Tag Archives: Katherine Chandler

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Gemma Treharne-Foose

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

“We can’t escape who we are”

‘Bird’s popularity is simply soaring at the moment. As it approaches the end of its successful run in the Sherman, I (fashionably late as always), rocked up to the Sherman on Thursday night to finally see what the fuss was all about. The play, written by Katherine Chandler and directed by Rachel O’Riordan, focuses on two girls (Ava played by Georgina Henshaw and Tash played by Rosie Sheey) living in a care home facility finding their way in a world which has so far been  cruel to them. They are on the cusp of something and we feel it intensely – but what?

The opening scenes between Ava and her Mother (played by Siwan Thomas) are awkward, desperate and heart-breaking to watch, setting the scene for the play. A raw, nervy and tense romp through the concepts of family, motherhood, friendship, coercion and control. The story of the play is depressingly commonplace (for those who have ever worked in/been associated with social care)  Georgia Henshaw’s performance as Ava is simply spellbinding to watch as she squirms, paces and darts around frantically on stage. The girls, bound by tragedy and victims of terrible circumstance, are headed towards something they do not even understand themselves. Who will love these girls and who will look after them? Dare they even dream that there could be another life, another fate for them?

The play flitters between moments of light laughter and innocence, the joy of the affections the girls have for each other and the murky, intimidating relationships closing in on Ava and Tash. There are some difficult scenes and parallels echoing tragedies in recent years in Glasgow and Rochdale. There are moments in the play where your heartbreak for Ava’s and her (perhaps) inevitable fate  will punch you in the gut.

“We can’t escape who we are” (Tash)

The play seems timely with recent reports suggesting that children in care homes are over-represented in the criminal justice system and criminalised over minor incidents.

‘Children in care should not be prosecuted for minor offences, a report looking at their over-representation in the criminal justice system says. The review for the Prison Reform Trust calls on the government to draw up new procedures to protect these children from criminalisation.’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36342621

http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/In%20care%20out%20of%20trouble%20summary.pdf

There has been an increasing focus on plays like Bird acting as a form of ‘cultural tourism’ or ‘poverty porn’. We’re saturated with so-called poverty porn in wider popular culture. In recent times, television shows like Benefit Street, Shameless and even the Jeremy Kyle show sensationalise and feed in to the wider dominant narrative around the deserving poor vs. underserving poor. Our tolerance and understanding of these central characters often depends on the characterisation of the subjects/case studies within the production: are they even trying to change? Are they worthy? Are they a lost cause? Damaged goods? Could they ever be ‘useful citizens’, whatever that means. Are theatre productions like Bird, Boy (Almedia Theatre, London) and Re:Home (The Yard, London) recreating a similar kind of ‘human zoo’ that we see so often on the TV?

Depicting poverty in popular culture can have positive consequences on our understanding on social class and real poverty.  The appalling slums and workhouses depicted in Dickens’ novels serve as a form of social commentary of life in Britain during rapid industrialisation and urban growth.

“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.” Charles Dickens

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Slum housing in Providence Place, London, 1909. Copyright: © London Metropolitan Archives 

Stateside, documentary photographer Dorothea Lange’s photograph of a desperate and hungry mother during the Great depression would propel the Government in to action to aid migrant labourers and their families.

1936 --- Florence Owens Thompson, 32, a poverty-stricken migrant mother with three young children, gazes off into the distance. This photograph, commissioned by the FSA, came to symbolize the Great Depression for many Americans. --- Image by © CORBIS

Migrant Mother Dorothea Lange

In 1960s Britain, we were rocked by Ken Loach’s drama documentary ‘Cathy Come Home’, which exposed the harsh realities of homelessness and unemployment. (Loach continues to focus on this themes with his film  ‘I, Daniel Blake’ recently winning the  Palme d’Or at Cannes. ) ‘Cathy Come Home’ caused outrage, prompting a debate in Parliament and leading to the establishment of the charity ‘Crisis’. It is a great example of how culture can influence the political agenda and is widely recognised as one of the greatest drama documentaries ever made.

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Theatre like Bird can challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone  Are we actually mobilised and ready for any sort of real change in ‘Austerity Britain?’ and does the play actually inspire you to do anything with your emotional investment in the characters? Are we now too apathetic to be shocked in to action? It is surprising that in the play it is Lee who highlights how disconnected Ava – and we – are with the wider world. “Human contact – it’s important.” Yet as he tells Ava, we are too busy looking at our phones to connect (face-to-face) with one another and have difficult conversations. Are we also too busy being manipulated that we are now more focussed on debating over who ‘deserves’ our help and feathering our own nests?

Theatre can and should be a vehicle for social change, just like a well-made viral video or popular cause campaign. Plays like Bird can shine a light on the problem. Could more be done to  help audiences think about solutions? Could charities and outreach organisations capitalise on these engaged audiences? In much the same way as the creation of the charity ‘Crisis’ was born from ‘Cathy Come Home’ Like so many of those who’ve been coming to see Bird and emerging from the theatre positive, pumped and ready to make change in society, charities may well be in a prime position to help. A text donation, a volunteering opportunity – anything! That’s something I’d like to see take off…

Drama

Bird
Sherman theatre
May 26th

By Katherine Chandler

Director Rachel O’Riordan

Designer Kenny Miller

Lighting Designer Kevin Treacy

Composer and Sound Designer Simon Slater

Assistant Director Elgan Rhys

Casting Director Sophie Parrott CDG
Cast

Ava – Georgia Henshaw

Claire – Siwan Morris

Dan – Connor Allen

Lee – Guy Rhys

Tash – Rosie Sheehy

Running time: 1hr 20 mins.

Review Bird Sherman Cymru By Kaitlin Wray

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Bird’ the title of this play took off just like a bird itself. A play that took hold of us from the very moment the first word was uttered until the blackout at the end. Rachel O’Riordan, the director of ‘Bird’ with assistant director Elgan Rhys by her side made sure this play not only, ticked all the boxes but was a complete success.

This was a very clever production written by Katherine Chandler that had twists and turns, it was a play about two young girls in a care home struggling with their past but trying to face up to their future. This is a story that’s so raw I felt like I was trespassing into their private lives. Due to the raw nature, some of the words are at times  lost due to the quick-pace naturalistic acting  but even so, that didn’t take away from the performances overall. Each actor didn’t fault within their characters and it was definitely perfectly cast. The set, designed by Kenny Miller, was simplistic yet effective and I loved the use of the two levels.

Georgia Henshaw, playing the 15 year old protagonist, Ava, showed her naivety and was full of the energy that you could imagine from a girl of that age. However she also portrayed a girl that has been through a lot. Georgia really embodied her character and it was a great performance to watch.

Siwan Morris, playing Claire, Ava’s mother, did a phenomenal job at making the audience completely loathe a character and then feeling sympathy towards her in the end. After loving the character of Angie, Siwan played from the first two series of Skins, she was nearly unrecognisable as Claire. Yet both characters she played were phenomenal.

Rosie Sheehy, playing Ava’s best friend had a voice with such vocal clarity that I loved to listen to, furthermore her dancing skills were on point. Connor Allen, playing a 17 year old Dan who is Ava’s love interest felt like the realest character out of them all who says things as they are. Connor’s characterisation was comedic and entertaining. Last but not least was Guy Rhys who did a great job at acting like a creepy fatherly figure-like role. Throughout the performance it was unclear of his intentions with Ava and Guy and he did a good job at portraying this. This character has one big secret that causes the biggest twist of all.

If you want to know what happened then I would highly recommend going to see ‘Bird’ as it’s a performance that has great technical proficiency with outstanding direction and performers who will no doubt make a great career out of acting.

Director- Rachel O’Riordan

Writer- Katherine Chandler

Designer- Kenny Miller

Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater

Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin

Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy

Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Corinne Cox

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.

Ava is on the cusp of adulthood. 16 next month and facing a future outside the care home, all that currently lies ahead of her is an expansive and overwhelming unknown. Her mum doesn’t want her to come home, sheltered accommodation will be miles away from manipulative Lee, and Dan might just like her. Luckily, as best friend Tash reassures her, they always have the option of just flying away…

As we join Ava as she navigates her way through this minefield of complex relationships, from the exploitative to the genuinely heartfelt, Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.

The stand out performance for me was Siwan Morris’s portrayal of Ava’s Mum, Claire. Throughout her interactions with Ava there was a stark discrepancy between what I was seeing and how it made me feel. We witness a mother, riddled with jealousy, rejecting her daughter time and again, in complete denial of the fact that her judgement of a new partner could be at fault. Yet underneath this front we feel the desperation of Claire’s intrinsic love for her daughter, a love that perhaps blinds her to the fact that she could ever have wronged her to this extent. A denial which continues to define both her and her daughter’s lives. Morris draws us in with her subtle portrayal of Claire’s own vulnerability as she asserts, as if to convince herself more than us, that she ‘had no choice’.

Georgia Henshaw’s portrayal of Ava is brave, raw and heartbreakingly funny, achieving a sensitive balance between Ava’s anger and her innocence, which is frequently represented in the damaging relationships she enters to fill the void that the desperation for a sense of belonging can create. Georgia subtly teases out these different levels of Ava, from the frantic energy that exudes from the character when she is engaging with her mum, to the fiery exchanges her evident frustration at her circumstance often results in these exchanges resorting to.

What is undoubtedly a challenging view is softened by some stark moments of tenderness – beacons of hope which the audience cling to desperately amongst the evident turmoil Chandler’s characters are facing. The unfiltered emotion in Dan and Ava’s embrace, Ava’s raucous cackling as she’s tickled by Tash, Claire’s reluctant admittance that she may in fact have got it wrong; moments such as these provide some light relief for the audience and humanises the characters.

The world premiere of Katherine Chandler’s Bird at Sherman Cymru this month immerses audiences in a range of difficult themes which more often than not simply aren’t provided with a platform. By giving a voice to those who are increasingly marginalised by society and the media, Chandler humanises individuals in Ava’s position, providing a refreshing alternative narrative which challenges established preconceptions and explores the individuals behind the circumstance. Bird is a thought provoking piece and an accolade to Welsh new writing.

 

Director- Rachel O’Riordan

Writer- Katherine Chandler

Designer- Kenny Miller

Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater

Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin

Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy

Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Kiera Sikora

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you believe that theatre should make you feel like you’ve been hit in the head and heart with raw, honest and thought provoking reality then ‘Bird’ is a play that will soar through your mind well after you’ve applauded and left the theatre.

Set by the coast ‘Bird’ follows the story of two young girls in a care home, lost to the loniless of forced and inflicted cruelty. Ava, played incredibly by Georgia Henshaw, is torn inside the comfort she wants and the comfort she is given. Her friend Tash (Rosie Sheehy) a victim of the same complex, is her stead and dancing heroine who speaks more sense than sense usually allows. Together they are our focus- and we are thrown into their world of dance, danger and desolate distress.

We meet Ava’s mother (Siwan Morris), an irate yet seemingly frightened woman with a brash voice and an even brasher manner, who’s discomfort with dialogue mirrors her daughter’s physicality, and we are immediately shown the disfunctional relationship the two share- with the reasons why hinted at ambiguously. We see from the very beginning that Ava longs for a relationship with her mother, the lack of which which we assume to be her reason for wanting to find a certain sense of comfort wherever she can. It is this search for comfort and security that throws both of these girls into the danger of the men around them. Dan (Connor Allen) is a young boy looking to get lucky with a kind wit and a convincing smile, and Lee (Guy Rhys) is a middle aged taxi driver looking to lure and nest young sparrows at their very weakest.

But it is what Chandler does here, that really makes ‘Bird’ the prime play that it is. She humanises each character. With every flaw and every laugh, every smile and every slice of persuasion- she lets us see the people inside the story so closely that you feel sick for thinking that you could like a person like Lee. The horrendous thing is, Bird shows you how easy it to like him. And also how easy it is for vulnerable young women to disregard themselves so deeply that they become a target for the inhumane vultures who prey on them as he does. We steer away from these people in society, we ignore them and hope that we aren’t the type to socialise with ‘people like them’. But when human interaction is all that you want because it’s all that you feel you need to make your world more liveable, then you will find it and you will saver it, whether it’s wrong or right because nothing is more overpowering than desire. It is that that connects Ava and Lee, Lee and Tash, Dan and Ava and indeed Claire and Paul. The connections, the emotion and the drama that corrupts these individuals is harrowing and it’s hunger for revelation is hurtfully desperate.

There is so much to be said for this play- it’s impact, it’s design, it’s softly suited sound and simplistic yet cleverly constructed set. But it’s what this play achieves, along with it’s strong cast and carefully crafted direction that headlines it’s importance. To voice what it is to be a person on the outskirts of a society that has disregarded them. And what it is to listen to those voices and know that it’s happening. It’s real. And that we must think. Deeply. Often.

Katherine Chandler yet again strikes a burning match with her words and invites the audience into a world that many feel they cannot or will not understand- we owe her greatly for giving us the chance to try.

‘Bird’ runs at the Sherman Cymru, Cardiff until 28th May and then at Royal Exchange, Manchester from 8th-25th June.

It’ll hurt your heart but it’s worth it.

Director- Rachel O’Riordan
Designer- Kenny Miller
Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater
Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin
Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy
Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Ava (Georgia Henshaw) and Tash (Rosie Sheehy) are young, optimistic and disfigured teens. Their friendship and integral bond is rooted within the whirlwind of complicated lives and a callous society. As Ava dashes and flitters off every object, person and syllable, Tash is always at heights, dancing at the edge of the world – awaiting flight.

Never have I experienced such an encompassing performance. I strolled into the Sherman, and left sprinting. But, regardless of my train times, Bird is a play that melts the facades and the barriers, and leaves you trying to fly – in all senses of the word.

An elderly man, as the audience were sipping the last dregs of their wine/settling, I heard from the front row, turn to his wife and speculate ‘I think it’s a comedy’. ‘I don’t think so mate’ I quipped, in thought. However, now I see that Bird cannot be constrained to a genre, or what people want it to be. Ava – stunningly performed by Georgia Henshaw – has an infectious spirit and an undeniably truthful perception of life. Resulting in imposing moments of frolic and uncontained rage, I didn’t feel the back of my chair once. Rosie Sheehy, too, must be applauded. Her exploration of the depth within the thirteen-year-old was wonderfully perceptive and chilling.

Katherine Chandler is a writer who sees the world empathetically and urges us all to do so. Desperation is far too attainable as the play’s women appease the men surrounding them. Does the honesty of ‘It just got too much,’ vindicate all the vodka, and the manipulation, and the self-serving? Chandler holds up a mirror to the real world and the audience are almost blinded by the familiar reflections.

Close to the surface lurks the grit and tensions of the women’s lives. The set designed by Kenny Miller, ingeniously incorporates this theme as the characters stand upon the yellowing, moulded tiles of a swimming pool beneath a sky of industrial light.

‘Bird’ is a sharply directed play – so successfully done that it’s easy to forget it had to be constructed that way. Rachel O’Riordan presents a piece of astoundingly compelling theatre as every silence, gesture and intonation propels the audience deeper within the crevices of the narrative.

Very rarely do you leave the theatre in, slightly paralysing, awe. A play as impacting as ‘Bird’ is not to be missed!

Review Parallel Lines, Dirty Protest by Kiera Sikora

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design 

Honesty is severe. We desire it and we require it, we recognise that it is some thing that we always need. But as soon as it’s not what we want, we despise it. We just can’t win, can we?

Dirty Protest bring to Chapter Arts Centre a fantastic 90 minute revamp of their already acclaimed ‘Parallel Lines’ which executes an impulsively precise look at how two colliding worlds affect each other. Playwright Katherine Chandler, through her freshly updated script, allows us to see how a longing for affection affects opposing worlds and the individuals in them in a very witty Welsh manner.

Nothing is hidden. These two worlds are projected right in front of you throughout the whole piece with the cast present on stage, before, during and after their scenes. There’s a clear sense of consistent colliding consciences.

Catherine Paskell’s very slick, precise, physical direction of the piece creates a fighting contrast with the stress, pain and uncertainty that the characters feel throughout. Their movements are thoughtful and are elegantly highlighted by Joe Fletcher’s sharp lighting design and equally supported by Dan Lawrence’s eerie sound scape, together creating a pathway into the minds of the characters and their sole situations.

The stage homes very little set, just a table and few chairs which echoes that idea of loneliness and lack of nurture. But the constant presence of this collision between these two very different lifestyles fills the stage with all that you need to feel their thoughts and experience their dilemmas. The characters’ complexity allows you to empathise with their situations while the careful pace of the piece allows you time to detach yourself from their spoken words, in order for you to see the paranoia that exists beyond the language.

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design

Paskell’s vision lets us explore the baggage that comes with power, class and truth and how we react to uncertainty, isolation and our own versions of normality. The relationship between Jan Anderson as the wayward mother Melissa and Lowri Palfrey as her daughter Steph is one that you can’t help but enjoy and dislike they allow you to laugh and pity them, without asking for either reaction. While Gareth Pierce as Simon and Sara Lloyd-Gregory as Julia are the corrupted and obscurely humorous couple who implore you to recognise the devastation that follows accusations and doubt while also reminding us how important it is to say your P’s and Q’s and park your car considerably.

Throwing away the previous script and starting a fresh two years on with the challenge of it being as real and as relevant as before is a one that would take being beyond brave to do. But, I’ve got to be honest playwright Katherine Chandler and Dirty Protest did it!  The play is intense, indulgent and intuitive. It feels familiar and it embodies a social situation at a raw and original level.

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Photo credit Kirsten McTernan Photography & Design

So if you enjoy beautifully written Welsh wit and a story that you can believe then you know where to go. It’s honest, it’s funny and it’s inclusive best get going.

Dirty Protest’s first ever tour of ‘Parallel Lines’ continues at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff until 24th October. They then move onto: Pontardawe Arts Centre on October 28th, Aberystwyth Arts Centre on October 30th Galeri, Caernarfon on October 31st, Soar Centre, Treorchy on 2nd November Ffwrnes, Llanelli on 4th November. And finally, Theatr Hafren, Newtown on November 6th

You’d be crackers to miss it.