Category Archives: Theatre

Review The Last Ship, Wales Millennium Centre by Kate Richards

They say that ‘first impressions count’, and I can honestly say that my instant reaction to the opening few bars of The Last Ship was ‘wow what a sound’! I found myself trying to rationalise why the quality of the sound had made such an impression on me – were these particularly exceptional singers, are the acoustics in this auditorium better than other venues or could it be that I just don’t hear live music often enough? In fact – is this actually live music or just a high quality backing track – I couldn’t actually see anyone playing an instrument other than an upright piano to the right of the stage. A momentary wave of disappointment crept over me….but this musical was written by Sting – surely he wouldn’t put his name to a production with no live music? I was distracted again by the voices and allowed the sound to wash over me as I took in the atmosphere. It was well into the second or even third scene when I finally spotted the musicians – seated on the stage, behind the piano lurking in the shadows of the set. By the end of the production I had decided that the phenomenal sound was a combination of all three elements – there are some absolutely exceptional singers in this cast, the auditorium does have great acoustics and yes there really is a huge positive difference between the immersive experience of listing to live music in a theatre versus the usual way I consume music these days – the digital radio in my car or occasionally on a mini-speaker around the house. Note to self next time I am procrastinating about buying theatre tickets – yes it is definitely worth paying for live theatre when you can!

I hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to the set. It’s not the first production I’ve been to with a fairly dark, industrial looking set composed of a few ladders and girders (Rent in London many years ago, springs to mind for example) – but obviously for a musical set in a ship yard in the North East of England it was at least appropriate. I found the set oppressive and dark – it looms menacingly over the action and the audience and I longed to see out over the top of the ship’s hull and find a horizon or the mouth of the river and expanse of sea that you know are out there from the songs. The entire story unfolds in the shadow of the huge ship which dwarfs everything around it, and therefore perfectly reflects the dominance of the ship yard in the life of the town and its people. In fact it was so atmospheric I honestly thought I could smell hot metal for a second when the welding sparks began to fly. My message to the set designers? Job well done!

So what of the story and the cast? A simple enough tale – childhood sweethearts, he grabs the opportunity to escape the oppressive predictability of life in the town and she has little option but to stay. 17 years later he returns after the death of his father, assuming all will be as he remembers including the girl he left behind, and having finally made up his mind that he wants her. Unsurprisingly to all but him – things are not quite as he remembers. Meanwhile of course the ship yard workers worst fears are realised when they get a visit from the yard owner and the ‘Thatcheresque’ Minister from the Department of Trade & Industry informing them that the sale of the half-finished ship has fallen through due to cheaper competition overseas. It’s a familiar tale, especially here in South Wales where the heavy industries have suffered similar fate, so there is a lot of resonance for local audiences who may have seen the demise of their own, once thriving, home towns as the single biggest source of employment ground to a halt.

Joe McGann quickly establishes himself as a credible likeable, respected foreman of the yard. His stature and demeanour is strong, steady and serious but softened by his soft, singing voice – a little rough around the edges compared to the polished tones of some of the cast members – but he’s a ship builder what do you expect? Knowing of her only through Emmerdale, I confess to having no idea that Charlie Hardwick could sing, but boy can she?! A very believable portrayal of a strong woman standing behind her man and coming out in support of the cause (no matter how lost) when required – well it was the 80’s!

In the words of my guest for the evening, Richard Fleeshman was absolutely ‘spot on’ (as she gave me a knowing sideways glance). She’s not wrong though. For me, a Sting fan for many years, I was not disappointed with Fleeshman’s delivery of Sting’s songs old and new. I don’t know much about his previous roles and have never heard him sing before, but he either has, or has successfully adopted, Sting’s breathy, restrained style which I loved. Right at the point where other musical theatre singers would build to a mighty power-ballad crescendo, and some of us might wince, Fleeshman holds back but still sings with power and lyricism. If like me, you love this about Sting’s voice and style, you’ll love Fleeshman’s vocal performance. Oh and for a power-ballad crescendo that definitely won’t make you wince – I give you Frances McNamee! There was a palpable intake of breath from the audience around me as Frances opened her mouth for the first time. Clearly this cast has been selected to deliver music and vocal versatility that its demanding writer can be very proud of. I’m not the type of person who goes back and sees the same production multiple times – but if I was offered another chance to see this again – I really think I’d go.

 

The Last Ship

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

14th – 19th May 2018

Review Son of a Preacher Man, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

There’s something about the musical as a concept, as an art form, as a melodic thrill ride through convoluted plot and high emotion, that hits me where I live. I have an infamously high tolerance for even the most tentative and trite examples of the form. In the case of Son of Preacher Man, however, my tolerance – and my patience – started to wear thin as the story grew more and more bizarre with every poorly-placed number.

Its first offence of many is that it is a jukebox musical, which are notoriously more miss than hit. This is because the very nature of the jukebox musical – think Mamma Mia! – requires the songs to be wrenched, kicking and screaming, into some semblance of a cohesive narrative. Unfortunately, cohesion is not this production’s strong suit. Neither is narrative. So how, you may ask, does a show get a Dusty Springfield jukebox musical so wrong?

Directed and choreographed by Strictly’s Craig Revel-Horwood, the show starts back in the swinging ‘60s. Apparently the place to be back then was a thriving record shop in Soho, London, run by a guy known only as the Preacher Man. The Preacher Man, as his name suggests, was a semi-spiritual figure, someone who could solve any problem as easily as recommending the perfect EP. Flash forward to the modern day, and we see three troubled people with personal or familial connections to the Preacher Man’s shop who travel to that mythic place for a sense of closure, and solutions to their problems. They strike up an unlikely inter-generational friendship, and subsequently meet the son of the Preacher Man (see what they did there?) who regretfully informs them that his father has passed away; in his absence, the record shop has been – gasp – converted into a chain coffee shop. With the Preacher Man gone, the three strangers turn to his son to solve their divergent dilemmas.

The show’s major failing is a deeply fundamental one: despite being sung well across the board, the songs don’t add anything to the narrative, and vice versa.  The songs should be there to express the depth and nuance of our characters’ emotions, thoughts, and the story as a whole. But the narrative gives the songs no meaning; in fact, the music is often trivialised and hollowed out by their purposeless placement.  A jukebox musical already has to work hard to retrospectively craft a believable narrative around a discography that shoehorns in as many hits per minute as possible. But Son of a Preacher Man’s clumsy inclusion of Dusty’s timeless classics is particularly obvious in its desire to shove in as many Springfield’s songs as possible, narrative relevance be damned – and the show suffers for it.

Take for example Alice Barlow’s Kat, one of our main trio, who holds the dubious honour of possessing the least interesting, and perhaps most unsympathetic, storyline of the lot. Kat falls madly in love with the picture of a random guy on the internet she’s never met and who, incidentally, swiped left on her profile. It’s safe to say, then, he’s just not that into her – but Kat feels she is one Dusty Springfield serenade away from eternally winning his heart. She dreams of seducing the Tinder Guy (other dating apps are available), which we learn through her well-sung rendition of ‘I Only Want to Be with You’, never mind the lyrics of the song require the singer to have actually met the objection of their affections. The song’s inclusion in the show is rendered meaningless, because it does not resonate with Kat’s situation, giving the show a roughshod, random quality. One of the few exceptions to the otherwise purposeless song placement is a moving  rendition of ‘A House is not a Home’, through which the characters reminisce about the loss in their lives. It showcases the full force of the ensemble at its best; unfortunate, then, that most of the time, the nonsensical, strange and awkward plotting often diminished the power of the songs and the performances of them.

From the nonsensical to the uncomfortable: Michelle Gayle, the strongest singer of the ensemble, is saddled with the unfortunate task of portraying a widowed teacher who is passionately in love with one of her pupils. ‘He’s legal, I swear!’ Gayle’s Alison proclaims to the audience, as if that would make us feel less icky about a teacher/ student love affair (spoiler: it doesn’t). Though the relationship has progressed no further than a few longing glances from across a classroom (ew), it is so profoundly uncomfortable to watch unfold that I found myself cringing at every moment of this astoundingly misjudged storyline. It’s to Gayle’s credit that she manages to make the character realistic and sympathetic, but the problematic plot ultimately proves too much to overcome.

It all works out in the end, of course, because there’s a convenient – and age appropriate – love interest just waiting in the wings for lovesick Alison, a twist I guessed approximately ten minutes into the show. I mean, *someone* has to sing the titular song to the son of a Preacher Man, so by all rights it should be sung by Alison, his endgame love interest. It was RIGHT THERE. Only it’s not. The song is in fact led by Kat of all people, whose surprise inheritance restores the Preacher Man’s record shop back to its vintage glory. The fact that Kat sings a song about a sexual awakening to her sort of adopted father figure makes for yet another uncomfortable viewing experience, and I was even more glad when the rest of the ensemble joined in on the chorus.

Michael Howe’s Paul has the best storyline of the three leads by far, and it was wonderful to see an LGBTQ+ love story take centre stage in a mainstream musical such as this. During his youth, Paul fell in love with young man he met at the Preacher Man’s record shop. The relationship lasted a summer before they went their separate ways, and now Paul wants to rekindle the romance they started all those decades ago. In a hauntingly beautiful scene, Paul sings ‘I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten’ as his younger self and his past love dance together. And because I’ve got to get me doubles research in wherever I can, it was a lovely touch to have the older Paul mirror some of the movements of his younger self during the dance as he relives the memory.

Nigel Richards’ put-upon Preacher Man proxy is the most consistently entertaining of the bunch; as Simon, he channels Lee Evans as a harried, hapless everyman who bears the burden of being a ‘60s saint’s scion. Simon’s kooky coffee-shop staff are an odd mix of coffee baristas and metaphysical Muses, if you can believe it. for these ladies, Coyote Ugly isn’t just a movie: it’s a state of mind.

The rest of the ensemble perform with admirable stamina and style, though at times they exaggerate to near-parodic levels. Revel-Horwood’s choreography is enjoyable but rarely inventive – except for the aforementioned spectacular dance between Paul and his past love – and some sequences felt entirely inconsequential or arbitrary. The way in which Kat, aided by the Coyote Ugly baristas, stages her seduction of the Tinder Guy is awkward to the point of embarrassing – and, had the genders been reversed, probably would have resulted in a lawsuit.

The set, designed by Morgan Large, effectively evokes a pop-up book, the walls opening up to a surprisingly adaptable set that smoothly switches between the decades as needed. The live music was wonderful, and the intermittent appearance of musicians (who also doubled as cast members in the show) onstage with the other actors was a really lovely, inventive touch.

Son of a Preacher Man is a strange, shaky and not entirely successful show. Occasionally, it soars; but mostly, its ramshackle, roughshod approach to narrativizing Dusty’s discography reveals how deeply its flaws run. The enthusiastic ensemble alone makes it an enjoyable night out at the theatre, and sang with passion and aplomb, but the production’s problems proved to be insurmountable. Dusty’s damn-near indestructible songs are really put through the ringer in this wildly miscalculated and uncomfortably odd example of a jukebox musical that I wouldn’t care to put another quarter in.

Get the Chance Win at Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, Excellence Wales Awards.

Pictured left to right,  Rebecca Woolley, Director, Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, Get the Chance volunteer Helen Joy and Maggie Hampton, Trustee, Action on Hearing Loss Cymru.

Get the Chance were recently announced winners at the Action on Hearing Loss, Excellence Wales Awards 2018. The Awards were presented by ITV Wales news reporter Megan Boot at the St David’s Hotel, Cardiff, on 4 May, 2018.

Get the Chance won the Excellence in Arts and Entertainment, Fewer than 30 employees category.

The awards are an opportunity to celebrate organisations in Wales that make themselves accessible to people who are deaf or have hearing loss. This includes making services truly available and/or ensuring that opportunities in the workplace are open to all.

On accepting the award on behalf of Get The Chance volunteer critic Helen Joy said,

Its an absolute privilege to represent an organisation which simply treats people as people. Get the Chance gives all of us the opportunities to develop our skills and our confidence; and find our voices in a safe, encouraging environment. 

It’s about encouraging all of us to concentrate on what we can do, not what we can’t. For me, Get the Chance has shown me that I can change, that I do have a voice and that it matters.”

If you are interested in joining Get the Chance or supporting our work please email getthechance1@gmail.com

An interview with Suzanne Noble

Hi Suzanne great to meet you, you co-founded the online magazine, The Advantages of Age, with the objective of challenging the media narrative around ageing. What led you to develop this new organisation?

It was completely accidental! I have a hot tub in my back garden to which I often invite my friends. On this one occasion, I was sitting in the tub with four other women, aged 42-63. We were talking about sex, relationships, our work, our kids. We all said how good we were feeling, liberated and creative. It struck us that the conversations we were having were not being represented in the media. One of the group said, “We should start something called the advantages of age.”

After they left, I looked up to see if the domain name was free and purchased it. Three months later I’d had the site built and Advantages of Age was born!

Advantages of Age work to challenge the prevalent media narrative that ageing means past-it, inadequate and invisible. How have you approached this work?

We didn’t have any strategic plan – it has all flowed organically. Rose Rouse and I started writing articles for the site, linking to other positive stories around age we discovered and approached many of our friends to write articles for us. In March 2017 we were lucky enough to receive an Arts Council grant which had a massive impact on the organisation. We put on three events – the Fabulous and Flamboyant Bus Tour.

 

 

Created a dinner party that we filmed about death

and held a racey ‘Taboo’ party at a London based member’s club. In May 2017 a Facebook group was created to build up the community aspect. We’re over 3k members and we now have a part-time Facebook moderator, Eileen O’Sullivan who has come on board and whom also has taken on the job of co-editing the website.

You will be supporting the Ffabulous and Fflamboyant bus tour funded by Gwanwyn on the afternoon of Saturday the 19th in Cardiff. What interest have you had from Wales as regards your work to challenge the media narrative on age?

I was introduced to Leslie Herman by a mutual friend and, since then, we’ve been in touch and collaborated wherever possible. We are keen to work with any organisation who supports our aim. It just makes sense to do so as the more organisations, wherever they may, that encourage pro-ageing, the better! I’m delighted to be able to join the bus tour this year and look forward to meeting the others on the bus.

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?

I feel there’s a lack of support, in general for older performers, groups. The National Theatre’s upcoming Bold Festival, which starts this week is addressing this, which is a start and hopefully will lead to more awareness.

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

Wow. Where to start? The Arts are so massively underfunded it feels wrong to have to choose one area.

What excites you about the arts?

The way it can transform one’s perception of another, how it can challenge beliefs, give us access to areas of society that usually remain hidden. Art has the potential to change the world.

Thanks for your time Suzanne

To get involved in the free Ffabulous and Fflamboyant Bus Tour please see the information below.

Following the success of Advantages of Age’s Flamboyant Bus Tour in London in 2017, Get The Chance are thrilled to be onboard! We will be bringing the – Double F – Ffabulous and Fflamboyant Bus Tour to Cardiff in May 2018 as part of the Gwyl Gwanwyn Festival of Creativity for Older People in Wales. The Bus will be at the front of the National Museum from 1pm this Saturday the 19th and will depart at 1.30pm. The event will end at 3.30pm.

More information can be found at the link

We hope you will join us online and on tour!

Review Instructions For Correct Assembly, by Thomas Eccleshare, The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

The Royal Court does a wonderful thing with it’s writing/writers. There always tends to be a simple premise – a production will often start as normal as possible, with it then changing and surprising you through time.

Instructions for Correct Assembly, written by Thomas Eccleshare and directed by Hamish Pirie features a plain family – Mother, Father and Son. They have fun neighbours who are their best friends, who boast excellent children which always feels like a comparison. Their home is perfect, precise and generally like an Ikea show room.

There is a difference to this story however – as time goes by we see flash backs of their son who finds himself deteriorating in life; their struggle to help and eventually their resistance after the last straw. And once he is gone, their need to fill the void. In this futuristic world, the void is in the shape of a robot son.

The narrative is relatable even though the events seem a little impossible in our current world. We relate to the characters, feel what they feel, laugh at the right parts, but we also question how we would take the situation.

Jane Horrocks, of Little Voice and Ab Fab fame takes a front seat in this production as our mother. She is as homely and approachable as a stereotyped mother is. It’s nice to see her in a more ‘ordinary’ role in comparison to the hyper-comical characters we are used to seeing her in.

Mark Bonnar, known for Shetland and Apple Tree Farm is the doting husband and father who is easily bent by his son. He does well to play this goody-teacher type but together with Horrocks, evokes the emotion and feelings of a Mother and Father duo who are distress and worry for their son.

Brian Vernel does a fantastic job in a double role as our robot and the human son. His movements in comparison to the two characters are distinguished and differentiate them very easily. But he is also believable. As if this situation is real in our current society.

My only issue with the acting is at times when they have been instructed to move in jumpy motions, I can only assume to represent ‘models’/’robots at their basic moments, but this doesn’t feel like it fits. While I can see what they have done and why, and it does seem fitting, it just felt disjointed to the process of the production.

A review cannot be left without a comment on the staging and lighting/sound. Design is by Cai Dyfan and lighting by Jack Knowles. The Royal Court is known for its unusual take on these and this is no exception. For the ‘perfect’ family, the rooms look like they are all made of Ikea furniture and works well with the narrative, especially as the characters like to build flat packs. Slowly as the perfection breaks down, parts of the staging come away, revealing more emptiness, possibly close to how they feel. Finally a large natural wall of flowers and fauna appears at the back – an argument against robotics in comparison to naturalism? For whatever reason, this adds such depth and interest to the so far basic, perfect rooms.

Instructions for Correct Assembly is an interesting and inventive piece of theatre. While the concept of the breakdown of robotics in our future is a common topic, there is something more human and certainly different to similar writings.

 

 

Review, Awful Auntie, Gemma Treharne-Foose

 

(3 / 5)

Mini fans of Walliams will love this show brought to you by Birmingham Stage Company and there are plenty of the tried and tested ingredients of ‘children’s theatre’ that have become the staple: farts, tricks, screams, talking about pees and poos and generally making adults look a bit silly (of course!). It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but you either have the stomach for David Walliams or you don’t.

Walliams – and Director/adapter Neal Foster borrow from the familiar narratives of Dahl. At the centre of each story is the child protagonist who fights against and overcomes the unfairness of life and its complicated and often cruel characters.

Teachers, headmasters or even your own family members can be funny, but they often despise children and treat them terribly. So it’s all the more glorious when these beastly brutes get their comeuppance…

For those unfamiliar with the story of Awful Aunt, Stella (Lady Saxby) wakes up from a coma to find herself covered in bandages. She’s told she’s been in a coma for three months. When she enquires with her Aunt Alberta about her parents, she tells Stella they were killed in a car accident.

Alberta is desperate to find the deeds to Saxby Hall so she can become the new heiress to the family fortune. But it turns out there is more to the story than a crashed Rolls Royce. With the help of ‘Soot’, the ghost-boy at Saxby hall, Stella uncovers a disturbing truth – and tries desperately to stop Aunt Alberta turning her beloved Saxby Hall in to a tacky Owl Museum.

Awful Auntie brings to life the mischievousness of Walliams’ book and there are some sweet scenes between Stella and Soot. The two eventually discover they have more in common than they initially realise (but no spoilers!).

The epicentre of the whole production and plot line is orchestrated and led by Leonidas. Her unshakable energy, childlike innocence and optimism never falters – and she carries the hopes and wishes of the audience with her as she struggles to escape from the clutches of her dreadful Aunt.

Alberta really is awful, too – so awful that she fought with the Germans in the Second World War because ‘the uniform was better’.

Aunt Alberta’s voice and physicality is expertly depicted by Timothy Speyer. He’s like a cross between The Two Fat Ladies and Cruella De Vil and his plummy tones, tweed ensemble and battle-axe physicality are spot-on.

Gibbon’s confuddled turn as aging Butler (played by Richard James) tickled us pink. To paraphrase Soot (the cockney chimney sweep ghost) – he hasn’t got a Scooby Doo what’s going on, but you’ll chuckle watching him.

Set-wise, there’s a great use of twisting towers to depict different scenes and settings and the towers are eerily brought to life with clever use of lighting by Jason Taylor and Jaqueline Trousdale. What’s striking is the use of puppetry throughout the show – particularly for central character Wagner the Bavarian Owl, puppetted by Roberta Bellekom. The design of Wagner was great, but it’s difficult to replicate on stage the character of Wagner in the book who was by far more dastardly and devious.

The staging and changing of locations was good, notable scenes include the car on the ice at Saxby Hall and ghostly goings on in the kitchen. Soot (played by Ashley Cousins) gives a sweet portrayal of the ghostly chimney sweep, reminding you somewhat of Lee Evans/Norman Wisdom and together, he and Stella complement each other well.

The final scene before the interval finishes very abruptly and falls a little flat, the lights come up before you realise what’s going on. The script could have made more an effort to leave you hanging for the second half.

The actors do a stellar job of portraying the characters – and although my daughter and I liked the production, it won’t pack the same level of punch, sass and cleverness that you might find at a Tim Minchin production of Matilda, for example. For me, the script for the stage production made it harder to engage with and keep you on your toes.

That being said, this is a great little show – and I’d definitely recommend it for a day/night out with the kids.

Review Tremor, Sherman Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Brad Birch’s new play Tremor follows Tom and Sophie, former lovers and trauma survivors, as they reconnect years after the cataclysmic event which split them apart. We watch as the titular tremor of trauma continues to flay and fragment Sophie and Tom’s fractured, dormant relationship, as well as their own psyches, during a straight-through, seventy-minute emotional roller-coaster ride that expertly manipulates our understanding of events, and with whom our sympathies lie.

Being the only two actors onstage, Lisa Diveney and Paul Rattray have the unenviable task of navigating the muddy waters of their supremely complex characters as well as engaging the audience without the use of props, detailed sets, or other actors. Happy, then, that they are more than up to the task. You feel these characters know each other, but how? When? Why did they separate? These questions are all addressed by the end, but our interest in finding the answers is down to the script, and the actors’ skilful interpretation of it.

The audience’s perception of the characters, and their perception of each other, shift constantly throughout the engaging seventy-minute runtime. Lisa’s unexpected arrival at Tom’s new home is the re-opening of a wound, but the exact nature of the laceration is only revealed towards the climax. The meatier role of Tom has the tendency to tip into hyperbole, though Rattray does well not to lapse into megalomania, portraying a very believable kind of badness that permeates the realms of the personal and the political.

Diveney’s performance is perhaps the stronger of the two, partly because she represents the far more reasonable standpoint, and partly because she weaves intrigue and nuance more subtly; mesmerising throughout in a subtly tricky role, Diveney proves herself a captivating stage presence, and certainly one to watch in the future.

Tremor is essentially a power play between two highly unreliable narrators. Its genre shifts from post-break up meet-cute to an acute discussion of trauma, to a legal case dissected long after the fact, to a full-on horror story. But there’s no Freddy Kruegers or Jason Voorhees on the stage; rather, what we are confronted with is a very human brand of evil, the kind by which we are surrounded on all sides in our increasingly fraught political climate. The mystery and intrigue drive most of the early action in particular, and David Mercatali deftly directs the actors into weaving a murky tale of interpersonal strife that carries the play from the tentative awkwardness of a long-separated couple reconnecting, right through to the dark denouement.

The stage, designed by Hayley Grindle, is the barest of settings; a circular plinth which resembles the moon, the earth, the cyclical nature of trauma which plagues the two major, and only, characters who physically appear in the play. There are three props, two of which will be discussed a little later, but they do little to distract from the otherwise spartan stage. The third prop is a painting; a colourful, scrambled scrawl that makes one increasingly anxious the longer one gazes into its tangled depths. The chaos on canvas effectively externalises the tangled web of trauma both within and between our two characters. The sparseness of set is evidently a purposeful choice; no props means no distracting from the drama unfolding between the characters. It also lends the story a metaphysical, almost fantastical quality. As such, the lighting and sound, by Ace McCarron and Sam Jones respectively, has to work overtime to underline and enhance the dialogue-driven dramatic shifts, which both do to subtle, sinister success.

I was privileged to once again be a speaker on the post-show panel, led by Timothy Howe, Sherman’s Communities and Engagement Coordinator, along my co-panellists Matthew Holmquist (Tremor’s Assistant Director) and Dr Alena Drieschova (Lecturer in International Relations, Cardiff School of Law and Politics). The discussion was as intriguing and engaging as always, with some fantastic insight from panellists and audience members alike. One of the audience members spoke about her experiences as a visibly Muslim woman living in the UK, and found the discriminatory realities of her own life being reflected in the events of the play. Despite its expressed focus on the relationship between two traumatised characters, the play’s socio-political dimensions,  channelled and expressed through its protagonists, certainly appears to be its most successful innovation.

As well as portraying examples of post-traumatic stress and interpersonal drama, it is impossible not to read Tom and Sophie as manifestations of two distinct socio-political archetypes. Tom could be read as representing toxic masculinity incarnate; a man who twists his trauma in order to express his latent bigotry. Conversely, Sophie could be read as representing the more liberal left, specifically the kind of person who would have participated in the various global marches against the rising conservatism of recent years. Her entire raison d’être during the latter acts of the play is to act as witness, advocate and legal defender for the voiceless defendant. Sophie rightly points out how the defendant, a Muslim man, was  a victim of institutional racism – but despite this, we still have two white people discussing the case, whilst denying the Muslim character the same opportunity; indirectly refusing him a voice, an opportunity, and a stage on which to defend himself.

And now for a little discussion on duality from your friendly neighbourhood Doubles researcher. Sophie and Tom could be read as fragmented parts of a singular person, separated into the ego and the id, with Tom as the Hyde to Sophie’s Jekyll. Tom can be read as the primal self, the monstrous extreme, who manifests and reflects humanity’s dark side, the kind you find writ large in tabloid newspapers and certain presidential twitter feeds. Sophie, on the other hand, is the rational self, who calls out Tom for his racist views and actions, and who tries to use her privilege to fight for those who aren’t born with such a societal luxury. As such, the play just scratches at the surface of interrogating the shifting landscape of identity, both personal and national, through the characters of Sophie and Tom, although the narrow scope and reduced cast meant that we lost out on a wealth of diverse perspectives on such a broad, knotty topic. And from a Law and Literature perspective, the play gives laypeople the stage, both literally and figuratively, to discuss and dissect legal issues through the medium of literature, foregrounding emotion and empathy over technical legal analysis.

I did promise I’d get to the other two props; the props in question, such as they are (the actors only directly interact with them once), comprise a pair of duelling dinosaurs, children’s toys that face each other confrontationally, poised to strike at any moment. At first, I assumed they represented the children that Sophie and Tom may have lost in the crash, but we later learn that this is not the case. Their trauma stems from their own physical and emotional pain, rather than from the loss of a loved one. And so, over the course of the play, those two seemingly innocuous prehistoric playthings lost their innocent façade and seemed to become more confrontational and more monstrous with each passing moment. Their transformation is certainly reflected in the shifting personas of their human counterparts, certainly in terms of opposing moral viewpoints, though only one character emerges as a true monster.

As the post-show panel came to a close, one thought struck me as I left the room: there can be no justice, only closure. With such a complex legal, personal case, how can it truly be said that justice is done? People died, a man was punished; but he did not receive a fair trial, lies indicted him, and the prosecution expertly manipulated societal prejudice that made him a scapegoat. Though Sophie wants closure for herself and the other victims of the crash (including the man responsible for it), what she truly wants from Tom is a confession, an admission of his guilt in prolonging their trauma and perpetrating prejudice. She gets it, in a way; but Tom transfigures it into a rallying cry for racists. Sophie’s answer to his offer remains a mystery, the abrupt cut to black denying us the closure of her response. But for all of us gathered there in the audience, Tom’s cruel climactic call was unanimously, and cathartically, rejected. Emotionally intriguing and utterly gripping, Tremor wades through the dichotomous mire between a person’s true self and the mask they wear to conceal it.

Review Cardiff Fringe Theatre Cafe by Sian Thomas

I went to a handful of Fringe events last year, and I was very efficiently swept up into that kind of theatre world. The Fringe Cafes, as well as the majority of the Fringe festival events themselves, have a very specific kind of feeling to them. One that I firstly associate with summer, since that’s when the festival really kicks off, and another that’s associated with quiet fun.
Not too jam-packed, and neither too empty that it could be kind of awkward, last night’s Fringe Cafe managed to achieve a really good balance and really open a door to a good night in a room full of people who were minded like me; who love theatre and jokes and that same quiet fun.

The night consisted of two acts and a quiz. The acts were good; performed well and low-key, the kind where there was no shame in flubbed words or coughs and honestly, I really liked that. It ties back into the vibe of the festival; it’s safe, and there’s a supportive feeling all throughout it. I was more partial to the second act, though. Both were monologues, but I did have more fun listening to the second. Something about it was a little more accessible; the trials of dating and trying to have a good time except you don’t have any money. I enjoyed it!

Admittedly, the quiz was my favourite. It made me the right kind of nervous when answers were being called out, and the right kind of excited when prizes came into the picture. It was fun to take a break; to enjoy the time with who I went with and be posed questions I definitely did not know the answer to at all, and ended up guessing (we still won a prize though, which was nice!).
I had a really great night; I enjoyed myself a lot and I was so glad I went to experience this last Fringe Cafe before the festival really kicks off!

I’m so sincerely looking forward to the rest of the events I can attend. I had an astounding time last year and I’m already sure I’ll have a brilliant time this year, too. This festival very quickly became very meaningful to me, and based on last night, I’m sure that’ll stay the same for this year.

I’m particularly excited for the open mic night at Deli Rouge on June 10th. I went to this event last summer and had such a wonderful time and it was there that my confidence had a huge boost. I’m very indulgently hoping that the same will happen this year, and I’m looking forward to hear the kinds of things people have written this year, to see if improvements make themselves known to my ears.

I’m happy the festival is back. I really am. Please, go to it. Enjoy yourselves as much as I have and as much as I am sure that I will.
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Sian Thomas