Tag Archives: Earthfall

Review Performance at The New Theatre by Lois Arcari


Newtheatre

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Director James Williams was placed, alongside the producers at Arts Active Wales, with the admirable but ultimately unenviable task of threading together a week’s worth of workshops, carried out by young people who had never before met, together into a show worthy of the New Theatre.

Despite the insularity that is always a potential threat to any of these types of projects, they always expand outside their form – making it a real shame this performance, perhaps weighed down by the somewhat awkward virtue of its name, wasn’t a tad more well marketed. What the Sherman NT Connections festival did so well with interpreting set theatre pieces this project did for new material.

There were, of course, lots of layers of interweaving. The more complex ideas with the weaker ones, the reasonably large age gap of performers aged 14 – 25, and of course the disciplines of circus, design, dance, art, music and the spoken word. The poetry, overseen by Literature Wales was one of the highlights, although a few themes might’ve meandered, and there were moments where politics seemed a little indelicately transposed onto some performers. Having sat in on the workshop, any chinks in the material were minute distractions against the obvious double edged sword of the time frame, and the integration of every workshopped piece into the whole.

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The ensemble for ‘Performance’ 2016

Community Music Wales where also very active in the show but where better executed and more memorable when used as a backbone for the other artforms. The Art and Design elements were the most sporadically used but well done; a Dali like background to an intense, exhaustive dance piece the most effective example. Impressive puppetry was also used, although the flashy teddy bear, turned Gothic by the lighting, would best be appreciated of those who, unlike this critic, have not been subjected to the ‘wonders’ of FNAF by younger family. No Fit State’s Circus performances showed the two most obvious flavours, a humorous but slight juggling gag to trapeze, but there will be no world in which the mastery of the latter doesn’t inspire some kind of awe.

All the elements worked well together, but Earthfall Dance had a monopoly on the night. Contemporary dance is one of those things all too easy to get wrong, viewed by the general public with cynicism, and even sometimes within the arts with a gentle wryness. In this show, it was stunning, performed by the trained dancers, with natural acting talent alongside passionate energy. It whipped up the most natural commentary and narrative of the night whilst seeming absolutely effortless. As always, simplicity was king and queen alike. Even though others without dance experience were involved, they too seemed totally natural. Whether swift and pulsating or tender and subdued, it was perfectly executed.

Overall, the pieces which were meant to form more of a cohesive story than a thematic connection were too brilliant not to hinder the more standalone pieces which would otherwise be fine if unengaging but it rather accurately depicted the current arts scene, whilst showing plenty of scope for new forms of talent. The difficulty in reviewing this was that any flaws are part of its form and therefore, any commentary can’t seem too constructive, but trying to bring young talent out of its usual spheres and into the general stage is an admirable thing. It was never going to be perfect or show any calculated insight, but it was certainly vibrant and showed plenty of the organic kind. Very much worth keeping an eye out for next year, but keeping it in context is essential for the ride.

Director: James Williams

Producer: Arts active
Assistant producers/collaborators: Literature Wales, No Fit State, Earthfall Dance, Community Music Wales, Criw Celf
Running time: 1 hr 20 mins

 

Review Black Stuff Earthfall by Helen Joy

blackstuff

3 Stars3 / 5

 

It is late but still light in Cardiff Bay. I am rushing back to the foyer to regain my handbag from the cloakroom, when I am stopped by another member of the Black Stuff audience: what did you think of it? You want me to be totally honest? Yes. Ok, I am hungry and I was bored. Me too, she says, I was watching the audience to see whether it was just me. So was I, I say.

Why bored when there is energy – this unrelenting, grubby energy in the piece?

The manic desire of 4 performers to activate their audience in the filthy black, broken building of Cardiff’s coal black past begins with the usual introduction of the heroic industrial past, the rise of hateful capitalism and the loss of jobs. A facile, lazy, predictable position.

A loose plot of past characters all real and one still living, uncomfortably atop a wonderful, surreal story of miners and hangmen.

Hard to understand, hard to hear the words, hard to follow the perambulatory plot through the rotting rooms. Gratuitous fire and semi-nakedness with a moment of light with Anna Karenina and a cricket match in a corridor over rail tracks. Oh and some nervous amusement over the dining table. Smashing. Grim.

Let me just run over a couple of scenes.

One. A big dark room smelling of damp is lit by a flame at a far corner. 3 men mine lumps of dusty coal from a thick layer of the black stuff neatly carpeting the floor around us. They writhe in it, dance in it, they move it across the space like rocks in Bent. Their movements are assured; working hard and fast, balletic and athletic around our living, Spanish centrepiece and she is glorious in her command.

Another. That dining room with that dining table. Our coal streaked men of nations sit around a polished surface in high backed chairs. They philosophise. They are served soup slopped into their bowls by their opinionated lady. They eat and talk and slaver and drool their words and food dripping over them. Bowls are there for smashing.

So much effort goes into this production and it feels so cruel to be so cold about such a hot topic. But, sometimes theatre can be too clever, sometimes effects override a good story. The location is impressive, the ideas are sound and the performers are exciting – they don’t need to try so hard to impress us for so long. It is exhausting. It becomes monotonous, dull in its efforts to share that energy.

After the finale of rolling and crashing big blue drums around a collapsing ballroom of an office, the applause from the people backed against the walls is long and loud.

In the foyer, I ask another person what she thought: I am reeling, she said, it gave me so much to think about. She is happy and fulfilled by her experience. She is probably not alone. Not bored at all.

Theatre / performance art/dance
Black Stuff
Wales Millennium Centre, Cory building
Tue 17 May 2016 to Sat 28 May 2016
Directed by Paul Davies
Movement Director: Catherine Bennett
Design: Cadi Lane
Lighting Design: Ben Stimpson
Production Manager: Dan Taylor
Performers: Rhys McLellan; Neal McWilliams; Barbara Sarmiento Araña; Aled Bidder
Video: Erin Rickard
Original Sound: Adam Howell
Thanks to Betty Rae Watkins, Sarah Pace and the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru – See more at: http://www.volcanotheatre.co.uk/whats-on/black-stuff#sthash.45gW7ytc.dpuf