Tag Archives: Kelly Jones

Review: Humanequin at Wales Millennium Centre by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(3 / 5)

Humanequin by Kelly Jones is a groundbreaking collection of three stories from young transgender people in South Wales. It is raw in its monologue format and informative in its direct approach.

The stories come straight from real life and that reality is enhanced by having three transgender actors on stage. The fact that Humanequin is the first transgender play, with an all transgender cast performed in Wales, makes it truly groundbreaking. And the production is stronger for it.

The thing with this production is, it isn’t necessarily about the theatrical quality, that I am reviewing here. It is much more about what we as an audience take away from it. This is about telling and normalising the stories of transgender for the people of Cardiff and wider society. So to start without mentioning that would be a disservice.

The direction of this production from Jain Boon could be stronger. There is some nice blocking and movement in this piece. And moments that are strong. But overall, it lacks the intensity necessary for a piece like this.

Sammy Woodward stands out as the actor with the most emotional range and they really feel in the moment with their character. Emily Joh Miller grows into her performance whilst Harry Bryant keeps a steady pace throughout. The three work quite well together, but there is that lack of intensity and chemistry between the three.

Georgina Miles’ set design is simple, yet effective. The most prominent pieces of set are some blocks and three metal grates that get moved around to change the setting. There is also a tree with tags for leaves. On these tags are written names of trans people who have been lost over the years. This tree is a really nice touch and whilst not actively used in the performance, watches over the actors and certainly adds a lot. The set is nothing extravagant, but effective in its job.

Chris Young’s sound design is really complimentary to the production with Ceri James’ lighting design representing the emotion of the piece well. The main criticism for these two is there isn’t enough. At times these aspects of design are really strong, but in others they are absent, in a way that doesn’t translate well.

As a cis woman, Kelly Jones takes on a big task of writing for a group of people we very rarely hear about. But, a task she handles well as far as the content goes.

It’s more Jones’ playwriting that lets her down. It’s not a bad script by any means, and as a piece that is ultimately meant to educate, it does a very good job. But as a compelling piece of drama it is lacking.

The three intertwined stories told as monologue is a form I personally love, but here it doesn’t work for some reason.

Characterisation also gets lost in an attempt to normalise the characters. Aspects of their personalities seem trivial. As well as this, some of the politics is very on-the-nose. Not an issue in itself, but again, it just doesn’t feel right here. It seems forced. Something that is maybe necessary for the piece, but needs to be worked into the production in a stronger way.

One decision made in the writing process that was really good, was to not make every story all “doom and gloom”. It would be easy to make this a sympathetic piece of theatre that looks at the struggles of trans people with the far too often real life consequences. And that reality is not ignored here. But neither is the reality that these are people. They act out, they do things that seem irrational at the time. But like any good playwright, Jones examines and explains them by the end of the story.

Perhaps in another performance context such as being held in a different venue, at an earlier time, in a school or university, as part of an education programme or whatever it is, this could be a fantastic production. And for people who know little about trans-issues, this would certainly be a very informative and emotional way to be introduced to these issues. So that must be commended. But, for the audience that, on the night I was there, seemed very clued up on these issues, it perhaps lacked the dramatic value that we go to the theatre for.

Not necessarily to be entertained, but to leave having found or felt something. And whilst for an audience without knowledge of trans-issues, this would be great. For those with that knowledge, it doesn’t offer much.

If this piece moves forward, the decision needs to be made whether this is an educational piece or a different form of theatre. Because both have their place and both are necessary for the growth of trans-theatre and the awareness of trans-issues in wider society. But this just feels like it’s biting off more than it can chew.

Humanequin is a strong, educational piece of theatre about the experiences of young transgender people in South Wales. Its flaws pale in comparison to its importance.

Humanequin by Kelly Jones
Performed at the Wales Millennium Centre
Presented by Mess Up The Mess Theatre Company, Youth Cymru and TransForm Cymru.
Performed by:
Sammy Woodward as Rae
Harry Bryant as Max
Emily Joh Miller as Meg
Directed by Jain Boon
Designer: Georgina Miller
Sound Designer: Chris Young
Lighting Designer: Ceri James
Stage Manager: Katie Torah
Technical Assistant: Dawn Hennessey
Producer: Jay Smith
Creative Assistant: Kay R. Dennis
Community Artist: Bill Taylor-Beales
Education Producer: Rachel Benson
Artistic Director for Mess Up The Mess: Sarah Jones

Review Snout Sherman Theatre by Helen Joy

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(3 / 5)

 

This is a tricky one. The write up says that this is a play which examines ethical farm practices and may put you off your pie.  This is not quite what we get. It is not ‘Fun’ but it is ‘Food, Drink and Drama’. Or did I miss something?

I take three friends with me –we are all women, all farmers and two of us keep pigs. We discuss the play we have seen and the pie we have eaten a lot. In fact, we talk about it over chips later on Penarth Pier and again in the week. It has made us think. But perhaps not in the way Playwright Kelly Jones would like us to.

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Cast members  Sally Reid, Michele Gallagher and Clare Cage

Photographic credit Kirsten McTernan

It is a play about 3 little pigs, 3 women acting as pigs and as women. They are in a trailer heading for the slaughter house. Their actions and conversations are an odd mixture of supposed pig talk and young women chatter. They grunt occasionally. One is a cross carrying faithful type who misses her sister, one is a punky type who misses her lover and the other is a party going good time girl. A bit stereotypical. They work out that they are not going to a show but to the abattoir and so forth.

Now here’s a problem. Facts. Anyone who knows anything about pigs, knows that they don’t carry hairbrushes or wear crosses. They also don’t get electric shocks for bad behaviour when they squeal in a trailer. They might wander into a shed to watch a farmer, er, enjoy himself but we are pretty sure that we don’t know anyone who finds pigs that attractive.

When they talk about life, death and the lack of control over their lives, something resonates with me. Do they contemplate the meaning of life? Do we, as owners, play God?

Pigs are fun to be around precisely because they are calculating, funny and usually, miles ahead of their keepers. But we keep them also because they can be eaten. The speech at the end, before they trot out to their doom, is tediously predictable and aimed at converting the audience to vegetarianism, I think. My colleagues are not impressed and feel that this last scene spoils an otherwise interesting and thought-provoking play.

Then we have the after-show discussion. Lots of people have stayed behind for this and we are keen to debate the ideas raised in the performance.

But there is a surprise. Jones take an unexpected stance. She tells us about tattooed pigs and cruelty. She then explains that the play is actually about feminism; she uses the pigs to slaughter as metaphor for seeing women as meat, as bodies to be cut up into pieces, as porn, as without control. Oh. I see now. This makes sense of scenes previously lost to me.

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We discuss life and end of life, self-determinism, women’s rights, farming practices and eating meat. The audience is enthusiastic and picks up a particular thread with zeal: why have a play about killing animals and then give us a meat pie? Where does that meat come from, asks another. But it’s about women, not pigs, really.

We get it.

It makes even more sense when Jones explains to me that she had taken a 1hr40min play and made it into a 40min production. Sometimes, we need to rewrite not just slash and edit or we lose the meaning of a piece.  The playwright cannot attend every production to explain. The metaphor is clever, her idea is sound and with tweaking, would make an outstanding work.

I looked up the use of tattooed pigs for handbags – can’t be true, we said, but it was: art as an excuse for profit. Deeply shocking. I can see where she is coming from and Jones definitely is on to something here.

Enjoyed:         10th November, 2016 at The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Playwright:    Kelly Jones

Director:         Kenny Miller

Actors:

Coco Clare Cage

Lacey Michele Gallagher

Viv Sally Reid

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/a-play-a-pie-and-a-pint-november-16/

 

 

 

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

(4 / 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Interview with playwright Kelly Jones

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Playwright Kelly Jones

Get the Chance values the role playwrights living and working in Wales bring to the cultural life of our nation. Here is our second interview in this series with  playwright Kelly Jones.

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

I’m Kelly, a playwright and occasional performer based in Cardiff. Originally a Dagenham girl, I’ve lived in Wales since 2007. I moved here to study the final year of my degree at Swansea Met and never went back. My course was mainly performance based but after graduating I realised this wasn’t something I wanted to do, so I began writing. I took part in various writing initiatives to hone my craft and develop my voice and I got asked to write for a few shorts nights.

In 2013 I decided to leave my full time job in a betting shop to go full time freelance. It was the scariest and most exciting thing I have ever done. I’d been offered a place on NTW’s summer camp, however, my work said I couldn’t have the time off to go so I quit – It was a real now or never moment.

Since then I have won the Wales Drama Award with a play of mine called TAMMY, got an agent and have been offered commissions from various theatres. Oh and I also got married, which was very exciting! So that’s me.

So what got you interested in writing then Kelly?

When I was at university we did a unit called ‘ Writing for performance’ – I hated it. But after graduating I started writing parts for myself to show work at scratch nights and I caught the writing bug! It developed from there

I suppose the main reason I wanted to write was because I never felt there were parts for me; that said what I wanted to say about the world that I lived in at that time.

In my work I like to write life and put real people that I know at the heart of the action. Growing up in Dagenham I was led to believe that a career in theatre wasn’t meant for a girl like me by both peers and teachers. Fortunately I grew up in a very supportive family full of natural born storytellers and as a result I love to tell stories, of course I was meant for theatre! I like to challenge the idea of who theatre is for and often find myself using my upbringing in London and rooting in Wales as start points for my work.

You were part of the Sherman Theatres Young Writers Programme, how did this work?

Yeah, so not long after I moved to Cardiff I got involved with the Sherman’s Company 5 drama group, ran by Jason Camilleri and Llinos Mai. We did a performance piece of monologues we’d written about things that had happened to us. I wrote a comedy piece about when I came out as gay to my family. Llinos  really liked it and put me in touch with Sian Summers who used to be the literary manager at the Sherman and she invited me to be on the program. The program was so great! I learnt a hell of a lot and just being surrounded by other writers was motivating and inspiring. Alan Harris was a great teacher!

I think it’s incredibly important for writers to meet other writers; being a writer can be a lonely job and sometimes it just helps to have someone else to chat to.

As a playwright a lot of your work is funded through grants and the like have you ever approach the Arts Council of Wales or similar organisations for funding or support?

I have a good relationship with Arts Council Wales and have been very fortunate to receive funding from them. They’re approachable and friendly as an organisation and are always happy to help if you have questions.

I’ve found getting venues to produce your work is difficult in Wales and if you don’t self-produce sometimes unfortunately your work won’t get on.

As funding is limited I always try and seek it from other sources or contribute my own funds so that the amount I’m asking for is less. Sometimes this isn’t always possible but it’s important to get to know what else is out there.

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Kate Rowland (BBC Writersroom), Kelly Jones, Faith Penhale (BBC Wales Drama), John McGrath (Ex Artistic Director National Theatre Wales)

You were the winner of the Wales Drama Award 2014 that’s a brilliant achievement!, can you please tell us more about this award.

I still can’t quite believe it to be honest! It’s been nearly two years and it has opened so many doors for me. The award is a biannual prize given to a writer in Wales, supported by NTW/BBC Wales and BBC Writersroom. I submitted the first time it was launched in 2012 but didn’t get anywhere and to be honest the play was awful. I wrote what I thought the judges wanted which is not a good idea.

Before I submitted in 2014 I attended the session about the award hosted by the Sherman and it was during that session that I had the idea for my play, TAMMY. I submitted a real rough and ready first draft and never expected to get passed the first round. When the email came through to say I’d be shortlisted to the final 4 I laughed then cried then phoned my mum.

The next stage was an interview with the judges at Roath Lock, where we had to pitch two ideas- it was scary! I pitched a play and a TV series; the play is now a seed commission with NTW and the series in development with BBC Wales. I really enjoyed the interview process. Post winning; Lucy Gannon was appointment my TV mentor and Sherman Co produced a reading of my winning script TAMMY with NTW. There have been so many great things to come off the back of the award and I am excited for the next winner to start their journey.

 As a playwright award-winning playwrights Tim Price and most recently Katherine Chandler have mentored you. Why is this mentoring process important for playwrights? Do you think this support is something that should be funded for playwrights in Wales?

I think it is so important to have a mentor no matter what stage you are at. Mentors are a support and resources. Whether you want to talk something through with them or get them to read something of yours, that’s what they’re there for. Both Tim and Kath were great for me at different stages of my career.

In terms of funding it’d be great if their was funding for peer-to-peer mentoring.

I often get asked to read writers work and am more than happy to do it. However I’m not able to always give it the time it needs. I think funding could help free up some time to devote to it. A nurturing mentor program for writers would be great to help develop the next generation of talent.

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 Your play Blud was performed at the Other Room, it was set in the world of female football, which isn’t often seen on stage. Is presenting diverse views of the world important to you?

For me BLUD felt like a play about where I grew up. The women in my family are more into the football that the men and girls like Rita are ones I used to go to school with when I was a teenager.

I’d say it’s important to me that the world I know is represented on stage and with authenticity. I get very annoyed when I see something that plays to all the ‘poverty porn’ stereotypes. Especially when they’re written by someone who grew up in Chelsea who ain’t got a clue about growing up in a council house. I feel similarly about LGBT characters. A lot of my community work is with LGBT organisations and gay representation is very important in my work. I write and volunteer for LGBT organisations is to combat this. Authentic representation is very important and I would never attempt to write something I didn’t fully understand or have a personal relationship to.

 In your personal opinion what sort of support networks are there for playwrights in Wales, can more be done?

I think the biggest support network for writers in Wales is other writers. I think more could be done; I’m not quite sure what but maybe a writer led discussion would help to tackle this.

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To bring us up to date this autumn your play Snout will form part of A Play A Pie and a Pint and be performed at the Sherman Theatre/ ÒRAN MÓR. The synopsis of the play sounds intriguing! I wonder if you can tell us more?

Yes. The inspiration came from an article I read about fashion designers who we’re tattooing pigs and posthumously using their tattooed skin to make handbags, that sell for thousands of pounds. I began reading of farmers who were also doing this but using the pigs as blank canvases to advertise local businesses and help local economy. I found this fascinating and began writing. I was particularly shocked at this heightened level of exploitation to satisfy the demand for a handbag made from a tattooed animal. Animals are voiceless and as one of the most intelligent animals, pigs don’t have a say in this. It made me think of parallels to slavery, exploitation of some communities and modern day sexism.

So, the play is set in the back of a van on its way to the slaughterhouse. It shows the last hour in pigs Viv, Coco and Lacey’s life as they make plans to escape the chop. I wanted to question whether they have the right to escape when they were breed to be slaughtered and whether it’s right to kill animals for fashion that changes so often. I certainly wouldn’t want to end up as a jacket for Kim Kardashian.

Aesthetically, I wanted to play on the whole ‘Pie’ part of the evening and have the play feel like they audience are watching their dinner before it becomes their dinner- if that makes sense? The van is quite claustrophobic in a bit of lobster tank way and I want the audience to really feel for them whilst being surrounded by the smell of pork pies. It’s been amazing working with Oran Mor, Sherman and director Kenny Miller, it’s really allowed me to be bold in the choices I’ve made and write something really exciting. The first draft I submitted was quite different and Kenny really encouraged me to be braver and his support has been invaluable. I can’t wait for you all to see it

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/a-play-a-pie-and-a-pint-november-16/

Thanks for your time Kelly!

 

Review Blud Other Mother, The Other Room by Shannon Newman

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Photograph Credit Pallasca Photography

Usually you wouldn’t associate football hooliganism with anything other than chavs and cheap thrills, but Blud goes beyond these initial prejudices, questioning loyalty and our need to belong – whether that’s to someone or something.

These are the key themes that are veiled under the supposed cult of football. What really matters to these characters is loyalty and finding a place in a society that renders you utterly powerless – which is precisely what the characters struggle with. Thus, Blud conveys football as a rite of passage into social mobility and ready-made identities, and eloquently so.

It takes some skills, for a writer and actors, to present a character that’s so immoral and yet so loveable. Yet thats what writer Kelly Jones and actors Francesca Marie Claire and Olivia Elsden do.

The stage directions – simple in action, though deeper in meaning, and therefore it goes without saying that you’d need to concentrate to fully appreciate the full extent of what they’re conveying.

It’s refreshing to see a theatre production that touches on such contemporary issues in a gritty, but wholly realistic manner.

This is theatre without the sugar coating, and that’s why we need it.

Review Blud The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

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The Other Room Theatre brings to the stage Cardiff’s three woman theatre company ‘otherMother’ with their original production ‘Blud’. This play, written by Kelly Jones, has themes centred around the rivalry between two football teams and the desperation to stand up for themselves.

Set in a football locker room, The Other Room Theatre provides the intimacy that is needed between the story and the audience. The play consists of two visible characters, Rita- the captain of Cotley Town’s female football firm and her sister, Lou- Olivia Elsden. These characters are completely incompatible in personalities but soon realise the need for each other.

This is a dark play with comical one liners. It showcases the brutality and the need to stand up for what you believe in. Francesca Marie Claire, embodying Rita plays a woman who puts football above everything else to try and show her rival team that she is a fighter. Francesca never falters at delivering a true, passionate and gritty working class girl. Lou, played by Olivia Elsden showed the audience a childlike 15 year old trying to reach out to her older sister. Olivia acted out an innocent girl that provides the audience with a lot of entertainment. However as the play went on her character grows and she is converted from being a child to someone who was providing advice and support. Both actors grasped their sense of character and made the thematics in the play drive out even more.

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Photograph Credit Pallasca Photography

The play is well structured and well written. It started off with a monologue from Rita that set the scene and unveiled her character. Throughout the play we are given insights of their past and how they grew up without this being portrayed as a biography. Chris Young, provided us with a soundscape, that gives us a sense of the chaotic world outside of the locker room. Furthermore without giving anything away, I believe the ending was well thought out and had a great impact on the whole story.

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Photograph Credit Pallasca Photography

The trio that makes ‘otherMother’ consists of the writer, Kelly Jones, the director, Anna Poole and the producer, Olivia Harris. The company provide us with entertainment and a subject that’s intended to raise discussion and debate. ‘Blud’ is a production that everyone should go and see due to the raw nature and the elements combined in the play.

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other Mother company members

From left, writer, Kelly Jones, the director, Anna Poole and the producer, Olivia Harris.