Tag Archives: cardiff fringe theatre festival

Review: Laurie Black Live by Sian Thomas

Seeing Laurie Black: Live was so much fun. Straight away it was easy to tell it was a show perfect for me. Though I could sit quietly in the background and mind my business, I still felt lovingly included and seen. It began relatable and topical and brilliantly on my wavelength.

Her songs had a very specific feel to them. An almost gothic or witchy vibe (which I personally find a lot of fun; I’ve always enjoyed those kinds of aesthetics although I haven’t really lived them) that also rang with a lot of emotion I didn’t expect to find but was glad I was shown, anyway. I kept an interest in them overnight (I’ve found only really good shows do that to me. Sometimes they just end, sometimes I just go home. Other times I keep it in a corner of my mind, look it up online for a little bit longer, dedicated a little more time to finding things out about this. With this show I looked up some other music, I saw the kinds of things sold in the merch store, and I thought ‘yep. This show’s the winner’.). I’m happy to say I’ve found some new songs to listen to.

The participants portion of the show was good! I’m glad I didn’t have to do it myself and I was glad I felt alright blending into the background and just having the opportunity to watch on and see what other people thought, which was really nice! That and, it was more enjoyable watching other people have fun on stage.

The make up was great. It was glow in the dark. Which I didn’t expect to adore, but I did. I thought it was a really nice touch with the rest of the flashing lights and the way the windows of AJ’s Coffee House were blocked out. For an apocalypse show, I thought it was a nice and extravagant detail; the kind of extra mile you definitely couldn’t go if the world was really ending unless you really, really tried.

Laurie Black herself was affable and fun, definitely undeterred in her show, unstoppable in how she created laughs, a supportive and laid back atmosphere, and unquestionably a wonderful performer. It’s always nice to watch people just be themselves on stage, unafraid to swear or mess up or anything else. It was almost cathartic to watch; I wish I could have related. Although I definitely related to some other points during the show – I think those were enough.

This event was the one to mark the end of the fringe festival, so I’m pleased to say I attended to watch it go out with a bang. I’ve had an immensely wonderful time seeing all these different kinds of shows and going to all these different kinds of events. I wait with bated breath to find out what’s coming next year, and I hope I get to experience the same wonderment and awe for my third year in a row. These last two really have been something special; I’ve had fun with the people I’ve gone with and I’ve been able to see shows I wouldn’t have otherwise ever known existed.

I’m voting for Laurie Black: Live for my favourite show, this year. A close second was Camp Be Yourself. Although it will forever remain that the Open Mic Poetry Night is my all time favourite free fringe event, Laurie Black: Live was most definitely my favourite show this year. None of them left quite the lasting effect as this one had.

Sian Thomas

Review: Archetypical, The Gate Arts Centre by Luke Seidel-Haas

Image result for cardiff fringe archetypical

★★★☆☆

Devised by students at University of Wales Trinity St David’s, Archetypical is a promenade performance which aims to tackle 21st century representations of women by exposing the historical archetypes by which women were defined – The Saint, The Martyr, The Witch and The Whore. Powerfully performed by Niamh Provan and Syamala Skinner, the piece is an engaging, humorous and thought provoking look at the female form. Archetypical a part of the “Fringe Labs” thread of Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival, meaning it is a work in progress and will be reviewed as such. Any criticism will aim to be constructive to allow the company an opportunity to improve their work.

Starting off in the main bar area of The Gate, Niamh and Syamala enter the space and abruptly stand on their heads. Legs open and in the air, the pair chastise each other  for not being able to close their legs and not be able to pose in a “ladylike” manner.  Before long we are whisked away by Syamala who invites us upstairs to view a house viewing. Escorted upstairs and into the main auditorium of The Gate, we are then introduced to the property for sale – Niamh. Syamala describes each part of Niamh’s body as if it were a house, using innuendo laden metaphors. The meaning behind this is clear – we are being shown the ways in which women’s bodies are reduced to their mere functions such as their ability to bear children or run a household.

As the piece progresses we see in turn a catwalk, an auction house and a witch hunt. Each is presented by the two performers with structured interactions between themselves and the audience. Often these segments are absurd and funny – a section in which the audience bids for Syamala’s body parts is ludicrous. Yet it suddenly hits home that the auction is highlighting the objectification of the female body and the complicity that people have in this. As a promenade piece of work it works relatively well – arguably the show is not site specific as it could be easily adapted to a variety of different spaces and does not necessarily integrate fully into the specifics of the space. The show may well have worked just as well in the single performance space of the main Auditorium. Having said that, both performers were adept at shepherding and interacting with the audience in the welcoming yet firm style needed to ensure the audience go where needed.

The movement of both performers was engaging and confidently executed, and generally fitted well with the text used. At times these could have been further integrated by combining movement and text in a more fluid manner. While this may have been a challenge based on the movements the performers were , the use of recorded audio could have added further layers to the piece. Each section of the piece was cleverly structured and the use of humour allowed  the audience to engage on a lighter level with the themes, perhaps before realising the meaning behind it. Archetypical cleverly weaves themes of female objectification, submission and the saint/whore dichotomy into a well performed and dynamic piece. An interesting concept, brimming with potential for development and powerfully executed by both performers.

Archetypical

Physical Theatre/Dance

The Gate Arts Centre

14th June 2018

Directed by Thania Acaron

Performed by  Niamh Provan and Syamala Skinner

Part of the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival – more information and tickets here.

 

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sunglasses and indoor

Luke Seidel-Haas

Review: Becoming Human, Pinocchio Retold by Sian Thomas

Seeing Becoming Human: Pinocchio Retold was an experience and a half. The show was abundantly expressive from the very beginning, and remained so the whole night. The vibe was energetic and the atmosphere was apparent and welcoming, and it felt nice to be a part of a show like that.

At first it was loud. I remember wondering whether those downstairs could hear the show and whether or not they would think it was alluring based off of how it sounded, as sound was an important factor to this play. Reminding me somewhat of a show from last year, Stories Of The Silver Tree, sound effects were so viral and also so interestingly done. By a person on the floor (who, honestly, I didn’t notice for a while. I thought it was a recording and that the leafs had amazing timing) but when I found out one person was doing all that right there in the moment, I was moved. I was impressed! The sounds were just as energetic and fun as the story and the characters, and I really did like how it was done. Clever and well executed, to say the least.

Again, the venue was lovely. I’ve got myself quite a fondness for the space above Ten Feet Tall, even if it was stuffy and warm, it still worked to create a wonderful space for a wonderful show. The stage fit the play nicely. There was such a good use of space and imagination to fill in such space where props may have been. I liked that props were hardly used. It drove home the important of the one prop that was used (a small glowing ball to represent a conscious; which I thought was very cool) and worked to inspire an audience to use their imagination even when out to see a show. I thought that was quite a sweet touch. And once more, sound. Projecting into the room nicely and always sure to have an impact. Lastly, the lighting. I like the disco ball. I really do. I’m glad it was used.

Becoming Human: Pinocchio Retold has such a great story, and a really good message. I liked the way string was used to emphasise how our lives intertwine and attach us to one another. The message of growing up and valuing those around you was lovely to see, and a good thing to actively do. Always important. Showing love and fondness I think is sweet and that message was put forward incredibly as the character searched for parental figures and found themselves and went through many changes in such a short space of time.

Lastly, a touch I did really like was the way the actresses went from the story characters (multiple at once, sometimes! A feat, if I say so myself) to people walking us through the story and commenting on the truth of the tale. All I remember from Pinocchio is that Disney covered it, and even then I don’t remember much from that. It was nice to see a rendition of the story that was more accessible and fun, made less for kids and more for people who just wanted to have a fun time.

The Fringe isn’t on for too much longer! I’m hoping that my last few plugs will do well for it, as it deserves as much attention as it gets and even more than that. http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/

Sian Thomas

Review: ‘Just Say It’ from Susan Monkton by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(4 / 5)

Just Say It by Susan Monkton is a moving exploration of how miscarriage in pregnancy affects a relationship, which evokes raw emotion.

Another gem from the Cardiff Fringe Lab, as a work in progress the star rating is more judge on the potential of the piece and judging where it is in relevance to progress at the present. This review is very much for feedback as it is for the sake of reviewing.

The tone, pace and energy of this piece in the writing by Susan Monkton and directing by the team of director Chelsey Gillard and AD Cassidy Howard-Kemp, begin really well.

I had seen this piece scratched at an event by Spilt Milk Theatre in 2017 and I remember it well – as it stood out. I knew what to expect when going in. However, this production of Just Say It is longer and had improved. Not only are we still taken on the journey, despite knowing what is going to happen (more or less), there was more humour than I remember and it also connects much more. This shows the progress on the project as well as the ability to evoke emotion.

Some of this is bound to be down to it not being a scratch and more rehearsed – but the whole team really do a good job of taking us on that journey again, step by step. The test of any story is, when it’s repeated or if the audience have knowledge of the story, does it still have the same impact. And this definitely does.

Susan Monkton’s monologue is very well acted by Monkton herself. The focus of the play follows Bella as she falls pregnant with her lovable-idiot-boyfriend, Dave. They have a fairly standard relationship until an unplanned pregnancy springs itself upon them. Bella decides to keep it. Both Bella and Dave grow from hesitancy to excitement fairly quickly, which comes across as natural for this couple. They start preparing for the baby, in what they buy for the baby and emotionally preparing for parenthood and giving birth.

This all leads very well up to the point where Bella is told that she is to have a miscarriage. The scene where she finds out is very powerful and it is a brilliant climax to a brilliant piece thus-far.

It is after this scene where the issues in the script start to emerge. It becomes repetitive at times and starts to drag a little. The exploration of the relationship is interesting. It is clear this is not about miscarriage, it’s about a relationship that deals with it. But the strength in the scripts at the moment is in the lead-up to the miscarriage and doesn’t carry over to the second half.

Bella repeats herself a lot when talking about her feelings. This can be interpreted various ways. On one hand, she is falling into a sort of depressive state. She is not upset, as she says, and not angry. She’s feeling nothing. And this is really well represented. But on the other hand, it feels pushed down our throats in the writing.

Also, the play falls a little flat in the direction at this point after the announcement of the miscarriage. It is a big contrast to before this announcement – which is good. It shouldn’t be as upbeat as earlier. However, it doesn’t level out.

I want to emphasise, the second part is not boring, it is still quite well written, directed and acted. It just doesn’t meet the high expectations we have been brought before in the play. When a play dips slightly in quality, even if it’s not bad, it can feel like you’ve gone from brilliant to awful. When in reality this play goes from brilliant to okay; enjoyable but not as unmissable as the first half. Moving forward, this is definitely the area that needs work.

Having said that, the relationship is explored further by Monkton in the script and we start to see how a couple struggles with the loss of this child that they never physically had in their hands. It feels like lost memories that weren’t ever there. This is a really interesting part of the relationship to analyse and there is certainly more here to be explored. As previously stated, there is some repetition which is taking up space from other avenues to explore for the writer.

Generally throughout the piece director Gillard and AD Howard-Kemp explore the relationship well. The use of BSL interpreter Liz May is beautiful. Not only does it work within the context of the play, but it’s so nice to see a BSL interpreter not just stood on the side signing. Of course, sometimes there’s not a way to work the BSL into the piece. But here it was done so well and inclusively. A shame that Liz May fades into the background a little in the second half. But, this is still a lot more than a lot of shows do so it is definitely a step in the right direction. There is also the argument that a lot of the interaction between Monkton and May was comedic and the second half isn’t as comedic. But either way, this was a really nice touch.

Overall, it is a very strong piece. With a few tweaks in tone and a few redrafts can become an excellent piece of theatre.

Tonight, June 12th at 6.30pm, you GET THE CHANCE to see this production again. Tickets are available here.

Just Say It – Presented by Susan Monkton and Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival.
AJ’s Coffee House – June 11-12, 2018.
Written by and starring Susan Monkton.
BSL Interpreter: Liz May
Director: Chelsey Gillard.
Assistant Director: Cassidy Howard-Kemp.
Producer: Rhys Denton
Running time: 45 mins approx.

Review by Gareth Ford-Elliott

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

Review: Open Mic Night by Sian Thomas

The Fringe’s Open Mic Night was my favourite event last year, and it was the very same this year. Last year and this one, this event was a charming little free one; open to all those who want to share and to those who don’t and just feel like watching on. I’m glad all over again that I’ve gotten the chance to attend it, and share my work with a tightly packed room full of people who want to know what it sounds like because they know just what it feels like to write and want to share, too. It’s an event that has me perfectly in my element, enveloped by people who understand so fully what I’m feeling, and that in itself is irreplaceable.
I was lucky, I think, to have found the event during my first Fringe Festival experience last year, and to see it return and to be able to return myself was such a great feeling that there isn’t really a place in me that I can place it. I enjoy the feeling of a homey cafe and a safe atmosphere where there’s no shame in flubbing one’s words or losing one’s place or anything even remotely like that. It really drove down my nerves and calmed me while I was up there, reading out things I’d written that I’d always assumed would only ever be read in one’s (maybe even just my own) head. I had my reservations at first, also, but they were quelled much faster than I expected, and I don’t doubt in the slightest that that’s down to how supportive the mood in the cafe felt, how everyone was rooting for each other.

It was good, definitely, to watch other people get up and prepare themselves and read their own work. It was nice to be a part of that safe and supportive atmosphere and hope that someone else felt I was doing for them what they had done for me. It was nice to see the differences, too; people with one notebook, three notebooks, their phones, or no scripts at all – just them and their heads and all the words inside them. It was nice to watch the mood shift with each person’s piece or pieces. Some were funny, serious, topical, and so on. Everyone was different, and I really liked that.

The hostess, Alice Downing, was just as great this year as she was the last. This event wouldn’t be the same without her, I really believe that. So I’m glad, all over again, that she was there and the perfect person to eject support and a sense of calm into this room full of slightly apprehensive writers.

Most importantly, I had fun. I hope that everyone else did, too.

So much of the Fringe is still happening in these last five days. I myself only have two more events that I can make it to. I’m having fun, it’s been good, and I know it’ll continue to be great. http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/

Sian Thomas

Review: Camp Be Yourself by Sian Thomas

From the get go of this show, Camp Be Yourself, I saw that there was a lovely theatre space being used. I hadn’t been aware of 10 Feet Tall in the first place, nevertheless the kind of atmosphere it was hiding upstairs. A nice rustic feeling to it and it’s plush chairs, I felt like I was in for a good evening in a space so suitably equipped for creating just that. There was an atmosphere that had definitely existed since it was built and decorated in the way it was (disco ball? Rustic looking wooden furniture? Soft blue couches? Dotted around fairy lights? All of those are right up my alley) which had an impact on the feel of the show. What I had expected had been much different or what had been delivered. What I’d thought I’d be seeing was a more sombre or rather, a more serious, at least, show about growing up being oneself in the world where it feels like everything else is more important. I have a tendency to look at dates and times of shows and go, sometimes more than seeing what the show is about first. What was delivered however was so different, but still so good in that different way: two girls running a camp and preparing for a talent show while one finds a passion and the other opens up about her past and they do it in a way that unrelenting in their comedy.

The performance was lively from the very beginning, also, what with leagues of “hello campers!” And “nice! High fives!” going all around the room and making it back to the stage. I thought for a while there would be more audience participation, which lead me down the “oh NO!!!” path I’d been down recently with Fringe shows but quickly overcome, but to my relief I was allowed to sit and kick back and be shown. It was nice, I really think, to be able to watch. And it will also be nice to give them five stars based on things I saw and felt, not on things I did and joined in with. Both of these things are good in their own right, but it was really nice to experience this one after experiencing two bouts of the other.
There was a lot to pick up on, as well. Fun costumes, firstly – that, in all honestly, were exactly what I’d picture for a camp-based story. Yellow t-shirts with a white outline, jeans, those eternal trackies that are somehow always everywhere. Also, bunches and high ponytails, because yeah, of course.
There was such a good use of space and effects! I hadn’t known what the theatre space had looked like beforehand but what it was hadn’t been what I’d expected but it seemed such a good fit for the show. A semicircle(ish) arrangement of seats and a nicely black and white striped wall of the stage, a disco ball (really loved that touch) and an array of lighting choices. A number of songs used, of laughs created, of amazing jokes told.
Five stars are normally used because the book was so good it must be bought or there’s more showings of a performance and I am yelling into the internet hoping someone will take my word for it and go to that other showing. I’ve broken that rule a couple times and given one time things five stars and felt weird about that even though I enjoyed them so heartily it was unbelievable. But I don’t feel bad doing that things time! There is a second showing of Camp Be Yourself, in the very same lovely little theatre space, and I can’t recommend enough going to see it (http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/).
One last thing was that I think it’s wonderful and I think it’s important that this show was two women cracking us all up and how full the seats were, too. I really liked that. It’s nice to see women in all fields, especially comedy. They really hooked me in, that’s all I can really describe about that. I really want to put my kudos forward; I loved the two girls, the energy they had and the laughter they created. I hope the show goes on to do well!

Sian Thomas

Review: Bummer and Lazarus, AJ’s Coffe House by Luke Seidel-Haas

Bummer and Lazarus by Big Egg Theatre

★★★★☆

 

For those not in the know, or without access to Google, Bummer and Lazarus seems like a strange title for a play. Named after two stray dogs who during the 1860’s roamed the streets of San Francisco, the pair were prodigious rat-catchers and the stuff of local legend. Here, Big Egg Theatre company imagine what it would be like if these animals were completely anthropomorphised and stuck in a cellar and desperate to get out. The show also comically poses existential questions about existence and the notions of time, thought and matter itself.

Bounding into the intimate space of AJ’s Coffee House are actors Jack Harrison and Dave Reeson as the titular dogs. Bummer appears old and curmudgeonly, yet acts with near infinite patience with the hyperactive but intellectually challenged Lazarus. The dogs have a problem – they somehow have found themselves trapped in a cellar with no food, and Bummer needs to hunt and eat before they both starve. Beyond this simple premise lies 45 minutes of intense cerebral discussion between the two, who fire off lines as quickly as machine gun fire. The show is exhausting yet exhilarating in equal measure.

The physicality of both actors is excellent, with Lazarus bounding around the stage manically and knocking off things like an excitable puppy who is keen to explore. Bummer on the other hand is much more measured, limping around the stage (likely due to an old battle scar) and calming Lazarus down. Their conversation lurches hilariously between the mundane and the profound, often within the space of a few lines. Lazarus is keen to understand everything and asks Bummer questions in quick fire which he is able to answer with varying degrees of success. A rapid explanation of particle physics is a mind boggling highlight of wit and delivery. The writing is clever, keen to remind us that they are dogs and not to allow them to move on or really gain any new understanding of life.

As a production, Bummer and Lazarus seems to take inspiration from Samuel Beckett’s work – Waiting for Godot in particular. It’s existential themes and cyclical nature feel similar in nature to Vladamir and Estragon’s infamous wait. It certainly feels like it is not the first time Bummer and Lazarus have found themselves in such a situation, and likely not the last. Occasionally the shows feels like it is stuck progressing at the same break-neck speed, leaving little space for changes in tone or mood. Yet the delivery of the lines at such a pace is flawless and leaves you racing to keep up with the thoughts of the canine duo. Humorous and full of wit, Bummer and Lazarus is an engaging examination of existentialism; through the eyes of a dog.

 

Bummer and Lazarus

Theatre/Comedy

AJ’s Coffee House

5th June 2018

Written by Jack Harrison

Performed by Dave Reeson and Jack Harrison

Produced by Big Egg Theatre

Part of the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival – more information and tickets here.

Check out Big Egg’s website for more info about upcoming shows.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sunglasses and indoor

Luke Seidel-Haas

 

 

Review: Godden And Barnes by Sian Thomas

Coming in to see this live show, to see Godden and Barnes, there was a swelling atmosphere in the Sherman Theatre foyer. A trepidation centring when the piece would begin and exactly what it would entail, because I certainly didn’t know, but I’m glad I went to find out. Gearing up, the microphone (and microphone stand) was used and quickly the height difference between  the two was staggering (and relatable: I’m short, everyone else isn’t. I’ve been told to do my fair share of things and only been able to stare up at them and stare back at the person). I remember that being the moment that I was tipped off and knew I’d be having a fun time.

Audience participation is still (and probably always will be) both spring upon me and terrifying. I’ve said this previously and I’ll probably continue to stand by it based alone on that “oh no what are they doing oh my god what’s happening oh NO” feeling that occurs very quickly. The sudden realisation that I could be up in a crowd unprepared and anxious is so frightening. Which is kind of weird, then, that this time I got up and joined in. I don’t normally do that, but it was nice to. Normally participation like this has an overwhelmingly intimidating feeling to it, but the two did a good job of deflating that tension before it could really arise. So I jumped their taped line and I ran around in a pencil skirt (a feat, if I say so myself) and I danced (ISABELLE IF YOU’RE READING: thank you SO much for being there, helping creating the Fringe, all those things too, but especially for: dancing with me in that moment. I have no idea how to dance and you saved me from what would have definitely been me embarrassing myself. Thank you).
I’m giving this show five stars in the hope that 1) it returns and 2) because it got me out of my seat and the whole time I wasn’t in it I wasn’t acutely terrified – which is also a feat, if I do say so myself.

I normally like to keep myself under wraps at any show. I have a huge preference for staying inside my own head and sorting my own thoughts to be laid out, often in a piece like this, later on in a day or so. I like watching a performance, and bookmarking in my mind how I feel about it. I have, as well, a tendency to look quite blank while I do this (I swear I was enjoying the show, I was just doing this, and I was shy about laughing too loud in the foyer that could have echoed if I’d have let loose).  I also wasn’t aware that some of my favourite jokes must be impressions but based on the noise I made when I heard an impression of Owen Wilson’s “Wow” (something I already find funny, mind you, because I’m young and know that that is a popular joke) must make it true.

The two used the space they had really well. I didn’t even know the foyer in the Sherman had a balcony that could be used in the way that they used it. It made me think that the show itself must have to be quite flexible and the placement quite malleable in order for things to work in the order that they did the night I saw how it would flow.This production was also just an hour long (another easy thing to give! Just a slice of time reserved for the laughs we all need) It felt like a lot less; I heard myself say “Oh?” When they told us they were done (the time that they meant it, though).
The Fringe will press on in good time, continuing to carry shows I’m excited to see. (http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/).

I was sorry to hear that the show will be stopped for a little while, but I’m sure enough that it’s for a good reason and will yield good results for the future. I hope that whenever the show returns, I might be able to see it again, and enjoy it all over again.

Sian Thomas

Review: Just a Few Words, Little Man Coffee Co. by Luke Seidel-Haas

Image result for just a few words stammermouth

★★★★☆

Telling someone that you have feelings for them can be difficult enough at the best of times. Your palms go sweaty, your mouth dries up and you get butterflies in your stomach. Now imagine how much harder it would be if you have a speech impediment like a stutter or stammer. The more you try to get your words out, the more your mouth clamps up. This is the premise of Stammermouth‘s production of Just a Few Words. First performed at Edinburgh Festival in 2015 where it was nominated for the Total Theatre ‘shows by an emerging artist’ award, this show aims to raise the awareness of stuttering and ways in which it can be overcome.

Performed in the blank studio space downstairs in Little Man Coffee Co. in Cardiff city centre, the set is stripped back to the absolute minimum. In one corner is a record player which plays static and judders backwards and forwards across the same lines (insert joke about sounding like a stuck record here), and in the other corner is a pile of cue cards. These cards act partly as a simple way of communicating meaning, but at times also start to almost feel like a secondary character in the play, urging actor Nye Russell-Thompson to try to find the words he needs. The space is an excellent choice, as the minimalistic setup allows you to concentrate entirely on the words and on Nye’s captivating performance.

Self depreciating, honest and open, Nye demonstrates an incredible level of vulnerability. While he is playing a fictional character with the aim of telling someone he loves them, it is clear that much of the content is based on his own lived experience. Intimate and at times raw, the play feels simultaneously universal and highly personal in nature. As the play progresses we are invited to try and simulate what having a stammer would be like. Initially eliciting a few awkward laughs, Nye’s sincerity in trying to show us even a snippet of his experience is illuminating and allows us to feel the utmost sympathy for his situation. Functioning as a dark comedy, Just a Few Words invites us to laugh with Nye, never at him.

Many of us take it for granted that we are able to communicate fairly easily using the spoken language. Just a Few Words is an excellent and thought provoking reminder of the challenges that can arise from making ourselves understood, as well as the techniques used to help reduce or overcome stuttering. Performed with a captivating vulnerability by Nye Russell- Thompson, Just a Few Words is a simple yet spellbindingly effective account of one persons struggle to make themselves heard.

Written and performed by Nye Russell-Thompson

Produced by StammerMouth

Little Man Coffee Co. 3rd June 2018

Part of the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival – more information and tickets here

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Luke Seidel-Haas