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An interview with Geoff Cripps

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Geoff Cripps. We discussed his career to date, his band  Allan Yn Y Fan and his thoughts on music and theatre in Wales today.

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

I was born and raised in Pontllanfraith in the Sirhowy Valley and educated at Pontllanfraith Grammar Technical School, University College Swansea and UWIST Cardiff. My early interest in music and the arts came from my mother who gave me piano lessons when just an infant. Pont Grammar School with its annual musical theatre productions and very broad church school “Folk Club” encouraged the performer and participant in me. This was the fabled sixties (yes – I am an old git!) and I remember various peers showing each other in the school playground their mastery of the latest guitar riffs or chord sequences of the rock & pop music of the day…That, plus when I was in the sixth form, there was a sequence of wondrous gigs at the pre-refurbed Blackwood Miner’s Institute by the likes of Dave Edmund’s Love Sculpture, Black Sabbath, The Strawbs often supported by the Rhondda band which became Racing Cars. All heady stuff!

In Swansea I became the organiser of our hall of residence folk club – which was also where I first started booking performers. At this point I was mad about music, never recovered actually, and saw 137 bands in my three years there ( I was the nerdy boy who star rated them all in his diaries!).

At this stage apart from being taken to panto as a small boy and one trip to the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff I was not a theatre goer or knowledgeable at all on this genre.

You are a member of the band Allan Yn Y Fan. Congratulations on your 21 years together! What are you all currently working on?

Thanks Guy. Sometimes it is hard to fathom how the initial quartet of myself, Kate Strudwick (currently boss of Head 4 Arts), Chris Jones & Linda Simmonds have stuck it out for more than 2 decades…Even harder is for me to think quite how I managed to make 4 albums, tour to Germany, Czech Republic, France, Ireland whilst Artistic Director at RCT Theatres! The current line up now also consists of lead singer Catrin O’Neill and fiddler Alan Cooper and together we are working hard to try and get the gigs that keep a six-piece band on the road!

These are tough times…but we are excited that next month we perform for the first time at the Abergavenny Food Festival Community Feast (14th Sept.), followed by our first ever performance in Austria at the House of Regions in Krems (21st Sept.) and then are honoured by performing at the Welsh night of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on 24th September. We might all have a lie down in a darkened room after that lot!


As you mentioned earlier you are the former artistic director of RCT Theatres. Get the Chance has had a great deal of support for its work in the valleys venues of South Wales. The venues very often act as the social and cultural hubs of our communities. How do you see venues of this nature developing in the future?

I am so pleased that Get the Chance has been so well supported by the Valleys Venues. I came in to running a Valleys Venue – the Beaufort Theatre Ebbw Vale when I was first appointed as Arts Development Officer for Blaenau Gwent CBC way back in 1994. This was not long after the initiative from the old Welsh Office and South East Wales Arts Association which had enabled the refurbishment of a number of Valleys Venues in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This initiative brought back to life or reinvigorated some ex-Miner’s Institutes which had previously been the cultural and social hubs of the valleys communities. These days I am very fearful for the future of many of these venues in a period when money is so much scarce than in those heady days of the ‘90s but also when, it appears to me, that, despite all the evidence gathered over the past couple of decades, the value of the investment in arts and culture is still little appreciated by the political funding masters. I think that those local authorities that continue to invest in and support their cultural venues are to be applauded. Those residents in areas that still have their cultural venue operating and supporting professional and amateur artistic endeavours should cherish and use them – and shout about the opportunities they offer loudly and often to all their elected representatives.

The best venues and those which keep deepening the nature of their active engagement with their local population will be the ones which will survive and may ultimately thrive.

When you have any spare time you are also a board member of Creu Cymru and Theatr na nÓg.Creu Cymru is a development agency for theatres and arts centre in Wales. Is it possible to explain your more about this organisation and your role?

I have since retirement been proud to have had the opportunity to serve on the boards of The Borough Theatre Abergavenny, Creu Cymru and since 2016 Theatr na nÓg. I hope that whatever “wisdom” I may have picked up over my “career” I can share with and strengthen through good governance of these artistic organisations.

Creu Cymru is an organisation unique to Wales – its strength and appeal reflected in the fact that virtually all the professionally run theatres and arts centres in Wales are in the membership. It aims to be the development organisation for all those working in these arts venues – and links the big operations such as Venue Cymru or Wales Millennium Centre to places such as the Congress Theatre Cwmbran or Galeri Caernarfon.

Creu Cymru offers opportunities for theatre staff to go and see work – whether that be in Edinburgh, across Wales or – sometimes funded by WAI – for international visits such as to CINARS in Montreal. Visits such as these enable the programmers and marketers in the venues to see work across the genres and to debate with peers the merits or otherwise of all scales of artistic endeavour. This often leads to such work being brought to Wales for the benefit of Welsh audiences.

Creu Cymru arranges regular arts consortium meetings (Music, Drama and Dance) at which the work is discussed, members can bring to the table ideas they wish to or are about to develop and also identify strands of work that will enable them to reach out to parts of their audience ecology they wish to reach.


I have been fortunate to have had two periods of board membership – coming to a conclusion in 2018 – and through my own membership it was the backing of or the interactions with my colleagues in Creu Cymru which emboldened me and my RCT Theatre team to start in our co-producing and producing role which I am delighted to see being continued by Angela Gould now.

It was this latter involvement which really set the seal on my support of and active involvement with Theatr na nÓg leading to us co-producing Tom in 2014 with the premiere being held at The Muni in Pontypridd. I am delighted to be on the board of such an inventive and exciting company – and also delighted that as one of the new strands of their work they are encouraging the participation of young people in theatre making via their Ambassador scheme.


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/creatives?

The barriers I am aware of are our poor transport networks, lack of money and lack of equality of opportunity – often compounded by the first two factors. I hope that with the focus Get The Chance brings to certain projects/areas/opportunities more pressure will be brought to bear on those who can best resolve some of the infrastructural issues!

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

For Allan Yn Y Fan our best supporters are the Musician’s Union and TRAC (which I was delighted to be the first Development Director 2001-2003). In some areas there has been support from ACW and WAI enabling Welsh musicians to take part in show casing opportunities such as WOMEX and Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections. As a band we have been fortunate to have received modest grants from ACW to support our tours of Wales in 2010 and 2016 but with the diminution of Lottery funds – getting such awards are going to be increasingly rare. It is also a shame, in my view, that ACW has not supported the production of CDs in the way that Creative Scotland has and continues to do.

I do hope that in my lifetime we might see a showcasing event which will spotlight the current vitality and breadth of traditional music acts in the way that Showcase Scotland and Folk Expo England do.

folk development for Wales

I do hope that in my lifetime we might see a showcasing event which will spotlight the current vitality and breadth of traditional music acts in the way that Showcase Scotland and Folk Expo England do.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would





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

See above – I would fund for a three year period on a tapering basis a Welsh traditional music expo with opportunities for the general public to attend all the showcase performances – this would assist in breaking down the widespread apathy or ignorance to the “real music” of Wales.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The blurring of the roles of “Presenter” and “Producer.” The contributions of artists across the country who do what they do for insufficient recompense or recognition.

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Just because it is so fresh in my mind I nominate the NTS production of “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour” which I first witnessed at the Traverse in Edinburgh in 2015 and last week loved once again as it approaches the end of its’ London run at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I just wish that our National Theatre companies would develop and tour a show in the country’s theatres!! Site specific can be brilliant but please National Theatre Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru – put something of value into the network of Theatres in Wales….. (retires to await the brickbats!)

Thanks for your time Geoff


Review: Burning Lantern Fayre, St Fagan’s – By Eloise Stingemore


5 Stars5 / 5


Burning Lantern Fayre was the heritage attraction’s first large scale music event. Over 8,000 people descended on the country fayre styled event set in the picturesque grounds of St Fagan’s National Museum of History, Cardiff one of Europe’s leading open air-museum on a sunny albeit chilly evening.

With big names live on the main stage from the moment the gates opened, street food (Cavavan, The Grazing Shed, Taste of Spice and Dusty Knuckle), a crafts and activities tent, storytelling, a children’s entertainer, circus skills, pony rides and a vintage funfair. It is safe to say that no one was bored or hungry at the inaugural Burning Lantern Fayre!

Performances came from headliner Brit and Ivor Novell award winner Tom Odell, who gave an electrifying and charismatic performance, which featured a mesmerising light show. His unique show featured a number of hits but it was the songs ‘Still Getting Used To Being On My Own’, ‘Concrete’, ‘Hold Me’ that captivated the audience and really demonstrated why Odell is being touted as one of the country’s finest singer songwriter.

Whilst the UK first country music act to chart in the Top 10 Album Charts, The Shires, livened up the billing. Their 45-minute stellar set included a string of their biggest hits including: ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ and ‘Friday Night’, thoroughly entertained the 8,000 strong crowd and signed off their set with a promise to return to Cardiff soon.

Whereas top Motown act, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, despite not being everyone cup tea where given a true warm Welsh welcome. However, it was hot act of the moment Jack Savoretti that brought the biggest cheers of the evening and his set went down a storm. His live set included performances of his many hits including; ‘When We Were Lovers’, ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘Tie Me Down’, certainly got the crowd in the festival mood as the sun set on the stunning location.

The first even Burning Lantern Fayre was a huge success with the 8,000 strong-crowd enjoying a variety of music, entertainment and food under the sunset skies. Here hoping that the buzz of Wales’ newest music event hopefully ensures it was the first of many Burning Lantern Fayres to come!

Review Hamlet Almeida Theatre by Kevin Johnson

I’ve been trying to see this for nearly a year, since it was at the Almeida. It was worth the wait.

Andrew Scott, one of my favourite actors, gives what I can only describe as a true Irish Hamlet: sad, bittersweet and quietly, heartbreakingly funny.

He sees the irony through the madness and the sorrow, yet his grief is always just behind his eyes. This is a romantic hero of legend, Scott brings a childlike sweetness to the role and thus he makes us care for Hamlet all the more, even when he is at his most irresponsible.

The setting is modern, innovative and intriguing. The play begins with coverage of the King’s state funeral straight from a cable news channel, albeit in Danish. CCTV is everywhere, the ghost first appears on a control room screen, and everyone is being watched and spied on, as they are in the play. As are we.

Ian Rickson’s 2011 Hamlet emphasised the madness within the play by setting it in an asylum, the audience even entering the theatre after walking through the set. Robert Icke’s production in contrast focuses on surveillance. Britain has more security cameras than any other country in the world, we are all being watched. The same, it seems, is true of the ‘state of Denmark’. Is this what is ‘rotten’?

The play within the play takes centre stage, while the cast sits in the front row among us, their faces thrown by live camera onto screens around the auditorium and above the stage. A clever use of old and new, theatre and video, where Claudius’ reaction is ‘caught on tape’, before he storms out of the theatre. It strikes true in today’s society, where it seems as if nothing is real unless shown on screen.

This also means that the subtle looks from the actors, such as Hamlet’s eye rolling at a Claudius soundbite, is not missed. Indeed such moments give this production a lot of humour that I haven’t seen since David Tennant’s version.

In other resonances to modern times, Polonius seems to be suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, Rosencranz and Guildenstern are a couple, and both Hamlet and Gertrude (A loving yet still sexual Derbhle Crotty) are the only characters that speak with Irish accents, which subtly evokes the mother/son bond.

For me, Michael Sheen is still my favourite Dane, but Andrew Scott is but a hair’s breadth behind. My only criticism would be his foot-stamping, which brings out the ‘little prince’ in the character, but is over-used. He makes the words his own, and shares his feelings only with us.

Jessica Brown Findlay is a sweetly sensual Ophelia, crushed by heartbreak, Angus Wright’s Claudius has more smarm than Tony Blair, Joshua Higgott’s Horatio is a true friend of Hamlet, but it was Peter Wright’s performance as Polonius that most caught my eye.

Switching from caring father to tyrant, from accomplished fixer to absent minded rambler, hinting at some form of dementia, Wright subtly makes him all too human.

The trouble with this play is that often you have a great Hamlet but not a great production, or vice versa. Here, for once, you have both.


Review: The Adventure Zone by Sian Thomas

The podcast, The Adventure Zone, has just recently finished it’s first ‘season’, so to speak. This is a podcast wherein three brothers, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy and their father, Clint McElroy, play Dungeons and Dragons (loosely following the rules, as the podcast becomes less about the game and more about the stories entwining the characters they created). It’s a new, innovative, and interesting approach to storytelling which I look forward to seeing progress and become more prominent in the years to come. Although there are other storytelling podcasts (such as Welcome to Nightvale, Alice Isn’t Dead, or other Nightvale Presents podcasts) they don’t include adventure-esque games to propel and support their story. I really liked how the DM, Griffin McElroy, utilised this game and even deviated from it to better support his campaign. A great aspect of using it was a non-imposing introduction to the game. I know that many people don’t have an interest in the game or have a negative perception of it (I did, too), but because the podcast only hinges on it slightly (i.e. for battles or checks in ability, etc) it isn’t distasteful for those of us who didn’t think we’d ever like it. Besides, the elements of the game fall behind eventually, as you’re swept up in the story and with the characters.

The story itself is incredible. It’s something I can’t quite describe without pouring out the whole plot and every little secret and nook and cranny of the intrinsic campaign. But, without a doubt, it is the most enthralling and attention-grabbing story I’ve ever lived through. The end even includes wonderful closure (and a long “where are they now?” segment which soothed me spectacularly. Closure in stories is always wonderful, neat little bows to end a story and give it that perfect finish is something I always have, and always will, appreciate).

I don’t think I could begin to describe the staggering depths of my genuine love for this podcast, story, and characters. I don’t think any words I might have in my mouth could tell anyone about what it means to me. The simple fact that I could listen to this podcast in bed and picture it so vividly and individually unfolding before me was the most wonderful thing, that fit me to a T, and made it that much easier, is the closest I could get, so at least people can know how I came to love it, and so maybe they could, too.

Aside from the main three characters, there were a multitude of NPCs I shamelessly fell absolutely in love with. Even better, as the finale reached its conclusion, the brothers McElroy and their father were sure to include as many as possible, and the thrill of seeing old favourites sparked anew is irreplaceable and always feels amazing. The lengths that these four went to to simply include as many characters as they could to make others happy to see their return was phenomenal. I’ve never seen creators so open to their fanbase, and so willing to listen to them, too. They were considerate at every corner of this story, and that’s something I look up to. Some of my favourites is Angus McDonald (a young boy detective), Lucas Miller (a scientist), and NO-3113 (a robot). I can’t explain them too much without giving things away, which I really want to avoid doing, just in case anyone does decide to start up and listen to this podcast, but these characters, among others, are

The Adventure Zone even incorporates a fully-fledged soundtrack (https://griffinmcelroy.bandcamp.com/ / https://soundcloud.com/griffinmcelroy) which is honestly incredible, and something I love listening to in my day-to-day, or on my commute. I’m listening to it right now, as I write this.

I was waiting for the arc of The Adventure Zone to fully wrap up before reviewing it, and now that this part of it has ended I’m equal parts happy (so happy, it was such a thrill, I’ve never loved a story so much) and sad (I’m going to miss this arc and these characters a tremendous amount), but it is, honest and truly, one of the best podcasts out there, I think.
More technical information can be found at: http://mcelroyshows.com or http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/adventure-zone and this can also provide a place to listen to the podcast. It could also be found on iTunes/the podcast app on Apple phones, or anywhere else podcasts can be housed. I gave it five stars because I can’t recommend this podcast enough, I enjoyed it so thoroughly and so heartily that every day I am immensely grateful that it was brought to my attention. I don’t think I could ever sound objective about this podcast no matter how hard I tried because it just swept its way into my heart so easily and so strongly, and I’d let it every time. It’s good. That’s all there really is to it, for me.

I will say, in case anyone does pick up this podcast, the McElroy’s voices are hard to distinguish as first (or at least, I struggled at first), although it does get easier. However, I didn’t want to waste time listening to a story-based podcast and being confused and missing crucial start-up points, so, I recommend listening to a few episodes of the McElroy brother’s podcast, My Brother, My Brother, And Me first (http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/my-brother-my-brother-and-me) as to avoid this issue.


4 Stars4 / 5

If you’ve toyed with the idea of seeing Hairspray on stage but doubted whether anyone could top Ricki Lake’s original 1988 portrayal of Tracy  – or indeed Nikki Blonsky’s 2007 film version, you really needn’t worry.

The new stage version of Hairpray brought to you by producers Mark Goucher, Matthew Gale and Laurence Myers will delight new and old fans from start to finish.

The show hasn’t lost an ounce of its popularity, having first swept the board at the Tony Awards on Broadway in 2002 and the more recent film version introducing a new generation of fans to the musical and original film.

Set in 1960s Baltimore, Tracy Turnblad dreams of  a starring role as one of the teenage dancers on the popular Corny Collins show – a cheeseball TV format of young beautiful things dancing and miming to the latest pop / rock n roll records.

Already at a disadvantage due to her shape, she encounters the realities of colour segregation rife in Baltimore and the US at the time. Only white teenagers were allowed to dance on the show, apart from ‘Negro Day’ every other Friday.

Based on real events with the real ‘Buddy Deane Show’, on which Hairspray was based, the story sees Tracy lead a group of friends to storm the TV studio and force the live broadcasting of integrated dancing, leading a protest against colour segregation and challenging preconceived ideas about women of shape at the same time.

The show is perfectly aided by a riot of technicolour staging and costume courtesy of TAKIS, while Drew McOnie’s superb vintage choreography will have your heart fluttering and your foot tapping.

But the story reminds us that for all the iconic fashions, bubble-gum scented nostalgia and fondness for the golden era of pop and rock and roll, black Americans were denied basic civil rights across America.

Such was the power and divisiveness of segregation, we see ‘seemingly nice’ young all-American kids suddenly spewing hatred and vitriol when the status quo is challenged.  Underneath the petticoats and the chucks and the varsity jackets and polite manners, there is suddenly spite and anger.

Hairspray is gently subversive, poking fun at the idiocy, prejudice and fear at the heart of  white America. What’s all the more cutting is the reminder that while the 60s may seem far away, the lurking presence of racism is rearing it’s ugly head again in the US.  

Two years ago I used Hairspray (the movie) as a vehicle to talk about civil rights and race in America in the 60s with my little girl.  Suddenly, it’s time to return to that ugly, awkward conversation.  We’re at a crossroads once again – because ‘nice guys’ in middle America are waving around swastika flags and white hoods.   

It’s not too hard to believe that the ‘nice polite white kids’ at the Corny Collins dance might have been the same kids lining up to shout abuse at kids entering the first integrated schools or kicking off at the lunch counters they thought were their domain when black protesters sat in ‘their place’.

So as an audience we laugh when Penny Pingleton’s Mum screams when she finds her daughter in bed with a black boy and shrieks ‘But what about the neighbours….the house prices!?’, when her deep-rooted instinct is to flinch/cower when Seaweed gives her a hug or when others gasp with horror as Tracy Turnblad admits she WOULD swim in an integrated swimming pool.

In some shape or form, we’ve all encountered the tropes and the stereotypes surrounding integration and mixed heritage relationships. We’ve rolled our eyes at the staggering lack of awareness even the nicest of people have, just like those kids at the hop in the ‘Nicest kids in town’ song in the first act.

I was overjoyed to once again see Layton Williams (in the role of Seaweed) at the WMC, who previously slayed in the role of Angel Dumott Schunard in RENT earlier this year. I’ve decided it is utterly impossible to take your eyes off him whenever he is on stage.  Former X Factor contestant Brenda Edwards was spellbinding as Motormouth Maybelle, with vocals that shook the rafters and I loved Annalise Liard-Bailey’s squeaky/dorky portrayal of Penny.  Ensemble cast member Graham Macduff was also hilarious in all his guises.  

As anyone who’s seen the 2007 film adaptation of Hairspray will tell you – you can never unsee the sight of John Travolta in a dress, but Matt Rixon and Norman Pace (of ‘Hale and Pace’) had a wonderful on-stage presence together and clearly enjoyed each other’s company

Hairspray recognises the ridiculousness of racism, blinds it with sequins and deafens these ugly faults with a soundtrack of rock n roll, pop, cha-cha-cha and motown.  

It calls racism out for what it is and still dares you to believe that the future will be different.  It’s hammy, it’s cheesy, it’s sweet and it’s a glitter bomb of cherry-cola scented joy.

An interview with Charlie Hammond from Me Me Me Theatre

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Charlie Hammond. Charlie spent time training in Cardiff and was one of our Young Critics. We discussed his career to date, Me Me Me’s current production ‘Clonely’ and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Hi Charlie can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Sure, I am an actor and theatre-maker based in the North-West. I create a lot of physical, visual, and chaotic performances. I borrow heavily from clown and physical comedy, and I have trained with various clowning and physical practitioners, in particular Philippe Gaulier, who is regarded as a leading practitioner in clown and performance training. His school is near Paris. I have also worked closely with director Cal McCrystal, who I learnt a great deal about directing and performance from whilst acting as associate director for Giffords Circus. Giffords are a traditional 1930’s style circus who create intimate performances which tour largely in the South-West of England.  Originally I studied English Literature at Cardiff University, and spent a large amount of my time being involved with the artistic community in Cardiff, including writing for the Young  Critics.



So what got you interested in the arts?

Just everyday culture really. Growing up my parents watching a lot of comedy, Red Dwarf, the Young Ones, that kind of seminal alternative comedy, and I absorbed a lot of that. And then the high school I attended had very good arts facilities and that really started my interest in performing, and I did a lot of singing in chamber choirs and a barbershop choir, theatre productions and musicals. I also always felt that the arts was actually something I always found challenging, where as more traditionally academic subjects like mathematics and science came a little bit easier to me.

Thanks Charlie, can you tell us about the work your company is taking to this Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

So, our show Clonely is a sci-fi adventure in existential crisis, a blend of bulls**t arthouse theatre with nonsense games and DIY props.
Our company, Me Me Me Theatre, strive to poke fun at the avant-garde, science fiction cinema, the audience, and crucially, ourselves. It’s a mixture of theatre, sketch comedy and audience interaction that blends together into a surreal and anarchic hour long show about space and being a clone.

Me Me Me is made up of myself, and writer-performer Jasmine Chatfield, who recently won a Northern Writers Award 2017, and produces and excellent art event in Manchester called FLIM NITE. We started working together this year, and have set out to make the kind of weird and funny work that we would like to see on stage. Closely runs Friday 4th to Sunday 27th August (Mondays off):, Laughing Horse Free Fringe at The Mockingbird, 2.45 (1 hr).

The festival features a huge range of productions and there is great deal of competition for audiences, why should audiences come and see your production?

To support the free fringe and new work. But if you are interested in weird comedy, with sci-fi elements which doesn’t take itself too seriously then you should watch our show. We are very proud of it, and really feel that it captures the best of free fringe. I mean and also the Scotsman gave us 4 stars, which we were pretty chuffed about, and called us ‘gifted physical comedians’, so there’s that as well!

What would you recommend seeing from this years festival?
Butt Kapinski’s film-noir show is one of the best pieces of clown which really plays into its concept and gets the audience on board. I love Red Bastard, and his new show Come Lie with Me is a very interesting and electric dissection of the rules of love. Jordan Brooke’s Body of Work is a fantastic show; it’s just transferred to the Pleasance Courtyard and is a masterpiece in audience manipulation. But that’s just the few I’ve been able to see.

What do the artists and companies do when they aren’t performing?
Anything to pay the bills! It differs from person to person. Most artists hold down a couple of days a week doing a steady job, some work full-time and balance creative opportunities on top of that. I am very fortunate as I currently work pretty much full-time as a performer, but I also run workshops and do various little jobs to make extra cash. But when I say full time a lot of that time is spent making work, which tends to be a labour of love.
And finally what’s the best Fringe show you’ve ever seen?

Couldn’t pin it down to one. You assign so much weight to a type of show you’ve seen for the first time. John-Luke Robert’s work has always been memorable for me, he was my first introduction into a very different type of comedy and show. The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society has always been one of my favourite shows to visit to see something totally different. I remember rating NTW ‘The Radicalisation of Bradley manning’ as a powerful and mesmerising performance. But then it might have to be A Young Man Dressed as a Gorilla Dressed as an Old Man Sits in a Rocking Chair for 56 Minutes and Then Leaves, which is exactly what is says on the tin as is for one-night only, and represents the fringe perfectly.

Review Atomic Blonde by Jonathan Evans


4 Stars4 / 5


There are many movies like Atomic Blonde. A sensitive, political situation where a top agent is called in to handle it and what follows is a chase, gunfights, hand-to-hand combat and some sharply worded moments over a bar. Many movies follow the same form, what matters is the effort and result. This decided new film from director David Leitch decided to use a more vibrant colour pallet and attempts to really make you feel the fights going on.

What is the plot? Who cares. Seriously though the movies premise is as simple as I previously described but in order to be professional I’ll elaborate. In 1989 the Berlin wall came down, the city was complicated in terms of it’s politics (to put it simply), spy’s are everywhere, one spy is taken down who has a list of the names of all the active spy’s, there is another man that wants to defect and has committed all the names to memory. So Lorraine Broughton is called in cause she’s the best at all secret agent skills. Honestly this doesn’t matter, the plot is a thin clothing line to take us from one set-piece and character after another.

Charlize Theron has established herself as one of our greatest living actors. Able to handle intense emotional material and be the grand star of a blockbuster. This is a role where she is the Fe-male equivalent of James Bond, stylish, a drinker and very dangerous. She is beautifully shot however the filmmakers don’t just make her a something beautiful, she is a fighter and they give her bruises and cuts.

In Berlin her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy), a British agent that has allowed the corruption and brutality of Berlin to envelop him. McAvoy can handle this kind of role with ease, he is the kind of actor that believes in giving it all or go home. He gives it all.

During the day Berlin is a city of black and white, but at night it comes alive with dark shadows and turquoises and fuchia. The colors are in-keeping with the time and feel of the movie, disco and dance.

The extra layer of style in the movie is the soundtrack. Banging dance tracks that add a spicy tone to the movie as well as make the feel rather tongue-in-cheek. This works, it allows you to get into the rhythmic nature of the movie and know that it’s about the style and experience.

Not every movie needs to stir your soul. Others don’t even have to be that original in terms of their premise, but they do need to properly convey their goal. Atomic Blonde seeks to entertain you showing a dank, sexy ride. It does this very well, you are seduced by the aesthetic and engaged by the visceral action.


Review Dunkirk by Jonathan Evans


5 Stars5 / 5


There is the location, the situation, the characters and the deadline. All are set, wound up and then the ticking begins.

Dunkirk is not so much of a war movie as we traditionally expect one to be. We see soldiers, it is set in World War Two and there are moments of gunfire but its closer to Grave of The Fireflies because of it’s tone and more about the effect of war.

Our backdrop is the beach of Dunkirk where French and British soldiers were pushed back to and the Nazi’s have surrounded them and are going to move in for the kill. Some ships are coming to pick them up but they often get shot down by planes.

We have about three situations going on. One follows a young private named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) who just wants to get on a ship and get out alive. Another follows Mr Dawson a man who owns his own boat and is taking it upon himself to rescue all the soldiers he can. Another is Farrier (Tom Hardy) a British pilot that has to defend what ships he can but a shot has rendered his fuel gauge broken so he has no idea how long he has left.

Seeing the movie is like seeing Hitchcock’s Notorious. Christopher Nolan has reduced this movie to as few spoken lines as he could and focused on sharply telling the story through visuals.

Throughout the movie it is all about choice. The characters are all facing death and how they decide to go about it. The young private doing all he can to stay alive, the pilot that is remaining in the fight to defend the troops as much as he can,  even though his plane could give out any minute, the old man that has a boat so is going to pick up some soldiers even though he will most likely get shot down and die for nothing.

Over the course of watching the movie you will grasp that it is told out of order. Each characters narratives starts and you then learn that they intersect with the others. I tell you this because it isn’t really important, there is no twist involved with it, just a refreshing way to tell a plot with multiple characters from different perspectives. The kind of thing I expect and appreciate from Nolan.

This is Christopher Nolan striping himself back. His movies have become increasingly more dense and complicated, not in a bad way, though he has gotten pretty close to over-packing his movies. This is a simple concept with minimal dialog and more about clearly telling a gripping experience.


Review Shin Godzilla by Jonathan Evans


3 Stars3 / 5


Godzilla was first conceived as personification of the destruction caused by the nuclear attack on Japan with an anti war message behind the whole thing. Though through other more child friendly interpretations and marketing gimmicks the king of the monsters has been made into a joke. Though there are limitations on how seriously the image of a man in a rubber suit as well as the concept of a giant lizard destroying a city can be taken there is no doubts that the first movie meant it to tackle serious subject matters.

In 2014 we got the Hollywood version of Godzilla by Gareth Edwards, which is one of the most unhappy times I have ever had in a movie theatre. We hardly ever got to see Godzilla, the human characters were un-engaging and the image was so dark that hardly anything could be seen.

Now for whatever reason Toho has decided to make their own movie. Reintroducing the character for a new audience. It opens on a day like any other, only this day there are movements coming from the sea, first just ripples, then things start poking out, eventually it moves into the city and nothing stops it. So now the people in-charge must make decisions on how to deal with this creature.

Though we still live in a world where the threat of nuclear annihilation is possible, it’s not the prime concern. This movie’s focus is in dealing with a colossal threat that seemingly comes out of nowhere. It layers itself with seeing Godzilla on the move and the devastation he is raining down and the officials running around trying to understand the creature and make decisions.

In the directing chair is Hideaki Anno, legendary anime director who will probably always be closely associated with Neon Genesis Evangelion (which also includes the earth dealing with giant monsters attacking them) one of the most legendary titles in anime. This is his first work in live action and he adapts well. He knows how to visually convey information with a few or even a single image.

This design of Godzilla is probably the most threatening and horrifying version that’s ever been conceived. They stay true to the mentality of a man in a rubber suit, having his movements be slow and limited. His skin looks like glowing, burning scabs, tiny and focused eyes like that of a shark a mouth filled with razor sharp teeth.

Along with the new look is also the classic powers that he’s known for and some new ones that are explained by adding something to the mythology. I wont tell you what it is but its a satisfying one that allows the legend to adapt and grow in this new time.

Though the sharpness of special effects is not everything, not even the most important thing in movies it is still important. This is because if we don’t believe that monster, spacecraft, laser-blasts, castle are really there then we are taken out of the experience. The rendering of Godzilla is shoddy to be frank, especially in the early stages, other things like trains look rather fake too, however such things are forgiven if they are in a story and situation that has grabbed you.

There are many human characters in the movie that all run around the rooms and spout their opinions and facts that are coming in. There are definitely over twenty characters that are introduced through a gauntlet of a passe. They talk very fast and their credentials pop on-screen at the same time, never stopping. There is a part in the movie where they all wake-up from working all night and decide to take a break and eat, then they reflect on how hard everyone has been working. This moment alone lets you connect and feel for these characters more than any complicated speech or feat of heroism. However I’d still be lying if I said you walked away really having gotten to know anyone.

This is not the great reinvention of the character or the monster. But I have seen how bad a movie like this can get. It is not boring and the image is clear and the sense of panic and destruction are effective.


Review Llechi, Pontio by Gareth Williams

4 Stars4 / 5


Having missed it first time around, the chance to catch the restaging of Llechi seemed too good to miss. Originally performed as part of Pontio’s opening season, this eclectic mix of visual, musical and aerobatic art forms was a fascinating watch. It was engaging from start to finish, featuring a host of performers, all of whom played their part in making this a thoroughly enjoyable and captivating show. Despite its fluency in the Welsh language (with the exception of poet Martin Daws), I, a humble learner of the lingo, still managed to be entertained and entranced by the spectacle on offer. It was a delightful performance that offered plenty of emotion and a real sense of place.

Originally curated by alt-folk group 9Bach, the Welsh sextet returned to lead a talented cast in this fresh and innovative approach to storytelling. Taking us on a journey through the history, culture and traditions of the slate industry, this performance brought to life, in a new way, the story of local Welsh slate – the people, and the landscape. Full of experimental sounds and a mix of genres, it spans the centuries. This huge timescale is reflected in the song choices: from a spine-tingling rendition of Welsh hymn Dyma’r Gariad to the bass-fuelled beats of ‘90s rave music. There is no clash of musical styles here however. Instead, 9Bach have managed to create a very diverse yet complimentary soundtrack. The changes of tone, mood and tempo that take place throughout are at no point jarring. Instead, with help from the lighting, each transition is smooth and natural. It is something that could so easily have been a disaster. Here, though, it not only works well. It works incredibly well.

Alongside the musical prowess of 9Bach, choreographer Kate Lawrence and her team offered up some stunning physical performances in the air. It helped being seated on the lower balcony to watch these four talented dancers move across the auditorium. It was clear that many of their actions were reflecting the movements of quarrymen. But their pieces also featured an elegance that conveyed something of the local landscape too. Their graceful movements made for a mesmerising sight. But it also brought to mind, as a result, the ethereal and mythic quality of the mountains and the quarries. This was complimented perfectly, at one point in particular, by the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Lisa Jen Brown. Truly evocative, the backdrop of images that featured in the show were sometimes superfluous as a result. It was a strangely immersive experience.

I came away from Llechi desperate to buy the soundtrack. The music was wonderfully inspirational, eclectic and truly evocative of its Welsh setting. 9Bach have delivered a beautiful collaboration that is full of heart. It is a love story that awakens the senses and births a spirit of hope. It says that this land is not forgotten to another age. Instead, it evolves, becoming the place of the next generation who follow in the footsteps of their forbears whilst carving out new paths of their own. Sadly, the soundtrack isn’t available to buy (hint to anyone who may be able to change that.). Nevertheless, it will stick in my mind for a long time to come. Llechi is a truly memorable piece of contemporary Welsh art.