Category Archives: Theatre

Review Tom The Musical by James Briggs

Tom1A thrilling new musical has hit Cardiff Bay this week in the form of Tom Jones: The Musical. Presented by Theatr na nÓg/TNN and performed at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. It is long overdue that the pop sensation from Treforest, South Wales gets the ultimate honour of a show telling his story. As I was born in the 90’s it was only as I got older that I began to find out about Tom Jones and his wonderful music. As a young boy I would always hear his music playing on my mothers CD player (she is quite the fan!). When attending the musical I was well aware of his best hits but not so sure about his story and how he rose to fame. I must say the opening to the musical came as a surprise when the Narrator said “There’s not a bar he didn’t walk into or a chip shop window he wasn’t pushed through,” which I must say came as quite a shock. As Tom Jones’ story began to unwind in front of the audience we saw him at a young age already in good voice but working in a paper mill. He strived to be just as good as his father and provide for his family. The progression from this young boy to the superstar he is now was really something to be admired.

Tom the Musical Gordon Mills

The musical focuses on the early years of Tom Jones’ life. The star of the show is Kit Orton who plays the teenage Tommy Woodward later to become Jones. We see the relationship blossoming between Tommy and his girlfriend Linda, whom he married and had a child with at the age of just 16. We see the early gigs with his band The Senators in Welsh valley’s working men’s clubs and the regular occurrence of local raffles offering a 12lb turkey as the main prize.

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Kit Orton has too been given a fantastic voice of his own. However many attending the show including myself were going with Tom Jones’ voice in mind for the most famous songs and so it took some adjusting but by the end of the show the audience are up dancing and singing with him, as though Orton was actually Tom Jones. Those early years didn’t feature Tom Jones’ most memorable hits, but Orton was able to deliver plenty of toe tapping covers from the swinging sixties. There was even a very brief blast from The Kinks with ‘You Really Got Me’ showcasing the excellent talent of the on stage band.

As good as the show was there was a part of me left feeling the first act of the musical seemed a little slow. I think that an inclusion of some of Jones’ famous hits could have been used to help tell the story a little better. Many of the first act featured music composed by other musicians opposed to the hits of Tom Jones and so left the audience wanting to hear more of Tom Jones’ songs opposed to covers. There was also the inclusion of the struggles with Tom Jones’ then manager Gordon Mills and him almost going bankrupt to make Tom Jones a star.

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It was the end of the show that really got the audience going. Suddenly the staging changed from a set representing Tom Jones as he was much younger to how a concert would look today. A large rig lowered on stage full of lights and the party really began! The finale was a medley of Tom’s hits which instantly got loud cheers and applause from the packed audience. The auditorium changed from theatre to pop concert with everyone up dancing and singing. Favourite’s for many in the audience definitely seemed to be ‘Delilah’ and ‘What’s New Pussycat’. With the show ending on a standing ovation you could tell the musical was a hit, and it most definitely was. However I can’t help but feel if there had been more inclusion of Jones’ hits during the production the audience would have been even more impressed. There are no boots bigger to fill than that of Tom Jones’ his booming voice is most definitely a one off but Kit Orton does a wonderful job. This is most definitely the musical for any Tom Jones fan but more so if you would like to find out the story of how he rose to fame.

Tom: A Story of Tom Jones The Musical is currently showing in the Wales Millennium Centre until the 12th March 2016 and then tours the UK.

http://www.tomthemusical.co.uk

Review St Nicholas The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

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After seeing Christian Patterson in both Blasted and the Dying of Today, all from the Other Room at Porters it is evident that he is a highly talented and diverse actor. He is able to take on both challenging roles and in terms of St Nicholas, really comedic roles as well. Patterson was able to get the audience fully immersed within the story. He made us laugh hysterically, he made us get on the edge of our seats with anticipation and most of all he made us fully believe every word that he was saying, he is a great story teller.

5 - Christian Patterson in St Nicholas (photo credit Aenne  Pallasca)

Photographic credit Aenne Pallasca

One of the reasons for the success of this play is that Patterson had an incredible script to work with. The play written by Conor McPherson had twists and turns and in some areas it was completely relatable too.

The subtle use of the lighting and sound within this play was perfect. The lighting  by Katy Morison, created a lot of naturalism during the first act and in the second act the hanging light bulbs were a great touch. One moment that worked exceptionally well was when Patterson grabbed hold of the standing lamp and used it like a torch; the shadows it created were beautiful, shining against his face in an eerie yet mesmerising way. The sound, design by Matt and Sam Jones, was subtle throughout the performance without much going on yet it gradually grew in tense moments and then it stripped it back to make the whole atmosphere intensely quiet.

4 - Christian Patterson in St Nicholas (photo credit Aenne  Pallasca)

Photographic credit Aenne Pallasca

Overall, even though this wasn’t as serious as the other plays the Other Room has taken on, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night.

Interview Zakk Hein

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Three Night Blitz

Photograph Kirsten McTernan Photography and Design

Our project coordinator Guy O’Donnell recently spoke to multidisciplinary designer Zakk Hein. Zakk has recently worked on A Good Clean Heart, Saturday Night Forever and Three Night Blitz

 Hi Zakk, can you tell me how you got involved in your area in the arts?  

I didn’t have the clearest route in.  I want(ed) to be an actor, but I have a very keen interest in design.  I graduated with a performance degree and worked as a technician.  I got my first paid design from a connection made as a technician at The Other Room in Cardiff and I am now rapidly finding my route into becoming a full time designer. All in the space of two years.  I think it’s healthy not to have such a clear defined path – no career in theatre should feel disciplinarily exclusive.

You describe yourself as Multidisciplinary Designer – specialising in video, set & lighting design for Theatre, Opera & Dance. Can you explain what this means?  

I understand how this sounds, I do; triple threat times two. It isn’t that at all. I have always been utterly inquisitive about all forms of design and the freedoms having an understanding and interest in a broad range of disciplines has for a designer.  I started as an LX designer, moved into video and later found set.  It is so incredibly freeing designing a set and knowing exactly how you would light it, or you have a particular piece of content that would work if a set piece did this.  You have such an insight and autonomy to create work that is bespoke and fit for purpose.  In terms of collaborative process, you know not to put a set of legs there as LX will have a boom there, small things like that.  Jan Versweyveld’s work is a perfect example of lighting and set design stemming from one creative impulse to beautiful, forensic effect.

 

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Lazarus
by Enda Walsh, New York Theatre Workshop. Scenographer and lighting designer Jan Versweyveld 

 

Mark Strong, centre, in A View from the Bridge at Wyndham's theatre

A View From the BridgeArthur Miller, Wyndham’s Theatre. Scenographer and lighting designer Jan Versweyveld 

It is something that comes from my degree at Middlesex University; this idea of collaborative, multidisciplinary practise; I actually graduated with a performance degree and didn’t enrol on a single design module…

I design video one month for ETO in London, set, video and lighting in Aberystwyth the next, video and set the month after;  I am very appreciative and lucky to be able to work on productions that have such different briefs and rhythms.

 Was there a moment when you thought this is the career for me?

It was only in my third year of university that I began to get that sense of future.  I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in theatre for a while, but I didn’t quite know how that was going to map out.  I still don’t, and that’s ok.  I take every opportunity I can, whether it is offered or sort out, to remain wholly inside the industry.  It often means 100+ hour weeks to uphold a full time technician role and design simultaneously.  It sounds excessive, but when you love what you do, it isn’t tiresome at all.  Coffee becomes a dear friend, however!

Are their any individuals or organisations that helped support you once you realised a career in the Arts was for you?  

My parents, Robyn and David, have always been there to help no matter what; Thrust Theatre Company, two of whom I live with.  It’s important to have family and friends that understand how different a world a career in theatre is.  I’m very lucky to have them. Middlesex University; in particular Rory McAlister and Nicola Stammers.  They sparked a fire to want to pursue a career in design.  They have been so incredibly supportive during my degree and after.  The university isn’t in Wales, but they are THE reason to consider training in London!

Would you have any advice for anyone interested in following your career path?

Be inquisitive; try not to say, think or believe in “that’ll do.”  Also, don’t ever be afraid to approach people you want to work with or learn from.  I was very lucky to meet and shadow, even just sometimes for a few days, Bruno Poet, Finn Ross, Paule Constable, Luke Halls – which stemmed onto meeting James Bonas, associate to Rufus Norris, and has led onto a great portfolio of working in opera with some truly incredible designers that I never would have dreamed of working with.  They have all been in our shoes, wanting an in – they are more than happy to pass experience along if you just ask.

You have worked with a range of companies and Wales, does working in Wales differ to England?

It’s colder! And it takes 8 hours on a bad day to get to Aberystwyth…  What always strikes me about working in Wales is how incredibly close knit the arts scene is and how much more so you are willing to take risks.  Everyone knows everyone, but in that comes a sense of a dependable network.  A Good Clean Heart could not have happened without the links to Theatr Clwyd and Nicola, Theatr Genedlaethol provided the projector; I would not have been involved with Saturday Night Forever without my link to Kate Wasserberg and The Other Room; Three Night Blitz would not have happened without meeting Roger Williams on Saturday Night Forever.  I am very grateful to be working with such important designers, directors and producers in Wales.

Is it possible to tell us more about some of the productions you have worked on in Wales

Sky Hawk  Clwyd Theatr Cymru | Theatre for Young People 

I didn’t design for Sky Hawk, I actually toured as LX and AV technician with it on it’s second outing.  It was my first job in Wales, however and it did put me in touch with Nicola Ireland who became very important in my move over to design in Wales.

A Good Clean Heart Neonotopia The Other Room 

 

AGCH is bi-lingual and this was something that is very special and successful in Alun’s Saunders (playwright) text.  We needed to make it accessible, but Mared Swain (director) and Alun were very keen for the surtitling to be a bit different.  I wanted to create animated surtitles that made accessibility FUN, rather than staring at a dot matrix side of stage.  Processes developed into finding a transformative and fun language for transporting the character of Hefin back into tumultuous London to find his estranged brother, Jay.  The design focuses on language: texts, Facebook messages, emails, departure boards, handwritten letters, karaoke lyrics, thought bubbles and the concept of communication itself.  Words can’t describe how happy we are with the result, support and commendation received for it.

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Saturday Night Forever Aberystwyth Arts Centre

The design process was simple.  SNF is about night life, music, lights and loss; and is in part named after a Pet Shop Boys song.  I wanted to take that sense of a night out and make it slick and distinctly modern-80s. There was a concern flagged, understandably so, early on about the screens being very similar to the incredible design of Iphigenia in Splott playing at the Sherman, but difference by their very definition made the screens an installation worth pursuing.  Kate, Roger and Gareth had such belief in the concept and gave me such freedom and support throughout.  At one moment we can have this beautiful fluorescent backdrop and then in one swoop we can push content through them.  Dance floor arrows, star-scapes, fireworks, etc.  It became about light and texture, but only as an elucidation to the sound.  Beats were mapped to Benjie Talbott and Tic Ashfield’s utterly beautiful scoring of the piece, a design which ensured that we didn’t ever veer into a cheesy Saturday Night FEVER.

SNF

Photographic credit Keith Morris

 

Your work ranges from large scale production such as Everyman at National Theatre England to a Good Clean Heart for the Other Room in their pub theatre could you tell us how these different areas of your work compare?

I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to work in the Olivier LX and S/V departments at the NT for around 13 months now.  Just being involved in the day-to-day running and maintenance of such large scale productions puts you in touch with the equipment and the designs on a very informed, hands on level.  Creative impulse and intent become very clear.  It is something that I am always so thankful for when working, designing from a mindset of knowing how to use the equipment and processes to their fullest degree.

Whilst the scale of NT work is large, yes, and whilst the design of Three Night Blitz utilises a similar scale, I think it is absolutely important not to view a design based on the merits of scale.  I always try to incorporate technologies and processes that are at home on the largest of stages wherever I work.  A Good Clean Heart at The Other Room and Saturday Night Forever at Aberystwyth Arts Centre are case in point.  AGCH was my first design in Wales. (Thank you Nicola Ireland eternally for bringing me to the attention of Kate and Mared!).  There was such a belief in the utilisation of video in such a unique and important space which culminated in such a poignant piece of theatre… and the Wales Theatre Award nomination with Katy Morrison was a nice surprise.  SNF utilised utterly cutting edge pixel mapped LED battens to create a video wall for a Cardiff night out.  This was an utterly bespoke commission for AAC of five screens that utilise the same technology, but on a much larger scale, of that used in ‘The Hard Problem’ at NT’s Dorfman Theatre. It shouldn’t matter what size the production or the venue is, upholding that level of innovation and technique on whatever I work on is something that is very important to me.

Most recently you have been working on “Three Night Blitz” at Swansea Grand Theatre. Your design if you don’t mind us saying is wonderful and one of the highlights of the production. Is it possible to give us more information on your design process?

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It has certainly been a hectic one! Offer on 21st December, rehearsals started 1st February, Opening Night 17th, all over on 20th.  Ideas and concepts had to very quickly edit, distill and mould to such a tight schedule for all.  But what seemed apparent to me from Manon’s Eames (playwright) archival and precise text was how there is such a distinct lack of awareness.  Everyone has an idea of the destruction caused in the London Blitz, that scale, but I was absolutely clueless to the sheer level of bombardment and destruction in, what is in essence, such a small area.  Over 80,000 incendiaries sent to torch the town, and you wouldn’t know it walking down the high street.

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Photograph Kirsten McTernan Photography and Design

The play is about commemoration and remembrance; I wanted to burst that archive open.  The original concept was to have a narration booth DSR with a panoramic window, from which a flurry of archive papers would flutter and burst out of a draw, increasing in scale as they blew out into the wings.  These would provide the projection surfaces for the archive content.  It became apparent, however, that the text is so fast paced and the interlocking lives of the characters is so meticulously mapped out – that to take a character out of that space and into their own booth only acted as a disjuncture.  Let’s open this out more.  The structure needs to feel kinetic, it needs to feel like it has that ebb and flow of the bay and the lives of the characters – which is why we have this beautiful abstract curve of the Swansea Bay; a reference so redolent in the text. But I wanted the feeling of the archive paper, and I wanted to stay true to that sense of files upon files filled with paper holding information that needed to see the light of day.  As for the planes, there is nothing more symbolic, more nostalgic, more kinetic than the look of a paper plane.

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This became the perfect catalyst for creating this forced perspective, swooping structure that can transform into fire bracken, shrapnel and embers.  That can at one and the same time look fluid and sharp.  The video design always felt like it needed to bring that picture to life, it needed to feel transportive and immersive.  I wanted to do justice to the archive and I wanted to create that sense of an all encompassing fire blaze.  The use of the gauze is something that I don’t get to utilise often and it works perfectly here to give that sense of scale and immersion.  Transforming the entire stage at once from a calm starry night into a bombardment of thousands of parachute flares, incendiaries, phosphorus with embers blazing all around them.  It feels like a special event and I am very proud to have been given the opportunity.

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I used CAD to visualise the 9M x 7M (W x H) space available. I wanted to create something forced perspective and this meant using the international paper scale from A4 up to A1. But with such tight schedules, the planning had to be meticulous. This image of 600 planes was later broken up into its 4 sections mapping each individual plane placement, height and angle.

 

Zakk’s CAD design images for the production.

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 I need to thank: Cadi Lane, Ruby Spencer Pugh, Joe Johnson, Rhianna McGregor, Sophie McLean & Lizzie French, I am so incredibly thankful and blown away by how much work and effort went into creating the structure from a CAD image to sitting there proudly onstage.  600 individual planes.  Incredible.  Thank you.

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Photograph Kirsten McTernan Photography and Design

Do you have any future work planned in Wales?

After the successes of A Good Clean Heart’s opening run, I believe the plan is to take it up to Edinburgh over the summer.  Similarly with Saturday Night Forever, I believe the plan is to take it as a triple bill rep. alongside two fantastic Welsh productions. Further collaboration with designers met on STNB at Theatr Genedlaethol, a trip to Theatr Clwyd in the summer and a return to The Other Room in the new season are on the cards. All of this is TBC and subject to funding.

Thanks for your time Zakk, its been a fascinating insight into you and your work.

 

Review Sand The Other Room By Caitlin Finn

Sand - Sara Lloyd-Gregory 2 (credit Aenne Pallasca)

All photographic credits Aenne Pallasca

For those of you that didn’t know, there was a last minute recast for this one-woman play. Because of this, the actress, Sara Lloyd-Gregory, had only been learning the part for a week prior to the performance that I saw. I’ll admit I was very hesitant as to how professional the acting would be as Sara would perform script in hand. I was worried that it would be too clinical or too choppy. However, I was SO wrong about this! Sara is such an amazing actress and she didn’t even seem to reference to the script until the latter half of the play which was extremely impressive.

Sand was a heart breaking tale that had you hooked before the first word was even spoken.

Sand - Sara Lloyd-Gregory 4 (credit Aenne Pallasca)

The set itself was designed so effectively with four ‘light tunnels’ surrounding Sara. They gave a futuristic effect with supported the plot so well. The way that Katy Morison, the lighting designer, arranged how to adjust the lighting along with the script was done beautifully and kept you interested.

The wording used during the play was extremely powerful into hinting to the deeper plot, especially the differentiation in pronoun use.

Sand is definitely a performance that I would highly recommend, whether it’s something you would be interested in purely for entertainment, or even if you are a writer yourself and want to pick up some inspiration from wonderfully unique productions. I have only seen two productions from The Other Room and, in all honesty, I am already completely hooked on the atmosphere and the pure talent.

 

Cast:

Sara Lloyd-Gregory

Photo Credits:

Aenne Pallasca

Creative Team:

Director – Kate Wasserberg
Designer – Amy Jane Cook
Design Assistant – Oliver Harman Assistant Director – Bruno León Cháves Lighting Designer – Katy Morison Season Sound Designer – Dyfan Jones Sound Design – Sam Jones

Production Stage Manager – Steffi Pickering Assistant Stage Manager – Izzy Rabey Scenic Construction – Eifion Porter

Review Sand The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

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It’s always hard when you have to do a monologue on stage, but a 40 minute intense one with only one week practice is pretty much impossible. Yet that is what Sara Lloyd Gregory did. Even though she had her script on stage she didn’t falter one bit. Taking on Sand by Nick Gill,  a monologue that took on the themes of grief, war and nuclear weapons. Sara’s intensity kept gradually building until the very end when she just blew us away. Her vocal training and breath control was impeccable even when the pace was phenomenally quick.

Kate Wasserberg, director of this production lead this performance to a success, the timed pauses and the changes in emotions and attitudes were completely on point. One thing that also has to be applauded was the use of sound by Sam Jones and lighting by Katy Morison, both aspects made the performance mesmerising to watch and in some parts it even felt like it was in a different dimension.

One of the main aspects I love coming to watch the Other Room’s seasonal performances is that they always pick challenging pieces yet they always bring in such professional actors that completely deliver.

Review Smash It Up Mr & Mrs Clark by Kaitlin Wray

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Have you ever had something you loved so deeply, something that was once a part of you ripped away? How would that feel for you? Devastated? Upset? Distraught? Well in May 2013, the mural, representing the Chartist movement in Newport in 1839 was torn down. This mural represented so much for the people of Newport and no matter how much protesting went on, they knocked it down anyway. Mr & Mrs Clark are now showing the nation what it felt like to them when this happened with their completely thought provoking show, ‘Smash it Up’. Presented at Chapter Arts Centre and then touring the UK.

Mark Ravenhill, (English playwright, actor and journalist) once said,

“Artists should tell the truth- the dirty, dangerous, hilarious, upsetting, disruptive, noisy, beautiful truth.”

This is what Mr & Mrs Clark did. There were no half measures in this performance, they went full out in everything they did. Every movement had been timed and perfected and they were in complete sync with each other. Just like their protest on the whole, they didn’t lose focus one bit. Gareth Clark, was the main speaker throughout this performance and he did a grand job. I was tuned into every word he said and every story he spoke about. He had charisma and confidence which showed through his enthusiasm.

The use of audience interaction was highly commendable as well, getting one member up on stage and giving her the tools to literally smash up items that held significant meaning. It was a clear message that sometimes the things we love can hold us back and that we need to move on. One quote that parallels this that they used was by Jasper Joffe (artist)-

“Not many people would think the solution to their problems would be to sell everything they owned, but it made sense to me. I felt as if I had a big hole in my life and I needed to do something extreme.”

We as a generation are so consumed by materialistic objects that sometimes in life we just need to let go of them and think about what is really important in life.

This was such a clever, inspiring performance that also included the use of media. There were oxymoronic clippings showcasing the destruction of art, thus creating new art. One clipping had Marega Palser covering paintings with thick black paint, then covering herself with the paint. This was beautiful to watch yet it was also a destruction of art. “Every act of creation is an act of destruction.”- Pablo Picasso (visual artist). The one clipping that stood out to me the most is when Mr & Mrs Clark actually stood outside and protested the streets of Newport. This indicates that they are not just doing this show just to be different or for something to talk about. They are deeply involved and have put so much work into something that is a lot bigger than just a performance.

The aesthetics of this production were beautiful too. The lighting, by Helen Pickering  completely enhanced the show. The set which was at the start, somewhat normal, then it turned into a complete intentional mess. My representation of this was that it paralleled the chaos that’s going on in this world by slowly destroying all creative means of art.

One thing that kept me on my edge of my toes is when Marega Palser, beautifully dancing, kept lying on the floor right next to broken glass. This didn’t faze her one bit. It was like she was saying, if I cut myself, I cut myself, I am not stopping. Her passion was beyond anything I’d seen before and it was mesmerising to watch.

This is a controversial piece that will get your heart pumping and your mind racing. Their references, contextual aspects and their use of worldwide history was what made this show stand out, not only making it regionally political, but worldwide. This show reminded us that art and the art of creation are the most important things this world has to offer. “Without art there is no community”. Yet when art is being destroyed or even more recently, when art funds are getting cut, is there much hope for the future? This is a powerful political play that will hopefully get you worked up and stand up for something that you believe in. If everyone had as much guts and intensity as Mr and Mrs Clark did, the world would be a better and much more enjoyable place. They took a stand, and they delivered.

Smash it Up by Mr & Mrs Clark tours the UK this spring http://www.mrandmrsclark.co.uk/news.htm

 

 

 

Review The Glass Menagerie Theatr Pena by Kaitlin Wray

 

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The Glass Menagerie is a play that focuses on memories, devastation and hope. Narrated by the bread earner son, Tom Wingfield, played by Rhys Meredith he states,

“The play is a memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic.” This was evidently shown through the use of aesthetics including the lighting design and through the use of music. “In memory everything seems to happen to music”

The only realism in this play is when a gentleman caller appears in the final scene.
Erica Eirian, director of Theatre Pena clearly shows that there is something absurd about this family, their conversations with each other appear to be off. Even though the cast showed their delusions, I believe they could have expanded the concept of the two worlds of the play. The first world is that of a family who are completely trapped between the four walls of the house unable to get out. The second world is that of real life and normality. The gentleman caller, played by Gareth Pierce represents real life coming into the house. This second world is evidently shown by Gareth’s naturalistic acting and the way he made the audience feel more at ease when watching this, henceforth making them feel hope towards the characters.

What would have made this show even more enjoyable and original is if they created the first world with even more un-naturalistic theatre techniques to really show how messed up the family are. I would have liked to have seen how horrible it was to be in that house, the mother, tortured by her husbands smiling picture, the fact she is growing old and the uncertainty that her children will ever be happy. Tom, the son, feeling so trapped due to being pressured to earn money for his family but all he wants to do is to escape. Then Laura, the most delusional character out of all of them. Laura has basically given up on all human interaction because she believes she is unworthy due to her ‘minor defect’. She has created a whole world with her glass menagerie figures which appears to be her only happiness. I believe all of these characters could have shown this depth to a higher extent, demonstrating a slight insanity. I wanted to feel uncomfortable watching this performance as if I was intruding on their family life.

The way the cast performed could have been exactly how the director, Erica Eirian wanted. However I feel it didn’t fully show how horrible it was to live there. Rosamund Shelley’s playing, Amanda Wingfield portrayed a convincingly annoying mum, however there needed to be more demonstrations of the mental state of her character. Personally the character of Amanda Wingfield reminded me of an older version of Blanche Dubois (A Streetcar Named Desire) if she was to have children. The fights between the son and the mother remained at one level throughout the play with either just a constant shout or sarcasm. To create this world the whole first act should have been filled with tension and the longing for each character to want happiness but knowing that it’s unattainable for them. Therefore when the gentleman caller comes it is a breath of fresh air and for a moment, hope.

Act two is where we see the gentleman caller played by Gareth Pierce, trying to get Laura Wingfield, played by Eiry Thomas, mentally out of her own world into the real one by persuading her that she is pretty and bright. Eiry Thomas highlights how incapable she is at human interaction convincingly, from her awkward dancing to the way she overly admires Jim, the gentleman caller. This section was a lovely moment in the show and it was the first time I felt drawn in to the characters, longing for some hope in their lives. The lighting, created by Kay Haynes enhanced this scene by using dimly lit lights and the use of candle work and shadows, overall it was a scene perfectly executed.

In terms of the music, composed by Peter Knight I understand that music was of uttermost importance within the show and Tennessee Williams highlights in his play what music he wanted and where he wanted it. If allowed, I believe the music should have had slight changes throughout the play, for example as the play goes on the musical motif could have developed to making the play seem gradually darker. For example a diminished representation of the motif would have escalated the absurdity within the play.

Overall Theatr Pena’s production showed in areas the two worlds of the play and it did get across the devastation between the family due to each actor showing the pain of their character. However there was something missing from this play, it lacked overall depth and an understanding of the characters and their social background within this production.

Review Henry VI Omidaze by Kaitlin Wray

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Omidaze… I think their company name pretty much sums up this performance. Yvonne Murphy, director and executive producer took on a challenge with Henry VI, one of Shakespeare’s confusing and pretty long histories and made it thoroughly engaging. With an all female cast they have broken many of the existing traditional theatre conventions and it was completely worth it. The show was performed in the roof space of the Wales Millennium Centre, where during every scene they move the audience into a different space. Even though my knees were hurting by the end of the performance it was a perfect way to keep the audience engaged.

Before I saw this production I was hesitant that an all female cast could take on the roles provided in Henry VI, yet they completely proved me wrong. For the most part I completely forgot it was an all female cast. The reasons for this was that the acting was phenomenal, some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. One part that completely stood out to me was Richard Plantagenet, The Duke of York’s final scene when Queen Margaret and Clifford are about to murder him. The way Sioned Jones played the Duke was outstanding, she turns from a grieving father into someone with such malice, cursing them both, a great end speech.

Hannah O’Leary, playing the role of Henry VI not only portrayed him amazingly, she did most of her speeches in the air. Using aerial rope and silk, she had the audience in bewilderment. In a lot of cases they used aerial as a way of symbolising the power balance between Henry VI and the other characters. This and the use of contemporary movement to symbolise the fight scenes is one of the reasons they  excelled in creating a theatrical masterpiece.

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Photo: Kirsten McTernan Photography and Design

Personally Henry VI isn’t my Shakespeare’s play of choice yet Omidaze Theatre Company has turned me into a complete fan. I would recommend everyone to watch this show, Shakespeare fan or not. Omidaze are challenging theatre conventions even more than we’ve ever seen and you should be a part of this experience.

Review Beyond The Barricade, St David’s Hall by James Briggs

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At first I must admit I was a little apprehensive about going to see this show because many of the musical numbers being performed on the night I had seen before on stage in venues such as the Wales Millennium Centre and the West End. I was a little skeptical that they would not meet the standard of those performed on the West End and I must admit some of the numbers in the first half did seem to lack some strength, however having said that, you have to remember that they do not have a full ensemble to support them.

The standard of singing was very good and very much appreciated by the St David’s Hall audience and it is because of the quality of the singing and variety of West End songs that the audience stayed captivated for the two and a half hour performance. Beyond the Barricade consists of four musical marvels – David Fawcett, who performs as well as introduces each section of songs, Andy Reiss, who puts the show together and plays keyboard with the band, Rebecca Vere and Katie Leeming who not only have impeccable voices but have all played principal parts and the stage production of Les Miserables but also sang with the ensemble of the film version too.

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The show celebrates a wide range of musicals and the first half ranges from the traditional musicals such as Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Carousel and Jesus Christ Superstar finishing with a medley of songs from We Will Rock You, Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia. The highlight of the first half for me was the rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone from the classic musical Carousel which really did make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

The second half started with The Lion King followed in my personal opinion with one of the best songs of the night ‘Always Look on the Bright side of Life’ from the Monty Python Musical Spamalot. It was a brilliant song that was performed perfectly with added comic timing that left the audience laughing and joining in.

However, the cherry on top of the cake was definitely the musical numbers from Les Miserables, with performances of ‘At the end of the Day, I Dreamed a Dream, On my Own, Bring Him Home, Master of the House and One Day More’. Considering the numbers of cast usually included on the West End production of Les Miserables, the four singers from Beyond The Barricade stepped up to the plate and delivered a powerful and emotional performance which was simply an astonishing and spectacular performance to witness.

Let’s hope that Beyond the Barricade and all its singers are able to continue for many years more and delight us further with their wonderful musical talent and voices.

Beyond

Beyond The Barricade is currently on a nationwide tour of the UK appearing at a number of different venues. You can view the tour dates via this link to their website: http://www.beyondthebarricade.com/tour

 

 

Review Play/Silence by Caitlin Finn

Silence - Peta Cornish, Neal McWilliams, Matthew  Bulgo

I recently went to The Other Room Theatre based in Porter’s, Cardiff to see Play by Samuel Beckett and Silence by Harold Pinter, a breathtaking double-bill. The venue itself was very quirky, it almost felt like a step back in time to a medieval era yet it still felt modern and kind of had a tumblr aspect. The venue felt very exclusive with The Other Room being like a secret part of Porter’s.

PLAY

As soon as you enter the auditorium the scene is set with a dark, eerie atmosphere with the room slowly filling with a haunting smoke. There was also some darkly enchanting music by composition and sound designer Dyfan Jones to set the mood for the show to commence. The show itself was a simple setup as you can see in the image below.

Play - Victoria John, Matthew Bulgo, Peta Cornish 1

It was fast-paced and I found it very immersive. As simple as the setup was it was very effective. It had a humorous tone to it which lightened the tone just enough. The play had slight repetition to it which can almost make you question your own state of mind and definitely made you stop and think.

SILENCE

This was for sure my favourite of the two, with it taking a more traditional stage presence with the actors being free to move among the stage. When you walk in the setting is much brighter than that of the previous play, yet it still leaves a mysterious and almost gloomy effect for the audience, leaving you anticipating what’s to come in the following performance.

Silence - Matthew Bulgo, Peta Cornish, Neal  McWilliams

The production itself was minimalistic and the majority of the dialogue was a single narrative which made it feel as though the character was speaking directly to you, making you feel like part of the scene. When the characters did interact with each other their dialogue and movements on stage flowed into doing so with a seamless elegance. I found that the play had the effect of a calming plea of insanity and love and was executed beautifully.

Cast & Creatives

W2 (Play) Victoria John
W1 (Play) / Ellen (Silence) Peta Cornish
M (Play) / Rumsey (Silence) Matthew Bulgo
Bates (Silence) Neal McWilliams
Director (Play) Kate Wasserberg
Director (Silence) Titas Halder
Designer Amy Jane Cook
Stage Manager Steffi Pickering
Lighting Designer Katy Morison
Composition and Sound Design Dyfan Jones
Assistant Director Izzy Rabey

Images courtesy of Pallasca Photography