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Review: ‘Misfire’ from Old Sole Theatre by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(4 / 5)

Misfire from Old Sole Theatre Company is relevant and shows real promise to be an excellent piece of theatre.

In the interest of clarity, I’ll start this review by saying I am good friends with the director Nerida Bradley, despite what she may tell you. That said, I believe in constructive, critical response and it is what I would want as an artist myself. You can either believe me or not.

I will also be reviewing this piece based on it being an R&D production and part of the Fringe Lab at the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival. So, the star rating is given on the basis it is R&D and the review is also acting as feedback.

This piece is here to further the discussion of the main theme of the play, toxic masculinity. It also takes inspiration from the exposé of the #MeToo Movement, exposing the likes of Harvey Weinstein.

The play is a monologue set up as anti-stand-up comedy. A stand-up comedy show that goes wrong if you will. We immediately get a sense of the character’s obnoxious nature during his entrance. Jon Parry plays Jake, a stand-up comic, who enters, demanding a drink at the bar. Unsuccessful, he goes to the stage and waits for the music, ‘The Entertainer’  by Tony Clarke, to stop.

Jake then proceeds to make some terrible jokes. “Next joke… Carrie Fisher died… Princess Leia’s gone.” This just isn’t funny – but the distasteful pleasure of the joke shows us a glimpse of this characters mindset and the dry delivery from Parry enforces this well.

The great thing about this play is, from the start of the play you really have no idea what is going to happen. You have no idea what Jake is going to do.

Jon Parry does a good job of portraying the stand-up comedian, who is drunk and stoned. The highlight of the performance comes when Jake has a gun in his mouth and tells the story of a congressman, Budd Dwyer, who shot himself in the head on camera. In this we also have a double-entendre of speaking about dying. The comic doesn’t reveal whether this is dying on stage as a comedian or literally dying. But to the relief of anyone who doesn’t like death endings, like me, he doesn’t kill himself, literally. And he dies on stage at the start of the play.

The writer James Neale does a good job of covering the subject on the scale of your average guy. However, the piece often lacks vision and ambition. The feeling that the stand-up comic could do anything is good, but needs to be met with sufficient vision and structure. It also feels like the boundaries could be pushed much more. In the post-show Q&A it was clear from a few of the audience members, that the script needs work in this sense.

Structurally, the script gets going into the theme very quickly, but then dies out a little. Not completely, but the most explicit stuff comes at the start. The piece doesn’t build particularly well. We need to be building to something. This is what the piece lacks more than anything. We don’t need to know where we’re going, but need to be taken on a journey.

The language used is good and we get a really good sense of the character. There are parts of the script which are very well written. But when you’re talking about toxic masculinity, it needs to push more.

The direction for this piece is good. Jon and Nerida worked well together to portray James’ script. The messy moving around the venue – AJ’s Coffee House – works well as it feels naturalistic.

We could see a more sinister approach at times, particularly when Jake talks about stalking girls and choking his girlfriend during sex. The relaxed nature works in that it shows these things as normal to the character. But the tone is often quite relaxed and with this, these significant moments only stand out in text and not in the performance. The tone and pace of these things could be played with.

Overall, I’ve given the play a star rating of four as I feel with a bit of work, when it gets to a place where it is ready to go on stage fully, it will be a very strong show. It was certainly a strong R&D performance and exactly what the Cardiff Fringe Lab is about.

The post-show Q&A was an interesting discussion – but it definitely became clear that there is more vision and potential not being explored in the text and in the rehearsal room to come from this play.

Also, very quick note. It’s really nice to see shows that are BSL interpreted – but sometimes this can’t be arranged for whatever reason. It was nice to see an apology for this on the freesheet. The more we can normalise BSL interpretation, even if we aren’t using it, the better.

Tonight, June 12th at 7.45pm, you GET THE CHANCE to see this production again. Tickets are available here.

Misfire – Presented by Old Sole Theatre Company and Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival.
AJ’s Coffee House – June 11-12, 2018.
Written by James Neale.
Directed by Nerida Bradley.
Starring Jon Parry as Jake.
Poster art by Miles Rozel Brayford.
Running time: 30 mins approx with 30 min Q&A about the play and toxic masculinity following.

Review by Gareth Ford-Elliott

Free Workshop: How to Win Friends and Influence Critics

Free unticketed development event

Venue: The Other Room

Host: Guy O’Donnell

Should you care about a five star review? Which online platform connects most with audiences? Is everyone a critic these days?

All these questions and more will be discussed and answered in this fun quiz-based workshop geared towards new critics, companies, arts marketing staff and interested audience members.

Speakers at this event include:

Alice Baynham

Alice Baynham is a Cardiff-based PR and marketing specialist working mainly in the arts and has previously worked at organisations including the Sherman Theatre, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Welsh Government and Cirque Bijou.

For the last seven years, Alice has been freelance and has worked with a variety of companies on their marketing and PR activity, including Theatr Iolo, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Chapter, WOW Film Festival, Trac Cymru, The Torch Theatre and The Spring Arts Centre in Havant. Alice is also press officer at Cardiff’s pub theatre, The Other Room, where she has delivered all press activity since the theatre’s launch and first season.

Matthew Bulgo

Matthew trained at LAMDA and is an actor, playwright and dramaturg. He is also an Associate Director of Dirty Protest.

As an actor credits include: The Cherry Orchard (Sherman Theatre); All My Sons (Theatr Clwyd); I’m With The Band (Traverse); Praxis Makes Perfect, The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion (National Theatre Wales); Kenny Morgan (Arcola); Under Milk Wood (Royal and Derngate); Play, Silence (The Other Room); The Prince Hamlet (Toronto Dance Theatre); Breakfast Hearts, Choirplay (Theatre 503); The Play About The Baby (Battersea Arts Centre).

As a playwright credits include: Last Christmas (originally produced by Dirty Protest/Theatr Clwyd before being remounted at the Edinburgh Fringe, Soho Theatre and the Traverse); Constellation Street (The Other Room); #YOLO (National Theatre, NT Connections); The Knowledge (Royal Court, ‘Surprise Theatre’ season); My Father’s Hands (Paines Plough, Come To Where I’m From); Lacuna (New Wimbledon Studio).

He also writes plays for young people including THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE (performed by WGYTC at the Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD), Homo Economics (Bridgend College) and The Hydra (Young Actors Studio, RWCMD).

He is currently under commission to write new plays for Theatr Clwyd, Theatr na nÓg and Papertrail along with a number of other projects in development.

Ben Cook

Ben Cook is the South Wales Partnerships Manager for Spice Time Credits. Time Credits are a community currency where each note (worth one hour) is earned from an hour’s volunteering – these credits can then be spent accessing over 600 venues across the UK. Ben is responsible for over 230 partner venues from Pembrokeshire to Monmouthshire, many of whom are arts, theatre, music and cultural venues.

 

Nick Davies

Nick Davies is a Wales-based theatre reviewer for The Stage. Nick is also a freelance writer of screenplays, novels and magazine articles. He lives in Cardiff and previously spent 17 years working for the Arts Council of Wales covering the performing arts.

Emily Garside

Emily Garside is an academic, playwright, dramaturg and theatre critic (not always in that order). After starting as a historian then training as a performer in Montreal and at RADA she became an academic. Her PhD looked at the role of theatre as a response to the AIDS epidemic, with particular focus on Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Her first book, reflecting on the history and significance of the play will be published by McFarland in 2019. As a playwright she is currently working on a commission around the subject of HIV today, and in 2019 her play ‘Don’t Send Flowers’ will be produced by Clocktower Theatre Company. Emily writes about theatre for many publications, including American Theatre, Howlround, Wales Arts Review, BBC Cymru, Get the Chance and Miro. She has also written essays for theatre programmes and runs several blogs. Emily is also Social Media and Website Manager for The Society of Theatre Research New Researchers Network.

Jafar Iqbal

Jafar currently works on both sides of the fence. As an Associate Editor for Wales Arts Review and contributor to The Stage and WhatsOnStage, he has travelled around the country talking about theatre. As a Marketing Campaigns Manager for the New Theatre, he is responsible for putting bums on seats and developing relationships with critics. He’s also a writer, a performer and a cake (though many have argued he may be a biscuit).

Sarah Jane Leigh

Sarah Jane Leigh is the Senior Producer of Producing and Programming at the Wales Millennium Centre. In her role she looks after the teams who programme the Performances of the Curious Seasons and the Public Spaces along with the in-house productions the Centre is now producing including Highway One, Double Vision and Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) which are currently being performed as part of Festival of Voice 2018. Before working at the Centre, Sarah was an independent Producer working with companies in South Wales such as Motherlode, August 012, Dirty Protest, James Jones Collective and Jem Treays. Sarah studied at Goldsmith’s University in London and gradated with a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts and a MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy.

 

Mair Jones

Mair Jones is Marketing and Communications Manager at Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, the national Welsh language theatre company.
Prior to joining Theatr Gen, she worked as Communications Officer at Chapter, where she was responsible for Welsh language policy, print and PR.
She started her career in arts education (secondary and further ed) before moving to communications. Whilst her background is in the visual arts, she has experience of marketing all art forms. Originally from Newtown, mid Wales, she now lives in Cardiff.

Megan Merrett

Megan has been Projects Administrator at Creu Cymru since 2015 where her main role is managing hynt, the national access scheme for theatres and arts centre in Wales. Hynt is an Arts Council of Wales initiative managed by Creu Cymru in partnership with Diverse Cymru. Megan has also undertaken several freelance roles including her current work on Theatr Pena’s R&D for Blood Wedding as Access and Engagement Officer following 3 years as their resident Marketing Officer. Previous to this Megan worked at National Dance Company Wales for a decade as Participation Officer. Whilst at NDCWales Megan completed a post graduate diploma in Arts Management from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Megan is also a school governor and Chair of a community focused charity and a community hall in Barry.

Stella Patrick

Stella has worked in Arts Marketing in Wales for just under 20 years. As well as venue based marketing, she has worked on national and international touring projects; EDFringe events and site-specific work.

Employers/clients include: Taliesin Arts Centre, Blackwood Miners’ Institute, Cascade Dance Theatre, Theatr Pena, Pontardawe Arts Centre and Dirty Protest.

During the workshop you will be given an insight into the role of the arts critic. You will be given instructions on how to create a review and upload your response online. Participants will look at blogging, video, social media and much more!

We will also hear from freelance arts marketing staff and producers about how companies can best present themselves to venues to develop relationships and maximise their impact.

All workshop participants will get the opportunity for their reviews and feedback to feature on the Get the Chance website.

Access information: This venue is wheelchair accessible, via the back entrance.

Thursday, June 14, 2018
1:30 PM 3:30 PM
The Other Room
Harlech Court Cardiff, CF10 2FE

REVIEW: ‘SON OF A PREACHER MAN’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

(3 / 5)

It helps when you see a show if you take along someone who actually remembers the era the show was set in. When I saw ‘Sunny Afternoon’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, my theatre companion (who happens to be my Mum) remembered the energy and the buzz of the musical revolution of the 60s.

Through them, you get to imagine what it was like – they are the ‘litmus paper’ for the legitimacy and authenticity of the storyline, the music, the fashion and the dancing. Sunny Afternoon captured the wonder, the outrage and the rebellion of the era – and even if you have no direct experience of it, you admired it and felt part of it. It was beautifully done without overly relying on nostalgia and famous songs. Although I didn’t know anything about Dusty’s life, I knew many of her songs through my mother and was hoping for a feel-good good show which would bring her original material to life – perhaps even a sense of nostalgia for my own childhood, where I spent many happy hours dancing in the kitchen and living room to my mother’s vinyl records.

Son of a Preacher man is clearly written to cater to the boomers and the sense of nostalgia they feel about their teens. The British public clearly still have a sense of loyalty and affection towards Dusty Springfield, whose memorable songs were the soundtrack to their youth.

My mother recalls seeing Dusty Springfield perform in Cardiff during her teens. In a nod to the rivalry (real or imagined) between Dusty and Sandy Shaw, Dusty came on stage wearing massive comedy feet – taking a pop at Sandy’s reputation for singing on stage while barefoot. Perhaps this is testament to Dusty’s rebellious spirit and humour. I hadn’t known until my Mother relayed it to me in the interval but Dusty’s real life was marred by a set of tragic and difficult events, from her early childhood in a children’s home run by Catholic nuns, to being in the closet then losing her eyesight at an early age.

The production doesn’t really pick up much on Dusty’s legacy or life story – this is a show punctuated by her musical repertoire plus a few additional tracks from the era. This production looks back wistfully at a more innocent time – spent in Saturdays in record shops, dancing, and dating.

The three central characters all have a connection with the ‘Preacher Man’s’ record shop. Somehow they all end up going back to find him – and find their histories and collective futures become intertwined. We blend in an out of the 60s back to present day, through the youngest character Kat (played by Alice Barlow), Michelle Gayle’s character Alison and Paul – who on the night I attended was played by Gary Mitchinson.

Audiences will surely remember Michelle Gayle, best known for playing ‘Hattie’ in Eastenders and releasing a number of hits in the 90s including ‘Sweetness’. Her role as Alison is a little awkward at times – she doesn’t really suit the character she plays.

Hats off though to two of the show’s stand out stars – the incredible Alice Barlow who played Kat – her vocals were incredible and she is magnetic on stage. Also, the charismatic Nigel Richards who plays Simon (The Son of a Preacher Man) had a beautiful baritone voice and great comic delivery.

It was easy to forgive some of the cliches of the script when Alice Barlow was performing. It’s a credit to the cast that they were able to rescue the credibility of the show with their fabulous ensemble performances and blended vocals. Michelle Gayle is far too fabulous for the role of Alison – but her vocal performance is still hitting the spot years after ‘Sweetness’ was released and she is an accomplished singer and dancer.

The jury is still out on how well the show straddles both the 60s flashbacks and present-day vignettes. We get scenes talking about Tinder interjected with a cheeseball 60s routine with an unhealthy dose of Dad-dancing. So much Dad-dancing! But perhaps I wasn’t the right demographic for this show. When I whispered to my Mum ‘Look at that Dad dancing!’ she said ‘That what it was like – it WAS hammy and cheesy.’

Perhaps best known for his attachment to the show as Director with a musical staging credit is Strictly Come Dancing’s outrageous judge Craig Revel Horwood. His flamboyant touches are evident throughout – and don’t always land in the way they are perhaps intended – the ‘Cappucino Sisters’ deviate between 60s dancing and the occasional twerk, bump and grind.

I’m going to be frank. The story was a little…underwhelming. A teacher falling in love with a teenage boy, a teenager falling in love with someone she saw on Tinder and a man who is still in love with a guy he danced with a few times in the 60s. It was weak and was held up (just about) from the talent of this great cast and fabulous on-stage musicians. For me (and I speak as a lover of the poptastic and the cheesetastic), I found certain elements a little cringeworthy. The show was overly wistful, the opening scenes with the smoke and the ‘I remember it…. I remember it….I STILL remember it…’ were overdone and made me fear for what was ahead.

Was it just me?

Apparently not, according to the criticisms I heard in the queue in the lady’s loo during the interval. You know you’re in trouble as a theatre producer when you hear a lady say to her friends “The music is brilliant, but the story! It’s like pulling teeth” and everyone else in the queue laughs and agrees.

Theatre producers should be made to listen to reviews of their shows in ladies loos – they could learn a thing or two and perhaps even improve it before they tour with it.

Musical theatre isn’t to everyone’s taste. Some complain that songs are shoehorned in, there are too many ‘filler songs’ and some even dread the moment an actor starts singing. With this production, I found myself hoping they would hurry up and get to the song. It’s hard not to enjoy the music and it’s done really well – it’s the saving grace of the production. But It’s such a shame the show didn’t quite hit the mark. It just doesn’t quite match up to the true legacy of Dusty Springfield – and she deserved better.

If you’re a die-hard Dusty fan, you need to take the show with a pinch of salt and keep a (very) open mind. If you go – go along for the ride, have a few glasses of vino and enjoy the music. The story is a bit of a stinking bishop, but who doesn’t love and look forward to a slice of cheddar or a Dairylea triangle now and again?

Son of a Preacher man is currently on tour and will play in Venue Cymru in Llandudno on May 29th-June 2nd. The production will then visit King’s Lynn Corn Exchange in Norfolk, Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, Orchard Theatre in Dartford and Empire Theatre in Liverpool.

Review The Vagina Dialogues, The Volvas, Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

(5 / 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.

Hannah Goslin

 

The Get the Chance team choose their 2018 Cultural Highlights

Roger Barrington

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/

Gemma Treharne-Foose

Matilda, Wicked, Wales Millenium Centre

A trip to Chicago

Looking forward to seeing the big hitters this year at the WMC: Matilda (which I’ve already seen in the West End) and Wicked (which I saw at the WMC on the 2013 tour).

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!

Emily Garside

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.

Hannah Goslin

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.

Kevin Johnson

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 

Black Panther

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.

Rhys Morgan

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.

Infinity War

Dr Who

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?

Barabara Michaels

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!

Kate Parkinson

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.

Find out more: http://www.weareprimary.org/2018/01/sophie-jung/ & http://www.weareprimary.org/2017/03/object-performance/

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.

Internet: http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/coming-out-sexuality-gender-and-identity

“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.

Internet: http://www.weareprimary.org/tag/film-free-and-easy/

“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.

Internet: https://www.facebook.com/events/537565839935776/

“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.

Gareth Williams

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.

Donna Poynton

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.’

Sian Thomas

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 (Malcolm Lowry) Revisited by Rhys Morgan

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.

 

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Malcolm Lowry

 

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.

 

Image result for Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl

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

Review: How to Win Against History by Gemma Treharne-Foose

 

(5 / 5)

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.

It’s Nice on the Ice with Spice Time Credits

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.

 

Review: The Adventure Zone by Sian Thomas

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.