Category Archives: Theatre

Review Love & Money, Waking Exploits, Chapter Arts by Sarah Finch.

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On Thursday 18th of April I attended Chapter Arts Center in Canton, Cardiff to view the production Love and Money.

Love and Money tells the story of relationships, heartache, sacrifice, obsession and money within the marriage of a young couple, David and Jess. Written by Dennis Kelly, we follow a young woman’s all too familiar addiction for material items with an expensive taste and the severe consequences that follow.

Love and money takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotions as we see the destruction caused by Jess’ craving to spend money, her husband David’s plummet into desperation trying to fix the overwhelming debt that has been caused and the eventual demise of the relationship.

The playwright cleverly uses scenarios such as online romance and favours from friends to gain empathy from the audience, the situations become relatable and we begin to question ourselves if we would also behave and react in the same way in which the characters do.

Whilst initially shocked at the predicaments our characters had to face I then began to wonder, what would I have done? Would I take the job? Would I have called the ambulance or would I have taken David’s route and helped Jess to end it all? It certainly left me with an internal struggle to which I’m still unsure the options I would have chosen.

Funny but tragic, Love and Money is thought provoking and leaves us with the idea of can money truly buy happiness? Or does it leave you with a broken heart, an empty bank account and a relationship with no trust.

Review, Love and Money, Waking Exploits, Chelsey Gillard.

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Love and Money

Waking Exploits
At Chapter Arts Centre
11th April 2013

Almost hidden in the corner a small fish tank filled with its very own barcode striped set mirrored the stage. As the small goldfish swam aimlessly around it was impossible not to draw comparison between this small creature and the characters that are all trapped by their own compulsions, passions or self-imposed restrictions.

 Just like the goldfish David (Will Thorp) seems lost in his own world. As he communicates awkwardly via email with his new French lover he slowly reveals his wife’s tragic death and the role he played in it. Saddled by £70,000 of debt and an overwhelming shopping addiction his young bride, Jess, saw no other way out – neither did he.

Although Love and Money is a very wordy play, mostly consisting of monologues and dialogues, there was never a lull in the tension. Spiralling backwards in time Jess’s parents (played by the perfectly cast Rebecca Harries and Keiron Self ) share their horror at the huge monuments being built on the grave next to their daughter’s. Their love for their child is obvious but they can’t help but ask “why didn’t we help her?”  Finally settling on the answer “She’ll never learn if we always bail her out.”

 Occasionally dipping into surrealism the play asked a lot from the actors, especially Joanna Simpkins and Gareth Milton who both skilfully navigated a number of different roles. In a darkly comic nightclub scene sleazy ‘agent’ Duncan and seemingly naive office worker Debbie reveal the truth about the depths that people will stoop to in order to make quick cash.
 The stand out performance – in a show full to the brim with talent – came when Jess (Sara Lloyd-Gregory) entered and talked about her obsession with aliens, eventually revealing the paralysis she experienced when trying to decide between two different sets of forks. For her the compulsion to fill her life with material things seems to fill a void – but who or what this void was created by is only hinted at and each spectator is left to make up their own mind. Jess’s scenes in particular were complimented by Declan Randall’s multimedia design that gave the production a completeness and immersive quality.
In this close look at our society’s obsession with money and material goods there were no easy answers. In what could be a jumpy and hard to follow play Ryan Romain’s direction pulled all the viewpoints into a cohesive whole that was both interrogative and heartfelt.

Like the goldfish the play doesn’t really go anywhere due to the big shock of the narrative happening at the very beginning. Yet the energetic and completely engrossed cast carried the performance on waves of dark humour and heartbreaking honesty.

 Don’t miss out on this challenging and inventive production.

Tour dates and more info: www.wakingexploits.co.uk

Review, The Bloody Ballad, Gagglebabble, Chelsey Gillard.

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The Bloody Ballad

Gagglebabble

At Volcano, Swansea

15th April 2013

Murder, incest, kidnapping and arson don’t sound like the perfect ingredients for a feel-good rockabilly music show yet Gagglebabble’s The Bloody Ballad is guaranteed to leave you with a huge smile on your face (and possibly a nauseous feeling in your stomach).

Meet Mary Maid (Lucy Rivers) and her band The Missin’ Fingers. Mary’s had a tough week and would like nothing more than to share her tale with you before the authorities catch up with her.

After a few warm up tunes – including a brilliant rendition of Johnny Cash classic ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ by guitarist Dan Messore and an astonishing drum solo from Tom Cottle – Mary tells all about ‘What my Daddy Done (in A minor)’ pun most definitely intended. Knowing her back story it doesn’t come as a surprise when Mary falls for the first man to show her real romantic attention – a mysterious, shifty yet charming wanderer Connor (Oliver Woods) who works his magic on the whole audience with his velvety vocals.

After a week-long whirlwind romance Connor betrays naive Mary and the consequences for him are not pretty at all. Mary may be young but she can sure look after herself – leaving a trail of blood and bodies behind her. Including the body of Connor’s psychotic, snakeskin wearing Mama played (with more energy than can be safe) by Hannah McPake.

Lucy Rivers is perfect as our ill-fated heroine, with a tortured look in her eye and a mean singing voice, a bit like True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse but a lot more kick-ass!  By the end the stage is littered with severed fingers, a snake’s head and a whole lot of blood!

Drawing on clichés of 1950s Mid-West America – the isolated gas station, the mysterious wanderer, hillbilly culture – the cast get every bit of humour out of the brilliant script (also written by the hugely talented Rivers). The amount of musical skill on the stage is phenomenal, every member of the cast could play, sometimes multiple, instruments and all had brilliant bluesy vocals.

It’s so refreshing to see such a raw and passionate production that, although professional, doesn’t take itself too seriously. The performers’ love for the show was so infectious and it was an absolute crime that more people weren’t there to share the unforgettable experience!

Not only will the toe-tappingly good tunes replay over and over in your head but the great flair for simple storytelling will ensure the tragic tale of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks will haunt you for a long time.

A truly original and daring production that smashes through so many genres –part folktale, part Tarantino violence and part rock and roll gig – 100% unmissable!

This is THE best touring music show you will see.

Seriously get yourself a ticket for the tour then go see it again in Edinburgh!

For more on the company : www.gagglebabble.co.uk

Tour details:

Gwyn Hall, Neath

Date & Time: 17th April, 7.30pm

Box Office: 0300 3656677 / www.nptartsandents.co.uk

Tickets: £9, £7 members, £5 students

 

St Donat’s Arts Centre, Vale of Glamorgan

Date & Time: 19th April, 8pm

Box Office: 01446 799100 / www.stdonats.com

Tickets: £12.50, £10.50 conc

 

University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Date & Time: 24th April, 7pm

Box Office: 01267 67 6669 / www.ticketsource.co.uk/tsd

Tickets: £6, £4

 

Torch Theatre, Milford Haven

Date & Time: 25th-26th April, 7.45pm

Box Office: 01646 695 267 / www.torchtheatre.co.uk

Tickets: £12/£10 conc/under 26s £7

 

Soho Theatre, London

Date & Time: 29th April-4th May, 7.30pm

Box Office: 020 7478 0100 / www.sohotheatre.com

Tickets: £10 Mon + Tues, £15 (£12.50 concs) Weds – Sat

Review Incubator, WMC by Fern Coslett

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Incubator is a platform for new companies that allows them to develop their productions in the Wales Millennium Centre. I went to see a production called ‘The Violence of Summer’ by Sean Tuan John and Bert Van Gorp which is in development with the Incubator . Throughout the incubator period they have tried out various theatrical approaches to the themes of the outsider and deviant in society. Research into sociological ideas has been carried out through reading definitions of a deviant and criminal court cases to inform their work.

The stage lights up to reveal around 50 rubber pigs all laid out in a sequential order with two older men sat in garden lawn chairs. At the starting moment they have already got my attention, through all the enigma codes being conveyed such as ‘what’s with all the pigs?’ ‘Who are these men?’ I can’t help but be intrigued, and this is something which is great about the production. As the music kicks in these men begin to dance uncontrollably between these 50 pigs for the majority of the 55 minutes, in some parts they slow down and the music gets quieter which gives the show a good dynamic of pace. There’s one prevalent moment when the character speaks about his difficult childhood however it doesn’t tell me enough to really discover the truth of the narrative. The production is supposed to express ideologies about the ‘deviant’ in society and a major downfall of the production is that these ideologies aren’t conveyed enough in the narrative or characters.. The production aims to combine humour and dance however with a big topic that is sensitive to society such as ‘adult males that hurt children’ it doesn’t do it enough justice to make the humour credible.

On the other hand the play is good on how it challenges and is different to other productions with its aim to mix contemporary dance and humour. The production is clearly carried out by a company that are enthusiastic and they makes it much  more enjoyable to watch. Incubator is a great concept as it gives productions like ‘The Violence of Summer’ the tools and advice it needs to grow. I hope that through Incubator it’s narrative and ideologies are improved to be more clear to audiences.

Review Wasted by Kate Tempest at Sherman Cymru by Chelsey Gillard

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Wasted

By Kate Tempest

At Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2

23rd March 2013

Once in a while a production will come along that creates a huge buzz. When you miss a show like that you know that there’s usually no way you’ll ever get to see it. Luckily for those who missed it first time round Wasted came back for a second nationwide tour. If you missed it this time you really have missed out!

Three friends, who are maybe more than friends and maybe less, are forced to face up to all the opportunities they wasted because they were…..well, wasted. On the tenth anniversary of their childhood friend’s death they ask what went wrong and how can I make it right. But is the middle of a rave in South London really the place for these twenty five year olds to make a change for the better?

The pace of this short play is staggering, during the twenty-four hours we follow the three disillusioned Londoners no part of their lives is left unexamined. Why doesn’t downtrodden Ted (Cary Crankson)leave his Ikea loving girlfriend and get the job of his dreams? When will Danny (Bradley Taylor) realise his band is going nowhere? And how did Charlotte (Lizzy Watts) fall out of love with her calling to be a teacher?

Written by performance poet and rapper Kate Tempest, her theatrical debut is nothing short of amazing. Tempest has a way of bending words to make them fit into her beautiful urban poetry that never once sounds forced or insincere. In fact her down to earth and rhythmic approach to word play ensures the production is hard hitting, honest and true.

Naturalistic scenes in parks, cafes and clubs are broken up by bare-all monologues and stylised choral scenes directed straight at the audience that are worthy of any music stage. The actors do an absolutely stunning job of navigating the rhythms and layers of Tempest’s words, slipping effortlessly between their characters everyday life and the choreographed group sections.

As if there wasn’t enough to be entertained by already the innovative use of multimedia added yet another level to the polished show. A large screen provided clues to the setting of each scene; a neon sign telling us the cafe is open or a beautifully shot pub interior. During the powerful monologues the screen showed close ups of the actor’s face that were cleverly matched to the onstage lighting and added yet more emotion to the already intense words.

A beautiful symphony of words, music and technology. This is the kind of theatre that gets people excited, makes them talk and inspires them to make a change. The innovative combinations of media and poetry make this rather straightforward study of modern urban life something unmissable. Let’s hope they will be back by popular demand for a third outing soon!

A Paine’s Plough, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Roundhouse production, in association with the National Student Drama Festival and Latitude Festival.

For more about the show and producers Paine’s Plough: www.painesplough.com

For more on Kate Tempest: www.katetempest.co.uk

Grimm Tales Theatr Iolo review by Katie Treherne

After studying Carol Ann Duffy’s work in school, I can say that my expectations were set high as I sat amongst an audience of restless young minds and excited adults alike.  I couldn’t wait to see how Duffy’s vivid imagination and blunt tone would play out on stage in comparison to the short poems I’d analysed so carefully.

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The play featured four young, talented actors that sang and waltzed and even pecked their way across the stage, using the lack of props to their best of their ability as they gave two exemplary performances of the infamous tales, Hansel and Gretel and Ashputtel.

Needless to say, the children in the audience settled down quickly as the production began with the eerily soothing voices of Hansel and Gretel’s family, and they stared at the awe-filled children with big eyes, maintaining enough eye contact with each spectator as to include each and every person in the new world they presented.

Although the tale of Hansel and Gretel delivered a more melancholy side of Duffy’s imagination, the ending was sure to warm the hearts of every parent in the room, enough to prepare them for the big dose of fun the second half of the production was ready to lump on top of them, and, true to its name, Ashputter left in its wake a layer of ashes impossible to shake off after it’s spectacularly bright show.

At one point towards the end of show, a step-sister screeched mid-stage as she used a plastic axe to saw off the tips of her toes that she couldn’t fit into the slipper.  Although the guffaws of the children suggested they found the act funny, I’m sure some parents, as well as myself, found the incessant screaming and fake bloody rag more than a little bit alarming.  This was not a rare occurrence either, as body parts were chopped off on two occasions.

On the whole, Grimm Tales was an eye-opening, funny, and family-orientated production I wouldn’t hasten to recommend to a family with younger children, so long as the members were okay with a little bit of gore.

Grimm Tales Theatr Iolo by Malikah Saba

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Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Theatr Iolo produced the magical stories of the Grimm Brothers which included the tales of Ashputtel which is the original Cinderella story, and Hansel and Gretel, which I saw at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff.

The production consisted of just four actors, who played all the designated roles simultaneously. This was by far the best show presented. It offered goriness, fear and appraisable imagination. It took a turn back in time; rather than showing the predictable show of lust, hope and forgiveness, it allowed for the younger audience to be revealed ever so gently to the disappointments and punishments of life. It had many memorising moments within the production, alongside many frightening parts, such as the birds pecking the eyes out of the two step sisters. Although the production was aimed at a young audience, it gave them the chance to relate to mature content. The gasps in the audience indicated that the audience was surprised each time the play took a new turning. It was a chance for the 21st century audience to see a combination of modern with traditional. The play elegantly summed up the original story of the Grimm Brothers with the appropriate level of obscurity.

Overall the production was a great success, as it intrigued the audience; it allowed the audience to search their imagination and come up with their own twists and outcomes of the play.

YC Review, Grimm Tales, Theatr Iolo.

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Grimm Tales Review – Cardiff Sherman Theatre 27th February 2013

 The production was put on by four talented actors who cleverly interlinked storytelling and performing when showcasing two of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales – Ashputtel and Hansel and Gretel. Everybody has seen and heard of the Disney take on these famous fairy tales but it was refreshing to watch a slightly different version of events. The cast acted out the original tales and kept the audience captivated throughout with special sound effects and music that brought the stories to life, with each actor playing different instruments throughout the shows. Although the set was basic without too many props, the performers used it in such a way that entranced viewers and allowed them to also use their own imaginations to envisage the events unfolding before them.

 The atmosphere in the room was enjoyable with many moments where the room gasped and laughed together at certain points in the stories. Arguably, having only four cast members is not ideal for most performances, but it really allowed the audience to concentrate and identify with the actors as they are performing and it meant that there was less distraction for them. They were able to focus on the original message of Grimm’s fairy tales without being bogged down by too much happening on stage at once.

The production was directed by Kevin Lewis and adapted by Carol Ann Duffy who evidently make a great pairing when creating shows suitable for a wide range of people. Children, adults and teenagers alike are able to enjoy this magical show which is especially great for families, keeping you entertained and involved throughout.

A highly enjoyable show where you often find yourself forgetting about everything else; and feeling eager to discover what happens next in the twists and turns of these tales.

Amy Sandford

YC Review Hide Chelsey Gillard

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HIDE

Created by Deborah Light , Chapter Arts Centre, Studio , February 23, 2013

When confronted by a naked, giggling woman as you walk into the theatre you know the show you are about to see is either going to be attention-seeking or daring. Deborah Light’s innovative first full length piece of course fell into the latter category – original and thought provoking.With a cast of world-renowned female performers HIDE showed how much is possible in a stripped back space. With just their bodies and a few mobile studio lights these women explored the boundaries between our public and private lives – as the programme asks, ‘are they showing themselves? Or is this a show?’

Wonderfully timid Jo Fong physicalised the constant battle between a performer and their onstage psyche, telling us ‘this is a show’ whilst performing conflicted choreography that showed a performers struggle with nerves more than words could ever convey.

Rosalind Haf Brooks on the other hand strived to make a connection with her fellow performers, even resorting to sniffing their clothes just to make contact. By turns equally humorous and touching in her pursuit for human interaction.

Most of the text based content came from the beautifully androgynous Eddie Ladd who chronicled the stages of her life by describing what length her hair was at any given time. She revealed that she has not always been Eddie, but as a performer she needed to change her name to avoid having the same name as another.

Each of the women contributed something new to the mix, each dancing in their own unique way and each bringing a different set of emotions to the performance. The fractured nature of the piece allowed them to disappear and reappear, transform and dissolve exploring the multiple layers of human nature.

The lines between performance and life were completely blurred – what was a performance and what was truth didn’t seem to matter as the piece delved further into what’s underneath the surface of our external facades.
Exciting and engaging, this is the kind of work that will encourage discussion and linger in your mind long after the event.

Chelsey is a member of the Young Critics Scheme for further information contact
guy.odonnell@bridgend.gov.uk