Category Archives: Theatre

Review MACBETH, National Theatre at Wales Millennium Centre by Barbara Michaels

Play by William Shakespeare

Director: Rufus Norris

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Reviled by many as one of Shakespeare’s more unpleasant plays, and referred to by thespians as ‘The Scottish Play’ because of its reputation for bringing bad luck to performances, Macbeth is open to a huge range of interpretations on account of its deep psychological reference.  Rufus Norris’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s work balances this with an urban modern setting that screams disruption and corruption in high places from start to finish.

For those unfamiliar with the play, Macbeth is a soldier whose wife’s aspirations of greatness proof to be his downfall.  Returning after a successful battle, he meets a coven of witches who predict his speedy promotion and ultimate Kingship.  On arriving home, Macbeth tells his wife, who informs him that Duncan, the present King of Scotland, will be visiting and staying the night – giving an ideal opportunity for the skulduggery which is necessary i.e. the King’s murder. One killing leads to another as both the Macbeths become victims of a bloodlust that lead inevitably to their downfall.

Played out against a forbidding darkly lit set which hardly changes throughout, this production focuses on making Shakespeare’s work compatible with contemporary times, with the obvious intent of the original text becoming more accessible to present day youth.  In this, the National Theatre’s most recent version of Macbeth, it succeeds brilliantly. The parallel with the knife crime so prevalent in today’s society is evident. The fights are, at times, almost too realistic Costume designer Moritz Junge dresses the soldiers including the main protagonists Macbeth and his rival Macduff in combat uniform, while Lady Macbeth is seen in jeans and T-shirt. Set designer Rae Smith uses a steeply sloping ramp for much of the main action in a stark setting.  Even the banquet in Macbeth’s castle is an austere affair.

. BUT – there is a caveat. Some of the poetry and fluency of the memorable speeches is lost, or drowned out by overloud music which adds to a cacophony of sound in some scenes.   And did the three witches really have to climb poles? Having said that, the pluses in this production by the prestigious National Theatre are many. Overall this is good theatre, due in no small part to the acting of Michael Nardone, who projects as a Macbeth in emotional torment yet unable to resist the possibility of ennoblement and its accompanying riches and the blandishments of his evil (soon to become deranged) wife, with disastrous consequences. Kirsty Besterman plays Lady Macbeth as a malevolent sex kitten who has no scruples in using her bedroom wiles to persuade her husband to embark on a wicked course that will lead to his destruction. Norris tackles the wickedness head-on – literally. (Forgive the pun – beheading is part of the on-stage action).

As for light relief:  there is not much of that around, but what there is gets its full due in the hands of Deka Walmsley whose spot-on timing and comedic touch provide a most welcome moment of lightness in this searingly dark tragedy, giving rise to appreciative chuckles on the night reviewed. A welcome moment of respite from the relentless discords of a brutish production that demonstrates that, while we may stop short of beheading in today’s society and guns have replaced swords, in some respects – you have only to consider the fighting in Afghanistan and Syria, for instance – the similarities with our own times are all too apparent.

Runs until Saturday March 23rd.

Review: Merched Caerdydd/ Nos Sadwrn o Hyd, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (Using the Sibrwd App)

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Take four actors, three chairs, three sets of neon lights, and one stage, and what do you get? Two new plays conceived for the 2018 National Eisteddfod now touring the country with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (TGC). Both Merched Caerdydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd are making their way from North to South, beginning in Mold and ending where they are set – in Cardiff. And thanks to TGC’s Sibrwd app, it could be said that these are the most accessible Welsh-language plays yet.

The Sibrwd app is a simple concept, designed to guide non-Welsh speakers and Welsh learners through the performance. Until now, it has provided audio synopses during plays, to help those not fluent in the language understand the gist of the narrative being played out on stage. When I arrive for this tour however, the app has undergone a significant change. For the first time, TGC, and the app’s operator Chris Harris, are providing audiences with a full translation of the dialogue. Think surtitles at the opera but on your phone. Ingenious you might think. And to some extent it works. But I’m not entirely convinced.

The main problem that I encountered was being drawn away from the action on stage in order to understand some of the dialogue being spoken. As a Welsh learner whose proficiency level floats somewhere between Intermediate and Advanced, this wasn’t as much of a problem as it could have been. I was able to grasp a general understanding of the narrative and the characters’ stories without needing to refer to the app too much. However, if I wanted to understand a particular word or phrase, it became difficult not to disengage from the play in order to seek out the translation amongst the bulk of text being shown on my screen. In one sense, I can see how this would suit a non-Welsh speaker or beginner better – they could easily follow along and not miss a trick. The transitions between each piece of dialogue on the app flowed seamlessly. The problem is that they would then be likely to miss out on one of the primary thrills of theatre: live performance. It is as much about the action on stage as it is about the dialogue being spoken. What both Merched Caerdydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd have are strong, powerful and engaging performances by a hugely talented cast. They bring such immersive and intimate details to their characters through their physicality and movement as well as their emotion and vocals. But this could be missed if one is concentrating too much on reading in English what is being said ‘yn Gymraeg’.

This balance between the aural and the visual is a tricky one to maintain when one of those requires translation. The more translation needed, the harder it becomes to maintain a kind of equilibrium. Without prior experience of the app in its audio descriptive form, I cannot say with any confidence which style is better to enable non-speaking and/or learning audiences to engage most fully in Welsh-language theatre. I suspect that from my own position, an audio option would be preferable (particularly if it offers a synopsis, rather than the whole script). I could then maintain my focus on the stage rather than being drawn down to look at my screen. The main benefit to this, in my opinion, would be that you remain engaged in the production as a whole. To be so engrossed in the stories being told by writers Catrin Dafydd (Merched Caerdydd) and Roger Williams (Nos Sadwrn o Hyd) respectively is to be made more open to being challenged and moved by their messages; more vulnerable to empathy and emotion.

Both Merched Caerdydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd are fascinating pieces of theatre. Whilst the former focuses on three women and the significant choices that they have to make at an important juncture in their lives, the latter concentrates its attention on Lee, a gay man whose blossoming relationship is disturbed by an act of violence that threatens his life. Performed as a series of monologues (interweaving in the case of Merched Caerdydd), the simple set and subtle use of lighting and sound help plunge the audience into the increasingly messy and fraught situations of the characters’ lives. We cannot help but become entangled in their relational quandaries and bodily vulnerabilities. The sharp focus of Merched Caerdydd on sex, love and relationships feels very relevant, particularly with its themes of control and power. Meanwhile, the mixture of humour and heartbreak, sweetness and violence found in Nos Sadwrn o Hyd, portrayed so eloquently by Sion Ifans, makes for a fraught and funny hour. It cannot be underestimated how important, how needed – these stories are.

Sion Ifan

Despite them being unrelated, both Dafydd’ and Williams’ plays seem to complement one another well. They are but a small snapshot of the strength and depth of talent coming through in Welsh-language playwriting. I find it interesting that both feel somehow connected to their own language and place – the feeling that these would not have come out of, or would at least have been conceived differently in, an Anglicised context. To give non-Welsh speakers and learners the opportunity to access and engage with these worlds through the Sibrwd app then feels important. In its current form, Sibrwd enables that to an extent. What is exciting about the app is that it remains in the relatively early stages of its development. Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru should be commended for testing and experimenting with live audiences and being genuinely open to their feedback. Give it time, and give it chance, and I think that this app will become a significant tool, not least in opening up Welsh-language plays to a wider and broader audience. That can only be a good thing for plays like Merched Caerdydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd. For these are stories that need to be told, and experienced by as many people as possible.

For more info and tickets, click here.


Review ‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ Re-Live by Kiera Sikora

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Re- Live’s new theatre show ‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ is a moving, courageous composition of sadness, truth, celebration and sacrifice.

It begins at St Fagan’s Museum entrance where we are taken on a welcoming walk to Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, listening to various accounts of the thoughts and memories of the people connected to Oakdale. They tell us of the beauty of ‘devouring books’ from the library which was a rarity then, the joy of choc-ice treats and how Oakdale invited a ‘thirst for knowledge’ in the Institute.

We then reach the Oakdale’s Workmen’s Institute where (after a lovely cuppa tea) we are thrown into a World War I Victory Ball in 1919. The bunting is up, the tea is flowing, the Bara Brith is out and we are entertained with song, story and striking truths of what it was to be a soldier, a friend, a woman and a mother during The First World War. We are shown the thrill of the beginning of war, and the heartache it created during a time when so much was unknown medically about the after affects of battle and sacrifice.

The piece moves through dialogue, solo performance, touching physical imagery and choral singing with a nod for the audience to join in on a few wartime tunes. And there’s the beauty of Re-Live right there. Yes, it’s a show, a performance, but it’s a cwtch too. A really important, poignant, ‘so glad to be home’ kind of cwtch. The cast open their arms to you, smile at you, pour their hearts out to you and allow you to feel something about how they feel and have felt. Re- Live’s mission is to work with communities and to tell stories and truths from their lives and ‘Y Dychweliad’ is a beautiful shower of these things. These stories, this history, the effect war has on people around us and still has to this day are subjects that we must talk about. If we don’t talk about these things, if we don’t remember the history of our times,  and the affects it has on us still- will they be lost? Will we learn? Will future generations know these wonderful, war time songs, even?

Karin Diamond and the team have created a gorgeous concoction of story, song, music and poetry and a beautiful memory for all that see the show. The production ends as fuelled as it begins, with a personal poem ‘Mother Wales’ written by one of the cast- which makes your heart beam. The thankful, heartfelt, emotional response at the post show discussion is unforgettable. Talks from the cast about their own experiences, and how much support we must continue to provide for our Veterans is integral.

One of the cast said ‘ Once you leave for war, and go over there, coming back is.. alien. You’re petrified. You come home. But you’re never the same.’ Reading through the Oakdale information book, one Veteran writes (of working with Re-Live) ‘The project has saved me because it’s given me something to look forward to, it’s given me a purpose again. It helps me control my anxiety too. This is the one place I can come where I know I won’t be judged.’

And that’s Re-Live. Sharing words and feelings from people, to people and for people. With the utmost care, gratitude and heart. ‘Keep the Homes Fires Burning’, indeed. 

‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ runs from 14-16 March/Mawrth, 

Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, St Fagan’s National Museum of History/ Sefydliad Y Gweithwyr Oakdale, Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru

Review The Church of the Sturdy Virgin, Dank Parish, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In the deep underbelly of the vaults, we are lead into a almost parisian but definite tomb that sways with the changing of times. 

There are corners with dark and erie images of dirt and skulls, a glimpse of the universe in a coffin, shrines and so on. We are gently lead through these in the damp, and dusty wannabe catacombs. 

The Church of the Sturdy Virgin is an immersive experience of the dead but also of humility. We are prompted to take it all very seriously but there are times of poking fun at the dead and the way different people grieve, celebrating death, and sometimes we are even poked at. But we are engaged and told to take this seriously and so, we are dutiful. 

Split into ‘families’ we are taken on journeys to experience the different elements of burial, death, the afterlife from a comedy duo who show you how to embalm a member of the audience, to selecting a eulogy for our dearly departed that can be satirical, heartfelt or just societal. 

The performers are always on point – they encompass their characters into their entire entity, enjoying the freedom of ad lib and engagement with the audience right from meeting us in the queue to the end when we leave, asking us to ‘Stay Sturdy’. At one moment there seems to be a confrontation from the ‘religious’ of the church and the more ‘spiritual’ yet this isn’t explored much more than a slight outburst and a mention of differences. I felt that this would have been great to explore some more – to show more of a darker, deeper and controversial side behind The Church of the Sturdy Virgin. 

Over all I had a great time – I went in feeling apprehensive, as the wimp in me who shys away from horror films and shudders at the thought of ghosts, thought that I would find myself immersed in something my nerves just wouldn’t cope with. However, while subtle elements of this, The Church of the Sturdy Virgin was also fun, hilarious and did well to not only immerse us in their world, but break us out of our British shells and interact more. 

Cyfweliad gyda Rhian Davies, Cynhyrchydd Gweithredol, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Yna, penderfynais symud adref i Abertawe, lle cefais swydd gyda chwmni teledu Tinopolis fel cynhyrchydd dan hyfforddiant, a chael cyfle i barhau i adrodd straeon dramatig drwy gyfrwng rhaglenni dogfen am dros ddeng mlynedd. Rydw i bellach wedi bod gyda Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru am ychydig dros 3 blynedd, ac yn dal i ymhyfrydu yn y cyfle i ddweud straeon da, perthnasol, mewn nifer o wahanol ffyrdd.

Er taw Cynhyrchydd Gweithredol yw eich swydd yn y cwmni, rydych hefyd yn gyfrifol am yr holl gynyrchiadau, yn ogystal ag am y gwaith cyfranogi, sy’n cynnwys gweithio gyda’r gynulleidfa ehangach. Mae hynny’n waith ac iddo gwmpas eang iawn. Sut ydych chi’n llwyddo i gyfrannu at bob un o’r meysydd hyn?

Amrywiaeth sy’n rhoi blas ar fywyd! Mae’n gylch gwaith eang, ond rydw i wrth fy modd yn wynebu’r her. Yn fy marn i, mae’r gynulleidfa’n allweddol i bopeth ry’n ni’n ei wneud, ac mae ein gweithgareddau cyfranogi gyda chynulleidfaoedd yr un mor bwysig â’n cynyrchiadau.  Rydym yn ymestyn y gweithgareddau hynny, gan wrando ar farn pobl a gweithredu arno.

Mae gan Theatr Gen dîm gwych yn Llinos Jones, ein Swyddog Cyfranogi, a Fflur Thomas a Nia Skyrme, ein Cynhyrchwyr Cynorthwyol. Yn ogystal â chynllunio a hwyluso trefniadau holl gynyrchiadau’r Theatr Gen rydyn ni hefyd, gyda’n gilydd, yn cydlynu ein Clybiau Drama gyda Menter Iaith Gorllewin Sir Gâr, Theatr Mwldan a Theatr Felinfach; ein gweithgareddau lles gyda’r rhwydwaith Cyfuno Sir Gâr; yn ymgysylltu â chynulleidfaoedd yn y gwahanol leoliadau ar gyfer ein perfformiadau BSL; gyda Dysgwyr y Gymraeg ledled Cymru trwy gyfrwng ein sgyrsiau cyn-sioe a gwersi Cymraeg i Ddysgwyr a gyflwynir ar y cyd gyda’r Ganolfan Dysgu Cymraeg Genedlaethol; gydag arbenigwyr ym myd addysg er mwyn cefnogi’r cwricwlwm newydd a darparu adnoddau yn y Gymraeg; gyda gwahanol leoliadau wrth gyflwyno’r cynllun cenedlaethol ‘talwch faint a fynnwch’ ar gyfer cyflwyniadau o ddarlleniadau o waith gan ein Grŵp Dramodwyr Newydd, ac ati ac ati. Rydym yn gwneud ein gorau, ond yn bell o fod yn berffaith, ac yn croesawu unrhyw sylwadau ac awgrymiadau.

Rydym eisiau ymestyn yn bellach ac yn fwy eang, ac, fel y cwmni Theatr Genedlaethol Cymraeg ei iaith, teimlaf fod gennym gyfrifoldeb aruthrol a bod angen i ni weithredu i ddileu’r rhwystrau i gael mynediad at ein gwaith. Dydyn ni ddim yn honni ein bod yn gwneud popeth yn dda nac yn berffaith, ond rydym yn gwneud ein gorau glas. Rydym yn craffu a bopeth ry’n ni’n ei wneud, gan newid ac addasu o fewn Cymru sydd hefyd yn newid, gan ddysgu o’n camgymeriadau.

Ar hyn o bryd, mae Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yn ymarfer Merched Caerdydd gan Catrin Dafydd a Nos Sadwrn o Hyd gan Roger Williams. Bydd y ddwy ddrama’n cael eu perfformio fel rhaglen ddwbl i deithio Cymru y gwanwyn hwn. Mae’r ddwy yn adlewyrchu gwahanol agweddau ar y Gymru gyfoes. Ydych chi’n credu bod theatr fyw yn dal i deimlo’n berthnasol i gynulleidfaoedd iau, o ystyried y gystadleuaeth sydd am gynulleidfaoedd i ddramâu gan safleoedd ffrydio yn ôl y galw, megis Netflix?

Does dim byd gwell na’r teimlad hwnnw o weld stori ddramatig yn fyw, a rhannu’r profiad o ymateb yn y foment i berfformiad a sgript. Yn wyneb cymaint o gystadleuaeth, mae’n fwy anodd gwneud y theatr yn fwy perthnasol – yn enwedig i gynulleidfaoedd iau – ond dyna lle mae’r her, ac rydw i wrth fy modd gyda her.

Rwyf hefyd yn aelod o fwrdd Mess Up the Mess, sefydliad sy’n cynnig cyfleoedd deinamig i bobl ifanc ym maes creu theatr, oherwydd fy mod yn credu’n gryf mewn ymgysylltu â chynulleidfaoedd iau. Roeddech yn crybwyll Netflix. Yn 2017, bu Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yn peilota ein dangosiad theatrig cyntaf yn y sinema drwy ddarlledu ein perfformiad o Macbeth, yn fyw ac fel-byw, o Gastell Caerffili i 11 o sinemâu ledled Cymru. Yr enw a roddwyd ar hyn oedd Theatr Gen Byw.

Wrth symud ymlaen, mae angen i ni gofleidio’r agenda ddigidol. Rwyf wedi cael gweledigaeth y bydd pobl ifanc – ac, yn wir, pawb arall – yn gallu cael mynediad at ein cynyrchiadau, a dylanwadu arnynt yng nghyd-destun y cynnwys, pryd bynnag maen nhw’n dewis, pan mae’n eu siwtio nhw, ar ben eu hunain, mewn grŵp, ble bynnag y maen nhw. Mae’n rhaid i ni fod yn gynhwysol, nid yn gaeedig, ac mae hyn yn golygu darparu cynifer o gyfleoedd ag y bo modd i sicrhau bod pawb yn gallu mwynhau amrywiaeth o weithiau theatr yn y Gymraeg, yn fyw ac fel-byw.

Yn ddiweddar, mae’r ddau ddramodydd – Catrin Dafydd a Roger Williams – wedi cael llwyddiant ym maes Dramâu Teledu a gynhyrchwyd yn Gymraeg yn gyntaf, ac yna yn Saesneg. Ydy Cymru’n unigryw yn y ffaith bod ganddi awduron o’r fath safon uchel yn sgrifennu ar gyfer y Teledu a’r Theatr ar yr un pryd?

On’d yw hi’n wych bod awduron sy’n sgrifennu yn Gymraeg i’r teledu – rhai fel Roger a Catrin, Siôn Eirian, a sawl un arall – hefyd yn gallu bod yn ddramodwyr sy’n sgrifennu yn y Gymraeg; bod Cynhyrchwyr Teledu Cymraeg, fel fi (a Roger) hefyd yn gallu bod yn Gynhyrchwyr Theatr Gymraeg, a bod Cyfarwyddwyr Teledu fel Ffion Dafis (sydd hefyd yn actores) yn gallu cyfarwyddo pennod o Pobol y Cwm yn ogystal â chyfarwyddo cynhyrchiad theatr? Roedd Mared Swain, sydd ar hyn o bryd yn cyfarwyddo’r sioe gyntaf yn ein rhaglen ddwbl, Merched Caerdydd a Nos Sadwrn o Hyd, sy’n agor yr wythnos hon yn Theatr Clwyd, hefyd yn Gynhyrchydd Stori ar gyfres S4C, Gwaith Cartref. Rwy’n siŵr fy mod yn diflasu fy nghydweithwyr wrth sôn mor aml am sgiliau trosglwyddadwy, ond os nad ydych chi wedi gweithio mewn rhyw sector penodol, does dim rheswm pam na all eich profiadau fod o fudd i sector arall, a hoffwn weld mwy o gydweithio ar draws y sectorau ym meysydd y diwydiannau creadigol a diwylliannol. Rwy’n credu’n gryf y byddai sector y theatr a sector byd teledu yn cael mantais o hyn.

Bydd y cynhyrchiad yn cynnig dau berfformiad BSL – un yn Theatr Clwyd, Yr Wyddgrug, ar 15 Mawrth am 19:45, a’r llall yn Stiwdio Weston, Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru, Caerdydd, ar 11 Ebrill am 19:00. Allwch chi ddweud wrthon ni pam, yn eich barn chi, mae perfformiadau a gefnogir gan BSL yn rhan bwysig o’r hyn rydych yn ei gynnig i gynulleidfaoedd?

Dechreuodd y cyfan gydag awydd i fod yn fwy cynhwysol, ac edmygedd o’r arferion da a sefydlwyd gan Sherman 5 yn Theatr y Sherman, a bellach mae’n rhan greiddiol o’n gwaith. Roedd dod i adnabod Cathryn McShane, Cymraes sy’n ddehonglydd BSL, a Nia Skyrme, cynhyrchydd Cymraeg ei hiaith a chanddi brofiad o hwyluso perfformiadau BSL, yn gam allweddol yn y gwaith o wireddu’r weledigaeth hon. Cawsom gymorth gan Jonny Cotsen yn ein peilot cychwynnol, ac yn ddiweddar fe’n hanogodd ni i beilota perfformiad BSL integredig o Estron gan Hefin Robinson.

Rwy’n credu ei bod yn bwysig i holl aelodau’r gynulleidfa weld y dehonglydd ar y llwyfan. Merched Caerdydd a Nos Sadwrn o Hyd yw’r trydydd cynhyrchiad teithiol cenedlaethol lle rydym wedi darparu’r gwasanaeth hwn, ac rydw i wrth fy modd fod Cwmni’r Frân Wen hefyd ar hyn o bryd yn darparu’r gwasanaeth hwn (gan Cathryn) ar eu taith ledled Cymru o’r cynhyrchiad Anweledig. Fel cwmni theatr cenedlaethol Cymraeg ei iaith, teimlaf fod gennym gyfrifoldeb mawr i barhau i symud ymlaen, yn y gobaith y gallwn helpu i symud y sector yn ei flaen yn y cyd-destun hwn. Mae’n rhaid i ni ddechrau meddwl nawr – beth nesaf?  

Mae ‘Get the Chance’ yn gweithio i gefnogi ystod amrywiol o aelodau o’r cyhoedd i’w galluogi i gael mynediad at ddarpariaeth ddiwylliannol. Yn eich profiad personol chi, ydych chi’n ymwybodol o unrhyw rwystrau i ddarpariaeth ddiwylliannol?

Yn fy marn i, mae yna sawl rhwystr. Ar nodyn personol, mae gen i ffrindiau ac aelodau o’r teulu sy’n cael trafferth i ymrwymo’u hunain i fynd i weld cynhyrchiad theatr yn y Gymraeg, er eu bod i gyd yn byw eu bywydau’n hapus drwy gyfrwng yr iaith. Mae pobl yn aml yn meddwl nad yw eu Cymraeg yn ddigon da, neu bod natur yr iaith a ddefnyddir mewn drama yn rhy anodd iddynt ei deall yn llawn. Rydym yn ceisio cyfathrebu’r neges bod ein perfformiadau theatr yn y Gymraeg yn gwbl gynhwysol, a’n bod yn cynnig ystod eang o gynyrchiadau – rhai’n defnyddio iaith lafar, eraill yn defnyddio iaith farddonol, rhai yn nhafodiaith y gogledd, eraill yn nhafodiaith y de; rhai mewn Cymraeg dinesig ac eraill mewn Cymraeg cefn gwlad. Y realiti yw taw dim ond un elfen yw iaith yn yr holl sbectrwm o rwystrau i gynyrchiadau theatr.  Mae gennym ddyletswydd tuag at yr holl bobl sy’n wynebu rhwystrau i’n cynyrchiadau, a dyna pam rydym yn gwneud pob ymdrech i chwilio am bartneriaid o bob cefndir i’n helpu ni gyda’r daith hon i’w gwneud yn haws i’n cynulleidfa gael mynediad at ein gwaith.

Yn ogystal â chynhyrchu pecyn cynhwysfawr o weithgareddau i gefnogi rhai sy’n dysgu Cymraeg,  deallaf mai hwn fydd y tro cyntaf i Sibrwd, eich Ap unigryw, gynnig cyfieithiad llawn o’r Gymraeg i’r Saesneg. Mae hyn yn cynnig cyfleoedd cyffrous i gynulleidfaoedd newydd gael mynediad at eich gwaith. Sut mae Sibrwd wedi datblygu fel cyfrwng mynediad i gynulleidfaoedd?

Ydyn, rydyn ni’n peilota rhywbeth cwbl newydd y tro hwn; bydd Sibrwd, ein ap ar gyfer ffonau clyfar, yn cynnwys cyfieithiad llawn o’r ddwy ddrama yn y rhaglen ddwbl hon. Rydym wedi cael adborth gan ein cynulleidfaoedd, yn cynnwys pobl fyddar neu rai a chanddynt nam ar eu clyw; mae’n amlwg eu bod nhw’n awyddus i gael y gwasanaeth hwn, ac rydyn ninnau’n awyddus i roi cynnig arni. Rydw i wedi gweld y cynllun newydd, ac mae’n edrych ac yn teimlo’n grêt. Rydym yn edrych ymlaen at gael adborth gan gynulleidfaoedd ar y daith hon, wrth i ni barhau i ddatblygu’r adnodd.

Pe byddech chi mewn sefyllfa i ariannu un maes o’r celfyddydau, pa faes fyddai hwnnw a pham?

Prosiect cyfranogi cenedlaethol ar y cyd â lleoliadau ledled Cymru a fydd yn datblygu teimlad o gyffro o gwmpas y theatr, ac yn cyrraedd uchafbwynt mewn perfformiad cenedlaethol mewn gwahanol leoliadau ar yr un pryd. Rydym yn awyddus i gefnogi’r lleoliadau wrth iddynt weithio tuag at gynyddu ac amrywio eu cynulleidfaoedd.

Beth sy’n eich cyffroi chi ynghylch y celfyddydau?

Y ffaith bod popeth ac unrhyw beth yn bosibl, gyda’r bobl iawn.

Beth oedd y peth gwych diwethaf i chi ei brofi y byddech yn hoffi ei rannu gyda’n darllenwyr?

Yn ddiweddar, y stori sydd wedi fy nghyffwrdd fwyaf yw llyfr o’r enw Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Stori yw hon am arwres anghyffredin, lle mae ei phersonoliaeth unigryw a’i hiwmor yn creu stori hynod ddarllenadwy wrth iddi sylweddoli mai agor ei chalon yw’r unig ffordd i oroesi – ac mae hynny’n neges bwysig i ni i gyd.

Diolch yn fawr iawn am eich amser.

An interview with Rhian Davies, Executive Producer, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Hi Rhian great to meet you, what got you interested in the Arts?

I’ve always loved watching soap operas, drama, films and reading good stories. In my teens I wrote a few short stories that were published in magazines and books and then decided to follow my dream and see if I could get a job doing something creative. I had no idea what I could do, but kept knocking at different doors and got a place on a Cyfle course as a trainee scriptwriter based in Caernarfon. I was paid as an apprentice and had amazing experiences working on scripts for dramas on S4C and got a chance to meet loads of good people. I then got a job at Pobol y Cwm as an Assistant Script Editor and remember that immense feeling of pride when walking through the BBC Wales double doors. I became a Script Editor and later a Storyliner and got the chance to write a script or two, and had a ball helping create stories for some of Wales’ most colourful characters.

Rhian working as a Script Editor.

I then decided to move back home to Swansea where Tinopolis TV took me on as a fledgling TV Producer and gave me a chance to keep telling dramatic stories through documentaries for over a decade. I’ve been with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru for just over 3 years now and am still relishing the chance to tell good, relevant stories in different ways.

Your role in the company is that of the Executive Producer, you are also responsible for all the productions and also the participation work, which includes working with the wider audience. That’s a role with a great deal of breadth. How do you manage to cover all of these areas?

Variety is the spice of life! It’s a broad remit but I relish the challenge. To me, the audience is key to everything we do, and our participatory activities with audiences are as important as our productions. We’re increasing these activities, listening to what people want and acting upon it.

Theatr Gen has a cracking little team in Llinos Jones, our Participation Officer, and Fflur Thomas and Nia Skyrme, our Assistant Producers. Together, as well planning and assuring the smooth running of Theatr Gen productions, we co-ordinate our Drama Clubs with Menter Iaith Gorllewin Sir Gâr, Theatr Mwldan and Theatr Felinfach; our wellbeing activities with the Carmartheshire Fusion network; engagement with audiences in theatre venues for our BSL performances; with Welsh learners across Wales via pre show talks and Welsh learner lessons taught nationally in conjunction with the work of the National Centre for Learning Welsh; with educational specialists so that we support the new curriculum and provide resources in the Welsh language; with venues in introducing a national ‘pay what you decide’ scheme for presentations of our New Playwrights’ Group readings, and on and on. We’re trying our best, but are far from perfect, and welcome all comments and suggestions.

We want to reach further and wider and I feel that, as the Welsh-language, National Theatre company, we have a huge responsibility and need to act to remove barriers to accessing our work. We don’t claim to do everything well or perfectly, but we’re trying our best: we’re scrutinising the value of everything we do, changing within a Wales that’s changing and hopefully learning from our mistakes.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru are currently rehearsing Merched Caerdydd (Cardiff Girls) by Catrin Dafydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd (Saturday Night Forever) by Roger Williams. The two plays will be performed as a double bill touring Wales this spring. Both plays reflect different aspects of contemporary Wales. Do you think live theatre still feels relevant to younger audiences with competition for drama audiences from on demand streaming sites such as Netflix?

Nothing beats that feeling of seeing a dramatic story live and that shared experience of reacting there and then to the performance and the script. With so much competition, it’s harder to make theatre relevant, especially to younger audiences, but therein lies the challenge, and I love a challenge.

I’m also a board member with Mess Up The Mess, an organisation that offers dynamic theatre making experiences to young people, because I sincerely believe in the importance of engaging younger audiences. You talk about Netflix. In 2017, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru piloted our first cinematic theatrical screening through broadcasting our performance of Macbeth, both live and as-live, from Caerphilly Castle to 11 cinemas across Wales. We branded it Theatr Gen Byw.

Moving forward, we need to embrace the digital agenda. I’ve had a vision that youngsters, and indeed everyone, will be able to access our productions, and also influence  them in terms of content, whenever they want, when it suits them, on their own, in a group, wherever they are.  We need to be inclusive, not exclusive and this means providing as many opportunities as possible for everyone to enjoy a variety of Welsh theatrical works, live and as-live.  

Both playwrights Catrin Dafydd and Roger Williams have had success recently in TV Drama first produced in the Welsh and then English Language. Is Wales unique in writers of this calibre writing for both TV and Theatre at the same time?

Isn’t it great that Welsh-language television writers like Roger and Catrin, Siôn Eirian too, and many more, can also be Welsh-language playwrights, that Welsh-language TV Producers, like me (and Roger), can also be Welsh-language theatre Producers and that TV Directors like Ffion Dafis (who’s also an actress) can direct an episode of Pobol y Cwm as well as direct a theatre production? Mared Swain, who’s currently directing the first show in our double bill, Merched Caerdydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd, which opens this week in Theatr Clwyd, was also a Story Producer on the S4C series Gwaith Cartref. I think I bore my colleagues about the significance of transferable skills, but just because you haven’t worked in a sector doesn’t mean your experiences can’t benefit another sector, and I wish to see more cross sector working within the creative industries and culture sector  I truly believe that both the theatre and TV sectors would benefit.

The production will have two BSL performances, at Theatr Clwyd in Mold on the 15 March, 19:45 and then the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 11 April, 19:00 Can you please tell us why you feel BSL supported performances are an important part of your offer for audiences?

It started with a desire to be more inclusive and an admiration of the good practices established by Sherman 5 at Sherman Theatre and now it’s an integral part of our work. Finding Cathryn McShane, a Welsh-speaking BSL interpreter, and Nia Skyrme, a Welsh-speaking producer with experience of facilitating BSL performances, was key to moving this vision forward. Jonny Cotsen supported us in our initial pilot, and recently encouraged us to pilot an integrated BSL performance of Estron by Hefin Robinson.

I think it’s important for all audience members to see an interpreter on stage. Merched Caerdydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd is the third national touring production where we have provided this service, and I’m delighted that Cwmni’r Frân Wen is now also providing this service (by Cathryn) on their current national tour of Anweledig. As a national Welsh-language theatre company I feel that we have a huge responsibility to keep moving forward and hopefully help move the sector forward in this regard. We need to start thinking now, what’s next?  

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. In your personal experience, are you aware of any barriers to cultural provision?

There are many. On a personal note, I have friends and family that struggle to commit to making it to a Welsh-language theatre production even though they all live their life happily through the medium of Welsh. People often think their Welsh is not good enough or that the nature of the Welsh language used in a play will be too difficult to understand fully. We try to communicate that our Welsh-language theatre productions are inclusive and that we offer a wide range of productions, some that use colloquial language, others more poetic language, some using North Walian dialect, others South Walian dialect and some in urban Welsh and others in rural Welsh.

The reality is that language is only one element in a whole gamut of barriers to theatre productions. We have a duty towards all people facing barriers to our productions, and that is why we actively seek partners from all walks of life to help us make this journey for our audience to access our work an easier one.   

As well as a comprehensive package of activity to support Welsh Learners, I believe this is the first time your unique App Sibrwd will have full translation from Welsh to English. This offers exciting opportunities for new audience to access your work. How has Sibrwd developed as an access tool for audiences?

You’re right, we’re piloting something new with Sibrwd this time and Sibrwd, our smart phone app, will include a full translation of both plays in this double bill. We’ve had feedback from our audiences, including people who are deaf or have hearing loss, and this is what they want, so we want to give it a go. I’ve seen it, and it looks and feels great. We look forward to receiving audience feedback on this tour, as we continue to develop this resource.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in what would this be and why?

A national participation project in conjunction with venues across Wales that will build some excitement around theatre and culminate in a national performance in venues at the same time. We want to support the venues as they try to grow and diversify their audiences.

What excites you about the arts?

The fact that everything and anything is possible, with the right people.

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

The story that’s touched me the most, recently, is a book called Elanor Eliphant is Completely Fine. It’s the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose weirdness and wit make for an irresistible story as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart – an important message for us all.

Many thanks for your time, Rhian.

You can find out more about the work of the company and its work here

Please note this article is paid for content.

Review: Ageless, Sherman Youth Theatre, Sherman Theatre by Sian Thomas

All photos credit Chris Lloyd

Yesterday, I saw Ageless at the Sherman Theatre. I haven’t been to the Sherman for some time, the last time I was there was for an event for the Cardiff Fringe Festival last year and it was nice to be back. It’s always a lovely venue to attend, it creates a really specific, really capturing atmosphere.

The play, Ageless, had a really interesting concept. A pill being made in order to cheat ageing. Essentially, live forever, and to live forever young. In addition to this concept, there were also a multitude of characters – each with different, and clear, motivations – easily ones to root for and enjoy seeing when they came on stage. Along with this came a really compelling atmosphere – especially when the scenes conveyed a group of rebellious teens fighting against this pill being made and distributed, a couple who have been taking it, and the two head scientists who made it. Bouncing between these three gave a really good depth to a world that no longer really ages, and I really liked seeing the tension between the three be created. There was a really good split of stage time between “young and old” to make the story really interesting and quick to figure out who’s side you were on.

Like always, the Sherman has incredible setting. I saw, what feels like a billion years ago, their production of Romeo and Juliet, and I remember how fun the stage looked then. This stage, just as that, was fun, too. And also practical – I really liked the way the cast would move it around to create a different atmosphere and setting.

The end was pretty clever. I liked the implications it left its world and the audience with. If the “being ageless” pill left takers with minuscule chances to have children, then it created a much bigger situation than just this revelation and the subsequent reaction. Essentially, it feels like there should be an Ageless 2 exploring “what came next”. The premise of the play, and the way the play itself was delivered, almost feels like it should be a TV show pitch, and I think the story idea there could definitely go far.

I’m really glad I saw it on one of the three days it was showing. It was a lovely watch of an intricate, almost dystopian, world.

Sian Thomas

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yn cyhoeddi cast, Merched Caerdydd / Nos Sadwrn o Hyd

Theatr Clwyd, Yr Wyddgrug: 13–15 Mawrth

Pontio, Bangor: 19 + 20 Mawrth

Canolfan Garth Olwg, Pentre’r Eglwys: 22 Mawrth

Theatr Borough, Y Fenni: 25 Mawrth

Canolfan y Celfyddydau Pontardawe: 26 Mawrth

Theatr Mwldan, Aberteifi: 28 Mawrth

Canolfan y Celfyddydau Aberystwyth: 29 + 30 Mawrth

Canolfan S4C Yr Egin, Caerfyrddin: 1 + 2 Ebrill

Galeri, Caernarfon: 4 + 5 Ebrill

Ffwrnes, Llanelli: 8 + 9 Ebrill

Stiwdio Weston, Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru, Caerdydd: 10–13 Ebrill

Canllaw oedran: 14+. Yn cynnwys iaith gref.

Mynediad i’r di-Gymraeg drwy gyfrwng ap Sibrwd.

Manylion y cynhyrchiad

Dwy ddrama gyfoes wedi eu lleoli yn y brifddinas, gan ddau o’n hawduron mwyaf beiddgar.

Merched Caerdydd (gan Catrin Dafydd)

Caerdydd yw cartref Cariad, Liberty ac Awen. Er eu bod nhw’n troedio llwybrau gwahanol iawn i’w gilydd, mae ganddyn nhw fwy yn gyffredin na’u dinas. Dyma dair o ferched ifanc disglair ac, efallai, annisgwyl y Gymru gyfoes sy’n ceisio gwneud synnwyr o’u bywydau blêr. Merched sy’n ymrafael â’u gorffennol wrth geisio llywio’u dyfodol. Ond a fydd newid yn bosib? Neu a ydi eu ffawd eisoes wedi’i benderfynu?

Nos Sadwrn o Hyd (gan Roger Williams)

Wedi i Take That chwalu perthynas Lee a Matthew mewn clwb nos yn y brifddinas, mae Lee yn cymryd camau cynnar, melys ar lwybr carwriaeth newydd.  Am gyfnod byr mae bywyd yn fêl i gyd, ond ar ôl bob nos Sadwrn daw realiti oer bore Sul.  Ac fel mae Lee’n darganfod, does dim byd yn para am byth.

Roedd 2018 yn flwyddyn arbennig iawn i Catrin Dafydd, sydd yn nofelydd, bardd a chyflwynydd radio, ac yn un o awduron Pobol y Cwm (BBC Cymru). Enillodd y Goron yn Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Caerdydd, a hynny’n fuan ar ôl ennill Gwobr Ffuglen Gymraeg Llyfr y Flwyddyn 2018 am ei nofel arbrofol Gwales. Comisiynwyd Merched Caerdydd yn wreiddiol gan Bwyllgor Llên a Drama Eisteddfod Caerdydd, ac fe’i datblygwyd a’i chyflwyno gan Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru fel rhan o raglen Theatr Gen Creu yn y Steddfod.

Mae Nos Sadwrn o Hyd yn drosiad Cymraeg gan Roger Williams o’i ddrama boblogaidd Saturday Night Forever. Llwyddodd ei fersiwn Saesneg gwreiddiol i ddenu canmoliaeth gan gynulleidfaoedd ac adolygwyr fel ei gilydd. Comisiynwyd yr addasiad Cymraeg hwn gan yr Eisteddfod a Stonewall Cymru, ac fe’i cyflwynwyd am y tro cyntaf yn Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Caerdydd 2018 gan gwmni OOMFF, fel rhan o raglen Mas ar y Maes, sef prosiect newydd ar y cyd rhwng yr Eisteddfod, Stonewall Cymru a’r gymuned LGBTQ+. Mae Roger yn enw adnabyddus ym myd y ddrama yng Nghymru, yn arbennig felly am gyfresi teledu poblogaidd felCaerdydd aBang.  Enillodd Bang nifer o wobrau nodedig, yn cynnwys Medal Efydd Gŵyl Gwobrau Teledu a Ffilm Ryngwladol Efrog Newydd 2018 – Rhaglen Adloniant Orau (Drama Drosedd), ac enillodd wobr Drama Teledu BAFTA Cymru 2018. Mae gwaith Roger ar gyfer y llwyfan yn cynnwysTir Sir Gâr (Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, 2013).


Mared Swain (Merched Caerdydd)

Aled Pedrick (Nos Sadwrn o Hyd)

Cynllunydd Set a Gwisgoedd:

Heledd Rees

Cynllunydd Goleuo:

Elanor Higgins

Cynllunydd Sain a Chyfansoddwr:

Dyfan Jones

(Cynllun sain Nos Sadwrn o Hyd yn seiliedig ar gynllun gwreiddiol gan Heddwyn Davies)


Emmy Stonelake

Gwenllian Higginson

Hanna Jarman

Sion Ifan

Cynhyrchiad Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru mewn cydweithrediad ag Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru, Mas ar y Maes, Stonewall Cymru ac OOMFF, gyda chefnogaeth gan Theatr Clwyd.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yw’r cwmni theatr cenedlaethol iaith Gymraeg. Rydym yn creu profiadau theatr beiddgar, uchelgeisiol, cynhwysol a chofiadwy wrth galon ein cymunedau, mewn canolfannau theatr traddodiadol a lleoliadau annisgwyl ledled Cymru a thu hwnt.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru announces the cast for Merched Caerdydd / Nos Sadwrn o Hyd

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru is pleased to announce the full cast for the production Merched Caerdydd / Nos Sadwrn o Hyd which will tour Wales between 13 March and 13 April. Merched Caerdydd is a new work by Catrin Dafydd which was presented as a rehearsed reading of a work-in-progress to large audiences at the Cardiff National Eisteddfod in 2018, and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd is an adaptation by Roger Williams of his own popular play Saturday Night Forever. Two contemporary plays based in the capital city, by two of Wales’s most distinct voices.

The cast are Emmy Stonelake, Gwenllian Higginson and Hanna Jarman (Merched Caerdydd) and Sion Ifan (Nos Sadwrn o Hyd).

Joining Emmy Stonelake, who took part in the rehearsed readings of Merched Caerdydd (Theatr Gen Creu yn y Steddfod), will be Gwenllian Higginson and Hanna Jarman. Gwenllian Higginson returns to Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru following previous appearances in Macbeth (2017), Yr Hwyaden Fach Hyll/The Ugly Duckling (in co-production with Sherman Theatre, 2014/15) and Dyled Eileen (2014). Gwenllian also appeared recently in Exodus (Motherlode Theatre). Hanna Jarman joins the company for the first time. Her recent theatre credits include Hud y Crochan Uwd/The Magic Porridge Pot by Sherman Theatre and she’ll be appearing soon in Merched Parchus on S4C which she co-wrote with Mari Beard.

Sion Ifan returns to play Lee in Nos Sadwrn o Hyd, following his widely acclaimed performance when the adaptation was first staged at the 2018 Cardiff National Eisteddfod. Sion has appeared on S4C in programmes including Byw Celwydd, Y Streic a Fi, Tir and Teulu and has performed with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru in Pan Oedd y Byd yn Fach, Y Fenyw Ddaeth o’r Môr, and Tir Sir Gâr.

Mared Swain, Neontopia’s Artistic Director, directs Merched Caerdydd. Her recent directing credits include Tuck, A Good Clean Heart and Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff). Her television credits include Storyline ProducerforGwaith Cartref. Aled Pedrick directs Nos Sadwrn o Hyd. Aled is best known as an actor on the popular series 35 Awr and Parch and he recently appeared in Sherman Theatre’s acclaimed production, Woof.Aled has also directed for Theatr Clwyd and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (Pan Oedd y Byd yn Fach, 2016).

These two one-hour-long plays will be presented as a double bill with a 20-minute interval. The production opens in Theatr Clwyd before touring throughout Wales, and the tour comes to an end in Cardiff with a series of performances at the Weston Studio as part of the Wales Millennium Centre’s Performances for the Curious season.

Tour details:

Theatr Clwyd, Mold: 13–15 March

Pontio, Bangor: 19 + 20 March

Canolfan Garth Olwg, Church Village: 22 March

Borough Theatre, Abergavenny: 25 March

Pontardawe Arts Centre: 26 March

Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan: 28 March

Aberystwyth Arts Centre: 29 + 30 March

Canolfan S4C Yr Egin, Carmarthen: 1 + 2 April

Galeri, Caernarfon: 4 + 5 April

Ffwrnes, Llanelli: 8 + 9 April

Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff: 10–13 April

Age guidance: 14+. Includes strong language

This is a Welsh language production. The Sibrwd app provides English-language access.

Details of the production

Two contemporary plays based in the capital city, by two of Wales’s most distinct voices.

Merched Caerdydd (Cardiff Girls) by Catrin Dafydd

Cardiff is home to Cariad, Liberty and Awen. Whilst they each tread a very different path in life, they have more in common than their city alone. Here are three young, bright, and perhaps unexpected women from contemporary Wales, each trying to make sense of their messy lives. They are women trying to come to terms with their pasts whilst navigating their futures. But will change be possible? Or has their fate already been sealed?

Nos Sadwrn o Hyd (Saturday Night Forever)by Roger Williams

Following a messy break-up, sound-tracked by Take That in a city centre nightclub, Lee goes looking for love and finds it. For a short while life is sweet, but after every Saturday night dawns the harsh reality of Sunday morning and, as Lee discovers, nothing lasts forever.

2018 was a very special year for Catrin Dafydd, who is a novelist, poet, radio presenter and a script writer for Pobol y Cwm (BBC Cymru Wales). She won the Crown at the Cardiff National Eisteddfod, very soon after winning the Fiction category in the Welsh Book of the Year Awards 2018 for her experimental novel Gwales. Merched Caerdydd was originally commissioned by the Literature and Drama Committee of the Cardiff National Eisteddfod and was developed and presented for the first time by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru as a work-in-progress as part of the Theatr Gen Creu yn y Steddfod programme.

Nos Sadwrn o Hyd is a Welsh language adaptation by the playwright Roger Williams of his own popular play Saturday Night Forever. The original English version was well-received by audiences and reviewers alike. This adaptation was commissioned by the National Eisteddfod and Stonewall Cymru and was presented for the first time at this year’s Cardiff National Eisteddfod by OOMFF as part of the Mas ar y Maes programme – a new project arranged jointly between the Eisteddfod, Stonewall Cymru and the LGBTQ+ community. Roger Williams is an established writer in the world of Welsh drama, particularly for his popular television series such as Caerdydd andBang. Bang has won a number of notable awards, including the Bronze Medal at the New York International Television and Film Awards 2018 – Best Entertainment Programme (Crime Play). It also won the BAFTA Cymru/Wales Award 2018 for a Television Play. Roger’s work for the stage includes Tir Sir Gâr(Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, 2013).

A Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru production in association with the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Mas ar y Maes, Stonewall Cymru and OOMFF, supported by Theatr Clwyd.


Mared Swain (Merched Caerdydd)

Aled Pedrick (Nos Sadwrn o Hyd)

Set and Costume Designer:

Heledd Rees

Lighting Designer:

Elanor Higgins

Sound Designer and Composer:

Dyfan Jones

(Sound design of Nos Sadwrn o Hyd based on an original design by Heddwyn Davies)Cast:

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru is the Welsh-language national theatre of Wales. We create bold, ambitious, inclusive and memorable theatre experiences in the heart of our communities, at traditional theatre venues and unexpected locations across Wales and beyond.

Please note this is a paid for article

Review The Taming of the Shrew, Sherman Theatre by Harriet Hopkins

Credit Mark Douet
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

When I was first introduced to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew I found it amusing and, I think, quite romantic. Forgive me – I was 11, going on 12, and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet had recently convinced me that all Shakespeare was romantic!

The truth, as Jo Clifford’s reimagining shows us, is that there is no romance in Shrew.

It is a play within a play, within a play, and you are invited, as an audience, to join in with suspending your disbelief – you are asked to dream, along with the players, of a world where women are the higher power. This alone might put some readers off going – don’t let it. Despite the serious nature of the subject and the action, this production manages to be riotously funny as it explores a matriarchal Shakespearean landscape.

Credit Mark Douet

The design (Madeleine Girling), made up of a ring in the centre, voils that separate it from the audience when required, and mic stands and off-set piano all make it clear that this is a “show”; an arena of exploration, with on-stage music and sound effects provided by the cast (predominantly from Hannah Jarrett-Scott who plays a bawdy, arrogant Luciento, unapologetically brandishing an electric guitar like a weapon of lust). The players break character regularly to help explain what’s going on, and to help themselves work out who they are now, and next, and what exactly is happening; there is a lot of fun to be poked at the original in this way as it really does make you realise just how ridiculous the whole idea is.

Credit Mark Douet

Using a mix of composed and re-worked songs (such as the opening to Bloody Motherf***ing **shole by Martha Wainwright, ironically sung by Scarlett Brookes’s unnerving Petruchio), the hard-to-digest moments are broken up by musical interjections that the whole cast take part in, though Jarrett-Scott and Alexandria Riley (most often playing Tranio) take the lead in this.

I enjoyed every performance from each actor, whichever character or mode they happened to be playing at different times; I believed in them equally and, for me, it is a triumph that there were no “stand out” performances in this play challenging the absence of equality. It speaks to the quality of their chemistry and what must surely have been a furiously fun and raw rehearsal process. The direction (Michael Fentiman) adds layers of meaning to the reframed, pared down text, illuminating the darker elements including domestic abuse, manipulation and gas lighting. The whole production is carefully balanced in this way; the serious, uncomfortable moments offset by humour and spectacle which allows these subjects to be explored without the whole thing feeling dour and depressing. Instead, you come out with questions around power and identity and how far have we really come in creating an equal, fair society?

Credit Mark Douet

If you are interested in seeing something blazingly different, then I’d recommend spending a few bob on tickets to this sassy, sexy, piece of theatre. Just…think about who you take with you as the very faint-hearted might find it a little uncomfortable. Personally, for me that was the draw!

The Taming of the Shrew is a co-production between Sherman Theatre and Tron Theatre Company. Be amazed by it at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff until 16th March. Tickets £18 (standard). Check out the website for concessions.