Category Archives: Theatre

Interviews and articles from 2018

Please find below a range of interviews and articles from the Get the Chance team published in 2018.

Welsh and Wales based artists respond to the new Arts Council Wales Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”  

Guy O’Donnell.

A response to Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

Ahead of the 2018 Brecon Baroque Festival, Roger Barrington had the chance to chat to it’s Artistic Director, Rachel Podger about what to expect this year and also about her own flourishing career as one of the world’s leading violinists.

“Gramophone Artist of the Year” Rachel Podger in conversation ahead of Brecon Baroque Festival 2018

In this article we interview a range of arts professionals to share good practice in the areas of Access, Inclusion and Diversity.

Sharing Positive Action to support Access, Inclusion and Diversity

I am going to explore with you the invaluable discoveries and perspective gained from participating in the YANC event held at the Wales Millennium Centre over last weekend.

Beth Clark.

A response to Casgliad 2018 – Nurturing Youth Arts in Wales By Beth Clark

In this article we look forward to a range of cultural highlights in 2018. Thanks to all of the creative artists involved for their own personal response.

Guy O’Donnell

Looking ahead in 2018 Culture, Creativity and Change!

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Rachel Boulton, Artistic Director of Motherlode, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and Motherlodes new production ‘Exodus’ which premiers at the Coliseum Theatre, Aberdare on the 5th of October before touring.

An interview with Rachel Boulton, writer and Director of Exodus.

Philip Ridley’s acclaimed one-act 2000 play, “Vincent River” tells the story of a mother whose son Vincent has been murdered in a homophobic attack. In the aftermath, she learns about her son’s homosexuality. An interview with Director Luke Hereford.

Roger Barrington.

Preview with Interview of “Vincent River” at Jacobs Market, Cardiff 19-21 September 2018

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and her new production ‘Murmur’, taking place on Fri 14th September 2018 at Memo Arts Centre, Barry.

An interview with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance

An audio/subtitled interview with Carole Blade, Director of Coreo Cymru and Creative Producer for Dance in Wales. Editing by Roger Barrington.

An audio/subtitled interview with Carole Blade, Director of Coreo Cymru and Creative Producer for Dance in Wales. 

Top Tunes with Jonny Cotsen

Top Tunes with Jonny Cotsen

Get the Chance values the role Welsh or Wales based playwrights bring to the cultural life of our nation. Here is the latest interview in this series with actor and playwright Matthew Trevannion.

An interview with Matthew Trevannion

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with playwright and actor Joe Wiltshire Smith.They discussed his background, creative opportunities for young people in Bridgend, his new play Five Green Bottles and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An interview with Joe Wiltshire Smith

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aisha Kigwalilo. They discussed her background, a new arts project called G.I.R.L. Xhibtion and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An interview with Aisha Kigwalilo

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones. They discussed her background and training, a current project Gravida and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An Interview with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones

An interview with BSL interpreter Cathryn Heulwen McShane

An interview with Cathryn Haulwen McShane

The Get the Chance team choose their cultural highlights of 2018

We asked our team to choose their personal three cultural events of 2018 along with a favourite performance and/or organisation. Enjoy reading their individual responses below.

Barbara Elin

2018 has been quite a year; when I submit my thesis on New Year’s, it will be the culmination of four years of intense research, and quite the end of an era (and hopefully the start of a new one). So I’m lucky that, in between the furious bouts of writing and the dreaded editing, I’ve been distracted by some truly brilliant productions, too many to narrow down – from the vicious Motherf**ker with the Hat to the inventively-staged Turn of the Screw and the impressive evocation of character in This is Elvis and At Last: The Etta James Story, 2018’s theatre and dance landscape has provided an embarrassment of riches. So I’m going to cheat a little bit in narrowing down to my ‘top 3’…

3) For ingenuity and fun, Mischief Movie Night/ Murder for Two

No two productions have made me laugh this year more than these two – and though they share a common thread of entertaining ingenuity, they’re vastly different from each other. The former showcased the talent of Mischief Theatre’s on-the-spot improvisational skills, the latter was a tightly-wound machine of script, song and silliness. Both of these productions demonstrated how creative and clever the craftsmanship of theatre is – all while making you laugh too!

2) For pure, joyous entertainment, Young Frankenstein / Rock of Ages.

I love a good musical, and these are two of my favourites in recent memory. The original Young Frankenstein movie is in my top 3 movies ever, so I worried a musical version with a whole new cast could never do justice to the original – well, it did with bells on! Brilliant songs, spectacular setpieces and an original evocation of that original cast made this a must-see. And I have such special memories of seeing Rock of Ages for the first time, so it always has a place in my heart – it’s also one of the only truly great jukebox musicals I’ve seen, and this new cast reinvigorated an already raucous, rip-roaring ride! Can’t wait to see it a fourth time…

1) For powerful and haunting work,

Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein 

Theatr Clwyd/Sherman Theatre, Lord of the Flies

These two productions utterly blew me away with their beautiful, haunting performances – both reimagined old classics in new, intriguing ways and were utterly gripping from start to finish. There are moments in both shows that I will never forget, and without doubt they are the best productions of 2018 for me.

Personal Highlight: It’s only appropriate, given my research into Frankenstein and the bicentennial of the novel’s publication, that I started and ended 2017 with Frankenstein-related productions – Young Frankenstein on the West End in January and Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein on the tail end of November. So my personal highlight of this year would be presenting my research in Bologna for the Frankenstein bicentennial conference. I’m so grateful to Prof Anthony Mandal and the CRECS/ RomText team for this wonderful opportunity.

Venue of 2018: The Sherman Theatre’s dedication to inclusivity, accessibility and innovation remains unmatched in my opinion, and their post-show panels are always a joy to be a part of. Many thanks to Tim Howe for involving me.

Company of 2018: Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein did the impossible – reimagined Mary Shelley’s classic almost wordlessly, in imaginative new ways with stunning moments and dark, modern twists. Bravo!

Gareth Ford-Elliott

For number three I’ll say Cheer by Kitty Hughes at The Other Room. This was fun and alternative and out of the things I reviewed, definitely one of the best.

For number two I’d have to say Humanequin by Kelly Jones at Wales Millennium Centre. This was an important piece of theatre and despite not being the best was definitely the most important piece I saw this year.

For things I’ve reviewed I would definitely have to say Cardiff Boy by Kevin Jones at The Other Room is number one. This was the best all-round show I saw outside of the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Every aspect of it was brilliant and it’s up there with one of my favourite shows I’ve ever seen.

For the cultural events, things I didn’t review, I will say Five Green Bottles by Joe Wiltshire-Smith and Spilt Milk Theatre as part of the Cardiff Fringe Festival. This was an excellent script produced independently. Joe is one of the best upcoming writers in Wales and Spilt Milk are one of the most passionate theatre companies. Together they produced an amazing show which I can’t wait to see again, developed, at the Sherman Theatre in 2019.

Judith Hughes

Exodus by Motherlode

With underlying serious issues about the struggles and problems of working class Valleys people, Rachael Boulton and her team have created a funny, clever, relevant and thought provoking piece of theatre that strikes a chord with its audience; a reaction that can be heard in their laughter and the warmth of their response.  Suspend your disbelief and climb aboard Exodus airways, it’s better than Easyjet!

Passion, NDCWales/Music Theatre Wales

All credit must go to what must have been an incredible amount of hard work from all of the performers, creators and collaborators. I was unexpectedly riveted to the story they told and absorbed in the whole aspect of the show.

Best thing in 2018 overall was listening to Bruce Springstein’s autobiography (actually published in 2017) which I had on Audible and listened to it twice. What an amazing story – and such a fantastic storyteller. All my life I wasn’t a fan until I read this book.

Hannah Lad

My top 3

3.Dick Johns – Lets Talk about Death Baby!-Really enjoyed just watching a truthful story with no pretences!

2.Dirty Protest: Light Speed at Pembroke Dock – A lovely heart warming story that reintroduce play to theatre!

1.Comedy at Howl, International Women’s Day – Just so good to have such a diverse group of women together in one room!

My favourite arts event I have attended this year was Casgliad hosted by Youth Arts Network Cymru! Such a brilliant weekend with so many awesome creatives!

Sian Thomas

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella 
I’ve only seen two ballets ever and this was the best one. I followed the story and I really liked the subtle changes they made to it and the way it was performed. Lovely show.

Open Mic Night (Cardiff Fringe) 

Had to include the Fringe! It was the most fun thing I did this summer! Because god I just really really adore this event and I really hope it’ll be back next year – I always love testing out my writing on an audience there. It’s such a safe space and such a confidence booster! Lovely atmosphere, people, and always a lovely summery evening!

Ravensong by TJ Klune

Still because he recognised me, the group, and my old review. Loved feeling seen by an author I admire. The story was fab, the representation was great, and it was a lovely book to read to take one’d mind off things. Also ended with a great cliffhanger! I get so excited when he tweets about new books of this series come up. So this is definitely my #1!

My cultural event:

The fact that I wrote 100,000 words of the second draft of my novel!! I’m just super, super proud of myself. There’s not much to be told: I work on it when I can, work on it slow and steadily, make sure everything is okay, and it’s building itself up into something (hopefully) spectacular!

Barbara Michaels

My Three Best of 2018

With such a plethora of good theatre now available to us in Wales, it is difficult to select just three among the cornucopia of events that has been on offer – from the grandeur of Welsh National Opera, up there with the best in the world, to more humble productions working to tight budgets. For my money, here goes:

Alice in Wonderland at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

The multi-talented Rachel O’Riordan’s last production for the Sherman before departing for the Lyric Theatre in London.   O’Riordan pulled all the stops out, with the result that this was fun – as a Christmas show should be – but also showed the dark side of Lewis Carroll’s well-known story. Musical numbers were a delight, with several of the characters on stage musicians and rising to the challenge.  Not staged as a musical, but one waiting in the wings perhaps?  A cunningly designed black and white set allowed for the full range of Carroll’s famous characters – White Rabbit, Mad hatter and even the Caterpillar – to be displayed to advantage.

Moving on to Number 2:

Evita.  

This new production of a classic breathed fresh life into thetrue-life story of Eva Peron with a brand-new cast who more than justified their selection.  Following in the footsteps of Elaine Paige who made the role her own was never going to be an easy task and Lucy O’Byrne’s heart-rendingperformance of ‘Don’t Cry for me, Argentina’ at what was Eva’s last appearance before her death brought tears to the eyes.  It was also good to see some of the emerging talent coming out of Wales in the shape of Swansea-born Mike Sterling as Peron.

First on my list is WNO’s La Traviata  A revival, true, but excellently staged and performed and with Verdi’s wonderful score rendered with a master touch with two sopranos experienced in their roles and Roland Woods’ sonorous baritone lending gravitas to the role of Germont pater, how could it fail to please? An opportunity for the remarkable WNO chorus to shine and for the ladies among them to enjoy wearing elegant ballgowns. The excellent director David McVicar wisely chose to keep to the traditional, with a sumptuous period setting whose opulence reeked of decadence.

Personal best:

For me, it has to be musical theatre and The King and I, which I saw in London.  A sheer joy from start to finish, with Kelli O’Hara as Mrs Anna and Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam taking on the iconic roles made famous by Yul Bryner and Deborah Kerr and performing them with enthusiasm and expertise. First class.  Enhanced for me, I have to admit, in that I was accompanied by a posse of grandchildren helping me to celebrate a big birthday!

 

Karis Price

Theatre Clwyd and Sherman Theatre excelled this year with Lord Of the Flies, with its all female savage cast had me jumping out of my skin and seat whilst offering a critical insight to the frailties of humanity.

However it is the rip roaring, toe tapping hand flapping Great Gatsby from Theatr Clwyd/Guild of Misrule that topped the bill for me in 2018. This innotive, interactive piece held in a run down pub in town was totally engrossing, a brilliant use of venue and a talented cast not just of professionals but community too. (More of this in 2019 please Theatr Clwyd!)

On the whole 2018 was pretty dull in the cinema however one film stood out as been worth the trip to the big screen ” Marvels Infinity Wars” I am an Averger fan girl and this film ticked all the right boxes, it was the ending to the origional Averngers story arch, all the Marvel films todate were building up to this battle … it was worth the wait and the bitter end just left me wanting more.  Of course this doesn’t see the end of the Avengers, but it will be the end for some of the best loved characters and the begining for some new… I only hope the sad passing of the wonderful Stan Lee does not mean we loose the style and wit the MU has created.

 

E. M. BLESS’ON III

The Black History Month grand finale at RWCMD was my personal cultural event of 2018 because it attracted a broad spectrum of the community. Attended by many dignitaries including the outgoing First Minister – Carwyn Jones AM, newly-elected First Minister – Mark Drakeford AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport – Vaughan Gething AM, young people and several elders from various communities in South East, West and North Wales, it was a celebration of diversity in Wales.

Gareth Williams

Keeping Faith

From its humble beginnings as Un Bore Mercher on S4C, I could never have imagined that this drama would prove to be so popular with UK audiences. Subsequently broadcast in the English-language on BBC1 Wales, it would become the most downloaded show ever on BBC iPlayer before being shown on primetime BBC1 in the summer. Deservedly sweeping the board at the BAFTA Cymru Awards, I will be outraged if Eve Myles is not at least nominated for a BAFTA in 2019. Her portrayal of Faith Howells, whose world is rocked by the disappearance of her husband, is deeply emotional and utterly captivating. This is surely her defining role.

Wild Silence – The Wandering Hearts

If I had to pick one album to recommend from 2018, it would Wild Silence by The Wandering Hearts. When I first heard it, it was their incredibly refreshing and genre-blending sound that captured my attention. The more I’ve listened to the album, the more the lyrics have come to the fore and I’ve discovered another fascinating layer to their fabulous array of songs. To finish the year seeing them live in Liverpool confirmed my belief that these guys are destined for bigger things.

Home, I’m Darling, Theatr Clwyd

My theatre highlight this year has been this co-production between Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre. With its life-size house for a set, its bold and brash set design, and its wonderful costumes, the overall look is enough to pull you into its 1950s world. Starring Katherine Parkinson and Richard Harrington as the couple living it up in a lifestyle of nostalgia, its saccharine exterior slowly melts away to reveal a darker and very pertinent narrative that will have you firmly gripped from beginning to end. Another triumph for Artistic Director of Theatr Clwyd, Tamara Harvey and her team.

Review Hansel, Gedeon and the Grimm’s Wood, Odyssey by Chloe Clarke

Hansel, Gedeon and the Grimm’s Wood.
Wales Millennium Centre, 6-8th December 2018.

A Christmas treat, Hijinx Odyssey cleverly put their unique slant on a delightful but dark compendium of Grimm’s classic tales, centred around a trepidatious Hansel and cheeky, daring Gedeon, deftly played by Danny Mannings and Mathew Mullins respectively. Venturing into the forbidden forest against their parent’s wishes they encounter a host of colourful characters – from partying princesses (Kirsty Rosser and Jen Lacey) to Odyssey’s very own Rolling Stones the Musicians of Bremen (Keith Richards being a highlight, otherwise known as Donkey, played by Matthew Cook), The well-timed physical comedy of The Boy Who Went Looking for Shivers (Freddie Holcombe) and the sinister Wolf and his evil cohorts.

Most impressive was the incorporation of beautifully constructed puppets in the form of the Wolf, Thirteenth Wise-Woman, The Ugly Stepsisters and Witch, constructed by hugely talented University South Wales students as well as a stunning, colourful set and costume design from Kitty Callister. The puppets were skilfully operated by cast including Andrew Todd, Jen Lucey, Andrew Tadd, Geraint Stewart-Davies, Sara Pickard and Sian Fouladi.

A touch tour was offered before the show so I got to experience these magnificent features up close, and audio description provided by Alastair Sill ensured that I had access to the show throughout. All shows were BSL interpreted by Sami Thorpe so that D/deaf audiences had as much choice as hearing audiences in which show they’d like to attend.

The Odyssey Christmas show is always a pleasure to partake in – there’s a fantastic, supportive, familial atmosphere of anticipation and excitement as people of all ages are welcomed in. The fact that audience members are invited to come up on stage at the end to meet the actors and puppets enhances this. The company’s humour and unique character comes through beautifully and this gets stronger each year thanks to the continued commitment of the group, their director, volunteers and support staff.

The show was very clear in terms of structure thanks to cleverly considered and witty writing from Llinos Mai and insightful, creative direction from Jon Dafydd-Kidd, ensuring that the talented cast kept us engaged and laughing throughout. This is a fun and frivolous show that celebrates and maximises the talent of the Odyssey team – ‘team’ being the optimum word – in which every single member is vital and dedicated, all the while not being afraid to go to dark places: something that a lot of inclusive groups are often too afraid to do. Colourful, dark and funny, we were swept up on the journey all the way to the Grimm’s Wood and back again.

Chloe Clarke

REVIEW: ‘ADDAMS FAMILY: THE MUSICAL’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

(3 / 5)

Anyone growing up in the late 80s and 90s will have a fond recollection of the original Addams Family TV series. Inspired by the creator of the Addams Family comic strip by Charles Addams, the family were a dark inversion of the idealised nuclear American family. What started out as a popular comic strip and TV show snowballed into a staple of iconic popular culture across the entire globe.

The Addams Family creative treatment has now expanded to encompass TV remakes, several films, multiple theatrical productions, and video games. The show has already toured extensively in the UK, with dates at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre, but this time Kinetic Theatre company bring a smaller version of the production to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The company, headed up by Artistic Director Kris Cowley is a training company for musical theatre for young people aged 16 and over – and has now been relaunched as Kinetic School of Performing Arts.

Their members are at differing stages of their theatrical experience, with many of them acting as mentors for other members to develop their confidence and skills. I overheard Artistic Director Kris Cowley tell another audience member in the interval that they had given one of the lead roles to twelve-year-old Lewys Rees, who was nervous about cutting his teeth on his first production while playing the part of Pugsley Addams, but was being supported and encouraged by his team.

It’s great to see new talent like this emerging from grass-roots groups and being given big breaks often not afforded to those without significant experience with established performing arts schools or academies. In this sense, companies like Kinetic do great work in opening up access to performing arts and removing the barriers people often face. It takes a lot of courage to hold your own at such a young age – but Lewys Rees had a promising voice, which I’m sure will put him in good stead for next year’s ‘Camp Rock’ musical being developed by Kinetic.

The synopsis for the show is good – kooky Wednesday Addams meets a rather conventional (some might say bland and boring) romantic prospect. Chaos follows when she asks her father Gomez to keep a secret about the real reason for inviting her boyfriend Lucas’ family – they are engaged to be married. As Lucas’ Mother and Father descend on the Addams family mansion, tensions build as the Beinekes encounter the macabre Addams family, their dead ancestors, family rivalries and inevitable fall outs when their two worlds collide.

The story lends itself well to a musical format and there’s a generous mix of upbeat songs from a variety of genres to move things along. The ensemble cast (dead ancestors) were superb in amplifying the story and musical directors Liz York and Emma Pawsey have done a stellar job in translating the musical score into strong blended vocals and punchy choreography on stage.

I loved the opening number ‘When you’re an Addams’ and the production is at it’s strongest during the whole-cast ensemble pieces. The segment when the two families sit down to dinner (‘Full Disclosure’) brought to mind Fosse-like choreography and a flavour of the Chicago movie song ‘Both reached for the gun’.

Now for the not so great bits. At such an early stage in their performance experience, the production does lack gloss and finesse in places. Lights seem late to come up after blackouts, the microphones on the actors’ faces pick up sound (breathing and talking) after the actors have left the stage. Gomez’ accent is a little…off….and can be distracting at times, nevertheless – Jack Davies is enviable in his delivery of personable Gomez, his comic timing is great and his execution during the ‘Happy/Sad’ song was sweet.

Georgia Tonge as Wednesday seems unsure of herself at times, yet her accent as Wednesday is impeccable and her vocals are generally good. For me, one of the standout characters was Fester (who I believe was played by Thomas Price the night I was there) – his zany antics and wiry, frenetic physicality bring great energy and pace to the show’s story. A truly charming presence on stage.

The star of the show has to be the poker-faced Zoe Martin who was simply brilliant as Morticia Addams. Sleek and sassy and with a ‘bitchy resting face’ to rival Anjelica Houston, her deadpan demeanor and withering put-downs were as sharp as a tack.

The routine between Zoe Martin and Jack Davies as a tangoing-couple during the song ‘Tango de Amor’ was fabulous. Well done lastly to the superb ‘dead relatives’ who did so much to bring life and zest to this production. My daughter (age 9) was watching you all like a hawk, noticing every facial expression and raise of an eyebrow.

“They’re really good actors, Mom!” she told me during the interval – she’s part of a performance group herself and always keeps a beady eye on the supporting actors in the background. I’d better bring her back to RWCMD to see Camp Rock next year – though I suspect in the meantime she’ll beg me to join Kinetic, because they’ve clearly made an impression on my little Miss!

Keep it up, Kinetic!

Review: BOOT by Phill Brewer at The Atrium by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(3 / 5)

BOOT by Phill Brewer, the debut production from Volition, is a chilling exploration of events in its protagonist’s story. Refusing to adopt a chronological form, Brewer’s style of monological storytelling perfectly matches the harsh world and erratic character he creates.

In essence, it’s a romantic tragedy that follows a man who, rightly or wrongly, can’t let his love for a woman go. He goes to extreme lengths to protect her physically and emotionally, sacrificing himself in the process.

A lot of people would portray this as a classic showing of toxic masculinity. With the violence, male entitlement and refusal to show weakness – it certainly can be interpreted that way. However, Volition’s aim is to represent a character’s voices, in their own words, and present them to an audience. Allowing the audience leave with their own opinions of that situation.

On the other hand, whilst BOOT has those classic tropes of toxic masculinity, the protagonist doesn’t gain from the situation. It’s a character who is as much a victim of circumstance, as he is of his own actions. Seeing it through his words, we see his perspective and reasoning, rather than simply blaming toxic masculinity.

You can read it in many ways, or merely as the story without the social-political views. It’s this viewing experience that separates Volition from various various other theatre companies. Often people ask, “what is the message?” Whereas for Volition it’s more, “what did you think?” It’s a really fresh take for modern theatre that seems to be obsessed with artist’s voices and messages – not that there is anything wrong with that, but certainly room for both.

The play starts in the boot of a car with the male protagonist and that is where it ends. The writing from Phill Brewer is smart in its aim to present the protagonist’s story in his own words, as in between the bumpy ride, we see the turbulent story that brought him to this position.

It starts at the right place, hits the right notes throughout and ends leaving you with the perfect balance of satisfaction and intrigue.

There is room for it to grow as a script. Generally some sharpening and a little addition of humour wouldn’t go amiss to help bring out the character. But overall it’s a really solid script with massive potential.

Written as a monologue, Rebecca Riley makes a good decision as director to perform this as an ensemble piece which brings the script to life really nicely. It’s paced well with the only real issues being minor blocking ones and, at times, an issue of tone.

The play starts at 100, with the protagonist freaking out. This just feels a bit intense to start and, whilst it makes sense, could do with some work as it somewhat kills the opening ten-fifteen minutes. Especially as we never really build back to that level.

The direction of the ensemble is really nice from Riley, who uses physicality beautifully to add to the piece.

The acting from lead, Connor Hughes, is strong. The moments of clear emotion are great, but Hughes does a good job of also showing what’s bubbling underneath. Because of this, it’s really easy to know what the character is feeling and everything from the script makes sense on stage.

The ensemble generally do a good job of bringing the piece to life and really help with the pacing of the script. There are a few instances of over-acting from the ensemble members, which may well be a directing issue, that sometimes takes focus away from the lead. But, overall a good addition to the production.

BOOT shows a level of lighting design I was not expecting coming in. The use of red lighting is really evocative, as well as the box light to represent the boot of the car. In this aspect, Zach Ashley did a really good job.

It is a shame there isn’t more explored in the sound design. This can be put down to lack of resources and time. However, often the noise of moving ensemble takes away from the show. More sound design could cover this and add something of its own. But generally, the design aspects are above expectation.

There is room for improvement with this production, especially in nailing the ensemble work, a little work on the script as well as incorporating the design elements that feel missing. But, on the whole this is a really enjoyable piece of theatre with a really interesting discussion to follow it.

BOOT has real potential, perhaps let down by the lack of time and resources afforded to it. A great script, visionary director and a solid lead make this a really promising debut from Volition.

BOOT performed at The Atrium, Cardiff
From December 11th-12th 2018
Presented by Volition
Written by Phill Brewer
Directed by Rebecca Emily Riley
Stage Manager – Zach Ashley
Cast:
Connor Hughes
Tasha Walton
Sergio Taddia
Tilly Jordan
Jose Pedro Fortuna
Photo Credit – Adam Robinson

Review Dick Whittington: The Puuurfect Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto Theatr Clwyd by Donna Poynton

(5 / 5)

Theatr Clwyd, Mold have long held the baton in North Wales for the ‘cult’ panto and Dick Whittington: The Puuurfect Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto is certainly no exception. Suddenly, panto got cool!

Upon entering the auditorium, we are greeted with a partly open stage where it becomes clear that the band will be on view throughout the show. However, once the action begins, we see that the cast, are in fact, also the band; Tommy the cat goes from cartwheeling around after rats to playing the drums and Alice Fitzwarren is one moment seen swooning after Dick Whittington and the next rocking out on electric guitar! The small cast of ten are constantly on stage, unless they’re darting off for a quick costume change!

 

The costumes are fabulous; well thought out and often traditional but with hints of punk! King Rhydian the Rat’s costume reminds us of rock musician Adam Ant, and his minion rats, Scratch and Sniff, don large green wigs and wear tartan! Special mention must go to Sarah the Cook’s delightful Dame costumes which always provide a giggle upon entrance!

 

The writing offers the usual ‘oh no he isn’t’, ‘oh, yes he is’ type interactions as well as plenty of boos, hisses and an audience soaking! The most memorable gag, well deserving of a mention, is one in which Wally Fitzwarren is attempting to prepare his crew (Tommy the Cat, Dick, Alice, Harriet and Sarah the Cook) for their ship’s voyage. What ensues is a concoction of great physical comedy involving mops and a simple yet very effective ‘copy everything I say’ skit! Superb timing and snippets of the cast simply enjoying themselves as themselves with more underlying adult humor than your average panto! Also refreshing is the use of the Welsh language, heard plentifully throughout the production as the plot is brought from London to Mold, allowing the audience to feel more engaged with the action.

This production includes a stellar cast with phenomenal vocals, wonderful musicianship and a brilliant repertoire of songs including Bat (Rat) out of Hell, Nutbush City Limits, I’m Yours and In the Navy! It’s impossible to single out any cast member as all are truly fantastic in their own right. It’s always a tonic to witness a production which doesn’t need celebrity names to sell out and be a huge success!

The production runs until the 19th of January at Theatr Clwyd.

Theatr Clwyd, Mold

November 23rd 2018-January 19th 2019

Writer: Chris Patterson

Writer in Residence: Alex Murdoch (supported by Gladstone’s Library)

Director: Zoë Waterman

Assistant Director: Francesca Goodridge

Casting: Kay Magson CDG

Design: Adrian Gee

Musical Director: Tayo Akinbode

Choreographer: Will Tuckett

Technical: Mark Howland, Matthew Williams, Alec Reece, Edward Salt, Cassey Driver

Cast includes: Royce Cronin, Toby Falla, Phylip Harries, Daniel Lloyd, Alice McKenna, Peter Mooney, Lynwen Haf Roberts, Emmy Stonelake, Luke Thornton, Anna Westlake

Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes (inc. interval)

 

Preview: BOOT by Phill Brewer and Volition

Boot by Phill Brewer is a new play coming to Cardiff on Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th of December 2018. The debut production from new theatre company Volition, will be performed at The Atrium.

Set in Swansea, Boot follows an unnamed man trapped in a car boot who ponders over the events in his life that led him to this position. It’s a dark comedy that studies one man’s inner conflict and ambition in an ever changing world, presented as a mix between gritty realism and abstract physical performance.

Originally performed as a one man show at a sell-out performance in Matthew’s Yard, Croydon, Boot has since been developed by Brewer and reworked into an ensemble piece by Rebecca Riley (director).

The inspiration for some of the stories and scenes come from things that Brewer has witnessed in his time growing up in London. Some personal experience, stories from friends and general experience from the streets of London.

The aim of the piece is to present the story and let the audience decide for themselves the morals of the situations. Both Brewer and Riley say they want the audience to leave divided and talking about the show.

“BOOT is the perfect piece of writing to work on for me as the character is both the antagonist and the protagonist of his own story. His
battle is one of inner conflict, something that is universally relatable.” – Rebecca Riley, director.

The company, Volition, is made up of Phill Brewer and Rebecca Riley. Long-term friends who studied theatre together at Brit School of Performing Arts and Technology and now live in Cardiff.

The aim of the company is to provide a voice and platform for young people whilst creating theatre that is ambiguous, not making comment or judgement.

Rebecca Riley (centre) and Phill Brewer (right) with lead actor, Connor Hughes. Photo Credit Adam Robinson

 

 

 

 

There is a rebellious vibe about the company – but one that is very open to discussion and passionate about theatre as a means for discussion. Boot seems the perfect place for this exciting new company to start and the audience are key to their work so get your tickets here to be part of it.

BOOT performed at The Atrium, Cardiff
From December 11th-12th 2018
Presented by Volition
Written by Phill Brewer
Directed by Rebecca Emily Riley
Stage Manager – Zach Ashley
Cast:
Connor Hughes
Tasha Walton
Sergio Taddia
Tilly Jordan
Jose Pedro Fortuna.

Review: Cheer at The Other Room by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(4 / 5)

Cheer by Kitty Hughes is a dystopian, anti-panto where Christmas is controlled by the elite and briefly experienced by the poor through the Christmas drug, ‘cheer’.

We follow Jules (Alice Downing) on a journey of exploring her own morality. Jules sells illegal Christmas licenses, seeing herself as a Robin Hood figure, but operating more like Sports Direct, TK Maxx or one of those Gucci knock-off labels. Offering cheap alternatives to allow the poor to join in on the rich people’s rampant consumerism. Enabling and in essence supporting the elite.

When Todd (Cory Tucker) enters, Jules is forced to recognise her hypocrisy as someone who understands the oppressive system, but merely profiteers off the desires of the poor.

 

One thing Kitty Hughes does well in the script, is neither character is particularly likeable. Jules is clearly exploitative and, despite being relatable in many ways, flawed. We would all like to say, “I’m not like that,” but ultimately if you can afford Christmas, you undoubtedly will relate in some way to her moral conundrum.

One main criticism has to come with Todd’s character. He doesn’t really have a story and is more of an event in Jules’ story. A statement in itself. But one that is potentially problematic. He goes in wanting one thing and comes out with it and despite recognising the over-consumption and greed of it all, he still wants to participate. And that is his position going in. He doesn’t learn a lot and really, at its heart this is a story about the moral dilemma of left-wing, middle class person. A conversation urgently needed in theatre, so good that it’s being had here. But perhaps a stronger working-class character, with more of a story would make this production more powerful.

It’s a play that explicitly talks about class, in a way that really isn’t very dystopian at all. Some people can’t afford Christmas, this is simply a reality. But also, it’s a script you can interpret in various ways. General classism, how the “first” world treats the “third” world in terms of aid, or even migration. The play feels a lot more real than a lot of dystopian pieces that speak in metaphor or allegory. This is more literal and stronger for it.

The script certainly gets a little lost in repeating itself. It seems to drag and with less of the playful style Big Loop usually adopt, 85-minutes does seem too long to tell this story. Especially as it feels as though you could pack this into an hour very easily. That said, the scenes themselves are well written, and you don’t get bored. But in terms of a script, it could be planned and plotted better.

Not Duncan Hallis’ most playful piece of direction, he shows that he can handle a heavy piece without compromising his style too much.

Perhaps one of the main downfalls of this production is, it sometimes feels like we’re split between Hallis’ imagination and Hughes’ political conscience. Sometimes it gets a little cluttered and the drama gets lost.

However, this conflict of style isn’t always a negative. The direction sometimes distracts from the deeply political text in a way that makes the message sink deeper. For example, when the two characters are arguing about their backgrounds, an exchange that is packed with political language, it’s a complete mess.

But a mess in a good way. It seems real. There’s a lot of frustration in this argument and the two characters are not exactly in the mindset in that moment to string together coherent political points. It comes from the character’s heart in a way that we don’t really see elsewhere, particularly from Todd, in the production. And so despite the political language, the manic actions and energy make it seem as if they’re just shouting and rambling, despite making thought-out political points. There’s a complete contradiction between what we see and hear that works really well.

The combination of styles is really good and a writer-director team I’d like to see more of. It just would have been nice to see some more weird, wacky or surreal moments from Hallis’ mind at times.

Alice Downing shows a lot of depth in her complex character. She exploits a brilliant use of facial expressions and body language to portray her character’s inner emotions.

Cory Tucker doesn’t have the same amount of character depth to play with, but does a good job of depicting what is there for his character. In particular, Tucker’s attention to detail in certain moments, the first time he tries gingerbread or the first time we see him on ‘cheer’, stand out. Considering there’s not much depth to his character, Tucker does a good job of letting us know the important moments for Todd.

The set design from Ceci Calf is really nice. The classic bookshelf/cupboard the best bit, but it’s just generally a nicely decorated set. The lighting design by Garrin Clarke compliments the production well. Lights changing and flashing when characters are on ‘cheer’ and a projection of a crazy Father Christmas onto the set in particular stand out.

The sound design from Matthew Holmquist shows a great use of music in particular. A bit of a throwback to earlier in the year when Cardiff Boy, which Holmquist directed, took over The Other Room. Again we see the influence of Holmquist’s mix of music to emphasise what’s happening on stage.

Generally, the productions is enjoyable and funny, as well as deeply political and thought provoking. A protagonist with a clear moral dilemma that isn’t solved by the end is left at a satisfactory conclusion encouraging the audience to discuss further after the show. And isn’t that exactly what theatre should be about?

Cheer is a bleak outlook on the world and Christmas, but has messages and themes that really should be spoken about further than just in the theatre. It’s a brave production that won’t fail to get a reaction from anyone.

Cheer at The Other Room.
Running November 27th – December 15th
Produced by Big Loop Theatre Company
Written by Kitty Hughes
Directed by Duncan Hallis
Starring:
Alice Downing as Jules
Cory Tucker as Todd
Creative Producer: George Soave
Designer: Ceci Calf
Lighting Designer: Garrin Clarke
Sound Designer/Composer: Matthew Holmquist
Stage Manager: Kitty Hughes
Assistant Producer: Yasmin Williams
Assistant Director: Alanna Iddon
Arts Placement: Natasha Grabauskas
Set Construction: Jack Calf
Promo from Sean Cox Design
Photography from Tess Seymour Photography

Frankenstein, Cascade Dance Theatre at Chapter Arts Cardiff

2018 has been quite the Franken-tastic year. With conferences a-go-go and a veritable funfair of Frankenreads events, the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s game-changing masterpiece has been quite fully, and rightfully, celebrated en masse. Having studied the book in-depth for thesis-y reasons over the past four years, I’ve consumed the story in myriad mediums from the filmic, to the televisual, to the orchestral, including a gender-swapped web series and that icky Sean Bean show loosely ‘inspired by’ Victor’s dodgy dealings with the (un)dead.

So I was thrilled at the prospect of Cascade Dance Theatre* translating the tale in their latest much-lauded production. I’d seen the Royal Opera House’s lavish stab at a Franken-centric ballet on TV a couple of years ago – but found their faithfulness to the source material resulted in a less powerful whole that, while visually spectacular, was ultimately undermined by the rushed, soap opera-esque ending. How, then, would Cascade fare with six performers, two musicians, and a single simple set?

Beautifully, as it turns out. Artistic Director Phil Williams (winner of Wales’ Best Male Dance Artist Award at the Wales Theatre Awards 2017) has carefully assembled an excellent adaptation that is small in scale but large in style and ambition, fulfilling the heart of Shelley’s tale in creative new ways. The ensemble is excellent across the board, with Stuart Waters as a suitably haughty, believably tormented Victor, and Jordi Calpe Serrats in an endlessly vibrant and deeply sympathetic turn as the creature. Their connection is compellingly ambiguous: there is no directly analogous relationship to theirs, meaning that Victor is in turns the creature’s God, father, masculine ideal, romantic interest and romantic rival. Their bond could have set a positive precedent for humanity; but their mutual violence to one another and people close to them renders them variously perpetrator and victim to the other until their battle concludes in bloodily Biblical fashion.

Although Frankenstein was written by a woman, and especially one with such a famous feminist mother, there is a curious dearth of female characters in the text that are afforded the same active roles and complexity as their male counterparts, being mostly passive recipients of male violence. It’s a lovely reversal, then, that the women of Cascade’s Frankenstein are the absolute highlight of an already-stellar production. Caldonia Walton shines particularly brightly as Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s far-superior fiancée; Walton imbues kindness, strength and a genuine warmth of character to what is often a thankless role, and lights up the stage whenever she graces it. And the tremendous trio of Anna Cabré-Verdiell, Desi Bonato and Luca Dora Bakos steal the show entirely – case in point…

…We open on a truly haunting image: the creature, encased in chrysalis-like bindings, being meticulously inspected by a trio of women whose white strobes cast the only light in a sea of darkness. At first, they seem like explorers; archaeologists hungrily inspecting the excavated remains of an ancient burial site. But as the drama unfolds, the trio’s more otherworldly nature is revealed; they seem at times to be angelic guardians, at others mischevious sprites, even mythological beings like the Graeae, the three sisters of Fate from Greek mythology, and their spiritual descendants in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Bonato, Bakos and Cabré-Verdiell (who doubles as the female creature) not only dance superbly, but inhabit multiple roles with ease and panache, and I felt at times that they acted as Mary Shelley’s muses, helping her to tell her story two hundred years later on that appropriately dreary night of November 2018.

The sumptuous performances are complemented and enhanced by the rest of the production’s creative endeavours, not least Hristo Takov’s atmospheric lighting, and Paul Shriek’s spectacular set and wardrobe design. The set is evocatively uneven, making the most out of jagged inclines and the morgue-like slab on which the creature is brought to life, and on which Victor ends as his creature started; the costumes are artfully-tattered and ethereally expressive with shades of Vivienne Westwood. All of which is tied up in a gorgeously Gothic bow by Jak Poore and Ben Parsons’ eerily emotive score, composed and performed live by the two on stage like Romanticism’s answer to Daft Punk.

There are scenes in this production so haunting and beautiful that I will never forget them, and are well worth the price of admission alone – you won’t believe how they perform the sending of a letter, but it’s an unexpected delight. The programme promised a more creature-centric narrative, and they definitely delivered – one scene follows his flight from a macabrely-masked mob who taunt and beat him. You totally feel the creature’s pain and the endless cycle of fear, frustration and rejection from which there seems to be no way out. And I’m not sure Mary Shelley would have envisioned her creature bumping & grinding at an Eyes Wide Shut-inspired rave, but Cascade makes it work (plus I think the rebellious Mary would have approved): a masked group writhe and worship at the monolithic neon altar of SHELLEY’S BAR, escalating in impressively incendiary fashion. And the dance between the two creatures, one living and one lifeless, was utterly breath-taking: Serrats and Cabré-Verdiell transform what could have been a deeply awkward encounter into the show’s emotional apex.

Not everything lands; having affectingly conveyed the creature’s birth, rejection, and loneliness without the need for words, it was jarring for Victor to suddenly start monologuing the ‘dreary night of November’ speech when we had literally just seen it happen before our eyes. The creative team should have had more faith in its superbly talented cast to convey the story through performance alone. If there had to be words at all, it would have been infinitely more effective if they were more sparingly used – though the creature’s first word being ‘father’ was an effective moment, Victor’s sporadic speechifying was not. And though Elizabeth’s letters were nicely presented, I still find the exposition a little clunky in an otherwise elegant retelling.

It was on a dreary night of November that the creature beheld the accomplishment of his toils; standing before the same slab on which he was birthed, on which now rests the bodies of his victims. He wraps them in the bindings that once imprisoned him, and retreats across the stage into darkness once more, all the while unfurling that umbilical cord-like tether, his last tie to humanity. It’s a fittingly melancholic end to a stunning production that I cannot recommend highly enough. Whether you’re a Frankenstein fanatic like myself, or if you have the most passing familiarity with the text, you’re sure to find Cascade’s adaptation wonderfully rewarding. It’s been touring around Wales since 1st November, but you should definitely catch one of the last two performances of this remarkable show either tonight or tomorrow (30th Nov/ 1st Dec) at Chapter Arts: https://www.chapter.org/frankenstein, http://www.cascadedancetheatre.co.uk/

 

*In co-production with Taliesin Arts Centre; supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government and the National Lottery, with additional support from Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Ty Cerdd and Creu Cymru.

Review: Alice in Wonderland, Sherman Theatre by Gemma Treharne-Foose

By: Lewis Carol

Adaption by Mike Kenney

Directed by: Rachel O’Riordan

(4 / 5)

 

Sherman’s Christmas shows are becoming one of my family’s staple events of the Christmas season. For the second year in a row, their main stage show has avoided an overly ‘Christmassy’ offering (last year’s production of ‘The Borrowers’ was one of our stand out shows from 2017) but despite this, they’ve still managed to inject a large dose of festive fun and frivolity in to the production.

Director Rachel O’Riordan has brought together an all-Welsh cast and it’s great to see some familiar faces who you may recognise from other stand-out productions from the last few years. Hannah McPake (who plays the Queen of Hearts) comes from the ‘Gagglebabble’ duo with Lucy Rivers, who also features in the show’s musical line up. Having seen both Wonderman and Sinners Club with Lucy and Hannah, you know you are in for an off-the-wall experience if they are involved.

I’d also recognised Elin Phillips as the Cheshire Cat/Caterpillar (who I saw in Tom Jones the Musical by Theatre Na n’Og), Alexandria Riley the March Hare/Tweedledum who was absolutely incredible in Fio’s production of The Mountaintop in Cardiff’s Other Room pub-theatre, Keiron Self (The Duchess) who also featured in last year’s Sherman Production of The Borrowers along with the hyperactively hilarious White Rabbit Joseph Tweedale.

It’s a familiar cast, but as an ensemble and with the innocence of Alice, played by relative newcomer Elian West, they had wonderful energy and chemistry. I was also glad to see Callum Davies’ debut as the Doormouse, having joined the cast through the Sherman Players and as one of the Sherman’s apprentice actors. It’s great to see new talent being supported by Sherman – and Callum was adorable as the mouse!

Firstly, mad props to designer Hayley Grindle and her team, who created a stunning chequerboard set, which was dazzling and disorientating at the same time! The intimacy of the space in Sherman creates such a lovely, cosy atmosphere and the set and props were clever and creative (the baby pig, the trap doors, the table legs, the ticking clocks, the tiny doors at the end of the corridor, the teacups, mushrooms and roses).

Writer Mike Kinney added his own flair to the show, which did not chain itself to the original book or Disney movie visuals, but found its own voice.

A Duchess with a valleys accent, Tweedledee and Tweedledum with broad Newport accents and a flavour of the Welsh language peppered in dialogue exchanges and songs brought a similar kind of relevance and familiarity that Christmas Panto-goers will know and love.

Having been a life-long fan of valleys Pantomime Dame Frank Vickery who sadly passed away this year, it was lovely to see Keiron Self mimicking the same kind of high-camp, neurotic valleys Mam vibe which always hits home with me!

The littlies in the audience also loved the huge presence and scary-as-hell crazy eyes of Hannah McPake as the Queen of Hearts. Francois Pandolfo’s turn as the hen-pecked, simpering and anxious King was simply brilliant. I hadn’t expected the show to include musical numbers and it added another rich layer to this lovely production, with the cast ensemble vocals (particularly in the ‘Alice’ intro song and refrain) so sweet-sounding and warming.

Another standout song which children will love (and you’ll see them mimicking it in the foyer afterwards, no doubt) was a song about Alice’s baby sister (who it turns out has a head of a pig). It’s possible you may also have the ‘Wah wah wah…’ song in your head for the rest of the evening.

I had two ‘mini-critics’ of my own with me, age 9 – and they are typically the harshest of critics and don’t pull any punches. What were their final thoughts?

“Why did Alice not have blonde hair?!” said one of the littlies, who was completely exasperated with this minor detail. I explained this was a theatre show – not a ruddy Disney movie. Things always change on stage.

“Still – everyone knows Alice has blonde hair…also, I thought the Wah Wah Wah song went on for ages.”

Riiiiiiiiiight – so what would your marks out of five be, I asked them both – dreading the answer.

“I’d give it 3.5 stars.” Mini Critic 2 said.

Sheesh! What about Mini Critic 1?

“Definitely a 4.5 – I thought the singing was lovely and they were really funny.”

Jeez, maybe the Queen of Hearts was right about kids! I also couldn’t believe that these two did not share my enthusiasm for the Jam tarts which the Sherman had so thoughtfully provided for their guests on opening night.

“Look kids – JAM TARTS…WOWWWWW!” It doesn’t take a lot to get me excited, I admit.

“Meh…don’t like Jam Tarts.”

I tried threatening them that if the Queen of Hearts heard their comments, she’d have their heads off but….

Kids today! You can lead them to a finely tuned production of Alice, but you can’t make them eat the Jam Tarts or get over the fact that Alice didn’t have blonde hair.

Ultimately though – we all agreed this was a great little show, which got us feeling very excited indeed for Christmas (oh, and I still have the Wah Wah Wah song circling my head!).

Go see it – you won’t regret it!