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Young Critics on the Edge, ASSITEJ 2016

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Last week some of our members took part in Young Critics on the Edge. Please find further information on the project below as well as a link to their reviews.

What is Young Critics On The Edge?

Young Critics On The Edge is a 5 day-long programme to develop critical analysis skills in young people aged 18–25 as part of On The Edge The World Festival of Theatre For Young Audiences.

Young Critics On The Edge is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company, NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Young Critic’s Wales in conjunction with the Symposium strand of the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

ON THE EDGE is presented by TYA-UK and TYA-Ireland. It is the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering 2016. ON THE EDGE is hosted by Birmingham REP.

Young Critics On The Edge is open to young people aged 18-25 who are interested in watching theatre, discovering how and why theatre is made, and learning how to critically discuss, analyse, and review Theatre For Young Audiences

Over a five-day period they will see some incredible shows, make new friends and learn about the art of theatre criticism. All this happens during On The Edge The World Festival of Theatre For Young Audiences in Birmingham from July 3rd – July 8th 2016.

In a very exciting and innovative programme young people are given an opportunity to see quality productions, develop their critical skills and make their own critical responses under the mentorship of leading International drama facilitators.

Who can take part?

Two participants from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England and a further two participants from the host city of Birmingham will be selected to take part.

Participants will drawn through the partner organisations of Barnstorm Theatre Company (Ireland), Mess Up the Mess (Wales), NAYD (Ireland), Young Critic’s Wales, Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, A Younger Theatre (England), Theatre NI (Northern Ireland) and Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

In order to offer individual advice and guidance on developing each young person’s critical skills, places on the programme are limited to 12 places in total. Those who are interested should apply using the accompanying application form.

What happens during the Young Critics?

The Young Critics will meet in Birmingham from Sunday July 3rd to Friday July 8th. Over five days the Young Critics will attend a number of theatre productions, interact with the city, participate in workshops, live blog and share their views with delegates of ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

https://youngcriticsontheedge.wordpress.com

Review Moirai, Big Loop Theatre Company by Kaitlin Wray

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(4 / 5)

Moirai, a play that’s completely devised taking inspiration from Greek mythology. Through the use of physical theatre and narrative Big Loop Theatre Company create a beautiful performance that showed three girls resembling creatures who had the control over life, the measure of life, and death. The only props on stage where a box which had a spinning wheel inside with what seemed like an endless amount of string. The string represented everyones life and it was the creatures job to pull the sting, measure the string and then cut it. It started of light hearted yet there is a dark deep underlining meaning.

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The pre show music helped set the mood as it felt dystopian and out of this world. Before any dialogue happened two of the creatures showcase their boredom and waiting for something to happen, they perform a playful dance-like piece to resemble their characters. It was a clever way to open the show as the audience got to see an insight as to who they were. The great thing I enjoyed about this show was that it kept you guessing as to who they were or what they were doing until half way through. It then began to escalate and we find out exactly what sort of control they had. It was a brilliant well written play with great moments for each actor to shine, and shine they did.

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Allie Downing plays the creature that begins life, at the beginning we see sort of a child-like creature wanting attention when she’s bored. However when the one thing she cares about is threatened she does everything in her power to stop it. As an audience we really feel for Allie’s character and she does a wonderful job at portraying a character thats just lost everything.

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Ellen Thomas playing the creature that measures life, seems to be the leader out of the three. It is evident that the other two creatures respect her the most. From the beginning she seems completely head strong and wanting to just enjoy her job. However towards the end she reveals her true feelings and it’s quite emotional to watch.

Megan Swingler, plays the creature that represents death. It was her duty to cut the string. It is evident that she is frustrated and tired of cutting the string all day and is feeling overwhelmed. Megan plays a character who isn’t in her right mind and ends up taking a risk.

The collaboration of these three characters with their different personalities match really well on the stage. Their acting was incredible and overall it was a lovely piece to watch. It made me question the meaning of life and to think  “are we all just puppets”.

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/big-loop

Review Miramar Trigonl by Helen Joy

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(4 / 5)

 

I have enjoyed a huge ice-cream sundae in the café and am happily taking my seat, when Enid comes over and has a chat. She tells me about the nasty business with her husband and how she’s had to sell the house.

It is a nasty business too. Poor woman. Homeless. Di gartref. How easily it can happen.

I have no idea how I have become fluent in Welsh. Enid is chatting away and we are all listening and we are all tutting and laughing and commiserating with her. She is exaggerated as a story-teller, she relishes the telling of her tale, she compensates for her loss through her canniness. We like Enid but we see she is a cunning old bird. We are sorry when her home is taken and renamed: Miramar. Awel y Mor is nicer, we agree. We don’t mind her moving back in while the new owners are away, china dogs in another family.

The slapstick comedy of the sausage and mash dinner hidden in the cupboard when the inevitable knock on the door comes. We are encouraged not to like the smart and sassy daughters of Miramar but of course, eventually we do. And the sausages make their mark on all of us.

This is about communication – about showing us that spoken language has just one part to play and so we roll from Welsh into English and back again without even noticing. It is about family, life and death and consequences. It is about different tastes and different times and places. It is about home. It is about shit. Cachu. It happens.

Simple props, careful costume and straightforward lighting. All we need to establish a sense of a house and its people in transition. It is nicely performed. Alice and Georgina make good foils to the characterful Enid. Light and dark, this is a strong play with a tidbit of fiery drama at the end. Y sosejis.

I ask two ladies, who are sitting in the evening sun outside The Red House on a Saturday night in Merthyr, whether they speak Welsh. No, they say in unison. Didn’t need to. Understood every word. We’ll be coming again. So funny. We laughed and laughed. Same here, I say. Finally, my knowledge of Welsh swearwords comes in handy and I share some choice ones. We part and you can hear us all laughing up the street. Am dipyn.

We all know everyone in it – recognise and enjoy!

Play:                Miramar

At:                   The Red House, Merthyr

Playwright:          Rebecca Smith-Williams

Producer:             Rebecca Knowles

Director:               James Williams

Theatre:                Triongl

Cast:                        Enid – Valmai Jones

Alice – Rebecca Knowles

Georgina – Rebecca Smith-Williams

Seen:              7.30pm, 18th June, 2016

Reviewer:      Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:        Saturday 18th, Redhouse , Merthyr Tydfil

Wednesday 22nd – The Welfare, Ystradgynlais http://www.thewelfare.co.uk/

Links:               http://www.triongl.com/miramar.html

 

 

Review Miramar, Triongl By Gemma Treharne-Foose

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(3 / 5)

 

An Englishman’s home is his castle, so the saying goes. But what happens when your husband (quite literally) finds himself in the shit and croaks it thanks to his fondness for the horses, leaving you destitute and homeless?

Triongl’s devised production ‘Miramar’, explores what are quite madcap and surreal circumstances in a small, intimate domestic comedy. Valmai Jones perfectly plays the part of interfering and curmudgeonly Enid. Vulnerable and stubborn, she finds herself put up by her friend Myfanwy following her misfortune and is horrified to find herself at the age of 74 sleeping in the Arsenal-themed room of her friend’s Grandson. She’s forced to watch as part-time holiday home landlords strip her house of her possessions as they create their little Welsh minimalist haven. Welsh speakers will recognise the subtle (and not so subtle) references and nods to ongoing anxieties and concerns about second homes in Welsh speaking communities here. Triongl play on these scenarios, contrasting the home-spun familiarities and eccentricities of Welsh speaking communities with the somewhat square and distant characters of Miriam and Martin, the couple from Swindon who purchase Enid’s old house. There are language barriers, eye-rolls and asides to the audience as these are played out. Jones’ comic timing and tense/jerky body language are absolutely spot on.

Hilarity ensues when Miriam and Martin’s daughters show up unexpectedly to the house only to find that Enid (disguising herself as neighbour Myfanwy) has moved in. We are taken down a number of paths and alternative ‘this is what could have happened’ scenes as Enid tries to cover up her manipulation and excuses as she plays one sister off against another. Becoming embroiled in the sisters’ bickering and back-story, the tangled comedy culminates in a sweet ending which will tickle you pink.

Audience members who don’t speak Welsh may struggle to get the full meaning and richness of Enid’s monologues in Welsh but the production helpfully gives a ‘cheat sheet’ to audience members delivered at the start (in character) by Enid herself. So you can find out just what Enid means when she says ‘cachu’ (shit), ‘Ty haf’ (holiday home) and ‘di gartref’ (homeless). This production will capture your attention to the very end and Welsh speakers will (ironically) feel right at home with the observations and cross overs between English and Welsh, village and city, old and new and all the complexities that go with it.

For all the ‘funnies’ in the play, there’s a sober message, which was highlighted by a post-play talk by Shelter Cymru. 97% of its cases are related to cases like Enid’s, not just homelessness out on the streets, financial insecurity is on the rise and we are typically only two pay packets away from homelessness ourselves. Miramar reminds us that we all need a place to call our own and to feel secure; whether it’s a place with china dogs and pink throws or stripped floorboards and minimalism.

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Miramar
Venue: Chapter Arts Centre
Dates: 16 & 17 June 2016
Author(s): Rebecca Smith-Williams
Director: James Williams
Lighting Design: Dan Young
Technical: Richard Balshaw (Production Stage Manager) and Jorge Lizalde (Graphic Design)
Cast includes: Valmai Jones (Enid), Rebecca Knowles (Alice) and Rebecca Smith-Williams (Georgina).
Co-producer: Rebecca Knowles
Running time: 65 mins

 

 

BAFTA Cymru Awards 2015 by Hannah Goslin

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Gruff Rhys winner of Original Music Set Fire to the Stars

With a carpet as red as the Welsh dragon, the streets of Cardiff opened up to support the glamour and talent that has come out of Wales for the 2015 BAFTA Cymru Awards. Stars that are known among the TV dwellers, some who have reached the realms of Hollywood and even celebrities that fly the flag for this wonderful country were out in their glory in the centre of the capital.

Seeing and getting the chance to speak to the likes of Scott Quinnell, Charlotte Church and Russell T Davies was a joy but also a warm sense of pride was evoked for someone who comes from a Welsh mother but predominately studied and trained in this creative country that is not given enough acknowledgement in the industry.

It is all well and good celebrating the United Kingdom as a whole, but to celebrate Wales specifically is a triumph. Underestimated for its acting, musical and writing talent, we have brought out fantastic shows and films from the BBC, S4C and Pinewood Studios.

This especially comes from conversations I have had  with those I know in other parts of the country. There is an attitude that this event is nothing but a lower version of the larger event – a laughable act to celebrate Wales. But how can this be? Do people so easily forget that majority of our programmes and creative people come from Wales? And that this is only growing.

Due to this underestimation of Welsh talent, the focus I wanted to find from talking with these people was what should young people be doing in Wales to get into the industry? Many move away to find better opportunities, and while I moved myself, I was under no illusion that there were prospects in Wales, but more to experience somewhere else for a short time.

Russell T Davis especially was so interesting to speak to. He recommended that the industry is hard work but just to persevere. Writing, especially, the key is to just keep writing. And while this is specific, it could be said that this is great advice for everyone. Working hard gets you everywhere and within a country that slowly is becoming more recognised for the talent it produces, the industry will become harder than it already is, and hard to break.

Other conversations, mostly with actors gave opinions that Wales is a great place for the young in the industry. With fantastic institutions, the way to train and get involved has changed from the days of leaving and finding the hard work of the big smoke that is London. London and England no longer is the be all and end all of the industry but nor does the advice to work hard and find these institutions means that the industry is a lonely place where you look out for only yourself. It was said that finding a group that supports talent such as drama classes or dance classes can also open avenues. Some fall into the industry from these outlets but ultimately, with Wales being such a small place, these training classes can open avenues which still will rely on hard work.

This patriotic and beautiful celebration gives much food for thought, especially for those like myself who moved away to find herself never far from Wales and returning. London is beautiful, it’s fantastic but it is vast. Sometimes lonely and difficult in this vastness. And while Wales is becoming more and more recognised for fantastic talent and may one day will become as vast as London, the warmth and patriotism of the country at such events shows that the industry does not need to be so wide and for the solo, but can be homely, welcoming and so close-knit as Wales as a whole, in my experience, has always been.

BAFTA Cymru Awards 2015 by Lois Arcari

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Director Euros Lyn and writer Russel T Davies with the Sian Phillips award which was presented to Euros by Russel at the ceremony.

Last Sunday, our dragon roared in celebration of the talents of this country, why I hear you ask?

Last Sunday was the 2015 BAFTA Cymru Awards, a buzzing celebration of Wales’ talent, and blooming attraction to international shows and films, with the public watching amongst home grown stars.

Wisdom –easy to receive, hard to listen to – certainly when your brain has a series of buffers and filters to make the challenge of it getting in there that tad bit more exciting, the cogs and emotions of your brain cheering on the wipe out style spectacle before them. Luckily, wisdom is astronomically better fated straight from the horse’s mouth – when the ‘horse’ is another thing entirely. An institution of a show runner, a brilliant, lauded writer, Russel T Davies. The chestnut in question- “just write” Which of course, I am in the process of doing, somewhat strangely with the same, utterly euphoric glee that came over me, and all spectators during the event.

This buzz, according universally to the winners and hosts of the event, is reflected in the unlimited potential of Wales. This potential has, according to, among others, winning director Euros Lyn always been here, but is now being sought ought internationally, with shows like The Bastard Executioner recognising our well of talent.

Each and every interview, however long or short, showed this talent just as easily as the ceremony and awards themselves, with insight into special effects, saying great effects must be ‘wedded to the story’, Director Clare Sturges with her aim to humanise and to stop victim blaming in ‘Sex Work love and Mr Right’, and that tenacity and ‘keenness’ are the first essential steps to arriving in the industry, ready to work for getting to a standard for events like these – something I, as an aspiring writer, would leap at, both hands waiting, despite dyspraxia producing some (light) trauma in the form of PE flashbacks, ready to catch the chance.

No, not even turning the poor saucer of my coffee cup into a small lake could put a damper on the evening. Though slightly soggy. (I shall not, as my friends know full well, ever be up for a comedy award!)

With meeting a childhood icon, industry greats and new friends in the form of the other critics, the buzz is almost certain to remain whenever the memory is looked at, as fondly and excitedly as the night was lived through.

This is as good an incentive as any to have faith in our TV and film, to support upcoming projects and look again at ones past. Among the winners were Euros Lyn, Clare Sturges, Rhod Gilbert, Mali Harries and Gruff Rhys, with Hinterland, Jack to a King and Set Fire to the Stars some of the luckiest projects on the night.

 

The full list of winners can be found here;

http://www.bafta.org/wales/awards/news/winners-announced-british-academy-cymru-awards-2015.

BAFTA Cymru Awards 2015 by James Briggs

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All of the stars were out in force on Sunday the 27th of September at St David’s Hall, Cardiff to attend the annual BAFTA Cymru awards. With the red carpet out and public awaiting the arrival of Wales’ television and movies biggest stars the atmosphere was electric, with plenty of autographs being signed and pictures being taken.

One highlight of the red carpet for me was being able to meet and interview my idol, Russell T Davies. What a really nice guy, so down to earth and a pleasure to chat with. Disappointingly though, he told us that his hit series Cucumber will not be returning for a second series as it was written purely to be for one series only but there seems to be lots more to come from him.

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The Young Critics meet Russell T Davies

After the excitement of the red carpet, we made our way to the press interview room, where we were lucky enough to meet and interview some of the award winners and presenters. Their excitement at winning a Welsh BAFTA was evident and it was a great experience to interview many famous faces such as Gruff Rhys, the renowned and well deserved winner Euros Lyn and the Production team for Jamie Baulch – Looking for my Birth Mum to name but a few.

It was evident from many of the winners that they appreciated winning a BAFTA Cymru award. You could see that whether they were in front of the camera or in the production teams that it was an amazing achievement and one that they would cherish.   For some, who had started from humble beginnings, were happy to share their stories and by winning an award for their hard work they had achieved one of their ultimate goal by receiving such a prestigious award.   Everyone who attended the awards, be they in front or behind the camera, were all inspirational and really did make you feel that you should chase your dreams and one day you may be lucky enough to be collecting a BAFTA yourself.

So, overall a truly magical evening that allowed fans of Welsh TV and Film to come out and join in with the celebrations of what Wales has achieved. We wait in anticipation and look forward to seeing what the coming year will bring us in the world of Welsh film and television.

Review Unspeakable, Abbie Rushton by Sian Thomas

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I recently read a book called Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. The book was wonderful and compelling, and quickly entrances the reader in its words.

The biggest thing I noted about the book was the fact that it involved LGBT(+) characters, and LGBT(+) struggles. Living in an age where more and more people are becoming more and more tired of the basic “boy meets girl, girl meets boy, they fall in love,” kind of plot, it is always refreshing to find an author who writes LGBT(+) characters, as they do need a lot more representation in anything, really. Media, books, movies, TV shows, and so on. Seeing the LGBT(+) struggles in the book would be wonderfully relatable for LGBT(+) people, who would be thankful to see that they aren’t alone, even if they need to connect with book characters to see so, but that’s fine, too. It’s probably harder to find LGBT(+) books than a , heteronormative one, so I am very glad that this book was written. The two LGBT(+) characters are the main character/s Megan and Jasmine.

The writing is exquisite, and flows very well sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and chapter to chapter. Since the book is in the point of view of a sixteen year old girl, the writing really shows the character through it, which made it much easier to conform with, in my opinion, since I am also a sixteen year old girl, but I think many other teenagers (or even young adults) would agree. The writing is simple, and good. Relatable, and beautiful.
Throughout the book, there is usually lines of bold text, which is in a different font, and serves the purpose of our main character’s (Megan) darker thoughts. However, I saw the “darker thoughts” a bit deeper. I thought, that perhaps, the resembled something akin to anxiety or depression. People with anxiety or depression usually have thoughts like those I have seen sprinkled throughout the story. So to top it off, not only was there LGBT(+) representation, but also representation for those who may suffer from mentally illness, too. It does not end sourly, Megan gets her happy ending, so I believe this could show the simple message of: Everything gets better. Because it does. It does get better.

The characters are varied, and complex, and mysterious. Our main character, Megan, can’t speak. She is mute. After an incident us readers know very little about as it is hinted at more and more as the story progresses, we start to understand with every passing page why Megan is the way she is. I, especially, became particularly attached to Megan. She is a very lovable character with a past that you wish you could fix for her. You hope that her problems get resolved, and that she is okay. Her life seems to be filled with more downs than ups, and you see how those events take their toll on her and her well-being. She has a secret involving the “incident”, not the best of family situations, and not the greatest school situations, either. You hope beyond hope that she is okay.
Another character, Jasmine, is a mysterious girl who moved to Megan’s small town, and once again, us readers are left in the dark as to why, only being able to latch on to the hints given and speculate beyond what we really see. She is very bubbly and talkative, and easily befriends Megan, who is very much the opposite of her, but they get along very well. Her and Megan’s dynamic is lovely, and surprising. She moved from Cyprus, and loves to tell wonderful stories about the place, and loves to tell Megan just how beautiful it is there.
Another character I really liked was a character named Luke. Luke knows Megan’s secret involving the “incident”, but they are still friends against the rest of the world. He has a dreary family situation, but is still able to smile. However, he is complicated, with emotions that the readers can’t really, well, read. He seems to change suddenly, laugh it off and apologise, and go back to how he was. He has a big secret of his own, and his entire character is wonderfully mystifying, crucial, and massively remarkable.
Another character I really like was a minor character called Callum who we only ever saw as our main characters were waiting for the school bus. We only ever saw him getting bullied for his sexuality, that as far as I have seen was not confirmed. We see Megan (who also got bullied a few times in the story) sometimes giving him small bouts of reassurance, which I really took a shine to. I, while feeling bad for him because he was bullied, really enjoyed the mutual reassurance from both Megan and himself as a dynamic.

Megan’s home life was also an interesting one. Her mother had her when she was about sixteen, and there is little to no mention of the father. However, grandparents were around, which made things all the better, until they passed away. As a new mother, Megan’s mum often got things wrong. She would say the wrong things at the wrong time, or do something wrong at the wrong place, or just generally mess things up. It was difficult to see the relationship be strained by easy mistakes, and I’m sure it was something both parents and teenagers could understand.As a mother with a mute daughter, obviously life is stressful. It shows how stressful communication between a mother and a daughter is, and whether one is mute or not, it envisions the struggle as very real, and very true. Many readers like myself would understand the struggle very personally.

The plot execution was grand. With suspense to match the scene in such a perfect way, as if they were holding hands. The characters thought process is perfect to your own, leading you down the perfect path of the plot.
The plot twist is otherworldly. I was shocked, and couldn’t stop reading until I had finished the book. (At 1am, no less!) It was beautifully executed in a way that turned all the facts I was sure I had known completely on their heads, leaving me to read, and read, and read, until I was sure again. It was wonderfully suspenseful, brilliantly climatic, and amazingly addicting.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is into romance, and mystery, and suspense. I believe it would be a wonderful read to many teenagers and young adults, too. It’s a brilliant book with a brilliant story, fantastic characters and lovely writing.

Unspeakable has been nominated in the Edinburgh International Book Festival, First Book Award, which  celebrates the wealth of new writing included in the Edinburgh Book Festival programme. You can vote for your favourite at the link below

https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/first-book-award

 

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