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An Interview with playwright Tom Wentworth

Get the Chance values the role playwrights living and working in Wales bring to the cultural life of our nation. Here is our fourth interview in this series with playwright Tom Wentworth.

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

Hello! Great to be here. Thanks for asking me. I’m a playwright for theatre, radio and television who identifies as disabled. I am also  the inaugural Chair of National Theatre Wales TEAM Panel and previously have been a script editor and produced radio for the BBC. As a writer, I am currently under commission to and developing projects with Graeae Theatre Company, Pentabus Theatre Company, National Theatre Wales and BBC radio. My latest play BEE HAPPY was performed at The Old Red Lion Theatre in London. Much of my work is concerned both directly and indirectly with diversity and inclusivity but mostly I am interesting in simply telling a good story and spending time with fascinating characters.

The Old Red Lion Theatre

Link to the Old Red Lion season announcement featuring Toms play

http://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/old-red-lion-announce-autumn-season_41231.html

Link to Toms online biography

https://app.hiive.co.uk/profile/b213475a-2880-4923-90a9-185e324da489/#/

So what got you interested in the arts ?

It’s in my blood. My mum was a professional dancer touring in summer season and the much missed weekly rep and I was brought up on exciting stories of backstage antics. Our main family activity was going to the theatre (and still is!) I never considered that I wouldn’t write and studied radio at university because it is my favourite medium and I wanted to have extra skills but I have always written and occasionally performed which I hope to be doing in a new solo show later in the year if we get funding.

A great deal of your professional practice seeks to increase diversity across the sector. Is this something important to you?

It is greatly important and is both a blessing and a curse. I find it a very complex issue as an artist. For audiences on the one hand it is very simple – I firmly believe that we should all have equal access to theatre and live performance of all kinds. That’s why I believe so strongly in the work of Sherman 5 at Sherman Theatre.

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/sherman5/

However, as a writer it is very complex – on one hand my disability shouldn’t matter but on the other it drives my view of the world and therefore infuses my work (although not all of my work is about the disabled experience). It’s also incredibly useful for funding pots and being part of initiatives! I hope that doesn’t sound too mercenary but I think it’s important that artists acknowledge the things that commissioners and artistic directors are looking for which might give them an edge or be part of their USP. That’s not something that I’m totally comfortable with but I want to work!

In a wider context I am working all the time to increase diversity on our stages and screens with a particular interest in backstage roles right across the sector. Things are improving but we’ve still a very long way to go.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or specifically writers?
I think there are still several barriers – not all of which relate simply to equality or diversity. However the main one is the lack of accessible work. While most producing houses in Wales are doing well with providing performances for diverse audiences. For example I know the Sherman works really hard to put on captioned  or relaxed performances but I would like to see more work done to make shows fully accessible throughout following in the footsteps of Graeae and Birds of Paradise (the latter of which toured Wendy Hoose to the Sherman Theatre and wowed audiences.) Their work builds access (captioning, BSL and audio description) into their work so that it’s fully integrated meaning that a disabled audience member can attend any performance rather than just the designated captioned show for example. I must acknowledge of course the great work that companies such as Hijinx, UCAN and Taking Flight do but we need to see this work on larger stages and in main houses.

Birds of Paradise and Random Accomplice, Wendy Hoose

The main problem is of course funding. Being disabled is a kind of ‘economic chaos’, we are at a point now where it is more expensive than ever to be disabled and access costs. This has to change, the culture has to change and there are lots of wonderful theatre makers such as Jonny Cotsen and Chloe Phillips who are striving to make a difference – and in a small way I hope that I am contributing too.

Chloe Phillips in a production by Taking Flight

Jonny Cotsen will be performing at this years Experimentica at Chapter Arts Centre.

Also, in Wales it increasingly feels that if you want your work performed then you must self produce. I know many brilliant practitioners who do this wonderfully and have made it a positive and rewarding part of their practice. However it is a time consuming and exhausting business and as a disabled person I have to be very aware of my small energy reserves so this not an option. I have tried my hand at producing and found it to be enjoyable but totally and utterly exhausting experience. I had to make a decision at that point that it would not be something that I could do if I didn’t want to spend a month in bed afterwards. So I prefer to work with brilliant people who do this much better than me. However this does mean that my work is currently very rarely produced in Wales and I spend most of my time on trains! I really hope that this will change. I’m not sure that any of these are specific to writers but to all theatre practitioners.

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

I feel very lucky to have a healthy personal support network as a playwright in Wales but I am not sure that this is the case in the wider context. I share a co-working space with another playwright and have lots of friends who also write or make theatre so there is a great culture of supporting each other but in terms of formal support I don’t feel that that exists. I am lucky to be so involved with National Theatre Wales who continue to champion both me and my work. However most of my career opportunities have come from outside of Wales simply because there are more opportunities for production – and being brutal – bigger pots of money to fund this. It makes me sad that this is the case as I love living in Cardiff and after 8 and a half years of being here it feels like I am just beginning to find my feet.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
More productions of new writing and money to fund script development departments who can nurture writers. It’s very simple. We are fantastic in Wales at scratch nights, shorts nights, R&D but productions of new plays still feel comparatively thin on the ground. I must acknowledge of course that much good work is being done by companies like Dirty Protest but they have very limited resources. Also, NTW (and in particular Head of Development Simon Coates) is doing a marvellous job of helping him artists from all disciplines to develop their work and themselves as artists. Also Theatr Clywd are running residences for writers which is a fantastic resource. We need our producing houses and companies to be funded to be able to commission more work which will increase the diversity of writers on our stages. We also need to be training the next generation of Literary Managers who can support emerging talent and script development and build up a relationship with a writer over a long career, working collaboratively on several projects. This cannot happen without money – and development is expensive but it is vital if we want to keep writers working in Wales.

Writer In Residence

Simon Coates, Head of Creative Development, NTW

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

The amazing community of working, angry, hungry artists we have in this country who are prepared to put themselves and their work on the line to say the things that need to be said. That is a great reason for living here.

Meet Fred Hijinx Theatre

I loved Meet Fred and have seen it several times. It is such a powerful piece of work which really speaks about what it means to be disabled in 2017 and more importantly what it means to be human. Outside of Wales I recently saw Lost Without Words at the National Theatre in London which was produced by the marvellous Improbable Theatre Company who have been working with older actors (all highly experienced) teaching them to improvise. It is one of the most engaging, beautiful and laugh out loud pieces that I have seen for a very long time. I am really looking forward to Love Cardiff at the Sherman too.

Love Cardiff Sherman Theatre

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/love-cardiff/

Also, the BBC Radio Drama department in Wales continues to produce over 50 hours a year of brilliant drama using writers and actors living and working in Wales from the most experienced hands to new voices. Daf James beautiful autobiographical play My Mother Taught Me How To Sing was one of the most moving and exciting pieces I’ve heard for a long time. Diverse, Welsh, political and yet intensely personal, which shows a bravery in this medium that I truly hope to see as an audience member commissioned for the stages of Wales.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08csqy4

Thanks for your time Tom

An Interview with Director Julia Thomas

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

I’m from Llanelli and have been working as a director for a few years now. I trained as an actor originally at Drama Centre London and this gave me a solid foundation in understanding how to work with actors and writers. My curiosity for directing was ignited when I went on a course with Living Pictures lead by Elen Bowman. As the week went on I found myself gravitating to the director’s side of the room and shuffled away from acting. I’m currently based at Leicester Curve and have been developing some new initiatives to build relationships with the local community and look after new writing and Writerslab. I’m about to direct a promenade production of A Clockwork Orange at Curve. Before arriving in Leicester, I was Resident director at the National Theatre Studio which was an incredible opportunity to be immersed in an environment dedicated to enabling the spark of an idea to be made into a theatrical form. I’ve been able to continue my relationship with the NT through being the Leicester gatherer on My Country, a Work in Progress and I am also a Director for NT Connections and will be co-ordinating the Festival in Aberystwyth next month.

So what got you interested in the arts ?

When I was younger I spent a lot of time with my Grandmother who was always telling me stories and teaching me songs. We spent hours watching MGM musicals on the television and I loved imagining that I was Doris Day or Judy Garland. Coupled with the fact that my box of Lego was also at my Grandmother’s house, I had the ability to make anything with bricks that my imagination would allow and as I was very shy it was a real story telling haven. When I was ten I went to see my sister perform as King Herod in a brilliant show called ‘Follow the Star’ with Llanelli Youth Theatre. I was so bowled over that this was actually my older sister, she was hilarious and unrecognisable. I joined LYT for their next production which was Gypsy. I found lifelong friends and a love of theatre that brought me out of my shy shell and all of that story telling that had become a part of me finally had a place to be nurtured fully.

http://www.llanelliyouththeatre.co.uk

You are a theatre director can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a production ?

My role as director is to bind every person and every element of the production together. Quite often you will hear the phrase ‘the director’s vision’ to describe the idea that the director thinks about what it should be and gets everyone on board to realise that. I think that it is more than vision, the director’s role is to think about the audience’s experience which must encapsulate all of the senses to be truly engaging. This can only be achieved through creative collaboration with the performers, composers, designers, producers, technicians and magicians (well in this instance!)  My aim is to tell the story in the most exciting and dynamic way possible and to make the best use of the wonderful skills and talents of everyone around me.

You are currently directing a brand new version of the classic legend Jason and the Argonauts. This sounds exciting! Can you please tell us more about your role on this production?

I started working on this brilliant play in January. I have wanted to work with Mark Williams (the writer) for some time as he has an amazing ability to write for families and takes epic stories and makes them feel current and fresh. Mark and I had two weeks in the Park and Dare Treorchy with actors, our designer Charlotte Neville, Composer Dan Lawrence, Illusionist Neil Henry and Fight Choreographer Sam Davies. At this stage my role was to try to solve some of the challenges of the play such as ships crashing, Skeletons coming to life and various articles exploding. The ideas generated in that time had me in fits of hysterical laughter and it was a really joyous and playful process. It culminated in a ‘toga ban’ which helped set the tone of the production. Everyone has been working away to prepare their element of the production and when we get back to rehearsals we will fuse all of these elements together.

Jason and the Argonauts sounds perfect for families who might enjoy films like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Do you think live theatre can compete when it comes to offering cultural experiences for audiences?

Absolutely. Because of our obsession with screens we are becoming more isolated. Theatre lets us share an experience as a community where we hear the laughter or gasps of amazement of others and feel that we belong. Jason is made for all of the family to enjoy, it isn’t a show for children that adults are made to suffer. There is genuinely something for everyone and to be able to share that across the generations will be thrilling. It’s good to get out too isn’t it?

How are the classical stories of Jason and the Argonauts relevant to todays audiences?

Jason has to do the right thing in order to become the hero that he longs to be. He fails in his first attempt to get the fleece but gets a second chance and learns that power isn’t the most important driving force. I think that in the current climate of uncertainty globally, we need to be reassured that human beings can do good. We can be selfless and fight on behalf of those who are vulnerable and exploited. We look for unlikely heroes and long for adventure. Classical stories give us that in abundance. This version will be advocating the toga ban and so the characters will feel more contemporary.

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?

I think that we are a country that should acknowledge the class barriers that have fuelled prejudice and disadvantage for centuries. We like to pretend that class doesn’t exist or that it has something to do with poverty. But just doing the odd project here and there isn’t going to stop this injustice. Self belief is the key to enabling people to achieve what they want to achieve and to live happy and fulfilling lives regardless of this no entry barrier. It is about a change of attitude and quashing of assumptions from those ‘in charge’ that will bring about social equality.

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

I would fund Youth Theatres across the country so that within a 30 mile radius of every part of Wales a young person could participate for free in a company. Joining Llanelli Youth Theatre was a pivotal factor in the building of my self belief and I learnt so much about working with others, speaking up and having an opinion as well as working on productions (On and off stage). It was a training ground for life. It baffles me that funding for Youth Theatre isn’t a priority. Only those who can afford to pay for Stage Schools are getting this opportunity and that saddens and worries me.

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

I think what excites me the most is that National Theatre Wales established a Community of theatre makers and that not a week goes by when I don’t hear about this writer working with that film maker or that director working with a choreographer. The mix up of how people work together is exciting and unique to Wales. When I arrived in Leicester, I was like ‘where is everyone then?’ Being so used the tight knit arts community it became my mission to bring everyone together to forge collaborations.

Images for The Nether, Killology and How my Light is Spent.

Now that I’m back in Wales for a little while, Productions that I’m looking forward to are The Nether at Chapter (I saw the original production in London and  I am keen to see how this can be done without the heavy use of digital technology). I’m also looking forward to How my Light is Spent and Killology at the Sherman. What a treat to have two new plays by Wales finest writers on in the next couple of months.

http://www.chapter.org/nether

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

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/how-my-light-is-spent/

Many thanks for your time Julia

An Interview with playwright Mark Williams

Get the Chance values the role playwrights living and working in Wales bring to the cultural life of our nation. Here is our third interview in this series with playwright Mark Williams.

Hi Mark great to meet you, so what got you interested in writing?

I’ve always loved stories, and was a big reader of books and comics from an early age. I had a great teacher in primary school, who encouraged me to let my imagination run wild in creative writing lessons. I remember vividly the moment when I realised that in a story, you could transform the world, in any way you wanted to. As I got a bit older, I became interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ world of TV and film. Magazines and movie tie-in books often had interviews with writers, and that opened up the idea that writing was a process, and something it was possible to do as a career.

You are a playwright can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a theatrical production ?

So far, every production has followed a slightly different model. Sometimes my role has more or less ended when rehearsals began. Other times, I’ve been more actively involved, right up until the show opens, and during the run. There can be lots of factors determining the writer’s role, ranging from how the director likes to work, to the needs of the producing company, or your own time commitments on other projects. Ideally, I love it when the process is as collaborative as possible.

You are currently working on a brand new version of the classic legend Jason and the Argonauts. This sounds exciting! Can you please tell us more about your role on this production.

 ‘Jason’ was first commissioned by the Courtyard Hereford, and undertook a short English regional tour in 2013. This new production of the play developed from meetings with Sharon Casey and Angela Gould (at co-producers Blackwood Miner’s Institute and RCT Theatres). They’d enjoyed my family play for Theatr Iolo (‘Here Be Monsters’), and were keen to develop work for that audience. I’d always wanted to return to ‘Jason & The Argonauts’, as I felt it had the potential to have a further life. This new version is a very collaborative production. Two development periods explored elements such as music, set design, and how to really push the ‘legendary blockbuster’ feel of the story. I worked with one director (Owen Lewis) on an initial R&D, and then in a second development phase this year with Julia Thomas, who is directing the finished production. I’ve redrafted the script several times, as a result of the constructive feedback of the creative team – taking on board suggestions and new ideas, and then filtering them back into the script. Ultimately, my role on this production is to work closely with Julia, to ensure that none of the exciting new ideas are lost, but also that the spirit and tone at the heart of the story is retained.

I believe this new version of the story draws on the original interpretations of the tale, as well as modern stories inspired by Greek myth – from the Marvel Comics Universe, to Star Wars, The Lord Of The Rings and beyond. Do you consider audiences when you approach work of this nature.

Yes, absolutely! Director Julia Thomas is very audience-driven in her approach, and we’ve both had a family audience firmly in mind, at every stage of the process. A modern audience’s expectation of the story was a big part of my inspiration, right from when I first started working on the script. When you mention the title, most people think of the animated skeletons in the 1963 movie! So you’ve got to try to deliver those classic monsters and mythic heroes – but in a theatrical way, with a cast of four brilliant actors. In a wider sense, audiences (myself included!) are just as likely to know the stories listed above, as they are the legends that inspired them. There’s no “standard version” of Jason’s story, and there’s a great creative freedom in seeing it as taking place “out of time”. Our version of Jason’s ship The Argo could be a space-ship, just as much as a sailing vessel. I’m also constantly reminding myself that this adaptation should be a fun and exciting story – one that also hopefully has something to say to a modern audience, about what it means to be a human hero.

The marketing materials for the production reference lots of popular culture and films. With increased competition for live performances from on demand TV like Netflix. Do you think theatre can offers something different for audiences from film and TV?

I do! Modern audiences are very sophisticated, and well-versed in a wide range of storytelling, with a lot of entertainment competing for their time and money. But what theatre has is its immediacy and communal atmosphere – the excitement of taking people on a journey, together, in a live setting. We’ve approached this version of Jason & The Argonauts as being a fantastical playground, where we can have fun with all the theatrical tools at our disposal – music and sound, imaginative set design, stage combat and effects and illusions.

Here Be Monsters, Theatr Iolo

You have written a range of family production ranging from Horrible Histories, Here Be Monsters for Theatr Iolo to this new production of Jason and the Argonauts. Family productions are often many audience members first points of access to live theatre. Is this something you ever consider when writing and developing your work?

Very much so. I went to a Family Arts conference last year, and was struck by the statistic that most families only go to see a live theatre show once or twice a year. Which is not so surprising, when you consider how expensive a family night out can be. So you really want to push value for money, as much as possible. We’ve approached every scene as almost being a mini-story in itself, asking questions like: “what are the big set-piece moments?” and “what do we want people to be buzzing with excitement about, after the show?”

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

 Increasingly, a lot of my work is inspired by my native Pembrokeshire, and I’d love to see more funding for the arts there, to expand on the great work already being done in the local arts scene. I’d also love to see more promotion of, and focus on, genre writers, particularly in sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Wales has produced some brilliant and prolific authors in their field, writers like Tim Lebbon and Jo Walton, and I think we should champion them a lot more than we do.

 What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers? 

 I love the diversity of work, how eclectic it is. How we can produce world-class plays, music and opera; brilliant comedy like The Harri Parris and the Mach Comedy Festival, and innovative productions at The Other Room, that transform a small space with flair and invention. Lucy Rivers’ recent Sinners Club was brilliant – wonderful writing and performance. I loved the Llawn Festival last year, an eclectic mix of lovingly-curated art, taking place in Llandudno. And I’m a huge Meilyr Jones fan – his live shows are incredible, and I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with next.

www.jasonandtheargonauts.co.uk

Jason and the Argonauts, tour dates.

April 2017

The Park & Dare, Treorchy

Friday 7th 6pm

Borough Theatre, Abergavenny

Monday 10th 2.30pm

Maesteg Town Hall, Maesteg

Tuesday 11th 2pm

Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

Wednesday 12th 2pm & 7pm

Blackwood Miners’ Institute, Blackwood

Thursday 13th 1pm & 4pm

The Weston Studio,

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Friday 14th 7.30pm

Saturday 15th 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Torch Theatre, Milford Haven

Tuesday 18th 1pm & 4pm

The Welfare, Ystradgynlais

Wednesday 19th 2pm

The Hafren, Newtown

Thursday 20th11am & 1.30pm

Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli

Friday 21st 2.30pm & 7.30pm

The Met, Abertillery

Wednesday 26th 1pm & 7.30pm

Review: Lakme, Swansea City Opera at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

(4 / 5)

Absolutely beautiful – the colours of India, the sentiments of its time, the tragedy of love over birth – exquisite.

It makes me cry. I have loved the music from this rarely performed opera for years and years. It is absolutely beautiful. And the characters are all visually believable – both leads are young and lovely looking, their voices ardent as their passion. No one is miscast, no one is out of place.

It is as gentle and as curiously English as a Wildean play but with the underlying expectation of tragedy teasing us along the way. It is Madam Butterfly meets Passage to India. I wonder whether I may feel less or more affected were it sung in the original French and conclude a handsome, manly colonialist colliding with a hidden jewel of a local lass will sound the same in any language where it is sung with conviction.

The clash of backgrounds, religions, family and commitments is very predictable and the terrible messy tragedy of it all plays out predictably too. Delibes opera is based on Pavie’s story. But this is a predictable tale prettily told, beautifully visualised and fabulously well sung.

The Flower Duet between Lakme and Mallika is exquisite, Lakme’s Bell Song heart-achingly lovely with the sopranos comfortably balanced by the tenor of Gerald and the bass-baritone of Nilakantha.

The set feels a little clumsy initially but its simplicity allows us to concentrate on the opera and enjoy the music, the period costumes and the sublime singing. How lovely it is to revel in Lakme performed as it might have been at the turn of the last century.  

But yet again, I leave a performance wishing I could take it home with me somehow – I want to listen to it all again and again and I can’t – I want to take Lakme home with me, fill my house with her voice, send it out into the darkness of the night so others can hear her, feel her hope and her sorrow, scent the flowers in her garden, scream at her not to take the poisonous datura…

I am left bereft.

 Beautiful

 

 

Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.

 

7 March, 7.30pm

Prices

£15 -22
Concessions: £2 off
Under 25s: Half price

More information

By Léo Delibes
Director Brendan Wheatley

Pre-show talk: 6.15pm

Running time: 135 minutes (20 minutes interval)

http://www.swanseacityopera.com/productions/lakme/

Tour dates: http://www.swanseacityopera.com/productions/lakme/

 

Top Tunes with Jon Pountney

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

Hi, I have been a professional photographer since 2000, working in commercial and corporate areas. In 2010 I started the social history project ‘Cardiff before Cardiff’, which really kick started my imagination and drew me back into more artistic thought processes. My work revolves around the key themes developed when I was a student: memory, history and the devices we use to aid our understanding of the passage of time. Obviously these themes relate most readily to photography, but I also use painting, drawing, and moving image. Since 2010 I have exhibited throughout Wales (most notably in the Wales Millennium Centre with ‘Cardiff before Cardiff’), and in 2015 BBC Wales showed a documentary about one of my projects in ‘Forgotten Images of Valley Life’.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

Currently I’m listening to the remastered re-release of ‘A Northern Soul’ by The Verve. It’s an astonishing album that didn’t get enough praise at the time it was released (1995), mainly because the band split during the period. I remember hearing ‘History’ for the first time on Radio 1 in my friend’s Mini, and I bought the album on tape in Music Junction in Leamington Spa.

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, so we want to ask you to list 5 records/albums which have personal resonance to you and why.

1 Dog Man Star by Suede

Suede have been a massive influence on me since 1993. I love their aesthetic, subject matter and outsider status. They made the London of the early 90’s (the subject of many of my paintings at the time) seem incredibly enticing, louche and exciting, to a 15 year old growing up on a farm in Warwickshire! There isn’t much I do creatively that isn’t reflected through the prism of Suede.

2 The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers

I didn’t buy this album until ’99 (it came out in ’94) for some reason. I knew the singles, particularly ‘Faster’, and already had ‘Everything Must Go’, which had been the soundtrack of learning to drive and moving to Cardiff in 1996. It’s a very dense album, lyrically and musically, an assault on the ears really. The song structures and concepts are disturbing and unapologetic, ranging from eating disorders to the Holocaust, but it really is a fascinating suite of music that prompts thought and research into the subjects raised.

3 Second Coming by The Stone Roses

I make no apologies for preferring this album to its much more famous predecessor. The band’s first album came out when I was 11 and I was a little too young for indie at that point. This album came out at the end of ’94 and I was completely onboard by then! Again I love the concepts in the many of the songs- the religious motifs that the band had played with in the first album take centre stage here, particularly in ‘Love Spreads’, which re-imagines the crucifixion of a Jesus who is a black woman.

4 Whatever by Oasis

It was around this time that you began to feel that what was underground was about the break out and become mainstream, like pressure that had to be released. It was an incredibly exciting time. The same couldn’t happen now, because the underground can stay where it is, on the internet. There is no TOTP, no NME. It’s a shame.

5.Adore Life Savages

Savages are an amazing band. Sonically, they are so exciting and visceral, in a time when I don’t hear much ‘rock’ music. They are really aggressive and ballsy, and confrontational. I think they are one of the only bands around at the moment doing something new with the tropes of rock ‘n roll.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

1 We Are The Pigs,  Suede– Just for the title, and it was released as a single, hilarious!


2 Faster Manic Street, Preachers  A brilliant lyrical concept, turning self hate into cockiness.


3 Love Spreads, Stone Roses Best comeback single ever!


4 Whatever, Oasis Because the future seemed limitless


5 Adore Life, Savages The best song of 2016 for me

Many thanks for your time Jon

Get the Chance to be a Theatre Critic with Taking Flight Theatre Company

Get the Chance to be a Theatre Critic with Taking Flight Theatre Company

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! The workshop will be BSL supported. It will be suitable for D/deaf, hard-of-hearing and visually impaired participants.

All participants will be able to access the workshop for FREE and see Taking Flight Theatres new production for FREE

You’ve Got Dragons

A delightful tale of one child’s journey to come to terms with their inner dragons.

A fully accessible intergenerational show featuring creative captioning, BSL and audio description

Audio flyer below

http://www.chapter.org/youve-got-dragons

What’s involved?

You will take part in a 90 minute workshop with Guy O’Donnell Director of social enterprise and 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.

The workshop is limited to 10 places. All participants will be expected to review the production

The workshops is on Thursday the 13th of April at Chapter Arts Centre, 40 Market Rd, Cardiff CF5 1QE

http://www.chapter.org/your-visit

Schedule

4:30- 6pm Workshop
6pm break
6:30-8pm Performance of You’ve Got Dragons
Post show talk

To book please email

getthechance1@gmail.com

Review Lakmé, Swansea City Opera, Sherman Theatre by Barbara Michaels

 

(3 / 5)

 

The opera Lakmé is possibly best known for the popular Flower Duet, composed by Delibes as a showcase for sopranos and performed in Act I by Lakmé and her maidservant Mallika. Lakmé is the daughter of Nilakantha a Brahmin Priest, and the story, set in British-governed India in the 19th century, centre around the love story of Lakmé and a British officer, Gerald. Nilakantha has been forbidden to practice his religion by the British and, full of hatred for the occupying force combined with an obsessive patriarchal love, vows revenge. When he discovers Lakmé has become attracted to Gérald, Nilakantha sets a trap for the soldier and knifes him. Lakmé hides Gérald in the forest and nurses him back to health, but his officer friend Frederic appears to remind him that he has been posted elsewhere. Duty calls – with tragic consequences.

All photographic credits Guy Harrop

The atmosphere of British India comes to the fore in the picnic scene in Act I with the two Army officers, their English girlfriends and governess, with a neat cameo role by New Zealand mezzo-soprano Rhonda Browne as the governess Mistress Bentson, permanently clutching her black Gladstone bag as if it were her saviour.

Romanian born soprano Madalina Barbu’s delicacy of appearance are ideal for the role of Lakmé. Barbu has performed in a number of demanding operatic roles,but does not cope well with all the high notes in the Act II aria Bell Song – a long-time favourite with coloratura sopranos – which is a pity given the high standard of other solo arias and in particular her duets with Gérald (Luke Sinclair). However, Barbu’s diction is not always clear, especially in Act I. Sung in English, it should not be a problem but surtitles would have helped.

As Gérald, Sinclair’s rounded tenor is first class, outstandingly so in his solo arias and duets with Barbu. His interaction with Mark Saberton’s Frederic is also good. As the Mr Nasty of the piece Nilakantha, Håkan Vramsmo bestrides the stage with lofty disdain and a powerful bass, while in the role of Nilakantha’s slave Hadji, Bo Wang gives a neat and well timed performance.

As both director, artistic director and set designer Brendan Wheatley has his work cut out. With the exception of the colourful market scene in Act II, Wheatley’s minimal set is just that, resulting in much of this opera’s Oriental ambience and emphasis on the natural beauty of flowers and trees being lost. There is not a tree or flower to be seen, unless you count the solitary lily thrown on stage in the final act.   Surely, Mr Wheatley, you could have run to a token miniature tree or so, and maybe a flowering bush? A local garden centre might be pleased to offer them gratis in return for a programme mention. For greenery, Wheatley relies heavily on the lighting to engender atmosphere, and full credit to lighting director James Thomas for doing his utmost to comply.

With its melodic score and passionate themes of love and persecution, this is opera to tug at your heart strings and this production by Swansea City Opera does that on all fronts. Considering the restrictions of opera on a shoestring – the company was rescued by funding from the Arts Council after Swansea withdrew their support – all credit to them for staging a most enjoyable performance. However, despite manful efforts, the small orchestra struggles to cope with the richness and delicate orchestration of Delibes score.

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Lakmé, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Music: Léo Delibes

Libretto: Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille

New English Translation: Bridget Gill

Director: Brendan Wheatley

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

 

 

Review In Other Words, Hope Theatre by Hannah Goslin

(4 / 5)

In the top of the Hope and Anchor, one of my favourite venues displays yet another interesting and ground breaking piece of new writing.

Matthew Seager, who also stars as our main man in this duologue of a production, debuts his writing in the form of a tale about a couple dealing with the slow deterioration due to age and dementia.

We run through, back and forth to the past, the present and an almost out of body experience of the couple looking back on their life, giving a narrative to their own torment. Coming into the production itself, the couple interact with us, become playful with each other, and when relating the narrative to us, we are brought in, trusted and engaged with. This in itself connects us and makes us feel as if we have known this pair our entire lives.

The slow deterioration is not referred to by name until near the end – dementia. Without prior knowledge, we can only guess what they are referring to and so it comes as a surprise to us, as it does to the characters despite our inner guesses and assumptions. With only two characters, the character of the Doctor is never seen and this draws us into the couple more, intruding on their thoughts and feelings.

Seagar is a loveable goon. We fall in love with him, just as his character wife does, and so to see him become something unlike himself it painful to us. Using his voice, his facial expressions and the change in his posture is natural and painful to watch but very like an older person conforming to dementia.

Celeste Dodwell is also a natural triumph. I had previously seen her only a week before in Testament by Old Sole Theatre. In the previous production, she also plays a character with an upsetting storyline. However, and it is not just because a change of accent from American to Australian (although her Australian accent in In Other Words is very subtle) but comparing the two approaches to the characters, she sure shows talent, showing such a difference between the two. She draws us in and we soon feel her pain, her thoughts and so the story soon becomes not about a man and his dementia, but how they both cope with the change.

With a basic staging, little props and beautiful old school Sinatra and changing in lighting to flag up a new scene, there is nothing fancy taking away interest from the writing but only adds to the theatricality of the play.

Looking around the audience, not a dry eye was in the house – men who in the queue to enter looked strong and alpha, are reduced to tears and myself… well… my sleeve was soaked with drying my eyes at the end. In Other Words takes on a new approach to the subject and is beautifully tragic.

in other words

Review: Youth Dance Night at NDCWales by Helen Joy

NDCW Youth

Right, this is a hard one; I have thought long and hard about this review.

My conclusion is this: I am not here to comment on any of the pieces critically, I am here to congratulate and celebrate everyone involved in creating beautiful dance through giving all these extraordinary young people the chance to dance.

Every dance has a message for us and in essence I think it is this:

“Listen to us, we may be young and we may seem to have so little experience next to you, the big grown-up, but we have a voice and we feel and we want you to hear us and respond. Our need to express ourselves and to be understood is as great as yours and we will be heard, we will use clothes and colour and tears and anger; we will use movement and action; we will use dance.”

Each piece is so different, working so carefully with the ages of the dancers, their abilities and their stories. Some dancers have that special something – you can already see it, something in the way they look straight at you, something in the way they love the connection between their bodies and their minds, something just special. Every dancer in front of us performs as a professional – confident, charming, athletic and poised. Confident enough to use humour and we in the audience are impressed and laugh with them.

They dance of war and remembrance, of love and loss, of action and inaction, of communication and self.

I have no warm personal association with this – I was once in the wrong queue at junior school and accidentally arrived in the ballet class, surrounded by pink leotards and birds in cages. I was about 6. I can still feel the horror of it.

Yet, here I am wishing and wishing I had had the gumption these young people have and to have stayed in that class; wishing I had that gumption now too. What amazing young people they are, what remarkable people they will remain and in part because of this opportunity they have the gumption to take, to value and to work at – for none of this comes easy, I am sure.

I am sitting next to Luke, a dance teacher, and we discuss what makes the difference between the Associates’ piece and everyone else’s. There is something about the last piece which is more polished than the others, slicker somehow. Time is partly the answer – these dancers have been selected and given the time to train in a way the others do not have.

This suggests to me that it is time that we all must have to perfect what we do – all these young dancers deserve our support to give them the opportunities and the time they need to grow into the adults who will make our world more than just a little better.

To support ETC, Fantasy Feet, Rubicon and the NDCW, please see the links below.

Every young person should have the chance to dance, please help them to get that chance.

 

Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.

 Curator:  Caroline Finn, NDCW Artistic Director

Showcasing:

ETC Youth Dance
Fantasy Feet (2 x pieces within their 12 minute slot)
Rubicon (Urban Flagship Group)
Joon Youth Dance Company
National Dance Company Wales Associates

Seen: 26 February, 2017

 Where: Dance House, WMC, Cardiff

Tickets: £10 | Concessions £7

 Find Youth Dance at:

Fantasy Feet, Merthyr Tydfil

http://www.fantasyfeetdance.co.uk/

 

Rubicon Dance, Adamsdown, Cardiff

http://www.rubicondance.co.uk/

 

Joon Dance, Solva, Pembrokeshire

https://www.facebook.com/JoonDance/

 

ETC Youth Dance

https://twitter.com/etcdance

  

NDCWales, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

http://www.ndcwales.co.uk/en/get-involved/dance/associates-age-14-19/

 

To support National Dance Company Wales, please consider their new Lift Lifft scheme at http://www.ndcwales.co.uk/en/about/support-us/individual-giving/

 

 

An Interview with Lynwen Haf Roberts

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Lynwen Haf Roberts. We discussed her career to date, professional development opportunities in Wales and Memory Jar / Jar Atgofion at the Sherman Theatre on Thursday, March 16.  An event to showcase new writing in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society.

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

Lynwen with the cast of Deffro’r Gwanwyn/Spring Awakening by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

After graduating from Trinity University College, Carmarthen in 2010, I started my career as an actress in Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s touring production of “Deffro’r Gwanwyn” (the Welsh translation of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s musical “Spring Awakening”) and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some of Wales’ top theatre companies, including Theatr Na N’Og, Fran Wen, Arad Goch, and more recently with The Other Room at their “Young Artists Festival”. I was also a series regular on Welsh soap opera “Rownd a Rownd” for 2 ½ years.
So what got you interested in the arts?

The arts have always been a part of my life – I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t performing or taking an active interest in the arts! In the area where I was brought up in Montgomeryshire there was a great interest in Welsh culture and the arts, and so the local Eisteddfodau became my stomping ground, and gave me the opportunity to perform and practice my craft. It also helps that I’m a massive show off – there are stories of me re-enacting scenes from Disney films in the living room!

You are producing an event called Memory Jar / Jar Atgofion at the Sherman Theatre on Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 PM – 11 PM. Can you tell us more about this event?

Memory Jar/Jar Atgofion is a bilingual script evening that will be held in Sherman Theatre foyer. Four stellar playwrights – Chris Harris, Susan Kingman, Carys Jones and Matthew Bulgo – have submitted four brand new 10 minute pieces for the event, which will be directed by Chelsey Gillard and Izzy Rabey, and performed, script in hand, by a handful of local actors. It’ll be a relaxed and intimate evening of new writing, that’ll also serve as a fundraiser for a charity that’s very close to my heart, the Alzheimer’s Society.

Why did you choose Memory as a theme?

This event is part of a wider fundraising campaign for the Alzheimer’s Society – in October of this year, I will be partaking in a charity trek for the Society along the Great Wall of China and have a target amount that I need to raise prior to that trek. In order to tie the event into my fundraising efforts, it made sense for me to choose Memory as a theme. It also intrigued me how the playwrights would deal with said theme – although the event is a fundraiser for a very specific charity, I didn’t want the pieces to all be an analysis of Alzheimer’s and Dementia; I wanted a variety of plays to be presented, and the theme of Memory offers a wide scope, I think!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Lynwen-Haf-Roberts

How can we buy tickets?

Tickets are available on the door, so there’s no need to pre-order, however, should anybody want to show an interest in attending, I encourage them to visit the Facebook event page :

https://www.facebook.com/events/1301902726522457/
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

Without a doubt, I think that we need more support for new and emerging talent, both on stage and off. In particular, I feel that there’s very little encouragement for people to pursue careers as producers, artistic directors and casting directors; people who understand what’s going on locally, and who could really sound the trumpet for local, undiscovered talent. More money could, for example, be utilised to set up training/shadowing schemes in the above fields, which could, potentially, give enthusiastic young artists the chance to be paired up with established names and learn their craft from people within the industry.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

I feel that, especially over the last two years, many grass roots projects are being set up and filling gaps in the industry that have been over looked of late. For example, having The Other Room as a sort of “home” for fringe theatre has inspired many smaller companies to follow suit and start producing new, cutting edge work, while projects like Leeway Productions’ “10 Minute Musicals” and Dan Fulham’s “Hello Cabaret” evenings are creating a platform for musical theatre performers and composers that has been non-existent until now. And that’s even before we start mentioning the national and international connections that are being forged by theatres such as Sherman Theatre and Theatr Clwyd, which means that Welsh work is being presented to audience over Offa’s Dyke and beyond. Nowadays, it’s not necessarily the case that you HAVE to be in London to see or be a part of great theatre – we in Wales are more than capable of producing top quality work, both on the fringe scene and the main stream circuit, and that, to me, is truly exciting.

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

I think it’s difficult to think of a piece that both delighted me and horrified me in equal measure as much as “Looking Through Glass” did last December at The Other Room. It was manic; it was sadistic; and it was deliciously dark. I loved it!

Thanks for your time Lynwen.