Category Archives: Theatre

Review The Everyman Theatre’s: The Taming of the Shrew by Eifion Ap Cadno

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As I took my seat, number D37, and planted my buttocks firmly between those of my neighbours’ – you must assert your presence in these situations – I noticed a finely attired young man in the front row. He was dressed as if ready for Sunday Service. Consequently, the ease with which he conversed with his attractive female neighbours surprised me. In Row D we remained British and had proceeded to keep ourselves to ourselves (cheek chafing aside). Understand I am fairly normal in the sense that I do not lick my elbows in public nor attempt to flirt with anyone for fear of accidentally marrying them. This somewhat geeky Casanova just had to be a cast member masquerading as one of us. And sure enough he was: he sprang up and promptly blurted something out, possessed by prose!

His fellow thespians joined him on stage and together they whisked us away to the magical land of Tony’s chip shop, Caroline Street – colloquially known as ‘chippy alley’. The modern-day scene replaces Shakespeare’s own induction. The original works as a device, setting the vast bulk of the play The Taming of the Shrew as a play-within-a-play. Unique in that of all his thirty-seven plays it is the only one to do this. Either Shakespeare was simply testing things out at this early stage in his writing career or it has an intended purpose. Siding with the latter, I believe it was to encourage the audience to view the controversial content that follows with a critical eye. Alternatively, their rather extensive use of modern, “non-Shakespearean” language, the local setting and fairly – cough – contemporary costume was presumably to highlight the play’s ongoing relevance. Instead it alienated me from the on-stage antics: ‘this isn’t Shakespeare!’ a little voice cried in my head, my jowls wobbling. Arguably this alienation lent me the aforementioned critical eye anyway, only in a clumsier manner.

Fortunately Lucentio and Tranio, played by Matt Lody and Richard Atkinson (aka ‘geeky Casanova’) respectively, soon appear with blank verse in tow. It is to be expected some text will be lost with alfresco theatre, even if actors are miked up. However, I lost many of Lucentio’s lines to the open air. Oddly enough, disguised as a Latin teacher his character spoke clearer. Confidence I say! Speak loud, speak clear, we want to hear you! Despite this, the performance managed to communicate the plot physically with effective and economical use of the space; and facial and corporal gestures galore. Should you not catch a few lines, watch the adjacent actor’s reaction and the meaning will be apparent.

Baptista Minola (played by John Atkinson) enters with his two daughters: the younger, beautiful and mild Bianca (played by the beautiful and mild Alys Pearce) and the shrew of the title, Katherine. They are followed by Gremio and Hortensio, each vying for the young sister’s hand (and dowry) in marriage; but here’s the rub – Bianca can’t marry until someone makes Kate a wife, a seemingly impossible task. Accompanied by a particularly effeminate Grumio – seeing Chris Williams in a dress will please many – Petruchio will attempt to tame the shrew.

From here on in we are treated to a picnic of puns, quips and musical numbers. Many have speculated whether Shakespeare intended the play to be ironic or sincere, satirical or misogynistic. This performance encompasses all these in fairly equal measures. As part of the rehearsal process the cast shared their opinions regarding the woman’s role within marriage. Comprising of a father and son, a young couple and new and old old friends of all ages, there was undoubtedly differing views. This comedy will draw in a varied audience of all backgrounds and while it poses a big question, you need to find your own answer.

There were some directorial choices that jarred with me. While many of the characters would indulge in a beer or an inconspicuous swig from a hipflask, Petruchio seemed not to touch the stuff. Usually he is shown as a drunk, a reveller, however here surrounded by alcoholics he seems positively sober and even reasonable; almost the ‘hero’ of the play, lacking the vices to warrant the ‘anti-’. Throughout the play there are some excellent comedic performances: Sarah Bawler as Katherine manages to squeeze the laughs out of every line. However, she never seems much of a match for James Pritchard’s domineering, charismatic Petruchio. The comedy is dropped in the last scene for an earnest delivery of Kate’s speech championing the play’s view of marital harmony: a providing husband complemented by a loyal, subservient wife. It is partially directed to the audience as if an instruction to all women. I felt uncomfortable but it is an uncomfortable speech and transformation. If all sat well something would be very, very wrong!

Further comedic commendation to Phil Jones whose timing and clown-like Pedant had everyone laughing, impressive considering the character isn’t normally funny! He also shared the role of Curtis with Luke Cooper who shuffled about with a hunch to rival Igor’s. The splitting of a character between two actors is twofold with Birdie Smith and Serena Lewis finishing each other’s sentences and delivering an extremely entertaining musical performance as Biondello, Lucentio’s second servant, a minor role made marvellous and very endearing. Toby Harris’s Hortensio is wonderfully unpleasant – in the best possible way – when undercover as a music teacher, despite having as much musical talent as one half of Jedward. Some of his lines were lost amid an exaggerated Italian accent but the comic payoff was worth it. I also liked Paul Fanning as Gremio: though not a particularly funny performance it was evident he enjoyed his character, making it easy for me to do the same.

As for the open-air stage, it is very relaxing to see and feel the night draw in around you and the play. The darkening sky – black by the second half – worked superbly for the scene where Petruchio declares the sun the moon. Director Rebecca Gould rightly embraced the moonshine and decided to set the scene at night. This changing of light is highly symbolic of Kate’s transformation: as her independence is slowly stripped away and the contestable message strengthens the world darkens – a special effect like no other.

For those of you who like your Shakespeare pure, be warned: this has plenty of pop as mixer. With musical hits including Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ getting the Two Biondello’s treatment, it continues the tradition of music in Shakespeare only with less lute (not a bad thing).

Despite my few criticisms, as an amateur theatre company I commend The Everyman’s brave choice of play and thoroughly recommend it to all.

The Taming of the Shrew runs until 2nd August, tickets are £12-£16 (£2 off for under 18s).

For more information and to book tickets on-line visit the Everyman website: www.everymanfestival.co.uk or call the box office on 0333 6663366

Review by Eifion Ap Cadno

A short interview with cast member Phil Jones

How was it rehearsing with the cast of the Everyman Theatre?

Phil: It was really wonderful. It’s a small cast and everyone gets on really well. A lot of us knew each other from previous Everyman productions and outings. We had a lovely director, Rebecca, who was calm and patient with everybody and nurtured a great atmosphere.

What did you make of the modern interpretation of the play?

Phil: When we first heard about it we weren’t too sure but bit by bit it’s come together and even in the very last moments the induction was being tweaked and altered. It creates a link with the people that are watching us, it shows Shakespeare doesn’t need to set in ‘ye olden dayes’, it can be modern and very lively. It’s very fun to be a part of.

What about the question of the woman’s position in a relationship?

Phil: Our aim was always to show the two main characters as quite compatible in some ways. Some relationships thrive on being tempestuous. They’re both sparring partners really, they bounce off each other. It is tricky though, there are some lines that make modern audiences wince a little.

Do you think Kate was tamed in your production?

Phil: No they’ll blow up again! They’ll go on a massive weekend to Brighton and have a massive argument! I’m gonna get a beer now.

A short interview with cast member Alys Pearce

How was it working with the cast?

Alys: Is this on record? Yes? Oh okay. Ummm. It’s been like a rollercoaster of lollipops and tornadoes but fun ones like in Wizard of Oz.

Were these difficult tornadoes?

Alys: It’s a very difficult subject in the play to tackle and everyone has different points of view. So for us all to agree on one point of view and how to deliver it was a challenge. Our director didn’t say ‘this is how I want to do it’, it was very much a group decision. We sat down and had lots of conversations. We all have our own subjective reactions to Kate’s speech at the end.

Is your character, Bianca, happy in the end?

Alys: Yes because she has a pretty rich husband.

Pretty rich or pretty and rich?

Alys: All of the above. It’s a plus that he’s pretty. I feel so weirdly nervous doing this!

How’s working with Rebecca Gould been?

Alys: She gives a lot of the responsibility to the cast. She’s a very free director and she can let you do your own thing which is sometimes nerve-wracking. You’ll think ‘what do I do? Is this okay??’ but you have to make your own decisions. She’s a good guide.

Are you happy with tonight’s opening performance?

Alys: I’m so so thrilled, I felt a proper buzz tonight. I was completely uncertain to the last minute but I’m happy with how it’s been received. People seemed to clap and laugh and stuff, no one cried or threw bananas. There were moments when people booed, like during Petruchio’s ‘this is a way to kill a wife with kindness’ speech which was brilliant because James Pritchard handled it with a great ‘who’s gonna speak against me’ attitude. Ultimately I hope it’s accessible!

Interview 3 Crate Theatre Company by Lois Arcari

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After reviewing 3 Crate’s intriguing adaptation of Henna Night, I was given the opportunity to interview the cast and director here’s how it went, with info on the characters, script, and general process of creating a unique experience for theatre goers.

1. Chapter arts centre overall is surprisingly sprawling, but its theatre can be best described as cosy; how do you feel playing in such an intimate theatre affected the performance?

Emma (who plays Ros): The theatre space at Chapter Arts Centre is lovely to perform on. It means that, as an actor, you can really feel the audience with you. We had previously done the piece in a much larger performance space with the audience further away, and I felt that for such a personal and naturalistic piece, this kind of setting is far better. The play is set in Judith’s ‘eggbox’ sized bed sit, so it was important for us to allow that claustrophobic feel come through. There really is no escape for Ros in such a small space, and it was lovely to have the theatre space add to that.

2. There aren’t that many female led projects in general, and nowhere near enough female friendships – do you feel this is something unique to Henna night, or since the late 90’s, when it came out and won awards, has it trickled into other plays?

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Hannah (Judith): The biggest pull for me wanting to perform ‘Henna Night’ was the bold decision Amy Rosenthal took, in writing two strong, real modern woman and not caricatures – we’ve all been a Judith and/or Ros. I think since the 90’s and most definitely in more recent times, the whole debate about female characters, gender-casting , female driven plays has been growing and I certainly have found it affecting new writing, which as a female, I am really excited about. I do believe it has started in trickle in but not just into plays but other areas such as film and tv.

3. What were the challenges of the play’s direction – it’s a very natural and simplistically directed play; so what were the subtleties that you feel enhanced it?

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Peter (director) : For me the character work was the key. We did extensive character work on Judith and Ros, so even though it was simplistic, both characters were interesting in themselves. My aim in the direction was to enable to actors to give pure, natural performances so the audience could relate to and empathise with them. We wanted the audience to go on an emotional journey in the piece, but we also wanted to remain true to the play, which is very simple and natural in form. In making the characters as natural as possible I aimed to counter some of the comedy moments, so that the audience could experience the depth of the characters and the performance wouldn’t become a farce.

I aimed to make the set communicate as much In the piece as the characters. We were inspired by Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’, as – like Emin – Judith has effectively remained on her futon bed for weeks as she wallows in the pain of Jack leaving. The litter scattering the floor added a tactile, unstable element that the actors had to navigate during the performance. There was a lot on the floor, and if the actors touched, knocked over or kicked any of it I had given the direction that they had to react and deal with it. In my work I use organic blocking, so I allow the movement of the actors onstage to be found in the moment or through improvisations in rehearsal. This, combined with the ever changing set, made for a performance that has changed every night.

4. If the story was, like it so easily could have been the boyfriend’s, with Ros and Judith’s growing understanding as just a subplot, how do you think the play would change?

Emma: The play would change dramatically! My fear is that, if Jack was introduced as the lead character, Ros and Judith would be reduced to character types rather than three dimensional characters. Unfortunately, it is very rare as an actress to be offered a character who is in the play in her own right and not just ‘the girl friend’, ‘the mother’, ‘the mistress’, etc. In ‘Henna Night’ we are able to see the characters as people in their own right. If Jack was introduced to the plot, I doubt we would’ve have been given the opportunity to see Ros’s manipulative side as well as her sensitive caring nature. In the play we get to see Ros triumphantly mocking Judith as well as her desperately trying to lighten the mood and make friends. There are very few plays in which as an actress in their 20s you get to do that. So thanks Amy Rosenthal for writing ‘Henna Night’!

5. The play starts off very dark, but slowly tails off the dark premise and into something very warm; do you think the tonal balance fit the characters, or did you think about putting nuggets of black comedy in the lighter parts, and vice versa?

Peter: I wanted to create a piece that fluctuated between darker and lighter moments. By remaining true to each moment, both the comedy moments and the darker points, the audience were able to experience the humour and invest in the darker moment.

Hannah: Amy’s (Rosenthal) script is fantastic and I do feel the tonal balance she created through the script does fit the characters. When I first read the script, the way in which Judith uses her nuggets of comedy and one-liners in both the darker parts and the lighter parts was really interesting and discovering ways to play the lines was a delight.

6.Finally, when the characters first walk on, they’re centrepieces of the comedy rather than completely likable – Ros seems a little superior, and Judith the easy to mock brash character – how conscious were you of turning their characters around, so the audience would sympathize with them more, in a subtle and organic way?

To be honest, the script did it for us. In rehearsal, Peter really encouraged us to trust the script and invest in each moment fully. Through all the extensive character work we had done in rehearsals we knew the character were multi-faceted people. I had found through the improvisations and visualisations that she could be kind and caring, but also manipulative and snide. She used humour to try to dissipate some of the tension and awkwardness of the situation, but also at times used it to mock and berate. Ros is paranoid that Jack will leave her for Judith, especially if she is pregnant with his child, but on the side she is truly trying to convince herself that she deserves happiness and that she, and not Judith, is the right woman for Jack. The play allowed the audience to see different sides of Ros throughout and, hopefully, to sympathise with, but also dislike her at different times. Many of us have been Ros at one time, and many have been Judith as well. Through the play we wanted to try to show both sides of the story. IT’s been great having audience members approach both myself and Hannah after the show and say ‘I hated you at first, but then I thought – that’s just how I felt when X left me’ or ‘I know exactly how Ros feels! I always wanted to say that to X’s ex-girlfriend’.

For more info on the company check out

3crate.wordpress.com

 

 

 

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Review The Homecoming ROGUE’Z Theatre Company by Kaitlin Wray

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The Homecoming, is one of Harold Pinter’s most ambiguous, sexually orientated play that eradicates family values and morals. Although somewhat dark, it is nevertheless comedic throughout with explicit language. Two main themes, sex and power, they’re established in this play through the use of the characters. Even though this play is highly stylised -on the verge of being unrealistic the play underlines certain truths about the dark side of human nature, giving an insight to what can happen behind closed doors.

Due to the challenging nature of this play there is no doubt that the talented cast of ROGUE’Z Theatre Company chose this play for the Cardiff Comedy festival. Their habit of seeking out plays rarely performed is what makes their work original and special for theatre in Wales. The simplistic staging and the lack of physical action makes it clear that they  must rely on their voice and characterisation to deliver this challenging performance. They excelled in this task. Each actor showed a true deeper meaning into the madness of the this peculiar family. Their individual and perfected mannerisms brought to life Pinter’s equivocal characters. Jeff Fifer playing the role of the embittered father Max, demonstrated the robustness of this character. His comedic timings are impeccable and he nonetheless creates a dynamic stance to this play. Andreas Constantinou not only directing the play, but embodying Lenny, creates a character that dominates the household with wit and suave. His charming method of delivery gave an insight to the psychotic mind of an unsettled man. Ray Thomas plays the loveable character of Uncle Sam, his nervous disposition and obedience to his brother Max is highlighted throughout Ray’s performance and the audience feels empathy towards him. Darren Freebury-Jones playing Joey, a character who’s ambition in life is to become a boxer yet lacking education was portrayed very convincingly by Darren and kept the audience entertained . Richard Jones playing Teddy, portrays him as disconnected towards the rest of the family. Even though he is considered the most intelligent he lets himself be undermined by everyone else. The only female in this play is Ruth, played by Nerys Rees, she accentuates the power she has as a woman and when she wants to she can make every word roll off her tongue and capture the characters and audience’s attention.

Overall these characters, outlandish in ways, appear troubled from their past and make the audience want to delve in even further, thus leaving us to question and debate Pinter’s hidden meanings in the play. I believe that Pinter would have approved of this clever and imaginative interpretation of the Homecoming. If you’re a fan of Pinter’s work or interested in dark humour than this play is a must-see for you.

Review The Taming of the Shrew, Everyman Open Air Theatre Festival by Lois Arcari

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As the sun beat upon Cardiff, a cool breeze following; it really didn’t prove too hard to imagine that we were in the lazy Italy of Shakespeare’s time.

What was amazing about this Italy we were transported to, however, was that despite its age, the actors connected it to the audience; laughter heard flowing through Shakespearean double entendres and the rouge’s Elizabethan renditions of pop songs, a la karaoke, alike.

All the actors were brilliantly cast; James Pritchard as Petruchio had a rouge’s charm, even through his viler moments, and Kate was dramatically acted by Sarah Bawler in  moments that flashed with anger Bawler excelled in  giving her character comedic sympathy.

Also of note were the rouges; Serena Lewis and Bridie Smith, Alys Pearce as Bianca, making her interesting rather than the easy option of a piece of cardboard, and Petruchio’s much abused servant, Grumio, bringing some great comedic moments as played by Chris Williams.

Thematically, this is one of Shakespeare’s with uneven footing, modern values leaving rather disgusted residual energy, despite the gusto of all the actors in the production; but criticising the man himself would be a little beside the point when so many other have both critiqued and praised it wonderfully, with the best links here and here:

http://waitingforputney.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/liberation-through-submission-sexism-in-the-taming-of-the-shrew/

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/jan/17/taming-of-the-shrew-rsc,

With an increasingly popular view that Shakespeare was trying to push the boundaries of his time, by pushing comedy to its limits and seeing if his audience would laugh; the themes of the play and their dual interpretations, in relation to our and its own time are interesting food for thought.

It is however, somewhat a moot point, as although each member of the cast was excellent, especially in making Shakespeare’s dialogue more understandable; it fails to take any real subversions or bold choices; the stag do at the start and Italian karaoke fun, but the creativity seems spent on the enthralling comedy, rather than trying to find very much meaning.

As it is, however, it’s a play at times bombastic and always well-acted, that benefits enormously from its outdoors setting, and made a real connection with its modern audience.

Review Henna Night, 3 Crate Productions by Lois Arcari

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Hannah Lloyd and Emma Macnab, given the unenviable task of carrying the show on their shoulders, rose to the challenge; with both  actresses very good at portraying the  flaws and strengths of two very different women, and showing annoyance blossoming into understanding; perfectly asking questions about the nature of female hostility and empathy alike, tipping from understated to heavy handed in the writing a little jarringly.

The themes themselves, however, are generally under-represented, and it was good to see them as the whole basis of a play, when they are themes that so many writers don’t acknowledge as important or interesting.
The set design was well tailored to the play, believable; but also a physical representation of the divide between the two, with all its scattered mess.
The writing was its biggest strength and downfall, as although it was often witty and cutting, some of the dialogue seemed the sort of dialogue too sweeping not to be reserved for fiction, and seeing how much of a negative influence their boyfriend had become, rather, than  just hearing how good he was supposed to be, made you wonder why he was attractive to either woman in the first place.
It also felt like it was over far too soon because of the constricting time frame, but that may, again, be a symbol of how cut off the two were, even with their friendship.
Overall, a generally sharp comedy that had some important themes, even when the dialogue sometimes carried them a little too heavily in places, had some wry jokes and talented actresses, and felt, like it should have, as a snapshot easily lifted from reality.

The Everyman Festival Forecast by Eifion Ap Cadno.

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Will it be sunny? Will it be overcast? Will it rain? These three questions, while perhaps a little trite and unnecessary – ‘what’s the weather like?’ would suffice – will never be truly answered in Wales. Travel to the Mediterranean, the North or South Poles (take your pick) or the Amazon and you will have your meteorological answers, but will you have your fix of sultry Shakespeare?

The biggest of its kind in Wales, The Everyman Festival – having already delivered the bloody goods in a highly commended production of Sweeney Todd – is currently thigh-high in the boots of Blackadder II, raking in a mass of glowing reviews. The question is: can they rake in more?

Opening on 25 July and running until 2 August, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew certainly promises big things – and I don’t just mean Petruchio’s ego – with an excellent cast and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s own Rebecca Gould sat in the director’s chair.

Lucentio loves Bianca, Bianca loves Lucentio; Bianca’s father Baptista declares she’ll not marry until her elder, venomous sister Katherine be wed. Unfortunately it seems dear Kate’s only redeeming quality is her great big, enormous dowry – steady on. Will the charismatic but penniless Petruchio prove the charmer, or shall her sting find his tail? Cue a battle of wit, words and willpower; a whirlwind of disguises and a domestic that will end in tears, or in kindness.

If your theatrical appetite still isn’t sated, then have no fear: the show runs until 2 August so you can see it repeatedly! For those little drama divas whose cravings bite deep, andGo Productions’ Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. runs in tandem from 26 July. You and all the family will be transported to an underwater world – especially if it rains – where Ariel the beautiful mermaid Princess will be waiting to take you on a bright, musical adventure.

And remember folks, Blackadder II is still on until Monday 21 July. Fans and newcomers alike can be sure to find comedy gold in them thar episodes Bells; Potato;and Beer. Here’s a review http://www.buzzmag.co.uk/uncategorized/blackadder-ii-stage-review/

There is an on-site Festival Bar and should the heavens open all seats are sheltered so you can remain dry and merry, watching the cast members slog it out for your entertainment. Last year I had the privilege of seeing their cracking Midsummer Night’s Dream performed at sea, such was the power of the deluge. With slips, trips and brollies, believe me it only adds to the show!

Further Information

Tickets for Blackadder II and The Taming of the Shrew are £12-£16 (£2 off for under 18s). Tickets for Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. are £7 each or £25 for a family ticket for four people.

For more information and to book tickets on-line visit the Everyman website: www.everymanfestival.co.uk or call the box office on 0333 6663366

Eifion Ap Cadno

Sherman theatre Tour and Autumn Season musings by Sam Pyce

 

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The Sherman Theatre has, in recent years, become the most dynamic, forward-thinking and vibrant centre for the arts in Wales. Its productions are idiosyncratic in style yet universal in their message. And I’m sure you already knew all that. But haven’t you ever wondered how it looks beneath the surface? Well, guess who’s going to give you a whistle-stop tour from the comfort of your very own phone/laptop screen. Yes, me.

As part of my work experience, I got to spend a week roving around different theatres, snooping behind-the-scenes, probing directors and being generally nosy. And you lucky dogs get to know all about it through this mini blog. Not so I can brag – god forbid. Rather to alert you of all the bubbling arty hubbub that’s happening right underneath your nose.

The Sherman isn’t just made up of the one theatre. In fact, the entire building has the potential to become a stage. Lighting rigs even adorn the walls of the foyer should the Sherman staff feel the need to break into spontaneous dance. A regular appearance in the foyer is an open mic artistic event called Scratch That Itch  supported by National Theatre Wales TEAM, where ten artists perform for ten minutes each to relieve themselves of their, erm, itch. Not a literal itch, of course; otherwise I’d advise some sort of cream.

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The main theatre is more of a Grecian coliseum blissfully devoid of a bad seat. It is that broad sense of inclusion and versatility that compliments the aim of the Sherman.

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The ‘other’ theatre, soon to be named The Studio, is even more versatile – a bare, black room housing nothing but chairs and an eerie white table. This space clearly lends itself to new writing allowing the text to stand unadulterated and unobscured. If raw, unabashed performance is what you’re after, this is the place to go.

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You’d think seeing the set design workshop would spoil the magic but I think it only enhances it. The workshop comprises assorted detritus that looks extracted from a plethora of different realms, but are all mere replicas fashioned in incredibly deceiving ways. For instance, the mirrors are not glass but Perspex to avoid smashing. I guess all that glitters really isn’t gold, but probably spray-painted plastic.

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The versatility continues in the rehearsal rooms which act as essentially blank canvases for anything remotely arty ranging from Shakespeare to high-octane street dance. The rooms are so immodestly naked that not much can be said of them apart from the immense feeling of freedom they can provide.

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And that brings us to the end of our tour. Don’t stop there, though. Come and roam around there for yourself; I’d certainly advise you to visit this autumn with the wildly diverse season it’s boasting. Kicking off the autumnal season is the ‘unashamedly vulgar’ sexual comedy Wendy Hoose on 10th and 11th Sept. The romance continues with Shakespeare’s eternal tragedy of forbidden love Romeo and Juliet – the exciting first show by the Sherman’s new artistic director, Rachel O’Riordan and perfect for students who are fed up of over-analysing the text at school.

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If love’s not the sort of thing you need in autumn, comedy could work instead. I’m looking forward to red-headed raconteur Ruby Wax who is bringing her show on mental illness and mutual insanity Sane New World after the release of her acclaimed book.Well, if that’s not your thing, novelist and Mock the Week regular Mark Watson will also be tickling audiences with his latest show Flaws.

As if the Sherman couldn’t get any more varied in their season, they’re also putting on a fusion of martial arts and hip-hop with The Five & The Prophecy of Prana just after a serious slice of contemporary opera in the form of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, composed by Philip Glass. Now that’s what I call diversity.

So, hopefully, this blog has urged you to get on the next train to Cathays and pop in to the Sherman. Please do. Hey, if you do it this week, you might see me there. Hope that doesn’t put you off!
Words and Pictures By Sam Pryce

 

‘In These Stones, Horizons Sing’ – a tour round Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff by Sam Pryce

 

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Ah, the WMC – like a great, big, brown armadillo dormant in Cardiff Bay. That’s my way of looking at it, I suppose. Yet on one of the many tours that the staff organise around the Centre, you are encouraged to look closely at various different aspects of the venue’s striking architecture (courtesy mainly of Jonathan Adams, among others) and reach your own conclusions as to what they mean. For example, the actual shape of the venue is intended to resemble the back of a ship while the two slate constructions either side represent cliffs with the glass acting as the ocean. But I don’t know – I still see an armadillo.

With our cheery guide Sophie, myself and two fascinated older folks were taken in, out, up, down and around nearly every nook and cranny a theatregoer could hope to go. Everything excluding the auditorium itself. Strange, I know, but understandable since the cast of War Horse were busy rehearsing and weren’t keen on a small group of tourists ooh-ing and ahh-ing at every move. Luckily, we gawped from the safety of the Technical Box instead and Sophie’s in-depth and factual tour was not purged of its intrigue in the slightest.

As you could guess, the tour also comprises prying behind-the-scenes into rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms and any other room that may be of interest (sadly not the bathroom). You’ll be swamped with anecdotes and factoids aplenty, – did you know, for superstitious reasons, there is no Dressing Room 13? Spooky!

Facts abound at every corner on this tour. It certainly equips you with an all-round knowledge of any and every aspect of this iconic arts hub. There’s a lot more to that armadillo than one might think. Plus, it’s always nice to spout off some fun facts on your next visit too. Just pre-warn whoever’s sitting next to you.

 

Preview The Homecoming, Rogue’z Theatre by Sam Pryce.

PREVIEW: ROGUE’Z The Homecoming

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Playwright Harold Pinter believed The Homecoming – a prickly insight into a womanless family – was among his best work. It’s certainly one of his darkest, and, potentially, funniest. Therefore, it’s appropriate that the undeniably talented folks at ROGUE’Z Theatre Company have chosen to perform it as part of this year’s Cardiff Comedy Festival. They welcomed me into their apt rehearsal room – a grey-brown, disused church hall with the troubling presence of a Baby Jesus and Mary sculpture. If only Mary could have heard what goes on in this play, she’d be quick to cover her little boy’s ears.

In a North London living room, the relatively successful Teddy returns from America to his dysfunctional, all-male household with his wife. Together, they are berated and humiliated by imposing patriarch Max and his two sons: the suave, sexually aggressive Lenny and the brutish boxer Joey. The audience shall be left, like Max’s mild-mannered brother Sam, sitting very uncomfortably, unsure whether to laugh or cry.

It ran exceptionally smoothly for a rehearsal. However, the company assured me there were some creases I didn’t notice that require ironing out before they open this week at Porter’s (21st and 22nd) and subsequently at Chapter (24th).

Pinter is notorious for hinting at subtexts that are left unexplored. This company’s rehearsal process, however, aimed to delve deeper into each character’s past. Andreas Constantinou, who co-directs and plays pimping son Lenny, tells me, “We wanted to try and reveal the internal lives of the characters. And, in order to achieve that, we used improvisation to explore what these people went through beforehand. Pinter hints at all this but he never elaborates. There are only these words and subtle digs.”

This aspect is particularly evident in the character of Ruth, played as a femme fatale by Nerys Rees. She says, “One of the improvisations we tried was Ruth and Teddy’s time in America and it helped us discover a whole subtext that could translate into performance.”

“But why on earth should I see it?” I hear you (internally) ask. Well, here’s Constantinou’s opinion – “It’s darkly funny while being incredibly insightful. It reveals the uglier sides of human nature beneath the pleasant. And, of course, there’s the rampant, seething sexuality and barbarity.”

What more could you want?

ROGUE’Z production of The Homecoming is at Porter’s Cardiff on 21st and 22nd July and Chapter Arts Centre on 24th July 2014.

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Preview Henna Night, 3 Crate Productions at Chapter Arts Centre

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Henna night is arriving into Chapter arts centre for the 21st and 22nd of July, and promises to be a sizzling theatre experience, full to the brim with black comedy. The production tells the tale of two women who by all accounts should loathe each other – the Broken hearted ex, Judith, and his new girlfriend, Ross, when sarcasm and insults give way to reveal parts of the two characters’ lives, the characters carrying the show in an intimate, character driven play.

Henna Night won The Sunday Times Drama Award in 1999, the aim of the Chapter performance by 3 Crate Theatre is to keep it as fresh and relevant as ever, with the leads easy to find in your everyday life.A whole show sitting on the shoulders of two very different women is a refreshing thing to see in a world where even the strongest of them tend to be props in the stories of men, the archetypes of love interests and women scorned hard to see a break from.

As a new play for Cardiff, and part of its comedy festival, the show carries high hopes , and with a talented cast, crew and director should soar to meet them.

Henna Night part of Cardiff Comedy Festival, Chapter Arts Centre Mon/Tue 21/22nd of July

http://www.chapter.org/ccf-henna-night