Tag Archives: New Theatre Cardiff

Review: Mischief Movie Night, New Theatre By Eloise Stingemore

The Mischief Theatre Company returned to Cardiff with a brand new show, Mischief Movie Night, which delivered calamity, insane capers, and much hilarity on an epic scale. What is different you may say to the company previous productions such as The Play That Goes Wrong that showed at the theatre in May – the audience is in the driving seat!

The cast is at the mercy of the audience and who must use their quick wit, creativity and sheer talent to create a performance based on the scenario you created for them in that moment. This is no small feat but The Mischief Theatre Company as demonstrated in the previous productions (Peter Pan Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robber) certainly pulled it off. The seasoned original cast members we know so well and have come to adore for their laugh out loud shows packed full with British humour and organised chaos, exceeded all my expectations with their new production.

Their objective is to create a feature-length film based on the genre, location and title provided to them by their audience completely on the spot, and getting you to laugh while they’re at it. A whole host of genres, mythical creatures and wishful fantasies where thrown at them, ranging from erotica to anima, fire breathing dragons and Wales winning the Six Nations. Oh boy did they deliver!

The Cardiffian Tales were born which saw Wales a divided land full of mythical beasts and creatures unite and defeat the evil ice king with a tree elf leading the charge and as a symbol of their new unity saw Wales rise up and win the Six Nations. One aspect of the show that I particularly liked was the live rewinds, plenty of pauses and even a fast-forward or two, utilised by the narrative using a figurative remote to cut out dead ends or repeat audience-hit jokes. The continuous slapstick and stupidity for a whole 75 minutes brought tears of laughter to the audience eyes and put smiles on their faces from start to finish.

Mischief Movie Night is improv theatre at its best! A masterpiece was created that night, which was brilliant, funny, interactive and truly a crying-with-laughter experience you will not forget.

Tour dates and ticket information can be found here: https://mischieftheatre.co.uk/shows/mischief-movie-night

Review: The Play That Goes Wrong, New Theatre by Eloise Stingemore

Returning to the New Theatre, Cardiff where the original tour begin in 2014, The Play That Goes Wrong, is a side splitting, belly aching, highly physical, extremely ambitious slapstick comedy that has taken both the West End and Broadway by storm.

The play introduces The ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ who are attempting to put on a 1920’s murder mystery, but as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong… does. In fact, it all starts falling apart even before the actors take to the stage in the equivalent of a pre-titles sequence. As a member of the cast runs around the theatre looking for a dog called Winston and a Duran Duran CD, whilst stage hands recruit an unsuspecting member of the audience to help finish the stage construction with hilarious albeit disastrous results.

 

The show sits in a fine tradition of British slapstick, and of plays about theatrical blunders: from doors not opening to the same doors not closing, pictures and props falling off the walls and parts of the set collapsed with cast members on them and parts of the script repeated on a loop as members forgot their lines. There was barely time to breath in-between each joke, for the first time in my life I truly experienced what it means to laugh till it hurts.

It is difficult to single out a cast member as they each showed excellent knowledge of comedy timing and demonstrate the physical prowess to perform their role while having to think about so many different things happening on stage.

The Play That Goes Wrong delivers laughs that come thick and fast, Mondays’ Opening night audience at the New Theatre, Cardiff absolutely roared with laughter and where buzzing as they left. If you have recently found yourself in need of cheering up make sure you catch the show as it tours the UK in 2018. It’s the perfect remedy to making all your worries and cares disappear for 2 1/2 hrs that is!

Tour dates and ticket information can be found here: http://www.theplaythatgoeswrong.com/uk-tour/tickets

REVIEW: ‘SON OF A PREACHER MAN’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

(3 / 5)

It helps when you see a show if you take along someone who actually remembers the era the show was set in. When I saw ‘Sunny Afternoon’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, my theatre companion (who happens to be my Mum) remembered the energy and the buzz of the musical revolution of the 60s.

Through them, you get to imagine what it was like – they are the ‘litmus paper’ for the legitimacy and authenticity of the storyline, the music, the fashion and the dancing. Sunny Afternoon captured the wonder, the outrage and the rebellion of the era – and even if you have no direct experience of it, you admired it and felt part of it. It was beautifully done without overly relying on nostalgia and famous songs. Although I didn’t know anything about Dusty’s life, I knew many of her songs through my mother and was hoping for a feel-good good show which would bring her original material to life – perhaps even a sense of nostalgia for my own childhood, where I spent many happy hours dancing in the kitchen and living room to my mother’s vinyl records.

Son of a Preacher man is clearly written to cater to the boomers and the sense of nostalgia they feel about their teens. The British public clearly still have a sense of loyalty and affection towards Dusty Springfield, whose memorable songs were the soundtrack to their youth.

My mother recalls seeing Dusty Springfield perform in Cardiff during her teens. In a nod to the rivalry (real or imagined) between Dusty and Sandy Shaw, Dusty came on stage wearing massive comedy feet – taking a pop at Sandy’s reputation for singing on stage while barefoot. Perhaps this is testament to Dusty’s rebellious spirit and humour. I hadn’t known until my Mother relayed it to me in the interval but Dusty’s real life was marred by a set of tragic and difficult events, from her early childhood in a children’s home run by Catholic nuns, to being in the closet then losing her eyesight at an early age.

The production doesn’t really pick up much on Dusty’s legacy or life story – this is a show punctuated by her musical repertoire plus a few additional tracks from the era. This production looks back wistfully at a more innocent time – spent in Saturdays in record shops, dancing, and dating.

The three central characters all have a connection with the ‘Preacher Man’s’ record shop. Somehow they all end up going back to find him – and find their histories and collective futures become intertwined. We blend in an out of the 60s back to present day, through the youngest character Kat (played by Alice Barlow), Michelle Gayle’s character Alison and Paul – who on the night I attended was played by Gary Mitchinson.

Audiences will surely remember Michelle Gayle, best known for playing ‘Hattie’ in Eastenders and releasing a number of hits in the 90s including ‘Sweetness’. Her role as Alison is a little awkward at times – she doesn’t really suit the character she plays.

Hats off though to two of the show’s stand out stars – the incredible Alice Barlow who played Kat – her vocals were incredible and she is magnetic on stage. Also, the charismatic Nigel Richards who plays Simon (The Son of a Preacher Man) had a beautiful baritone voice and great comic delivery.

It was easy to forgive some of the cliches of the script when Alice Barlow was performing. It’s a credit to the cast that they were able to rescue the credibility of the show with their fabulous ensemble performances and blended vocals. Michelle Gayle is far too fabulous for the role of Alison – but her vocal performance is still hitting the spot years after ‘Sweetness’ was released and she is an accomplished singer and dancer.

The jury is still out on how well the show straddles both the 60s flashbacks and present-day vignettes. We get scenes talking about Tinder interjected with a cheeseball 60s routine with an unhealthy dose of Dad-dancing. So much Dad-dancing! But perhaps I wasn’t the right demographic for this show. When I whispered to my Mum ‘Look at that Dad dancing!’ she said ‘That what it was like – it WAS hammy and cheesy.’

Perhaps best known for his attachment to the show as Director with a musical staging credit is Strictly Come Dancing’s outrageous judge Craig Revel Horwood. His flamboyant touches are evident throughout – and don’t always land in the way they are perhaps intended – the ‘Cappucino Sisters’ deviate between 60s dancing and the occasional twerk, bump and grind.

I’m going to be frank. The story was a little…underwhelming. A teacher falling in love with a teenage boy, a teenager falling in love with someone she saw on Tinder and a man who is still in love with a guy he danced with a few times in the 60s. It was weak and was held up (just about) from the talent of this great cast and fabulous on-stage musicians. For me (and I speak as a lover of the poptastic and the cheesetastic), I found certain elements a little cringeworthy. The show was overly wistful, the opening scenes with the smoke and the ‘I remember it…. I remember it….I STILL remember it…’ were overdone and made me fear for what was ahead.

Was it just me?

Apparently not, according to the criticisms I heard in the queue in the lady’s loo during the interval. You know you’re in trouble as a theatre producer when you hear a lady say to her friends “The music is brilliant, but the story! It’s like pulling teeth” and everyone else in the queue laughs and agrees.

Theatre producers should be made to listen to reviews of their shows in ladies loos – they could learn a thing or two and perhaps even improve it before they tour with it.

Musical theatre isn’t to everyone’s taste. Some complain that songs are shoehorned in, there are too many ‘filler songs’ and some even dread the moment an actor starts singing. With this production, I found myself hoping they would hurry up and get to the song. It’s hard not to enjoy the music and it’s done really well – it’s the saving grace of the production. But It’s such a shame the show didn’t quite hit the mark. It just doesn’t quite match up to the true legacy of Dusty Springfield – and she deserved better.

If you’re a die-hard Dusty fan, you need to take the show with a pinch of salt and keep a (very) open mind. If you go – go along for the ride, have a few glasses of vino and enjoy the music. The story is a bit of a stinking bishop, but who doesn’t love and look forward to a slice of cheddar or a Dairylea triangle now and again?

Son of a Preacher man is currently on tour and will play in Venue Cymru in Llandudno on May 29th-June 2nd. The production will then visit King’s Lynn Corn Exchange in Norfolk, Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, Orchard Theatre in Dartford and Empire Theatre in Liverpool.

Review The Sound of Music by Jane Bissett

 

(5 / 5)

 

The Sound of Music is a musical masterpiece from the talented duo Rodgers and Hammerstein. Based loosely on the life of Maria Augusta Trapp and her journey from novice Nun to devoted mother. The Sound of Music has taken the drama which hangs on the story ‘The Trapp Family Singers’ (written by Maria) and has condensed it into a stage musical with a romantic rosy glow.

Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics are set to music by Richard Rodgers and between them they produced wonderfully descriptive songs that take us from an abbey, to the top of a mountain and capture family life in its simplicity. These songs have been sung by enthralled cinema and theatre goers worldwide for the last five decades.

Indeed, I found myself singing whilst working the following morning, tending sheep in a windswept field in South Wales. Perhaps not such a dramatic landscape as mountains of Austria in the summer, but uplifting all the same.

The story of the family is set in Austria in 1938 with WWII on the horizon. Maria is a young novice Nun who is sent by the Mother Abbess to the home of Captain von Trapp to act as governess and care for his seven children.

Without a mother the children crave the attentions of their father who in his grief has distanced himself from the children, their family home and the memories it holds.

The welfare of the children is Maria’s primary concern and she can see how much they need to regain the love of their father. All she wants is to see the children happy again. She teaches them how to sing and bring music back into their lives. Little does she know that the Captain is himself an accomplished musician and singer and when eventually he hears the children singing it breaks the spell of his unhappiness and allows him to rebuild his relationship with his children whilst unwittingly falling in love with their governess.

Lucy O’Byrne gives an outstanding performance as Maria as does Neil McDermott as Captain von Trapp and for me, much more believable that Christopher Plummer ever was, maybe it was the beard.

Megan Llewellyn was a truly realistic Mother Abbess, kind, compassionate, and wow, what a voice!

The nuns were outstanding, their voices breathtaking and the children adorable in every scene. It was easy to imagine their lives being improved by the arrival of a much needed mother figure who would love them and bring their family back to life.

The set design was a triumph. The audience was transported from the Abbey to the Von Trapp residence effortlessly. The sets were vast and visually beautiful providing an atmosphere that extended well beyond the boundary of the stage. The vastness of the scenery and the skillful way in which it was brought to the stage added to the audience being effortlessly transported from place to place. Although the New Theatre is not the size of a West End stage, for the visual effect and the performances, it was for this production.

It would be unjust to single performers out as this was a whole cast production of talented individuals who together made us believe that we were there.

The audience were so engaged with story and the performances that I am certain that I head an audible ‘boo’ for the Nazi Officer!

Although unseen the orchestra gave an awe inspiring performance of musical talent. The balance of instruments and voices were perfect and crated a world of musical pleasure that elevated the entire show to completely fill the auditorium.

It was no surprise at the end of the performance when the audience rose to their feet before the curtain call and gave the entire cast the standing ovation that they so clearly deserved.

This really is a ‘must see’ production. I was only disappointed that it was not like the film shown in the 1960’s when you could remain in your seat and see it all over again.

The Sound of Music

The New Theatre Cardiff

Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 February 2018

Evenings 7.30pm

Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday Matinees 2.30pm

For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889

Review Snow White and the Seven Dwarves New Theatre, Cardiff by Patrick Downes

 

Let me start off by saying this one fact about me; I’ve never been to a pantomime before. I’ve seen them- ITV did a few about 10 years ago – but as for seeing one up close and in person, never before. Although I can remember something resembling a pant in the Park and Dare in Treorchy when I was about 4 years old, but in terms of being an adult I have no memory. So what to expect? Well, pantos are as part of Christmas as the Queen’s speech and James Bond on telly. They’re just good fun for all the family, and Cardiff’s production of Snow White certainly falls into that category. There’s childish humour, for the adults, and grown up humour, for the kids. A good pantomime is always the way to introduce theatre to young minds, and with a brilliant ensemble cast, this one does not disappoint.

A good panto always has the following;

A dame – played brilliantly by Mike Doyle (alrighttttttt)
A prince – It’s Chico time (You may remember him as having a number one single which knocked Madonna’s Sorry off the top of the chart)
The Wicked Queen – Harsh to say this but Samantha Womack played a blinder!
For every Wicked Queen, they have a henchman – Oh Alfie Thomas, the day you finished playing rugby, was a sad day, but the upshot is, you get to play on stage a role well suited for anyone who’s faced the All Blacks.
The faithful friend – Tam Ryan has this comedic role as his own. Warm and very funny – watch for his reactions when he’s not centre stage.
And good, I mean, if there’s an evil witch, there has to be balance, and Stephanie Webber as Snow White is as perfect as the version of the cartoon version of Snow White that we know and love, that you will get.

If I was to be slightly critical, it would be the sound mix on the night. The voice mics sounded too pitchy – but that takes nothing away from the performance of all the cast.

I’ve seen Sam Womack twice this year, earlier at Wales Millennium Centre when she played Morticia in The Adams Family, and then tonight as Queen Lucretia (Excretia – nice touch Alfie). Her singing voice maybe a shock to many, but for me, it’s just something I’ve come to love. Cracking version of I put a spell on you – nice little Hocus Pocus touch! She seems to revel in being bad – and she’s so good at it. Funny, yet evil.

Stephanie Webber as Snow White suited her brilliantly, as did Tam as Muddles. Mike Doyle is Panto Royality having performed for the past 27 years, he truly knows his art and is a master at it. If you want to see how it’s done – you won’t go far wrong watching him.

I could quite easily talk about each person, but I think where this panto mainly succeeds is the family feel of the performers. It doesn’t feel like a “one person topping the bill” kind of show. Everyone is equal, and everyone brings something special to the show – yes, even Chico with a song that probably no one under the age of 14 would remember – yes, “It’s Chico time” is from 2006 – where has that time gone!

So, my first proper pantomime, and no doubt not my last. Go and see Wales’ number one pantomime as it’s at the New Theatre till January 14th.

And in style of panto speak – what about a rhyming review?

They said see a panto, and say what you think
Hopefully, you’ll love and not think it stink

To Cardiff I went, parked by the museum,
Two twenty it cost, well worth it to see them

The theatre is old, and has lots of history
The entertainment it holds, is great, no mystery

The cast is fab, the dancing is tight,
It’s fun just to hear Mike Doyle say “Alright”

Tam is great, Tam is funny,
Comic timing a must, now where is my money?

Alfie’s hacka is a sight to behold,
The AllBlacks humpty, another story of old

Sam Womack’s voice, majestic, amazing, and strong I will say
She put a spell on us all, from the theatre to the bay

A review in some rhyme, might happen some day
Until it does, I’ll do things my way

Because a panto they say, is old hat, not very cool
Well, in Cardiff as such, they’re breaking those rules

It’s fun, joyful and oh very happy
Snow White’s time in the capital, won’t last long – so be snappy

Make sure you get some tickets to see,
Wales’ number one panto, recommended by me

REVIEW: @ImPatrickDownes

Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, New Theatre – By Eloise Stingemore

 

 

 

 

 

 

(5 / 5)

OMG Legally Blonde is back in town! Anthony Williams UK revival of the musical adaptation of the hit 2001 film, which starred Reese Witherspoon in the iconic role of Elle Woods, is back in a dazzling pink-hue production of frothy songs, fabulous sets and catchy dance routines. With more sparkle than one will find on Strictly Come Dancing, Legally Blonde The Musical, will brighten up the coldest and darkest of winter nights.

Based on the hit film it follows the perils of Elle Woods played by home-grown talent Lucie Jones, a cheer-leading sorority girl who ditches her air-head image to train as a lawyer at the prestigious Harvard School of Law in the hopes of winning back her preppy boyfriend, Warner Huntingdon III, played by Liam Doyle. Packing up her trusty pooch, Bruiser, and with the support of a new bunch of friends she quickly learns that one can be an intellect, have a heart, superior fashion sense all whilst battling against envy, pettiness and a sordid professor.

Lucie Jones is a perfect fit for the role, her beautiful voice and her ability to do the bend and snap to perfection brings the perky Elle Woods to life in all her pink glory. Whereas Liam Doyle who plays Warner Huntingdon III exceptionally well especially when singing Serious, where Elle is expecting to him to propose but ends up breaking up with her. However, Rita Simmonds (most well-know for playing Roxy Mitchell in EastEnders) is a true revelation with her beautiful singing and great characterisation of salon owner Paulette Bonafonté. Her ode to her character homeland with the song Ireland saw Simmonds balance comedy with genuine emotion perfectly all whilst doing a fabulous river dance. As for Bill Ward’s interpretation of the disgustingly slick Professor Callahan, he commends the stage with his presence and gets all the Panto boos, the highest accolade for any antagonist. It’s safe to say that the biggest cheers of the night and who drew the biggest smiles from the audience was the four legged cast comprising of Bruiser played by Bruisey Williams-Dood and Rufus played by a local star canine.

Legally Blonde The Musical is fun and fluffy, lifting the darkest of spirits and bringing them into Elle Woods’s fabulous bubble-gum pink world. It is light-hearted and delivers its fair share of touching moments all set against a backdrop of glitz, glamour and girl power.

Tour dates and ticket information can be found on Legally Blonde The Musical website.

Review Wait Until Dark, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett

(4 / 5)

As I made my way to the Theatre on a dark and wet November evening I was unaware of the theatrical experience that is Wait Untill Dark would have on my walk home – in darkness…..

WAIT UNTIL DARK is a cautionary tale set in the mid 1960s. About a young photographer (Sam) who in agreeing to assist a fellow passenger on an aircarft flight from Amsterdam sets in motion a chain of events that will affect his household in a way he could not fore tell nor indeed understand.

Human beings are either able to embrace darkness or have an inate fear of it. There is something about the isolation of being in the dark which enduces our inner fears of the things we cannot see or understand.

This story centres on Susy the newly married wife of Sam. Susy is blind and learning to live her life in darkness following an accident.

As the story unfolds we watch as a small gang of vilains are trying to discover the whereabouts of a missing doll which has been used as a carrier for drugs.

The gang mistakenly believable Susy knows the whereabouts of the doll although is unaware of its value. They set in motion an elaborate plan to retrieve the doll by deception and fear.

Using a tried and tested method of operation the gang gain access to the basement flat and conduct their search with the assistance of Susy who now believes her husband is in danger and if the doll is discovered in his possession he maybe under suspicion of a murder of the woman who originally asked him to take care of the doll.

Despite her blindness Susy soon becomes aware of what is happening as she hears and senses the strange behaviour of the men and is suspicious of their real motives.

With the assistance of her neighbours daughter she sets out to change the power balance to her advantage and to keep herself alive until her husband can get home.

Although set in the 1960s this story could have taken place at any time and in any context and is the stuff that good thrillers are made of.

All the action takes place in a basement flat and the set design was true to the time period in which it was set. A mention must be made of the use of the stair case and we can only commend the cast on their fitness levels as they negotiated the stairs all evening.

Katrina Jones portrayal of Susy was outstanding, a smart woman, in love with her husband and astutely aware of her surroundings. Indeed it was only at the curtain call that it entered my mind that Jones was actually blind.

Shannon Rewcroft gave an amazing performance as Gloria (age 12), so much so that it became believable that she was 12.

The gentlemen of the cast brought the play to life and Tim Treloar’s performance as the gang mastermind ‘Roat’ sent a shiver up the spine.

The whole atmosphere of the play hinged on the set design, lighting and sound and to this end I must commend David Woodhead, Chris Withers and Giles Thomas for bringing to the stage the visual and audio experience that left us all wanting more.

During the final act, as the story reached it climax, the effects on stage not only heightened the scenses of the audience but pulled them further into the action that was taking place in front of their eyes and the tension was almost tangible.

Playwright Frederick Knott’s (1916-2002) legacy to the theatre was believable drama where he set the scene and delivered a thriller that has stood the test of time.

Director Alistair Whatley gave us an evening of sheer pleasure and this amazing cast brought the play to life to create an unforgettable evening of thrilling theatre at its best.

WAIT UNTIL DARK plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 November at 7.30pm

On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.

For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

Review Deathtrap, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett.

DEATHTRAP

By Ira Levin

(2 / 5)

Deathtrap is the age old story of a man who wants more than he has and is prepared to go to any lengths to gain it.

The action takes place at the home of playwright Sidney Bruhl’s home that he shares with his wife of 11 years, Myra.

We see Sidney, a man who has not written a successful play for a number of years receives a manuscript from a aspiring young playwright. This is the opening of a plot that will change the course of the lives of Sidney and Myra in ways that we, the audience, will not have imagined.

The story covers four weeks in the life of Sidney Bruhl where he, Sidney, plans and plots to create a better life for himself at any cost.

The three main characters played by Paul Bradley (Sidney Bruhl), Jessie Wallace (Myra Bruhl) and Sam Phillips (Clifford Anderson), despite all being well known to us in former stage and television roles, were believable and I particularly liked Wallace’s portrayal of Myra Bruhl.

Despite not being familiar with the story and not having seen any other adaptation I didn’t find it as thrilling as I had anticipated. There were a lot of question marks about the relationships between the characters which were never addresses in either dialogue or behaviour except for the ending of act one. This isolated engagment between characters didn’t actually appear to have any relevance to the storyline and left the audience somewhat confused. Perhaps it was meant to shock? Either way it really didn’t work.

That said, the outstanding performance for me was Beverley Klein. She gave a wonderful performance as Helga ten Dorp, the Bruhl’s psychic neighbour. Her portrayal of ten Dorp single-handedly brought the thrills, drama and humour to the stage and was a delight to watch.

The set design worked well and the lighting created an atmosphere for day and night that worked particually well. The sound was spot on and certainly on cue for the moments we all jumped out of our seats! It would be unfair to elabarate further as it would certainly create a spoiler for anyone going to see the play.

Scene changes were prompted by the showing of vintage thrillers on screen in black and white which worked to great effect and enhanced the experience. The video design which was by Duncan McLean gave a sort of scrap book feel to the presentation and perhaps gave an insight to the mind of a thriller writer, their inspiration and method of work?

DEATHTRAP plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 10 October – Saturday 14 October at 7.30pm

Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday Matinees at 2.30pm.

For further details or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

Review The Wipers Times by Jane Bisset

 

(4 / 5)

 

By Ian Hislop and Nick Newman

Based on a true story from World War I, The Wipers Times is an insight as to life and amazingly laughs in the trenches.

Following the discovery of a printing press and indeed paper during an advance, Officers’ Captain Roberts and Lieutenant Pearson decide instead of allowing it to be smashed and pieces used to bolster trenches that they would use it to produce a publication and bolster the moral of the men instead.

The publication, The Wipers Times, quickly gained notoriety and a following in the trenches which in the dreadful and soul destroying conditions the men were in must have been a tonic in itself.

There is something typically British in the way that the men went about ensuring that the Times was printed no matter what and despite disapproval by the senior officers it became something for the men to look forward to and for the editorial team and production team something to lift spirits and keep going for.

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman must be commended for the wonderful way that they have brought this story not only to the stage but also into the public consciousness. Roberts and Pearson were real people who certainly made a great contribution to the moral of the troops and did by the vehicle of their publication encouraged many soldiers to write.

Hislop and Newman take little credit for the written material of the play. Instead they let the content of memoirs of the men who were there and the Wipers Times tell the story for them.

The set was atmospheric and with minimal and slick scene changes were accompanied by the men singing war time song, which were actually poems that has been published in the Wipers Times set to music.

James Dutton and George Kemp gave credible performances as Roberts and Pearson, that said Officers’ are only as good as the men they command and the cast brought the soldiers from the past to the stage to warm our hearts and to believe that in the face of adversity their strength of character and determination was what got men through these most dreadful of time.

Dora Schweitzer (designer), James Smith (lighting), and Steve Mayo (sound) are to be commended for an exceptional job of giving us a true feel of life at the front line which was believable and bearable.

War of course is not clever, not funny and is certainly not a holiday destination. In the blackness of war The Wipers Times was an antidote to the reality of the horrors surrounding them and the awfulness of everyday life. In true British style humour is what keeps us going and the more inappropriate and condemed by the ‘establishment’ the better we like it.

At the beginning of the evening I felt a little uncomfortable in even considering the war to be funny but as a true brit it wasn’t long before I, along with a packed auditorium, was laughing and indeed wanting more.

After the war Roberts and Pearson returned to civilian life and to occupations they were both familiar with.

The Wipers Times is their legacy of life and laughs in the trenches. The discovery of the printing press was by chance but the production of the paper was a concious decision to try to make best of things and to improve the mens’ moral.

It is thanks to Hislop and Newman that these two men will be remembered and after far too long Roberts and Pearson were recognised by the Times broadsheet newspaper when they published obituaries for the men.

Us Brits are a strange breed and our humour often does not transfer to other nations well. However, amidst the laughter, we must be thankful for all those men who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom to laugh at the things we do.

And to people such as Messrs Roberts, Pearson, Hislop, Newman and all the anonymous men who have produced humour in uniform, we salute you.

Review Shirley Valentine by Jane Bissett

3 Stars

Shirley Valentine is a middle-aged housewife who talks to the wall. She is married to Joe and has been a faithful wife and mother. Stuck in the rut of an unfulfilled marriage of routine and domestic drudgery she longs for another life.

Shirley’s best friend Jane, who is unattached since she discovering her husband in bed with the milkman, seems to enjoy a carefree existence and is able to experience a world that Shirley can only dream about.

This however, changes when Jane books a holiday to Greece and not only invites Shirley but gives her the tickets so as to make her decision more difficult.

Of course Shirley wants to go but how does she tell Joe, a man who for the whole of their married life has considered their annual holiday to the Isle of Wight – abroad.

Whilst the holiday is only three weeks away, Shirley struggles with her desire to change her life and become Shirley Valentine once more and leave drudgery behind. As a wife and mother she is caught up in being the constant in the lives of her family and wonders if she should go at all.

Eventually, she decides that she cannot let this opportunity slip away, whilst also knowing that if she tells Joe he will throw a fit, talk her out of it and tell her how stupid she is being.

So confiding in the kitchen wall, to whom she constantly chats, she plans to accompany Jane to Greece.

With all her domestic plans in place, Joe’s meals cooked and in the freezer, her mother coming over to defrost and microwave for him, Shirley buys new clothes for the new her that will go to Greece.

On the day of departure Shirley leaves by taxi and her adventure begins.

Once in Greece Jane hooks up with a man and Shirley spends the first few days by herself. She enjoys the freedom of not being at the beck and call of anyone else and she spends her days exploring the island and soaking up the sun and culture and slowly but surely a new Shirley is reborn – Shirley Valentine of her youth has returned.

With the scales peeled from her eyes she sees the people around her in a new light. The holiday makers at her hotel and the local population, Shirley has gone ‘native’.

Her transformation is complete when she meets Costas, the owner of a local tavern, who helps her fulfill her dream of drinking wine by the sea in the country where the grapes are grown.

Promising not to take advantage of her, the following day he takes her out for the day around the islands in his brother’s boat. The experience is life changing for Shirley, bolstering her confidence in herself and her attractiveness.

On the day of departure, as they are stood in the airport check-in queue Shirley realises she cannot go back to her old life and with the shouts of Jane and fellow passengers following her “come back!” she walks out of the airport and away from her old life and into a new one as she decides to stay in Greece and ask Costas for a job.

When she gets to the tavern Costas is already ‘chatting up’ the next woman, but Shirley hasn’t come back for Costas she has gone back for herself, the youthful, carefree, adventurer who was buried deep inside and who has finally emerged.

Now working evenings at the tavern, Shirley has fielded several phone calls from Joe demanding that she come home. Now, he has decided that his only course of action is to go to Greece to bring her back. Shirley on the other hand has no intention of returning and is sure that Joe will pass her by before recognising her as the happy changed woman she has become.

Shirley Valentine is the creation of writer Willy Russell. She is a manifestation of the 1960/70s middle-aged woman who married young, brought up a family and supported her husband.

Playwright Willy Russell was brought up in Liverpool surrounded by a family of strong women. At the age of 15 he left school to work at a womens’ hairdressers before returning to education and his career as a writer. It is clear that his observations of the women that surrounded him have had an effect on his writing as he has captured their essence as well as the secret dreams and aspirations of women of this time perfectly.

As a one-woman play Shirley Valentine is a triumph of female characterisation. As Shirley, Jodie Prenger skilfully develops her personality as the play unfolds and she tells her story. As she works her way around the kitchen and talks to the audience and of course the ‘wall’ you are drawn into her world and even the younger theatre goer gains a greater understanding of the life she leads and the life she dreams of.

It did feel as if it was a little bit of a slow burn, but this character could not have been rushed as she bared her soul and inner dreams before us.

Prenger’s portrayal of Shirley was a realistic and believable one. The audience was biased towards women, it has to be said of a certain age, who were empathetic to the character and her situation. The unsuppressed laughter at Shirley’s description of her life and encounters was encouraging as you realised that the audience ‘got it’.

Glen Walford has directed this production with the imagination and skill that you would have expected given her directing pedigree.

Although there are only two scene locations both felt familiar. The kitchen, the heart of the home, and the beach in Greece. I particularly liked the subtle lighting effects that gave movement to the sea it added to the atmosphere without distracting.

If there is one take away moment it has to be watching Prenger actually cooking chips’n’egg on stage, and as the lights dimmed for the next scene I couldn’t help smiling to myself as a male stage hand came on to clean the kitchen area. Something that her Joe would have been horrified at seeing, but then I wondered, would any of the younger women in the audience have even noticed?

Prenger did not disappoint as Shirley and received a well deserved standing ovation for giving us two hours of sheer pleasure.

Shirley Valentine plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 27 June – Saturday 1 July at 7.30pm

On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.

For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.