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Review NYOW St David’s Hall, 2015 Tour

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Returning once again to the Welsh capital, the 115 strong National Youth Orchestra of Wales took to the stage at St David’s Hall for the final performance of their 2015 tour. Performing an equally exciting and exhausting compilation of early twentieth-century Parisian ballet works, the orchestra was in the capable hands of internationally acclaimed conductor Paul Daniel (CBE) whose ambitious second half of the programme pushed the orchestra to their limits.

Easing in with Paul Dukas’ lesser known La Péri, this was an apt work to sit alongside Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring as the two pieces premièred in the same year. Daniel’s was a subtle interpretation; the introductory rousing brass fanfare moved into a contrasting web of gorgeous full bodied melodies in the strings and ethereal orchestral pianissimos that captured the mysticism of the Persian legend of Alexander the Great that the work is inspired by. This was followed by Florent Schmitt`s La Tragedie de Salome, another atmospheric piece during which the impressionistic oboe and cor anglais passages were particularly enticing. Set in two, the second part was characterised particularly well. Full of suspense and percussive pathetic fallacy, the thunderclaps added colour and maintained the momentum of the storm.

It was a well thought out programme. The first half of the concert passed quickly with beautiful melodies and subtlety that was set up to be utterly shattered in the second half by Stravinsky’s savage The Rite of Spring. When I discovered that the NYOW were braving Stravinsky’s finest work, I felt a pang that I was no longer sitting in the violin section. This is a work that every musician wants to experience on stage.

Prefaced by a harp fanfare written during the NYOW residency by two young composers, the intricate introduction was confidently conducted by co-writer Daniel Soley. Immediately following this, Paul Daniel waited for complete silence before handing over to Llewelyn Edwards to initiate the singing bassoon opening to The Rite of Spring during which the orchestra’s capability was showcased.

For the most part, the relentless rhythmic frenzy was precisely executed and the tumultuous full orchestral sound during the sacrifice was attacked with sheer force and commitment; it is clear that Paul Daniel has worked tirelessly with the responsive orchestra to pull off such a monumentally challenging work. Many would be sceptical about whether a programme this ambitious could be effectively performed by a youth orchestra but, as always, the National Youth Orchestra of Wales stepped up to the challenge. Incorporating The Rite of Spring into the programme gave soloists particularly in the woodwind section, the opportunity to demonstrate their maturity as players.

After a two week intense rehearsal and concert schedule, the professionalism and commitment from these talented young performers will come at the usual price. Today the famous Nash Crash begins for them all!

 

Review Knife in the Water By James Knight

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In 1941 there was Citizen Kane (Orson Welles), in 1955 there was The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton), in 1959 there was The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut), in 1960 there was Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard), in 1969 there was Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper), in 1989 there was Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh), and in 1992 there was Reservoir Dogs (Quinten Tarantino), all great directorial feature debuts, but add to that list Roman Polanski’s 1962 maiden effort Knife in the Water, playing at Chapter Arts Centre as part of Martin Scorsese’s “Masterpieces of Polish Cinema” series.

The story of Knife in the Water is simple; a bourgeois sportswriter named Andrej, played by Leon Niemmczyk, and his wife Krystyna, played by Jolanta Umecka (making her onscreen debut, who Polanski discovered one day at a local swimming pool), pick up a hitchhiker known only as the Young Man (we never learn his name), played by Zygmunt Malanowicz, and take him with them on a sailing trip, with the vast majority of the film taking place on the boat. On paper this might seem like a smooth but forgettable little thriller but add in the Polanski touch and it evolves into an erotically charged psychological game of cat and mouse all with the accompaniment of Krzysztof Komeda’s masterful jazz score. Knife in the Water, alongside Chinatown (1974), the greatest neo noir detective film ever made, and Rosemary’s Baby (1968), possibly the greatest human horror ever made, have firmly established Polanski as a master of cinema. But unlike other filmmakers featured in this series, the likes of Andrej Wajda and Krzysztof Kielowski, Polanski’s films, especially Knife in the Water, are almost completely void of any political and social commentary. His films are a lot more interested in cinema, in the reality of a reflection rather than a reflection of reality (to steal Godard’s wonderful term). Knife in the Water does not take place in Poland but in Pol-anski-land.

In his autobiography, Polanski recalled the difficulties he and his crew encountered whilst shooting Knife in the Water, saying; ‘the yacht was quite big enough to accommodate three actors but uncomfortably cramped for the dozen-odd people behind the camera. When shooting aboard, we had to don safety harnesses and hang over the side.’ Yet from this confinement, Polanski manages to liberate the camera, almost creating a new set of cinematic rules in the process. The film is a technical marvel. It reminds me of another Polish film, The Night Train (1959), indecently also starring Leon Niemczyk, where the director Jerzy Kawalerowicz, also managed to create a technically impressive film despite having to shoot the entire picture inside a moving train.

Knife in the Water is a cinema first film, image and sound hold far greater precedent over dialogue which in the film is often meaningless and empty and carries no weight in the telling of the story (in fact the majority of the dialogue is dubbed, with Polanski giving his own voice to the character of the Young Man). Towards the end of the film when the sailing trip has come to an end, there’s a sequence where Andrej and his wife lock up the boat in harbour, they tie up the ropes, put down the sails, padlock the doors, all without one word of dialogue. On the surface it’s an innocent little sequence but look a little closer and you’ll see that Polanski manages to capture their whole marriage through raw image, sound and simple action, no dialogue, like a true master of cinema.

Like Polanski’s two most recent films, Knife in the Water deals with a limited cast, but whereas Venus in Fur (2013), and Carnage (2011) through their limitations become essentially filmed theatre, Knife in the Water is cinema and cinema only. It is ninety minutes of pure intimacy where we too feel like we’re on that boat with them. When it’s all over we realise that we’ve learned nothing concrete about the characters yet we somehow know everything that’s important. The film ends where it began, no one changes, no one grows, yet there’s a sense of a new beginning.

In one scene, the Young Man hangs over the edge of the moving boat and by hovering his feet over the surface of the water makes it look like he is in fact walking on water. Knife in the Water is such a cinematic achievement that whilst watching it, you can’t help but get the sense that Polanski too was walking on water.

Knife in the Water (PG)

Poland/1962/94mins/subtitles/PG. Dir: Roman Polanski. With: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz.

At Chapter Arts Centre from June 28th – 30th

– See more at: http://www.chapter.org/knife-water-pg#sthash.jqBSid1t.dpuf

Review Mondo Galactica London Burlesque Festival by Hannah Goslin

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Mondo Galactica

London Burlsque Festival

Dingwalls, Camden

As is common and unique about Burlesque shows to other performances is the intimacy. For those who are used to seeing burlesque and enjoy this element, the idea of seeing more and more flesh in such a small venue would only encourage, but for others, it can be daunting. Bringing a Burlesque virgin along with me, I was keen to employ my knowledge as a trained burlesque performing (who is awaiting enough time in her current wonderfully busy life to reprise her alter ego for the public) but aware that this could open a new horizon for him.

Choosing Mondo Galactica, I thought that this would be an easy and approachable theme to introduce my geeky friend to. But who was I kidding? There’s nothing shy, retiring or otherwise not in your face (sometimes quite literally) about any burlesque show.

Performers need little else but their talent in this unique form of artistic expression and dance combined with their glamorous and at times comical costumes and make up. Mondo Galactica was one of many London Burlesque festival shows, this specifically catering to the nerds among us.

With an abundance of metallic, shiny, silver, green and so on, we were transported into many areas of cultural Sci Fi. Some performers linked to identifiable themes such as a fantastic Boylesque group, where the men very differently to common Burlesque/Boylesque took items off but not to be naked, but in the way of transforming into different nods to classical Sci Fi, such as the evolution of man and Planet of the Apes. Their synchronicity and enjoyment of their elaborate scene changes did not take away the lacking in the lack of clothing and skin on show. This example trumping those who profess Burlesque acts as glorified strip routines.

Other’s showed strip teasing Robots or Space cadets, including one with a nod to Star Trek, yet all had a versatility and different way of alluring the audience. In this industry and especially this specific show, it is hard to compare acts with the abundance of ways that it is possible to entertain in a sexy way , and of which was evident in the different dance techniques and interactions with the audience.

Finally, one of the most important and fun part of Burlesque shows is the audience interaction. A short and amateur master class for these untrained willingly volunteered audience members showed us their version of what they had – shaking the booty, bumping and grinding and interaction with the rest of us. Encouraging us to clap and cheer, the continued encouragement to vocally and physically participant in this show came with this easiness to relate to the current people on stage.

While specifically catered with the theme, the London Burlesque Shows or Burlesque shows over all always have something for everyone. Whether participating or not, this welcoming community will turn anyone into a new view of life – my friend, with not so many words quoted in saying ‘You know what? I REALLY loved that!!!’.

Review Frankie Boyle, Leicester Square Theatre by Hannah Goslin

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Frankie Boyle

Leicester Square Theatre

29/04/15

Controversial and often unlikable Frankie Boyle, known for his taboo subjects and risqué jokes took the main stage at Leicester Square Theatre. Known for sell out shows in larger venues, this small and intimate theatre was an unusual setting for the intense comic.

Beginning with a warm up act, the Canadian comedian was loud and hilarious. He brought on subjects that were important and topical but risked making crude and comical comments on these. His performance was an interesting style; he often walked the stage and used a shouting to pause technique, giving us time to laugh and take in the often valid point he had made. There was not a lot of audience interaction, mostly until the end which seemed a shame in such a small venue, however not all comics take that route and this did not change the atmosphere.

Finally, we listen to Boyle himself. In casual clothing, this gig is known to be a trial and error run of new material. Beginning with some of his already existing material, we were brought into and warmed up within his sense of humour. Not for the faint hearted, jokes petered on subjects that would not be welcomed in usual society, and this sense of taboo made the comedy even funnier. The humour that Boyle exhumes caters for a specific audience, however his popularity is evident by the constant hysterics in the room showed that British Society has a more risqué mind than we are professed to have by the media and stereotypes.

Boyle’s new work features comedy for a show that is soon to air. The privilege of hearing these and the intimacy with his judgement of whether the joke would be good enough or not or even be dumbed down enough was interesting to watch, making each person feel a part of his decision-making process.

Leicester Square theatre is well-known for giving space for comics, new and well-known to perform new material. While tickets sell quickly, it is well worth keeping an eye on these for such an intimate and relaxed evening, something that is unusual in entertainment scenes.

Review Catch Me Daddy by Lois Arcari

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Catch me Daddy is a powerful, arresting film that blurs itself against conventions of the genre.

From producer Jim Mooney, who hosted a brief Q and A at the Chapter screening of the film, director Daniel Wolf, one half of the Wolfe brothers writing team with Matthew Wolfe, the infancy of the creating company – EMU films, both helps and hinders the film.
EMU films having previously only produced shorts lead that to one advantage – the casting of unknown’s for the film seems like an organic decision that would have come more easily from this than otherwise – but the original vision of the film was toned and trimmed, with beauty, but ultimately, according to Mooney, without the messages of the original idea.
The surprisingly unrelenting beauty of the film, amidst its harsh tone, is one of its strengths – the cinematography, a very subdued element in most ‘Brit grit’ films, or used with gritty quality, is here a major focus – giving cold beauty in harsh scenes, enhancing the choice to move the film along in real-time – in a world that is our’s, but from another side of the looking-glass; clinical blues greys and bright amber of fire giving way to a rich night.
This cinematography helps with the other unrelenting element of the film as it progresses – it’s bleakness is by no means soothed by it, but the contrast is a compelling one, when mixed with the brilliant sound design, turning the hazy noises of the every day into an oppressive soundtrack.

The lead character, Lailia, is compelling, but it’s hard to whether she is underwritten – most of the strength of character comes from the stares and expressions of debut actress Sameena Ahmed, the sense that, even in a world that takes away her autonomy, she still holds some ironic power by simply being the centre of this chaos.

Her English boyfriend, Aaron, and the thugs around her are well acted, but again, their character seems to fall down the wayside for the sheer look and scope of the film, which, given the strength of its lead, doesn’t particularly hinder the film.

One thing that could, however, is the lack of translation of motivation to the screen – whilst the ambiguity of the final shot is brilliant, the ambiguity of some characters leaves the plot muddled.
Whilst across the board Sameena has been praised, one element that has not fared so well with audiences is the portrayal of Asian men, many calling them ‘stereotypical thugs’ but given the genre of the film, its raw quality, and the motivations of white thug Barry, within context, you can see why they wouldn’t be completely developed.
But, away from context, this is a tired, problematic stereotype – one must ask themselves why this image is such a pervasive one, and why films with sympathetic Asian men are even harder to find than those of already under-represented women.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/video/2015/jan/22/catch-me-daddy-exclusive-trailer-video

Review Flossy and Boo, WMC by Kaitlin Wray

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Flossy and Boo, a devised performance from two talented girls, Anja Conti and Laura Jeffs. Their bio, “Flossy & Boo’s Fantastical, Mystical, Wonderous, Fantabulous, Tremendous, Stupendous Curiosity Shop” is exactly what it says in the tin. This is a performance that will leave you with a smile on your face and a catchy tune in your head.
Performing on the Glanfa stage in the Wales Millennium Stadium, Flossy and Boo entertained the ever-growing audience with tales of their journeys, humorous poems and even songs they composed themselves.
Their characters were well-developed with Flossy (Anja Conti) being the sure leader of the two and Boo, (Laura Jeffs) being the ditsy, loveable one. Their chemistry together and the difference in characters worked well on stage and created on-going humour for the audience. Furthermore it was evident that they put countless hours in perfecting their script and performance due to how well in sync they were with each other.
Both Anja and Laura had impressive voices, showcasing not only different accents but their singing style. Their harmonies were wonderful and was also in-keeping with their comedy of their characters.
This show relied heavily on audience interaction as they got both adults and children up onto the stage and even got the whole audience creating sound effects. They kept in control of their audience and managed to improvise their way into dealing with over-excitable children exceptionally especially well when they were just too excited to even sit down.
I would highly recommend seeing this energetic and exhilarating performance, it was visually and acoustically pleasing and it is a perfect show for any age.
You can find more information on upcoming shows on their website.

‘Wales Millennium Centre Uncovered In One Hour’ Review of Wales Millennium Centre Tour – Cardiff Bay – Cardiff

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Wales Millennium Centre Uncovered In One Hour

Review of Wales Millennium Centre Tour – Cardiff Bay – Cardiff

Katie Treharne

08/07/2013

 On the hottest day of year yet, it’s no wonder the tour guide of Wales’ multicultural Millennium Centre was proud as he showed us around the building.  Fitted with large vents and a layer of ice that melts to cool the building when a warm draft of air hits, it’s a pleasant escape from the 27°C heat outside.  But that’s not the only reason you’d want to visit the centre.  Carefully designed to resemble a ship, the aesthetics of the building are a feast to behold.  From pillars that look like trees – “Wales is growing into a new country!” – to door handles in the shape of musical instruments, to the stairs that set the shape of a ship, there’s always something around the corner to surprise visitors.

Door handles

The Wales Millennium Centre was designed intricately by three architects, Jonathan Adams, Tim Green and Keith Vince, whose brief at the outset of the project was to design a building that expresses ‘Welshness’ as recognisable as that of its Australian counterpart, the Sydney Opera House.  From the particular use of slate from Welsh quarries, which is encased in a coloured layer to look like the different stone layers seen in Welsh sea cliffs, to the Celtic lettering on the front of the building, it is evident that every nook and cranny of the Wales Millennium Centre has been designed that way for a reason.  The face of Wales Millennium Centre, known for its inscription, “IN THESE STONES HORIZONS SING” was interestingly chosen as they believed the stones would be literally singing with the music from inside.  This in-depth design of the building, which caters not only for the comfort of the visitors but also radiates Welsh spirit, is just another way the building interests and entertains anyone that visits Cardiff Bay.

stairs wmc

Since its opening in November 2004, the large steel building has prided itself on its open door policy.  Informal spaces in the lobby are free to be hired out to school groups and performers, and their range of disabled facilities (lifts, automatic doors, and parking) make the centre easily accessible to all.  However, the most welcoming thing of all has to be the centre’s bilingualism.  A surprising approximate of over 60% of the staff can speak both English and Welsh and not a single sign is written in one language.  Even the website is available in Welsh and English!  One thing’s to be sure, you can always speak to someone without worrying you’re saying something wrong.

Donald Gordon Theatre

Another proud point of the Wales Millennium Centre is its theatres.  The main theatre, The Donald Gordon Theatre, holds up to 1896 people, ensuring as many people as possible get to see the full wonder of the shows.  Not only that, but the seats at the very back of the theatre are only an astounding 40m away from the stage, the same distance as if they were hovering from the sky towers above.  This, coupled with the holes underneath seats and specialised drapes, which absorb sound to create the best atmosphere possible for the show, give the audience a spectacular experience they will find hard to forget.  Smaller, but not less important, is The Weston Studio, which seats 250 people and is home to more small-scale productions, meetings or private dances, proving the centre’s claim that they are the host of a wide range of entertainment.

outside wmc tours

Although there is little to find at fault with a venue that has so obviously pulled out all the stops to please everyone, the food and drinks in the building are very costly.  A small tub of 100ml ice cream costs a whopping £2.50 compared to the £1.00 tub you can buy in the Sainsbury’s opposite the centre.  Although it is acceptable to take your own food and drink into the theatres, the trouble is inconvenient, and traditionally purchasing food at the venue is supposed to be one of the fun parts of the day.

To sum the Wales Millennium Centre up simply, I would have to say it’s an inviting, aesthetically pleasing venue with lots of high quality shows to pull people of all kinds into Cardiff Bay.  In the future, I’ll be seeing the performance of Wicked, which I’m certain the centre will ensure is as pleasurable an experience as possible.  Granted, the overpriced food and drink are a downer, but that’s only one thing to balance out the bounty of advantages the centre holds.

Preview and Review, To Live,To Love,To Be Company 5,Sherman Cymru, Chelsey Gillard.

To Live, To Love, To Be

Preview – To Live, To Love, To Be

Company 5

Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2

17-20th April

 

Once a month, every month, a sinister band comes together to summon the spirits of years gone by. Last month they entered dangerous territory by summoning the spirit of Adolf Hitler. This month they have gone for an ‘easier’ option – William Shakespeare. But will their investigations into the Bard’s background be as safe as they think?

 

The Play

To Live, To Love, To Be is a newly commissioned play by award-winning dramatist D.J. Britton, who also penned Sherman Cymru’s take on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. The unusual script aims to explore why Shakespeare wrote what he did and what influences inspired his imagination. Around the 6 metre revolving table debate is sparked between Shakespeare’s Welsh grandmother, his father – Mayor of Stratford, travelling players, Ariel from The Tempest and other characters from his plays.

 

The Company

Company 5 consists of 13 members between the ages of 18 and 61, some with no previous theatre experience at all! In a chat with Director Phil MacKenzie he stressed the importance of the company’s open door policy, “there are no auditions, all that’s needed is commitment.” The result is an incredible mixture of people from all kinds of backgrounds; one is a professional actor, others are drama students, some just have a passion for theatre. For those new to treading the boards, what a way to make their theatrical debut!

Phil says that even in the week before the show he is not completely sure what the finished production will be. “If you think of the process as a hill – we are nearly at the top of it now. By next week we will be at the top of the hill and the momentum will just carry us through.”

Despite being unsure what to expect as the audience comes in Phil’s passion for the project is characteristically infectious. Staging such as experimental and unusual production with a group such as Company 5 could be a huge risk if the actors were not completely on board with the idea, but whilst watching them rehearse it was clear that every person on that stage is committed to putting on a high quality performance that will begin to bridge the gap between amateur and professional theatre.

 

The Rehearsal

In Sherman Cymru’s Theatre 2 it seems that every company finds a new way to use the adaptable space. Company 5 have decided to take the idea of performing in the round to the next level. The huge revolving séance table takes up most of the stage meaning that the audience are placed above the action on the balcony looking down on what Phil calls “the mysterious world of the afterlife.”

The set is incredible and it’s hard to believe that this isn’t a professional production with a large budget. The attention to detail is astonishing and extends to the lighting, costume and even the smell in the room.

One of the most impressive parts of the production is, without a doubt, the music, which has been specially created by Welsh composer John Rea. He has constructed atmospheric soundscapes to accompany the action that Phil grandly calls “sonic provocations”. They certainly live up to their name adding a dark tension to the room. As if this wasn’t already a hard enough job John had the extra challenge of creating the sound only from music that has been composed in response to Shakespeare’s work. The final result is perfect for the mysterious and somewhat sinister production.

Although this was a rehearsal in which details were constantly changing with actors having to redo sections over and over there were still some eye-catching performances. There is a clear ensemble approach and it is obvious that the company have done a lot of work on movement and text meaning that they are free to experiment and produce something new and exciting.

 

 

This is sure to be yet another daring and innovative production from Sherman Cymru’s Company 5. By the time the audiences are coming in this is sure to be a polished and exciting production. If you are a Shakespeare buff, a new writing fan or are just looking for something a bit different get your tickets now!

 

 

 

To Live, To Love, To Be will be at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff from 17-20 April, 8pm. Tickets : £8 / £6 conc / £4 under 25s.

Tickets and info: 029 2064 6900                              www.shermancymru.co.uk

 

The project has been supported by RSC Open Stages and The Paul Hamlyn Foundation both of which stress the importance of high quality experiences and the importance of maximising the potential of everyone.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation: www.phf.org.uk

Royal Shakespeare Company: www.rsc.org.uk

 

To Live, To Love, To Be

Company 5

Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2

17th April 2013

Being in the audience of To Live, To Love, To Be was like being  a witness to some occult religious ceremony; the atmosphere was heavy with expectation and a sinister sense of danger never left the room. Sitting on the balcony looking down at the huge revolving table as incense filled the room was the beginning of our initiation to the mystical world of Shakespeare’s mind.

Around the table various figures from Shakespeare’s past and fantastical imagination debate the source of the Bard’s genius. His school teacher believes that education is the key, a travelling player says that they inspired Shakespeare as a young man, Ariel from The Tempest argues that he has the heart of a fairy and Macbeth claims that the famous poet adapted stories from history to suit his own means.

For a community group to be able to perform a specially commissioned script, with such high production values is incredible. Every element of the design was better than some professional companies. The lighting design by Ceri James was breathtaking; it had the power the change the space from the dark passages of Macbeth’s castle to the sunny Stratford of Shakespeare’s youth, whilst always maintaining a sense of the supernatural.

An investigation into Shakespeare’s past and motivation is always going to be very intellectual and the wordplay was at times beautiful but the atmosphere was so engulfing and mysterious that some of the very down to earth humour was lost among the incense and grandeur. This lack of humour made the production, although visually impressive, very dry and academic at points.

Considering that this is such a challenging text and the company run an open door policy, whereby anyone can get involved with no auditions, the standard of acting was very, very high. Some of the younger members are also involved with the Sherman’s Youth Theatre and they are undoubtedly getting an excellent introduction to the world of theatre. Certain performances showed real professional potential – Eifion Ap Cadno (Shakespeare), Andreas Constantinou (Macbeth) and Giorgia Marchetta (Lady Macbeth) to name a few.  Among all this talent the stand out performance of the event came from the highly talented Nerys Jones as William Shakespeare’s Welsh grandmother who argues passionately (and convincingly) that his talent comes from his Celtic blood.

A really interesting production that is an absolute master class in building tension and atmosphere. It will be fascinating to see where the company goes from here, they have set themselves a very high standard to maintain.

Chelsey Gillard