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Top Tunes with Caroline Finn, Artistic Director of National Dance Company Wales

Top Tunes is a new feature for Get the Chance in collaboration with Outpost. http://www.outpostrecords.co.uk 

The Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Caroline Finn, Artistic Director of National Dance Company Wales. Caroline discussed her career to date, the spring 2017 tour of The Green House and choose her 5 Top Tunes!

Caroline in rehearsals for The Green House

Caroline in rehearsals with the company for The Green House

Click the Soundcloud file below to listen to the interview described.

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

Hi there! Well, I am currently the Artistic Director of National Dance Company Wales, based in Cardiff. But I guess my story begins way back when I was 11 years old and decided I wanted to become a professional dancer. I went to The Arts Educational School, Tring Park until I was 18 and then moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School. My first professional job was with Ballet Theatre Munich and subsequently I also danced with ballet Preljocaj in France and Compagnie Carolyn Carlson. In 2009 I decided to focus on working as a freelance choreographer and travelled all over the world making works for various companies before coming here to Cardiff!

 Thanks, 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? 

I am currently only listening to the soundtrack for my new work, The Green House, which will form part of our Spring tour this year. It’s all-consuming!

Caroline in rehearsals for The Green House

Caroline in rehearsals with the company for The Green House

Music has always played a big part in my life- I learnt to play the piano and violin as a child and of course at Juilliard I was constantly surrounded by and influenced by some wonderful musicians.

In terms of choreography, the inspiration for my work often comes from hearing a particular piece of music which immediately generates stories, emotions or images for me. I then try to build on that, finding other musical tracks which compliment it. The soundtracks to my works are often quite eclectic and can span a range of musical genres from Balkan folk music to Radiohead. The Green House for example has a bit of Max Steiner (look him up – you’ve almost certainly heard his work before), mixed in with Shostakovich and a Brazilian film soundtrack. It’s incredibly varied!

 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 Beethoven Symphony no. 7 in A major

2 Beirut- the Gulag Orkestar

3 Radiohead -Creep

4 Travis -The Man Who

5 Olafur Arnalds -Stare

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?

I think I would have to say Creep by Radiohead. Maybe because listening to it takes me back to a very specific time and place in my life and I think that so many people can relate to those lyrics. I know there have been many cover versions over the years but I particularly love Frank Bennett’s because he takes it right back to the 1950’s. Surely it’s the measure of a great song when there can be such incredible cover versions?

I actually used Frank Bennett’s for a piece I created for Phoenix Dance Theatre in 2015 called Bloom.

Spring Tour 2017 – The Green House | Profundis

National Dance Company Wales presents an evocative double bill of new work Spring 2017

The Green House
Caroline Finn

What happens when we prune ourselves to perfection? Caroline Finn takes us on a nostalgic journey, asking us to peer into The Green House. On a twisted TV set, characters discover the fine line between fantasy and reality.
The Green House is Finn’s second theatrical work as Artistic Director for the Company, following the overwhelming success of Folk in 2016.
‘Finn knows how to choose a resonant image, and how to orchestrate emotions’ The Guardian

Profundis
Roy Assaf

“It’s about Profundis. It’s not about Profundis…”
Playful, vibrant and provocative. Profundis dares us to ask questions about what things are, and what they are not. Roy Assaf’s thoughtful movement is accompanied by whimsical wordplay and an exotic soundtrack featuring Egypt’s Umm Kulthum.
‘a tapestry of exquisitely detailed gestures adorned with sparkling stories’ Buzz Magazine

Suitable for age 12+

* Watch Dance Class
12.45 – 2pm
See * below for dates

Get a unique behind-the-scenes look at how our dancers prepare just hours before a show.
You can observe, sketch, record and photograph the ballet or contemporary class on stage, giving you a glimpse into NDCWales life.

Perfect for dance students, artists, photographers and anyone interested in peeking behind the curtain. Expand your portfolio, practice drawing from movement or just observe with interest.
Free to attend but please book a space – email megan@ndcwales.co.uk for more info
Discover Dance
#GetDancing with National Dance Company Wales
The perfect 90-minute introduction to dance for families and schools. Suitable for age 7+
More info & dates here
http://www.ndcwales.co.uk/en/what-s-on/calendar/spring-tour-2017

Review Trainspotting 2 by Jonathan Evans

 

(4 / 5)

 

Trainspotting 2, is something I never thought would be a reality, beyond simple theories and discussions. The first is a more than a complete story, also to others the idea of doing this is considered sacrilege. So why do it at all? Probably because that time has passed and the question of “Where are they now?” has been itching the filmmakers as much, or more than anyone.

For our crew it seems like they have everything right. Ewan McGregor as Mark has returned, Ewen Bremner as Spud, Johnny Lee Miller as Simon, Robert Carlyle as Franco and Danny Boyle once again taking the reins as director with John Hodge writing the screenplay.

Everything kicks off with Marks return. He is back after twenty years and not everyone is glad to see him. Would you be if he stole four grand from you? Spud did have his life on track, but when day light savings kicked in he was an hour late for everything which threw his stable life way off track and is now back on the heroine. Simon has a “business” of filming people have kinky sex with a prostitute friend and then blackmailing them, he also runs a pub that isn’t really worth opening and takes too much cocaine. And within the prison Franco is locked-up in prison, having twenty years for his rage to boil, it cannot hold him much longer.

Everyone has aged, of course, during the course of twenty years (some more gracefully than others). Most are different or in the same place as they were when Mark left them. But for some they have ignored time and it’s not them that’s changed but the world around them.

Danny Boyle is a director that, if anything, is known for his unique, sizzling visual flare. Something that was probably first established when he made the first Trainspotting. He brings it here as well, with careful and expressive lighting setups, razor sharp sounds, crazy setups an dynamic camera work. He is still very energetic with his passing and with Jon Harris as his editor they put together a very sharp movie. However there are moments of showing one thing and it leading to another which I wont dare spoil for you but are moments that remind you that Boyle is one of the top talents working today.

What would disappoint me about the movie would be if it was deliberately trying to recapture the exact same experience as the original. If they all just did the same thing, beat for beat, that would be a huge mistake. Luckily this is too wise to be so foolish. To be sure, for those that want warped visuals, crazy situations and colourful dialog (which is a staple of Trainspotting) you’ll get it, but they’re different and new. The familiar is revisited but not entirely the same.

Later in the movie Simon need’s a lawyer. So Mark goes to Diane, a person he had a fling with one time but has remained in-contact with. Like all the others Kelley McDonald return to reprise her role. In both movies Diane is what Mark wants to be but can never reach. In the original she was the new and exciting free spirit that found balance of fun while not being self destructive. Now she has formed into a mature and successful adult.

The movies main theme is nostalgia. These were once young men that lived their lives every day and for every second, but now all those times didn’t amount to anything. They’re not happy with how it all turned out and wish for a time when they could be happy-go-lucky again. But they cant.

Was this sequel necessary? Probably not, the ending to the first one is satisfactory enough. Though to the young people that have just discovered either the book of the film and see it as a way of life this will show them that there is still the rest of your life that you have to live. And for the youths that loved it when it came out may find some comfort in realising that they turned out better than the characters they once admired. And if there in the same place as the characters in the movie then this can be their wake-up call to change.

 

REVIEW: ‘SINNERS CLUB’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

“A clever and interesting production fronted by an incredible musical talent…”

(3 / 5)

Fresh from the magic and wonder of ‘Wonderman’ at the Tramshed in 2016, ‘Rock and Roll Theatre’ production company Gagglebabble are back: this time at The Other Room, a pub theatre making a mark in Cardiff as an edgy hub of experimental, cutting edge theatre.

Partnering with Theatr Clwyd, a company keen to push the boundaries with their productions, this ‘gin-soaked blood and guts’ production kicks off The Other Room’s ‘Outliers’ season.

Exploring the dark underbelly of human nature, the production aims to tell the story of Ruth Ellis the last woman in the UK (originally from Rhyl) to be hanged.

Lead actor, singer, musician and composer (phew!) Lucy Rivers is the first writer in residence for Theatr Clwyd and she, along with band ‘The Bad Mothers’  have created an interactive stop-start ‘live recording session’ experience. 

From the start the scene is set, the audience are ushered into the tiny smoky space, resembling a living room-come-recording studio.  We witness the preparation for the session, the banter between the band and the studio manager’s voice directing the session.

The space is deliberately compact; audience members will feel at times they are eyeball to eyeball with the singer.  It feels intensely personal and almost uncomfortably  intrusive and this potency and crossing of the boundaries is actively encouraged and played with throughout the piece.  

Audience members help deliver lines, help Rivers with costume changes and even help her take off her boots.  Later, another audience member is given a musical instrument to play and the band pass around a bowl of turkish delight after Rivers has a bit of a wobble and the ‘recording session’ takes a break.  

A very loose chronology unfolds of the life of Ruth Ellis. But where her story and the story of other women untangle themselves didn’t really become clear to me. At times I wasn’t sure whose story was whose and details of the different stories clashed or contradicted themselves. Was this Ruth’s story or someone else’s?  I never claimed to be the quickest off the mark and my brain may have been fried by 9 hours of office time beforehand but…I struggled a bit. 

There was one passing line in reference to Ruth Ellis being from Rhyl, but the production focuses on human relationships in the main.  I would have enjoyed a bit more detail / exploration of Ruth’s identity as a Welsh woman and her ‘trial by press’, though there are extracts and snippets of pictures/clips here and there in the audio visuals and soundtrack.  Her experience could have been anywhere but it could have been interesting to pick up on these elements, too.  

Between the compelling and beautifully crafted musical score, Katy Morison’s lighting, the costume changes, the sound effects, asides and audience jokes, the mini in-between scenes, the projections and the video, it might be difficult for some audience members to follow in places.  

The play does very successfully embody the spirit of a true recording session – at times you feel as though you are in an actual drama or at a jazz club, but I can’t hand on heart say I felt like I truly appreciated or understood the true character or true story of Ruth Ellis.

I think what the production does manage to do well is to use Ruth Ellis as a posterchild/an example of the wronged woman, the rebel, the slut, the non-conformer, the loose woman.  She embodies the fear, distrust and objectification of women.  Women like Ruth Ellis are interesting not only because of the crimes they have committed but because they have deviated so very far from the gender-specific norms and usual trajectory of the ‘wife and mother’ that is part of the status quo even now.  

We all have wickedness and weaknesses within us, this was a theme throughout Sinners Club.  These themes are wonderfully weaved into the songs, supported and lifted by The Bad Mothers, who help add richness and depth to the experiences in the play with their moody riffs and melodies.

How well Sinners Club translates the ‘voice’ or experience of Ruth Ellis, I can’t truly say, but one thing that was the absolute driving force of this production was the sheer un self-conscious magnetism and watchability of Lucy Rivers, who commands the attention of everyone in the room at all times.

This was not quite the play to watch after a long day at work or if you have any sort of aversion to strobe lighting (I had to close my eyes tightly as my eyes couldn’t take it!), BUT this really is a clever and interesting production fronted by an incredible musical talent.  

For most people this will not feel like the type of  lazy ‘switch off and smile’ theatre you might have grown comfortable with – this is theatre that challenges you and forces you to question what it is you’re watching, to ask questions of it and yourself.  This is something Gagglebabble are really good at producing and based on what I have seen so far – the ‘gig-theatre’ approach is never dull or routine.  It is basically a theatre version of a bag of Revels.

This was an amazing start to The Other Room’s ‘Outliers’ Spring 2017 season and now that this tiny theatre with a big presence has won ‘Best Theatre of the Year’ at the 2016 Stage Awards and a clutch of other prizes at the Welsh Theatre Awards, I really can’t wait to see what comes next. Expect more great things from these guys…

Type of show:   Theatre

Title:   Sinners Club

Venue:   The Other Room, Porters (Cardiff)

Dates:   7th – 24th February (PN 9th Feb)

Writer/Composer:   Lucy Rivers

Directed by:  Titas Halder

Singer:   Lucy Rivers

Band:   The Bad Mothers

Lighting Designer:   Katy Morison

Sound Designer:   Sam Jones

Video and Projection:   Nic Finch

Running time:   1hr 45min (approx)

Produced by:   Gagglebabble / Theatr Clwyd / The Other Room

Review Escaped Alone The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

You can listen to Hannah’s review below, the written review is below that.

(4 / 5)

As I have previously stated, Caryl Churchill is easily one of my favourite playwrights. After seeing ‘Pigs and Dogs’ a few months earlier, to hear that this production of ‘Escaped Alone’ is only 50 minutes long is not surprising. While not all her plays are so short in time in comparison to a lot of productions on the theatre circuit at the moment, there is something really clever and interesting that she is able to condense so much emotion, thought provocation and comedy in a small amount of time, with the ability to make a serious point about current times.

Escaped Alone sees 4 older women sat in a garden, talking about whatever comes to mind. In 50 minutes we hear their darkest fears and confessions, with each character being established easy, quickly and well, not only with the writing but by the performer’s abilities. We have times of conversation which borderlines Harold Pinter’s coined writing of short sentences, interruption and pause, soliloquies of the characters and what they are really thinking and feeling away from the conversation, and our newest member of the gang who had happened to stumble on this group, breaking away from the scene entirely to give us a description or perhaps prediction of how man and his obsessions and excess have impacted our World; apocalyptic in ideals, it is strangely darkly comical but also slightly frightening.

Some will recognise and feel star struck by the cast – Linda Bassett, our newbie to the group, is well known for her role in the current show Call The Midwife; Deborah Findley, the lady with an irrational fear of cats, from many roles, notably the recent The Lady in the Van and a return to The Royal Court stage from The Children back in December 2016; Kika Markham, our lady with a fear of going outside, also well  versed in UK television such as Mr Selfridge and Call the Midwife; And finally our funny lady of manslaughter, June Watson, another regular to The Royal Court and of whom joined Findley in The Lady in the Van. These regulars to our TV, Film and Theatre scenes of course know their theatre, know their skills and simply comparing them from this production to former roles can see that with age, certainly comes experience. They are able to complement one another, bring a sense of naturalism and realism to the piece, so that when we have cut aways and taken from the scene to monologues, it breaks the ease and breaks this natural barrier – we are then not just listening to 4 women chatting over a cup of tea.

Again, The Royal Court never ceases to amaze. With each production, they are able to take such natural and seemly relatable texts and turn it on its head. A simple garden scene, is then punctured by bright lighting and dark and deep dialogue. It really becomes an experience, and in the context of Escaped Alone, creates uncertainty (that we welcome) as to whether parts are comical, serious, or a farce.

Churchill and The Royal Court gel together better than tea and biscuits.

Escaped Alone

Get the Chance Creative Associate Jonny Cotsen on #Fresh2Deaf

Get the Chance Creative Associate Jonny Cotsen on #Fresh2Deaf

Dance is a universal language. That’s why I think it is so special. Some people choose to sing in the shower every morning but me…I dance in the kitchen to start my day, and now I have some new moves thanks to Jukebox Collective and Chris Fonseca.

I walked into Jukebox Collective Studios based underneath the railway track in town on a cold, wet and grey Cardiff day, not knowing what to expect but excited about what was ahead. I was hoping that it would be a dance class that I could follow; where I could follow the moves of the teacher and which would make allowances for my complete lack of coordination…oh, and hearing! The class was physical, emotional and ended up being more inspiring than I could have ever imagined. I have tried to do a few dance classes in the past, but this is one is definitely the most memorable.

Chris Fonseca who led the dance class is completely deaf. Chris is a London-based dancer and choreographer has defied all by continuing to teach and dance despite his deafness. He shot to fame by being part of Smirnoff Ice’s “ Keep It Moving” campaign. Whenever I saw the advert or the promo poster it made my spine tingle because of Smirnoff’s hashtag #KeepItMoving and #deafdancers. The advert reiterated the fact that dance is a universal language and like he says in the advert… “We can’t hear the lyrics but we FEEL the beat!”

After seeing the advert so much last Summer I was a) desperate to meet him and b) I wanted to make this happen in Cardiff!

I was fortunate enough that Jukebox Collective wanted to bring this experience to Cardiff. Jukebox Collective are a creative company focused on the delivery of the highest quality performing arts education, performance and consultancy. It was founded by Liara Barussi, and is recognised as a leading company for dance in the UK. Jukebox studios has a particular emphasis on the training and professional development of young people.

With the exciting news that Jukebox Collective had become a new Regularly Funded Organisation funded by Arts Council Wales, we exchanged ideas of running an inclusive group within their existing academies. I was delighted to be asked to work with them to consult and advise on how to make this happen. I have always been a big fan of their work especially their involvement with ‘Breakin’ the Bay’ conventions, an annual event at the WMC (worth checking out if you haven’t seen to see it!!).

Inspired by what they had seen of Chris from the Smirnoff adverts, they were really keen to set up the first ever deaf dance group in Wales. I met up with Sylvia Kulesza, who co-ordinated the project and a plan was hatched to bring Chris to Cardiff for an open session at the studios. The hope was that this session would inspire deaf people and Jukebox could then run regular dance sessions for deaf people. I could barely contain my excitement of the idea and loved that Sylvia shared my passion and enthusiasm for making this happen. Sylvia also came up with the idea of calling it #Fresh2Deaf!

As part of the plan, I agreed to do a Deaf Awareness workshop the week prior to the dance class for the Jukebox Academies who range in age from 11 to 19 years.

I wanted the Deaf Awareness workshop to be engaging, fun and informative. I felt it was really important for them to learn how to communicate with deaf people, to understand the right terminology and have a better understanding of deafness. The students were great. We did lots of deaf-aware games, learnt basic finger-spelling and signs, and of course each one of them got their own ‘sign-name’. I felt so blessed to do this with such lovely and passionate group of young people.

The following week was the first ever #Fresh2Deaf open session!!

As well as the students from Jukebox Academy, half of the class were deaf and we all had the feeling that we were not going let our impairment put us off because we were all there for the joy of dance. Chris was really calm and made us feel really confident. Watching someone like Chris chase his dreams is really inspiring to watch and I can see how he can influence younger deaf people.

Chris used sign-language and an interpreter relayed the message for those that did not know sign-language. The attraction that Chris has to hip-hop is magnetic! He can’t hear the music so he relies on the vibrations from the heavy deep bass to count the music while he teaches so that he can stay on beat.

“I love hip-hop music because the bass is so strong on it, and I just love that,” he said. “The structure of the rhythm is something that I really connect to easily. All it takes is one beat, and I’m there!”

After a quick and very physical warm-up, Chris taught us how tocount the beat through vibrations, so that we could stay in time with the beat. The music was blasting so loud that the bass was heavy enough for every one of us especially those that were deaf to FEEL. I was initially worried about the older deaf members in the group but they had just as much energy as the younger ones. Seeing the older member made me think that age is no deterrent to dance, the same as our disability. Jane, who is 63 years old and goes to Bridgend Deaf Club told me afterwards that it was one of the best times she had.

It was also lovely to see some of the Jukebox Collective Academy students mixing with the younger deaf people. Taylor, one of the more experienced academy students was doing basic signing and fingerspelling too. That really excited me!

After the workshop we had a Q&A with Chris (and we needed a breather!). It was really interesting to hear him speak so openly about his life, his influences, his passion and he spoke with so much enthusiasm. Since his advert has been aired, he said that people have come up to him and said they have been inspired. Chris said there have been lots of really positive responses which are really lovely and heart-warming so he says his aim is to give something back to the deaf community and get more recognition of sign language. He wanted to show the importance of deaf culture and get hearing people interested in learning dance through deaf persons experience.

I have always thought and felt that dance was something that as a deaf person is not an easy thing to do because there is that major barrier, hearing the music! A lot of hearing people think that if you are deaf then there is no way that you can dance. Chris defies that perception and you have to admire him for that. Ever since I got into the Arts, with my vision in life to make the Arts more accessible and more inclusive, I like Chris, am working daily to break down those barriers!

My final thoughts…I recently got a tweet from Cardiff’s Boiler House, a venue that does graffiti and pop-up events, who reminded me that I had a conversation with them about 5 years ago I had spoken with them about my vision to do hip-hop dance classes in Cardiff for deaf people. I totally forgot I had that conversation and it just reminded me that you have to believe in yourself to make it happen and never give up believing! I hope Jukebox Collective #Fresh2Deaf project will lead the way to make this a reality to happen in Wales.

How do you know if you don’t try?

Contact abby@jukeboxcollective.com for more information about #Fresh2Deaf workshops

 

Review Pink Mist Sherman Theatre by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

(4 / 5)

Pink Mist, Owen Sheer’s highly acclaimed verse-drama, follows three cocksure Bristolian teens as they venture out of their mundane lives and into military, service and manhood. It is a story passed from generation to generation. What is duty and honour?

There is a reading below of Laurens review to listen to.

When discussing a piece of theatre – in those post-show discussions, with friends, when you are so casually trying to assert your immensely dominate intellectualism and philosophical nature over them – there always seems to be that continuous occurrence of certain words within your vocabulary, or maybe that repetition just shows my own intellect… but, to me, Pink Mist is simply beautiful. Beautiful, bold, and stunning. Heartrending, really.

Pink Mist is alight. Flickering then scorching, but that’s just good theatre, really. It is Sheers, however, that kindles the human psych through his poetry. I say poetry, not poetic language, not verse-drama, or monologue, because Sheers is massively contributing to the changing face of contemporary poetry. In a recent interview with Owen Sheers, he claimed that young people bring an electricity and an energy that cannot be compared, as audience members. It’s true. The school-trippers were out in mass, and they jumped, and they cried, and one girl gave the most, devotedly, dramatic gasp, I’ve ever heard! I’ve never seen an audience so willing to stand on their feet, other than in a school hall for their grandchildren. Teenagers really feel when given an outlet to do so. Young people really invest in stories, they’re less restrained and emotionally analytical, and they’re waiting for their own to begin. In Pink Mist that Sheers gives an extraordinary level of investment and empathy to the voices of these young people.

George Mann’s movement is captivating, compassionate and spirited. Technical aspects stimulated a sensory bombardment and affirmation. Both give scope to the artistic possibilities which the piece, furthermore, inspires. The piece, somewhat, enigmatic and abstract proves to challenge the given understanding, the status quo and the audience’s perception. And that’s why, I think, young people can fly with the piece. We’re spoon fed too much in today’s media. We’re capable of discovery because it is demanded by art – it is, and we are, more than the memorising and compressing of facts into some soul-devouring mock essay question that serves, actually, very little purpose to our society, to be honest with you.

Dan Krikler exudes charisma, Alex Stedman’s warmth, as an actor, is exemplary, and Peter Edwards’s Taff stands as perhaps the most endearing of all. However, the women of this piece, Rebecca Hamilton, Rebecca Kilick, and Zara Ramm, are exceptionally wholehearted; commanding a platform as pronounced as that of the boys’. The cast are one unity, a compact driving force. Yet, they’re either in isolation, or serving the microcosm which could deny a, certain, compulsive empathy. Perhaps it is through a dynamic distancing that provides an intensity, otherwise unattainable. So, I didn’t leave the theatre distraught, that night, like some very emotional valley girls (which was, actually, really funny), but I left upset; with a contentment in the knowledge that Pink Mist is a societal tragedy.

Pink Mist Tour
National Tour
31 Jan – 1 Apr 2017

Presented by Nick Williams Productions

31 Jan-1 Feb, Aberystwth Arts Centre
2-4 Feb, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
7-9 Feb, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
14-18 Feb, Oxford Playhouse
23-25 Feb, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
7-11 Mar, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
14 Mar, Pontio, Bangor
17-18 Mar, Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
20-21 Mar, Theatre Royal Winchester
23-25 Mar, Birmingham Rep
28 Mar-1 Apr, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Review The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini by Sian Thomas

 

(5 / 5)

 

I  recently read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and I don’t know if I have the words to describe my reaction to it.

Five stars, first of all, let’s start there. I don’t think I want anyone I’m close to missing out on such an outstanding and completely mesmerising book like this one. I’ve read so many books lately, and all of them have been good, but I think they have been good in their own right. However, none of them (at least, none of the recent ones I’ve read) have been quite as enthralling as this.

I don’t want to go too far into the plot (I don’t think, for one, I could do it justice as it was incredibly intertwined and intricate), however I do want to say that it’s probably the saddest and most bittersweet plots I’ve ever had the utmost pleasure to experience. Two boys in Afghanistan, their lives and endeavours and trials and tribulations to come – everything life throws at them. It was truly tragic, with sprinkling happiness and and overall wonderful redemption.
Sad stories are the best ones, I think. But I never expected this tale to be so true of that statement and also, somehow, change it. Sad stories are the best stories. I’ve learnt about the concept of catharsis at school and I think I really, truly, felt it. So maybe sad stories are the best ones, but maybe the sadness should be in moderation for me (it was really, honest and truly, the most heart wrenching and devastating yet amazing books I’ve ever read).

One of the things I’ve noticed after reading this was how sure I usually am that, as a reader, I am going to receive my happy ending. This book changed that. Situation after situation that tugged my heartstrings and made me tearful made me less and less sure of myself. I’ve felt the normal, almost-rush of fear when you notice a book has a lot to complete yet so little pages to do it in. And I had that with this book. Yet, with every other book I’ve read I haven’t truly felt afraid that things wouldn’t work out. I always knew they would, because they always do. I didn’t have this with this book.
I was unsure. A good kind of unsure. An exciting and all-encompassing unsure that left me not knowing if there could possibly be a happy ending coming my way after the turmoil the main character (Amir) had gone through, as well as the turmoil all the other characters had gone through, as well. There was one, single chapter left, and I did not know whether, within about the forty minutes it would take me to read it, I would be grinning or crying. Eventually, it was both, and I’m quite happy with that.

As I said, it was an extremely bittersweet book, with the excellent kind of plot execution that always draws you in for the entire time (and then some – I’ve only just finished it and it’s still the only thing on my mind). It had the kind of writing that was honestly beautiful, full of lovely description and meaningful dialogue and fantastic general, actual, real storytelling which struck a cord somewhere within me and really made my heart feel for it(/the characters).

I bought it to expand my horizons, to diversify my bookshelf. And I’m so glad I did. I went in borderline completely blind, and I came out the other side a little different to how I went in. I’ve been given a history lesson, a gratitude lesson, and probably also a lesson on writing (which I hope to carry into the future).

I feel as if, through reading this book, the kind of problems I have faced or am expecting to face have been minimised and put a little into place. Which doesn’t erase them, but does make me feel a lot more at ease with my life tonight than it did when I woke up in the morning. And I like that. I’m happy I got that. It was unexpected and nice, almost like an extra gift from the author as well as a phenomenal experience.

An Interview with Elise Davison on Access and Breaking out of the Box 3

The Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Elise Davison Artistic Director of Taking Flight Theatre Company. Elise discussed her career to date, the arts in Wales, access issues and Breaking out of the Box 3.

This short video is an introduction from Elise Davison Artistic Director of Flight Theatre company. Elise introduced herself and briefly discusses Breaking out of the Box 3. There is an audio sound file interview with Elise below and a written one below that.

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

Hi, I started out as performer and toured for about 10 years living out of suitcase and having a reasonably successful career. I was also a drama teacher so that plugged any gaps on my theatre work. In 2008 I set up Taking Flight Theatre company with Beth House and in 2009 I moved to Cardiff, had my first child and I started directing. In 2010 I hung up my acting shoes and began my life as a theatre director and I love it!

So what got you interested in the arts?

My mum and my grandmother both danced to a high standard and despite some really exciting opportunities – neither of them went on to pursue it as a career and I think they both regretted it. I always thought I would be a dancer and studied ballet until I was 21. I realised, however, years before that that my real passion was for acting and so I went to Warwick University to study theatre – it was a very academic course and after graduating I felt I needed more practical training so I went to drama school in Birmingham ( I wanted to come to Cardiff then but it didn’t work out!)

Taking Flight have organised an event called Breaking out of the Box 3, I wonder if you can tell us more about this event?

Yes – it’s an access symposium focussing in particular about ways to increase access for blind and visually impaired audience members. We’ve got a really exciting line up and we will explore practical approaches to audio description and tactile access materials. We will discuss ways to access the blind and visually impaired audiences and hear about the innovative Ramps on the Moon initiative happening in England at the moment. I am really looking forward to it.

http://www.takingflighttheatre.co.uk/breaking-out-of-the-box-3/

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists?
There are always barriers especially surrounding with access, but as a country need to recognise these barriers and realise that we have a joint responsibility to start breaking these down. I feel there has been a lot of progress in the last few years in Wales to tackle some of these barriers but there is still such a long way to go.

As an inclusive company Taking Flight also carefully consider their potential audiences.  I wonder if you think there are any barriers for them to access cultural provision in Wales? On a positive I wonder if you can think of any examples of good practice?
One thing always strikes me as odd – there are often a lot of forums discussing access with no one who will be using that access present to say what they actually need. In 2015 TF did a lot of work with the D/deaf community in Wales to find out why they weren’t accessing theatre and how we could start to address this. The stories about mistrust of venues came flooding out. Stories of broken hearing loop, broken captions and shows billed as being interpreted not being. We realised that so much need to be done to make people trust that access would be provided before we could even start to build our audience. The blind and visually impaired audience also struggled to trust that their access requirements would be met. In addition it was hard to get the message out to the right people that shows were accessible. It was then that we started to look at our marketing and began developing BSL and audio flyers and made sure that the correct access symbols were clearly displayed.
The Hynt card is a great scheme and Sherman 5 have done some excellent work engaging new audiences.

http://www.hynt.co.uk/en/

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

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

I’m going to be a bit predictable and say access but I feel so strongly about this. I feel people are put off by the cost and the fact that it eats into your budget so much. I would make access costs an extra pot which sits on top of grant limits. This is because – I believe it is a human right to be able to access the arts and sometimes this is denied due to financial constraints – or companies are forced to choose which access to provide. In an ideal world -all shows should be captioned, be BSL interpreted and be audio described – or have that provision available so that D/deaf and disabled people have the same choice as non disabled people. Access is expensive, so I would like to take the barrier of cost away so people can be freer to experiment with creative access.

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 arts community in Wales – it’s a wonderful place to live and make theatre. It’s a generous and support network and I feel honoured to be part of it. I’ve just comeback from an access forum (organised by Rhian Lewis at National Theatre Wales) where Jo Verrent spoke about Unlimited and it was wonderful, there were some amazing discussions, passion and desire to make a change.

http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/group/access-forum?commentId=3152760%3AComment%3A248505

I’m massively looking forward to seeing Graeae’s production of House of Bernarda Alda especially as one of TF’s associate artists Chloe Clarke is performing in it!

The House of Bernarda Alba

 

Thanks for your time Elise.

Review Ghost in the Shell by Jonathan Evans

(5 / 5)

Great Science-Fiction asks questions about what is going on in the time that they are made and gives us a vision of what all that will lead to. Now that it is over twenty years old, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell remains as a pinnacle of great science fiction by still being so relevant because it’s questions are still being asked now.

In the year 2029, the world’s international tensions are still high and the police still do their best to keep the world in as much order as they can. However technology has upped the game, now there is virtual hacking and information deliverance and speed is the name of the game. Just being human won’t cut it anymore so both sides now come with enhancements. They can now trade-in their organic parts and have them replaced with cybernetic upgrades. A brain that can have instant access to the police data logs or act as a radio, more powerful limbs etc. But there are some that are cybernetic from the ground-up. Enter The Major,a woman by appearance but everything from her hair, eyes to her brain has been manufactured. She even comes equipped camouflage capabilities that allows her to disappear.

Probably one of the biggest distinguishing aspects of the movie as well as whats played a part in making it so popular as well as recognizable is the choice to have it main character appear nude for a significant chunk of the movie. On one side, sex sells and there are undoubtedly many that simply come for the exposed breasts. However there are many intellectuals that still find merit in the movie beyond that choice. But lest focus on this part of it. Our opening sequence is the Major being built, the cybernetics, then the fake flesh, then finally the artificial skin. Early on we know that this is not a real woman before us, at least in body , you can observe at her sexualized proportions and say “That was definitely designed by a man” but here it literal on both sides, which adds to it.

Japanese animation operates at a different mentality than what the West will be used to with the Disney movies. First of all they make their movies at a lover frame rate, the West have twenty-four frames a second, while the East have sixteen, this means that they are allowed to have more moments quiet behavior rather than being in constant Ballet mode.They also don’t feel the need to have the characters in constant motion. Sometimes, or even many times they will land on a piece of framing and cinematography and have that be the shot throughout the scene, or for an extended time. It is a method of film-making that is primarily cost effective but can lead to moment of greater poignancy.

Much like Akira and Blade Runner the movie presents us with a city that is like the ones we have now, however elevated through the increase of technology. The building are more higher and technologically designed and advertisements are also everywhere however they are no longer flat projections, they have become three dimensional holograms and move around the building themselves (some even as bug as the buildings). In the slums every inch is used up to accommodate the mass population and is trash heavy and rustic.

We quickly learn that a terrorist is in Japan, one named The Puppet-Master. Who exactly he is nobody knows. They track down an inadvertent accomplice who’s a trash man trying to make money to help-out his daughter, however when they take him in it’s revealed that he has never been married and never had a daughter. This is a world where the enemy can manipulate civilians memories to make them do their tasks. It’s then quickly revealed that The Puppet-Master is actually an artificial intelligence, they simply call it him and he due to typical language conventions. What it really, or at least physically is, is electronic information.

The main theme, or at least the most prominent theme of the movie is what lies beneath. It is about pealing back the layers of what something seemingly is and getting to some sense of truth.

There is a sequence in this movie that consists of images, music and no dialog. It is shots of the city, the major moving through it, while passing she catches a glimpse of someone that resembles her at a restaurant. Nothing really comes of it and it’s not mentioned again but it plants the seeds for so many ideas. Was that a real person that the Major was based on? Is that another cyborg and her face is simply one of many identical ones? Was that even real or was that us getting a view into her imagination? I don’t know. I don’t need to know, because a crystal clear explanation would subtract from the interesting questions that I and/or someone else will come to through the watching and then we can discuss. It is the kind of scene where the robot part of your brain will tell you that it is inconsequential and should be cut, but the emotional, curious side needs it there.

With the heavy science fiction theme and images you would expect the musical score to be some kind of techno/synth style, but no. The score by Kenji Kawai is one of human chanting and traditional instruments. Nothing synthetic. A musical score can be considered the emotional layering on-top a movie, or its spirit.

The main theme, or at least the most prominent theme of the movie is what lies beneath. It is about pealing back the layers of what something seemingly is and getting to some sense of truth. Throughout the movie The Major keeps referring to “Twitch in my Ghost.” In context they are basically instincts, but it is what cannot be programed or truly logically explained in that machine way. They are those abstract feelings that have immense power over our decisions.

The Puppet-Master arranges for his body to be stolen out of the police headquarters. The team peruses and eventually, it’s just the two of them. Finally comes the encounter between The Major and The Puppet-master, taking place in some kind of old dance hall. He has gained control over a tank, which in this day and age is shaped more like a beetle. She dodges and shoots what she can but the armor is too tough, so she distracts it and then gets on-top if it in an attempt to rip off its panel. She pushes her artificial body to the limits and beyond, contorting her body to become incredibly butch in appearance, but even that is not enough, her circuits themselves rip out, leaving her limbless and only a torso.

It looks like the end but one of her colleague arrives to put the tank out of business. What is left is two beings that are no longer capable of psychical movement, only thought. In their time conversing The Puppet-Master proposes a merging to the Major, a merging of their minds.

With The Puppet-Master and The Major merged what we have now is something new. With her adult body destroyed in the fight the only replacement that could be found is a child’s one. Neither entirely him not her, their child? Where will she go now and what lies ahead of her? I don’t know. In the beginning the movie asks the question what makes us human, or what makes something living, at the end resolutions are made like any satisfying narrative but the really big one goes unanswered because it will never be answered.

In order for a ghost to be made something must first be living, right? Something must be there is whatever physical entity harbors it. Japan has a different relationship with technology than other countries. It’s more harmonious, encouraged and celebrated, they don’t fear or distrust the progress that’s been made, they’re quite proud of it. Ghost in the Shell is intricately detailed in many regards but it also operates so much in the blank spaces, leaving the audience to guess and fill in the blanks on their own steam. If you want something to flat out give you all the answered there are many other mediums that can give it to you like that. But a movie should have faith in it’s audience and that they can work things out for themselves. Besides, these questions can never be properly answered.

Review : La Cage Aux Folles, New Theatre By James Briggs

(5 / 5)

Cardiff’s New Theatre was packed to the rafters with a dazzling array of glitter and sequins last night for the first performance of La Cage aux Folles. The musical adaptation of French playwright Jean Poiret’s script is largely recognised as one of the greatest modern musicals. The stage production, directed by Martin Connor, is a throwback to the old glamour and glitz associated with the French Riviera but also has a very key message in the story.

One of the leading characters, Georges, is played by the US TV and Broadway actor Adrian Zmed who greets the audience with a heartfelt welcome to La Cage. There was something a little different about this cabaret, however, in the form of all the main performers in the cast being men dressed as women.

‘La Cage’ is a drag cabaret club in the heart of Saint Tropez, run by Georges and his very flamboyant husband Albin who is played by West End actor and former Eastenders star John Partridge. As the audience are waiting for Albin’s arrival on stage we are first greeted by the appearance of his on-stage alter ego Zaza. John Partridge creates an impressive character as he struts across the stage in a robe and a pair of high heels. He wins over the audience from the beginning and really gives the part his all.

The story unfolds when Georges and Albin’s son, Jean- Michele, (Georges’ from a previous relationship) arrives to tell his father that he is engaged to Anne, the daughter of a French politician who is well-known for his conservative views. Jean- Michele played by Dougie Carter drops a few bombshells on his dad. Including that of breaking the news to Albin that he can’t be there when the parents come over for dinner at their home.

Albin is horrified when he hears the news and his disappointment leads to a spine tingling performance from John Partridge of the musical’s most iconic number ‘I Am What I am’. Georges and Albin soon make up and it’s easy to like the two contrasting co-stars who have a brilliant on-stage chemistry with each other which could be compared to that of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi in the ITV series Vicious. The arrival of Dindon, the French politician, and his apparently conservative wife raised the bar once again on the entertainment as Albin comes up with a hilarious plan to meet the in-laws to be.

John Partridge’s performance as Albin and Zaza is absolutely superb and while the audience cheered and got to its feet for the entire cast, the largest applause and cheers were saved for him. During the performance John Partridge fell down some of the stairs on stage but being the true professional he is, kept in character and even made a joke about it. He carried on with the rest of the show and came on for the second act. Following the show John Partridge had to go to A&E and I really have to applaud him for being so professional and continuing with the show despite being in pain.

All of the cast were amazing and really very talented especially during the tap dancing scenes in which the male dancers very skillfully danced in high heels and gowns. A special mention must also go to Samson Ajewole who played Jacob and was exceptionally funny. He delivered a very strong performance and was one of the stars of the evening. As too was Marti Webb who played Jacqueline and created a very likeable character for the audience.

The stage sets used during the show were simply divine. All of the scenes in the show were very well thought out and the sets changed seamlessly. My personal favourite set design of the show was that of the stage at La Cage. The show saw a theatre stage constructed within a stage which is shown in the picture below and worked really well as it gave the audience the perspective of watching a whole different theatre on stage.

La Cage Aux Folles is a brilliant and moving, feel-good production that will be guaranteed to leave you smiling as you walk out the theatre doors and taking a whole new look on life. I urge everyone who get’s the chance to see the show to go as you will not regret it!

La Cage Aux Folles is currently on a UK tour so make sure you visit the New Theatre website in the link below and book your tickets before its too late.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/la-cage-aux-folles/