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Review Ethel and Ernest by Jonathan Evans

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Ethel and Ernest tells the story of a boy meeting a girl, they fall in love, get married and then share their life together. That is the story and through watching it I realized that it was enough. There doesn’t need to be anything more, a life is filled with so many moments and challenges that that’s all you need.

It is based on the graphic novel by Raymond Briggs, who is a household name because of his extremely popular The Snowman (which was also adapted into animation). He based it on his own parents, he himself is introduced into the story but the material seems oddly uninterested in him. More on these two people.

They first met in 1928 in London so that is where our story starts. Ethal is a young woman working as a maid in a wealthy house. Ernest is living his life by riding his bike down the street when they gazes meet, Ernest takes it on himself to ask her for a night in the cinema. Soon after they get married, move into a nice house and from then on they witness history. From the rise of Nazis, surviving World War two and having a son its all about what comes and how they deal with it, but no matter what, their love endures.

Brenda Blethyn plays Ethel, Jim Broadbent plays Ernest. They are able to recreate the quick, higher tones of their youth effectively though if you are looking to find the elderly tones in their voices you’ll find them. But they own their dialog as simple people but filled with personality. Ethel is a woman that was one of eleven children so is very restrained and enjoys things neat, clean and proper. Ernest was an only child and raised in the slum area of London and knows a lot of cockney songs. He is more spirited and more likely to play pranks.

The drawing style is based off and very effectively emulates Briggs. The characters have realistic proportions but their features are stylized, the eyes are where they’re meant to be, but just dots with a line above and below. Other interesting touches like noses and fingers being shades redder than the usual skin color makes the whole thing feel more textures and organic.

The movie is so generous with its film-making. What I mean by that is that there are moments that could have gone by with less effort but they decide to put in the extra effort for the simple reason that they want to film be be good. Take for example a moment where Ernest goes to light a cigarette, he strikes his lighter a few times and no flame, he inspects it, tries again then the flame comes. In live-action you would have gotten that moment for free, with animation, every new pose cost money and requires planning. So they had no other reason to put it in the film other than it serves as a little extra charm.

This movie falls under that same category of The Long Grey Line, Bambi, Tokyo Story and Boyhood, just the tale of life. A simple story with simple people at the center but filled with great moments. By the end I was so moved by the feeling that I had really experienced these peoples lives with them, things had changed and I was nostalgic for the good old times. A sign of a truly great movie.

Review London Stories Made by Migrants, Battersea Arts Centre, By Hannah Goslin

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Battersea Arts Centre has been transformed.

Walking into the beautiful lobby, the grand staircase has been covered by a black curtain and we are handed coloured wrist bands. The ceiling has lightbulbs shabby chic-illy hanging down, mostly colourless, apart from 4 with different colours. My wrist band is blue with the London district of ‘Merton’ written on it. Lots of audience members, I have not seen such a large crowd at the BAC in all the time I have been visiting.

We are soon informed that we will be split into groups, travelling around to meet different migrants in difference spaces around the entire building. Some spaces have never been open to audience members before, and this performance piece not only sees us travelling in representation of the migrants, but also a sneak peek into the restoration work of a building that once as a town hall, was open and inviting to all persons.

With the 4 groups, there are altogether around 24 migrant tales – in theory each time you come, you will hear different stories. The stories range from the heart warming, to the painful and disturbing to overall happiness. Each room we entered would have a different theme – some made into comfortable bedrooms that, if BAC are renting, I would not mind being in! To a kitchen,and some of individuals with only a simple lighting in large rooms. The experiences of each person hit some resonance with the audience, and it was a privilege and pleasure to meet each individual. Some were open and welcoming and some still closed off, depending on the experience. And this was okay, and it was brave for such individuals to offer to tell their stories.

Coming away from this, there was a sense of community. The openness and welcoming nature our country has for these people who have travelled to live here is abundant in their tales of acceptance and their gratitude. A sense of pride and elation came to me as I heard this, and also thanks to such wonderful people to join our community. It gave us a sense of unity with these complete strangers and thankfulness for our own, less traumatic lives.

Review The Accountant by Jonathan Evans

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If history is any clue The Accountant shouldn’t work. This should just be an insultingly bland movie which serves to get the males excited which really dumb’s them down to a perverted sense of masculinity. However, this movie works, because of that simple little extra effort which has infused this stale premise into a gripping action movie.

We see a boy putting a puzzle together, is intensely focused on his task and keeps reciting Solomon Grundy, his parents are at a clinic for different children, this is Christian Wolff, he has autism and the doctor tells them that he needs to be handled with care and avoid intense scenery bombardment. But his father, a decorated war veteran, does not accept this, he knows the world is nothing but intense sensory bombardment, so instead in adapting the environment to Christian he adapted Christian to his environment. So begins his years of training with all the resources to become one of the most deadly men on the planet.

The boy grows into a man and he is (as the title suggests) an accountant. He is very good at what he does, deducing what is needed for his clients and working the rules to accommodate them. He gets hired by a big robotics company to go through everything to make sure their finances are secure before they go public. It’s fifteen years of intense complex finances so they doubt anyone is up to the task. In the company office clerk Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) offers him help but he is most comfortable in solitude. He gets to work processing all the years of intense data and writing it on his whiteboard and when that runs out uses the glass walls of the office.

Affleck is actually rather understated in terms of other performances. Usually there is an overemphasis on the quirks and behaviors that come with autism (Dustin Hoffman in Rainman for example), to be sure you can tell he is abnormal but not enough to be an obvious red flag. He can move about in society. He is very blunt an minimal with his dialog and clearly is repressing great frustration when people talk more than they need to. He’s also given his typical behavioral quirk of blowing on his fingers before starting any task.

Kendrick has typically been cast in comedy roles as the cute, spirited one in comedies. She could be out-of-place here in this movie about numbers and bullets. But she serves as a contrast to Wolff’s dry attitude and still plays to her strengths though she’s used as the fish-out-of-water.

J.K. Simmons plays Raymond King, one of the heads at an intelligent agency who seeks to know the facts about Wolff. Simmons is solid throughout this movie, but within it he gets a moments which he genuinely moved me, a scene alone which sums up everything about this character in one moment and could earn him an Oscar on that alone.

We also get our villain, played by Jon Bernthal, some kind of hired gun that is wiping out all the witnesses. He is the opposite of Wolff, very expressive and an energetic talker. So you know the two will meat eventually and because they each have their moments it’s a confrontation your actually anticipating it with excitement.

This movie, or these kinds of movies, for example Taken, The Equalizer and The Gunman I have always found very boring. They are the case of some character that is actually very poorly defined and can mow down roomful after roomful of opponents with little hesitation and the same stern expression. Furthermore all those previous movie I just mentioned have middle aged leads so it just seems like we have to sit through these actors working through they’re midlife-crisis. But this movie comes with so much more. Firstly we get into his past so we know why he’s like he is and how he got to be the best at his work, he is most happy when he solves number problems, wear a pocket protector. This isn’t interested in typical portrayals of a macho-man.

Typically with these types of movies there’s a big action scene at the end and what this usually means is that the movie has run out of story, but this one, even though it does indeed have and action scene in the last act, there is still plot. So many movies last an hour and thirty minutes and only have an hour worth of things to say then give up and resort to gunfire, this movie is two hours long and has a whole movies worth of plot. Such a shame that I have to emphasise how good that is.

There are a whole bunch of movies that are similar to these movie as it could have rather easily been anther one to fall by the wayside. But it has a story that requires the run-time to tell it, engaging performances, a character that has a back-story. The fact that it’s a good movie is enough but knowing that it could have been so stupid makes it a marvel.

REVIEW: ‘SNOUT’ SHERMAN THEATRE BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This was my second time to attend a ‘Play, Pie and a Pint’ at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff and once again it did not disappoint. This low-cost evening is a great option for those looking for bite-size and accessible nights at the theatre. Perhaps in anticipation of the subject material in the play, there was a vegetarian pie option. Thankfully, no pork pies were on the menu!

Snout is the latest new product from Sherman Theatre and Oran Mor’s partnership and is a new script from the writer Kelly Jones: winner of the BBC Wales Drama Award in 2014.

Those with a penchant for pork – beware! Snout is a play that does not beat around the bush when it comes to broaching the subject of animal welfare. The central three characters are pigs – Coco, Lacey and Viv , skilfully represented by Claire Cage, Michele Gallagher and Sally Reid.

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We are led through their backstories from within a cramped, dirty lorry and as the tension and claustrophobia sets in, it slowly becomes clear that Viv is keeping a secret that even she doesn’t want to face. Far from a day out ‘at the fete’ there is a far worse fate awaiting them at the other end of the journey.  As the panic and the fear becomes palpable – there is scrapping and squealing via a tense soundtrack courtesy of Andy Cowan, squabbling and bickering between Coco and Lacey and desperate praying and bargaining from Viv. There is something horrible brewing for these three little pigs.

Director Kenny Miller could so easily have played up the ‘pig’ image: via masks, curly tails or cutesy ears. But the three characters clothes and regular appearance only serve to humanise them and make the audience acknowledge what is about to happen to them.

‘How would they feel if it was them – their children?’ one of the characters says. We realise how pigs and pork are so firmly embedded our popular culture, our vernacular and our food choices: greedy pig, pig ugly, pig ignorant, bringing home the bacon, looking ‘porky’.

There are some really grim passages where Viv describes how her sister Annie was taken away, how the meat is butchered, prepared, consumed and sometimes even sexualised and fetishised. As an audience member, I felt almost complicit in the suffering of Viv, Coco and Lacey and the theatre space and sheer proximity to the cramped box feels claustrophobic for you too.

There are tender moments played out following Lacey’s electric shock after a panicked escape attempt. I could not take my eyes off Sally Reid (who plays Coco), whose spiky and awkward demeanour is softened as we progress in the play.

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The play shines a light on the sheer hypocrisy and selfishness of meat consumption and meat for fashion purposes and for me certainly, threw up a few questions. Why do I care so much about whether my chicken is free range, but not my pork? Why do I crinkle my nose at the thought of eating veal, but not suckling pig? Why is tripe revolting to me but not belly pork? I know that pigs are intelligent animals, so why have I never thought about whether they know what’s awaiting them at the end of their trips to the slaughterhouse. Do I really care about animals if I have this knowledge and do not act upon it?

I had my reservations about whether or not the play would be preachy or overtly anti-meat eating, but it was to character-led for that. What Kelly Jones’ script does manage to do well is to make you question yourself, to step outside your frame of reference and pre-conceived thoughts.  I can’t tell you if Coco, Lacey and Viv made it….but I can tell you that my enthusiasm for ‘meat free’ Mondays has tripled since seeing the play. And I will lay off the bacon for a while, I think…

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Snout (A play, Pie and a Pint)
Venue: The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
Dates: 8-12 Nov
Author: Kelly Jones
Director: Kenny Miller

Ross Kirkland / Chris Reilly: Lighting Designer
Andy Cowan: Sound Designer
Jonathan Scott: Designer
Gemma Patchett: Assistant Designer
Claire Cage: Coco
Michele Gallagher: Lacey
Sally Reid: Viv

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Review Dr Strange by Jonathan Evans

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Doctor Strange is a movie that must stand out. It has Strange as in it’s title and the name of its main character. So there needs to be something about it that is unlike the other MARVEL movies, hell at this point, where we may be near the saturation point it needs to distinguish itself from all the other Superhero movies we now have.

What MARVEL now puts before us is a gamble. Just as big or maybe more so than what they did with Guardians of the Galaxy. The straightforward way of telling the superhero has almost run dry, so now they need to give us something new. Can they deliver a movie that captures the psychedelic imagery and mind-bending rules of this character and still make it accessible to audiences?

Our hero is the aforementioned mentioned Doctor Stephen Strange a shrewd, arrogant surgeon able to perform the most complicated operations with ease, he also comes with an encyclopedic knowledge of music. One day wile racing to a soiree in his sports car, believing he can do that and talk on his phone, crashes but survives, except his precious hands have been crushed. He can no longer perform surgeries, he could be a consultant but he cannot accept this and spends his fortune seeking out different treatments, to no avail. His quest eventually takes him to Kathmandu where he finds a new lease on life not in science but through magic.

Benedict Cumberbatch soured to a lot of peoples favourite actors list when he debut as the star of Sherlock. Since then he has amassed a very wide range of roles under his belt. This role requires him to capture the transformation of an arrogant, ego inflated, controlling man and have him broken and rebuild himself in a whole new way. He also sounds like Hugh Laurie in House (though that may just be me).

For his supporting characters we have Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, the part of Stephens ordinary life and his grounding force for humility and kindness. When the training begins we are given The Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton, the mentor character, Swinton is an entity like no other, you really do buy her as a character out of this world or at least not of the norm, able to take the most obscene mystical mumbo-jumbo dialog and roll it off the tongue. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, another but more experienced sorcerer. Ejiofor is an amazing talent and he does indeed have moments to shine in this movie but he really deserves a part where he’s given a fully fleshed-out character that will bring out his amazing talent. Benedict Wong plays… Wong (no really) another sorcerer, head librarian and the classic non-smiling straight-man.

In terms of the layout of the plot this is still what you will have come to expect from most Superhero movies, especially from MARVEL. But what keeps them fresh and able to continue their winning streak is that they perfect the formula, adding the necessary alterations when needed and still giving us something unique. Doctor Strange has been a character that has flourished in its visuals, this movie shows us colours and transitions like we’ve never seen before, there is a scene where Stephen literally has an outer body experience and we get so many visuals that they may have used them all up, but they continue to give us them. This movie is a the psychedelic one of the MARVEL movies. If you enjoy that, then you will find yourself at home in the other worlds this movie takes you to.

Like any fictional world there needs to be rules to establish the way things work and so the audience can understand it. The sorcerers cast spells by abandoning the previously established limitations of time and space, they need to unlock their minds so the normal rules will bend to them. However some acts put too much of a strain on them so they use tools, which allows them to focus their abilities and easily conjure the spells they need to.

Dr Strange doesn’t, and never really has existed in the same realm as The Avengers. His place is a smaller, more neish corner of this universe. He exists within dreams and nightmares, the worlds unseen, but just as important.

The visual inspiration for the movie is very clear. With having a cityscape fold they have obviously taken inspiration from Inception, however that images was taken from a Man With a Movie Camera. But also when we go inside a building it resembles the morphing effect in Dark City.

But what does this matter? Truth is it doesn’t because they use it for their means and make it more complex and intense. But there is also the running theme of the breaking glass, like his hands, his should and his perception of reality, this movie is about the breaking of the this layers we have in life.

In this movie is a chase scene like nothing else I’ve seen in movies (and I’ve seen a lot). It seems straightforward with two people working together to try and get to a portal and they have pursuers. But the pursuers and shift the landscape. They change the angel of the whole city, then bend the buildings and warp the architecture. Eventually the whole things taken on the a shifting rubix cube seen through a kaleidoscope.

Going way back to his first run in the comics Doctor Strange was a character that wasn’t the most powerful but he was smart, strategic and committed to defeating his enemies. Our climax in this movie is not one where two beings hit each-other with lights and sound until the other is knocked out, it is one where what has comes before playing into the end strategy. This is where our hero out-thinks the threat instead of out punches him, a refreshing and important take on to show to the masses in Superheroes.

This movie shows what MARVEL still has. Even with nearly twenty movies under their belt at this point and so many characters used they still have things to show us and different angles and views to take in this genre.

Review Romeo a Juliet, Ballet Cymru by Helen Joy

 

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Bonfire Night. Newport’s riverside is looking crystal sharp in the cold air and the backdrop of fireworks reflect in the still water of the Usk…a poetic start to the poetry of the Bard in motion.

Good ol’ Will. It’s a well-known tale and we have all seen many interpretations over the years. Ballet Cymru will mime and dance its way through the verse in this very smart and suitable location.

And it is quirky and funny and sad in all the right places. It is strangely lovely with pearl curtains and warehouse projections; costumes peculiarly appropriate to the setting and the story.

With clog dancing.

How could you not love the clog dancing? The thump of the wood on the floor as the orchestra roars into Prokofiev’s finest. The masks, the confidence, the arrogance of the piece. Startling, angry, manly, perfectly placed. I am not alone in loving this, this visceral interlude.

A hard line drawn against the softness of Romeo and Juliet, the continuum of life against the void.

And I have to say, I love the fight scenes. I can see that the love scenes are beautifully played out, the emotions expressed exquisitely in dance; but the fight scenes capture the sense of boyish adventure. Protagonists from families expectantly discordant run rings around each other, play-fighting until blood is shed. The boys are men. Tybalt commands the stage. Mercutio burns brightly and then, revelling in his wordy end, burns out. The swords are sheathed. The music, the movements are oddly exciting to this complex choreography and I can see eyes shining with some primal lust around me.

How does ballet do this? How can this carefully designed dance portray the random acts of a few hapless young folk so well? I ask a dancer, the Friar, what a certain move means – this apparent lifting of the arms of another: ah, it’s about domination, about instruction, about control.

It is all about control. It’s about putting words to movement; movement to music. It’s taking this extraordinarily gifted troupe of dancers and giving them a different language to speak. It is every inch of the body telling a love story, a tragedy, as beautifully and as elegantly as it can.

The dancers play their roles with finesse and candour. It is not an easy story to tell and they do tell it beautifully.

We leave to see the last of the fireworks explode over the town and kick the Autumn leaves a little before we go. And I ask my friend, what do you think? “Well, more memorable than conventional productions I’ve seen.’ Yeah. I’d go with that.

Huge thanks to Patricia Vallis and cast for making us all so welcome at The Riverfront, Newport.

Enjoyed:                                                                      5th November, 2016, at The Riverfront, Newport

Touring:                                                                       November to December, see website for details

http://welshballet.co.uk/

Dancers

Lydia Arnoux                                                            Anna Pujol

Andreamaria Battaggia                                      Allegra Vianello

Gwenllian Davies                                                   Dylan Waddell

Miguel Fernandes                                                 Daniel Morrison

Mark Griffiths                                                           Robbie Moorcroft

Artistic Director                                                                       Darius James                                          

Assistant Artistic Director                              Amy Doughty

Associate Artistic Director                             Marc Brew

Composer                                                                  Prokofiev

Original Play                                                             William Shakespeare

 

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

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This year marks the 100th Birthday of the literary legend Roald Dahl but I’m sure you knew that already? If you live anywhere near Cardiff you would have seen the spectacular celebrations across the City Centre from National Theatre Wales and if not there would have been something nearby to mark the event no doubt. And since we are huge Roald Dahl fans in our house it was nice to get the chance to see George’s Marvellous Medicine in the New Theatre in Cardiff recently.

We arrived just in time to find our seat in the packed out theatre and settled into the seats. The music started and we were introduced to George’s family, as anyone who has read the book will know, it is a lively and interesting family, and George of course is the main character played by Ed Thorpe.

I quickly realised how much fun this show was going to be, and the audience were happily cheering along and getting involved from the beginning. Even the adults were laughing at the jokes, and the Mother-In-Law quips.

Preparations for George’s Grandma’s arrival began and the whole stage came to life, this was something I noticed throughout the whole show, when anything was happening the whole scene lit up, or the focus was brought firmly to one area, this really helped the smaller audience members concentrate on what was going on, as we know their attention span is naturally short, so the Birmingham Stage Company really did cater for this in my opinion.

So of course we meet George’s pretty awful Grandma, and she is as miserable as described in the original story, she is rude, bad tempered and demanding, and we instantly disliked her, as intended, well played Deborah Vale. Poor George has a miserable time of it when he is responsible for the care of his Gran, and he starts making up stories in his mind, except for this is the theatre and the scene comes comes to life with him.

The story continues and George comes up with his wonderful idea to make a new medicine for his Grandmother to make her nice…

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I really appreciated the fact they used actual creams and other special ingredients rather than just pretending and I think it added something special for the children watching. I can only imagine the clean up operation after each show though. Of course this only made things more real when the inevitable happens and Grandma drinks her medicine and BOOM! She grows and grows….. I know my girls were mesmerised by the incredible growing Grandma and even I was sat wondering how they managed it.

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. Even the special Pigs and Chickens that were used in the story were impressive. 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!

I would certainly watch another show from the Birmingham Stage Company, and can only applaud everyone involved in George’s Marvellous Medicine.

An Interview with Artist Emily Jones

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Illustration for The Emperor’s New Clothes

 Sherman Theatre and Theatr Iolo

All artwork copyright Emily Jones

Our project coordinator recently spoke to Cardiff based artist Emily Jones about her career to date and plans for the future.

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

12742821_1750981951798560_632608210184773208_nHello, I grew up in Tyneside but I’ve lived in Cardiff for ten years now. I studied illustration for children’s books at art college and that’s the branch of illustration I’m really passionate about. Although, I do enjoy drawing cartoons of Donald Trump and other political figures that I find ludicrous! Being an illustrator isn’t my full time job as I prefer the balance of being able to draw and paint when I want, without the worry or pressure of relying on it for an income.

So what got you interested in Illustration?

I had two lovely teachers in primary school and they encouraged me to draw. They made me realise that you could draw pictures for a living. I loved picture books in particular and I had my favourite illustrators who I aspired to be like. I think I’ve always been fascinated with images and how someone has created them.

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How has your career as an illustrator developed?

A few years ago, I began renting out an art studio so I had the space to work in a more professional manner rather than just working at home in front of the TV. This really changed things and along with posting my work on social media, I have slowly but surely become busier and better.

Your personalised pet portraits are particularly popular with your work appearing in 1000 Dog Portraits by Rockport Publishers? Can you tell our readers how you got involved in pet portraits? Do you have a favourite animal to illustrate?

I painted my partner’s dog Scooby and it all started from there. I showed the painting to a few people and before long I was being asked to paint their cat or dog. I think painting pets is a great way for any artist to get commissioned as it’s artwork that is really accessible for people to buy. I love painting all sorts of animal but the more animated the creature is, the more fun I find it to be.

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 Over the last two years you have been commissioned by The Sherman Theatre to produce images for the seasonal productions The Princess and The Pea and this year The Emperor’s New Clothes. Can you tell us how you approach illustrating such popular classics for the stage?

Well I begin by doing a lot of research on how other artists have illustrated the stories. I then do my best to create an image which is completely original as well as instantly recognisable. The images have to grab attention of both children and adults and hopefully it will make people want to see the show. I’ve loved illustrating these particular stories as they’ve both been so playful and silly.

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Do you have any illustrators or artists that inspire you?

There are tons! Quentin Blake has always been there as a favourite, as has Edward Gorey. They are experts at depicting characters with seemingly simple pen lines. Shaun Tan’s work is incredible and I wish I had a fraction of his talent! I love Júlia Sardà, David Roberts, Isabelle Arsenault, David Litchfield, Michael Sowa, Mateo Dineen, Rebecca Dautremer. They are a just a few! I study their work and try to figure out how they do what they do. They make me feel totally inferior but at the same time, inspire me and enthuse me to create my next best piece; which is definitely a good thing.

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If any of our readers are aspiring illustrators what advice could you offer them?

Draw as often as possible. It seems obvious but you have to practice. Drawing from life is a brilliant way to improve your skills and develop your style. Having a recognisable style is important and it’s something I haven’t mastered yet. But the more work I do, the more I learn and develop. I just wish there was more time in the day to draw!

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We believe you are currently working on your first children’s picture book, sounds exciting, can you tell us more?

I’ve almost finished the artwork for a lovely writer, Victoria Richards. She commissioned me an embarrassingly long time ago but the end is now in sight. We don’t have a publisher yet but we’re hopeful of finding one. It’s a great, magical story and the artwork is some of my best. We’ll definitely get it out in the public domain somehow.

What do you have planned for the future?

I’ll continue taking on commissions as and when I get them and I’m going to start illustrating my own stories to see where that takes me. Other than that, just continue to draw and paint.

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Thanks for your time Emily

You can see more of Emily’s work here; https://www.facebook.com/emilybobmandraws

An Interview with Rebecca Jade Hammond, Artistic Director of Chippy Lane Productions

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Photographic Credit Kirsten McTernan

Our project coordinator recently spoke to Rebecca Jade Hammond Artistic Director of Chippy Lane Productions

Hi Rebecca, great to meet you, your company Chippy Lane productions has the mission statement of;

“Our primary mission is to promote Welsh writing and Welsh talent to audiences beyond Wales. We aim to achieve this by producing work across both the live and recorded arts.”

I wonder if you can tell me how you work towards achieving these aims?

“We do this in a number of ways;

  1. By consistently keeping abreast of published Welsh playwrights work and progression.
  2. Encouraging new writing and work from emerging Welsh playwrights.
  3. Social Media/events/building communities of like minded Welsh and Welsh-loving people beyond Wales.
  4. Expanding our events to include rehearsed readings, socials, scratch nights, fundraising evenings as well as performances.”

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Following on from those objectives then your company has recently produced a new scratch night to showcase Welsh writing called “Chippy & Scratch” at The London Welsh Centre and “An Evening of Welsh Playwrights” for The Bloomsbury Literary Festival. Phew you must be busy! It sounds like you might be interested in commissioning playwrights and creatives yourself as part of your companies development. Is this something you would like to see happen?

“Yes, and it is one of the main reasons for setting up a twice annual “Chippy & Scratch Night” to seek out new and emerging, fresh Welsh writers who want to progress and take the next steps in bringing their work to the stage. From our most recent event I am currently in talks with potential writers to try and match one of them to a project for 2018, which will be our next project and inspired by the text The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.”

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Your first production to be staged in Wales is “Love Steals Us From Loneliness” by Gary Owen at Chapter Arts Centre in December. Why did you choose this particular play?

“When I set up the company I wanted to create a buzz and to begin my producing portfolio with a real bang. There was no question that I had to begin with the most important and successful playwright to come out of Wales – Gary Owen. The love for his writing is so exciting and he is making a tremendous noise on the London theatre scene with the success of Iphigenia in Splott . His writing is real, raw and has that rarity with most contemporary work to flick from comedic to tragic like the flip of a coin. Love Steals, is by far my favourite piece of his and when I read it for the first time five years ago – I always said “If I ever pluck up the courage to have my own company, I need this to be the first!”

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Love Steals Us from Loneliness was first staged by NTW/Sherman Cymru in Hobo’s nightclub in Bridgend Town Centre in 2010. Do you think this play still resonates for today’s audiences?

“Absolutely. I think it’s pretty timeless to be honest. The themes will always be resonant and even though in someways it is aimed at a younger demographic it can still reach further. After all everyone has or will experience, love, loss, grief, and heart ache. Some will battle with sexuality and others will venture down the wrong path or maybe overcome the tragedies in their lives to be successful, happy and content, able to exist and move forward.”

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Rebecca you also champion Equality and Diversity in the Arts across the UK. As an activist and committee member for charity Act For Change. How did you become aware of the work of Act For Change and can you give us more information on your work in this area?

“Firstly it affects/has affected me as a female in the arts where women are poorly represented across the board and also as a regional working class Welsh actor. On a wider level it has affected many of my friends and work colleagues who are BAME and working in the industry and it needs to change. The UK is not majority white and English and it hasn’t been for a very long time. AFC was set up in response to an ITV advert run in 2014 “Where Drama Lives” the advert failed to represent any BAME actors and brought together a collective of people across the arts to revolt and campaign for a wider awareness and change to progress diversity and equality across the arts in the UK. Our arts should reflect the society in which we live in – which is diverse and I for one can’t understand why this isn’t currently reflecting across the live and recorded arts. We have a wealth of talent in the UK and opportunity should be available for all who want it. My most recent work for AFC which includes helping with their events and social media was putting into action a fair casting process for Love Steals. I spent four months ploughing through Twitter, Facebook, the internet, spotlight and drama schools to find BAME actors who were authentic Welsh. I’m not going to lie it proved difficult as Wales – doesn’t seem to have many and this is a major concern.”

Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists?

“I went to showcases and performances in and out of Wales to build up a portfolio of actors who were Welsh. Of the 180 that I currently have in my portfolio 35% are BAME and 25% are over the age of 35. Whilst I worked really hard to raise these figures – it isn’t good enough and it’s not from lack of research or trying. I tried to find a fair amount of actors who represented that bracket to go into the casting process, but sadly there wasn’t enough and I’m concerned that it comes from education predominantly.

We need schools to be studying / performing / spreading awareness of stories of BAME communities and we need to take young people to watch these stories being performed. For example The Mountaintop at The Other Room, Cardiff – A teenager of colour might have seen Alexandria Riley’s performance and gone away thinking  “Wow – She’s amazing and she looks like me. That story was about a part of my culture, I want to be like her.” Children want to see themselves in the characters in theatre as well as television and film. Give them that, then that seed will grow from a passion to a hobby and then to a potential career giving progression and more diversity in Wales.”

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

I would give the funding to primary schools and secondary schools to finance their theatre trips. We need to capture the next generation of creatives at a young age and show them worlds that can only belong on stage and captivate them. Culture them and nurture them to realise the beauty and possibilities of different types of Theatre. By giving them free tickets to the theatre they will experience a different type of education and in light of the wealth of work swelling in and out of Wales at the moment, perhaps they will see a reflection of what they could do or who they could be in those productions.”

And finally what personally excites you about the arts in Wales? Is there a production you have experienced recently that you would like to share with our readers?

“The arts in Wales are changing. It’s not the place I left in 2004, there is wealth and excitement for Theatre that is new, diverse and vibrant. The Other Room, The Sherman Theatre and NTW to name a few are taking enormous leaps producing  great work  and  reaching new audiences and then take this work beyond Wales to engage with other parts of the UK – this is wonderful news.

As for a production I  think I would choose the The Weir at The Sherman Theatre. Mostly because it was giving voice to Irish culture and Irish life and that is what I want Chippy Lane to do beyond Wales. Bring a bit of Welsh culture beyond Wales. As an Artistic Director I want to hear as many stories from all around the world as I can and the wonder of Theatre allows you to do that rather beautifully.”

Thanks for your time Rebecca

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Invite to Kali Theatre Collaborators Tea Party, Sat 12th Nov.

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Kali Theatre Collaborators Tea Party 12.30-2.30pm
Saturday 12 November, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.
BSL Supported event

This will be a networking event bringing local practitioners, producers and promoters together for a relaxed afternoon of tea, cake and conversations sharing ideas and opportunities for creating/commissioning new theatre work.

The Collaborator Tea Party will be facilitated by Kali’s Artistic Director Janet Steel inspired by the incredibly successful collaboration between Arts Alive, Black Country Touring and Kali that created My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding. At the Tea Party you can hear all about how we developed My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding into the popular, high quality, sell out show it has become and discover how you can do the same.

It will be an opportunity for Rural Touring schemes, promoters and rural venues interested in commissioning new work for rural touring to informally meet individual practitioners, producers and theatre companies to share ideas and discuss ways of collaborating in an informal and inspiring way. Kali wants to encourage and inspire more collaborative working to create new work specifically for local and national rural and small scale touring.

For more information and to RSVP please contact:
Jonna Nummela, Outreach Project Coordinator
Kali Theatre jonna@kalitheatre.co.uk +44 7879539936
http://www.kalitheatre.co.uk/whats-on/Collaborator%20Tea%20Parties.html