Category Archives: Theatre

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!

Review of Romeo and Juliet, Sherman Cymru by Bethan Hooton

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Nurse played by Anita Reynolds

Romeo played by Chris Gordon

Photograph Credit Mark Douet

The production of Romeo and Juliet at Sherman Cymru was exciting and fun, as an audience member I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The actors portrayed their characters in a realistic and comprehensible way. Even though the play was in Shakespearean English, I knew what was happening because of how the actors performed their roles, and their facial expressions. Throughout the whole play each actor stayed in character, and not once slipped up. During the Capulet’s party, I kept diverting my attention from Romeo and Juliet to see what the other characters were doing, and each one of them was doing something. Whether it be dancing or having a drink, they were never just there.

I really loved the fact that the Sherman modernized the play. The costumes and music were not from fourteenth/fifteenth century, but were from the twenty first century, which gave the play a really unique twist. The music really added something to the play, and made it much more entertaining for the younger audience.

The set was one of the best aspects of the whole play. The set designer, Kenny Miller, obviously had put a lot of thought into it. At the beginning when I saw the stage I wondered how they would show the balcony scene between Romeo and Juliet, I mean there wasn’t a balcony anywhere in sight. Well, I was absolutely amazed by how the balcony was revealed to be behind, what I thought was, just a street wall covered with posters. Absolutely amazing! The set had been so carefully designed and you could see that from the start. I loved how the Capulet’s mausoleum was right at the front, but also kind of unnoticeable until right at the end. The detail in the set design really blew my mind and I cannot begin to imagine how much time was put into creating it.

Whilst studying the play in school I didn’t really pay attention to characters such as Benvolio and Mercuito, they were just side characters. This production completely changed my mind. If it were not for those characters the play would not be nearly as excellent as it was. The actors who portrayed Benvolio Linden Walcott-Burton and Mercuito Scott Reid were incredible. I cannot believe that I hadn’t given them a second thought before. Benvolio was such a strong character. No head-turn, hand-gesture or line was unimportant. I was entranced as I watched him. I don’t cry at plays, but as I watched Mercuito die, tears came to my eyes. It was so realistic and believable! Scott Reid is a phenomenal actor and I would love to see him in other productions.

There are no words to describe how much I loved the Nurse played by Anita Reynolds. Her pink tracksuit, hairstyle and sassy persona had me enthralled every time she was on stage. I found myself just staring at the Nurse even when she wasn’t speaking, just to see the eye-roll I knew was coming.

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Romeo played by Chris Gordon

Juliet played by Sophie Melville

Photograph Credit Mark Douet

The love and angst between Romeo played by Chris Gordon and Juliet played by Sophie Melville was portrayed perfectly! I could not fault the actors at all. I love how Romeo was dressed and how Juliet was a typical teenage girl. It just added to the play and made it easier to understand.

I absolutely loved the production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Rachel O’Riordan at the Sherman Theatre. It was unbelievable! The set and music were brilliant! Each character was portrayed fantastically and I would love to see the play over and over again. If I had to choose between watching the 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and The Sherman Theatres version, I would pick the Sherman’s version without a second thought.

Review of Romeo and Juliet Sherman Cymru by Amina Elmi

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Scott as Reid Mercutio

Photo credit: Mark Douet

When I thought of Romeo and Juliet, I used to think about pointless deaths and nauseating romance. That all changed when I went to see the Sherman Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Rachel O’Riordan on October 3rd.

One of things I will not be forgetting about anytime soon are the costumes. The characters in the play  were dressed in modern clothing, that wasn’t much different to what my friends and I wear. The costumes and the music created a modern feel to the play that the audience and I could connect to.

My favourite scene had to be during the Capulet party. Romeo played by Chris Gordon and Juliet played by Sophie Melville  were in a  passionate embrace, but what really caught my eye was how the characters in the background danced in time to the music. It was very subtle, but extremely effective.

My favourite performance was the solid acting from Mercutio played by Scott Reid. I loved how he was bold and demonstrated the bromance between himself and Romeo  perfectly.  His most powerful scene was when he was killed by Tybalt played by Luke Eliott Bridgeman and yelled “A curse on both your houses” As an audience member I sympathised with his character who got caught up in a feud that ultimately led to his untimely death.

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LukeElliot  Bridgeman as Tybalt

Linden Walcott-Burton as Benvolio

Photo credit: Mark Douet

I’m not a fan of romance normally, but the chemistry between Romeo and Juliet  was as clear as day. Their forbidden love caused by their families mutual hatred  was heart wrenching. During their final scene when Juliet plunged the weapon into her side, a small part of me prayed that they would reunite in a fictional afterlife.

I really enjoyed the production of Romeo and Juliet and recommended it to all my friends, I do the same to you.

Review Romeo and Juliet, Sherman Cymru by Sian Thomas

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Seeing Romeo and Juliet at the Sherman Theatre on the third of October changed my perspective on the play completely, I have studied the play for coursework in year nine and ten and I couldn’t have hated a play more than I hated this one, it absolutely did my head in! The language was pretty difficult for me to grasp and use for evidence in my essays, but after seeing it on stage, I wanted to go back in time and tell myself to hold on, and not judge it rashly. I’m not an expert on Shakespearean English, but the way the actors portrayed their characters in time with their lines made everything so much clearer and much more enjoyable.

My  favourite character in this play was Mercutio, who was played by Scott Reid. When I was doing the play in school, I didn’t really know much about any character I didn’t have to write a lengthy essay about, (I wasn’t really supposed to focus on anyone else) so seeing him as a bubbly and loveable character really was a nice change of scenery from two star-crossed lovers and their angst. Reid was phenomenal in this role, because he could use the space around in really interesting ways, I don’t think I ever saw him not using his hands or being completely still! (Unless he had to, during that one particular part in the party scene in the Capulet’s’ manor.) to me, personally, this is a sign of an actor who definitely knows what they are doing on stage. My drama teacher often says for us to “never just stand there” – always do something, even if it’s little – It was never boring to see him excitedly moving about! It even made me want to join in! His facial expressions when his character had been stabbed made me feel the pain he must have been feeling, and it made me want to jump up and reassure him. I remember that he pulled the coat he was wearing around him as he did this, which made my feelings of wanting to help practically double. When studying the play in school, I wasn’t swayed by him dying, but when I saw it on stage after noting all of this, I wished it hadn’t happened at all. I adored the fact that many actors had an accent. I loved that Mercutio had a Scottish accent, as it seemed to maximise his bubbly and fun personality.

I particularly loved the modernised representation of certain characters such as the Nurse and the servant, Peter. They went from simple servants to someone who you could just tell had been angry to have been cut off,  from rather bland to sassy and likeable . Every hip-swish and hand gesture was amazing and I’ll never forget them.

I loved the clothes that everyone wore especially the Nurse and Lady Capulet’s costumes. The pink tracksuit the Nurse wore (along with her fantastic accent) made me grin every time she appeared. A pink tracksuit like that was so much more enjoyable to see than a maid’s outfit! Lady Capulet’s costumes were great, too! I loved that in the very beginning fight scene she tried to use her high heel as a weapon! Her costumes especially in the party scene one was a lot more exciting than a corset and a dress with a thousand layers to it!

I loved the music that was played between and during scenes. The party scene at the Capulet’s’ was absolutely top, with  a very infectious beat, I couldn’t help bobbing along with the characters. I don’t know the names of the tracks of the songs used, if I did, they’d be sitting in a playlist on my iPod labeled “Fab Romeo and Juliet tracks!!” Dubstep in a Shakespearean play? Loved it!

The set designed by Kenny Miller was outstanding! The modern posters and newspapers, which had been put up, and stripped/ripped down made the set really look like a modern street, which was fantastic for the street brawls! I loved the almost-jail-cell, which doubled as a coat wardrobe. It made me smile. It looked so interesting amidst the rest of the set. The air of mystery was thick and fantastic with that thrown in the mix as well as everything else. I dare to think how much effort was put into creating it and how long it must have taken. I didn’t even expect the top to lift up and reveal a balcony set. (Even though I should have known about it! I studied the play!).

I loved the play and the direction by Rachel O’Riordan, if I could see it again and again I would be very happy. Every character was loveable in their own unique way and each and every single one touched my heart and left a mark there I’ll never forget. The way the cast performed made it a masterpiece; I’ll never forget Romeo and Juliet at the Sherman Theatre.

Review The Commitments Palace Theatre, London by Hannah Goslin

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The Commitments

Palace Theatre, London

05/10/14

The intimate and ornate setting of the Palace Theatre in itself was a great experience. Picking seats close to the action, I felt it was a perfect place for The Commitments. A story about a group of working class North side Dubliners trying to hit the big time with a make shift band – my seats allowing me to look up in awe at the action.

Set in the 80’s, even the relatively young in the audience would be able to relate to the stereotypical costuming with large mullet-ed hair and velvet ruffles in abundance. To complement this, the songs that are either in full performance or even snippets of are well-known and repeated by the audience – a real concert style atmosphere begins.

As a regular visitor to Dublin with close Irish friends, many of the references to the ‘North Side’ and the prominence of U2 during this era with the dislike of this fact, tickled a funny bone. I wondered if all of  those who had come into this performance would have understood the gags and puns as well as others.

The actors themselves were very inspiring. With Dublin accents and enlisting the same amount of professionalism as one would expect from a continuous running show. Despite this, the performance seemed new and fresh; not expectant of a performance which would have been shown a mere hours before. General movements and speech in the background, interaction with one another and the set was constant and almost naturalistic in such an exaggeration of comedy; showing the subtle skills that these actors are capable of. Such a talented group of performers – not only do their acting abilities rival many of this genre in the West End, but their singing and musical abilities are also top-notch, giving something very special and unique to this show.

Ending on a high is an understatement. The Palace Theatre was turned into a concert, leaving you forgetting that this is a written play; with little bits of improvisation, along with a borderline of acting versus personality of the actors themselves; This production was wonderful to see as it showed the joy and excitement that the performers themselves have with this production. The standing sing along, clapping and dancing of the audience looking onto this pretence band was a strange but also an endearing ending to a West End musical and brought a great sense of the Irish community to London.