Category Archives: Theatre

A spotlight On Technical Theatre by Connor Strange

South Wales came alive to the sound of Panto in Winter 2019 with Jermin Productions’ dazzling production of Cinderella, seeing performances across Carmarthenshire & Neath Port Talbot. Performances were held in Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre operated by NPT Theatres, Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre and Llanelli’s Ffwrnes Theatre operated by Theatrau Sir Gar.

And that is where I come in!

In this article, I will be giving you an in depth look into the roles that I worked on through the course of the production, and how important technical theatre is in the world of pantomimes and theatrical productions.

But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Connor Strange, I’m from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, and I was very fortunate to work on Jermin Productions’ Cinderella South Wales Tour as a Follow Spot Operator & Lighting Technician. I’ll go on to explain more about those roles later.

My journey into the world of technical theatre all started last year. I volunteered during Swansea Pride back in 2019. During this event, I met Mark & Nia Jermin for the first time which gave me an insight into the world of entertainment. This made me think about my future aspirations and made me eventually decide to want to pursue a career in technical theatre & drama. So, I made contact with Jermin Productions and expressed interest in working on their 2019 pantomime – Cinderella.

As someone who is relatively new to the world of technical theatre & drama, I was very excited to receive an email in August from Jermin Productions offering me a position on Cinderella. This was such an exciting moment for me as I had never worked on a professional production before. This gave me an opportunity to develop new skills and create connections in the entertainment industry.

Fast forward to November 2019 and it was time to start work on the most ambitious production that I have ever worked on – Cinderella. As with all major productions, first comes the get in. This involves bringing set pieces, costumes, lighting etc – everything that is paramount to a successful production. Then comes assembling sets, rigging lights, preparing costumes for cast & dancers.

As with any production, you need a team & I was very fortunate to have worked with an amazing team of people throughout my time working on Cinderella. This included Mark Jones who was Production Manager, he has overarching responsibility for the safety & security of cast, crew & equipment on site as well as ensuring that the pantomime runs successfully.

Other colleagues included Grace – Deputy Stage Manager who has similar responsibilities to Mark. Alice, Bryn and Jordan were Assistant Stage Managers. ASM’s are tasked with ensuring props are in their correct positions, costumes changes happen when they should and overall operation of the show.

Now earlier on, I mentioned a very important role that I held during the production – Follow Spot Operator.

For those that do not know, a follow spot operator operates a specialised stage lighting instrument known as a followspot. A followspot is any lighting instrument manually controlled by an operator during a performance. I worked alongside a second follow spot operator, Luke, where we both had to follow a professionally orchestrated cue sheet and following commands issued by stage management and lighting operations. All in all, the role of a follow spot was something that I had never done before but was a fascinating insight into lighting.

Technical theatre has such an important part to play in the running of a pantomime. There are so many elements involved behind the scenes to ensure a pantomime can run successfully & efficiently. These include the Lighting department, Stage Management, Sound & our Musical team. Without these departments and the people working in them, a pantomime could not exist. All of those elements work hand in hand, very much like parts in a car. Without one of those elements, the production does not work as efficiently.

But we must also pay tribute to the Cast, without the cast a pantomime could not exist either. Technical theatre combined with a cast ensures that a production works successfully and delivers a fantastic performance to the general public.

This year’s cast thrilled audiences across South Wales and gave amazing performances time and time again.

The cast of Cinderella:

Nicole Seabright – Cinderella

Adam Byard – JJ Buttons

Lewis Brimfield – The Prince

Jordan Bateman – Bree

Ryan Edmunds – Tree

Bethan Searle – Fairy Godmother

Working with this amazing cast has been an absolute pleasure & has been a real eye opener to how much work goes on to make a pantomime happen.

I spoke to some of our cast & crew about what they got out of working on Cinderella and their experiences working on a Jermin Productions pantomime. I also asked them what they would say to people wanting to start out in performing arts.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I got lots out of Cinderella, experience and social were my main ones! I hadn’t worked on a touring theatre show like this before, and I was really lucky to be offered a job by Jermin Productions. I learnt new ways of doing things, tips and tricks to make things easier and even a few life lessons! Socially, I made so many great friends, people I’d work with for the rest of my life. It can get difficult when you’re working together, living together and sharing rooms, but with Cinderella I didn’t get any of that.

If someone asked me if they should go into Theatre tech, I’d definitely say Yes! It’s good fun and you learn a lot of stuff on the job, so if you have a lot of experience beforehand it doesn’t matter! There’s a lot of variety in this industry, which means you can try out different jobs if you’re not sure what to do.” (Ollie Gordon-Rump, Lighting Operations/LX1 – Cinderella 2019)

“What I got from it? I got a great sense of accomplishment from doing Panto with Mark. It’s my second year working for him and it was an amazing experience. It was personal for me as I got to perform in my hometown and even in the place I went to uni. It was a brilliant cast and they are like my second my family. To work with people who were so dedicated and talented was just exceptional. The script was hilarious and we were allowed to add our personalities in the characters and give it our touch.

I’d say to never give up because if you really want something then keep going. I’m a simple boy from Port Talbot whom acts for living. Anything is possible if you believe. (Ryan Edmunds, Tree – Cinderella 2019)

South Wales will come alive once more to the sound of Panto with Jermin Productions’ Beauty and the Beast coming this Winter 2020.

Tickets are on sale right now for Beauty and the Beast in  Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre, Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre & Llanelli’s Ffwrnes Theatre.

Tickets and show times are available on:

A big thank you to everyone who supported me in the creation of this article!

Review Winners, Nova, Sherman Theatre By Vic Mills

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

‘Get It While It’s Hot’ is a good vehicle in various ways for Lowri Jenkin’s honed, clever and at times visceral comedy, ‘Winners’.  It tells the old tale of how difficult is it to keep it ‘hot’ – whether that is the vegan dishes or the sex, fuelled by the aphrodisiac of the aptly named Dan Biggar and the colossus of Alun Wyn Jones.  You should know though that they succeed, in this warm-hearted, life-affirming and love-affirming piece, they succeed in keeping it hot – though we had to learn to change our minds a little about what that comes to mean for Cassie and Dafydd.

The stage is stripped to two very ordinary chairs and the production to a very simple and stripped lighting and sound plot.  This works very sympathetically with the stripping of the two characters as they face a ‘couples counselling’ session, an anniversary present from Cassie to Dafydd.  The device of the counselling session works beautifully too, as it allows for audience interaction as we become the counsellors for these two engaging and deeply sympathetic figures.

Jenkins’ is very well served by Samantha Jones’ direction and Garrin Clarke’s design – less is certainly more in this case.  We are allowed access to characters and actors who have nowhere to hide.

And Cassie and Dayfydd do certainly attempt to hide.  There is wonderful humour in the writing and in the performances of both actors from the first moment of the play.  Timing is crafted and almost every mark is hit.  Dafydd is warm, garrulous and very engaging from the outset.  Cassie is initially more poised and sophisticated – looking for the process to solve Dafydd’s problems whilst she makes suitable noises of support.  The play works, as these things do, to peel way the layers of her social pretences as the increasingly complex roots of the problems in their long term relationship are exposed.

The piece could have felt very familiar, safe and predictable had it not been for the quality of the comic writing, the beautifully honed and pacey dialogue and the genuine charm of the characters and above all the actors.  This is not challenging, groundbreaking theatre in any sense but it is an extremely well-crafted, warm, clever and engaging play, done wonderful service by two compelling and lovely performances.

Lowri Jenkins understands comedy and dialogue.  There are moments when the interchanges are too rapid fire and when we feel the writer trying too hard, but they are few and fairly insignificant.  She understands lyrical cadence and silence as well as crowd-pleasing belly laughs.  She looks honestly and unflinchingly at contemporary relationship issues and familiar gender tropes and there is a warmth and affection for both her characters and the audience responds with the real affection and engagement that this piece requires to succeed.

This play is a winner; it is a crowd pleaser certainly but it deserves to be.  The performances are very, very good and that they are equally good is rare.  Genuine chemistry on stage is the Holy Grail of theatre and these two have the cup of Christ in their grip.  Get to see it if you possibly can on one of these wet and wintry nights – it’ll warm you right through – it is hot!

The production plays at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff from 11 – 15 Feb 2020; 6.30pm

Review AutoReverse, BAC By Tanica Psalmist

Autoreverse is a chilled, solo performance, performed at BAC, played by Florencia Cordeu, directed by Omar Elerian. Florencia Cordeu speaks of her tradition, love & culture. Through her range of sound by Omar Elerian & Cassette tapes you get a clear, strong imagery of her family’s compelling history & strength of her family’s individual character as she reminisces on her family’s home from Chile, as she now resides in London.

Autoreverse embarks on epic adventurous timezones, making full use of her generational memories from tapes that’ll she’ll forever hold & cherish. The nature of this play holds strong, traditional values affiliated with her parents retaining of them holding on to its values. Her use of space whilst listening to her recordings in her room in London takes us back in time deeply. A time when her family fled Argentina’s dictatorship, hence the rising of audio letters to stay in touch with their loved ones.

Autoreverse infuses the meaning of family bonds from childhood, experiences through a moving and uplifting audio-visual. Chains that can’t be broken, acknowledgement of identity, legacy, adaption to a new country, environment, stability & individuality interlinked with warmth, hope & prosperity.

Review The Haystack, Hampstead Theatre by tanica psalmist

The ‘Haystack’, held at Hampstead Theatre is an awakening & enticing production; featuring the following cast members- Lucy Black (Denise), Oliver Johnstone (Neil), Rona Morison (Cora), Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) & Sarah Woodward (Hannah). Written by Al Blyth & directed by Roxana Silbert.

Haystack is a detailed eclipse of artificial intelligence, surveillance, encrypted coding & eroding delusions. This production addresses the unknown world of undercover spies with two computer whizzes who’re of the same kind inclined to insights into outside proximities, high security & space infinity.

This play offers an in-depth realisation on safeguarding, the rise of national security machinery, protection of electronic intrusion as well as explorative strategies of how we can live freely through the advances of technology. Every speck of detail outlines perceptions that influence each characters mind, body & soul! 

This production is a hot dish, serving a variety of spices containing elements of truth, infused with evil forces hidden underground. A channel of divergent communication, conversions, traumatic effects, overwhelming regrets, mysterious deaths, unimaginable regrets; teams dealing with manageable projects until head-line stories get taken out of context. Intertwined with folded lies, portrayals & scandals, unsatisfying stunts pulled by discrete agents of technical intelligence, suspicious terrorism, infliction & love struck addiction.

A strong theme in Haystack is infatuation; exploiting the underestimated power of physical attraction, dopamine, endorphins & mental interaction. When Neil & Rona get to close for comfort chemistry soon increases into fateful attraction, triggered from Neil’s world of hacking. Feelings soon expand to overprotection & harmonious friendships eventually gate-crashing. Agility serving its purpose when suicidal thoughts & non-comprehendible media coverage; reveals to us a deeper understanding of how political control can be demonising. Haystack tells a strong tale of survival, the fittest for survival, hidden bugged devices, invasion of privacy, universal statements & manifestations of fugitive, fabricated disguised appearances. 

The logistics throughout Haystack touch on several dimensional powers of technology alongside phone hacks, identity tracks the cause behind secrecy, relationship distancing, uncertainty, institutionalised profit making, deliberate deaths, irrational thinking, heartache & pain as we’re exposed to unfettered access to not only the world’s data but also its infinite power!

Haystack is very thought provoking! Captivating the audience with additional touches such as video performances, seductive light glitches, cursor changes with different fonts & styled writing imagery. The beginning allies tightly with the ending. In this production you can expect previews of screen blasting lives of cascade database queries, network maps, spreadsheets, email accounts & phone logs piling up at a dizzying speed. As the speed of ‘Haystack’ is extremely rapid if you’re to blink for just a second please ensure you’re able to catch everything before it reaches the climax! 

Review: What The Dolls Saw, House of Macabre, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Coined as Horror Comedy, What the Dolls Saw from House of Macabre is just that – full of twists, turns, comedy and crazy characters, this is 1 hour of a real treat for theatrical minds.

With an all female cast, the story sees the tale of a family of women on the wake of their late patriarch – the father of three girls, an adopted grand daughter and the wife left behind. All with their unique style, character and personality, this family holds a deep and dark past, not investigated, and yet now seems like the right time to do so.

With their father as a late famous doll maker and their mother a dramatic retired actress, it’s no wonder that this story verges on the comical and flamboyant but yet eerie and spooky.

The characters are well developed: we love and hate the mother who is mad as a hatter, glamorous and blunt which causes plenty of comedy; the daughters are lovable, fun and we believe their loving sisterly relationship implicitly and the granddaughter, who is mute, does well to convey amazement at this dysfunctional family.

With the bumps in the night, use of atmospheric music and lights not only from the set but use of torches (well known in spooky stories), we are often on edge and unable to see the twists in the story.

What The Dolls Saw is nothing but an enjoyable experience. As one who is a total wimp when it comes to horror, there is enough to keep my heart beating and make me jump but not so much that I have to run for the door. And when i’m not gripping onto my seat, I am laughing and smiling at every moment.

Review: Gobby, Jodie Irvine, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Have you ever felt entirely alone? Too loud for a room? Like you do not fit?

Gobby is a one woman play about self discovery, about changes in young adult life and finally being okay with who you are.

Set within the premise of 5 different parties, Bri (like the cheese but not because it is spelt differently) finds herself lost and alone in the aftermath of a destructive relationship. Her friends, that she ignored during this period, now don’t want to know her, and Bri struggles with this reality, and her own loneliness.

This narrative feels like something we can all relate to – bad relationships, loneliness, and a sense of not belonging. The play is written as an inner monolgue, occasionally breaking away with the use of props (balloons with party hats on top) or a mild change in stance and addition of a stereotyped accent to bring in other characters. The characters are funny at first, and the over the top expressions of them help differentiate the story line. It becomes more subtle when the story becomes more serious, which is a clever maneuver, keeping us engaged.

While staged as a retelling of Bri’s life, often Jodie Irvine (our only performer) addresses her feet when speaking to us. At times this is endearing and adds to the awkwardness of the character, but eventually we want to make eye contact with her more – evidently with her obvious skills as an actress, she has reason to be more confident in her performance and we desperately want her to bring this to the stage.

We also believe that much of the outbursts and way Bri feels is due to a past relationship. But little is explained about this and we come to a point where nothing will do but knowledge, for us to be able to connect to the character. The rest ranges from comical to climactic releases, and so despite the lack of story, we are surprised at every turn.

Gobby is a passionate play about liking oneself and discovering who you are after trauma. It’s about growing up but also growing into yourself and so becomes a real coming of age tale that many in their early 20’s need to see to know that it will be alright in the end. We just want Irvine to be more confident in her well devised production!

Review Rush,Theatr Clwyd By Richard Evans

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Behind ‘Rush’ lies a simple theme.  This is my story.  This is where I come from, this is why I came here.  This is what life is like for me here.  Here is my story told through the universal medium of music.  We all have a story like this, and to a degree every story is engaging because people are interesting.  It is just that some stories are more interesting than others and this one involves three continents, colonization, death of an indigenous people, brutal slavery, rebellion, warfare, migration and racism.  Welcome to Jamaica and its tour of Britain, February 2020, destination Mold.

We were promised a joyous Jamaican journey and judging by the fact all bar a handful of people in a crowded theatre were on their feet at times, this is what we got.  Even my left knee was shaking in time to this rhythmic feast despite my pathological phobia of dancing.  The fact that I was pinned back in my seat to avoid the gyrations of the lady standing next to me did not detract from the spectacle.  Sometimes it is just great to see people join in with unfettered enthusiasm. 

Yet here was a contradiction.  This story is far from joyous, it is tainted with more than a bucketful of blood, sweat and tears and while this was pointed out with a wry sense of humour, this was not what we heard. Instead we were treated to an endless list of Jamaican song encompassing a brief history of ska and reggae with songs from Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Decker amongst a host of others.  Special mention was made of Bob Marley who would have celebrated his 75th birthday this week and who played Deeside Leisure Centre in 1980.  It’s a small world.  There were some surprising sounds, ‘The tide is high’ is so heavily associated with Blondie that many have forgotten its Jamaican roots. 

The music was performed with distinction by the JA Reggae Band, all of whom were consummate musicians orchestrated by the lead guitar and musical director, Orville Pinnock. True to the development of ska in particular, the band was racially diverse with a rich tapestry of experience from different musical genres.  They were ably supported by DJ Paul who played a variety of tracks supplementing a long set. 

The two lead singers IKA and Janice Williamson both had rich, powerful voices that were adaptable to a range of song.  My particular favourite was the gospel standard, ‘Oh Happy day’ acknowledging church influence on the Jamaican community.  The story was introduced and narrated by John Simmitt, who did so gently, rhythmically yet with a waspish sense of humour.  One pleasing aspect here was that there were no ‘stars’ in this ensemble, just a team working closely together who so obviously enjoyed and entered into the musical feast they presented.

My question is, how important is the Jamaican story?  This, and others like it should be a staple in every secondary school curriculum.  It speaks volumes to us about our national identity, our historic legacy and comments forcefully against those xenophobic elements in our society that seem to have found a voice in the past few years.  From the brutal colonization of the 15th and 16th Centuries, the loathsome practice of transatlantic slavery to the shocking betrayal of the Windrush generation by a populist government pillorying immigrants to win votes, this story reeks of injustice.  I would have liked to see more historical narrative, to learn more about the Maroon rebellions and leaders such as Marcus Garvey and Paul Bogle instead of being satisfied with allusions to these events and people.  But increasingly as the show developed it was a celebration of music that has its roots or was influenced by Jamaica. 

Perhaps the most important theme of the show was to emphasise the fact that the presence of Black and Asian communities in the UK is the result of a direct invitation to live here by the British government after World War 2.  Once people arrived, despite a pernicious level of racism these communities have integrated into, influenced and enhanced our society.  The reception given to 2-tone music and the energy generated by numbers by The Specials and Madness was a prime illustration of this.  Similar statements could be made especially about those communities from the Indian sub-continent who have made their home here.  Few people prior to 1960 would have heard of Tandoori chicken, yet to some, this is more of a national dish than roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. 

These communities are building their own cultural legacy now, a great example being the Notting Hill Carnival, one of the biggest street festivals in the world, attracting over 2 million visitors each year.  The carnival in itself is unique, being a fusion of Jamaican reggae and Trinidadian steel band and is now officially a British cultural icon.  Perhaps we have forgotten the roots of this carnival lie in a response to racial attacks on West Indians.  Few have heard of the 1959 death of Kelso Cochrane at the hands of white youths.  And few will know that the perpetrators were never charged or convicted for fear of the public unrest that may incite.  This was despite the fact that the identity of the killer was an open secret in the local community. 

This demonstrates that we have a lot to learn from this history yet despite such a powerful message it was not the key theme of the evening.  There was no axe to grind, no bitterness at this shameful treatment.  Just a nice line of humour poking fun at people like Enoch Powell and his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.  The Conservative club in his former constituency is now a West Indian Cultural Centre.  How times have changed. 

The pervasive theme of the evening for me was the rhythm which permeated every song, energised the audience and left people with a feel good factor.  It was remarkable that a mainly white, middle aged, middle class audience found such movement and joy in this Caribbean cultural festival.  John Simmitt joked that the audience might be better suited to a cup of Milo or Horlicks before bedtime but this was far from the case.  The audience warmed to the rhythm with gusto.  Full credit to the cast, who after taking their bow made their way to the foyer to greet the audience as they left.  After three hours of performance they need not have done this but was a most welcome end to a fabulous evening.

Go and see this performance.  Feel the rhythm, enjoy the music, learn the history. 

Review: Since U Been Gone, Teddy Lamb, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Donned in neon pinks, greens and blues. we enter the room to subtle yet catchy indie meets electronica music, played by a gorgeous person in the corner. Long hair and a dress and shoes to kill, we already know we are in for something special.

This person isn’t Teddy Lamb, but their partner in crime, providing the soundtrack to this one person play. Lamb tells the story of their friendship with someone that was all consuming. They touch on aspects of mental health, death and grief but also coming to terms with and discovery of who one is.

Lamb is energetic, engaging and a lot of fun to be with. Addressing us as if we were their late friend, they reminisce on their time together, on their feelings and thoughts and actually how one’s mental health can drastically affect your own. Lamb makes us feel included in the story, makes us feel like their friend and there is a real sense of trust between us and Lamb with them sharing their life with us.

While full of emotion, darkness and open-ness, there is also light, comedy and a fabulous nature to the storytelling. Constantly with a soundtrack, this dramatic telling of their personal history draws us in on every level; especially bringing in trademark nods to us millennials and our childhoods.

Since U Been Gone is heart wrenching, heart warming, comical and beautiful. While Lamb continues to a focus on personal discovery that only a few would understand, we still relate to developing as a person, to certain emotions and feelings and come away feeling like part of an extended family.

Review To Move in Time, A Tim Etchells & Forced Entertainment Production by Lois Arcari

To Move in Time, a monologue performed by Tyronne Huggins and written by Tim Etchell, performed at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff is made profound by its casual nature. Huggins puts us immediately at ease, with the manner of a welcome old acquaintance, stumbled upon again for one perfectly timed night.

His journeys through the thought experiment of what we might do if we could travel back in time travel familiar roads to anyone who’s asked the question himself. The possibilities weave through from the extraordinary to the mundane and back again.

The play is a quiet affair, always centering us on Huggins, literally in the sparse but strategic set design, where flash cards create a ring of possibilities around the performer. Huggins never makes any obvious attempts to dazzle us, and that’s how he does, holding the audience in rapt attention for a very short hour.

It’s ironic that an unnamed character designed to play an everyman is the absolute essential to this play. It’s quite possible that any other performer could have turned this understated script into a more tepid affair.

Etchell’s script is serviceable but not as captivating as the star. The script touches on the most essential possibilities of time travel with a light and witty touch. There are undercurrents of melancholy, but the script never really wrings much out of them by way of subversion.

But this isn’t the place to do so. To move in time is a meditative play, which brings the audience together, a warm meandering through possibilities past and present.