Tag Archives: Dirty Protest

The Force is Strong in Welsh Theatres This Spring


Dirty Protest blasts off into 2018 with launch of project inspired by Wales’s claim to Star Wars fame.

“Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock, a co-production between Wales’s acclaimed new writing company, Dirty Protest, Chapter and the Torch Theatre, takes the 1979 Pembroke Dock building of the full-scale Millennium Falcon as its inspiration

The Millennium Falcon under construction in Pembroke Dock

The drama written by playwright Mark Williams and directed by Julia Thomas is inspired by the real-life construction in Pembroke Dock shipyard of the full-size Millennium Falcon spaceship, helmed by Harrison Ford’s Han Solo in the film ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’.

Set in Pembroke Dock in 1979 and 2014, our hero Sam is a Star Wars obsessed kid in 1979 and a single father in 2014. His father is a redundant shipwright, employed to build the Millennium Falcon. Incredibly, far from being from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away; the ship featured in the second film in the Star Wars saga was constructed by a small army of tradesmen in the Pembrokeshire town’s Western Hangar. All were sworn to secrecy as the ship came together far from prying eyes. Now, Dirty Protest brings the story to the stage in a production that combines the thrill of 1980’s adventure movies with an intergenerational family saga all of its own.”

We caught up with Catherine  Paskell, Artistic Director of Dirty Protest Theatre Company and playwright Mark Williams to discuss this exciting new project.

Playwright Mark Williams

Hi Mark great to meet you, so what got you interested in writing?

I’ve always loved stories, and was a big reader of books and comics from an early age. I had a great teacher in primary school, who encouraged me to let my imagination run wild in creative writing lessons. I remember vividly the moment when I realised that in a story, you could transform the world, in any way you wanted to. As I got a bit older, I became interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ world of TV and film. Magazines and movie tie-in books often had interviews with writers, and that opened up the idea that writing was a process, and something it was possible to do as a career.

Catherine Paskell Artistic Director of Dirty Protest.

Thanks Mark, Catherine can you please tell us more about your role?

I’m Catherine and I’m the Artistic Director of new writing company Dirty Protest. I have recently directed Sugarbaby by Alan Harris which Dirty Protest took to Paines Plough’s Roundabout Summerhall venue with Wales in Edinburgh last  summer. I was a founding creative associate of National Theatre Wales – it was this opportunity that brought me back to Wales. I love what I do and connecting to people with theatre making in Wales.

Mark you are a playwright can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a theatrical production ?

So far, every production has followed a slightly different model. Sometimes my role has more or less ended when rehearsals began. Other times, I’ve been more actively involved, right up until the show opens, and during the run. There can be lots of factors determining the writer’s role, ranging from how the director likes to work, to the needs of the producing company, or your own time commitments on other projects. Ideally, I love it when the process is as collaborative as possible.

As a playwright you reference and are inspired by a range of elements of popular culture, why do you think this is?

George Lucas on the set of Star Wars with Mark Hamill (Luke Sywalker)

Many of the artists and writers that inspire me have always been proud of the eclectic mix of pop culture that informs their work – Ray Bradbury, Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Russell T Davies, and, especially in relation to this new production Lightspeed, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Pop culture is what first inspired me to write, and continues to do so. I think negative value judgements are sometimes made on aspects of it (perhaps less so these days, now it’s all-pervasive!) But as well as being entertaining, I love the fact that you can stumble on depth and substance in unexpected places, if you keep an open mind and a curious eye.

Steven Spielberg on the set of Jaws

And to continue the query above is this something you consider when thinking about developing audiences for your work?

Yes, always. When it comes to audiences for your own work, you start to think about what you can bring to the table yourself. How that can inform your own characters and stories, and connect with an audience’s own experiences.

Catherine I wonder if you could reflect on Dirty Protests’s journey from script in hand performances in the yurt in Milgi’s to this new production?

It’s been 10 years getting us to this point! We’ve staged plays in tents, fields, kebab shops, hairdressers, basement dives, attack bars and even theatres. Dirty Protest started in August 2007, with crowds of people crammed into the yurt in Milgi’s backyard, craning their necks to see the performers, reading from scripts-in-hands, stood amongst the beds and sofa cushions.

Script in hand event at Milgis

It was a must-be-there new writing event, and ever since then Dirty Protest have spent the last decade at the head of a revolution in Welsh new writing, building a community and being a place for theatre makers to belong. Now we work across Wales, with fantastic Welsh co-producers, theatres and venues. We have worked with over 250 writers and collaborated with fantastic partners outside Wales, including legends like the Royal Court, the Almeida, Paines Plough, Traverse Edinburgh, and Latitude. We have kept the same ethos and ambition to nurture a community, and forge new spaces and higher profile platforms for exceptional Welsh new writing to be performed in and out of Wales. We have always kept ourselves busy but so far, our 10th year anniversary is our busiest time yet! We have performed at least one event each month since our celebrations began in August. As I mentioned earlier we took Sugar Baby by Alan Harris to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of Paines Plough’s Roundabout programme. The show was well received, we were 1 of only 8 shows added to the British Council Showcase, alongside Soho Theatre, The Bush Theatre, Tobacco Factory and National Theatre of Scotland. We were so chuffed with that! But not content to just take one show to the Fringe, we also staged 5 additional new short plays by 5 Welsh writers at the Fringe to show international audiences just how fantastic our new writing talent is in Wales.

Production image ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ with Volcano.

Back home in September and October, we then created our Welsh language short play event Protest Fudur with our partners Galeri in Caernarfon, and staged more short play events with Wales Millennium Centre and Fuel, staged a 10-year take over of The Other Room, and celebrated that It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) with Volcano for their Novemberfest in Swansea. This December, over 4 days we are staging a development production of a brand new Christmas monolougue, Cut and Run by Branwen Davies with the incredible performer Catrin Stewart who will bring the story to life in the most beautiful way. This development Christmas monologue follows in the steps of our previous annual anti-panto Christmas shows, including the hugely popular Last Christmas by Matthew Bulgo (which was The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh’s studio Christmas show last year).

All that, and we are only 5 months into our anniversary year! So then we will deserve a Christmas breather before January kicks off with us producing a Contemporary Theatre Festival with the University of South Wales, before we travel across Wales trying to meet as many writers and actors and directors as possible. We will be developing writers and new plays with venues across Wales in the lead up to the Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock tour.

I can’t wait for the culmination of the tour: a Star Wars-inspired arts festival in Pembroke Dock, called the May the Fourth (be with you) festival happening on – yes, you’ve guessed it! – Saturday 4th May.

There’s still lots more planned that we can’t announce yet and loads more ways that people can get involved. Our 10 year anniversary isn’t just about what’s passed – it’s about what’s yet to come. I really hope that people will come and be part of Dirty Protest all across Wales and help us create the theatre of the future.

 Mark, what do Dirty Protest mean to you as Welsh playwright?

Firstly, via their short play nights and events, they provide a brilliant opportunity for new and emerging writers to get their work read by actors in front of an audience, and for more established writers to try out new ideas, and have fun in a relaxed environment. Secondly, they’re fast becoming a leading producer of new writing in Wales, helping writers to get their work made, toured, and seen further afield. Their commitment and enthusiasm to actively developing both of these strands is a vital part of the arts in Wales.

Catherine this will be Dirty Protest’s third fully staged drama? is this correct? With your biggest tour to date, what does this mean for the company?

 Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock is actually Dirty Protest’s sixth fully staged drama since 2007, on top of numerous development productions and short play events which bridge the gap between rehearsed readings and full-scale productions.

This production is hugely exciting for us because we can join the Rebel Alliance of Welsh theatre! It’s our chance to tell a story that is uniquely Welsh, connected to the people and society of Pembroke Dock, but also places Wales at the heart of one of the world’s biggest film franchises.   It’s our first show that is specifically created for audiences of all ages. If you’re old enough to see a Star Wars film, you’re old enough to see Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock!

We are excited to be working with two collaborators – writer Mark Williams and director Julia Thomas – who have been with Dirty Protest since the early years, working with us on numerous short play events over the last 10 years. It’s fantastic that they will be making a fully staged production together with us and explore a new area of theatre making for Dirty Protest, as they are both experienced in making theatre for all the family. Julia is currently directing Leicester Curve’s Christmas Show, George’s Marvellous Medicine and I remember seeing a stage show of Horrible Science that Mark had written, where I had to wear 3D glasses so digital poo could fly out of a toilet into my face!

We can’t wait to take Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock on tour all across Wales and to meet new audiences who won’t have ever seen Dirty Protest before. We will be returning to some venues where we have performed previous hit plays like Last Christmas by Matthew Bulgo and Parallel Lines by Katherine Chandler, or staged our short play nights.

Parallel Lines

We are also going to new venues who we’ve wanted to visit for years, and now we can! I really hope that people who already know us, and people who we have yet to meet, will come and join us as we blast across the nation on our newest adventure.

 Thanks you both and finally do you have a favourite character from the Star Wars movies and why?

Mark Han Solo. Who wouldn’t want to fly the Millennium Falcon?

Catherine Lando Calrissian from Episodes V and VI. He’s funny, and dramatically interesting and complex: he’s a kinda bad guy – he’s a gambler who loses his ship the Millennium Falcon to his friend Han Solo, and he also tricks his friends so they get captured by Darth Vader. But he then has a turn of conscience, helps his friends escape and joins the Rebel Alliance! So he turns into a good guy! He’s the epitome of what Star Wars is about, to me – growing up, surviving the galaxy, and being there for your friends.

Thank you both for your time

The production tour dates can be found below

Tour Dates:

 Wed 4- Sat 7 April

Chapter, Cardiff

 Tue 17 April

Soar Centre, Valleys Kids

 Wed 18 April

Ffwrnes, Llanelli

 Thu 19 April

Taliesin Arts Centre

 Fri 21 April

Riverfront, Newport

Mon 23 April

Halliwell Theatre, Carmarthen

Tues 24 April

 

Pontardawe Arts Centre

 Wed 25 April

Borough Theatre, Abergavenny

 Thurs 26 April

Blackwood Miners Institute

Fri 27 April

Galeri, Caernarfon

 

Sat 28 May

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

 Wed 2 May

Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

 Fri 4 – Sat 5 May

Torch Theatre, Milford Haven

 

 

‘Here We Go Again’ Emily Garside on the Dirty Protest Election Night Special

I first encountered Dirty Protest about 9 years ago, after just moving back to Cardiff. I wasn’t aware at the time they were just starting out (stay tuned for some brilliant 10th Birthday events later this year!) But I did know they provided what I thought I wouldn’t see in Cardiff- and frankly what there wasn’t a lot of in Cardiff then- new writing, non-traditional work and most importantly a welcoming attitude. As an audience member, one who was apprehensive about a theatre scene in Cardiff that always seemed a bit ‘not for me’ they were a breath of fresh air. Almost 9 years later, I’m pleased to say that as a writer they are just as welcoming and still just as much fun to be around.

It’s fair to say Dirty Protest didn’t plan on having a June new writing night, but when like the rest of us, they were surprised by the announcement we were having an election, well the opportunity was too good to miss. Dirty Protest were having an election night special.

I heard about this through being invited by co-founder Matthew Bulgo to write a short piece. Having thought about it for about 30 seconds I accepted. As ever, there was a theme to respond to, this time ‘Here we go again’. The added guidance being to listen to this wonder from Dolly Parton.

Fuelled by in part by Parton, in part by election energy (or fatigue) we were set loose. With less than three weeks to pull together a piece, it was certainly writing under pressure. But , writing creatively to a deadline is a really great exercise for any writer. Writing to a theme also, forces you out of your comfort zone, and instead of being restrictive forces a more creative approach.

My response to the brief (and Dolly!) was to take the idea of election night, and the sense of ‘repetition’ that ‘here we go again’ implies and visit two election nights- one in 1987 and the one we were about to experience in 2017. Using two people talking in a bar meeting for the first time that night, with different views on politics seemed an effective way to take on the theme. With a little twist in a link between the two pairs, and a hint of romance (because even on election night there might be romance). No writer ever really feels ‘finished’ with a piece, and despite working on it amid a ‘day job’ and various other competing deadlines, I was pleased with what I eventually sent off.

With us writers only having a matter of weeks to put it together, the assigned directing and acting teams had only a matter of hours to make what we put down into something performance ready. With a team of 8 actors sharing the scripts between them, it’s a great achievement that they pull of such great work in so short a time.

The night of the election arrived, and I can’t speak for the rest of the audience but the chance to escape endless news coverage for a couple of hours was more than a welcome distraction. Dirty Protest have always performed in non-traditional theatre spaces, and this time had taken over Outpost a combination Emporium and Coffee shop in the heart of Womamby Street. These non-theatre venues are great for audiences and creatives- it makes for a welcoming space for those who don’t usually attend theatre (and usually plenty of alcohol available too) and for the creatives, the more relaxed space takes the pressure off a bit, feeling a bit more informal (and the alcohol availability helps there too).

The great part of Dirty Protest and their approach to giving a brief and letting writers run with it, is the variety of topics it always returns. Even with the dual ‘election’ and ‘here we go again’ theme, there were such a variety of pieces offered it makes for an entertaining and fascinating evening.

This time around there was the hilarious opener from Sam Bees in which man and woman (from Mars and Venus respectively) seek to repopulate the earth. Equally hilarious was Kieron Self delivering the opening to the second act with Katherine Chandler’s Whose Line is it Anyway? Which saw him as an ill-fated comic sent to entertain Wales on election night. Another more direct take on the election was seen in Trust by Dick Johns while Nicola Reynolds used the election to make serious points about the wider issues created by past governments in Hannah. Relationships took centre stage in Kelly Jones’ sweet karaoke driven ‘Here We Go Again’ and Jafar Iqbal’s more serious piece ‘Oscar and Me’ while Kit Lambart combined relationship based comedy and political reference in ‘Here we Go Again’. The range and style of the pieces proving just how broad a response a simple brief can create. And as a writer, being among such broadly different pieces, from different styles really helps as instead of feeling competitive you end up feeling inspired by the other work drawn from the same source.

The audiences who come to Dirty Protest nights really make the experience, and having a supportive crowd ready to laugh, concentrate and even join in when called upon (thanks to Katherine Chandler and Kieron Self) is a great indicator of the kind of audience they have built up over 9 years.

As a writer, I had a brilliantly supported, creative experience writing for Dirty Protest’s election night special. As an audience member, I had yet another hilarious and fascinating evening of theatre. And I didn’t have to think about election results for a few hours on a very strange night.

Top Tunes with Catherine Paskell

Hi Catherine great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself?

 Hi Guy, sure, I’m an independent theatre director. I’m from Cardiff and I run a new writing theatre company called Dirty Protest. We develop and produce new writing for performance, and that includes full length plays as well as our short play nights.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

I’m currently celebrating Janice Long coming back on the radio. I used to listen to her late night Radio 2 show and at the start of this year, the BBC made a mistake taking her original programme off air to broadcast repeats and playlists. I can’t believe they replaced her with repeats. But, Janice and her original programming is back! BBC Radio Wales has given her her own show and brilliantly, she is choosing her own music playlists rather than having to stick to what she’s told. I love her, and she loves music – I have discovered new bands through her playing upcoming artists on air, as well as music I already love. I’m so pleased she’s back – and broadcasting from Wales!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rg266

In terms of artists, at the moment every day I’m listening to Lady Leshurr’s “Mode” EP – it’s so catchy and I like the comedy mixed with social commentary and the production is great. She brings me joy. There’s a really catchy track called “Juice”.

Weirdly, I’m also watching the “OJ: Made in America” documentary right now, so the two seem to go together, I keep shouting “I got the juice!”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08qldj6/storyville-oj-made-in-america-part-1

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?

McAlmont & Butler “The Sound of McAlmont & Butler”  This record came out when I was a teenager and it sums up that period of my life for me. I’m transported back to 1995 when I listen to it. But also, it’s a real album, in that I have to listen to it from start to finish, in song order. I don’t do that so much today because on a day-to-day level, I listen to Spotify and have thousands of songs I love playing on shuffle. I love the feeling of something I love coming on unexpectedly and I can have a boogie about. My culture of how I listen to music has changed. But this record for me sums up the artistry of the album as a long play listen. And David McAlmont has an incredible soaring voice.

The Mamas & The Papas “If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears” This was the first album I had. It was on cassette and I was in Primary School at Eglwys Newydd, Cardiff. I was enthralled with the sound they created and I went to Whitchurch Library and read a book all about hippies and 60s counterculture. I remember vividly the description of the drug-fuelled parties the Mamas and the Papas used to have and how they had a pool table covered in a drugs buffet. I imagined all the coloured pills and tabs, like very tiny pool balls. I think you’re always influenced by the music you grew up with and that was music my parents introduced me to, as well as contemporary musicians played on Radio 1. I feel lucky that I have a vast access to music, which my parents didn’t have when they were growing up – because I’ve got all the music that they listened to AND the music that’s created now. There’s just a much bigger treasure trove to dip into and discover. And I think this influenced my interests (I did an American Studies degree because I thought that was the most interesting way to become a theatre maker, by learning about the world and travelling to the States and training there). My favourite Mamas and Papas song is “Twelve Thirty”, it sums up what I love about them, it’s beautiful in its sadness and totally pure, with no cynicism.

“Now 30”  1995 was obviously a glorious year for music, well I think so! It was peak Britpop and we had loads of amazing albums that I still love, Pulp’s “Different Class” is one of my favourite albums of all time and came out that year.

Also, Oasis’ “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory”, “The Great Escape” by Blur, Supergrass’ “I Should Coco”, all of these big Britpop bands had landmark albums that year. But I’m picking “Now 30” because when I listen to it, I remember exactly what was happening to me and the world in that year. And also it’s a fantastic way to keep your nostalgia in check, when you remember that not all the music in 1995 was great. That’s the nature of a Now album. Which is a good thing I think. I’m wary of “oh things were better in my day” – that’s kind of what some people were voting for in Brexit. And we see things with these rose tinted specs. But “Now 30” reminds me that in the year we had such glories, we also had Sean Maguire turning his heel from EastEnders to pop singing and the Outhere Brothers releasing “Don’t Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)”.

Leonard Cohen “Songs of Love and Hate” When Leonard died last year, his was the artist death that really affected me. Leonard is my favourite artist of all time.

He’s been with me my whole life – apparently he was my birthing music! I saw him live and it was transcendental. I cried when he died and for weeks after. A few days after he had died, I went to an event in ITV Studios and whilst I was waiting, there was a huge wall of tellys tuned to ITV. And they had the news on. There was some sort of news piece about Leonard and I just sat there in the foyer weeping, when a production assistant came to collect me. Even now when I listen to his albums I have a tear. “Songs of Love and Hate” is another LP that benefits from listening from start to finish, to get the story Leonard is telling us.

“Diamonds in the Mine” is an extraordinary song. I love the quality of his singing and the words: a mix of comedy, drunken, angry growling, and a juxtaposition between grandiose and beautiful images, and the everyday. The last chorus makes me laugh and it’s quite shocking too: the way he sings the last “there are no chocolates in your boxes anymore” has such contempt to the way he spits it out. I think when people think of Leonard, they don’t think of that performative side to him. It sounds to me like the song sums up the end of the idealistic 60s. The album came out in 1971 when it was all crashing down. I think Leonard wrote it at a time when everything was also falling apart for him. And I kind of empathise with that sentiment. 10 years ago, it felt like there was a lot of hope. Now, with everything that’s going on in the world, and how the arts in Wales are developing, people feel caught between the natural optimism that artists have, wanting to imagine and create the world we want to live in, whilst we are caught in the reality of the way things are right now. Every time I listen to Leonard’s songs I discover something new, in the lyrics, in the cadence of his voice. All of his songs can morph to fit the time you are listening to them in. He’s always contemporary. I truly love him.

Erasure “Wild”  I am so excited that they are back with a new album. They are one of my favourite bands of all time, maybe because I listened to them when I was young and they have always been around making music that elevates me. I love Vince Clarke’s synths, I love Andy Bell’s voice. I love how when I went to Brazil to direct “Merchant of Venice” last year, the artists and producers also all loved Erasure, and we had a wonderful moment of all coming together through dancing to “Blue Savannah” from the “Wild” album. It’s soaring and uplifting and I love music for how it can bring people together in a shared experience, just like theatre.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

I’ve already pre-empted this by talking about some tracks already, haven’t I! “Yes” by McAlmont and Butler. Because whenever I put this on, it’s positive and uplifting. It’s about being strong, about recovery. I love how grandiose the production is, from the first soaring strings it makes my chest burst. Yet the lyrics are very low key, “Yes I do feel better, Yes I do I feel alright”. I love the contrast because that feels very human, to feel a heightened emotion but not have the words to match.

 Thanks Catherine. What’s next for Dirty Protest?

Our next short play night is coming up on 8th June and it’s happening here at Outpost Coffee & Vinyl. It’s happening on Election Night and it’s our response to the general election. The theme we have asked 8 writers to respond to is “Here We Go Again” and it’s going to be a great night.

We also have a lot of Welsh language short play events coming up: we are working with Tafwyl here in Cardiff, as well as the Eisteddfod and Galeri in Caernarfon to stage these around the country.

Then this summer, we are working with the amazing Paines Plough to produce our new play, Sugar Baby by Alan Harris in the Edinburgh Festival as part of their Roundabout programme. Then come September, we start our year of celebratory year of events to mark our 10 year anniversary! We are really looking forward to that, it’s going to be brilliant and everyone can get involved, so it should be a year-long party!

http://www.dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk/comingup/

 

Review On the Brink Dirty Protest by Helen Joy

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(4 / 5)

5 plays held in the basement of a coffee bar in central Cardiff & I am reminded of how much my old town has changed as I wander streets now unfamiliar & ask a dozing homeless person how he is.

This has always been an area where the homeless gathered – public loos & the food-bins of the market & Marksies. One man told me 128 people sleep here sometimes. Change falls out of his hands as he falls asleep. I watch him for a while, concerned, as the night revellers wander by.

Another man, bare-chested & carrying his life on his back, sweeps into the bar as we enjoy our pre-theatre drinks. I am not sure what he says but the crowd is silenced momentarily & once he has gone, someone claims his actions & words as part of the production. I’m not sure I find that funny.

Merlot & speciality beers drunk, we trot downstairs into the basement of the bar & find ourselves in a bright white small room with school chairs & bunting. Very nice neat clever photos of Cardiff streets around us & a feeling of Bohemian comfort pervades.

A bouncy introduction & we’re off.

A rapid monologue performed with the jerky nervousness required of the part. Quick & Dirty, ‘shocking proper shocking, mind’ – it is excellent: a well-written bit of life which leaves us wondering, what are they planning with those nylons?

Then, a couple splitting up. Hard to be different but some good lines here, ‘I don’t like the sound of a world without you in it’ & as the pace picks up & their story unfolds, we feel for them in their, ‘small, lonely & broken’ states.

Ok, so 3 people are sitting together discussing something to do with a college award & it is sometimes satirical, sometimes topical, sometimes political: ‘I do not fuck pigs’ & for some reason, Charterhouse cops it repeatedly. It gets its laughs from an audience who gets it – but I don’t – until the last lines, ‘so, how do you think the interview went?’ ‘I’m going to fucking crucify you’. Difficult to act & a job well done.

So, we have Brian. He apparently takes 19 minutes to produce a stool. This is a seriously clever play. The narrator perambulates around Brian, his date & his life & his life’s end, engaging easily with us, the audience, the inactive voyeurs of a man’s death by fork. I would like to see this again; no, I would love to see this again.

Another play about a couple failing to see eye to eye. Pokemon & pregnancy. There is a really nice use of silence here, a really nice use of few words, gentle body language, excitement, knowledge & heartbreak. Nothing new perhaps but it was moving, it touched me.

Lastly, the builder with the pint glass & the mobile phone. ‘Ah fookin’ needed tha’ & he tells us his story with grace, humour & tremendous pathos. We expect one thing, we get another. I suspect that I am not alone in being upset by this work. It manages to touch on the many angles of life: the dangers in loving someone, the need to keep up appearances, the roles we are all expected to play & the risk of exposure, ‘I knew ah’d look like wha’ ah am’. Brilliant. Truly brilliant.

This is a theatre company well-worth following & perhaps, joining in…

I wander back to my car past the late-night Tesco shoppers & the party-goers, bump into folk I haven’t seen for 17 years & am glad to get home. I wonder how the homeless are faring this muggy night.

 Event:             On the Brink

                        Dirty Protest Theatre Company

Seen:              9pm, 18th August, 2016

Cast:
Non Haf
Hannah Thomas-Davies
Rhys Downing
Richard Elfyn

Directed by Dan Jones

Produced by Angela Harris, Matthew, Catherine and yourself.

The plays in order of appearance:

1) CHIP SHOP DINNER by Remy Beasley
With Non Haf playing Kayleigh-Jade.

2) THE SPLIT by Sian Owen
With Hannah Thomas-Davies playing Ruth & Rhys Downing playing Michael.

3) THE AT SYMBOL by Gary Raymond
With Rhys Downing as A, Non Haf as B & Hannah Thomas-Davies as C.

4) THE SUICIDE OF BRIAN by Justin Cliffe
With Richard Elfyn as Narrator, Rhys Downing as Brian, Hannah Thomas-Davies as Flora & Non Haf as Waitress.

5) WHAT NOW by Connor Allen
With Non Haf as Kate & Rhys Downing as Tommy.

6) ‘THE BOSS’ by Matthew David Scott
With Richard Elfyn as Tony.

Reviewer:      Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:        17th August, 2016, at The Pen & Wig, Newport

18TH August, 2016, at Little Man Coffee Company

Cost :                       £6 / ticket in advance, £7 on the door

Links:              http://www.dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk/comingup/

 

Interview Alastair Sill A personal introduction to Audio Description for Theatre

Our project coordinator recently spoke to Alastair Sill who provides Audio Description for a range of theatre companies in Wales.

Hi Alastair, can you tell me how you got involved in your area in the arts?

 After finishing my degree in English, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to be involved in drama. I started writing to a few theatres across the country and the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry was one of the theatres I contacted. It just so happened they were looking for a marketing assistant to train up, so I went along and was lucky enough to get the role. I was a general marketing assistant so distributing posters, general office support etc, which was fine. Whilst there I was chatting to a colleague about other roles available in the theatre. She mentioned that she was involved in Audio Description and would I like to come and have a listen to it and see what I thought? I said yes and went along. At the time Audio Description was a voluntary service so there would have been about 6 audience members who were interested, this must have been about 15 years ago, things have changed since then. After meeting everyone I was keen to get involved, in-house training was provided by a member of the Audio Description Association. I enjoyed the training but was really interested in acting and applied and managed to get a place on the drama degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff and completed this course in 2003.

http://audiodescription.co.uk

After qualifying I saw an advert for a training course in Audio Description at the Soho Theatre in London. Which I applied for and got accepted. The final exam was to AD a Christmas show at the Soho Theatre, which was the Big Bad Book by Lauren Child, which as you can imagine was very nerve wracking. The production was brilliant with lots of animation and live performance. It was difficult to capture in AD the style of the animation in the show but it went well and I passed the course. I continued to develop my acting career but the AD started to drip-feed into my work, mainly through friends based in Cardiff. who had their own theatre companies. I think one of the first productions I provided AD for in Cardiff did was at The Sherman Theatre called The Minotaur in Me by Paul Whittaker. The Sherman then asked if I could do the Christmas shows and then a few more shows a Sherman.

So how did you employment as an Audio Describer develop from there?

 I then went to work at the Torch Theatre. Peter Doran the Artistic Director said they had accessed some additional funding to provide moreAD for their productions so I spent an autumn season there, which was really nice. I provided AD for a Christmas show and a play called Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Dario Fo the play is a farce. That was a challenging piece for me to AD as it was difficult to keep up with the timings. When you are describing different types of theatre you have to change the AD to fit appropriately.

I wonder if you would mind explaining your actual process when you are asked to Audio Describe a production?

 I spend quite a long time with the work; firstly I go and watch the play, with the audience. Then I come back again and read the script and often watch it from the audio description booth, which is the space I am usually in when providing AD for a production. I make notes on the script, pauses in the dialogue and perhaps the facial gestures of the cast. It’s important to note relationships between the characters and how lighting helps to tell the story. Then I come back again and watch it for a third time and will often have been given a video recording by the theatre or production company. This helps to really focus on what I need to be prioritising when providing AD. I can pause and rewind, which you can’t, do in real life! In total this process can take about 5 days to a week.

Could talk a little about your actual approach to live AD during a production?

OK so most importantly you cant talk over what’s happening on stage! This means you might create a sentence that you think describes perfectly what’s happening on but then when the actors are performing you might not be able to find the gap. This means you have to condense everything down to tell the story. This can be difficult as there are often lots of different things happening at the same time. You have to try and focus the AD down to the essential elements that convey what’s happening on stage and are most important for the audience.

There are moments when there might be a pause or a silence and the AD disrupting this can spoil this silence and the drama of the moment. Essentially AD is about choosing when to talk and not to talk! The AD audience and non-AD audience share the same space and the same moment in time, you have to feel what’s happening on stage. When it works, you feel connected to the world on stage; it’s a strange sensation as though you are on stage with actors.

Then there are also moments which frustrate me and I am not alive to the situation and I speak over what the actors are saying and that annoys me as I want it to be as good as it can be. Sometimes I get a bit carried away and get too descriptive. There is only so much information the audience can assimilate in their heads. It’s really important to get to know your audience.

So what companies in Wales have you been working with most recently?

I have worked with new writing company Dirty Protest on the play Parallel Lines written by Katherine Chandler and directed by Catherine Paskell. Catherine and the team were very helpful. Everyone was interested in the AD provision, I was aware it was a piece of new writing and felt a responsibility to describe it correctly. I spent quite a long time in rehearsals which was beneficial to the final AD for the production and also provided AD in a variety of venues when the show went on tour.

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Alastair providing AD for Taking Flights production of A Winters Tale

I have also worked with Taking Fight Inclusive Theatre Company as a cast member and provided AD. Taking Flight often perform outside for their production of ‘A Winters Tale’ I played a character who was sort of the court audio describer and I was referenced during the play by the cast and was visible to the audience, which I am usually not. There were moments during the production when I would provide live AD with a microphone to an audience who are using headsets and then moments when I would speak directly to the entire audience That was really great to be able to integrate AD in this way.

I have recently just started to AD dance, for a production called Jem and Ella. I am developing my dance vocabulary and getting working on getting the emotional feeling across as much as the technical vocabulary. I had a lot of support from Jem Treays and his daughter Ella who are the performers in the piece. They helped me develop my vocabulary to AD the movement in the show, I found Rudolf Laban’s quality of descriptive movement helpful as well.

As you mentioned AD provision is becoming increasingly common, more creative use is being made of artists working in this field. What do you personally think the future might hold?

 Well in Wales there are more companies and venues supporting the provision, which is great. Some venues really support AD well but I think it needs to start from the top down. Awareness of audiences need to start from that initial entrance to the venue and meeting the Front of House staff right through to the actual performance, inclusion should be the norm. Venues often don’t know when someone blind is attending so if possible they should aim to have an inclusive attitude for every show.

Personally I am interested in creating my work with AD at the heart. Also I am not aware of anyone that provides AD in the Welsh Language in Wales and wonder if that is something that could be supported in the future?

Next up I am providing AD for Theatr Fynnon for a production called Pupa, which will be performed at Chapter Arts Centre on Friday 20 May – Saturday 21 May. Then National Theatre Wales and a production called Before I Leave at the Sherman Theatre. I think the AD for that production is on Saturday the 11th of June at 2.30 pm. I am also working with Hijnx Theatre Company and their Unity Festival. And of course Taking Flight who are performing Romeo and Juliet this summer.

Many thanks for your time Alastair.

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Alastair recently took part in a charity bike ride to raise funds for Taking Flights summer performance of Romeo and Juliet.

You can catch Alastair providing AD at the following performances below.

http://www.chapter.org/theatr-ffynnon-present-pupa

http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/performance/music/before-i-leave/

http://www.hijinx.org.uk/unity/

http://www.takingflighttheatre.co.uk/romeo-juliet/

Review Parallel Lines, Dirty Protest by Kiera Sikora

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design 

Honesty is severe. We desire it and we require it, we recognise that it is some thing that we always need. But as soon as it’s not what we want, we despise it. We just can’t win, can we?

Dirty Protest bring to Chapter Arts Centre a fantastic 90 minute revamp of their already acclaimed ‘Parallel Lines’ which executes an impulsively precise look at how two colliding worlds affect each other. Playwright Katherine Chandler, through her freshly updated script, allows us to see how a longing for affection affects opposing worlds and the individuals in them in a very witty Welsh manner.

Nothing is hidden. These two worlds are projected right in front of you throughout the whole piece with the cast present on stage, before, during and after their scenes. There’s a clear sense of consistent colliding consciences.

Catherine Paskell’s very slick, precise, physical direction of the piece creates a fighting contrast with the stress, pain and uncertainty that the characters feel throughout. Their movements are thoughtful and are elegantly highlighted by Joe Fletcher’s sharp lighting design and equally supported by Dan Lawrence’s eerie sound scape, together creating a pathway into the minds of the characters and their sole situations.

The stage homes very little set, just a table and few chairs which echoes that idea of loneliness and lack of nurture. But the constant presence of this collision between these two very different lifestyles fills the stage with all that you need to feel their thoughts and experience their dilemmas. The characters’ complexity allows you to empathise with their situations while the careful pace of the piece allows you time to detach yourself from their spoken words, in order for you to see the paranoia that exists beyond the language.

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design

Paskell’s vision lets us explore the baggage that comes with power, class and truth and how we react to uncertainty, isolation and our own versions of normality. The relationship between Jan Anderson as the wayward mother Melissa and Lowri Palfrey as her daughter Steph is one that you can’t help but enjoy and dislike they allow you to laugh and pity them, without asking for either reaction. While Gareth Pierce as Simon and Sara Lloyd-Gregory as Julia are the corrupted and obscurely humorous couple who implore you to recognise the devastation that follows accusations and doubt while also reminding us how important it is to say your P’s and Q’s and park your car considerably.

Throwing away the previous script and starting a fresh two years on with the challenge of it being as real and as relevant as before is a one that would take being beyond brave to do. But, I’ve got to be honest playwright Katherine Chandler and Dirty Protest did it!  The play is intense, indulgent and intuitive. It feels familiar and it embodies a social situation at a raw and original level.

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design

So if you enjoy beautifully written Welsh wit and a story that you can believe then you know where to go. It’s honest, it’s funny and it’s inclusive best get going.

Dirty Protest’s first ever tour of ‘Parallel Lines’ continues at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff until 24th October. They then move onto: Pontardawe Arts Centre on October 28th, Aberystwyth Arts Centre on October 30th Galeri, Caernarfon on October 31st, Soar Centre, Treorchy on 2nd November Ffwrnes, Llanelli on 4th November. And finally, Theatr Hafren, Newtown on November 6th

You’d be crackers to miss it.