Category Archives: Theatre

REVIEW Cinderella, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Pantomime is such a fantastically British art form; a sarcastic blend of slapstick, farce and musical comedy that feels inextricably interwoven with the festive season, brimming with daft jokes for the kids and innuendo for the adults. But panto and I haven’t always been on the best of terms. Our conscious uncoupling resulted from the traumatizingly formative pantomime experience of my youth where everything was too loud, too overwhelming, and too upsetting because one of the ugly stepsisters hit on my grandpa – while my grandma was sitting RIGHT NEXT TO HIM. None of us went home filled with Yuletide joy that night – witnessing ‘Allo ‘Allo’s Sue Hodge try to chat up a close family member does slightly dull your enthusiasm for the medium, it turns out – and I’ve never been to another panto since. Until now…

As luck would have it, it’s another iteration of Cinderella that’s got me tentatively dipping my toe back into the panto pool. Decreed by this production as ‘the Fairy Godmother of all pantomimes’, Cinderella is the ultimate Christmas classic, a story so familiar you could probably shout out the lines in your sleep – and this new production is filled with enough glitz, glamour and giggles to remind you why it’s one of the ultimate feel-good fairy tales. I entered the theatre with not a little trepidation and brought backup in the form of my grandpa (not the one Sue Hodge tried to pick up; pretty sure that one’s off panto for life), and left it singing, laughing, and wishing for an encore!

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Musical director Michael Morwood’s scintillating New Theatre orchestra makes a joyful noise (their rendition of Pure Imagination, a recurring musical motif, is utterly magical) and the production values are uniformly amazing, from the incredible sets and visual effects to the gorgeous costumes and choreography. Pantos tend to keep up to date with the music of their time – remember S Club 7’s appearance in that Aladdin panto ITV used to rerun every Christmas in the early ‘00s? This reviewer fondly does – and Cinderella has its fair share of modern(ish) tunes on its slate from the likes of Beyonce, the Jonas Brothers, Shawn Mendes and Pink, as well as some campy classics by Shirley Bassey and Gloria Gaynor.

Pic Tim Dickeson 06-12-2019 Cinderella @ The New Theatre

The cast is stellar across the board, but it’s Gok Wan as the Fairy Gokmother (!) that’s maybe the most perfect, meta casting choice of all – because who better to play the ultimate fairy tale makeover guru than the man who taught a nation how to look good naked? Have no fear: there’s no nudity here, as the cast are fabulously costumed to Wan’s high standards. Wan leads the show with effortless charm, wrangling some sense out of the wacky proceedings and making a grand entrance into every scene via sparkly explosion or flying moon. He also accidentally lobbed a bunch of toilet rolls into the audience during a deliciously chaotic rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas, which is the kind of quality ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ goof you just don’t get in your bog-standard (pun intended) end-of-year production.

Phil Butler is amazing as the lovably lovelorn Buttons, pining unrequitedly for Teleri Hughes’ lovely Cinderella. Butler channels the keenly controlled mania of Lee Evans (a compliment I wouldn’t give lightly), playing especially well off of his co-master of ceremonies Gok Wan, and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Butler’s delivery transforms every line into a zinger – I was responsible for the loudest guffaw when Buttons claimed to be in his mid-thirties (alarming evidence that I’m turning into my grandma who, when we saw 12 Angry Men at the New Theatre some years ago, watched Tom Conti walk onstage and proclaimed in the loudest stage whisper in the history of theatre, ‘That’s not Tom Conti, is it? My God, he’s looking old!’)

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Hughes’ Cinders and Rob Wilshaw’s Prince Charming don’t have the meatiest material but they perform their roles beautifully and lay claim to the loveliest duet, a surprisingly emotional version of Shawn Mendes’ If I Can’t Have You. They also get to flex their comedic chops during a hilarious cover of Beyonce’s Listen, a poignant ballad broken up by a jealous Buttons repeatedly asking Cinderella ‘Who’s that bloke?’ Dale Evans particularly stands out as Dandrini, the Prince’s best friend, who seems like the lovechild of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender and who shares with Wilshaw an exciting cover of Jonas Brothers’ Sucker and belts out an epic solo version of Pink’s Get the Party Started, backed by the excellent ensemble dancers. (Regan Gascoigne and Nathan Skyrme were on particularly lively form).

Pic Tim Dickeson 06-12-2019 Cinderella @ The New Theatre

But let’s be honest: this show belongs to the ugly stepsisters, and Ceri Dupree and Mike Doyle as the winkingly-named Tess and Claudia own the stage whenever they strut onto it. Doyle, an award-winning comedian, returns here for his seventh consecutive year as the New Theatre’s panto stalwart; a performer hasn’t got this much joyous mileage out of a Welshily-drawled ‘alriiiiiiight’ since Nessa Jenkins, and he wears the ever-living hell out of the eye-poppingly inventive costumes – designed by Ceri Dupree, who also plays the Tess to his Claudia. Dupree, an international cabaret star, is the show’s secret weapon, countering Doyle’s outrageous bawdiness with an elegantly deadpan aloofness – and by God he knows how to wear a gown. The revolving runway of their increasingly garish costumes is a gag that never gets old – at various points Doyle dresses in outfits that variously evoke a bee, a lampshade and set of traffic lights, and early on in the show the sisters emerge from the stage garbed in what I can only describe as nightmarishly horticultural French and Saunders cosplay. Their Shirley Bassey-off alone is something you have to witness with your own eyes.

I’ll try not to spoil too many of the jokes here because watching them unfold live is a delight you should experience for yourselves – and (thankfully for this introvert) audience participation is limited to your standard ‘OH NO IT ISN’T’ fare, not the ‘dragging someone onstage’ nightmares that have haunted my dreams in the run-up to this performance. I was especially delighted to see so many Welshisms in the show that gave it a personal feel: from Buttons’ snarky asides about Ely and Butetown to the prince inviting such nobles as Megan of Mynachdy to the ball, it’s wonderfully tailored to Welsh audiences.

Cinderella was the show which reignited the snuffed flame of panto love in my heart, and for that I’ll forever be grateful. It’s total escapism; a show brimming with joy, jokes and genuineness that made me forget the worries of the world for two hours, and it’s the ultimate family show because it absolutely has something for everyone. ‘The word for it is magical,’ my grandpa declared after it ended, and I couldn’t agree more: not only will you go to the ball, you’ll have one too!

Cinderella is playing at the New Theatre throughout the festive season, and concludes its Cardiff run on 12 January 2020.

The Curious Muchness of Stuff and Nonsense – A Review by Eva Marloes

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

“It’s Alice with a ‘y’,” (Alys) says the protagonist of The Curious Muchness of Stuff and Nonsense to a puzzled Caterpillar and an equally puzzled audience. It’s Welsh. The ‘welshified’ Alice in Wonderland, written by Hefin Robinson, is a funny and song-filled piece for the pleasure of children. 

Odyssey, Hijinx Community Theatre Group, manages to delight its audience, and not just the children in the audience, in their Christmas production. It begins with Alys glued to her phone and being reminded, together with the audience, to switch it off. It’s time for her birthday party. Curious Muchness is very much a party with a large cast of disabled and non-disabled performers from Odyssey and Woodlands High School parading and singing on stage. The piece seeks to tap into contemporary life: the White Rabbit looks for a ‘clever watch’ (smart watch), the Caterpillar is a celebrity singer, a lost Alys gets told to check Googlemaps to find her way home, and three former Queen’s servants demand their jobs back.  

Curious Muchness is at its best when it plays with Cardiff’s weather and the Welsh language. It is unpretentious light fun for a very young audience. It is the perfect production for the ‘jolly season’. It is Alice in Wonderland with no darkness. The lack of darkness takes away the suspense and the emotional arch. It also poses the question of what is appropriate for children. Should fear really have no place in children’s entertainment? The fantastical theatre (and film) of today is too often an escape into an unthreatening and joyful world. Curious Muchness is no exception. As a child, my favourite scene of Disney’s Snow White was the transformation of the beautiful Queen into a terrifying witch. The darkness of folk stories is not just to scare, but to let us travel safely into the unknown. Dark stories are a journey into our unconscious, filled with fears, dangers, and dreams, made safe by knowing that it is only our imagination, a shared dream, that is always resolved at the end by going back to our conscious state. We go back with a deeper sense of who we are.  

Review: Cinderella, Riverfront by Gemma Treharne-Foose

Cinderella, playing now at Newport’s Riverfront Theatre

When it comes to getting in the festive spirit, Newport might not always be the first thought that pops into your head. But Newport’s Riverfront venue was full of festive cheer this week as the City served up the first Christmas Panto of the season – the biggest the city’s arts team has ever staged.

One of eight venues run under the City’s ‘Newport Live’ banner, the Riverfront sits on the banks of the River Usk, and you can glimpse the city’s distinctive red ‘Steel Wave’ sculpture by Peter Finch from the windows of the café and terrace. For Cardiff and Valleys audiences, the Riverfront won’t be front of mind when it comes to theatre and the arts, with the WMC, New Theatre, Sherman and RCT’s Park & Dare and Coliseum venues hosting their own festive programme of new and family favourites. For many round my way, a trip to Porthcawl is an annual tradition that just can’t be broken.

So why go to Newport?

The Riverfront is far from a one trick pantomime horse. I had been before with my daughter to spend our Tempo Time Credits at a family cinema event and had a great experience. The venue has two theatre spaces, a dance and recording studio and ample accessible space to visit its café and hold events and workshops.

It’s position just a few minutes away from the Friar Walk shopping development is also a great way to get in some Christmas shopping and a pre-theatre dinner in walking distance to your show.

One thing you might notice about the Riverfront, though? The staff are great. I mean really great and genuinely interested in you and your experience. It’s something I haven’t noticed as much in some of Cardiff’s more famous venues. Perhaps they don’t have to work as hard for your custom…

That’s not to downplay what others are doing, but I really did notice a marked difference. Riverfront/Newport Live staff greet you, look you, look you in the eye and ask you about your day, ask you your thoughts on the show. There was a definite family feel in this venue that I hadn’t been expecting.

So this year’s show? An impressive turn from some familiar faces to audiences, with Gareth Tempest returning to this year’s performance as Prince Charming (being a former member of the children’s chorus at Riverfront in 2004) and Newport native Keiron Self as Buttons.

Actor Richard Elis (Eastenders, The Bill, Casualty and The Bill) does a fantastic turn as Candy, one half of the awfully endearing ugly sisters alongside Geraint Rhys Edwards as Flossie. Any Welsh speakers who love his silly and sassy Welshie portrayals and skits on ‘Hansch’ will be tickled pink to see his face in the programme.

Elis and Edwards have fantastic energy and sassy pants to go with their comic chops. They don’t even have to be speaking to make you cackle.

Between them and Keiron Self as love-sick buttons, there are plenty of quips, cheeseball lines, puns and innuendo you’d expect to see at the panto – not all of it hilarious, mind! The show’s setting in ‘Newport Bay’ by the sea is interesting and the set and staging is very well done, with the ensemble cast and choreography by Angela Sheppard bringing the show to life. I’d like to have seen more comedy spread to the female cast members as well…the traditional panto format shouldn’t save all the funny nuggets for the men. Trust me, Newport women are hilarious (my Newport family being the case in point!).

There’s a standout scene where Keiron Self is locked out in the rain and climbs up onto the roof while Cinderella is serenading the crowds. A beautiful bit of physical comedy. Of course, Cinderella and Prince Charming provide the schmaltz and the cheese, but their vocals are lovely and warming.

This year’s panto is part of a great 2019/2020 programme and I’d encourage you to consider it for your next night out.

Cardiff gets all the love and attention – it’s time to spread the love! Newport should no longer be the Ugly Sister when it comes to Theatre (ohhhh no it shouldn’t!).

Support your local arts venues, folks – and maybe….consider changing your usual haunt this year for a lovely little panto set in ‘Newport Bay’. Trust me, those Ugly Sisters will keep you chuckling long after the glitter’s been put away in January.

Cinderella is playing until 4th Jan 2020, see more at Riverfront

REVIEW The Snow Queen, Sherman Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

There’s nothing quite like a Sherman Theatre Christmas production to get you in the festive mood – and The Snow Queen, this year’s main-stage musical offering, is a sumptuous Yuletide treat for the whole family. Directed by Tessa Walker, the show adapts Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale about two young friends, Gerda and Kai, whose friendship is tested when Gerda hurts Kai, and goes on an epic journey to find him and make amends after he is lured away by the wicked Snow Queen.

Anni Dafydd as Gerda and Ed Parry as Kai

Reimagining the Danish fairy tale as an urban myth told to the children of the South Wales Valleys fits with the vision of the Sherman’s artistic director Joe Murphy in telling stories ‘rooted in Wales but relevant to the world’. The show has all the cosy feels of being told a great story on a cold winter night, not least because it seems to draw its framing device from The Princess Bride: in this case, it’s told to us and a stroppy little boy (Morgan Lllewelyn Jones) by his beleaguered babysitter (Grace O’Brien) as they wait out a snowstorm that has delayed the return of the boy’s mother. Having taken out the lights, the heating and the wi-fi, the blackout might as well have turned their sleepy town back to the Stone Age, and the boy isn’t in the mood for a story – but before long, the sitter’s initially irate listener becomes as enrapt as the audience as she weaves an epic tale told to her by her grandmother.

The story is indeed a captivating one, skilfully adapted by Conor Mitchell who pulls quintuple duty as writer, lyricist, composer, musical director and onstage pianist! Mitchell’s music is gorgeous – not all the songs work, though the best are up there with Frozen, which was incidentally inspired by Andersen’s story – but it’s his script that is particularly lovely: funny, sweet and sincere, it feels more universal in scope than Andersen’s, focusing less on faith and more on the power of inner strength, self-determination, and friendship; how kindness is not a commodity but a treasure that should be cultivated, cherished and shared, especially during a time in our world in which it may seem rare.

Jo Servi as the Crow and Grace O’Brien as the Sitter

The beautiful messages woven into Mitchell’s script are wonderfully brought to life by an excellent, enthusiastic and deeply creative cast. Anni Dafydd goes on an incredible journey as Gerda, at first a fun but entitled young girl, whose casual classism alienates her closest friend Kai (Ed Parry), and her subsequent quest to find Kai and make up for her mistake is an epic and emotional one. Given that he is the subject of Gerda’s crusade, Parry might not get many scenes as Kai, but he does get to chew the scenery as an adorkably befuddled prince and a sassy anthropomorphic geranium (if that description along doesn’t compel you to see this show, I don’t know what will!)

Along the way, Gerda meets a conveyor belt of eccentric characters, from Hannah Jarman’s bolshy Bandit Girl to Jo Servi’s delightfully irascible Crow (reminiscent of Bagpuss’ Professor Yaffle, with Servi fantastically animating a puppet designed and directed by Rachael Canning) to Julian the adorably heroic reindeer (brought to vivid, hilarious life by Callum Lloyd, who infuses the character with Disney-level charm through sheer skill and enthusiasm – how he managed to draw laughs, gasps and awwws from a lampshade, I’ll never know). Stephanie McConville’s Snow Queen has a glamorously insidious presence, but she appears a touch too infrequently, and her outfit could have been just a bit grander to match the larger-than-life characters that preceded her.

From left to right: Callum Lloyd (Julian the Reindeer), Morgan Llewelyn Jones (Sat), Hannah Jarman (Bandit Girl), Grace O’Brien (Sitter) and Anni Dafydd (Gerda).

Not only is the cast superb across the board – swapping between their roles as actors, musicians and puppeteers with ease – but the show is just beautiful to look at. Cecilia Carey’s inventive sets evoke myriad locations from an eternally-summery garden to an ice palace worthy of Elsa, the season-spanning vistas animated by the atmospheric sound and lighting design (by Ian Barnard and Katy Morison respectively), and Helen Rogers’ inventive costuming (the Bandit Queen’s ensemble is particularly eye-catching), not to mention the snow near-perpetually falling from the heavens. The Garden of Eternal Summer, ruled over by Rachel Nottingham’s slightly demented sorceress, is one of the most vivid locales, and also the setting of the show’s best scene which I can only describe as the Golden Afternoon song from Alice in Wonderland as reimagined by RuPaul’s Drag Race (featuring the above-mentioned sassy geranium, Jo Servi as a timorous wallflower and Stephanie McConville as an ultra-chic rose).

The Snow Queen is brimming with Christmas magic for the whole family, and it’s the perfect show to usher you into the festive season. In my experience, there’s nothing quite as Christmassy as a musical, and the Sherman’s production not only has Disney-calibre songs but a Disney-calibre story and message to go along with them. Not only will it inspire and entertain you, it will teach you that you have to experience the winters of your life in order to appreciate the summers. It’s not the shards of a magic mirror that make a person cruel – that capacity is within us all, but so too is the capacity for kindness, courageousness, and even a little bit of magic.

The Snow Queen is playing at the Sherman Theatre through 31 December.

Review Jack and the Beanstalk, Theatr Clwyd By Donna Poynton

Until 2018 I was a Theatr Clwyd Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto virgin! However, after attending Dick Whittington: The Puuurfect Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto last year I knew I would be spending at least one night a year with this fantastical, festive phenomenon! This year the classic tale getting the Theatr Clwyd treatment was Jack and the Beanstalk.

Upon entering the auditorium, we are greeted almost immediately with characters from the production mingling in the audience the interacting with the children as well as a never-ending stream of bubbles from the ceiling; and you’re never too old to enjoy bubbles! It isn’t clear whether this is the usual routine or whether the cast are, very effectively, covering the fact that the majority of the audience begin coming in after the 7pm start time (with evening productions generally starting at 7.30pm there is perhaps some confusion).

I adore the uniqueness of Theatr Clwyd’s pantomimes and this production is no exception; the small cast provide consistently strong vocals, fabulous harmonies and simple but effective choreography (without the need for a gaggle of ‘theatre kids’ in the background!) The cast all work so hard; darting between costumes changes to play the drums, guitar, keyboards etc. It is also extremely refreshing to hear constant use of the Welsh language throughout the show as well as references to the local area. The costumes are again a sight to behold; well thought out and often traditional but with hints of punk rock! Special mention must go to Dame Tegwen Trott’s wonderful array of dresses and headgear; the detail impeccable!

The set design is inspiring, particularly the magical moment in which the beanstalk appears through a trap door in the centre of the stage, slowly, as if growing. The beanstalk is designed around a ladder, which allows the characters to actually ‘climb the beanstalk’ into the clouds! This, for me, is what theatre is all about; where something happens on stage that gives you goosebumps and, even as an adult, almost makes you believe the impossible is possible! I was also curious as to how the giant would be portrayed. This is done very simply with the use of a voice over and the odd appearance of ‘parts’ of the character; the projection of a moving eye for example. This is all that’s needed to make the audience imagine that there really is a giant at the top of the beanstalk!

This production includes a superb cast with phenomenal vocals, wonderful musicianship and a brilliant repertoire of songs including I love Rock ‘n’ Roll, Thinking Out Loud and Material Girl! All of the cast members are truly fantastic in their own right but I feel I must single out Phylip Harries, Theatr Clwyd’s long running Dame, and I must say, the best Dame this side of Rhyl (!!!) and Ben Locke as Tommy Trott who just oozed theatricality; once on stage you can’t help but be drawn to his comedic facial expressions and hilarious reactions.

Da iawn Theatr Clwyd on another ‘ardderchog’ production!

Theatr Clwyd, Mold

November 22nd 2019-January 18th 2020

Writer: Chris Patterson

Director: Zoë Waterman

Resident Assistant Director: Eleri B Jones

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: Adam Barlow, Katie-Elin-Salt, Phylip Harries, Jessica Jolleys, Ben Locke, Alice McKenna, Peter Mooney, Elin Phillips, Lynwen Haf Roberts, Luke Thornton

Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes (inc. interval)

Review Behind the Label, Theatre Vs Oppresion, Wales Millenium Centre by Lois Arcari

Behind The Label is a theatre project created by people who have experienced homelessness, abuse and addiction, of the most harrowing kinds. It’s not dour or preachy in the slightest.

Being tucked away in a small theatre, wondering how to describe this performance, was a jarring experience. It shows the very best of what theatre can do – but the message of the show should spill into the streets, onto our ballots.

Set on ‘EasyInject’ airlines, the host and hostess provide great visual gags and wordplay to set the scene, even if the framing device seems a bit hollow to contain the meat of the performance. The videos of the performers before and after the monologues and dialogues were engaging, adding new layers to the show as it transcended from fiction, to documentary, to spoken word.

The concept allowed for a brilliant Britney Spears parody, which had the audience in raptures of laughter. The metaphor of ‘baggage collection’ could have been bluntly done, and there were a few times the execution faltered, but the concept was mostly pulled off very well.

The simplicity of the idea really honed the performers vulnerability and range, the performers themselves were simply stunning. Every performer’s story was told through a scathingly honest lens, with hope and horror in equal measure. Their stories covered everything from domestic violence, to racism and alcoholism all with disarmingly charming morbid humour. All of the performers were the picture of courage throughout the show, flitting between their toughest personas and their most extreme vulnerabilities.

A few performers seemed like leaves every minute they were on stage, constantly shaking but with strong voices that carried the story of their lives throughout every corner of the building. It was impressive that the narrative of the play covered their failures and false starts as well as their hopes for the future and didn’t patronise anyone by pretending there are easy endings.

For the 2-hour run time, the theatre was transformed into a pulsing community. Where perfume and programmes mixed with old friends of the performers. Where I was genuinely charmed by the woman behind my seat, chanting words of love and solidarity to the people she recognised on stage.

Being tasked with this review made me feel quietly queasy. How can I review the ways performers package and unwrap their trauma? The empathy that pulsed throughout the audience.

‘‘Bring out Ozzy’, Ozzy, one of the performers, who has worked with this theatre group for years, seethed during one of his monologues.

While art is undoubtedly a healing force, at what point does expression move into exploitation?

I have nothing but the upmost respect for TVO, the theatre company who created this fantastic show.

Every performer said that the company had changed their life for the better, and it’s clear to see everyone behind it puts in an extraordinary amount of work to make this a genuinely empowering and well supported experience. But does all art about homelessness adhere to this standard of excellence?

I found myself asking such questions even more when the audience trailed out. I heard many say some variation of ‘that reminded me of me…’ as there was something relatable in each performers story.

When does identifying with something become co-opting it?

We have all felt isolated, estranged, angry, turned to ‘bad coping mechanisms’ because they are the only things that can drag us through the moment.

But we have not all slept in shop fronts, robbed or been robbed, held at the fists of appalling violence.

There were undoubtedly homeless people in the audience, people who had been homeless, and at risk of homelessness, along with the privileged. How is it that some people, with the same circumstances, can be homed and others left out on homeless through no fault of character or choices?

This show did everything theatre is meant for. Provoke questions. Stoke empathy. And amplify the voices of those we need to hear the most. The performers in this show, and their peers on the streets, have always had voices.

Let’s hope one day it doesn’t take shows like these, however wonderfully they are pulled off, for us to listen.

Review Lovecraft (not the sex shop in cardiff), Carys Eleri- By Rhys Payne

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Walking into Fresh at the Wales Millennium Centre, I had no idea what to expect from the show titled Lovecraft. Strangely the thing that sprung to mind was that it is a sex shop (I have heard!) located in Cardiff which was a joke repeated many times throughout this show. However, this isn’t just crude and hilarious show but also carries a very important message about combatting loneliness which is an issue that affects many, many people even today.

This show was co-produced by Carys Eleri alongside Wales Millennium Centre themselves. Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff) is a one women show that was ‘hosted’ as such by Carys herself. She was an incredibly awesome host as she possesses a very loveable and friendly personality which the audience instantly warm to. The material within the show was relatable to all ages (above about 16) as she discusses issues such as relationships, alcohol and social media which made every single member of the audience, despite their age, feel as if Carys was talking directly to them and talking about issues they may have ever experienced. This was very clever and helped to make the comical aspects of the show even more hilarious as it was all based on real-life experiences. She delivered these touches of humour moments excellently but also managed to carefully manipulate the mood the incorporate the more serious and important messages of the show such as relationships going wrong and loneliness etc.

This show does contain very strong language, mature themes and sexual references which means it is not appropriate for children and also young audience members may not relate to the messages of the show as much as more mature members of the audience would. Some of these ideas were portrayed through song which is, in my opinion, very unusual but in this case, it worked excellently. Obviously many of these songs were comical but Carys has an incredible voice and so it was actually marvellous to listen to the singing itself instead of just the lyrics. Carys is clearly a very talented performer and she managed to develop a way to showcase her skills excellently in this show without it seeming like she is showing off which was great. In fact, the album of the songs is available across all music streaming platforms so if you want to have a listen just search for Lovecraft and have a listen.

The combination of hilarity and musicality of this show makes it an excellent choice if you are looking for someone to watch of your next girls night as it would be a fantastic thing to watch with a group of friendship and you can even grab a bottle of wine in the bar to complete the evening.

What was also unique about this show was that towards the beginning the audience were encouraged to turn to the person next to them and give them a hug as a way to test the chemical reactions in the brain and also towards the middle of the show the audience were each given a piece of lint chocolate. Both of these things are things I have never experienced before and helped add to the uniqueness of this show.

All that I knew about this show is that it had been performed at the Adelaide fringe festival and it is clear this show has been designed accordingly. The ‘set’ is simply two screens and a microphone but Carys has a huge sense of stage presence which means that anything else would be a distraction. This makes the show very easy to transport and your around and one day I hope to see a huge nationwide tour of this production as it is a unique show that everyone (age-appropriate) needs to see. As well as being hilarious and musical it is also somewhat educational. It was billed as the ‘science musical about love’ like it at certain points teaches the audience about the chemicals involved in love and how they are caused etc. This was something I did not know before walking into this show as so it was an educational experience for me personally.

Overall this is an incredibly uniquely hilarious musical that is unlike anything I have ever seen before with a fantastically talented host and moments of education. If you are interested in a comedy musical journey through love then this is the show for you. I would rate this as 4 and a half stars out of 5 and would recommend it as your next girls night out show. This show will be in the Millennium on the 29th and there will be a special welsh version of the show on the 30th so I would encourage you to catch it if you can!

Review Les Misérables, Cameron Mackintosh, Wales Millenium Centre By Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Many people have said that you can’t call yourself a true musical theatre fan unless you have seen Les Miserables and I have to be honest I watched the movie for the first time two weeks ago and while that was good, this production at the Wales Millennium Centre knocks spots off the classic film. The show managed to touch on many keys moments from the film for people who are only familiar to Les Mis through the film (myself included) but also managed to alter it enough as a stage show to be different to the other versions going around.

The thing about this show is that most people have heard of it or seen it and as there have been so many adaptations and versions the bar is already set very high. But still there manages to be a massive excitement about the show, inside the actual theatre you could feel the excitement in the air before the show even started and even during the interval. After the show, there was a massive buzz that every single person could feel. It says a lot about a show where every single person in the audience gives a standing ovation at the end. Like the film, this musical is an opera and so there is no dialogue in the entire show but instead, the whole thing is sung. This is obviously a fantastic way to promote this genre as many people say “I hate opera” but at the same time ignore musicals such as Les Mis and Jesus Christ Superstar as operas. Seeing an opera in mainstream musical ‘world’ is obviously great and it may encourage people to watch other operas when they can.

One of my criticism for the film is that the time frames are at times hard to follow (I enjoy laughing about this fact in the film, every time I looked at the screen Hugh Jackman was a different age) but this stage version managed to make this one setting easy to follow. When the opening show discusses the backgrounds of certain characters, there was a blackout with the title ‘Les Miserable’ spread across the backdrop sort of like there would be in a film etc. This was obviously done to signify that the opening scene took place before the main part of the story and allows the audience to take in key and important details that will reappear later in the show. I never thought that Les Mis would be a very tech-based show as I thought it was just about authentic drama and singing but the effects they used specifically in this production were incredible. Some key technical aspects to look for in the show were how they managed to excellently stage the gunshots with lights, how a certain iconic suicide is staged and the use of high-raise buildings on stage. These buildings were flawlessly used to help cover the scene changes that happened while other scenes were taking place which was a genius way to keep the show going while also being beautiful to watch.

Every member of the cast was fantastic in this production and a special appreciation needs to give to the ensemble of this performance who clearly worked very hard both acting and singing was to support the key characters. The choruses singing was amazing and really helped to add to the drama of the show. A lot of the pressure was set on the shoulders of Dean Chisnall who took on the role of Jean Valjean as this is one of the most important roles in this musical but Dean seemed to reveal in this pressure and turned out an excellent performance. His voice was incredible throughout but a highlight for me was ‘Bring Him Home’ which was so powerfully performed that many of the audience members were moved to tears. He also managed to portray the various stages of this character perfectly including the later part of his life which shows Dean’s range of acting ability.

Marius is the character which is Supposed in love and Pursuing the daughter of Jean Valjean. This character was played by the fresh-faced Felix Mosse who fitted the role perfectly. He has a massive sense of naivety, innocence and likability about him which is perfect for the love-hungry character. Also, Felix has a youngish appearance which worked really well with this character who is apparently a student. Not only this but yet again Felix was a very talented singer who performed songs such as ‘Empty Chairs, Empty Tables’ both incredibly heartfelt and beautifully. His duet of ‘little fall of rain’ alongside Frances Mayli McCain (who played Eponine) was incredibly emotional to watch and these two clearly have great chemistry on and off stage. Felix Mosse is an actor who I look forward to seeing in future productions as I believe he has a very bright future in the performing industry. Nic Greenshields, who played Javert was absolutely incredible. His physicalisation as Javert was perfect as it showed his sense of superiority over the rest of the villagers. His voice was that of an authoritative person but also he managed to blend to the desperation of the character beautifully. Nic clearly has a high level of professionalism and experience which he truest showcased in this role. The highlight of his character, however, was their singing inability. ‘Stars’ was out of this world! It was beautifully performed with a strong sense of power behind it. Nic excelled in this role and I cannot wait to see where he end up in the performing world as he clearly has massive talent.



The two gems in this performance were Thenardier and his wife (who were played Ian Hughes and Helen Walsh respectively) who delivered many of the comical moments in this show. There were hilarious throughout and didn’t miss a single joke which can be very difficult in musical. ‘Master of the House’ was an excellent number that was not only performed excellently but also involved an astonishing sleight of hand tricks which wowed even me. The quick movement of and stealing of objects was a marvel to watch and clearly they had worked hard to make this scene as smooth and flawless as possible which should be applauded. Also, the musical number ‘Beggars at the Feast’ was also performed by this double act which they performed excellently while wearing the most elaborate and over the top costumes I have ever seen.



Overall this was a near-flawless introduction into the musical world of Les Miserable and it is definitely a musical that I would watch again if I had the chance. This is a show that loves drama and delivers it by the bucket full throughout so if you are into that sort of show them this is definitely one for you. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars.

Review Les Misérables, Cameron Mackintosh, Wales Millenium Centre By Becky Johnson

An eclectic evening of wonder, passion and skill.

What an incredible first experience of the infamous Les Misérables. So much thought and care had been given to each and every part of the evenings’ performance. It was this specific attention to detail that really drew the audience into the world of pre-revolutionary France.

Firstly, the set, Wow! The set used a mixture of visual effects alongside moving structures to create an immersive experience for the audience. The onstage set, predominantly wooden, was etched with details. From small engraved phrases to the layering of different components. The visual effects truly brought the set to life by adding intricacies to things that would otherwise be forgotten. Such as the water rippling and the stars twinkling. But only ever so slightly, just enough for you to question whether it’s really there at all or just your mind playing tricks on you.

The lighting played such a crucial role within the piece. Alongside the projected visual effects, it would bring a sense of realism to what was occurring on stage. An image of the meeting of the revolutionaries comes to mind. The light seeping through the barred windows, reflecting off the faces of the Males whilst they walked through the shadows making small talk with one and another. It was also with moments like the gunshots, where a bright light would suddenly glare, making the plot more accessible to the audience.

Even in the way the actors spoke it was evident the clarity and precision in which they gave out their words. Those deemed more common were usually paired with a Northern accent and those of a higher class with a more queens English. The use of different accents and dialects allowed clarification for the audience but also context as to the stereotypes and opportunities in that era.

The use of detail was also not only evident in the voices of the performers but most predominantly in the ensemble. Each performer held their own character, with their own physicality and own storyline. One could easily get lost watching the ensemble, with so many options to engage with. It was often the more hidden moments happening in the background which would cause me to smile or question things more deeply.

It wasn’t usually the way in which the text was presented as to how your emotions were driven. The text tended to set the pace, which kept a high engagement for the audience throughout the piece. Instead, the orchestra were key to how you responded to what was occurring on stage. At the moments I received goose bumps, I realised it wasn’t from the solos. Instead, from the accompaniment and the resonant quality that it echoed around the theatre creating an atmosphere unlike no other.

Each member of the cast was incredibly talented and without one, the piece wouldn’t be the same. It is truly the fine details which make this piece so magnificent and I predict it’s one of those where regardless of the amount of times you watch the performance, you would be drawn to different characters and their own tales each time. There are limited tickets available for the remainder of the performances but if you do get the chance to go, you are certainly in for a treat.