Category Archives: Theatre

Top Tunes with Katherine Chandler

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

I’m a writer that works mainly in theatre and I’ve done a bit of film and TV and radio.

I love words and people and questioning things so I think being a writer is probably where I always would have ended up. I’m not from a theatre/arts background at all, I left school  before A levels like all my friends. I was more or less always working from leaving school. Me and my friend worked for her Dad on the markets and street trading for a while and I was a waitress for different places. I did a stint on the breakfast shift in the Angel Hotel, Cardiff and also a few years in the Masonic hall for the Masons. When I didn’t have work I signed on and I was put on a YTS scheme that was for kids that had left school like me without qualifications. I happened to be sent to the Sherman Theatre , Cardiff and it changed everything for me.

The exterior of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff in the 1980’s

I was in the finance and admin dept but loved being around the shows. Phil Clark who was Artistic Director at that time (Phil is the Director of a play I wrote ‘Peggy’s Song’ by National Theatre Wales which is about to go on tour) encouraged us all to go and see whatever was on. It was the late eighties, the time of Willy Russell and John Godber, perfect plays for someone like me who never went to theatre. I just loved it!

I worked at the Sherman for six years, I was always hanging around the production office and started volunteering to do stuff on the shows. So I chaperoned a bit and shadowed stage management and helped out on the Sherman Youth Theatre that sort of thing. When I was twenty-four I applied to Welsh College to do the Stage Management course, I didn’t have any qualifications so I really was surprised when I got on. I stage managed for a bit and then when I had kids I started writing. I had a very tough few years personally in my twenties and early thirties and it really changed the way I looked at life. I decided not to waste any more time, I wanted to be a writer and so that’s what I did.

I’ve never done any kind of writing course but I think just being around performance for all of those years gave me a sense of how to write for theatre. I believe that anyone can write a play, that’s what I love about script writing, I wish more people from backgrounds like mine would give it a go, it’s been a real joy for me to be able to do something that I love.

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

At the moment I’m listening to James Brown and Aretha Franklin. I have to choose some songs for Peggy’s Song All the music used in Peggy’s Song is by artists who have died. Ghosts that stay with us.

When I write I more often than not have music attached to the play, which the director may or may not choose to use. Before it Rains was The Super Furry Animals, Bird was Curtis Mayfield, Thick as Thieves was Nina Simone and Lose Yourself was The Commodores. Sometimes when the show has finished it takes a while before you can go back to those songs because you are transported back to the play.

Before It Rains, Bird, Thick as Thieves, Lose Yourself.

Peggy’s Song has lots of music in it because the main character Danny played by Christian Patterson is a hospital DJ.

Christian Patterson in the role of Danny, Peggy’s Song by National Theatre Wales

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

Five is so difficult but I think it’s going to come down to memories for me.

  1. Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder

It’s a masterpiece. Everything about it, the production, the lyrics, the groove, the voice.

I could have chosen a few of his albums because his work from the early seventies is genius, he’s up there with the Beatles for me but this is the album.

I don’t talk a lot about losing my sons but an interesting thing happened and this album leads me to that. In the period around and a few years after they died I really wasn’t able to listen to a lot of music. I think probably because you’re too raw and music gets into you. You put a hard shell around you, I think so you’re able to function and music was too manipulating. This was one of the only albums I listened to during that time. I remember playing it in the car a lot when my daughter was little, driving her around to different clubs and singing ‘Knocks Me off my Feet’ to her. It always makes me think of the kids being little and precious times with them and Guy. It’s a sunny day, windows open, album. Love and happiness.

2. Saturday Night Fever – The Motion Picture Soundtrack

Just because it takes me back to my childhood. Family parties, Christmases’, Discos, A Benidorm holiday in 1979, my Dad, my Uncle, my sister, my cousins. We’re a family that likes to have a good time. You could rent us for a disco or a wedding to fill your dance floor to this album.

I love Disco. Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire, Chic, Chaka Khan, Odyssey. I have most of our disco albums from the seventies that I still play. I also love the Bee Gees but ‘If I Can’t Have You’, Yvonne Elliman is the song for me from this album, her voice is so full of full of heartbreak and drama.

3. Setting Sons – The Jam

The Jam and Paul Weller could have taken three of the five albums for me. I love Dig the New Breed, Sound Effects and Wild Wood but I keep coming back to Setting Sons.

I used ‘Thick as Thieves’ as a title for a play; it’s one of my favourite songs. Paul Weller is a master lyricist. We really felt he was speaking for us as teenagers. I think there’s a wave of working class kids who are now in their forties and fifties that hold Paul Weller in the highest regard, it’s like a club we all belong to. This album takes me back to my early teens, there was a mini mod revival. All the boys were wearing stay press trousers and Harringtons and Fred Perrys and Y cardies. Our youth club did a Thursday night disco and it was all The Jam or The Specials, The Selector or The Beat. Me and my friends Cath, Sheenagh and Lisa would go to the Northern Soul disco in the Transport Club in Grangetown on a Saturday. My love for Motown and Soul comes from that time and it’s the music I still listen to the most.

4. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin

I mean. If I wanted to lose myself this is where I’d go. Perfection. ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ is the song for me from this one. Such a sassy song. She’s not asking him to do right by her, she’s telling him. I love it.

5. An Eighties Hits Compilation

I can’t decide the final one so I’m going for an eighties compilation record that has New Order, Depeche Mode, Human League, Yazoo, The Police, Wham, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, The Style Council, George Michael, Paul Young, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Madonna, Bananarama, Scritti Polliti, The Cure, Aztec Camera, Tears for Fears, Spandau Ballet, REM, Luther Vandross, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Cyndi Lauper, Crowded House, Talking Heads, Tracey Chapman, Anita Baker and many, many more.

I wanted an eighties album. It was going to be Prince, Purple Rain or George Michael, Faith but then there’s Human League Dare and and and – so I’ve gone for a compilation. A big one with loads of songs on. Full of memories.

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

It has to be ‘Knocks Me Off My Feet’ Stevie Wonder. My kids and Guy are Love and happiness for me and that’s also what this song is.

Many thanks for your time 

Tickets for the tour of Peggy’s Song produced by National Theatre Wales are available to book below.

Riverfront Newport – 25 September, 7.45pm BOOK NOW

Pontardawe Arts Centre – 26 September, 7.30pm & 27 September, 1pm & 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon – 1 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl – 2 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Hafren, Newtown – 3 October, 7.45pm BOOK NOW

Taliesin Arts Centre,  Swansea – 4 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Richard Burton, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff – 5 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Borough Theatre, Abergavenny – 7 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Blackwood Miners Institute – 8 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Torch Theatre, Milford Haven – 9 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Ffwrnes, Llanelli – 10 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Lyric, Carmarthen – 11 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Review Entrée, Jose Pedro Fortuna By Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In a one-person performance, there is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the actor as the whole narrative is told through them and they have to keep the audience engaged and enthused. Which is clearly very difficult but Jose Pedro Fortuna didn’t seem to even hesitate in his one-man production of Entree performed at USW Atrium Theatre.

The plot of this play was pretty simple as it was about a master of ceremonies going to deliver some sort of speech. But as he gets ready start to go wrong and hilarity ensues. This shows a modern and contemporary interpretation of the classic art form of clowning by using magic tricks (which were incredible and mind-blowing to watch) and sound effects. One of the highlights of this concept was a trick where Pedro made a dropped card float from the floor to the top of a ladder where he was stood. This art form (clowning) is fundamentally very comical and Pedro also included traditionally physical theatre tropes such as being stuck in a curtain, the constant dropping of his bow-tie and misplacing props to create a piece of theatre that respected the tradition of clowning while also bringing it to the 21st century.

Pedro decided to make some other creative decisions such as having no dialogue in the entire play, a focus on physical comedy and having it be a nice easy production to watch. Because of all this and the nature of this show, I think the show would work better as a dinner time entertainment in a fancy restaurant rather than in a theatre as a play. Pedro has devised this play so that it built in a logical and natural way. Each prop was introduced in its own sketch before being included in the final set up which was really nice to watch. As a performer, Pedro was entertaining and jovial but also as a magician he was able to manipulate the audience attention and focus so he could perform his sleight of hand trick and certain comedy skits which worked excellently. It was especially fantastic to see the blending of magic and theatre which was a unique blend that I personally had never seen before but I definitely want to see explored again in the future.

This was a thirty-minute show which only added to how easy it was to catch. There were discussions about expanding it to an hour show in the future. This clearly shows how the play is in a sort of developmental phase. On top of this there were feedback forms handed out to find out what the audience enjoyed or not but also a Q and A at the end of the show (which was a fantastic idea as it allowed the audience to find out about the show making process etc) during this we found out that some aspects of the show are improvised and also that Pedro introduces new skills and tricks in different performances. This all means that no two shows of Entree are the same which makes it a very exciting piece of theatre.

In conclusion, Entree is a modern piece of clowning that had the audience laughing throughout. It is a unique show that is one not to miss. I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars. Entree is a really entertaining piece of theatre that’s shows a side of clowning that many people have not seen before.

REVIEW: AMERICAN NIGHTMARE BY MATTHEW BULGO AT THE OTHER ROOM BY GARETH FORD-ELLIOTT

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Opening The Other Room’s The Violence Series autumn season is Matthew Bulgo’s American Nightmare. Bulgo’s third play with Cardiff’s pub theatre, this rendition tackles class and the flaws in the reality of the ‘American Dream’.

American Nightmare follows two pairs of very different kinds of people. The elite class, represented by Clara (Ruth Ollman) and Greg (Chris Gordon) plotting a new scheme to control and exploit the working and under classes, which are represented by Daria (Lowri Izzard) and Elwood (Gwydion Rhys).

Clara and Greg sit, drinking and dining in a New York skyscraper as Clara entices Greg with an extremely lucrative business proposal that will change the landscape of America both physically and culturally.

Meanwhile, in a bunker somewhere in America, Daria and Elwood are taking part in a programme that aims to produce a set of obedient, low incentive driven workers under the orders from a character named ‘The Program’.

The writing from Matthew Bulgo is perfectly good for the most part. Clara and Greg are a little too prominent and really it’s mostly unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. The characters exist mainly to provide context rather than any real drama or story within itself. Context that could be more creatively explained and unravelled in a less predictive manner.

The story mainly comes from Daria and Ellwood, this is where we get tension and see in depth, complex characters. Daria’s story arch is brilliant and everything she does makes complete sense in the context of the play. Every move is calculated perfectly from Bulgo.

Ellwood is a well written, realistic character for who you feel both sympathy and frustration. He has his ideas of how the world is and is firm in being resilient in the face of it, but at his heart just wants to get away from it all and live off the land.

The direction from Sara Lloyd is understated. Lloyd expertly controls the manipulation and psychology between the two sets of characters that drives the drama and tension of the play. This is American Nightmare’s real strength and Lloyd makes the most of it.

Lloyd is accompanied by an excellent production team with Delyth Evans’ set in particular standing out. The highlight of which is a pair of sliding doors that part to unveil the elite and close to lock the poor in to the bunker.

Katy Morison’s lighting is simple, yet effective, working in conjuncture with Simon Clode’s videography that transitions the scenes. Tic Ashfield’s sound design doing its bit which blends nicely without invading the rest of the production.

Lowri Izzard is fantastic, perfectly displaying Daria’s journey and ulterior motives subtly throughout the play with the use of body movements and tone.

Gwydion Rhys is completely believable if not only for a poor Southern accent. His facial expressions are great as he transforms into Elwood. His descent is a shining light of the play and Rhys is a huge reason for this.

It’s hard to criticise Ruth Ollman and Chris Gordon but also hard to take too much from their performances. They have good chemistry and do their job well, but their characters don’t have much depth to delve into.

The main downer on the acting is Richard Harrington as ‘The Program’ who appears via video. As an authority figure with no remorse, he feels quite soft and unbelievable in the role.

There is one issue that should not go unspoken in criticism of the play.

To ignore race is a complete whitewashing of the issue of class in America. They are intrinsically linked and whilst a white writer may not feel it appropriate to pass comment the play is much weaker for overlooking this gaping hole in its content.

This is a play set in a dystopian America – but what is written in fiction only holds worth when considered in the context of it relates to real life. It is impossible to talk about poverty, class and the American Dream in America without speaking about race if you want to speak with true credibility.

Ignoring race is potentially problematic considering what is suggested in this play has literally happened and continues to happen to people of colour in the USA. This is reality for some, this is what is happening.

The play is exaggerated reality, yes. But all this play does is exaggerate the realities of people of colour in America with a white face. If accidental a huge stroke of misfortune. If intentionally ignoring the race aspect to poverty and class in the USA, problematic.

The excuse of “that’s not what the play is about” isn’t valid here. The writer simply must tackle it to some extent. This is a whitewashing of the issue it deals with and the play is weaker for it.

Not to take away from what is there which is technically good writing, excellent production and some great acting. The issues with American Nightmare are what is missing in its content rather than its generally strong core.

American Nightmare at The Other Room, Cardiff
10th September – 29th September 2019
Written by Matthew Bulgo
Directed by Sarah Lloyd
Starring:
Lowri Izzard as Daria
Gwydion Rhys as Elwood
Ruth Ollman as Clara
Chris Gordon as Greg
Richard Harrington as The Program
Designer: Delyth Evans
Lighting Designer: Katy Morison
Sound Designer/Composer: Tic Ashfield
Videographer: Simon Clode
Production Manager: Rhys Williams
Stage Manager: Hattie Wheeler
Assistant Director: Duncan Hallis
Casting Director: Nicola Reynolds
Production photography: Kirsten McTernan
Fight Director: Kev McCurdy
Associate Director: Matthew Holmquist
Accent Coach: Emma Stevens-Johnson
BSL Interpreter: Sami Thorpe
Set Builder: Will Goad

Review : Styx, Second Body By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

In the belly of one of London’s newest theatre’s, I experienced one of the most emotional and best nights of my life.

Entering the space, we are welcome to live music, played by a band of 7 – with brass instruments, electric guitars, sound scapes and a drum kit. The set basic, only light bulbs above each person and in the ceiling, and all dressed smartly but shoeless – I cannot tell you how much this minimalist band excited me – something unusual and live!

Styx is a true-life play developed by two of the band members who are siblings – there is a cross over of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice Greek myth and their own grandparents’ lives. It tackles the issues and reality of dementia, of love, of life and ultimately how memory works.

Second Body chop and change, from true recordings of their Grandmother, new and brilliant music composed, written and performed by the band on stage, spoken word and recordings from interviews with the band. While this sounds like a lot, it really works amazingly well. There is a pattern to the performance, and it felt like a dark yet humorous, genuine and unbelievably cool musical. The story is brought to us, from beginning to end, as we get to know their family, their grandparents, but with musical interludes.

Both of these are so genius-ly done that you could happily take them apart from one another and still love every second – but you don’t want to do that. It is so wonderful composed that it is hard not to love every single person, to love their family and to really see their emotion and passion for the piece.

This review feels hard to write – I could gush all day about how phenomenal this piece was. Dementia is something close to me, but even if you have never experienced this, you would have experienced some kind of grief or ending of a story – and so I would defy anyone to come away not feeling tearful, feeling welcomed and honoured in sharing their story and a warmth at how beautifully this performance is.

So enough gushing – I can only see that if you do not see this, you will miss one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Styx is unlike anything I have ever experienced before, and tantalised every theatrical and personal emotion.


Review: Rabbits In The Precambrian, Wrong Shoe Theatre By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

A philosophical play – what happens when your whole word beliefs are shattered? Who are you? What has or is your life about? Rabbits in the Precambrian tackles this thought with comedy, contemplation and interesting character development.

Wrong Shoe Theatre Company, fresh from Royal Holloway University and The Front Room Croydon’s resident artists bring the story of a group of people contemplating life and existence, with the help of a con artist Guru. It features slapstick, clever writing and a conclusive ending tying up all loose ends.

We see the differences in relationships, with the writing allowing the characters to contemplate their own worlds and interests – everyone has as big a role as the next, hitting areas not unlike a sitcom as they interweave into one another’s stories and lives.

The actors themselves do well to create their own in-depth character – two married couples, both with a lecturer half and the other a little unusual in their interests – they compliment each other but at times it feels a little like the males are very similar and the females are just the annoyed wives. Perhaps a reversal in roles could make this more interesting and balanced in the controversy of gender roles in today’s theatre.

There is a balance of slapstick humour and then philosophical discussion – both being very well done, it felt like the two still needed to gel a little more, crossing over into one another to compliment the unusual storyline.

Particularly the character of Reed, played by Liam Crocker, was excellent. He struck the right balance of hilarity to rationale – when finding out that his life’s beliefs are disproved, his downward spiral is believable, but his character is quick witted, comical and we relate to him and his disbelief of the unusual events. Moments of monologue are directed to each of us, and we feel included, the fourth wall breaking down, and it creates a nice moment between us and the character.

The Guru, while part of the main plot, is also a great comic relief. Think middle class, hipster kid, meets spiritualist. She strikes the right vocal notes for this character, making her wistful and flakey but at the same time a believable con artist.

The ending felt like a little work was needed – as a theatre creator and at times writer, ending a piece is always quite difficult and I get that once all the questions are answered, it is sometimes at a loss on how to do this; and this is what it felt like was a minor struggle at the end. While the final note hit the nail on the head, a little work on how to get there could absolutely solidify this ending.

Rabbits in the Precambrian is full of fun, comedy and rational thinking – A play definitely worth seeing and to keep an eye on through development.

Review Small Fry, The Play Factory, Porth by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

With a refreshing focus on the lost youth in a forgotten valley, Small Fry is a love-story to family, and the hope of a future.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

For one night, the debut presentation of Small Fry in The Play Factory in Porth sparks a lot to be admired and celebrated. Originally conceived on the University of South Wales’ MA Drama course, and developed through scratch performances in the WMC and The Other Room, Small Fry is brought in full form, for the first time, to the people of Porth. This is a choice not to be underestimated as the power and compassion of its performance stays in the room long after the final bow. For the team of young theatre makers you can tell that this is just the beginning of many a successful future – an impression of optimism we unavoidably share for the play’s unexpected heroine Ellie Mathews. 

In this one-woman play, Yasmin Williams commandeers the space as the brazen seventeen year-old. Williams takes the audience captive to her story transporting us with her from Cardiff’s Queen Street, to the savoury section in Greggs, to cramped antics in messy bathroom stalls, and back home to Porth. Jones and Neal’s choice of staging ensures that the space never fails to evolve with Williams yanking and draging us restlessly through the many locations of her story. At the front of the room is a square of wooden boards, perhaps still sticky from a youth disco or an OAP zumba class. Bordered by a bouncy carpet and passive leather sofas, on chairs set either side, our feet grounded on the boards below, they merge with the space. Our presence is necessary. We’re here to listen to voice often forgotten. In their lack of resources, the economy of the set drives the storytelling to joyfully creative means. With only a worn wooden bench, the challenge for it to establish as many scenes as possible offers up the most dynamic moments within the piece. Williams is captivating and sensitively honest in her portrayal of a lost young woman fighting to do her best for herself and her family. When she is at her most playful and mischievous she is at her best. Her entrance is an electrifying moment of her savouring that exact essence: prowling the stage, and daring her audience. In future performances, which I sincerely hope the play has, I predict Williams’ bold and brazen performance will become a fire-rocket of energy and daring assurance. Paired with the tempestuous pace of its script the production will provoke striking effect.

Lloyd’s script is as ingeniously funny as it is sensitively humble. Her script balances on a knife’s edge, yet never falling to romanced sentimentality or dismissive silliness. It wrangles between charmingly acerbic declarations of love for corned beef, and sobering admissions of an individual’s struggle. Corned beef, often considered an iconically working-class treat, is offered at the foyer before the play, set in Morrisons sharing tubs. Ellie’s morning pursuit for the tantalizing treat even consumes the first three to five minutes of the play. It’s a symbol of pleasure and celebration. Lloyd’s play is a celebration of a working-class heroine, never in spite of her background, but in homage to all that’s made her, and everything that she can be. The narrative never indulges despair or embitterment. It’s the story of a young life, raring and ready for all possibilities. Small Fry is not a focused polemic against the gate holders of an oppressive and often punitive existence. Lloyd doesn’t come for parliamentary budget cuts, or an under-funded NHS; she’s speaking to what it means to protect and serve family. An example of true compassion and care which is political in its very presentation. Small Fry is a declaration of duty and honour be it for country or for those we love. It’s a short and well-contained piece, yet the audience are left with loose ends to pull at. Lloyd covers a lot of bases in 50 minutes, some more thoroughly than others. However, I can’t help but feel that this is a deliberate, if not quite necessary, decision. Here is a young woman tearing at the framework for an existence she could have. The chaotic blur of Ellie’s former life leaves the lasting image all the more powerful.

Small Fry speaks to the optimism of youth. As the audience leave hoping that this can be realised for Ellie they inevitably will think of the play’s young theatre makers. They may go on to conquer beyond borders, but I am quite certain they will not forget their beloved hometowns any time soon. 

Review Just a few words/Stammermouth by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Just a Few Words/Stammermouth performed in the Seligman Theatre company in Chapter Arts Centre is one of the most poignant pieces of modern theatre that I have ever seen.

Just a Few Words is a one-man play that gives the audience a real insight into the mind of someone with a stammer. This is a show that tugs of every heartstring and plays with each anD every emotion you have. I think this is mainly due to the excellent choice of actor for this piece who was Nye Russell-Thompson. Russel-Thompson has created an insane amount of likability and authenticity to the character which meant that the audience desperately wanted him to succeed in the task at hand. At one part of the play, there is a ‘musical’ section which was very enjoyable and fun. This added to the surprising amount of comedy that was in play this about a very serious topic.

As this fondness from the audience is developed (due mostly to Russel-Thompso’s portrayal of the character) it makes the sadder sections of the play even more emotional. For example, There is a heart-breaking end to this play that had me (among many other) lost for words and there was a stunned silence for a long time after the play had finished. This end was frustrating at first however I believe the reason for its inclusion was to give a realistic message about life. This play’s main aim is to give a voice to the figurative (a semi-literal) voiceless which is very heartwarming. To see the character struggle to express what he wants to say helps create support from the audience but also brings people with speech disorders. As this show highlights the struggles of living with a stammer it is representing and empowering a group of people who often are ignored in theatre which was incredible to see.

This play fits into, what I like to call, a small theatre genre play. It worked perfectly in the compact theatre of Chapter and I believe that it would not work as well in a big theatre as, at times, feels as if the character is speaking directly to each and every member of the audience which only added to the relatability and likability from the audience. This made the play personal to each person which only exaggerated all the emotions the narrative made you feel.


This show was only an hour-long but when Nye Russell-Thompson was on stage you lose all track of time. He has you hooked every single minute he is there and you forget about time and life outside this theatre. Finally, this was another play that stripped back on all the paraphernalia of theatre and forced the audience attention to solely be on the actor on stage. There were very few movements in the show, the light placement stayed the same throughout the whole duration of the play, there were very few props (excluding the large pile of queue cards to express things when the character could not) and as it was a one-man play there was one actor , and one BSL interpreter on the stage. This made the play even more relatable to the audience but also was a more realistic portrayal of the real-life struggles of having a stammer which shows this play was well-thought-out during its development which shows the talent of its writers. I believe the reason this play fitted so nicely into the small theatre genre of plays is that it was performed in the Edinburgh fringe festival.

In conclusion, Just a Few Words/Stammermouth is an incredible piece of modern theatre that gives a voice to those who are often ignored in theatre and makes the audience feel a vast range of emotions. I hope that this show becomes even more popular and that we will see more of Nye Russell-Thompson in the future. I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars and I would recommend this play to anyone interested in the power of theatre or anyone interested in the progression of theatre needed for it to become truly accessible to everyone.

Brush up your Shakespeare by Ann Davies

Forget revision, intense study (I remember those days well) Forget the “clipped” British film version or the American theme portrayed on Venice Beach – (seemed strange with those costumes and a “Californian Dreaming” background, unless of course, you are an ardent fan of Leonardo DiCaprio). This was a thoughtful retelling of Shakespeare’s tragic play “Romeo and Juliet” directed by Matthew J. Bool and skilfully performed by Avant Cymru.

Matthew J. Bool, Director

The Amphitheatre at Penrhys – built over 20 years ago as a Project by world wide students – became the 21st Century Globe Theatre as the area sparkled like a magnificent gem linking an intricate necklace from its vantage point on high above the two Rhondda Valleys

There was a murmur of anticipation hanging in the air; we were all seated on the amphitheatre stone steps, almost like elephants sitting on top of lollipop sticks. Sunhats, sun cream, drinks and cushions were necessities. Bird song and traffic could be heard in the far distance, then silence as we were all transported to our very own Verona high in the mountains of the county of Glamorganshire. Guitar music and song emanated from a trio of cast members as the Chorus/Nurse introduced us to the famous story.

The story is as of old, boy meets girl, they fall instantly in love but they are from opposite sides in an age old vendetta between the two families. They find themselves as star crossed lovers, marry secretly, Juliet discovers that her parents have arranged a marriage. There are fights and Romeo’s friend Mercutio is killed by Tybalt (who through the couple’s marriage is now a kinsman of Romeo). Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona.

A desperate plan is needed; Friar Laurence provides Juliet with an herbal draught which will induce a “deathly” sleep. He has promised to notify Romeo of this scheme. Juliet will awake and be reunited with Romeo and all will be well. Alas the message goes undelivered. Romeo, fearing the worst buys a phial of poison which he imbibes on finding Juliet in the Capulet Family Vault. Juliet wakes to find her beloved dead, a last kiss and using Romeo’s dagger she kills herself. The families are reunited in their sorrow.

Freyja Duggan as Benvolio was like a happy sprite, full of mischief and mayhem. Matthew J. Bool as Mercutio was like a supercharged Jack in the box, in turn volatile, serious and sensitive to the varying moods Romeo was in. As friends of Romeo, they try to lift his spirits believing that he is not in love with his present amour, Rosaline, just besotted. On a whim Romeo decides to gate-crash the Capulet Family Masked Ball thus lighting the touch paper in this conflict. Douglas Guy plays the romantic Romeo who, on meeting Juliet, played by Gabrielle Williams, believing her to be pure, dreamlike with her beautiful hair flowing like a waterfall, he loses all senses; their combined emotions wobble like a blancmange in an earthquake. There is no denying the ignition of passion, they do not realise how the situation will implode – they only see each other.

Jamie Berry, who plays Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, is steadfast and strong in his role pursuing the family feud. Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt, as a result of which Tybalt mortally wounds Romeo’s friend, Mercutio. Romeo ends up killing Tybalt for which he is sentenced to banishment from Verona. Romeo seeks the counsel of his mentor, Friar Lawrence played by Eleri Bowden who is busy as a bee reporting everything via an IPad. A secret marriage ceremony is performed little realising that an arranged marriage has been organised by Juliet’s parents to Paris, a cousin of the Prince of Verona. Juliet is in worse despair as Friar Laurence comes up with the desperate plan to fake her death.

Juliet’s Nurse, played by Menna Sian Rogers is a delight; a Valleys Mam/a “Bopa” (neighbour, not related but still an Aunt that would look out or after the children) a knot of gossip, almost supplying a comedic wordplay to the tragedy as it unfolds.

The act is set, Juliet is found presumed dead the following morning; taken to the Capulet Vault to lie in state. The uncompromising Lord Capulet, played by Shane Anderson and the fair Lady Capulet played by Rachel Pedley crumble in their anguish. Romeo, learning of Juliet’s “demise” buys himself a phial of poison for his life is nothing without her, he comes to the Vault closely followed by Paris, played by Jack Wyn White, they cannot console each other, the stakes are too high, there is a fight and Romeo kills Paris. In his grief, Romeo imbibes the poison and lies down beside Juliet.  Juliet awakes to find her beloved dead; her final act is to kiss Romeo and uses his dagger to kill herself.

It was a wordy and worthy adaption of the play. We have all grown up in the time of HRH Elizabeth II with social media fuelling the age of selfies and such emoji’s making their impact on lives.

This was what it would have been like in the reign of Elizabeth I, a play performed in the round, people eating conversing as the story enfolds. To think of it as a blank page, like a story book awaiting a tale to tell. It brought Shakespeare to life and we were all part of it. The staged fights were expertly choreographed by Jamie Berry – and when he was mortally wounded we wondered what happened to him as he disappeared into the “other valley”. We were concerned about the actors playing the main roles as they expired hoping that the sun wouldn’t cause more harm to their fatality!

We were part of it all, as a scene that has been repeated over the years with barriers such as the Berlin Wall separating East from West, the Gaza Strip. Love stories amidst the differences of creed, colour and religion.

Small sadnesses, great tragedies link us all in love. Never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo

“No legacy is as rich as honesty” – Shakespeare.

Critic Ann Davies with Director Matthew J. Bool.

A family trip to see Annie at the WMC with Tempo Time Credits by Rhian Gregory

On my Facebook newsfeed , a post from Tempo Time Credits page caught my eye. It was offering tickets to see Annie, in exchange for Time Credits.

When musical theatre offers come up with Time Credits they usually sell out super fast.

We were in the car on our way to Bristol Zoo to celebrate my partner and our son’s birthday. I thought let’s try see if I can get any! It took about 40 minutes to get through on the phone, my hopes were slowly fading. They offered 3 different days, I could only do the Bank Holiday Monday evening as my partner was working the other days. I got 3 tickets including a wheelchair space, carer ticket through the HYNT scheme and another seat. This cost me 4 time credits. (2 Time Credits per ticket, but with the HYNT scheme the carer is free).

I wasn’t sure at first who would go, myself my mum and dad (it was my dad’s birthday that day too), or myself and oldest two children. I firstly offered them to my parents. I felt they deserved a treat, and that it was my dads birthday. Cody had been to see Madagascar the musical earlier in the month, and Cerys went to see The Little Mermaid with her nan and cousin. They kindly declined and wanted Cody and Cerys to have them to enjoy.

Sunny warm Bank Holiday Monday came. May I emphasise sunny and warm, as most bank holidays are cold, windy and wet in Wales.

It was a super busy day for us all. Cerys attended her extra gymnastics session in the morning. They were celebrating their one year anniversary being open.

Chris’ sister managed to get us tickets for the Chepstow Racecourse Family Fun Day, so we went along and met up together.

From here we called in to see my dad and sang happy birthday. I would have liked longer there, was a very short visit.

Then off we went to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. My partner Chris dropped us off and looked after our youngest, while Cody, Cerys and I went to watch Annie.

If you are visiting the Wales Millennium Centre, or Cardiff Bay in general, there are a few places you can park. A blue badge holder can pay to park backstage, on site at the Millennium Centre. Or anyone can pay to park at the Red Dragon Centre close by. If you spend money (over £5 I believe) in any of the places at the red dragon centre, parking is free.

There is a multi storey car park close by too. I’m unsure of the prices I’ve never used it. Very slightly further away, a lovely little walk taking in some of the sites, is the Mermaid Quay 2 floor car park, and a pay and display car park near the St David’s Hotel and Spa.

My son likes to use the toilets and go straight up to our seats, even if the doors haven’t been opened to go in yet. We were outside the theatre doors an hour early, first in line! Then he asks every 2 minutes what the time is and how long is it until the open the doors and how many minutes for the show to start. I believe this is part of him, his additional needs. Still no diagnoses for him. (I know a lot of children do ask what time is it and how long etc many times, but this for Cody is different. He appears to get overly anxious, and become more unsettled if the time isn’t told and seen. I was probably asked over 20 times at least.) Cody decided he wanted to wear ear protection headphones out this evening, for the journey here and for the performance. He doesn’t always use them, only occasionally when he feels he needs to. I noticed he was tapping on the wooden side of the balcony and rubbing his hands against it to make a squeaky sound.

I felt like including this in my blog post today, because my eldest does have additional needs and requires that extra support. I’ve mentioned it a little before in my blog, in the post called ‘is it the A word?’ These behaviours stood out to me during our evening. and I mindfully notice this more and more.

We hadn’t had tea, so we were snacking on buffet style foods while waiting, mini sausages, savoury eggs and strawberry lace. What a selection!

A little bell sounded, half an hour before the start time of 7.30. Cody jumped up and down, shouting mum it’s time, get your tickets out. He ran after the usher going to open the doors. I haven’t really mentioned Cerys in this. But she was with me too. She’s quieter and more mellow. Cerys was taking it in, asking about Annie, saying she had seen the modern film version and clips of the older Annie musical film. Standing by my side, walking nicely as we go in.

A bit of background about the Broadway Annie the Musical. It was put together by a player writer named Thomas Meehan who wrote the book, music Charles Strouse and lyrics Martin Charnin. It was originally based on a comic strip called Little Orphan Annie created by Harold Gray.

Annie the musical is about a little orphan girl called Annie, who lives in Miss Hannigan children’s home. A billionaire (Mr Warbucks) invites an orphan (Annie) to come stay with him for Christmas, his love grows for Annie as a daughter and he wants to adopt her. Annie clings on to hope of finding her real parents and Mr Warbucks tries to help her. Miss Hannigan makes a plan with her brother and his girlfriend, to pretend to be her parents in order to get the money reward. They are caught out and arrested. Annie finds out her real parents are no longer alive, and Mr Warbucks adopts her.

I’m always quite contented and happy with the wheelchair space at the WMC (Wales Millennium Centre). We have always had seats in the front on the middle stalls. It gives a good view and plenty of leg space, apart from when the ice cream and merchandise cart comes around, which is very close, and lots of people nearly pile on top of you, but I can put up with that for a few minutes. I’m usually in a good mood at this stage, with being blown away with how good the first half of the show has been.

That certainly was the case with Annie. The start of the musical began in the dorm of the children’s home, the orphaned girls in their bed waking up to Molly having a bad dream and singing the first song “Maybe” followed by Miss Hannigan first entrance and then the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life”.

I was impressed by the talent of the children straight away. I wasn’t sure what to make of Miss Hannigan at this point but in a later scene with her brother and his girlfriend, their trio performance was fantastic. How they interacted on stage with their superb singing and choreographed dancing in the song “Easy Street” and “Easy Street reprise”, absolutely brilliant! They seemed to just click perfectly!

Another of my favourite moments of the musical was “I Think I’m Going to Like it Here” and “N.Y.C”. It reminded me of that ‘classic’ musical feel I get from the older musicals with the likes of Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The variety of different types of dance including tap was wonderful to see.

My little girl said to me, before the end of the first act, can we come back and see it again mum, I really like it.

Annie, is a vibrant family musical with catchy tunes and a talented mixed cast of children and adults.

The Time Credit opportunity to pay for tickets, gave us this chance to experience and thoroughly enjoy it.

When we came out of the main auditorium, and back down into the main foyer, the Luke Jerram artwork called Gaia, planet Earth looked spectacular. It’s there from July 30th – September 1st.

When we previously saw it during another visit in day time, my children laid down underneath mesmerised by it.

Annie plays at the Wales Millenium Centre until the 31st of August.

Review: Moonbird, Handprint Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

After previously seeing Jonny Cotsen and Mr and Mrs Clark with Louder Is Not Always Clearer, it is safe to say my interest in BSL performances and learning BSL has peaked more than ever before.

If we’re being honest, between us friends, I am not sure before Cotsen’s show, that I have ever seen a show with BSL. Not even a captioned performance. And for that I feel shame, but also think it makes a great point of what Cotsen and Handprint Theatre and trying to achieve and put across in the industry with these shows.

Moonbird is a gorgeous tale of a Prince whose parents begin to realise he is deaf. Their struggle is explored on how to connect with their child and their feelings of failure towards him, but we also explore Orla’s (the Prince) struggle with being deaf, the world around him and ultimately loneliness. Enter the Moonbird who introduces him to nature, where he learns how he can communicate, and rebuild hIS relationship with his parents.

Throughout the production, BSL is communicated, along with subtitles projected behind. They are patient and take their time, not rushing through this to fully fulfil the message coming across. As one who does not know BSL, the movements of communication are like a beautiful dance, and the performers throw their all into it, incredibly bringing emotion and feeling across. If there were not spoken word accompanying the signing, I believe that you would still understand the story and feel every emotion within it.

The performers do well to change characters – a small group of 4, the majority double, even triple up from humans in the palace, to deer roaming the fields and monkeys playfully prancing the stage. During this time, there is almost no speech at all, purely the communication through action, movement and facial expressions. And nothing is over the top – it is enough for the stage yet subtle enough to be realistic and understandable.

Use of puppetry (my favourite!) comes in the form of baby Orla and Moonbird, and every movement is carefully thought out and taken time with. There is total fluidity and realism with this and you forget that these are not real actors on stage.

Lastly, the staging, lighting and general composition of the aesthetics are magical and beautiful. Simple yet effective, it feels as if we have jumped into a story book, with purples and blues, peacock colours spanning the stage, and basic costuming and props to help the story along – but ultimately this story is about the physical and nothing draws away from this.

Moonbird, while a production for young families, is really for everyone. The story is what every child’s story should be – magical, engaging and with a moral to the story. Moonbird is such an important performance for theatre going forward, I dare anyone to come away without being mesmerised and championing BSL performances.