Tag Archives: Music

Top Tunes with novelist and playwright Matthew David Scott


Matthew David Scott

 Photographic credit othercrowd.com 

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

Hello! My name is Matthew David Scott and I’m a novelist and playwright. I’m originally from Manchester and have now settled in South Wales after a stint in the USA. I’ve published two novels: Playing Mercy (Parthian 2005), which was listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize; and The Ground Remembers (Parthian 2009).

I’m also a founder member of Slung Low, a theatre company based in Leeds, and have written around a dozen shows with them that have been performed at The Barbican, The Liverpool Everyman, car parks, fields and whole city centres both nationally and internationally.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

At the moment I’m listening to some of my favourite records of 2017 so I can put together a ‘best of’ list that nobody will care about. Currently in the running is  Currently in the running is: Adios Senor Pusscat by Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band; New Energy by Four Tet; Peasant by Richard Dawson; Black Origami by JLin; Arca by Arca; Dust by Laurel Halo; and Drunk by Thundercat.  DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar is probably my most played in the car, which is always a good sign.

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?

This could be fifty albums long and change from week to week, so here goes:

1 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend: I’m sure fellow reggae snobs will turn their noses up at this but it’s a record I remember my dad playing all the time as a kid in the front room. One of his claims to fame is going to see Bob Marley live and telling Tony Wilson to sit down because he was stood on his chair ‘acting the goat’. I also drew a really terrible picture of the sleeve, of which I was very proud at the time but now recall looking a lot like an ill Howard Donald from late-period (first incarnation) Take That. Every time I hear Stir It Up I’m transported to that front room as a seven year old kid.

2 Hunky Dory – David Bowie: Bowie was also a big part of growing up and is one of the few artists whose death genuinely affected me. My mum’s younger siblings were a bit obsessed with him, and apparently my uncle once got caught stealing my aunty’s blouse to wear in the Bowie/Roxy room at a Manchester nightclub. This album, although not my favourite Bowie, holds special memories as it was the first of his I bought for myself. I got it in Tenby on a family holiday, the same day I picked up What’s Goin On by Marvin Gaye. It was an auspicious day for me and my Walkman.

3 Deep Heat 89: Fight The Flame – Various Artists: I think my obsession with dance music started with this fine double cassette. It has some absolute stormers on it including Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald (still in my all time top ten), Strings of Life, Stakker Humanoid, Promised Land… I’d like to say I was a regular at the Haçienda back then but I was ten. This was when, if you weren’t old enough to go clubbing or didn’t have an older brother or sister, the only way to hear this sort of music was the odd late night radio show; compilations like this; and the sincere hope that the specialist chart on ‘The Chart Show’ that week was The Dance Chart. I still remember seeing the video for Aftermath by Nightmares On Wax on that show and, shortly after a trip to John Menzies, my dad’s speakers were never quite the same again.

4 Definitely Maybe – Oasis: It was either this, Screamadelica, or the first Stone Roses album as representative of this period of my life but, if I’m being totally honest, Definitely Maybe has to be the one. It’s not the best of those records but being 15/16 when this came out made you feel like a king and walk like a fool. I saw them in ’94 at the Academy and it was life-changing (thanks for taking me, Aunty Paula), and their singles coming out were genuine events — the B-sides! Through them I discovered all those other bands they ripped off and for that, if nothing else, they deserve my undying love.

5 Tri Repeate – Autechre: On the personal statement in my Record of Achievement from school, it says my favourite bands are The Stone Roses and Autechre — just in case an employer wanted to know how incredibly cool I was in 1995. Autechre are brilliant. How they’ve developed and created a space totally their own over the last three (!) decades is an inspiration to any artist. There are records they’ve made that I’m still making sense of but this is their best and they are the DNA for many of the really great experimental electronic artists around today (the aforementioned Arca being one). I love them and imagine they have a sensational collection of outdoor wear.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

I’m going to pretend I misread the question and pick Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell because it was the first dance at my wedding and when Marvin goes ‘whoo!’ at 1min 39secs a bolt of sheer joy fizzes through me.

Review, Heartbreak Talks, Fifth Floor by Gareth Williams

 

(3 / 5)

 

The debut album of Swedish duo Fifth Floor is a fine collection of tracks that draw together well-written lyrics and catchy musical arrangements. Imbibed with country-style riffs and rhythms, this selection of songs also features a fair bit of punkish attitude. Contrast that with some beautiful harmonies and you get an interesting overall sound from these ladies that makes Heartbreak Talks an intriguing listen.

You can hear the strength of their simultaneous singing in the opening track “Heart in Your Arms”. Despite the perceived weakness of their solo voices here, the two together create a really nice sound. It sets up their potential which is gradually fulfilled as the album progresses. The vocal arrangements on “Bought Me a Lie” are especially worth a mention. By the time we arrive at standout single “Sippin’ on a Coke”, not only do their combined vocals sound accomplished but there is real strength to their individual performances too. Though not quite my favourite, this song has a great chorus. Incorporating the themes of journeying and home, it reminds me a little of Ward Thomas’ A Town Called Ugley – its understated title line lends it a similar quirkiness though it is much more reflective in its overall tone.

Certainly, the end of this album heralds the strongest pieces from these two Swedes – Moa and Matilda – who moved to the UK in 2012. “These Days” is a lovely arrangement marked by a more stripped back style. The difficulty that I found with tracks “My Backyard, My Business” and “Diabolical” was that the musical power did not quite match the hard-edged attitude of the vocals – these rock-inspired tracks weren’t quite able to rock out. On the other hand, the title track, like “These Days”, with its more acoustic leanings, felt like a more natural fit for these ladies’ style.

Fifth Floor save the best until last. “The Girl” is a subversive ballad that combines the best of their punkish attitude with some gorgeous harmonies. It is understated, clever; heartbreak really does talk here. It leaves you in no doubt as to the theme that has been running through much of this album. Overall, Heartbreak Talks captures a really good, solid country sound. It is a really promising full-length debut from these ladies. Swedish they may be, but they are worthy of adoption into the ever-expanding UK country scene.

Review, To Leave/ To Be Left, Robbie Cavanagh by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

Wow. What have you done to me Robbie Cavanagh? I did not expect that. The debut album of this Manchester musician, released this week, stunned me into almost complete silence. Titled ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’, Cavanagh’s first full-length feature may begin with a feel-good beat, but it gradually becomes a mystical, beautiful and haunting piece of musicianship. To touch it would be like caressing the finest of silk. Each of the eleven songs on offer has been carefully handcrafted, honed to such perfection that, if made of wood, your finger would glide smoothly over their surface. It is simply stunning.

The opening track ‘Get Out Alive’ does nothing to prepare you for what is to come. A lively start, it gives credence to the “country artist” label which Cavanagh seems to have been afforded.  However, as the album progresses, he breaks away from any generic confines that industry and media moguls might want to place on him. The next couple of tracks seem to slowly move from country-style ballads to something altogether different. Whilst “Godsend” could be attributed to the likes of Andrew Combs, for example, “Reverence” and “Scars” (which follow) have much more in common with the likes of Welsh folk singer Al Lewis. These offer a simple and repetitive backing track played behind an acoustic guitar, and given an otherworldly feel by the slight reverberation that is added to the vocal output. This ethereal quality, which begins with a degree of subtlety in these early tracks, goes on to permeate through the rest of the album. The listener is soaked in haunting melodies and saturated in a spiritual soundtrack. The heart-rending lyrics only seek to elevate the emotional veracity of Cavanagh’s sound. ‘Let You Down’ is heartbreaking. ‘Fool’ is incredibly soulful. ‘Still Talkin’’ is painfully gorgeous.

This is an intimate album. Cavanagh has an incredible ability to create this close atmosphere through his music. It is just you and him. All other potential distractions are completely drowned out. You become lost in the sensitivity and vulnerability of his performance. At one stage, I even found myself brought to tears. I was so overcome with emotion during ‘Sleep Now’, I couldn’t quite believe what was happening. Ironically, the song features the line, “What are you weeping for?” Well, Robbie, I’m not quite sure, but I think it might have something to do with your singing. Whatever the reason, I certainly did not expect that reaction.

Together, this exceptional selection of songs marks Robbie Cavanagh out as an accomplished songwriter and musician. He is a major talent who deserves all the plaudits that will surely come his way with such a breathtakingly beautiful debut. I would strongly recommend listening to ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’. Be warned though. It may leave you speechless for a time. You may also experience some unexpected emotional reactions.

Review: Burning Lantern Fayre, St Fagan’s – By Eloise Stingemore

 

(5 / 5)

 

Burning Lantern Fayre was the heritage attraction’s first large scale music event. Over 8,000 people descended on the country fayre styled event set in the picturesque grounds of St Fagan’s National Museum of History, Cardiff one of Europe’s leading open air-museum on a sunny albeit chilly evening.

With big names live on the main stage from the moment the gates opened, street food (Cavavan, The Grazing Shed, Taste of Spice and Dusty Knuckle), a crafts and activities tent, storytelling, a children’s entertainer, circus skills, pony rides and a vintage funfair. It is safe to say that no one was bored or hungry at the inaugural Burning Lantern Fayre!

Performances came from headliner Brit and Ivor Novell award winner Tom Odell, who gave an electrifying and charismatic performance, which featured a mesmerising light show. His unique show featured a number of hits but it was the songs ‘Still Getting Used To Being On My Own’, ‘Concrete’, ‘Hold Me’ that captivated the audience and really demonstrated why Odell is being touted as one of the country’s finest singer songwriter.


Whilst the UK first country music act to chart in the Top 10 Album Charts, The Shires, livened up the billing. Their 45-minute stellar set included a string of their biggest hits including: ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ and ‘Friday Night’, thoroughly entertained the 8,000 strong crowd and signed off their set with a promise to return to Cardiff soon.

Whereas top Motown act, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, despite not being everyone cup tea where given a true warm Welsh welcome. However, it was hot act of the moment Jack Savoretti that brought the biggest cheers of the evening and his set went down a storm. His live set included performances of his many hits including; ‘When We Were Lovers’, ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘Tie Me Down’, certainly got the crowd in the festival mood as the sun set on the stunning location.

The first even Burning Lantern Fayre was a huge success with the 8,000 strong-crowd enjoying a variety of music, entertainment and food under the sunset skies. Here hoping that the buzz of Wales’ newest music event hopefully ensures it was the first of many Burning Lantern Fayres to come!

Review, Gregory Porter, Llangollen International Eisteddfod by Gareth Williams

(5 / 5)

In some ways, Gregory Porter was made for the International Eisteddfod. The man whose music transcends was making his debut at the annual event. Bringing his sweet, smooth and soulful sound to a warm and pleasant Friday evening, Porter is the embodiment of the festival’s message of peace and love. It is little wonder that he was rapturously received by a cross-generational crowd that pretty much packed out the Llangollen Pavilion.

There is always a message behind his music, and his choice of songs here balanced nicely between songs of relevance and well-known hits. His most famed, Liquid Spirit, certainly encouraged audience participation on the hand clapping front. Hey Laura got the biggest cheer of the night on its introduction. It is his shifts in tempo and mood – including between these two songs – that make Porter’s set constantly fresh and teaming with life. It also makes the acoustic parts of his set – just him and Chip Crawford on piano – that much more powerful. His impromptu rendition of Nat King Cole’s (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons was especially moving. Contrast that with a toe-tapping rendition of Papa Was a Rolling Stone, and you begin to see the diversity of his set.

He also had time to offer some thoughtful and inspiring words that chimed perfectly with the Eisteddfod’s values. Porter is a great believer in the power of music. It brings people together. It is spiritual, emotional, physical. It is a great healer. It is a builder of bridges across divisions in society. It is what the International Eisteddfod aims to do. And Porter certainly honoured those things. He, along with his band, were exceptional. From the organist to the double bassist, the French horn player to the saxophonist, they were all on sparkling form. The standing ovation at the end was thoroughly deserved.

Gregory Porter never feels like a man who craves the limelight. He was completely absent from the stage at times, the band performing independently of him. The music is the star of the show. That humble and sincere belief is something that has won Porter legions of fans. It is also the reason his presence at the Eisteddfod was a perfect fit. A match made in heaven.

Review, Beginnings, Hannah’s Yard by Gareth Williams

(4 / 5)

The release of debut album Beginnings is surely the start of something special for Hannah Layton Turner. The musical collective known as Hannah’s Yard have released a fascinatingly eclectic record. Here are 14 songs that span across a variety of genres. We have a mixture of folk, pop, country, jazz and swing. They combine to create an album full of musical flavour, that doesn’t sit neatly into one particular category. The opening song “Why Would I Know” offers a laid back, easy listening sound; “Doin’ It for Myself” is an inspiring and upbeat pop song; and “I Want You” is a gear shift into jazz and swing. Then, in another key change, Hannah duets with fellow band member Barnaby Pinny on country-sounding ballad “Here and Now”, with the country/folk influence continuing in later songs “Baby I’m There” and “Dance Our Way Back”. This mixture of musical styles works, in part due to the naturally confident and adaptable voice of Turner. Her melodic vocals make for a seamless transition between songs. Her purely vocal intro to final track “Amazing Grace” shows off her vocal prowess – a captivating sound that calls for a devoted listening ear. This last song is a nod to Olney, the small English town where they are based and where the original was first written in the 1770s. Surely Hannah’s Yard is destined to be known further than their Buckinghamshire base however. With such a range of musical tastes, they have produced a lovely and surprising album that would be a welcome soundtrack to many people’s summer.

Review : La Cage Aux Folles, New Theatre By James Briggs

(5 / 5)

Cardiff’s New Theatre was packed to the rafters with a dazzling array of glitter and sequins last night for the first performance of La Cage aux Folles. The musical adaptation of French playwright Jean Poiret’s script is largely recognised as one of the greatest modern musicals. The stage production, directed by Martin Connor, is a throwback to the old glamour and glitz associated with the French Riviera but also has a very key message in the story.

One of the leading characters, Georges, is played by the US TV and Broadway actor Adrian Zmed who greets the audience with a heartfelt welcome to La Cage. There was something a little different about this cabaret, however, in the form of all the main performers in the cast being men dressed as women.

‘La Cage’ is a drag cabaret club in the heart of Saint Tropez, run by Georges and his very flamboyant husband Albin who is played by West End actor and former Eastenders star John Partridge. As the audience are waiting for Albin’s arrival on stage we are first greeted by the appearance of his on-stage alter ego Zaza. John Partridge creates an impressive character as he struts across the stage in a robe and a pair of high heels. He wins over the audience from the beginning and really gives the part his all.

The story unfolds when Georges and Albin’s son, Jean- Michele, (Georges’ from a previous relationship) arrives to tell his father that he is engaged to Anne, the daughter of a French politician who is well-known for his conservative views. Jean- Michele played by Dougie Carter drops a few bombshells on his dad. Including that of breaking the news to Albin that he can’t be there when the parents come over for dinner at their home.

Albin is horrified when he hears the news and his disappointment leads to a spine tingling performance from John Partridge of the musical’s most iconic number ‘I Am What I am’. Georges and Albin soon make up and it’s easy to like the two contrasting co-stars who have a brilliant on-stage chemistry with each other which could be compared to that of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi in the ITV series Vicious. The arrival of Dindon, the French politician, and his apparently conservative wife raised the bar once again on the entertainment as Albin comes up with a hilarious plan to meet the in-laws to be.

John Partridge’s performance as Albin and Zaza is absolutely superb and while the audience cheered and got to its feet for the entire cast, the largest applause and cheers were saved for him. During the performance John Partridge fell down some of the stairs on stage but being the true professional he is, kept in character and even made a joke about it. He carried on with the rest of the show and came on for the second act. Following the show John Partridge had to go to A&E and I really have to applaud him for being so professional and continuing with the show despite being in pain.

All of the cast were amazing and really very talented especially during the tap dancing scenes in which the male dancers very skillfully danced in high heels and gowns. A special mention must also go to Samson Ajewole who played Jacob and was exceptionally funny. He delivered a very strong performance and was one of the stars of the evening. As too was Marti Webb who played Jacqueline and created a very likeable character for the audience.

The stage sets used during the show were simply divine. All of the scenes in the show were very well thought out and the sets changed seamlessly. My personal favourite set design of the show was that of the stage at La Cage. The show saw a theatre stage constructed within a stage which is shown in the picture below and worked really well as it gave the audience the perspective of watching a whole different theatre on stage.

La Cage Aux Folles is a brilliant and moving, feel-good production that will be guaranteed to leave you smiling as you walk out the theatre doors and taking a whole new look on life. I urge everyone who get’s the chance to see the show to go as you will not regret it!

La Cage Aux Folles is currently on a UK tour so make sure you visit the New Theatre website in the link below and book your tickets before its too late.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/la-cage-aux-folles/

 

Review : Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games’ by James Briggs

(5 / 5)

This weekend Cardiff has had the luck of the Irish as Michael  Flatley’s worldwide phenomenon  ‘Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games’ has played in St David’s Hall. The tour is one of the biggest the UK has ever had and has currently been seen by 60 million people in 60 different countries on every continent. All of the stops are pulled out in this Irish Dancing Extravaganza with dancing that is simply mesmerising.

I have been looking forward to watching this show for a long time and being a tap dancer myself can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into this form of dancing. I knew from the opening sequence alone we would be in for a good night. As the first half of the show begins the audience are greeted with a projected Michael Flatley and a giant clock alluding to the opening of the show.

The cast are very well cast and all of the characters within the show work well as a dance unit. The perfectly balanced ensemble of male and female dancers help to give depth to the story and in the dance sequences when they are all in a line and coordinated it really is something to admire. Their collective talent is unbelievable and there are moments where your jaw is in your lap watching their feet move almost as too fast to comprehend.  The  main lead Lord of the Dance was played by James Keegan and the Dark Lord was played by Zoltan Papp.

The show seemed to have a variety show feel to it with all of the acts being very diverse. They all managed to hold attention of the audience due to their frequent costume changes and the cleaver projections that portrayed Ireland as an Idyllic place filled with Unicorns and rainbows. The plot follows a little Spirit with a magic flute who battles against evil to save Ireland from being taken over by evil cyborgs. Along the way the Spirit meets different dancers as well as a Black Swan like love triangle that threatens to turn the head of Ireland’s saviour, the Lord of the Dance himself. The show culminates with a big fight for the title of Lord of the Dance.

You can’t help but have a big smile on your face when the full ensemble cast fill the width of the stage at St David’s Hall and with their legs kicking and tapping in perfect sync. The show’s best section and what will always be their most iconic is the ‘Lord of the Dance’, and the skill of the cast is amazing in which they gave four Encores at the end of the show of that very dance which was met with a standing ovation from the whole audience at St David’s Hall.

If you’re a fan of this type of dancing and the Irish music and culture this show is without a doubt the show for you to attend next. It provides a 5-star evening of entertainment with lots of ups and downs within the story. In my opinion this show is something everyone should experience once in their lifetime as it will enthral you.

For more information about the tour of the Lord of the Dance please visit the official website to see where the tour will be heading next. http://www.lordofthedance.com/

Review Clear-Cut 6 M.A.D.E. – by Amelia Seren Roberts

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Origami Reinkarnasjon performed by Simon Gore and Jack Rees

Traditional Sephardic lullabies, liberated CCTV Footage and choreography merging Jane Eyre with the tunes of PJ Harvey are among the diverse acts at Clear-Cut 6 programme of experimental performance arts.

The audience clamours for position in the gallery space at M.A.D.E; spectators gather at the back and the edges of the room, whilst others nestle amongst the many cushions and pallet boxes laid out for our comfort. The atmosphere is one of anticipation, but also of fun and togetherness. After reading through the programme at the beginning of the evening, I find myself curious about each of the seven experimental acts in turn. Clear-Cut is an event unlike anything I have attended before, and the diversity of the audience and acts alike is immediately apparent. The evening is a showcase of video works, dance, spoken word, performance, visual arts, new music and more. To experience this diversity of performance in a single event is impressive. It’s something of a one-stop culture stop.

Where genres collaborate and collide”, Clear-Cut 6.

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Will Salter, host of the evening and Dada performer

Will Salter is our animated host; himself performing Dada poetry at intervals throughout the evening to great effect. His verbal explosions punctuate the spaces between acts, and mischievously disrupt the audience should they grow too comfortable. Dada retains a long history with experimental performance related to (or in denial of) the fine arts, which makes the presence of the genre particularly appropriate on this occasion.

Our agenda for the evening is jam-packed, prompting fears that we might not achieve all seven acts. In actuality, the evening is well-structured whilst maintaining a casual and friendly atmosphere.

Marega Palser merges literature, illustration and popular music in, ‘Jane Eyre, The DarkSide...’ Initially inspired by Paula Rego’s illustrations of the novel by Charlotte Bronte, Palser’s performance really is a highlight of the evening. The artist said of the inspiration for the work, “each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting…” Palser describes the piece as, “a thought in progress…” and the work curiously encompasses elements of the unknown. The piece reveals something of an internal conflict, which ultimately dictates movement, yet there is undeniably confidence in the madness.

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 ‘Jane Eyre, The DarkSide…’ performed by Marega Palser

IdentiTTy’ by Arnaldo James and collaborators is a film which asks more questions than are answered. “Does ethnicity or origin come through when skin tone is homogenised? Is morphology reflected by environment? Can identity be conveyed through dance and abstract non-verbal storytelling?“ The potentially fluid and reactionary nature of cultural identity is explored in this choreographed video work. Referencing Japanese Butoh and Creole traditions alongside more indigenous Trinidadian movement the piece claims to examine, “the similarities that occur in different cultures through movement and music”. The piece is visually stunning.

Nicholas Morgan & Margot Przymierska perform as the collective, ‘Parallel Lines’. In, ‘That’s the family you have’ Nicholas and Margot divulge separate yet intertwining stories, “improvising around box-set narratives and the immediate, subjective experiences of our own lives, collapsing characters, time & space, fiction & reality”. Their simultaneous telling of the circumstances surrounding the funeral of a relative, alongside an audio description of moments from the popular series ‘Game of Thrones’ captivated the Clear-Cut 6 audience and was at once sensitive and hilarious.

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 ‘That’s the family you have’ performed by ‘Parallel Lines’,  Nicholas Morgan & Margot Przymierska

Meanwhile, above the performance space, the gallery plays host to a film and sculpture installation by contemporary artist, Merran Singh Dubb. ‘Temple of Consciousness’ explores the relationship between the declining condition of the natural environment and the similarly marred spiritual condition of humankind. “It is evident that we are destroying the planet but ultimately, we are destroying ourselves”. The installation thoughtfully presents imagery representing spirituality alongside the elemental extremes of natural disaster and climate change.

To close the event, ‘Trio Ladino‘, consisting of Angie Kirby, Bethan Frieze and Eloise Gynn are a trio of musicians and vocalists performing adaptations of Arabic and Sephardic traditional lullabies. The trio describe their sound as, “ancient melodies fused with more contemporary musical perspectives, anchored by lullaby-like themes and romantic narratives”. The performance is a calming and captivating conclusion to the Clear-Cut programme.

On reflection, improvisation and experimentation were certainly the order of the evening with every act proving both valuable and unique. The atmosphere was at the same time informal, friendly, supportive and progressive. Clear-cut is unlike anything I have seen and I will be attending from here on!

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 ‘Trio Ladino’ performers Angie Kirby, Bethan Frieze and Eloise Gynn

For a taste of Clear-Cut, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeQJ4MaIVtU

https://www.facebook.com/CardiffMADE/

Image credits to Glyn Owens and Sarah Vaughan-Jones.
Special thanks to M.A.D.E Gallery, Sarah Vaughan-Jones and all contributors and performers for the organisation of this event.

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Review Chicago, Wales Millennium Centre by James Briggs

chicago

(4 / 5)

“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts “and so Cardiff welcomes the touring production of Chicago. In a first for the Wales Millennium Centre the smash hit musical Chicago has arrived to entertain packed audiences. Chicago is based on the real life events in the roaring 1920s. A nightclub singing sensation Velma murders her husband, and Chicago’s smoothest lawyer, Billy Flynn, sets out to act has her defence. But when Roxie ends up in prison on similar charges, Billy takes on her case too, turning her too into a media sensation. Neither of the two women will be surpassed in their fight against each other for fame and celebrity status.

As the audience sat down before the performance an announcement was made informing us that John Partridge who plays  lawyer Billy Flynn would not be performing due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and therefore the role would be played instead by his understudy Kerry Spark. Despite the obvious disappointment by some audience members we needn’t have worried as Kerry Spark gave an excellent performance.

This revival tour of Chicago showed a whole different side to the show by stripping the production back to its bare bones, with a full band positioned on a podium on stage, minimal costumes on the performers and some chairs. As an audience member, you seem to have the feeling that the music is the main star of the show and the thing you should be concentrating on most of all.

In the performance, Sophie Carmen-Jones played Velma Kelly, the tough performer awaiting trial for the murder of her husband and sister. Sophie Carmen-Jones delivers a brilliant Velma who is very confident and self-assured but still beneath her many layers is highly vulnerable.

Hayley Tamaddon is utterly sublime as Roxie Hart. Hayley Tamaddon brings out a different version of Roxie with slightly more comedy and shyness in Roxie than audiences will not have seen before. There are many moments during the performance where Roxie really comes into her own and shines like a star.

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In my opinion, the two leading ladies are perfectly matched and when they come together and perform the ‘Hot Honey Rag’ to the end of the show they are wonderfully in synch with each other bringing a smile to every audience member.

The Matron of the Cook County Jail, Mama Morton was played by Gina Murray. The role is usually played by former X Factor winner Sam Bailey however she took a break from the tour. Gina Murray was brilliant as Mama Morton and has a good mix of being stern and kind to the inmates. Her performance in the song ‘When You’re Good To Mama’ was amazing and received a loud applause from the audience.

One of the real stand out characters during the musical was A D Richardson as Mary Sunshine. Each line of the song ‘A little bit of good’ is presented with a strong sense of carefulness and delicacy. It’s an extremely gruelling role that can be extremely difficult to sing night after night, but you get one of the best vocal performances I have seen. Without giving a major plot spoiler away it is unbelievable how good the characters voice is considering the circumstances.

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Roxie’s all loving and walked upon husband Amos Hart is played by Neil Ditt. Extremely well performed, the character is worked, used and mistreated by Roxie and Billy but it is a truly wonderful performance by Neil Ditt and this is especially shown in the song Mr Cellophane which demonstrates to the audience how this extremely bland man is constantly striving to be noticed by others.

‘The 6 marry murderesses of the cook county in jail in their rendition of the cell block tango’ are outstanding with the cast consisting of Sophie Carmen-Jones, Lindsey Tierney, Ellie Mitchell, Nicola Coates, Frances Dee and Chelsea Labadini. This performance is very powerful and each character portrayed is very different with a stand out personality that draws in the audience.

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It would be very wrong to not mention the utterly divine band for the performance led by the fantastic Ben Atkinson. It truly is the icing on the cake for this touring production. All through the show the energy levels of the band were extremely high and the music blasted out around the Wales Millennium Centre. The two real highlight moments of the band was during the Entr’acte and Playout because it was then they came into their own. Ben Atkinson was conducting upside down leaning over a wall and climbing over the staging while leading his band. He finally ended up draped over the piano upside down with his band dancing around the stage. An utterly amazing performance.

You don’t want to be ‘Mister Cellophane’ so make yourself seen and go and watch Chicago: The Musical at the Wales Millennium Centre. The musical is showing between 25th  Jul – 30th  Jul 2016. Tickets are selling fast so please make sure you get them via this link-

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/Chicago15/