Tag Archives: Hannah McPake

REVIEW: THE STORY by TESS BERRY-HART at THE OTHER ROOM by Gareth Ford-Elliott

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The Story by Tess Berry-Hart centres around X (Siwan Morris), a person “of the people” returning to their homeland after a year volunteering in “occupied territories”, helping refugees. X is being held under suspicious circumstances by V (Hannah McPake) who, under many different guises, interrogates, questions and advises X.

As much as this is a story about criminalising those who help others – it also explores the violence of language, manipulation of tone and deconstructs the ideas of a story and truth in the world of “justice”. It is this that truly stands out in Tess Berry-Hart’s writing.

There is so much to like about Berry-Hart’s writing. It is technically very strong. The language is brilliant, at times beautiful, at other times horrifying. The slow-burning story is amplified by excellent psychology within the characters.

David Mercatali’s direction is strong. Mercatali deals with the slow-moving story well, pacing the play in a manner that constantly makes the audience think and second-guess. The tone also shifts in an interesting and subtle way.

The acting performances are strong all round. Hannah McPake’s subtle diversity in her different “characters” as V is phenomenal, whilst Siwan Morris’ defiance as X is extremely moving. Luciana Trapman as The Storyteller also does a great job delivering powerful vignettes that are projected onto parts of the set.

Set up with promenade staging, Delyth Evans’ design is simple, yet effective. The long, narrow stage gives a real sense of entrapment that enhances the production. Combining with Katy Morison’s lighting which is mostly understated, but flickers and flashes at key moments. Tic Ashfield’s sound design completes the design elements in a very strong way. Somewhat unnecessarily, but effectively, bringing in glitches on voiceovers to distort the messages we’re hearing. This drives the audience’s curiosity to the mention of “the voice”.

This is potentially subjective, but The Story’s main issue is that it’s not challenging enough. There’s not enough emotion and the lack of a real story with a build really takes away from the potential power of this play. It feels quite safe and relies on an echo chamber for an audience. An audience who already think and feel how the play wants you to think and feel about the messages and themes.

It also doesn’t go deep enough into the topics it tackles. Far from a dystopian world – this is the reality of what we are currently living in. The dystopian feel takes away from that realism.

The disappointment comes from the clear potential of the play. It’s on the verge of being something brilliant, just falling short.

The Story offers a lot to reflect on in its content and enjoy in its production but doesn’t reach its potential through failing to truly challenge its audience.

The Story at The Other Room, Cardiff
8th October – 27th October 2019
Written by Tess Berry-Hart
Directed by David Mercatali
Siwan Morris as X
Hannah McPake as V
Luciana Trapman as The Storyteller
Design by Delyth Evans
Sound Design by Tic Ashfield
Lighting Design by Katy Morison
Video Design by Simon Clode
Assistant Director: Samantha Jones
Stage Manager: Rachel Bell
Production Manager: Rhys Williams
Season Fight Director: Kevin McCurdy
Fight Choreographer: Cristian Cardenas
Choreographer: Deborah Light
Production Photography: Kirsten McTernan
Associate Director: Matthew Holmquist
Casting Director: Nicola Reynolds
BSL Interpreter: Julie Doyle
Set Builder: Will Goad

Review Wonderman, Gagglebabble by Gemma Treharne-Foose

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) Unmissable

A lucid, slightly seasick jazz-kissed dream

Have you ever had a dream and woken up not quite knowing if what you’ve just experienced was real? That hazy half-sleep mode when your sleep-induced mind hallucination feels like it could be real for a moment? Wonderman – an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s stories for adults perfectly captures the sheer silliness and absurdity of your dreams and the haunted ‘recollections’ of a shell-shocked airman during the Second World War.

Brought to us by Gagglebabble, National Theatre Wales and the Wales Millennium Centre, the show took place in Tramshed’s wonderful pub-theatre venue. Lit by fairy lights outside and with a dim candle-lit, stripped-down vibe inside the performance space, this was a fitting and cosy venue for the performance. Mingling with other audience members and taking in our pints felt informal and exciting – there was already the imposing presence of a 6-piece band, who were gathering in the bar getting ready to take us on an epic journey in to the mind of the troubled airman.

The band line up really is superb and Gagglebabble’s Lucy Rivers (who created the music, played multiple parts and devised the show with Hannah McPake and Daf James) has a magnetic stage presence, as does Hannah McPake. McPake plays an absolutely cracking rendition of a Brighton landlady who perfectly toes the line between Mumsy and psychotic taxidermist waiting to pounce.  Adam Redmore’s depiction of a traumatised, paranoid airman in the midst of a hallucinogenic dream is wonderful and raw.

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The music and lyrics move the sequences along beautifully, the overall pace and energy is good and there are plenty of hearty chuckles and clever lines throughout.  Director Amy Leach manages to inject joy and colour in to a storyline that has the potential to be so dark and in such an engaging way – it is frantic, but it is clever and warm. I loved the way the storylines and dream sequences joined up at the end.

Dahl’s works in general exude a childlike charm  – and there are echoes of his characterisation present in his most famous children’s stories in this production – menacing enough to give you the chills, but without too much bitterness or poison.

Chatting with audience members before and after the show, Dahl leaves his mark on people in different ways.

We’re reminded of Dahl when we think of the sheer terror invoked by the TV adaptation of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (especially THAT clown under the bed) and of the way that even the most horrid and dodgy characters still have you rooting for them.

We get a weird perverse thrill when Mrs Trunchbull is on the scene and similarly, you’re fascinated by the somewhat pervy Uncle Oswald. In this production, we can’t help but like and want to believe the tender wife who clobbers her husband, the kooky landlady and the funny Jamaican guy who wants a souvenir of the airman’s finger.  At one point, the audience even cheers for the airman’s finger to be chopped off. There is a lot of chopping threat in this production…and you will never look at a leg of lamb without smiling again!

It is mad-cap, it is fantastic and the whole thing was a lucid, slightly sea-sick jazz-kissed dream. It’s quite fitting that the opening night for ‘Wonderman’ should fall on the centenary since the birth of one of Wales’ literary gems.

There’s an excited chatter, a feel-good buzz all over town as Cardiff prepares for a mammoth weekend of celebrating all things Dahl in the ‘City of the Unexpected’ events.

For me, this was completely unexpected – a surprise full of cheeky mischief, made by misfits…and if you too are looking for a chop-tittlingly toe-tapplingly lush-winkingly good time, you need to shake your tail and get over there to see this show (try the chips in the ‘Waiting Room’ bar/restaurant next door to the venue, too – lush!)

Type of show: Theatre

Title: Wonderman
Venue: Tramshed
Dates: 13 September – 18 September, PN 13th September

Devised by: Daf James, Hannah McPake and Lucy Rivers

Music by: Lucy Rivers
Design: Hayley Grindle
Technical: Joshua Carr (Lighting), Dan Lawrence (Sound), Lucy Cullingford (Chpreography & Movement), Bryony Tayler (Costume)
Cast / Musicians include: James Clark (Piano), PeteKomor (Double Bass), Hannah McPake (The Landlady), Mark O’Connor (Drums), Adam Redmore (The Airman), Lucy Rivers (The Wife), Joe Shire (The man from the South).

Running time: 1hr 45min