Tag Archives: cardiff fringe theatre festival

Review: Just A Few Words by Stammermouth by Sian Thomas

Yesterday I attended my first official 2018 Fringe Festival event, knowing based on last year and based on the Fringe Cafes that I would have a wonderful time – and I did. This festival already means quite a lot to me, so to be able to kick off its return again this year was a very visceral feeling that was nothing but positive. I was excited, and I was ready to go in straight away.

Just A Few Words was a show that I wanted to see because every aspect looked appealing; seemed short and sweet, seemed like the venue was in a good place, seemed like it was going to be funny with a quietly serious undertone – something I would realise later in the night the Fringe seems good at picking up. That alone was nice, a story with laughs and jokes layered thinly over something a little more hearty and gripping.

My first thought when watching the play was that there was a lot of realness to it. The talent and skill on stage was real and easily spotted; good techniques like idiosyncrasies and a swing in moods that rose the audience up and settled us back down in the right places for the mood. I value that a lot more than I think I really did; the ability to really touch my heart with a script and a practiced performance rather than having it just be “oh, I saw a play.”.

A really fun medium was used, too! One I haven’t experienced before. The Fringe must do this well, too, as I have fond memories of a fun medium used in Stories Of The Silver Tree from last year. This one, rather than audio, was cards. Things the audience could read, that played well as jokes and dialogue and what felt like a whole other character. It was different in a way that suits the Festival well; new and upcoming and hopefully does well for itself. An interesting take like this deserves to go further than what was our little theatre and a charmingly mismatched set of chairs and church pews. There was also audience participation! Which was sprung on me and terrifying (two things it always seems to be), but as it was pushed more and more I got a little more into it (and a lot more thankful for whoever was more confident than me and could lead me into it). I never expect audience participation to be singing, also, but there we all were: chiming in and harmonising and then some. The show had a nice runtime (just an hour! An easy thing to give) which made me see how the Fringe isn’t demanding of its guests. Everything is lax, and feels safe. The atmosphere at these events always feels good, and I always feel a little bit more included and integrated into the theatre scene when I go, so I’m excited to keep going! All in all, the evening had a wonderful vibe to it. A good feeling of artsy-ness and a good balance between safety and trying boundaries. After all, the story seemed to show that: trying fervently to say ‘I love you’ when the stammer itself prevents that and it’s easier to say nothing or to talk how you already know to.

I had fun, at the end of the day. I really did enjoy myself there. I know these reviews are important because feedback always is and I cannot hammer home hard enough that my feedback is positive and I hope with so much of my heart that these kind of plays and these kind of events never worm their way out of our lives. They’re important, and they make me happy. I’m giving it five stars, and I don’t think that’s a surprise.

There are so many more events coming over the two week period of the Fringe Festival, and I’m already excited for so many of them now my own attendance of it has finally truly kicked off! My next will be Live Show #1, at the Sherman Theatre, and I’m looking forward to it and going in with high hopes I don’t think will be dashed any time soon!

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/shows-tickets/ 

Sian Thomas

Review: ‘People – Picture – Power – Perception’ by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(3 / 5)

 

With ‘People – Picture – Power – Perception’ (PPPP), Avant Cymru set out to explore what Welsh Hip-Hop theatre is and to showcase the hip-hop talents of Wales at the Chapter Arts Centre as part of the 2018 Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival.

As the title suggests, the piece portrays people, gives them the platform to show their picture, which gives them the power to change the perception surrounding hip-hop. In the mainstream, hip-hop is portrayed as specifically rap with themes of drugs and gangs. A major worry when attending this performance was that it would be too much like this. I have had experiences with Welsh hip-hop before and it has been limited to that field.

However, Avant Cymru do not fall into this trap. If you’re not aware, allow me to give a very brief history and explanation of hip-hop culture. Hip-hop culture consists of four main art forms known as the four pillars of hip-hop; emceeing/MCing (rapping/singing/spoken word), DJing (beat production, beat-freestyling, beat-boxing), breaking/break-dancing and graffiti art. It started in New York and has grown into the one of the biggest art movements in the world.

Jonzi D, a pioneer of hip-hop theatre, was told at his dance school, “Hip-Hop is not valuable for the theatre,” before going on to define what British hip-hop theatre is, with the help of people like Akala who created the Hip-Hop Shakespeare company. And now, we have Avant Cymru attempting to do the same in Wales, with specifically Welsh artists, Welsh voices and Welsh themes.

Starting with the DJing, mostly produced by Jamey P, the beats used for ‘PPPP’ are exceptional. The production is one of the outstanding elements of the show. The production always fits, sounds incredible and even when left to stand alone is enjoyable.

Beatbox Hann performs his championship-winning beatboxing skills very well. His accolades and CV speak for themselves, but here he showcases real talent. Understanding when to blend into the background and when to come to the forefront.

The stand-out section of the show is a piece between Hann and breaker, Bboy Flexton (James Berry). It starts with Flexton sat at a table, whilst Hann starts creating a beat with his vocal chords. He mixes this together on what appears to be an MPC of sorts, so each sound loops and eventually builds into a beat. Eventually, Hann turns the beat off and starts beatboxing on his own.

Whilst this happens, Flexton starts to break into a dance. At first it isn’t exactly clear what is going on but as the dance progresses we see Flexton appear to hold a gun to his head before wrestling it away. This collaboration of beatboxing and breaking works very well and appears to portray a kind of suppression of violent outburst and possibly suicidal thoughts. It certainly would be interesting to see a slightly extended version of this.

Moving onto the breaking, and Flexton pops up again, portraying an aggressive nature. However, Flexton is the only breaker that seems to portray a specific type of character. This is not a fault of the breakers themselves, at different times they all proved themselves to be talented dancers. It is more a fault in the choreography and direction of the show. The expression could have been more clear at times. It will certainly be interesting to see the difference between this show and Avant Cymru’s upcoming ‘Blue Scar’, another hip-hop theatre show with more of a set story.

The emceeing is of a very good standard. Occasionally repetitive, but very good at getting the point across. Rufus Mafasa, Maple Struggle and Jamey P all perform well. The themes do jump around a little bit, but the lyrical content, delivery and flow are all strong. The highlight is Maple Struggle’s song, Quit Mooching, which starts with Maple Struggle getting left with the bill after a date before breaking out into a song about his perception of how some women will use men as well as general materialism.

The graffiti used in the performance is minimal. The piece as a whole could really capitalise on the art form better. There is a stylistic writing of the piece’s title on a screen off to the right of the stage and on a screen at the back of the stage, at times are pictures and moving pictures of graffiti. However, even sitting at the front it was hard to make out exactly what the graffiti was and certainly wasn’t used as well as it can be. The simple set worked well, but could do with more graffiti.

The main theme of the show is gender which is explored thoroughly. Toxic masculinity is portrayed particularly well by Bboy Flexton with the aggression as well as suicidal thoughts. An issue very specific to toxic masculinity and very important in the South Wales region. Rufus Mufasa also had powerful moments of feminist lyricism and generally portrayed herself as a powerful woman. Some of the breaking could be more clearly focused on this theme.

As far as is it worth seeing? Yes, it is worth seeing. It’s not the most rehearsed piece of hip-hop theatre or the most concise. But in terms of exploring what Welsh hip-hop theatre is, it is pioneering. If you’re a fan of or are involved in hip-hop then definitely see this if Avant Cymru ever bring it back. If you’re not into hip-hop, then I recommend seeing this for a positive introduction to hip-hop.

After the show there was a bit of a freestyle from those involved and some from the audience and the feel of community this gave off was beautiful. As a hip-hop fan, it was great to see the true power of hip-hop community shine bright.

As this was a once-performed show with no known future dates, go and check out Blue Scar by Avant Cymru at the Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy on July 12th and 13th and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Much of the same cast will be involved and the preview they gave at the end was very good.

Info:
People – Picture – Power – Perception’
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
31st May 2018
By Avant Cymru
Directed and Choreographed by: Rachel Pedley, Tommy Boost and Jamie Berry.
Music From: Maple Struggle, Rufus Mufasa and Jamey P.
Set Designed by: Unity (Amelia Thomas).
Breakers/Dancers: Rachel Pedley, Bboy Flexton, Tommy Boost and special guests (uncredited).

Review by: Gareth Ford-Elliott

Review: Everything Changes, AJ’s Coffee House by Luke Seidel-Haas

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★★☆☆☆

 

Billed as a fusion of storytelling between Celtic and Zimbabwean cultures, Everything Changes is a collaboration between professional storyteller Bevin Magama and founder of Weeping Tudor productions James Ellis. Taking place in the cosy setting of AJ’s Coffee House on City Road, this show is part of the “Fringe Labs” strand of this years Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival – that means that it is ” either totally new, or [a] work-in-progress. This will be a platform from which they can make their first leap into the public eye, and develop their work”

As the show begins, James and Bevin enter the space to the rhythmic sound of a beating drum. Scattered on the floor around the stage are various instruments and props, of both African and European derivation, from the African Mbira to the Triangle. Bevin is resplendent in a colourful Dashiki style top and baggy pantaloon style trousers, while James’ costume also appears to be inspired by African clothing, but with a western twist. His top is similar in style to Bevin’s, but in a denim style, and instead of pantaloons he wears a navy skirt. Using a storytelling structure, both Bevin and James take it in turns to tell stories inspired by their own background and culture. We hear diverse stories such as the Welsh myth of Twm Siôn Cati, the Zimbabwean story of the Snake who crossed the river, and the myth of St Telio – patron saint of Cardiff.

Theses stories clearly demonstrate the very different storytelling traditions of both Celtic and Zimbabwean cultures. While James’ sections are poetic monologues performed with a simple sincerity, Bevin is much more animated, utilizing the call and response technique of audience participation, and allegorical storytelling style more common in in the African tradition. While Everything Changes promises to be a fusion of stories, these two traditions feel like they exist entirely separately within the theatrical space. Both James and Bevin sit entirely still while the other tells a story – there is no interaction or combination of storytelling whatsoever. There is also a strange difference between the two performers; Bevin is clearly an experienced storyteller who is captivating and dynamic, whiles James seems less confident of his oration.  As an experimental piece of work still in progress it is absolutely fine for you to read your lines off a script – however disguising this by hiding your phone away on a music stand to read off is a disservice. It may have been more effective to own this decision, to put the script into a storybook which you are then telling the audience.

A highlight of the piece is the title section Everything Changes; a story about the impermanence of everything. Told while playing the Mbira, the monologue is beautifully enhanced by the dreamlike quality of the instrument. Other uses of instruments meanwhile feel a little more tacked on, with the instruments used in James’ stories adding nothing to the overall effect. Perhaps more sucessful would be to combine both storytellers together, with one telling the story while the other provides a soundscape behind it. Similarly, the ending of the piece, while cleverly experimental, jars with the tone of the rest of the production. This involves James opening the curtains to the venue, allowing us to see out onto the bustling main road and for them to see in to the venue. James then walks out, across the road and out of sight. As an ending this is totally unexpected and an interesting concept, but bears absolutely no relation to the rest of the show.

As a concept the idea of the show is an interesting one – the collision of cultures and storytelling traditions has the potential to be a way of celebrating both cultures while demonstrating clearly both their similarities and their differences. Sadly the execution in this piece is lacking, and the piece feels like two storytellers separately exploring the narratives of their own culture, rather than an exiting fusion of the two. A great concept with some entertaining moments, but ultimately delivered only half baked.

Everything Changes

AJ’s Coffee House May 31st-June 1st 2018

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

Luke Seidel-Haas

Review Cardiff Fringe Theatre Cafe by Sian Thomas

I went to a handful of Fringe events last year, and I was very efficiently swept up into that kind of theatre world. The Fringe Cafes, as well as the majority of the Fringe festival events themselves, have a very specific kind of feeling to them. One that I firstly associate with summer, since that’s when the festival really kicks off, and another that’s associated with quiet fun.
Not too jam-packed, and neither too empty that it could be kind of awkward, last night’s Fringe Cafe managed to achieve a really good balance and really open a door to a good night in a room full of people who were minded like me; who love theatre and jokes and that same quiet fun.

The night consisted of two acts and a quiz. The acts were good; performed well and low-key, the kind where there was no shame in flubbed words or coughs and honestly, I really liked that. It ties back into the vibe of the festival; it’s safe, and there’s a supportive feeling all throughout it. I was more partial to the second act, though. Both were monologues, but I did have more fun listening to the second. Something about it was a little more accessible; the trials of dating and trying to have a good time except you don’t have any money. I enjoyed it!

Admittedly, the quiz was my favourite. It made me the right kind of nervous when answers were being called out, and the right kind of excited when prizes came into the picture. It was fun to take a break; to enjoy the time with who I went with and be posed questions I definitely did not know the answer to at all, and ended up guessing (we still won a prize though, which was nice!).
I had a really great night; I enjoyed myself a lot and I was so glad I went to experience this last Fringe Cafe before the festival really kicks off!

I’m so sincerely looking forward to the rest of the events I can attend. I had an astounding time last year and I’m already sure I’ll have a brilliant time this year, too. This festival very quickly became very meaningful to me, and based on last night, I’m sure that’ll stay the same for this year.

I’m particularly excited for the open mic night at Deli Rouge on June 10th. I went to this event last summer and had such a wonderful time and it was there that my confidence had a huge boost. I’m very indulgently hoping that the same will happen this year, and I’m looking forward to hear the kinds of things people have written this year, to see if improvements make themselves known to my ears.

I’m happy the festival is back. I really am. Please, go to it. Enjoy yourselves as much as I have and as much as I am sure that I will.
Information can be found here:

Twitter

And sometimes soon, here too

Sian Thomas

 

Review: Stories For The Silver Tree by Sian Thomas

The Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival has been the host of three events (this included) that I’ve been to recently, and each of them have all been astoundingly wonderful. Though the festival ends tomorrow, I look forward to its (hopeful) return. I hope it does return, I very sincerely do. I’ve had an incredible time, and seen some doubly incredible things.

Stories For The Silver Tree was one of these incredible things. I went in totally blind (I knew there was a trailer but elected not to watch it – I’ve always liked to go into theatre blind, I’ve found it makes me more open to plots and characters if I don’t look them up first).

The concept of this showing was amazing. I thought it was going to be a play. Like, a traditional, people-play-the-characters play. But it wasn’t. And I think it was better.
Instead of this, it was Tamar Williams and Darius Nash narrating and telling the audience (and singing, too – which was really good and something I enjoyed very much) the story of the main character (Bran). They also used clever sound technology which I’ve never heard of or probably could understand the mechanics of but, at face-value (which is how I tend to take things): It was very impressive and amazing. Using sounds from the audience or from props put on a loop right there and then during the performance to put more depth into a scene is something I’ve not seen before – and I loved it so much. Although, at the mention of audience participation, I did get nervous – but it turned out brilliantly.
The story was also so atmospheric. From the brainy sound tech, yes, but from the writing and the deliverance, I think for the last few hours I’ve been somewhere else; lost in pretty words and lovely scenery up in my head. That’s irreplaceable to me. I love and have always loved things that can make me feel like this. One phrase that stuck out to me was, “the turquoise of evening and the navy of night”. These words just fit together so nicely, and they were delivered so wonderfully (that made me remember them! Although I’m not sure I’ve got the direct quote right) that it made my experience of Bran’s story so much more meaningful.
I don’t know! It was very cute. And folk-y. And magical. And I just loved that all of that was wrapped up together and given to me as an innovative story, rather than a traditional play.

Although the festival ends tomorrow, and I am sad to watch it go, as today was my last day to experience it, there is another showing of Stories For The Silver Tree tomorrow, which I wholeheartedly recommend seeing! http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/events-list/2017/7/22/stories-for-the-silver-tree. Which is why I gave it 5 stars! It was delightful.

Also, more could be found at the Twitter pages of the performers: https://twitter.com/darius_nash , https://twitter.com/tamareluned.

Review: Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival Poetry Night by Sian Thomas

I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go to this poetry night. I’m so glad that the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival exists, and is doing events like these. It actually makes me unimaginably happy far beyond belief.

I spent a whole night lost in words and poetry and prose and it was so, so wonderful. I was perfectly in my element – in a cute little cafe with fairy lights, a room full of people who all share my interest, watching the sky darken around us in a room, comfy chairs, supportive people. All of it was enthralling and it just made me so, so happy.
I love to hear other people’s writing. Something about it is so soothing and comforting and soft and just so easy to fall into and gladly lose myself in. Picturing the scenes behind story words and feeling the emotion behind poetry is just such a magnificent experience, and an irreplaceable one.

It was so much fun to watch other people prep themselves and share their own writing – which I know is something incredibly personal and sometimes hard to put out there into the world. But everyone was so supportive, and that was so amazing to see.
I, myself, had reservations about reading some of my own personal writing. I was sold that I wouldn’t be reading any up on the floor that I didn’t bring any with me. I saw other people do it, and a part of me started to feel okay -nervous, but okay – with the idea of actually getting up there and doing the same. I got the confidence to read aloud, and I did.
The wonderful hostess, Alice Downing, was comforting and supportive and the perfect person, I think, to host and guide this event. I don’t think I’d have read my own work out loud if I hadn’t seen how passionate and encouraging she was to everyone in attendance.

I had such a delightful time, and I’m so thankful that I heard about these events and went to them.

The Fringe Festival isn’t over yet, too! There are multitudinous other events happening, stretched up and down Cardiff, and each I’m sure is as incredible as the last. http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/whats-on/

Review: The Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival Launch by Sian Thomas

The launch party of the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival was one I wholeheartedly enjoyed attending, and am glad I did so. The launch party promoted the upcoming Fringe Theatre Festival, (and more information about that can be found at their own website: http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/) as well as talk of their sponsors, and the events and activities planned.
The launch party consisted of a lot of mingling at first, but betwixt such there were three performances, which I believe were all wonderful.

The first was a snippet of a play called Three Days, with a touch of realism and the intrigue of drama that I thought was fairly enjoyable. As a snippet, I was not aware of the context of the piece, but focusing solely on what I did see, I did enjoy. There was a part that particularly stuck out to me. There was an instance where the characters were discussing their occupations and how they’re treated in them due to their age. I put a lot of attachment to that, as sometimes I worry about pursuing my chosen career and being hindered because of my age. So, it was nice to see characters I could relate to like that, even if only briefly.

The second performance was one I enjoyed very much, and the comedy element to it was nice to see. I don’t recall having seen theatre based on comedy recently, so this was a nice new feeling.

The third performance was the one I think I enjoyed the most. Two poems were performed by Alice Downing (the marketing director of the Fringe Festival), and both made my heart feel a little bit softer and made me appreciate words and how we all use them so much. I already love and cherish words and writing and poetry, so hearing another’s is always time well spent to me, so it really was a wonderful time. Also, and not to drag this back up but, it was really funny when she flubbed a word, and managed to laugh along with the rest of us in the audience.

Each performance was well-performed, and each with different aspects that I appreciated immensely.

Based on the launch party, I have high hopes and a lot of optimism towards the fate of the rest of the Fringe Theatre Festival, and I am looking forward to attending and experiencing the other events that caught my eye. I can’t wait to see what these nights hold.

Review Staff Room-Clock Tower Theatre Company by Kaitlin Wray

Staff-Room-1

(4 / 5)

Every child wonders what the teachers talk about in their lunch break, do they talk about them? Do they even get on? Well, Staff Room by Clock Tower Theatre Company explores this concept. This was a show that played on teacher stereotypes with bundles of laughs, great one liners and a comical storyline.

Firstly, any theatre company that opens the show with System of a Down’s ‘Chop Suey’ is a winner in my eyes. Michael Taylor, playing Paul the physics teacher walks in with his headphones in blasting this song. I believe this song was a perfect way to reflect on how the character was feeling at the time.

Next we see Chris Powell playing Mark, the sports teacher. It seemed that Marks whole ambition is to annoy the likes of Paul by constantly chucking cups and paper airplanes. This was a great introduction to the performance and really sets the scene for the comedy to unfold.

The guy that really caught my eye though sounded like the philosophy teacher John Lawrence, played by Osian Edwards. His over dramatic nature when he was being the narrator in the short story in the play was hysterical. It was really fitting within his character. Nicola Lean, playing the ‘motherly-like’ teacher reminded me of many teachers I had at school. Furthermore, what’s a staff room without a romance brewing? Paul, is in desperate love with pretty maths teacher named Sarah, being played by Hari Hodgetts. Each actor played their character perfectly to the teacher stereotypes.

This show was a bundle of laughs that really took you back into your high school years. It was fun and easy to watch.

Home

Review Being Norwegian, Axon Theatre Company by Kaitlin Wray

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(4 / 5)

Ever met someone on a night out and you look at them and just click with them instantly? Well this is what happened to Lisa and Sean. This intensely hilarious awkward conversation between the pair of them is fun to watch as we’ve all been in that situation where we just don’t know what to say. It is clear they both have an attraction towards each other. However something is pulling Sean back.

Tom Hurley, playing Sean showed a loveable adorable character with a dark past. The chemistry between him and Lisa, played by Sarah Bennington was captivating. Both actors fully got themselves into their characters and it was evident a lot of time was spent on every moment of the play. No word was thrown away and it felt completely natural and smooth. The naturally comedic moments in the production were hilarious without them even forcing it.

The set was simplistic yet perfect for the performance. A two seated sofa with boxes all around it. Furthermore it was a nice touch that the actors could control the lighting with the dimmer switch, this also made it feel more realistic to the performance.

Overall this was an intensely gripping story that was brilliant from the start. It was well directed and acted. I can’t wait to see what Axon Theatre company have next for us.

Being Norwegian

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