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

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

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

I replied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(5 / 5)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(3 / 5)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About

An interview with Tom Goddard Project Producer at Criw Celf, A2:Connect

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 Criw Celf workshops 2016

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

I’m a visual artist mainly working in film and performance. I like to work with people and my projects have included customised football wall charts, an odyssey across Wales, an archive to a lake monster, a journey into neolithic welsh life. I have recently had my films shown in Buenos Aires, Argentina and at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.

I position my work on the line between truth and fiction, considering how public anxieties have intensified within the axis of the modern world through an obsessive repetition of endless facts, where choices are seemingly endless.

I am an advocate for education and best practice in the arts as well as for the role of the artist in the 21st century.

You work for Arts Active Trust promoting arts activity for schools and communities in the central south region. Can you please give me more information on this and your work?

The Arts Active Trust is a charity that seeks to engage people of all ages with creative activities through working directly with artists and professional practitioners who can inspire and guide their development. A key part of the Arts Active programme is A2:Connect which is the Arts & Education network for the Central South region working to bring artists of all disciplines – music, drama, visual arts, literature etc. directly into our schools. In association with A2:Connect, Criw Celf Cardiff is a visual arts project for ‘More Able & Talented’ young artists at secondary school.

Then more specifically you are Project Producer at Criw Celf, what does your role entail?

I work one day a week managing the Criw Celf Cardiff programme of workshops and courses so I get to work with a wide range of visual artists, educators and arts professionals. I work directly with art teachers in secondary schools across Cardiff about how they can be involved in the scheme.

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 Criw Celf workshops 2016

In January 2017 I believe you will be supporting young people described as gifted and talented to Discover Artes Mundi 7, with nominated artist Bedwyr Williams. This sounds very exciting what will take place during these workshops and how do people get involved?

We’re very lucky to have Bedwyr coming down to Cardiff. He’s had a great year showing at the Barbican, Somerset House and being nominated for Artes Mundi 7. I’ve invited him because he is an inspiring Welsh artist who, through his work explores and asks questions about the world from different perspectives. The young people will be able to take a tour of Artes Mundi as well as taking part in workshops to produce art work of their own.

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You have a great deal of experience in the Visual Arts in Wales  Do you think the Visual Arts as a form still resonate for young people?

We live in a world more saturated with visual imagery than ever before. There is a media environment both on and off line that is telling young people what to look like, what to desire and what to care about. Visual arts in all of its forms, whether its film, sculpture or painting, offers a way to understand how to look, contextualise, empathise and learn tolerance in order to think about the kind of world you want to live in and create.

Learning is an active process and sensory input is something we construct a meaning out of, we then construct meanings and systems of meaning. It’s about curiosity, open-mindedness and understanding that not everything in a gallery or in a theatre is for you and if there isn’t anything that speaks to you, feeling empowered to do it yourself.

In the visual arts young people can go on intellectual adventures or get lost in the beauty or ugliness of something, in turn discovering new things and things about themselves.

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Young Art Force

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 many barriers both social and physical that exist for young people from lower income families which prevent them from engaging with arts and culture. One of the barriers I feel we can tackle easily is the language used to describe arts and culture which often can prohibit and distance families as well as being irrelevant to today’s young people.

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 Black Kettle Collective performing Protest Song

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

I think I would do away with areas of the arts and instead concentrate on funding strong and transformational projects. Many of the projects would be cross disciplinary so creativity is supported rather than discriminating between artistic forms.

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 Young Art Force

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? 

What excites me is cross disciplinary partnerships and collaboration. Genuine connections with a range of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. An openness to change and link Cardiff and Wales with other international cities rather than always comparing ourselves to other cities in the UK.

I enjoyed Artes Mundi this year – Bedwyr Williams’s Ty Mawr and John Akomfrah at Artes Mundi were strong stand out films for me.

As part of a partnership between Chapter and Artes Mundi I saw The Stuart Hall Project, Akomfrah’s film documenting the life of cultural theorist Stuart Hall who is one of my heroes. Hall was integral to exploring social change in Britain and I’ve often thought of him being the voice of God. Ever changing and always thinking, flexible and rational.

Another standout was S Mark Gubb ‘Revelations: The Poison of Free Thought, Part II’ and Mike Kelley’s ‘Mobile Homestead’ supported by Artangel at g39 and Cardiff Contemporary.

I went to the reopening of Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea which includes film work by Lindsey Seers and an exhibition related to Richard Glynn Vivian a Victorian traveller whose collection of over 12,000 works was gifted to the city of Swansea. I’m particularly interested in the story of early European porcelain and the Gallery has examples from the Meissen factory by sculptors Kaendler and Kircher which i normally travel to the V&A in London to see. There’s also Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, Picasso etc…Worth a visit!

Thanks for your time Tom.

Link below to further information on Criw Celf Cardiff – New Year Art Course

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/new-year-art-course-criw-celf-cardiff-tickets-29643221674

 

 

 

2016 Cultural Highlights from the Get the Chance team

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Members of the Get the Chance team have selected their own personal highlights of 2016. Their first choice is that of three cultural events that they have reviewed  Their second is something they have personally experienced which has resonance for them as an individual.

3rd Act Critic Helen Joy

1 Tom Jones, The Musical Theatr na nÓg

Local boy made good in spectacular style by a local theatre company, brought alive through the lucky chance of sitting next to the daughter of the publican 

Review Tom: A Story of Tom Jones, The Musical by Helen Joy

2 Animatorium – Dance on the pavement with NDCW

Gala Night, National Dance Company Wales

3 Kiss me Kate

“A feast WNO”

Kiss Me Kate, WNO

Personal Event of the year

“Being published, in a very minor capacity, in Country Smallholding magazine three times this year – and the latest article seemed to give so much pleasure to the group I reported on at the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival.”

Young Critic Amelia Seren

1. Clear-Cut @ M.A.D.E:

“The opportunity to catch a diverse range of artists or performers mid-thought, and to witness the creative process so intimately is valuable and rare. Clear-Cut is a must-see.”

Review Clear-Cut 6 M.A.D.E. – by Amelia Seren Roberts

2. Cardiff Contemporary: Festival of the Visual Arts in Cardiff. [Especially the work of S. Mark Gubb at G39 and the opening of TactileBosch].

3. Sticky Intimacy @ Chapter: Works by Katie Cuddon, Emma Hart and Nicholas Pope.

Personal Event of the year

My personal highlight of 2016 has been graduating from Cardiff School of Art & Design with a First Class Masters Degree in Fine Art, [MFA]. I am extremely grateful for the knowledge I’ve developed whilst studying in Cardiff, as well as the opportunity to have gained valuable work experience in the arts in South Wales.

Community Critic Emily Garside

1. Romeo and Juliet Taking Flight
“For taking a classic Shakespeare play that is perhaps overly familiar for some and making it fresh and new by putting inclusive art at the centre of creativity rather than an add on or afterthought.”

TAKING FLIGHT THEATRE: ROMEO & JULIET | STAGE REVIEW

2.  Meet Fred Hijinx

“A clever, touching and at times hilarious look at life and the obstacles it throws at us (literally at times) through the eyes of two foot high puppet Fred”

Theatre | Meet Fred

3. A Good Clean Heart Neonatopia at The Other Room

“How could you not love a play that has a Dizzy Rascal rap in Welsh?”

Highlights of the Year 2016 Part 1

Personal Event of the year

‘My most important happening/event would be the Brexit vote, for being something that is likely to impact our lives (including cultural) but also for uniting people in the face of divisions as well.”

Young Critic Lauren Ellis Stretch 

1 Scorch Primecut Productions at the Sherman Theatre

“Scorch is electrifying. It alights, and it shocks, it launches you, and it takes no prisoners. Never have I wanted an actor to look me in the eyes more than Amy McAllister. She was fierce without anguish, and she was light without compromise. She is your friend.”

Review, Not I and Scorch, Sherman Theatre by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

2 Bird The Sherman Theatre/Manchester Royal Exchange

Never have I experienced such encompassing performances. Bird holds  up a mirror to the real world and the audience are almost blinded by the familiar reflections.

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

3 The Weir the Sherman Theatre/Tobacco Factory

“A classic of contemporary theatre; empathetic, voyeuristic, and unnerving”

Review The Weir, The Sherman Theatre by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

 

Young Critic Sian Thomas 

1 The Cardiff Book Festival

“I had such a brilliant time, and I was in my element surrounded by people who share the same interests as me and them being supportive and friendly. Though we were all at different stages of writing while some of us were published where others weren’t, it wasn’t even about that. It was nice that we were all there for our common interest and that alone which built us all up. I loved that day so much.”
2  Wolfsong by TJ Klune

“Definitely the best book I’ve read all year”

Review Wolfsong TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

3 Peter Pan at the Everyman Festival

“A truly wonderful production which I wholeheartedly enjoyed and would gladly see again.”

Review Disneys Peter Pan at the Everyman Festival by Sian Thomas

Personal Event of the year

“The most important thing is that I had ages this summer to work on my own writing and used that to my advantage. I was able to write a cohesive and structured 23,000 words, which is so important to me and something I am immeasurably proud of. I’ve continued working on it outside of this and instead in chunks and scenes around schoolwork to build it up before hopefully piecing it altogether soon.”

Community Critic Gemma Treharne Foose

1 Meet Fred, Hijinx at The Other Room

A work of art! A clever Japanese-inspired political puppetry tale of modern times. Completely original and unlike anything else out there.

Review ‘Meet Fred’ Hijinx Theatre by Gemma Treharne-Foose

2 Wonderman Gagglebabble/NTW/WMC at the Tramshed

“A jazzy and dreamy musical extravaganza – colour, joy, wit and wonder, inspired by Dahl and extra magic added courtesy of National Theatre Wales and the Wales Millennium Centre.”

Review Wonderman, Gagglebabble by Gemma Treharne-Foose


3 Bird The Sherman Theatre/Manchester Royal Exchange

A spot-on portrayal of growing up ‘in the system’ and the pervasive strength and bond of family and friends. Edgy, authentic and deeply moving. My stomach was in nots and I was a sweaty mess watching it!

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Gemma Treharne-Foose

Other memorable ones to note:

The Borrowers, The Sherman Theatre-  “I didn’t review it but saw with my family – completely beautiful production, fell in love with all the characters and cast – laughed, cried and left on a happy cloud. Superb!”

The Hunting of the Snark, The Sherman Theatre: “Again I didn’t review but saw it with my family – poignant and sweet, a funny romp of a tale with stand out characters.”

“The Sherman Theatre  is nailing these family shows, they don’t talk down to the audience, they bring them in for a ‘catch’ and a chuckle instead. There’s substance to the shows without being preachy or basic. I have thoroughly enjoyed the family productions there this year, faultless!”

Young Critic Hannah Goslin

1. Three Penny Opera – National Theatre

Three Penny Opera is a mixture of comedy, escapism and taboo challenging, all combined with fantastic acting, vocal accompaniment and overall, an excellent theatre concept.

Review Threepenny Opera, National Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

2. Smash It Up – Mr & Mrs Clark, Battersea Arts Centre

“If there is only one thing you do this year, it should be to see any show by this formidable company. Their open and in your face opinion and protest to the state of art leaves you not only thinking but also rooting for them if you weren’t already involved In the conversation. Flying the flag for Wales – The Clarks have easily conquered London.”

Review Smash It Up, Mr and Mrs Clark, Battersea Arts Centre by Hannah Goslin

3. Unreachable – The Royal Court

“It was a joy and wonderful to see the actors finding the play just as funny as we did.”

Review Unreachable, The Royal Court, By Hannah Goslin

Personal Event of the year

‘This year I decided to spend two months seeing a glimpse of the World. Travelling through South America, stopping in Canada, heading to Japan, Thailand, India and a quick dip in Abu Dhabi, I went away as one person and came back as a better one. I saw amazing things, met interesting people and found part of who I really am. An experience unlike any other.”

3rd Act Critic Barbara Michaels

1 The Marinsky  Ballet

Superlatives are usually to be avoided when writing a review. There are, however, exceptions. Perfection is the word that springs to mind. 5*

Mariinsky Ballet – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

2 Mandela by the Cape Town Opera Company at the WMC

A unique piece of musical theatre and a history lesson.

Mandela Trilogy – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

3 Romeo and Juliet Performed by the National Youth Theatre of Wales.

A cast of talented young actors under a brilliant artistic director daring to add their own interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.

Romeo and Juliet – New Theatre, Cardiff

Personal Event of the year

“As for my own top personal cultural experience – it is yet to come. On Christmas Eve, no less, when as a surprise present my family is taking me to Sadler’s Well’s to see a performance of Matthew Bourne’s new ballet ‘The Red Shoes.’ It has had rave reviews. Will be touring, so hopefully coming to Cardiff in 2017.”

Young Critic Osian Evans
1. Hub Fest

“Hub fest was spot on this year with it’s street party vibe, I wish Womanby street was like that every weekend. Dancing to a silent disco in a courtyard was a highlight for me.”.

2 Cardiff’s screening of Rogue One

3  Swn Fest

“It’s just perfect. It’s a festival that not only showcases the City of Cardiff but also the wonderful atmosphere of the city.”

Review Sŵn Fest by Osian Ifans

Personal Event of the year

“My personal event would be Foyer Sessions on the 29th of April at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. Yeah I chose my own event and what!? That’s the reason it was personal, it was great to see that many people turn up to see some live music and look at some art.”

Young Critic Kaitlin Wray

1. Constellation Street The Other Room Theatre

“The monologues interlinked beautifully. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and would love to be taken on that journey again.”

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray


2. Henry VI by Omidaze at WMC

“I would recommend everyone to watch this show, Shakespeare fan or not. Omidaze are challenging theatre conventions even more than we’ve ever seen and you should be a part of this experience.”

Review Henry VI Omidaze by Kaitlin Wray


3. Bird – Sherman Cymru/Manchester Royal Exchange

“Outstanding direction, a story that’s so raw I felt like I was trespassing into their private lives”

Review Bird Sherman Cymru By Kaitlin Wray

Young Critic Amina Elmi

1 The article I wrote on diversity.

“We know that diversity does work and that it is not a risk. So why does Hollywood remain white?”

Diversity in the Media by Amina Elmi

Personal Event of the year

The most important event of 2016 for me personally Brexit as it is something that seemed trivial to me at first as someone who could not legally vote at the time, but as the result came in that the Britain was leaving European union it became apparent that it was much more Complicated than I previously thought. The rise in hate crime has also been an issue that I care about strongly.”

3rd Act Critic Catherine Parkinson

Personal Event of the year

“A cultural highlight for me this year was the Roald Dahl weekend. I was in the massed choir for City of the Unexpected, so my cultural highlight of the year was singing a medley of Welsh songs at the gates of Cardiff Castle in front of an enormous crowd. It was topped off by the ‘marriage’ event at City Hall that evening with Delibes’ Flower Duet being performed by two Opera Singers on the roof of City Hall with a live orchestra – a real ‘goose-bump’ moment for me, made all the more poignant by the fact that this piece was played at our wedding as I am sure it is many weddings.

In terms of the most important event of the year it has to be the Brexit vote. As an ex Erasmus student that had the privilege of studying in Italy for a year as part of my first degree, and now working in a University Science department, I can’t tell you the gloomy atmosphere that pervaded the University after the result. Our international students and colleagues alike, took it very hard and we continue to fear what the effect will be on science funding and collaboration with our European counterparts in the future.”

Community Critic Sarah Debnham

1. Mamma Mia at The Wales Millennium Centre

“Without a doubt the best theatre show I’ve seen yet!”

Review ‘Mamma Mia The Musical’ Wales Millennium Centre by Sarah Debnam

2. The Freddie Mercury Project Sinfonia Cymru at the RWCMD

“I think we witnessed something special in the Freddie Mercury Project, and think that the effort and skill poured into this production did not fail to impress. The standing ovation at both shows we went to echoed this as well I think.”

Review The Freddie Mercury Project, Sinfonia Cymru, RWCMD by Sarah & Lucy Debnam

3. George’s Marvellous Medicine at the New Theatre

‘I don’t think there was anything I could fault from this production, the acting was spot on, the scenery and props were amazing and the music and lighting cleverly used.  Many things could have been missed or ignored but weren’t and the attention to detail was brilliant. As everything Roald Dahl seems to be, brilliant!”

Review George’s Marvellous Medicine, The New Theatre, Cardiff by Sarah Debnam

 

Review ‘Mary Poppins’ WMC by Troy Lenny

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(4 / 5)

Mary Poppins is a musical, which you most probably know or have heard about, originally produced by Walt Disney and songs sparked alive by the Sherman Brothers.

The musical  begins with two cheerful children in the 1960s named Jane and Michael who are as free as a drifting kite, but far from home, so a constable safely returns them home. Upon arrival, the children ask for their father to build a better kite, but Mr. Banks who is a banker, certainly doesn’t believe it’s a bankable time, not only for himself, but for his children too. So, rationality directs him to hiring a stringent nanny, one who can restrict the children’s wild imaginations and size their mannerisms appropriately. Jane and Michael however have different wishes, they want a nanny who is fun, free, and funny and magical Mary Poppins is a wish come true.

Mary Poppins guides the Bank family into a world of freedom, teaching them to remove all restrictions such as: patronising patriarchy, calculating classism, and recurring reality in a merry, magical and musical manner, so they may be bouncingly blissful rather than depressingly deflated.

On Friday I ventured to the Millennium Centre to watch Mary Poppins and I would definitely recommend it to be watched; since we were young our minds have been creatively curious, whether it was having imaginary friends or discovering a new and expansive world in our back-gardens and frankly it was fun. But, as we age, we lose a lot of things, and one is generally is the World of Wonders. Instead we walk into the world of restricted, reality rationality sadly never to see World of Wonders again but Mary Poppins guides you back into the world of magic so I would definitely recommended to watch it.

I would like to also applaud the fantastic acting by the performers, especially Mary Poppins played by Zizi Strallen; Jane by [I’m unsure which girl it was in the booklet] and Michael by [Unsure again] and the welcoming service from the Millennium Centre.

Review ‘Mary Poppins’, WMC by Kate Richards

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Sitting in the Wales Millennium Centre awaiting ‘curtain-up’ at Mary Poppins, I felt slightly sorry for the cast and production crew, at the huge task they faced in trying to impress the likes of me. Not a huge fan of musical theatre at the best of times, somewhat taken aback at the eye-watering cost of taking a family of four to the theatre at Christmas, and yet at the same time harbouring high expectations of being transported to a bright, magical world far away from Brexit, the state of the NHS and all the other gloomy headlines…..I was not disappointed.

As the curtain rose I felt my hackles rise slightly as the hubbub of the audience took too long to die down, but thankfully the volume and energy of the production soon drowned-out the residual noise and fidgeting of the younger audience.

What followed was a fast-paced, re-invention of the story that we know and love, interspersed with just the right mix of slick ‘magic tricks’ (pulling the hat stand out of the carpet bag, sliding up the banisters and making pictures come to life) and all the big songs you’d expect from this production. I was surprised at how different the story and structure was from the original film version, but this did not diminish the production at all – in fact it made it easier to watch for those of us that are very familiar with the dialogue of the iconic film.

The children, though ‘ringleted’ and clad in sailor dress and tank-top respectively, had a bit more attitude than I remember from the film, but I have no doubt this helped to make them more relatable to a modern audience, and helped make the whole thing a little less saccharine than I was expecting. The same could be said for Mary herself – though Zizi Strallen was every inch Mary Poppins from her clipped, received pronunciation to her turned-out toes.

I’m still not sure how Mary actually appeared on the stage, since we were distracted (not for the last time) by the creative use of lighting above the audience, so when our eyes returned to the stage – there she stood, perfectly poised.

The set was totally in-keeping with expectations of the house in Cherry Tree Lane (like the doll’s house you dreamed of as a girl but only collectors actually own), the colourful park and contrasting austere, greyness of the bank, and scene changes were slicker than other big budget productions I’ve seen in the West End. The pace and juxtaposition of the monochromatic scenes in London and the bank versus the vibrant colour of the park and the house scenes worked well at holding the attention of even the youngest audience members, and kept-up the momentum of the story.

I was amused to note that the ‘pre-teen’ beside me, pointed out every wire on the kites, and each cable used by Mary and Bert for their gravity-defying moves to her mother, but considering the challenges of staging this musical, it was actually gratifying that these were the only little bits of ‘reality’ she appeared to spot through-out the evening.

All-in-all it was the visual feast that I’d hoped for and it seems that the big budget really does buy you quality in everything from talent to sound, and costume to lighting. It is hard to pick out individual performances or highlights because the whole production worked seamlessly to create a theatre-going ‘experience’, where all the cogs meshed perfectly in a well-oiled machine. I went to see the production with my ‘Mum hat’ on wondering what my 6 and 10 year old nephews (and eventually my own child when he’s old enough) would make of it – would it be too ‘girly’ and surely there would be a very narrow window of opportunity when a child was old enough to sit through it, but not too old to dismiss it as ‘babyish’ or ‘uncool’? As I reflect on my experience, I know that my nephews would have been transfixed, and I would be so bold as to suggest that my husband would have enjoyed it too; the polished performance absolutely transported me to another world for a couple of hours so I concluded that it would be worth saving up for this as a special family treat at Christmas, and I might even give a few more popular musicals a try.

 

 

Review ‘The Giant Who Had No Heart In His Body’ by Gemma Treharne-Foose

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(4 / 5)

There’s a reason why people are reluctant to sit in the front row.  Expect to be picked on, called out or even become part of the show!

This was my first time to see a family production at Chapter apart from their regular family film Saturdays – a favourite of mine and my little ‘mini me’ Lili, age 7.  This was also the first time for Lil to accompany me on a trip to see a show I was reviewing.

We are greeted in the theatre by Dot (played by Hazel Anderson) and Aggie (Ellen Groves), who immediately strike a chord with the kids in the audience.

The set is whimsical and dreamy, there are washing lines with wind chimes and floaty plastic bags gently blowing in the breeze. There are fishermen’s nets lit with icy blue fairy lights. There is an ethereal and robotic soundtrack, creating the feeling that we are definitely somewhere else.

I’m not sure if we are in an inventor’s workshop or an art studio. I know that just watching those floaty bags swishing in the dimly lit studio immediately put me at ease despite there being around a hundred kids behind me – and this is a rare feeling for me!

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Anderson and Groves play the part of Dot and Aggie, two ladies with a special mission: to collect and gather as many stories as possible from their dream platform on the sky. It’s been a couple of hundred days since their last story was gathered.  Somewhere along the way and I have no idea where, as engrossed as I was in the story – they swallow an item that makes them become storyTELLERS instead of story gatherers.

They set upon a mission to meet a giant, who needs his heart back so that all order can be re-instated. The story is based on an old Norwegian tale, which it turns out is a lot more complicated and multifaceted than this pared-down devised creation.

In this story, Dot and Aggie beg, steal and borrow from everyday items and old nick-nacks to move the story along. Stories are ‘hoovered up’ in disco-lit tubes and deposited in tin cans, crows are created with a tatty umbrella, miniature characters are created using a sponge and a tin can. The giant is conjured up using a couple of white bed sheets and some poles with rubber gloves on the end.

This is no-frills theatre, but with pure champagne ideas. It is imaginative and fun to the core, but what makes this a production really worth watching is the sheer exuberance and hilarity of Anderson and Groves.

It’s clear they have cleverly crafted this tale, injected it with a few madcap extras and sprinkled a whole load of Christmas fun on top.

The improvised asides and lines come thick and fast, there are mishaps on stage (arms fall off the little characters, costumes getting tangled up) and the energy and fun of the two during the performance is completely contagious.

This is not a kid’s play where the actors talk to you in a high pitched voice and coddle your special little snowflakes.

These two have sass and plenty of it. The comic interaction of this duo reminded me of French and Saunders, with a side order of Victoria Wood and a sprinkle of ‘Smack the Pony’.

I loved the joshing and piss-taking of traditional character types: ‘Me? Jump in this well? But I am a mere delicate waif maiden with a very floppy hand’. ‘Gee miss’, Dot’s character hams up with a strange gruff American twang, ‘Haven’t you ever heard of feminism’?

Kids in the audience belly laughed and roared, cheered on by the characters who played along brilliantly with all the interruptions. When the giant’s arms got tangled up on stage, I went up and tried to assist as best I could before giving up and sitting down.

The whole thing could have gone tits up from there, but they managed to recruit an ‘adult man’, who helped them untie the Giant’s arms and move the story along. ‘I’m glad we are filming THIS performance’, one of them quipped.

I always listen intently to others in the audience for snippets during the intervals/intermission. One Mum commented she thought some of the audience interaction bits (breaking the 4th wall, etc) were unnecessary in parts. I think the only lame ducks were some of the cheeseball ‘Dad jokes’ – ouch. But then you need some Dad jokes in a kid’s show I suppose – tradition and all that! 

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Keen to recruit a new mini reviewer, I’d asked mini me after leaving the show ‘Do you want to do a video review so all the other Mums and Dads can find out about the show and you can tell the actors what you thought?’ ‘Noooooooo!!!!’ she said firmly.  That was the end of my dream for my ‘Mommy and me live theatre review channel’.

However, I did persuade her that a written review would also be very welcome.  This struck a chord with her and she was keen to share her thoughts and her 5 star rating. She was delighted to be called out in the show – ‘What did you eat for breakfast?’ Ellen Groves’ character Aggie asked her.

‘Pancakes’, she responded. Later in the show, Aggie (dressed as the hilarious Giant) asks kids in the front row ‘Have a guess where my heart is buried…?’ before interrupting them and bellowing back ‘NO!’

She then turned to Lili and said ‘Oi…pancakes…what do you think?’ So Lili signed her note this evening ‘Love, Pancakes’. This may have been Lili’s first review but it was also a love letter from a theatre fan girl in the making.

When she got home, her first words when she saw her Dad were ‘DAD – You seriously missed out!’  Maybe next time, little one (and Dad can help hold up the giant’s arms!)

From Lili (hand-written review pictured above):

Wow! What a great show!!! I loved the creation.  I hope you do more shows like this. It was soooooo good. You acted great.  It was sooooo funny. The puppets were wonderful. I want to see it again! I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year, from ‘Pancakes’. (5 stars)

Type of show: Theatre

Title: The Giant Who Had No Heart In His Body

Venue: Chapter Arts Centre

Dates: 19 December (Touring show)

Devised by:  Hazel Anderson & Ellen Groves

Directed by:  Hazel Anderson & Ellen Groves

Cast: Hazel Anderson (Dot) & Ellen Groves (Aggie)

Running time: Approx 1.5 hrs (includes interval)

Produced by Likely Story

Review Benighted, The Old Red Lion Theatre by Hannah Goslin

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(2 / 5)

In yet another one of London’s beautiful Theatre Pubs, I attended the show ‘Benighted’. Based on the 1927 novel by J.B Priestley, this adaptation by Duncan Gates and directed by Stephen Whitson sees a group of travellers lost in a storm in amongst the mountains and valleys of Wales where they stumble upon a lonely house, only to experience one of the most memorable and frightening nights of their lives.

Firstly what struck me as lovely about this production was their stellar use of the space. A compact room, it seemed full but not busy and somehow opened out the story to us; with only a few additions and one change of a door appearance, the use of staging and space is intriguing and does not feel cramped. To add to the scary, dark atmosphere and to give a ‘olden day’ sense to the 1920’s based play, the whole scenery was of a dark wooden look, with hazy lighting to give us some spook.

Unfortunately, this is all that really impressed me. The performers were well rehearsed, giving wonderful performances as much as they could, hitting the speech and mannerisms of persons of the times – exactly what we would expect. And therefore, I cannot fault them. However, it all felt a little stunted. Benighted, known as a comedy/horror, is famous for inspiring Rocky Horror Picture Show and other comic/thriller/horror plays and films, I expected something more. We all know how clever and catchy Rocky Horror […] was and is, and yes, it contains tunes that even the younger generation can now sing word for word which gives it a slight advantage but it had a spark that this production of Benighted just missed. Moments of fear played along with comical moments felt as if the play could not make its mind up of what genre it wanted to be and lacked combining the both fluidly.

Despite this, if you are looking for an easy watch, little giggle and some tense scenes, Benighted is a nice production to pop along to see for something different on a weekday night.

Review Moana by Jonathan Evans

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(4 / 5)

Disney movies have been for the family since the companies beginning. But they have mostly been for a Caucasian audience. In recent years companies have realised that there are other types of people and have striven to represent more of the many different types of people inhabiting the world.

We get told that there is the god of islands Te Fiti that created the islands of the world, when one day the demi-god Maui steals her heart, this starts the spreading of a great evil that will devour all life on the planet eventually. Years later and the events have become legend and on an island a tribe lives in perfect happiness. However despite this the chiefs daughter, Moana, feels the ocean calling to her, for her whole life despite the fact that the island has everything anyone could want she is beckoned to leave for something else.

Eventually the corruption reaches her island, so she must leave and restore the goddess heart with the help of Maui. And so out hero’s quest begins.

Mona is our latest instalment for female Disney leads. Whether she is technically a princess or not is debatable (even in the film), but she will indefinitely join the brand in future. But she is like many of her predecessors, an energetic, spirited girl that has what would seem like a perfectly acceptable status quo but there is something about her nature where she yearns for more. The great technical achievement with her is her face, whatever inner emotion she is going through her expressions convey them perfectly clearly, so much so that her dialog is rather throw-away. However the person doing her voice is also a great treat. Auli’i Cravalho infuses Moana with the authentic energy we need to like this young woman, she is a genuine teenager so she has that unique quality to her voice that is nearly impossible to replicate by older actors and she is able to handle any emotional scenes she has to from distressed, the comedic to emotional.

Mawi the demigod is played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. The Rock is an extremely charismatic actor that is the perfect fit for this very larger than life character. He comes with a unique visual gimmick that whenever he accomplishes a great feat he gets a new tattoo on his body and one of the tattoos of him can move and express (possibly his subconscious, I don’t know).

Also along for the quest is Heihei, a rooster that is as intelligent as any other rooster. He serves as the animal comedic relief, because this is an animated Disney movie, there must be one.

Ron Clements and John Musker once again take the reigns as directors on a Disney movie. They kicked off the Disney renaissance with The Little Mermaid and went on to make Aladdin, Hercules, Princess & The Frog and now they’re back with their first C.G.I. movie. They understand how to handle a Disney property, they must be entertaining for the whole family so there needs to be something that all the age-groups will like and then must be tied together as the finished product. Something that’s taken over from when they did Hercules is the use of flat graphic animation.

For this project Disney recruited Lin-Manuel Miranda as one of the songwriters. For those of you (I am one) that are enjoying the phenomenon that is Hamilton this will be very exciting for you. Every song in the movie serves to either broadly convey emotion or compress story information at an extremely efficient level. There are no songs that are simply the character making breakfast, the songs mean something. He is a natural words-man, able to craft intricate lyrics that stay on point, rhyme and are funny. My two favourites are “You’re Welcome” Maui’s self-indulgent song about all his great feats, and “Shiny” also a self indulgent song by the villain (a giant treasure covered crab named Tamatoa) about how it only matters whats on the inside, plays like a 70’s pop song by Jermaine Clements.

This is Disney, I feel its pointless to sing its praise of how well this is animated, it has the best people in the world working for them and have a more than capable budget. It is beautiful, with lush colors and textures. But what I want to bring up is the delicate balance they strike in representing the ethnicity and culture of Hawaiians while not being offensive. This is a cartoon so they have to exaggerate but not so much that it becomes a warped and disrespectful.

Much like The Little Mermaid this marks Disney studio doing what they do best while at the same time trying something new with its asthetic. Songs, characters and brilliant animation for the whole family, this is a Disney movie.