Category Archives: Theatre

Review Jersey Boys, WMC by James Briggs

Jersey-Boys-main

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons have well and truly hit Cardiff!

Being only 16, I must admit I didn’t know what to expect when I agreed to review the musical “Jersey Boys” at Wales Millennium Centre last night having not really heard of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. However, I was not disappointed and I was surprised at how many smash hits Frankie Valli but more importantly Bob Gaudio had written that I actually knew.

The musical tells us how the band was formed and follows each member of the band on their incredible journey. The main character we follow is Frankie Valli who is guided by Tommy DeVito, who initially puts the band together and is Frankie’s mentor. Stephen Webb is intensely convincing as Tommy and plays the part exceptionally well.   However, Tim Driesen provides an outstanding portrayal of the high pitched singing wonder that was Frankie Valli. The hugely talented composer Bob Gaudio is played by Sam Ferriday who later goes onto make a partnership with Frankie that would last for their entire careers and Lewis Griffiths plays the role of the deep voiced Nick very well.

Throughout the show you see the effect and pressures that the constant touring has on all their lives impacting on their relationships with their wives, children and each other and at times has a powerful impact especially when Frankie loses his daughter and the debt that Tommy DeVito gets into with his constant gambling and womanising which ends up with him being indebted to the Jersey mob.

However, the main reason why people will go to see this musical is because of the songs and they really do not disappoint! The band and cast are incredible and the show goes from one hit into another with songs such as Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Beggin’ you really are left with a feeling of ‘Oh What a Night’ we have just had!

Jersey Boys

Overall, with the packed auditorium and everyone up and dancing on their feet we can safely say Cardiff will find it very difficult to say Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye as they leave following their last performance on August the 1st. A thoroughly, enjoyable performance that everyone should see.

Jersey Boys is on at the Wales Millennium Centre from 21 Jul – 01 Aug 2015

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2015-2016/DonaldGordonTheatre/JerseyBoys/

 

Review Dracula Sherman Players by Becca Hobbs

dracula_main

Entering the Sherman Studio to pulsating music, you take your seat and look down into the pit where the cast are already in motion, rocking, twitching, sighing and gliding around with glazed expressions; the play’s preoccupation with madness is already apparent.

With an uncluttered set of different sized boxes used as the bed and grave, the setting (by designer Bethany Seddon and scenic carpenter Matthew Thomas) has a simplistic but eerie quality. In the most medicalised version of Dracula that I have seen, Liz Lockheed’s contemporary adaptation is a testimony of shared madness. With two characters playing one part, the body and the mind are split in two, actualising the medical discourse of the late nineteenth century by visualising a split personality on stage.

There is real psychological drive to the performance that is carried by the characterisation of Renfield (Luther Phillips/Nicky Howard-Kemp) and the asylum backdrop. Ainsleigh Barber also plays her part in creating the imaginative madhouse as a foul-mouthed nurse with a look of lunacy herself. To see Renfield as a character is interesting as the text always mentions him within Dr Seward’s journal entries but he has no voice. In Lochhead’s adaptation, he sits at the heart of the action, looking down on his cast, quoting poor Tom (the madman in King Lear) as if locked in a bird-cage munching on flies. His verse is poetic despite its jittery and schizophrenic nature and is sensitively interpreted by Luther Phillips and Nicky Howard-Kemp who are both particularly convincing. Having a male and female counterpart for the representation of madness is a fantastic idea.

 As the sighs from the psychiatric patients become the sound of the train shooting down the tracks, the underlying technological movement from Bram Stoker’s text emerges and the sensual movement becomes systematic.

 Set against Dracula’s predatory movement and the sexualised female ruby lips of Alys Wilcox, a lot of the characters – Harker (Finbar Varrel), Mina (Ruth Long/ Kirsty Campbell) and Florrie (Alice Muzzioli/Inari Soinila), a new addition to cast as the maid – are noticeably domesticated and the women are dressed in dirty white attire; Florrie with a baby on the way, and Mina and Harker unable to let go of the fact that the other was seduced by the darkness of vampirism. Stoker wrote his novel only a few years after Jack the Ripper and the sense of fear and use of protruding shadows aligned with the domestic snippets bring this production into the real world. Or so it seems until the madhouse is revisited again.

 Alys Wilcox plays a seductive Dracula, eloquent but smouldering. Saskia Pay and Meg Lewis’ dual characterisation of Lucy is full of flirtation and gracefulness until the dramatically engaging transformation into frenzy during the nightmarish sleepwalking sequence where both girls are at their best. The whole cast works well together and aside from an occasional static line, it is clear that a lot of preparation has gone into the performance and the Sherman Players produce a very ambitious and interesting production.

 The end, like the novel is anticlimactic. I was waiting was Van Helsing to appear above over Dracula’s body in a photo like shot holding the knife to sever the head, (especially after the camera played a great deal of significance), but that is a personal preference. Overall, the Sherman Players pulled off a very admirable first performance and the show is well worth a watch!

 Wickedly innovative and full of conviction, this was a great start for the Sherman Players.

 Performances are running at the Sherman Theatre until Saturday 25th July, 7.30p.m nightly.

http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/performance/theatre/dracula/

 

Review Double Dipp Date Night at The Sherman Theatre by Sarah Finch

Double-Dipp-3

“Love is blind…until you turn the lights on”

It’s Friday night, which means it’s Date Night!
On the 10th of July in the foyer area of The Sherman Theatre, my ‘date’ and I were asked to slap on a name tag and take a seat ready for an hour of comedy gold presented by Double Dipp! We mingled with the rest of the audience and before I could take any more in we were thrown into the mix of three dates; an inappropriate venue, speed dating and a couple trying to spice up their relationship.
Whilst the all too relatable subject matter of the performance kept the entire room laughing throughout, I felt it was the chemistry between actors, actors and audience that made the show. It was those moments that had those real, hilarious stomach cringing truths that either you or ‘someone you knew’ had been involved in and the perfect delivery that kept those laughs coming.
Double Dipp have managed to create a brilliantly timed show that starts with a bang and keeps that high paced energy going through until the end, from observing the audience I can safely say this was a massive hit especially with the older generation of viewers that I had anticipated would tut and frown as oppose to the raucous outbursts of laughing that they did.
Well done to the Double Dipp Team, Louisa Marie Lorey and Geraint Jones, your supporting cast and to Chelsey Gillard on your directorial debut! Comedy can be seen as a risky, hit or miss business but considering the loud applause and standing ovations received, people will definitely be waiting in anticipation for Double Dipp’s next bout of hilarity.

Catch Double Dipp’s debut show Pick n Mixx at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 17th-22nd August.

Review Everyman Sweet Charity by Lois Arcari

 

I5Q8Fynn

 

Everyman have done it again; with a feel good, bubble-gum musical, with subtle intelligence and integrity in a candy wrapper.

Charity herself could verge into the territory of annoying with her relentless optimism, but the subtle grit of her allows for her buoyancy without ever giving the audience a cavity. Charity is played vivaciously, and her joy is as infectious as the songs. The big number, Big Spender was brilliant and brassy; a real crowd pleaser, to be honest every song was well delivered, and every dance expertly choreographed. The one weak note in the soundtrack, however, is one of the most well-known songs – while The Rhythm of Life is sung with as much power and passion as any of them, it didn’t seem as polished, and sometimes tripped over itself. By no means a bad song, it had moments of the trademark excellence, but felt mostly underwhelming. Still, the lesser known songs, and the entire soundtrack save that shone. The actor portraying Oscar had brilliant comedic timing, and won the audience over in his first appearance, while Charity’s best friends gave great supporting performances.
Overall, this was a real big winner of a show, whipping up a delight for the near packed audience.

Preview Date Night Double Dipp Sherman Cymru by Louise Apperley

date_night_main

Young Critic Louise Apperley was lucky enough to sit in on a preview of Date Night earlier this week at Sherman Cymru 

The comedy Date Night is a light-hearted comedy which dives into the complexity of the characters and their humorous relationships in three different dating scenarios.

The scene is set as the three different date nights take place. Firstly the sleazy bar with crude entertainment (no place to take a lady). Secondly a very gay and very fabulous bar for very fabulous men looking for love, which I couldn’t ‘bear’ to finish. The final date is at a theatre where the play is so annoyingly contemporary that the couple of watching may be put off for a long time , as the story develops we find out that the husband  may never want to leave his house again due to pure embarrassment. You need to watch it to find our more!

The set is cleverly thought out. All that we see are some chairs and a few props to create a fully functional set that successfully achieves the look of a date night. Three different locations are displayed through the world of the play allowing you to be immersed in’ the characters lives and hilarious relationships.

The comedy was an excellently performed, by a strong cast that worked well together. The brilliantly written dialogue with its quick and witty humour really carried this show. The characters pull the audience in, never really taking a serious tone, or if it ever did it was quickly shut down by the writers quick humour and the occasional faulty zipper! The comedy displayed really carried this show, I really wanted to learn more about these hilarious characters.

I would definitely recommend this play but maybe not to anyone who could get easily offended due to the threat of a faulty zipper!

Review Beneath the Streets: Lost and Found Hijinx & Punchdrunk Enrichment by Sarah Finch

Beneath_the_Streets_-053_cropped

Before starting this review I would like to congratulate the collaborators Hijinx and Punchdrunk Enrichment on arguably the most incredible and engaging immersive, site specific performance that I have ever had the pleasure of participating in, a bold statement that I hope this review provides justification for.

“We’ve all lost something: glasses, keys, memories, love, loved ones, our way…Are these things gone forever or have they found a home elsewhere? Hidden in Cardiff is a world of lost things. In the shadows, behind closed doors, we await you”

On Wednesday the 1st of July I joined a steadily growing queue outside the Maldron Hotel in Cardiff to see Beneath The Streets: Lost and Found. An exciting buzz of anticipation was rippling through the audience and before long a briefing on what was to come was delivered, along with mandatory dust masks. The buzz was now turning into excited curiosity as we were  led to the front doors of Jacob’s Antiques Market.

Upon entering the space I was immediately drawn to the attention of detail that had been used. Given that I am familiar with the regular layout of Jacob’s Antiques Market I was extremely impressed with how the design team and stage carpenter had utilised the space given to create this incredibly beautiful maze spanning two floors. I will admit I had trouble finding my way around for the first 15 minutes. Everywhere you went you were met with a corner, a drape or darkness! Opening doors to nothingness, dim lighting that cast shadows over performers and beautiful decorations adorning different sections of this new world.

My particular favourite was a pyramid made from pages and pages of books in the section of lost words, the impressive set design continued as I found myself being led by an actor into a dark room lit with a few candles, to be told a tragic love story, only to find him conversing through a non-existent mirror with his lady-love. An extremely clever trick that left myself and the other audience member, that had been lured to the ‘other room’, in complete shock. Upon discovery of the lower lair I came across sets of actors telling different stories, all looking for something or finding something. Ascending to the upper we were greeted with corporate scenes, scientists, products, offices and even a small exhibition. Eventually a message sounded over the tannoy asking that all staff report to a meeting on the upper level, the audience then witnessed the delivering of an elixir which had side effects on every staff member. The staff began to engage with the audience, but in a different way than before – this was then our signal to be led out.

I feel that words simply cannot describe how beautiful, thought-provoking and magical the experience was. Every actor was superb, it was inspiring to see the relationships between characters and the chemistry felt in each situation, credit is due to all that participated. The set and costume designs were outstanding and considering how much effort had gone into stage production I felt this really complimented the actors and helped to bring the performance to life.

As an actor that has performed in immersive theatre I applaud with admiration each and everyone that performed in this flawless production, immersive theatre is the most exciting of theatre forms that I hope all actors enjoyed delivering to their audience. With the element of lost and found I can speak from personal experience when agreeing that I did lose myself here because I was so completely engaged with this perfect production, I will definitely be the first in line for tickets when Hijinx and Punchdrunk Enrichment honour the people of Cardiff with another outstanding show.

Review Dial M for Murder Alfred Hitchcock, Chapter Arts Centre by James Knight

 

4655

Dial M for Murder, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, one of cinema’s great misanthropes, is playing this week at Chapter Arts Centre. Playing as part of the “Ray Milland Season”, Milland born Reginald Truscott-Jones in Neath, took the name Milland after Neath’s Milland Road, which is now an industrial site come train station car park, oh the Hollywood romance.

Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) a former tennis pro, blackmails an old university chum into murdering his cheating wife Margot. Grace Kelly plays the wife (notice how she first appears in the reddest of rouge dresses, blood and murder are immediately on the mind, notice actually how the colour red is used throughout to denote blood, Hitchcock manages to make a bloody film without any blood), whilst Robert Cummings plays American crime writer Mark Halliday, the man Margot has been carrying on with. The film is an intriguingly complex viewing experience; we want Milland to succeed yet Kelly to survive, we want Milland to be caught but would also revel in his escape, we want Kelly and Cummings to run off together yet we want Milland and Kelly to live happily ever after.

There are at least three reasons to see Dial M for Murder. Firstly, for Grace Kelly, for her tenderness, for her beauty, for her movie stardom, no one photographed her as brilliantly as Hitchcock, see Rear Window for the most beautiful close-up in cinema as she leans in to kiss Jimmy Stewart. Secondly, for Ray Milland, for the devil in his movie star blue eyes and the charisma to his dark scheming murdering plans. Finally, for Hitch himself, for his genius. Primarily for his combination of camera movement and montage, his masterful use of close-ups and inserts, how through a simple close-up of Milland’s hand he manages to convey all the film’s psychology and terror. There are two moments of obvious brilliance in the film, one where Hitchcock films Milland planning the murder from above with a bird’s eye camera, making it all seem like a deadly game of human chess, and secondly a one shot of Kelly as she makes a court appearance which is a sequence of pure visual artistry. Also be on the lookout for Hitchcock’s comedic touches which often go unnoticed in many of his pictures, most notably here in John William’s performance as the Chief Inspector. Lookout for his moustache twirls, his crumpled raincoat, the way he wrestles with Robert Cummings over Milland’s bank statements, but the most brilliant example of Hitchcock black comedy can be found in the little detail of who hands Grace Kelly the now infamous pair of scissors.

Dial M for Murder is a film that gets richer with each viewing. It’s pure Hitchcock which means that it’s pure cinema.

Dial M for Murder (PG)

USA/1954/101mins/PG. Dir: Alfred Hitchcock. With: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings

At Chapter Art Centre

– See more at: http://www.chapter.org/dial-m-murderpg#sthash.18HADZga.dpuf

Tuesday July 7th – 2:30pm

 

 

Review Beneath the Streets, Lost and Found, Hijinx & Punchdrunk Enrichment by Kaitlin Wray

Beneath_the_Streets_-053_cropped

Punchdrunk theatre are known for physicalising emotions, feelings and scenarios with movement and body language creating contemporary narratives. Their collaboration with Hijinx theatre was stunning to watch. Hijinx and Punchdrunk theatre have collaborated together to create a purely immersive theatre experience. They have transformed the ‘secret’ space into a place fit for exploring. We were led through the doors in groups with a lead giving us an insight into the ‘business’. Then we were allowed to be free to explore to our hearts content (with a few stewards making sure we didn’t go off trail)

Each space had its own story to tell and also its own secrets. Finding out information was difficult but nonetheless every place had their own interesting qualities. The lighting was mainly used by old lamps and candles which added to the atmosphere. The smoke haze added to the eerie effect. The beauty of this performance is that if you went back to the same place there would be an entirely different scenario going on. However I’m not sure if it was my luck or just bad timing but I always seemed to miss an important bit of the story  as soon as I got there. There were some lucky individuals that got dragged off and had an even deeper insight to the secrets of the business. Then coming towards the climax of the show we all got ushered into the same  room where the finale took place. For me personally I have a lot of guesses to what the overall plot was but I will never know for sure.

The ambiguity is what makes this show individualistic for every audience member. It was exciting to listen to the conversations people had afterwards. This is a show that you might come away from with knowing exactly why everything was happening or come away knowing nothing. However it’s very interesting and a great piece to get lost into. It would be intriguing what it would be like to watch it for the second time.

Preview Everyman Theatre Company Open Air Festival by Lois Arcari

everyman

To begin with Blackadder, as much as the classic, written by Richard Curtis, fondly remembered from Atkison’s well remembered turn as the titular character, and Tony Robinson’s zany Baldrick, is loved, so is the new tradition of the Everyman open air theatre company.

Last year’s open air festival gained rave reviews across the board, with talented actors, sharp scripts and scene stealing scenery that worked with the weather, time of day and naturally lovely setting of Sophia Gardens to create a memorable atmosphere throughout.

The regency version of the character holds the task of opening this much-loved festival; running until July the 4th. Praised by the ability of keeping the play as funny as before, taking a bold risk and paying it off as a real crowd pleaser.

After this institution of a comedy makes way for the new play, we are greeted by Sweet Charity, the story of taxi dancer, Charity, holding onto hope that her sleazy life can be traded for a new, romantic one, she falls for actuary Oscar, under the false pretence of being a respectable bank girl – how will he handle the truth in this musical romp, that features the iconic songs Big Spender and the Rhythm of Life.

Next is the turn of Shakespeare, with As You Like It. This comedy features the exiled Rosalind meeting her love, Orlanda in her disguise, with the complications of her gender swap played out in cutting cleverness, in a story whose appeal has stood the test of time.

From centuries to decades again, the festival is rounded out with what’s certain to be a hit with old and new alike, the junior production of Beauty and the Beast. The beautiful, instantly recognisable music against inventive costumes is a production of what many believe is Disney’s finest. With a remake due soon, and countless amounts of merchandise, and audience adoration, this is sure to be a finishing touch that will enchant audience’s.

Following from the resounding success of last year, with a brilliant new line up, and side shows on some  Sundays, such as the Forte sing alongs and free junior production of  Hamlet, this expansion of the always entertaining festival should find a spot in the time-table of any who love theatre and song.

For more information on the season check out;

http://everymanfestival.co.uk/#/list

 

Review The Waiting Room Arts Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

59a6d9fa-7e19-4976-9be3-30e280d10114

Arts theatre has created a great concept with some lunchtime theatre. Available for around 40mins in a lunch break, the top floor of this bohemian centre is transformed into a place for people to experience a journey in their break from the daily grind.

I chose to attend this with an interest to the Arts theatre that I had not yet attended and to experience this unique and very versatile idea.

The Waiting Room consisted of a small cast, with the narrative seeing the relationship and mystery of two strangers meeting in a dingy waiting room. We can only assume this is of a doctor or hospital waiting room, until it is revealed in speech of a comparison. This continues the mystery. The two character’s share a unique similarity, one that climaxes the plot. Without revealing this, I found that the narrative was interesting and kept us hooked with essentially a 40min chat. However, when revealed, the mystery isn’t as interesting or climactic as would first appear, struggling to compliment the first three quarters of the storyline.

The main two actors are wonderful, Beth Eyre and Mark Rush. A well spoken, rich woman who lives off money and a male sales assistant or ‘buyer’ for an department store. Both character’s were well executed and complimentary of the narrative. However, an additional two character’s in the form of the ‘receptionist’ or ‘assistant’ and the cleaner were introduced. Till the mystery ending, it seemed as if the receptionist had little purpose – with only 3 appearances and less than a few words spoken, unless an important asset at the end, it seems the main character’s could have directed their conversation to an un-answering body. The same was felt about the cleaner who I did not notice till pointed out; to the side of the room forever shining the Arts Theatre’s mural. It seemed that she was there for a sense of comic relief with a thick broad Scottish accent and laziness despite her comments of being the best cleaner. It felt unneeded and unnecessary and the break from the intense conversation did not gel well to the process.

Overall, The Waiting Room was an interesting concept. The narrative was interesting and the reveal gave an emotional sense, however there was a feeling that there was more to be given and something of great potential.