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Review Fiction, Bikeshed Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

In the brick theatre of the Bikeshed, we are separated into singular seating, correspondent to our numbered headphones. Instantly we are dubious of what is about to happen especially when you end up in the front row and your guest is right at the back.

The only other things in the room apart from us spaced out is a large projection screen and a lectern. The projection screen acts as our welcome party before we are delved into sheer darkness.

Fiction sees us travel through a world of imagination and suggestion. Being in pure darkness, we feel vulnerable and open to the elements. Therefore sounds effect us more than normal, we do not feel as safe as we normally would and suddenly there are voices describing and taking you through an almost apocalyptic world and story.

One hour of this would, from the outside, seem tiresome but somehow the content of the narrative and what we create in our mind keeps the entire experience interesting and new.

The wonderful thing about this event is that while the narrative is the same, our own minds create a world that would be different to the next person. An uncertainty of whether the person speaking is sat next to you or not – yet you still do not reach out and move despite a 95% assurance it’s all coming from the headphones.

Fiction is very clever, intense and very simple, yet brilliantly executed. Such a clever experience is very unique and totally worth undertaking.

Hannah Goslin

 

 

Review Heroine, Theatr Clwyd/High Tide by Gareth Williams

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

What an extraordinary piece of theatre Heroine is.” I just had to write this as my immediate response on Twitter after seeing Nessah Muthy’s one-act play. It has many of the ingredients that create a top-class production: powerful, emotive, provocative, and controversial. It centres on Grace, a former soldier looking for friendship and meaning in her post-conflict life. One day, she turns up at the local community centre, and finds a group of women with whom she forms a strong and emotional bond. When the centre is threatened with closure, she finds herself fighting a new war, one which consumes her in a devastating and heartrending way.

Asmara Gabrielle is spellbinding as the young Grace. She is the heartbeat of this production, setting the pace with a conflicting range of emotions. It is a dramatic performance that builds progressively, a vulnerability that evolves from a sense of loss to a deep feeling of injustice; a growing bitterness that translates into angry protestation and self-destructive violence. The ability of Gabrielle to hold such extraordinary emotional conflict in her performance, letting it drip-feed out like a springing leak in her soul, is simply masterful.

Supporting her are a cast of four women, each of their characters richly detailed so as make Heroine an ensemble piece. They are not present merely to make up the numbers. Muthy has managed to give each of these women culturally recognisable characteristics without falling into the trap of stereotyping them. We have the technology-savvy grandma, Bev (Maggie McCarthy), the strong-willed group leader Wendy (Lucy Thackeray) and the chatty, party-loving Cheryl (Wendy Morgan). Yet far from being typecast, each of them is given space to breathe and become part of a narrative that is driven by their individual motivations, their pain and their sense of truth. Placing them as the driving force of the play ensures that it maintains a credibility and verisimilitude that ultimately creates an absorbing and electrifying piece of theatre. We journey with them from an innocuous start – walking into the auditorium, the three of them are already onstage chatting. The set translates seamlessly into the front row, making it feel like you are actually stepping into their world which is, I have to say, exquisite in its realism – to an (almost literally) explosive finish. It is pure drama.

I can understand the grievances posed recently over the perceived lack of opportunities for Welsh talent at Theatr Clwyd at present. When I think back to Terry Hands’ tenure, there was a clear Welsh flavour to many of the productions. This is not so much the case now. Yet I think the criticism is very unfair. To judge a theatre’s impact merely on onstage content is to miss the point of Artistic Director Tamara Harvey’s vision. As I see it, her desire to create a theatre that is accessible for all, which engages with the wider community, and provides opportunities for involvement across the board (from workshops to apprenticeships, creative spaces to community forums, etc.) shows a passion for inspiring and encouraging Welsh talent that goes far beyond the actors and writers rooms; indeed, is capable of a much greater impact than some may suggest.

What does this have to do with Heroine? Well, I think it is simply wrong to judge this co-production with London-based HighTide as being at the expense of Welsh talent. As Harvey states, there are other skills embedded in a producing theatre, such as stage management, set building, scenic art, props making, lighting and sound (to name but a few) that contribute to an overall production. This is surely the case here. Furthermore, the need to create opportunities for new and emerging talent should not just stop at one’s own doorstep. By supporting such a quality script by a young writer, as well as an all-female cast, this local theatre is making a positive contribution to the national issue of diversity, an ongoing problem within the arts.

Heroine is a great example of a new work that, with support, can fulfil its potential. It is an absorbing story that deals with some big and pressing themes. With a strong cast and brilliantly-crafted script, it is certainly one to watch out for. A provocative piece of art.

Dubliners (James Joyce) Revisited by Rhys Morgan

James Joyce is regarded by many as one of the most significant writers in the history of the novel. He is most famous for his contributions to a form of prose fiction known as literary modernism; a style of storytelling which emphasises, among other things, a stream of consciousness technique, which allows the reader to quite literally get inside the heads of characters and to experience their world through their own psyches. However, due to the convoluted style that Joyce often employs, he is regularly seen as a rather ‘difficult’ author to get into, one whose work sometimes borders on the incomprehensible. Ulysses, for example, constantly flicks back and forth between first- and third-person narratives, while Finnegans Wake is, let’s be honest, barely written in English.

James Joyce c. 1918

This simply isn’t the case with his first novel, and it is this novel which I consider (perhaps controversially) to be his true masterpiece. The work I’m referring to here is of course Dubliners, first published in 1914. While technically not a novel per se—it’s actually a collection of short stories—Dubliners certainly reads as if it were a singular novel because all the stories within are tightly interwoven and constantly overlap. The clarity of the writing is astonishing: even by today’s standards it often reads as fresh as paint. Throughout, Joyce employs a very straightforward style of narrative which makes use of some brilliant poetic prose and is replete with striking metaphoric imagery. On this basis alone it really is a joy to read.

Each story revolves around a very simple plot. For example, Eveline is about a woman torn between staying in Dublin and fleeing with her lover to Argentina; Two Gallants deals with a pair of criminals in their attempt to steal from a young woman’s employer; whilst Ivy Day in the Committee Room focuses on the failures of Irish nationalist politics in Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century. And in true modernist fashion, each story begins by throwing us straight into the middle of its characters’ environment and circumstances. There’s no messing around with developing the story’s background or context beforehand; instead, both background and context emerge as the story unfolds.

Yet despite the simplicity of the narrative you are always aware that there’s something incredibly complex going on underneath, and this really strikes at the heart of why Dubliners is so masterfully written. The individual fine details contained within the text eventually build up to reveal a strikingly detailed picture of Dublin and its inhabitants during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Deep-seated religious tensions, economic hardships, social mobility, even the Catholic Church’s implicit acceptance of paedophilia—all of these themes are dealt with, and many more. As you read Dubliners, Dublin becomes your entire world, and the sheer levels of detail you encounter about this city are almost ethnographic in scope. You can pick up this novel feeling like you know nothing about Dublin, and once you’ve finished you can walk away feeling like you know everything there is to know.

On the other hand, in amongst all of this social complexity are characters that are instantly identifiable and which conjure in us a mixture of different feelings and emotions ranging from admiration to downright pity. The character of Maria in the story Clay is that of a woman who is trying her best to be as kind and as helpful to those around her as possible, despite the fact that the circumstances within which she lives are frustrating and monotonous. The old man in the story An Encounter, however, is a character whose sexual promiscuity is so great that at one point he indulges himself in a spot of public masturbation. When referring to the work of Shakespeare, the rapper Akala once said that the power inherent in plays such as Hamlet or Macbeth lies in their ability to portray ways of being human that transcend the time and place within which they were written. I believe that this certainly applies to the work of Joyce as well, and particularly to Dubliners. Whether we like it or not, we can see a little bit of ourselves in each of Joyce’s characters, and as a result they each force us to think about our own human character and the ways that we conduct ourselves.

Grafton Street, Dublin, at the turn of the twentieth century

Overall, Dubliners is one of those ‘classic’ novels that really has stood the test of time and is absolutely still relevant today. I believe the reason that not many people have read this novel is because they’re perhaps put off by the avant-gardism of Joyce’s later work. But I recommend Dubliners to anyone who is a fan of literature, and I think it has the capacity to surprise you, so it’s well worth having a go.

By Rhys Morgan

Review Murder on The Orient Express by Jonathan Evans

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Agatha Christie wrote many murder mystery books and plays which all sought to reveal the savage nature of people. Strip away the finery and social class and we are all capable of the most brutal acts.

One of her main characters was Hercule Poirot a man that wears a distinctive moustache, cannot have eggs that are different sizes and is probably one of the greatest (fictional) detectives who ever lived. He is often mistaken for French because of his accent, but is in fact Belgian. While one case has just wrapped he is called away to another, to get there he must board The Orient Express.

Kenneth Branagh takes on the role of the Belgian detective. Like Sherlock Holmes he has a sharp eye and when there is a crime considers it his duty to solve it. However he doesn’t so much do it for thrills rather than a task that must be undertaken to set the world right. He could be considered just another pedantic gentleman that enjoys food, drink, art and company, but when he must he sees into the nature of the individual and human nature itself. The performance allows for fluffy fun and sharp seriousness.

As well as taking on the main role Branagh works behind the camera. He comes with more than a few neat visuals. Long unbroken shots of moving through the train, overhead shots where the location and characters seem like pieces on a board-game and looking at the characters through the tilted edges of glass creating the effect of dual faces. As an actor as well he knows how to talk to his cast so solid performances from all.

On the train are many passengers from all walks of life. An Austrian professor (Willem Defoe), a count (Sergio Polunin), a governess (Daisy Ridley), a missionary (Penelope Cruz), a widow (Michelle Pfeiffer), a Salesman (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a doctor (Leslie Odom Jr.), a Princess (Judi Dench) being accompanied by her maid (Olivia Colman), a gangster named Ratchett (Johnny Depp) that feels his life may be in danger, he is accompanied with his butler (Derek Jacobi) and assistant (Josh Gad).

While the train marches along one night lightning strikes the mountain sending snow down, blocking the tracks. It is easily dealt with in due time, but not all of the passengers are present, Ratchett has been murdered. Who did such a thing to an unquestionably bad man? That is the question and through clues, cross referenced with alibi’s and Poirot’s deduction skills the truth will be found.

This is probably the definition of an all star cast. Every one of the passengers is a big star. This takes away from being truly engaging but it also helps hide the identity. If this was a cast of lesser profile actors, or unknowns and only one A-Lister then we’d instantly be drawn the the one star and suspect them. But being that they are all big names there clearly wont be any favouritism.

There are many more books to be adapted if this one does very well. It could, considering it’s great cast. If the studio does go on to do more then they will. It is odd being that everything has to become a franchise now, but still there is nothing that is building up for the next movies, you can go into this one and know nothing about Poirot, you will learn by the end and be satisfied while the credits roll.

All that being said this is a well crafted and acted movie that has an expert both behind and in-front of the camera as well as having one of the greats works by one of the greatest writers in the genre. How could it go badly? I’m not sure but I’m glad it didn’t.

 

Review The Burton Taylor Affair, Sherman Theatre/Oran Mor by Rhys Morgan

Dewi Rhys Williams as Richard Burton and Vivien Reid as Elizabeth Taylor

The Taylor Burton Affair, written by Steven Elliot and directed by Chelsey Gillard, takes us straight into the deep end of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s turbulent marriage. This real life love affair is perhaps the most famous in all of Hollywood’s history, if only for the sheer levels of hostility that it engendered. But then again, severe alcoholism and excessive self-pride are rather toxic elements to add to any romantic relationship, and this play pulls no punches in its portrayal of those character defects which ultimately pulled the couple apart.

Vivien Reid as Elizabeth Taylor

The performance kicks off by placing us immediately at the heart of an embittered argument between Taylor (played by Vivien Reid) and Burton (played by Dewi Rhys Evans), and this single scene encompasses the entirety of the play. The set is particularly fitting; to the far-left stands a portable drinks cabinet, while on the far-right sits a romantic chaise longue, and throughout the play Taylor and Burton are constantly moving between the two, which perhaps serves as a telling metaphor for their marriage. Despite the play’s simplicity, the context of Taylor and Burton’s relationship is revealed to us in a remarkably thorough way, and these details never seem forced; they arise organically through the medium of argument and occasional reconciliation.

The actors’ performances were fantastic; they both managed to take us through a whirlwind of emotion and feeling whilst simultaneously keeping the play grounded. The majority of their interaction is uncomfortable viewing as it invites us to take pity on a relationship that is quite literally tearing at the seams. Yet there are certain lines of dialogue that are genuinely humorous, which remind us that there is, after all, an ineffable connection between the two characters, even if it is buried beneath a thick layer of hostility.

Overall The Taylor Burton Affair is a thoroughly character-driven play; it is a warts-and-all portrayal of marriage and human character, and it will therefore appeal to those who aren’t necessarily fans of Elizabeth Taylor or Richard Burton.

The production runs at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff until Saturday.

Rhys Morgan


 

Community Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Ferndale Mining Disaster of 1867 on Wednesday 8th November 2017.

On Friday 8 November 1867, the whole district of Ferndale and Blaenllechau was shaken by two consecutive explosions at Ferndale No.1.

Rescuers were hampered by roof falls, and with the air so foul, with some trepidation the furnace which powered the ventilation was relit. It took a month to recover the remains of the 178 men and boys, with most bodies showing signs of severe burning, and many so badly disfigured it made identification impossible.

Teenage boys as young as 12 perished and at the subsequent enquiry, the lamp keeper stated that safety locks had been tampered with, and incidents regularly occurred that breached the company’s rules. Although reported to the mine manager, these breaches were ignored. This was later disputed by fellow miner’s from the Aberdare valley.

On Wednesday 8th November at 5.00pm, to commemorate the event the community will congregate for a short service at the Ferndale Miner’s Memorial in Greenwood Park (which was erected in 1988), with the community following in the footseps of many miner’s to Penuel Chapel, in Duffryn Street, Ferndale.

At 6.00pm at Penuel Chapel, the young men and boys will be remembered through an evening of reflection and reminiscing by children from Darran Park Primary School and songs from Cor Meibion Morlais and music from Tylorstown Silver Band. There will also be poetry readings, film and the launch of a community exhibition outlining the development of the coal mines, the disasters and what followed as a result.

Organisers Ferndale Grassroots are grateful for all the support received to date but are still seeking relatives of those who lost their lives or who have any memorabilia, photographs etc. relating to Ferndale Colliery, which could form part of the week long exhibition.

‘We are keen to ensure that those who lost their lives are remembered by all generations in the community and we have been working with both young and old to bring this significant event in the life of Ferndale to the fore. Thanks to a grant from RCT Together, we believe it will be an event fitting for the occasion.’

This is a ticketed event (due to capacity) and tickets can be booked via email: ferndalegrassroots@gmail.com, Facebook: Ferndale Grassroots or contact Catherine on 07792 423493.

Ann Davies

 

Review The Death of Stalin by Jonathan Evans

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

This movies creators probably had the same thought that Stanley Kubrick had while making Dr. Strangelove. That though the basic facts are real and the subject, as well as the consequences are serious, when you say it out loud, it’s pretty funny.

The movie opens in 1953 where Russia has won the war and is securely under the control of Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) who is simultaneously adored and feared by the people. To be his enemy or even be considered to be one mean your name goes on a list and when your name goes on the list you get executed. One night while an orchestra is being performed Stalin phones up the venue and orders that he be sent a recording of the performance, being that it wasn’t being recorded the guests must be seated and the musicians must play again.

At his palace Stalin is having a boys night of food, drinks and cowboy movies. His company is Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russel Beale). All act more like workmates joining each-other at the local bar rather than officials that are there to run a country. At the end of the night the men go home, all quite drunk, to their wives and hoping that none of them has done anything to anger Stalin. During the night Stalin listens to the orchestra recording and stars convulsing then collapses. The next morning the maid finds him and so the real madness begins.

With his death it sends the men into a battle for both power and ego. They race and debate on who should takeover head office, who’ll be allowed to drive off first, one implements a policy that the other doesn’t like so they revoke it just out of spite despite the terrible repercussions.

Adding the the comedic element is the fact that nobody cares about the real life characters accents. Throughout the cast is plenty of American and British actors and they are all playing Russians and that doesn’t matter in the slightest, they speak how the actors speak.

While all their squabbling is reaching it’s heights in comes marching Georgy Zhukov. With an entire chest of medals, tolerating none of their juvenile behaviour and speaking up to no one. Jason Isaacs completely has fun with the character, sinking his teeth into the dialogue and taking a big bite out of whatever scene he’s in. One of the best parts of the movie.

This is a fun costume drama that embellishes on certain facts about what really happened and shows the pettiness that men can be capable of when the highest position of power is in-front of them they’ll sink to any depths. There is only one joke really, these men are petty, but they find enough variations that the movie is never a drag. There are  about three solid laughs to have in it, during the rest of the movie you will be smiling.

Jonathan Evans

Review People, Places and Things, Headlong, Exeter Northcott Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

People, Places and Things by Headlong Theatre has taken the theatre scene by storm. Debuting at the National Theatre, London , the production was all anyone could talk about.

Touring the UK, a different cast still brings the story and theatrical experience from a world famous stage to our local venues.

Taking on the issue of addiction, we are taken though the life of Sarah as she undertakes rehab and combats her stubbornness against asking for help. We meet other characters, learning their stories and the different ways addiction manifests.

The naturalism from the actors is fantastic. There is no stereotyping of ‘junkies’ or the help they receive that we see on television and projected by the media. The stories are hard hitting where we are thrown from sympathy to dislike and to understanding.

Adding to the performers, the staging, lighting and sound adds to emphasising the clinical rehab atmosphere as well as helping us to understand moments of reaction from drug taking and the reaction of coming off them.

The stage is interchangeable and develops into different rooms with ease. The audience are placed either side making it feel as if we looking into a box – something like a zoo or science experiment adding to the sense of combating our original thoughts of addiction.

People, Places and Things is a hard hitting revelation of a play, taking our initial misconceptions and bringing forward the truth.

Hannah Goslin

 

 

 

Review Death and the Maiden, Fio, The Other Room by Charlotte Clark

All photographic credits Kieran Cudlip

Get the Chance recently interviewed Abdul Shayek, Director of Death and the Maiden, who told us that he was very proud of the inclusive and political play which he aimed to raise awareness  against political oppression and abuse. Death and the Maiden is a play about the struggles of moving on after living in a dictatorship. It’s about the consequences of patriarchal rule and the abuse of power. It’s about women’s struggle.

Having never been to The Other Room Theatre before, I was pleasantly surprised. The quaintly small room and the centred stage layout created a very intimate feel. With just three rows of chairs on either side of the stage, and the backstage being entirely around the audience, it felt like we were quite literally in the middle of everything: like stage props, spoken to and manipulated for a brilliantly eerie effect. Actors walked on and off stage from all different locations around the room, which really gave the imposing feel of the audience being closed in on. Paired with the close-knit nature of the actor-audience space, it was impossible not to feel on edge. That feeling is exactly the right one to have to suit the mood of the production. To watch a kidnap scene, with a gun and shouting and to listen to tales of sexual and torturous abuse, it would be wrong to make the audience feel comfortable and at ease. We were meant to feel discomfort and awkwardness, and we did. It was powerful.

The acting was sublime. Lisa, Vinta and Pradeep did an incredible job of displaying emotional and genuine feelings that were so impressive on the audience. We all felt the tone of the room change as we shifted through monologue to dialogue, and back to angrier monologue. Lisa’s portrayal as a tortured woman trying to move on with her life is touching for all audiences alike, and her counterpart, Vinta’s, role as the husband struggling between revenge and democracy is played out so frustratingly well that I wanted to just go up and shake him and tell him what to do! Equally, Pradeep played a sick and twisted doctor, yet he did so in a way that still made the audience love him, and so this can be down solely to his beautiful acting. It was a pleasure to watch the three of them bounce off one another in the most sophisticated way.

I felt such a great sense of duty to go and watch this production. It felt like a necessity to go, and an ignorance if I didn’t. In a world surrounded by patriarchal dominance, sexual abuse, and inequality across the spectrum, this play could not be any more current. One only has to hear the name Harvey Weinstein to remember how current this play really is. Fio, the production company of this play also put on an all-woman project following this production to create a safe space for women to talk with each other about their experiences as women in the 21st century. It’s so important! As a 20-year-old woman living in Cardiff, I absolutely loved this play and was overjoyed when I heard the great work Fio was putting into safeguarding those affected by the personal and somewhat invasive (in a good way) themes of the storyline.

The Full link to Abdul’s interview with Get the Chance can be found here 

Cast & Creatives
Paulina Salas
Lisa Zahra
Gerardo Salas
Vinta Morgan
Roberto Miranda
Pradeep Jey
Writer
Ariel Dorfman
Director
Abdul Shayek
Producer
Shane Nickels
Designer
Amy Jane Cook
Lighting Designer
Ciarán Cunningham
Sound Designer
Dan Lawrence
Assistant Producer
Danny Muir
Marketing Officer
Lowri Johnston
Education Officer
Amy Morgan

Charlotte Clark

Review: Shadow Aspect, Ballet Cymru by Helen Joy

“To know yourself, you must accept your dark side. To deal with others’ dark sides, you must also know your dark side.”

Carl Jung

Tonight, with this piece, Ballet Cymru gives us a vision of utter loveliness in dance, in theatre and in purpose. Tonight, I cry with the utter elevated beauty of it all.

The dancers are beautiful, confident story-tellers and they revel in the simple stories they tell.

Exposed and discerning, gentle and strong, they seem so utterly happy out there under the lights. Oblivious to the likes of me, gazing at them with wet eyes.

The painfully perfect shadow of the Royal Ballet is cast and it serves to brighten our Ballet Cymru. This is the most gorgeous coupling. We can feel the reverence and respect and sense the raising of the game; we are in the presence of greatness and its impact: the lifts a little higher, the smiles a little wider, the precision of ballet in the arena of modern dance.

And danced to such music! Such mournfully sweet song. Just perfect. It reaches inside me and touches the soul in me.

Stripped, bare, tops and tunics against dark stone wall, it is just light on dance, lightness and dancers. All darks and lights and thoughtfulness.

Visually, aurally, this is just sublime.

Shadow Aspect starts with Jung so should end with Jung:

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

Thank you, Ballet Cymru, for striking the match. 

Choreography By Tim Podesta

Music by French composer Jean-Phillipe Goude

With kind permission from www.icidailleurs.com

Stage design by Australian architect Andy Mero & Tim Podesta

Costumes Design Yukiko

Photo credit Jason Ashwood

http://welshballet.co.uk/productions/shadow-aspect/

 Reviewed by Helen Joy for Get the Chance, Friday 3rd November, 2017.

Helen Joy