Category Archives: Theatre

Review Gym Party at Chapter Arts Centre by Hannah Goslin

Gym Party by Made in China at Summerhall, Edinburgh

Gym Party

Made in China

Chapter Arts Centre


Upon entering the performance space at Chapter the proscenium framing the stage immediately said to  the audience  fun, disco music and 3 names in huge lights gave the feeling that we are indeed in the ‘party’ aspect of the Gym Party. Settling into our seats, the performers entrance with a quirky dance instantly gave the sense of comedy and that we were about to see something fun and exciting.

Three performers with no specific gender at first, looked a little like disco Tim Henman’s dressed in  white tennis gear and bright, colourful and similar wigs these complimented the stage with their simplicity, which was very effective – we were then able to focus on the actions and words.

Joined together in their group, they began to speak to us, introducing themselves, their outlook on us and the world and finishing each other’s sentences with no break or falter. As a performer, the knowledge of trying to perfect this is always difficult and it was extremely admiring to see how well they executed this. Audience interaction was immediate – asking of audience members names and referring to them in their views of the world which gave a sense of individuality for the audience, until the character of Chris established that to him, we would be referred to as ‘the group.’

The contrast of individualism and community was a running theme – the three performers loved one another and were close as a group; they share, converse and communicate as a group but as individuals, they are each better than each other, and the Gym Party competition was how they showed this. The back and forward notion that they spoke in, from community to how good they were as individuals imitated what we think in society – that we want to work as teams, and think that we enter into this in a fair and innocent way but in any situation, we do this to try to show how good we are, to show that we are different to others, that we are an individual. Gym Party’s aim is to highlight this through comedy and games.

Gym Party consists of 3 scenes in repetition – the interludes I spoke of above, the games and the consolations for the losers. With three games, these sequences are repeated approximately three times (for three rounds of games) yet, this is never boring – each time we are given something new, a new game, a new story or new consolation prize. This is always energetic and keeps the audience interested and on their toes.

The games themselves are ridiculous and hilarious. Firstly we see games such as audience throwing skittles at the performers to catch, head stands and marshmallow eating – contrasts of pain, disgust and comedy all in one set to evoke different emotions from the audience. The more the show goes on, the more we see the vulnerability that they are trying to convey about themselves and us; the second and third games utilising this by showing the vulnerability of us as humans and making the audience chose winners by voting on ‘who do you think’ questions, asked by an ominous being through sound and evidently, to the performers obvious surprise, random ideals such as ‘who do you think is the best kisser.’ This impromptu execution of the questions was interesting to see how the performers recovered with reaction and action on the spot, however there were times where they seemed to lose this professionalism and broke the performance barrier, showing their true selves. While at times this was funny to see their humanity, it slightly broke the illusion of performance. The audience choice in the third game of who gets to have the ‘last dance’ as it were also showed this idea of choice, vulnerability and need to be liked.

While these comical moments gave great entertainment to us as audience members, we were soon shocked to see that the consolation prizes were of horrible moments, illustrating our extreme cruelty to ourselves. Ranging from beating themselves, to publicly humiliating one another’s personalities and looks to drowning each other in water. These moments broke the comical value, bringing the audience back to reality and how while we may want to work as a team, as Jess the character says, we will still ‘grind each other to dust.’

We were soon brought back to comedy and happiness with the ‘contestants’ elaborate and unprofessional dance routines to cheesy disco music. The use of this, the lights, the use of microphone to thank the audience after a win, Chris’s musical interlude with playing a song ‘Evelong’ by Foo Fighters to highlight a memory, and highlight an audience’s memory gave the feel of a game show, and so the positive and negative contrasts made this game show a cruel conveyance of reality.

Review Things We Do For Love New Theatre, Cardiff by 3rd Age Critic Barbara Michaels


Things We Do For Love  New Theatre, Cardiff

Writer: Alan Ayckbourn

Director: Laurence Boswell

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Rating:  [3.8]

A multi-layered romp – in more ways than one – Things We Do For Love was first staged in 1997.    The humour, and the dark edge behind it, are still relevant today, as indeed can be said of all of Ayckbourn’s plays.  Bedroom farce – yes, and you may choose to take it at its face value.  It is, indeed, a bedroom farce par excellence, as one would expect from one of Britain’s master playwrights.    But in fact there is much more to it than that – it could in some respects more correctly be classified as a tragic-comedy for that is what it is in the end.  For this reason, it is a piece that needs an expert hand on the tiller if it is to succeed.  Director Laurence Boswell shows his mettle with this revival by Theatre Royal Bath Productions, a good understanding of Ayckbourn and whence the piece is coming.

On the surface a light, at times raunchy, comedy, and staged on a single set throughout, there is much to laugh at as the characters lurch from one relationship to another in a romantic whirlwind of a plot..  The set, that of a middle floor flat of a converted house owned occupied by the elegant and glacial Barbara, allows the audience to see into both the flat above and the flat below.   While Barbara resides in lonely splendour on the middle floor, the upstairs apartment is the perfect bolthole for Nikki, Barbara’s old school friend, and her fiancé Hamish, while the downstairs room is occupied by Gilbert, a part-time postman and amateur plumber man who lusts after his ice maiden of a landlady in a somewhat unconventional way.  Feelings change and relationships crumble as the plot develops and the characters reveal their true selves.

As Barbara, Claire Price gives us a believable, no nonsense career girl who has no time for men let alone romance and slides seamlessly into portraying the love-stricken, not to mention energetic in the bedroom and elsewhere, and abandoned female which she becomes.   This is all due to her falling, big-time, for Hamish notwithstanding the fact that he is engaged to Nikki, avowedly her best friends since their school days. As Hamish, Edward Bennett looks suitably uncomfortable in the immaculate surroundings of Barbara’s flat while managing to project as a sort of male arm candy for whom women (literally) fall.

Making her stage debut, Natalie Imbruglia looks suitably fragile as Nikki, playing her as the stereotypical helpless-little-woman, irritating at times and yet managing to enlist sympathy and help from everyone including downstairs neighbour Gilbert.  Simon Gregor shows his expertise in this role, with evident relish and giving it full throttle.  The zany Gilbert has his dark side, and Gregor is adept in showing this beneath the banter.

This is classic Ayckbourn, showing us that what we see is not always what we get.  Things We Do For Love will strike a chord in many ways.  Ayckbourn’s cynical view is that love knows no boundaries and he is, of course, right.

Runs until Saturday May 17th


Review Hot Flush New Theatre, Cardiff by Barbara Michaels, Third Age Critic


Hot Flush New Theatre, Cardiff

Writer: Julie Benson

Lyrics & music: Olly Ashmore

Director: Alan Cohen

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels, Third Age Critic

Rating: {3.5]

Some twenty years since her one man show at London’s Festival Hall, Lesley Joseph is doing it again – in a manner of speaking, that is. For Hot Flush, billed as “The naughtiest musical in town,” is not actually a one woman show. Lesley’s co-stars – Matt Slack, Anne Smith, Ruth Keeling and Lori Haley Fox – all have important roles to play, but the focus is on Joseph, in the central character of Myra, a barrister, and a successful one to boot, coping with the menopause and a rat of a husband who leaves her for a blonde bimbo. Much hilarity ensues as, with the help of her friends, also dealing with their own mid-life crises, an ever more desperate Myra tries to put back her biological clock.

Ever since she tottered on impossibly high heels onto our TV screens as man-eater Dorien Green in the hit comedy series Birds of a Feather, Joseph has played to packed audiences wherever there are women – or should I say girls – looking for a good night out. In Cardiff, as elsewhere, women dominated the audience. At the age of 69, can she still cut the mustard? The answer is yes, she can. With a sense of comedy timing that is spot on, Joseph gives her all – and That Walk is still unmistakeable.

However, despite a gut feeling that this across-genre piece is basically a vehicle for Joseph to showcase her undoubted talent, and a somewhat clichéd plot line, Hot Flush has some deper themes – errant husbands being only a part of a larger picture. These themes become more evident in the second act which is, to my mind, a great improvement on the first half where strident sound levels drowned out some of the lyrics. The best musical numbers, several of which rely on familiar tunes, are a welcome feature of the second half, which gets off to a flying start as the talented Matt Slack who, as the man in the cast, plays all the male roles, takes centre stage..

He does so with a perceptible relish and expertise that makes his every entrance a joy, and forms a great foil to the women’s antics. Jokes –many of them cruder than those heard on a building site – come thick and fast, although some of the more subtle anecdotes went unnoticed on the first night in Cardiff. Writer Julie Benson’s intention was to extend her original book about the female menopause into a musical about women who were going through a stressful time in their lives, but was funny – and in that she succeeds. If you are looking for a night out with the girls, it’s fine. But don’t take your maiden aunt.

Run: Thursday & Friday, April 24th and 25th

Review Twelfth Night at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff by Third Age critic Barbara Michaels.

filter 12th night

Twelfth Night at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Writer: William Shakespeare

Production by Filter Theatre in association with the RSC

Director Sean Holmes, redirected by Oliver Dimsdale & Ferdy Roberts

Rating: [4.OO]

Review by Third Age critic Barbara Michaels.

Opening with a cacophony of sound, accompanied by a robust rendering of “If music be the food of love, play on,” Filter Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, is raucous, lively and highly comedic. If the intention was to shock those who prefer their Shakespeare in more traditional style, then it succeeds.

This is a radical interpretation of the original comedy of unrequited lover and mistaken identity in the fictional land of Illyria – where all is not as it seems. Both innovative and clever, the production relies on the interaction of cast on stage (and, some of the time, seated in the audience too) and audience – plus musical backing or, rather, participation. There are times when it is possible to have too much of a good thing and, despite being performed by accomplished musicians and an integral part of the whole, it would benefit the production overall if the music was not quite so full on. All in all, it’s something of a miracle that the wonderful language and poetry of Shakespeare’s comedy still manages to surface with a golden liquidity that catches at the heartstrings.

Which it does, somewhat amazingly perhaps, given that the whole is interspersed with modern gadgetry such as synthesisers and mobile. Several of the small team of actors are case in dual roles, in addition to the more usual modus operandi of this being applicable only to the twin sister and brother Viola/Sebastian, whose story of lost and found is central to the plot. Sarah Belcher plays both these roles, switching dexterously between the masculine and the feminine in posture as well as tone.

This is, however, not always the case with the rest of the cast, although Natasha Broomfield does pretty well with Maria and the fool Feste, the latter role being clarified by a fool’s cap and some throwing of coloured balls between stage and audience – a tad too pantomimic for my liking. The complexity of the story is such that those who are not familiar with the play may struggle to work out which character is speaking at times – particularly in the case of Jonathan Broadbent’s double act as Orsino and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Liz Fitzgibbon’s Olivia is a delight. Along with her considerable ability as an actor, Fitzgibbon has a fine singing voice. Displaying considerable talent as well as a spread of hair-free torso, Fergus O’Donnell as Malvolio throws himself into the part with an insouciance and gay abandon that has him capering about the stage in a pair of golden speedos. One has to give Filter marks for originality, along with the proviso that sometimes less is more.

Review The World of Work “catch this work of unhinged brilliance” Young Critic Sam Pryce


The World of Work – Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Reviewed by Sam Pryce

This wasn’t strictly a play – more of an out-of-body experience. Or at least that’s what it felt like. The aptly named Difficult Stage have brought us a black comedy of failure from the delightfully disturbed mind of Katy Owen. Presumably autobiographical, this hilariously dark reverie through Katy’s psyche comprises a birthday celebration, an acapella sing-off, a rather profane episode of The Archers and a minstrel (not the confectionery kind). Unlike anything you’ll ever see ever again in your life ever, The World of Work is an evening of utter absurdist hysteria. In fact, it’s so vibrantly original, I can guarantee that every critic will struggle trying to put it into words; alas, I’ll try my best.

Hemmed in by a jungle of potted plants and tasteless furniture, we find ourselves as guests to Katy’s birthday party welcomed by a charmingly witty Ben Tyreman who plays Neil, intermittently offering cheese to front row audience members (there’s a tip for any cheese-loving punters – nab a front row seat). Along with Neil, another of Katy’s motley crew is François Pandolfo playing an out-of-work, out-of-mind actor who’s penned what he believes to be a ground-breaking new play about Aborigine Australians moving to the Valleys (a performance of which is given as a painfully funny climax). And last but not least, Lisa Palfrey steals the show as the, shall we say, unstable Aunty Andrea guzzling vodka and yelling vulgarities.

The narrative is fragmented through discussions of Katy’s failures over the years – her bit-part inCasualty, her… Well, actually, that’s about it. Owen seems to be pleading for recognition of her impractical talents for mimicking demented leprechauns. In an attempt to console herself, through a mist of liquor, she lists of the failures of her guests and so grows to the point that we are all let-downs, and it’s those who can make something of it that succeed.

Though Lisa Palfrey’s virtuosic set of accents and deranged farcicality earns many guffaws, the comic timing is consistent throughout the company. With the addition of Jamie Garven’s direction, the audience are left with creased faces and damp seats.

What is reassuring though is a total absence of pretension – this is a play that ultimately has a heart and a truth to it, a genuinely optimistic love for behaving badly. With the brand ‘absurdist’ comes many presumptions, but the originality of Difficult Stage bypasses the label. You have until Saturday to catch this work of unhinged brilliance. I suppose, yes, your sanity will diminish slightly after you’ve seen it, but you’d be raving mad to miss it.

Review: ROGUE’Z Theatre – The Winter Gift at the Urdd Hall, Cardiff by Young Critic Sam Pryce.


Review: ROGUE’Z Theatre – The Winter Gift at the Urdd Hall, Cardiff

Reviewed by Sam Pryce

Apparently, there is no Garbo, and there is no Dietrich; there is only Louise Brooks. That’s according to French film pioneer Henri Langlois, and he should know his stuff. Louise Brooks is probably a name that doesn’t ring any bells. Indeed, it didn’t ring any of mine either. Her legacy remains something quite obscure, partly due to her contemporaries being the gloriously immodest likes of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Yet, in this fond but frank portrait of the silent screen icon, award-winning writer TJ Davies attempts to discover what went wrong for “the girl with the black helmet.”

Director Nerys Rees presents a stripped-down production with a minimalist set that cunningly incorporates the monochrome palette of silent films. The cinematic atmosphere is enhanced through the integration of projection intermittently showing snatches of footage – some of Brooks herself, others made by the company. Lizzie Mulhall’s costume, hair and make-up  by Natalie Wright compliment that black-and-white sophistication and pre-show introductions to the dramatis personae are thrown in for good measure.

The narrative flits back and forth from the feisty, fresh-faced Louise Brooks in her heyday (played with fire-cracking audacity by Rhian Cheyne) to the destitute, alcoholic recluse she became. Karen Thomas gives a reckless portrayal of this darker side, slumping about the apartment yelling in a hoarse rasp. Andreas Constantinou brilliantly plays the devoted fan James Card who visits Louise, pleading her to write her memoirs and allow the world to realise her worth. It is these duologues that prove the most engaging and well-written, sizzling with venomous ruckuses, whilst the vignettes from the past tend to have us stifling yawns. Other notable performances are given by: Louisa Marie Lorey who is monstrously funny as the eccentric Alice Roberts; James Pritchard as the silver-tongued Shulbberg; Andrew Ford as a comically deadpan Fritz Kortner; and Brian Smith as GW Pabst – the director who brought Brooks to fame. And, of course, à la Alfred Hitchcock, Nerys Rees makes her own scantily clad appearance as Marlene Dietrich, provoking more than a few chuckles.

Although the play’s subject is perhaps a little esoteric, Davies peppers the dialogue with enough context to not lose anyone along the way. Younger theatregoers (unless aficionados of silent cinema, of course) may not be downright enthralled, but if you’re up for a sprawling bio-play of one woman’s experiences of fame and (mis)fortune, you’ll be in for a treat.

Percentage returns #TCWA2014 online vote

Golwg360 and Wales Online very kindly hosted the public online votes for this years Theatre Critics of Wales Awards. The percentage breakdown of the votes is shown below.

Percentage returns Online Vote

Best Production in the Welsh Language hosted by Golwg360

Tir Sir Gar- Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru 43.86% 168 votes

Llanast-Theatr Bara Caws 25.85% 99 votes

Blodeuwedd-Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru 19.06% 73 votes

Cyfaill-Theatr Bara Caws 6.01% 23 votes

Y Bont-Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru 5.22% 20 votes

Total entries 383

Percentage Returns Online Vote

Best Production in the English Language hosted by Wales Online

Tonypandemonium – National Theatre Wales  39.1% 398 votes

Love and Money – Waking Exploits 21.1% 215 votes

Parallel Lines – Dirty Protest 19.8% 202 votes

The Bloody Ballad – Gagglebabble 15.7% 160 votes

Caligula – August 012 4.3% 44 votes

Total entries 1, 019

Theatre Critics of Wales Awards 2014: Selecting the Best Playwright in the English Language Category

TCWA Image

Theatre Critics of Wales Awards 2014: Selecting the Best Playwright in the English Language Category

by Phil Morris

The Wales Arts Review readily acknowledges the importance of Guy O’Donnell’s development work with young and ‘third-age’ critics, through his Bridgend-based projects, as we believe that creativity thrives and standards of practice improve in a climate of informed critical debate. We have also proudly supported the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards, which Guy and the Young Critics founded last year, as a forum that brings a welcome focus to recent exciting developments in the Welsh performing arts.

There are those who criticise awards events as exercises in mutual backslapping and marketing, those for whom the very notion of judging artistic work is too highly subjective and reductive. The language of awards categories is unhelpful here – can it really be said that one play is objectively better than others? Of course not. One answer might be to give an award to the ‘play that was deemed, subjectively by a group of people with some claim to know what they are talking about, at a specific point in time, as being of such singular distinction that they decided to recognise its achievement with a trophy’ – but you could never find a plaque big enough for the engraving. Why not dispense with a theatre awards event altogether? Well, that would only serve to deprive theatre artists, critics and audience members of an opportunity to debate, in public, aesthetic values and cultural trends in Welsh theatre. It is the impossibility of being able to proclaim a performance or play as being definitively the ‘best’ that provides the TCWA with its sense of purpose – it gets people talking about theatre, opera and dance and provides benchmarks against which artists can measure their future work.

The selection of the Best Playwright in the English Language category involved several rounds of extensive and exhaustive discussions that included professional arts writers and Young and Third Age critics. The category is quite an onerous one, as Wales does seem to be enjoying a particularly fertile period of play writing in English. The first stage of judging entailed compiling a shortlist of plays from a raft of nominations. The rules of the TWCA selection process created several anomalies, so Tim Price’s Salt, Root and Roe was eligible, because it had its Welsh premiere at Theatr Clwyd in 2013, whereas his more recent play Protest Song was not as it was staged exclusively in London at the end of last year by an English-based company. Likewise Alun Harris’ thought-provoking play for NTW The Opportunity of Efficiency was ineligible for consideration. Four TCWA nominations for The Bloody Ballad reflected a positive critical consensus regarding Gagglebabble’s half-play half-gig; yet in spite of some evocative and well-observed snatches of dialogue, it was thought that the success of the production was due more to its performance and musical elements than its script.

The judging panel compiled a shortlist of scripts that we felt reflected the diversity, originality and excellence of Welsh play writing in English, it was further decided that the award of Best Playwright required each of us to read the scripts under discussion and make a final decision based on the merits of the script rather than the relative merits of its production. It is possible for a talented director, production team and cast to imbue a merely serviceable text with a performance energy and illusion of depth that makes it seem better than it actually is. Also, a fine script can be ill-served by an incompetent or passionless production. To allow each nominated play to be assessed on its individual merits as a text, we sent out for scripts that arrived in our inboxes over the Christmas and New Year period.

This second round of judging was done an individual basis, and each of us had our own set of criteria on which we assessed the texts. My personal criteria consisted of the following:

1)    Is the ‘world’ of the play created through a use of language that is distinctive, original and personal to the playwright?

2)    Are the main characters of this play created with sufficient detail, nuance and texture so that the illusion of substantial, complex and multi-faceted human beings is established and maintained throughout the course of the drama?

3)    Has the playwright constructed the action of this play so that it seems logical and yet surprising?

4)    Do the themes of this play address contemporary concerns?

Happily, all nominated plays succeeded in satisfying at least two of these criteria. Tonypandemonium by Rachel Trezise is clearly a deeply personal story, ambitiously experimental in form and regaled in the idiomatic speech of the Rhondda. Sue: The Second Coming by Dafydd James & Ben Lewis is riotously funny and crackles with verbal energy and satirical wit. Salt, Root and Roe by Tim Price is a haunting tragedy about a pair of enigmatic twins – with its terse dialogue and economically drawn imagery the drama is mysterious but never vague. Fallen by Greg Cullen is a vibrant and playful take on the process of myth making that draws on the tradition of Welsh oral story-telling.

After rating the play texts from one to five – one given to the play we considered the best written, five to the least – each member of the panel submitted their list to Guy O’Donnell who calculated the result. Remarkably, given that each panel member reached their decision on their own, there was little disagreement among us as to which play was the ‘best’ written in English. (Or should that be the play we felt was of particular distinction worthy of special recognition?) The winner will be announced on Saturday 25th January 2014 at a ceremony hosted by Sherman Theatre Cymru. Our choice may prove controversial but no one should doubt the assiduous care and attention that went into arriving at a decision that was collective, conscientious and fair.

Phil Morris is Managing Editor of the Wales Arts Review, he was formerly Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Wales.

Nominations and further information on Inspirational Educator TCWA 2014.

Porthkerry-story-telling project Theatr Iolo

(Image Porthkerry Park Storytelling Project, Theatr Iolo)

For this years Theatre Critics of Wales Awards the Young Critics were keen to support educators who they feel make a real difference in supporting the link between the formal education sector and the performing arts. The creation of this new category was also a result of the new WAG Arts in Education review which was written by the Chair of Arts Council Wales Dai Smith.

The review recommends

There is also a need for recognition and awards schemes to encourage more and better quality arts activity in schools. To address this need,the Welsh Government should support the creation of an award, for individual teachers, to recognise excellence in creative teaching.’

The Young Critics agreed with Dai Smith recommendations so rather than wait for adults to create this award the Young Critics and the TCWA panel did it themselves.The Young Critics and the panel contacted a range of arts organisations and venues to request that they nominate an individual who they felt Inspired young people in the arts .

The nominations are shown below and in some cases links to the work that inspired the nomination.

Inspirational Educator

• Raina Malik: School of Basic Islamic Studies – Sherman Cymru

Raina supported her students to work on the Fresh Ink project with the Creative Learning Department at  Sherman Cymru, Cardiff.

• Ioan Hefin: You Should Ask Wallace – Theatr na nÓg

Ioan was nominated for his role in the You Should Ask Wallace production  the show, celebrates the life of one of the 19th century’s most remarkable Welsh intellectuals – Alfred Russel Wallace a Victorian Scientist from South Wales.The production took Ioan to Wales, England, Rio de Janeiro and Singapore.

• Aled Jones Williams – Theatr Bara Caws

Aled Jones Williams is an author and dramatist who has worked with Bara Caws on numerous occasions.  Though his work for the company in the past was mainly writing commissioned works, more recently he has been working in conjunction with Bara Caws  holding writing workshops both in schools and for the general public.  At the moment Bara Caws are working on an ensemble piece which will be staged in Spring 2014 which will be scripted by the cast members themselves, and they have  invited Aled to mentor the writing aspect of the project, which has already been put in motion.  He has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to all involved in his workshops.

•  Amanda Gould – Foundation Phase, S.E.W. Education Achievement Service

In her role as Associate Advisor for Early Years, Vale of Glamorgan School Improvement Service and now as Foundation Phase Officer for the Central South Consortium, Amanda works tirelessly with teachers to raise awareness of the importance of the relationship between the arts and education sectors.

She was the catalyst for two major projects with Theatr Iolo – “Words in the Woods” and “Tales of Driftwood”. These projects which encouraged story-making by children aged 3-7 imaginatively used a theatrical intervention in the beauty and excitement of an outdoor setting to engage the children’s creativity, stimulate their imaginations, and develop their literacy skills.

Amanda developed the germ of the idea for both projects, brought Theatr Iolo together with the Vale of Glamorgan Forest Education Initiative Cluster Group, and inspired teachers about the way in which, through engagement with these projects, they could work not only develop their children’s literacy skills (the primary aim of each project) but also explore each of the 7 Areas of Learning which form the Foundation Phase “curriculum”.

“Words in the Woods” was deemed to be such a successful model of good practice that it was embraced by the Welsh (Assembly) Government Foundation Phase Team and used as the main focus for a series of pan-Wales Foundation Phase Teachers’ conferences which were attended by the then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, and four other cabinet ministers.

• Elen Bowman – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Over the last few months, over the last few years to be more precise, Elen has influenced a great many  performers, directors, industry practitioners, students and pupils.  She has mentored prospective directors, and has offered training for prospective actors.

Over the past few months Elen has been actively running workshops in schools and colleges throughout the country, and led on the New Directors’ Training Course, held in partnership between Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Sherman Cymru and Living Pictures.

This scheme offered training for inexperienced directors.  Elen led the course which gave the attendees an opportunity to develop skills in text analysis, and to obtain a better understanding of the development of story and character. She gave the prospective directors an opportunity to work with an experienced creative team and with experienced writers, giving them the opportunity to research various methods of staging and designing for multi-platform, as well as an opportunity to learn marketing skills.

This September the course reached its peak with a special production in Sherman Cymru, Rhwng Dau Fyd (Between Two Worlds), which was directed by three of the directors who attended the course. This project formed part of the work presented in the World Stage Design Festival.

Elen commented: “Making the time to train as a director is valuable, not only in order to learn trenchant skills chosen from world-wide theatre techniques, but it is also an opportunity to ask creative questions in order to try to understand the sort of work which ignites the passions.  I’m hopeful that we have five different and unique voices about to cross the threshold of the Welsh theatrical industry, and I look forward to following their development over the next few years.”

Others who have worked with Elen express their admiration and appreciation of her work:

“Elen is a mentor who will not only teach you ‘educationally’, but will also develop you as an individual. The patience and perseverance she possesses to develop others is extremely influential,  and makes you want to help others as well.  She is an educator who really listens to your requirements as a student, she maintains discipline and presents challenges along the way. Though I have been working with Elen over the last year on the directing course run by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Living Pictures and Sherman Cymru, I believe that she will always be there for me as a mentor who will offer assistance and as a friend. She has been responsible for my development as a theatre director and as an artist and lecturer. Under her leadership she creates a sense that anything is possible.  She inspires, challenges and questions constantly. For her, there is no end to the creative process. To develop is a way of life, and Elen’s way of life is to develop others.” Ffion Haf Jones

Here is Wyn Mason’s testimonial.  Wyn has collaborated with Elen during the last few months:

“Elen is a fantastic tutor and mentor.  There are many factors which contribute towards her effectiveness as a teacher, and in my opinion these are the main reasons:

Her exceptional enthusiasm for the subject.  Theatre means a lot to Elen, for her theatre is not merely about entertainment but an attempt to discover the truth – the truth about humanity.

Her ability to treat everyone as an individual, and her desire to understand what is unique about each person under her care. Elen attempts to understand the whole person, and aims at reaching to the heart of one’s beliefs in order to find the best way to help that person grow and develop, not only in his or her career, but also as a person.  She has a holistic attitude towards training.

Her readiness to be honest about her experiences.  Throughout her teaching Elen has been very giving about her unique journey as a director, and by being honest about her failures she succeeds in inspiring others.

And lastly, her wonderful energy and general positivity.”

Apart from teaching those on the directing course, over the last few months Elen has also been tutoring in schools and colleges.

During the Autumn she held workshops for school pupils in Y Llwyfan, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s base, and the feedback was very positive, many stating that they has been inspired by her:

“Thank you for the welcome and the fantastic and worthwhile workshops.  Pupils were very enthusiastic on the way home…” – Heiddwen Tomos, Dyffryn Teifi School.

Elen is a former associate director with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru where she produced:

‘Deffro’r Gwanwyn’ – an adaptation of the musical ‘Spring Awakening’

Many young people were cast in this production.  Elen taught many of them how to run their own workshops. Some of the actors continue to hold workshops and to develop their own work under Elen’s leadership.

Y Storm – an adaptation of ‘The Tempest’ which was part of the World Shakespeare Festival

Elen held workshops alongside the show throughout the country in order to introduce students to Shakespeare’s work.

Dyled Eileen – a production based on the life of protester Eileen Beasley.

Elen held workshops and talks for pupils and the general public.

During the last few months Elen has visited a great many organisations, such as Merched y Wawr, in order to teach the members about theatre, and to promote the work of Welsh language theatre.  Her energy as a teacher and mentor knows no bounds.

Mared Swain Associate Director, Sherman Cymru commented:

“Since meeting Elen back in 2003/4 on a writing course for ‘Script Cymru’, she has been a very important figure in my development as an artist. I have attended many of ‘Living Pictures’ workshops, and whilst on her Directing course in 2010, honed the art of directing which has been totally invaluable.

She is an extremely inspiring person, full of energy and very supportive as she helps artists to develop their craft. Without her work and devotion our community of Welsh artists would be a great deal poorer.”

Arwel Gruffydd, Artistic Director of Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru is equally eloquent in his praise:

“Over the years Elen Bowman has been an inspiration to a generation of theatre directors and actors in Wales because of her exceptional work as one of our most talented and ambitious directors. But she has also worked tirelessly specifically sharing her knowledge and craft with others. She has worked as a freelance director with a great many groups in Wales and beyond, including two national theatre companies in Wales, and as a director and tutor with many colleges such as the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s. In her role as Co-Artistic Director of Living Pictures, and her work as Director and Associate Director with Sgript Cymru, Sherman Cymru and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, she has also organised, co-ordinated and led on training schemes, especially in acting and directing for the stage. Elen is one of the most generous persons I have known; generous with her time and with her heart. Elen’s commitment to the theatre, and especially in offering leadership to new directors, is second to none, often working without recognition – financial or otherwise. As a theatre director, Wales would be a great deal poorer without her influence and commitment.  Many of us theatre directors who work professionally in the theatre in Wales today, myself among them, owe a huge thank you to Elen Bowman.”

She is an inspiring person, tutor, and mentor. In our opinion, she fully deserves to win this important award as an acknowledgement for her tireless work promoting the world of the theatre amongst people of all ages.

The Arts in Education review

An independent report for the Welsh Government

into Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales

TCWA Venue Sherman Cymru and our panel

The Theatre Critics Wales Awards will take place at the beautiful Sherman Theatre in Cardiff on Saturday the 25th Jan at 7.30 pm.


sherman interior

Our panel for this years awards is below, all of the panel give their time for free to celebrate the work of Welsh artists.

  • John Roberts               The Public Reviews website
  • Sam Pryce                     Young Critic
  • Mike Smith                   Freelance Journalist
  • Sarah Finch                  Young Critic
  • Karen Price                   Media Wales
  • Adam Somerset           Theatre Wales Website
  • Pat Roper                      3rd Age Critic
  • Chelsey Gillard            Buzz Magazine
  • Gary Ramond              Wales Arts Review Website
  • Lowri Haf Cooke           BBC Radio Cymru/Pethe/S4C Arts Correspondent
  • Chris Howell                3rd Age Critic
  • Mark Rees                    South Wales Evening Post
  • Mark Thomas              Plastik Magazine online magazine
  • Charlie Hammond      Young Critic
  • Othniel Smith              British Theatre Guide Website
  • Michael Kelligan         Theatre Wales Website
  • Phil Morris                   Wales Arts Review Website
  • Elin Williams               Young Critics/Wales Arts Review Website
  • Rachel Morgan            Young Critic
  • Brain Roper                   New Welsh Review/3rd Age Critic
  • Sioned Williams          Barn
  • Jaqui Onions                The Public Reviews Website