Tag Archives: Cardiff Fringe

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

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★★★☆☆

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: ‘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: Many Man, Spilt Milk by Helen Joy

(4 / 5)

What an interesting evening! Enjoyable company, a suitably fringe-y venue complete with glitter ball and gold chairs and wine in a plastic goblet in the attics of a Cardiff bar and I’m happy. Nice bit of chatter in the foyer before and after and much to chat about. A very welcoming experience.

And Many Man begins. His little stage reminds me of someone moving house, just leaving, just arriving, in boxes, in transit. He is in our faces and alone. He is a comic, a stand-up, a young man telling us the ordinary story of his younger life and he makes us laugh.

The audience is mostly young men. I could be his mother. Their mother. I could be the woman in the kitchen of his past making chicken dinner on a Sunday. I could be the youngster bored with the comfort of the repetition of a safe and ordinary life. We all connect with something in his history and it is safe to laugh. But we know something is amiss. We glimpse his torture and we wait.

There are no breaks, no let up.  We are strapped to our seats and braced for the ride. He is a phoney, a liar, a conman. He is an American, a Scot, a Welshman. He loses more than he gains in his efforts to be extra ordinary: to get the girl, to keep the girl, to love the girl and to love himself. It is not funny; it is tragic. And we are awkward in our responses. I can see people reaching for their drinks, looking away, no longer smiling but embarrassed, caught out.

It is a story of self-loathing. It is a breakdown. It is La Voix Humane and Many Man is singing his heart out through the window of the stage. For him, it is a long hour. It is a cleverly sculpted piece, still rough, still forming; hard and physical.

The church bells of St John’s ring in practice session and lend a certain resonating presence to the tale. I am not sure we like this man, this me.

Cast & Crew

Tobias Weatherburn – Writer, Performer
Becca Lidstone – Director

 

Company             Spilt Milk

http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profile/SpiltMilkTheatre

Reviewer         Helen Joy for Get the Chance

Where             The Big Top, Church Street, Cardiff

When               July 20th, 2017; 1930 – 2040h

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/events-list/2017/7/20/many-man

Review Staff Room-Clock Tower Theatre Company by Kaitlin Wray

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(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.

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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

Cardiff Fringe Festival 2016, Service 3: Taking Stock by Kaitlin Wray

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Image by www.jonathandunn.net

(4 / 5)

So my experience of the Cardiff Fringe Festival started off with a bang! Watching a collaboration of Infini and a Clock Tower Theatre Production they showcased, Episode Three: Taking Stock. It was a great way to relax and have just a bundle of laughs. This was cleverly written by George Infini who devised some outstanding witty comedy with a great set of characters.

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This quick paced farcical short play showed four different characters with contrasting  personalities yet when put together are highly amusing. There was the playful and devious character of Gavin played by Sam Harding, the hilarious love romance between Steven and Gene; two of the geekiest characters that were played by Grant Cawley and Isabelle Paige.  Then there was Susan Monkton playing Sarah, who was perfect at playing the character everyone seemed to dislike. The plot to remove her as manager is entertaining and the comedic twist at the end was just perfect.

Overall it was quite a short performance yet this makes Saturday show of Episode Four: Fire Walk even more exciting to watch. I turned up to AJs Coffee House not knowing what to expect and left with my cheeks hurting and feeling rather entertained.

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/clock-tower-theatre-company

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/infini-productionsInfini