Category Archives: Theatre

Review Blinda, Chapter Arts Centre, by YC Chelsey Gillard. Naked people, Hugs and Pure Darkness!?

Volcano Theatre - Blinda - production - 16th April 2012

Chapter Arts Studio
Tuesday, 18th June 2013
As always Volcano have propelled their audience into unfamiliar territory; exciting, intimidating and totally overwhelming. In a production like no other Volcano demanded that their audience surrender the power of sight and leave themselves vulnerable as they crawled, shoeless, into the unknown.
Blinda is genuinely like no other ‘theatre production’ you will see and as such it is impossible to write a distanced and analytical review of something that was designed to be personal and lead the participants into a mind state of self reflection and discovery. Mine is just one experience; some will love Volcano’s latest offering, others will have found it painful and uncomfortable, I am sure that more than a few will have left confused and possibly annoyed. I began as one of the second group, as a person who does not enjoy casual physical contact; no lovey hugs or air kisses for me thanks! But as I left the Chapter Studio I was firmly in the first group, I loved this crazy, unpredictable production…..although I would be very careful about who I recommended it to!
Now to explain the physical contact comment. We sat in the foyer of the Studio, each one of us on a small bench in an individual wooden box with the word ‘FRAGILE’ stamped on our hands like an expensive or precious parcel. Having been asked to discard our phones, bags, jackets, watches and even shoes and socks we all looked sheepishly at one another, initially hoping that everyone else was doing the same and then praying we weren’t being taken for fools. One by one we crawled barefoot into a pitch black tunnel and I instantly regretted my fashion choice of maxi skirt as the hard ground gave way to grass.
I fought my hayfever sneezes, not wanting to break the calm created by the soothing ‘wilderness’ soundtrack as a pair of hands found mine in the pitch black. I reached upwards accidentally and unmistakably grabbing an unknown woman’s breasts! As I exclaimed a muffled and very embarassed “sorry” she helped me up out of the tunnel and locked me in a gentle, but firm, hug whispering “shhhhh, shhhh” in my ear – the only words to be heard all night.
As the unknown figure who had forced me into unnecessary contact let me go I was suddenly lost. Stripped of my sight with no way to tell which way was North I adopted the classic, hands in front, pose of the blindfolded in the classic children’s game ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’. Occasionally I would bump into something or someone; a velvet curtain, a corrugated cardboard wall or a hastily withdrawn hand as I listened to the sound of a roomful of clueless people fumbling in the dark.
Eventually, just as I was beginning to feel ok in this visionless environment one of the hands didn’t withdraw; instead it grasped my fingers and guided them towards this unknown person’s face making me feel the eyes, nose and mouth like a blind person recognising a friend. They did the same to me, I inexplicably panicked when they moved my glasses, stupidly worried that they would take away my sight in a room that I could see anyway! After more awkward hugs and a strange little dance we parted ways.
This pattern of complete aloneness followed by extreme closeness continued. I strangely found myself enjoying the solitary darkness, relying on my ears to guide me whilst also craving more of these weird encounters. Soon my heightened sense of sound picked up a lot of rustling in one corner, so I followed it. A dim doorway appeared and I shuffled through to a room that my feet told me had a cardboard floor and boxes strewn in my path.
I bumbled around in there for a while alone, surprised that no one else had joined me. All of a sudden the room seemed full of shadows that were hastily shedding their clothes! Startled and confused I quickly made my way back to the relative safety of the room of grass and random hugs as a light slowly revealed the now naked actors.
Their four silhouette’s thrown against a thin paper wall separated them and the audience, they struck a few suitably artistic poses before we found the collective courage to enter the room. Standing awkwardly in ones and twos the group now displayed the very British art of ‘not making eye contact’ as the performers moved slowly in the dimly lit room decorated with hundreds of cardboard boxes.
Unfortunately it soon became clear that just because the performers were now surrendering something to us it did not mean out part was over. They engaged in intense, but non-threatening eye-contact for worrying amounts of time – “do I stare back? Smile? Look away….but not down?” I opted for a friendly returned look and an embarrassed half smile, that simultaneously said “sorry” and “wow, you’re brave!”
Having always had ‘one of those faces’ I often find myself on the receiving end of the sob stories of complete strangers, normally I don’t mind this but when one of the male actors decided that on top of my feet was the perfect place for him to lie down I cursed my overly-friendly features. He stayed there for a long time, I tried to ignore him, watch the other move around and occasionally jump or twist fit-like.
I was doing quite a good job until he turned his head and locked me in his stare, he slowly raised one hand, “am I meant to help him up?” Of course I did, just as I engaged with each of the other performers; an intense staring competition, hand-holding and shy smiles with one of the girls, silent comparison of our stumpy toes with the last. It seemed I was the only one to get this full on level of connection, the most anyone else had was a box handed to them, a head rested on their shoulder…damn my welcoming face!
After this odd display of naked strength and grace the four of them formed a pathway, at the end of which a door opened. The audience trailed through one by one, out into the foyer again, normality regained. There was silence, no-one knew quite what to say.
All of this may seem bizarre and totally unnecessary to someone reading this account but I genuinely have to say the whole experience, although odd and uncomfortable, asked some interesting questions about vulnerability and human connection. I’m not going to pretend that I know exactly what Volcano were trying to tell us, but I definitelyt learned a lot about trusting my instincts and I can finally admit I do enjoy a goood, sincere hug (preferably from a family member or close friend).
Perhaps more extraordinarily if I ever see one of those audience members or one of the performers (hopefully fully clothed) on the street I would like to think we will share a knowing look. We will not say a word, we will carry on with our day but in that look we will share a secret – we know what the other is like in a state of vulnerability, we formed a strange yet comforting bond in less than an hour and none of it was as scary I we may have previously thought.

Review Diary of a Madman, Living Pictures, Sherman Cymru, YC Chelsey Gillard.


Living Pictures have proved that all you need to make great theatre is an intriguing story, a team with great attention to detail and one actor with awe-inspiring charisma.

Although set in 1830’s St Petersburg, Diary Of a Madman is a brilliant dark comedy that anyone could relate to. Shattered dreams and constant disappointment plague the sad clown of a man who is sharing his tale and although he may be pitiable and somewhat pathetic you can’t help but want to join him in some of his fantasies where dogs can talk and there’s always a happily ever after.
Robert Bowman is spellbinding as minor civil servant Poprishchin, whose main responsibility seems to be sharpening the pencils of his boss. He leads a tragic life; looked down on by everyone and hopelessly infatuated with his boss’s daughter he leads a lonely and disillusioned existence.
From the very beginning it is clear to see he is mentally unstable. There’s a constant feeling of pressure building leaving the audience waiting for the inevitable moment where Poprishchin’s mind will finally snap. When he discovers that the woman of his dreams finds him repulsive (via love letters that he is convinced were written by two dogs) it is clear to see his world completely crumbling around him and it’s not long before he has contrived a new life for himself – he is of course the King of Spain. How didn’t anyone notice sooner?
The wooden pallets that make up the entirety of the set resemble both a cage and a lifeboat lost at sea – sadly appropriate for this unhinged man. Helping to move the story forward various props are discovered underneath the planks to be examined and enjoyed.
The only other decoration is a single flickering light bulb hanging from the ceiling to represent Poprishchin’s unrequited love. Whenever he speaks of his beloved it is easy to picture her standing onstage as his gaze is so intense, wishing her into physical existence.
An original score by Roland Melia and skilful sound design by Tom Raybould add more depth to this stripped back production. Just like Poprishchin’s mind the sound begins harmoniously, peppering his narration but by the end of the production the harsh, jarring music is overpowering and drowns out his speech.
The clever use of technology extends to the lighting design by Katy Stephenson. Subtle changes in the tone of light allowed the small space to seamlessly become the civil servant’s office, his home, a Russian street and an imagined boudoir. This fine attention to detail in lighting and sound completed the production, helping to fill the stage and give Bowman something to bounce his terrific performance off.
Director Sinéad Rushe was keen to explore the Michael Chekov acting technique in this performance. This approach, otherwise known as the ‘psycho-physical approach’, prioritises impulse and imagination, showing the psychology of the character through the actor’s movement and gesture. This expressive approach was perfect for Bowman whose physical and dynamic performance perfectly articulated the inner workings of an unsettled mind.
This excellent production is currently on tour and continues at the venues below:
13 June, 7.45pm
Taliesin Arts Centre
01792 602 060
18 June, 7.30pm
Galeri, Caernarfon
01286 685 250
05-06 July, 8.15pm
Tobacco Factory, Bristol
0117 902 0344
10 July, 7.30pm
Y Ffwrnes, Llanelli
0845 226 3510
03-25 August, 4pm
Venue 13, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
07075 161 620
For more on Living Pictures please visit:

Review,Say It With Flowers,Sherman Cymru, Elin Williams


Nobody embodied the concept of rags to riches better than Dorothy Squires. Born in a carnival caravan in Pontyberem near Llanelli, Squires packed in her job at the tin factory, and set out on the ultimate gold paved path to The Big Smoke. There, after years of tireless performances in the West End, she rose to unimaginable fame, and soon after became the highest paid singer in the UK. Although her story is most certainly rags to riches, it is also the perfect example of a rise and fall too. After numerous court cases, Squires found herself broke and back in Wales, housed by a devoted fan in the Rhondda valley Trebanog. From her marriage to Roger Moore to her dependency on amphetamines, Squires’ offstage life was perhaps more dramatic than her performances onstage, and so it was only a matter of time until her life became the focus of the contemporary stage.

The play, named after one of Dorothy’s songs, is a collaborative project between notable Welsh playwright Meic Povey and personal friend of Squires, the writer Johnny Tudor.  The script provides a rather well-rounded representation of Squires’ life, but unfortunately it is peppered with numerous clichés and clumsy stumbles into past flashback scenes. The performance is divided into past and present, eventually coming together in a chaotic climax before Squires is carted off to hospital.


Ruth Madoc plays a stock-type celebrity, although she really begins to thrive during the more dramatic scenes in which Dorothy is falling apart, hallucinations driving her to near madness. Gillian Kirkpatrick is absolutely phenomenal as a younger Squires, not only a fantastic singer and performer, but a truly believable and impressive actress. Lynn Hunter as devoted fan Maisie provides the comic relief, with natural flair for comedy. The script is both funny and original in parts, but it is let down by endless Tory gags, somewhat easy for an assumedly left-wing audience. The frequent swearing, although provoking shocked, cathartic laughs from the audience, really is excessive; the over use of one specific word (beginning with c and rhyming with runt) becomes meaningless and lazy.

The smooth interweaving of music into the piece really gives the script a well-needed boost. Similarly, the odd Welsh language phrase creeps in, serving as a reminder of Dorothy’s rejection of her Welsh identity. This, being such an interesting and relevant theme, certainly could have been developed more. The stage is divided into two diagonal halves, one side a grotty 90′s valley living room, the other a completely black and underused space. The piece does contain a wonderfully creative scene change. Intruding on Dorothy when she is at her most vulnerable, paramedics and policemen come in and strip the walls bear in a frantic display representative of Dorothy’s confusion. The stage is then moved deeper, and is transformed into the clinical confines of a hospital.

Certain aspects of the script really pulled the story back into the harsh light of reality. The reveal of Dorothy’s catheter bag as she tries to seduce an imagined young Roger Moore is really quite poignant and upsetting, but it seems to be misinterpreted by the majority of the audience who laugh at its grotesqueness. This particular example seems to indicate that the script really could have taken the whole thing in another direction, but it never arrived there; the laughs just kept coming.

The story was certainly worthy of stage adaptation, but the script seemed confused somehow. The whole production needed to go that few steps further; more character development certainly would have improved this. It has to be said however that the audience certainly enjoyed the piece; a standing ovation signalled the general feeling of enjoyment. Singing performances were the strength of the production, and after all, that is arguably the main point of representation; Dorothy Squires was above all an iconic Welsh songstress.


Review Salt, Root and Roe, Theatre Clwyd Cymru, Sherman Cymru, Chelsey Gillard


Salt, Root and Roe

Theatr Clwyd Cymru

Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2

8th May 2013

The run down house of elderly twin sisters Anest and Iola seems to rise up out of the sea and if the stories are to be believed they themselves were found in a lobster pot by their father who was half merman!

This feeling of Welsh fairytale runs deep through Tim Price’s beautifully written play and it gives the sense that the twins are somewhat ethereal and otherworldly. Indeed we soon find out that they do not have long left in this world, having decided to take their own lives to release themselves from the torture of Iola’s ever-worsening dementia.

Early moments did (for me) feel somewhat melodramatic but soon a beautifully directed rhythm of highs and lows really captured the sense of Iola’s good days and bad days. Sara Harris-Davies sensitively and convincingly played Iola, skilfully navigating both the tender and the violent aspects of the septuagenarian’s illness. Combined with the tender love pouring out of Betsan Llwyd’s Anest the pair were genuinely heartbreaking and certainly had the audience in tears on more than one occasion.

One of the only things keeping the pair alive is their tie to Anest’s daughter Menna (Catrin Aaron) who rushes to their Pembrokeshire home as soon as she receives a letter from Iola telling her niece that she plans to kill herself. Tragic Menna already has a lot to deal with; she seems to suffer with crippling obsessive compulsive disorder centred on a fear of germs. Her desperation to rekindle her Welsh origins and reignite the older women’s passion for life whilst dealing with her own demons was moving and made an initially cold woman human and relatable.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom; whenever caring local policeman and family friend Gareth (Brendan Charleson) entered he seemed to bring a ball of positive energy with him despite having his own problems at home. His chemistry with Menna was wonderful to watch as the two slowly grew more comfortable in each other’s company.

In what is already a charmingly slow-burning play unnecessarily slow furniture changes sucked any pace from proceedings. Although this suited the gentle nature of the dialogue it was frustrating when the stage was left empty with only off-stage murmurings to keep you engaged.

Having said that, the words and the acting were so expertly crafted that the production did not once lose the audience’s attention. It was refreshing to see a contemporary play that dealt head-on with one of the most controversial topics of healthcare today. Not only did it provide a heartbreakingly honest portrayal of old age but it also had an obvious and well reasoned pro-euthanasia stance without being pushy or overtly political. Here were two old women who could be any Welsh Mamgu trying their best to come to terms with human frailty.

Photo Catherine Ashmore.

Review Spangled, Mercury Theater Wales,Chapter Arts Centre, Chelsey Gillard.


Bumbags, Curtain-cuts and Ecstasy!


Mercury Theatre Wales

Chapter Arts Theatre

2nd May 2013


Bum-bags, curtain-cuts and ecstasy, add in a hypnotic rave track and you have the perfect ingredients for a night out in 1993!

Mercury Theatre completely transformed the theatre in Chapter, removing the seating and replacing it with a bar, DJ booth, a seated “chill-out zone” and dance platforms. The black walls, laser projections, film clips of clubbers and heavy soundtrack really made it feel as though we had been let into a top night spot.

The bouncer on the door frisked some of the men, while the rest of us had a smiley face stamped on our hands and were given neon glosticks to get us in the mood to party. It was surprising how easy it was to be caught up by the music (not at all to my taste!) and soon most people were at least bobbing their heads in time to the beats, some were really going for it and could have fit in nicely with the cast.

Up on the platform beautiful and innocent Angel (Sian Davies) lets the music control her body as she writhes seductively unaware of the attention she is attracting. She has certainly caught Gary’s (Rhy Downing) eye – he looks on longingly, after trying to convince his mate Sean (Jason Marc-Williams) to take some “painkillers” to help his headache. Sean is there to see his girlfriend Donna (Holly Fry) , they live the typical Welsh valley’s life – get a job and settle down young, but is this enough for DJ wannabe Donna?

The inspiration for Donna’s goal comes in the form of DJ Johnny (Lee Mengo) who started out with a passion for music but somewhere along the way he got distracted by the women and the drugs. Linking all these characters together is Angel’s mother’s boyfriend – Steve (Jason May) a businessman proudly showing off the latest in technology – his huge mobile phone. He is also a casual drug dealer who just can’t stop using himself.

There was just enough narrative cleverly woven into the quieter moments of music but unfortunately quite a lot was lost due to microphone volume (possibly intentional, but seemed like an error). Cleverly choreographed movement scenes were slick and impressive, really expressing the feelings of euphoria that this kind of club culture is associated with.

Having seen this as a work in progress as part of the Wales Millennium Centre’s Incubator scheme I was pleased to see how much the work has come on. New video art by Holly Genevieve and music by renowned DJ Jimpy really enhanced the authentic club feel. On the other hand the dialogue and characters were still somewhat clichéd and certain plot points – a sudden (drug related?) collapse – were never fully explained or explored. Having said that more dialogue would have weighed down the fast pace and disturbed the immersive nature of the production.

The cast were excellent, not to mention unbelievably fit, to keep up that level of energy and give believable performances is no easy task. Special mention must go to Lee Mengo as DJ Johnny who bought an easy going, natural charm to his performance and Jason May as slightly past it Steve. As the oldest member of the cast Jason gave the most heartbreaking and convincing performance as a man trapped by his own addictions and fears, he was completely believable as a real hardcore clubber who doesn’t know when it’s time to just go home.

This really is a company to keep your eye on, here they have created a truly original and innovative piece of work that is sure to leave the audience with a smile on their face and a sudden desire to don their best shell suit and hit an underground rave.



The tour continues:

8th May – Aberystwyth Arts Centre

15-18th May – Volcano @229 High Street, Swansea

23rd May – The Riverfront, Newport

25th May – Theatr Soar, Merthyr Tydfil


For more on Mercury Theatre Wales –


Twitter: @MercuryTheatre1


For more reviews :

Article, Critics are Parasites


‘Critics are Parasites’

 Meet the Critics at the V&A organised by the Critics Circle 27/04/13

I coordinate the activities of the Young Critics, the new 3rd Age Critics group and helped set up the inaugural Theatre Critics of Wales Awards at Sherman Cymru earlier this year. I read with interest that the Critics Circle was organising a free event for anyone interested in a critical understanding of the arts and went along to learn more.

The morning session was chaired by Paul Gambaccini and comprised of a series of five panels consisting of three critics, one panel from each Critics Circle section, Drama, Music, Film, Dance and Visual Arts, the panellists talked about their relevant fields and answered questions. Critics present included Michael Billington, Mark Shenton, Jason Solomons, Barry Norman, Marine Vaizey, Claire Allfree, Jeffery Taylor, Libby Purves, Fiona Mountford, Richard Morrison, Guy Dammann, Erica Jeal, Sanjoy Roy, Donald Hutera, Simon Tait, Hugh Pearman and Sarah Crompton.

The morning session consisted of the different critic’s panels discussing their entry routes into the world of arts criticism, this being most frequently that of the journalist.

There were some interesting and provocative statements relating to the critical process with Barry Normans definition of the critic as ‘parasites’ appearing to resonate most strongly in the room.

Other statements included,

  • The critic must be honest to the audience.
  • Don’t bore the reader.
  • The opinion of the star struck critic is worthless.
  • Don’t be in awe of someone who earns their living from pretending to be someone else.
  • Critics shouldn’t be populist celebrities it’s a form in its own right.
  • Someone over 40 with considerable life experience and knowledge of their form is a better critic than that of a young person.
  • Be brave, failure is good.
  • Nobody wants to make bad work.
  • A review can be better if the critic understands the artist’s intention.
  • Good writing is rewriting.
  • The critic provides the match report.
  • Make the reader know what it was like to be there.
  • The critic is a professional member of the audience.
  • Without critics we risk the sound of one hand clapping.
  • The best critics are practioners, but not the best reviewers.

The second half of the session was chaired by Mariella Frostrup and devoted to the future of the critic and their trade. Topics for discussion included what might happen to criticism in the age of the blogger, the impact on the critic’s trade and the standards of the on-line amateur with opinions but no qualifications for holding opinions, the tweeter who tweets without thought, and of people who have no experience of life.

I felt this afternoon session focused primarily on many of the negative elements of the internet and the changes currently taking place in the world of arts criticism.

It was immediately apparent that the process of change currently taking place for many arts journalists is a very difficult process but I felt that many of the positive aspects of the internet were overlooked. This also seemed to relate to the opinion of some of the panellists and the Critics Circle themselves, they seemed to think  that for a critic to have a worthwhile opinion they need to have considerable life experience and to have an in-depth knowledge of their subject matter. Whilst I am sure this is true to an extent I feel this risks alienating a huge sector of new potential critic’s especially younger ones.

In my opinion the positive developments of ‘everyone is a critic’ alongside the internet has allowed a more inclusive voice to be heard regarding many art forms. There are a range of audiences/ages for much of the work created and I don’t feel its representative to only focus on the voices of older predominately male critics.

I feel that projects such as Young Critics, 3rd Age Critics, Wales Arts Review and magazine websites such as A Younger Theatre help to support a more honest, inclusive critical voice as opposed to the Critics Circle ideal critic

‘Which is not to say critics should be dinosaurs just that they should have lived a little.’



With these thoughts in mind the Young Critics have arranged the event below to continue the discussions in Wales


A series of critical conversations The Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Sat the 7th of Sep 10-4 pm.

Subjects for discussion at Response may include

  • Venue/producers presentation, an open forum to discuss the relationship with Arts Critics, venues, producers and artists.
  • Lack of critical commentary in an area, and what can be done/is being done to support work.
  • Looking beyond the traditional routes for criticism, how can engagement go further?
  • Producing venues from across Wales will be invited to attend these days to showcase their work and invite a critical response (this will be cross art form).
  • The notion of the “professional” critic in the age of blogging; a discussion with arts practitioners about the kinds of criticism (if any) which they find useful.
  • Arts Criticism in the Welsh Language (With a focus on work for younger audiences).
  • The future role of the Arts Critic.

If you have any suggestions for discussion topics or would like to present at Response please let me know.



Critic’s Circle article on their event.

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


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.


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:

Review, The Bloody Ballad, Gagglebabble, Chelsey Gillard.

bloody ballad

The Bloody Ballad


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 :

Tour details:

Gwyn Hall, Neath

Date & Time: 17th April, 7.30pm

Box Office: 0300 3656677 /

Tickets: £9, £7 members, £5 students


St Donat’s Arts Centre, Vale of Glamorgan

Date & Time: 19th April, 8pm

Box Office: 01446 799100 /

Tickets: £12.50, £10.50 conc


University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Date & Time: 24th April, 7pm

Box Office: 01267 67 6669 /

Tickets: £6, £4


Torch Theatre, Milford Haven

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

Box Office: 01646 695 267 /

Tickets: £12/£10 conc/under 26s £7


Soho Theatre, London

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

Box Office: 020 7478 0100 /

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

Review Incubator, WMC by Fern Coslett


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.