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Review : A Regular little Houdini by Beth Clark

(5 / 5)

 

An exciting and turbulent story of a boy who is born in Wales but comes from Irish decent. He is part of a large working class family who all live under one roof.

Set in the heart of Newport’s South Wales’ busting docks, the actor Daniel Llewelyn-Williams; impressively also the writer of the play gets your full attention from the out by representing a real, personal and historical account of how things were back then. An imaginative and determined boy who displays extreme courage whilst being subject to one of the many catastrophic occurrences which unfortunately happened during the British industrial revolution.

Harry Houdini; very famous of the times was a direct influence and inspiration to the boy promoting a hopeful and escaping duality for him. When some aspects of the boy’s life have been shattered another aspect or dream is materialised. Quirky and fun-loving, the boy’s relationship with Gammy as well as his dad, sisters and friend is something that brings a warming feel to the boy’s character and overall feel of the play.
Daniel played the one man show so intriguingly, it was like he was telling the story as his own and I wondered if this was in fact a real story from his family’s history. Who knows? Honestly, it was that good it certainly felt real and I would strongly advise anyone to go and see the play regardless of a specific style of play you might like, as I believe this play ticks all the boxes. There was absolutely no time whatsoever in that hour that I thought of anything other than the play, the characters or their feelings and perspectives. The actor was completely captivating and with reference to lots of welsh-ness, I found it relatable and moving but not only because I am Welsh as I believe anyone will feel this way. Even though the play does have heartache, the joy it brings overpowers that completely making it a pleasure to watch. The fact that you are drawn to other characters in the story with only one actor representing all characters is infatuating for the audience. It was directed, written, composed and performed to a such a high and entertaining standard that I would absolutely go and view it for a second time.

In my eyes when you can hold an audience with just one man and a box to that standard you are winning in life. Well done Daniel Llewelyn-Williams you smashed it!

A Regular little Houdini
Produced by Flying Bridge Theatre Ltd
Written and performed by Daniel Llewelyn-Williams
Directed by Joshua Richards
Music by Meg C

Review : La La Land by Jonathan Evans

 

(5 / 5)

La La Land is a movie that uses the same old tools from the classic musicals of old, like Singin in the Rain, Funny Face, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins, but is used by a man from modern times and sensibilities.

Damien Chezelle has an obvious passion for jazz music and about perusing dreams despite all the obstacles. Here, like his last movie Whiplash, he crafts a similar story where two people live in L.A. where dreams can come true, but not easily.

Our characters are Mia (Emma Stone), a young actress that is working at a coffee shop at the Warner Bros. lot but wants to be an actor. She auditions for many things but nothing. Then there is Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a musician that loves Jazz more than just about anything, worshiping the greats and hating having to simply play the mediocre tunes he’s given for his job. He wants to open his own jazz club where the classics and his own music will be played, in the same venue that was once a legendary jazz bar. But they both must face the reality of compromising in the real world and the sadness that maybe their either not good enough or nobody cares about what they want. Stone and Gosling work together splendidly, from dialog scenes that are as dynamic as Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday and the low-key but cute choreography. The characters are brilliant concepts and the actors make them realized.

The songs are composed in the same vein as the classic Hollywood/Broadway numbers but the singing never reaches that truly glass shattering volume. This is a more subdued musical style. Most of them aren’t meant for that, they’re more like little tunes you hum to yourself while walking home all alone. The most haunting of them all is the main song of the movie “City of Stars” the simple tune will hook itself deep in your mind and not let go.

Channeling the movies of old it uses lush, glowing colours for its environments and the characters costumes. This movie is expertly lit and colour coordinated to fit the characters and their character arcs. There is a scene (whether deliberate or not) that reminded me of another similar scene from Adolescence of Utena.

La la is a term for the sightly crazy or obscene. Which is certainly L.A. in a nutshell, it is these characters facing the world with what they want and it is this movie that channels the old classics but both sets it in modern times as well as selling it to the now young. But in order to pursue your goals you must put aside reality, even just the most little bit and delve into your dreams.

Review : The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon by Beth Clark

 

(4 / 5)
Conor Mitchell, associate artist at Sherman Theatre and fronting the Belfast Ensemble has enlightened us with his creation as writer, director and composer of the chilling play The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon.

The role of Catherine of Aragon is flawlessly performed by the award-winning actress Abigail McGibbon also part of the Belfast Ensemble creating the perfect duet between music, theatre and emotion. The play is a live concept album, each scene created resembles a live music track combined with performance; a powerful voice (without singing) and action! The way in which it was performed was beautiful.
What made this play so great? I felt as though I was inside the head of Catherine at times, a very tormented and religious woman grasping at straws when her reality as Queen is taken from her. The play takes us through her memories, through history, through war, the good times and the bad and of course the biggest divide in country, known to date.

When you walk into the theatre there is a strong smell and this sets the scene. The lighting, the costume and the make-up together with absolute discipline in role give Catherine a haggard, used and torn look about her with a modern twist, not something you would expect for our once Princess of Wales and Queen.
Mitchell’s absolute slay of music and scene setting was completely special and new for me. How often do you get to lie on the floor and watch an astounding actress bellow pain and abandonment whilst observing the composer, director and creator of such an art, almost dance with every touch of the piano, passionately stomping his direction to the violinists and leading us into deep historic heartache? Not often!

The music was intense, strong single cords and contemporary build ups. I especially enjoyed the scene where microphone techniques where used to full affect, almost like a horror movie. It was emotional and has had an effect my own story perspective. Have I made up my mind as to the real story of Catherine Aragon? No, not yet. Although, I do believe that the King was capable of anything and that she did seem very devoted, probably what sent her nuts in the end.
If you like history and appreciate magical contemporary music and art through theatre this is for you. It was absolutely… for me!

Get the Chance to takepART

Get the Chance recently had the opportunity to run some free critical workshops as part of takepART 8 at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. takepART is aimed at the 0 to 18-years-old age group, but its open to  parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who all get  involved in workshops and craft sessions that take place throughout Venue Cymru.

 

Get the Chance was just one of the organisations running a series of free workshops during the weekend.

The Get the Chance staff had the opportunity to chat to some of the members of Young Critics North Wales who are supported by the venue.  Young Critics North Wales is based at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. It is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and is the first scheme of its kind in North Wales.

https://youngcriticsconwy.wordpress.com

We can recommend the scheme and If you would like to be a Young Critic please email joann.rae@conwy.gov.uk for more information.

We can also recommend the work of the Document Conwy who ran a free newspaper and photography workshops called The Daily PlanART

http://www.documentconwy.co.uk/the-daily-planart

The pop-up newspaper  returned to Venue Cymru’s take pART arts festival where young people were given the chance to learn some of the skills of a journalist and news photographer. Under the guidance of Editor Joann Rae, Chief Photographer Paul Sampson and Chief Reporter Tim Moxley, young people were assigned a story to cover and photographs to capture from all of the exciting events at take pART! All the work below has been created by the young journalists and photographers of the Daily PlanART

It was a very welcome opportunity for Get the Chance to develop its critical network in North Wales. We thank the Arts Council of Wales for funding this opportunity.

 

 

Review : The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Zoonation, Roundhouse/The Royal Opera House, By Hannah Goslin

Image result for mad hatters tea party zoonation

(4 / 5)

As the name says, the Roundhouse is a circular venue that is full of possibilities. My first visit here was many years ago for a concert, so to come back and see it full of staging, rostra seating and a world of possibility was a refreshing new view.

Perfect for such a story as The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Taken from the famous stories by Lewis Carrol that we all know and love, Zoonation have taken the narrative and slightly changed it to Wonderland being a safe haven for those who suffer a range of psychological disorders. This begins in an insane asylum, with an introduction to each character and their specific notabilities being explained to being more real and likely mental health issues. This I thought was a great way of bringing such a serious collection of issues and illnesses to the forefront of our mind and turning them into positives and acceptance with the dance and humour to lighten the story.

Of course, it is notable that Zoonation is a dance company and so it is right to make a conversation on their abilities. And of course, they were talented, skilled and flawless. To move from just dancing to acting through movement is extremely well done and practiced to perfection.

The costumes, set and use of the space is so inspiring and as flawless as the performance that I felt lost in the world in front of me and to a point forgot that I was there to critique, and instead just purely enjoyed it. The set, the lighting and the atmosphere was unique and interesting, humorous and enjoyable. The performers purely fantastic and the whole concept well thought out – throw in a live band whose repertoire ranged from soul to dance to acoustic, it complimented it well, leaving us wanting to join in the Tea Party.

Review: Sunny Afternoon by Corrine Cox

With speckled references to the hits throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.

(5 / 5)

As we’re teased with references to the iconic You Really Got Me in the opening sequence there’s already a palpable sense of anticipation pulsing around the auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre as the cast of Sunny Afternoon prepare to take us on a 2½ hour musical journey through The Kinks rise to stardom. From the early days in North London; their debut on Top of the Pops; the infamous American tour; through to their triumphant comeback, Joe Penhall ingeniously weaves the hit songs from the 60s into the storytelling of one of the most influential bands of the era.

Our story begins in Muswell Hill, with performances by Ryan O’Donnell & Mark Newnham perfect characterisations of the often tense professional relationship between the rebellious Davies brothers, as they navigate the initial tensions to discovering the bands distinctive sound, the start of a journey which would shape a unique musical identity that would inspire generations. Throughout the evening O’Donnell, Newnham (a highlight performance), Gallo, Rhys and the supporting ensemble, blend effortlessly to recreate the iconic sound of the band, in what is a moving portrayal of both the professional and the personal lives of the band and their adjustment to the pressures of stardom. With references to the hits speckled throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.

Throughout the exploration of the soaring highs and the frustrating lows the band encounter, we join the cast in a celebration of how four working class musicians from North London changed the music scene for generations to come. Dead end street, weaved masterfully into Penhall’s narrative, particularly highlighting how the bands upbringing proved an ongoing source of inspiration for Ray’s writing with the majority of the works involving similar elements of social commentary, which inevitably played a large part in their then and ongoing appeal.

The staging enables the cast to create a certain intimacy during acoustic interludes including This Time Tomorrow and Thank you for the Days, contrasted with the gig feel of the iconic All Day and All of the Night & roof raising end sequence, and quirks of the choreography and use of props lend themselves especially well to the playfulness of numbers such as Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

The universal appeal of Sunny Afternoon makes it a must-see irrespective of whether you know the band or the songs. If you know The Kinks you’ll love it, if you don’t know the Kinks you’ll love it. A feel good musical and a moving portrayal to one of the defining bands of the 60s who will continue to inspire generations to come.

Ray Davies – Ryan O’Donnell
Dave Davies – Mark Newnham
Mick Avory – Andrew Gallo
Pete Quaife – Garmon Rhys
Music & Lyrics – Ray Davies
Book – Joe Penhall
Original Story – Ray Davies
Director – Edward Hall
Designer – Miriam Buether
Choreographer – Adam Cooper
Lighting – Rick Fisher
Sound – Matt Mckenzie
Musical Supervisor – Elliot Ware

Review, He(ART), Theatre N16, By Hannah Goslin

Image result for he(art) theatre n16

 

(3 / 5)

Above the Bedford pub in Balham lives a little unique space where creativity unfolds.

Written by Andrew Maddock and directed by Niall Phillips, He(ART) portrays the story of a couple and of a brother and sister and their different reasons to obtain this one painting. It is filled with heartfelt moments and great relationships, making the scene about more than just a painting.

Our couple are quick witted, on their toes with the narrative and comfortable with one another and their characters. From two different backgrounds and different opinions, we see them go through the highs and lows, the indifferences and the making up from these. To try to become as natural and realistic as these two performers managed to do shows great skill and attention to detail and subtext. My only issue with them comes down to the writing – we are introduced to our male protagonist having a heart condition which causes some arguments and tests to the relationship. While an interesting concept, to me if felt thrown in and did not link much in the overall aspect of the production.

Our brother and sister duo who are of a lower class, struggling with money, crime and family, coming together to support one another. The young sister having disabilities as well, provides a delicate narrative and they both do wonderfully in portraying their relationships, bonding and trusting one another in creating the narrative. This is well written and directed perfectly that these talented actors are able to pull at our heart strings and really make us feel our emotions.

A basic set, we are close to the performers and always see them on set – keeping in character, they are invested in the production and invested in the storyline to never break that barrier, showing their respect and interest in this production as a whole.

He(Art) in interesting and relatable but also leaves you feeling for the characters and applauding the performance, writing and directed as a whole.

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.