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Review An Evening with Bryn Terfel and Friends Festival of Voice by Helen Joy

Bryn-Terfel-Photo-credit-Mei-Lewis

Photographic credit Mei Lewis 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I sat on a wooden seat I remembered well from school days, from weddings, from funerals; from happy, sad and scary times. The doors open to the green light and the bird song, to the passers-by and the church bells.

We are a congregation of grey hairs, crumpled linen and sensible shoes, mostly. Only a few lift their phones to film as the orchestra and conductor walk in but this is not the place for pop concert technology and they are gently reminded as such.

This is the place for the wet velvet voices of the truly gifted to fill these old bones of a building with the beauty of centuries. And I am lost – I have no notion how to describe the feelings inside me.

Bryn Terfel – always magnificent with the strength of the lion; Rebecca Evans – the exquisitely powerful song of the angel; Hannah Stone – enchanting us all with the magic harp; Gareth Jones – blooming with the pride of leading Sinfonia Cymru. Bach, Handel and Mozart would have been thrilled – although they may have shown it in different ways!

So how do I describe an hour in their company? I thought about Epstein and his Christ In Glory looking out and over us – the bold decision of a Bishop and his Dean and Chapter in 1950 to recover their cathedral and make her grand again after the destruction of war – and found these words by their architect, George Pace: Mystery should be veiled and vista should open upon vista..seemed to sum it up rather well.

 Type of show:         Opera selection, harp

(Bach, Handel and Mozart, including Brandenburg Concerto No.60)

Title:                           An Evening with Bryn Terfel and Friends
Venue:                       Llandaff Cathedral

Conductor:               Gareth Jones
Bass Baritone:        Bryn Terfel
Soprano:                    Rebecca Evans
Harp:                            Hannah Stone

Orchestra:                  Sinfonia Cymru

Date:                              7pm, Tuesday 7th June only
http://www.wmc.org.uk/WhatsOn/voice/

 

End

Ennillodd Gwynfor Dafydd o Rhondda Cynnon Taf Y Gadair yn yr Eisteddfod 2016 am ei gerdd, sydd am y Cymoedd yn Ne Cymru cyn yr oes diwydiannol/Gwynfor Dafydd from Rhondda Cynnon Taf wins The Chair at The Eisteddfod 2016 for his poem about the post-industry valleys of South Wales.

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Ennillodd Gwynfor Dafydd o Rhondda Cynnon Taf Y Gadair yn yr Eisteddfod 2016 am ei gerdd, sydd am y Cymoedd yn Ne Cymru cyn yr oes diwydiannol/Gwynfor Dafydd from Rhondda Cynnon Taf wins The Chair at The Eisteddfod 2016 for his poem about the post-industry valleys of South Wales.

Bywgraffiad

Bachgen deunaw oed o Donyrefail ydw i, sydd ar hyn o bryd yn ddisgybl yn Ysgol Llanhari, a chyn hynny fe fûm yn ddisgybl yn Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tonyrefail. Yr wyf wrth fy modd yn astudio ieithoedd, ac felly os caf y graddau gofynnol, gobeithiaf fynd i Goleg yr Iesu yng Nghaegrawnt y flwyddyn nesaf er mwyn astudio Sbaeneg ac Almaeneg ab initio.

Cerdd am fro fy mebyd ydyw’r gerdd hon sy’n ymateb i erthygl a ddarllenais i â’r pennawd ‘The unbearable sadness of the Welsh valleys.’ Felly, mae hi’n trafod themâu megis ‘anghyfiawnder cymdeithasol’, ‘tlodi’ a ‘diweithdra’ a’r problemau anochel a ddaw law y llaw â hyn. Er hyn, fe geir y teimlad bod cymuned yn mynd i gamu ymlaen erbyn y gerdd olaf, a herio’r sefydliad er mwyn creu cymuned decach a sosialaidd.

I am an eighteen-year-old boy from Tonyrefail, and am currently a student at Ysgol Llanhari, and before that I attended Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tonyrefail. I enjoy studying languages, and am hoping to go to Cambridge next year to study Spanish and German ab initio, if I obtain the necessary grades.

This is a poem about the unjust treatment of the place in which I was born, responding to a poignant article that I had read with the headline ‘The unbearable sadness of the Welsh valleys.’ Therefore, it discusses themes such as ‘social inequality’, ‘poverty’, ‘unemployment’ and the inevitable consequences of this. However, there is hope in the last poem that the community will challenge the establishment and fight to build an egalitarian and socialist society.

 

‘The unbearable sadness of the Welsh valleys’ – Mark Easton, BBC.

 ‘”Why don’t you leave?” I ask an unemployed man in his 50s. “Because I’m a valleys boy,” comes the reply. “This is home.”’

 Yn datŵ damweiniol

ar noson feddwol, creithiwyd

y lle hwn

yn ddwfn i’r croen

ac i’r cnawd. Nid

fy ffawd, nid fy newis i

oedd deffro i ddyffryn

graffiti a gwm cnoi

lle mae brain yn toi’r

tafarndai a’r capeli a’r siopau.

 

Ond felly y bu.

 

Mae’r graffiti a’r gwm yn glynu,

y tatŵ yn gwrthod crychu,

ac eto,

rwy’n gofyn yn gyson:

 

Ai ni yw dy bobl

ynteu dy wystlon?

 

II

‘Many parts of the UK have suffered from the decline of heavy industry, and the Welsh valleys are a grim emblem of this.’

 

Cerdd Tad-cu beunydd fynyddoedd ei fro,

fel y gwnaeth ganwaith gynt â’i dad-cu e –

yn dilyn ei lwybr at y pyllau glo

a’i mowldiodd yn dalp o bentrefi’r de:

Ceibiwyd ei gefn i frwydro’r gwynt a’r glaw,

weldiwyd ei draed i’r pridd yn gusan hir,

siapiwyd ei ddwylo’n llyw i’w reddfol raw,

a thynnodd ef ddau blentyn bach o’r tir.

Ond heddiw, ar gyfeiliorn, mae ar daith

yn chwilio am fyd sy’n gorwedd fel rhith

dan y bryniau mud a’r twmpathau maith,

a neb i olrhain ei gam ond y gwlith.

Mewn tanchwa drachwantus, daeth gwifrau du

a pheilonau haearn i ardd Tad-cu.

 

III

‘There are no shops around here and the bus to town stops at 6pm. There are children who’ve never been more than a mile or two from their front door.’

 

Mae hi yno’n aros

bob nos yn yr orsaf fysiau.

 

Ni ŵyr pam.

Ni ŵyr i ble mae’r bysiau’n mynd.

Ond gŵyr mai bws yw’r ateb.

 

Rwyt ti wedi ei gweld.

 

Ffroenaist y patrymau

coch

ar hyd ei breichiau.

 

Baglaist dros y caniau gwag

oedd yn ei gwarchae

gan guchio’r minlliw

a staeniodd dy jîns.

 

Cuddiaist glustiau dy blant rhag ei rhegfeydd

(Sh*t. F*ck it. C*nt.)

a gwarafun gweld bod merch fel hon

yn griddfan mewn cynghanedd.

 

A phregethaist dan dy wynt

fod bysiau’n gorffwys

ar ôl chwech.

 

IV

‘Tonight, the place feels abandoned, and many people appear to have given up on God.’

 

Mae’r lle, heno, mor llonydd

â Duw (fel y mae bob dydd),

ei dreigl ar stop, a’i siopau

i gyd â’u shutters ar gau –

rhesi clòs o ddrysau clo

yn hisian … lle bu croeso.

 

Ac mae, heno, gymuned

yn y dump yn chwarae dead

hen le llwyd sy’n casglu llwch,

hen aelwyd mewn anialwch

unig, gwag, cans daeth i’r cwm

hualau … lle bu cwlwm.

 

A heno’n ein cyfannu,

nid oes ond gwe’r gwifrau du –

yn ddi-hid, cyfalaf ddaeth

i hawlio bro brawdoliaeth,

ac mewn ’stâd ddigymen, stêl,

mae’r hen dŷ ’n marw’n dawel.

 

V

‘”Politicians kick us and then they kick us again,” a local despairs.’

 

Mae tlodi’n halogi’n heolydd ni

a’i flas dros weflau’r mynyddoedd tost.

Treiddia ei rym drwy gracs y tai

am nad ydyw’n licio’u cod post.

 

Ymhell, bell dros y dŵr bas

mae ’sgidiau glân a syber-glyd

a droediant yn drwm ar ein strydoedd ni

o bell, bell â’u gwadnau di-hid.

 

Yno, ym mêr y muriau mawrion

mae rhagfarn eu cloc haearnaidd yn byw.

Yma, fe gosbir pawb ’r un fath:

pob hil, pob oed, pob rhyw.

 

Yr un yw’r gri o’r fynwent draw

yn y rhesi hir o feini rhad

a brynodd i’r pellfuddugwyr gynt

eu rhyfel drud ar faes y gad.

 

Ond clywch y drwm yn curo’n rymus

rhwng y cyrff a fwydodd y gweryd â’u gwaed

sy’ heddiw’n had i’r to iau

a dyf o’r dicter dan eu traed.

 

Daw’r curiadau anochel yn amlach,

eu cnulio’n atseinio’n uwch bob tro.

Llyfa’r tir ei wefusau’n wancus

wrth gyfarch eneidiau ‘glanach’ i’r gro.

 

Mae tlodi’n halogi’n heolydd ni,

tlodi sy’n dilyn cod post.

A’r un yw’r ffawd bob ochr i’r ffin –

’dyn ni i gyd yn cyfri’r gost…

Cwm Cnoi

http://www.s4c.cymru/urdd/e_index.php

Review Festival of Voice: John Cale (w/ Gwenno) at St David’s Hall, Cardiff by Jon Mohajer

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The selection of John Cale for the opening night of Cardiff’s fledgling Festival of Voice was an act of enlightened curation. Few singers other than John possess a voice imbued with such intrigue, both heavy and complex with the weight of its vital musical history, and yet warmly inviting with its simple richness.

With 2016 marking fifty years since the recording of The Velvet Underground’s first album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico” it would be easy for John Cale to lean on those old tunes, giving simple gratification to fans who still hold those early experiments with rock’n’roll (and all else that entailed) as his pinnacle. But ‘easy’ is rarely a path Cale has taken. An inspiring lecturer on the avant-garde, and a relentless seeker of new frontiers in music such as drone and noise, it was fitting that the only nod to the Velvet Underground in Cale’s two hour set was a heavenly version of ‘Sunday Morning’ twisted by transplanted and warped instrumentation.

The set illustrated the enormous breadth of Cale’s oeuvre, while subtly highlighting its manifold interconnections. Transitioning from a new offering such as the murky, ascending opener ‘Time Stands Still’ into 1973’s familiar ‘The Endless Plain of Fortune’; or from a haunting, strangely empty rendition of Cale & Lou Reed’s 1990 nostalgic collaboration ‘Style It Takes’ into the desolate ‘Wasteland’ written fifteen years later, Cale wove an enigmatic tale through his performance. The two-hour set rarely ventured from andante, and Cale rarely from behind his keyboard, but interest was held by the addition of string and horn sections, and a choir comprised of gospel and classical singers, apparently instructed simply to ‘sing as they felt’. The appearance of Michael Sheen to perform Dylan Thomas’ ‘Death Shall Have No Dominion’ over a claustrophobic, machine-laden soundscape was a particular highlight, encapsulating Cale’s fraught, unsettled, yet sentimental relationship with Wales.

http://john-cale.com

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Opening act Gwenno was captivating, transmitting ethereal, dystopian-themed Welsh language pop vocals and string hooks over an undulating, krautrock revering rhythm section. Gwenno played cuts from her 2015 LP ‘Y Dydd Olaf’, inspired by obscure Welsh sci-fi novelist Owain Owain.

Her marriage of inhuman synthesised sounds with the Welsh and Cornish languages was an engaging metaphor for the continual transformation and creative resistance of marginal identities under modernity.

http://www.gwenno.info

Review La Voix Humaine by Helen Joy

La-Voix-Humaine-main

voix

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Location: Her apartment, in Penarth

The party, the At Home invitation, the Do I know You routine

The glass of fizz, the canapé

The uncomfortable seating of the unknown faces

The nervous conversations, the couples chatting together apart

The admiring of the view from the windows

Lovely Weather. Yes.

Are we participants? Voyeurs? Witnesses to a woman collapsing in front of us.

Seeing her destroy herself. Hearing her pain.

Afterwards, What friends were we? We let her do it. We watched.

The clinical beauty of a voice heartbroken had sung out of the windows and over the water.

We left

Event:             La Voix Humane

At:                   A flat in Penarth

Production:         Wales Millennium Centre and Welsh National Opera for Festival of the Voice

Director:               David Pountney

Voix:                        Claire Booth

Music:                     Ricordi

Translation:        Richard Stokes

Seen:              7.45pm, 3rd June, 2016

Reviewer:      Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:        03 Jun – 11 Jun 2016

Links:               https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/Other/LaVoixHumaine5/

 

 

 

 

Review The Merchants of Bollywood, Peacock Theatre by Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Back again to the Peacock Theatre, one of the wonderful houses of dance in London. From my first experience in ‘the hood’ where urban myths unfold on stage, to a cultural, vibrant and full of life story of Bollywood vs Traditional Indian dance.

The story follows the relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather and the distance caused between them with his want to keep tradition alive and her eagerness for fame and the Bollywood scene.

We encounter flashbacks vs the current storyline, emphasised by the narration of the progress of the story. With this and the occasional comical and melodramatic scene, we are given the sense of Bollywood humour; an almost Shakespearian technique of throwing in comic relief amongst serious storylines. There is also a slight hint of satire, not just at Bollywood, but of all films across different cultures – pointing out the basics of storylines and how underneath the differences that producers give to a film, they are fundamentally the same.

Majority of the storylines they pick on are girl meets boy romances; the obstacles they face but the ultimate reunion of the characters, conquering all with love. This is mirrored cleverly itself with the storyline of the production – the main character reuniting with her childhood sweetheart after being whisked away by fame and fortune. A cross-culture concept of tradition vs modernisation and the affect it makes on heritage is also picked upon by highlighting through dance and costume the current trend and the more traditional.

The Merchants of Bollywood is full of life and colour – the energy brought to the stage through dance is palpable; the music is catchy and enjoyable; the characters are well formed in their blocks of serious characters and the comical relief. Some of the more serious moments become a little hammed up and caused laughter rather than an emotional expression. I continued to think of this, comparing it to the rest of the production – from my little knowledge of Bollywood, it does have a sense of melodrama and the Soap Opera tint on its stories and characters. By adding these moments to that ideal and taking account of the audience members who this made a positive impact on gauging from reactions, it would seem that playing off the over dramatic Bollywood genre is well constructed by imputing this through these moments; another satirical but celebratory nod to the film genre.

Overall I love The Merchants of Bollywood. As westerners, we have this concept of India as a beautiful, colourful place, steeped in history and tradition, but also in some aspects moving with the times. The story and construction of the production emphasises all of this; coming away without having a good time is pretty impossible.

http://merchantsofbollywood.com.au/the-music/

http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2016/the-merchants-of-bollywood/

 

Review Sea Life The Hope Theatre, by Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

London is well known for its Theatre Pubs. A wonderful concept, in the heart of boroughs of the city, there are little spaces where stories unfold, and below in the bar, people meet from all walks of life.

Invited to The Hope Theatre, this small and punky pub collates theatre goers and the locals in one amazing area. Heading upstairs, there is an instant change. A hustle and bustle of conversations drift away and the sound of sea gulls and shanties fill the small room. A strong smell of fish and chips fills the room as we sit like sardines next to one another in a dilapidated seaside bar. A green and blue tint on the stage, the whole room is painted and kitted out to involve you in the scene that begins to unfold.

The story sees 3 dysfunctional siblings after a tragic past and an even more tragic present. The play aims to look a life and death and does this with no fear of the audience sensitivity – just how theatre should be. The cliff is slowly breaking away with natural erosion, and the small towns past in the form of its grave yard is in danger of falling into the waters below and being lost forever. Enlisted to help, the brothers of this trio make the coffins and the other digs up the bodies – all three constructing silly and unordinary funerals in their never used bar.

The writing of this play is fantastic – it is full of emotion but also just as full with comedy. When you are told that this is a play about life and death, perhaps your mind immediately thinks it will be a negative emotional roller-coaster; not for the faint hearted. And it is, and it isn’t. We feel for the characters in their time of need, their frustration but also laugh at their oddball characters, their weird and unusual relationships and their even more bizarre situation.

To have such a mountain of content playing in such a small area is fantastic. The actors pin point their different characters so well. There’s a hint of a League of Gentleman to the production where it is funny but also so strange that you feel a little anxious as to whether something terrifying made suddenly be thrown in. And without giving anything away, it does just that. Finding yourself laughing but also being slightly shocked is a funny feeling but a wonderful one and replicating that with over 30 people is a triumph.

Sea Life must be one of my favourite shows so far in 2016. It appeals to everyone and is extremely British in its comical storyline and production. As a critic, perhaps you should find minor faults, but I cannot say there is a fault with this play. It has everything you need and that just a bit more.

sea life

Review Before I Leave National Theatre Wales by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

National Theatre Wales soar as their revere for a nation of unified pride reigns in a more increasingly inclusive Welsh theatre, at the Sherman Theatre.

From first glance Before I Leave is a story of Alzheimer’s – inevitably sad and scattered with a respectably predictable style of humour. However, with a wonderfully assured cast, a truthful direction, and a truly vibrant script, a brewing passion of a profound Welsh musicality triumphs! Rocky’s war-cry of ‘Why can’t we give love one more chance?’ encompasses this performance for me. We all can appreciate the desperate actions of a character put ‘Under Pressure’.

To quote playwright Patrick Jones “This play is a testament to the healing power of song” From the perspective of, debatably, the youngest person in the audience on Tuesday night, regardless of my cultural experience – and knowledge of The Jam or Neil Diamond – I (like the entire audience) can acknowledge that music has an ability, if somewhat exploited in this piece, to evoke our human longing for nostalgia, understanding, belonging and escape. The Before I Leave chorus and choir added a beauty, in its sentiment, to a pop-rock enthused performance.

Director Mathew Dunster champions empathetic and honest portrayals, through an admiration for ‘the people’. From Desmond Barrit’s unapologetic portrayal of an ex-policeman embodying a life of continuous conflict. Celia Hewitt’s sorrowful, and enlightening, Isabelle, and Dafydd Hywel’s exulted grit in Rocky – who illuminates the truth behind a too well-known Welsh figure. But, Martin Marquez’s Joe – a slowly fading rocker, unsure of what he’s raging at anymore – makes for a seemingly effortless and encompassing performance, and perhaps, as a result, the most under-rated of the evening.

Dunster’s direction – of meandering crossovers and the adopting of minimalistic solutions – highlights a simplicity that poignantly reflects a nation of loss. This constant interchanging of time, characters and setting reinforces the spirit of a community continuing to live. And, the audience, intended or not, are coaxed to ‘power through’ the surges, and droughts, of a zealous intensity.

Jones’ sincere, and deeply-rooted play is confirmed in the understanding of its disease. Abrupt, and ambling, scenes are a mere portal into the scattered objectives of a chaotic (real) life.

Anna Fleischle recreates all too familiar settings. Chairs striking – in their primary colours – plonked, to animate waning lives, on the uninspiring mesh of carpet. Seamlessly, a reflection of the struggle to express vividity in an increasingly taxed and drained Welsh society, as well as those plagued by Alzheimer’s, can be discovered in a tragically governmental building – a Merthyr library. Straker’s poignant projections of our green valley, its ever-present brutality, and our glorious dead, succeed in capturing the tensions of an ‘evolving’ Wales.

Before I Leave is painstakingly perceptive – yet the light never fails to pierce through its shadows. National Theatre Wales commanded the audience to their feet and left them humming.

Theatre
Before I Leave
Venue: Sherman Theatre
Dates: 27 May – 11 June, PN 31st May
Director: Matthew Dunster
Written by: Patrick Jones
Design: Anna Fleischle
Technical: Heddwyn Davies/Andy Evans (Sound), Dyfan Jones (Music), Angharad Matthews (Costume), Dick Straker (Video designer), Joe Fletcher (Lighting)
Cast includes: Desmond Barrit (Evan), Olwen Rees (Isabelle), Dafydd Hywel (Rocky), Llinos Daniel (Gemma), Martin Marquez (Joe), Melanie Walters (Dyanne) and Oliver Wood (Scott)

Running time: 2hrs 30min

Review Return of The Grumpy Old Women- Fifty Shades Of Beige, St Davids Hall by James Briggs

 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

Returning after their sell-out Spring 2015 tour the Grumpy Old Women are back to share their Grumpy tales and tips with the nation. Award-winning comedian and original star of Grumpy Old Women Jenny Éclair is accompanied by fellow recruits Susie Blake (star of Mrs Brown’s Boys) and Kate Robbins (Singer and star of Casualty). Before I go on with the review, however, I must mention I cannot go into too much detail as to the tales told with my review because as Jenny Éclair said “What goes on in Grumpy club stays in Grumpy club”.

The Grumpy Old Women

Landing at St David’s Hall in their shed from outer space the grumpy old women, spacewalk onto the stage complete with space helmets and uniforms to a momentous applause from the audience, unsurprisingly the audience was mainly made up of women, with just a few men dotted about the auditorium. Given that I was possibly one of the youngest in the audience and being male I still felt as though I was able to relate to the topics they discussed – mind you having a Mum the same age as the Grumpy Old Women did help!

The Grumpy Old Women talked about a wide range of subjects that any person was able to relate to including a guide to nagging, how to get a roof rack put on a car without your husband moaning, dancing at weddings and pole dancing. Props littered the garden set and were used to brilliant effect during the show and even included a gigantic pair of pants and a BBQ.

The show is very clever in that it can be talking about a topic and then the lighting will change and you are plunged into a mini sketch. The sketches highlight the brilliant acting skills of all the Grumpy Old Women. The amazingly funny script really worked well for the stars and left the audience in stitches and in my case tears streaming down my face. I really like the fact that all of the comedy was good clean fun with very little use of bad language. When the language was used however it was delivered with fantastic comic timing.

The second half of the show sees them return to the James Bond theme which sparked a debate into why there has not yet been a female Bond. With the current news of Daniel Craig’s decision not to carry on playing Bond there is no better time than now to consider the possibilities of a female actress playing Bond and the three Grumpy women are obviously showcasing their talents to play Jane Bond.

For me there were two stand out moments in the show that were utterly hilarious, the first of these was when team Grumpy took part in ‘Grumpy Come Dancing’ based on the hit BBC show which had the audience in hysterics especially with Susie Blake’s pole dancing performance. The second stand out moment for me was the posh version of The Jeremy Kyle show, the writing was amazing and Kate Robbins impersonation of Jeremy Kyle was brilliant and even mimicked the way he lies on the step and goes up close to the faces of the people on the show. The content of the Jeremy Kyle sketch is also fantastically funny due to it being based around a mother complaining ‘My son will not practice the cello’.

At the end of the evening the audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation. Anyone who watches this show is guaranteed to have a fabulous night and will most definitely be leaving with an aching jaw from laughing so much. This really is a must see show that should not be missed and is most definitely the best night out I have had in a long while.

Return of The Grumpy Old Women- Fifty Shades Of Beige is currently on a UK wide tour and all of the dates are available via this link- http://www.grumpyoldwomenlive.com/

Review Before I Leave NTW by Gemma Treharne-Foose

 

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It’s taken me a while to process what I saw on Tuesday night at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. National Theatre Wales seemed to create a sensory experience before even setting foot in the theatre space. As we settled in our seats, the lady next to me commented how much the set looked just like a nursing home – I was sure the heat of the auditorium and (I thought) faintest smell of disinfectant were part and parcel of the show – or was I imagining it? It seems I’d misjudged the show and its assumed setting before it even began.

The play won over the audience from the get-go as the characters emerge and we begin to see small vignettes and glimpses into their lives. These scenes cross over, interrupt one another and interface with their communal experience of singing in a choir. The set, beautifully designed by Anna Fleischle and her team, contextualises the rich landscape and history of the community where it is set on five digital windows, creating a vivid backdrop for the action on stage. This staging helps build up momentum and keep the play pacey and light, full of visual morsels and edgy, familiar riffs and melodies. The songs had a visible, moving effect on the audience as the connections between the songs and the choir members were played out. We see how the tangled personal lives of our loved ones are at odds with bureaucratic ‘local service providers’ and how at odds we are as a system to provide well-meaning person-centred care and support. There is one poignant moment where ex-police officer ‘Evan’ struggles to comprehend why a social worker is giving him a ‘needs assessment’ using an iPad: ”In my day, we had a pencil and a pad’, he muses while the social worker retorts: “Yes but I can see a whole street in New York LIVE if I want to…”. “Why…?” Evan says, completely exasperated by the whole thing. In that precise moment, Evan becomes our Dad, our Uncle, our Granddad…and probably us in the future, too.

Miner ‘Rocky’ is trapped in his past as an ex-picketing Collier and there is an on-going clash as Evan and Rocky dredge up previous battles fought during the Miners’ strike. Throughout the play we see dear  Evan crumble as his daughter Gemma facilitates his confusion and takes advantage of his finances, causing him to lose his home and his grip on his own life and independence. We’re introduced to ex-punk Joe and his wife Dyanne who is doing her best to cope with Joe’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimers. The first half, culminating in a rousing rendition of ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails/Johnny Cash, was tender and bittersweet.

The second half delves more in to the personal struggles of the characters as their meeting hub, the local library, is earmarked for closure as part of austerity measures (“Tory bastards!” Rocky spits out….and his frustrations with Tory Britain in the 80s seem as relevant as ever). As Joe struggles to comprehend and find words to air his frustrations, the couple clash causing Joe to lash out – there is a powerful scene between them as Joe becomes frightened and agitated and the police are called. Meanwhile, ex-librarian and Opera singer Marjorie is losing her grip on her orderly lifestyle and not even post-it notes can help her anymore. Will she be able to find her voice again?

In the second half, the pace of the play seemed to lose the hold for me slightly and lacked the initial punch of the first half. At times, the play reminded me of Jonathan Larson’s ‘Rent’ and seemed awkward in places as the scenes became longer. Rocky’s character was troubling for me. Jones clearly has a fondness for the Valleys and a clear message about their demise and future challenges. But the play does teeter very close to the edge of romanticism and sentimentality for a time when ‘everyone stood up for their rights’ and our communities were OK then. I find it awkward when the stereotype of the ‘wistful, mournful miner’ finds his way in to so many plays depicting Welsh/Valleys life (and this is coming from the Granddaughter of a Rhondda miner). There was something not quite right about the face-off between Rocky and the ‘Hoody’ who betrayed him.

That being said, the eventual coming together of Evan and Rocky was touching. They are after all, two sides of the same coin; both insecure, frightened and haunted by their past. Gemma’s treatment of her sweet Father Evan highlights the ugly side of all of us; too lacking in time, too impatient and to wrapped up in our own lives to care about the stuff that really matters. There is nothing like dementia or Alzheimer’s to drive this reality home. We see that it is all-encompassing and full of conflict for all who are touched by it. But it is a leveller, too. And we are reminded that living well is just as important as managing the condition. Exasperated by the choir’s experience at the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ audition in Cardiff, mild-mannered Marge pipes up: “We are not SUFFERING from Alzheimer’s, we are living with it!”

The choir remind us that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s does not mean that they ‘become’ their illness. There are shadows and small reminders that they are still there, if we care to look for them. In Isabelle’s tapping (as an ex-secretary), Ex-punk Joe not conforming when his wife wants him to get ready for an appointment: ‘Naughty boy!’ he shouts. This is what he was…and perhaps still is: a rebel at heart. We see it in the resilience and strength of character of Evan, despite being hemmed in and pressured to move in to a care home. This play is all of us. We are all Evan and Rocky and Gemma and the patronising stand-in choir director. Patrick Jones reminds us that even when the soul of a community is shut-down, threatened and it seems that all hope is lost, we are strongest when we find our community – wherever or whatever that community means to you.

Theatre
Before I Leave
Venue: Sherman Theatre
Dates: 27 May – 11 June, PN 31st May
Director: Matthew Dunster
Written by: Patrick Jones
Design: Anna Fleischle
Technical: Heddwyn Davies/Andy Evans (Sound), Dyfan Jones (Music), Angharad Matthews (Costume), Dick Straker (Video designer), Joe Fletcher (Lighting)
Cast includes: Desmond Barrit (Evan), Olwen Rees (Isabelle), Dafydd Hywel (Rocky), Llinos Daniel (Gemma), Martin Marquez (Joe), Melanie Walters (Dyanne) and Oliver Wood (Scott)

Running time: 2hrs 30min

 

Dyma’ch Cyfle yn cydweithio gyda staff Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru yn Eisteddfod yr Urdd 2016.Get the Chance is collaborating with staff from National Museum Wales at the Urdd Eisteddfod 2016

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Mae Dyma’ch Cyfle/Get the Chance yn cydweithio gyda staff o’r Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru yn Eisteddfod yr Urdd 2016 yn Sir Fflint.

Dyma’ch Cyfle /Get the Chance is collaborating with staff from National Museum Wales at this years Urdd Eisteddfod in Flintshire.

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Rydym yn cefnogi aelodau o’r cyhoedd i rhoi adborth ar y perthnasau gyda Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru a traddodiadau diwylliannol.

We are supporting members of the public give us feedback on the relationships with Wales National Museums and Cultural traditions.

 

 

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Rydym hefyd yn rhannu adborth ar yr Eisteddfod ei hun.

We are also sharing feedback on the Eisteddfod itself.

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Menter gymdeithasol wedi’i leoli yn Ne Cymru yw Dyma’ch Cyfle, yn gweithio tuag at greu cyfleoedd i amrywiaeth o bobl sydd am brofi ac ymateb i chwaraeon, celfyddyd, diwylliant a digwyddiadau byw

  • Mae Dyma’ch Cyfle’n arddangos gweithgaredd ar wefan cylchgrawn ar-lein http://getthechance.wales/
  • Mae’r wefan yn cynnwys gweithgreddau gweithdy, adolygiadau, erthyglau golygyddol a llawer mwy
  • Mae’r wefan yn blatfform i’n haelodau i rannu, trafod a gwerthuso eu hymatebion personol gyda’u rhwydweithiau a’r byd ben baladr
  • Dyma’ch Cyfle yw’r gymdeithas sy’n cynrychioli aelodau Beirniaid Ifanc Cymru, Beirniaid Cymunedol Cymru a 3ydd Act

 

Digwyddiadau ar stondin Amgueddfa Cymru, Eisteddfod yr Urdd Fflint 2016

 

Dydd Mercher, 1 Mehefin 11:00 – Gweithdy Beirniadu gydag Aneirin Karadog

Dydd Iau, 2 Mehefin 10:30, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 – Gweithdai Beirniadu Dyma’ch Cyfle

 

 

Get The Chance is a social enterprise based in South Wales, working to create opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events

 

  • Get The Chance uses its online magazine website http://getthechance.wales/ to showcase its activity
  • The website content will feature workshop activity and outcomes, reviews, editorial features and much more
  • Our website is a platform for our members to share, discuss and evaluate their personal responses with their networks and the wider world
  • Get the Chance is the host organisation for members of Young Critics Wales, Community Critics Wales and 3rd Act Critics

 

Activities on Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales’s stall, Urdd Eisteddfod 2016

 

Wednesday, 1 June 11:00 – Critic Workshop with Aneirin Karadog (Welsh language)

Thursday, 2 June 10:30, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 – Get a Chance Critic Workshops (Bilingual)