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Review Glass By Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

As I said recently, it’s never too late to make a sequel. One of the movies to cemented writer-director  M. Night Shyamalan as an auteur in the early 2000s was Unbreakable, a spin on the Superhero origin, told in a refreshing, unique way. Now, nineteen years later we’ve been given the second movie and here is the finale.

Spoiler warning ahead for those that have yet to see Unbreakable or Split.

Basically, people are born with Superpowers, like the X-Men they re just born and they have special abilities, strength, speed, agility etc. But they are somewhat subtle and very few people are even aware that these people exist or that they themselves even possess powers. But they exist and some are aware of their unique nature and use them.

James MacAvoy is the man with over twenty-three different split personalities within him (they call themselves The Horde), some of them only have a few lines while others return more frequently, the one to pay attention to is “The Beast” one of great strength and agility. Samuel L. Jackson is Elijah Prince, a genius who suffers from a condition that renders his bones extremely brittle and easy to break, which earned him the nickname “Mr. Glass” which he also adopted as his villain alter ego and the title for this movie, however he is also a mastermind with intelligence that is beyond exceptional. Bruce Willis is back as David Dunn the unbreakable man who early on in the movie the press have titled “The Observer” he cannot be injured, has exceptional strength and can even read peoples sins by touching them, however, he has a weakness, water. He doesn’t really have much to do in this movie beyond looking sad and standing stoically.

Each of them come with their own supporting character. Dunn has his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) that has supported him in his vigilante career since first discovering them and provides him intelligence via headset. Elijah has his loving mother (Charlayne Woodard) that has always believed he was special and had a big destiny. Then there’s Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), the kidnap victim of The Horde from Split but is more fascinated and sympathetic to the man with all the different personalities within his head.

Due to his actions that are revealed at the end of Unbreakable Elijah has been placed in a psychiatric hospital for the past nineteen years. But while The Beast is about to make victims out of a group of young girls a battle breaks out between him and Dunn whose been patrolling the streets keeping the neighborhood safe, it’s to a standstill because they are taken in by a Doctor Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulsen), that takes them to the same clinic Elijah has been residing in.

Now all three of them are in the same mental hospital and the doctor is convinced that they all suffer from a type of delusion of grandeur and their feats of superpowers can be logically explained away. I didn’t buy it for one second, I’d seen the previous two movies, I’d seen the trailer where they clearly display inhuman abilities so these scenes didn’t work, nor do I think they’d really work on anyone else. Even for someone that hasn’t seen the previous two movies or the trailer we already see feats of strength that are beyond human abilities, so this section just doesn’t work.

Shamalyan has taken one of the most infamous career dives in history, when he started he was considered to be one of the most exciting writer/directors working in the industry, but eventually, he started turning out obvious, nonsensical and clearly indulgent products. Recently with the movie The Visit and previously Split he seems to be getting back on track. I don’t rate either of the two previously mentioned movies very highly but they were definitely much more solid than his previous outings.

This movie is filled with “smart” characters, characters that have high I.Q. but in this, you must ask the question “Can a writer write a character smarter than themselves?” A writer can write dialog that can be reasearched and have the character know all this information off the top of their heads but what about the way they use it? If it doesnt work in the movies logic or even in any logic then it doesnt matter and you see the failing of the writer because they’ve created an equation that doesnt add up. Another faily is that the reaveals are portrayed as great feats so there is a lack of modesty which sours the expereice because you dont buy it while the filmmaker is bigging themselves up.

One of the most mind-boggling elements of the movie that you have to swallow is that comic book in of themselves tell the stories of these super people. How exactly I’m not really sure, it’s is never explained. Do the creators know deep down about the existence of these super people? I that their power? Is it something about the medium itself that prophesies them?

The movie is undeniably unpredictable. There is the classic twist that Shamalyan is known for and it’s a pretty good one here, and it gets near the end and it’s not done with it’s reveals, this is a movie that has a whole plot to fill it, instead of relying on the action. However, while I was surprised during it I wasn’t awed. Unpredictable does not equal good, there I was watching the fate of these characters, some of which have existed for nearly twenty years and it was just disappointing. All I really felt was that I didnt see it coming and even if I did I didnt like it.

As an alternative flavor for the abundance of Superhero movies we have to choose from these days this movie is anything but paint by numbers, as the conclusion to a movie that started in 1996 and we have been waiting for for over twenty years it pulls some things that are just a let down, as an analysis of myth, comic books and society itself it thinks it’s profound while just being complicated. Though, like an M. Knight Shamalyan movie, this is probably his best movie since…well since Unbreakable. Starting with The Visit he has slowly reassembled himself as a filmmaker and credit has to be given to progress.

Valentine’s day And Musical Theatre REVIEW BY TANICA PSALMIST

Watching Valentine’s Day & Musical Theatre organised by LCP Dance Theatre; founded by dancer and choreographer Joanna Puchala was a fabulous experience to be in the mists of. The show was held at The Lodge space in collaboration with Social Arts Festival and Flow move. It was a space that contained admiration for true talent; migrating an organic richness and respect for the artist’s craft, which was mind-blowing and well deserved. You could not hear a pin drop in the space, every performer engaged the audience’s attention as they performed with grace and authenticity. They had all individually tailored their work to project their personal or moral views or foretell a story from their perspective. This was done with pure sincerity as we could only imagine the depth of sweat, blood and tears it took to develop and construct such masterpiece’s, to ensure the smooth runnings of the different timed pieces showcased. These consisted of Modern Ballet, Contemporary Dance, Aerial Dance, Martial Arts and Musical Theatre.  

Valentine’s Day & Musical Theatre had kicked off with dancers Ranja Kasemi & Mia Aurora Windern infusing sensations of animal locomotion, Budokon yoga and contemporary pole dancing intertwined. This production brilliantly flowed as the artistic creativity of audible sounds of heavy panting and breathing of a wild, warm blooded mammal played. The girl’s majestically maintained the manifestation of distinctive characteristics of a wild animal’s physicality moves, sensory and mannerisms. Radiating the unconditional love we as human entities should posses for wild nature, and the creatures that exist within it. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mia Aurora Windern after the show who shared with me that her idea’s were stimulated around the conveying of the division of nutrients and water optimally on tree’s during their process of photosynthesis and how the mentality to nurture wildlife and respect nature would mean trees could grow into the best of their ability. 

Their production began with epic, gripping fluidity & flexibility. The duration of their set was charismatically breathtaking as well as pulsating. Their act featured all tricks and momentum of sensual swinging and circular motions of exhilaration as they pranced on and around the pole. The duet contained a fusion of delicacy, intensity and abstract diversity throughout; soundlessly piercing hearts as the synchronisation, definition within their muscular arms revealed their upper body and core strength and brought a sense of humility as they presented dignified, strong upper body swings. The tempo of the ambience engaged in with their rhythm, balancing whilst remaining in character mode throughout. These girl’s brilliantly set the mood for what followed next I felt. They interestingly wore a mask made out of Christmas pine tree, resonating messages of life, forest and the benefit of animals dwelling in their natural habit without feeling or being endangered by human destruction.     

Followed next was a dancer named Dianna Mukalere, whom again was a strikingly powerful and empowering artist. Her contemporary intuitive dance told a story of an inner identity remaining cool, calm and collective. She engaged with a pink, satin scarf to her piece. As it flowed it added a courageous wave that added a warming assentive and drive force enchanting magic, elegance and fluctuation. As she continued to move in a circular motion operating in different directions, decelerating honesty, vulnerability and love. This piece amazingly incorporated spoken word, the usage of different mediums meant that she kept everyone’s attention fixated on her act without blinking. It was a very enchanting, stylish expression of circulating movement of the body and wellbeing of living in harmony within yourself and feeling at one with yourself as a whole internally and externally. 

The third performance foretold the narrative of love in different aspects. Signalling true beauty and significance of modern Ballet. The contemporary ballet consisted of two duets both of which was sincere and genuine. As the dancers conveyed well structured, highly engaging and beautiful tales of a love story. The amount of emotion that bounced off in frequencies was unreal, in depth passion for romance and the embracing of two individuals coming together in unison offering strength and joy. Wonderfully played by the featuring casts; Briar Adams, Daniel Rodriguez, Marion Edmond & Lance Collins. 

Valentine’s Day & Musical Theatre in it’s entirety was unique and authentic. A solo performer by the name of  Frances Kartz gave an outstanding contemporary performance which consisted of Martial Arts, storytelling a tale of movement and skill. France’s body language for the awakening of a brave and powerful soul, sparkled the search of love, faith and courage. Combining grace & precision which brought fire and gloss to her act. Prior we’d seen Deliah Seefluth with an exceptionally strong and strengthening contemporary dance. And Victoria Howden with a solo musical theatre set, lasting for twenty-five minutes. It was a biography of her life story which the audience couldn’t help but sing along to, her unique, talented piece featured comedy, story telling and singing. Her all time favourite musical anthems were narrated to convey a more corny, sensual, humorous version as her dreams turned into a life story before our very own eyes. Victoria Howden was completely unexpected and pulled off a fabulously, daring re-enactment of her life as a musical in an realistic world of course. 

The LCP Dance Theatre company performed an Ariel contemporary Dance, this being the final act of the night. A brilliantly choreographed, twenty-five minute quintet. This was a beautiful way to end as it was representing the physical and mental state of our conscious mindsets whilst being broken hearted. This fabulous piece explored the different phases of pure love, betrayal, lost trust and struggle to forgive and finally becoming friends. This transformation of a passionate love leading to friendship, mutual understanding and compassion towards one another was sensational and truly well put together. Featuring the casts Lynn Dichon, Juan Sanchez Plaza, Leoni Amandin, Natasha Lee and Joanna Puchala. Was a wonderful way to end the show, the order of the shows were all so different. And achieved the objective of conveying emotion simultaneously through dance and performance. 

Review Cracked, Emily Hinshelwood by Judi Hughes.

Cracked by Emily Hinshelwood

Pontardawe Arts Centre, 15 Feb 19

Review by Judi Hughes

Excellent writing from Emily Hinshelwood, who loves words and is brave enough to share hers with us

On a surprisingly balmy February evening, a warm welcome greeted us at Pontardawe Arts Centre, a busy and chatty crowd were waiting eagerly in the bar. Being a small, local theatre many people knew each other, familiar faces including that of Emily Hinshelwood exchanged greetings and created a lovely pre show atmosphere. Emily lives fairly local to Pontardawe and is fairly well known there, particularly for her poetry. She also runs the Script Café at the arts centre, a regular series of workshops with professional scriptwriters and theatre-makers to advise, critique and inspire new writing.

We headed into the theatre and were greeted at the door by the Theatre Manager, who along with her team has supported the production of Cracked. It is so important for theatres to support local artists, who in return bring innovative theatre to their programmes and audience members that follow their work. From experience I know that this takes additional funding and a lot of hard work, so well done to everyone who was involved in the production and touring of Cracked. The high quality of the resulting performance must have made it all worthwhile.

The audience were excited and talkative before the show; in front of them an impressive set, a solid scaffold-like structure with different levels and shapes within. The bright and clear programme helped to set the scene. The audience ranged from teenage to older age, a real mix of people. The theatre, the welcome and the programme delivered a safe space to those who had taken the chance tonight on a new drama that promised to be ‘a moving, thought-provoking play about vulnerability, mental well-being and the universal need for love’.

The cast of 5 were supported by a versatile set, clever lighting and a soundscape with non-intrusive familiar sounds that helped to affirm the perception of place, whether in school or by the sea. The 6th member of the cast was a puppet of Mick, the main character, appearing as a young boy and whose integral part gave us the background to the story.

Whilst Mick (Tom Mumford) was the central character, each of the other players were essential to the story and all of their performances gave way to that moment where you let your imagination go and begin to believe that they really are those characters before you. Most convincing in this was Dick Bradnum in his portrayal of Mr Jackson, that brash, self-important and misguided teacher who just gets it wrong. In this moralistic tale, he also plays the voice of Dad, but never appears.

Joe Wiltshire Smith plays Stewart Skinner, the unruly pupil who’s a bit of a joker, with a hidden backstory whose offensive and defensive manner gets him into trouble. Shelby (Frances Keyton) provides the balance and understanding in her character that blends concern with clumsiness in action and words. Both build relationships with Mick that take him on a difficult path, but in the end show a much needed glimmer of hope.

Cavelle, played by Catriona James, is the character that only Mick can see, that imaginary friend, conscience and other self that we all converse with, portrayed in the form of a crow. At one moment proud, loving and supportive, at another undermining and mean, she accompanies Mick throughout the play as he makes decisions on which path to take. Along with the puppet of the young Mick, she tells the story of his past, his loss and his insecurity that leads him to the present and into the future.

Location is important in this play, set in the South West and near to the sea. The coastline here is a geologist’s dream with fossils, layered rocks and a history that includes dinosaur’s footprints and volcanic eruptions. Mick teaches Geology and it seems that the writer has a strong interest in this subject with references to tectonic plates, trilobites and the historical shifts in land and sea that have shaped Wales’ coastline.

The show begins with a scene of distress, with Mick about to jump of a cliff, giving us a glimpse of the possible future that beholds him and then melting into the start of a school day and the beginning of this episode of his life that provides the thought-provoking and often difficult scenes that emerge.

The play has a good pace, moving swiftly through scenes and circumstances that confront Mick as both the teacher and boy; a story and a sense of impending doom gradually emerges as more information is revealed. The performance was engaging throughout; some scene changes were a bit rough and the pace lessened towards the end, but this portrayal of the human condition was delivered with strength and determination.

There is lots of humour, relevant and with underlying pathos. The play makes many reference to issues that young people experience such as home schooling, difficult circumstances, illness, mental health, death and loss. It recognises the ways that society, schools in particular, deal with this and how what is intended to protect can often cause harm. It shows human kindness and human frailty in a way that is often difficult for the audience to watch, but gives voice to subjects that need to be addressed.

In the programme the writer makes it clear that it doesn’t aim to come up with answers, but invites discussion. The workshops and daytime performances that have gone alongside the evening shows of Cracked are very important, giving the opportunity for teachers and secondary pupils to attend and take part. Yes, there’s some swearing, but it’s really inoffensive and I would recommend this play to be seen, read and studied. Cracked deserves a longer life than this short tour.

For me, I am part of that older audience that appreciated the play for its honesty and bravery. For the actors who all played their parts so well and for the excellent writing from Emily Hinshelwood, who loves words and is brave enough to share hers with us.

If you haven’t been there before, Pontardawe Arts Centre is a gem of a theatre, just 10 minutes’ drive from junction 45 of the M4. Check out their programme and make a date for yourself – there are also some nice restaurants in and around the town for pre or post show dinner. Check out their events at https://npttheatres.co.uk/pontardawe/whats-on/ .

REVIEW: JUST A FEW WORDS at The Other Room by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(4 / 5)

Just a Few Words explores the psychological and emotional impact of having a stutter. How that affects your everyday life and indeed, your love life. We follow our protagonist (Nye Russell-Thompson) as he struggles to tell the woman he loves how he feels.

I’d heard a lot about this piece and my main worry going in was that the writing would be structured poorly. This isn’t a worry that need be had. The writing from Russell-Thompson is brilliantly structured as we follow the protagonist’s journey through his mind, preparing what to say.

Just a Few Words is frustrating at times as a slow-moving piece of theatre, deliberately so. This allows the audience to imagine, if not feel, the frustration that can be felt with a stammer. Not to pity but understand. You never feel sorry for the character which is a real strength of the piece. He feels like someone going through something which is presented as normal and relatable.

A one-man-show created and performed by Russell-Thompson, you can’t help but notice how this is more real to Nye than it would be to another actor. Even without the knowledge of who he is. This is a credit to his abilities as an actor, but also serves as a note to organisations who don’t hire disabled actors to play the roles their disabilities represent.

The debate about stammering being a disability will continue, a debate I’m not qualified to comment on and one this production doesn’t claim to solve. But what this play does present clearly is that Just a Few Words is stronger because of Nye’s personal performance. And it is the character’s emotive story that is the main strength of Just a Few Words.

The music and sound utilised in the production are excellent. From stuttering on an Otis Redding love song played on a record player in the beginning, to a grainy, static from said record player that runs for the entirety of the play. The sound is simple but adds a huge amount to the ambiance.

The minimalist set is great too. A record player in one corner, a table in another and the use of pre-written cards which act as subtitles for our protagonist’s thoughts that scatter around the stage complete the show and makes it everything fringe theatre should be.

Just a Few Words is an excellent and relatable portrayal of life with a stammer, blending a beautifully minimalist approach with powerful writing.

Just a Few Words is part of The Other Room’s ‘Spring Fringe’ curated spring season. One of eight shows coming to Cardiff’s only pub theatre over eight weeks. Tickets can be found for the upcoming Spring Fringe shows HERE, with an ever-growing discount for the more shows you book.

JUST A FEW WORDS performed at The Other Room
13th February – 16th February 2019
Presented by StammerMouth
Created and Performed by Nye Russell-Thompson
Stage Manager: Megan Randall

Review Bumblebee by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

The Transformers movies are more popular and worse than we deserve or could have predicted. Who could have guessed that we would be five movies into a film series that require over two hundred million dollars a piece to make and say absolutely nothing? They have become the bain of many critics summer season and still rake in a generous profit so this means they won’t stop getting made.

Now it has reached the point that all long-lasting, popular franchise reach, branching out. The main story is no longer enough so there need to be movies about the other characters to fill in the time between the main installments. Like with the MARVEL movies or Star Wars. So we have the popular supporting character Bumblebee that we know was on Earth for some time before the events of the first movie so that seems like a good enough place to build something.

As soon as the movie opens we see things that we have never seen before within these movies, a battle between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons…OK, we’ve actually seen that a lot but this takes place on the home planet of Cybertron. Already this movie opens uniquely, with fresh visuals. Also, the Transformers look more like themselves than they ever have within these movies. In Michael Bay’s movies, they were cluttered, with too many moving parts and most of them were grey so you couldn’t easily distinguish which giant robot was which. Here they are composed of simpler shapes, have a distinctive silhouette, and have their own color so you can easily register one from another. This is a good start. The Autobots are loosing and the leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) orders a retreat, they do so and he gives orders to his second in command B-127 (Dylan O’Brien) to go to Earth and send the signal when it is safe for them.

Upon arriving on Earth they get the attention of a military platoon lead by Jack Burns, played by pro wrestler John Cena. A chase and shootout happen along with another Decepticon that followed, in the fight B-127’s voice box gets destroyed talking away his ability to speak. He stumbles and takes the form of a yellow Beatle Volkswaggon.

Sometime later (1987) we are introduced to a young girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). She wakes up to her eighteenth birthday, she gets a flowery helmet from her mother and a book about being positive from her stepfather. She would prefer a car of her own because that means independence. She tries to fix a car that she and her dad would work on a lot when he was alive but never to success. One day while browsing the local garage she works at she finds an abandoned yellow Beatles Volkwagon, the owner allows her to take it home as her birthday present. This particular car is, of course, B-127. The truth is revealed pretty quickly and because he is unable to articulate words he’s only able to produce synthetic buzzing sounds, Charlie says “You sound like a little bumblebee” so this is what she calls him.

Charlie likes to listen to music, which also becomes the soundtrack for the movie and is spirited. She has wants and is selfish, but is also a teenager so it’s forgiven. Steinfeld plays her with fun and poignancy when it comes to the emotional moments. John Cena pulls off the hard as nails and snarky Military Lieutenant with great ease, he has the believable physicality which lends him authority and has a sharp stare which is intimidating but he is also able to balance it with some dry humor. He also has probably the best line in the whole franchise “I mean they call themselves Decepticons, no one thinks that’s suspicious?”

Behind the camera, as the director is Travis Knight, whose only other directing credit is Laika’s Kubo of the Two Strings but served as producer and animator on Laika’s two previous movies (The Boxtrolls and Paranorman) as well as an animator so he knows his way around the filmmaking process. He brings what he learned through his time in animation taught him, a disciplined, clear mentality towards storytelling, ability to craft likable characters and some hard-hitting emotional moments. Animation takes a lot of effort to pull off right so the pre-production prosses is very long and meticulous, you need to plan and revise much more than traditional live-action movies and be sure that almost every frame is clear. Knight brings this mentality towards this movie and what we have is a well-crafted, slick experience.

Bee is the lightweight compared to the other Transformers so he hits them in their joints which are the most vulnerable places to strike and uses his weight to flip them. This adds personality and logical grounding to the fights. As well as this Bee has a shy body language, he’s never been in a human house before and isn’t there to do wrong so he’s nervous and can easily break things, this is a personality and the effects team and storytellers have fun with his transforming abilities i.e. using it to get through a door, only transforming one piece of his body at a time. This is more fun and creativity than we’ve gotten in five whole movies.

On Bumblebees trail, however, are Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Dropkick (Justin Theroux) two Decepticons that know if they find him they find Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) leader of the Autobots. They are also able to transform into both land vehicles and aircraft which I thought was against the rules of Transformers no point about being nitpicky about details like this. So some of this movie’s appeal is what I liked about Ant-Man, it is a lower scale movie, still with stakes but nothing that will end with the firey, apocalyptian destruction of a city and a few neighbourhoods along the way. If the world is always at stake and a city is always toppled then we grow numb to it. So this movie, very wisely, drawn back on the destruction porn and makes it about the characters and merely peppers it wish the crashing and the smashing. Making a much more even and enjoyable experience.

When it comes to long-lasting established characters that are passed down from one creative to the next, like Sherlock Homes, Superheroes or Shakespeare you will get various degrees of quality products. But these characters and this franchise have existed from over thirty to eighty to even hundreds of years, clearly, they are not broken and have something that keeps them alive. Under Bay, Transformers has almost become a dirty word, one that signifies ludicrous characters, offensive stereotypes, and indulgence in C.G.I. destruction. But there is clearly something enduring about these characters and this concept, they’re not broken, merely mishandled.

Bumblebee is the best Transformers movie and is better than it deserves to be considering its company. It is fun, creative, sharp and clear. It is the best movie to have Transformers in it since the original in 1986.

Review, German Cornejo’s Tango Fire, Peacock Theatre By Hannah Goslin

(3 / 5)

I always feel a sense of joy when I head to the Peacock Theatre; their programming is always fun and whimsical. This is exactly what I experienced again,  on my trip this time.

A beautiful part of this production, was the initial entrance into the foyer and by the bar. A collection of Spanish speaking patrons mingling and speaking this delicious language which really set the tone for the show itself. 

Whilst in Argentina myself, I took a tango class with a short show afterwards and found this beautiful, sexy and interesting language to Tango. It’s fierce, it’s unapologetic and it has a feat of awe. 

And this show definitely hit those checkboxes. The staging is simple, with our first half in the typical 1940’s-1950’s costume, lustrous summer scene with only a bench and lamppost. The dancers have a conversation with their movement and there’s humour and plenty of elements that we all recognise – the loved up couple, the unrequited lovers, the males vs females. We enjoy the movement between them, the conversation through dance and it over all is a joyous beginning to the show. 

Our second half is more hot and steamy. The women are wearing less, the interaction is raw and fierce and it’s hard to take your eyes off them. The feat to which the woman are lifted and thrown across the male dancer’s bodies and across the stage left a few with gasps and awes. Feet moving and legs kicking at extreme pace; it is hard to ignore such ability and grace.

While a lovely show, and picking on all the elements of Tango, I didn’t feel too awe-struck or inspired. It was lovely to watch and interesting to see the skill involved but it didn’t feel too original. It felt very quintessential. 

Over all German Cornejo’s Tango Fire is something to be enjoyed. If you are ready for a show with little to complain about and sit for a nice evening, it’s a safe bet to take. You won’t come away disappointed.  But do not expect to come out speechless. 

©Alastair Muir 31.01.17 Tango Fire 556

Review Blue, Chippy Lane Productions, Chapter Arts Centre By Kevin Johnson


‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ – Tolstoy 

Elin, visiting her Carmarthen family from her new life in London, meets Thomas, her old teacher, and there’s a spark between them. Bringing him back to the family home, her intent more carnal than romantic, she expects an empty house. Instead they are almost caught by her mother, Lisa.

(Nia Roberts as Lisa)

Surprised, Thomas blurts out that he was invited back for a meal, much to the daughter’s dismay and her mother’s delight, because Lisa has been looking for a boyfriend for her gay son Huw, and, mistaking Elin’s intentions, she thinks she’s found one.

(Huw, Lisa and Elin)

So begins an evening of misunderstandings, comedy and revelations. The shy Huw blooms, as does the play, from what seems like an Ayckbourn farce into something progressively darker, as old wounds are re-opened and the absent, oft mentioned father casts a pall over everything like the ghost in Hamlet.

(Sophie Melville as Elin and Jordan Bernarde as Thomas) 

What could have been stereotypes – slutty daughter, gay son, lecherous teacher and dragon mother – are, in the hands of these actors, fleshed out into real people. Helped by impressive writing and the subtle direction of Chelsey Gilard. My favourite moment being during the dinner scene, when Huw talks to Thomas, while under the table Elin caresses the teachers thigh possessively.

Writer Rhys Warrington trained as an actor, and perhaps this is why he knows to leave room for the cast to breathe life into their roles. His script is funny, engaging and sad.

Maybe it was first night nerves, the script, or the directors intent, but there was a rawness, echoing the characters on show, a feeling of slightly rough edges that need filing. Whatever the reason, I found that it enhanced the play. 

Sophie Melville gives the lippy Elin the right mix of being grown up yet still lacking maturity, and relishes her lines. In response to her mother’s “Know what we need now?” she replies waspisly “Another drink?”.

Jordan Bernarde gives the fought-over Thomas a steadiness, but hints at unshed grief over his own father’s recent death.

Playing the shy, withdrawn Huw is not easy, and it’s to Gwydion Rhys’ credit that he makes him so human, moving from boring to vulnerable and evoking our sympathy.

Nia Roberts is an actor that loves getting her teeth into a part, and here she takes the role and runs with it. Switching from monster to Mam in a second, she gives us a Lisa that is heartbroken and angry, living in past memories because the present is too painful.

There is a lot to admire in Blue, much of it familiar, especially to Welsh audiences. Rebecca Hammond founded Chippy Lane Productions to promote Welsh theatre and talent beyond Wales, and this is a prime example of it. There’s even a faint trace here of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, possibly due to the presence of Matthew Bulgo as dramaturg, a cast member in the celebrated Sherman Theatre production.

Blue isn’t completely perfect and I’m glad for that, because It means that this is a writer with  space to grow, to improve. That is a very pleasing prospect for the future of Welsh drama.

REVIEW: BLUE at Chapter Arts Centre by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(5 / 5)

Blue is a powerful drama set by the Welsh, Carmarthenshire coast which centres around the Williams family dinner in the looming absence of a father figure.

The play starts when daughter Elin brings former teacher, Thomas, home to sleep with him. However, to Elin’s surprise her brother is in and her mother home early. A confusion over Thomas’ presence ensues and drives the play forward.

Thomas finds himself awkwardly caught in a family argument under tragic circumstances but is ultimately the trigger for improvement and progress amongst the family.

The writing from Rhys Warrington is brilliant. Meticulously paced and incredibly detailed, the script starts out light-hearted and funny but as it progresses, and delves deeper into the characters, we notice something isn’t normal. At no point does anything feel forced, the play flows naturally and develops with great care.

Blue is subtly political in talking about lack of funding for the NHS. But doesn’t stray from the importance of the characters involved whose lives are being ruined by these cuts.

It’s fair to say, Rhys Warrington is off to a great start with his first feature-length play and I can’t wait to see what he writes next.

The direction from Chelsey Gillard is simply stunning. Every aspect of the script is explored diligently. This play could have been easily mismanaged but Gillard controls it masterfully. Beautifully allowing performers time to draw scenes out and the design elements to set the scene. Chelsey Gillard is forging a name for herself as one of the pioneering directors of contemporary Welsh theatre and her achievement with Bluehas only boosted that claim.

The performances are exceptional from every performer. Sophie Melville is brilliant as Elin. Proving once again what a talent she is, Melville encapsulates the final stages of teenage angst with growing mid-20’s maturity brilliantly.

Gwydion Rhys plays Elin’s shy brother, Huw, expertly. His eyes lighting up the moment Thomas asks about Minecraft. A heart-breaking and simultaneously heart-warming moment as it’s clear this is the first time someone has taken an interest in his interests outside of his online alternate-reality. We can all relate in some way to Huw and Rhys’ portrayal is a testament to this.

Jordan Bernarde’s performance as Thomas is handled with as much care as the character is attentive to the others. We can sense Thomas’ awkwardness and even though we’re aware he’s really there to sleep with Elin, we see his kind-hearted nature too. It’s only when Thomas exits the play that you realise the impact Bernarde’s performance has on the production.

Choosing a standout performance is near-impossible, but if we are to do so, it has to be Nia Roberts in portraying the matriarch figure, Lisa Williams. Everything is perfect from Roberts in this performance. At the mention of her husband, everything about her character changes, from tone to body-language – perfect. This performance will standout as one of the best in Wales this year.

The sound design from Tic Ashfield is very understated and effective. The sound mostly soothes into the background, almost unnoticeable if you’re not looking for it – but is powerful and essential to the production.

Oliver Harman’s design is simple and functional. Detailed to what one would expect any living/dining room to look like, with nothing left to waste. The blue door is, in particular, a nice touch.

Ceri James’ lighting is an essential tool for setting the mood, which James does excellently. Subtly changing throughout and providing a nice alternative to blackouts between scenes which is specifically good. The slight blue tint in some of the lighting is also lovely.

It’s frustrating when a production leaves the design elements as an after-thought and whilst it’s very subtle in Blue, the design, on all fronts, contribute hugely to Blue’s artistic success.

It’s important to stress what a team effort this production is. Huge credit must also go to Rebecca Jade Hammond for creating and producing this piece, as well as all involved at Chippy Lane and Chapter in the making of Blue.

BLUE is a heart-breaking drama about a family split in their grief of a father figure who is both no longer present and not yet absent.

BLUE performed at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
World Premiere 5th – 16th February 2019
Running time approximately 90 minutes
Created and Produced by Rebecca Jade Hammond
Written by Rhys Warrington
Directed  by Chelsey Gillard
Elin – Sophie Melville
Thomas – Jordan Bernarde
Lisa – Nia Roberts
Huw – Gwydion Rhys
Designer: Oliver Harman
Lighting Designer: Ceri James
Sound Designer and Composer: Tic Ashfield
Dramaturg: Matthew Bulgo
Co-Producers: Chippy Lane Production and Chapter
Stage Manager: Bethan Dawson
Production Assistant: Sophie Hughes
BSL Interpreter: Sami Thorpe
Photography: Kirsten McTernan
Marketing and PR: Chloe Nelkin Consulting & PR

Hear Me Howl, Lydia Rynne, Vaults Festival by Hannah Goslin

(5 / 5)

You tell me that a piece involves a drum kit?

I’m bloomin’ well there!

Hear Me Howl is a extraordinary tale. We meet Jess in her late 20’s who after a brief fear that her latest smear test is going to be a positive, is instead told that she is pregnant. During her existential crisis and wonder at her life past, present and future, she decides after meeting an inspiring woman, to join a Punk Rock Band.

I realise the story itself may not be necessarily extraordinary in my brief attempt at a blurb, but let me tell you more. 

As a reviewer, I try to learn as little about a production as possible in advance to avoid any preconceived ideas or bias. So learning that this story was from the incredible imagination of Lydia Rhnne, and that the performer, Alice Pitt-Carter, was an actress who was cast for the role, I was in shock and disbelief that this wasn’t a true, one woman story.

Firstly – the writing is incredible. There are so many ‘I’m with you sister’, and (in the words of RuPaul’s Drag Race) ‘Yasss’ moments that felt so intimate, yet called out the truths of being a woman, with no qualms or fear. While the general narrative is entirely plausible, but just not a common one, we still see ourselves in the character of Jess; sitting in this tunnel, we think what we would do in such a situation. 

Pitt-Carter is the perfect candidate to evoke this role and to bring even more realism to it. She is truthful yet very funny; part of me wants to be her, part of me entirely affiliates with her. While the story isn’t entirely something I understand without the experience of it myself, there are moments of general womanhood and thoughts and feelings that I personally felt akin to. 

Hear Me Howl, is so far, the best thing I have seen in 2019. It is real, emotional, hilarious and (as a drummer myself) the ending of a awesome drum solo brings a sense of fun and awe. This production is one to watch and is nothing short of perfection. 

REVIEW: Laurie Black: SPACE CADETTE at The Other Room by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(3 / 5)

Laurie Black is sick of humankind and decides to take us on her journey to be the first woman on the moon. A contemporary cabaret show that showcases Black’s musical and comedy abilities through her quirky, green alter-ego (who might not be an alter-ego).

Black takes us on her journey escaping Earth and encountering David Bowie’s alien spaceship (yes) before landing on the moon. The journey, which takes three-days but feels like an hour, is a fairly simple one as far as plot goes but exists to give context and thematic links to the main event of comedy and music.

Black’s music is a varied mix of genre that, for the most part, has a somewhat futuristic feel. She exploits the sounds of synths, piano and a small drum machine well on stage. But, it is Black’s enthralling voice which captures the audience the most. Not relying solely on her voice however, Black is also a great songwriter using witty pop culture references, the occasional political statement and comedic wordplay.

Mostly original music, there are some covers of popular songs in Space Cadette. Starman by David Bowie stands out as a strong point where the audience are encouraged to sing along with the “la, la, la”s. There are also covers of Radiohead, Muse and Leonard Cohen as well as a funny reference to The Proclaimers.

The comedy and storytelling that comes between the songs was usually good. Nothing to make you belly-laugh, but enough to keep you interested. It is fair to say also, that the comedy suffered due to the low turnout on the night. Some jokes are sleepers which will have you chuckling two-hours after the show as you walk home in the rain – which Black correctly predicts.

The stage set-up is simple. For the most part it’s just a microphone stand and a piano. This worried me at first, but as the show goes on, it isn’t an issue as Black keeps the attention on her. Except for one moment when she gets out her mini-moon that she passes around the audience.

There’s a lot of frustration in the show that gets channelled into humour and songs. On Black’s journey to the moon, we see further into her persona and whilst the outer-shell is hard, by the end we can tell she secretly loves us. There’s no particular agenda to the piece but an overriding theme of frustration at the current state of the world.

Space Cadette is part of The Other Room’s ‘Spring Fringe’ curated spring season. One of eight shows coming to Cardiff’s only pub theatre over the next eight weeks. Tickets can be found for Space Cadette and other Spring Fringe shows HERE, with an ever-growing discount for the more shows you book. If you can’t make the show, but like the sound of Laurie Black, you can find her music on most streaming services online.

Space Cadette is an enchanting, funny cabaret show from Adelaide Fringe 2018 winner, Laurie Black. An exploration to the moon that has so much to say about Earth.

SPACE CADETTE at The Other Room, Cardiff
5th February – 8th February 2019
Created and performed by Laurie Black
Technician: Garrin Clarke