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An interview with Chris Durnall

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat with director Chris Durnall. We discussed his career to date, his new project focusing on the BSL aspects within Tribes by Nina Raine and his thoughts on theatre in Wales.

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

 I’m Artistic Director of Company of Sirens and also produce work under the name Winterlight. Company of Sirens stage Welsh premiers of powerful contemporary plays. Productions include Anthony Neilson’s Stitching and The Censor, Philip Ridley’s Tender Napalm, Mercury Fur and Dark Vanilla Jungle, Manfred Karge’s Conquest of the South Pole and Jennifer Haley’s The Nether.

Chris in rehearsals for Jennifer Haley’s The Nether

Plus new plays by Welsh authors Ian Rowlands, Troyanne, and Sean Tyrone by Mark Ryan. Winterlight as our sister company specialise in new work that focuses on autism and disability issues. We have recently completed a trilogy of plays tracing the life of an autistic individual Matthews Passion 2013, Touch Blue Touch Yellow 2015 and Quiet Hands 2017.

Matthews Passion

I was Artistic Director of Theatr Ffynnon for eight years working with adults with physical and learning difficulties. I also teach acting, deliver one to one sessions and freelance as a director. I was previously a professional actor for eighteen years.

 So what got you interested in theatre and the arts?

Well once you get the call it’s difficult to consider doing anything else. I went to the theatre all the time when I was younger and devoured plays, often learning whole roles just for fun. When I went to drama college I was amazed by many student’s lack of interest or lack of curiosity. It was really disappointing. Having said that drama college was the happiest time of my life. I still love those people.  The arts for me are split between those who dabble with varying degrees of success and those that have to do this without an option. Time and circumstances pretty soon determine which camp you are in.

Company of Sirens with the support of the Arts Council of Wales will be exploring the signing aspects of performance focusing on its use within the play Tribes by Nina Raine during October/November 2017 with support from Disability Arts Wales. Why have you chosen this as your latest production?

 I wanted to explore the potential of non-verbal communication within performance. Non- verbal narrative. I believe drama lies between text and that words are often an avoidance technique to avoid and circumvent real communication.

The play Tribes fits the companies remit in terms of powerful new drama and also through the two deaf characters use of BSL within the play, helps support the other strand of my work which is about empowerment and the raising of awareness.

What personal knowledge do you have of theatre for deaf audiences?

 My work with Theatr Ffynnon was concerned with giving a voice to the disempowered. We delivered projects through the medium of film, theatre, animation, visual art, music and poetry in order to explore routes of communication appropriate to our members and participants. The purity of their work moved me deeply and taught me a lot. We never patronised our members and listened to what they had to say as creative people. If I can merge this approach with professional actors working with a contemporary text I will be happy. In the play Tribes the deaf protagonist’s family communicate through cliché and verbal aggression. They speak in platitudes based on insecurity and often a sense of failure. Billy and his partially deaf girlfriend Sylvia communicate directly through gesture, eye contact and body language. We recognise the adage “actions speak louder than words”

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? 

 I worry that work may be compromised by having to fit into funding priorities. It’s a question of approach. There has been a surge of work and support encouraging equality and diversity and that has been wonderful. I do believe that within this framework there should be scope for “arts for arts sake” whereby funders say we like your work, we trust your intent, go and create. I feel those times may be gone forever due largely to our culture of accountability.

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

 See above. Its great the doors are opening up but I do believe any art form moves forward through the taking of risks and a culture of experimentation. Diversity need not suffer but our artists need full creative freedom in order to create the extra – ordinary.

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

 Fund the risk takers and chance takers. Back the artists themselves and allow them the freedom to create

 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? 

 The amount of young companies trying to work within a difficult culture gives me hope.

Pearson and Brooks, The Persians, National Theatre Wales.

The work of Pearson and Brooks (The Iliad and the Persians) for National Theatre Wales. Directors who try to break the mould like Mathilde Lopez. Goodcopbadcop’s experiments. Writers such as Ian Rowlands, Tim Rhys and Gary Owen are producing great work. A thriving experimental dance scene

Many thanks for your time Chris.

 

SWAPS – Photographs from the David Hurn Collection at the National Museum of Wales by Roger Barrington

A new photography gallery has been introduced at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, and to launch it, an exhibition of photographs from the vast David Hurn Collection is on display.

Thomas Babington Macaulay, the eminent British historian and politician, when referring to John Milton wrote, ‘[his words] are words of enchantment. No sooner are they pronounced, than the past is present and the distant near… and all the burial-places of memory give up their dead’. The same could be applied to documentary photography and its cousin photojournalism.

We all know that memory plays tricks. At 9.15. am on 21st October 1966, a huge piece of water-saturated debris accumulated from a century’s heap of coal spoil, descended upon Pantglas Junior School and other buildings in the Welsh village of Aberfan. In the aftermath, 116 children and 28 adults had perished, victims initially of the greed and indifference of the original mine owners, and latterly, the National Coal Board.

As a ten-year old boy, (the same age as many of the victims), this had, and continues to have, a profound influence on me. “There by the grace of God” is an appropriate thought. At the exact time of the disaster, I was seated in my classroom, safe and sound in an environment that all children should feel at school, only separated by the Brecon Beacons from Aberfan. I remember passing through Aberfan the following evening, returning from Cardiff, and seeing the floodlights set up for the rescuers in an ever-diminishing sense of hope of pulling out any of the victims alive. Was it my mother, or a friend of my mother’s, who came across an obviously distressed elderly lady in recon market, who after enquiring if she was alright, said that her granddaughter was a young student at that school. The unreliability of memory.

David Hurn, an established 32-year old documentary photographer at the time,  felt that he had to be there. Not only to capture the scene, but to try and portray the anger felt by so many, as to why this tragedy occurred.

 The sombre scene, heightened by the grim realism of using back and white film, gives a very strong message. Two schoolfriends look down at the scene of the disaster, with, (possibly the elder one) having his arm placed around the other. Are they brothers? Are they classmates of some of the victims, coming to terms with the realisation that they won’t ever see their friends again? Does it also show the strong bond of community, prevalent in the Valleys of South Wales to this day? An “us against the world” mentality, which would be a very suitable and understandable feeling after what had happened here. Is this a spontaneous photograph, or did David Hurn set it up as a composition? Documentary photographers rarely do this, so I would expect Mr. Hurn to answer in the negative. Does it really matter if he did, because for me, it neither degrades or elevates the power of this photograph. How can the viewer look at it, in terms of memory? Possibly as a revenant, a ghost-like spirit returning to this exact time and place, or as a stranger, going back to an area that he/she once knew, but alienated from it through the passage of time and physical difference to the landscape?

At this point, I should point out that this photograph does NOT appear in the exhibition currently on display at the National Museum of Wales. David Hurn, although born in Redhill in Surrey, eight two years ago, is considered to be a Welsh photographer. Brought up in Cardiff, as a young boy he paid a considerable amount of time visiting the Art Galley of this wonderful museum, and it left a very strong mark on him, because earlier this year, he donated two fabulous collections. The one, amounting to around 1,500 of his own work and the other, the subject of this exhibition, prints that he had swapped with other photographers whose work he admires. The photograph above does from part of the donated body of his own work, and I enquired with Bronwen Colquhoun, the recently appointed Senior Curator of the Photograph Department at the NMW, as to whether, at some time, it will be on display, and she answered in the affirmative. The reason why it appears in this review is to hopefully illustrate how powerful an image of documentary photography can be. All other photographs that appear here, do form part of the exhibition.

The display is located in one large room and is set up in such a way, (although it is not readily apparent to the viewer unless they are very well acquainted with David Hurn’s collection of swaps), that it forms a logical pattern.

The starting point should be a photograph that David Hurn, as an unknown photographer acquired from the already famous Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain. David was photographing pigeons at Trafalgar Square in London in 1958, when he was approached by another photographer doing the same thing. This photographer turned out to be Larrain, someone who David hugely admired at that time, and continued to do so, after forging a strong friendship, until the Chilean’s death in 2012. David couldn’t believe his luck. Not only did he gain the opportunity to meet one of his idols. Sergio was very complimentary about the way that he was going about taking his photographs. Over a coffee, Sergio told David that he felt that he had a future ahead as a professional photographer, but he felt a little skeptical, as he preferred to capture everyday life rather than important newsworthy events. After admiring some prints that Sergio had taken, he was given some of them as a gift, a very unusual occurrence at that time. So, this is where what has become a collection second to none, and valued at over three and a half million pounds.

SERGIO LARRAINE – ‘From the Monument

‘A Los Dos Congresos’

Buenos Aires 1957-58

The question as to whether the result is either a spontaneous shot or contrived, doesn’t come into question with the next photograph that I am referring to, that is, unless they super-glued the bird’s feet to the ground.

ELLIOTT ERWITT -Florida Keys 1968

Erwitt is known for his ironic and absurdist photographs and the humour in this photograph is there for everyone to see. It illustrates the opportunistic nature and photographer’s eye to perfection.

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON -Henri Matisse in his studio with his doves, 1944

Henri Cartier-Bresson is regarded as one of the great photographer in history of candid shots. In the next photograph, we see such a print of the French modernist artist Henri Matisse, holding and surrounded by doves. The peace and tranquility that Cartier-Bresson captures is almost poetic.

It used to be considered for a photographer to sign his work, a rather pompous act of self-grandeur. This print has a dedication, “for David H l’ami Henri C-B” a method sometimes used to get around this signature problem.  Cartier-Bresson was another photography who David greatly admires. When the Frenchman visited David’s flat to view some of his prints, it was almost if God himself had walked in, he recollects in a filmed interview.

As David’s fame increases, he became braver in asking photographers to swap prints. This is exactly what he did when he approached Dorothy Lange on a trip to the US. Lange you may know, is famous for her “dust bowl” photographs taken in the American Prairies at the height of the Great Depression. Her iconic photography “Migrant Mother”, perhaps more than any other image, eipitomises this period of American history, also immortalized in John Steinbeck’s, “The Grapes of Wrath”.

DOROTHEA LANGE – White Angel Breadline San Francisco, 1932

The grimness of this time is captured in this photograph that Dorothy swapped with David. You see a shabbily dress middle-aged man, (maybe wearing his only clothes) facing the camera and a group of other men turned the other way around. The man is clutching a mug. Could this be his only procession? The photograph gives the impression of resigned hopelessness. The other figures possibly representing how society has turned its back on the subject of this image.

As you enter the room, if you turn your attention to the left side wall, you will see a small group of photographs that represent photographers who started out the same time as David trying to establish themselves in a highly competitive market. These people and David used to get together in coffee bars in London in the 1950’s and offer critical opinion, and offer support to one another. The photos on view represent the work of John Bulmer, Patrick Ward, Ian Berry, Philip Jones Griffiths and Sir Don McCullin.

 

JOHN BULMER -Untitled from the Series North, 1960’s

On the Internet, this photograph has a different title “Woman Hanging out Washing) Tipton. This town is in the Black Country, and not regarded as “Up North”. This is one of a series of photographs where Bulmer has superimposed a colour image in the foreground with an austere black and white background.

 

PATRICK WARD – Blackpool 1960’s or 1970’s

October in Blackpool, and sheltering on the Golden Mile from the wind among Deckchairs

This photograph taken on a windy day in October with the waves crashing in and a deck chair attendant taking shelter from the wind by surrounding himself with his hirable goods reading a book. Blackpool pier is in the background. Is there anywhere more desolate than a British seaside resort out of season? For that matter, in season also! Ward captures this feeling, and you can’t help wondering, why is this man bothering? Perhaps he has no choice.

IAN BERRY -New Year’s Eve at Trafalgar Square 1960

The pursed lips of the young lady in the foreground asks, is she just about to do the kissing or is she waiting for her partner to kiss her.

Berry was the only photographer to capture the massacre at Sharpeville, but here we see him capturing an intimate scene in happier times.

PHILIP JONES GRIFFITHS -Vietnam, 1967

This image shows a Vietnamese woman tagged with the designation VNC (Vietnamese civilian). This powerful photograph suggests to me the degradation and reduction of the value of humanity, labelling in such a way that you might do with a suitcase or an exhibit in a museum. Jones Griffiths, a fellow Welsh photographer made his name covering the Vietnam War.

SIR DON MCCULLIN – Biafra 1968

This poignant photograph shows a young twenty-four-year-old woman with a suckling baby who is looking for milk that she can’t obviously provide through the emaciated condition.

David comments on this photograph by describing this woman’s dignity of expression. You feel that if anyone can get through this and come out on the right side, then she is that woman. He also compliments the skill of his friend Don by saying that the trust that the subject has for the photographer is exemplified by the fact that she is looking directly at the photographer, allowing such an intimate portrait to be taken.

In 1965, David was asked to apply for membership of Magnum Photographs. This commercial body was founded in Paris in 1947. Among the co-founders were Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capra. The latter you may recall took arguably the most powerful image of war, “The Falling Soldier” taken during the Spanish Civil War. Capra, whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 40, when he stepped on a land-mine during the First Indochina War, in 1954 swapped this photo with David.

ROBERT CAPRA – French woman who has had a baby fathered by a German soldier, being marched through the streets after being punished by having her head shaved. Chartres, France 1944

What struck me about this photograph is the stark image of the baby, tenderly being held by this mother, on contrast to the hatred and derision of the crowds. Innocence the Baby versus.  War -Hatred as a result of conflict.

MAGNUM PHOTOS

Magnum Photos is still flourishing today and provides a marketplace for photographers who was members to sell their work. It also, according to Cartier-Bresson is “ Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually”. The criteria for membership is strictly enforced and passes through two stages – Associate and Full Membership. David became an Associate member in 1965 and a full member two years later.

As you enter the exhibition, you are greeted by a huge number of photographs, all taken by members of Magnum Photos. Photographers such as Eve Arnold, Martin Parr, Peter Marlow and Thomas Hoepker to name a few.

EVE ARNOLD A Baby’s first five minutes, 1959

The stark black background accentuates the tender and intimate touching of a baby’s tiny fragile hand. A photograph that touchingly shows the unique bond between mother and child.

MARTIN PARR – New Brighton 1983-86

Martin Parr, another long-term friend of David, took a set of photographs depicting the Wirral seaside resort of New Brighton, once a prominent location for day-trippers and tourists to the town, now in a state of decline, but still having an active scene.

PETER MARLOW -David Beckham London, 1999

A candid photograph of a relaxed looking David Beckham at the height of his pomp.

 THOMAS HOEPKER – Andy Warhol in his ‘Factory’Union Square 1981

One of a set of quirky photographs taken in NYC of this iconic subject.

TEACHING

In 1973, David turned to teaching and founded the School of Documentary Photography in Newport, Gwent. A section to the right of the room is dedicated to some of his students who were able to forge successful careers in photography. A photograph that particularly interested me is by Abergavenny-born Sue Packer and adorns the cover image of her publication, “Cheltenham Ladies – A Portrait of Cheltenham Ladies College.

SUE PACKER – Cheltenham Ladies, 1984

There are no smiling adolescent young ladies here. In fact, you could almost accuse them of being sullen in some instances. Is this a statement of the difficult road ahead of them, possibly as females when setting out on their careers? Cheltenham Ladies College is one of the most prestigious public school institutions for girls in England.  Does their privileged backgrounds account for their provocative expresses? Could it be a sexual provocation? It is an intriguing photograph and not difficult to see why it has been the subject of a David Hurn swap.

David’s reputation is such nowadays that to be asked to swap a photograph with him, is a testament to your own arrival as a photographer of renown.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID HURN IN THE EXHIBITION

Although the exhibition is not about photographs that David Hurn took himself, Bronwen  Colquhoun managed to persuade him to include three of then. In order to tie in with the theme of the exhibition, these photographs are the ones that David is asked to swap himself.

Taken from Arizona Trip, a forthcoming publication, (November 2017), of a collection of photographs that David took at the back end of the 1970’s in that state. The photograph captures a landscape that will be eradicated when building developers move in shortly after it was taken.

SUMMARY

This magnificent collection of 700 + swaps, many which are presented in this exhibition is a remarkable coup for the National Museum of Wales. In his own words, David says that he only would donate these collections if the NMW started its own dedicated gallery for photography. Photograph galleries are a relatively recent feature, beginning in the late 1960’s as purely commercial enterprises. Galleries in terms of providing a viewing platform for the pleasure and education of the viewers came later, but it is still a little surprising that it has taken the NMW so long to set up its own gallery. Bronwen Colquhoun says that the intention is for exhibitions to change at roughly six-monthly intervals and drawn from a rich treasury of photographs showing Welsh cultural, historical, industrial and social life. The David Hurn Swaps Collection is the perfect instrument to kick-start this important new feature at the National Museum of Wales.

5 Stars5 / 5

On from now to 11 March 2018

Admission: Free

Venue: National Museum of Wales

Suitability: All

David Hurn will be conducting a talk about the Collection at the museum on the 20th October 2017. Admission is free, but I have been informed that it is advisable to book now to avoid disappointment as demand has been very high.

FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hLCisOI0Xw

https://museum.wales/blog/2017-05-17/Magnum-photographerDavid-Hurn-donates-his-photography-collections-to-AmgueddfaCymru-National-Museum-Wales/

 

 

Preview of Little Wolf, Lucid Theatre. A retelling of Little Eyolf by Henrik Ibsen, Roger Barrington.

Little Wolf is a  revision of a comparatively rarely performed 1894 play Little Eyolf by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. LUCID’s new production tours   venues  in South Wales in late October and November 2017 and promises to be a worthwhile enterprise.

It has been given a contemporary revision, by LUCID’s award-winning director Simon Harris.

PLOT OF LITTLE WOLF FROM LITTLE EYOLF BY IBSEN

The action is set over a period of thirty-six hours at the home of Alfred and Rita Allmers. Alfred is an occasional teacher, intellectual and landowner. Their home is located near a fjord and some distance from the nearest town, thereby emphasising Ibsen’s naturalistic style of people influenced largely by the environment they live in. Their isolation from the remainder of the community also extends to their own marital relationship, which is on a steep downward curve due to the event that had caused their nine-year old son Eyolf to be partly paralysed. The boy’s handicap having been due to him falling off a table in babyhood, where he had been left whilst his parent’s engaged in making love. The feeling of guilt over this accident provides the backdrop to the events that ensue.

THE PRODUCTION

LUCID was formed in 2012 by Simon Harris and its aims are:

  • To act as a catalyst and resource for artist development
  • to be a producer of innovative and distinctive theatre projects

Simon has an impressive C.V. having been associated with the National Theatre and the Soho Theatre Company as well as Artistic Director of Script Cymru the national company for new writing in Wales. In 2009, Simon won a highly-prized Creative Wales Award to enable him to develop new and innovative theatre projects.

INTERVIEW

I interviewed Simon about Little Wolf.

RB: Little Wolf is a comparatively rarely performed Ibsen classic. Why do you think that is?

SH: Well, Little Wolf is my version of the Ibsen classic Little Eyolf, and  A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, Peer Gynt , these are the really well known plays, and Little Wolf comparatively, certainly in Wales, (I’m not aware of any productions in Wales to be honest), but comparatively in the UK, it is less performed. The peculiar thing is that when I speak to people who know the play, – I bumped into a couple of people in London, friends of mine who are directors a couple of weeks ago, and they said, “What are you doing?” and I said that I was doing this play based on Little Eyolf and they all went, “I love Little Eyolf!”, so I think part of it is that it is a challenging play in its content for some people, but it’s also an incredibly beautiful play –

RB: Yes, it’s a very intense play, I presume there is no interval, do you think the audience is emotionally able to cope with that, because it is a very demanding play on the emotions isn’t it?

SH: Well I think audiences these days are up for emotional engagement. If you look at the kind of television that people are tuning into these days, they’re sucking up the box sets, they really love the kind of deep engagement with characters they really get, and I think that this is the kind of offer that this play makes, it kinds of opens up its soul and lets you in a really profound and beautiful way. I think that this is a time when people are looking for an opportunity to empathaise and reflect a bit more, and if you compare with what is going on in the world at this moment, you know there are a lot of extremes in the world at this moment, and this is a play about the nuances of human behaviour and our ability to work through adversity towards a more hopeful position, so I think that aspect of the play that people should welcome.

RB: Going on from that, I know that the Little Eyolf play has an open ending, slightly optimistic, but it’s an ending that in 1894 when the play was written, but do you think it works well today, because the Allmers were landowners, quite wealthy people that would devote their wealth to the poor, what with a Social Security system which does that today? Do you think that translates well today, or have you done something different with it?

SH: Yes, I have done something different with it, so my connection with the play goes back a long time. I happened to see a version of it on the BBC, it’s a lovely production and I didn’t know the play at all, I didn’t know about Ibsen, but as soon as I landed on the channel that it was on, I was hooked, I was deeply deeply hooked into it and it made a lasting impression on me, so when I came to thinking about working on a new piece, I thought I would have a look at that, and when I read it I was quite surprised to see how different it was from the memory that I have of it. There were still things that were incredibly powerful and I thought very urgent and relevant, and some aspects of the play that felt very awkward to me – something that a modern audience wouldn’t identify with, so that’s why I felt that it was very important to do a different version of it, rather than a modern day version of an old play.

RB: Little Eyolf is always a play that has divided critics. I know the Ibsenist Michael Meyer regarded it as his favourite Ibsen play, and there are others who rate this at the top of the tree… Now I understand that your working is set in the contemporary day and is set in Norway?

SH: Yes.

RB: Did you consider moving the setting to Wales for example. Would it work?

SH: There is something similar about the non-conformist culture. Ibsen was fascinated about how we live, and the sometimes self-deluding behaviours that we have and bureaucracies that we have, so I think that may resonate fairly strongly for a Wales with a Non-Conformist chapel tradition. I didn’t really feel that gain that much from the setting of it in Wales. I’ve seen that done a few times, butI think it shows up some tensions in the production, and I always thought the best thing to do with it, and I’ve talked about this in one of the little films we’ve done on this on Facebook, is that we feel that we have absorbed the Norwegian culture aspect, but it’s not in your face, it’s not very overt,.

RB: I want to ask a question about Rita. She has been described as a monster, and one of the reasons why I like Ibsen is that he writes about very strong-willed heroines, I’m thinking about Svanhild in Love’s Comedy, Nora of course in A Doll’s House. How do you compare Rita to these heroines? Are you sympathetic to Rita, is she, in fact a heroine?

SH: I’m deeply sympathetic to her. I think that’s a very Victorian judgmental attitude to Rita to call her a monster. I think what is so difficult for people is that she is in a relationship with a man who is withdrawn from her, (and perhaps it’s a little more explicit in this play compared to the original), blames her conclusively for the past incidence that informs the whole of the play. Our version explores that much more comprehensively, and I think she is magnificent. She’s resilient, she’s loyal, she’s intelligent, she’s witty, she’s driven and the main thing is that she has a foundation in the love the two characters had for each other. She holds on to that. She knows what that meant in the past, and is the one who insists on it repeatedly in the play. That makes her strong. I think there’s an incredible resilience in her and it’s a beautiful journey in a way in that it moves from adversity to a new honesty and ability to move forward.

RB: Finally, I would like to ask about LUCID. Perhaps you could tell us something about the Company?

SH: This is the first theatre production of the company. We’ve been doing a variety of different works, some of it behind the scenes, working upon developing people, artists’ development, leadership development work, but I also had a piece by Chekhov that I developed as well, when I did a contemporised version of an early Chekhov play that I was interested in, so that might be something for the future. It’s early days for the company. The thing that interests me at the moment is the value of old stories. I’m slightly concerned that in the rush towards a more experiential theatre presentation. that we might lose touch with some of the dramatic traditions as well, but it doesn’t mean to say that because you interested in the dramatic tradition that it’s necessarily old-fashioned or out of date or anything else. The tradition goes back two thousand years, and I’m worried sometimes that we might be throwing the baby out with the bath water. I believe in a very pluralistic theatre culture, this work is about re-framing old stories in new urgent relevant ways. Hopefully in a way that audiences will appreciate  and engage with.

RB: And presumably with the title of your company in mind, lucidity is something that you empathise  in the delivery?

SH: Well I’d love that. That’s what we aim for. The LUCID name came about because I set the company up when what I considered was a lack of dialogue around what was happening in theatre, and I wanted to get people talking and thinking about some of these issues , so it was a kind of hint towards a hope for greater clarity.

RB: Thanks for your time.

Little Wolf is a rare opportunity to see a reworking of a great Ibsen play. The contemporary setting should resonate with the trials and tribulations that many of us go through in our daily life today. Ibsen was a very forward-thinking playwright for his time and his themes are as powerful today as they were when written one hundred and twenty years ago.

This promises to be an exciting production and I would urge you view it as it goes on tour around South Wales. The dates are as follows:

CARDIFF:

Chapter 20, 21, 23 and 28 October at 7.30

https://www.chapter.org/little-wolf

Post-show talk after the performance of the 23rd

SWANSEA:

Volcano Theatre  1-4, and 7-11 November at 7.30

http://www.volcanotheatre.co.uk/whats-on/little-wolf

BRECON

Theatr Brycheiniog 16 November at 7.30 and 17 November at 2

https://theatrbrycheiniog.ticketsolve.com/shows/873578721?locale=en-GB

NEWPORT

The Riverfront 22 November at 7.45

https://tickets.newportlive.co.uk/en-GB/shows/little%20wolf/info

Suitability: 14+

Duration: 90 mins (no interval)

BACKGROUND MATERIAL

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZmGDzDKzWI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbOodTNGP24

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Eyolf

https://lucidevent.wordpress.com/about/

 

 

 

 

 

Review Goodbye Christopher Robin by Jonathan Evans

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

Goodbye Christopher Robin is, at the start, about the rejuvenating ability that thinking as a child can help people through dark times and then becomes about the corruption of success and fame.

We are introduced to A.A. Milne (Domnhnall Gleeson) who has survived the First World War but is shell shocked and angry at the world. He lives rather comfortably in London with his wife Daphne (Margo Robbie) but he cannot get over the trauma, he introduces one of his plays but the spotlight reminds him of the lights in the trenches and cannot get through it. In his disgruntled state he decides to move his wife and son (Will Tilston) out to the country.

Whilst there Milne seems to be much more interested in woodwork and walking rather than writing. Daphne grows ever more bored and frustrated so she leaves for some city time, coinciding with her leaving the nanny (Kelly MacDonald) must also go for three days to see to her sickly mother. So now its just the two of them.

During the time they are away it falls on Milne to step up and take care of his son. He is not the most patient man so they have tension in deciding what breakfast to make and him needing quite. But he gets sucked into the world his son creates with his stuffed toys. We then hear other names and phrases and can connect the dots that these elements will be used to tell the tale we all know.

He of course writes it down and is a tremendous success. But with success comes fame so he is constantly being called and asked to make appearances. Even Milne, who wrote the book is always asked about his son. Public appearances, signings, interviews all in abundance. He can hardly go anywhere and not be recognized. Even in their country home people come looking for him.

Being that this is about the behind the scenes story of a popular work of fiction I couldn’t help but think of Finding Neverland and Saving Mr Banks. Out of all of these movies the best one is Finding Neverland but this is also a different movie. It shows the damaging effects of too much fame for someone that cant handle it.

This is a very handsomely shot movie with attention to detail in the living areas, wardrobe and the sunlight having a truly golden quality to it.

The movies message is a simple one and the story of what when on with the people behind the material is interesting. A few moments of cool transitions, attractive production value and very solid performances help make it more worth seeing it those elements weren’t there.

 

An Interview with Meredydd Barker

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat with playwright Meredydd Barker. We discussed his career to date, ‘Nye and Jennie’ a new play he has written for Theatr na nÓg and his thoughts on theatre in Wales.

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

 I was brought up on the ultra rural north coast of Pembrokeshire; potato fields, big sky and sea. My father, Gordon, was an engineer from Buxton in Derbyshire who came down to St Davids to wire up a moulding factory. Being a field sports and sea fishing fanatic he stayed. It was heaven to him. My mother, Ruth Barker, was a Welsh singer-songwriter – she was quite well known in the seventies and eighties – so the idea of self-expression through the arts was a natural one. Such a rural upbringing meant the winter nights were about reading and drawing. I was an introspective kid anyway. Somehow I got into rock music, and around the age of fourteen I read the Jim Morrison biography, ‘No-One Here Gets Out Alive.’

I wanted to study what he read as a teenager – the beats, French symbolist poetry et al – and so became a voracious reader. I also wrote some dreadful poetry. My other great love was visual art. I didn’t want a lecturer telling me what to read on literature course so it seemed natural to go to art college, all the while writing ideas for stories and observations in my sketchbooks. I ended up getting a degree from St Martins College in London. I did some teaching there at the Centre for Languages – mostly English to Japanese fashion students – but I wasn’t creatively happy. It was around that time I met my wife who was working at The Everyman theatre in Liverpool. I followed her there and found myself going to the theatre maybe three times a week. One night, after seeing something particularly dire on stage, I decided that I should try writing a play. I felt I could do better than what I’d just seen. So I wrote The Rabbit which was picked up by Terry Hands at Theatr Clwyd. It wasn’t only my debut but the first play that I’d ever written, so to have it directed by him ranks as one of the very most incredible things to ever happen to me. And here I am.

You are currently working on a new play called ‘Nye and Jennie’ for Theatr na nÓg. How did you come to be involved in this new production and can you tell us more about it?

 Geinor Styles, Artistic Director of Theatr na nÓg, had read Jennie Lee’s autobiography, ‘My Life with Nye.’ She was bowled over by the story of this woman: first ever minister for the arts, prime mover behind the creation of the Open University and so much more. But she was overshadowed, as anyone would be, by Nye Bevan, her husband. Geinor had a hunch that I’d be a good fit when it came to writing a play about them. I did some reading, took a very deep breath, and said yes. It’s a two hander and so I hope the play has an intimacy in and of itself as explores what it meant to be two people in love who also happened to be creating two political legends in a time of immense domestic and international upheaval.

The play is described as a ‘Working class tale of Life,Labour and Love’ With the recent production of We’re Still Here by National Theatre Wales portraying the lives of Neath Port Talbot Steel Workers and this new production examining the political background and personal inspiration of Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee do you feel that Welsh Theatre is presenting representative stories of its citizens on our stages?

Not as much as it thinks it does. If you want to get a sense of what sort of lives people are leading you need a sense of place. The psychogeography of a play is quite fragile and it demands a sensitive touch from directors which it quite often doesn’t receive. It doesn’t survive the director’s process or vision or whatever they might want to call it. There’s no point enlisting a local playwright if an outsider is going to butcher it to fulfil their own agenda, which can often be brimful with some quite inaccurate preconceptions about a place and its people. But if those inaccuracies are camouflaged by bright lights and pretty soundscapes with a couple of laughs and a tearful middle eight then what price being representative? The five-star review is what’s important, not the lessons that may be learned. But giving the audience what it wants isn’t the same as holding up a mirror.

You’re telling a story. It’s one of many stories. But you’re telling us that this is the story that needs telling. Is that because it contains an essential truth that’s not being expressed? Or is it because it fits the world view you arrived with and you know it fits it into your particular blunderbuss of theatrical tricks? There are truths in peoples lives – the way they talk, why they say what they say, the way they treat each other with such casual brutality, the way they love – that lie at the heart and the heart is a difficult thing to get to but it’s the playwright’s job to do that. Trust the playwrights. Even if it’s difficult, even if it’s something you don’t believe, go with them.

Saying something difficult is too often seen as synonymous with courting failure, especially if the production is on large scale. But there are communities in Wales that aren’t addressing their faultlines and if theatre can’t point that out then it doesn’t deserve to call itself art because art, if it’s about anything, is about saying the difficult thing.

There are times when an outsiders point of view is exactly what’s needed. But not as often as that sentiment is used by outsiders as an excuse to defend their misconceptions. But, as I say, those misconceptions can be hidden with the smoke and mirrors of theatre with the result that nobody learns anything. There are exceptions and I’m working with an exceptional exception in Geinor and Theatr na nÓg.

The production information describes Bevan and Lee as “Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee were comrades and flatmates who together fought and preached for socialism as they saw it; he the Tredegar firebrand on the Labour backbenches, she the miner’s daughter from Fife who became a Socialist MP before she was old enough to vote.” Get the Chance is partially inspired from a conversation between the comedian Billy Connolly and former Scottish trade union leader Jimmy Reid. At Reid’s funeral in 2010 Connolly stated;

 “I remember him saying that if you look at these housing estates and high-rise flats – look at all the windows. Behind every one of these windows is somebody who might be a horse-jumping champion, a formula one racing champion, a yachtsman of great degree, but he’ll never know because he’ll never step on a yacht or formula one car – he’ll never get the chance.

 Do you think opportunities still exist for young working class citizens from Tredegar or Fife to get the chance to actively engage in politics, the NHS or the arts today?

Two years ago I spent some time in Ebbw Vale working for the Shakespeare Schools Festival. I was able to see at first hand what the teachers in that area were like. Some were actually able to get some teaching done, but too many were just crisis managing. Provision for the arts in schools is dwindling so it’s difficult for pupils to get a good grounding in the craft. With the good grounding comes the ability to make an informed decision about whether it’s something you want to do with your life. But you need good examples to follow. Are any of the politicians around today worth emulating? There are some, but their philosophies are drowned out by the white noise most politicians mistake for public discourse. The NHS is being visibly driven into the ground in Wales so how can an adult recommend that a student devotes his or her future to something that’s being so devalued? In Fife good things are happening, but the ruling SNP is in a scrap with the Conservatives and Liberals over a new education programme which is stalling while they sort out their ideological differences. Who suffers? The pupil. Always the kids.

You are also Artistic Director of Narberth Youth Theatre. How did you come to be involved with this group?

 My wife and I formed Narberth Youth Theatre because there was a need for something less formal than what the schools were offering, a place where the members could be themselves while they learnt more about theatre. Teenagers came to us and asked us to do it. And I must say it gives me the opportunity to work on my practice as a theatre maker week in, week out. We have guest facilitiators to keep things fresh and a great sense of curiosity in the group. It’s all good.

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?

 The greatest barrier is the geography of Wales itself. Just physically navigating it is hard. And theatre – like the mafia – is a face to face business. We all need to be able to go and see stuff, talk about it with the creatives, then get home. There won’t be any real consilience in Wales until that becomes easier. I scratch my head over the lack of matinees in Cardiff. In Liverpool the Everyman Playhouse has been experimenting with evening shows at 5-30 and audiences have responded positively to that. It means people from further away can get home or spend time in town and meet and talk and plan new alliances.

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

 If you’re a playwright, then you’ve made a tough choice in life. There’s only so much networks and organisations in Wales can do for a Welsh playwright. You really need to help yourself somehow. I’m forming my own company called The Holding Cell and I want see who I can attract to work with me and see if we can attract an audience because that’s what it’s all about. There are superb actors in Wales who aren’t even being seen for parts and I want to work with them, again in some cases. Let’s see what we can do for ourselves.

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

Youth. It’s the law of initial conditions. Throw the ball high and hard – give it the best possible chance to travel far – then you’ll know it’ll go the distance. Invest in the beginning.

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?

We’ve got astonishing actors here. That excites me more than anything else. It makes me want to write because I know that if I’m lucky enough to get into a room with Welsh actors I’m going to walk out with an enhanced piece of work. It’s happened every time. The last truly great thing that I saw was the Jean Michel Basquiat exhibition at The Barbican. In Wales, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest at The Torch was ensemble work as good as I’ve ever seen.

 

Review: Layton’s Mystery Journey by Sian Thomas

This review contains spoilers.

Trailer for Layton’s Mystery Journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFz1tTNNRkM

As far as anyone was concerned this time in the last two years, the Professor Layton series was over. There were games and a movie and a book, and then it was finished. I remember how I felt the day some concept art snaked its way on to my timeline, and how incredulity and unimaginable excitement swelled in me: my absolute favourite series was still going. Some higher ups had decided not to leave us all the way that they had. How could I not be beside myself with utter glee? How could me, my friends who I met because of this series, how could we not let ourselves be absolutely encompassed by this incredibly lucky turn of events? We were so happy. I was so happy.
Layton’s Mystery Journey follows Katrielle Layton, Professor Layton’s daughter as she opens her own detective agency and solves a number of cases for London’s elite millionaires – the “Seven Dragons”. What I also thought was going to happen was throughout these cases, Katrielle would undergo the ongoing case of her father’s disappearance, since this is what I’d discovered was the #1 talking point whenever I looked into the game. “Professor Layton is missing! Will his daughter find him?” I thought she would.

As a series that existed differently to the previous Layton games, I obviously expected change. A new cast, new voices, new music, new scenery. I knew it was coming, so when it arrived there were no ill feelings between it and me. Much as how people say, “The movie would be good on it’s own” when the book was better but the movie was… okay… I can say that if this series didn’t have links to the older version, it would have been okay – it would have been good on it’s own. In some places it was even nice – to see things newly imagined. But my view was always going to be rose-tinted because of the old games, so I was helpless.

Some things were good. The music was good, but Layton music always has been (here’s a taste of this game’s music! : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4czbYlei3GY&list=PLVfglvX_VlEZniKUW5NEcdC_yaK6CipuV ). The puzzles were okay (since after all, it is a puzzle game), and I do appreciate that they existed as a tribute to the person who used to make the puzzles for these games, Akira Tago (1926-2016).

There was one character I did really love – Pipper Lowonida, the fictional Mayor of London (pictured on the right, below). She was the first character I saw! The concept art that found itself on my timeline was of her, and I always thought I’d like her. I was right! She’s the Mayor, but with a flare for festivals and parties, and with a happy and witty attitude. She was the best part of the game for me.

So, there was some good things. Not many, though, because now I have the chance to get into what really got under my skin.

This is something I realised a few weeks ago. I found myself less excited for Layton’s Mystery Journey as some of the other people I new. I thought maybe I had exerted it all too early, I thought the funny little online puzzle game (http://www.layton.jp/mystery-journey/laytonworld/uk.html) had depleted it (since I never finished it, and fell out with it just after it began). But, nope! It was something else entirely. I found myself reflecting on the prequel and sequel trilogies of the original Layton series, I found myself thinking quietly on how I loved their plots and characters until I stumbled on a big flaw. Lately with media I have been more than a little picky. Representation and mature story handling has become incredibly important to me, and I realised that the Layton series actually wasn’t ticking any of my important check boxes. Representation in terms of race? It wasn’t happening. Representation in terms of sexuality? Also wasn’t happening. In the original series there was one character who didn’t appear white – and he turned out to be a bad guy (bad move! Especially when this was the only non-white character of an entire series consisting of 7 games and one movie). This carried through into Layton’s Mystery Journey, unfortunately. There was one character who appeared non-white, yet his name was “Shadee” (it’s exactly what you’re thinking), and he was the main culprit of a case that our main characters were pursuing. They were pursuing him harshly, treating him badly, and didn’t apologise when they realised he wasn’t the culprit. (Bad move! It’s 2017 for goodness sake, show some compassion).
There’s also no representation when it came to sexuality. Heteronormative things came through easily in the past series (marriage, nuclear families, a young girl who gives a young boy a kiss and everyone in the vicinity giving each other those knowing looks even though the two kids in question were 11 at best), and this new game (the sidekick character, Ernest Greeves, is blatantly infatuated with the main character Katrielle. She doesn’t notice, and when she doesn’t another character is compelled to say things like “throw him a bone”, “give him a chance”. The problem I have with this is: Girls should not be prompted/feel obliged to appease a man just because the man in question has feelings for them. They shouldn’t have their independence and potential character growth thwarted just because a man has shown up and shown interest). Nothing about characters who weren’t straight, even though it is 2017. It’s disappointing, realising a series you love will not break the safe and traditional mould.
The last point? Every single plot of every single Layton game – and the movie – exists because of women’s suffering. This is a trope I do not at all like: “Woman gets hurt to unlock a man’s story”. So over the ten years that Professor Layton content has been being produced, it’s been the same story: a woman is hurt, somehow. A man’s story comes into existence because of this. So that’s all 6 original games, the crossover game, the movie, and this game! That’s bad. 9 times, a company can’t break from this storytelling? For ten years a company will keep themselves glued to this harmful storytelling? As the times change and representation and better treatment of female characters is needed and they do nothing? Yeah, I’m not exactly happy.
For this game, and for a long time, I really did not think they were going to fall into this trope. But they did, and it was right at the very end of the game. Turns out the bad guy was only propelled forward into taking the actions he did because his mother died. For this game I thought that, what with a new female protagonist, Level5 (the company behind the series) would be shepherded into treating their female characters better, but no. They don’t. They even forgive the antagonist, and move on like nothing ever happened. A white male character isn’t held accountable for his actions, but an NPC who appears black is lambasted endlessly through the case and treated poorly even if they did nothing wrong? I’m disappointed, massively so.
Continuing from that, here’s another of my big issues for the game: it is, as far as I’ve seen, hinged on the premise of “Professor Layton is missing – will his daughter, Katrielle find him?” And here let’s get into some big things that really made my blood boil: They barely mentioned this in-game. They barely talk about how the professor is missing, and when they do, it is off-handed mentions, vague information, and a flippant way of injecting it into the game as if no one really cares that this is the “overall plot” people were expecting. So, no, if you’re wondering, they don’t find the Professor. They don’t even look for him. There aren’t even hints throughout the 12 cases of this game that they plan on searching for him. Which is, let’s face it, a disappointment. I don’t know why advertising seemed to encircle this and then they go ahead and barely use it. I can understand that it’s likely to set up for a second game (which I don’t think I’ll be buying after my revelations and experiences with this game), but really what it felt like was laziness. A lack of a want to finish a story they led people to believe would be solved for the sake of making more money on the next instalment. Worse, they hinge a cutscene at the very end of the game in the post-credits, where it’s revealed that the main character, Katrielle, may not even be Layton’s daughter. She says she has solved the riddle Professor Layton left her (“If you’re not my daughter, then who are you?”). Some people took this as a good cliffhanger, but I took this as a slap in the face and the regrettable loss of £33.

I didn’t like it. Others may, and that’s fine, but Professor Layton content is no longer my cup of tea. I didn’t enjoy it and eventually trudging through playing it started to feel like a chore. Obviously I’m sad, I waited so long for this and was so excited and now I’m shrugging off a franchise I’ve loved for ten years. Hopefully this is better for me. With the fall of this, I just hope I can find better content I can throw myself into as deeply as I did this. Overall, I’m massively disappointed. One star.

An Interview with Eric Ngalle Charles

 

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

My name is Eric Ngalle Charles, I am a Cameroonian born Wales based writer poet and playwright.

So what got you interested in writing and the arts?

I wrote my first poem when I was about 8years old, I wanted to compliment my mother, for she was my father. However my mother did not understand my humour, she thought I was mocking her for the fact that many men went through her bed chambers. ‘’Dearest mother, you are beautiful like the snowflakes of Siberia, everybody knows where you are, no one dares’’ this earned me my first banishment from my village. I moved to my maternal grand father’s house where I started reading African newspapers posthumously. My maternal grandfather was a British Colonial governor and had the luxury of newspapers being delivered albeit three months late.

Your run a company called Black Entertainment Wales, an arts organisation that provides a platform for artists in the BME communities to showcase their work. Do you feel BME creatives in Wales are supported?

The bar for support for BME creatives is too high. Plus the very fact the Wales itself is a minority in the grand scheme of things means at times it doesn’t know sometimes how to deal with its BAME creatives. Organisations are making strides in the right direction, I am now on the board of directors for Literature Wales, We have FIO making strides, and we have support from other creatives like Charlotte Williams and Isabelle Adonis. There’s hope.

You are also a playwright how do you approach writing in this art form?

I guess I am fascinated by ‘’blindness’’ What can provoke someone or something to invoke blindness from the gods. I am not an ‘’OBWANJE CHILD’’ as described by Ben Okri in Famished Road, however I carry such marks, and I strongly believe that we must not cut off that link between the land of the dead and that of the living. I write to maintain the link. In most of my plays, I perform rituals, either through singing an ancient song that my ancestors used when communicating with the gods, or simply pouring liquor or water onto the ground and invoking the gods. During my last performance in Palas Print Caernarfon for the Literature festival in June with Ifor Ap Glyn the National Poet of Wales, I performed Molikilikili (stick insect, who insist on bringing down the great Iroko tree by pushing it to the ground, most people mistook its antics for press-ups) and I did an invocation using Welsh leaves and Welsh water. Yes, the gods are playwrights, they use us to poke fun and make merry.

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 way information is dispersed, community centers, libraries are not stocking the right information, and institutions that have powers that control information on activities do not have foot soldiers. There is disconnect between creatives and those institutions that should support them.

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

Two of such organisations have been helpful and healthy to me because I am very persistent, other people once you knock them they lose the ability to stand up. I believe in the power of my story, I know what I write and I am willing and learning to learn how to write.

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

Public performance arts. We should encourage young and emerging talents to showcase their work and to get paid for doing so.

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?

Event’s organizers such as the Hay Trust, Hay Festival are embracing diversity, for me I am currently talking with the National Trust to see if I could perform my plays around their various premises. I just came from Cameroon last month as part of a ‘’Bridge Building’’ initiative supported by Wales Arts International which will see Artists from Wales going to Cameroon and Vice versa. As a result of my first visit, I have been invited back to Cameroon by the authorities to perform at the South Cameroon Cultural Festival. Effectively I am passing the baton to the future generation.

Review Blade Runner 2049 by Jonathan Evans

4 Stars4 / 5

 

The images and themes of Blade Runner are some of the most iconic in movie and even pop-culture history. They have influences and been ripped off so many times and yet there’s still nothing quite like the original. Whether a sequel was necessary or wanted is now irrelevant, it’s here and the story now continues.

I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of the original movie. I ‘ve seen it three times, I like hearing analysis of it and talking about it and it is undeniably influential and amazing to look at, but frankly actually sitting down and seeing the movie play-out has never given me a thrill.

We get a black screen where writing comes up informing us of the essential information we need to know going into the movie. Replicants are synthetically grown humans that developed their own humanity, they rebelled but a new company has emerged which makes Replicants that obey absolutely, the old models are still running around Earth so there are still agents that hunt them, which are still called Blade Runners. The  first shot, as the original, is with the opening of an eye. Who eye? It does not matter. We then see a flying car hover above a grey landscape, where eventually there’s some kind of farming land. The car lands and a man gets out, he enters the house and waits for it’s owner (Dave Bautista), through a series of questions it’s obvious that he is a Blade Runner here to “retire” this runaway Replicant.

The Replicant fights back, slamming him through a wall but he is stronger than him. Yes this Blade Runner is a Replicant. The Replicants name is K (Ryan Gosling). Before he heads back he finds a buried box under a dead tree and number carved into them that have meaning for K.

Being that he’s not human most of his emotions are subdued, for a large portion of the movie Gosling is rather stone-faced throughout it. That’s fine because there are other  more expressive characters that keep the energy alive, his real effort goes into his body movement, being sleek and efficient. However you can still see the glimmers of the thoughts that are going on under the surface that come out in little eye movements or furrowing of his brow. Plus there is a scene in which he comes to a realisation about himself and without going over the top delivers an amazing reaction. For this, I believe it is one of his best performances.

Something I applaud this movie for is it’s very little amount of action. There are hand-to-hand sequences and a shootout scene or two but this movie really relies on creating images, atmosphere and provoking deeper questions. Science Fiction isn’t supposed to simply entertain you with things going bang and flashing lights, its meant to give you ideas.

Blade Runner has never been a typical science fiction movie. It was more like an existential Film Noir set in the future. It had a lonely man wandering the streets of a dark city and asked questions about what makes us human. This is still that movie.

In the directors chair is not Ridley Scott but Denis Villeneuve. He made Arrival last year which really impressed me so I had no objections to him taking the realms on another science fiction movie. He has clearly done his research for what this world is like. He and cinematographer Roger Daekins have created the same dark, rainy world lit with headlights and advertisements, as well as a few other images that will most likely become classic. Whats striking is the way many scenes are composed with the minimal amount of detail and only a few shapes to help fill in what they are. Take a shot where its mostly black but a few coloured lights help us register that there is a car behind the character.

Someone else that’s taking over is Hans Zimmer and Benjamine Wallfisch on the music where it was previously handled by Vangelis. They have a frame to work within and I believe to sounds like the original. For the big city shots it’s your traditional piece you would expect to hear but there are other moments where the characters dwell on other things and it becomes a deep meditation. They use electronic instruments but create an organic sound with them.

I have no idea how well this movie will be received by the public or by other critics. I also cannot guess how successful it will do at the box-office or with the fans of the original. But I do admire the visuals and the technical achievements put into this movie. I remember some of the shots very clearly and the feeling of the atmosphere it created. It shows a world far off in the future where technology is capable of so many things but the greatest question man faces is within themselves.

 

Review The Rise and Fall Of Little Voice, Theatr Clwyd by Karis Clarke

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

As a critic I am not technically minded, I view a play and my mind will automatically focus on  the acting ability of the cast , as my background is in performing. However it would be impossible not to be blown away by the genius set design and the technicality of this production.

 

Using a revolving room on a split level, and a dividing floor the design by Amy Jane Cook easily managed to give the illusion of an open dolls house. (If the dolls house was a northern council house with poor electrics and bad house keeping!) This enabled the lounge, kitchen diner and bedroom all to be in full view of the audience. With swift transitions the bedroom revolved, the living room divided and the set transformed to Mr Boo’s night club. The first transition took place just after the beginning of the second half and was met with suitable gasps of awe from the impressed full house.

It would be rude not to give credit to the lighting design, by Nicholas Holdridge although naturalistic in nature a majority of the play took place in dimly lit rooms and at one point darkness. However the clever use of street, moon, dawn and torch light ensured the actors were always well lit and the tone and atmosphere were heightened. This combination of stage and technical magic combine in the final stages of the production, not wanting to spoil the effect -Theatre Clwyd’s production does stay true to the film and they do so very effectively. A combination of smoke, lights movement and LV’s  impressions as she reaches breaking point culminates to an intense stage experience.

The cast were as impressive as the set, comic timing, physicality and delivery were strong. Each member of the small ensemble allowed each other to have stand out moments as well as ensuring they all worked well together to perform some very funny dialogue, comedic banter and duets. (watch out for Nicola Reynolds, Mari Hoff, LV’s mum and the brilliant Victoria John, Sadie, the down beaten neighbour performing “It’s Raining Men”)

This play can only work if LV can actually deliver the impressions stated – ergo this play works. It has been stated on social media that when Catrin Aaron sings its like Judy Garland is in the room. I fully agree – except Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and a host of others are there with her.

I was slightly disappointed with some of the direction of the play, continuity of stage exits occasionally seemed haphazard – this could be due to them being sacrificed for the technicality of the production – in which case I can forgive the occasions when walls are walked through – however towards the end of the play it felt like the cast had forgotten where doors were and they were just walking wherever!

Jim Cartwright’s script is undoubtedly witty and gritty and is supposed to be full of hilarity and vulgarity, however, I was waiting for the all important point when I would feel empathy with the characters, for me,  it didn’t happen. I put this down to the direction of Wasserberg rather than the acting ability of the cast. It was played for laughs and in doing so the characters became more caricatures –  that although I laughed with, I never fully connected with.

Other than this,  it was a pleasure to watch, strong female leads and the standing ovation  was justly deserved. Little Voice hits the right notes.

Theatre Clwyd, Antony Hopkins Theatre,Tuesday 10th October . Directed by Kate Wasserberg

 

Review, To Leave/ To Be Left, Robbie Cavanagh by Gareth Williams

5 Stars5 / 5

Wow. What have you done to me Robbie Cavanagh? I did not expect that. The debut album of this Manchester musician, released this week, stunned me into almost complete silence. Titled ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’, Cavanagh’s first full-length feature may begin with a feel-good beat, but it gradually becomes a mystical, beautiful and haunting piece of musicianship. To touch it would be like caressing the finest of silk. Each of the eleven songs on offer has been carefully handcrafted, honed to such perfection that, if made of wood, your finger would glide smoothly over their surface. It is simply stunning.

The opening track ‘Get Out Alive’ does nothing to prepare you for what is to come. A lively start, it gives credence to the “country artist” label which Cavanagh seems to have been afforded.  However, as the album progresses, he breaks away from any generic confines that industry and media moguls might want to place on him. The next couple of tracks seem to slowly move from country-style ballads to something altogether different. Whilst “Godsend” could be attributed to the likes of Andrew Combs, for example, “Reverence” and “Scars” (which follow) have much more in common with the likes of Welsh folk singer Al Lewis. These offer a simple and repetitive backing track played behind an acoustic guitar, and given an otherworldly feel by the slight reverberation that is added to the vocal output. This ethereal quality, which begins with a degree of subtlety in these early tracks, goes on to permeate through the rest of the album. The listener is soaked in haunting melodies and saturated in a spiritual soundtrack. The heart-rending lyrics only seek to elevate the emotional veracity of Cavanagh’s sound. ‘Let You Down’ is heartbreaking. ‘Fool’ is incredibly soulful. ‘Still Talkin’’ is painfully gorgeous.

This is an intimate album. Cavanagh has an incredible ability to create this close atmosphere through his music. It is just you and him. All other potential distractions are completely drowned out. You become lost in the sensitivity and vulnerability of his performance. At one stage, I even found myself brought to tears. I was so overcome with emotion during ‘Sleep Now’, I couldn’t quite believe what was happening. Ironically, the song features the line, “What are you weeping for?” Well, Robbie, I’m not quite sure, but I think it might have something to do with your singing. Whatever the reason, I certainly did not expect that reaction.

Together, this exceptional selection of songs marks Robbie Cavanagh out as an accomplished songwriter and musician. He is a major talent who deserves all the plaudits that will surely come his way with such a breathtakingly beautiful debut. I would strongly recommend listening to ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’. Be warned though. It may leave you speechless for a time. You may also experience some unexpected emotional reactions.