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Review, Sh*tfaced Showtime, London Wonderground, By Hannah Goslin

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(4 / 5)

The London Wonderground is always a favourite place of mine each Summer. It is a very versatile place full of comedy, cabaret and new and old exciting acts.

As the name suggest, Sh*tfaced showtime is going to be fuelled by alcohol, theatre and comedy. We are unsure what the ‘showtime’ part is going to be but this adds to all the fun and essence of surprise through the night.

The premise of the show is for a group of classically trained musical theatre performers to put on a 1 hour version of a production [in this case, Pirates of Penzance] while one performer is ridiculously drunk. The audience are invited to participate when we believe that the performer is becoming sober and this is where our host intervenes to give ‘one more drink’ for which we eagerly chant.

Watching a person on stage becoming hilariously drunk, you would think that this would be uncomfortable. It is not. It is full of hilarity, as we watch her attempt to keep to the performance but get distracted and all the frivolities we associate with intoxication. We as the audience find this all very comical as outsiders but we can all relate to this state. Despite this, her singing and performance ability at times is very accomplished and is evident her talent despite bringing a lot of comedy with her distractions.

The other sober performers are also very talented and skilled and in their own right, bring a fantastic version of Pirates of Penzance. There are times where the performance goes off course due to our drunk performer and they do well to bring it back to the narrative or to go along with the diversion. Their trust and interaction with one another is genius and makes you feel safe that despite the uncertainty of what could appear on stage [or even off stage].

Sh*tfaced Showtime is genius. To be brave enough to go ahead with such a concept is admirable and executed with sheer perfection and brilliant talent.

Review Chicago Wales Millenium Centre by Barbara Michaels

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CHICAGO

Music and lyrics: John Kander & Fred Ebb

Book: Fred Ebb & Bob Fosse

Choreographer:  Ann Reinking

Musical Director: Ben Atkinson

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

(4 / 5)

Red-hot and sizzling, the multi-award winning musical Chicago, based on real life events in 1920s US, is back at the Wales Millennium Centre and judging by the bookings as popular as it was when it came here four years ago.  With its theme of greed and corruption, the contemporary relevance doesn’t need to be spelled out although the main action takes place on Death Row, where nightclub singer Roxie Hart is standing trial for shooting her lover and the feisty Velma Kelly is up for double murder.  Strong stuff indeed but the dark undercurrent of the story and plotline cannot be ignored, and neither should it be.

But – moving on – this is musical theatre, so let us not dwell on this.  The wonderful musical numbers, toe-tapping and fast, are what makes this show so popular, along with the fast-paced choreography. Chicago is above all a showcase for the original choreography of the legendary Bob Fosse.  The tunes come thick and fast, plunging straight into it with All That Jazz in Act I and never letting up, and the dancers amazing…

Chicago has been performed on stage countless times, plus the memorable film version starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, and every director understandably wants to put his or her own mark on it in terms of character portrayal.   Hayley Tamaddon is a low key Roxie with an air of fragility about her that belies the fact that this is one tough lady who will stoop as low as it takes to escape the death penalty.  Although Roxie’s story is pivotal, it is her opposite number Velma who is the strongest here and Sophie Carmen-Jones give the role her all in no uncertain manner, displaying a versatility and, in Act II, an acrobatic ability that is truly amazing.  While Carmen-Jones has the character to a T, Tamaddon’s Roxie is at times almost girl-next-door in her naivety.

Alternating in the role of Prison Matron Mama Morton, who believes in looking after ‘her girls’ – as long as her favours are reciprocated – are Gina Murray and Sam Bailey. Murray’s Mama threatened to bring the house down on press night as she belted out the iconic When You’re Good to Mama full throttle.  Great stuff!  A clever little cameo too by Francis Dee as ‘Not  guilty’Hunyak.  On the same evening, Kerry Spark took over the male lead in place of John Patrtridge, who was absent, in playing unscrupulous defence lawer Billy Flynn always on the lookout for number one and lining his pockets by defending about-to-be convicted murderers.  Amos, Neil Ditt is an experienced actor who ‘gets’ the role of Roxie’s husband, the pathetic, incompetent and ignored ‘Mr Cellophane’ (to use the title of his song) off pat.

The staging is atmospheric and costumes a delight for the eye with deftly wielded chorus line feather fans in one of the later scenes, while the  onstage orchestra under musical director Ben Atkinson, is superb, providing not only musical backing throughout but continuing to entertain after the show ends.

Runs until Saturday 30 July 2016

 

Review Chicago, Wales Millennium Centre by James Briggs

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(4 / 5)

“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts “and so Cardiff welcomes the touring production of Chicago. In a first for the Wales Millennium Centre the smash hit musical Chicago has arrived to entertain packed audiences. Chicago is based on the real life events in the roaring 1920s. A nightclub singing sensation Velma murders her husband, and Chicago’s smoothest lawyer, Billy Flynn, sets out to act has her defence. But when Roxie ends up in prison on similar charges, Billy takes on her case too, turning her too into a media sensation. Neither of the two women will be surpassed in their fight against each other for fame and celebrity status.

As the audience sat down before the performance an announcement was made informing us that John Partridge who plays  lawyer Billy Flynn would not be performing due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and therefore the role would be played instead by his understudy Kerry Spark. Despite the obvious disappointment by some audience members we needn’t have worried as Kerry Spark gave an excellent performance.

This revival tour of Chicago showed a whole different side to the show by stripping the production back to its bare bones, with a full band positioned on a podium on stage, minimal costumes on the performers and some chairs. As an audience member, you seem to have the feeling that the music is the main star of the show and the thing you should be concentrating on most of all.

In the performance, Sophie Carmen-Jones played Velma Kelly, the tough performer awaiting trial for the murder of her husband and sister. Sophie Carmen-Jones delivers a brilliant Velma who is very confident and self-assured but still beneath her many layers is highly vulnerable.

Hayley Tamaddon is utterly sublime as Roxie Hart. Hayley Tamaddon brings out a different version of Roxie with slightly more comedy and shyness in Roxie than audiences will not have seen before. There are many moments during the performance where Roxie really comes into her own and shines like a star.

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In my opinion, the two leading ladies are perfectly matched and when they come together and perform the ‘Hot Honey Rag’ to the end of the show they are wonderfully in synch with each other bringing a smile to every audience member.

The Matron of the Cook County Jail, Mama Morton was played by Gina Murray. The role is usually played by former X Factor winner Sam Bailey however she took a break from the tour. Gina Murray was brilliant as Mama Morton and has a good mix of being stern and kind to the inmates. Her performance in the song ‘When You’re Good To Mama’ was amazing and received a loud applause from the audience.

One of the real stand out characters during the musical was A D Richardson as Mary Sunshine. Each line of the song ‘A little bit of good’ is presented with a strong sense of carefulness and delicacy. It’s an extremely gruelling role that can be extremely difficult to sing night after night, but you get one of the best vocal performances I have seen. Without giving a major plot spoiler away it is unbelievable how good the characters voice is considering the circumstances.

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Roxie’s all loving and walked upon husband Amos Hart is played by Neil Ditt. Extremely well performed, the character is worked, used and mistreated by Roxie and Billy but it is a truly wonderful performance by Neil Ditt and this is especially shown in the song Mr Cellophane which demonstrates to the audience how this extremely bland man is constantly striving to be noticed by others.

‘The 6 marry murderesses of the cook county in jail in their rendition of the cell block tango’ are outstanding with the cast consisting of Sophie Carmen-Jones, Lindsey Tierney, Ellie Mitchell, Nicola Coates, Frances Dee and Chelsea Labadini. This performance is very powerful and each character portrayed is very different with a stand out personality that draws in the audience.

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It would be very wrong to not mention the utterly divine band for the performance led by the fantastic Ben Atkinson. It truly is the icing on the cake for this touring production. All through the show the energy levels of the band were extremely high and the music blasted out around the Wales Millennium Centre. The two real highlight moments of the band was during the Entr’acte and Playout because it was then they came into their own. Ben Atkinson was conducting upside down leaning over a wall and climbing over the staging while leading his band. He finally ended up draped over the piano upside down with his band dancing around the stage. An utterly amazing performance.

You don’t want to be ‘Mister Cellophane’ so make yourself seen and go and watch Chicago: The Musical at the Wales Millennium Centre. The musical is showing between 25th  Jul – 30th  Jul 2016. Tickets are selling fast so please make sure you get them via this link-

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/Chicago15/

M.A.D.E. Pick of the Degree Shows – Review

 

M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows: Does what it says on the tin…

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(M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows is a group exhibition of fourteen graduate works from South Wales Universities. As the title suggests, the work that makes up the exhibition was sourced directly from the degree shows of Cardiff School of Art & Design and The University of South Wales, so represents the most current student practice to come out of the capital.

 

The show brought together a collection of promising artists graduating from Welsh Universities this year whose works best demonstrate an affiliation with M.A.D.E’s endeavour to communicate the significance of, ‘self-expression as a crucial human endeavor’. Curators of the show and co-directors at M.A.D.E Zoë Gingell and Josh Leeson selected works that they felt were most ‘strong’, and feel the exhibition ‘stands up to the best of work coming out of Cardiff and its environs’; A tall order, although I would agree that the quality and diversity of the works in the space certainly warrant their inclusion in the gallery’s selection. There’s something to be said about balancing the aim to exhibit as many deserving students’ works as is possible in the space whilst maintaining the critical and physical distance necessary to surround each artwork. In this respect, it is necessary to consider the commitment to make quality artwork visible to audiences who might not have had the opportunity to visit each of the respective Degree Shows.

 

M.A.D.E doesn’t pretend. The space is not the expansive white cube sort we might experience at venues like Chapter’s gallery space; it has a character that calls for tricky display decisions and can account for a more intimate and relatable experience of the work. A proportionately large amount of artworks shown in the limited space of the gallery was surprisingly not to the detriment of the exhibition. Through careful placement of artworks and recognition on the part of the viewer of a few central curatorial motifs, the show remains legible and engaging and the artworks are given conceptual space enough to breathe.

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(Julia Hopkins @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

The artists chosen for the show have all produced works deserving of recognition and I’m pleased to see two of my own ‘picks’ from the CSAD Degree Show, Julia Hopkins and Sam Wall, were part of the M.A.D.E selection. Julia’s miniature compositions implied interconnected movement, balance and reactivity. The structures were made ‘and frequently unmade’ in efforts to find some elusive meaning. Meanwhile, Sam Wall’s drawn works expanded and crawled over the page, a two-dimensional continuation of monster-making which begs, borrows and steals from the fantastic sculptural work presented as part of the artist’s Degree Show exhibition.

(Follow this link to my previous review of the Cardiff School of Art & Design Fine Art Degree Show: http://getthechance.wales/2016/05/27/review-csad-fine-art-degree-show-2016-amelia-seren/)

Novel approaches to storytelling were evident in several of the works. Rachel Lucas presented written descriptions in place of photographic equivalents. The accounts documented the lives of refugees and explored the desensitisation of society to a genre of harrowing images. Mikky Saunby’s ceramic works implied primitive narratives, while George Curzon casted Imogen, the artist’s sister, as the protagonist of Shakespeare’s tale, Cymbeline in a photo series exploring the trials of adolescence. Florence Fung integrated Chinese ceramic techniques into works more outwardly aligned with contemporary Western aesthetics. In Journey the artist referenced the traditional Willow Pattern, and through the craftsmanship of each piece illustrated the ‘inseparable relationship between the present and the past’.

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(Mikky Saunby @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

Another recognisable thread, which linked works in M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows, was an emphasis on personal expression through creativity. James Moore’s diptych video works, Headspace both demonstrated and validated the emotional extremes of anxiety and fear, whilst Melissa Hooper’s series of images, Unsettled explored her relationship to the outside as a sufferer of Agoraphobia. Macarena Costan also used photography as a medium, this time to question the disconnection experienced between our memories and the reality of past experiences after following a visit to her family home in Spain. Aaron Davies’ interest in issues surrounding gender identity was manifest in his ceramic compositional forms. Each piece suggested typically male or female characteristics and potentially endless combinations thereof, eliminating any inclination towards gendered binaries. Mylo Elliot’s painted works employed graffiti writing as a medium to explore language and communication of the self. Symbols and visual motifs made up a personalised hieroglyphic language subject to interpretation. The inclusion of personal experience in all of these works provided a useful entry to the artworks for empathetic viewers, and the reimagining of familiar narratives made for engaging artworks.

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(Florence Fung @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

Consideration into the limits of specific mediums is evident in the remaining works. A reincarnation of Eloise Barratt’s light installation in the M.A.D.E gallery space made for an ambitious display. Viewers were encouraged to entertain their perception of colour as a legitimate medium by drawing attention to the illusionistic nature of colour and light. Whilst Sarah Barnes’ works explored the limitations of the Camera Obscura technique, set within the context of the custodial teen bedroom. Conor Elliot’s photographic prints undermined the visual language of art history by questioning over-familiar and preconceived ideas of what an artwork should look like. His witty photographs critique the ‘staleness’ of referential and ‘typical’ fine art using its own symbolic medium.

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(Macarena Costan @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))
Through their programme of events and workshops it is obvious that M.A.D.E possesses an ethos to nurture and support the creative and local communities. Their more recent endeavor to celebrate emerging artists is a welcome venture amongst the student community, and hopefully the general public as well! This opportunity for graduate artists to have exhibited their practice as part of an established platform affords valuable exhibition experience to all of the shows participants. Exhibitions such as this can increase the visibility of very early-career artists, encourage careers in the arts, and forge new relationships between artists graduating from creative university-level courses in South Wales.

The opportunity granted to exhibit these artworks was invaluable, nonetheless it was evident that the works chosen warranted their display, and I look forward to seeing all of the artists involved exhibiting in Cardiff and further afield in the future; A worthy show.


Florence Fung / Rachel Lucas / Julia Hopkins / Aaron Davies / Mikky Saunby / Conor Elliott / James Moore / Mylo Elliot / Eloise Barratt / Sam Wall / George Curzon / Melissa Hooper / Sarah Barnes / Macarena Costan


M.A.D.E is a hub for the arts and contemporary crafts and regularly exhibits a diverse range of artworks as well as performance showcases and pop-up events. Situated on Lochaber Street in Roath, the venue also hosts a small café which offers local and ethical produce.


(All photographs taken by the author on the occasion of the exhibition in question, for official images of works, please visit the artists’ respective websites).

 

 

Review, Romeo and Juliet, Everyman Theatre Cardiff, By Hannah Goslin

De Ja vu ensures when I arrive once again for the second time that day at the Everyman Theatre, this time for Romeo and Juliet.

The basis for the staging is the same as before, with the added props and different lighting. It does become a different scene and clever recycling of the set. As before in Peter Pan, performers had head mics, this performance has a microphone at the front of the stage that picks up the entire area. This does dip in and out with parts being louder than others – a slight lack of consistency. This is where the performers should have compensated for this potential eventuality with their own voices. The lighting itself was below average.  It felt as if the technician was testing the lighting on the night itself and times when the sky was dark, the staging was not sufficiently lit or had drastic changes in light that felt uncomfortable and a little annoying – taking attention away from the performance.

The cast  were a large range of abilities and ages. Feeling as if I am pulling away from supporting my fellow young performers, it felt as if the older performers were the best- whether this comes from experience or more understanding of the play. Others seemed to lack understanding of the text, evident in their stunted execution. At all times performers were on stage, watching the scene intently if not in it but this was only effective when it was consistent – I found myself being drawn away by performers who lost concentration and looked bored as their eyes drew away from the performers.

Marketing the show, we expected to see a traditional dressed production – which is hard to get wrong in performance. This performance had taken a modern approach to the performance and this was fine for what it was. The producers could have worn any clothes and it would have been the same. An abstract and metaphorical approach was taken at times, using basic physical theatre to represent parts. Again this lacked consistency – we either wanted an emotional and real interpretation or a physical theatre piece. It unfortunately did not seem to gel in this case.

Romeo and Juliet unfortunately felt confused and lacking a clear path. While the performers seemed to work hard, it did not always pay off and I came away feeling a little uninspired.

(1 / 5)

Last Night of the Welsh Proms 2016, ST DAVIDS HALL BY JAMES BRIGGS

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Following a simply wonderful week packed full with all types of music, the Welsh Proms 2016 drew to a stunning close on Saturday evening. The Last Night of the Welsh Proms, at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, is a celebration of what it means to be Welsh and how important music is for Welsh people. The celebrations began before the audience entered the auditorium, with a band playing outside the hall enticing passer-by’s into the concert hall.

As the show began the audience welcomed The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London and the resident Last Night Of The Welsh Proms conductor Owain Arwel Hughes CBE. With a marvellous programme of songs set for the evening the audience knew there would be a great evening in store.

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As well as the upbeat recognisable pieces played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the Last Night is also about some serious music, and this year’ concert featured three world premiere performances of brand new orchestral pieces.

The first of these was ‘Cambrian Serenade’, by Arwel Hughes, the father of our conductor for the evening. The piece featured heavily on Classical FM where they held a competition for the listeners to name the song and the winner would get to see the music performed on The Last Night Of The Welsh Proms. The second of the world premiere pieces was ‘Aberfan’, by Christopher Wood, the emotional piece which was very moving was written to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. The Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic landslide of a colliery coal tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, on 21 October 1966, which engulfed a Primary school and killed 116 children and 28 adults.

The third piece making its World Premiere was ‘Mr Dahl’, by Bernard kane Jnr, which was a beautiful piece written to commemorate 100 years from the birth of the great Welsh writer Roald Dahl.

Some of the first half highlights included Coates ‘Dambusters March’, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ and Mendelssohn’s well known and loved ‘Wedding March’. The real showstopper that ended the first half was the soundtrack to Star Wars which took your breath away. Nothing can really prepare you for when you hear the opening few bars of the theme played by the brass section. It is almost like you are expecting Darth Vader or Yoda to appear on stage and greet the audience.

As with the tradition of the Last Night Of The Welsh Proms, it was really after the interval that the fun really began with an influx of flag and banners being brought into the auditorium in preparation for waving along with the music.

The second half opened with a personal favourite of mine Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No.1 and it wasn’t long until conductor Owain Arwel Hughes soon had everyone on their feet and singing ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ enthusiastically to the music. Strauss Radetsky March proved popular with the prom goers as we all clapped along when told by the conductor.

The final songs of the evening came in the form of ‘Fantasy On Welsh Songs’ arranged by Gareth Wood. This part of the concert involved a great deal of singing with the orchestra as some of Wales’ most famous songs were played. With songs such as Cwm Rhondda, Men Of Harlech, Ar Hyd Y Nos, We’ll Keep A Welcome, Myfanwy, and I Bob Un Sydd Ffyddlon there was plenty of choice. One song played Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn had a great deal of meaning for my Mum who I attended the concert with as it was the song she performed for the Queen when she visited Wales in 1977 for her Silver Jubilee celebrations.

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The national anthem Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau provided a fitting encore to end a wonderful evening of music. Conductor Owain Arwel Hughes promised the proms would return bigger and better next year, which is definitely something to look forward to. I urge everyone if you have the chance to attend the Last Night Of The Welsh Proms be sure to go because you are sure to have a magical evening of music and culture.

Romeo And Juliet Everyman Theatre Cardiff

Romeo and Juliet, Everyman Open Air Theatre, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff,
Author: William Shakespeare
Directors: Mark Modzelwski and Jack Paterson
Cast: Mickey Howe, Helen Randall, Jon Barnes, Aisha Cecil, James Pritchard
Running Time – 2 hours

 Photos courtesy of Keith Stanbury

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet couldn’t be a more polarizing play – that controversy, and of course it’s impenetrable brand, the reason for its longevity, despite the criticisms it’s been subject to throughout the ages. It also means every adaptation, no matter how well done or brightly framed, will have a clear divide between its fans and its skeptics, much like its own warring houses.

It immediately reminded me of Everyman’s 2014 production The Taming of the Shrew, which also played with a modern framing. In that case, it seemed disjointed and unconnected, this play’s firmer stance something I was glad of. An early warning sign was the wrapping of garish warning tape around the gorgeous set, itself an understated stage that easily turned from crumbled history to a modern ruin in the mind’s eye. Any foreshadowing in the archetypal tragedy seems dangerously close to being too loud for too little reason. Then, I turned thoughts to Last year’s As You Like it set completely within its time, which seemed less frantic to be thoughtful, its simplicity its making.

The scuffle between the houses was presented in a haze of echoed dialogue, each line chanted rather than spoken, chaotic drumming and West Side snapping fueling the anger. It was no doubt intended as a display of raw energy, but mine surely weren’t the only ears strained by a jarring start. A question common to the staging was that of cleverness or (with all such words improperly conveying the fact every polarizing part was played with conviction of delivery) clumsiness. Aggression dominating over clarity and a sense of unease are fitting for the play, but it felt a little rushed, easy to think about but harder to feel for – the presentation of the raw feeling ironically calculated.

Another of these dichotomies was the fact that Paris is shown sauntering through the warring families, often an agent of the discord the one to bang the makeshift drum of the stage – this could give the often slight role adaptations afford him gravitas, but there is too little of him otherwise to give weight to the staging.

Whilst experimentation is always welcome, the elements seemed jarring and improperly integrated, a few, small things that, in never fully being justified spoiled the flow. Costuming was fine, but slightly awkward with our leads, owing a tad too much to Danny and Sandy. The thing that dominated over everything, making niggles more off-putting, was that the overall transference to the modern day seemed slightly arbitrary – a live performance in the beautiful Sofia Gardens is certainly not the slickly edited City from Luhrmann’s fondly remembered film, and whilst it could be left to interpretation in another play, the fraught world of our times providing myriad examples of arbitrary, baseless conflict, the other small jarring features meant either that these less important things should have had some justification, or that this time leap needed more obvious suggestion.

The acting was certainly the best element.

Mikey Howe presented himself as a likable actor, but not as a Romeo stripped of the blandness which pervades even the best of his adaptations. He more often solicited motherly feelings of exhausted affection and useless foresight rather than showing us a passion we might forgive naivety more for. Mercutio was played memorably by Jon Barnes, remembered fondly from last year, the acidic chemistry between him and Asha Cecil’s flint like Tybalt alluding to something more complex and engaging than the titular love. Helen Randall’s Juliet was stunning, and did her best to convert us to her convictions with not just a sweet, but quietly intelligent and witty character, her superb delivery highlighting the odd dichotomy that one of Shakespeare’s most characters most scolded for their lack of better judgement has some such clever lines, full of wordplay and conviction. Another highlight was James Pritchard’s warm and fatherly Friar – although the general depiction of such is always odd, considering despite his gentle ways, he is the piece’s accidental murderer.

The anger was the most visceral, best felt emotion of the play, each character, Tybalt to the Montagues doing their best under rage, although such venom by the ensemble made Romeo’s anger seem a little paler than the devastation of the second act required.

Said second act was free from trips over the awkward trappings of the first allowing for a much smoother experience, beautifully and purposefully lit, each actor at their finest in this hour.

A fun, but at later thought somewhat frustrating decision was that to possess the apothecary by the devil – gleefully sadistic at first glance, and a synchronization of the ensemble used to much more coordinated and singular effect, you then realized how much trouble it presented. Shakespeare, here to Lear to his famous sonnets, was always interested in the conflict between the power of the damnation of God (and the Gods) and man, and how the devil is a part of both self-corrupting man and the omnipotent Lord who shows such little benevolence in his works.

This is the essence of the general trouble – that the productions experiments just don’t have a solid enough foundation to be felt more than gimmicky, when the more general elements are is all wonderfully done. Ironically, and somewhat sadly, when focused more on style than the unsure statements there was much more substance. In short, it’s a commendable performance with a lot to chew on regardless of whether you enjoyed such elements, but I’m afraid it may be looked with kinder eyes by those who love the lovers, and not those skeptical of the star crossed.

(3 / 5)

ENDS

Review, Peter Pan, Everyman Theatre Festival

Image by Natalie Johnson-Rolley

It seems that this year is the year of open air theatre. In the heart of Sophia Gardens we await to be transported by the boy that never grew up across the skies of Cardiff to Neverland.

With a cast of young performers ranging from very small to older groups, this large cast has the great task of a 1 hour production of the Disney rendition of this great story.

Our main characters are as happy and go lucky as we expect them to be – their singing voices very accomplished for such young actors. They are confident and in keeping with their characters. The role of the Dad and of Hook is played by an adult male- a very tasteful decision in showing the patriarchal hold of women at the time with his demands of Wendy becoming a lady and to also show the difference between children’s freedom and adult restriction. The highlight of men vs women running throughout the play and especially with the song entertaining lyrics of brave men, soon to be changed by Tiger Lily and Wendy to Brave girls is a lovely boost and message for growing girls and young women.

The ensemble all evidently worked very hard for their parts – doubling up for different characters and adjusting well to show the difference from Pirates to Indians to Lost Boys and Fairies with ease and skill.

There is an element of pantomime with the production- the costumes are bright and stereotypical but this is Disney and relatable to the children of the audience -some very young.  The use of a clever prop flying high in a snake like fashion over the stage for the crocodile was inventive and really enjoyable to witness.

It did feel as though the smoke machine operator was a little over enthusiastic- at times the stage was disguised and us audience too with an abundance of smoke that it was hard to see the performers and how hard they were working.

Overall this is a lovely and humble family show. A condensed version of the Disney film, it’s entertaining for all families of all ages.

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Review, Flossy and Boo’s Curious Cabaret, Chapter Arts Centre, by Hannah Goslin

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(4 / 5)

Bright pink and green wigs, ukuleles and a whole heap of fun. Coming to Chapter Arts Centre to see these two curious sisters in creativey was excitingly anticipated by me. I have heard so many wonderful things but never had the chance to grab a chance to see them.

Flossy and Boo as would seem by any images you see of them are eccentric, comedic and warm and friendly. Being welcomed one by one by each of them to the performance, it felt more of a personal gathering than of watching a performance piece.

Flossy and Boo had planned items but also random segments chosen by the audience in the form of picking items from a hat. This was full of anticipation to see the reaction of the performers and what material they brought into the mix.  To be able to chop and change and bring a new show each time is a triumph and very clear of some talented theatre practitioners.

Their ability to change the scenario at last minute, combat sound issues and prop interruption was done seamlessly, with us enjoying how ‘natural’ they were with us. We were never quite sure if they were being their characters or their usual persona- which of course is brilliant to be able to achieve.

Flossy and Boo’s Curious Cabaret is side splittingly hilarious, extremely intelligent and masterful in its execution. Heading to Edinburgh, I urge you to see them. They’re ones not to miss!

Review, The Hunting of the Snark, Sherman Theatre by Hannah Goslin

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(4 / 5)

In the open and bright Sherman Theatre, there is an abundance of joy and exciting pre, during and post show by all the children and families who are looking out for and forward to The Hunting of the Snark.

Based upon the tale by Lewis Carroll, the story sees a collective of people who join over one common thing- to find a Snark. No one knows (including us) what a Snark looks like and there is always suspense and intrigue into what it may be.

The tale is comical, modern and breaks the fourth wall with audience interaction. The set it beautiful and interchangeable with simple props and lights and little other sound in use in addition to a one man band on stage named Steve who is referred to as part of the narrative.

We have heroes, villains and morals of the story. We see the development of a father and son relationship and a hint at animal welfare with whether we should capture creatures from their natural habitat. All food for thought and teaching valid topics to the children in the audience- and us too as adults!

References to modern culture and literary fame brings a real intelligence and great nod towards the greats and no so greats of these. Thsee imputs hit home with every age group and includes everyone, young and old.

The Hunting of the Snark is a beautiful and hilarious family entertainer. And even if you do not have kids, go anyway- you’ll come out wanting to find your own Snark too!