Tag Archives: Festival of Voice

Review: English, National Theatre Wales, Dance House, WMC by Luke Seidel-Haas

English

 

★★★★☆

Afternoon tea, Apple, Belonging, Brexit, Cricket. What connects these words and phrases? Well on the surface, not much. In the black box space of the Dance House at WMC, with audience sat in the round and screens at two ends, words from a pre-arranged lexicon flash up in alphabetical order on a screen. With the encouragement of performer Jonny Cotsen we the audience are encouraged to stop the lexicon and discuss anything in relation to these. English is a collaboration between National Theatre Wales and Quarantine and forms part of the Festival of Voice celebration. It is a live performance which is by nature different every night, and blurs the boundaries between creator/receiver and audience/performer.

In typically British fashion, people are initially rather hesitant to contribute to the conversation and instead sit silently in their chairs. For Jonny this isn’t an issue – he is an excellent and engaging storyteller in his own right. As words flash up he regales us with stories from his own life; from planting an apple tree for his daughter, to his time as a shepherd on a kibbutz in Israel, to his struggles during voice therapy learning to make speech sounds by feeling the vibrations on a balloon. As someone who is profoundly deaf and who has only recently started learning British Sign Language Jonny offers a fascinating perspective on the use of English and the ways in which people communicate.

With a strict time limit imposed by the stage manager of 90 minutes, our progression through the words continues apace. As people warm up to the idea of contributing, discussions bounce across the space – from the derivation of the phrase ‘arse over tit’, to a reminder of the poisonous qualities of the ‘daffodil’ Topics of conversation are generally light, with more contentious words such as ‘Brexit’ and ‘de-colonisation’ generally considered the ‘Elephant in the room’ (another phrase on the lexicon) and skirted over.

Occasionally the lexicon is interrupted by a filmed segment, or an invitation to contribute to the piece in another way. These range from the wacky to the surreal. This is a great way of breaking up the structure of the piece and ensuring that the performance never feels too much like an empty void which has to be filled with conversation. Towards the end Jonny encourages us to use alternative methods of communication – instead of speaking we use paper and pen to all contribute our ideas and answers. This provides the audience with some fascinating insights, from people’s first language (English, Welsh, Spanish, Dog) to where they consider home (the USA, Wales, New Zealand, Unsure) and many more. These serve as a reminder that while English may be our shared method of communication, we all arrive at it from different perspectives and angles.

Finally it hit me what the connection between the words was. They were all things associated with English/British identity. It is interesting that a production by NTW does not have more of a focus on Welsh heritage or identity, with Daffodil the only specifically Welsh centered word. Perhaps on another evening, with a different audience this may have come up in conversation. When the word ’empire’ flashed up, it is interesting that the conversation turned to the Aztec, Inca and Mongol Empires rather than the obvious choice of the British Empire. This only further highlighted the anglo-centric bias of most of the discussions of the evening.

The main difficulty in reviewing a show like English, is that while the structure and concept of the show will remain the same, the show that happens tonight or the next night will be radically different in content to the show the happened last night or the night before. So much of the show depends on the generosity and openness of your fellow audience members. This type of collaborative method for creating a show may not be to everyone’s tastes. However if you’re interested in seeing something a little different, in becoming part of a conversation about language and identity rather than just a passive audience member then English is a fascinating piece.

English

Live performance/performance art

Dance House, Wales Millennium Centre

20th June 2018

Performed by Jonny Cotsen

Directed by Richard Gregory

Part of the Festival of Voice – more info and tickets here

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sunglasses and indoor

Luke Seidel-Haas

 

 

Review: Passenger #FoV2018 at Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

REVIEW: Passenger 14 June 2018 Wales Millennium Centre

I’ve been a fan of Mike Rosenburg (Passenger) since 2012 and Let her go, plus having seen him perform at Cardiff Uni in 2014, was curious to see how he’d progressed. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve not really kept up with his music, but he’s got that kind of distinctive voice that you know for sure when he’s being played on the radio.
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Fast forward 2018 and the Festival of Voice at Wales Millennium Centre. A place I know so very well having seen many musical and theatre productions there in the past few years. It’s not really the kind of place I’ve seen live music at, albeit James and Only Men Aloud is the exception to this fact. A sold-out gig in one of the most incredible auditoriums I’ve bore witness to, could this be the most perfect night?

Well, let’s start with the support, Stu Larsen. Hailing from Australia, and with just his guitar to boot, the Donald Gordon Theatre was filled with an amazing sound of quiet, and music, with even the sound of a door in the upper circle closing, could be heard. It felt the right kind of support for Passenger, with the voice and storytelling within his music, you could see how good at his craft he was. You often wonder with support acts, are they going to be good – or are you going be heading back to the bar. Needless to say, I didn’t see anyone leaving during Stu’s 45 minutes, and quite right too.

Then onto the main event. The Festival of Voice 2018 was an international arts festival in Wales’ capital city that celebrated the voice in all its forms. It featured Gruff Rhys, Billy Bragg, Charlotte Church and Passenger. If you’ve not seen Passenger or heard his music, I think the only way to describe it would acoustic guitar driven folk story telling.

As I mentioned previous, the Donald Gordon Theatre is acoustically perfect, as was the audience. I’ve never been to a gig with such respect for the musician. Maybe that’s due to the location, or maybe due to the person. Whatever it was, the sound reverberated around the auditorium with little effort. With a setlist that featured acoustic tracks from Whispers, All the little lights, plus of course the better-known hits of Hearts of Fire (featuring Stu Larsen on harmonies), Holes and his number one single, Let her go.

Each song had a back story, and within each song then performed, you gained a better and proper understanding of it. From Riding to New York to David, I felt I left the gig with some food for thought. Anyone can write a hit record, but it takes a special kind of person to write a song that will make you think.

I just hope the next time I see Passenger, it’ll be a venue like the WMC (top 5 gigs he’s ever done apparently), and I’ll keep my musical education a little more in tune. In fact, I’ve had the last 3 albums on the iPod on repeat in my car since the gig. I just close my eyes, and I’m back there (obviously I’m not driving at the time).

In a few days, another guitar wielding male singer songwriter will be descending on Cardiff, now Passenger may not have the loop pedal, but for what he lacks in technology, he more than makes up for in heart.

Review by Patrick Downes

Review: Voices of Protest – Festival of Voice, Wales Millennium Centre by Luke Seidel-Haas

Image result for festival of voice cardiff

★★★★★

 

The Festival of Voice is a biennial international arts festival, described as an opportunity to “hear and be heard”. Featuring events scattered all over the capital city, the main hub of the festival takes place at the Wales Millennium Centre, featuring a hugely diverse program of events. These range from rock and pop music, to cabaret and musicals to live art. The aim, according to artistic director Greame Farrow, is for the “Festival to become internationally renowned and on a similar scale to Edinburgh. I would love to close the streets of Cardiff for the weekend and fill them with voices for free,”. It was with great pleasure that I was invited to attend the opening night of the festival which featured Billy Bragg and Nadine Shah in an event called Voices of Protest.

At this point I have a slight confession – I had never heard of Nadine Shah before this point, and was only vaguely familiar with Bragg’s work through his Left Field Stage at Glastonbury. That being said, I felt this was an excellent opportunity to go into an event with a completely open mind and no presuppositions. Between collecting my tickets from the box office and the main event, I had a chance to explore the rest of the Festival of Voice hub. The main foyer of the WMC has been given a bit of a makeover, with a live DJ playing, and interactive art works strewn around. Outside the building, sandwiched between the WMC and the Piermaster building was a collection of delicious looking street food stalls. These included a Wood Fired Pizza stall, Fresh Pasta, a coffee kiosk and a bar, as well as a pop up Kitchen ran by Oasis, the refugee and asylum seeker organisation. Eventually I settled on a Turkish inspired stall called Murray May’s Rolling Kitchen which was selling proper charcoal grilled kebabs served in pittas. This was absolutely delicious – if you get a chance to get down to the hub I can’t recommend their food enough.

Image result for festival of voice nadine shah

Enough about the food – on to the music. Settling down in the beautiful surroundings of the Donald Gordon Theatre, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Slightly later than billed (since when to musicians take to the stage on time anyway), Nadine and her band arrived and launched right into things. Brooding and dark, Shah’s voice is undeniably excellent. Rich and soulful, she has a unique tone which is likely in part to her strong North-Eastern accent which she doesn’t attempt to disguise or Americanize when singing. Featuring the traditional rock lineup of guitar, bass and drums, Shah’s band also included a keyboardist and saxophonist which contributed to the full tone of the outfit.

In an event called Voices of Protest, it is clear why Shah’s blend of music hits the mark – the content of her songs range tackling fascism and Islamophobia to refugee and immigrant rights. As a self confessed second generation immigrant (born in South Tyneside to a Pakistani Father and part Norwegian Mother), Shah stops her set at one point to remind the audience of the valuable contribution that immigrants can and have made to this country. And yet while the content of her songs is intelligent, powerful and provocative, Shah is clearly happier to let her songs do the talking – at one point she confesses that shes “rubbish at this talking stuff”, and will leave that to Bragg.

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After a brief interval in which sets are changed, Billy Bragg takes to the stage to rapturous applause. Aged 60, Bragg is clearly still full of energy and passion for politics. Despite claiming in his most famous song that “I don’t wanna change the world”, his songs have a clear message to people – get involved, educate yourselves and campaign for what you believe in. In comparison to Shah’s rich full sound, Bragg stands alone on an almost bare stage with just his guitar and the occasional backing by colleague CJ on electric or slide guitar. Yet Bragg’s enthusiasm and warmth manage to fill the auditorium, and as he discusses the meaning behind each song it is clear that the majority of the audience are becoming more and more alert to the messages behind what he’s saying. Highlights include Handyman Blues, an ode to men accepting that they don’t have to adhere to stereotypical notions of masculinity, a cover of Bob Dylans The Times They Are A Changin (Back) but with the words re-written after Trump’s inauguration, and of course his final encore song New England.

Despite his earnest and heart-felt political opinions, Bragg never comes across as preachy or condescending. At one point he stops the show to discuss an event that happened at his last gig in Cardiff at the Tramshed, where a heckler asked Bragg why he was drinking from a disposable plastic bottle. Bragg showed us (and indeed that very heckler, in attendance tonight) that he had learnt from this and now uses a Gig Swig reusable bottle while encouraging other musicians to do the same. It is this type of genuine activism and openness to being challenged that makes Bragg an excellent champion of left wing causes. While not the greatest singer or guitar player, Bragg’s strengths lie in his excellent song writing. Poignant lyrics, which open your eyes to the possibility of and need for change, are an excellent way of reminding people what can be done together. Bragg confesses in the gig that music cannot change the world – but what it can do is give you an outlet to inspire others to change things in other ways. The motto of the Bragg curated Left Field at Glastonbury is “recharge your activism”; after this evenings powerful opening to the Festival of Voice it would be difficult not to feel rejuvenated. Inspiring and thought provoking, Voices of Protest is an excellent evening’s entertainment featuring two different but equally galvanizing artists.

Voices of Protest

Live Music

Donald Gordon Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre

7th June 2018

Billy Bragg & Nadine Shah

Part of the Festival of Voice – more info and tickets here

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sunglasses and indoor

Luke Seidel-Haas

 

Review Piaf! The Show Festival of Voice WMC by James Briggs

 

(4 / 5)

 

Cardiff welcomed one of France’s most famous singers in the form of ‘Piaf! The Show’ as part of the Festival of Voice event in association with ‘Directo Productions’. ‘Piaf! The Show’ celebrates the centenary of Edith Piaf’s birth and is a wonderful production  that sees French singer Anne Carrere filling the impeccably large boots of Edith Piaf. Edith Piaf holds very special memories for me as my family and I would regularly go on holiday to Jersey. When I was four I asked the hotel pianist if she would play Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’. The pianist as well as my family were astounded at my request, but as we would return year after year to the same hotel every time I walked into the hotel the pianist would always play the song for me and even gave me some of my first ‘piano lessons’.

With a packed line up of almost thirty songs we are taken on a musical journey of Edith Piaf’s life starting firstly in Act 1 with the beginnings of Edith Piaf singing in café’s for customers and serenading people alongside the River Seine. However, Act 2 is totally different with the show changing into a concert style performance and Anne Carrere’s performance as Piaf is totally mesmerising. There were countless famous numbers included allowing the audience to sing along with the music. The settings used on the stage were minimal yet extremely effective some of which being a streetlamp in Montmartre,  seedy clubs of Pigalle and even the world famous Carnegie Hall in New York.

While performing on stage Anne Carrere was backed by a live band simply made up of a piano, doublebass, drums and the most amazing accordionist Guy Giuliano who was simply outstanding. The songs performed were a great mix from the well known such as Jezebel and Autumn Leaves and those not so well known to me such as ‘Bravo Pour Le Clown’, ‘Milord’ and ‘La Foule’.

The audience were left feeling as though we were watching the show in France as it was all in French. I really enjoyed the use of French as it brought more meaning to the music and made the portrayal of Edith Piaf by Anne Carrere even more special.

For those who have listened to Edith Piaf’s music you will know that she had a very specific sound to her voice and this is extremely difficult to impersonate, however, Anne Carrere manages to exemplify not only the spirit of the singer but also her unique sound. The legendary vibrato is captured with precision and even when dancing with men she had picked from the audience she stayed in character and didn’t let the accent go for one second.

The setting was also very effective in that during the singing a large projector at the back of the stage showed photographs of Edith Piaf through her many stages of life. Simple sets of a streetlamp alongside a park bench, bar and cafe tables provide the audience with a visual aid when listening to the music and following the story. This created the most fantastic atmosphere for the audience but the music with Anne Carrere alone is enough to entertain any audience and the enjoyment on stage was infectious.

For me this show was a dream come true and is the closest I will ever get to watching Edith Piaf singing her music live. It was therefore a terrible shame that the audience was so small in number as the performance deserved a packed audience. However, this did not deter the audience giving Anne Carrere and her band a standing ovation which was very well deserved.

I would recommend this show to everyone whether you are a fan of Edith Piaf or not as it is simply a wonderful celebration of all things French and the fabulous Anne Carrere is outstanding and I am sure when she performs at Carnegie Hall in New York I am sure she will be loved there also. If you ever get the chance do not think twice about buying a ticket as it is a must see show and your guaranteed a wonderful night out. Merci Anne Carrere vous étiez un artiste incroyable et vraiment fait Edith Piaf fier!

Merci d’avoir lu mon commentaire sur le fantastique Piaf ! Le spectacle.

Review La Voix Humaine by Helen Joy

La-Voix-Humaine-main

voix

(4 / 5)

 

Location: Her apartment, in Penarth

The party, the At Home invitation, the Do I know You routine

The glass of fizz, the canapé

The uncomfortable seating of the unknown faces

The nervous conversations, the couples chatting together apart

The admiring of the view from the windows

Lovely Weather. Yes.

Are we participants? Voyeurs? Witnesses to a woman collapsing in front of us.

Seeing her destroy herself. Hearing her pain.

Afterwards, What friends were we? We let her do it. We watched.

The clinical beauty of a voice heartbroken had sung out of the windows and over the water.

We left

Event:             La Voix Humane

At:                   A flat in Penarth

Production:         Wales Millennium Centre and Welsh National Opera for Festival of the Voice

Director:               David Pountney

Voix:                        Claire Booth

Music:                     Ricordi

Translation:        Richard Stokes

Seen:              7.45pm, 3rd June, 2016

Reviewer:      Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:        03 Jun – 11 Jun 2016

Links:               https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/Other/LaVoixHumaine5/