Tag Archives: New Theatre Cardiff

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.

Review The Graduate New Theatre Cardiff by Eloise Stingemore

(3 / 5)

The hit West End comedy with its unforgettable characters from the landmark novel and Oscar-winning film are brought to life on the stage of Cardiff’s, New Theatre.

Based on the novel by Charles Webb and the 1968 film, it concerns Mrs Robinson’s played by Catherine McCormack, seduction of young middle class rebel without a cause character Benjamin Braddock, played by Jack Monaghan. Who is struggling to come to terms with his future, worrying that his family expect too much from him, and feels thoroughly disillusioned. However, when seduced by long-term family friend the sensational Mrs Robinson his boredom takes a new direction. And when he has a date with Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine, he finally finds some meaning to his life, a meaning that Mrs Robinson opposes!

There is no denying that since it was first written and later immortalised on the big screen the world has drastically changed, which is reflected both in Terry Jonson’s adaptation and Lucy Bailey’s direction of the story for the stage. In no way does it shy away from the prejudices of that time, and in doing so gives the audience a sense of progress that we as a society have made in regards to sexism. Yet at the same time it gives you pause for thought in relation to how little progress we’ve made in some areas too – especially our ability to communicate with those around us. This theme in  the play gives a great sense of amusement and laughter for the audience, especially when touching on the idea of a ‘generation gap’ in scenes between Ben and his Dad. As well as a much-needed sense of relevance, as we now live in a world where such dalliances have become the norm albeit not always outwardly accepted by those around us. Yet the idea that young people see a different future to their parents, but struggle to communicate that future, is still very much relevant albeit not as new as it was in the 60s.

However, to pull off Charles Webb’s original novel, which is a thing of beauty, takes a cast of supreme talent to pull it off. Unfortunately on this occasion, Bailey has failed to assemble such a cast; there was a lack of chemistry between the two leads and the attempt to bring emotional ballast to the piece in the second half by bulking up the role of Mrs Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, played by Emma Curtis. Turned The Graduate from being a dark, funny and beautiful satire of suburbia into a thin story about a kid who feels unsatisfied with his life, chucks his chances away and emerges relatively unscathed at the end.

 

Review The Woman in Black by Jane Bissett

 

(4 / 5)

 

The tale of the Woman in Black comes from the pen of the acclaimed author Susan Hill and I guarantee this stage adaptation, the legacy of the talented playwright Stephen Mallatratt, will not disappoint you.

It is 27 years since this production was first taken from the page and brought to the stage and its longevity is testament to the art of storytelling and the drama of theatre. The ability to tell a gripping story is a thread which runs through time itself and is as deep seated in us today as it was when stories were passed down by the telling of  tales and before the Viking Sagas were written down. Every culture has its own myths and legends to draw on and before the advent of electricity and modern technological it was common for families to gather together in the evening, in the dark glow of the fireside to recount tales that would capture the imagination and transport them to times and places of both the past and the future.

Susan Hill’s novella, The Woman in Black, is a Gothic tale of love, loss, fear and revenge. As with all ghost and horror stories it has an unexpected ending,  a twist in the tale, which sets us thinking and is the hook that makes us remember the story and gives us the ability to tell it to others again and again.

At the start of the play, in scene one, we are introduced to the two characters, Arthur Kipps and an Actor who he has engaged to assist him in the telling of the story that changed his life and his future. It is clear right from the start the importance for Kipps in telling his story, as not only a warning to others but as a means of trying to exorcise his own demons. In the telling of this tale it holds up a mirror to us all to examine our own fears of what we know and believe and indeed what we do not.

This is the story of solicitor, Arthur Kipps, recently widowed and who four years earlier had been sent from London to the coast to put in order the affairs of a recently deceased lady. The subsequent events of that journey will haunt Kipps and change his life forever.

As a way to exorcise the spectre of the Woman in Black and indeed as a causionary tale, Kipps employs an actor with whom he shares his manuscript of the events that happened.

In the play that unfolds before us we see the actor coach Kipps to perform all other parts other than his own and the story begins…..

As a lover of Gothic Horror and Ghost Stories in general I really enjoyed this production. Both David Acton (Arthur Kipps) and Matthew Spencer (The Actor) gave wonderful performances which transported the audience out of the theatre and onto the marshes. We joined Kipps and the Actor, spell bound as they told of the events surrounding the Woman in Black, eventually revealing her tale from within Kipps chilling story.

Both Acton and Spencer gave gripping performances as Kipps and the Actor in this two handed play in which you just got so much more that two chaps on a stage. The range of sound effects (Gareth Owen) and the dramatic and atmospheric lighting (Kevin Sleep) created a spellbinding backdrop on which the tale was told. There is no elaborate staging to distract you which means you are only limited by your belief in the tale and your own imagination.

There was audience participation in the form of fear and gasps and I am not 100% sure I did not hear, at one point a lady scream or was that coming from the stage?

This is a must see for anyone who loves a well told ghost story that will send a shiver up the spine. but be careful on the way home, you may not have left the theatre alone……

 

 

 

Review The Woman in Black by Eloise Stingemore

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Following its record-breaking run in the West End, The Woman in Black returns to the New Theatre, Cardiff. It has been seen over 7 million theatregoers worldwide and has been described by the Daily Telegraph as “The most brilliantly effective spine-chiller you will ever encounter”.

Stephen Mallatratt’s ingenious stage adaptation, directed by Robin Herford, brings Susan Hill’s acclaimed ghost story to life. Of a lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of a Woman in Black. He engages a sceptical young actor to help him tell his terrifying story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. It all begins innocently enough, but then, as they reach further into his darkest memories, they find themselves caught up in a world of eerie marshes and moaning winds. The borders between make believe and reality begins to blur and the flesh begins to creep.

The play utilised minimal props instead of adopting large and intricate sets, it relies solely on lighting and sound to chill and horrify its audience. However, it is was the subtle changing of lights within the theatre itself and on stage to a rustic orange in order to emulate the time period in which the story is set, and the equipment they would have owned. That not only helped the play within a play format of the show truly shine, but as Matthew Spencer character The Actor explains to Mr Kipps played by David Action Fox, one needs only to use the audience’s imagination to provide the settings. The production saw me scan the nearby aisle at regular intervals – just in case the ghostly figure made a surprise appearance. Full marks must be given to Michael Holt’s set design the lighting and sound designs of Kevin Sleep and Gareth Owen respectively.

As for the two men (Action and Spencer) in the play who spend much of the first half getting to know one another, slip in and out of character with ease, especially when The Actor descends into a sense of despair of drawing a good performance from Kipps. Who initially rails against the idea of a ‘performance’ that might be entertaining – his story is far too serious for that, yet the comedic dialogue got the audience descending into fits of laughter. Whereas the shift in mood after the interval, as Kipps’ story advances, sees The Actor descends on a journey of fear and uncertainty, with each new experience leaving him feeling ever more nervous and threatened. Eliciting shrieks and nervous laughter from the audience who jump and squirm in their seats as the play reaches its inevitable conclusion.

It is easy to why The Woman in Black is often referred to as a gripping theatrical exploration of terror. Combing the horror of a traditional ghost story and the heart-breaking subjects of loss and love using minimal tricky leaving in its wake freighting results. It is a must-see play, as long as your brave enough to come face-to-face with The Women in Black.

 The Women in Black plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from Tuesday June 6 – Saturday June 1 at 7.30pm plus Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm. For further details about the show or to book tickets visit http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what%27s-on/the-woman-in-black/ or call the Box Office on 02920878889.

 

 

 

Review The Crucible, New Theatre Cardiff by Jane Bissett

 

(4 / 5)

 

There is no colour or elaborate stage dressing on the set of The Crucible to detract from the sheer power of the story that unfolds in front of you. Written in 1953 The Crucible was Arthur Miller’s response to the society in which he was living. The political backdrop of American politics at the time was that of the ‘witch hunt’ for enemies of the state, Russian activists and sympathisers. It became difficult for people to exercise freedom of speech and expression without placing themselves in the spotlight for the scrutiny of the state and this was across the whole of society irrespective of gender, race, background, social standing or occupation.

Arthur Miller

Miller decided to use his skill and talent to address the political turmoil around him and unable to express the current situation he set his play in the 17th Century, a clear lesson from history from which we should take heed. The Crucible, is the dramatisation of the Salem Witch Trials (c.1692). The story centres around a relative new comer to the community, Rev. Parris, his daughter and niece and a group of young girls who form the nucleolus of the accusers for what became the most infamous Witch Hunts and trials in history.

The cast were outstanding! A marathon rather than a sprint, with nowhere to hide, the Crucible takes the audience on an uncomfortable journey back in time to when America was young and communities were governed as much by religious belief as a foundation and form of social control as much as they were by the State. Religious leaders were often the glue that held communities together and the regular Sunday meetings, the opportunity to gather the people to them to enforce the social behaviours and norms of the people around them.

When the Rev. Parris discovers his daughter, niece, and a group of girls in the woods, dancing (some naked) it triggers a chain of events that will change the lives of the people of Salem and surrounding areas even now to the present day.

The opening scene shows us Parris’s daughter, Betty, seemingly lifeless in her bed. His niece, Abigail Williams, has recently been returned to him having been dismissed from the service of the Proctor family as being unsatisfactory. As the tail unfolds we discover that she had been dismissed by Elizabeth Proctor (Goody Proctor or Good Wife Proctor), thrown out on the road when she discovered that she had slept with her husband.

The girls, unable to pass off their dancing as girlish fun, find themselves in a spiral of lies and deception that takes over the whole community and sets neighbour against neighbour and brings to the surface all the minor disagreements and before long, out of fear and revenge a ‘witch hunt’ is underway. The girls histrionics under questioning and in court sees them naming women within the community who have previously been held in high esteem as healers, midwives and good women. It is not long before the focus turns to the Proctor Household where one of the girls, Mary Warren, is in service. To the delight of Abigail, Elizabeth Proctor is arrested and although there is no foundation or truth in the accusation against her, all are powerless to assist her. She is manacled and taken away whilst her husband, John, tries to make sense of the madness that is unfolding in front of him.

John Proctor along with others make pleas to the court but the Judge and bureaucracy serve to make matters worse and end with the arrest of the husbands along with their wives. In the court, Mary Warren fears for her own life when Abigail sets the girls against her and claims that Mary is controlled by the devil. Mary retracts her statement that tells of the girls lies and this serves to strengthen the cases again the other poor accused souls for whom the audience is under illusion that this will end in the massacre of entire communities, whose fate is to be hung for the crime of Witchcraft.

The final scene was so powerful and the saying “There but by the grace of god (any god) go I” was never truer. The impassioned performances of the cast takes the audience on an uncomfortable journey of lies and injustices, persecution of all in society from the vulnerable, to those who dare to stand up for truth and justice. The audience could only watch in horror, powerless to help, as lies were told to set neighbour against neighbour, brother against brother, to remove members of their community with whom there had been grievances in the past. Some profited by the acquisition of land, others out of vengeance and spite, for some it was just the sheer terror that drove them to accuse others rather than allow the spotlight to fall on them.

The staging of this production was bare and minimalist to reflect the everyday life of 17th century America. As the lights dimmed between scenes and the whole cast changed the set before us it made for an easy transition to the next location.

I have seldom seen a production of such talent and skill. The power of the performances were breath taking, honest and believable. The actors have nothing but themselves and the passion of their performance. There are no props, just the sheer believability of the characterisation of each personality that was brought to life before us.

Lucy Keirl as Abigail Williams gave a believable performance of a young girl who was governed by her hormones. She was a manipulator and leader for the other girls to follow and by the time they realised what they had done it was too late for any change of course and self preservation must endure.

As we watched, Eion Slattery brought John Proctor into our lives and awoke our unconsciousness to the injustices that we are powerless to help. His relationship with his wife was an honest, if not uncomfortable one. His belief in her honesty would be his undoing as in her fear for her husbands life Elizabeth, played by Victoria Yeates, makes a choice that will condemn them both.

When Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible he wanted to address the issues of early 1950s America and the political turbulence that was happening. However, this play has now brought us lessons from history that we should not ignore. It gives the audience the opportunity to examine themselves for what and who they really are and revisit the values of truth, honesty and integrity.

This is not a play for the faint hearted, it is a three hours marathon of pure drama executed by an amazing cast of actors who gave the strongest performances you will every see for this play. I am certain had Arthur Miller been in the audience they would have had not only his approval but his admiration.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what%27s-on/the-crucible/