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Review : Your Name by Jonathan Evans

(4 / 5)

Anime doesn’t tell stories the way Disney, Dreamworks or Sony Animation tell stories. They don’t make movies solely for children or the family, they can make any movie they want, sometimes a movie that can only be a anime. Your Name is a movie, where I cant point to another for an example, it is its own thing.

A meteor shoots through the sky and while souring across, two young people at different pints in Japan see it and think the same thing “It’s like a beautiful image from a dream.” One day we see that one has woken up and everywhere they go people act strangely around her telling her that yesterday it was as if they had amnesia, they didn’t know anything about their life, later we see that this was because every other day or so it turns out they switch minds. How is this happening? Doesn’t matter, well at least the filmmakers don’t concern themselves with the how. What they do concern themselves with is the what now? But lets just put a pin in this subject for now.

The boy is named Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) he is a bold, forward young man that lives in the big city of Tokyo and clearly dreams of being an architect. The girl is Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) whose timid and with skills in arts and crafts. You can tell you is occupying whose body at any point in the movie because the storyboard artist took the care and time to have their body language show it easily. Each of them have their own friends and family that are all equally important to the story and fun in their own right.

So now back to the body switching thing. They catch on quickly that it’s really happening and not a dream. They communicate through their smartphones and notes. What makes the back and forth so interesting is that one is more brash and able to finally make progress with the others problems while one is more gentle so their able to gently navigate the others obstacles.

From there on there are twist and turns in the story but I wont spoil them for you. But they are very cleaver and interesting that will have you increasingly engrossed as each revelation happens. Usually a movie like this would be satisfied with the body switching thing and use that for the entirety of the movie, but there is a lot in this movie that takes you to places where you will never be able to predict.

The drawing style is like that of Studio Ghibli, thick lines blobby lines and with simple but distinguishable character designs. The facial features are more like plastic dolls but lend themselves to be easily manipulated for a vast variety of clear expressions. Beyond the characters the environments also shine as a beautiful technical achievement. The environments are lusciously, detailed painted, with all of it in-focus so wee can absorb every detail of it that someone has taken the time to draw, but also there is the added layer of the atmosphere. The lighting changes for what time of the day it is, not just bright days and dark nights, but high contrast mid-day, golden hour morning or sun sets, and depending on when it is characters and objects cast light rays. As-well as all of this there’s also dust matter that hangs in the air in a few locations. Just some incredibly generous details that the filmmakers put in to produce the best product they can.

This movie has has so much beautiful, intricate workings to it that you will be able to look at it and be owed by what is on-screen. However what will stay with you is experiencing these two character and their worlds. I cant explain why it is this movie that seems to be doing such great business when anime has been such a niche market before. Maybe it’s been knocking so hard on the door to the West so hard that this is the one to finally break through? Doesn’t matter, this is still a film with everything you want in an enjoyable watch told in the off-beat way that anime does.

 

Review: ‘Sunny Afternoon’ by Gemma Treharne-Foose

(5 / 5)

 

So it’s January, everyone is detoxing, skint after Christmas and bruised after Brexit, Trump and a string of celebrity deaths in 2016. I can hand on heart say that if you are suffering from SAD or have lost all hope for the year ahead, you need to find the sun behind those clouds and get your butt down to WMC pronto to see ‘Sunny Afternoon’, the touring production running until Saturday 21st, before it shuttles off elsewhere.

Even if you are not a fan of The Kinks or a fan of musicals featuring the back catalogue of certain bands (let’s not even mention ‘Viva Forever’ here!), you will be hard pressed to find a more inclusive and entertaining musical in 2017.

A real kick in the 60s!

The soundtrack to your Mam and Dad’s wild years, the show focuses on four working class lads riding the crest of the wave of the ‘British invasion’ in the 60s – the meteoric highs and the crushing lows.  Natalie Gallacher/Pippa Ailion’s casting of Ryan O’Donnell and Mark Newnham as brothers Ray and Dave is a triumph – the pair have sensational synergy and energetic friction on stage and O’Donnell’s sweet vulnerability shines through his entire performance.

Newnham is unmissable as outrageous rebel Dave, everything from his swagger, his cockney banter and his swinging from the chandelier in a pink dress had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.

The most famous of the Kinks’ songs were cleverly deconstructed and re-packaged, allowing us to delve further into the back story to possibly the most influential riffs and tunes ever written.  The scene where Ray and Dave are trying to perfect the edgy baseline to their hit song ‘You really got me’ is pure magic, reverberating through your chest and rattling around your rib cage.

There are some delicious comic lines, especially from the plummy stockbrokers-turned-agents Robert Wace and Grenville Collins, who groomed the four for stardom, even coming up with their name, with the help of another agent Larry Page.  I couldn’t help laughing out loud when one of them says in a voice that may remind you of certain Harry Enfield characters: ‘Now…let’s talk about it over a nice plate of kippers’.

You’ll laugh when Ray’s Dad (played by Robert Took) complains about ‘wearing out shoe leather’, about the house prices in Muswell Hill (£3,500 – with a £500 deposit!)…and you wonder what the hell Mr Davies would make of the prices in Muswell Hill these days. This is nostalgic but not cloying, sentimental but not syrupy.

There are multiple sharp observations and throwaway comments referencing other 60s bands and celebrities. When the managers find Ray in a depression in bed with Rasa his wife, one of them quips: ‘You wouldn’t find John Lennon lounging around in bed with his wife!’.  Later on, when the band are on tour in America and are uneasy about the guns and violence there, their manager assures them ‘You’re a pop star! You’re not important enough to shoot!’.

A blueprint for future musical trends

The real pleasure for those not born in the 60s is the discovery of music you didn’t know existed – for my parents’ generation, it’s all familiar territory.  But if you only know a handful of the old (and most famous) of songs by the Kinks, you get to unwrap a new gift.

Aided by the clever studio/house/concert hall design of the stage by Miriam Bluether and the choreography by Adam Cooper, watching ‘Sunny Afternoon’ will transport you back to the excitement, the optimism and the feeling of being on the cusp of something completely original and unchartered.  

From the time THAT guitar riff kicks in, you understand exactly what it is your Mum has been harping on about all these years. It’s hard to imagine how utterly new, how extraordinary this must have felt for teenagers in the 60s, to go from stale crooners in suits to long haired rebels with rock guitars.  

The Kinks were the masters of social commentary which would foreshadow the later emergence of musicians and bands of my generation: the blueprint for American garage and rock bands like grungy Nirvana in the 80s and the Britpop boom in the 90s.  I hadn’t realised it until last night but ‘A well respected man’ was clearly influential for Damon Albarn and his crew with Blur’s hit ‘Country House’.

Delightfully rebellious, clever and heartfelt

Credit must be given to the wonderful pacing, characterisation and story for the musical by Ray Davies himself.  It’s clearly a personal and heartfelt snapshot of an incredible moment in history.  The result is rebellious, clever and heartfelt and I witnessed something I hadn’t yet seen at the Wales Millennium Centre: an entire audience on their feet, no awkward seat lurkers in sight. Inhibitions were gone and for a moment I felt like we were watching the real Kinks.  I was genuinely sad to leave the theatre and re-emerge into 2017.

My Mum, who had accompanied me (and by the end was a bawling mess) had enjoyed every last morsel of the show. I asked her why she was crying, she said: ’I remember it – I remember it all!’.  If only to see what your parents saw, feel how they felt and see how bloody awesome the fashion and sounds of the sixties actually were, this is an absolute treat of a show.  

Type of show: Theatre

Title: Sunny Afternoon

Venue: Wales Millennium Centre  

Dates: 17 – 21 Dec (Touring show)

Directed by:  Edward Hall

Music, Lyrics, Original Story: Ray Davies

Choreographer: Adam Cooper

Sound: Matt McKenzie

Musical Director: Barney Ashworth

Cast:

Ryan O’Donnell (Ray Davies)

Mark Newnham (Dave Davies)

Richard Hurst (Larry)

Tomm Coles (Grenville Collins)

Joseph Richardson (Robert Wace)

Lisa Wright (Rasa)

Garmon Rhys (Pete Quaife)

Running time: Approx 3 hours (with interval)

Produced by: Sonia Friedman Productions and Ambassador Theatre Group

Review A Monster Calls by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

 

“We need monsters to explain the world. Because without them, we cannot explain our place in the universe.”

Guillermo Del Toro

A Monster Calls is a fantasy realism movie, I don’t believe many or even any other movie can claim that it is simultaneously such opposing things. But this movie knows that children, adults and human beings are contradictory by their nature and they are never truly only one thing and all have their ways of coping with hardships.

Conner is a child that is smart, creative and unhappy with everything around him. In his house he draws in his room and his mother (Felicity Jones) is sick but promises she’ll get better. Staying with them now is his Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). Her presence means that his mother will most likely go, so Conner rejects her and her fussy ways. Also coming back is his estranged father (Tony Kebbell) that is there for Connor, but only in small amounts, never able to fully commit. Lewis MacDougall is able to handle this extremely heavy, complex material and tackle it. He does not make it look easy, that is what makes the performance effective. He looks like he is at war within himself, every-time some adult tells him something he is completely dissatisfied with it. The ache, pain and frustration that MacDougall portrays gives this character weight and makes him real.

When the clock strikes 12:07 from over the hill and far away there is a rustling and an aching noise and what forms is a monster and makes its way to Connors house. It smashes through his bedroom wall, picks him up and tells him that he will tell him three stories, then Connor will tell him his nightmare, which is also a truth. The Monster (Liam Neeson) is a Yew tree that has come to life from over the hill next to a church. He is shaped like a human but giant sized and obviously made from a tree. With twisting branched doubling as muscles. The monsters and Connor’s interactions are like that of a strict adult or a teacher speaking to a child. It takes a rough tone in it’s voice, doesn’t tolerate any of his disrespect but also wants to nurture Connor, to explain important thing to him, so it doesn’t just get angry or revert to insulting him. It has a purpose.

All the stories seem like regular fables that we’ve heard in some way, however, when the ending comes it turn out that the characters are not what they originally appeared to be, others are more sympathetic than we would like. Connor doesn’t see the point in them. When it comes time for the Monster to tell it’s stories it becomes a shifting picture book animation.

There are visual choices that are made in this movie which you could simply label “cool” or “pretty” when seen initially. However through the entire watching of the movie you see that there is a reason why. These are the best kind of visually creative decisions, one that look great but also feed into the meaning of the world. It is as Guillermo Del Toro describes “Eye protein, not eye candy.”

Stories are escapes from reality, but they also help shape reality. We escape into stories when we need a break but to places and characters that help us understand out troubles, vices and tragedies.

Review Rogue One by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

 

With the release of The Force Awakens Star Wars is currently experiencing one of it’s greatest resurgences in popularity. Now as we wait for episode eight we are given Rogue One which serves as the bridge between the prequels and the originals.

This movies main goal is to finally establish who it was that got the Death Star plans to Princess Leia and how. In many different video games and other mediums there have been multiple people that have done this so this whole movies purpose is to set it in stone.

I feel the same way about this movie as I do about Jurassic World and that is that on the asthetic level of being apart of a previously established franchise it succeeds greatly and it never really clicks except in the last ten minutes. The last ten minutes of this movie is where you really feel the impact and has it’s best moments. However this raises the question, does this make it worth it? As a simple piece of information to the franchise as a whole not really, did we need to know all these details, no we can live without them. As a movie, to have to sit through something that is just OK but never really resonating until the finale?

Everything about this production says that the people working on the visuals know their material and are passionate to be here. Star Wars is a world of technology far beyond what we have now but is worn and dusty from it’s time being used and environment. Very few things are clean or at least have a few scratches on them and there are details that tie it in with the original film, like when a giant screen changes there’s a half second of static, remember static?

Our characters to perform this task are Jyn (Felicity Jones) the daughter of a scientist, the one that designed the Death Star, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen). Also they have Orson Kennrick (Ben Mendelson) as their position that hunts them and opposes everything they stand for. They also have a converted Imperialist droid named K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk). My favourite character, wise cracking but in the way that is believable a robot would be, displeased with illogical course of action the humans are taking.

The writing for this movie is way too on-the-nose. The dialog is all about “hope” and “rebellion” and “fight” and “chance.” This is obvious writing that is easy to see through and too corny to get invested in. There are times when it settles down and has the characters talk more human-like but it’s these moments you’ll remember.

Being that the plot is set before A New Hope there are two faces that come back, literally! I wont spoil the second one but Peter Cushing is facially recreated and voiced by another actor. This is, frankly, creepy. I know that what I am seeing is a real person that is long since dead and has been facially re-created to deliver another performance. Recreating a young Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy is one thing, but this feels very disrespectful. There is an episode of The Critic where they have a millionaire say that using C.G.I. he can have old, long dead actors do what he wants. This was intended as a joke, now it’s a disturbing reality.

There are moments of fan-service in this movie that is the most detrimental to any movie. They are the types that come, non-subtly state themselves and then moves on. These are moments for the fans, others will just be slightly detoured by characters moving by or a lot of emphasis on a certain name. It’s not the worst I’ve seen but that doesn’t make this any better.

Star Wars fans are some of the most dedicated and obsessive fans ever (this can be either a good or bad thing). I imagine the hardcore fans will take this movie and really focus in on its prose and not care about its problems. For others, it will be a serviceable science fiction movie that has an ending that makes it all worth it

Get the Chance to be a Critic with Take Part!


Are you aged 16-100?

Interested in theatre, dance, visual art, gigs, poetry, film and more?
Want to access a free workshop which will give you an insight into the role of a critic?
Then, this is for you!

What’s involved?
You will take part in a 1 hour workshop with Guy O’Donnell Director of online magazine website Get the Chance http://getthechance.wales

During the workshop you will be given an insight into the role of the arts critic. You will be given instruction on how to create a review and upload your response online. Participants will look at blogging, video, social media and much more! All workshop participants will get the opportunity for their reviews to feature on the Get the Chance website.

If you have one please bring a laptop, tablet and/or smartphone.
Workshops are on Saturday the 14th at 11.30 and 1.45 pm at Venue Cymru as part of Take Part 2017

https://venuecymru.co.uk/take-part-2017.html

 

Must-see cultural events in 2017

In the article below our members choose a range of productions and events they are looking forward to in 2017.

Young Critic Amelia Seren Roberts 

Rosalind Dance 4/James Cousins Company

“I’m looking forward to a production called ‘Rosalind’ by Dance 4 and James Cousins Company at Nottingham Lakeside Arts”

http://dance4.co.uk/event/performance/2017-03-03/rosalind

“I am looking forward to hearing more from Artes Mundi, and to see Castle Ruins (a show by artists rejected from the Nottingham Castle Open).”

https://www.facebook.com/events/300069073728104/?ti=icl

“The New Art Exchange has an interesting show coming up called, ‘Untitled: Art on the conditions of our time”

http://www.nae.org.uk/exhibition/untitled-art-on-the-conditions-of-our/114

“Leon Sadler has a show coming up at Syson Gallery that I think is definitely going to be something worth going to see:”

https://www.facebook.com/events/229217837532707/?ti=icl

Young Critic Beth Clark

Killology The Sherman Theatre Cardiff and Royal Court Theatre

“The show that I am most excited for this year is “Killology” at the Sherman Theatre, written by my absolute favourite Gary Owen and directed by my also favourite Rachel O’Riordan. Two of the most moving and real life productions of the last two years are Iphigenia in Splott which I saw in Cardiff and Violence and Son which I travelled to London to watch so you can imagine my excitement. I love Gary Owens raw approach on controversial, gritty and  jaw dropping subject matter. “Lie out darkest fantasies, but you don’t escape their consequences” a line used in the write up to the play… it gives me goose bumps as I know this play will take the viewers on a phycological trip they wouldn’t have imagined possible.I hope this play is in the studio theatre as the intense momentum that can be built up in there will be electric, with director Rachel O’Riordan no doubt  pulling out all the stops.”

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/killology/

The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon  The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

“I am particularly interested in seeing this play as the writers and creative team alike are unknown to me so I am eager to enjoy and observe their styles and approaches in tackling such a controversial and historical topic.  I have recently watched the BBC drama “Six Wives with Lucy Worsley” which give quite a different perspective of Catherine to that I had imagined and observed to date. I wonder whether this show will evoke more feelings and insights into the life of Catherine of Aragon for me and can it change my strong views I already have on the story? We will see!”

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/music/the-moot-virginity-of-catherine-of-aragon/
I, Daniel Blake  the film at Chapter Arts Centre

“I am so relieved that Chapter are doing more viewings of this as I have read epic reviews of this over last few months by some established critics. Always a good sign!”

http://www.chapter.org/i-daniel-blake-15

Drones Comedy Club at Chapter Arts Centre

“Operating monthly at Chapter Art Centre  and rated in the the Big Issues top ten things to do in Cardiff it is definitely a Friday night option and something I am looking forward to throughout 2017.”

http://www.chapter.org/drones-comedy-club

Zero for the Young Dudes as part of NT Connections at The Sherman Theatre 

“I am also drawn towards Zero for the Young Dudes performed by Sherman Youth Theatre which will be used as their competition entry to NTC festival. In attending the NTC festival in 2016 I am aware of the quality produced by these young individuals and in some circumstances when experiencing barriers which is always extremely insightful and inspiring to me. It’s also a good opportunity to catch glimpse of the up and coming stars that are going to rock the world of theatre in Wales and beyond for years to come!”

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/nt-connections/

Music

“Firstly, Legend and a tribute to Bob Marley 28 January at the Globe being a 7 piece band which is noted to be a flawless musicianship. I am attending with a fellow reggae lover so set to be a fun evening.

LEGEND – A TRIBUTE TO BOB MARLEY

 

I am gassed for Cardiff’s very own asteroid boys who will be championing their recent success of their sold out tour and signing by Sony records and will be supporting Wiley at Y Plas event in one of my most memorial venues in Clwb ifor Bach”

http://www.seetickets.com/event/wiley/cardiff-students-union-y-plas/1054811

Im looking forward to any events for 2017 from Pryme cut and Rhyme cut entertainment incorporating Wild boys wasted and likes of Brave Mugraw, Crash, Lord Bendtner, Two Putt and more on battlers… Performers.. Saykridd, Jake the Ripper, Ferny Mac, Chew, Conrad Lott and Beatbox Hann plus much more as the events over the last two years have been something to shout about. These nights are open to any performers any styles making them completely diverse perfect for our very cultural city of Cardiff.

I am also looking for anything to attend that includes again Cardiff’s own Baby Queens with their album being released the latter end of 2016 and being noted in BBC online top 100 single. This band are the ones to watch.”

 

Get the Chance Creative Associate Jonny Cotton

The House of Bernarda Alba

By Federico García Lorca, Directed by Jenny Sealey
A Royal Exchange Theatre and Graeae Theatre Company co-production

Graeae has a new play, ‘The House of Benarda Alba’ which will be coming out in Feb and will be performing at The Royal Exchange in Manchester so I will be looking forward to see that.”

The House of Bernarda Alba

“My dream or wish is to see a disability-led organisation to come to Wales in 2017. Although I don’t mind travelling to see the likes of Fingersmiths, Graeae, Birds Of Paradise I would like to see them perform in Wales. That would be my wish! I think the difficulties is because of the Arts strands and lack of support from venues which preventing these organisations coming to Wales. We need to see a change in that!”

Young Critic James Briggs

“I am looking forward to this year there are two which I have already got press for in St Davids Hall and they are ‘Anton and Erin’ and ‘Riverdance’.”

Anton and Erin and Lord of The Dance/Riverdance

http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk/whats-on/anton-erin/

http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk/whats-on/lord-of-the-dance/

3rd Act Critic Chris Howell

 

Sunny Afternoon at the Wales Millennium Centre

“I am particularly keen to see Sunny Afternoon. It started its journey at the Hampstead Theatre, one of my favourite venues in London. Then, as most good productions it is home to, it made it successfully to the West end and now there is a touring company. It’s also the start of an era for me as the Kinks played the Capitol in May 1965, I was there and witnessed the altercation between Dave Davies and Mick Avory”

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/DonaldGordonTheatre/SunnyAfternoon/?view=Standard

Community Critic Emily Garside

Killology by Gary Owen

“I am looking forward to another new work from one of Wales’ most interesting playwrights.”

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/killology/

Young Critic Kat Leslie

“I’m looking forward to seeing Thunder playing live in March.

https://motorpointarenacardiff.co.uk/whats-on/thunder

I’m also going to see Footloose performed in June at the Wales Millennium Centre

I am also  going.to a festival that I go to every year in August called ‘Solarsphere Astronomy and Music Festival.”

http://www.solarsphere.events

3rd Act Critic Barbara Michaels

“Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes which is coming to Cardiff. I was fortunate to be given house seats at Sadlers Wells on Christmas Eve. It is arguably the best thing Bourne has ever done. On the home front WNO start the new season with La Boheme. A great atmospheric production and an excellent on to enjoy if you have never seen opera before. “

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/DonaldGordonTheatre/TheRedShoes/

https://www.wno.org.uk/event/la-bohème

Young Critic Lauren Ellis Stretch

“I am looking forward to Killology at the Sherman Theatre and Funny Girl at the Wales Millennium Centre . The Other Room’s Spring season also looks thrilling!”

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/killology/

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/DonaldGordonTheatre/FunnyGirl/

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/current-productions/

3rd Act Critic Helen Joy

1
“Welshness

A rather controversial topic perhaps but one which raises its curious head regularly in conversation if not in print.

Having touched on this in my review of Bafta Cymru, I feel a personal need to explore the impact of Welsh identity projected in the Arts on audiences.

2
Opera & Dance

Having absolutely adored having access to so much of both through 2016, I plan on deepening my knowledge through further attendance at performances, continuing to draw at open rehearsals and through interviewing performers and artists.

3
Homelessness

Leaving events in Cardiff at night has opened my eyes to the problem of homelessness. The stark contrast between the opulent glories of the stage and the plight of living on the streets has been brutal to witness, far more brutal to those who live it. Everyone has a story and I would like to help those stories be heard.”

 

Review The Girl From Venice, Martin Cruz Smith by Sian Thomas

(3 / 5)

In the past, I’ve always been quite wary of wartime fiction, or general historical fiction. It was never something I particularly enjoyed, as I wasn’t big on history, or war, or reading about either.

Since then, however, I have slowly brought myself away from this view. This is where The Girl From Venice comes in. Though not my first experience of historical or war fiction, it was still one I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Set towards the end of World War Two, the main character, Innocenzo (Cenzo) Vianello works as a fisherman in Pellestrina where he finds (what he thinks is) the drowned corpse of a lady. Wanting to do the right thing, he tries to take her where she can be identified. On the way he is intercepted, and by the time he is allowed back on his own boat, she’s hiding on the boat eating his food.

The story follows their interactions, eventual separation and search to find one another again. Also exploring other factors in between, such as familial complications, political endeavours, the conclusion of the war, its impact, and love.

I’ve only read one other book set in Italy, and that’s The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. That book stood as my all-time favourite for a very long time, and remains as such. The writing and scenery helped it gain this title. So, setting in Italy has always appealed to me. I love that the writing style in The Girl In Venice goes perfectly with it. Especially with this story. What with being a fisherman, Cenzo spends a lot of time in the water. The description of it (among the other places the story was set, as the characters did travel) saw that I got my fair share of gorgeous writing that made me feel so involved in a scene and so hooked into the story. If anything, it was probably my favourite aspect. It was an inspirational style, and one that drew me in until the very end.

The book was very good. My interest in historical fiction and war time fiction seems to be developing nicely, and I’m glad I read this book and it helped me to see as such.

 

An Interview with Niall Phillips Director, Producer and Founder of Lonesome Schoolboy Productions.

n16-coverphoto2

Get the Chance is keen to increase the diversity of critics, audiences and creatives in the sector. We recently spoke to director Niall Phillips regarding his work.

“I was recently asked whether the acting/theatre world is an inclusive space for people with Emotional Behaviour Difficulties (EBD) and if not, what can we as practitioners, audiences and creators do to change that.

I replied

⁃ Have more relaxed performances
⁃ Make people more aware of different needs.
⁃ Don’t make theatre for the rich and the lucky.
⁃ Create workshops and events for people with EBD.

My piece below discusses EBD, relaxed performances and how I believe that creating opportunities in theatre for young adults and kids with EBD will lead to a richer theatre world and perhaps a better, happier and more confident society.

But who the hell am I?
I am Niall Phillips, a trained actor who graduated from Birmingham School of Acting. Who worked in theatre, TV and film. Then found directing so much more rewarding and allowed myself to make my own work.

My Mum took me to the National Theatre when I was about 10. It changed my life. I remember walking into to the Oliver Theatre and the buzz and the atmosphere was like nothing I had ever seen, heard or felt. It was incredible. It was full of energy and excitement from every single person as they were about to witness something live, something unique and possibly never to be seen again. I remember thinking, that is the best job in the world. I want to do that forever.

I work at drama schools all over London including Identity School of Acting and Italia Conti. I spend most of my days working in rehearsal rooms with some very talented actors on some of the best plays ever written. It gives me an enormous buzz, to nurture and build talent and hopefully give actors skills to grow and build as professional performers.

When I’m not doing that I work with young people with Emotional Behavioural Difficulties (EBD) in East London. EBD is something I have worked with for over 10 years and it fills me with the same passion I get when working with actors. It started when a friend asked me to do drama workshops with some challenging kids. I was confronted with anger, violence and constant insults. It was unbelievably intense and a tad scary to say the least. I went back and spent the next two years working with some of the most dangerous kids in London and I loved every second. I learnt so much about them, the different struggles people go through and also loads about myself. I still work at different units and EBD schools and feel it is something I really want to explore further. I am determined to support and help people that don’t have the best start in life. I’m not saying a night at the theatre can change the way people are brought up, not at all, but I do think / hope it may make people see what their dreams are or even give them a break from their everyday struggle.

Official term…..’EBD’ stands for Emotional Behavioural Difficulties (often referred to as ‘Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties) and refers to a condition in which behaviour or emotional responses of an individual are so different from generally accepted norms, that they adversely affect that child’s performance. My term…..It is where kids have had a bad start in life and that creates difficulties. Kids need love and attention. Sometimes they don’t get it. So a release is nice to find or have offered out. A lot of the kids I work with find getting in a rehearsal room is a massive opportunity to tell stories, find new things and let out a good scream or two. This can only happen if we create a safe environment for them to play and explore in. That is how I learnt to let go. It feels amazing.

I will never forget one particular experience with one of the toughest kids in an East London estate. He was one of the top boys in the unit, getting expelled from place after place, and came up to me on my lunch and said, ” I wanna act like you” – little he knew I was awful – but that’s not the point. The bravery and honesty he had on his face shocked me. Luckily, I was putting on a new writing night in a brand new arts venue in South London and I didn’t even think I just said yes. I wrote a monologue about love and a boy called Bob and gave him the speech. The next day he had learnt it word for word. A week later he performed it to over 150 people, alongside some very talented and professional actors. He smashed it. He, right there, was a professional and determined actor standing centre stage telling stories. It was immensely powerful. At the end of the performance he gave me the biggest hug known to man and simply said “Thank you for giving me a shot” He now is applying for professional acting courses and he is a very talented young actor.

In my rehearsal room, at a professional level, at drama school level or even a workshop with special needs kids, my one rule is YOU CAN’T FAIL. You can try anything you want, any idea, any character and any creation you come up with – then lets go with it, if it works, that’s ace, if it feels strange or odd, try something else, just explore, just risk it, because, within that exploration something strong and wonderful will grow. Being restricted in the rehearsal room is a waste, just loose yourself in the work and allow the creativity to flow.

As a kid, like all kids I was worried, anxious and confused. Didn’t get maths or science, they just never sat well with me. I started doing drama lessons and everything changed. I totally came out my shell, I was a happier, more comfortable kid. My imagination was insane, just creating anything out of nothing. My parents allowed me that freedom to be whatever I wanted to be, I think they saw that the only time I was truly happy was when I was acting or creating a piece of – looking back – awful theatre. Now It feels like this is all I can ever, or all I ever want to do. I don’t want a big house, or a fast car, I want to be happy. That’s what really makes my heart beat faster. If I can spark that energy, that passion in a kid who doesn’t care or doesn’t want anything then that’s pretty cool.

Every single time I watch live theatre, I get inspired. From the National, Royal Court or some fringe theatre in South London, the idea that loads of creatives get together and go, let’s fill that empty, boring space with whatever we want. Now, that is the best thing in the world.

Looking back at my acting training, I don’t think it was inclusive of different cultural backgrounds or more specifically, of people with EBD. I understand why. I just wish we could allow all creative people the freedom that I had. I worked at the Halfmoon Theatre in East London for 6 years with some special needs kids, and honestly every single week, year after year I would be on the verge of tears. The support, the network and the pure energy that would happen in those 4 walls was tangible. Watching these kids with such poor backgrounds and severe learning difficulties create some of the most exciting theatre I have ever seen was unreal. It was only possible with staff and support by such heart-warming people. I just wish there were more places that offered that space and freedom.

Theatre is a very powerful experience. It can bring you to tears or make you laugh hysterically, so why is it for the select few? Surely everyone should be allowed to witness something that special and not feel guilty or not welcome. This is why I have implemented EBD/relaxed performances every Tuesday during the run of HE(ART) because they are specifically designed to welcome people who will benefit from a more relaxed environment.”

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Niall Phillips
Director, Producer, Founder of Lonesome Schoolboy Productions, Acting coach.

Niall is directing HE(ART) at Theatre N16 from the 10th – 29th January 2017.

http://www.theatren16.co.uk/heart

Each Tuesday will be a relaxed performance. EBD schools will be offered concessions.

Purchase tickets here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/156627

Review 300 Things I Hope, Iain S Thomas by Sian Thomas

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(5 / 5)

 

Iain Thomas has, for a long time, been one of my absolute favourite authors. This title of favourite has not wavered since I read I Wrote This For You: Just The Words some few years ago, and continues to stand strong as his other works, such as this, find a place in my hands and a home on my shelf. I come short of saying I adore him, his writing, his books, his style. All of it has meant a lot to me, and this has not fluctuated – ever.

300 Things I Hope is, at the title suggests, 300 things that he hopes. For you, me – for us – the readers. They are simple sentences, little lines, all of them hopes I do not doubt are wholeheartedly sincere and stretch all the way from the author straight to me, here. A part of it I can’t deny is a little odd. To be talked to through pages like this, indirect and directly, not in a way that’s exactly poetry or a story or an article. I know there are more people than only me that these words are going to be reaching, but it always feels like they were written just for me to read and love (which I do).

I like words. There’s the brunt of it. I love words, and I love writing, and I love reading. I love finding work that somehow manages to shake up my thoughts and make me remember this so clearly. I put post-it notes on my favourite pages, because they did just that. For example, number 84, “I hope love moves through your heart like light moves through glass” because is that not a gorgeous sight to see? The glass on my front door reflects rainbow coloured sunlight on to my floor, and the idea that it could equate to love was such beautiful imagery that in went the post-it note because I felt changed, because I felt reminded of words and what they can do. They did this, after all.
Or, number 101, “I hope that any noise you hear in the night is only someone you love coming home” because I have a lot of fears about things like this, and I was soothed.
Or, number 144, “I hope that if something bad happens to you, that the world suddenly starts turning backwards and it unhappens to you” because a word that isn’t a word is used but it makes sense, and I liked that.
Or 161, “I hope you find something unexplainable on the side of the road, like it was left there just for you” because I liked the idea of writing something that could stem from this idea myself, in all honesty.
Or 211, 212, and 213: “I hope you write a message, put it in a bottle and throw it into the sea”, “I hope it’s a secret, and that someone, somewhere, knows it.”, “I hope you are someone’s secret and that somewhere in the ocean, there’s a bottle with your name in it”, because this also sounded like something lovely to write, and they way I imagined that glimpse into a story from a simple three phrases was so captivating that I didn’t want to let it go. Also, I think everyone quietly romanticised the idea of putting a message in a bottle and hoping someone, somewhere, picked it up. I did, even though I’ve never done it (though I have found one, once – it was, I assumed, a child’s drawing of a house. There was a lot of blue.) – but after the little helpful push from these three hopes, could I not do it through words? I could, I think, and I would like to.

I’m trying to say that I love words. I love this book. I love this author. Not many other words or books or authors have pinched my mind and stolen my interest and held it, inspiring me to do something of my very own, and never letting me forget the spark in me at words strung together in a way that makes me so immeasurably happy.

Five stars, because I have a lot of love to give, because this deserves every piece of it I am able to give.

Review How They Met And Other Stories, David Levithan by Sian Thomas

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(3 / 5)

 

This book was a collection of short stories about love. Plain and simple.

I like reading about love which is why this book caught my eye a good while back, and gained itself a solid slot on my Christmas list.

I managed to finish the whole book in just a few short hours. I was utterly lost in numerous glances into numerous worlds of act, love, consequence, and situation, each of them varying and bringing me new stories, new characters, new plots that I loved.

I was expecting your usual love stories, in total honesty. And I enjoy those, and I definitely did get some (people who meet on an plane, for example. Or the classic high school era of classes or prom). I didn’t, however, expect that the majority of the stories would be LGBT-centric stories. And I was pleasantly surprised! I said once or twice or five hundred thousand times in my life that LGBT representation (among various other types of representation) is important and still stand firmly by this view. So to be so swept up by such a surprise was such a lovely way to spend Christmas Day, for me.

I also didn’t expect the drawing of my own inspiration for writing. I’ve heard or read or seen enough couples meet on a plane or one partner chase through the airport for the next five of my lifetimes, and I thought at least I take the inspiration from the idea of travel as an act of meeting which changed lives or an act of leaving which also changed lives. Maybe change the method of transportation. I’ve seen one separation by travel be done by boat, and I am fond of description, so I don’t doubt I could do my own but set in the docks. Or a train station. Who knows. But I’m glad I read the book through and through and found something to guide me to this idea.

It was something fun to read. Before this I’ve lately been having to read far more serious books (e.g. The Colour Purple) so it was a nice breath of fresh air to step back into my comfort zone of cushy love and cheesy YA. I can’t lie, I like those kinds of stories. So to read them, and so many of them in one single book, I was delighted.

This is a book, one of very few, where I’ve stuck little post-it notes at the start of the stories I liked the best. These three were, “Starbucks Boy”,  “Princes”, and, “Breaking And Entering”. Starbucks Boy because I love a good coffee shop story. There are certain plot points or story clichés I think everyone quietly adores. This is one of mine.
Princes because it was the sweetest story, I think, out of them all. A younger brother approaching his Bar Mitzvah fights against their parents in order for them to let his older brother, our main character, bring along his boyfriend. Which was, like I said, sweet. And funny – granted the context of the story. Finally, Breaking And Entering because I absolutely love a spot of angst amongst all the blossoming love stories.

It was undoubtedly a good read, and one I’m glad has reintroduced me to books after so long a break because of school and the like.

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