Category Archives: Theatre

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.

Review Behind the label, Theatre Versus Oppression and Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Behind The Label is a production by Theatre Versus Oppression supported by both the Wallich charity and Wales Millennium Centre itself (which is where this production was held) is a very important piece of awareness of important issues that anyone can face.

The name in itself is an incredible creative decision. The show is called ‘Behind The Label’ and it is about a group of people who are judged and many people have negative pre-convinced ideas about. But by these people telling their real stories, they are portrayed as normal everyday people who have gotten into bad situations (like anyone can) it is literally exploring the people ‘behind the label’s. This is defiantly not a family-friendly show and is clearly targeted at a more mature audience due to the nature of this show. It includes references to addictions, sex and drug use as well as very strong language.

The show is about a group of people who share their stories of how they ended up homeless but also discusses how some of them ended up in prison, addicted to drugs etc. There are only a few ‘characters’ in this show (namely the air hostess) but everyone one is simply playing themselves and talking about their personal experiences. These are normal everyday people who have lived through horrendous experiences and helps the audience understand how easy it is to end up in similar situations and that it isn’t always necessarily the individual’s fault/choice.

One of the many ideas people nowadays about homeless people is that’s it’s their choice and that they are doing it just for the money but this show aims to dispel those types of myths. This show defiantly gives a voice to those who are literally and figuratively ignored both in real life and in theatre by allowing people who have actually experienced these things to talk about everything that happened. Because of the real-ness of the narratives, this is an incredibly moving and emotional show that had the audience and even members of the cast in tears. However, the whole show isn’t all serious and deep there was a very hilarious sketch that occurred as a replacement for in-flight entertainment. They used a massive projection screen (which they also used to show interview-style scene) to show a recording of the exact same cast on stage recreating the iconic Britney Spears song ‘Toxic’ while this was hilariously funny, it also worked really well due to the lyrics relating to the nature of the show.

At first, I thought the fact that this play was set on a plane with the name ‘Easy Inject’ was really strange. But after a while, this became very clear. Many things in the show related to the plan such as not belonging as you don’t have a ticket, taking a leap of faith and actually the Toxic video was historically also set on a plane. This inclusion was a very clever way to transition from story to story as were all of the tying together key ideas in the show. The other unusual thing about this show is that from my perspective the script didn’t particularly matter as it was about each individual story rather than a bigger overarching narrative. In fact, that was a moment towards the end of the show where one actor forgot their lines and someone else helped them on stage which didn’t take anything away from the show in the slightest.

The issue I had with this show was not at all the cast or the creative team but rather with the audience. During the production, I watched there was a member of the audience who decided to shout empowering messages throughout. While I understand being incredibly moved by the stories being told, I do think that this was distracting for the other audience members and clearly put off some of the cast. Ignoring this though, overall this is an incredibly important piece of theatre that is all about giving a voice to the voiceless. It did everything it needed to do and had the audience feeling the full range of emotions. I would rate this play 5 out of 5 stars and would encourage people who interested in how theatre can be used to empower people, to catch this show before it’s gone!

Review HamletMachine Volcano Theatre By Lois Arcari

For anyone who is inclined to believe they’re not a fan of performance art, Hamlet Machine is not a baptism of fire, but a baptism of dirt and UV lighting. I’ll start off with the good parts. The way that the company transformed Volcano’s space was simply amazing, sets changing sometimes only half an hour after their debut dressing.

Particularly impressive were the more overtly interactive spaces.

This is where the play shines, immersing yourself in world of the playwright and putting the audience inside the fishbowl of spectatorship. When it works, it lifts to the show to something far livelier than the sum of its parts. The set and script prompt you to respond directly to the actors at various points, poke holes in the play’s logic or simply try to position yourself with more power.

One thing I was sceptical of was the fact that the actors were occasionally instructed to touch the audience. While personally I only found it momentarily irritating it’s easy to show imagine some people reacting badly to it in an already sensory assaulting show. I’m not fundamentally against it – but the fact that there was no prior warning isn’t entirely sensible.

The decision to allow audiences to bring in their drinks to the show was also badly thought out – even if you don’t spill your drinks onto the floor of the interactive sets, you’ll feel them churn with discomfort throughout the play.

The actors were all superb in each of their facets, their voices blending with intermittent physicality. You could believe every turn of despair and mundanity. As a chorus, however, individual talents are lost in the repeated chant.

And in the script itself. The scatological reprises got stale quickly. The ultra-metaphor became bland just at the point of discerning meaning.

While the story behind the story is incredibly moving – a harrowed survivor of WW2 and post war Germany, anything truly profound is buried in the bluntly hammered points. For something created to shock and question, it’s a shame that I can remember no standout lines or even phrases. (Except for one which caused my eyes to roll.)

While the play is meant to represent a total loss of innocence, the absurdity is childlike in itself. Oddly enough, the play generated more goodwill as a deconstruction of creative work than as a meditation on cruelty. Somehow the sheer reach diluted the horror, from profound to merely irritating.   

The theatre of the absurd is often loved but I was struggling to decide whether the audience’s intermittent laughter was out of shrewd appreciation or sheer manic exhaustion with the show.

Quite possibly both.

I think the small ‘introductory tour’ that we had before the play would have been much better positioned afterwards, to give a more enriched sense of context, and the opportunity to grapple with it in somewhat ‘real time.’ An enhanced sense of conversation might have generated more appreciation for the play.

To give the play its credit, I’ve researched the reception to other staging’s of the play and the bare text. While a significant majority of critics have given the live play rave reviews, the reception of the bare text is somewhat oddly more tepid. Leave this one to those audiences who will enjoy the fruitless task of interpretation more than they hope to enjoy the play itself. The rest of us, uncultured as we are, are probably better off sitting at the bar.

DYMA ADOLYGIAD criw brwd, Yn ei blodau. (REVIEW CRIW BRWD, YN EI BLODAU LOWRI CYNAN IN THE WELSH LANGUAGE)

Yn Ei Blodau” yw cynhyrchiad cyntaf Criw Brwd a drama gyntaf Elin Phillips. Cwmni newydd mentrus Elin a Gwawr Loader yw’r cwmni ifanc yma ac maent yn awyddus i leisio barn merched sy’n goroesi bywydau anodd yng nghymoedd y De. Mae’r ddrama’n olrhain hanes Fflur, athrawes ifanc sy’n rhy barod i blesio ei mam a’i chariad Scott. Mae’n ceisio byw y bywyd traddodiadol benywaidd – swydd barchus, perthynas, priodas a phlant – ond yn dawel fach, mae’n dyheu i wrthryfela a thorri’n rhydd. Mae ei mam yn dyheu i weld ei merch yn setlo a chael plant, ond yn dawel fach, mae Fflur yn dymuno byw bywyd heb gyfyngiadau, cyfrifoldebau na disgwyliadau. 

Mae’r ddrama ar adegau yn llawn hiwmor deifiol a sefyllfaoedd doniol, ond ar y cyfan, mae caethiwed a rhwystredigaeth Fflur yn ein sobri. Mae’r wên deg sydd ar ei hwyneb yn fwgwd i’r tristwch oddi tano. Daw hyn yn amlwg wrth iddi geisio ufuddhau i reolau ei phartner Scott yn ogystal â’r euogrwydd mae’n wynebu wrth iddi wrthryfela.  

Portreadodd yr actores Kate Elis y cymhlethdodau hyn yn effeithiol drwy arwain y gynulleidfa drwy amrywiol sefyllfaoedd ac argyfngau ym mywyd Fflur.  Roedd ei gwaith corfforol (dan ofal medrus Eddie Ladd) yn dda, ond hwyrach byddai deunydd ehangach o’r llwyfan a’r gwagle wedi ategu at y perfformiad. Defnyddiodd yr actores rhywfaint o’r offer llwyfan mewn modd symbolaidd, er enghraifft, y bêl, ond nid oeddwn yn teimlo bod angen cymaint o’r offer hyn ar hyd y llwyfan. Serch hynny, hoffais y deunydd o olau a sain a oedd yn ychwanegu tipyn at awyrgylch y ddrama. 

Er bod cymeriad Fflur yn teimlo ar goll ac yn fregus, yr hyn sy’n rhoi gobaith iddi yw y plentyn mae ar fin geni. Dyma fydd ei ffocws, ei dyfodol newydd gwell mewn byd sydd weithiau’n greulon a ffug. 

Llwyddodd y dramodydd i ddefnyddio hanes Blodeuwedd – un o ferched mwyaf arwyddocaol ein chwedloniaeth – fel is-destun i’r ddrama, ac roedd hyn yn gorwedd yn gyfforddus o fewn sgript sy’n trafod yr un themâu, sef  nwyd, caethiwed, disgwyliadau ac wrth gwrs rôl merch mewn byd sydd wedi’i reoli gan ddynion.  Roedd hon yn noson lwyddiannus arall yn y gyfres “Get it while it’s Hot” ac edrychwn ymlaen at weld cynhyrchiad nesa’r cwmni, ‘Pan Ddaw’r Haf’ ym misoedd cyntaf 2020.