Category Archives: Theatre

REVIEW Neville’s Island, The Duke of York’s, London by Hannah Goslin

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Neville’s Island

The Duke of York’s, London

17/11/2014

What excitement I felt when I knew I was about to see Neville’s Island, staring comedy greats such as Adrian Edmondson, Miles Jupp, Neil Morrissey and Robert Webb.All known for their influence on British culture, I was sure that a comedy performance was in store.

The story of Neville’s Island saw four business men, shipwrecked on a work’s team building exercise. The story embarks on the foursome’s hunger, fears and conflict with one another. We see four very different individuals, and as the show unfolds, different significant stories of each person is revealed.

The main source of comedy was seen in the angst and anger of Edmondson’s character, inflicting insults upon the apparent stupidity of the other character’s in the scenario. This proved many laughs and was helped by the minimal acting of the other’s in retaliation; later building into each burst of madness that they experience as survival begins to be a struggle.

There were times of slapstick comedy, using the very well constructed and realised set of trees, rubble and real water at the front of the stage. Audience members near the front were even given rain macs with the knowledge that this water became a element to some of the comedy gold on stage.

However, I wouldn’t call this production ‘side splitting’. These little moments created hysterical laughter but were far and few between. It felt that more activity was needed on stage to compensate for quiet moments where the comedy did not quite hit the funny bone. While each actor was fantastic in their performance and execution and couldn’t be faulted, the content wasn’t enough for them to truly show their comedic skills and left myself wanting more.

REVIEW Oh What A Lovely War, Everyman Theatre by Barbara Michaels

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Oh What A Lovely War at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

By Joan Littlewood

An Everyman Theatre Production

Director: Jackie Hurley

Musical Director: Lindsey Allen

Choreographer: Richard Thomas

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Rating: [4.00]

Portraying the horror of the trenches and the politics behind World War I, Everyman Theatre’s production of Oh What A Lovely War joins the ranks of performances in memory of those who fell that have taken place all over Britain during the past centenary week.

Bringing to the stage once more Joan Littlewood’s iconic 1963 Theatre Workshop production, complete with Pierrot costumes and a backdrop of photographs from the war zones as well as staggering on-screen statements of the numbers lost in what was supposed to be “the conflict to end all conflicts” is an ambitious undertaking. Everyman Theatre rises superbly to the challenge, wisely choosing to present the piece as “A musical play,” rather than musical theatre, although where to draw the line between genres is never clear-cut.

All the more credit, then, to director Jackie Hurley for staging a performance of this profoundly moving piece of theatre, which at times gives rise to an audible intake of breath from the audience as the ever-increasing numbers of the soldiers who died are flashed on the backdrop, yet managing to present in tandem with this an upbeat element which gives a balance to the overall result.

How, indeed, could it be otherwise – despite the grim reality of the core subject matter – when you have a talented young ensemble cast that includes some excellent singers and dancers?   Songs that depict to a T both the era and mores of the time – from that of the title to familiar music hall song and dance numbers such as ‘I’ll Make A Man of You, ’ the foot-tapping ‘Row, Row, Row,’ and lump-in-the-throat ones such as ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ are memorable. Choreographer and nimble-footed dancer Richard Thomas has done sterling work here, as has Musical Director and on-stage pianist Lindsey Allen (despite grappling with a slightly out-of-tune piano.).

Change of mood is crucial and on the whole handled well, although occasionally erratic, as can happen on a small stage with minimal props. As the fighting escalates, military leaders thrash out the strategies of waging war, putting forward disastrous solutions that only prove them to be blindly oblivious to what is really going on, while the young soldiers who joined up with such youthful enthusiasm slowly come to realise that the “War games” are not at all what they expected.

As a sombre cloud hangs over Europe, the deafening noise of exploding shells brings a powerful sense of the grim reality of war.  Amid a number of poignant moments, the one that perhaps more than any tears at the heartstrings is Christmas Day in the trenches. The emotional impact of the sound of the German soldiers singing ‘Stille Nacht’ floating across No Man’s Land, followed by the exchange of gifts and fraternization between the two sides, is huge, giving rise – not surprisingly – to sniffs from some of the audience.

Focus of this production is, quite simply, to honour those who lost their lives while depicting the behind the scenes wheeler-dealing and obstinacy that resulted in such tragically large numbers of young men losing their lives.

In other words: War is a dirty business.

Runs until Saturday, November 15th, at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.

 

Review Miss Saigon Prince Edward Theatre London by Hannah Goslin

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Miss Saigon

Prince Edward Theatre London

11/11/2014

In the heart of the West End, the Prince Edward Theatre transported us deep into the depths of the Vietnam War. A remarkable and detailed set, Miss Saigon was full of oriental decoration and this vast stage contained so much detail to help us feel as if we had come off the wet streets of winter London and into the slowly destructive slums and alleys during this time of conflict.

It can be argued that a production must firstly rely on its actors performance and not trust that set, lighting and sound must take a centre stage. However, this was different for this show. These elements only enhanced the performance on stage and created phenomenal and easily changing locations, at times it was difficult to comprehend how so much was possible on stage. For example, the piece de resistance of the production for me was the projection of a helicopter coming to land; air conditioning was switched on for a gust across the audience to really feel this and suddenly, a huge functioning helicopter appeared on stage. Gobsmacked is a severe understatement!

This tragic tale of a love story between a Vietnamese girl and an American Soldier and how the war tore them apart contained so many amazing characters. These main character easily professed the sheer Hollywood true love that we only wish to experience; their performances pulling heart-strings of the most cold. Along with the Engineer; a money hungry ‘pimp’ who continues to play a sidekick part in the life of these two star crossed lovers, manages to bring not only a slimy and seedy character that we would expect from such a profession, but also provided much humour – a wonderful way to break the intensity of the heart breaking storyline.

Not knowing exactly the story, it was a shock for me to see scantily clad women (and at one time, also a man) writhing on stage. The movement of these performers was as slimy and seedy as the Engineer, at times a borderline imitation of sexual acts being played out on stage. I began to feel uncomfortable and to really question whether there was a need for acting so obvious to be played out in front of us. Till I warmed up to the reasoning that to feel as the main female character feels in these prostitution dives, we had to also feel as intimidated and uncomfortable as her. And happily, this worked extremely well.

This performance also wouldn’t have been anything without the chorus. The scantily clad women, the Vietnamese and American soldiers and the Vietnamese villagers – all together produced beautiful song and dance numbers, creating the right feeling of fear from the villagers, the seedy yet fear of the prostitutes and the military strict fashion of each sides soldiers.

Miss Saigon managed, what all theatre should do, to create a magical world where despite the unrealistic song and dance, was easily a, what one would assume, realistic representation of this historical period – but theatrically sound and relatable for audiences all the same.

Review John DV8 National Theatre, London by Hannah Goslin

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Photo (Hannes Langolf) by Hugo Glendinning

‘For nearly thirty years, Lloyd Newson’s DV8 Physical Theatre has produced original and challenging dance theatre unafraid to push audiences out of their comfort zone’

During my performance training from the age of 15, I was introduced and inspired by DV8’s work. Thirty years of bringing thoughtful and impacting theatre into the forefront of audience’s minds. After seeing ‘Can We Talk About This?’ in Truro a few years ago, knowingly, DV8 brings a great approach to discussions that can be taboo, or if beginning to be spoken more about, still laid bare, and this has always had an amazing impact on me.

John was no exception. A simple rotating staging was easily turned into several different locations with little change; just the addition of occasional props. The performance was about the story of John, not stage and lighting trickery and attempt to astonish audiences in this way.

John’s life was from verbatim – a production based on a solo interview with a normal human being and how his turbulent life from childhood to his present shaped who he was, what he wanted and despite a possible more negative life compared to some, something relatable … wanting someone to love and love us.

A combination of physicality and spoken word caught the eye and ear of every audience member. A pin could be heard within the theatre as John’s story of the horrors he had experienced and the life he was entering were laid in front of us, with no fear or cover of the truth. For some, this blunt-ness of the taboo subjects may have been much to handle, with, at times, comedy with topics that could make the strongest person cringe but what would DV8 be without this?

The versatility and fluidity of the performers brought interesting scope to the spoken word ; each one was astonishingly capable of beautiful movement and never took away from the intent of their words. How their ability to contort themselves and move in such a way and still easily and with steady breath speak their lines was inspiring. And ensuring that their words still gave as much meaning as the movement, left myself in tears of awe and from the impact of the story.

DV8, as usual have brought a fantastic and must see performance into the public eye. It is almost impossible to come away without a feeling of elation at seeing theatre at its best.

A statement regarding next years Theatre Awards

Theatre Critics of Wales Awards now the Wales Theatre Awards

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The awards scheme will now be run by an independent, not for profit company and there will continue to be an annual awards ceremony. For 2015 the date and venue have been agreed for January 31st at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff. For work to be eligible for nomination, it must have been created and presented in Wales in the celebrated year. For the 2015 awards, this will be between 1st January and 30th November 2014. In subsequent years the period will change to the start of December to the end of November the following year.

We plan to have individual critics announcing the shortlists and the winners. As we are committed to the awards being increasingly bilingual, we plan to have a Welsh speaking and English speaking presenter alternating during the awards ceremony. We intend both widening the number of critics taking part in the nomination process and also contributing more effectively in the selection of winners.

We will create the longlist by asking more professional reviewers to nominate a winner and Highly Commended shows/individuals for each award and, importantly, give a short written reason for their choices. Unlike previous years, we will stress they DO NOT have to nominate in any category they do not wish to.

Each genre covered will have a panel of jurors, who will be reviewers themselves. They will look at all of the submitted nominations and accompanying comments (to which they will also have contributed) for their genres, and decide on the winners and those that are Highly Commended. For the non-language based awards and overall Director winner, the genre panels will come together and select winners. The panels for each genre and overall panel is then expected to write down WHY the winner has won and a sentence on the Highly Commended, ensuring feedback and openness.

We will apply the National Union of Journalists’ code of conduct and social media guidelines to the way the Awards are conducted. We will ensure the strong link with the Young Critics scheme is maintained as in the past and we will continue to include Young Critics on all of the panels.

The generous sponsorship of the award categories by arts organisations and venues will now also contribute to the establishment of a Development of Critical Writing Fund (DCWF). To emphasise the awards’ independence, they will not be category sponsors. The DCWF will be used to fulfil the following: Enable travel, accommodation etc. for critics to see more performances across Wales – something that is sorely needed – working alongside the Young and Third Age Critics. Act as a network to ensure critics are aware of shows and that reviewing opportunities exist. Work with the venues, individual companies and independent artists on ensuring critics get access to tickets. Work alongside any other organisation that is working to increase capacity and skills across Wales. (We will not directly take the mantle of trainers or pay for reviews etc. as we feel this is the role of professional training organisations, the media itself, and possibly an area for ACW to consider.) Work with venues and organisations to help them build links with their media and with critics.

The awards scheme has enjoyed generous sponsorship from a diverse range of organisations that are not directly arts organisations or venues, such as colleges, agencies, and the media. We are asking those sponsors to continue sponsoring.

Please contact Mike Smith: mike@mediasmith.co.uk or Harriet Hopkins: harriet.g.hopkins@gmail.com with any queries about the awards, how to nominate and sponsorship.

Review In Time O’Strife, National Theatre of Scotland by Sian Thomas

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On the 23rd of October, myself and my classmates from Willows High School went to the Sherman Theatre as a part of their Sherman 5 program to see a performance called In Time O’ Strife by the National Theatre of Scotland. The performance was about the miners’ strike, and the angst and difficult period of time  for the miners and their friends and family. I didn’t know of this strike before learning of it in my history class, only a few weeks ago. Learning it then I could only learn it from a political point of view, however seeing this production enabled me to see the strike from the miners and their friends or family’s point of view which gave me further insight into the strike for the pony of view of the miners.

The performance opened with the company and band playing music, singing and dancing as the audience filed in to fill the theatre. The atmosphere was lively and fun as they sang and danced up to the very beginning of the play. As the audience were taking our seats, the songs and dance numbers enthralled us, me in particular. The songs were infectious and myself and my friends couldn’t help bobbing along and dancing in our seats. Some of the songs that were joyous and happy made everyone want to get up and join in on the celebrations that were occurring, however the songs that were slow and meaningful made us all feel the fear, the deprivation, and most importantly feel the sadness that the miners, their friends and their families must have been feeling throughout this time.

When the performance started and throughout it, the thing I noticed, and was most impressed with, was the use of lighting. Numerous light switches were strewn around the set which the cast themselves used to change the lighting between scenes. The use of this was so effective. The changes of colour and density caused definite emotion to stir up during the scenes for both the performers and the audience.

The set designed by Graham McLaren created an almost antique feel to the performance. The way it was designed fit the era it was set in and the whole performance perfectly. The use of the small TV which was counting the days of the strike and the small radio on a little shelf really made the whole performance seem real.

The performance was hugely enjoyable and the loud music, strong choreography and excellent acting doubled it so. If you are both passionate about music, dance and history, I recommend this performance to you.

Review In Time O’Strife, National Theatre of Scotland by Amina Elmi

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Credit Andy Ross

It was pure coincidence that I was  learning about the miners strike in school when I went to go watch the production of In Time O’Strife by National Theatre of Scotland at the Sherman Theatre. I already knew some facts about the strike, but the production gave me the ability to see it from a miners point of view.

Through the rhythmic music and the choreography I could see the struggles and hardships the miners and their families had to face.  At times the music was joyous and made me want to get up and join in with the dancing, but other times I could feel the fear and desperation the miners must have felt. Every voice that sang enchanted me into the world of the play through song. The choreography by Imogen Knight was genius. It captured pain and frustration perfectly. The stomping of the feet during the movement sections particularly stood out for me.

The set designed by Graham McLaren (who also adapted and directed this production) was in a vintage style  and fitted the era the production was set in expertly.  I noticed a small TV screen counting the amount of days the miners had been on strike. First it was 185, then 192 and lastly 199 days. This made me think about how hard the strike must have been not only for  the miners, but their families too.

The strike caused what I assume is a close community to fall apart. The choice between starvation or to be shunned by everyone you know consumes them all. I saw that especially from the character Jock played by John Kazek.

I know that I wouldn’t be able to be as strong as the miners during the strike, but you should all watch this performance to decide for yourselves. Especially if you enjoy music and history.

Review Romeo and Juliet, Sherman Cymru by Tanisha Fair

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Photo Credit Mark Douet

I recently had the opportunity to go and watch Romeo and Juliet on the 3th October in the Sherman Theatre, my initial thoughts on the play was that it would be boring as I had studied it in school and couldn’t really understand the language or the story line. Upon seeing this performance has completely changed my perspective of Shakespeare and how the language is spoken. This modernized twist on Romeo and Juliet really is quite a smart one as it enables you to really get to grasp and understand the world of the play.

From the start of the production as soon as I heard a voice from the back of the theatre and heard the lines ‘Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene’ my heart was filled with excitement and eagerness to see how this was going to be played. I think that each character each play the part incredibly well, especially Nurse played by Anita Reynolds, the way she adapted her character in a modernized way with her very bright pink track suit and high-heeled trainers made me laugh all the way through from her body language to her facial expressions.

Another actor I thought gave and outstanding performance was Mercutio played by Scott Reid, as I didn’t know much about him as a character before I watched the play. He really showed what it is like to be a true friend to Romeo and a slight bromance between the two of them from him jumping into his arms, his body language and facial expressions showed a completely different story from his very first moments on stage to his very last.

Each actor played his own part and they all played them perfectly, Romeo (Chris Gordon) & Juliet’s (Sophie Melville) chemistry was one to remember, from the first time they meet each other and their eyes meet to their first kiss so passionate and full of love to their very last day.

The background of the play was modernized as the top of the set with ripped down posters was lifted up to revel a stunning balcony and down below they were able to transform what looked very boring and grey into every scene in the world of Verona.

The costumes were also very modern but had that Elizabethan taste about them. My favourite outfit would be Juliet’s dress in the party scene, her pink princess dress and red doctor martens really made her have that edgy effect. Also Romeo had that edgy look with his long black hooded jacket. One of my favourite outfits would have been Mercutio I loved his whole look and how he portrayed himself. My favourite scene would have been the party scene I loved the music and the way they danced it was really effective and creative.

Review Romeo and Juliet, Sherman Cymru by Kaitlin Wray

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Juliet played by Sophie Melville
Photograph Credit Mark Douet
Romeo and Juliet, the biggest controversy in all of Shakespeare’s classics. Was it lust or love? Can two people fall in love that quickly? Yet how can lust cause their fatal end?

 After watching a rehearsal process and a Q&A session three weeks prior to the show with the director Rachel O’Riordan this was one of my many questions to her. Her response is that no one could ever know what Shakespeare wanted. However her interpretation was that she wanted to demonstrate how the gritty and conflicted world Romeo and Juliet were brought up in affected them. I was excited to see how Rachel would manage to transform Romeo and Juliet into making it a completely new experience, yet remain true to the language. After watching the performance, she exceeded exceptionally in this task. This was a performance that showed more truth than any performance of Romeo and Juliet I’ve seen.

 

The set was gritty with torn up posters on the back wall while grungy non-diegetic music played in the performance space. This was the first sign of the underlying corruption between the Capulet’s and Montague’s. The second sign? The fight scene, sharply choreographed by Kevin McCurdy. The actors flew around the stage with hatred and vengeance. The audience knew that this was a performance that would grasp all the needless anger within the play.

 

I loved the casting of this production, using actors from different backgrounds and different regions made the production a collection of different accents showing the main focus on the hatred rather that the time or setting. The accents brought the play even more to life, however at times due to the energy of the performance some of the words were hard to understand.

 

What everyone was waiting for was, the two actors playing the famous lovers, Romeo and Juliet. To me personally, Juliet was the character to be most disliked; she is generally played to be fragile, whiny and false. However the brilliant Sophie Melville stunned the audience with a modernised and a more feisty re-enactment of her. Sophie and Chris Gordon (playing Romeo) were the perfect double for the famous lovers, their chemistry on stage seemed so true to how Romeo and Juliet should have been played. When their eyes first meet you can tell they lust after each other, their banter and light-heartedness was so good to see due to the realisation of how young and naive the characters are. The balcony scene was honestly the best one I’ve ever seen. The staging of it to the way they acted it, so original yet I feel like there is no other way you could have played that scene.

 

Aside from the darkness of the play there were so many beautiful moments between certain characters. Anita Reynolds playing the Nurse showed such pizzazz throughout the first act she was a delight to watch, but when Juliet finds out Romeo is banished, on the line ‘Back foolish tears’ Sophie Melville was slapping the tears out of her face and all the Nurse can do but is watch, the emotion she carries just by her silence against Juliet’s cries is heart breaking.

 

Every actor brought their character/multiple of characters to life, from the energetic Scott Reid taking on Mercutio to the power behind Sean O’Callaghan’s performance taking on Montague and the Friar.

 

This was a performance that did everything Rachel said she wanted each scenographic aspect was captured perfectly from the lighting to the bold music.  Even though one will never know if Romeo and Juliet were in love or just lustful doesn’t matter to me anymore. This performance showed me the truth behind their relationship and it showed me that maybe even Shakespeare wanted to create this ambiguity.

 

Overall it was a performance that shouldn’t be missed, it was a delight to see Rachel O’Riordan’s take on it and I can’t wait to see more productions in the future from her and the whole cast.

 

Review Eye Spy 2, playARK and yello brick by Kaitlin Wray

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Eye Spy 2 was an interactive immersive experience letting people become secret agents for the day. Once we got to our first meeting point we were put into groups of six and these people would be our fellow agents to help us unlock the truth and try to save the world.

The main thing about this experience is that every person would have a different individual experience. This all depended on the type of person they are and who they were joined with. For me I had a really lovely group and we all got on well. However it was evident that we had a few overly competitive members as I spent a lot of the time trying to catch up with finding out the clues and evidence and then before I knew it I was on to the next location.

Apart from this, the story was well thought out and there were some really interesting plot lines and ideas that created dramatic suspense at certain sections. The actors involved were exceptionally good as they made us believe we were in a real crime scenario and they depended on us to help them. They gave us just the right amount of clues, but let us figure out most of it for ourselves.

However I believe this experience should have been staggered in terms of each group playing as we kept bumping into each other and other groups gave some of the clues away. It took away the essence of being a real secret agent.

Overall I really enjoyed the experience as it was well written and well planned out, it was an enjoyable day and if you like a challenge or enjoy solving puzzles and deciphering clues this is a well worth experience for you!