Category Archives: Theatre

Review Snow White and the Seven Dwarves New Theatre, Cardiff by Patrick Downes

 

Let me start off by saying this one fact about me; I’ve never been to a pantomime before. I’ve seen them- ITV did a few about 10 years ago – but as for seeing one up close and in person, never before. Although I can remember something resembling a pant in the Park and Dare in Treorchy when I was about 4 years old, but in terms of being an adult I have no memory. So what to expect? Well, pantos are as part of Christmas as the Queen’s speech and James Bond on telly. They’re just good fun for all the family, and Cardiff’s production of Snow White certainly falls into that category. There’s childish humour, for the adults, and grown up humour, for the kids. A good pantomime is always the way to introduce theatre to young minds, and with a brilliant ensemble cast, this one does not disappoint.

A good panto always has the following;

A dame – played brilliantly by Mike Doyle (alrighttttttt)
A prince – It’s Chico time (You may remember him as having a number one single which knocked Madonna’s Sorry off the top of the chart)
The Wicked Queen – Harsh to say this but Samantha Womack played a blinder!
For every Wicked Queen, they have a henchman – Oh Alfie Thomas, the day you finished playing rugby, was a sad day, but the upshot is, you get to play on stage a role well suited for anyone who’s faced the All Blacks.
The faithful friend – Tam Ryan has this comedic role as his own. Warm and very funny – watch for his reactions when he’s not centre stage.
And good, I mean, if there’s an evil witch, there has to be balance, and Stephanie Webber as Snow White is as perfect as the version of the cartoon version of Snow White that we know and love, that you will get.

If I was to be slightly critical, it would be the sound mix on the night. The voice mics sounded too pitchy – but that takes nothing away from the performance of all the cast.

I’ve seen Sam Womack twice this year, earlier at Wales Millennium Centre when she played Morticia in The Adams Family, and then tonight as Queen Lucretia (Excretia – nice touch Alfie). Her singing voice maybe a shock to many, but for me, it’s just something I’ve come to love. Cracking version of I put a spell on you – nice little Hocus Pocus touch! She seems to revel in being bad – and she’s so good at it. Funny, yet evil.

Stephanie Webber as Snow White suited her brilliantly, as did Tam as Muddles. Mike Doyle is Panto Royality having performed for the past 27 years, he truly knows his art and is a master at it. If you want to see how it’s done – you won’t go far wrong watching him.

I could quite easily talk about each person, but I think where this panto mainly succeeds is the family feel of the performers. It doesn’t feel like a “one person topping the bill” kind of show. Everyone is equal, and everyone brings something special to the show – yes, even Chico with a song that probably no one under the age of 14 would remember – yes, “It’s Chico time” is from 2006 – where has that time gone!

So, my first proper pantomime, and no doubt not my last. Go and see Wales’ number one pantomime as it’s at the New Theatre till January 14th.

And in style of panto speak – what about a rhyming review?

They said see a panto, and say what you think
Hopefully, you’ll love and not think it stink

To Cardiff I went, parked by the museum,
Two twenty it cost, well worth it to see them

The theatre is old, and has lots of history
The entertainment it holds, is great, no mystery

The cast is fab, the dancing is tight,
It’s fun just to hear Mike Doyle say “Alright”

Tam is great, Tam is funny,
Comic timing a must, now where is my money?

Alfie’s hacka is a sight to behold,
The AllBlacks humpty, another story of old

Sam Womack’s voice, majestic, amazing, and strong I will say
She put a spell on us all, from the theatre to the bay

A review in some rhyme, might happen some day
Until it does, I’ll do things my way

Because a panto they say, is old hat, not very cool
Well, in Cardiff as such, they’re breaking those rules

It’s fun, joyful and oh very happy
Snow White’s time in the capital, won’t last long – so be snappy

Make sure you get some tickets to see,
Wales’ number one panto, recommended by me

REVIEW: @ImPatrickDownes

An Interview with Angharad Lee and Beatbox Tangent

Hi Angharad and Beatbox Tangent great to meet you both , can you give our readers some background information on yourselves please?

Angharad: Hi I am a theatre director, educator, facilitator and lecturer. I studied and worked as a performer before turning my hand to directing. I have worked for many organisations throughout Wales, but am now a freelance director and Artistic Director of Leeway Productions. I am also a mam and the proud owner of cuddles the cat. I love Women’s rugby and until I broke my ankle a few months ago was scrum half for Merched Clwb Rygbi Cymru Caerdydd.

Hi I am Beatbox Tangent I  am a beatboxer from the UK, I currently live in Cardiff but I have performed  gigs; workshops and collaborations all around Wales. My love of art and music inspires me to create compositions that take vocal percussion to extraordinary heights.

So what got you interested in performance and the arts?

Angharad : I have always been actively involved in the performing arts since the age of 10. I guess my Welsh language education was quite enabling as I was steeped in the traditions of the Eisteddfod and therefore had plenty of opportunities to perform so to speak. It was a toss up between sport and the arts though as I was a nifty rugby and hockey player, but am glad I choose this path.


Angharad in Hen Rebel Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Angharad,  Beatbox Tangent has recently been involved in your 10 Minute Musicals initiative, can you please tell us more about this innovative project?

Angharad: 10 Minute Musicals is an innovative development programme to support musical theatre professional in Wales, with a particular focus on the writers and composers. Organised and delivered by Leeway Productions the development project 10 Minute Musicals is held three times a year at The Other Room in Cardiff and is also rolled out across the Regions as a part of our ‘Best of’ project.

We aspire to encourage and nurture new and existing creatives to write for musical theatre in Wales.International collaborations between artists is of huge importance to us. Over the next few months, we will be calling out to some more creatives who are keen to try their hand at writing a musical, and also, more established artists who may want to up skill and network with new creatives and artists. Creative participants can include composers, playwrights, librettists, poets, musician and lyricists.

10 Minute Musicals includes networking, development of current practice and examining and providing the support artists need when evolving, progressing and advancing their writing skills for this genre.

We encourage a continued conversation with creatives and believe that this creative development project is a great springboard towards casting a new light on how you usually work. Leeway Productions provide mentorship support throughout the process, and support artists as they find their way through what could seem like a daunting task. There is a sharing of your work at The Other Room as a culmination to the process and the participants’ hard work.

Thanks Angharad, as you mentioned 10 Minute Musicals has supported artists who wouldn’t think of writing for the musical theatre genre. Beatbox Tangent as you have mentioned you are a primarily a beat boxer do you think you have developed new skills through the process of being involved in 10 Minute Musicals?

Beatbox Tangent: I think I have to be honest. Collaboration is always an integral part of pushing your practice, so doing different activities and working creatively, especially with my partner on the project Rufus Mufasa has really pushed me as an artist and I’ve explored different avenues of creativity. Also, to break down those conventional barriers and really explore something new and using the Welsh language to do that has really opened my mind up to possibilities of language and music.

Musical Theatre as a form is rapidly developing and embracing new forms and styles. Musicals such as ‘In the Heights,’ ‘Hamilton’ and companies like ’20 Stories High’ are utilising a range of urban art forms in their work. Do you think this can bring new audiences to theatres which might be thought of as predominately white, middle classes cultural spaces?

Angharad: I don’t think we should burden artists with thinking about their audiences when we create work. I think that by activating all forms of culture to write for musical theatre, what willl happen is that the stories they want to tell will resonate with their communities, thus giving context and relevance to the work we create in Wales. We have a terrible habit in Wales of lifting existing models that work outside of our own communities and Country and imposing them onto our own landscapes. What this creates in a standardised approach to the arts. I am not personally interested in building mini London’s and mini England’s within our artistic infrastructure in Wales. We have a terrible obsession with critics outside of Wales, and 5 star reviews, but what about our audiences who are still terribly disenfranchised. So I guess the short answer to your question is, start with a story an artists wants to tell. Throw out all the pre existing models and build our own.

Beatbox Tangent: As an urban artist, I would say yes because the boundaries of Beat Boxing and vocal percussion are being pushed every day. Beatboxing has a very theatrical element to it. We have some great performers now, the likes of ‘Berry Wam’ from France who do all these covers of great commercial songs but some of them are classically trained, and you could easily take your whole family to see one of their shows. So yes, I believe it can pull new audiences in and ‘waw’ them. Beat Boxing is basically vocal percussion and what is musical theatre? It’s using the voice.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Access for diverse citizens is a key priority for a range of arts funders and organisations Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?

Beatbox Tangent: We are living in a very interesting time. We are living in a time where, how I like to describe it is a half light environment. We are living in the dark as well as the light when it comes to diversity and equality. We realise it’s important and relating this with music, and Welsh Culture, well…. actually, I believe the Earth is but one country and mankind is a citizen, so I believe I am a World citizen and although I have a nationality I belong to this earth. I think when it comes to arts and music it’s so important that you have that diversity. It’s like a man and a woman are two wings of the same bird and creativity doesn’t rise within one sex or culture. It’s a gift and as long as we have projects that bring different people together from every background I think we can create something so very beautiful and really expand Welsh Culture because we have so much to give.

Angharad: There are many, as there are barriers to a whole host of other provisions in Wales. I am currently working with D/deaf artists developing a musical and the infrastructure to support this kind of work is still very ambiguous and fragile. We have to work with artists who are deemed to have ‘protected characteristics’ (I hate buzz words by the way), in order to reach those diverse members of the public we seem to be forgetting about constantly. If the artists themselves are not represented then why would the audiences come and watch a story which is not relevant to them? Artists need more spaces at the heart of this cultural provision, within communities, to create work in order to reach out to a much more diverse audience. We are still so reliant on venues, and I believe this is a barrier in itself. There is such a drive for ‘excellence’ in the arts at the moment. Well, ‘rising tides raise all ships’ and I don’t know that giving so much focus to our venues helps with this little quote. I am such a believer in this quote and I am very concerned that the divide in this ever confusing world is growing and growing. The arts have a role to play here, because it is through storytelling we find truths and remind ourselves what humanity should look like.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?

Angharad ; This is a tough one to answer as it’s such a complex time for funding in particular in Wales.The word ‘career’ in the arts is a dangerous one, because unless you work within an organisation, I don’t know that there is such a thing. Is there? I know of established artists who are still only earning about £13k a year, having worked for years and years. I’m not sure how this is sustainable to be honest, especially when kids come along, so then you get a fall out, and once again it’s all about ’emerging artists’ because all the established artists have had to take other jobs in order to survive, a vicious circle. So at a time when artists are ready to create outstanding work, they just can’t afford to do it. I have no answer, but this is a reality. I think venues have a duty of care towards artists, and Welsh artists, because they are the lifeblood. Jut to add to this also, because funding has become so fragile we don’t seem to be taking risks on those artists who create work that splits audiences right down the middle. That explores the extremes. I would much rather hate or love a piece of work rather than just sit through another piece which panders to the status quo.

Beatbox Tangent: I would like the help to be more visible. More transparent. At the moment, it’s hard to find those organisations. But it’s a learning curve. There are so many schemes at the moment, especially within education, and it’s great for me as a looper, beatboxer to have those opportunities to share my practice within schools, I just wish I could find the opportunities much easier.

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

Angharad: I would give 10-20 freelance artists a paid yearly salary and give them the flexibility and trust to self regulate the work they do within certain communities in Wales. Simple. No box ticking.  I believe this could foster sincere change at grass roots and community level, because they would not be working towards prescribed objectives and would be able to shape shift and respond accordingly to what is in front of them. Artists like to make, I would give them absolute freedom to do just this.

I would also de-centralise our monster cultural epicentre in Cardiff, which consists of the Wales Millenium Centre, The Senedd, BBC Orchestra, Wales National Opera  it goes on and on. What’s that all about? Lol. It feels like a case of ‘ all the great and good may reside here’, and I don’t believe that is healthy at all.

Beatbox Tangent: There are more and more different types of creative art forms all making a contribution to Welsh culture and society. This will only increase through social media. I always feel in Wales though that people are not empowered and empowerment is necessary for them to feel confident about their practice. More funding is needed from different organisations to help creative practioners, empower other creative practioners. Thats why the Creative Practioner training is vital as you are linking up with other artists. It gives different artists the change to make connections. I am a beat boxer I might meet a skate boarder how can we work together to create something awesome? The Welsh Government really needs to understand that no matter what happens in our economy if its Brexit or something else, I don’t want to get political but the arts need to be at the forefront of everything in our society, money can be stretched, I believe everything that we have in our society is because of the creative arts.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Angharad: We are in a privileged position that we can foster relationships and networks which can be cohesive because we are such a small Country. Artists excite me. I have been working as a Creative Agent for Arts Council Wales for three years now and the artists I have come across are breathtakingly beautiful. There are art forms I had never even heard of and a generation who are creating and nurturing new and innovative art forms for themselves. I love this.

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

Beat Box Tangent : The UK Beatbox Championships were incredible! Foe me personally getting the chance to work with Angharad on the 10 Minute Musical performances have been amazing. I am interested in pushing the boundaries in Beatboxing in Wales.

Angharad: I took my 10 year old daughter to see Slava’s Snow Storm at the WMC. A poetic, visual piece of brilliance when it comes to story telling. My daughter turned to me 10 minutes in and said ‘Mam, there are no words’. I explained that communication is not about words. It is about a visceral tempo rhythm one finds within the piece they watch. That communication begins with a buy in to a moment. She was confused. She kept watching. She came out and she cried. I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘I don’t know. I just feel really sad’. That’s my kind of theatre. It hit her in a space and place she could not articulate.

Review Awful Auntie at Theatr Brycheiniog by Roger Barrington

 

(4 / 5)

 

The Birmingham Stage Company’s brilliant adaptation of David Walliam’s 2014 bestselling book Awful Auntie, captivates  both children and adults.

Following on from their sellout tour of another Walliam’s book. Gangsta Granny, the BSC is embarking on an eighteen-month tour of the UK which featured a run during the summer at The Garrick theatre in London’s West End.

Cast with David Walliams

The show, endorsed by Walliams, is faithful to the book, and is fast-paced and funny, with an ingenious set design.

The story has twelve-year old Stella Saxby awakening in a bed, and being unable to move any part of her body. Casting away the bedding, she reveals that she is covered head to toe in bandages. Her screams arouse her Aunt Alberta, who tells her that she has been in a coma for three months and that she and her parents were involved in a road accident, resulting in the death of both mother and father, thereby leaving Saran an orphan.

Awful auntie 1

However, Sarah soon realises her awful auntie has a nefarious plan to wrestle the stately home Saxby Hall, that now belongs to Sarah, into her hands, but doesn’t know where the deeds are hidden.

Auntie has a Great Bavarian Owl named Wagner, (Get it?), who acts as her henchman – or should that be henchowl? Sarah encounters a ghost called Soot, a  sweep who succumbed to his burns when someone lit a fire when he was up the chimney. There is a crazed ancient butler named Gibbon and an Inspector Strauss who is called to investigate Sarah’s suspicions about her auntie.

AWFUL AUNTIE CREDITS

Story adapted and directed by Neal Foster

Set and Costume Designer: Jacqueline Trousdale

Lighting Designer: Jason Taylor

Composer: Jak Poore

Stella Saxby – Georgina Leonidas

Aunt Alberta – Timothy Speyer

Gibbon – Richard James

Wagner – Roberta Bellekom (puppeteer)

Soot – Ashley Cousins

Detective Strauss – Peter Mistyyoph

The star attraction of this show is the set design.  Four revolving doors and staircases create an impression of travel through the mansion, and a reference should be made to the stagehands, who work hard to render seamless scene changing within the fast-paced story.

Composer Jak Poore’s jaunty musical rhythm is exactly right to complement the actions unfolding on stage.

The cast possess rich cvs of their previous stage and film work, and it is easy to see this by their acting expertise on Stage.

Georgina Leonidas, you may recognise from her film portrayal of Harry Potter’s fellow Gryffindor Quidditch player, Katie Bell, in both parts of the Deathly Hallows stories. She plays a believable twelve-year old, innocent initially but becoming more savvy as the story develops.

Stella and Auntie

Awful Auntie Alberta is played in grand pantomime dame fashion by Timothy Speyer who maintains staying in character without going over the top, with commendable skill and constraint.

Richard James’s Gibbon has some of the funniest scenes and on occasion reminded me of Groucho Marx in his movements.

Ashley Cousins plays Soot in a Cockney accent that is consistent throughout, together with a youthful vitality  to enable him to portray Stella’s aide, confidant and friend in a credible way.

Rebecca Bellekom’s consummate puppetry skills enable Wagner to be at times a villain and at others a cute pet.

Peter Mistyyoph plays Inspector Strauss in a mysterious way. See this show and you will know what I mean.

Anxious Stella

All is put together by Neal Foster’s faithful adaptation and brilliant direction. David Walliams commends Foster for having a similar sense of humour, which results in his capturing the essence of the author’s work. He had previously directed the Gangsta Granny adaptation to universal acclaim.

This is a visual treat for children. A school formed a large percentage of the audience for the performance that I viewed, and there was not a restless child among them. They left excited and contended with what they had just watched.

At times, the humour is a little risque and there are a couple of scenes that young children of a nervous disposition might feel uncomfortable with.

A scene where auntie is trying to break down a door with an axe to get at Stella, is accompanied by “Here comes Auntie”, reminding us of the famous passage in Stanley Kubric’s The Shining.

Awful Auntie is a first-rate children’s show with an engaging story-line, excellently performed and a visual delight on stage.

Brecon is my hometown but I had moved away, many years before Theatr Brycheiniog emerged in 1997. This was the first full-scale production that I had ever seen there and  If this is the  calibre of work that they present , then I am looking forward to many happy returns in the future.

http://www.brycheiniog.co.uk/

The show concludes its Brecon run on the 10th December and  resumes it’s nationwide tour in the New Year. As far as I can establish, the nearest location it comes to returning to Wales is at the Bristol Hippodrome in May 2018. Venues and dates can be found here:-

http://birminghamstage.com/shows/awful-auntie/tour-info

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roger Barrington

 

An Interview with Artist and Illustrator Emily Jones

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Artist Emily Jones. They discussed her training,  being named runner-up in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 for graphic short story: Dennis and June and her most  recent work for Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.

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

Hello, I grew up in Tyneside but I’ve lived in Cardiff for many years now. I studied illustration for children’s books at art college as that’s the branch of illustration I’m really passionate about. Although, I do enjoy drawing cartoons of Donald Trump and other political figures that I find ludicrous! Being an illustrator isn’t my full time job as I prefer the balance of being able to draw and paint when I want, without the worry or pressure of relying on it for an income.

So what got you interested in Illustration?

I had two lovely teachers in primary school and they encouraged me to draw. They made me realise that you could draw pictures for a living. I loved picture books in particular and I had my favourite illustrators who I aspired to be like. I think I’ve always been fascinated with images and how someone has created them.

How has your career as an illustrator developed?

A few years ago, I began renting out an art studio so I had the space to work in a more professional manner rather than just working at home in front of the TV. This really changed things and along with posting my work on social media, I have slowly but surely become busier and better.

Your personalised pet portraits are particularly popular with your work appearing in 1000 Dog Portraits by Rockport Publishers? Can you tell our readers how you got involved in pet portraits? Do you have a favourite animal to illustrate?

I painted my partner’s dog Scooby and it all started from there. I showed the painting to a few people and before long I was being asked to paint their cat or dog. I think painting pets is a great way for any artist to get commissioned as it’s artwork that is really accessible for people to buy. I love painting all sorts of animal but the more animated the creature is, the more fun I find it to be.

Over the last three years you have been commissioned by  Sherman Theatre to produce images for the seasonal productions The Princess and The Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes and this year you have designed the posters for Hud y Crochan Uwd / The Magic Porridge Pot and for the first time the main stage Christmas production The Wind in the Willows . Can you tell us how you approach illustrating such popular classics for the stage?

Well I begin by doing a lot of research on how other artists have illustrated these classic stories. I then do my best to create an image which is original as well as instantly recognisable. The images have to grab attention of both children and adults and hopefully it will make people want to see the show.

The image for Hud Y Crochan Uwd/The Magic Porridge Pot, Sherman Theatre. 

Your Wind in the Willows illustration has been developed into an animated trailer this year. Is this a first for you?

Yes it was and it was brilliant to see the image move! The artwork I create for Sherman Theatre is always created in separate layers. This enables the designers to move around the different components to fit whatever format the advert will appear; be it posters, flyers, web-banners etc. Of course, this also enabled the designers to create an animated trailer which is just awesome!

Do you have any illustrators or artists that inspire you?

There are tons! Quentin Blake has always been there as a favourite, as has Edward Gorey. They are experts at depicting characters with seemingly simple pen lines. Shaun Tan’s work is incredible and I wish I had a fraction of his talent! I love Júlia Sardà, David Roberts, Isabelle Arsenault, Alex T. Smith, Michael Sowa, Mateo Dineen, Rebecca Dautremer. They are a just a few! I study their work and try to figure out how they do what they do. They make me feel totally inferior but at the same time, inspire me and enthuse me to create my next best piece; which is definitely a good thing.

Images by Júlia Sardà, Shaun Tan, Edward Gorey and Quinten Blake

Congratulations on being named runner-up in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 for your Graphic short story: Dennis and June. This work is in a digital medium can you discuss how this differs from your painted work?

I recently bought a Huion Graphics tablet so I can draw and colour digitally. It makes illustrating in this comic style so much faster. When I heard about the graphic novel competition, I knew I’d have to create it digitally as painting the way I do, takes so long. Plus, the comic style suits the story much better. Creating digital work has a freedom to it. Mistakes can be easily erased and colouring is instant but physically painting an image will probably always be my favourite way to illustrate.

An image from Dennis and June you can read the full story at the link above

If any of our readers are aspiring illustrators what advice could you offer them?

Draw as often as possible. It seems obvious but you have to practice. Drawing from life is a brilliant way to improve your skills and develop your style. Having a recognisable style is important and it’s something I haven’t mastered yet. But the more work I do, the more I learn and develop. I just wish there was more time in the day to draw!

What do you have planned for the future?

Well, I’ve been having various successes in illustration competitions and I’m hoping this will lead to greater things in the publishing world. I have a couple of children’s books to work on, more images for children’s theatre and when I find the time, I’ll create another graphic story.

You have also designed the images for the 2018 Sherman Theatre Christmas productions  Hugan Fach Goch/Little Red Riding Hood and Alice In Wonderland. As a Wales based artist what does the support of Sherman Theatre mean to you personally?

I’ve created images for The Sherman for a while now and it’s always a proud moment seeing my artwork representing their shows. The Sherman has given me huge confidence in regards to my ability as an illustrator and I hope to work with them for years to come.

Image for Hugan Fach Goch/Little Red Riding Hood

Image for Alice in Wonderland

Thanks for your time Emily.

You can check out more or Emily’s work at the link

Review Flossy and Boo : The Alternativity, The Other Room, Cardiff, By Hannah Goslin

Photo by Llyr Attala 

(5 / 5)

What do you think about when it comes to Christmas? Religion, commercialism,  Santa and his Reindeer, Scrooge?

Christmas sees a lot of theatre come to the stage, but usually it’s the wholesome, profound meaning conclusion for children or we delve into religion. Where is the room for an adult production?

Flossy and Boo have hit the nail on the head. This comical duo has been asked by the almighty man of The Other Room to put on a Christmas production – however, they do not know what Christmas is or a play for that matter.

A hilarious, slapstick and musical production ensues with the idea that we will reach a nativity production but first we must see the concept behind Christmas – the duo’s research.

Purely at random, we the audience are in control of the schedule, picking from a stocking the topic. Flossy and Boo use this technique a lot in their work and I am a big fan – it shows real talent and skill to be able to produce a show where you never know the order.

Music is always a key part of their work and their comical original music always comes as a surprise to the rhyming and the road it will take. A favourite of mine was a American Southern acoustic number where the use of the floor, a tambourine, guitar and beautiful voices were all they needed.  It was strong, powerful and a lovely addition to their more gentle, folk music.

And we cannot leave without a note on the set and props – thought was put into every aspect not only making it homely but complimenting each topic – things became creepy when needed, others warm and fuzzy and each bit was there for a reason.

Great thought is put into each any every part of their work and when things may go awry, these two are amazingly skilled that it becomes part of the production. We feel welcome, we feel like friends and this Christmas, we laughed, tapped our toes and smiled at something very different and totally brilliant.

 

Review Miss Saigon, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon – a recent smash hit in London’s West End – is now embarking on a major UK tour, and has stopped off in Wales Millennium Centre for their annual Festive offering.

Previous Festive shows include The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins, and this year they bring the winner of a record-breaking nine Whatsonstage Awards 2015 including Best Show.

From the same partnership that brought Les Misérables, brings this epic love story that tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with an American GI called Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.

For the sheer spectacle, this production needs to be seen. For the lighting, the sound and the effects are some I’ve rarely seen outside of London, you soon realise this is something special.

The cast brings such depth to the story, which without realising, the first twenty minutes feel so much shorter – such is setting the story up. Red Concepcion’s Engineer is brilliant – a slightly comedic but evil twist on a character – The American Dream brought the house down. It’s such a stand out moment.

Sooha Kim as Kim brings the vulnerability to the role, and with an amazing voice. Her duet with Ashley Gilmour (Chris) on The Last Night of the world, is another stand out moment.

Be warned, it’s not for younger people – the themes are quite adult, and there’s some swearing in the first 20 minutes – and it’s also dotted through the rest, but it’s not without reason.

For me being a little bit of a theatre techy, I spent most of the evening in awe at the sets, lights and sound. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in Cardiff. The helicopter scene is probably the most impressive piece of set and engineering I have ever seen on a stage! You find yourself completely immersed into the sights, emotion and sounds of the end of the Vietnam conflict. If musicals were football leagues, Miss Saigon would be Chelsea.

The word triumph is often used to describe musicals, and in this case, it’s spot on.

Don’t dare Miss Saigon this Christmas

You can catch Miss Saigon at Wales Millennium Centre till January 6th 2018.

Review: @ImPatrickDownes

Patrick Downes

Review The Wind in the Willows, Sherman Theatre by Roger Barrington

(4 / 5)

 

“The Wind in the Willows” is the 2017 Christmas production at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, and offers a banquet of creativity to feast upon.

Kenneth Grahame’s inveterate didactic children’s novel of 1908, “The Wind in the Willows” has been adapted for the stage an enormous amount of times, especially at Christmas, and this is likely to continue.

A cursory glance at reason productions in Wales, by both professional and amateur companies, such as Black Rat Productions at The Gate in Cardiff, in 2010, Gwent Young People’s Theatre 2008 show at Abergavenny Castle, (that sounded like fun!),  to name just two.

“The Wind in the Willows”  follows the adventures of the anthropomorphic animals Mole, Rat, Badger, Toad, and their friends.

Kenneth Grahame’s idea was to promote moralistic themes that most parents would like their children to follow.

Themes such as showing hospitality as epitomised through the characters of Rat and Badger and conversely, criticising it through the  depiction of Toad. The Pastoral environment to be preferred over city life. The ugliness of industrialisation and the rapid developments in technology, shown in Toad’s infatuation of the motor car and, as a consequence,  his reckless driving, its ability to destruct the peace and tranquility of the countryside. This particular theme bearing a highly relevant resonance  to environmental difficulties facing the world a hundred years after the book was written.  A sense of adventure is another theme that pervades throughout the story. Toad’s road trips. Mole’s desire to explore the world beyond her own limited one, and even Rat’s temporary desire to have a life on the ocean’s waves. However, the joy of returning to the stability of the home is also a theme that Grahame promotes. Finally, the anthropomorphic characters in the story each have their own characters. Badger is the oldest, and consequently, the wisest, and the others respect him for that. Within the pecking order, next comes Rat, slightly younger but showing a certain degree of maturity, whereas Mole is a young man on the verge of making his way in society and excited about the prospect of doing this, but needing a firm hand of guidance to steer the path. Finally comes Toad, the spoiled brat used to getting his own way and lacking maturity.

“The Wind in the Willows”  Production Team

Credits

Gaolers Daughter: Rebecca Killick

Chief Weasel: Hannah McPake

Mole: Jessica Murrain

Badger: Zara Ramm

Rat: Dominic Rye

Toad: Keiron Self

Portly: Emma Cooney

Director: Lee Lyford

Writer: Mike Kenny

Lighting Designer: Kevin Treacy

Composer: Conor Mitchell

Musical Director: Gareth Wyn Griffiths

This is an energetic, funny and likeable production with a vast array of creative ideas on display, testament to the brilliance of Lee Lyford’s direction.

Beds on castors on a revolving stage with makeshift oars provide a degree of realism when depicting a boat on a river, or a boat crew swiftly passing through.

Bunnies on pogo sticks and the scene getting the largest laughter, (at least amongst the adults), is of a small remote control red sports car whizzing across an empty stage, and thereby fuelling the desire for the hopeless infatuated Toad to steal it. Then offstage you hear an almighty crash and the car returns with smoke emerging from it, shortly afterward followed by a dark blue police car in pursuit.

I also like the director’s use of physical theatre at times – it works very well.

Mike Kenny’s adaptation of “The Wind in the Willows” is faithful to the story and highlights the main themes well.

The first impression of the stage design is one of greenness. Thereby tying in with the environmental issues within the story. A disheveled Toad Hall has a winding staircase, stage left,  leading to a landing with five windows. Above which hangs a splendid candelabra. Below the landing space is a piano. The ceiling looks in a very sorry state and one expects daylight to be appearing any day soon. Large Green doors which play a very active role in the play are located stage left and right. The green painted central space has circular revolving stages within it. Bookcases and furniture have sheets draped over them, heightening the sense of desolation. A trapdoor is utilised centre stage.

The design of animal costumes is another highlight. When the unbearably cute young hedgehogs appeared in Badger’s home, many young children let out involuntary aahs!

Composer Conor Mitchell, introduced a number of catchy tunes sung and played during the performance. In fact, I heard an adult member of the audience, whistling the final song in the foyer post show.

 

The Cast

It would be unfair to single out any individual member of the cast as they are universally excellent in their roles. The cast portrays many other characters and animals other than those mentioned in the production credits above. Multi-talented, they also played a veritable orchestra of instruments. Cello, violins, triangles, banjo, ukulele and accordion, and probably others that I missed. All held together by the busy Gareth Wyn Griffiths on the piano.  They also possess fine voices to accompany the songs, both individually and in chorus.

Cast

I feel that  the annunciation by all actors was uncommonly fine. It doesn’t surprise me to find that Zara Ramm has a successful career narrating the audio books for the novels of Jodi Taylor in particular, and others. Ms Ramm, I have seen on stage before – twenty five years ago at the old Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond-upon-Thames in David Edgar’s “Saigon Rose”. This was 1992 and I remember the production well to this date, and the brilliance of the very young cast playing in an incredibly small, space. All I can say is that during the intervening twenty-five years, Ms Ramm has aged far better than myself!

Overall, this is a production of the highest level suitable for children of all ages and adults.  I saw a number of children as young as 3 or 4 in the audience, and towards the end, I glanced around and was amazed by the way the production had captivated them. Many of them leaning forward in their seats with their eyes glued to the stage.

My only criticism, (and it is a minor one),  would be at times the play is a little wordy, and slower paced, but, for that matter, so is the story, perhaps making this inevitable to drive the plot forward.

For adults, within “The Wind in the Willows”, there is enough on display to pass an enjoyable couple of hours in an innocent, wholesome theatrical environment, and, like me, I feel that you would emerge greatly encouraged by what you have experienced.  For children’s theatre is vital in nurturing  the desire and creating the need to the future adult theatregoer, and shows like this leave you optimistic for the future of our beloved industry.

If you are an adult without a child to take with you, and you feel a little self-conscious attending by yourself, then I suggest you should borrow one from somewhere. It’s that good!

For tickets and times please go to the link

Duration: 2 hours including a 15-minute interval

Suitability: All

The Judge

Roger Barrington

 

Rhondda Road Episode Three by Ann Davies

People enter the Lounge of the Park and Dare Theatre in Treorchy; they remain expectant as actors arrive. Young people comment on how much they have relished contributing to the soap opera, in recent weeks. A tutor has brought her pupils to see how such a project works, a grandmother and granddaughter enjoy each other’s company as well as that of the theatre company’s cast. Members of a jazz club were worried that an accident might result in a broken arm to combine with the broken leg of a past episode (which they thought was part of the script!)

An intergenerational audience settle themselves at the café tables as we are all invited to watch Episode three of Rhondda’s very own live soap opera.

“Welcome to Rhondda Road” Shane Anderson, the producer proudly announces

“The Fourth Wall Café” is open, as part time waitress Seren catches up with café owner Alex protesting that she has not been paid for the last fortnight, she has her own concerns, she cannot continue working, she has the promise of another job. Alex strains to find an answer as Seren storms out of the café unrequited.

A man in a dark suit struts into the café, he look intently at all the café’s fixtures and fittings; Alex appears nervous, as the man queries if Alex is Ok.

“It’s just one of those days, Dan” Alex answers “How can I help you?”

There is an air of irritability as the man demands that Alex pays the money owed to him by the next day. He repeats the amount he is owed at the percentage of interest it has gained. Dan absently picks up a bunch of drinking straws from the bar, and deliberately drops them individually onto the café floor as he repeats the amount, the interest and the time they will meet.

“Got the message?” he states as he leaves.

“Interesting character” Sion announces having witnessed the conversation, “Friend of yours?”

Alex replies that they have done business before.

Sion opens and reads from his iPad, he confronts Alex.

“Alex I have access to your accounts, stock and everything else. Why is your expenditure more than your income?” Alex tries to explain about new ideas, new brands but Sion is firm in his knowledge.

“There is a large amount of withdrawals. Are you in trouble Alex? What have you been doing, drugs?” Alex shakes his head.

“It’s not funny when money goes missing from a business. How much debt are you in?”

Alex is in denial as Sion, realising the situation, offers Alex the chance of clearing his debt; he will transfer the money owned into the café account.

“We can help each other out, I’ll scratch your back, if ……I think Megan will listen to someone who loves her”, as he outlines his plan. His son Ioan has gone off the rails and Sion needs Megan to talk to Ioan.

“I don’t want her to say anything about the past, the Past IS the Past” he warns. “Talk to Megan and your debt will be paid off”.

“What’s the catch?”

“Simple, there is no catch, talk to Megan, get her on side, I’ll give you the money to pay your debt. Make me the promise, no more gambling”

Alex remains at odds with the plan but can think of no other way out of his dilemma “OK yes” as Sion sets the transfer in motion via his iPad “Job done” he states as Alex shakes hands reluctantly with Sion.

Liam strolls into the café as Alex storms for him to use the side entrance to access the flat. Sion asks Liam how his job search is going, Liam can only answer negatively. Sion hits on an idea that Alex needs help with the café, and Liam is looking for work. Alex is astounded “I KNOW where you’re going, this is not happening. We had a deal!” he protests.

“Just hear me out” the estranged father of Megan continues, not wishing to be denied “You’re short staffed and Liam is looking for a job”

“You can’t expect me to pay his wages..” Alex shouts

“I’ll pay his wages” Sion answers.

Alex can find no answers as he fires questions like bullets at Liam. Alex offers Liam a temporary job, although the situation only feels like more salt is being rubbed into the open wound that is a nightmare of his own making.

Megan enters the café with Cerys; the mother of Seren, looking for Seren, Alex can only offer the excuse that Seren is out shopping.

“I’ll have a gin and tonic” Cerys repeats several times, as Megan demands from Alex what he and Sion were talking about, as Alex explains that all Sion wants is for Megan to start speaking to Ioan. Cerys moves erratically around the café “There’s a stage here, I used to be an actress” she informs Megan as she is negotiated back to her café table repeatedly requesting a gin and tonic.

Sion explains to Megan that he just wants to talk; he has a bottle of wine in his hand

“It’s not what you’re thinking, it is still sealed. THIS is what I WAS” he emphasises holding the bottle aloft, and then addressing himself states, “THIS is what I am NOW

Sion reminisces about seeing Ioan on his first day at school and how he was dressed, how he has grown into a young man.

“I remember my first day at school with second hand clothes… “Megan begins

“Times were different then”, Sion changes his tactics “Do you remember Barry Island?, paddling, building sand castles, finding seashells …”

“Looking for mermaids ….” Megan remembers other things too “THEN you needed a drink … Don’t touch it!” she storms at Sion, as she retrieves the bottle and places it in the dustbin.

Charlotte, Megan’s sister brings a sombre looking Ioan into the cafe, as Megan asks him what he wants to know

“What happened?” is Ioan’s response.

“He drank, drink made him bad, he was bad to me. Speak to Sion” is all Megan can offer.

“MY Dad was my hero”

MY Dad was not a hero”

Seren enters the café, she attempts to comfort Ioan as he leaves, but he shuns her. Megan is worried about Cerys “I saw your Mam in the street, I thought I’d bring her here” as Seren explains that she wants to see Alex about her unpaid wages. Megan can only agree to help her sort out the problem.

“Can you give me a hand?” a call comes from Ieuan, who appears in the café with donkey ears upon his head

“What do you look like?” Megan covers her laughter

“A donkey! I need you to go over my lines with me. ALEX! “his cry reaches the skylight and resounds “I need your help”

“What the hell do you look like?”

“I’ve got an audition later today” Ieuan explains as Seren tries to gain Alex’s attention, he in turn asks her for two minutes.

Ieuan, as Bottom from Shakespeare’s”A Midsummer’s Night Dream” continues his speech.

“Bless thee Bottom what angel wakes me from my spell?” comes the voice of Cerys as she serenades a shocked Ieuan as they continue to exchange the Bard’s words

“I love thee methinks you should have little reason for thee thou are wise as thee Cobweb and Mustard seed” Cerys recognising her daughter Seren, “I was Titania. I was an actress” then confusingly she continues “ I don’t know where I am. I want to go home. Home now” she demands of Seren. As they leave Alex assures Seren that her wages have been paid into her account, as she reminds him that other people have problems too

“What is he doing behind the bar?” Ieuan storms as he sees Liam

Alex tries to explain that it was not his decision that it is Sion who owns the building

“Sion is paying him?”

“You’re taking Sion’s money? You haven’t told her …!” Ieuan confronts Alex

“This is a very different situation”

“What haven’t you told me?” Megan questions Alex

“Everything is getting sorted” Alex digs himself further into the hole of his own making.

Abbie arrives in time to defuse the situation

“Don’t ask!” Ieuan warns his niece as she is about to ask about his donkey ears, as Abbie informs Ieuan that she has talked with her parents and there are no more problems with their marriage, as they both leave the café.

“Why are you taking Sion’s money? What is Ieuan saying? ALEX, LOOK AT ME, tell me the TRUTH! We said we would have no secrets ….” Megan states

“There are complications, he’s just trying to help” Alex flounders as Megan storms out,

Alex hits his head against the bar grill as Liam enters from the cellar and picks up various items from the tables.

“GET OUT!!! Just get out” Alex storms as Liam is bustled out. Alex cries out, as in his waterfall of life becomes a torrent of anguish and despair. The truth comes out like oil on water.

To conclude to quote the Bard

“No legacy is so rich as honesty”

Let’s hope it all ends well

Be sure to find out at the next live episode of “Rhondda Road”

On Tuesday, 5 December at 4 pm in the Lounge Park and Dare Theatre Treorchy

As individuals, we are all unique there can be so many secrets deeply hidden; we can never walk in another’s shoes to realise just what they are going through.

Drink Wise, Age well as the Christmas Season approaches.

Let’s celebrate enjoy, be wise, drink aware, and take care.

Thanks to Drink Wise, Age Well for your support with story, Park & Dare Theatre, Treorchy for your support 😊 and Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund CIC filmed by #RubberHeadMedia

 

 

 

Review The Claim, Tim Cowbury and Mark Maughan, The Bikeshed Theatre, Exeter, by Hannah Goslin

 

(3 / 5)

 

In the brick walled room, the stage is set up with bright vertical solo lights and rostra featuring one white chair and a box of tissues.  Simplistic yet clinical.

The Claim is a story featuring an asylum seeker and two British office staff dealing with his claim to seek sanctuary in the UK.

The play purely faces upon the narrative. The interaction features interaction between the two office staff, their personal lives, their relationship and the participant, Serge; Serge and his broken English with one office staff and Serge and more fluent speech with the other office worker which we understand to be translated French.

This is a sneak peak at the difficulties in understanding communication, how stories can change a little like language Chinese whispers, and how a small misinterpretation can cost someone’s life and safety. In contrast, we see the luxury lives that we take for granted in the interaction of the two office workers but also picking on race and sexism and how even in a stable country as the UK, there is still hardship of some kind ; that makes us question why these two have less sympathy for Serge than they should do.

The conversations are rapid as they interrupt one another with short bursts of involvement. There’s a little Pinter-like technique in this, when some questions are answered and others aren’t, purposeful pauses, all highlighting the miscommunication and the lack of listening from the office workers. These short bursts also make us as frustrated as Serge – why can they not understand him? How are they getting it so wrong? Just help him.

At the beginning of the play we are invited to see an installation outside of interviews with real asylum seekers and this all brought together gives the points being made in the play a face, a personality and leaves you really thinking about the state of immigration and level of help governments give.

The Claim is a sympathetic look into current issues and a very thought provoking performance.

Hannah Goslin

 

Top Tunes with novelist and playwright Matthew David Scott


Matthew David Scott

 Photographic credit othercrowd.com 

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

Hello! My name is Matthew David Scott and I’m a novelist and playwright. I’m originally from Manchester and have now settled in South Wales after a stint in the USA. I’ve published two novels: Playing Mercy (Parthian 2005), which was listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize; and The Ground Remembers (Parthian 2009).

I’m also a founder member of Slung Low, a theatre company based in Leeds, and have written around a dozen shows with them that have been performed at The Barbican, The Liverpool Everyman, car parks, fields and whole city centres both nationally and internationally.

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 some of my favourite records of 2017 so I can put together a ‘best of’ list that nobody will care about. Currently in the running is  Currently in the running is: Adios Senor Pusscat by Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band; New Energy by Four Tet; Peasant by Richard Dawson; Black Origami by JLin; Arca by Arca; Dust by Laurel Halo; and Drunk by Thundercat.  DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar is probably my most played in the car, which is always a good sign.

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?

This could be fifty albums long and change from week to week, so here goes:

1 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: I’m sure fellow reggae snobs will turn their noses up at this but it’s a record I remember my dad playing all the time as a kid in the front room. One of his claims to fame is going to see Bob Marley live and telling Tony Wilson to sit down because he was stood on his chair ‘acting the goat’. I also drew a really terrible picture of the sleeve, of which I was very proud at the time but now recall looking a lot like an ill Howard Donald from late-period (first incarnation) Take That. Every time I hear Stir It Up I’m transported to that front room as a seven year old kid.

2 Hunky Dory – David Bowie: Bowie was also a big part of growing up and is one of the few artists whose death genuinely affected me. My mum’s younger siblings were a bit obsessed with him, and apparently my uncle once got caught stealing my aunty’s blouse to wear in the Bowie/Roxy room at a Manchester nightclub. This album, although not my favourite Bowie, holds special memories as it was the first of his I bought for myself. I got it in Tenby on a family holiday, the same day I picked up What’s Goin On by Marvin Gaye. It was an auspicious day for me and my Walkman.

3 Deep Heat 89: Fight The Flame – Various Artists: I think my obsession with dance music started with this fine double cassette. It has some absolute stormers on it including Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald (still in my all time top ten), Strings of Life, Stakker Humanoid, Promised Land… I’d like to say I was a regular at the Haçienda back then but I was ten. This was when, if you weren’t old enough to go clubbing or didn’t have an older brother or sister, the only way to hear this sort of music was the odd late night radio show; compilations like this; and the sincere hope that the specialist chart on ‘The Chart Show’ that week was The Dance Chart. I still remember seeing the video for Aftermath by Nightmares On Wax on that show and, shortly after a trip to John Menzies, my dad’s speakers were never quite the same again.

4 Definitely Maybe – Oasis: It was either this, Screamadelica, or the first Stone Roses album as representative of this period of my life but, if I’m being totally honest, Definitely Maybe has to be the one. It’s not the best of those records but being 15/16 when this came out made you feel like a king and walk like a fool. I saw them in ’94 at the Academy and it was life-changing (thanks for taking me, Aunty Paula), and their singles coming out were genuine events — the B-sides! Through them I discovered all those other bands they ripped off and for that, if nothing else, they deserve my undying love.

5 Tri Repeate – Autechre: On the personal statement in my Record of Achievement from school, it says my favourite bands are The Stone Roses and Autechre — just in case an employer wanted to know how incredibly cool I was in 1995. Autechre are brilliant. How they’ve developed and created a space totally their own over the last three (!) decades is an inspiration to any artist. There are records they’ve made that I’m still making sense of but this is their best and they are the DNA for many of the really great experimental electronic artists around today (the aforementioned Arca being one). I love them and imagine they have a sensational collection of outdoor wear.

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?

I’m going to pretend I misread the question and pick Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell because it was the first dance at my wedding and when Marvin goes ‘whoo!’ at 1min 39secs a bolt of sheer joy fizzes through me.