Category Archives: Theatre

An interview with Ben Atterbury, Associate Artistic Director, The Other Room

Hi pleased to meet you. Can you please give our readers some background information on yourself and your role in the arts in Wales?

Hi! My name is Ben Atterbury and I’m an English Literature graduate turned Digital Marketeer turned Creative Producer turned Associate Artistic Director (whatever that means, titles are a funny thing). I grew up loving theatre and, although not Welsh myself, I spent three brilliant years at University falling in love with Cardiff and decided to stick around for a bit afterwards; it felt like something was about to happen in the city and I wanted to be around and be a part of it. That thing happened a year later when I met Kate Wasserberg and Bizzy Day and started to help them set up The Other Room, where I still work, although I now run the theatre with Bizzy and our newly appointed Artistic Director, Dan Jones.

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/
Can you tell us about the work your company is taking to this years Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Seanmhair is a new play by the brilliant Welsh writer Hywel John. It is a play about a chance meeting between two children, Jenny and Tommy, on the streets of Edinburgh that brings about a terrible reckoning upon them both, which resonates and reverberates throughout both their lives. It’s a vivid and dynamic show about love, fate and blood beautifully performed by three incredible female actors who play the central character Jenny at different stages of her life, along with every other character in the story. It fuses epic romance with a kind of modern poetry and I’d never really read anything quite like it, so it’s brilliant to see it brought to life, first in Cardiff at our theatre, The Other Room, and now as it moves to Edinburgh!


How is work selected to go to the festival?

One of the most brilliant things about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is that if you have something that you want to take, you can take it. With the growth and expansion of things like the Free Fringe over the past 20 odd years the only barriers that exist now are practical; most financial. Bigger producers (Pleasance, Underbelly, Summerhall etc.) obviously have more selection barriers and they will programme the work they think is the best fit for their programme and their venue but ultimately, the only person who can select whether to be at the fringe or not is you!
Wales Arts International who have funded some of the companies this year state,

“The idea is to help the selected Welsh companies to present their work at the Fringe in the best possible way – with the best conditions – and, importantly, to connect with international promoters and programmers participating in the British Council Edinburgh Showcase.”

Why is their support important along with Arts Council Wales and British Council Wales?

It’s crucial. Without this support the huge financial risk that we are taking in mounting such an ambitious show in Edinburgh would be insurmountable. This investment in the arts (and it is investment) actively takes work made in and for Wales and places it firmly on the international stage at the biggest arts festival in the World. If we are to live in a country and a world that values and promotes culture, and I would prefer that we did, the support of organisations like Wales Arts International, the Arts Council of Wales and the British Council is of critical importance in affording us the opportunity to be daring, risky and ambitious in pursuit of making great theatre.
The festival features a huge range of productions and there is great deal of competition for audiences, why should audiences come and see your companies work?
Audiences should come and see our work because it features amazing performers telling a dark, gripping story in a beautifully designed space with really cool lights and sound. And the comfiest theatre seats in Edinburgh. In all seriousness, they won’t have seen anything quite like Seanmhair before, and the seats really are very, very comfy.
Welsh artists/Companies will be showcasing a range of art forms including theatre, new writing, site-specific work and contemporary dance. In your opinion is there anything that is distinctly Welsh which links them?

Unfortunately I can’t speak in absolutes here as not only have I not seen all of the shows, but I’m not Welsh myself. But I would question the idea of something distinctly Welsh that links the work itself; I think what does bind us is that spirit of all being Welsh companies, together, in Edinburgh, showing work that was made here at home. There’s a bond and a solidarity in that I think, that I’m really looking forward to strengthening over August.
What would you recommend seeing from the other Welsh/Wales based companies going to this year’s festival or perhaps the festival as a whole?


All of it! Obviously in terms of new writing and our own tastes we’ve got to give those Dirty Protest kids a shout out (they’ll be over at the Paines Plough Roundabout) but honestly, go explore! It’s what Edinburgh is all about. In a festival as a whole sense, I’ll definitely be booking in for The Wardrobe Ensemble’s Education Education Education and Barrel Organ’s new show, but that’s all you’ll get from me for now!


What do the artists and companies do when they aren’t performing?
Watch shows and drink beer. Although I’m really only speaking for myself on that one!
What’s the best Fringe show you’ve ever seen?

Oh that’s really hard! I’ve seen some of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the fringe. But one that’s always stayed with me was a show by Chris Larner called An Instinct For Kindness, it was a one man show about Chris taking his ex-wife (who he had remained great friends with) to Dignitas after she was overwhelmed by her multiple sclerosis. It was so moving, beautifully simple and passionate that yeah, I think it’s stuck with me ever since.

http://www.aifk.co.uk
Thanks for your time Ben.

 Listings  

Fri 28 July, 8pm & Sat 29 July, 3pm & 8pm

Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre

Tickets – www.otherroomtheatre.com

 2-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-28 August at 4.55pm

Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49)

Tickets – www.edfringe.com

 

Review The Tempest, Taking Flight Theatre Company by the young people of Up and Coming Project, Merthyr Tydfil.

Shakespeare Made Fun!
I will admit that in 2016 I had the privilege of watching The Tempest at the Southbank Globe Theatre. One may argue that this would be the best way to experience Shakespeare and up until a viewing of Taking Flights production, I too was under this impression. However following this production my opinion has somewhat changed.


The production broke many of the rules of theatre. Instead of sitting in a darkened theatre, we the audience watched the play outside, toe to toe with the performers. It was also not stationary as we moved around the park to a different setting between each scene. The performers frequently broke the fourth wall and interacted with the audience, giving one the impression that they are intimately involved in the story: you may find yourself getting quite friendly with the characters. This is also aided by the smaller audiences, giving the play an exclusive “Just for You” feel.


However, having the play performed in this way did cause some minor inconveniences. Having to bring your own chair and then to move it around between each scene may feel a little tedious. Fumbling with an umbrella (for it was raining) was also not brilliant. The quality of the acting along with the quality of the play is enough to distract from these little hiccups, though. And really, isn’t that what we came out to see?


The production has a distinctly surreal 1920s vibe about it, keeping the atmosphere true to the original play. It’s cleverly integrated audio descriptions and sign language allow the world of Shakespeare to be open to the blind and deaf among us, something that is not necessarily offered in conventional performances. Younger audiences, as well as those who are not well acquainted with Shakespeare’s language will also find themselves at an advantage for the more difficult elements of speech are edited just enough to be understood, but carefully enough to retain their beautiful Shakespearian quality.


It’s not just the story that’s worth seeing: the musical performances demonstrate the performers’ vocal and instrumental skills with flawless performances in several genres from traditional Baroque to modern Rockabilly.


In conclusion this production is an engaging and delightful little show, accessible to all and a lot of fun. It is a perfect blend of traditional Shakespearian humour and modern quirkiness: there is definitely a whiff of ‘Carry On’ in there. Speaking for myself, I found myself smiling and engaged all the way through, as I’m sure did many others.

Ryan Crowley

Naturally I did know what to expect but I was very confused by the way the scenes transitioned from normal then into Shakespearean language. The weather was bad and there were midges too!

The sign language was integrated into the production naturally as was the audio description,

I wouldn’t personally recommend this show .

Jennifer Owen

 

Review: ‘Swarm’ Fio Productions by Gemma Treharne-Foose

5 Stars5 / 5

 

I don’t know about you but usually the mention of ‘immersive theatre’ brings about a slight sense of unease and dread. It’s a bit like when your team leader at work says there’s going to be a role playing exercise for the team.

I am also still slightly annoyed/scarred about the Antonin Artaud-style absurdist ‘theatre of cruelty’ workshop I was once subjected to at University. In that, audience members were herded into a room, plunged into darkness, doused with cold water and played a disturbing series of images projected onto a wall with a screechy soundtrack. I have distrusted and shied away from ‘immersive theatre’ ever since (and realised at that very point that I am definitely not a true thespian and should probably just leave it to the professionals).

A sign saying Refuge Here

However, when a topical play by a theatre company nominated by the Kevin Spacey Foundation as the Artist of Choice in 2016 puts on a play in your back garden (or down the hill from your house!), it would be really absurd not to get excited about it. Especially when this company’s last play ‘The Mountaintop’, about Dr Martin Luther King’s last night on earth, gave you goosebumps, sweats and bellyflips galore. This is a production company that knows exactly how to push your buttons and manipulate your emotions (and have you thanking them for it afterwards).

Local collaboration

Pop Bottle Mural in the Pop Factory, Porch

‘Swarm’ picks up on comments made by former Prime Minister David Cameron in July 2015: “You’ve got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life”.

Director Abdul Shayek unpicks this throwaway comment, holding a mirror up to society’s deep-rooted fear, misunderstanding and sheer distrust of refugees. He pulls the audience into the world of the refugee so they can experience first hand what it’s like to run and fear for your life, leaving everything and everyone you have ever known.

Jenkin Street in Porth

Following the success of the original show staged in Cardiff, where Production company Fio collaborated with members of Butetown football team (Tiger Bay FC), the show’s popularity struck a cord with audiences and the company received funding to work with more arts companies and local communities including Cwmbran and Merthyr.

The Pop Factory show in Porth was supported by ArtWorks/Valleys Kids and children and young people from the local community. The production includes multiple community cast members – most of them children, mixed in with professional actors. The concept of the play is that Wales is at Civil War and you – a refugee – are trying to gain admission to a camp as war rages around you and closes in. Interspersed with the drama and chaos of camp life are alarms and sirens, sounds of bombing and news clips where vox pops of the British publish spill their worries, concerns and venom towards refugees.

Life inside a refugee camp

‘Swarm’ at The Pop Factory

At first, audience members are ‘processed’ in a holding facility, before being ushered into a safe zone. You are marshalled into lines and examined medically for signs of illness before being taken to camp. Once in ‘camp’, you come face to face with children already sleeping and living at the camp.

The Doctors and volunteers split you into groups. You are taken through the emergency drill (an air raid-like siren frequently sounds – and you are to drop to your knees in silence as you are instructed), you fill in a form about your intended destination, a photograph is taken of you, you are shown how to wash your hands and given a toothbrush.

Processing the refugees…

All around you, there are all the visible, breathable remnants and signs of human life and cohabitation – a line of drying clothes, makeshift beds strewn across the floor, a central mat for children to draw and play cards.

There are ‘missing people’ signs everywhere. An exasperated, traumatised actor ‘Kaz’ is frantically looking for his daughter. As you mill around, you are approached by actors: “Are you alone? I hope you are safe here…you ought to be safe but….please be careful.” Children ask you “Do you need help? Do you want to write a message on the wall?” One little boy tells me he hasn’t seen his Mam and Dad for four and a half months. My eyes prick with tears despite myself. I am in Porth inside an old Pop Factory I could see from my Grandmother’s old garden in Glynfach. Yet in that moment I am in a refugee camp, stunned and shocked and appalled at my own privilege ‘in real life’.

Eyeball to eyeball with child refugees

Signs in the Refugee Camp

It is cramped, it is uncomfortable and you don’t know where to look because as in life – when you are face to face with awkward, ugly situations you look at the floor. Or the children. Just focus on the children, because despite everything, they endure, they go on, they play. Anything else in the room was just too much to take in. In the midst of sirens, potential raids, tempers flaring, actors crying – the children drew pictures and played cards with audience members and laughed. Their innocence is entirely disarming and exposing.

Camp food from Refugee Camp volunteers…

At one point the camp volunteers gave out bowls of food. There wasn’t enough for everyone, they said. You can only eat if you have been processed. One of the children (from the community cast) sidled up to me, watching me as I debated whether or not we were supposed to eat the food. “I haven’t actually eaten today…” she said confidently. One of the other kids, who sensed she was going off script nudged her and said ‘Shhhh, we aren’t supposed to actually take the food from them…!” “Take it!” I said. The other kids looked around to check for reactions from the theatre staff and watched her wide eyed. “I won’t tell anyone..” I winked. I sat there momentarily mesmerized by a kid playing a role of a refugee and still slightly unsure of my own role in the scene.

I was given a blanket by a volunteer who told me she’d lost contact with her brother – a rebel fighter – and clothes if I wanted them. I was given a toothbrush and I read the messages on the wall over and over. Towards the end, one of the actors ‘Kaz’ is faced with the choice of staying in the camp with his sick son or leaving the camp to search for his daughter 5 hours away. We don’t get to find out if they were reunited. What would you do? How would you react? The whole experience from start to finish – away from the tradition and comfort of proscenium arches and plush theatre seats – begs this question and drags the audience into the story.

Blanket and toothbrush given to me at the Refugee Camp

Theatre without the frills

Although it’s been 15 years since the ridiculous ‘theatre of cruelty’ workshop I went to, it turns out that far from plunging the audience into a nightmarish, annoying episode they’d rather forget – Artaud’s actual intentions were that theatre should ‘wake us up – nerves and heart’. And Fio certainly does that.

New Refugees waiting to be processed…

The great theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht advocated stripping away the distractions of traditional theatre and exposing the realities of the human condition. For him, theatre was a forum for political debate. There is plenty to draw upon in this production and Fio challenges the audience from start to finish, adding context and authenticity to the refugee debate via its strong cast and convincing staging.

Speaking to Director Abdul Shayek after the show, I asked him what dimension he thought the kids brought to the show.

“People empathise with children a lot more…if you had a cast of adults, it would have been a different show, we would have lost a lot of the innocence. And actually when you talk about war and the refugee crisis…it’s the young people who will suffer. They are the future. They are a metaphor in a sense. They are the future and the future is being messed up. Young people have the same dreams and aspirations and they want the same basic things in life, whether they live here or in Syria or Iraq. They want to play, be safe and be fed – they want love and care…’

No matter what your political persuasion or views on the subject, it is surely utterly impossible to turn away from a child. So when some of the individual stories from the refugees were being relayed and the children milled around, they stopped dead in front of audience members and did nothing but look at them – directly into their eyes. Saying nothing. Because really at that point there is almost nothing left to say. Your instinct is to help and to comfort and to forget your own motivations and ‘entitlements’.

Missing people at the Refugee Camp…

Away from angry mobs and nasty online comment threads and peacocking politicians and boozy pub bravado and scarcity mindset and privilege hoarders who don’t want to share, can you look a child in the eye and tell them their life means less and your opportunity and wealth means more?

This is a production that will heighten your senses and open your eyes to what it really means to be a refugee. Superb.

https://www.wearefio.co.uk


Type of show: Theatre

Title: Swarm

Venue: The Pop Factory

Date: 28th July 2017

Directed by:  Abdul Shayek

Produced by: Fio Productions, ArtWorks Valleys Kids and The Pop Factory

Review, Alice in Wonderland, Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre by Gareth Williams

4 Stars4 / 5

What a glorious day for my first visit to Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. Whilst many people were dashing around Chester city centre in search of Pokemon, I ambled along to the city’s park in search of Wonderland. My discovery came in a somewhat fairy tale fashion. Entering through the park gates to see the outline of the theatre, I followed the path around and slowly, emerging from behind the trees, was this towering structure that fitted perfectly with the surrounding landscape. Tucked away in the corner was the marquee entrance. My moment of wonder continued as I wandered in. It was like entering a dream: a popcorn machine, sweets trolley, crafts of miniscule shapes and sizes, decorative displays and signs full of colourful and wispy words. I had certainly found Wonderland. Now I just had to find Alice.

I had arrived a good half an hour before the start time. I took my seat on the picnic terraces and soaked up the atmosphere. It was already half full with excitable children, doting parents and hungry grannies and grandads. People were tucking into strawberries and cream and bags of popcorn. All manner of tasty treats were being drawn from huge hampers (made up for your arrival when you pre-order). They were sipping champagne and clasping coffee cups. Some were slapping on suncream; others adjusting hats and sunglasses. It all felt rather like centre court at Wimbledon.

It was a fabulous build up to the main event. I had already enjoyed myself, and was soaking up what would be the last of the afternoon sun as the play began. I had completely forgotten my search for Alice. Now, there she was. Except there was not just one, but two. First, Anna Leong Brophy appeared as Alicia. Then, Rebecca Birch followed as Alice. Two best friends with similar names and a slightly different take on Lewis Carroll’s famous tale. Glyn Maxwell’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland sees Alice (Birch) descend down the rabbit hole first. There she meets not only the White Rabbit (Tom Connor) but all the other eccentric characters too. Caterpillar (Jonathan Dryden Taylor) is a science teacher. Humpty Dumpty (Daniel Goode) likes his food a bit too much. The Cheshire Cat (Caolan McCarthy) is suitably clued up on Cheshire history. And, of course, the Mad Hatter (Alex Mugnaioni) is as mad as ever.

In Maxwell’s adaptation, Alice’s journey through Wonderland ends in her becoming the Red Queen. The second half of the play sees a rescue mission of sorts take place. Alicia (Brophy) descends down the rabbit hole in search of Alice. Both their journeys are full of wonderful wordplay and hilarious humour. There is a smorgasbord of accents among the cast of characters which add an extra dimension to their individual personalities. Above all else, the audience interaction is brilliant. It provided an extra layer of enjoyment and laughter. It also drew you into this strange and exciting world. I found myself welling up once or twice as the actors engaged the younger members of the audience. In particular, one little girl (who had come dressed as Alice) was given a high five by Birch on her final exit. I can’t imagine how special that would have made her feel.

The whole cast gave an accomplished performance. The musical ensemble was brilliant and worked well in the absence of technological sound effects. There was one person who caught my eye in particular though. Tom Connor was fabulous in all his guises. His physicality and facial expressions as the White Rabbit and March Hare were a joy to behold. His animated performance added much to his comic value. Even when out of costume and simply part of the ensemble, he was engaging the audience and looked in his element. That natural enjoyment speaks volumes and only adds to the audience satisfaction.

It began to rain towards the final few minutes. It did not dampen the spirits though. This was a fantastic two hours full of fun and frolics. The team behind this production should feel very proud of their achievements. From the exciting entrance to the performance itself, the whole experience immersed you into the weird and wonderful world of Alice in Wonderland. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Alice in Wonderland

Review Deffro’r Gwanwyn/Spring Awakening by Miriam Elin Jones

 

This is an English Language review of a production performed in the Welsh Language. You can read the same review in the Welsh Language at the link below.

Get The Chance

With Love Island such a phenomenon at the moment – with extracts tweeted, worn on t-shirts and discussed in the most unlikely of places – I couldn’t imagine many leaving their nightly fix of, ahem, blatant romps on the reality TV show to attend the theatre. However, last Friday, the Welsh-medium Performance BA students’ version of Deffro’r Gwanwyn (Spring Awakening) was a sell out, and a roaring success.

At first glance – in a world where sex is no longer taboo (and Love Island isn’t the only proof of this) and the American President openly jokes about groping women – I struggled to foresee the impact that a musical discussing sexual repression would have in this day and age. However, masterfully directed by Angharad Lee, the young and talented cast tackled the challenging themes with seeming ease, presenting their own interpretation of Dafydd James’ Welsh-language translation.

The story follows the trials and tribulations of a community of teenagers, their hormones astray and the parents and teachers refusing to acknowledge their passionate emotions and desires. Wendla innocently quizzes her mother about how babies are made and is denied an answer, whilst Moritz is terrified about the strange, recurring sexual dreams that haunt him at night. Both are, according to their parents, led astray by the well-read Melchior, who presents to them a natural, organic truth. All that needs to be said about the plot and its development is that ignorance is not always bliss.

The Gate Centre appeared ironically appropriate for an interpretation of Deffro’r Gwanwyn, for it was once a Presbyterian church, now adapted into a theatre space but still littered with period features. Sitting on old pews – forced to be uncomfortably stiff and sombre during the performance – felt apt, with the ornate pillars suitably shaken to their core by a striking performance.

The set was simple – a set of movable tables and chairs – and it was the use of immensely physical choreography that made the best use of filling the stage. Where there was once a pulpit and a preacher, a band was placed, cemented as the driving force of this angsty musical. In addition, an intense heat filled the auditorium – whether deliberately or not – with everyone, audience and cast members, drenched in sweat by the end of the evening.

Without a shadow of a doubt, a subtle charisma linked every cast member in his or her turn, showcasing their bond as fellow students and co-workers. Due to the very nature of Deffro’r Gwanwyn, each cast member received the chance to shine, even supporting cast. Martha’s (Heledd Roberts) anger is felt, and Lloyd Macey as Otto’s solo was a memorable moment – despite Macey’s physical appearance making him an uncredible schoolboy. It was Jemima Nicholas as Wendla who stole the show, with her poise and posture along with her beautiful voice capturing the innocent and mischievous curiosity of her girlish character. Although she and Josh Morgan as Melchior shared an intense and sizzling chemistry, his speaking and singing voice was often swallowed in the music, and slight technical hitches didn’t help matters either. Watching Siôn Emlyn Parry’s portrayal of Moritz and his declining mental state, I felt goosepimples along both arms, and a chorus of sniffs surrounding me proved his performance had reduced many to tears.

Without a doubt, the striking costumes added to the performance’s success. The previously starched collars and Puritan outfits worn by male characters at the beginning of the musical were shed, replaced by almost sheer dirty-white vests and braces, and a mob mentality as Melchoir is sent away. The girls pranced in baby doll dresses with long stockings both seductive and sweet, with each one appearing delicate, like dolls. All had mascara-stained eyes, a striking touch, with the emotion overcoming each one, especially as the musical progressed. As well as the provocative clothing, the choreography was laden with suggestive, sexual connotations – groping, grabbing and thrusting – and a clear rebellion against the staunch religiousness of the elder generation. The only flaw in the otherwise faultless choreography was that sometimes, backs were turned, and the audience shunned. However, a ready round of applause at the end of almost every song proved that no one took offence.

That evening, not even the biggest Love Island fan would’ve had the chance to regret leaving his or her television set for the night. Deffro’r Gwanwyn’s success was testament to the hard work of each one of the students present, and their lecturers, and although Deffro’r Gwanwyn was the end of one exciting chapter, the beginning of a next one, and promising a prosperous future for the creative industry in Wales, and beyond.

Review: Grease, WMC By Eloise Stingemore

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

The T-Birds and the Pink Ladies are in the building; Grease has arrived at the Millennium Centre! Featuring everyone’s favourite characters – Sandy, Danny, the sassy Pink Ladies and the groovy T-Birds, the whole gang is back together at Rydell High along with all the unforgettable songs of 1978 hit movie. The original high school musical is back and better than ever!

A talented cast comprising of Tom Parker, from the UK’s top boy band The Wanted as tough boy Danny Zuko, Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope as Sandy, Strictly Come Dancing’s Louisa Lytton as Rizzo and Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel. Gave it their all as they transported us back to 1950s high-school America for a tale of true love going off the rails before finally getting back on track.

Director David Gilmore production of this well loved film is truly electrifying; neon signs, fireworks, numerous costume changes, and the car that magically transforms into a glittermobile kept the narrative flowing at a good pace. Whereas from the opening overture, the band that were clearly visible up and behind the stage were on fire, encouraging audience participation as it played through some of the shows big hits. While former Strictly Come Dancing judge, Arlene Philips, toe-tapping choreographer made you want to get out off your seat and hand jive the night away whilst shouting, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-wop-bam-boom’!

Tom Parker impresses as he makes his musical theatre debut playing Danny and Danielle Hope plays Sandy beautifully. Louisa Lytton made a suitably fierce Rizzo, whereas the arrival of charismatic Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel in the second half took the show into another stratosphere as it neared its Grease mega mix finale.

Gilmore production of this well loved classic leaves your face aching from smiling and your hands from clapping. Grease is still very much the word!

You have until Saturday 29 July to see the show. Tickets are available online and over the phone by calling 029 2063 6464.

Review, Out of Love, The Roundabout Theatre at Theatr Clwyd by Gareth Williams

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Jodie Whitaker may be everyone’s new favourite female of the moment but my eye has been drawn to someone less well-known. In my second trip to the Roundabout Theatre in a week, a process of regeneration had seemingly taken place. Having taken my first steps into the pop-up theatre last week for the world premiere of Black Mountain, I had returned seven days later for another debut show. To my surprise (and delight), I found the same three actors from Brad Birch’s play starring again, this time in Out of Love by Elinor Cook. They had undergone a transformation which now saw Sally Messham and Katie Elin-Salt playing best friends Lorna and Grace. Hasan Dixon was now playing a host of male characters, showcasing his talent for versatility. However, it is Elin-Salt who has caught my undivided attention.

In Out of Love, Elin-Salt plays the lovably naïve Grace. Wearing a dungaree dress and plimsoll shoes, there is something eternally childlike about her character. Above all else, I think it is the expressive acting of Elin-Salt that conveys this with such success. She flails about on the floor, swings her legs up and down; her arms are constantly in motion, her shoulders slightly elevated; and her mouth seems to return to the default position of “slight frown” after every piece of dialogue. It is the intimate nature of this round theatre that allows the audience to pick up on such small details. This adds to the quality of the characterisation which, in Elin-Salt’s case, is near perfection.

The retention of her South Walian accent is a stroke of genius. Elin-Salt’s ability to utilise the musicality of her accent in order to convey such contrasting emotions is pure joy to the listening ear. In Black Mountain, she flattens its naturally-high pitch to express a degree of seriousness. In Out of Love, she emphasises it. This gives a comical edge to Grace that increases her likability. It also enables for the exploration of sex and sexuality. Not that this cannot be talked about in a serious way. However, Cook’s decision to examine it from the perspective of two female adolescents makes for a more naturalistic, animated and frank discussion.

There is also a vulnerability to Grace which Elin-Salt beautifully conveys – a deep desire for intimacy that hints at jealousy towards Lorna’s ability to pull men. For the supreme closeness of these two best friends, there is also a hidden tension. It is testament to the quality of Cook’s writing that this unspoken emotion never bursts onto the stage. Instead, it is veiled beneath some rather ambiguous words and actions. Through her performance, Elin-Salt manages to capture this ambiguity perfectly. She peels back the depths of Grace’s heart, ever so slightly, to subtly reveal her concealed motives. She manages to do this so imperceptibly that I could not help but burst with admiration towards the depth of her acting skills.

Out of Love is a suitably complex portrayal of female friendship. Elinor Cook presents an entertaining and engaging narrative featuring two female protagonists over some 20-30 years of their lives. Sally Messham gives an accomplished and controlled performance as Lorna. She does not put a foot wrong and perfectly complements her fellow lead. It is Katie Elin-Salt who wins much of the applause from myself however. Not excluding the above, her natural enthusiasm and depth of imagination make her an infectious talent. She weaves such fine complexity and depth of character into her performance. She is a delight to watch. She also makes a strong case for championing a great deal more female-led narratives. This is one reason to be excited at Whitaker’s casting. But whilst I await her arrival as the 13th Doctor, I shall revel in the discovery of another talented actress. Katie Elin-Salt is, surely, a major talent in waiting.

A Theatr Clwyd, Paines Plough & Orange Tree Theatre co-production | Directed by James Grieve

OUT OF LOVE

Review: Many Man, Spilt Milk by Helen Joy

4 Stars4 / 5

What an interesting evening! Enjoyable company, a suitably fringe-y venue complete with glitter ball and gold chairs and wine in a plastic goblet in the attics of a Cardiff bar and I’m happy. Nice bit of chatter in the foyer before and after and much to chat about. A very welcoming experience.

And Many Man begins. His little stage reminds me of someone moving house, just leaving, just arriving, in boxes, in transit. He is in our faces and alone. He is a comic, a stand-up, a young man telling us the ordinary story of his younger life and he makes us laugh.

The audience is mostly young men. I could be his mother. Their mother. I could be the woman in the kitchen of his past making chicken dinner on a Sunday. I could be the youngster bored with the comfort of the repetition of a safe and ordinary life. We all connect with something in his history and it is safe to laugh. But we know something is amiss. We glimpse his torture and we wait.

There are no breaks, no let up.  We are strapped to our seats and braced for the ride. He is a phoney, a liar, a conman. He is an American, a Scot, a Welshman. He loses more than he gains in his efforts to be extra ordinary: to get the girl, to keep the girl, to love the girl and to love himself. It is not funny; it is tragic. And we are awkward in our responses. I can see people reaching for their drinks, looking away, no longer smiling but embarrassed, caught out.

It is a story of self-loathing. It is a breakdown. It is La Voix Humane and Many Man is singing his heart out through the window of the stage. For him, it is a long hour. It is a cleverly sculpted piece, still rough, still forming; hard and physical.

The church bells of St John’s ring in practice session and lend a certain resonating presence to the tale. I am not sure we like this man, this me.

Cast & Crew

Tobias Weatherburn – Writer, Performer
Becca Lidstone – Director

 

Company             Spilt Milk

http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profile/SpiltMilkTheatre

Reviewer         Helen Joy for Get the Chance

Where             The Big Top, Church Street, Cardiff

When               July 20th, 2017; 1930 – 2040h

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/events-list/2017/7/20/many-man

Review National Theatre Live: Angels in America by Danielle O’Shea

5 Stars5 / 5

 

Survival is central to the first part of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America”. This can be seen in the consideration of the fight to survive illness and addiction but also by asking how far you would go to make a relationship survive or to survive oppression. As well as survival, themes of morality, religion and politics remain essential to the play and are used as tools for character development.
As mentioned in the pre-show interview with its director, Marianne Elliott, the play moves from domesticity to magical realism due to the hallucinations experienced by several of the characters which become more overwhelming as the play progresses.


Rooted in 1985 New York during the AIDS epidemic, the harsh reality of each character’s situation is evident and is kept in mind through the use of three side-by-side mini sets so even as the play moves from one character to another, their set remains darkened but still visible. The neon lights bordering each set give an almost magical aura but initially act as barriers between characters before falling away and allowing characters to cross them.
The entire cast give incredible performances that portray characters vividly and in a way so that no matter their moral or political stance the audience still builds a connection with them. However two actors in particular captivate the audience, Denise Gough as Harper Pitt, a Valium addicted Mormon housewife, and Andrew Garfield as Prior Walter, a charismatic AIDS sufferer. Both characters act as bridges between fantasy and reality and their one scene together was charming and captured the attention and imagination of the entire audience.
As a whole, Angels in America is a stunning political portrait that remains extremely relevant today due to its discussions of American politics and the changing identity of America. It is an emotional roller-coaster that will keep you on the edge of your seat and I will definitely be seeing the second part.

National Theatre Live: Angels in America
Part 1:Millennium Approaches

20th July 2017
Gwyn Hall, Neath
Running time: 3 hours 40 minutes with two 15-minute intervals
Author: Tony Kushner
Director: Marianne Elliott
Design: Ian MacNeil (Set Designer), Nicky Gillibrand (Costume Designer), Paule Constable(Lighting Designer), Robby Graham (Choreographer and Movement), Adrian Sutton (Music), Ian Dickinson (Sound Designer), Finn Caldwell (Puppetry Director and Movement), Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes (Puppet Designers), Chris Fisher (Illusions), Gwen Hales (Aerial Director), Harry Mackrill (Associate Director), Miranda Cromwell (Staff Director)
Cast: Susan Brown, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Nathan Lane, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Russell Tovey, Stuart Angell, Laura Caldow, Claire Lambert, Becky Namgauds, Stan West, Lewis Wilkins

Review: Stories For The Silver Tree by Sian Thomas

The Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival has been the host of three events (this included) that I’ve been to recently, and each of them have all been astoundingly wonderful. Though the festival ends tomorrow, I look forward to its (hopeful) return. I hope it does return, I very sincerely do. I’ve had an incredible time, and seen some doubly incredible things.

Stories For The Silver Tree was one of these incredible things. I went in totally blind (I knew there was a trailer but elected not to watch it – I’ve always liked to go into theatre blind, I’ve found it makes me more open to plots and characters if I don’t look them up first).

The concept of this showing was amazing. I thought it was going to be a play. Like, a traditional, people-play-the-characters play. But it wasn’t. And I think it was better.
Instead of this, it was Tamar Williams and Darius Nash narrating and telling the audience (and singing, too – which was really good and something I enjoyed very much) the story of the main character (Bran). They also used clever sound technology which I’ve never heard of or probably could understand the mechanics of but, at face-value (which is how I tend to take things): It was very impressive and amazing. Using sounds from the audience or from props put on a loop right there and then during the performance to put more depth into a scene is something I’ve not seen before – and I loved it so much. Although, at the mention of audience participation, I did get nervous – but it turned out brilliantly.
The story was also so atmospheric. From the brainy sound tech, yes, but from the writing and the deliverance, I think for the last few hours I’ve been somewhere else; lost in pretty words and lovely scenery up in my head. That’s irreplaceable to me. I love and have always loved things that can make me feel like this. One phrase that stuck out to me was, “the turquoise of evening and the navy of night”. These words just fit together so nicely, and they were delivered so wonderfully (that made me remember them! Although I’m not sure I’ve got the direct quote right) that it made my experience of Bran’s story so much more meaningful.
I don’t know! It was very cute. And folk-y. And magical. And I just loved that all of that was wrapped up together and given to me as an innovative story, rather than a traditional play.

Although the festival ends tomorrow, and I am sad to watch it go, as today was my last day to experience it, there is another showing of Stories For The Silver Tree tomorrow, which I wholeheartedly recommend seeing! http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/events-list/2017/7/22/stories-for-the-silver-tree. Which is why I gave it 5 stars! It was delightful.

Also, more could be found at the Twitter pages of the performers: https://twitter.com/darius_nash , https://twitter.com/tamareluned.