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“Which is why I am writing this” Creatives and critics on the EU referendum

 Creatives and critics from and based in Wales respond to the vote to leave the EU.
Beth House Founder/Creative Producer
Taking Flight Theatre Company
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I have been shocked and dismayed by Thursday’s vote in which just over half of the British public expressed their desire to leave the EU. As a theater maker working with marginalised groups, much of the funding of organisations we come into contact with- organisations, which support the most marginalised and disenfranchised among us-, comes from EU pots.

The aim of Taking a Flight is to provide employment opportunities for Deaf, disabled and sensory impaired performers. Whilst I don’t anticipate that the government of the day would reverse laws and Acts which have already been passed to protect the rights of disabled people, I fear that, with the UK’s poor track record for supporting disabled people and protecting funding and support, that the UK will begin to lag behind Europe in this- and many other areas. This will happen.

My immediate response of panic has been much more personal, as I feel already there has been a paradigm shift in the attitude of many people towards “the other”-I have heard in the street, on social media and on the news, Joe Public using the result of this referendum as an excuse to be overtly, unashamedly and publicly racist. It feels as if this referendum has opened the door for the metaphorical tattooing of the bulldog on the forehead and the waving of the Union Jack in the faces of those who remain supporters of membership of the EU- and those perceived as “other”.

Lastly, I am disappointed at the number of people who appear to have voted “leave” in error- who decided to vote against the government – a protest vote which has cost us- and our children- dearly.

I wish I could share the “lets make the best of it” attitude- that the best art is inspired by diversity, but I’m afraid that with so many of my friends of European origin already planning to leave, and so many friends speaking of “winding up” all their EU contracts, with the pound at an 31 year low and the threat of further knocks to the industry I love and make my living- such as if us- at, I cannot bring myself to optimism at this point.

James Doyle-Roberts (Co-Artistic Director, Citrus Arts based in Pontypridd)

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On the day of the result I was in a cheap hotel room next to London City Airport. The social housing estate next door is soon to be demolished to make way for yet more tiny 1-bedroom flats which claim to be “luxury” (as they always do), and will temporarily house workers rather than families, until they can’t afford to live there anymore.

This is how economic “growth” works, and is why I’m on the side of the social benefits that the EU delivers in our communities in Wales where it invests in apprenticeships, tourism and communities, so they can keep their shared spaces connected to their sense of self. And yes, that includes people who come from abroad who want to contribute to those communities.

At 6 am that morning, I woke up with the referendum result already in my mind. I checked my phone, and my heart sank into an empty-feeling stomach.

I’d already voted to Remain without a moment of doubt; I still respect some friends who have sound ideological reasons to distrust the EU’s current state, but don’t think their global revolution is coming soon and know a better bet on our current future when I see one.

The last thing I saw on TV the night before was the early Sunderland result declared alongside footage of cheering Leave supporters. This clip was different to the usual election results being declared to a band of victorious party-faithful, this was the kind of cheer we’d all seen in earlier weeks of the violence that accompanied the opening games of Euro 2016, it was cheering with anger and a F**k You attitude– the worst kind of victory cry.

I went downstairs to the breakfast room to see a man in his 50’s cheering loudly every time Johnson or Farage appeared on the TV above the heads of an international mix of fellow guests and staff. He’d clearly been having his own all-night Brexit party, surrounded by empty bottles and was enjoying himself by loudly addressing the staff (mostly non-white), in that particular smirking, dismissive, ‘you-know-what-I-mean’ way that the odious Farage has normalised into our political discourse in the past eight years.

I was being paid a small amount of money to attend Greenwich & Docklands International Festival (GDIF) and the networking events around it. Alongside my thoughts asking “what’s the point of going, now we have the repercussions of this terrible result to deal with?” I was also thinking “and so, here it begins . . .”, as I left Bully-Boy to his ugly antics.

The lump in my throat grew each time I thought of the future of my little boy, 19 months old, growing up in a society where facts and expertise become disposable when pitted against volume and vitriol. What kind of society are we allowing our media to shape where honesty and propriety are represented as just “one side of the argument”?

At the GDIF Marketplace event (where artists can meet programmers from around the world to sell our shows), the atmosphere was how I imagine a wedding party to be where the Bride or Groom have bolted, but the guests decide to stay to consume the food & drink anyway because it’s all been paid for. There was no banquet on offer, just opportunities to build relationships with fellow artists around Europe and the wider world, and chances for us to make the best of the funds we could collectively gather between us if we cooperate.

Speakers welled-up & choked as they tried to contextualise why we were all there. Scottish delegates had confidence that they would go their own way, anyway; I felt like apologising for Wales’ strong vote to leave the EU.

There is still hope for a way out of what looks like an ugly future, but without any current leaders with the integrity to step-up & confront the lies, it is up to us to build it together by talking to each other, our neighbours, the people we randomly meet, and not being afraid of Bully-Boy and his gang.

Rachel Tresize Author and Playwright 

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I’m absolutely devastated by the referendum results, not least here in my own Rhondda Valley where residents have benefited from so much EU funding in the past. I studied on an Erasmus scheme when I was twenty years old. It was such an inspiring experience to meet and study with so many students from all over the world and inimitable in introducing me to the world outside of my own area. As a writer I travel frequently to EU countries and am translated in Danish, Italian, Croatian and soon Slovenian and I would like young Welsh students and authors to have these same opportunities. I’m worried now that these ties will be severed due to financial and travel restrictions.

 Gemma Louise Treharne-Foose  Get the Chance Critic

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I’ve been a lucky recipient of EU-funded programmes over the years. I had a paid for apprenticeship after University to train as a researcher in TV production because I lived in the valleys. I have been happy to take advantage of the programmes and funding available to me because of my postcode and because people think I need a ‘leg up’ or a head start. But these programmes and funding pools are a sticking plaster for the real problems going on in the valleys. Long term unemployment, dreadful infrastructure and crumbling services. I’ve had lots of conversations with others living here that it’s ridiculous that in 2015/2016 we are still relying on charity handouts – whether they are from Westminster, Cardiff Bay or Brussels.

I think the remain campaign never really addressed this malaise and the deeper frustrations and resentment, unfortunately. I fear for how much worse things will be here now. EU-funded projects were the only thing helping people back to work in many areas in RCT as UK-Govt services (like Job centres) have ceased or been closed down. As much as I agree with the reasons to remain, I have struggled to articulate to friends and colleagues from wealthier and more prosperous communities why people here aren’t jumping up and down and doffing their cap because of handouts from the EU. I think there’ll be some harsher realities coming our way, though.

Sophie McKeand  Welsh Poet Young People’s Laureate Wales 2016-2018

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I’ve chosen to respond to the Brexit debacle by creating blackout/cutup poems every day for thirty days using only that day’s papers using the hashtag #thirtydaysofBrexit. These are protest poems in response to the right-wing media bias we’ve all been subjected to.

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This needs challenging, questioning and changing dramatically. Our media is homogenised and overtly right-wing which is why Jeremy Corbyn is getting such a roasting.

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I personally believe he is, hated by the political and media establishment, the underdog the British public will get behind in the future. We’re sick of cock-swinging politics and many like his quiet socialism, his let’s-have-tea-with-your-nan approach. I think he is someone who could reach out to Plaid Cymru, the SNP and Northern Ireland, creating a united group of countries.

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https://www.instagram.com/sophie_mckeand/

Iwan Bala Visual Artist 

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'Dis-United Kingdom'

Keith Murrell Community Artist 

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I should preface my response by saying that I didn’t vote

I’m not registered at the moment because I have no permanent address – I know there is still an option to register but I don’t feel like sharing my personal circumstances with the bureaucracy. Having said that: I’ve never been overly engaged with the ‘democratic process’ and have very little (none) faith in the political party system – I’ve only voted a couple of times in my life and that was about issues rather ideologies … at the previous general election I voted ‘Green’ not because I thought they could win but in order to show support and help them to keep their deposit. Had I been registered this time around I would have voted to remain: this in itself is more of an instinctive reaction to the politics of those who want to leave, rather than any shining virtues of the EU.

I personally have little regard for ‘national identity’, borders, or flags and I tend to think more in terms of community and the planet. In that respect, I’d find it more plausible to think of myself as a citizen of an actual place (i.e. Europe) than being a subject in some archaic theme park called GB, UK or whatever it might say on the vellum.

In practical terms: I think the EU is of great value with regards to the advancement of things such as Human Rights, Employment Law and Environmental issues, etc. On the other hand, I’m not particularly enamoured about the impact of European funding for ‘socially targeted’ projects. Having worked on several such projects with a total value of several £millions I witnessed most of that money being directed towards vested interests more than improving the communities intended… and at worst Euro funding has been used to disrupt, dis-empower and displace communities… Butetown has had more than £1billion of EU money and where is it now?

Outside of Cardiff – the areas of Wales which receive the most EU funding voted to leave and irrespective of the politics behind the individual votes this must be seen as indictment of the public and voluntary sector in the delivering the EU programme.

With regards to the political campaigns the apparent choice was between buffoons and liars (clowns to left, jokers to the right …) I didn’t hear anything convincing from either side but then again I wasn’t paying much attention.

Regardless, I reckon the high turnout was due to the media hyperbole rather than any actual knowledge of or even interest in the EU … it’s quite bizarre to think that people might be more concerned about the goings on in Brussels than their own Town Hall.

In the event, I was a little surprised – and disappointed – with the result: mainly because it demonstrates the prevalence of such retrogressive attitudes – and might encourage / permit more people to think more along these lines. Then again, it seems that there was a generational factor in the voting with the implication that the younger people think differently and in time they will lead the debate – if losing this referendum mobilise young people then that will be a good thing …

But my Facebook timeline was inundated with angry / fearful posts about the future without the EU – and my response was “it’s actually not that bad” …

The media, pundits, etc have great fondness for using terms like ‘historic’, ‘pivotal’ and ‘once in a lifetime’ because it makes their role in the affair all the more important – every major political, sporting or scientific event is presented this way – and the public buys it because it makes their lives seem less mundane – but in reality nobody is interested in history but historians: you couldn’t go into into your local pub or corner shop and hear about the economic impact of the Versaille Treaty – very few people in Wales were preoccupied with Wales’ history in the European Championships until the TV reminded us and if Wales should actually win it will pale into insignificance in little more than a decade

I don’t claim to know anything about macro-economics (which makes me better informed than most) but I do know that the actual economy has very little to do with elections (although I will also say that every penny earned and spent is a vote cast)

I personally don’t have any property, investments or pension to speak of and I have quite a low maintenance lifestyle – so market shifts mean little to me – but for those that have those concerns I would say that ‘there is many a slip between cup and lip’ so there will always be the potential that they could lose out but similarly there’s about as much chance that the pendulum will swing and at some point they may be ahead – and this has been the case from the Bible to Barings Bank

I don’t have a passport and have never travelled outside of Wales & England – so again the whole notion of passports, visas, etc has little impact on me directly – but I don’t know that I would be too bothered about filling in some forms if I wanted to visit somewhere that badly – and perhaps people should travel around Wales a bit more 🙂

Dr Emily Garside

Dr Emily Garside

I am sad, I am angry, I am disappointed. Above all I am frustrated. Frustrated with the politicians who led us to here, with the media who helped further campaigns fought on little or misinformation. And I’m frustrated with those who say because it was a ‘democratic’ vote we must all sit back and quietly accept the decision. I accept that the vote was democratic, I accept people’s right to vote Leave. I don’t have to be happy about it. Thatcher was elected democratically and I’m still angry with that, and the implications of what she did while in office. And much like what Thatcher’s government did to this country, to the poorest areas and to the arts, I fear that the decision to leave Europe will be felt for generations to come. And much like in Thatcher’s reign, Wales is a place where the hits will be felt hardest.

In Wales you really don’t have to look far to see one of those little signs with the European flag that let you know the building that was repaired, the social space rebuilt or the arts centre allowed to continue is still there because of European funding. So much of Wales has been rebuilt in literal and cultural terms by the EU, and that so many areas, so many voters let xenophobic notions and unfounded immigration fears blind them to that scares me.

I fear for our artists and our art. I fear for the millions in lost funding that the arts in all their forms are reliant on. Wales has always been outward facing in it’s art. We invite the world to share our stages for Eisteddfod every year. We hold festivals that people travel to from the world over. And we collaborate, we share, we create. It’s in our very nature as a nation of artists. And it is this loss of collaboration I fear most. When paperwork halts free movement, when isolationism means the hurdles are too great to overcome to collaborate and yes, when we no longer have access to the funding we do now, because we cut ourselves off.

It seems reductive, gauche even to reduce my fears about arts in Wales to funding and travel, but these are the vital tools that give our arts life. In cutting off the vital lifeline of European funding, and building barriers to ease of travel to share what work we can still create, what then? I think of all the work unmade, the opportunities not shared, and it breaks my heart.

The ‘leave’ campaign seems to be fought and now won on a backward looking attitude, a yearning for a country that in fact never was. If we look at Wales before EU funding we were crumbling, our arts were suffering. There are no ‘good old days’ to go back to. What an open Europe has done is open the doors to collaboration, to inspiration and to forward thinking, forward motion. To quote Tony Kushner ‘The world only spins forward’, and yet we seem to have voted to try and stop.

What now? That’s the question isn’t it. When you (democratically) vote in a government you know roughly what’s coming, for better or worse. You know policies, personalities and in four years you have the hope that they’ll be gone. Europe is a leap in the dark. The fear is real because the answer to the question of ‘what now?’ is ‘nobody knows’.

The most anger I feel is towards those who tell us all to ‘just calm down’ as if this was a bad football score (not that I hope to jinx Wales’ chances, football is about the only ray of hope I can see right now, and I don’t even like the sport!).  But maybe there’s hope in that. In the anger. If there’s one thing the arts does well it’s respond to crisis. And that is where I do have hope. I have hope in the voices of the artists, and will of the arts companies to keep fighting. To keep working however we can.

Yvonne Murphy Omidaze Productions

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The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction. I do not believe the referendum was managed in a fair and democratic way and since the Leave campaign spoke so highly of sovereignty I wish British Parliament to enact it’s sovereign right in overruling the referendum result in the best interests of Britain and ALL its people and its future generations.

And so I have launched a petition. Here is the wording:

Sovereign British Parliament to debate EU referendum result & vote to overrule.

The British Parliament is sovereign and it is accountable to the people through elections at which we choose those whom we want to represent us, NOT through referendums. MPs are our representatives & are there to decide what, in their judgement, is good for us and the country.

Many Leave voters placed a vote of protest against a range of things not connected to the EU, from austerity cuts, to rising inequality in Britain without actually understanding the facts or the full implication of their vote. This is why we elect MPs in our democratic country to make these decisions. e.g capital punishment was thankfully abolished in the 60’s although a clear majority of the population remained in favour of it. The nearly 50% of the population who voted remain need a hearing.

It takes a few days for a petition to parliament to be processed and approved. So while I wait for that to happen I have written this article/blog. The petition circulating and gathering millions of votes asking for a second referendum (which I signed) was started in May by a Leave campaigner worried that we would get a Remain result! I do not particularly want a second referendum. I want parliament to deal with this.  I didn’t want a referendum in the first place. Nor did at least half the country. So why did we have one?

We had a referendum because David Cameron took a high risk strategy with our country’s future to appease the right wing bullies in his party, to silence UKIP and stop the migration of Tory MPs to that party. He took that risk because he did not for one moment think the country would vote out. Even the man who ran against him (Boris) did not for one moment think we should leave (which is why he is now furiously back peddling) he simply wanted to ‘play the game’ and raise his profile so he could go for leadership next time round. The Co-leader of the Leave campaign Iain Duncan-Smith in a interview on Friday called the result ‘startling’ not once but twice and appeared to be thinking on the hoof of the next steps ‘well I think what we need to do is get together a group of cross party MPs…and maybe some people from outside…some Lawyers…to work out how to progress….’ No way? Great plan. And so the people of Britain were used as pawns in the games of these rich privileged elite Eton boys to further their own careers.

What they had not understood is how angry the British people are. The divide between the rich and the poor and inequality has grown out of all proportion. We are one of the richest countries in the world and yet food banks have become the accepted norm in every town in Britain. When I told colleagues this on a recent trip to India they thought I was joking. They stood dumbfounded that such poverty existed in the UK. And it does. There are parents going without food in order that their children can eat. Today. In modern Britain. It is a disgrace.

And this is why people voted. They simply could not see or understand how it could get any worse. Because they were lied to by the Leave campaign. They were told if we left the UK millions of pounds would suddenly appear in the coffers of the NHS. They were told immigration was the cause of all their woes and the door would be shut. And this was the worst part. This emphasis and blame on immigrants which has opened the door to far right facism, racism and hatred on our streets and in our communities.

And worse still it has opened the door across Europe to Far Right Extremism with the National Front in France calling for France to follow suit and leave the very institution that was formed post World War II to ensure Facism never again gripped Europe and the world.

Shame on you Boris, Gove and particularly Farage. Shame on all of you for dividing our country. For peddling fear and hatred and intolerance. For picking at a scab until it bled. And shame on you for your lies.

Those who voted Leave were told we would get our country back. From whom? From our fellow countrymen? From the EU citizens who lived here, raise their families, contribute to our society, pay our taxes? Our country is now falling apart before our very eyes. They were told it would be an end to EU regulations. Like the ones which mean our children no longer swim in filthy polluted seas as I did as a child? Or the ones that ensure that workers have to be paid a fair wage and have decent working conditions? Or the one that gave us the Human Rights Act? Or the ones that say that the poorer more deprived areas in the EU (the very ones that voted Leave) must have the lions share of funding? Because they have. I remember Wales in 1992 when I first came here. It is a different country now and that is mainly due to being cited a ‘poor country within the EU’ and receiving a shed load of EU investment.

People in this country are not struggling because we are in the EU. They are struggling because we do not share equally the wealth we have at our disposal and the EU is a mechanism which actually helps share that wealth not hinders it. Without EU membership we will be MUCH MUCH worse off. Economically, culturally and spiritually. Many people voted Leave because they felt things couldn’t get any worse and then voted for the very thing that will absolutely ensure that it does.

 “For many millions of people, this was not just a vote about Europe. It was a howl of anger at politicians and institutions who they felt they were out of touch and had let them down…The British people deserve the chance not to be stuck with the appalling consequences of a Leave campaign that stoked that anger with the lies of Farage, Johnson and Gove.” Mr Farron Lib Dems A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said people would feel “betrayed” with the outcome of Brexit and suggested the result had been won on a false prospectus.

And so in the words of the Independent

“All that remains is for someone to have the guts to stand up and say that Brexit is unachievable in reality without an enormous amount of pain and destruction, that cannot be borne. And David Cameron has put the onus of making that statement on the heads of the people who led the Brexit campaign.”

 Which is why I am starting the petition.

Which is why I am writing this.

Which is why I cannot quite believe that Labour – at a time when they should be stepping up and holding every Tory MP (on both sides of the campaign) to account who have brought this mess upon us are instead too busy have a row about leadership (again!!!) and allowing the Torys to rewrite history and yet another false narrative. Park your differences for a few months, unite and serve your country and not your own self-interests and do your job which is to OPPOSE not self-combust at a time when we need an opposition most.

And for my colleague who said

“My only question is what would happen with MPs who want to Remain who represent Leave areas? They’d never get re-elected…”

I say well that is a risk all MPs should be prepared to take. They are there to work in our best interests and not their own and sometimes that means taking the very difficult and unusual decision to NOT do what those who have elected them ask them to do. Because they are our representatives. They have the facts. They have the education. They have the time to read the policy documents which we do not. That is their job. And they must now debate in parliament if the result of this referendum is actually in our country’s best interest. And if the majority truly believe it is not then they must overrule it and face the consequences. That is leadership. Leadership is not easy. That is why they are paid the salaries they are paid. And now they must ALL step up and look into their souls and decide.

Barbara Michaels 3rd Act Critic 

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Brexit and the Arts in Wales

Now that the initial furore and panic is over, what is the future for the arts on Wales? As with in other parts of the United Kingdom, we have to wait and see. What is certain, however, is that for a time (and who knows how long that time will last?) everything will be in a state of flux.

Disturbingly, when budgets and funding are up for consideration – some might call it up for grabs – the arts are always in the firing line. In Wales, when the arts scene – and I refer particularly to theatre – is expanding as never before, to cut funding at this stage would be close to criminal. This does not apply only to our capital city, where we are spoilt for choice, but to rural areas – take the prestigious Theatre Clywd, for instance. New talent in both writing and performance are emerging all the time, and being given the chance to explore all manner of genres.

My fervent hope is that our government realise this and will continue to give them support. Many of our young people are dismayed by the result of the referendum. It is up to the powers that be to prove to them, and to all of us, that there is indeed Life After Brexit.

Helen Joy 3rd Act Critic

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An open conversation on Facebook between people who all know me but who don’t necessarily know each other, held in the week of the EU Referendum result.

Each contributor is represented by a different colour text.

 Time for something slightly different: how do you think the vote to leave the EU will affect Arts and Art funding?

The arts economy is marginal at the best of times. I can’t see this having an exaggerated effect on funding. A great deal of Arts Council funding comes from the lottery rather than government revenues.

Some 2yr + bids being wound up where applying for EU funding. Not arts bids.

It’s the cutting of cultural ties I worry about, the Little Britain mentality and the feeling that we can go it alone. I’ve always liked feeling European.

We are used now to a sense of continental culture, the arts seem to benefit from both being carriers of local identity AND being representative of something wider.

If a cultural tie depends on the blessing of a bureaucrat, or still worse funding from one, what is it worth? The ‘cultural economy’ as a whole is huge; it was revealed a few years ago that this country earns more from computer game design than from agriculture. However, it had never asked for or received a penny of government funding, so nobody noticed.’ Culture’ is what people do of their own volition. Start steering it with subsidy, and it becomes something else. That’s how we get the grotesque spectacle of state-funded ‘satirists’ on the BBC.

Sure, to quote Raymond Williams, ‘culture is ordinary’. However, the BBC isn’t the State, that’s a line peddled by James Murdoch.

It’s no longer disputed that the licence fee is a tax (one I don’t pay); the BBC’s establishmentarian bias on many topics is now beyond satire, not least on the referendum issue. It’s notable that two of the best cultural institutions in London, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Handel Festival, don’t ask for or receive state funding.

Maybe I just like the way the BBC presents the bias. In a world completely reliant on private funding or ‘sponsorship’ we’d have a lot less culture and most of it would have to satisfy the paymasters. I’d rather satisfy the Arts Council’s remit than try to please Monsanto.

Culture always has to satisfy the paymasters. I’d prefer those paymasters to be you, me and the people around us! Would you say that our film industry was more dynamic and creative than America’s? Most of the TV I watch now is American-made.

Wouldn’t argue with your first point about culture and who pays for it but if I had to rely on things I could sell I’d be doing something very different. I don’t have anything sensible to say about film and TV. I could happily live without it.

Have they actually had any, or is this part of the current campaign to whistle up hysteria? I’m currently dealing with people on my local FB page, putting up pictures of people they accuse of racist remarks, without any evidence to back it up.

We need to build new structures we need to encourage philanthropy we need to not be scared of making money

Did you know that artists, writers, musicians here (Ireland) pay NO tax? Legacy from Charlie Haughey.

Who decides whether what they do is ‘art’ ?

No idea, presume Arts Council.

I think it’s older than Haughey’s time ; John Huston moved his family to Ireland back in the 60’s, I believe. So the bureaucrats sit in judgment on the artists, who have to meet their criteria? H’m. Curious how there always seem to be salaried posts for arts bureaucrats, but not for artists. A friend once showed me the telephone extension list at the UK Arts Council: more names than the Menin Gate. You’d get more money to artists by summoning them all to Trafalgar Square on a given day and dropping the annual budget in pound coins out of a helicopter.

So not even arts bureaucrats, but the Revenue Commissioners, are the judge of the artistic merit of your work:

http://www.citizensinformation.ie/…/artists_exemptionArtist’s exemption from income tax. Some income earned by artists, writers, sculptors and painters in Ireland from the sale of their work may be exempt from income tax. How to obtain exemption from income tax if you are an artist and satisfy certain criteria…

No was Haughey who introduced it.

Or just work to a different model – fund public art but let the market decide on everything else, like an accountant or pianist. Arts Council England – radio 4 now – believe arts will solve problems on our streets

Hearing this, a vision comes to me of a fat abbot, standing outside the glorious choir of some great abbey, saying ‘Without us, who would feed gruel to the poor?’

That’s interesting, not such a surprise I suppose. I’d like to know more.

 

Review Moirai, Big Loop Theatre Company by Kaitlin Wray

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(4 / 5)

Moirai, a play that’s completely devised taking inspiration from Greek mythology. Through the use of physical theatre and narrative Big Loop Theatre Company create a beautiful performance that showed three girls resembling creatures who had the control over life, the measure of life, and death. The only props on stage where a box which had a spinning wheel inside with what seemed like an endless amount of string. The string represented everyones life and it was the creatures job to pull the sting, measure the string and then cut it. It started of light hearted yet there is a dark deep underlining meaning.

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The pre show music helped set the mood as it felt dystopian and out of this world. Before any dialogue happened two of the creatures showcase their boredom and waiting for something to happen, they perform a playful dance-like piece to resemble their characters. It was a clever way to open the show as the audience got to see an insight as to who they were. The great thing I enjoyed about this show was that it kept you guessing as to who they were or what they were doing until half way through. It then began to escalate and we find out exactly what sort of control they had. It was a brilliant well written play with great moments for each actor to shine, and shine they did.

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Allie Downing plays the creature that begins life, at the beginning we see sort of a child-like creature wanting attention when she’s bored. However when the one thing she cares about is threatened she does everything in her power to stop it. As an audience we really feel for Allie’s character and she does a wonderful job at portraying a character thats just lost everything.

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Ellen Thomas playing the creature that measures life, seems to be the leader out of the three. It is evident that the other two creatures respect her the most. From the beginning she seems completely head strong and wanting to just enjoy her job. However towards the end she reveals her true feelings and it’s quite emotional to watch.

Megan Swingler, plays the creature that represents death. It was her duty to cut the string. It is evident that she is frustrated and tired of cutting the string all day and is feeling overwhelmed. Megan plays a character who isn’t in her right mind and ends up taking a risk.

The collaboration of these three characters with their different personalities match really well on the stage. Their acting was incredible and overall it was a lovely piece to watch. It made me question the meaning of life and to think  “are we all just puppets”.

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/big-loop

Review Into The Woods, Everyman Theatre Cardiff by Lois Arcari

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(4 / 5)

 

As the sun descended upon the set, previously lovely but a little bare, gloriously entwined with the trees yet sans any beanstalk motif, took on a new depth and spatiality. Now it was one with the story, the characters, the enthralling play – the whole thing blossoming in the darkness. In the second act, every element came together for a brilliant, bombastic finish, Sondheim’s ever darkly twinkling musical and the always excellent Everyman team.

The musical will always be a relevant one, but what I think makes it so durable, from when Bernadette Peter’s first blew onto the stage, to the gleefully ironic Disney adaptation, is that it warns of wishes whilst not mandating the often so elusive action. The tone is sublime, true and timeless. As we see the ordinary tales of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and The Beanstalk and more deconstructed for perhaps the first time in a mainstream way, the show will always be a looking glass for both the individual and the world around them. It has a perfect formula, which gives any players the odd situation of only being able to damn it with an almost impossible faintness, which Everyman most certainly did not.

The reliably brilliant atmosphere highlighted the dramatic tension, with the ensemble on brilliant form, and any kinks in what was the opening night were duly ironed out save one or two small problems with the mikes. The puppetry, which had been lovely but simplistic at the start, was utilised in a genuinely shocking and exciting moment, gone in a flash, the impact amazing.

One of the best to bloom through the show was Meredith Lewis’ Cinderella, with natural empathetic acting and a clear but tense voice always hanging on the edge of something, uncertain in crescendos. Her command of her vocals was probably always going to increase as the production went on, as the uncertainty of dreams turns into calloused but dependable reality.

To me, the true standout players had to be Laura Phillips, the Baker’s Wife. Her warmth, comedy and realism all made the ill fated woman perfectly likeable, her shadow looming over thus ever more painfully, and Darcy Welch, Little Red, who managed to blend the sweetness and tinge of childish cruelty in little red without either rendering the other implausible. The Wolf was the scene stealer he was meant to be, and he two princes were played with winning aplomb. Cinderella’s, played by Lewis Cook was perhaps the best, an undercurrent of whatever sincerity could be bred into such a prince making him less one note, the dominant individual ‘agonies’ of the play amplified by the smaller, subtler ones. The people that never had the chance to be a different version of themselves, the cruel prescriptiveness of the archetypal fairytale, it’s inevitable truth, and the mournful, glorious fact that no one is exempt from human fallibility.

A beautifully done production, the costume design as ever needs a mention.Whilst all costumes suited the production, the standout had to be the Witch’s hunched form, her apparent ugliness only truly shown in strangeness. The mask, meant for the furrowed lines of age, truly looked almost venetian, and her hair, odd, matted pink, again added a sense of false attributions, as she looked powerful, bizarre and captivating. The Witch herself was nice, was good…but, for those of you who know the booming song, not quite right. The acting and singing from Jo Herco Thomas were both lovely, but in a company with a baseline of brilliant talent her voice failed to dominate as her physical presence did, as she played both her anger and her tenderness a little too softly, never seeming committed to either. By no means a bad performance, it still seemed a little lukewarm for the iconic character.

This is a musical which will always retain its power. Both the overt and the quiet have their warnings reflected best when subtleties and set pieces bounce off one another. From the ambient tenseness to the beaming wit and of course Sondheim’s near perfectly written songs, this is a play for all to see if chance as in the play both our darkest and our finest magic, permits them.

Into the Woods

Everyman Theatre Sophia Gardens Cardiff
24th June – 2nd July

Book : James Lapine.

Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim.

Director: Jonathan Tunick.

Musical Director:: Rob Thorne.

Design: Bethany Seddon Stage Manager: Ranynore Phinnemore, Deputy Stage Manager: Dunyasha Barrow. Design Assistants- Rosie Motion, Dominic Page, Alison Sheppard, Kay Harry.

Puppet making: Bethany Page, Pascale Morrison-Derbyshire, Aimee Walting, Jen Callow

Band:Rob Thorne Jnr, Ray Dizon, Robin Hames, Jonathan Mainwaring, Simon Carter.

Costume and Makeup: Kelly Ellis, Rosie Berry, Michelle Cast: Laura Phillips, Matthew Preece, James Rockney, Darcy Welch, Meredith Lewis, Jo Herco-Thomas, Sarah Bawler, Daniel Ivor Jones and David Stephens.

Barker, Sophie Langford

Running Time: Just over two and a half hours.

Review ‘Firm’, Thirsty Bird by Kaitlin Wray

Firm

(3 / 5)

Firm, A play that looks directly at the ugly side of business. Jay Thomas, finds out the hard way how manipulative some bosses can be. Even though the narrative seems a little farfetched, it still raised a number of points and an insight into the brutality of some businesses.

Joe Burke playing Jay Thomas not only lead acted in it, but he was the writer of ‘Firm’ as well. He creates a character whom only seems to want to get money, and when he does, spends it all on booze. Even though some of his words seemed lost at times; when he wasn’t facing directly towards you; he was great at talking out to the audience and going between the narrator and Jay. Steve Bennett, playing Jay’s best friend Ben, has great comedy timing and owns some adorable fluffy slippers. Ben’s character is the one I believe the audience feels most connected with, due to the realism of the character.

After seeing Isabelle Paige in Service 3: Taking Stock, the previous evening, I was excited to see what character she showcased next. Unlike the geeky character in Service 3, Isabelle plays a strong-minded business woman with one thing on her mind; making money. Even though Isabelle’s character was vicious and conniving, her character was fun to watch and had a lot of comical moments.

The main critique I have is that none of the characters in this play I liked or felt truly connected too. This was all due to all the cynicism and hate they have for each other. Even though this was the case there was some nice moments within this play that was both light hearted and fun.

One of the aspects I liked most about this performance is the way they incorporated the audience within the play.  It felt like it wasn’t just a performance but a lesson as well. The play was set in the round, with a table and two chairs in the middle. The way it was set up, looked pleasing to the eye due to the use of levels. I felt there was not a bad  seat  in the auditorium.

Overall this show was engaging and amusing to watch. In their bio it says, “if the script isn’t new, you can bet the performance will be.” This is truly was, it was definitely a new and original piece of work.

Thirsty Bird

Review, Airswimming, Weird Sisters Theatre Company, The Bread and Rose Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

(2 / 5)

A taboo subject, even in the modern day – we are still unsure about how to approach the subject of mental health. While it is understood more today, to be a woman and with such a medical condition back in the 1920’s was something that was frowned upon.

Telling the story of two women, Weird Sisters Theatre Company give us the stories, the relationships and 50 years in an insane asylum. We meet Persephone who as a young 21 year old is brought to the asylum for her relationship and bearing of a child with a married man and is thrown together with Dora, a gender confused woman obsessed with the military.

Two different characters, each scene shows the back and forth from the future to the present day. The performers do well to switch the characters and their growth from originally making no connection, to becoming the best of friends. Simple light changes from a blue for the beginning of their relationship to a red for the future, we get a sense with the acting of their progression of friendship.

The writing is clever in its use of phrasing for the insane, opinions expressed by others and themselves with drawing upon ‘witches’ and sorcery; Dora’s obsession with the military and stories of historical strong women gives us a sense of pride in feminism but also anger that these views have led her to incarceration due to the threat of the patriarchy of the time.

As years pass, there are hints of the 1950’s, Doris Day and other elements through time, while the characters stay in their plain, Victorian-like clothing. We are lost in the sense of time with confusion of where we are and what is happening – a good way to mirror to the audience how the character’s must feel with the mundanity and repetition of institution life.

Without revealing any spoilers, the performances and writing pull at your heart strings and make you feel for the characters. Simplistic set, lighting and gentle sound does well to highlight the performance but not take away from it.

Airswimming is clever in its look at mental health, bringing it  to the forefront not just for women, but everyone and also highlights the importance of friendship.

Review Into the Woods, Everyman Theatre, Cardiff, by Gemma Treharne-Foose

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(4 / 5)

This review was written prior to the E.U. Referendum vote

With the UK teetering on the edge of an E.U Brexit, the superb opening night of Everyman’s production of ‘Into the woods’ seemed almost prophetic: ‘be careful what you wish for’.

Set in the leafy grounds of Sophia Gardens, Cardiff Everyman have created a little haven for enjoying six pieces of outdoor theatre productions this summer. The opening night of the summer line up saw Stephen Sondheim’s notoriously wordy and complex piece brought to life by the energetic ensemble cast.

Those unfamiliar with the plot will see many familiar characters from Western fairy tales: Cindarella, charming princes, an evil witch, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and his magic beans and the big bad wolf. Richard Tunley’s direction and Rob Thorne’s dramatic musical arrangement brings the piece to life via a live band tucked beyond the stage. There are whimsical and bohemian touches to the set, dashing costumes and beautiful puppetry (milky the cow and those pigeons…watch your eyes!). Audiences are taken on an extended musical romp through a tangled but hilarious set of interweaving stories – with a very modern twist. Little Red Riding Hood (played by the fantastic Darcy Welch) now has an attitude – and a knife – and she’s not afraid to use it!, Cindarella’s really not that bothered about the prince and the faithful baker’s wife who wants a baby has a ‘moment of madness’ in the forest with the prince.

Sondheim’s tongue-in-cheek take at the underlying sexism, cheesiness and saccharine plots of our well-known fairy tales is a thing of brilliance. There are some pantomime moments too – an added aside to the audience, a knowing look, in jokes, a moment when Rapunzel (Giaccolina Crothers) got her plait stuck in the branches of the set and the baker’s wife (Laura Phillips) doesn’t miss a beat, dashing across the stage shouting ‘I’ll help you, love!’. There are also deeper undercurrents at work here though – and we see the subtleties at work via Rapunzel and Jack’s struggle for independence from their over bearing parents (‘If you love them…you have to let go…’) and with the grass always being greener on the other side. The prince gets his woman, but even he is bored by the princess…the baker and his wife find life with a baby isn’t all that romantic!

With all the unpredictabilities of staging an outdoor theatre festival (in Wales!) Everyman has all bases covered. The audience seating area is covered, the sound and music was good – despite some police sirens and late-night revellers passing by. The weather mercifully held off. The stripped down aspect, the breeze and the general mood is just right and Everyman seems to have thought of everything, from renting blankets to keep the evening chill at bay, to Dusty Knuckle Pizza and Otley beers in the pretty, lantern-lit area outside. It is exceedingly pleasant and a little sanctuary from the surrounding city.

As darkness descends and we get into the second half after the interval, the set and surrounding trees around the outdoor venue are beautifully lit. There are some stand out moments for me, the macho squaring up of the two princes during the ‘agony’ song (with great comic execution by Lewis Cook and Tom Elliot), James Rockey’s gormless portrayal of Jack and his zero-to-hero transformation and those terrible sisters and their dark (but funny) comeuppance.

The show was epic in every sense – the length and the spectacle. Just following and listening and watching left me exhausted, there is a lot to see. But this production is stunning. I left with those dance sequences and riffs singing in my ears and beating in my heart.

Director: Richard Tunley

Musical Director: Rob Thorne Jnr

Stage Manager: Raynor Phinnemore

Production Designer Bethany Seddon

Costume Supervisor: Kelly Ellis

Wardrobe Mistress: Rosie Berry

Everyman Theatre Company, Cardiff.

http://everymanfestival.co.uk

Review World of Warcraft by Jonathan Evans

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(2 / 5)

When you are given a movie like Warcraft, that’s based on an online computer game that has over eight million people playing it daily, over a dozen different races on both sides and has the most dense lore of nearly any franchise you will ever find, you have to wonder. Could this be any good at all? Or can it even be coherent?

We are told the tale of a world named Azeroth, a magical world where there has been a conflict between the humans and the Orcs for as long as anyone can remember. How it all began is the purpose of the story. We are taken back to the beginning where one world was thriving and one was dying, so in order to survive the Orcs used dark magic to open a portal so they could travel to a world where they could live. I like this setup, there are evil characters and forces at work but this is a case of two races seeking the most basic thing, survival, none can really be blamed for that, so there isn’t really a bad guy.

I found that when it came to writing this review I could not for the life of me remember any of the characters names. In-fact even while the movie was going on I couldn’t hold their names in my head. They were just too complicated and and got lost amidst all the others names and exposition.

I did play World of Warcraft for three years so I know things that the average person would not and that in-itself is dangerous. Putting references in are fine but too much emphasis or not enough explanation can leave the viewer feeling like they are at a table where they don’t know anybody, awkward and unwelcome. But this movie is constructed so that a non-fan can understand the world just fine, there’s magic, barbarians, monsters, kings the regular cast and characters you’d expect to see in any fantasy story.

In order to bring a fully fictional world to life special effects are required. Whether that be through computers or through built sets to create environments that have never existed in our world. As well as that makeup or again computers must be utilized to create other races and creatures into existence. This movie uses both. On a purely aesthetic level, this is such a mixed bag. The Orcs and their world are the best part of it, they look and move convincingly (though I question how they can enunciate so well with those tusks) and their environments are rendered as well as the graphic art of the video game itself. While in the other areas they look very cheap. Some effects are like painting come to life while others are like impressive internet videos, which at a movies standard are not very good.

Again the acting is either hit or miss. The Orcs, having to act using their imagination and then the animators putting the finishing touches over it looks very impressive, magnificently well rendered with all kinds of details in their costume and texture to their skin. It’s when its all live action when you have a hard time believing anything. It’s too extravagant and doesn’t look realistic, too polished

In order to keep the conflict going they implant a tragedy of both inevitability and irony. Or at least that’s what they want to do. It is clearly something so this movie can be the stepping stone for more movies. But this ain’t Shakespeare, what happens in this movie is OK in ideas and pretty clunky in execution.

Can a movie be judged for how bad it could have been? I do not envy the screenwriters for being dealt this library of source information and having to channel it all down into a one-hundred and twenty page screenplay while having to make it all coherent. This could have been our generations Dune. This not that, it’s just a very mixed bag of a movie. There’s clearly ideas here and the hordes (pun intended) of Warcraft player will undoubtedly make the movie successful which will lead to more movies in the future. Previous experience is not required, so really all you’ll see is a movie that is at times good and others times surprisingly bad but still with a competent plot.

Cardiff Fringe Festival 2016, Service 3: Taking Stock by Kaitlin Wray

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Image by www.jonathandunn.net

(4 / 5)

So my experience of the Cardiff Fringe Festival started off with a bang! Watching a collaboration of Infini and a Clock Tower Theatre Production they showcased, Episode Three: Taking Stock. It was a great way to relax and have just a bundle of laughs. This was cleverly written by George Infini who devised some outstanding witty comedy with a great set of characters.

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This quick paced farcical short play showed four different characters with contrasting  personalities yet when put together are highly amusing. There was the playful and devious character of Gavin played by Sam Harding, the hilarious love romance between Steven and Gene; two of the geekiest characters that were played by Grant Cawley and Isabelle Paige.  Then there was Susan Monkton playing Sarah, who was perfect at playing the character everyone seemed to dislike. The plot to remove her as manager is entertaining and the comedic twist at the end was just perfect.

Overall it was quite a short performance yet this makes Saturday show of Episode Four: Fire Walk even more exciting to watch. I turned up to AJs Coffee House not knowing what to expect and left with my cheeks hurting and feeling rather entertained.

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/clock-tower-theatre-company

http://www.cardifffringetheatrefestival.co.uk/infini-productionsInfini

Review Miramar Trigonl by Helen Joy

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(4 / 5)

 

I have enjoyed a huge ice-cream sundae in the café and am happily taking my seat, when Enid comes over and has a chat. She tells me about the nasty business with her husband and how she’s had to sell the house.

It is a nasty business too. Poor woman. Homeless. Di gartref. How easily it can happen.

I have no idea how I have become fluent in Welsh. Enid is chatting away and we are all listening and we are all tutting and laughing and commiserating with her. She is exaggerated as a story-teller, she relishes the telling of her tale, she compensates for her loss through her canniness. We like Enid but we see she is a cunning old bird. We are sorry when her home is taken and renamed: Miramar. Awel y Mor is nicer, we agree. We don’t mind her moving back in while the new owners are away, china dogs in another family.

The slapstick comedy of the sausage and mash dinner hidden in the cupboard when the inevitable knock on the door comes. We are encouraged not to like the smart and sassy daughters of Miramar but of course, eventually we do. And the sausages make their mark on all of us.

This is about communication – about showing us that spoken language has just one part to play and so we roll from Welsh into English and back again without even noticing. It is about family, life and death and consequences. It is about different tastes and different times and places. It is about home. It is about shit. Cachu. It happens.

Simple props, careful costume and straightforward lighting. All we need to establish a sense of a house and its people in transition. It is nicely performed. Alice and Georgina make good foils to the characterful Enid. Light and dark, this is a strong play with a tidbit of fiery drama at the end. Y sosejis.

I ask two ladies, who are sitting in the evening sun outside The Red House on a Saturday night in Merthyr, whether they speak Welsh. No, they say in unison. Didn’t need to. Understood every word. We’ll be coming again. So funny. We laughed and laughed. Same here, I say. Finally, my knowledge of Welsh swearwords comes in handy and I share some choice ones. We part and you can hear us all laughing up the street. Am dipyn.

We all know everyone in it – recognise and enjoy!

Play:                Miramar

At:                   The Red House, Merthyr

Playwright:          Rebecca Smith-Williams

Producer:             Rebecca Knowles

Director:               James Williams

Theatre:                Triongl

Cast:                        Enid – Valmai Jones

Alice – Rebecca Knowles

Georgina – Rebecca Smith-Williams

Seen:              7.30pm, 18th June, 2016

Reviewer:      Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:        Saturday 18th, Redhouse , Merthyr Tydfil

Wednesday 22nd – The Welfare, Ystradgynlais http://www.thewelfare.co.uk/

Links:               http://www.triongl.com/miramar.html

 

 

Review Billy Elliot The Musical, WMC, by Barbara Michaels

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(4 / 5)

 

The wow factor is very much to the fore in this production of Billy Elliot – one of the most heart-warming of musicals, it tugs at the heartstrings from the moment it opens. Brought up in the tough environment of a small mining town in the north-east of England during the 1984/85 miners’ strike, young Billy’s passion for dancing leads him to follow his dream. Abandoning his boxing lessons, he secretly joins a ballet class. The only boy, Billy is the subject of much speculation and teasing – some of it malicious. On the home front, it’s even more so. Billy’s elder brother pours scorn on Billy’s dancing and does his best to nip the young boy’s emerging talent in the bud. Spurred on by his ballet teacher, who knows talent when she sees it, Billy is determined to carry on dancing.

Of the four boys who alternate in the super-demanding role of Billy, Lewis Smallman was the one chosen to open in Cardiff. His was a Billy that we all know – a schoolboy going straight to the biscuit tin when he gets home. But this Billy is still grieving for the loss of his mum, and Smallman manages this part of the role with an expertise beyond his young years, but it is his skill as a dancer that rightly steals the show.

There is star quality here. This Billy is equally at home in the comically camp dance number in which Billy and his friend Michael (Elliot Stiff) dress up on girls’ clothes to the elegant precision of a version of Swan lake performed with an older Billy (Luke Cinque-White)in a dreamlike sequence in the second half – not in the original film but blending in perfectly. Martin Walsh, as Billy’s Dad, struggling both with the deprivations of the strike with no money coming and the problems of a recently bereaved father trying to bring up a young son on his own, brings a depth of understanding to the role, displaying both toughness and vulnerability. As Billy’s dancing teacher Mrs Wilkinson, who knows talent when she sees it, Annette McLaughlin has the role off pat – under no illusions as to her own teaching, and generous in spirit, cigarette puffing when the opportunity arises and with the big-hearted generosity that characterises the north.

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Peter Darling’s choreography for the tour differs slightly from the West End production, particularly in the foot-tapping number ‘Born to Boogie’ but most of the sensational dance numbers are the same – and pretty amazing they are, too, doing full justice to Elton John’s lyrical and swinging score in musical numbers that make you want to jump from your seat and join in. A small caveat –which seems almost invidious in the face of such talent – is that several cast members, including Smallman, have not entirely overcome the difficulties of the north east of England dialect.

The darker side of the story is the miner’s strike, and the stand-off between Thatcher’s government and the National Union of Mineworkers, with scenes played out at the pit face of one of the mines threatened with closure, and in the working men’s club where the miners hold their meetings, and the soup kitchen which is established there for the hungry miners and their families during the strike. Light relief is there, too, in the shape of Grandma – not always quite with it (she hides her pasty in the bedclothes much to her grandson’s disgust!). Andrea Miller’s Grandma is a great cameo, displaying a love and empathy for, and with, Billy and his dreams with which many grandparents will identify.

Overall, though, Billy Elliot belongs to the young, and the ensemble of dancers and singers more than do it justice. Bravo!

Runs until 16th July at the WMC

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

Writer: Lee Hall

Music: Elton John

Choreographer: Peter Darling

Director: Stephen Daldry