Category Archives: Theatre

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


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

Reviewed by Sam Pryce

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

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

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

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

Percentage returns #TCWA2014 online vote

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

Percentage returns Online Vote

Best Production in the Welsh Language hosted by Golwg360

Tir Sir Gar- Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru 43.86% 168 votes

Llanast-Theatr Bara Caws 25.85% 99 votes

Blodeuwedd-Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru 19.06% 73 votes

Cyfaill-Theatr Bara Caws 6.01% 23 votes

Y Bont-Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru 5.22% 20 votes

Total entries 383

Percentage Returns Online Vote

Best Production in the English Language hosted by Wales Online

Tonypandemonium – National Theatre Wales  39.1% 398 votes

Love and Money – Waking Exploits 21.1% 215 votes

Parallel Lines – Dirty Protest 19.8% 202 votes

The Bloody Ballad – Gagglebabble 15.7% 160 votes

Caligula – August 012 4.3% 44 votes

Total entries 1, 019

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

TCWA Image

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

by Phil Morris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nominations and further information on Inspirational Educator TCWA 2014.

Porthkerry-story-telling project Theatr Iolo

(Image Porthkerry Park Storytelling Project, Theatr Iolo)

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

The review recommends

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

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

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

Inspirational Educator

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

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

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

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

• Aled Jones Williams – Theatr Bara Caws

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Elen Bowman – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And lastly, her wonderful energy and general positivity.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mared Swain Associate Director, Sherman Cymru commented:

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

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

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

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

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

The Arts in Education review

An independent report for the Welsh Government

into Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales

TCWA Venue Sherman Cymru and our panel

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


sherman interior

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

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

Ticketing/Invite information Theatre Critics of Wales Awards

Dear Guest,

We are delighted to announce the second Theatre Critics of Wales Awards (TCWAs) recognising excellence in the performing arts in Wales, Jan-Dec 2013.

The Awards will be presented at a special ceremony at Sherman Cymru on,

  •  Saturday 25th January 2014, 7.30 prompt – aprox.10.00pm.
  • A free drinks reception will begin at 7.00 pm

This is an invite only event you must contact Response Wales to request entry. 

Dress Code Smart not black-tie.

Each nominated artist is offered a free ticket +1.

Each nominated production has a free ticket offered + 1 for all of the company members.

We may be able to offer additional tickets upon request closer to the event.

If you would like to attend please complete the information below and return to

Thank you

The TCWA Team


Nomination category.




Names of all attending.


Contact details.

Review The Sleeping Beauties, Sherman Cymru “spellbound from start to finish”

sleeping beauties image

On Wednesday the 11th of December I attended a completely sold out viewing of The Sherman Cymru’s – Sleeping Beauties.

With an outstandingly designed set by Rachael Canning, stunning costume design and fantastic lighting display, this really is the Christmas show of the year. Written by Robert Alan Evans and directed by Roisin McBrinn, Sleeping Beauties puts a modern day twist on a much loved classic fairy tale. Not only is the audience re-living a childhood dream, we are also exposed to many other favourites that have been intricately woven into this cleverly written adaptation.
Both children and adults were spellbound by this magical production, with the audience responding immediately and excitingly to the cast breaking the fourth wall, encouraging them to clap and sing along. Composer and Musical Director Lucy Rivers has ensured easy catchy tunes to enable us to join in quickly with no hesitations.
It’s the Christmas tale that adds a touch of sparkle that gives the production an edge you won’t find of a typical pantomime, we were spellbound from start to finish.
With an exceptionally talented cast, a special mention must go to Lisa Jen Brown for her superb portrayal of the Witch, a storyteller, cast member and singer, Miss Brown stood out from the rest with her clear love and dedication to the role being portrayed.
Following the eruptions of laugher from both children and adults alike, the standing ovations and the deafening cheers I would highly recommend this enchanting Christmas show to people of all ages as it’s so beautifully performed there’s something captivating that appeals to all of us.

Critics panel meets to short list for Theatre Critics Wales Awards.


The TCWA panel met yesterday at Media Wales, Cardiff to discuss and decide upon the short list for the second Theatre Critics of Wales Awards, will take place on Saturday 25th January 2014 at Sherman Cymru.

Organised  by Response Wales, the TCWA’s will once again celebrate the range and diversity of the performing arts in Wales Jan-Dec 2013, as voted for by the critics. This years awards will include a public vote for best production in the English Language and in the Welsh Language which will be hosted by Media Wales and Golwg.

Nominations in all categories remain open until Dec 22nd 2013.


Theatre Critics of Wales Awards panel meet to discuss nominations.

Official Awards Logo Small

The second Theatre Critics of Wales Awards, will take place on Saturday 25th January 2014 at Sherman Cymru.

Organised  by Response Wales, the TCWA’s will once again celebrate the range and diversity of the performing arts in Wales Jan-Dec 2013, as voted for by the critics.Members of the panel will meet this Friday to discuss the nominations, nominations remain open until the 22nd of Dec.

The  panel includes;

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