Tag Archives: Chelsey Gillard

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

“Six Years ago I Was a Mess” by Chelsey Gillard

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Nia Roberts in Love Steals Us From Loneliness, by National Theatre Wales  at Hobos Nightclub Bridgend

Six years ago I was a mess. I had dropped out of university. Everything I had been working up to in my life so far had fallen apart during the time it takes to read one email. I honestly didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do with the rest of my life – a gaping eternity with not a single flash of hope ahead. Working a full time job in retail, to prove I wasn’t a directionless burden on my family, did little to improve my mood.

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Hobos, Bridgend

Somehow I found myself in my usual boozer, Bridgend’s only alternative club, Hobos. But this time it wasn’t to throw some shapes on the dance floor. Instead I was seeing the first professional production I’d ever heard about taking place in Bridgend. Like many others I was a little annoyed that the play was inhabiting the space in which I could usually let my hair down (yes I had long hair back then!).

Working with National Theatre Wales  Guy O’Donnell (Arts Development Officer for Bridgend Council) had set up a new initiative – The Young Critics. The aim was to get more young people into theatres, seeing professional work and sharing their opinions on what they had seen with a wide online audience. I had taken a chance and got involved with the scheme, feeling very strange as I climbed the steps into Hobos in flat shoes rather than heels to see Gary Owen’s Love Steals Us From Loneliness.

Thanks to the Young Critics I was able to review more and more work. It was rare for me to go a full week without seeing a show. My knowledge grew exponentially. My taste for theatre exploded – I’m now a huge fan of more experimental work that would have left me confused and unsatisfied as a 19 year old.

That first year as a Young Critic gave me my passion for life back. Seeing so much exciting work gave me my love of theatre back. Feeling like my opinion was valid (if sometimes wrong) gave me my confidence back. I applied to study English and Drama at Cardiff Metropolitan University and I haven’t looked back since.

During my studies I started previewing people’s work. Being able to sit in on the rehearsal process and learn the tricks of the trade got my mind whirring. This is what I wanted to do! I wanted to be in the rehearsal room making beautiful theatre.

Chelsey Gillard & Rachel Williams – Bridgend Young Critics. National Rural Touring/Night Out Wales. Extending the Reach: Working with Young People

And now here I am (warning! Bragging ahead). I’m an associate director for The Other Room in Cardiff, I’ve been teaching a module at Trinity University, I am setting up my very own theatre company and  I’m writing a funding application for a rehearsal and development period on my first piece of work as a writer. And perhaps most importantly I now only publicly share my opinions in short-form on twitter.

Looking back at my review of Love Steals for this article was painful! I was so opinionated about theatre, something that at the time I was so unknowledgeable about. I throw my opinion about like it’s the only thing that mattered. There are comments in that review that make me not want to share the article again for fear that they could stymie my career now. But at least I was honest. I said what I felt in my characteristically awkward way.

Now as a theatre maker in my own right I hope I have retained some of that honesty. I try to hold my own work up to the same brutally honest criticism that I levelled on NTW.  

Love Steals Us From Loneliness is being staged again, by exciting new company Chippy Lane. In a lovely circular twist of fate I myself directed a rehearsed reading for them earlier this year. I am so looking forward to seeing the show tonight. I wonder if my opinion of the play will have changed (my opinion of Gary Owen certainly has – I’m so sorry!). But there is certainly one part of my original review I still wholeheartedly agree with:

“Hopefully this production will force those with the power to sit up and realise that Bridgend is bursting with talent and a thirst for quality theatre that requires a full time venue in the town centre that will hopefully attract more productions”

There is now an arts venue in Bridgend – Carnegie House – but it isn’t a fully functioning theatre that is ready to receive work and there is not enough of a concerted effort to develop audiences in Bridgend.

Of course it is easy for me to say all this, but what am I doing to change it? Honesty… nothing. I haven’t made a single piece of work in my hometown.

I am fully aware of my own hypocrisy.

This isn’t an online call to arms for us to crusade into Bridgend and inject some ‘culture darling’. It isn’t even me promising I will make more of an effort.  It is me thinking out loud about what has started my strange journey to be sat here in Chapter  Arts Centre like so many others tapping away at their laptops. It’s me realising I am not as honest with myself as I should be.

It’s me making a promise to myself that I will make work that 19 year old Chelsey would find exciting and worthy of comment – even if that comment is brutal and judgemental. I will go and see more work than I currently do (life has an awful habit of getting in the way). Or at least I will try until I once more get so absorbed in my own projects that I can’t see the wood for the trees.

Hopefully then I will read a Young Critic’s review of one of my shows and once again they will remind me that making theatre is about so much more than what other theatre makers think. It’s about sharing a live experience with a room full of other humans and being led on a huge emotional journey that has the power to change the direction of someone’s life.

Chelseys original review

THURSDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 2010
Love and Loss in Bridgend
Love Steals Us From Loneliness by Gary Owen
National Theatre Wales with Sherman Cymru
Venue: Hobo’s Rock Club, Bridgend
Dates: 7th – 16th Oct 2010
Director: John E McGrath
Verdict: ***

Review by Chelsey Gillard

Being born and bred in Bridgend I was dreading either a depressing, dark and moody look at teenage life in “the Big-End” or a telling off about how the town was so much better back in the day and that kids don’t get outside enough. The teens in this play were of course moody and bordering on depression (what teen isn’t) but they certainly got out enough! Their destination of choice was Bridgend town centre at Halloween; a place that locals know, come midnight, is full of witches and monsters all year round.

Standing in the bar waiting for the show to start I realised that someone I vaguely recognised was standing next to me looking nervous, a second look revealed Mark Sumner in the part of Scott. He was living the geeky character so thoroughly that even after years of acting alongside him in the Bridgend Youth Theatre it took me a while to figure out his identity. The karaoke microphone on the small stage was soon put to use as Scott began the play with a song interrupted by a rather gobby yet beautiful Catrin (Katie Elin-Salt) storming out of the club.
We were led into the intimate, double sided, theatre area and the play began proper. Catrin and Scott were now in a graveyard where Catrin was trying to relieve herself. The awkwardness of the situation soon forced the two- linked by their friendship and love of Lee, Catrin’s boyfriend – to not only talk, but listen. This act of the play was beautifully naturalistic, with a lot of Bridgend’s unique language captured almost perfectly, including very regular F- and C-bombs. Scott’s understated declaration of love for Catrin was realistic, funny and most of all touching. The interval came all too soon as we waited for Catrin’s response.
In the second act the metal hoops that were earlier used as seats and fences were now decorated in various personal belongings – Lee’s belongings, who we learn has died in a car crash via the brutal text message “Lee’s dead” from his mother to his sister. His shoes, clothes and car accessories constantly give this character a presence on the stage although there is never a physical embodiment of the boy who is to remain forever 17.
We are joined by three new characters; Lee’s sister Becky, played by Remy Beasley, who was possibly a secondary character but she made the part as important as all the others with a unique combination of brash charm and sensitivity. Catrin’s new boyfriend Mikey, Matthew Trevannion, who reminded me of that friend we all have that we sometimes wish we didn’t know so we don’t have to admit to any connection in public but we love deep down. And Lee’s mother Mags, superbly portrayed by Nia Roberts, who won most, if not all of our sympathy with her descent into grief- stricken meltdown.
This act flipped, sometimes ungracefully, between naturalistic speech and more poetic musings on life, love and mortality. Personally I think these musings were perhaps out of character, but they did serve the purpose of giving us an insight into each person’s journey from the hell of losing a loved one to the need to move on with life. The monologues occasionally seemed to be designed only to tug on the heartstrings and I felt more moved by some of the more underplayed lines. The bittersweet ending gave us Catrin’s much anticipated answer to Scott’s adoration; a brief kiss that had provided the fuel for Lee’s high speed death

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Having myself acted in one of Gary Owen’s plays “Mary Twice” I must rather brutally admit that I was not expecting much from the script. Although “Love Steals” was an improvement I still feel the success of this production lies in the hands of the director and actors who used everything they were given; script, music, set and venue; to their full advantage.
My main criticism is that on times the effort the actors were making to address both sides of the audience was a bit obvious with big, although probably unintentional, flourishes when turning around and that as they we on stage for the full second half brief lapses in concentration were all too visible. Also if that is what a Bridgend accent truly sounds like I need to get myself some elocution lessons pronto!
Hopefully this production will force those with the power to sit up and realise that Bridgend is bursting with talent and a thirst for quality theatre that requires a full time venue in the town centre that will hopefully attract more productions from the fantastic NTW. The time has come for my little ugly-beautiful town to lick its wounds and move on to a bright future whilst also remembering its past, bad times but more so good.

http://hypercriticreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/love-steals-us-from-lonliness-review_04.html

 

Interview with Assistant Director of The Weir, Chelsey Gillard.

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Chelsey Gillard

Get the Chance Young Critic Lauren Ellis-Stretch recently got the chance to chat to Chelsey Gillard Assistant Director of The Weir currently playing at The Sherman Theatre. They discussed her journey and experiences as a young director, generous tipping of bar staff, and the basis of the show itself.

What is the Weir about, for you?

‘Ahh -this is such a tough question. The Weir is such a multi-layered play that covers so many huge topics – the supernatural, grief, the depopulation of Rural Ireland, love…. the list goes on. At it’s heart I feel the play is about the ways we connect with each other as human beings and how we chose to relate to the natural world around us. Little acts of kindness play a huge role in the script and I really think it is telling us to do those things for others when we possibly can.

Through what training and experiences have you come to be an assistant director at the Sherman?

‘I applied to be the assistant director and had to attend an interview. Before this I have directed my own work and also been an assistant director for various venues and directors. This is my first time working at The Sherman on a main stage production. I studied English and Drama at university, all through my degree and in the two years since graduating I saw as much theatre as possible and tried to meet as many directors as possible to ask their advice on how to do what they do. Before that I was also a critic – a great way to see shows and think about them in a considered and logical way.

A video of Chelsey Gillard and Rachel Williams presenting at the National Rural Touring Forum on Bridgend Young Critics Project.

How did you prepare yourself for the role of assistant director on this piece?

‘I read the play – many, many, many times. I made lots of notes on the play looking for any parts that were of particular interest to me. The play takes place in a bar so I also made notes about who had what drinks and who paid for each round and other details that would be useful in the rehearsal room. As the play is also set in Ireland I did a lot of research about the kind of area the characters live in and the folklore that is mentioned in the play.’

Do you have an impressive ‘bar’ story?

‘Oh, I’m not sure. As a young freelance director I have to sometimes work other jobs to help pay the bills, so I will sometimes work as a bartender for one off events. When I was working at a really posh wedding the father of the bride decided he liked me – as my name is the same as his favourite football team. So thanks to my name I left that wedding with a crate of the most delicious red wine I’ve ever tried as well as a great tip!’

Is there anything specific you have learnt and will take from your time working on this play?

‘I’ve learnt so much watching Rachel O’Riordan the show’s director and Artistic Director of The Sherman Theatre in the rehearsal room – she is just amazing! It’s been great to see how to usefully bring lots of research into the rehearsal process in a way that is useful to the actors. I’ve also never worked on a stage the size of the Sherman main stage so that has been a really good chance to pick up tips on how to make a show feel really intimate even when it’s in a big space.’

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Artistic Director of The Sherman Theatre and director of The Weir  Rachel O’Riordan (centre) with the cast of The Weir in rehearsals.

The Weir will be playing at the Sherman until the 22/10/16. It then transfers to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol 25 Oct -05 Nov 2016.

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/the-weir/

The Weir

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Lois Arcari

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A set of four intertwining monologues dividing tight – and tightly packed – spaces in a pub theatre tucked underneath the train stations – literally hidden gem.

Hardly a setup for convention.That, for the audience, is sublime.

The set design by the obviously talented Amy Jane Cook, catches you immediately, as you’re led through Constellation Street. The sets, three internal sets each toe the line between intimacy and claustrophobia just as the street itself does; a fifth character illuminated by its cast, the staging, and the experience theatre the play provides. The multiple sets were all done brilliantly but didn’t take the balance off the play itself. The outside platform fits perfectly; the noise of Cardiff against its backdrop illuminating rather than distracting; a brilliantly designed set up that draws subjective meaning without ever prompting it unsubtly.

This set up perfectly captures the mix of realism and delirium imbued in the play; the smallest pieces of the everyday evolving into a smooth hallucination between reality and melodrama. The play is flawlessly cast, each delivering their characters believably, and essentially, ambiguously. Each monologue in itself invites a wealth of interpretation, and the contradictions between them made for a more interesting whole; turning to pin point lies and honesty, or if indeed, they are even mutually exclusive at all. Distrust and uncertainty were the stars of the script, crawling under the skin the most effectively.

Tonally, the play was dark without nihilism, realism providing the comedy. Narratively, it could veer dangerously close to artifice; interweaving of monologues a little predictable at times, but with the cast and this experiential, experimental play nevertheless not straying from its basis in character, its brevity seemed at once a loss and a basis of its charms and wit. In its intimacy, the stories packed weight, but, because of its root in subjectivity were not always as deeply felt. We are dragged into the confusion, loss and grief of the characters, rooted in their street but projected through to any other. Although narratively slick, the close web of all the characters seemed to displace it from an every town, an idea the play needs to pack the punches it delivered, more lastingly for its audience.

One idea in particular, maybe from just seeing three of four monologues, was that one interesting idea seemed left to flounder. Parts were resonant, parts were shocking;but although technically brilliant, it never seemed to project itself onto the outside world. Perhaps, I must concede, the intention for us ‘invaders’ on the street.

It’s not that there was style over substance, but merely that the substance is felt harder to relate to in an outside context because of the stylistic excellence. As a piece of event theatre with the atmosphere of a clandestine treat, it is a must-see, but it’s genuine emotional resonance, or at least the extent of its power, is an ambiguous thing; as hard to track as the characters it writes of.

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Kiera Sikora

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Constellation Street; a place of conscience, cowardice, courage and heart-hurting honesty.

Firstly we meet Ruth (Nicola Reynolds) a brash and beautiful landlady with a lot to be said about good deeds, their punishments and the past they create. Set in her homely pub, she creates that warm atmosphere that lulls you to your local and before you’ve taken in her purge of emotions- she’s opened the door for you to leave her, silently.

But the night continues, we move on then for a brief song with Alex (Gwenllian Higginson) at a gig in what may well be the pub we’ve just left. Her wide eyed gazes and drunken antics on the stage make you laugh and wonder. She seems to think too much, yet little of herself.

Swiftly then we move into the humid hotel room where we are met with the seemingly sweet Stephen (Neal McWilliams). He’s awkward and intense, both distant and present. He doesn’t break his gaze. It’s almost like there’s nothing left in him to be broken, nothing more that he could break. You feel his pulse must match the pace of his speech as he punches your heart with his harrowing story of love, loss and loneliness.

We then head back outside to Alex and her cheap, cheap lager, and we listen to her as she lays her life’s bones bare in front of us. She’s like no one’s child, a girl with questions and no one around who’s patient enough to listen to them, until we’re there. Her actions don’t gain her the answers she was looking for, but they no doubt change and add to the questions she already has. That alone is something that connects these pieces and people together.

This play’s genius lies in its more than admirable attention to detail and how the writing doesn’t allow you to think that it’s ever been written. The emotions are raw and the situations so real it makes you think of the Constellation Street (or Streets) that exist outside of the intamcy of Porter’s.

It’s important to add here to that a fourth monologue exists in this play; Frank’s (Roger Evans) story completes Constellation Street.

The small space at The Other Room has been completely, wonderfully transformed, so that walking to the bar after the show feels a bit like a daze. Amy Jane Cook’s design is impeccable and deserves all compliments and more. As do the directors Chelsey Gillard and Dan Jones for collecting and connecting this puzzle of a play and completely utilising it’s uniqueness and relevance.

Review Constellation Street by Kaitlin Wray

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Constellation Street written by Matthew Bulgo is a combination of four monologues that interlink with each other. Just like Matthew Bulgo’s ‘Last Christmas’ produced by Dirty Protest these stories are cleverly thought out and are both captivating and raw. For this production the team at the Other Room Theatre completely had their work cut out. For anyone who has already been to the Other Room Theatre they wouldn’t have thought it possible that a conventional theatre space could be turned into three separate rooms in completely different habitats. One a hotel room, another a back of the taxi cab and one a bar. What made this show even more unique was they used a part of the courtyard for the final scene. It all worked magnificently. There were some occasions when you could hear what is being said in the other spaces but it didn’t take away from the performance. This really showed the different dimensions of each monologue.

Not only did I get the chance to watch this incredible immersive performance, but I also had the privilege to overlook one of their rehearsals to get a feel of what it would be like directing a production. Watching Chelsey Gillard and Dan Jones at work, both of them taking two monologues each to work on, it was evident that their artistic minds knew exactly how to take on this performance and they both did tremendously. In this rehearsal, a week before the show, I had the chance to watch Nicola Reynolds performing the pub landlady. Even at this point in time she had the character pretty much nailed and it was wonderful to watch. Her mannerisms and the way she effortlessly told her story was endearing. I’m gutted that I didn’t get to see her perform in the actual show but it gives me another excuse to watch this show again!

The first room I went into was laid out as if we were in the back of a taxi cab. Roger Evans, playing Frank had his back to us for the majority of the performance with the front mirror showing his reflection. This made his performance even more realistic and raw which made this scene more emotional, it felt like you were there to really consolidate with the character. This is a great way to break away from traditional theatre settings and to show people that the character doesn’t always have to be on a stage speaking out to the audience.

Then our mini group got lead out into the courtyard for a musical interlude which was a rendition of “All I Want” by Kodaline, sung by Gwenllian Higginson. What once was a lovely lyrical song turned into quite an amusing karaoke bash. Even though it was just a musical interlude we really felt for Gwenllian’s character, and it gave us an insight of what might to come later with her performance.

The second monologue I saw was the character of Stephen played by Neal McWilliams. We entered into a room that looked like a generic hotel room with the classic painting on one of the walls. We were all told to sit down, get comfy and even sit on the bed. Personally this took me out of the mind frame of being an audience member and here to really listen to what’s being said and to give advice or help in any way. The monologue was, heart wrenching, it showed themes of betrayal and loss. Neal really took us through the characters life which started off quite pleasant but then turned as the story went on. It felt like he was completely reliving what had happened and the memories he has. By the end of it all I wanted to do was give him a great big hug.

The final scene took place in the courtyard with the character of Alex, played by Gwenllian Higginson. I already had the privilege to watch Gwenllian’s scene, and see a section of it being performed. However listening to it being doing outside it felt like it was the first time I was hearing the words again. Gwenllian, played Alex as a sassy girl who appears to be in control of everything, someone who has been through a lot. Her ability as an actress to show the different emotions she has with ease and convincingness was inspiring to watch. There were some real comedic elements to this monologue which she played with great timing and demeanour. It was tense and you were completely drawn in to everything she was saying. The only downside was that you could hear the Porter’s customers in the other section of the courtyard and due to it being a Friday night it was generally quite loud. However the one up side to this is that it felt like we were at a open mic night or at a stand up comedy where it would be loud. This I believe enhanced the intensity given to the scene.

Not only was the acting outstanding, but the whole company really went above and beyond in making this performance unique and memorable. Matthew Bulgo is a genius when it comes to writing original and amazing stories that really grip the hearts of audiences. The monologues interlinked beautifully. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and would love to be taken on this journey again.