(3 / 5)
We’ve all heard of the Vagina Monologues. While maybe a little dated , it is a key theatrical production in the history of performing arts for women and with International Women’s Day fast approaching, The Volva’s bring a freshened up version with The Vagina Dialogues.
These women are clever, talented and fierce. The are all able to play different characters, changing their voices, general approach to show this and so the transition between the scenes are flawless and easy; with minimum set as well, we are able to focus on the story and their performance rather than gadgets and gizmos.
The Vagina Dialogues takes three stories ; the story of two sisters, long drifted apart, the story of best friends facing a pregnancy scare and one of a comedic office woman that we all can relate to in many different ways. The stories and sliced and interlink within each other to create a suspense to the conclusions. It is interrupted by comical songs and an advert for finding the Female Orgasm, shown by (the attempt) to juggle balls and dropping them every time with their eyes closed…
Somehow all these pieces of theatre, these stories are so relatable, making us feel safe and somehow settling our minds that we are not the only ones. And therefore, that brings on the comedy. I have never laughed so much in my life and agreed so much with every point being made.
But it is not all about the comedy – there are heartfelt moments; moments of real pain, struggle and unease. And they are important parts of the story to tell. It is all well and good having a good old laugh, but with issues such as the Weinstein news and #MeToo trending on our social media, more than ever we need these stories told; of harassment, of mistreatment of women.
The Vagina Dialogues is a must see – any woman would come away with not only sides hurting from laughter but with a real sense of camaraderie with fellow woman kind and euphoria at the state gender politics are in.
The 13th Brecon Baroque Festival. Maestro
I am particularly looking forward to the 13th Brecon Baroque Festival. Maestro violinist Rachel Podger, a Brecon resident, will present her annual baroque extravaganza in such wonderful venues as Theatr Brycheiniog and Brecon Cathedral from 18th-22nd October 2018. YTou can visit the dedicated website to read reviews of the 2017 Festival at http://www.breconbaroquefestival.com/
Matilda, Wicked, Wales Millenium Centre
A trip to Chicago
My major highlight this year will be an extended trip to Chicago. I’m hoping to see some new comic talent at ‘Second City’ theatre – the place that launched the career of great comics John Belushi and Tina Fey. I’ll also be paying a visit to some of Chicago’s best Blues venues – Kingston Mines and Buddy Guy’s legends. These are places where you can re-live the glory and timelessness of songs from legends like Muddy Waters and BB King and really get to appreciate the genre, which has fallen out of popularity over the years. It’s also one of the few opportunities you’ll have in life to witness 3 blues bands in one venue, order catfish from a little hatch and pop a tip in a little hat that passes around the tables – from artists who have actually played with these greats. A true Chicago experience!
Tremor Sherman Theatre.
I’m looking forward to this exciting new work from Brad Birch, Tremor at Sherman Theatre directed by David Mercatali, Birch is always an engaging and challenging writer. This work promises to be an exciting edition to 2018 theatre and one to give audiences much to talk about.
Red Bastard : Lie With Me
This year I am looking forward to Red Bastard : Lie With Me at London’s Vault Festival. Since my performance training many years ago, Red Bastard had been introduced to me as a example of Bouffon theatre in my studies and from then on has always intrigued me. I have always wanted to see him perform, and now is my time to live out that dream.
Grav, Torch Theatre
‘There’s plenty of great theatre in 2018, both local & national, from star-studded Shakespeare to Hamilton to The Madness of George III with Mark Gatiss. But my personal highlight is a short tour in Jan -Feb of ‘Grav’, the one-man show about Ray Gravell. A simple, extraordinary play about a simple, extraordinary man.’
Barbara Hughes Moore
Dublin Carol, The MotherF***** in the Hat and Tremor, Sherman Theatre
Young Frankenstein, The Musical
In 2018, as always, I’m looking forward to the new slate of shows at the Sherman Theatre. Ever innovative and always daring, their spring ’18 lineup includes plays by Conor McPherson, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Brad Birch. I’m excited to finally be seeing the Young Frankenstein musical in London in January 2018 – as a super-fan of the original Wilder/ Brooks 1974 comedy-horror magnum opus, I’m intrigued (and a little anxious) to see how it translates to an on-stage musical. And as for cinema, no upcoming film excites me more than Black Panther in February 2018. Having cried and cheered throughout Ryan Coogler’s masterpiece Creed, I’m tremendously excited to see his vision of one of Marvel’s finest superheroes. Personal hopes include world peace and finishing my PhD thesis.
Ten Plagues, Sherman Theatre
I’m really looking forward to Mark Ravenhill and Conor Mitchell’s upcoming piece of music theatre entitled Ten Plagues, which will be shown at the Sherman Theatre on the 13th of March. It sounds really fascinating–it’s set during the height of the Great Plague in 1665, yet parallels will be drawn between this particular epidemic and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. I’m really interested by any work of art which thematically connects distant historical periods, as it encourages us to view contemporary struggles in an entirely different light. Hopefully this play will be as gripping and as thought-provoking as I’m expecting it to be!
Karis Clarke Price
Great Expectations, Of Mice and Men and A Midsummer Nights Dream and The Great Gatsby, Theatr Clwyd.
I am very excited about Theatr Clwyd’s Spring program bursting with classics such as Great Expectations, Of Mice and Men and A Midsummer Nights Dream! After watching the BBC’s A Christmas Carol goes wrong I am looking forward to the slap dash comedy of The Play That Goes Wrong. However my main must see is the eagerly awaited The Great Gatsby. I have seen on social media announcements that Theatre Clwyd will be adapting an old manor house in the local area and a community cast has been assembled to bring to life the razzmatazz of the roaring twenties offering an interactive audience experience, what’s not to love!?
Cinema wise I can not wait for Marvels Infinity War and on the small screen it has to be will the Dr make it as a lady?
Sunset Boulevard, Wales Millennium Centre
It has to be Sunset Boulevard at the Wales Millennium Centre! I’m so excited at the thought of seeing this production starring Welsh actress Ria Jones. Ria has already received great reviews for her portrayal of the ageing Hollywood star Norma Desmond. We need more shows like this one!
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella and The Last Ship both at The Wales Millennium Centre
What the Ladybird Heard, New Theatre, Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, Sherman Theatre and Milkshake Live , St David’s Hall
Working with Get the Chance is great because it actually prompts me to look at what is coming-up on the varied arts scene in Cardiff. A couple of productions in particular at the Wales Millennium Centre have caught my eye. The first is Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella. I have been lucky enough to see two of Matthew Bourne’s previous productions, and his all male Swan Lake still ranks in the top 3 live performances I have ever seen in my life. To me it was perfection – strong, masculine dance style, humour, incredible costumes and of course the wonderful classic score that everyone knows at least some of. I am less familiar with the music of Cinderella, but the story still holds magic from my childhood and everything Matthew Bourne does is worth watching – so consider giving this a try.
The other production at Wales Millennium Centre that intrigues me is ‘The Last Ship’ this is because I had never heard of it but notice that the music and lyrics are by Sting. To the best of my knowledge this is the first musical written by Sting – an artist whose music I have loved since his first singles with the Police and through-out his whole solo career. The story is based on his childhood experiences of growing-up in the shadow of a ship building yard at the time when the industry was struggling and ship yards were closing.
I also enjoy taking my 4 year old son to the theatre, and so other performances I am considering are: ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ at the New Theatre. This is currently his favourite Julia Donaldson book and inspired his current obsession with becoming a policeman. Previous stage adaptations of Julia Donaldson’s books have proved a big hit with him and his friends so this promises to be a great way to spend an afternoon this coming half-term holiday. Another Julia Donaldson favourite, Tiddler and other Terrific Tales is on over two days at the Sherman this half-term giving you the opportunity to see both of these wonderful stories brought to life.
Other stage productions to appeal to the younger audience include: Milkshake Live at St Davids Hall- a veritable feast of all your children’s favourite characters from TV, and guaranteed to include at least one of their favourites but sadly it’s scheduled for the same day as What the Ladybird Heard – so you’ll have to choose between them!
Amelia Seren Roberts
Object Performance continues @ Primary with ‘Thusly’ by Sophie Yung.
Where: Primary, Seely Road, Nottingham.
When: Preview: Thurs 18 January 2018, 6-9pm, Exhibition: 19 January-24 February 2018.
Concluding the Object Performance series at Primary in Nottingham, Sophie Jung will present a new installation employing both sculpture and video.
“This programme aims to consider what an expanded form of sculpture might be today, where objects, images, text, performance and sound are interwoven.
Each of these commissions explores the ways in which objects can be activated, whether as prop, performer or instrument, with the seven performances continuing to expand how we see, use and relate to the objects, things and materials in the world around us”.
Other artists that’ve shown at Primary as part of the Object Performance series include Sahej Rahal, Remko Scha, Jan Vorisek, Guillaume Pilet, Andrea Neumann & Anna Susanna Woof, and William Hunt.
I’ve made it along to most of the events and commissions presented in the series so far and am yet to be disappointed. Expanded interpretations of sculpture recently exhibited at Primary have proven to be exciting and strange. It’s often best to visit during Primary Lates, an evening event where all of the galleries and associated galleries at Primary open simultaneously – yaaas for time-strapped art-goers. Grab a Black Iris brew if it’s not too late//
Ye Funa: From Hand to Hand @ Nottingham Contemporary
When: 17 Feb 2018 – 04 Mar 2018. Exhibition Launch: Fri 16 Feb
Where: Nottingham Contemporary, Weekday Cross, Nottingham.
Find out more: http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/art/ye-funa-hand-hand
“Ye Funa’s practice is concerned with the boundaries between daily life and contemporary art. Her work explores the effects of new media and globalisation on cultural identity and gender. For our exhibition, Ye will produce a new episode in her online Peep-Stream series, addressing society’s current desire to display ourselves through selfies, webchats and social media. Ping-Pong Stream, an interactive live streamed performance, will focus on China’s waning interest in ping pong in favour of celebrity sports of basketball and football.
The final video will be embedded in an immersive installation that converts the Project Space into a nail salon. Here, nails become the exhibition space through which Ye artificially reforms the natural extremities of the body”.
This exhibition sounds like my cup of tea. From the press release it comes across as if it’s going to be relatable, relevant and not take itself too seriously. The opening nights of shows at the Contemporary are always packed so it’s probably best to pop down to the show a second or third time if you want to absorb any of it. Though there’s usually a free drink on the night of the launch if you manage to turn up on time (thnx).
Coming Out: sexuality, Gender and Identity @ Birmingham Art Gallery
When: 2 Dec – 15 Apr 2018.
Where: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham.
“This major exhibition will feature over 80 modern and contemporary artworks by internationally renowned artists who explore themes of gender, sexuality and identity in art”.
I’m cheating with this one, I’ve already seen it once but I’m definitely going to get down there to see it a second time before it disappears in April (that sounds so final – there’s probably a book??).
Marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts in England and Wales this exhibition maybe feels like a cabinet of curiosities of/for the queer (a dress worn by Grayson Perry stands in a glass vitrine and the list of artists involved reads like a queer phonebook) but the general hum of the gallery is positive and feels very much like a cosy book that you keep returning to, finding some exciting little sentence you hadn’t quite grasped the time before. I want to spend more of my time here – like this.
“Visitors will see works by Andy Warhol, Sarah Lucas, Grayson Perry, David Hockney, Francis Bacon, Steve McQueen, Derek Jarman, Sunil Gupta, Chila Kumari Burman, Linder, Richard Hamilton, Gillian Wearing, Eric Bainbridge, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Robert Colquhoun, Kate Davis, Jez Dolan, Mario Dubsky, Harry Diamond, Mark Francis, Anya Gallaccio, Colin Hall, Andrea Hamilton, Margaret Harrison, David Hurn, Bob Jardine, Isaac Julien, Karen Knorr, Hilary Lloyd, Robert MacBryde, Zanele Muholi, Catherine Opie, Hadrian Pigott, Charlotte Prodger, Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings, James Richards, Derek Ridgers, David Robilliard, Maud Sulter, Keith Vaughan, John Walter, Annie Wright and Vanley Burke”.
2018 is the year to ‘come out’ to anyone you haven’t already divulged to at 3am in a loo <3
Film Free and Easy @ Primary.
Where: Primary, Seely Road, Nottingham.
When: Thurs 4 May, 19:00-22:00 or Sat 26 November 20:00 – 00:00.
“Film Free and Easy happens three or four times a year. It is an event devised by artists to explore new ways of showing moving-image works based on the audience bringing along the material that will be shown. Every Film Free and Easy night is a unique mixture of projections, installations and performances shared by an audience who enjoy the unexpected and the surprise of discovery”.
Get down to this if you can. It’s always a good night and the works are more often than not surprising and clever – plus you’ll probably recognise the artists in the audience (those living and partying locally). Everyone tends to end up in the Organ Grinder (pub) following the event which is a fab opportunity to buy an artist a pint.
Dog Man Star @ MPND, Loughborough
Where: Modern Painters, New Decorators, Unit 33, Carillon Court Shopping Centre, Loughborough, LE11 3XA.
When: Opens: Sat 20 Jan 11am-2pm. Exhibition: 20 Jan – 3 March, Wed-Sat 11am-5pm.
Internet: https://www.facebook.com/events/1980986932225938/ @mpndprojects.
An exhibition of works by Jackie Berridge and Sam Francis Read hosted by Modern Painters, New Decorators.
“Jackie Berridge and Sam Francis Read are both artists based in the East Midlands who make paintings, drawings and prints which reference fables, fantasy media and iconography – combining anthropomorphic characters with an often-dark sense of humour. Behind the façade of the narratives and characters they use, both artists are interested in human behaviour, social isolation and the group dynamics that can occur anywhere from the playground to the boardroom”.
I’m already familiar with the work of both of these artists having seen Jackie’s work at the Nottingham Castle Open and Sam’s at HUTT (and having exhibited with him, Craig David Parr and Alice Hicken at 2 Queens). I flippin love them both. This exhibition is going to be fun and both artists are skilled makers/story-tellers.
“Modern Painters, New Decorators is a not-for-profit art organisation running art projects and building creative communities in Loughborough, East Midlands”. <<<< Support this art spaceeee.
Follow all of these on Instagram if you can — I <3 everything they post: @samfrancisread @j4ckieberridge @mpndprojects
Everything Went Heavier 2018 @ Rough Trade, Nottingham.
When: Sat 10 March. Doors open at 1pm / Curfew 12am.
Where: Rough Trade, Nottingham.
“This is a special one-off benefit gig for Chris Kaye (Witch Hunter Records/Bumsnogger) and his wife Tracy. Tracy has been diagnosed with a rare form of bowel cancer called Signet ring cell Carcinoma and is currently undergoing treatment. We hope that we can raise some funds through the power of heavy metal to help them and their growing family at this difficult time”.
A welcome break from the well-behaved and too-often hushed/polite arena of contemporary art this all-dayer will knock your socks off and it’s for a great cause. I’m pretty sure the Doom Metal heavy ‘Everything Went Heavier’ will in practice be the antithesis of “doom and gloom”. We’re a cheerful bunch at shrunken heart <3 Expect a marathon of distortion and limited choreography.
Lineup Includes: CHARGER, WITCHSORROW, IRON WITCH, LET IT DIE, BARRABUS, WIDOWS, LIMB, MAGE, WOLFBEAST DESTROYER, UNDERDARK, KING OF PIGS, ANTRE…
Have a good one.
The Assassination of Katie Hopkins: A New Musical, Theatr Clwyd
The piece of theatre I’m most looking forward to in 2018 is…….
The Assassination of Katie Hopkins: A New Musical , Theatr Clwyd
Perhaps one of the more intriguing titles of 2018… The title alone has peaked my interest sufficiently. The fact that it’s a musical is simply a bonus. There’s not much to go on plot-wise as it will be the world premiere. But it has the ‘Made by Theatr Clwyd’ stamp on it, whose seal is always a mark of high-quality entertainment in my view.
Jon Boden, Pontio
‘I am particularly looking forward to catching Jon Boden at Pontio in Bangor, North Wales in April. Sheffield born former frontman of Bellowhead (whom I was lucky enough to see on their farewell tour in 2016), Boden has now gone on to carve out a successful solo career and is touring throughout the UK this year.’
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Wales Millennium Centre
I’m seeing Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella on April 7th and after seeing The Red Shoes, I’m immensely looking forward to it. My introduction to ballet is slow and purposeful (I didn’t much understand The Red Shoes at first without explanation, so a fairytale I know well will be easier to follow, I believe) but I’m getting there at a pace I enjoy and being brought the opportunity to by people I love.
Under the Volcano, first published in 1947, is the second novel by the English writer Malcolm Lowry, and is perhaps one of the most fascinating—as well as exhausting—novels I’ve ever come across. By today it’s regularly considered a classic text, and is routinely placed within many of the most esteemed ‘Best Of’ lists of modern literature. It’s also one of those books that seems to be referenced by many popular artists as being a huge influence on their own life and work. Bob Dylan, for example, seems to go on about it quite a lot, while Stephen Fry has named it as one of his favourite novels of all time. When I describe this novel as ‘exhausting’, I really do mean it; it’s at once complex, heavily symbolised, and utterly insane, and very often its prose diverges into near-maddening reveries that are replete with references to historical, literary and philosophical thought. I’m not necessarily saying that this is a bad thing, it just means that it takes a little while to acclimatise to the way the novel is written and what it’s trying to do. But once you really get into it, you quickly begin to realise why it’s considered such a classic.
It’s almost impossible to discuss Under the Volcano without going into the background of the author beforehand, because the novel is essentially about Malcolm Lowry himself, and it’s almost as if the process of writing it was for him a form of therapy. Lowry, to say the very least, was the most raging of raging alcoholics, and his severe alcoholism penetrates every aspect of the text. Lowry apparently began drinking at the age of 14, and from thereon his alcohol consumption became steadily more severe, eventually culminating in his mental breakdown and subsequent admittance into a psychiatric hospital around ten years before the publication of Under the Volcano. The prose used throughout this novel mirrors Lowry’s alcoholic delirium remarkably well; there are large parts of the novel where it even seems as if the third-person narrator himself is, well, completely off his tits. Overall, Under the Volcano is undeniably one of the definitive texts on alcoholism in all of literary fiction.
The novel takes place within a single day (the 2nd of November, 1938), primarily within the small Mexican town of (ahem) Quauhnahuac, during Mexico’s annual Day of the Dead festival. The central character of the story is a man named Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic British diplomat who to the locals is known simply as ‘the Consul’. The Consul is a man whose alcoholism has become so extreme that he’s no longer able to perform basic, daily tasks such as putting his socks on. The consumption of alcohol is, for him, no longer a purely pleasurable activity; he drinks to function, and without alcohol he is, quite simply, a quivering wreck. It should come as no surprise then that the Consul is based almost wholly on Lowry, and that the novel represents a largely fictionalised account of his own experiences whilst living in Mexico. Anyway, on the morning of the Day of the Dead, while the Consul is drinking whisky at a local bar, his estranged wife Yvonne meets up with him, having just returned to Mexico with the aim of seeing whether there’s anything left of their marriage to salvage or rekindle. This sparks off the events that are about to follow, and the relationship between the Consul and Yvonne, with all its tumultuousness, plays a central role in the novel’s plot.
Mixed up in all of this is the Consul’s half brother Hugh, who is temporarily staying at the Consul’s house in preparation for taking a long trip elsewhere on the very day that the novel is set. Jacques Laruelle, an old friend of the Consul’s who also finds residence in Quauhnahuac, is another prominent figure in the story. Both Hugh and Jacques previously had love affairs with Yvonne during the periods in which her marriage was going downhill, and in many ways their presence at Quauhnahuac throws a spanner in the works for the Consul, who, despite his personal struggles and erratic behaviour, is desperate to get back with his wife, who he still loves dearly. The latent tensions that exist between these characters deeply interweave themselves throughout the narrative, and as the novel goes on we begin to dig deeper and deeper into their histories and biographies, and the ways in which they are each connected are revealed to us. Yet all these connections revolve around one thing: the relationship between the Consul and Yvonne, and whether it’s even possible, despite their love and respect for one another, to get their marriage back on track. We finally get an answer to this impending question in the final chapter of the novel, which, without spoiling anything, culminates in a series of events that are profound, even heart breaking. The looming presence of (ahem!) Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl—a pair of enormous, unpronounceable volcanoes situated on the outskirts of Quauhnahuac—is constant throughout (hence the novel’s title), which provides the novel with an almost hellishly brooding backdrop. And whilst Iztaccihuatl lies dormant on the horizon, Popocatepetl is still very much active, and these two volcanoes can therefore be seen as a haunting and ever-present symbol of the Consul’s and Yvonne’s marriage.
Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, Mexico
The style that Under the Volcano utilises has clear links to the kinds of literary modernism previously employed by authors such as Joyce, particularly within Ulysses (which also takes place within a single day). Although whilst Ulysses’ heavy stream of consciousness narrative gives off an almost dream-like quality, the narrative style of Under the Volcano resembles more of a nightmare—a drunken nightmare, to be more exact. In many ways the novel causes the reader to feel trapped within the same vicious circle that the Consul finds himself in, and this is due in large part to its cyclical form, where it seems as if the Consul is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. In amongst all of this are many references to other works of fiction, including those of Shakespeare, Faust and Marlowe, which sit alongside allusions to some dense Greek mythology and the Kabbalah (including many others that I’m sure went straight over my head). I mean it’s all there—Lowry was certainly never one for simplicity!
While Under the Volcano is far from a simple read, it’s nonetheless a really powerfully written and truly fascinating novel. It often feels like a Rubik’s cube that needs constant care and attention in order to unlock, and almost certainly requires more than one reading in order to fully comprehend it. Yet the most interesting aspect of Under the Volcano, for me, is the way in which it takes you on a hellish journey that is constantly tossing and turning you in directions that are surprising and unexpected. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who’s yearning for a different, perhaps even challenging reading experience. So just pick it up and go along for the ride!
by Rhys Morgan
If you’ve never heard of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey or Henry Cyril Paget – that’s exactly what his family intended to happen when they erased him from their family history by burning every photograph and possession relating to his life.
Based on true story, this completely original production pieces together the charred remains and distant memories of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey – a cross-dressing dandy who inherited the keys to the kingdom in Victorian Britain, but lived fast and died young.
At one time the richest man in Britain, he rejected the duties of his title to live an outrageously opulent and controversial life, putting on elaborate plays, building over the chapel on the family estate to build a theatre and tour Europe with his ‘Electric Butterfly Orchestra’ – with himself as the leading artist, of course.
This is a fabulously foppish flight of fancy that will have you belly laughing from lights up until lights down.
The Marquess of Anglesey was an unapologetic narcissist, who if born in more recent times would no doubt be the subject of a gaudy commercial deal, a magazine spread or a reality TV series. But although the production pokes fun at the story, it is never cruel.
How to Win Against History is a high-camp, high energy extravaganza, subverting the almost homoerotic goings on within public schools, the aristocracy and the Empire.
Starring Seiriol Davies who plays (or should I say ‘slays’) as Henry Paget, this show chasses, minces and shimmies its way through his back story, shining a light on the social awkwardness of Victorian times, the absurdity and pomposity of theatre and the sheer hilarity of being a square peg in a round hole.
Matthew Blake plays the part of Paget’s right hand man – the Victorian west end actor Alexander Keith and the pair have incredible chemistry and comic timing. Every movement, sigh and flick of the hand is played up and milked for laughs.
Imagine a show featuring Lawrence Llywelyn-Bowen’s lovechild on acid at Mardi Gras, mashed up with Monty Python, Downton Abbey and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. That wouldn’t even come close to how remarkable this is.
Despite the madcap silliness and outrageousness though, it’s a show with substance and heart. Seiriol Davies has created something quite heartfelt and poignant, the music and lyrics are sharp and clever and the incredible vocal performances of the trio on stage meander from genre to genre.
You really want Henry Paget to win and the way audiences are responding to this production shows that in the end – he has.
Some lights are too bright to ever be distinguished.
Ice Arena Wales is one of the many organisations across the UK that are part of the Spice Time Credit Network. The Time Credits model works simply: for each hour that an individual contributes to their community or service, they earn a Time Credit. This Time Credit can then be spent on accessing an hour of activity, such as local attractions, training courses or leisure, or gifted to others.
I recently visited the Ice Arena Wales with my family to spend Spice Time Credits I had earned in a voluntary capacity. Using Spice Time Credits is very simple they are accepted at the venue on Sundays between 9.15-17:00, for after school skate sessions on Wednesdays between 16:00-19:00 and for family disco sessions on Thursdays between 17:15-20:15. Each skate session will cost two Spice Time Credits per person. You simply ask to pay with Spice Time Credits at reception and then make you way into the changing area.
The staff here are very friendly, you simply hand in your shoes and requests ice skates in your size. One you have your boots on, (remember to tie then nice and tight) you are ready to skate!
The public skating area provides ample space for all of the family to have lots of fun. The top half of the rink is often used for classes for little ones. Skate penguins can be hired from the venue for little ones who might need some extra help. The rink is always staffed by very helpful Ice Arena Wales staff members in case you have a problem or like myself occasionally fall over!
As a family we stayed for a few hours and really enjoyed ourselves. The venue also has a cafe serving hot drinks and snacks as well as a well stocked bar if you need to rest your tired feet!
I can recommend spending Spice Time Credits at Ice Arena Wales. Its a fun, healthy way to enjoy special family time together in the heart of Cardiff.
You can check out the UK wide Spice Time Credit spend brochures at this link.
The podcast, The Adventure Zone, has just recently finished it’s first ‘season’, so to speak. This is a podcast wherein three brothers, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy and their father, Clint McElroy, play Dungeons and Dragons (loosely following the rules, as the podcast becomes less about the game and more about the stories entwining the characters they created). It’s a new, innovative, and interesting approach to storytelling which I look forward to seeing progress and become more prominent in the years to come. Although there are other storytelling podcasts (such as Welcome to Nightvale, Alice Isn’t Dead, or other Nightvale Presents podcasts) they don’t include adventure-esque games to propel and support their story. I really liked how the DM, Griffin McElroy, utilised this game and even deviated from it to better support his campaign. A great aspect of using it was a non-imposing introduction to the game. I know that many people don’t have an interest in the game or have a negative perception of it (I did, too), but because the podcast only hinges on it slightly (i.e. for battles or checks in ability, etc) it isn’t distasteful for those of us who didn’t think we’d ever like it. Besides, the elements of the game fall behind eventually, as you’re swept up in the story and with the characters.
The story itself is incredible. It’s something I can’t quite describe without pouring out the whole plot and every little secret and nook and cranny of the intrinsic campaign. But, without a doubt, it is the most enthralling and attention-grabbing story I’ve ever lived through. The end even includes wonderful closure (and a long “where are they now?” segment which soothed me spectacularly. Closure in stories is always wonderful, neat little bows to end a story and give it that perfect finish is something I always have, and always will, appreciate).
I don’t think I could begin to describe the staggering depths of my genuine love for this podcast, story, and characters. I don’t think any words I might have in my mouth could tell anyone about what it means to me. The simple fact that I could listen to this podcast in bed and picture it so vividly and individually unfolding before me was the most wonderful thing, that fit me to a T, and made it that much easier, is the closest I could get, so at least people can know how I came to love it, and so maybe they could, too.
Aside from the main three characters, there were a multitude of NPCs I shamelessly fell absolutely in love with. Even better, as the finale reached its conclusion, the brothers McElroy and their father were sure to include as many as possible, and the thrill of seeing old favourites sparked anew is irreplaceable and always feels amazing. The lengths that these four went to to simply include as many characters as they could to make others happy to see their return was phenomenal. I’ve never seen creators so open to their fanbase, and so willing to listen to them, too. They were considerate at every corner of this story, and that’s something I look up to. Some of my favourites is Angus McDonald (a young boy detective), Lucas Miller (a scientist), and NO-3113 (a robot). I can’t explain them too much without giving things away, which I really want to avoid doing, just in case anyone does decide to start up and listen to this podcast, but these characters, among others, are
The Adventure Zone even incorporates a fully-fledged soundtrack (https://griffinmcelroy.bandcamp.com/ / https://soundcloud.com/griffinmcelroy) which is honestly incredible, and something I love listening to in my day-to-day, or on my commute. I’m listening to it right now, as I write this.
I was waiting for the arc of The Adventure Zone to fully wrap up before reviewing it, and now that this part of it has ended I’m equal parts happy (so happy, it was such a thrill, I’ve never loved a story so much) and sad (I’m going to miss this arc and these characters a tremendous amount), but it is, honest and truly, one of the best podcasts out there, I think.
More technical information can be found at: http://mcelroyshows.com or http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/adventure-zone and this can also provide a place to listen to the podcast. It could also be found on iTunes/the podcast app on Apple phones, or anywhere else podcasts can be housed. I gave it five stars because I can’t recommend this podcast enough, I enjoyed it so thoroughly and so heartily that every day I am immensely grateful that it was brought to my attention. I don’t think I could ever sound objective about this podcast no matter how hard I tried because it just swept its way into my heart so easily and so strongly, and I’d let it every time. It’s good. That’s all there really is to it, for me.
I will say, in case anyone does pick up this podcast, the McElroy’s voices are hard to distinguish as first (or at least, I struggled at first), although it does get easier. However, I didn’t want to waste time listening to a story-based podcast and being confused and missing crucial start-up points, so, I recommend listening to a few episodes of the McElroy brother’s podcast, My Brother, My Brother, And Me first (http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/my-brother-my-brother-and-me) as to avoid this issue.
Hi Laura, can you please give our readers some background information on yourself and your role in the arts in Wales?
Light, Ladd & Emberton is a collective of three Wales-based dance artists – Deborah Light, Eddie Ladd and Gwyn Emberton – together with creative producer Laura Drane. We came together in 2014 to make CAITLIN, a show commissioned for the Dylan Thomas centenary by the National Library of Wales. Through collaborative working, Light Ladd & Emberton creates original professional performance work, with the aim of creating exciting and inspiring productions for audiences in Wales and beyond, and to represent Wales and the UK on a national and international stage. We draw on history and identity, predominantly of Wales, to create productions that have contemporary relevance and are culturally engaged.
We have two other productions this summer – a large outdoor piece in Harlech, called Croesi Traeth/ Crossing A Beach, which has just happened during Gregynog Festival; and another outdoor show touring to CADW castles in north Wales called Disgo Distaw Owain Glyndwr Silent Disco. So it’s a busy time to say the least! We also hope to do UK and international touring with CAITLIN after this summer so watch this space.
Can you tell us about the work your company is taking to this Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
Caitlin was the wife of poet Dylan Thomas. At the start of the 1970s, twenty years after he died, she started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. In a circle of chairs, set out for an AA meeting Caitlin makes a determined effort to deal with her tempestuous past. The audience sits in the circle with Caitlin as she revisits her life with Dylan. It is a relationship fuelled by love, addiction, jealousy and infidelity. As Caitlin and Dylan drink, fight, love and leave each other the unoccupied chairs become part of the action in this physical and powerful duet. CAITLIN was commissioned by National Library of Wales for DT100/ Dylan Thomas centenary in 2014, and won Best Dance Production in the Wales Theatre Awards 2015. CAITLIN has toured several times from 2014 till now, including a run at Dance Base for Edinburgh Fringe 2015 and a week at Battersea Arts Centre for #ANationsTheatre. It is part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2017. This Fringe run is funded by Arts Council of Wales ‘Wales In Edinburgh’ funding, via National Lottery, with Wales Arts International and British Council Wales.
Tell us about your team.
CAITLIN was, is and will always be a team effort. The choreography was developed by Deborah Light, Eddie Ladd and Gwyn Emberton, under Deborah’s direction with Eddie and Gwyn performing. The third performer is Sion Orgon, who live mixes the score every show, with original music created by Thighpaulsandra. Neil Davies designed the costumes and the striking images are by Warren Orchard and Noel Dacey, and Pete Telfer did the film capture which gave us the trailer and more. Laura Drane produces the show. Mostly when we are doing the show though it is just Eddie, Gwyn, Sion and either Deborah or Laura, on the road; a merry band of four and sometimes five. We do everything – driving, loading in, measuring up, sound and tech set, show sets and resets, front of house, post show talks, get out, the lot. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
How is work selected to go to the festival?
Well that’s the best bit – no-one picks, and anyone can book a space and go! The whole ethos of Fringes across the world is based on this, begun 70 years ago at Edinburgh when some companies who weren’t selected for the Festival just turned up and performed anyway. Having said that, CAITLIN has been selected to play as part of the British Council Showcase this year, a very prestigious programmed week of the best theatre and dance shows from the UK.
Wales Arts International who have funded some of the companies this year state, “The idea is to help the selected Welsh companies to present their work at the Fringe in the best possible way – with the best conditions – and, importantly, to connect with international promoters and programmers participating in the British Council Edinburgh Showcase.” Why is their support important along with Arts Council Wales and British Council Wales?
Because simply put, without it we couldn’t perform there and get the most from the opportunity – it really is a game changer.
The festival features a huge range of productions and there is great deal of competition for audiences, why should audiences come and see your companies work?
It’s award-winning and has already had a sell out run at Dance Base in the Fringe in 2015. We were also selected for #ANationsTheatre at Battersea Arts Centre in London in 2016 as one of only two shows from Wales. Audiences recommend it on having seen it and use words like intimate and brutal. But really you’re going to have to see for yourselves to know what you think…
What do the artists and companies do when they aren’t performing?
During the Fringe, we tend to sleep and eat well and have a physio session (performers only!) and then sleep some more. But we also do try and see other shows and go out to have some fun, meet other artists and companies, and so on. But CAITLIN is such a physically demanding show that self-care comes top.
What’s the best Fringe show you’ve ever seen?
That’s a tough one since some of us have been going to the Fringe for 30 years! But if we had to pick a standout from last year, Laura really enjoyed Lost Dog Dance’s Paradise Lost (Lies Unopened Beside Me). It uses a Nick Cave track at one point and it was a really weepy moment.
And finally, what does the Edinburgh Fringe mean to you?
Shows that hit and shows that miss, and some wild, wild nights! No, seriously. We are honoured to be up in the cradle of creativity, the mother of all Fringes, this year – its 70th anniversary and the 20th British Council Showcase year. It is possible to use only superlatives and cliché when talking about Edinburgh Fringe but it really is a melting pot of talent, a hubbub of creative endeavour, and a great place to spot and be spotted. We are looking forward to presenting the show in a church hall which will help it shine for audiences. Having been up before with CAITLIN in 2015 at Dance Base, and with other productions before, we are used to the hustle and bustle. The thrill of performing this piece and seeing audiences reactions never gets old. And it’ll be great to be up in Auld Reekie again, hoping that our show really does hit and that we have at least one wild night…
(4 / 5)
Funny Girl brings West End’s finest to Cardiff, with a cast and supporting ensemble singers and dancers honed to the highest degree of excellency. Based on the real-life story of actress and comedian Fanny Brice, Funny Girl opened as a musical in 1963 on Broadway, transferring to the West End a year later. For many of us, Barbra Streisand’s performance as Fanny in the film still remains in the memory as one of the shining star performances in theatre history.
All the more credit, then, to Sheridan Smith for taking on and embracing a role that calls for every ounce of energy as well as talent in the current revival which opened in the West End last year. Taking place in and around New York just prior to and following World I, this production is staged in its entirety beneath the proscenium arch of the Ziegfeld Theatre, with settings including Fanny’s dressing room at the theatre, Fanny’s home and various other venues where she performed. It’s a rags-to-riches story of Fanny’s rise to stardom and the rise and fall of the courtship and marriage between the unconventional, quirky Fanny and dishy gambler Nick Arnstein.
Smith has the poignancy and the self-doubt behind Fanny’s jokey façade to a T, bringing a tear to the eyes with her singing of People in Act I and belting out with gusto numbers such Don’t Rain on My Parade, although with a tendency now and then to go over the top. Great duets, too, with Darius Campbell as the inveterate gambler Arnstein, who sits down with alacrity to play poker with Fanny’s mum, the indomitable Mrs Brice, and her mates without realising he has fallen into the hands of experts. Campbell is at his best in that scene and in Act I, but not always convincing in the scenes with Smith in the latter half.
The supporting roles do a huge amount towards making this musical what it is, with real star quality from Rachel Izen as Fanny’s mother and Myra Sands as her friend and fellow poker player Mrs Strakosh and some great rendering of numbers such as If A Girl Isn’t Pretty in the opening scene. The nimble-footed Joshua Lay is a wonderfully emotive Eddie Ryan, the dancer who encourages fanny but gets no encouragement from her as far as their personal relationship is concerned. Lay displays some brilliant and acrobatic tap dancing, while Nigel Barber’s portrayal of the legendary Florenz Ziegfeld is almost surreal in its believability.
The dancers and singers of the ensemble have style and panache, with some high speed numbers, notably Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat in Act II, with choreography which includes a touch of the Irish, backed up in intensely green costumes (St Patrick’s Day et al). As for the music – wonderful, with Jule Styne’s tremendous score arranged for this production by Alan Williams and top rank choreography by Lynne Page.
A feel-good show, this – catch it if you can.
Runs until Saturday 8th July
Music: Jule Styne
Lyrics: Bob Merrill
Book: Isobel Lennart
Director: Michael Mayer
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to writer Rachel Trezise. We discussed her career to date, theatre in Wales, and access to literature/cultural provision.
Hi Rachel great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I’m a writer from the Rhondda valley. I’m most well known for winning the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006 with a collection of short stories about life in South Wales called ‘Fresh Apples.’
So what got you interested in writing and the arts?
Initially I wanted to be a journalist. I started writing a music fanzine when I was fifteen because I loved music and writing about it so much. Between the time I left school and throughout university I wrote my debut novel in my spare time because I couldn’t wait to start writing for a magazine or newspaper. The novel was published just before I left university and I stuck with writing fiction as well as some freelance journalism.
As a writer you work across a variety of forms from novels, short stories to plays. How do the different disciplines differ for you?
There are different levels of involvement and different amounts of time required to complete each. Short stories are my favourite simply because of their brevity and the fact you needn’t have to hold a whole world in your head which you have to for a novel and to some extent a play. But the writing or the aim of the writing is always the same; to realise each character and their circmstances.
Your first play Tonypandemonium for National Theatre Wales was autobiographical and from a predominantly female perspective. I believe the cast of your next play ‘We’re Still Here’ for NTW is predominantly male and developed from first hand interviews with steelworkers? Can you discuss how this process differs?
Tonypandemonium National Theatre Wales
Credit Mark Douet
Actually it doesn’t differ. Although Tonypandemonium was autobiographical and We’re Still Here is a form of non-fiction both works come via my own world prism. I’ve worked hard to ensure the steelworkers in the play reflect the people I met and spoke to in Port Talbot but I always try to make sure my characters are authentic to their own locality and situation in any case. What is different I suppose is that the characters in We’re Still Here are predominantly male. But they are working class men working in the rapidly-vanishing realm of heavy industry which, much like the de-industrialised setting in Tonypandemonium is an environment that’s underrepresented in literature and theatre. I’ve tried to make the characters as honest and soul-bearing as the men I interviewed and to completely avoid the more common strong and silent male character trope we see everyday in film and on TV.
For ‘We’re Still Here’ you are working with Rhiannon White from Commonwealth Theatre. Much of their practice is a socially engaged form of theatre making which has obvious links to NTW’s hugely successful production The Passion with Michael Sheen. Do you feel involving citizen in this way can create new audiences for what can be seen as an elitist art form?
The Creative team on ‘We’re Still Here’ Kully Thiarai, Evie Manning, Rachel Tresize and Rhiannon White
Of course. From start to finish we’ve engaged and will continue to engage with the people of Port Talbot. We’re making a show for the town rather than just about it. In fact Commonwealth Theatre and NTW have set the ticket price lower for residents of Port Talbot which is a very direct way to engage a local and perhaps previously unaccustomed audience and we have a large community cast. NTW worked in a similar way during the run up to Tonypandemonium at the Park and Dare in Treorchy, creating a community cast and inviting the community into rehearsals which gave Treorchy some ownership over the event.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or specifically writers?
Nothing that isn’t already being identified and addressed but there are always factors that are beyond our control. I loved doing an intensive creative writing workshop with Literature Wales and the South Wales Literature Development Initiative throughout 2013, working mainly with three groups: Young carers, Comprehensive school students and Valleys Kids. All the young people I worked with were eager and receptive but I remember a couple of young people outside one of my Valleys Kids classes who didn’t have the confidence to come in and have a go and whatever I said I couldn’t encourage them because they thought creative writing was somehow academic. I just think it’s a bit of a tragedy that an initiative like that hadn’t reached them a bit earlier in their lives and made the arts seem less threatening.
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
Yes, it does feel healthy to me at the moment. My experience, although more with my literature than with drama work, is that it’s been difficult to get work reviewed widely. The literary quarterlies in Wales are always a few months late, the Welsh newspapers aren’t interested in reviewing the arts in any depth and the national media might not necessarily understand the setting of Wales-based work. (I still remember a headline from The Telegraph the day after I won the Dylan Thomas Prize: ‘Rural tales of despair scoop £60,000.’ I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams describe the post industrial south Wales valleys as ‘rural’.) All these issues make getting your work out there difficult but I know that Get the Chance, Wales Arts Review and NTW have been doing a lot of good work in this area.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
Libraries. My life would be very different had I not discovered Treorchy Library whilst my mother was a cleaner there and I’d like to think that every child has a well-stocked library within walking distance where they can access thousands upon thousands of worlds very different to their own.
What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Work on the script has been manic for the last few months so I haven’t got out much. One thing, which of course it was my duty to see, was an adaptation of one of my own stories ‘Hard As Nails’ by three Treorchy Comprehensive School drama students in association with RCT Theatres and Motherlode. The girls adapted the story, directed and acted in the fifteen minute performance at the Park and Dare and the Millennium Centre. It just made me very proud to have such talented and enthusiastic young people coming straight out of school and diving so fearlessly into the arts.
Many thanks for your time