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Audio Description for Welsh Dance with Owen Pugh

The Director of Get The Chance Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to meet with actor, facilitator and audio describer Owen Pugh. We discussed his career to date, recent audio description training with Coreo Cymru for The Family  Dance Festival and his thoughts on the arts in Wales. 

You can listen to this interview through the sound file below

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hello! Right, well I am an actor and facilitator based in North Wales, originally from Penarth, via London now living with my family in Mold. I’ve been a performer for quite a few years now and worked on numerous theatre tours, film as well as radio and voice over. As a facilitator I’ve worked with young people on various topics as well as in more corporate environments.

You have recently received audio description training from Dr Louise Fryer, BBC Radio 3 Presenter and Audio Describer, and Anne Hornsby of Mind’s Eye, both pioneers in UK audio description as part of the Family Dance Festival. The training was organised by Carole Blade, Creative Producer for Dance in Wales with Coreo Cymru. Can you give us more information on this training?

Certainly, well I heard about the training after going to Taking Flight’s ‘Breaking out of the Box’ symposium at Theatre Clwyd a couple of months ago and I jumped at the opportunity. The theme of the symposium was Access and how can access across the board be improved by the industry in Wales. Audio Description was brought up in the conversation briefly along with many other access issues. I’ve always had an interest in radio drama and have done a couple of radio plays myself, that I was really intrigued by the idea of potentially using skills I have as an actor and applying them to a role I didn’t know too much about. We started with introductions meeting Louise, Anne and Carole, from whom I heard of the training via her company Coreo Cymru. We then flew into the training, learning about various sight afflictions and what effect the have; to get an understanding of how vast and varied the pool of people are who require AD services. We also discussed the possibility of how you could incorporate AD into a performance, making it more of a fluid form of access, which really appealed to myself. We learnt about scripting the action; this was particularly hard in the medium of dance as it is so visual that you feel you are describing absolutely everything. Through the company’s dress rehearsals you’re looking out for everything; subtle movements or the environment or specific dance moves. It was incredibly challenging, yet highly rewarding.

We then took part in a seminar where we heard from representatives from the Cardiff Institute for the Blind about their experiences; positive and not so positive, in theatres and other cultural venues across Wales. As well as hearing from Megan Merrett from HYNT who represent Welsh cultural venues that push for better access in their buildings as well as getting people who have additional access needs into cultural venues. It was particularly key to hear from the people who actually use this service, I definitely picked up some good tips! On the final day we took a performance each and Audio Described the whole piece. It felt great to be chucked in at the deep end, you really learn to understand the challenges that are faced in a live performance. The whole process was really rewarding, it has definitely encouraged me to explore AD as a career path, I’ll definitely be looking for future opportunities.

Prior to this did you have any knowledge of audio description for theatre/dance?

Very, very basic. As I mentioned before it was briefly mentioned in the symposium I attended earlier in the year. I have also seen it is available to use at numerous cinemas as well as TV channels and streaming services, but hadn’t much prior knowledge of it in regard to live performing art at all.

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?

Speaking from experience I have seen first hand at castings the lack of diversity, or perceived lack of diversity and equality. It’s a hard industry to get seen for projects in general: work is of a premium. I feel gatekeepers at organisations have the biggest responsibility to how wide they spread their nets, as well as more encouragement from producers to new writers that demonstrate something that represents the wonderful diversity that is available in Wales so that their voices are heard in the places that matter. And I really hope we are seeing a shift toward that.

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

I would give it to the Arts Council and encourage them to back every company that has strong beliefs in promoting their work in communities all over Wales, not just the popular spots!

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

It is a forever growing menagerie of talent across the board. Such brilliant new writing, acting and directing. Such exceptional theatres and companies producing top quality, award winning work. We are pretty spoiled really!

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

‘Black Men Walking’ was a brilliant piece of theatre from Eclipse Theatre Company that I saw at Theatr Clwyd, a bold and diverse piece that struck you in your soul. A great mix of storytelling, music, rhythmic poetry. Loved it.

There will be Audio Description at The Family Dance Festival at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday the 14th April.

Audio Described performances and Touch Tours Sat 14 April @ 12.15 for Welsh show and 15.45 English show.

Welsh language taster workshop led by Cêt Haf, (S4C’s Nansi in Follow M) following the 12:30 shows each day.

 

 

Review Isle of Dogs by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

What connects Wes Anderson’s work? His style is instantly recognisable as having characters center framed and facing the camera, staging most of the shots like a play and quirky characters that talk fast. But what does he have to say as an artist? They are all so him while being so different. Isle of Dogs is unlike anything else but at the same time could only have been made by Wes Anderson.

A tale about a time in Japan where a virus has spread among dogs so all the dogs in Japan have been dumped onto a remote trash island and left there. While there, a pack has formed between Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray) and Duke (Jeff Goldblum). This pack is a democracy, no single dog is the leader so every decision must be voted on. This leads to it being used three times and the third time is the true punchline. One day a little plane fly’s over and crashes on the island. From it, a little pilot emerges. It is a boy named Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), he is looking for his lost dog Spots, so begins this quest to find this little boy’s lost dog, that he loves so much and face obstacles and meet other characters along the way.

I don’t know how Wes Anderson continually gathers the most impressive cast anyone can possibly have in a movie. There are his usual collaborators here like Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Murray and there are high profile actors that have never worked with before like Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig and Yoko Ono. Some of it is surely helped by the fact that he is a high-profile director and working with him would be a rewarding endeavor. Maybe because when he asks these actors to play these characters they would never get asked to play anything like them again so they jump at the chance?

This is one of Cranston’s best roles and performances. We have seen that he is capable of being funny, dramatic and very threatening. Chief gives him the ability to be all. He is a stern leader, a tough fighter that nobody should mess with, the comedic straight-man and tenderly emotional. Through the microphone, Cranston delivers these adjustments in the character in the most controlled way.

This is Andersons second stop-motion movie, the first one being Fantastic Mr. Fox. He enjoyed the process so much that for a while this movie was simply known as “Untitled Stop-Motion movie.” There is something about the texture and mentality of the exact medium of stop-motion that Anderson is suited for. Perhaps it is the mix of cutting down on frames so you can see the skips in the movement? Perhaps it’s how precisely envisions things that animation allows him to execute said vision to a tee? Maybe the handmade quality which makes it more organic? Whatever it is exactly this is an artist working in a medium they revel in.

Usually, with a movie about humans and animals going on a journey the humans are the ones we can understand and its the animals we interpret through behavior. Here, in a delightfully refreshing switch up it is the other way round. I do question how this will translate for the Japanese audience, part of the point is that they cant understand the language but understand them through tone and gestures. In other scenes with just humans, other things like tone and visuals help us understand the information. Will they just bite the bullet and have both dogs and humans speaking the same language? Or will they translate the humans into English or another language? Either way, it will seem odd.

Being that the movie is set in Japan this movie marks a big aesthetic shift for Anderson. His movies have been heavily western focused but now with the large location change he has immersed himself in the culture and narrowed in on the most beautiful aspects that he can also utilise into his own work. The human faces are sculpted to look Asian (and are not offensive), he embraces having kanji over most things and utilized more classic Japanese imagery like Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Also, pay attention for a Seven Samurai reference.

Anderson isn’t so much interested in plotting his movies as is traditional (actually nothing about Anderson is traditional). He really delves into settings and scenarios in which he is allowed to highlight character moments and indulges in visuals. The plot doesn’t really play out, more unfold.

So what is the connection with all of this and the others of Anderson’s work? Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pro dog, he really loves people and giving his character’s quirks. They all go on journey’s of some kind of self-discovery but that’s just one of the hallmarks of storytelling. I guess he’s just a man that loves to make things and has a certain style of going about it but allows variation.

 


Review: Shrek The Musical at Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

Imagine for a moment you’re back in 2001 and the only kind of computer animated films were Disney’s. They’re good but once you get past the age of 12, there seemed to be a gap in the market. That gap was filled by Dreamworks and Shrek which gave enough simple plot and humour plus additional jokes that adults would get, you have the starting of what I witnessed tonight in Wales Millennium Centre – Shrek The Musical.

Returning to Wales Millennium Centre on the latest UK tour bringing Donkey, Lord Farquaad, Princess Fiona, Pinocchio and a cavalcade of fairytale characters together with the main man himself Shrek – played by Michael Carolan. If you’re not sure of the story of Shrek – well, spoiler alert – they live happily ever after, but getting there is a rollercoaster buddy movie type comedic spectacular.

If the original Shrek had references to other cartoons, well, Shrek the musical has references to other musicals – you might just spot a Wicked reference, a Lion King bit, and Cabaret all receive some mention in passing.

The music and staging is amazing, and before those reading that previous line mock in saying “it’s no Les Misérables is it”, well, it’s not meant to be. It’s the perfect musical for children from eight to eighty. A great introduction into the world of the musical, and a fab night out for all the family.

Special mention to Samuel Holmes (Lord Farquaad) who as the baddie of the piece pretty much stole each scene he was in – wonder how the knees will cope for the rest of the run though. Laura Main as Fiona had the right balance of comedy timing and exceptional vocals, as did Michael Carolan who played Shrek at the performance I saw. Joseph Dockree as Pinocchio was another performer who seemed to steal each scene he was in – yes, he is a real boy!

For a few hours you’ll transferred to a land far far away, wonder if you know the muffin man, and in the morning, you’ll be making waffles.

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2018-2019/DonaldGordonTheatre/shrek2018/

Review Ready Player One by Jonathan Evans

 

(2 / 5)

 

“Hey, that’s *blank from so-and-so. I love that movie/game” “Ah! They quoted/referenced that movie/TV show I love!” This is the reaction that Ready Player One seeks to get out of you with every moment it has onscreen. It pulls from so many pieces of instantly recognizable pop culture that there will be something that everyone will be able to recognize, whether it be a character walking by, a vehicle, or a line of dialog. Yet it has almost nothing to say or do anything inspiring with said big toys at its disposal. The experience is only surface deep.

We see a future where the rich have gotten richer and the poor are indeed poorer. Trailer park neighborhoods are in abundance but so much so that they are stacked up high on top of each other. It is a gray, muddy place to live and is not the hardest thing understand that people would want an escape. So they go to The Oasis, pretty much the internet that you can virtually enter. Our guiding character for the story is a young man named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), that just wants to get to The Oasis as fast as he can each day and search for the great McGuffin that exists there.

The Oasis was created by a man named James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and the great programmer was also a big aficionado on pop culture and hid three keys in this world that will allow the owner of all three to take a final test and become the owner of The Oasis.

An undeniably strong element to the movie is its worldbuilding. Worldbuilding is the construction of a fictional world and how it operates. In bad worldbuilding, it doesn’t make any sense and you are just left with questions, good world building you understand how it operates and has a solid grasp on how you would live in it. Because The Oasis has become so integral to life everyone logs in and when they win games they earn coins in the game that earns them money in real life. They can buy equipment that allows them better reflexes in-game and feels the touch of the world itself, also ordering stuff.

What bothers me greatly about the way the world is conveyed is that there doesn’t seem to be anything nourishing to the art. I believe that real art, be it cinema, literature or music exists to enrich those who consume it in some way. The world portrayed before us it seems like it’s just about seeing all high-status pop-culture movies out there and memorizing every facet of it, nothing about what it means or how it has shaped them as people. This is a world where the people can make anything, yet they all they do is recreate someone else’s creations.

A fundamental flaw as the movie was playing out is that Halliday is revered amongst the people in The Oasis, they have learned everything they can about him, his favorite movie, favorite pizza topping, quotes he lived by. He made a list of every movie he ever saw and when. I don’t think they realise how sad this man is. He lived his whole life alone, apart from one friend who he eventually kicked out. This is a man to learn from by avoiding all his mistakes.

As a movie what this offers is the chance to have nearly everything that is classic popcorn, crowd-pleasing entertainment. There is a race scene, martial arts fight, shootouts, dancing, sneaking around etc. Of course Speilberg is one of, if not the, greatest living visualiser working today and he clearly and effectively brings them to life. It’s just that it lacks a should because I feel how empty it is, I wasn’t invested in the characters goals because I just wanted them to log out, get outside and read a real book, see the sights and interact with actual people.

If this was an episode of Black Mirror or handled by Satoshi Kon then it would probably be taken to a much darker and interesting place. Truly examining why humanity rejects the real and takes comfort in the artificial. But this isn’t either of those and is only here to push your joy button.

Going into the big battle near the end I did start to feel a connection for the characters and understood that there were real stakes. Remove all the characters from movies, TV shows and video games and what you have is a well-composed battle where you understand the geography and key players bring contribute different things to it.

In the end, the message for this movie is that you should maybe spend a little less time dwelling on pop culture and spend some time in the real world and form actual relationships with people. Duh! I don’t need a movie to tell me that and it should be so intrinsically built into us that we shouldn’t need to spend over one hundred and fifty million dollars to make a movie to project that message.

In the end, I want so much more. I’m not against or even above being charmed by references, far from it. But I want them to take the essence of those precious moments I love and channel them into something that can stand on its own. This shows a world where originality seems to have fizzled out and all we can do is regurgitate the same.

For a movie with a similar premise but with much more depth and heart, I point you towards Mamoru Hosada’s Summer Wars. This, there is a good chance you’ll be tickled by all the appearances but everything else is so shallow.


Review: Frozen The Musical NYC 28th Feb 2018 by Patrick Downes

Another musical my girlfriend and I saw whilst in New York recently. Bear in mind, we saw the preview so by the time it opened a couple of weeks back, much may have changed.

Some trivia for you, Elsa is the first Disney princess to be crowned Queen20180409_220255366_iOS, it’s been translated into 41 different languages, plus Walt Disney wanted to produce a cartoon based on the Snow Queen for over 70 years. These are just some facts behind the highest grossing animated film of all time, which has now become a musical in its own right.

As I started this review, we saw the preview, but I can’t see much changing as what we saw was epic.

If you’ve not seen Frozen (seriously?) here’s a basic plot; Fearless optimist Anna teams up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven and sets off on an epic journey to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. The rest, well, go watch it on DVD.

St James Theatre is steeped in Broadway history, just recently it was 75 years since Oklahoma was first premiered there, and now another piece of Broadway history is being made with Disney’s Frozen playing out to packed houses each night.

Having watching the film once or twice (maybe more), the first half of the performance seemed to use all the songs – I couldn’t remember what songs were supposed to be in what place, but ending on Let it Go is definitely a show stopper into the interval.

There are several new songs for this production, and they help flesh out the story. True Love and What do you know about love will certainly stay with me, as will Hygge which opens act two. My only slight disappointment, is not being able to have a cast recording – needless to say, it’s being released in June 2018!

Caissie Levy plays Elsa, and Patti Murin, Anna. Both are extremely talented performers and will certainly leave you with goosebumps during certain sections. Olaf is played Greg Hildreth, and it might be a little unfair to say, but he’s so much like Josh Gad in his performance and vocals. You can close your eyes and think it him. Young Anna & Elsa were played by Mattea Conforti and Ayla Schwartz the performance we saw, and let’s just say I believe they’ll will be names to watch for in coming years.

The ensemble, the effects, and the orchestra all played a part in bringing the most beloved in car karaoke soundtracks of recent years to life, and then some. Like I saw previous, the only thing that I’m disappointed about was not having the cast recording, so for now I’ll have to make do with youtube clips – suppose in terms of a soundtrack, it’s a little bit of a fixer upper….

There is talk of it coming to London, but not for a little while – so in the meantime, get a flight to NYC, walk around Central Park, go see Starry Night at MOMA, and most important of all, believe in true love and spend an evening with the fair folk of Arendelle. Hold onto your ticket as you won’t want to lose it…or let it go.

REVIEW: Patrick Downes

Review: This Is Elvis, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes Moore

It may have been a rainy Monday night in 2018 Cardiff, but for everyone watching This Is Elvis at the New Theatre, it felt as though we had been transported back in time to watch the King shake, rattle and roll in the flesh. This new musical, presented by Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield, adapts, and celebrates, Elvis’ 1968 comeback special and his 1970 Las Vegas show, and five decades later the songs remain indestructible, incredible, and utterly unforgettable.

The first thing we’re greeted with is a striking red screen onto which is emblazoned an image of the King himself; his features are only hinted at, half his face obscured in shadow, but he’s still strikingly recognisable. It’s so bold that when you close your eyes the face remains like a camera flash after-image, like a Rorschach test, like the holy face imprinted on Veronica’s veil. Instantly, the image and its lasting effect on the eyes wordlessly articulates Elvis’ legendary status; that we only get impressions of the man he was, shaped by our own perception, experience and memory.

Having been bombarded with that stunning visual, when the curtain lifts it’s not Elvis we see, but rather other people – his manager, his band mates – talking about him. The spectral presence of Elvis’ image lingers, so that when he does finally arrive on stage he hauls along with him the baggage of everyone’s individual and collective ideas of who Elvis was. But from the moment Steve Michaels swaggered onto the stage in that legendary black leather ensemble, he was Elvis Presley.

We’ve all of us probably risked a ‘thank you very much’ Elvis impression at some point in our lives. But Steve Michaels’ performance was not an evocation, or even an impersonation – it was a complete inhabiting of character from the first moment to the last. His every vocal intonation, every gesture, every step and every sound was Elvis – even his hair, from root to tip, was every bit the King’s! Each and every song was varied and vibrant, capturing the essence of Elvis like lightning in a bottle. It was so spot on it veered into the uncanny valley at times, as if this was some living hologram of the man himself, here to bring a little joy into the lives of us Cardiffians on that rainy night. From his first line – ‘if you’re looking for trouble, you came to the right place’ – to his last – ‘Goodnight everyone, I’ve been Tom Jones’ – Steve Michaels lived every second on stage like a man possessed, and when they announced at the end that Elvis had left the building, it felt as if we truly had lost the King all over again.

The first act portrays Elvis’ ’68 NBC comeback special, the emotional and professional aftermath of Elvis’ revived spirits and career, and his first (reluctant) foray into performing a Vegas show. Most tantalising of all, it humanises the King in a way I’d never seen before – who’d ever have though such an extraordinary man as Elvis Presley would feel anything as ordinary as nerves? Fear? Insecurity? Yet we get to see the legend shaking with anxiety at the thought of getting back on the stage after twelve years away from it. At the start, he seems as monumental as that striking image of him emblazoned on the red screen; but by the end of act 1, we realise that this was but one side of the man, magnified, writ large on history. Despite all the accoutrements of his iconic character, beneath it all he’s just a man; a gifted one, but one plagued with the same emotional turmoil that we mere mortals know only too well.

Though earnest and interesting, the first act felt a tad messy in parts, interspersing Elvis’ onstage performances with his offstage personal drama in a way which felt clumsy at times. But act 1 was rendered both necessary and fulfilling by the absolute beast of its second act, which solely, singularly recreates Elvis’ 1970 Vegas show (feat. the iconic white jumpsuit) from start to finish with nothing else in between. It roars along as both a riotous, self-contained concert experience, and as a personal and professional victory, a success of epic proportions that completes Elvis’ road to reviving his confidence and career.

The audience was responsive, raucous and often rowdy, dancing and singing and affectionately shouting out their love and appreciation for the tireless efforts of the performers. And who could blame us, with such iconic, incredible songs to soak up like ‘That’s All Right Mama’, ‘Viva Las Vegas’, ‘Suspicious Minds’ and ‘It’s Now or Never’ – to name but a very few. One of the highlights of act 1 wasn’t even an Elvis track but a stunning rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. ‘Love Me Tender’ was the only song which I felt fell a little flat, but it was sandwiched by such corkers as ‘All Shook Up’ and ‘Don’t Be Cruel’. As an avid, enthusiastic (if amateur) dancer myself, I was particularly enraptured by the more upbeat songs of the night, jiving away to the riotous tones of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘King Creole’. But even when they slowed it down for ballads like ‘In The Ghetto’,  ‘Always On My Mind’ and ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’, everyone in that theatre was utterly transfixed. ‘Burning Love’ seemed to be a more fitting final song than ‘Jailhouse Rock’, and the crowd reacted to it as such; the latter is a classic, don’t get me wrong, it just felt unsuitable for the finale. Having said that, using it as the climactic piece makes for a moment of pure circularity where the Elvis at the end of his life calls back to the Elvis who was just starting out. Narratively, it makes sense; musically, less so.

I was amazed – and vicariously exhausted – to watch every performer maintain such high levels of energy and quality throughout what looked to be an exhilarating but exhausting set. You can’t beat live music, but I have to commend these performers in particular for being amongst the best I’ve had the privilege of seeing live. I want to shout out especially to Misha Malcolm, Melissa Brown-Taylor, Katrina May and Chevone Stewart who added stunningly beautiful harmonies throughout the show, and enhanced every song by adding a simultaneously contemporary and ethereal quality. Everyone was incredible, from the guitars to the drums, the brass section to the singers, but I have to shout out to two standouts in particular: Niall Kerrigan on the lead guitar, of whom Chuck Berry would have been proud; and Steve Geere, who performed the dual roles of conductor (not an unclear upbeat in sight) and keyboardist – he was shredding them keys something fierce.

Transcendent, resplendent, incandescent. Whether you love Elvis or have never heard of him, this show is a must-see.

Ioan Gwyn and Innovation in Audio Description for Welsh Dance.

The director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently met with actor and audio describer Ioan Gwyn. They discussed his background, his recent audio description training supported by Coreo Cymru and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.

You can listen to this interview with Ioan at the link below.

Hi Ioan, a pleasure to meet you can you tell me more about  yourself and your practice?

Hi, I’m originally from Tal-y-bont in Ceredigion and I’ve been an actor for over ten years now, having trained at The Central School of Speech and Drama. I’m a bit of a newcomer to the world of Audio Description and I’m loving it!

You have recently received audio description training from Dr Louise Fryer, BBC Radio 3 Presenter and Audio Describer, and Anne Hornsby of Mind’s Eye, both pioneers in UK audio description as part of the Family Dance Festival.

The training was organised by Carole Blade, Creative Producer for Dance in Wales with Coreo Cymru. Can you give us more information on this training?

It was very whoooosh! Louise and Anne gave us a thorough breakdown of the function and importance of Audio Describing for a blind or visually impaired audience and also explained the process of crafting a script for a live stage production. This was all done over a long weekend so it was a lot to cram in but every piece of information and advice was golden and they were both so open to my myriad of questions and queries, I am forever in their debt. They both admitted that dance is by far the hardest art form to Audio Describe so I’ve hit the ground running!

Prior to this did you have any knowledge of audio description for theatre/dance?

Last year I worked with Taking Flight Theatre Company who do fantastic work with producing plays that provide access to D/deaf and visually impaired audiences. Thus whilst playing both Caliban and Ferdinand, I also had to AD a few bits throughout the show so perhaps that was my maiden voyage into the AD world.

Ioan (left) in the Tempest with performer Sam Bees. Photographic Credit Jorge Lizalde

Later in the year I worked with Chlöe Clarke and Sami Thorpe’s company, Elbow Room Theatre, on their production “The Importance of Being Described Earnestly” which wove the AD into the fabric of the text and was a terrific experience.

I’ve also recorded an audiobook for the RNIBs library.

Congratulations you are Wales first audio describer in the Welsh Language! What interest have you had in this new service to improve access from the Welsh speaking community?

Diolch yn fawr! As there hasn’t been a Welsh speaking audio describer before, it may well be a case of making communities and companies aware of this now, but based on the interest I’ve encountered and the random emails asking if “Are you actually a welsh speaking audio describer?” I can confirm the demand is there! We took the dance festival to Galeri in Caernarfon and I met a visually impaired Welsh speaking lady who regularly visits Galeri for various audio described events. She attended our show and she was very enthusiastic about the prospect of being able to go to Welsh language theatre that was audio described.

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?

There will always be barriers in various guises and it’s up to everyone to spot them, acknowledge them, and remove them. Sometimes knocking politely isn’t the answer, sometimes you have to kick the door in.

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

Film. I did my B.A in Film Studies and it’s a long-standing ambition of mine to make a film one day! Wales has a wealth of stories to tell, and not merely from our folklore like Y Mabinogi, but in contemporary Wales. Why are other countries able to regularly fund and produce relevant vital films and Wales aren’t? One day I’d like to go to the cinema to see a macabre comedy set in Llandudno, or a Welsh Language Sci-fi film set in post-apocalyptic Aberystwyth.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

There’s always something going on in some capacity. Whether it’s a small music festival, a touring theatre show, or a new piece of writing on S4C. I think there’s just about something for almost everybody going on at some time, and personally I just enjoy working with such talented people from Wales and those who have settled here and are making the arts scene richer with their presence.

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

It was a while ago now but I had a great time at Flossy & Boo’s Alternativity, bursting with originality and The Other Room is a great space to see theatre.

As a side-note I’d add that as a self-professed comic book fan, seeing the Welsh flag at the end of Black Panther had me struggling to contain my inner-nerd…

Thanks for your time Ioan

Review: Waitress Musical #NYC 2nd March 2018 by Patrick Downes

IMG_5243So whilst in NYC for a few days myself and my girlfriend went to see Waitress at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The main reason for this being the theatre was 50 metres away from our hotel (honesty being the best policy I believe). That aside, it also had an extra bonus in that Sara Bareilles – the composer & lyricist was appearing as Jenna.

If you don’t know much about Waitress, it was a quirky little film from 2007, written by the late  Adrienne Shelly and starred Keri Russell in the lead role. It was bought by Fox Searchlight pictures for about $6 million, and went on to make $16 million, winning plaudits along the way.

It tells the story of a young woman trapped in a little town, a loveless marriage and a dead-end job as a waitress, who falls into the next trap of an unwanted pregnancy. Escape beckons when she falls in love with her gynaecologist, but he hesitates to leave his practice and his wife.

Staging wise it’s like nothing I’ve seen before. There’s not the effects like Wicked, or Frozen, but in its own way, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre is a small venue and that adds to the cosiness of the musical. It’s a little piece of small town USA in the big city.

Musically, it feels right – with lyrics written and performed by Sara Bareilles. It has a country contemporary feel that oozes emotion with each note. Till seeing it, I’d not heard any of the score, but once was enough and it left me wanting more – so much so, upon arriving back in the UK I bought the original cast album and Sara’s album of songs from the musical.

As a lead character, Sara Bareilles is able to inhabit the role quite well – considering she wrote the music and lyrics – there were moments that left me speechless – “She used to be mine” certainly has left a lasting impression.

NaTasha Yvette Williams as Becky (a role once taken by Keala Settle – her that now is part of The Greatest Showman), together with Caitlin Houlahan as Dawn provide the perfect harmony and backing to the main story, and both excel with their own story arcs.

Drew Gehling as Dr Pomatter plays Jenna’s love interest with brilliant comic timing, as does Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie for Dawn. His “Never ever getting rid of me” performance ranks as one of my favourite musical theatre moments – ever!

My one slight problem with the production lays in the fact, will it transfer across the pond to the UK? The musical style is intrinsically American country – so would audiences in the UK buy into it? I don’t see why it shouldn’t work – Leann Rimes, Shania Twain, and Taylor Swift are all country music based – and they’ve done quite well over here.

I hope it does, because I’d say you need to see it. If you’re a fan of Sara Bareilles, the film Waitress, or a beautifully written musical that will send you away with a song in your heart, and the taste of pie in your belly, this is for you.

REVIEW: Patrick Downes

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Get the Chance in the running to be named Wales’ most deaf friendly organisation.

 

Get the Chance in the running to be named Wales’ most deaf friendly organisation.

Get the Chance is in the running to be named as one of Wales’ best organisations for being accessible to deaf people.

The shortlist has been announced for the Excellence Wales Awards 2018 – the annual awards run by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru.

The charity’s awards recognise businesses that take steps to make their services accessible to the 575,500 people in Wales who are deaf or have hearing loss.

All organisations either nominated themselves or were put forward by a person who is deaf and has received a good service in the past year.

The shortlist is now in the running to be awarded one of four titles;

  • Service Excellence
  • Excellence in Health
  • Excellence in Arts and Entertainment
  • Excellent Employer

The awards will be decided by an independent panel, made up of people who are deaf or have hearing loss. A People’s Choice Award will be chosen by the public, to vote for Get the Chance in this category please click on the link  here.

Rebecca Woolley, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru said,

“The judging panel now have a difficult job to decide the winners from an impressive shortlist. All the shortlisted organisations prove that simple changes can really improve the lives of people with hearing loss. I hope that organisations across Wales are inspired by this shortlist and start thinking about the simple changes they can make to ensure their services are accessible to the one-in-six people who are deaf or have hearing loss.”

Guy O’Donnell, Director, Get the Chance said,

“Our volunteers produce unique content which supports Deaf audiences and artists to ensure a range of opinions are seen and read relating to sport and cultural provision. We are honoured and humbled to be shortlisted as part of this years awards.”

The awards will be held at Cardiff’s St David’s Hotel on 4 May 2018, presented by ITV Wales News reporter Megan Boot.

Review Love, Simon by Kevin Johnson


⭐⭐⭐

I’ve seen plenty of teen High School movies, and plenty of rom-coms, but this is a first, a GAY teen High School rom-com!

The times they are a-changing.

Before anyone says there have been other films covering the subject, this is the first major studio backed film that has, and it deserves praise for doing so. The fact that it’s actually quite good is a bonus.

Simon is a popular, handsome 17-year-old, with loving, liberal parents, a younger sister he actually likes, and three friends who are always there for him. There’s only one  problem: he’s gay.

Then another boy at school posts anonymously on the web that he’s gay too. ‘Blue’, as he calls himself, strikes a chord with Simon, who, replying as ‘Jacques’, befriends him.

Friendship turns to something deeper, until another student, Martin, discovers their emails and blackmails Simon into helping him win the heart of Abbey, one of his closest friends…

Despite the dark premise, this is a sparkling gem of a film. There are good performances all round, and the writing captures the pain and selfishness of being a teenager. There are some good lines and scenes, such as Simon imagining himself coming out at college as a musical number, or when his John Lennon fancy dress costume is mistaken as ‘Cool Jesus’.

Tony Hale from Veep is also funny as the Principal who is ‘down with the kids’, while still confiscating their mobile phones for texting in the halls.

It’s not without faults though. Simon’s life is just TOO perfect, his family too nice. No gay-bashing or hate-crime here, but to be fair, rom-coms aren’t about reality.

Some of the characters could be developed more, such as his parents, Martin the nerdy blackmailer, and also the Principal, who becomes a little wearing towards the end.

It’s to the film’s credit that it doesn’t flinch from making Simon’s actions selfish. He manipulates his friends own blossoming romance so as not to be outed.

The ending is, well, it IS a romantic comedy, so I’m sure you’ll work it out long beforehand. Another plus is the awesome soundtrack, with songs old and new, which totally won my heart with its sublime use of Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks. This film is definitely worth a look in my opinion.

‘As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise….’