will see a series of revolving organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ, and will run from 3 February to 11 March at National Museum Cardiff.
June sees The Oriel Davies Open inviting artists from Wales, UK and internationally through Open Call to show work. I’m on the selection panel along with Jane Simpson (artist & Director Galerie Simpson), Matthew Collings (writer and curator), Sacha Craddack (curator and writer. TBC), and Alex Boyd Jones, Curator OD. Oriel Davies Open 2018 23 June – 5 September.
My personal hopes are that 2018 will be a time of unleashing potential, harnessing prosperity and celebrating the power of community within society.
Paul Kaynes, Chief Executive Officer, National Dance Company Wales
Firstly the home team: NDCW are about to set off on our long Spring tour taking in all of Wales, the UK, Austria and Germany with works by Resident Choreographer Caroline Finn (in Cardiff you have another chance to see her beautiful, haunting FOLK) and the mesmerising Tundra by Marcos Morau – already an international hit. Later this year watch out for a contemporary dance-opera we’re presenting with Music Theatre Wales in October/November. It’s a beautiful work.
To finally see every organisation in Wales tackling all barriers to access, rather than relying on one or two organisations. Saying this, we have to upskill those creating the work at grassroots level for this to be achievable, so I hope to see lots of money being ploughed into this.
I hope my production of the musical The Last 5 Years comes to fruition and tours Wales Autumn 2018 as this has access at its heart and supports BSL as a culture.
I look forward to seeing our Opera Bites event expanding a little as well as some exciting developments with our 10 Minute Musicals project come to fruition. We have a sharing of this work at Millennium Centre, February 25th, Blackwood Miners Institute, February 27th and then we are sharing it at Focus Wales 2018 which is hugely exciting for this project and all the artists involved.
There is a piece I started to develop last year with Eddie Ladd based on Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy which we hope to pick up this year. It’s a piece very dear to me therefore I hope we make this work for us. Building in this there may be another exciting collaboration with Eddie in the pipeline. Watch this space. Our work compliments each other wonderfully.
I hope to see more of my daughter this year, drink less rose wine and get back into the gym at more regular intervals. I am also hoping to renovate my kitchen and become a better cook!! I have also vowed to explore the landscape I live within this year and reconnecting with nature a little.
Bethan Marlow, Writer
2018 feels like a fresh year. There’s a lot of courage in the air, people are standing up and shouting out, dirty secrets are no longer protected and new manifestos are being drawn. I’m crossing all my fingers that this also means that we’ll see fresh and courageous cultural activity all over Wales in all languages.
I hope we all, and I’m very much including myself here, have the courage to dig deep and create what we need and want to create this year. Not what we think people will go and see or what we think will tick funding boxes but what our guts are screaming for us to make.
David Mercatali, Associate Director, Sherman Theatre
I am hugely excited to be working with the fantastic Welsh writer Katherine Chandler and the next generation of acting talent on the world premiere of Buddy. The play is part of NEW:2018 and is a co-production between RWCMD and Sherman Theatre.My wish for the New Year would be for anyone living in Cardiff who hasn’t been to the theatre yet to give it a go!
My personal hopes for 2018; In light of the funding threats to my local arts centre at Pontardawe, I hope that the people who make these detrimental decisions recognise the importance of the arts and their effect on our wellbeing. I hope that communities begin to make more use of all local arts centres and that artists and creatives have the freedom and funding to encourage and inspire those that are blind to its relevance in our society today.
Mae son bod cynhyrchiadau newydd ar y gweill gan Mercury, Neontopia a Triongl, a gobeithio bydd Na’Nog yn atgyfodi Nye and Jennie gan i mi ei fethu yn y Metropole yn Abertileri,a pwy a wyr pa ddanteithion daw i’n diddanu pan ddaw’r Eisteddfod i Gaerdydd ym mis Awst.
O’m rhan fy hun mae gen i brosiectau gyda’r Theatr Genedlaethol, Na’Nog, Theatrau RCT a Canoe a dwi’n gobeithio bydd fy sioe un menyw am Rachel Roberts (Yn Gymraeg) yn digwydd o’r diwedd!
I am looking forward to Theatr Genedlaethol’s latest productionY Tad ( Le Pere) by Florian Zeller trans. Geraint Lovgreen (Touring 21 Feb- 16 March) with Dyfan Roberts as the father. Dyfan and I began our careers together back in 1970! Also Theatr Pena’s production Women of Flowers by Sion Eirian after Saunders Lewis (Touring 1Feb-9 March) with the amazing Sara Lloyd Gregory as Blodeuwedd. I shall venture to Pontrhydfendigaid for a poetic and cinematic recreation by Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes as they embark on a three year project with NTW under the title The Storm Cycle with Nothing Remains The Same (15-17 Feb) and they promise seating- indoors! And fireworks! In a timely production about minority languages Theatr Gwalia presents Inheriting The Gods by Carmen Stephens about a relationship between a young man from the Wampanoag tribe and a young Welsh Woman and is touring Feb 26-March 24. The amazing Dirty Protest celebrate their tenth birthday with Mark Williams’ play Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock (Touring 4 April-5 May).
I hear that Mercury, Neontopia and Triongl are preparing exciting things and I hope Na’Nog will revive Nye and Jennie as I missed it at the Metropole in Abertillery, and who knows what delicacies the Eisteddfod will bring when it comes to Cardiff in August!
I have writing and performing projects with Theatr Genedlaethol, Na’Nog, RCT Theatres and Canoe and I really hope my one woman show about Rachel Roberts (in Welsh) will happen this year!
Catherine Paskell, Independent Theatre Director
I’m looking forward to loads of new original performance work happening in Wales this year, but if I had to pick only two, I would choose:
Jordan Brookes Body Of Work at Chapter on 2 June. I saw this show in Edinburgh, and Jordan was nominated for the 2017 Last Minute.Com Edinburgh Comedy Award for best show. That’s what the Perrier Award is now called, so it’s a pretty big deal and this was a pretty awesome show. It was one of the best comedy shows I saw in Edinburgh last year when Dirty Protest was there with Sugar Baby. I love Jordan’s comedy – I first saw him when he was living in Cardiff a few years ago and it was fantastic to see his work get the recognition he deserves. He’s on the performance art-end of comedy (but without being up its arse) and he’s one of my favourite weirdos.
Also, I really cannot wait for Split Britches’ Unexploded Ordances at the Wales Millenium Centre for a week this March. Peggy Shaw is a world renowned artist and I saw her show with Clod Ensemble Must: The Inside Story ten years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe. It made an impact on me then as she transfixed a Victorian anatomy theatre with a raw story full of poetry and heart and pain and medicine and art. It’s a real privilege for us to see artists of this calibre creating original work in Wales and this experience will be a must see, or rather as it’s interactive art: a “must do”.
Rachel Pedley Miller, Artistic Director, Avant Cymru
In 2018 Avant Cymru are planning a busy year with Forget Me Not in January and Blue Scar in the summer.
We are working with Rufus Mufasa on her album launch on the 16th of January. Looking forward to working with Rufus and Unity further on Welsh Hip Hop projects.
Jac Ifan Moore, Director and Co-Director of Powderhouse
Theatre Dublin Carol – Sherman Theatre
Coming up in a few weeks at the Sherman. Connor McPherson, killer cast and directed by Matthew Xia. Come on, what more d’you want?
All But Gone – The Other Room
I’m really excited to see what Dan Jones will do now that he’s at the helm of The Other Room. This will be his first production as AD, and it’s a chance to see how he’s going to put his mark on that ambitious company.
Book Tribe – Sebastian Junger
Collection of essays that span history, autobiography, anthropology and psychology. What we can learn from tribal societies, what we’ve lost, and why in the modern world we’re still craving companionship and meaning.Film
The Shape of Water – Dir. Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro’s latest film gets its UK release in February, and I’m looking forward to his particular mix of strangeness. Set to the bleak backdrop of 1960’s Baltimore, it’s apparently a love story between a mute woman and a water god. Yes please.
Lucy Owen, Journalist and writer
I’m looking forward to the Cardiff Kids Literature Festival in April this year. There will be loads of events going on and it’s a great chance to meet authors and illustrators and inspire children to pick up a book.
I am super excited that a book I’ve written for 6 – 8 year olds will be published in September too. It’s called ‘The Sea House’ and I’m really hoping children will love all the characters, particularly my favourite – a brave, sparkly little fish called Fabulous!
Marc Rees Creator and curator of installation and performance
You might have seen my crestfallen face captured on the news when it was announced that Swansea didn’t win the UK City of Culture crown for 2021? Perhaps if we’d gone with the abbreviated SUKCOC ( Swansea UK City Of Culture ) it might have been a different story?I really did think that it was Swansea’s time to shine and to quote the city’s very own big haired 80’s pop icon … we could have turned it around . However there are still exciting plans afoot and one that is very close to my heart is still under wraps till the end of January but I want to mention it as it’s certainly something that I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into in 2018.
Essentially it’s an immersive Requiem that will kickstart the Swansea International Festival 2018 – written by a twice Oscar nominated composer with a libretto by a BAFTA Cymru winning writer, sung by a world renowned choir and with a wrap around narrative led by the formidable force that is Eddie Ladd. Watch this camouflaged space.
For 2018 I’m very much looking forward to hearing more cultural stories being told by people of a diverse background. Great things are happening already but there’s still such a way to go. ‘Fio’ are doing some amazing work right now providing opportunities for BAME actors, writers and directors to showcase work and are providing a great accessible outlet.
I’m involved in TWO amazing plays with full diverse teams this year. One of them which tells a story from voices we don’t often hear from. I am working with phenomenal actors all from diverse backgrounds and I cannot wait! The plays are wonderful and I’m really honoured to be a part of it all! The theatres we are performing in are equally brilliant! Wales is a place of character, diversity and rich culture. So I look forward to us continuing to move forward within the arts and really show what we are made of.
Keiron Self, Actor and Playwright
I’m very much looking forward to Light Speed from Pembroke Dock, a family friendly and Star Wars friendly theatre show from Dirty Protest as part of their 10th anniversary. I have been lucky enough to have a few pieces perfomed by them and their stalwart crew and have a soft spot in my heart for all involved. I also saw an Rand D of the show and it touched a nostalgic string in my heart, it being about fathers and sons and a certain sic-fi film – essentially a taste of my youth.
I’m also looking forward to films coming out in February The Shape of Water Guillermo Del Toro’s new fantasy masterpiece about a love affair between a woman and a Black Lagoon-esque creature in Cold War America. I’m a great fan of Del Toro, especially Pan’s Labyrinth, and this ranks right up there next to them. Also in February Lady Bird is a film from Greta Gerwig, a fantastic indie actress making her directorial debut with a well observed coming of age talk between a mother and a daughter starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf.
I’m very much looking forward to a bumper year of culture in 2018. Many people interested in the arts in Wales will already be filling up their diaries.
One of the events I’m especially looking forward to is the National Eisteddfod (3-11 August, Cardiff), as it takes place this year right outside my office window in Cardiff Bay. For the first time in decades, the “Maes” (the festival site) will not be held in a field, and visitors will be able to come in and out as they chose, paying for each event individually. The “no-fence” Eisteddfod offers exciting opportunities to try out new activities, appealing to a wide range of audiences and celebrating the best of Welsh culture in all its forms.
For a relatively small country, Wales punches well above its weight in terms of literature festivals. As well as the world-renowned Hay Festival (24 May – 3 June), many more have appeared in recent years, including the excellent Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival (21-29 April) and the Cardiff Book Festival (7-9 September 2018). I’m particularly looking forward to the newest addition to the calendar, the Seren Poetry Festival at the Cornerstone building in Cardiff (16-18 February).
Pembrokeshire should take the prize for being the most bountiful county, with literature festivals in Solva (The Edge Festival – 2-5 August), Llangwm (10-12 August) and Rhosygilwen (PENfro Book Festival – September). These festivals would not take place without the dedicated efforts of community activists who believe in bringing people together and sharing a love for words. And the success of many depend on their brilliant local independent book shops.
If your dream is to take part in one of these festivals as a featured writer one day, then you should consider booking on one of the courses at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre: www.tynewydd.wales. The many highlights include a Creative Writing for Welsh Learners course (16-18 March with Bethan Gwanas and Eilir Jones), Songs and Lyric Writing (9-14 April with Willy Russell and Stewart Henderson), Poetry: Writing about Life (20-25 August with Lemn Sissay, Sophie McKeand and Zoë Skoulding) and Writing a Novel (24-28 September with Louise de Bernière and Wales Book of the Year winner Alys Conran). There is something for everyone this year at this very special place.
I’m looking forward to seeing the completion of the epic 50ft mural by artistPete Fowler on the iconic Water Tower at Cardiff Central Station. Inspired by the stories of the Mabinogi, the mural is part of the Weird and Wonderful Wales project by Literature Wales and Cadw. The work began before Christmas, but was suspended because of bad weather. The work will continue soon and remain in place throughout 2018, when visitors from all across the globe will see it when they visit Cardiff for events such as the Volvo Ocean Race as part of Year of the Sea.
The Wales Book of the Year award is set to be another great event this year, with the ceremony scheduled to take place in the summer. Announcements will be made in March – so keep an eye out on Literature Wales’ website for details. In the meantime, I was thrilled to see that last year’s winner Pigeon(Parthian Books) by Alys Conran, is being serialised in the Western Mail. Also, the Roland Mathias Poetry Evening will take place on 23 February at The Muse, Brecon, featuring John Freeman, winner of last year’s Wales Book of the Year Roland Mathias Poetry Award, with Jonathan Edwards chairing the event.
Last year the National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn, with funding from Welsh Government and support by Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers (1914-1918), created and toured a multi-lingual multi-media show on poet Hedd Wyn called Y Gadair Wag/ The Empty Chair, directed by Ian Rowlands. It premiered at Yr Ysgwrn, the poet’s home at Trawsfynydd which recently opened as a visitor’s centre. By popular demand, the hope is to tour more extensively in 2018, taking in locations throughout Wales, as well as the UK and Ireland. 2018 will see the announcement by Literature Wales of a new Young People’s Laureate, as Sophie McKeand’s hugely successful two-year stint comes to an end in spring.
2018 marks 70 years since the creation of the NHS, which was established by the great Welsh politician and orator Aneurin Bevan. It’s worth keeping an eye out for cultural celebrations of this significant milestone, including a series of productions throughout Wales by the two national theatre companies, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and National Theatre Wales.
In other art-forms, I’m looking forward to the return of Festival of the Voice to the Wales Millennium Centre (7-17 June), the Urdd Eisteddfod celebration of youth culture at Builth Wells (28 May – 2 June), the Swansea International Festival (October 2018) and the international art prize Artes Mundi at National Museum Wales (from 27 October). National Dance Company Wales’ Terra Firma tour takes place in Spring and will be well worth a look. Last year I very much enjoyed the collaborative concerts between the orchestras of WNO and BBC NOW, and I hope to catch a few this year as well. I can also highly recommend Rungano Nyoni’s debut award-winning film funded by Ffilm Cymru Wales, I Am Not A Witch, which will be out on DVD in February.
Like many others, I was very disappointed that Wales missed out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, having enjoyed myself immensely in France in 2016. However, this year I can kick back, enjoy the games relatively stress-free, and pick a couple of nice countries to support. Come on Iceland!
Alastair Sill, Audio Describer for Theatre
I’m really looking forward to watching Owen Thomas’ new play, The Wood by The Torch Theatre. The Wood is inspired by a true story and commemorates the centenary of World War I. Yes, I can’t wait for that one. Another highlight has to be the Festival of Voice between 7th June and 17th June, at locations around Cardiff, created by the Wales Millennium Centre. I really want to try and get down to The Other Room this year because there’s nothing else like it in Cardiff. And anything by Gagglebabble is always fantastic!
Then personally first of all, I hope I have a happy, healthy and fun year with my two boys and girlfriend. Second, I hope York City FC find promotion to the National League, the first step back to the football league. And last, I hope to record lots of funny little anecdotes from my two boys and write a children’s story inspired by their unique craziness!
Jennifer Ruth Sturt, Assistant Producer, Wales Millennium Centre
Thinking ahead to what 2018 has in store is at once terrifying and overwhelmingly exciting. This year is set to be full on, but hugely inspiring year for us at the Centre. With the launch of two new seasons of programmed work in the Weston Studio and ffresh alongside the return of our biannual international arts festival, Festival of Voice. This year, we’re creating a number of co-productions with some incredible Welsh artists and companies and I’m really proud to be part of the team helping to make them happen. As Cardiff embraces it’s title of Music City, the in-house Festival of Voice team have created a programme of work that really celebrates voice in all it’s guises and alongside an ambitious Creative Learning programme allows us to explore the positive impact of collective singing and creative expression. With just six months to go, I can’t wait for what this year’s festival has in store.
Personally, I’m looking forward to many more adventures in 2018 with plans to travel to New Zealand and Canada, see my best friend get married and all being well, get back out on the road and finally get a half marathon under my belt- fingers crossed.
Geinor Styles, Artistic Director, Theatr na nÓg
My cultural highlights would be anything Theatr na nÓg does – obvs… and also the things I am looking forward to seeing and then probably missing because I’ve double booked myself or completely forgotten they were on…
So if someone can remind me then that would be great…
Then the show I will definitely want to see before it heads off to New York, because I missed it the first couple of times round is Grav, an amazing achievement for a theatre company in far west Wales – The Torch to get it to the stage in New York after sell out shows here in Wales and Edinburgh. Congratulations to the creative team for taking a true Welsh hero and exporting it far and wide.
Even though I hate overhyped shows, I must see Hamilton this year. I think the story is incredible and an important one to hear and see in this strange uncertain time. – even though he did the music to Moana!
I also hear that Fleetwood Mac are going to tour this year specially for my birthday, so be rude not to!
Adele Thomas, Director
The play I’m most looking forward to in 2018 is John by Annie Baker, in a new production at the National Theatre. Annie is probably our greatest living dramatist. She writes with a delicacy and a humanity that make Checkhov look positively cartoonish. Her plays The Flick and Circle Mirror Transformation are amongst my favourite evenings in the theatre, and James McDonald (who directed Circle Mirror Transformation) is directing John, which makes it doubly exciting. I can’t tell you anything about what the play’s about.
My New Years Resolution is “Avoid the Algorithm”. So much internet noise and being in the industry means that by the time you’ve read the endless marketing and faced the constant stream of twitter criticism you go into the theatre too equipped to watch the play. Imagine being in the first audience for Macbeth or The Cherry Orchard or Blasted or Machinal. You would be entering the auditorium with true openness. As an audience member you might be shocked or bored or moved to tears, but your experience would be an truly honest one, a direct and unadulterated relationship between you and the play. What a gorgeous idea
Sami Thorpe, co-founder Elbow Room Theatre Company and BSL Interpreter
Sami shares her thoughts in BSL in the video below
There is so much to look forward to in 2018. I cannot wait to see Jonny Cotsen’s ‘Louder is Not Always Clearer’, it’s so important to see diverse stories on the stage and, as someone who has been involved with the Deaf community for a number of years, I’m very excited by it. I’m also looking forward to the drag acts coming to Cardiff this year, especially Klub Kids’ ‘The Twisted Circus’, which I shall be fangirling all over!
My personal hope for 2018 is that as an industry we work together to continue to diversify our audiences, sharing ideas and good practice is key. Be brave, take risks, learn and grow.
Nickie Miles-Wildin, RTYDS, Resident Assistant Director, Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre
I’m sat at my desk at The Royal Exchange Theatre and there’s so much that I’m looking forward to this year. Being Resident Assistant Director in this amazing building is opening up many great opportunities for me. My highlights are Frankenstein directed by Matthew Xia. 200 years after its publication in January 2018 Matthew is directing a new version by April De Angelis – a writer whose work I enjoy. (Playhouse Creatures is brilliant) Being assistant director on this show I am already in the depths of research and know that the cast is going to truly bring the story to life on our stage.
I’m also looking forward to working with the Young Company up here on their production of Mix Tape. Working closely with Matt Hassall – Programme Leader for the Young Company and composer James Frewer, Manchester will be given its own mix tape.
In the summer I can’t wait to be my alter ego Beryl as I tour a handful of festivals with Bingo Lingo alongside my co-star Daryl and his alter ego Cyril. It’s Bingo on a Paralympic Scale. The Without Walls festivals are an absolute joy to be at and to discover new work.
For me 2018 will be one of exciting creative work indoors at the theatre and a summer of amazing interactive playful outdoor work.
And Deaf actor Nadia Nadarajah being part of the new ensemble company at the Globe. Hopefully we’ll see more Deaf and Disabled creatives leading the way.
Matthew Xia, Director
I’m really looking forward to making some work across England and Wales this year. I’m starting with Dublin Carol – the Conor McPherson play about an alcoholic Undertaker being confronted with the life he has lived, and the others he has broken. It’s playing at Sherman Theatre in Cardiff from the 5th of February for two weeks. I then head up to the Manchester Royal Exchange to make a brand new Frankenstein adapted for the stage by April de’Angelis before directing the premier of the Alfred Fagon Award winning play Shebeen by Nottingham writer Mufaro Makubika. The show, starring Karl Collins will be presented at the Nottingham Playhouse and Theatre Royal Stratford East in June.
The big moments in history are made when someone decides to fight for what they whole heartily believe in despite what years of thinking beforehand and society is structured against them. Battle of the Sexes tells the story of one of these fights, about women tennis players that are professionals yet get one eighth of the pay the men get. So our main character, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) makes a stand. However there is a man named Bobby Briggs (Steve Carell) that is out to poke fun at her cause because it means it will lead to fun and profit.
Billie Jean King is a simple and reasonable person that understands that her situation is wrong and is willing to fight for equality. Few female actors are as likable as Emma Stone and she brings all her charm and focus to this role. On the opposite is Bobby Riggs, who calls himself “Male Chauvinist Pig” and spouts all kinds of inappropriate and offensive dialog towards the opposite sex. What makes this characterization more interesting than if they portrayed this mindset as genuine is that it is clearly a show. Briggs is clearly putting on an act for the cameras to stir press and make a few bucks, he is a gambling addict and needs to feel the spark of life, as well as that he is obviously a very good tennis player.
Accompanying the two stars are also some very well cast and performed supporting roles. There is Sarah Silverman Gladys Heldman, their chain-smoking, sharp-tongued manager. Andrea Riseborough as Marilyn Barnett, Billie’s hairdresser and lover. Bill Pullman is Jack Kramer, head of the tennis association that doesn’t believe the women players attract a big enough crowd so doesn’t pay them as much. Alan Cummings, whose always entertaining plays Ted Tinling, the tailor of the women’s uniform and clearly gay. All these actors (as well as others) perform their roles well and have a solid moment
To compliment the time its set the movie takes on a retro look. There are bright, vivid colors placed among a few pastels that really make them pop. That, as well as the grainy film look gives the movie a unique visual texture.
I knew this was based on a real story but I didn’t not know the outcome of the real match that it was building up to. When the match started and one scored and then another did I was genuinely invested. The outcome probably won’t surprise you but during the playing you have come to know the characters and understand why each of them is playing this game and whats at stake.
For a sports movie it really takes it’s time in letting the plot unfold and has no need to play at a fast passe. It is well constructed, acted and reminds us not to take where we are now for granted. There are still things to correct in terms of acceptance of people of different sexes and sexuality but we have come a long way since the events of the movie. Time to keep moving forward.
A group of fledgling sports journalists have kicked off their career by attending the international football friendly between Wales and Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium to write match reports.
Organised by Bridgend County Borough Council’s Arts and Community Development team in partnership with the FAW, the budding writers probed Football Correspondent for Media Wales, Chris Watham for some tricks of the trade in a Q&A session, before making notes for their reports during the clash between the Celtic counterparts.
Chris Watham, said: “It was great to have the chance to speak to budding journalists who showed a real enthusiasm for the industry and sports reporting in particular. In any profession, gaining the experience of an insight into how things work behind the scenes can be vital and hopefully help them make the next step. It was fantastic to have so many questions come my way which shows there were definitely some reporters of the future there!”
The workshop formed a new part of the wider Young Critics scheme, which offers expert guidance to young people to explore the role of the arts critic and discover new ways of expressing their views on arts performances in South Wales.
Councillor Lyn Morgan, Bridgend County Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, said: “I think that combining our popular Young Critics scheme with sport is a perfect match. Football is often described as the beautiful game and I’m sure the budding writers will identify the many similarities between sport and the arts.
“It’s great that, through forming strong relationships with organisations such as the FAW, our Arts and Community Development team continues to uncover new opportunities to provide a wide range of high quality experiences for the county borough’s young arts enthusiasts.”
If you’re interested in getting into writing about sport or the arts and want to find out more about the Young Critics scheme, contact Guy O’Donnell, Young Critics/Get the Chance coordinator @firstname.lastname@example.org
A sparse crowd gathered at the Cardiff City Stadium as Wales played out a stalemate with their Celtic counterparts.
The home side’s blushes were spared as Shane Long wasted clear cut chances in both halves, during a match where Wales’ dragons lacked fire in their bellies.
It’s easy to say that the reds missed the injured Gareth Bale, but with a performance lacking real impetus, did Coleman get it wrong, were Y Dreigiau using the friendly to ease themselves into the new season, or are the country’s hopes hinged on the inspiration of the £100m man?
Struggling to keep the ball for large spells of the tie, Wales’ main moments of joy came on the counter attack. While a trademark moment of Bale brilliance could have provided the difference on another night, Coleman’s system saw Jack Collison and Hal Robson-Kanu struggling to make an impact on the flanks.
Jonathan Williams showed touches of promise in the number 10 role, but often found himself too deep to link with Craig Bellamy, who was repeatedly isolated with his back to goal as lone striker.
The dragons came into the match in decent form having won two of their last three outings including a memorable victory over Scotland in March, but Ireland had strong form of their own, and were unbeaten in six prior to a friendly defeat to Spain in June.
With the greens just two places above them in the FIFA World Rankings, the bout posed an opportunity for Wales to test themselves against a team of similar quality, but Ashley Williams and his countrymen looked second best.
In a match where quality in the final third was often left wanting, Giovanni Trapattoni’s men in green started brightest, and began to turn their long spells of possession into the first flurry of chances.
Following a Glenn Whelan shot dragged wide to the left of goal from the edge of the area, Robbie Brady followed up some nice interplay with a blazed effort over the bar.
The best chance of the half came soon after, as West Brom front man, Shane Long fluffed a 12-yard sitter over Boaz Myhill’s bar on 25 minutes.
With half time approaching Ireland went close again, as Wes Hoolahan’s curled effort from the left hand side saw Myhill scrambling to his left as the ball teased its way around the post.
Wales saved their only real effort of the half for the stroke of half time. Bellamy linked up neatly with Jonathan Williams before forcing a corner, before the 34 year-old Cardiff City striker’s quick cross low into the area was met by an onrushing Ben Davies who was unlucky to blast wide from 10 yards out.
The influential Brady was replaced by Wigan Athletic’s new wide man James McClean at half time, as both teams came out for the second half lined up in the same 4231 formations.
The first chance of the half fell to Craig Bellamy, whose 54th minute 30-yard free kick was kept out of the top corner by Keiren Westwood.
Soon after, Shane long was unlucky not to find the back of the net with an improvised header from a corner which had shades of Chicharito against Stoke City.
The hour mark saw both managers begin to ring the changes, as Vokes and King replaced Bellamy and Ledley, while Whelan and O’Shea made way for Green and O’Dea. Paddy Madden made his international bow soon after, replacing Hoolahan.
The best chance of the game fell to Shane long on 70 minutes. The Irishman burst through the Wales backline but couldn’t slot the solid Myhill, who pushed the tame effort to his right.
With the remainder of the game broken up by further replacements, including the long awaited return for Swansea City left back Neil Taylor following a broken ankle in September, the match stumbled to fulltime with both teams sharing the spoils.
Man of the match: Boaz Myhill
Wales will be looking to improve going into the next round of World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Serbia in September, with vital rankings to play ahead of the qualifying draw for Euro 2016.
Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff. August 14th, 2013. KO: 7:45 PM BST
Referee: P. Kralovec (Cze)
By Joe Cook
Wales and Republic of Ireland played out a goalless draw in a friendly clash, which failed to match the spirit of Cardiff.
West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long had Ireland’s best chances, but Wales couldn’t find a rhythm to counter. The Welsh outfit evidently missing the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in midfield.
Chances were hard to come by, creating a below par encounter between these local rivals. The fans sang to lift their teams throughout the night, however a low-key event did little to build the expectation and whet the appetite for the coming football season.
Ireland controlled most of the possession across the course of the game, but failed to find the quality in the final third to trouble Boaz Myhill in the Wales goal. Both defenses have remained untroubled for most of the evening.
Wales and Ireland buoyed by their recent improved exploits in the World Cup 2014 Qualifiers, couldn’t find the breakthrough, leading too much of the Cardiff crowd foreseeing a goalless affair.
Even Wales’s old guard and local Cardiff player Craig Bellamy couldn’t force a winner, with a strong performance down the left flank. Premier League substitutes in the form of Conner Sammon for Ireland and Neil Taylor for Wales couldn’t provide their respective teams with any goal threat.
Ireland almost snatched a late winner with 10 minutes remaining when Madden’s effort saved by Myhill with the ball falling to Mclean on the rebound, but man-of-the-match Welsh skipper Ashley Williams blocked. On the other hand, Wales’s resolute defence recorded their first clean sheet in 12 games.
Amid the excitement of the fast approaching Premier League season, and with the shadow of Gareth Bale’s potential world record transfer looming large, it was an international week in which international football barely got a look in, and this celtic clash did little to grab anyone’s attention, at a sparsely populated Cardiff City Stadium.
The Irish visitors brought a strong squad to the Welsh capital, and Giovanni Trappatoni’s side dominated the early exchanges. Looking more organised and sharper on the ball than their Welsh counterparts, Ireland created chances, and both Shane Long and Jonathan Walters would have been disappointed not to give Ireland the lead.
Wales never looked uncomfortable at the back, but it would certainly have concerned Chris Coleman at how easily the likes of Long and Walters threatened Boaz Myhill’s goal. Myhill proved up to the challenge, marking himself out as a strong contender for man of the match on a night low on individual quality, but the Wales boss will wonder how upcoming opponents such as Goran Pandev and Christian Benteke will fare, if given as much time and space.
In the second half, Long was given another glorious chance to win it, and after scooping his first opportunity high and wide, it took a brilliant save from Myhill to deny him. And were it not for further interventions from Myhill and skipper Ashley Williams, substitutes Paddy Madden and James McClean almost certainly would have given Ireland victory.
In a game that never quite got going, it would be unfair on Wales to paint a picture purely of doom and gloom. Despite the absence of former captain Aaron Ramsey, Wales had a host of exciting young talent in midfield, with Joe Allen and Jonny Williams showing glimpses of their ability. A raking cross field pass from Allen to the impressive Ben Davies caused havoc in the Ireland area, while ‘Joniesta’ probed tirelessly but couldn’t quite reach the levels that earned him rave reviews in his first two internationals against Scotland and Croatia. However, ahead of a dynamic midfield, Wales lacked urgency and incisiveness. Craig Bellamy laboured for most of his hour on the pitch, albeit in a lone striker role in which he rarely prospers, and his free kick, which drew a straightforward save from Irish keeper Keiren Westwood was both his and Wales’ most notable attacking contribution.
Without Bellamy at his sparkling best and with the much discussed absences of Bale and Ramsey, it was hard to spot a match winner in red. Many will point to the impressively organised Irish squad, with their international experience and know how clear for all to see at times, but Coleman will know that his team need to adapt and learn to win without their stars. One superstar does not equate to a so called ‘golden generation’, and if that tag is not to become a millstone around this team’s neck, then others must learn to take responsibility. One moment of magic would have won it against Ireland, and to compete on the big stage, Wales must learn to stop relying on Bale to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
Arriving at Cardiff City Stadium on Wednesday night I was prepared to watch the Wales versus Republic of Ireland. I will hold my hands up and say that I do not know the off side rule or any other rule in detail, so I am no expert when it comes to football.
Leading up to the game there was constant coverage of the Wales team and the game ahead, or should I say Gareth Bale and his is he going is he not saga. Driving down to the stadium was also fine with all the roadsides indicating to the stadium. When I packed in the stadium I was early so I didn’t expect to see that many fans but there were quite a few already there for the game. Outside the players entrance there were groups of children waiting to catch a glimpse of their heroes as they walked off the bus and into the stadium, there were even a few cameramen ready to take the shots.
As kick off approached I took to my seat and was shocked to see the lack of fans both Welsh and Irish that were in the stadium. As a rugby fan who goes to international games it was quite an unfamiliar sight, in rugby the stadiums are usually pack when it comes to a Wales game but this was far from full.
When the players came out of the tunnel it was very clear that the press were only interested in one person, Gareth Bale, who wasn’t even on the bench as he was injured. As the anthems rang out, Ireland first followed by Wales’ that took a while as the speakers blasted out the Irish anthem again, much to the delight of the visiting fans.
It was kick off, but the only sound that was being made came from the small minority of Irish fans who were in the corner of the stadium, it was like that for the majority of the game with very little noise coming from the home side.
The game was only my second ever football match that I had actually been to watch (I prefer watching on the TV at home where the commentators tell me what’s going on and nobody judges my lack of football knowledge). The first game I ever went to see was in December last year Swansea City versus Manchester United, the game where Sir Alex Ferguson said that Robin van Persie could have been killed by Ashley Williams.
That game seems like another world to the one being played by Wales and Ireland, the lack of atmosphere is clearly down to the lack of fans that haven’t bothered to buy tickets to watch. I know it was classed as a ‘friendly’, but if Cardiff City or Swansea City had a friendly match with anyone there would be far more fans watching than this, and the atmosphere would be far greater with banter flying around from all areas.
The game itself wasn’t the most exciting, finally ending with a nil, nil draw with nothing really breath taking happening or any real chance for any of the sides getting a good chance of scoring.
Leaving the game I felt a slight disappointment in not only the game but the atmosphere and the night as a whole. Leaving there was no buzz everyone was acting like it was a loss with glum faces, the truth was nobody had lost so it wasn’t that bad.
It seems so strange that so many fans go to watch the likes of Cardiff City, Swansea City and Newport County, but yet nobody seems to care about their national side. It’s the opposite in rugby…
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