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Avenue Q, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

The multi-award-winning mature muppet musical makes a glorious return to the New Theatre after their much-lauded 2012 and 2016 runs, not to mention their monumental success across the pond. The premise: in a world populated by humans and puppets, the musical follows the ragtag residents of the eponymous street in New York City, an area so decrepit that the locals view Hell’s Kitchen as a step-up. Directed and choreographed by Cressida Carré, its an entertaining blend of the nostalgic and the now, with the melodies recalling those iconic Muppet Show tunes while the lyrics bemoan the ‘warts and all’ anxieties of modern existence.

Avenue Q’s colourfully crass approach to social commentary via meta musical parody pitches it somewhere between Sesame Street and South Park, with its closest contemporary being the tunefully tragicomic Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Thematically, the show is emotionally ambitious and surprisingly nuanced in its portrait of modern life, demonstrated by the depressingly relatable What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?/ It Sucks to Be Me, the hilariously realised The More You Love Someone (The More You Want to Kill Them) and utterly hysterical highlight The Internet is for Porn.

Even though its references are rather dated (it did premiere in 2003, after all), the show’s tales of millennial angst are still relevant sixteen years later, with characters unsuccessfully searching for direction in life (Purpose) or lamenting the endless cycle of love gone wrong (It’s a Fine, Fine Line). These fantastic numbers hit home in unexpected ways, and pepper in moments of poignancy amid the calamitous crudity on display most of the time – case in point, an extended instance of puppet-related rumpy-pumpy that evokes the infamous scene from Team America: World Police, only turned up to eleven.

The production’s raucous energy is thanks largely to its superb cast, with standout performances by Lawrence Smith (Princeton/Rod), Cecily Redman (Kate/Lucy) and especially Tom Steedon (Trekkie Monster/Nicky/Bad Idea Bear). (The Bad Ideas Bears, played by Steedon and Megan Armstrong, are particularly entertaining – manifestations of the worst impulses that goad you to misbehave with the power of their Care Bear-like innocence). Everyone in the ensemble emotes wonderfully through their puppet alter egos (which I imagine was no mean feat, especially as they play multiple distinct roles with ease), and their Herculean efforts mean that the puppet characters feel just as real and complex as the human characters (often moreso). The gorgeously ramshackle set, designed by Richard Evans, grounds the action in a truly transportive way, and the live orchestra is sensational.

However, there are a few potholes dotted about Avenue Q’s sidewalk: much as it wants to skewer stereotypes, it often ends up indulging them: the brilliant Saori Oda is a dazzling stage presence but her character (Christmas Eve) is uncomfortably caricatured; and Rod’s coming out story is mired in stereotypes which plays his sexuality for laughs. Even though the show is commendably unafraid of engaging directly with more weighty themes, its handling of them comes off a little clumsy in If You Were Gay and Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist. Some characters simply do not work (Gary Coleman, Brian), some numbers fall flat (Schadenfreude, I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today), and some of the humour feels more mean-spirited than cheekily self-aware.

Avenue Q is a hugely entertaining musical that feels slightly out of date in some elements and viscerally prescient in others. Amidst the raunchiness and rowdiness there’s a real beating heart at the centre of the story that no amount of flippancy can hide. However, other than a brief mention of Brexit and Theresa May in the last number, it stubbornly plants itself in the pre-social media age of 2003 and refuses to move with the times. With a little updating, its already-relatable themes could be refreshed and renewed by acknowledging how the internet has become even more ingrained in our personal lives, especially the way in which it has effectively become the de facto matchmaker of our times. That potential to both enhance and complicate our already-fraught lives and relationships seems like the natural progression for such a savvy show – but as it stands, it’s an excellent, irreverent, exercise in accepting (as its beautiful final song attests) that ‘everything in life is only for now’. For now at least, that’s enough.

Review Woke, Apphia Campbell by Tanica Psalmist

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

A truly deep and enlightening one women show; performed and written by Apphia Campbell. Apphia Campbell sets her stories against a powerful soundtrack of original music, traditional gospel and blues. Strongly showcasing the reciprocating effects and struggle the black community embodied in the name of civil rights. During this show the audience were continuously taken through a series of events, time travelling to the period of 1970s witnessing traumatic experiences from the Black Panther Assata Shakur.

Fast forwarding to the 20th century, a time fused with the Ferguson riots, chaos and injustice that had taken place during the midsts of a college enrolment. 


This show expressively role-plays the corruption of America’s injustice system; focusing on the irrational criminalised infrastructure through political activism; whilst focusing on the parameters of acknowledging the power her skin beholds to now become her voice. To balance out this play Apphia’s passionate singing, humour and characterisation techniques as well as her usE of the entire stage was thoroughly enjoyable.

This captivating play brought a fusion of vitality to display. The more you watched her, storytelling the sequence of what black empowerment meant to her, the more you  got a sense of black history and how much more there is cover in its entirety.  

Stones in His Pockets: UK Tour New Theatre Cardiff

Reviewed by Barbara Hughes-Moore

The latest UK tour of this critically-acclaimed tragicomic two-hander is written by Marie Jones and directed by Lindsay Posner, and centres on the culture clash between the locals of a small Irish village and a snooty Hollywood studio during the making of a blockbuster period piece. Kevin Trainor and Owen Sharpe star as Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn respectively, employed as extras in the film, as well as a host of other characters, who grow to question their romanticised notions of Hollywood when a tragedy hits too close to home.

In making ‘the stars the extras, and the extras the stars’, Stones in His Pockets feels like a mixture of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Bowfinger by way of Ballykissangel. The Hollywood studio in Stones in His Pockets is making a film just as (in)sensitive to (and stereotypical of) Irish culture as Leap Year or Darby O’Gill and the Little People – or, indeed, the infamously-accented Cruise/Kidman vehicle Far and Away, which seems to be the thinly-veiled target of this play’s scorn. The play thus dispels notions of a ‘Romanticised Ireland’ as neatly as it displays Hollywood’s cynical penchant for appropriating cultures for profit.

Two-handers live and die on the strength of their actors, and Sharpe and Trainor prove to be an excellent comedic pair indeed – the scenes of their slightly hapless extras attempting to emote, and even dance, are standout moments; I only wish there were more of them. Sharpe copes well with a multitude of accents and characters (including a lively old timer whose sole claim to fame is being the last surviving extra from The Quiet Man), but it’s Trainor who steals every scene he’s in (which is all of them).

He’s been a favourite of mine since he played a young version of John Hurt in Hellboy (2004), but this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him on the stage. Trainor elegantly transitions between the myriad characters he inhabits, making each one distinct and memorable – including Hollywood ingénue Caroline Giovanni, posh toff producer Simon and Southern Gentleman Nick (the gregariously calculating director of the movie). He masterly evokes his talented predecessor (Game of Thrones’ Conleth Hill) in mannerisms and intonation whilst also making the role his own. It’s perhaps the most captivating stage performance I’ve seen since Rory Kinnear in National Theatre’s Hamlet – I can give no higher praise.

As for the play itself, it’s often funny, occasionally thoughtful, but rarely as poignant as its title might imply. The title itself refers to the tragic element within the play’s otherwise mostly comedic shenanigans: shunned by the stars and callously rejected by the producers, local teen Sean Harkin drowns himself by wading into the river with the eponymous stones in his pockets. His suicide casts a pall on the proceedings and seems to set up a clash not only of cultures but of values – and yet the tragedy of this traumatic event sits awkwardly alongside the quickfire comedy of its first act, largely because it is never given any kind of dramatic or meaningful weight. We never get to know Sean, either first hand or through the other characters, and even though news of his death is what closes act one and what should have driven the momentum in act two, when the curtain rises again the play seems more directionless than ever. We are never given the chance to mourn him, rendering his death a footnote when it should have been the focus.

A funny, endearing, if rather weightless story, Stones in His Pockets amusingly skewers Hollywood culture whilst gleefully revelling in its theatrical authenticity. Although it never lives up to the poignant promise of its striking title, it provides a wonderfully entertaining night out thanks to a manic sense of fun and a spectacular five-star turn by Kevin Trainor that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Produced by Rose Theatre Productions and Theatre Royal Bath Productions, Stones in His Pockets is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff through Saturday 15th June.

Top Tunes with Patrick Jones

Image credit Lucy Purrington

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

Hello I am a  writer living in South Wales. I write plays poetry and film scripts. I have hadd and left or lost 20 jobs before finally going full time writing in 1998. I have three beautiful sons Ethan, Evan and Elian who are my guiding lights. My work includes the plays Everything Must Go, Unprotected Sex and Before I Leave which I am currently adapting into a feature film. 

The cast of Before I Leave, NTW
Image Credit Farrows Creative

My books include Fuse, Darkness is Where The Stars Are and  just published by Rough Trade Books My Bright Shadow and spoken word albums Tongues for A Stammering Time, Commemoration, Amnesia and new work Renegade Psalms in collaboration with John Robb released in September on Louder Than War Records. 

I am currently writer in residence with The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales and take words to neglected sections of the community. I live small. I think skies.

Image credit Lucy Purrington

Music has always played an important part in my life and writing. I obsessively collect albums, still listen to my vinyl collection and create a playlist for every play I create. Music was always playing in our house as kids from Abba to Demis Rossous to Neil Diamond. It gives me happy thoughts to think of those summer evenings with Sweet Caroline blasting through the 6 ft long grampophone player in our living room! I play guitar badly but throw in a fuzz box and a flange pedal and no one knows the difference.

Image credit Lucy Purrington

My favourite lyrics would be ;

All that rugby puts hairs on your chest. What chance have you got against a tie and a crest.’

Eton Rifles  The Jam

and

One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity,…”

The Spirit of Radio   Rush

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? 

The Membranes ‘What Nature Gives Nature Takes Away”

Godspeed you Black Emperor  “ Luciferian Towers”

Hole ‘ Live Through This’

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? 

1 A Farewell To Kings  by Rush – bought  from a friend in school when I was 15,  as needed to find my band and wanted to fit in! It was £2.50 which was a lot then. Started my journey into heavier music and to follow the band themselves. Opening track A Farewell to Kings just burst through my speakers and I was lost and found.  When I saw it was recorded in Rockfield in Wales I talked my Dad into driving out there to see if we could find the studio. We  didn’t! I just wanted to be Alex Lifeson! The guitar sound, lyrics to Closer to The Heart, the epicness of Xanadu and the gatefold photo just connected with me somehow. I still listen to it now.

2 The Indigo Girls  The Indigo Girls Certain albums have a strange quality that makes them timeless yet acutely of the moment. I first heard this when I lived in Chicago in 1989. I had left Wales to write the great American novel, was  madly in love and spent days wandering the Windy City streets in search of Kerouacian inspiration. Didn’t last forever as such wonder never can but it was a beautifully exciting visceral time. My American wife (though no one knew we were married as we had tied the knot in secret so I could stay in the country ( sorry U.S Immigration)  and we carve a life together) liked the Indigo Girls and this had just come out. So it reminds me of another life another place- happy in my neon  loneliness, my little apartment by the train tracks, coffee shops, cats, minus 20 Winters,  huge pizzas and slam poetry nights in downtown Chicago. I loved their acoustic sound and the lyrics were so personal and human.

Then,  fast forward to 2017 and a  complicated love affair which was destined to fail and  I turned to these songs to give me hope and to help to salve the sadness. Driving along the M4 listening to Blood and Fire which seemed to be written for the situation –

 “I am looking for someone, who can take as much as I give,
Give back as much as I need,
And still have the will to live.
I am intense, I am in need,
I am in pain, I am in love.
I feel forsaken, like to things I gave away.”

I get shivers just thinking about that song. So, 32 years apart but those songs timeless yet indelibly etched upon my mind.

3   U2  ‘War’ Special on many levels. 1983. I was 18 just finished my A Levels and had surprisingly passed with 3 ‘B’s”  and about to go to Swansea University. My Mother and Father had promised to buy me a guitar if I passed so me and my Dad drove to Cardiff ( quite a rare thing in those days – big shopping trip and my Dad never liked shops!) I will always  remember it was a cloudy overcast Summer day. The Fender acoustic was £75 ( bloody fortune when I think of it now) and my parents had saved £80 so there was a  fiver left over and my Dad said if I wanted  anything for University. I had been taping songs from the radio off the album so got the real thing. Oh that stark black white and red cover. The lyrics inside. Gatefold sleeve. A work of art in itself. Before memes, hashtags, likes and trolls just four people in a room making music.

New Year’s Day. Sunday Bloody Sunday. Drowning Man.

It got me thinking about politics, about loss, about how we treat each other and  about how can I get my hair cut like Bono! And of course The Edge’s shimmering guitar sound.

Still have it and still listen to the full album no skipping on CD. ‘A world in white gets underway”,

An album that resonates on the personal level as it reminds me of parental love and struggle and on a more political societal level it awoke my interest in writing about how the world works and fails.

4 Setting Sons The Jam Had always  loved The Jam. Always remember Going Underground  straight into at number 1 double A side in 1979 as I was in hospital with a shattered elbow feeling low and that song lifted me.

The cover, again pulled me in. It looked epic. Sad but strong. Those faces. There was a little record shop in Blackwood,  Martin Luther’s- it was where the cool people would hang out on a Saturday, flipping through the racks and then walking down the high street with the plastic bag that signified you had been there AND bought something! Then talk about it in school on Monday. This album reminds me of those days. Saving up for weeks to buy an album after taping the single from the Charts on Sunday. School discos on a Saturday night that would invariably end up with the hard kids  who didn’t go to the school but would find a way in and cause a massive fight and the night would finish early because of blood and smashed glass. So Eton Rifles reminds of not so much class war but tribal gangs rucking against each other on a Saturday night when alI I wanted  was to slow dance with a girl I had been fancying but too scared to ask out, for 3 months!  Little Boy Soldiers, Burning Sky  and of course Eton Rifles painted this battered landscape of late 70’s Britain. Wasteland and Saturday’s Kids connected to my own working class childhood. 10 songs that educated and entertained me for many a lonely rainy night in Blackwood. I recently bought the deluxe edition which has Going Underground on it. The missing piece finding its home on one of the most perfect albums ever made.

5 Lou Reed ‘Magic and Loss’ I came to Lou Reed late in life. So this 1992 offering didn’t reach me till a few years ago. Again something about the cover spoke to me. It features the musician dressed in black  upon what could be a road or a coffin with the text in Red. Looks like Winter. With a stripped back sound and many lyrics spoken it is a monument to two of Reed’s friends who had recently died. Personal yet easily accessible and universal in tone the 14 tracks act as a sort of concept album- linked by the magic and the loss. I would just put it on and drive the A470  that links North and South Wales during a period of my life where I was confused, angry and experiencing my own searching for magic in losing. His voice reaches in and pulls out your stomach. No hit singles on there just brutal  truth.  ‘Sword of Damocles’  which opens with spine tingling cello, tells of cancer treatment- 

‘to cure you they must kill you’

and  ‘Cremation’, one of the most beautiful tracks, tells of  the sea as keeper of souls

Well the coal black sea waits for me me me

 The coal black sea waits forever

 The waves hit the shore

Crying more more more

A bleak yet beautiful work of sonic art. It helped me feel unalone at a very difficult time and gave me strength to carry on and look to the future out of the detritus of the present.

As Shelley said ;

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.” 

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 think it would be ‘Eton Rifles’ by The Jam. Still so relevant now. A perfect fusion of melody anger and hope.

Plus I can play it on guitar!

Review, Cabaret Pontio with Gareth Bonello, Georgia Ruth & Toby Hay, Pontio Arts Centre by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Considering they had never played together before, Gareth Bonello, Georgia Ruth and Toby Hay seemed like a long-established trio. Their first gig as a three-piece was certainly an enjoyable one. Coming together from Cardiff, Ceredigion, and Rhayader respectively, these three folk musicians brought real warmth to what was a pretty wet night in Bangor. With songs inspired by land, place and people, this concert, as part of Pontio’s Cabaret series, was a gently inspiring, fairly lucid affair. Transforming Theatr Bryn Terfel into a downtown night club, the ambient lighting and tight staging made this a really intimate experience. It felt refreshing, relaxed, and played well to a hushed and attentive audience.

Taking the form of a songwriters round, the evening began with Bonello, who performed a straight-up folk number before handing over to Hay. The highly-accomplished guitarist began with a short piece, inspired by home, before providing us with a wonderfully atmospheric version of his song ‘Starlings’. Hitting such high, soft and delicate notes on the guitar, the addition of Ruth’s harp and Bonello on the harmonium created an incredibly visual sound that hung in the air long after the last note was played. It was then over to Ruth for a performance of her song ‘Terracotta’. Its hauntingly beautiful tones struck me as being very reminiscent of 9Bach’s ‘Anian’, and was just as good. It was then the turn of Bonello again for a performance of his song ‘Pen Draw’r Byd’ before we returned to Ruth for what was, for me, one of the highlights of the night. Watching Ruth’s fingers gliding gracefully across the strings of the harp during ‘Clychai Aberdyfi’ was mesmerising. And with Bonello keeping a steady beat on duitara and then double bass respectively, and Hay strumming gently on the guitar, it made this a song to savour, both visually and aurally. To finish the first half, Bonello played a song written as a tribute to his grandmother, who used to pick cockles down by the local river. The low notes of the double bass and deep echo of the electric guitar, along with the yellow lighting, created a truly evocative scene of a river at sunset. It made ‘Merch y Morfa’ a beautiful tune with which to close before the break.

The second half opened up with Bonello performing ‘Y Deryn Pûr’ before handing over to Hay for another double header. Asked by his fellow singers to choose a traditional folk song from his home county to perform, a lack of forthcoming material meant that we were treated to two originals by Hay himself instead, both inspired by his local landscape. The first, ‘Radner Lily’, was gorgeously performed under glowing lightbulbs hung from the ceiling. The gentle grace of the electric guitar and accompanying harp led to a delightful skip into the second song, ‘Water Breaks Its Neck’, from Hay’s forthcoming album. Ruth then performed ‘Week of Pines’ from her latest album to rapturous applause and cheering from the audience – a clear fan favourite. Bonello then treated us to two tunes written specially as part of his PhD on the duitara. This Indian folk instrument proved a fascinating listen on both ‘Maid Marian’ and ‘Diamonds’, the former’s medieval associations really evoked by the sound of this four-stringed cousin of the guitar. It was then back to Hay for a performance of an as-yet-untitled song that I recognised from his recent gig at Focus Wales. It was excellent then, and with the addition of the double bass here, it was by far another standout moment of the night.

To finish, Bonello, Ruth and Hay took to the forefront of the stage to perform off mic. With only the harmonium for company, once Bonello had found the right vocal range, the three performed a gorgeous final number that was received extremely well by the audience. It rounded off an impressive night. They left the audience wanting more. Any nerves they may have been feeling did not show. There was no sense of awkwardness or any hint that this was their first time performing together. And after such a positive reaction, my guess is that it won’t be the last. Keep your eye out for future dates. I’d be surprised if there isn’t more to come.

gareth

Review Rocket Man by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Rocketman is a drama/biography about the life of Elton John and his rapid rise to mainstream fame. The director of this film Dexter Fletcher, managed to perfectly blend the flamboyant , over-the-top campiness of Elton’s life with the seriousness of his battle with mental health and addiction which I imagine took a while to plan and execute appropriately. It was fun-filled and joyous but also emotional with serious message to all the viewers watching.

Elton John was played by Taron Egerton who performed an excellent and tasteful tribute to the icon and I was pleasant surprise by the performance skills that Taron possessed. Having known Egerton from Kinsmen where he played a ruffian who becomes part of a secret resistance force, known as the kinsmen, but his role in this was the almost complete polar opposite. If I was Taron , I would have been very afraid when given this role as it deals with real-life , close to the bone issues such as addition and mental health issues and being able to do these scenes and making them as realistic as possible would have been very daunting. Also being a straight man and having to act as the wonderfully camp homosexual Elton must have been difficult. I feel as if when doing an impression of someone you have to be very careful to not make it an over the top caricature but at the same time it needs to contain as many as the mannerisms and characteristics of the person you are imitating which I personally would not be able to do. Taron did a spot on tribute of Elton which was incredible to watch and he deserves mountains of praise for doing it so well. He was able to perform the showman Elton as well as the often hidden dark side of Elton excellently.

The costumes in this film were incredible. The designer must have spent hours and hours trying to recreate some of Elton most iconic looks while also making them as modern as possible. One of my personal favorites is the sequined baseball outfit that look flawless and looked as if it took hours to make. Another one of my favorites was the opening and closing outfit of the big red costume. This outfit , I believe was meant to point to deeper aspects of Elton’s character. When he wears it in the beginning , he talks about his drug addiction , mental health issues, sex addiction and his anger management problems and at this point the costume is meant to signify him as an almost evil character who is in a really dark place. I think it suppose to resemble the devil which allusion to him living it what he would describe as his own personal hell. Towards the end of the film the same costume is used but the is an exaggeration of the use of feather is the outfit. On top of this the song, “I’m still standing is playing’ which is an up beat song about getting through dark times, I think this costume was supposed to signify an Phoneix who famously raise from he ashes and in many stories bring new life. This was the show the audience that since then Elton has been sober and turned his life around and so the use of the mythical creature is apt.

Despite this film being about Elton John’s life it deals with issues that affect everyone at one time or another. One of the main messages of the entire story is accepting yourself and who you are. Elton through his life dealt with many people who wanted to change him or wanted him to suppress who he really was (including himself) and he eventually become the Elton we all know and love today but ignoring all these negative comments. One of the most iconic lines in the whole film is “why should other people care about you when you don’t even care about yourself?” which is obviously a way to remind people that they need to love themselves before other people can love them which is incredibly empowering and is obviously a concept that Elton himself felt strong about.

In general , this film was phenomenal. It blended fun musical numbers with serious real life issue effortlessly as well as educating viewers of the issues and struggles Elton dealt with behind the curtain. It is a fascinating watch with incredible costumes, a talented cast and superb acting. I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars. This is a film that you have to watch especially if you ever heard any of Elton John’s songs (and that’s most people) so don’t miss out because you’ll regret it!

Review Pokemon: detective pikachu By Jonathan Evans

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Pokemon is a phenomenon. I am old enough to have been there and remember the beginning of the whole thing, originally starting at a count of one-hundred and fifty Pokemon and the show and video games continuing so they cooked up more Pokemon to interact with and sell the toys. Though I have to admit that I’ve grown out of it many people (a lot of my friends included) never did and is still a tenacious hobby. It’s a solid formula for a long-lasting franchise, a world that is inhabited by unique creatures that have also become the world’s obsession, they are used to perform battles that gain the trainer a reputation. It keeps them moving by going to different locations, has a clear goal, a target to focus and work towards and has the collectible angle with all those Pokemon.

But for a simple, done-in-one narrative, is a little difficult, because this franchise doesn’t lend itself to that form of storytelling very well. Oh, there have been movies, I saw the first one in cinemas too. They just aren’t what you would call complete or even focused narratives. You MUST be a fan to watch and enjoy them because they give you no exposition.

Fun Fact: Pokemon translates to “Pocket Monster.”

Well, now we have this movie. An original English speaking version of the franchise. This has a bit of a challenge because it drops us into a world where the Pokemon are well-established part of the world. When you have a character and introduce them to a strange world you can have helpful exposition that explains to the character and us the audience what everything is and how it works, it is a much greater challenge to convey the way the world works through the character going about their lives (for examples of this see Blade Runner and Mad Mad: Fury Road). But anyway Pokemon exist in this world and have for a long time, one young man named Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) who is actually rather uninterested in Pokemon and wants to focus on his future career as an insurance salesman, he and his father Harry are estranged but one day he gets a message that Harry is dead and must come to Rhyme City and sort out his affairs.

When he gets there we are treated to a vibrant movie location. One like Blade Runner, or Rintaros Metropolis or Zootropolis. Of high building, bright colorful advertisements and of course the Pokemon that makeup just as much of the population as the humans. They walk around with them and even play parts for its function. Like some that must direct traffic and others are chefs. At night it becomes a place of deep blacks, smoke where the streets and room are lit by colorful neon lights. This did not need to be this good looking, but it is!

Tim goes to his dad’s precinct and sees his dad’s old partner and then goes to his dad’s apartment. There he looks over the rooms and the bed he made for Tim for when he’d visit but never did when he hears movement in the other room. In there he finds a Pikachu, the most iconic and recognizable of all Pokemon but not only this, he can understand the Pokemon and vice-versa. All other Pokemon usually can only say one word, whatever species (or is it breed?) they are, that’s important to know if you didn’t already.

The most grating part of the movie is Pikachu and all the lines he has. Ryan Renolds and his success clearly gave him carte blanche to say all the lines he could think of behind the microphone and the filmmakers put as many of them in as they could in the hopes the audience would eat ’em up. To be fair some are funny, but many of them aren’t and are just him throwing whatever improvised lines he came up with on the day of recording, in one scene when they enter a character’s room and they start speaking to them Pikachu literally says the basics of what the character is speaking. This doesn’t need to be here, but it is and most of the lines are a drag in the narrative.

This is a live action movie and so the Pokemon are inserted through C.G.I. Because of this, they need to be more realistically rendered. This is the right decision but also a challenge. The Pokemon have a wide range of designs but they have never overelaborated on them, they can easily be identified by their silohette and color combination. So from a design perspective they are solid but in bringing them into the real world more that poses a challenge. Luckily they abide by the mentality of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” they take the original character designs and stay true to them and just give them added textures like fur and skin so you buy them in the real sets they have.

Back to it. Tim and Pikachu are both very surprised that they can understand each other but after the initial shock wears off we learn that Pikachu has lost his memories and believes that Tim’s father’s death was no accident. So we have a mystery, a location and an odd-couple duo of boy and Pokemon to lead us through many different avenues of this city where one clue leads them to another location and suspect which takes them to another clue and so on and so on. As a mystery movie, this is a rather solid script, most things play a function and nothing is cheaply thrown in, but well established beforehand.

However when the movie was all done with and even while it was playing out it never really elevated with me. It was just another Noir mystery movie that looked good and was populated with Pokemon. It isn’t particularly mean spirited or shallow but it basically says that you should be a part of this hobby because if you’re not then you are unfulfilled. Which I suppose was, of course, it’s the main goal, this movie wasn’t made to get people to stop playing Pokemon. But it is, from its visuals, to script a solid movie.

University of South Wales, BA (Hons) Dance students review Awakening by National Dance Company Wales

Courtney Sellick

Awakening is a mixed bill reflecting on National Dance Company of Wales founding’s of different international choreographers. The showcase involved three works: ‘Tundra’ by Spanish choreographer Marcos Morau; ‘Afterimage’ by Brazilian choreographer Fernando Melo; and ‘Reveller’s Mass’ by Caroline Finn the Artistic Director and now Resident Choreographer of National Dance Company.

‘Tundra’ is a partnered piece that involves the dancers being in sync throughout the whole piece. It has a history of Russian folk dance, mass parades and revolution which is why the dancers stay connected. The costumes were also inspired by Russian folk dance for example the skirts at the beginning gives a mesmerising image of them floating across the stage.

In the piece ‘Afterimage’ the dancers sit at a small table using other dancers behind a mirror interrupting each other’s reflections whilst moving, like showing two types of reality all in one. Although this is the shortest piece, it gives out so much emotion. Using an illusion technique called ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ shows exactly what it states…the dancers looking like sprits coming in and out of other bodies on stage which was very bewildering but breath-taking to watch.

‘Reveller’s Mass’ is a religious fervour with explorations of communion and ceremony involving a long water bath with candles in the middle which explains Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ mentioned in the programme. Ed Myhill gave a terrific performance as the cult leader and actually ended up being quite funny at the end of the work. Each dancer has a curious character in which they all come together using charismatic and compelling choreography.

Kristiina Kalinina

It was an absolute pleasure to see “Awakening” at Sherman Theatre Cardiff by National Dance Company Wales. The audience enjoyed 3 works (“Tundra”, “Afterimage” and “Revellers’ Mass”).

As a partly Russian person, I was impressed with “Tundra”. The choreographer perfectly modifies some classical Russian Folk Dance movements and fits them into the work. The idea of staying connected was probably taken from Folk Dances as well, but dancers were using their whole bodies to stay connected, not only arms, which I find really interesting and  impressive.Not only movements were inspired by/ taken from Russian culture, but also costumes were created using some traditional Russian patterns. I am not sure if the music was Russian, but definitely had a Slavic motif. Apart from the connection with the Russian culture, I was in love with the lightning, a huge rectangle light and this play with the shadows gave me an unforgettable experience. I would recommend to anyone who is interested in bringing different cultures to contemporary dancing.

Danni Gordon

Tundra is a contemporary dance work that uses elements of Russian folk dance alongside an urban vocabulary. Marcos Morau’s bold style is robotically precise, trying to create something more human in that we used to work together, in terms of connections and community. These days we are all so disconnected. 

This was the first time I had seen Tundra being performed live within the show Awakening, with no background information on it before watching the performance I was extremely mesmerised at the way it was both executed and how the design went so well alongside it. Being in first year on the dance course at USW I’m just starting to watch more varied dance performances and realise how much diversity there is within the dance sector, Tundra giving me an excellent insight into new ideas and concepts. Tundra was a delight to watch and really shows the connection and trust the dancers have between one another, allowing the audience to really relate to both the beautiful costumes that relate so well to the Russian Folk dance and harmonised precise movements.  

I am glad I didn’t look at the background of Tundra before the showing of it as I feel it allowed me to have my own thoughts about the piece, before knowing the reasoning behind it. Having then looked at the programme notes it is clear what Marcos Morau wanted to explore and portray within Tundra. I think it is an extraordinary work that I would give a 5 star rating. 

Don’t miss this incredible work Tundra choreographed by Marcos Morau, it’s a must see.

Becky Johnson

The evening began with Tundra, a nod to Russian tradition with a whirlwind of optical illusions. This is the third cast I have now seen perform the piece and each have brought their own dynamic to it. This time it wasn’t the swift canons nor the captivating opening sequence that brought my intention. Rather it was, the unified presence of the performers on stage. They didn’t seem like one entwining body which other casts had achieved but instead as individuals stood at a united front. Each with their own way of moving but held together by their defiant gaze and unified approach. This seemed more reflective of the Russian Revolution in which the piece was created in memory of. However, I must admit part of me longed to be dumbfounded at the pure skill in which the choreography provides. But upon reflection, I must acknowledge how a piece adapts with age and more so when you know a magicians tricks it’s a lot harder for something to seem magical.

Despite that, Afterimage was a piece that really resonated with me. I had been to see the open rehearsals last summer so was aware of how the trick of Peppers Ghost worked. However, this wasn’t a necessary surprise needed to be impacted by the simplistic beauty of the movements and the story within the piece. The powerful relationships between the performers left you delving for more clues and causing each audience member to create their own story as to why. When in fact, there could be endless possibilities.  Something possibly more beautiful than what was happening on stage, was the pure amazement of the children sat behind me. Their squeals and gasps as different characters emerged and disappeared from the set. As well as their insistent debate of how the Company managed to achieve the magic that was occurring on stage.

The final piece was that of Revellers Mass, a farewell from Caroline Finn as Artistic Director of the company. The stage was filled with a community of characters each with their own story to tell. Once again Ed Myhill played the roll of the mastermind, a role he plays extremely well, and seemed the master puppeteer for the rest of the cast. The piece was one of those that you could watch multiple times and depending on your seat within the theatre your eyes would be drawn to different narratives throughout. Although I struggled to find sense of the ending, it provided a light hearted finish to what was a brilliant evening showcasing the skills and character of the new cast. I can’t wait to see them all grow as a company and to see what else that have in store for us.

Lizzie Chatfield

Bethany Lydon

As someone with a Roman Catholic upbringing watching Revellers Mass by Caroline Finn as part of NDCWales’ Awakening 2019, I could clearly recognise moments relating to the Christian Faith and I felt I was able to make so many connections with that performance! It was enjoyable and clever to have comedic moments where the audience actually laughed out loud! It’s not always you can watch a dance piece focusing around religion and laugh!! Would love to see this again.

Lucie Ainsworth

On Wednesday 1st May 2019 I got the pleasure of watching National Dance Company Wales at the Sherman Theatre in the spring tour of Awakening. The evening consisted of three captivating pieces, opening with Tundra choreographed by Marcos Morau, Afterimage by Fernando Melo and Revellers’ Mass by Caroline Finn.

When I originally watched Tundra for the first time I was already intrigued first of all by the opening section where the floor length skirts gave the illusion of hovering across the stage with ease, and then the simplistic movements, but performed within half counts of each other to look as if moving across the stage as one being. However seeing this performance for the second time for myself made it even more interesting to watch. Having learnt sections of the repertoire from two of the company members earlier on in the year was what made it even more engaging to watch. About to enter the professional industry means that when you watch this work and have had the chance to learn it, makes it feel more accessible and less daunting to think about graduating.

Afterimage was an interesting watch with its visual effects happening live on stage making it seem like there are two dancers dancing in each others space. I do think for this piece it would vary what your reaction may be depending on where you sit. I would be keen to see it again from a different angle to experience what I may notice next time.

Revellers’ Mass felt far more familiar to me as a piece based on what I have seen the company do so far. Similar to Finn’s other works in my opinion like Green House and Folk. The piece was lively and energetic and reminded me of when I saw then company for the first time back in September 2016. Although the company members have shifted and changed since i’ve been in Cardiff, it’s been lovely to see how each new member added in to the company brings something new to the dynamic of the works.

Rhiannon Stalley

National Dance Company Wales are a company that I really enjoy to watch in performance, as they always seem to exceed my expectations, and pull off everything I believe that they set out to do.

Awakening was made up of three works, Tundra by Marcus Morau, Afterimage by Fernando Melo, and Revellers’ Mass by Caroline Finn. Tundra is a piece that I have now seen twice, and is one of my favourite works from the company. The way the dancers come together to create such an incredible image has me captivated, and really takes me on the journey with them. Tundra is said to be “as mesmerisingly beautiful, as it is robotically precise.” For me I believe this is exactly how the piece portrays itself. Every time I have seen the work I have been put into a complete state of euphoria.

I really recommend watching all of the works performed in awakening, especially Tundra.

Zoe Mutter

I am currently a student at the University of South wales studying dance, I thoroughly enjoy watching National Dance Company Wales works at any showing or sharing they offer. On the 1st of May we went to The Sherman Theatre to watch Awakening. This showing included three amazing works created by Marcos Morau, Fernando Melo and Caroline Finn. Each work was completely different yet still flowed next to each other in the show.

The first work to been shown was Tundra, now this is the third time I have watched Tundra and it still gives me chills to this day. Watching the precision of 8 dancers moving in sync with each other on a bare stage is a remarkable thing, it’s something so aesthetically pleasing that I find myself being mesmerised. Watching Tundra as an open rehearsal to being performed and toured feels like I have seen it grow into bigger and better things performance by performance.

The second work to be performed was Afterimage. This piece completely captivated me in seconds. Going in fully blind to this piece I had no pre assumption or wants. It was 20 minutes of pure amazement, the use of an old “trick” really blew my mind, and to see it be used in such a well thought way with decorum and elegance was beautiful to watch. From beginning to end I couldn’t take my eyes of the stage, movement and dancers.

The final work was Revellers’ Mass the scenery, music, costume and movement took this piece from just a dance work to a truly fascinating performance. Just like all of the pieces I became enthralled by this piece. Its pace made it impossible to notice you’d been watching 7 dancers for 32 minutes. The movement felt like it took you on a story through the work, and the performativity displayed by all the dancers had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Overall Awakening was a one of the most enjoyable and creative shows I have seen in a very long time, I would recommend for anyone to see these work. I will always be grateful to be able to watch this company and for letting me be inspired at ever show

Daniella Powell

Where do you get lost in a whirlwind of movement that is in a world of visual awe?

Whilst engaging in National Dance Company Wales’s Awakening tour which showed off a variety of three different dance works, Tundra; Marcos Morau, Afterimage; Fernando Melo and Revellers’ Mass; Caroline Finn it was evident that the dancers alone were in direct correlation not only with themselves, each other and the music but the use of lighting within those dance works seemed to contrast throughout by adding significant mood swings in to and from one scene to the next which made them all unite as one.

Tundra set the mood itself with the dynamic, electronic and cybernetic world as Morau described it as. How did Morau show this statement through movement and visuals? The strobe lighting and effect which pierced the audience’s eyes as these sharp energetic rigid small animistic gestures being performed contrasted this somewhat settle plain light with a series of layering gestures performed by the company making the work dynamic for the audience’s eye.

In contrast to this Fernando Melo’s piece (Afterimage) is the focus point of my review where I ask the question, what makes this performance? A male dancer dressed in a navy blazer and round neck t shirt sets the scene amidst the dull lighting and sits comfortably on a wooden chair with his arms laid out across the table that is placed to the right side of him. A series of arm gestures are performed with the introduction to the mirror that surrounds the scene which constantly reveals, hides and manipulates the movement of the dancer as Melo even spoke about this being a main priority to his work.

As the piece goes on, we indulge in a series of uncertainty as to which side of the stage the dancers are at, were they at the mirrored, or the fore front space? As we get absorbed into the layering effect that spears right the way back through the dull black back drops that captures a multi layering mirrors of that one person performing.

These idiosyncratic of the lighting and sound being used throughout the works that the company brought to the stage of their Awakening tour presented a variety of how dancers can captivate the audiences with not only their bodies connecting but their connection towards the musicality and visual effects.

“Captivating pieces, majestic and powerful dancers, who drew me in closely with the subtly in their movements”

Samantha Underwood

‘Spring Awakening’ performed by National Dance Company is one not to miss. As a student studying dance and a former Associate of the company it was inspiring to see the range of what contemporary dance could be in a professional context. During this performance the company performed three works ‘Tundra’, ‘Afterimage’ and ‘Revellers’ Mass.’

‘Tundra’ choreographed by Marcos Morau explores the theme of the Russian Revolution. The dancers predominately dance in unison and are frequently connected to one another. This can be said to reflect how a variety of different classes came together to revolt against Tsarist Russia. This work is full of intricate details and precise timings to form an overall specific image, because of this it is very clear to the audience when something goes wrong. However, during this show the dancers executed it with a fairly high level of dynamic precision. Their captivating performance alongside the set creates a tense environment for all who watch. As an aspiring dancer this work seems like a daunting challenge. The level of precision that is required to perform this work amazes me every time.

The second piece ‘Afterimage’ was choreographed by Fernando Melo. This work was a huge contrast to the previous work, a much more softer and subtle performance. The piece involved mirrors on stage to create the illusion technique Pepper’s Ghost. This effect allowed the dancers behind the mirror to appear and disappear at various points in the piece. The dancers in front of the mirror interact with the other dancers to look at social interactions and how different people communicate with one another. This piece was a reflective piece, there was no specific storyline so you could interpret the piece however you wanted to. This form of contemporary dance highlights the power of dance as a form of communication, the work could say something completely different to everyone else. This enables the audience to question what the piece means to them and why.

‘Revellers’ Mass’ was the final piece, choreographed by Caroline Finn. The piece was inspired by ‘iconic religious paintings,’ however while being based on these religious images the overall performance was a fairly light hearted piece that focused on a variety of different characters. The characters in this work portrayed a variety of emotions while once again showing how contemporary dance can be numerous things. The choreography alongside the engaging performance of the characters created a fully immersive piece and was the perfect way to the end the show.

‘Spring Awakening’ is an ideal performance for anyone who is interested in contemporary dance or anyone who is curious as to what it is. In these works National Dance Company Wales highlight how it can be precise, dynamic, reflective and characteristic.

Lucy Lock

National Dance Company’s Wales ‘Awakening’ was an elating evening of dance works filled with culture, history and compelling narratives.

Tundra uses visual illusions with body and costuming to create an overall bigger image and visual art. Dehumanising the dancers to appear robotic and as if they are a part of something bigger, working as one.

Afterimage uses two-way mirrors to create multiple versions of the dancers, adding layers for the audience to decide what the interactions between the dancers may be, whether they be an after image or in the forefront.

Revellers’ Mass is an elaborate production with intriguing and intricate interactions between performers with imaginative and expressive choreography. The piece includes light and dark moments and humour. The whole work had me on the edge of my seat trying to get a closer look to become more immersed in the narrative.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening and a well thought out programme of productions. All costumed impeccably, with innovative visual effects, props and wonderful accompaniment

Stephanie Jones

Awakening by National Dance Company Wales was a show that consisted of three dance pieces, Tundra, Afterimage and Revellers Mass.

In this review I will be focusing on the dance piece; Tundra. This piece is based off of Traditional Russian Folk dances, mass parades and revolution, but in a more modern context. This piece was created by Marcus Morau.

The first thing I want to talk about is their costumes. The costumes were colourful, patterned jumpsuits paired with plain white socks. I thought the costumes were bold and after watching some videos about traditional Russian folk dances I can see that they were trying to take some of the details out of traditional Russian costumes to put into their piece.

I really enjoyed this piece because it kept me engaged from the beginning. In the beginning it looks like the dancers are floating around the stage but they’re actually doing lots of really fast, little steps. After watching the videos of traditional Russian Dances I also saw that they were using some of the moves but in a different way. They stayed connected a lot in a line, just like they do in Russian Folk dances so they have tried their best to explore these movements and structures.

This is definitely a piece I would watch again. It is full of energy and all the dancers were coordinated. I especially liked how they used foam towards the end of the dance to make it look like snow. I would give this performance a five star rating.

Martha Dunbar

The piece that stood out to me the most from the three brilliantly executed works on this tour was Afterimage. Now I’m not sure whether that is because I have previously watched Tundra on stage and the rehearsals for Reveller’s Mass, but something in Afterimage resonated with me on a personal level.

The appearing bodies that seemed to be ghostly behind the body on stage created many enigmas for me throughout watching the piece which is what I really enjoyed about the watch. The multiple scenarios and relationships created allow the audience to connect and relate to their own past or even present situations. From the first sighting of the clever, thought through optical I connected very personally to every situation/relationship that I saw.

I can’t pin point what it is exactly about the creative imagery that was stuck with me for so long after watching the work, but the delicate precision of the dancer’s movements definitely made it an incredible watch. Having not known anything about the piece before seeing it the first time definitely wouldn’t hinder my decision to watch it again.

Emily Lloyd-Reed

The performance at the Sherman Theatre consists of three works which are broken up by two 20 minute intervals. The works are: Tundra by Marcos Morau which is 30 minutes, Afterimage by Fernando Melo which is 20 minutes, and Revellers’ Mass by Caroline Finn which is 32 minutes.

There is a mixed audience for these works as they are all very different. The programmes for Awakening provide a good amount of detailed information on the works, and it even provides us with insight to the things the choreographers have explored and thought of whilst creating them.

The first work, Tundra, is intense and serious but also feels that there are some playful aspects to it. The opening to this work is a single dancer in the space. This opening feels misplaced because the lighting is a red square in the centre and is dark at this point and the movement of the dancer isn’t clear because of it. However, this opening does give some cultural context of the work. The 8 dancers in the work appear as Russian dolls wearing patterned tops, long skirts and float around the space creating different spatial patterns. The dancers exit and re-enter the space without the skirt on, instead we can see they are wearing an all-in-one costume which is colourful and patterned. They do very precise and linked movements throughout, either in canon or unison. Marcos Morau says Tundra is inspired by “Russian folk dance” which is why “the dancers are chained and connected”.

Afterimage is a very clever work where the images of the dancers appear, disappear, and multiply. The programme says that Afterimage gives the audience scenes to help them create a “personal response” but “without providing a single narrative”. This work feels quite ghost like, especially by people doing movement in unison either side of the mirror, as it looks like the person behind the mirror is their ghost figure to the person dancing in front of the mirrors.

The set for Revellers’ Mass is a long table towards the back of the space which is a representation of the Last Super. We can see this table is filled with water as the dancers stand and perform on it. There are candles on the table which are lit by one dancer whilst church bells ring. This brings a religious aspect to the work. This is also done using mannequins, as they can be seen as religious figures/statues. The work begins to get wild towards the end where the dancers are dancing with the mannequins or limbs of them and are also splashing the water on the table. However, this calms down by a male dancer walking and standing centre stage whilst the song ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ by Edith Piaf is played.

Simultaneously, the other dancers are cleaning up the mess on the stage which was created by their wildness.

Fantastic to experience such a range of inspiring choreography and an articulate performance.

Review Pokémon Detective Pikachu by Rhys Payne

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

When I first heard they were making a Detective Pikachu film and that Ryan Reynolds was voicing Pikachu I was unsure if this was a movie I would enjoy. But instead of the traditional optimism and joyfulness of the classic Pokémon films, this film more focused on a darker more mysterious vibe to the film. The story revolves around a boy called Tim Goodman who is voiced by Justice Smith, whose father is involved in a mysterious car crash and Tim and his new detective partner Pikachu go on a quest to find the circumstance surrounding his father’s supposed death.

Instead of classic Pokémon films which are fun-filled and enforce positive feelings, this film was dark and discussed a possible murder/loss of a loved one. This is a nice touch because it reflects the audience. It is well documented that the toy story aged ‘Andy’ to be the same age as the people who watched the original film. For example, they timed the release of the films so that when Andy was going to university the people who were old enough to watch the original film were also going to university around the same time. When the original Pokémon films were released the target audience were children and so the positivity and joyfulness would have been appropriate and the main character in this film is twenty-one (similar age to myself who was a child when the original films were released) and also it dealt with the issue of losing loved ones which is a more mature issue that would be appropriate for the older audience which was a nice touch and a detail many people wouldn’t have noticed.

This film was a nice throwback to my childhood. Being a massive fan of the Pokémon games as a child, it was nice to see some of the original Pokémon in this show. However, bar Pikachu, Mewtwo, and ditto, most of the Pokémon were almost just cameos in the opening scene to life in ryme city. Most of the Pokémon were accurate animations but I was however disappointed in the animation of Snorlax. Snorlax is supposed to be a massive creature who is but this animation was not as big or scary as I thought he would be and as he is my personal favorite Pokémon  I was a little disappointed with this. But apart from this one the rest of the Pokémon were cool to see. Especially Pikachu himself.

The Pikachu animation was so cute and created many ‘awwwwh’ moments from the audience which was only added to be the selection of Ryan Renynolds to voice the character. The character suffered from amnesia and so couldn’t remember part of the Harry’s (Tim’s father) disappearance. We learn through the film that Pikachu was Harry’s Pokémon partner but he managed to get away from the incident. The flashbacks as Pikachu remembered new details added to the drama and helped create the tension of new details. This was great for the audience as it kept them on the edge of their seats. The climax of the story, towards the end, was the highlight of the entire film. The whole film contained unexpected twists and turns and the end was both incredibly emotional and unexpected. This caused a silence from the audience as they took in everything that had happened which means that the story was executed effectively.

This is a film that managed to provide a throwback to childhood while also creating a new and new image for the Pokémon franchise films. If you were a fan of any of the Pokémon ‘strands’ eg films, game or tv show, etc. then I would recommend that you catch this film before it leaves the cinema, I would rate this film as 3 and a half stars due to the blend of shocking drama and family-friendly themes.

Review Cotton Fingers, National Theatre Wales, by Sam Longville

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

‘Rich people have abortions, poor people have to have kids’ – Welsh writer Rachel Trezise delivers a timely monologue that tells the cruel yet common tale of Aoife, a young working class Northern Irish girl who under the state’s archaic abortion laws is forced to travel to Wales to receive her treatment.

The play is a matter-of-fact, non-sugarcoated telling of how Northern Ireland’s failure to align with the rest of the UK most harshly affects working class women, who have until recently often been unable to afford the trip across the Irish Sea, which is now funded by the NHS under new law in England and Wales.

Originally performed in West Wales (poignantly the location from where Aoife takes a ferry back to Belfast as part of her grueling 14-hour journey following the termination), Cotton Fingers is one of five ‘love letters’ to the NHS that formed National Theatre Wales’ NHS70 Festival, celebrating the NHS at 70 years old. Recent revelations off the back of Trump’s state visit this week have made Cotton Fingers evermore relevant as the tycoon turned US president licks his lips at the thought of putting the NHS on the table as part of post-Brexit deals. The play is a compelling case for why the NHS must remain free at the point of need as it unaffectedly showcases a section of society who most benefit from its service.

Amy Molloy as Aoife delivers an understated performance, befriending the audience from the outset and offloading her character’s thoughts and innermost feelings following the painful yet all-too-common journey she has been forced to take. She skillfully takes us through the harsh realities of her character’s situation as a young, working class girl, eager to regain control over her future. Trezise’s writing is candid and clear-cut, stating ‘this is truth of the situation women are facing in Northern Ireland’ and consequently asking ‘now what are we going to do about it?’

Designer Carl Davies produces a simple yet effective set. A grey brick wall backdrop and a set of matching airport waiting room-style chairs evoke a sense of oppression and entrapment when paired with Aoife’s grey, uniform-like attire. Meanwhile, a mirror floor slowly reveals itself throughout the play as Aoife travels across the space, unintentionally moving the dust-like particles off its surface. The mirror serves to entrap our character further in its surface, a strong metaphor for the oppressive space she finds herself detained in – by the cruel laws that keep her there.

The play tells a frank, yet emotive story of how Northern Ireland’s abortion laws hurt those in its poorest communities. However, hope remains a prominent theme of the play, a hope that very soon Northern Ireland will follow the Republic’s lead. As Aoife puts it herself, ‘very soon, we’ll be next.’

Cotton Fingers runs until Saturday 8th June at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.