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Review Shirley Valentine by Jane Bissett

3 Stars

Shirley Valentine is a middle-aged housewife who talks to the wall. She is married to Joe and has been a faithful wife and mother. Stuck in the rut of an unfulfilled marriage of routine and domestic drudgery she longs for another life.

Shirley’s best friend Jane, who is unattached since she discovering her husband in bed with the milkman, seems to enjoy a carefree existence and is able to experience a world that Shirley can only dream about.

This however, changes when Jane books a holiday to Greece and not only invites Shirley but gives her the tickets so as to make her decision more difficult.

Of course Shirley wants to go but how does she tell Joe, a man who for the whole of their married life has considered their annual holiday to the Isle of Wight – abroad.

Whilst the holiday is only three weeks away, Shirley struggles with her desire to change her life and become Shirley Valentine once more and leave drudgery behind. As a wife and mother she is caught up in being the constant in the lives of her family and wonders if she should go at all.

Eventually, she decides that she cannot let this opportunity slip away, whilst also knowing that if she tells Joe he will throw a fit, talk her out of it and tell her how stupid she is being.

So confiding in the kitchen wall, to whom she constantly chats, she plans to accompany Jane to Greece.

With all her domestic plans in place, Joe’s meals cooked and in the freezer, her mother coming over to defrost and microwave for him, Shirley buys new clothes for the new her that will go to Greece.

On the day of departure Shirley leaves by taxi and her adventure begins.

Once in Greece Jane hooks up with a man and Shirley spends the first few days by herself. She enjoys the freedom of not being at the beck and call of anyone else and she spends her days exploring the island and soaking up the sun and culture and slowly but surely a new Shirley is reborn – Shirley Valentine of her youth has returned.

With the scales peeled from her eyes she sees the people around her in a new light. The holiday makers at her hotel and the local population, Shirley has gone ‘native’.

Her transformation is complete when she meets Costas, the owner of a local tavern, who helps her fulfill her dream of drinking wine by the sea in the country where the grapes are grown.

Promising not to take advantage of her, the following day he takes her out for the day around the islands in his brother’s boat. The experience is life changing for Shirley, bolstering her confidence in herself and her attractiveness.

On the day of departure, as they are stood in the airport check-in queue Shirley realises she cannot go back to her old life and with the shouts of Jane and fellow passengers following her “come back!” she walks out of the airport and away from her old life and into a new one as she decides to stay in Greece and ask Costas for a job.

When she gets to the tavern Costas is already ‘chatting up’ the next woman, but Shirley hasn’t come back for Costas she has gone back for herself, the youthful, carefree, adventurer who was buried deep inside and who has finally emerged.

Now working evenings at the tavern, Shirley has fielded several phone calls from Joe demanding that she come home. Now, he has decided that his only course of action is to go to Greece to bring her back. Shirley on the other hand has no intention of returning and is sure that Joe will pass her by before recognising her as the happy changed woman she has become.

Shirley Valentine is the creation of writer Willy Russell. She is a manifestation of the 1960/70s middle-aged woman who married young, brought up a family and supported her husband.

Playwright Willy Russell was brought up in Liverpool surrounded by a family of strong women. At the age of 15 he left school to work at a womens’ hairdressers before returning to education and his career as a writer. It is clear that his observations of the women that surrounded him have had an effect on his writing as he has captured their essence as well as the secret dreams and aspirations of women of this time perfectly.

As a one-woman play Shirley Valentine is a triumph of female characterisation. As Shirley, Jodie Prenger skilfully develops her personality as the play unfolds and she tells her story. As she works her way around the kitchen and talks to the audience and of course the ‘wall’ you are drawn into her world and even the younger theatre goer gains a greater understanding of the life she leads and the life she dreams of.

It did feel as if it was a little bit of a slow burn, but this character could not have been rushed as she bared her soul and inner dreams before us.

Prenger’s portrayal of Shirley was a realistic and believable one. The audience was biased towards women, it has to be said of a certain age, who were empathetic to the character and her situation. The unsuppressed laughter at Shirley’s description of her life and encounters was encouraging as you realised that the audience ‘got it’.

Glen Walford has directed this production with the imagination and skill that you would have expected given her directing pedigree.

Although there are only two scene locations both felt familiar. The kitchen, the heart of the home, and the beach in Greece. I particularly liked the subtle lighting effects that gave movement to the sea it added to the atmosphere without distracting.

If there is one take away moment it has to be watching Prenger actually cooking chips’n’egg on stage, and as the lights dimmed for the next scene I couldn’t help smiling to myself as a male stage hand came on to clean the kitchen area. Something that her Joe would have been horrified at seeing, but then I wondered, would any of the younger women in the audience have even noticed?

Prenger did not disappoint as Shirley and received a well deserved standing ovation for giving us two hours of sheer pleasure.

Shirley Valentine plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 27 June – Saturday 1 July at 7.30pm

On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.

For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

An interview with Rachel Trezise

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to writer Rachel Trezise. We discussed her career to date, theatre in Wales, and access to literature/cultural provision.

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

I’m a writer from the Rhondda valley. I’m most well known for winning the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006 with a collection of short stories about life in South Wales called ‘Fresh Apples.’

So what got you interested in writing and the arts?

Initially I wanted to be a journalist. I started writing a music fanzine when I was fifteen because I loved music and writing about it so much. Between the time I left school and throughout university I wrote my debut novel in my spare time because I couldn’t wait to start writing for a magazine or newspaper. The novel was published just before I left university and I stuck with writing fiction as well as some freelance journalism.

As a writer you work across a variety of forms from novels, short stories to plays. How do the different disciplines differ for you?

 There are different levels of involvement and different amounts of time required to complete each. Short stories are my favourite simply because of their brevity and the fact you needn’t have to hold a whole world in your head which you have to for a novel and to some extent a play. But the writing or the aim of the writing is always the same; to realise each character and their circmstances.

 Your first play Tonypandemonium for National Theatre Wales was autobiographical and from a predominantly female perspective. I believe the cast of your next play ‘We’re Still Here’ for NTW is predominantly male and developed from first hand interviews with steelworkers? Can you discuss how this process differs?

Tonypandemonium National Theatre Wales

Credit Mark Douet

 Actually it doesn’t differ. Although Tonypandemonium was autobiographical and We’re Still Here is a form of non-fiction both works come via my own world prism. I’ve worked hard to ensure the steelworkers in the play reflect the people I met and spoke to in Port Talbot but I always try to make sure my characters are authentic to their own locality and situation in any case. What is different I suppose is that the characters in We’re Still Here are predominantly male. But they are working class men working in the rapidly-vanishing realm of heavy industry which, much like the de-industrialised setting in Tonypandemonium is an environment that’s underrepresented in literature and theatre. I’ve tried to make the characters as honest and soul-bearing as the men I interviewed and to completely avoid the more common strong and silent male character trope we see everyday in film and on TV.

 For ‘We’re Still Here’ you are working with Rhiannon White from Commonwealth Theatre. Much of their practice is a socially engaged form of theatre making which has obvious links to NTW’s hugely successful production The Passion with Michael Sheen. Do you feel involving citizen in this way can create new audiences for what can be seen as an elitist art form?

The Creative team on  ‘We’re Still Here’  Kully Thiarai, Evie Manning, Rachel Tresize and Rhiannon White 

Of course. From start to finish we’ve engaged and will continue to engage with the people of Port Talbot. We’re making a show for the town rather than just about it. In fact Commonwealth Theatre and NTW have set the ticket price lower for residents of Port Talbot which is a very direct way to engage a local and perhaps previously unaccustomed audience and we have a large community cast. NTW worked in a similar way during the run up to Tonypandemonium at the Park and Dare in Treorchy, creating a community cast and inviting the community into rehearsals which gave Treorchy some ownership over the event.

https://www.nationaltheatrewales.org/were-still-here

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or specifically writers?

 Nothing that isn’t already being identified and addressed but there are always factors that are beyond our control. I loved doing an intensive creative writing workshop with Literature Wales and the South Wales Literature Development Initiative throughout 2013, working mainly with three groups: Young carers, Comprehensive school students and Valleys Kids. All the young people I worked with were eager and receptive but I remember a couple of young people outside one of my Valleys Kids classes who didn’t have the confidence to come in and have a go and whatever I said I couldn’t encourage them because they thought creative writing was somehow academic. I just think it’s a bit of a tragedy that an initiative like that hadn’t reached them a bit earlier in their lives and made the arts seem less threatening.

 

southwalesliterature.co.uk

 There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?

 Yes, it does feel healthy to me at the moment. My experience, although more with my literature than with drama work, is that it’s been difficult to get work reviewed widely. The literary quarterlies in Wales are always a few months late, the Welsh newspapers aren’t interested in reviewing the arts in any depth and the national media might not necessarily understand the setting of Wales-based work. (I still remember a headline from The Telegraph the day after I won the Dylan Thomas Prize: ‘Rural tales of despair scoop £60,000.’ I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams describe the post industrial south Wales valleys as ‘rural’.) All these issues make getting your work out there difficult but I know that Get the Chance, Wales Arts Review and NTW have been doing a lot of good work in this area.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

 Libraries. My life would be very different had I not discovered Treorchy Library whilst my mother was a cleaner there and I’d like to think that every child has a well-stocked library within walking distance where they can access thousands upon thousands of worlds very different to their own.

Treorchy Library

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

 Work on the script has been manic for the last few months so I haven’t got out much. One thing, which of course it was my duty to see, was an adaptation of one of my own stories ‘Hard As Nails’ by three Treorchy Comprehensive School drama students in association with RCT Theatres and Motherlode. The girls adapted the story, directed and acted in the fifteen minute performance at the Park and Dare and the Millennium Centre. It just made me very proud to have such talented and enthusiastic young people coming straight out of school and diving so fearlessly into the arts.

 

 Many thanks for your time

 

 

Review, Beginnings, Hannah’s Yard by Gareth Williams

4 Stars4 / 5

The release of debut album Beginnings is surely the start of something special for Hannah Layton Turner. The musical collective known as Hannah’s Yard have released a fascinatingly eclectic record. Here are 14 songs that span across a variety of genres. We have a mixture of folk, pop, country, jazz and swing. They combine to create an album full of musical flavour, that doesn’t sit neatly into one particular category. The opening song “Why Would I Know” offers a laid back, easy listening sound; “Doin’ It for Myself” is an inspiring and upbeat pop song; and “I Want You” is a gear shift into jazz and swing. Then, in another key change, Hannah duets with fellow band member Barnaby Pinny on country-sounding ballad “Here and Now”, with the country/folk influence continuing in later songs “Baby I’m There” and “Dance Our Way Back”. This mixture of musical styles works, in part due to the naturally confident and adaptable voice of Turner. Her melodic vocals make for a seamless transition between songs. Her purely vocal intro to final track “Amazing Grace” shows off her vocal prowess – a captivating sound that calls for a devoted listening ear. This last song is a nod to Olney, the small English town where they are based and where the original was first written in the 1770s. Surely Hannah’s Yard is destined to be known further than their Buckinghamshire base however. With such a range of musical tastes, they have produced a lovely and surprising album that would be a welcome soundtrack to many people’s summer.

An Interview with photographer Nigel Pugh

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

I’ve been a practicing artist for twenty four years, concentrating solely on photography for the last seven years.  I was born in Mid Wales the woods and rivers that surrounded me were my playground, place of solace and exploration. I absorbed the wildlife and it’s nature, whilst intuitively responding to the ever-shifting light upon the abundant textures and landscapes. During eighteen years of living in Mid Wales I began to note the ecology dwindling, and left wondering, why? Forty years on I estimate that 80% of the river ecology alone, has disappeared.

I went to Art College to study photography, typography and illustration. Four years later I returned to Wales to build and run a successful arts business in Cardiff. I became a father to two lovely children then returned to explore environmental and social themes in an attempt to seek answers to unresolved questions. Photography appeared to me as a modest way to retain a little bit of an ephemeral state; a record of what has been lost, to be lost, or regained.  I began to explore my photography practice as my part to play in the promotion of living within environmental constraints and the promotion of a more sustainable, symbiotic relationship with nature, the promotion of a more socially equitable society. I chiefly focus on environmental and social themes; the actions, narratives, interactions of individuals and their relation to their environment and community. I have sought to promote sustainable community resilience, to live within environmental constraints. My nature photography usually documents and promotes native ecology and the worth of its reinstatement. Over many years I have campaigned for, promoted and supported many environmental organisations, that adhere to the above principles.

So what got you interested in the arts and specifically photography?

My fathers relationship with us was often via a lens, he was a very good photographer. We had several family albums in our home, since I can remember, when at the family home they would always be poured over. I loved the documentation, the relationship with moment, place, time and people. I was always praised for my art work, never imagined doing anything else. The hardest thing was settling on a medium. Even though photography was part of my degree, it took having children and being a full time dad to return to this medium. I never liked the blank canvas, although I have created, sold, exhibited, both 3D work and illustration. Photography re engaged my sense of community, took away the blank canvas, fitted perfectly with my social and environmental campaigning and activism. Initially as a medium of evidence, then increasingly as a component part of story telling, socially engaged arts practice, given over to creating positive change.

As part of Refugee Week you are currently showing at Wales Millennium Centre with an exhibition called ‘Creating Sanctuary’ can you tell us more?

‘Creating Sanctuary’ identified human commonalities of purpose, work, security of home, family, friends, community, creativity, camaraderie, healing, sharing loss and grief. The subjects sort shared the commonality of volunteering their time to working with refugees. Refugees, whoever they are and regardless of where they are from, have had their basic human requirements wholly or partly removed. Creating Sanctuary recognises and illustrates the core human requirements that volunteers, or the ‘sanctuary makers’ are assisting to recreate and reinstate. The exhibition was co-ordinated to coincide with Volunteers’ Week and Refugee Week and my hope was that the project will encourage others to accept and assist in the integration of refugees in Wales, and lead to increased voluntary action; to further Wales’ journey in becoming a ’Nation Of Sanctuary’. The exhibition features six volunteers that have worked with refugees in different ways, from right around Wales. Three portraits of each, loosely based on the themes of, voluntary work, home and community. These portraits are then followed by quotes extracted from written responses to seven questions that I asked of the volunteers before taking their portraits.

“I have held a teenage girl while she cried for her mother who she will probably never see again and heard women speak in hushed tones of their past that they struggle to share even with women who suffered the same. These people are just people, alone in a new place, they are professionals, students, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers.”

Catrin – The Birth Partner Project

Barry & Cardiff, South Wales.

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/350509/350514/

Link to an audio interview with Nigel on FFoton.

https://www.ffoton.wales/interviews/2016/5/nigel-pugh

‘Get the Chance’ works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or audiences? 

The Arts Council; I feel is doing its best in ‘out reach’ and ensuring accessibility to all. It will always be extremely difficult to cover all bases, due to cost. All Arts Council funded Arts Centres should do their utmost to reach into disenfranchised, or non-engaged, disadvantaged communities.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

If I were to wave a creative wand, it would create ‘creative hubs’ central to all constituencies. These hubs would have affordable co working spaces, and would house access to facilities to deliver a wide range of the ‘creative arts’. Many a creative is born from a bedroom with an online connection, a computer, and the related software to be able to explore, learn, create and deliver. This access should not be a privilege. Think ’Creative Arts Youth Centres’

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers? 

In all honesty, I barely have time to see enough of the Arts from right across Wales. I am usually tied up with what I am trying to achieve, whilst parenting two children. What does excite me is, if all had the realisation that where ever you are from in Wales if you raise your voice Welsh politics is extremely touchable. If you work together we can create more localised viable economies which include the Arts as a vocation, as being viable, without having to permanently move to a city region. Or if you wished to return to your birth town with your acquired skills it is an option.

Days of Melancholy © Tatiana Vinogradova

As a photographer living in Cardiff I was lucky enough to be included in the ‘diffusion festival’. The exhibition or works that touched me the most within ‘diffusion’ was Tatiana Vinogradova’s ‘Days of Melancholy’ a series focusing on the life of gay people in Russia. Works such as this strongly illustrate the relative freedoms that we do have in Wales to express and be, whoever we wish to be; this should be a right, again, not a privilege.

Lastly, the best things that I have experienced of late on a personal level, were 1) being awarded an Arts Council Grant, 2) getting to work with caring compassionate people from across Wales, 3) completing a project and seeing it on the walls of the Wales Millennium Centre, 4) how positively ‘Creating Sanctuary’ has been received.

It was a journey, that I fully intended to extend further, but whole heartedly not just for my own wellbeing, as my photography is not separate to my activism, or to who I am.

http://www.nigelpugh.co.uk/-/galleries/social-documentary/creating-santuary-final

nigelpugh.co.uk

Nigel gives an overview of the images from ‘Creating Sanctuary’

Top Tunes with Emily Garside

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

I’m a writer and researcher with a love for theatre. Having been an academic for several years while writing my PhD I’m now getting back to writing my own plays again too. Born and raised in Cardiff I came back after time in London and Canada and Nottingham and I love being home. I’m a first class nerd, which I take as an absolute compliment. My first theatrical love was musical theatre as I’m sure my music choices show!

I’ve recently written for Dirty Protest in their “Election Night” event as well as had pieces on at the Southwark Playhouse. My most recent work “Party Like it’s 1985” is being performed as part of Chippy Lane Productions 2017 scratch night on June 27th.

Home

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?

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?

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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?

Currently listening to; The Groundhog Day musical cast recording. Written by Tim Minchin it’s quite simply one of the best new musicals I’ve seen in the last 10 years. It’s also witty and catchy while also being a really quite emotional listen.

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?

Rent- Original Broadway Cast Recording. Quite simply I wouldn’t be who I am personally or professionally without this album. At 19 like many a musical theatre kid, I discovered Rent. I fell in love with the music and my love of that musical shaped my theatre-going life. It also shaped my professional life. From writing first my undergraduate dissertation on the musical, to Rent being a key part of what became my PhD. The music, and composer Jonathan Larson himself are some of the greatest influences on me. Personally, it was a gateway to so many things, including friends. One of my closest friends lives on the other side of the world, but we’re friends because of Rent. Last year we both stood on stage in a Broadway theatre with one of the original cast from Rent. This girl from Cardiff, who never was part of the theatre world, getting to stand on stage on Broadway, with a friend I’d never have, from the other side of the world, having written a PhD on something this actors was in, all because of this music. So Rent is pretty special to me.

Sister Act-Soundtrack. Choirs have played a big part in my life since I went to University, both giving me a creative outlet and allowing me to make some great friends and have some amazing experiences. Coincidentally both choirs I’ve been in over the last 10 years or so have taken the music of Sister Act as an inspiration. I think the message of the films, about the power of music and friendship has been integral to what makes my current choir so special, so the music of these films will always be special to me. (And in a couple of weeks I get to do my best impression of ‘little redhead Nun’ which my singing teacher always used to say was me- looks small and quiet but makes a lot of noise when pushed)

Company- Stephen Sondheim (2006 Broadway Cast recording). Because musicals have ended up a part of my professional life, and even if they weren’t forensic analysis of them is part of my personality as a fan, I can’t leave out a Sondheim musical from this list. Company I’ve chosen because firstly it’s one that in a lifetime of analysis I’d still find new things to uncover and talk about. Added to this, as I grow older and ‘grow into’ the story of Company it becomes more relatable and more emotional. The 2006 production, and recording and the combination of Raul Esparza’s Bobby- I find it hard to imagine any better interpretation of the role- and John Doyle’s re-imagining of the piece- for me will probably always remain the benchmark for this musical. It’s a rare and wonderful thing to have a recording that challenges you intellectually still but also has an emotional resonance that keeps growing.

Sarah McLachlan- Mirrorball. We all have an album that shaped our teenage years and this was mine. I was never cool enough to rebel and be a rocker, so some soft indie-rock was where I ended up. This album just sounds like being 18 again to me.

The Boy From Oz- Cast Recording. Even though I rarely listen to it any more this musical was a big part of my life when I first got it. The first musical I ever saw ‘live’ and part of the path that took me to being both a theatre lover and to my professional career as a researcher. It was my gateway to a world of theatre and musicals, and still remains one of the best theatrical memories I have- discovering musicals with my Mum who is still by my side for a lot of theatre. And it’s a musical that has ‘Wolverine’ (Hugh Jackman) dancing and singing in Hawaiian shirts and gold lame trousers- a guaranteed smile to the face memory!

Of these my ‘One track’ would be ‘Will I?’ from Rent. Not the most famous, or even perhaps the best piece on the recording. But for me it was both the moment I fell in love with the piece, the most emotional moment (actually in theatre ever) seeing it live, and my benchmark for a good production. Hearing that track takes me back to a time and place but also always reminds me a bit of who I am, what inspires me and why I do what I do.

Review The Graduate New Theatre Cardiff by Eloise Stingemore

3 Stars3 / 5

The hit West End comedy with its unforgettable characters from the landmark novel and Oscar-winning film are brought to life on the stage of Cardiff’s, New Theatre.

Based on the novel by Charles Webb and the 1968 film, it concerns Mrs Robinson’s played by Catherine McCormack, seduction of young middle class rebel without a cause character Benjamin Braddock, played by Jack Monaghan. Who is struggling to come to terms with his future, worrying that his family expect too much from him, and feels thoroughly disillusioned. However, when seduced by long-term family friend the sensational Mrs Robinson his boredom takes a new direction. And when he has a date with Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine, he finally finds some meaning to his life, a meaning that Mrs Robinson opposes!

There is no denying that since it was first written and later immortalised on the big screen the world has drastically changed, which is reflected both in Terry Jonson’s adaptation and Lucy Bailey’s direction of the story for the stage. In no way does it shy away from the prejudices of that time, and in doing so gives the audience a sense of progress that we as a society have made in regards to sexism. Yet at the same time it gives you pause for thought in relation to how little progress we’ve made in some areas too – especially our ability to communicate with those around us. This theme in  the play gives a great sense of amusement and laughter for the audience, especially when touching on the idea of a ‘generation gap’ in scenes between Ben and his Dad. As well as a much-needed sense of relevance, as we now live in a world where such dalliances have become the norm albeit not always outwardly accepted by those around us. Yet the idea that young people see a different future to their parents, but struggle to communicate that future, is still very much relevant albeit not as new as it was in the 60s.

However, to pull off Charles Webb’s original novel, which is a thing of beauty, takes a cast of supreme talent to pull it off. Unfortunately on this occasion, Bailey has failed to assemble such a cast; there was a lack of chemistry between the two leads and the attempt to bring emotional ballast to the piece in the second half by bulking up the role of Mrs Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, played by Emma Curtis. Turned The Graduate from being a dark, funny and beautiful satire of suburbia into a thin story about a kid who feels unsatisfied with his life, chucks his chances away and emerges relatively unscathed at the end.

 

Review Delta Autumn, Ffresh, WMC by Emily Garside

Ffresh the new cabaret venue at the WMC continues its latest season of music with the eclectic and unusual Delta Autumn. Asked to describe them it’s difficult to pin down a band who describes their influences from Autumn’s hip-hop, glitch, pop, rock and jazz. Performed with electroacoustic compositional techniques they were initially conceived as a studio only project by Robbie and Luke, Delta Autumn later expanded to take in Thomas and Ric. An unusual band, provoking curiosity they are the perfect addition to the latest season at Ffresh.

The venue itself is relatively new to the WMC and is conceived as a space to host a variety of gig-style events. Though the Cabaret style work of visiting musical theatre stars such as Caroline Sheen and the ever-popular Hello Cabaret nights, would seem the logical choice for the WMC’s venue gigs like this prove its versatility as a venue. Among the rest on offer include An Israeli contemporary solo bass player, a Welsh country and folk musician and a Leonard Cohen tribute and a winner from RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s something fresh (pardon the pun) and exciting for a gig venue in Cardiff not to feel restricted by genre or target audience.

The venue itself has also been revamped for the new cabaret setting, with the back half of the bar now an intimate collection of shabby-chic cabaret tables, framed by bronze leaf trees that give the place a slightly ethereal feel. With the front tables, practically on the stage it makes for an intimate feel that is missing in many of the live music venues in Cardiff. The fact that it’s seated, with drinks gives the place a ‘grown up’ vibe. Table service from the excellent WMC staff means there’s no bar scrum and even at full capacity this wouldn’t feel like an overcrowded venue.

Delta Autumn’s gig was a low-key affair, and although the audience was on the small side there was a supportive and attentive vibe from the crowd. Indeed, it was a small but vocal crowd for last night’s gig. The band clearly have a dedicated following who knew their work well, but they also commented on how nice it was to see new faces in the crowd. The band also joked that as their only released music was only 15 minutes long then two 45 minute sets were going to be a challenge. They needn’t have worried however, their set comfortably filling the time and veering between low-key melancholy sounding tracks and upbeat synths was as fascinating musically as it was entertaining.

Best described as an electronic jazz sound that barely scratches the surface of the musical influences covered. And they were as fascinating to watch-working across multiple instruments and mixing live- as they were to listen to. Mixing up their sets with piano and guitar solos really showed off what the band are capable of. Despite the skill on show individually there is a strange alchemy to their work together. Hard to believe they were originally intended as only a studio project, their live performance was masterful. It’s sometimes difficult to listen to an entire evening of unfamiliar music but Delta Autumn create something so unique it’s impossible not to be won over.

Touring the country this summer, at a variety of festivals Delta Autumn are well worth an encounter, you’ll be fascinated and also hugely entertained.

 

 

Review The Graduate, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett

4 Stars4 / 5

The stage production of The Graduate  is Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the 1967 screenplay for the film of the same name. The story of the Graduate was written by Charles Webb and was his first novel written at the age of 24. Whilst it is not considered directly autobiographical, Webb’s own life is very much reflected in what he wrote and he has drawn on his own experiences to portray the, what was then, young Benjamin Braddock.

The play, set at the time it was written, gives us an insight into the world of the 1960s up and coming affluent American families and their aspirations for their offspring.

In contrast Benjamin shows us a confused young man who having graduated is unclear of his route ahead. His parents want him to follow a career path that will lead him to a secure future both financially and socially, however, Benjamin does not view this life with such optimism.

On the day of his graduation party he is propositioned by a friend of his parents, Mrs Robinson, a woman clearly bored in an unfulfilled marriage that denied her of a career and life before her life as a mother and housewife began and has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Shocked and knowing the close relationship between his parents and the Robinson’s he rejects her. Curious, bored and wanting to experience life Benjamin later begins an illicit affair with Mrs Robinson that lasts the summer. However, he quickly realises that he wants more from life and from a relationship.

Behind the scenes Mr Robinson and Benjamin’s father have been matchmaking and have arranged for him to take the Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, on a date. Disinterested Benjamin takes her to a venue that he is certain she will not like and he isn’t disappointed. Benjamin and Elaine continue to date much to the disapproval of her mother, his former lover, and when Elaine finally returns to college Benjamin announces to his parents that Elaine Robinson is the woman he will marry.

Benjamin then pursues Elaine, declares his love, only to be brought home by his father after the discovery of his affair with Mrs Robinson. As far as his parents are concerned his issues stem from his childhood and as a family they go to see a therapist.

The discovery that Elaine is to marry spurs Benjamin into action and his timely arrival at the church stops the wedding…. does it have a happy ending? Only time will tell but Benjamin and Elaine do end the play by running away together.

In Webb’s life his college romance with Eve Rudd (aka Fred) faced disapproval from her parents and despite numerous barriers put before them it went on to be a lifelong relationship that endured the tests of time and that of family life as they had two sons.

This production was set at the time it was written and had a very retro feel to the set design and the way in which the scenes changed. There were some up-to-date touches with dream sequences being projected as a film in the background which I felt visually worked well.

Jack Monaghan’s portrayal of Benjamin Braddock was very reminiscent of that given by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film of The Graduate. His slow American accent accentuated the personality of Benjamin and indeed allowed us to consider his age and thought processing of the situations that he found himself in. Whilst in 2017 a young man of 21 is worldly wise we have to remember that this was certainly not the case in the families of the new up and coming affluent classes of American society of the 1960s.

From the moment Catherine McCormack (Mrs Robinson) sets foot on the stage we see a bored middle aged woman who is desperately trying to cling on to her youth. Her marriage is unfulfilling and she has taken refuge in alcohol a poor excuse, even then, for her behaviour. As the story unfolds we see a woman who has lost control of her family and resents her daughter for having all the advantages she did not but who does not have the personality and enthusiasm for life that she considers young women of the liberated 1960 should have.

All the cast members enhanced the main characters and gave credible performances in their own right. It was a thought provoking and enjoyable production and never before have I seen a bed with so much stage presence and a the ability to move seamlessly between scenes.

The Graduate needs to be viewed in context to its time and place in history. From conversations around me, many of the audience had seen the film and clearly were enjoying this performance, the only thing that was missing was a Greyhound Bus.

The Graduate plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
Tuesday 20 June – Saturday 24 June at 7.30pm
On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.
For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/the-graduate/

Top Tunes with Matthew Bulgo

Photographs of Matthew by Jon Pountney

GRID

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

Hello! I’m Matthew Bulgo. I’m an actor, playwright and dramaturg based in Cardiff and I’m also an Associate Director of Dirty Protest, Wales’ guerrilla new writing theatre company. I grew up in Swansea, studied in London and stayed there for a chunk of time before settling in Cardiff.

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

I’ve been a huge music fan ever since I hijacked my father’s vinyl collection when I was about 10. I listen to a lot of music. I listen to music when I work, when I’m making food, when I’m having an unwind, when I go running. It’s a really important part of my life. Currently, I’m listening to Hippo Campus, Froth, Ezra Furman, Angel Olsen, Yeasayer, Darwin Deez, Real Estate, Dick Diver, Lord Huron, Will Butler, Maximo Park, Hinds, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Soccer Mommy, Public Access TV…I’ve also rediscovered Blondie this week so I’ve been binge listening their entire back-catalogue at the moment.

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?

The Strokes – ‘Is This It?’ – I love the energy of this album. Once you get past the first track, it feels like a runaway train that’s threatening to derail itself. It just has this real sense of abandon. It’s up there for me as a modern classic. There’s not a single dud track on there.


Arcade Fire – ‘Funeral’ – Now, I’m not a fan of dancing but there are a few tracks on here that are just so galvanising that I just can’t help myself. Again, like The Strokes, this album has this really boundless energy.


The Beatles – ‘Abbey Road’ – This was the first ever vinyl that I bought with my own money when I was about 10. I think my dad had pretty much every other album by The Beatles but this one was missing from the collection. ‘Come Together’ was an immediate favourite, just such a cool riff.

When I started my first band when I was about 16, that song was top of the set-list. And then there’s the extraordinary B-side to the side to the album where all of the songs segue into each other. As you get to those final few tracks, you can sorta hear that it’s the last thing these four people are going to record together. They’re saying “this is it, and now we’re going to go out with something really spectacular”.


Belle and Sebastian – ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ – Now, this album reminds me of a really specific time in my life. I was into the music that no-one else really liked and I didn’t dress how people expected me to dress. I started to going to this club night in Swansea that played all the music I loved and I suddenly discovered all the outsiders who were into the same things as me. It was just as this album came out, so these songs felt like the soundtrack to that whole period.


The Smiths – ‘The Smiths’ – The Smiths are lyrically just exquisite. I loved how they were able to be cool and witty and pithy and fey all at the same time. I could have picked any of their albums really but this has one of my favourites, ‘Still Ill’ on it.

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?

Ooo, maybe ‘Last Night’ by The Strokes. Great song, super-cool video and a melody that is best shouted rather than sung.

You can purchase a range of the latest vinyl records and classics from Outpost Coffee and Vinyl Cardiff.

http://www.outpostrecords.co.uk

Many thanks for your time Matthew 

Review Der Rosenkavalier, WNO, Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

Photographic credits Nilz Böhme 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

“Age doth not wither her.” The old adage definitely can be applied to Rebecca Evan’s portrayal of the demanding central role of the Marschallin in a new production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, a co-production between Welsh National Opera and Theater Magdeburg. Evans is at the top of her scale, with a soaring soprano and equally at ease in Act I as the skittish Bichette (her lover’s name for the Marschallin) and in the final scenes as a mature and gracious lady, bowing to the inevitable.

Right from the start there is poignancy behind the comedy, as a lone figure portraying the Marschallin in age is seen either seated in a chair or wandering around at the back of the stage. A nice touch of individuality in that the (non speaking) part is played by actress Margaret Bainton who was in the chorus of the WNO for thirty-seven years and played a child in Der Rosenkavalier fifteen years ago

The Marschallin is married to a high-ranking Field Marshall who is conveniently away on duty as she enjoys a bit of rumpy pumpy with her young lover, Count Octavian (nicknamed Quinquin) , only to be most inconveniently interrupted by the boorish Baron Ochs, up from the country and hell-bent on acquiring a young wife with money. The machinations become more and more involved, as Octavian is nominated to carry the obligatory silver rose – the Der Rosenkavalier of the title and traditionally symbolising and engagement– to the Baron’s prospective bride. What no one has bargained for is that the two young people are instantly smitten with one another and fall in love.

As often with operatic comedies, there is a hint of pantomime. The young Count Octavian is a female role, performed here by the delightful Canadian mezzo-soprano Lucia Cervoni, making her debut with WNO and singing the role with evident relish. Brindley Sherratt’s Baron not only shows perfect timing but his mastery of a difficult bass role, requiring as it does a range that is rare, Sherratt being one of the few who have this accomplishment. The Baron’s intended is Sophie, daughter of the daughter of nouveau riche businessman Faninal. Singing Sophie is the delightful newcomer Louise Alder, in Cardiff for Singer of the World and only the night before shortlisted as a contender for the title, while as Faninal her social climbing father with dreams of grandeur, Adrian Clarke is a Hitler-like figure of hand-rubbing nastiness.

Strauss’s wonderful music, bound together with its string of memorable waltz melodies, is a given, but in the hands of WNO’s new young conductor Tomáš Hanus takes on new dimensions, underlying the comedy and recognising the poignancy beneath. A small caveat – there is a sight hesitation, no more than a breath, in Act II when the tempo drops, otherwise this would have been five star. All in all – a masterpiece culminating in the superb singing of the trio as the opera draws to a close. Director Olivia Fuchs and designer Niki Turner are to be congratulated. Turner has resisted the temptation to go overboard, and instead opts for a single glittering chandelier that reflects the opulence of 1911 Vienna against elegant pale grey walls. An added pointer to the theme of the opera are the sands of time running out from above onto the stage, much appreciated by the audience but a nightmare for the stage hands.

Music: Richard Strauss

Libretto: Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Director: Olivia Fuchs

http://www.wno.org.uk/event/der-rosenkavalier