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Review Akira by Jonathan Evans

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

There is a name that is known to every manga and/or anime enthusiast worth their salt and that is Akira. The reason for this is probably (among its many other attributes) that it is a prime example of what Anime has to offer. Vast, elaborate backgrounds, a unique tale of science fiction, inspiring as well as grotesque images and characters that dwell into the depraved as well as the noble. American animation has primarily been for children or for the family, Disney would never attempt anything like this. We will never get anything this complex, this disturbing or well funded and executed.

As a country Japan knows the devastating impact of nuclear warfare. In the fifties it channeled that into the giant monster Godzilla which then birthed the entire Kaiju genre. Then Katsuhiro Otomo began a monster of a manga in 1982 and finished it in 1990, turning in a tale of almost five thousand pages of art. This movie came out in 1988. This is a streamlined telling of the tale that Otomo told but it is more about the visuals and the experiences that it offers than anything else.

The movie opens on a vast city-space that is Tokyo in 1988, then pans up to show an explosion, wiping out all. This triggers World War III. Then we cut to 2019 (so close now) and we are now in the new Neo-Tokyo, a city set to host the Olympics. Within this city are the bright, colorful lights of signs, and vehicle headlights, but they are contrasted by the blacks of the sky and the buildings themselves. And within this location motorcycle gangs race, beat and kill over nothing really. This is the city of Blade Runner, that is populated with the drug taking, violent youth of A Clockwork Orange sprinkled with a little doomsday mentality of the Mad Max movies. Whether these were a part of Otomo’s influence while crafting the story or not does not matter. All those stories hit on essential prophecies and fears that mankind will find itself in.

The leader of one of the gang’s is a boy named Kaneda, who sports a bright red jacket with a powered motorcycle to match. His best friend Tetsuo wants to ride his bike, but Kaneda says he cant handle it, so he gets on his and the other members ride off to beat on another gang. While they are doing this a riot is breaking out and there is a man who has been shot and is leading a boy though the street.

During the time of conception and release Japan was going through a major problem with it youth. They were indeed running wild and the economy was on the verge of collapse. Great pieces of art reflect the problems of the world at the time of their creation, b the themes are eternal, youths running amok, an unsteady economy and the dangerous places science can lead us are problems that will always come-up again and again.

The man who was shot then dies because of the riot and the child wanders off. His path then crosses with Kaneda and Tetsuo. Tetsuo crashes his bike right into him and gets injured, the boy is unaffected and we then see him clearly. Young in body but his skin is wrinkled.Suddenly military helicopters descend taking the wrinkled child and Tetsuo.

The image of seeing children but with old wrinkled skin is a striking one. Like much of the ins and outs of the movie it goes unexplained. We know it’s linked to their abilities but that’s as far as it goes. It could be viewed as the terrible hybrid of the generations. Youth that is burdened by the centuries of traditions and expectations. Or another interpretation is that the children have been given powers and with that comes responsibilities but they are unable to deal with it because of their age. Movies don’t necessarily have to give you all the information. They are the art of show don’t tell after all. Part of the fun and what makes people want to come back to re-watch a movie are the things that go-bye unsaid, if we got the full package on the first viewing then there would be no need to return. But a truly great movie has layers that you are able to peel back after repeated viewings.

Many details of the plot go by us without ever really getting fully explained. But this works because we see it from the position of the teenagers, who are equally bewildered and only marginally grasp the immense scope of their situation. Kaneda is not a truly well defined character, he is headstrong, enjoys simple (though very illegal) things, though if he were truly complete that would be a detriment to the movie. A world this vast, with so many themes and images doesn’t need the inclusion of even more layers. We just need someone who’s defined enough and that reacts to their situation with enough believe-ability that the audience can put themselves in their shoes. For simple stories we require deep characters, for crazy complex stories we need simple characters.

Traditionally in Japanese animation, the feature is animated and then the actors are brought in to put their voices over the animation. This movie was handled differently. It was done like Disney does theirs, wear the actors record first and then the animation is matched to their performance. Something that would probably go over the heads of regular viewers but for those with know this medium a little more they’ll see more shape and form to the lip-syncing.

Before this Otomo had only been an Anime director for two segments in two other feature films. He had done plenty of manga work and it seemed like that would be his medium to stay with. But when the opportunity to adapt his manga work into a fully fleshed-out movie he took it and with that changed the industry forever. He already came with such mastery of sound design, cinematography and movement of camera. True he was not alone in making the movie and was probably given some experts to help realize his vision. But this is technically his first movie and it is such a strong debut.

Probably the most obvious great aspect about the movie is it’s magnificent animation production. This world is alive, from the characters in the foreground to the civilians in the background, the a close-up where you can read a character inner thoughts, to a building crumbling. It is an immense spectacle that has been envisioned and then drawn again, again and again to create the illusion of movement. With animation everything costs money, every piece of movement is a new frame and that means that it cost money. There are ways to get more out of little. Like having a static, but striking image that draws your eye for longer with it’s simple execution. But there are rarely anything on-screen that is still in Akira. Not every single thing in the frame is moving at the same time but there is always something moving and that cannot be faked or done cheap. The money and effort shows with each frame.

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But beyond your eyes Akira also stirs your ears. Everything from the sound of motorcycle revving its engine, it’s tires screeching across the road, a pipe whacking someones brains out, a helicopter smashing into a building and every piece of glass shattering on the pavement. And the musical score by Tsutomu Ohashi itself, which mixes the modern techno that the youths would listen to and the ancient mantra reciting melodies that continue to blend the the two generations together. Just like Apocalypse Now this is the most cinematic experience you can find. Everything from the grand image on-screen to the sound that will fill the theater (or your living room).

Tetsuo then awakes in a bedroom. As he lays in bed he sees tiny little toys move across his bed and then onto his pillow. he goes to grab them but nothing is in his hand, then the whole room shakes and every inanimate object converges on one spot forming one giant, demented, Frankenstein’esque teddy bear. Growing larger than the room and tearing it apart.

The rest of the movie consists of Tetsuo getting out of the facility and then coming to grips with his new powers. He begins to get very painful headaches which he subdues with pills. His power grows and the children and he himself keep hearing one name repeated again and again “Akira.” During this time Kaneda teams up with freedom fighters of some kind to free Tetsuo and expose the government. However Tetsuo has never been the leader before and now has the powers of a god and absolute power corrupts absolutely. He has all the power in the world and he puts on a red cape perfectly displaying his juvenile mindset.

Kaneda realizes his friend is beyond all help and reasoning and he must end him. The two meet in the place of unfulfilled ambition, the unfinished Olympic stadium, where so much was promised and so much riding on. Now the drugs have worn off and he has full access to his power but no control, and becomes a giant, monstrous amalgamation of flesh and machine. Like the little toys he saw and now amassed too much power beyond his control and is simple destruction now.

Akira is one of the pinnacles of anime because you would never get this from anywhere else. It’s pot runs on a minimal capacity, only giving you enough to get truly invested in and lets the world and characters envelop you the rest of the way. The rest is brought to life with images and sounds that paint a canvas of a country that both wants to head to a new age but is also restrained by centuries of history and tradition that leaves it’s youths confused and angry.

Review ‘King Lear’ RSC Live by Danielle O’Shea

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

King Lear follows the story of a king who loses power to two of his daughters after banishing his other, his realisation of the wrongs he has committed and his eventual fall into madness and wisdom. It is a timeless story of family, loyalty, how power corrupts and the definition of insanity.

Doran’s interpretation of a Shakespearean classic is ambitious from its minimalist setting to its total reframing of some of Shakespeare’s most iconic villains. As stated in his pre-show interview, Doran saw the play as more political and as a discussion of the human condition. This is evident when he sacrifices some of the family dynamic to give these themes more support; this can be seen when he portrays the characters as ideas rather than as complex individuals.

A talented cast all shone through in this production but particularly Nia Gwynne, as Goneril, who portrayed the character as far more sympathetic than any other performance has. Along with this, the live streaming of the event allowed for quick and easy access as well as the inclusion of events such as the interval feature on the costume design for the feature which reflected the lavish lifestyle and transitions that the characters go through stunningly.

All together a dazzling interpretation of a classic reimagined for such political climates as ours. However, in the first half there is a particular imbalance of light and dark as the attempts at humour often seem out of place but order is restored in the second half leading to a dramatic and satisfying finale. This seemed to be the perfect introduction to such an old and intricate tale.

RSC Live: King Lear

Vue Cinema, Swansea

12th October 2016

Author: William Shakespeare

Director: Gregory Doran

Design: Niki Turner (Theatre Design), Tim Mitchell (Sound Design), Jonathon Ruddick (Sound Design)

Technical: Hannah Miller (Casting), Carl Root (Production Manager), Ed Parry (Costume Supervisor)

Cast: Anthony Sher, Nia Gwynne, Kelly Williams, Natalie Simpson, David Troughton, Oliver Johnstone, Paapa Essiedu, Antony Troughton

Producer: John Wyver (For Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon), Zoe Donegan (Creative Team)

Running Time: 3hrs and 30 mins

Danielle O’Shea

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

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Mamma Mia the musical opened at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff this week and the buzz and excitement surrounding it meant that expectations were high.

Let’s start by saying the show began as expected, with Sophie posting the invites for her wedding to her three potential fathers, showing determination and emotion as she did so, a perfect opening scene and introduction to one of the main characters. We were also introduced to Lucy May Barker’s singing voice and what a voice! Brilliant!

We then meet Sophie’s friends, Donna and her friends and the other main characters, including Sophie’s Fathers. All of whom I think we’re perfectly fitting for their roles. Especially Donna. Sara Poyzer that plays Donna, had a hint of Meryl Streep in her energy, however a phenomenal voice to carry those fantastic ABBA songs to every corner of the room, and have every person there enthralled.

As the story moves on we were treated to classics such as ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’, ‘Our Last Summer’ and of course the entertaining ‘Does your Mother Know?’ Which happens to be one of my favourite parts in the film, and Emma Clifford that plays Tanya did it justice. Also the men showing off their dancing skills and choreography was outstanding, especially Louis Stoical who plays Pepper with his jumps, energy and humour!

It’s worth noting the simple but very effective scenery and spectacular costume designs, as well as the incredible orchestra really bring the whole thing together.

Of course the show had to find its ending sadly and even though it’s hard to compare the stage show with the film, the wedding preparation and wedding certainly lived up to expectations, ‘Slipping Through my Fingers’ no doubt caused a few teary eyes and certainly felt like a special moment.

The party like atmosphere at the end had everyone up from their seats dancing and singing along to ‘Dancing Queen’, inhabitations lost and I’m sure everyone left that room feeling great!

The audience were clearly hooked from beginning to end, with oohs and ahhs and plenty of laughter, the cast did an absolutely amazing job of entertaining everyone last night, and even though the film was a hit, this show was funnier, livelier and had more energy. I can understand the buzz surrounding Mamma Mia now, and might even try to catch it again before it leaves Cardiff!

Review Bouncers Black Rat Productions by Helen Joy

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Absolutely outstanding!

4 men, bouncers, take us through the trials and tribulations of life on the door.

It’s funny, it’s much harder to write about something worth seeing, worth talking about. Why is that?

Is it because we are naturally more gifted at criticising than complimenting? Well, here goes.

Let me think: anything I don’t like? Nope. Anything anyone around me doesn’t like? Not that I can tell. An awful lot of cringing though; a lot of us are wincing at the characters as we see ourselves enacted, exaggerated, ridiculed – our past lives revealed in all their glory..

How do they know how women behave in the Ladies? Eurgh that is painful to watch. But we laugh till our sides ache. I am sure the men in this packed audience feel the same about themselves. I can see eyes narrowing and teeth bared in the grimaces of ‘ooh I’ve done that’.

Some really nice touches – the bouncers are in role at the doors of the Institute and the bar is open, with plastic glasses to take our wine in with us – a la nightclub!

The set is deceptively simple and lights and action flick cleverly between scenes, from dance floor to pavement to lavatories.

The bouncers are mimics, their grasp of personalities male and female perfectly belied in their body language, mannerisms, speech and form.

But it is not all lads on a night out, girls on the razz, bouncers doing a job; there is a darkness to all this light bouncing off the glitter-ball of life.

There are some very clear messages. Some clearer than others and pronounced with some pathos through our senior bouncer’s speeches (he makes 4). Lucky Eric, he isn’t.

It’s about tempers and frustrations, sadness, loss, the impact of antisocial jobs on our lives, the careless sex after careless imbibing of the demon drink.

It is using humour to make us listen and think. It is a play which shows us how so little has changed, each generation must find its way through the social challenges of finding, and keeping, a partner.

It tells us about the power of alcohol to affect our emotions, our sense of personal responsibility and our sex drive. It is about the consequences of actions taken under the influence.

We are forced to reflect on the nice girl, Susie, eating her pizza whilst being humped against a wall at the back of the club. Not so funny.

It winds down, like the party it is, to the point where we are all ready to go home.

Laughter, reminiscence and social commentary – the simple bear necessities of life have come to us. There is much to talk about.

Deserves to be on the London stage. The Abigail’s Party of Blackwood!

http://www.blackratproductions.co.uk/bouncers-2016/

Cast

Gareth John Bale

Sam Davies

Ross Ford

Morgan Hopkins

Production Team

Writer                         John Godber

Director                      Richard Tunley

Designer                    Hilary Statts

Lighting Designer     Robin Bainbridge

Running October to November, please check Black Rat Productions website for details.

 

 

 

 

Review ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour’ Lighthouse Theatre Company by Martin Chainey

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

When you think of Aberystwyth, do you see a university town, home of the National Library of Wales, and guest houses along a pebbly beach front? I’ll bet you don’t think of sinister druids, sleazy nightclubs, mysteriously missing schoolboys, and 24-hour whelk kiosks. Welcome to the world of private detective Louise Knight, with his raincoat, fedora and smart-talking gumshoe drawl. And say hello to a wickedly clever mix of Film Noir tropes and an affectionate ribbing of Welsh traditions.

I first read the original novel of Aberystwyth Mon Amour several years ago, and remember falling in love with the characters and the slightly surreal humour. I admit I wasn’t entirely convinced this would work so well on the stage. After all, the story takes place over a period of time in a variety of places, and features a wide cast of characters (including seaside donkeys). Most of all, I was concerned an adaptation might dilute some of the humour of its writer, Malcolm Pyle.

I was relieved to find the script has been written by the author himself, and none of its wit has been lost in translation. The dialogue is still as sharp and funny, and the story has been cleverly tweaked so that events all take place within a 24 hour period. The 20-odd characters are played by a small cast of eight. Rather than this coming across as a weakness, it actually works to the production’s advantage, adding to the playful tone. Yes, we might spot the same actor with a different costume and accent, but the characters are so likeable and well-played, you can’t help but go along with it.

As for the frequently changing scenes, a special mention must go to Simon Scullion and the set design, which is both ingenious and surprisingly minimal. By simply moving three objects on the stage, rotating them, or changing the lighting, different settings are created quickly and effectively. I totally believed I was in Louis’ office, an amusement arcade, on the seafront, in a nightclub, and even in the cockpit of an airplane. And I have to say, this was the first time I’ve seen a scenery change get its own round of applause from the audience!

Aberystwyth Mon Amour is an intelligent and witty production, which the Lighthouse Theatre Company should be very proud of. A wonderfully bonkers plot and script, clever directing and production design, and a cast who all give top notch, straight-faced performances that really bring out the humour. The audience was certainly responsive to it, and clearly had a great time. Other comedy thrillers take note – this is how it should be done.

Aberystwyth Mon Amour

Company: Lighthouse Theatre Company
Pontardawe Arts Centre, 8th October 2016
Author: Malcolm Pryce
Director: Abigail Anderson
Design: Simon Scullion
Cast: Matt Addis, Llinos Daniel, Phyl Harries, Catrin-Mai Huw, Non Haf, David Prince, Sonia Beck, Adrian Metcalf

Free Workshops Wriggle ! & Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at NMW, Cardiff, Sat the 15th

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This Saturday the 15th of October from 10-12 pm there is the opportunity to attend a free exclusive workshop at National Museum Cardiff. During this workshop we will be focusing on 2 exhibitions;

“Wriggle! The wonderful world of worms”

An exciting, family-friendly exhibition delving into the wonderful world of worms. Crawl inside the amazing ‘wriggloo’ and get an earthworm’s eye view of the world. Discover the mind-blowing diversity of worms and find out more about where and how they live. Use our fun interactive game to discover what kind of worm you really are! Explore how worms have crawled into all areas of popular culture, from books and movies to heavy metal music.

https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/9051/Wriggle-The-wonderful-world-of-worms/

The group will also visit and discuss

“Quentin Blake: Inside Stories”

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories celebrates the work of one of the world’s most important and best-loved illustrators. Best known for his illustrations in the books of Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake’s work is recognised worldwide.

This exhibition gives a unique insight into the origins of some of Blake’s most iconic and popular creations, ranging from his illustrations in Roald Dahl’s The Twits and Danny the Champion of the World, to his own Clown, The Boy in The Dress by David Walliams and illustrations in books by John Yeoman, Russell Hoban and Michael Rosen.

It includes first roughs and storyboards, many never shown before, with finished artwork to demonstrate how ideas evolved, often in close collaboration with the authors. It shows how Blake brings to bear a wide range of different techniques and media including inks, watercolours and pastels applied with a variety of touch, in response to the particular mood of a book and the nature of its characters, to create his distinctive and unforgettable illustrations.

https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/8916/Quentin-Blake-Inside-Stories/

During the workshop the curatorial staff at NMW, Cardiff will discuss the exhibition with you all and you will be able to discuss how the exhibition developed and what the response from the general public has been. We will then go and discuss the exhibition together as a group. As usual everyone attending will be requested to create a blog type response. This can range from a formal review to imagery, video its up to you really but everyone has to respond!

If you would like to join Get the Chance and attend this free event please email, Guy O’Donnell, Project Director

odonnell.guy@gmail.com

The 25th British Academy Cymru Awards by Emily Garside

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British Academy Cymru Awards, Special Award recipient Terry Jones with Michael Palin, © Jonathan Hordle/BAFTA

On Sunday 2nd October 2016 BAFTA Cymru celebrated once again the best of Welsh film and television talent. From documentary makers, to actors, directors and make up and special effects, the spectrum of filmmaking talent in Wales and around the world was celebrated. Thanks to alterations in the eligibility criteria, works by Welsh artists outside of Wales are now eligible, which means from Downton Abbey to Hinterland and everything in between the awards honoured the talented work from and in Wales.

On the red carpet for this year’s awards Host Huw Stevens stopped by to discuss the awards before heading inside to prepare. After a brief chat about the earlier excitement of Cardiff’s Half Marathon (he watched at home in his pants) he was keen to share his excitement for the awards. Emphasising how important it was to showcase Welsh talent in the capitol city, and just how much talent Wales had to show, Stevens also noted that he got ‘the best deal’ because he got to read out a lot of the nominations.

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Ceremony host Huw Stephens arrives on the red carpet.© Jonathan Hordle/BAFTA

As Stevens headed inside to get ready for the show, other guest and nominees began to arrive. The Get the Chance Team got to chat to a lot of the arrivals, and find out just who they were excited to see nominated (and possibly win). Early to arrive were BBC Newsreader husband and wife team Lucy and Rhodri Owen, who talked about the range of real quality drama that they enjoy from Wales including the ever popular Hinterland/Y Gwyll. We also chatted to Torchwood stars Gareth David Lloyd and Eve Myles, there to present awards. Later a fantastic arose opportunity to talk to Yu-Fai Suen, the managing director of Pinewood Studios, who talked enthusiastically about all the talent available in Wales, both in front and behind the camera-and hinted of some big opportunities for the future of filmmaking in Wales!

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Eve Myles signs autographs for fans on the red carpet.© Polly Thomas/BAFTA

There was also chance to catch up with nominees on the Red Carpet, with best actor nominees Aneurin Barnard and Richard Harrington, both talking about the great opportunity to celebrate work done in Wales presented. A longer, more personal chat with Tim Rhys Evans-best known as musical director of Only Men Aloud- talked about the more powerful side of the awards, in raising awareness for issues within the drama and documentaries produced. Rhys-Evans was part of a brave documentary that followed his struggles with mental health, and he talked passionately about both the film’s power as a talking point and opportunity for people to begin to end the stigma around mental illness. He noted in particular, that the chance to talk to press once again about the film having been nominated, was another opportunity to continue talking about mental health, and hope that having used the film to talk about his own experience others would do the same and get help when they need it. And as much as this night was about celebrating the talent of those involved in film, Tim Rhys-Evans’ brave documentary is a reminder that there is also often a broader impact to the work made.

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Tim Rhys Evans collects the Single Documentary Award for Tim Rhys Evans – All in the Mind.© Jonathan Hordle/BAFTA

In watching the awards ceremony, itself, it is clear there is powerful drama and documentary made in Wales, alongside wonderfully entertaining work. Tim Rhys Evans – All in the Mind went on to win two awards, one for Madoc Roberts for editing, and one to the production team for Best Single Documentary. Roberts thanked Tim Rhys Evans and said ‘What a thing to do to help others’ while Rhys Evans in accepting the award with the team commented it seemed odd to receive an award for ‘a particularly shitty time in my life’ but went on to say that as statistically a quarter of the audience tonight would be affected by mental illness, that we should continue to keep talking and end the stigma.

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Lowri Morgan and Ffion Dafis with Rondo Production Team winners of Live Outside Broadcast Award for Cor Cymru: Y Rownd Derfynol.© Polly Thomas/BAFTA

Elsewhere in the factual categories Wales’ musical side was reflected in the factual categories with Les Miserables Y Daith i’r Llwyfan in the Entertainment Programme category and Côr Cymru – y Rownd Derfynol in the Live Outside Broadcast category. And Factual Series was won by Music for Misfits: The Story of Indie given to Siobhan Logue, which she dedicated to ‘All the misfits out there’.

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Lee Haven Jones winner of Director: Fiction for 35 Diwrnod Apollo, Cwmni Boom Cymru. © Polly Thomas/BAFTA

In drama the directing award-a competitive category spanning drama made inside and outside Wales, and featuring an episode of ITV powerhouse Downton Abbey- was picked up by Lee Haven Jones for 35 Diwrnod – Apollo. Deservedly for a masterful piece of drama, and a career that is going from strength to strength, Haven Jones lamented that his Mother was going to kill him for not bringing her for the second time, and dedicated the award to his partner Adam who he ‘Moans with a lot, but also dreams with’ Elsewhere in Drama, best actor winner Mark Lewis Adams for Stanley in Yr Ymadawiad thanked both his co-stars and the hair and makeup team for helping him to create and inhabit his character every day, and dedicated the award to his wife. Meanwhile best actress winner Mali Harris for DI Mared Rhys in Y Gwyll/Hinterland thanked the show for the opportunity to ‘Play cops and bad guys’ for ten months of the year.

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Robert Pugh with Mali Harris winner of Actress Award for Dl Mared Rhys in Y Gwyll/Hinterland – Hinterland Films 2Ltd/Fiction Factory/BBC Wales/S4C. © Polly Thomas/BAFTA

The special awards for this 25th anniversary were particularly poignant. The Sian Phillips award being given, for the first time to a makeup artist, Sian Grigg. And was awarded by the namesake herself, Sian Phillips, who declared the award ‘from one Sian to another’. The special presentation was accompanied by video messages from Ioan Gruffoad and Leonardo DiCaprio, who both worked closely with Grigg over the years. Girgg dedicated her award to her Mother, also a makeup artist, for being her inspiration.

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Sian Phillips with Sian Grigg winner of Sian Phillips award. © Polly Thomas/BAFTA

The Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television award was given to Terry Jones. This celebration was, it’s fair to say, tinged a little by sadness with the news that Jones has been diagnosed with a form of dementia, and is suffering its effects, including a loss of communication skills. Accompanied to the ceremony by friend and fellow Monty Python star Michael Palin-who led the tribute to him-and his son, Terry was still able to come on stage and accept his award. And in true Terry Jones style, despite not being able to communicate through speech, he still conveyed his feelings perfectly, waving down the standing ovation and putting the BAFTA to his face to wear like a mask.

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Bill Jones and Terry JonesTerry Jones, BAFTA Cymru Awards, Ceremony, Cardiff, Wales, UK – 02 Oct 2016. © Jonathan Hordle/BAFTA

Clearly happy to be there, and supported by a dear friend and family it was still an opportunity to celebrate his achievements. Despite this, when his son made a short speech, and struggled to hold back his emotions, it was a difficult and touching moment for everyone. But to see Terry Jones, clearly thrilled to be honoured in his home nation, for all his achievements over the years, was a truly fitting end to the 25th Anniversary BAFTA Cymru celebrations.

REVIEW: ‘THE MOUNTAINTOP’ FIO BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I was curious to see how Katori Hall and Fio would execute a piece of theatre with Martin Luther King Jr. at the front and centre. How can you successfully honour a man like Luther King without bordering on the syrupy and sentimental – and how do you cast light on the many human flaws and weaknesses that all of us (even the greatest) have without dishonouring the memory of a one of the greatest leaders of our time?

I must confess, having seen Cape Town’s Opera’s Mandela Trilogy in Cardiff when it was playing, I kept wondering during all the jubilant celebrations about his human flaws too – rightly or wrongly. It’s a really tall order for theatre-makers and they have to tread so carefully. Separating the man from the legend is an uphill struggle, I’m sure.

Essentially, it’s hard to summon up the true spirit of a real person when you only focus on the greatness. Human foibles are what make us real – and Luther King wasn’t without his moments of weakness. It is these things that make the difference between gushing tributes and a bold and honest look at such a recognisable and enigmatic man as Martin Luther King Jr.

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‘The Mountaintop’ transports us back to Room 306 at The Lorraine Motel in Memphis during Luther King’s final hours on the fateful day of his execution in 1968. Dr King has been canvassing for support for the rights of sanitation workers Tennessee. He is tired and paranoid and restless. We see him scan his room for bugs from the FBI.

Played convincingly by Mensah Bediako, we watch as Luther King strikes up a passing friendship with hotel maid Camae, played by RWCMD graduate Alexandria Riley. The interplay between the two is wonderful. Camae’s playful and frank observations about America’s race neuroses provide many moments on light relief and Riley beautifully plays the part of a woman with an incredible voice and something to say – challenging Luther King’s assumptions and observations with wit and panache. The friction and tension between the two is real – but why is she here and who is she?

There’s an underlying hint (and our own assumptions lead us to believe at first) that there’s a romantic motive for Luther King wanting Camae to stay with him. We know he is waiting for something…something even he’s not sure of. The stormy thunder, projections and lighting courtesy of lighting designer Jane Lalljee and Video Designer Zakk Huein produce a nerve-wracking tension and quiet energy to the piece, leading up to the final crescendo of Luther King’s last rallying cry. The final sequence and soundtrack by Dan Lawrence is a thing of beauty.

The Mountaintop reminds us that although it may be more than 40 years since Luther King was assassinated, the fear, ugliness, the sheer wilful ignorance and blindness of the human species is as powerful as ever. The vote for Brexit, the re-emergence and emboldening of right wing political parties across Europe…and now here we are at the precipice of doom, hoping that America votes with it’s head in October. Ugliness still prevails. Luther King’s opening line ‘America’s going to hell!’ is as relevant in 2016 as it was in 1968. Have we even moved on, really?

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Luther King is tortured by the death of Larry Payne – a 16 year old teenager killed during a sanitation worker march, a few days before his own death. ‘I will never forget that name’ Luther King says. But Larry Payne’s death has now been surpassed by so many other senseless deaths – Rodney King, Michael Brown, Eric Garner. Unarmed black men killed by so-called protectors of peace. How can we prevail when we are governed by the politics of fear?

And yet…and YET, as this stunning play reminds us – positivism and hope somehow remains. In the moments of darkness, there is light. We must fight back We must endure and go on. The Occupy protests, The Arab Spring, the Black Lives Matter movement all serve to remind us – we’re still here, we’re hopeful. Maya Angelou’s words are ringing in our ears and are hinted at in the heart of this production: ‘You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I rise’.

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This is the kind of powerful theatre that will evoke a raw and visceral reaction – and there are plenty of these moments, leaving your heart fit to burst and your belly doing flips. Riley’s fiery speech (wearing the suit and shoes of Luther King), the absolutely phenomenal segment where Camae and Dr King look to the future and catch glimpses of the wonders and the ugliness yet to come as well as Bediako’s final rallying cry, standing on that pulpit.

The powerful and emotional reaction you will no doubt encounter watching ‘The Mountaintop’ really is testament to Katori Hall’s incredible script. This is theatre that will pack a punch, leaving you sweating, crying and completely rung out. There are no other words to say than ‘Wow.’

Type of show: Theatre

Title: The Mountaintop

Venue: The Other Room, Porters (Cardiff)

Dates: 04 October – 15 October, PN 5th October

Writer: Katori Hall
Director: Abdul Shayek
Producer: Shane Nickels
Stage Manager: Katie Bingham
Lighting Designer: Jane Lalljee
Sound Designer: Dan Lawrence
Video Designer: Zakk Hein
Cast: Mensah Bediako & Alexandria Riley

Running time: 1hr

Produced by Fio in association with UWTSD, NTW, No Fit State, Theatre Royal Stratford East, WMC, UCAN.

 

Review The Revlon Girl October Sixty Six by Kat Leslie

revlon_girl 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) – Unmissable

The Revlon Girl is a heart-breaking, tear jerking story about the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster that happened in 1966. In the play a group of mothers who lost their children in the disaster meet in a room above the Aberfan Hotel 8 months later to discuss the events of the disaster. However, no one knows that  a representative from the makeup company, Revlon, is meeting with the mothers to give them all a talk on beauty tips.

This moving production will make you laugh as much as you will cry (or at last I did) and will shine a light on some very important life lessons. In the trailer for this play, Bethan Thomas spoke about how it shows that you don’t just have to deal with your own grief, but other people’s too. You fall in love with these characters and you cry for them. It was a phenomenally emotional story with powerful acting from an all female cast consisting of 5 amazing actors.

The Aberfan disaster is something that everyone in Wales will study  in Welsh class, but really, none of us know what actually happened and could never understand the pain it caused. The Revlon Girl sheds light on the effects of this historical event.

This down-right fantastic piece of theatre is about the mothers own ways of dealing with the grief, it’s about women and how they are portrayed. I think the writer Neil Anthony Docking and director Maxine Evans showed this beautifully in this motivating show. You see from start to finish, each woman’s journey and how each of them learn to cope in their own unique way.

This phenomenal production is worth the time and I would  defintely recommend this play to everyone.

Pontardawe Arts Centre, South Wales
Author: Neil Anthony Docking
Director: Maxine Evans
Running Time: About 60 minutes