Tag Archives: New Theatre

Festival of Voice 2018: My review highlights (Gemma Treharne-Foose)

2018’s Festival of Voice, produced by the Wales Millennium Centre builds on previous years’ attempts to unite communities and celebrate voice in all its forms, drawing upon Wales’ wide cultural and musical legacy. This would be my first experience of the festival and it really kicked off in style.

Over the course of a week, I’d be bowled over, discover something new and completely unexpected and leave my typical comfort zone of only watching (and reviewing) theatre. Festivals like these are a smorgasbord of new opportunities to learn something new and develop your palate for new art forms and genres of music.

We were introduced to the opening of the festival from the centre’s Artistic Director and team, before being joined by community and advocacy groups – true to the centre’s vision to be inclusive and accessible, but I did wonder how ‘accessible’ it really is that unless you are familiar with the set-up and already know that you can verify your ticket – the £8 parking ticket cost to park in the nearest car park and see a WMC show would be pretty inaccessible to most carers and people on PIPs and other benefits.

I also need to point out the ridiculous set-up of the toilets in the centre. There are disabled toilets, sure – but the two sets of heavy doors, teeny-weeny area to dry your hands and the smallest bins I’ve ever seen in my life are deeply irritating.

But I digress….enough of the nit-picking and on to the main event…

CARERS CHOIR, GIG BUDDIES AND BILLY BRAG, WMC

Underappreciated, underpaid and perhaps an unlikely group of people to assemble as a choir, the festival was opened by a multi-generational group of carers, who sang with real spirit and heart. Knowing the obstacles and challenges they face in their day-to-day lives, their positivity shone through and the audience were visibly moved by their version of ‘What a wonderful world’ and ‘Lean on me’.

After rapturous applause, it was time for the Gig Buddy crew to crash into the foyer, clutching signs, banging drums and stamping their feet. They had formed a group to protest the fact that the support they receive does not take into account the fact that they too want to access music and arts performances – and these of course fall outside the typical office hours of supporters and carers. In association with Learning Disability Wales and Hijinx Theatre Company, the protesters delivered a skit about the fact that for most people – not being able to go to gigs, movies and performances like everybody else is not only unfair but naturally they’re quite rightly pissed off about it.

This was a brilliant opportunity to showcase the ‘Gig Buddies’ initiative where volunteers are matched (via their interests) to people with additional learning needs and various disabilities who need a little extra support to access gigs and shows. Bloody brilliant idea and I’m hoping to sign up myself.

The main event for the opening of the festival was ‘Topical singer songwriter’ Billy Brag (he doesn’t like to call himself a political performer in case it puts people off!). I knew the name Billy Brag but barely any of his actual material. This would be a new experience, not least for discovering the awesomeness that was supporting artist Nadine Shah, a Tyneside lass whose basy, punky songs are accompanied by soulful vocals.

Her edgy songs draw upon current affairs, world injustices and the hurt and heartbreak of modern life. Performing songs from her 2017 album ‘Holiday Destination’, she gave a fierce and raw performance. The song Holiday Destination and its refrain ‘How you gonna sleep tonight’ is a polemical nudge and critique on the holidaymakers in Kos who complained of refugees on the island ruining their holidays.

Shah tells the crowd “We need immigration – we make food taste better, we make the place look better and we make music sound better, too!”.

Shah’s heritage is Norwegian-Pakistani, and her Northern accent and humour shines through in her work. Billy Brag is – just like Nadine Shah, a storyteller. In between his songs, he delights the audience with his insights, his banter and his stinging observations about what’s going on in the world. He is unapologetic about his views, honest about his flaws and endlessly witty about politics in general.

He skewers Trump in the finale song based upon Bob Dylan’s ‘Times they are a changin’, which was changed to ‘Times they are a changing-BACK’). He tells the audience he wrote the song in a rage in 2016 when Trump was elected. His stories and rambles include the fact that he was schooled the last time he was in Cardiff for using a plastic bottle on stage at the Tramshed. “I’m sorry…I learned from my mistake. The oceans are full of plastic and shit, we need to do something about it.” Since then he’s used a ‘Gig Buddy’ aluminium bottle.

Of the grumpy artist Morrissey, he tells us “What is happening? He’s turned into a bloody gammon!”. Brag’s songs are clever and his set is largely improvised. He plays a song after an audience member shouts out a suggestion – and his final song is the famous classic ‘A New England’.

The entire audience shouts back the lyrics and it’s electrifying. I couldn’t believe I haven’t been following this chap’s career. Where the hell have I been the last 37 years? He has a new fan in the Rhondda, that’s for sure. The opening acts in the foyer and the main concert in the Donald Gordon theatre were rebellious in spirit and sound.

LOVECRAFT (NOT THE SEX SHOP IN CARDIFF), WMC (Ffresh bar)

I don’t know where Carys Eleri has been hiding out but we all need to see more of her. I didn’t know what the show ‘Lovecraft’ was going to be about – something to with science and love, I gleaned from the flyer. But it’s so much better than the event write-up promises.

I can’t praise the producers and director of this show enough for their vision. As sets go, it’s pretty low-tech, a cabaret-style set up within Ffresh bar serves as the set and Carys is accompanied by two screens which form a kind of visual aid and powerpoint for this hilarious one-woman show. The production is a romp through the idiosyncrasies and absurdities of love. What’s the ‘science’ behind love and sex? You’ll get to find out – via Carys’ brilliant stories.

It’s outrageously honest… and completely mental. This show will especially appeal to any women in their thirties who feel the pressure and expectation that society thrusts (‘scuse the pun) upon them.

At times, this feels like you are catching up with one of your girlfriends from Carmarthen who is every bit as outrageous and filthy as you are – and you’ll love her for it. The science narrative is informative, but not the main point of the show. You’ll be drawn in to her off the wall stories, brilliant observations about her Mam (“Carys…can’t you put on a bra..?”) and the dirty and embarrassing secrets we might all experience growing up – ‘fanny gallops’, hallucinogenic trips in the back of a taxi being driven by a unicorn and waking up naked next to another girl. We’ve all been there, right?

The song ‘Tit Montage’ is the highlight of the show, perhaps of the entire festival – and in my opinion would be a credible entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The song ‘I brain you’ is pee-your-pants hilarious. If Carys Eleri was running for Prime Minister, I’d probably vote for her. I BEG you to see this show – its been to Edinburgh Fringe already and has attracted a steady stream of adoration from audiences at the Festival of Voice.

There is so much life left in this show – and I hope it tours again (I will be sure to gather as many of my filthy friends as I can to share the experience with). My only negative points are that I could have happily sat through another hour of it before it finished and I now want Carys Eleri to be my best friend/drinking companion even though she has no idea who the hell I am.

RHONDDA RIPS IT UP (WNO), New Theatre

After a somewhat lukewarm experience at my last opera, I wasn’t sure if I was an ‘opera person’. But anyone following the #MeToo movement, who calls themself a feminist or admires the women who took part in the recent ‘Procession’ in Cardiff to mark a hundred years since women obtained the right to vote REALLY shouldn’t miss out on this show.

Led by Emcee Lesley Garrett, this is a look back at the stuffy Victorian era and the legendary Margaret Haig (Lady Rhondda) – a politician’s daughter and activist who led the Newport branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The indomitable Margaret Haig was an outspoken radical who along with other women, was judged and ridiculed by the Asquith’s liberal government for her efforts.

Played by Madeline Shaw, Lady Rhondda is a fearless campaigner. Along with her friends Edith and Prid (played by Paula Greenwood and Meriel Andrew), the production satirises the ‘old boy network’ of both the government and society at the time and pokes fun at the uptight/prissy way in which women were expected to behave.

I had no idea opera could be this edgy or this level of hilarious. Everything from the choreography, the physical comedy of Garrett and other cast members, the originality of the songs and cheeky/camp way they are delivered is a treat for the audience.

The stand out scenes are the songs ‘My girl’s pussy’ (yes, really!) and the song about the fondant fancies, complete with all the flair and foppishness of the Edwardian music hall tradition. This is Women’s Institute crossed with #MeToo.

There are also guest appearances from the WNO community chorus (who deliver a rousing performance as fellow suffragettes) and a nod to Haig and Helen Archdale’s gay relationship, demonstrating the extent to which Lady Rhondda tore up the rule book and challenged convention, albeit discreetly. There is a telling scene in the show when Margaret Haig and her friend are on the train (with their bomb-making materials) and they overhear a man saying “Suffragettes! If that was my wife, I’d give her a darn good thrashing!”.

Queue a hilariously camp sequence with a bunch of ‘men’ thrashing each other’s behinds with rolled up newspapers in a homo-erotic fashion. Nowadays we’d call this toxic masculinity at its worst – back then, those kinds of attitudes were de rigueur.

I am no opera buff, but WNO have delivered a phenomenal tribute to Lady Rhondda and her contribution as a suffragette and business pioneer.

It was sensitive without being syrupy and witty without being cruel. Not everyone will get the satire, apparently – one audience member overheard in the loo commented she didn’t understand why ‘men were being made fun of’ and that she preferred the WNO community chorus to the production itself. For me, the main feeling I got was one of immense gratitude – that so many women like Haig faced violence, imprisonment and the scorn of society and for their dogged determination to change history for the better.

Their first victory was not a resounding success, the first bill allowing women to vote was only for women over 30 with property. There was plenty more to fight for – and with world events and pussy-grabbing presidents reminding us daily, some might say the battle is far from over. But as the legendary suffragette Emily Pankhurst once said:

“Never surrender….never give up the fight.”

GWENNO, WMC (Weston Studio)

A former member of indie band The Pipettes, Gwenno has already amassed a strong critical following and fanbase after the release of album Un Dydd Olaf in 2015 and Cornish language ‘Le Kov’ in 2018. Her dedication and tribute to Edrica Hughes at the Festival of Voice was a moving tribute to the poet and patchwork quilt artist Edrica Huws (1907-1999).

There was a packed house in the Weston Studio for the one-off performance, entirely created and composed by Gwenno, but this time with the support of a violinist and harpist (Angharad Davies and Georgia Ruth). The stage was dressed like a set – a lived-in parlour with an old-fashioned crib, a fireplace and the markers of domesticity from a time gone by.

At the foot of the large screen above the stage stood Gwenno’s mixing decks and computer, flanked by a triple harp and wooden toys – the musical set and hi-tec equipment is a curious accompaniment to the ironing board, clothes horse and lamp on stage, denoting the ordinary, humble life of Edrica. On the screen we saw vignettes of slices of history sketched and animated on the screen, accompanying the synthy electric-pop landscape being played and mixed live in front of us.

We saw suffragettes marching in 1907, weaving in and out of the war, a grimy London landscape of the humdrum existence of everyday life, love, relationships and duty stitched together with the dreamy melodies and an almost hallucinogenic quality to the music. I hadn’t known about Edrica’s work or story before. An ordinary wife and mother, she didn’t start expressing herself artistically until age 51.

She became a ‘patchwork pioneer’, breaking the rules and conventions of art and design in terms of subject, material, tone and texture to become a celebrated exhibitor and artist/poet around the world.

Animated by Tad Davies, the on-screen vignettes to not distract so much as heighten the experience for the audience and Gwenno’s gentle vocals, the poppy disco beats, baseline and meandering harp and violin are a thing of beauty.

Gwenno’s soundscape is punctuated by poetic whisperings, especially poignant and beautiful during ‘Anrhefn Pentyndod / The chaos of childhood’ and kooky and marvellous when she donned a cat mask for ‘Y Gath’ / The Cat in tribute to Edrica’s ‘Cat on an ironing board’ piece.

She is not a wild or attention-seeking performer in the sense of other unique artists (like Bjork for example) but she is completely enigmatic – a quiet genius in many senses. She creates riffs and spacey echoes using props – one song loops the sounds made by wooden toys and they are overlaid with a base-heavy disco beat.

It is weird and wonderful and strangely soothing. Edrica is a feast for the senses, the thinking person’s mind disco – and you’ll be richer for having witnessed it.

In between each song, the audience is almost deathly silent for a few seconds – not because the show is bad (because it was clearly bloody brilliant) but because they know they had witnessed something magical and weren’t sure what the rules were. Should we get up and dance? Applaud wildly? Edrica Huws broke the rules during her lifetime and Gwenno is doing the same.

5 stars 

Type of show: Music / Theatre / Opera / Performance Art / Poetry

Title: Festival of Voice Venue: Multiple Locations

Dates: 7-17 June

Produced by: Wales Millennium Centre (and partners)

Author: Gemma Treharne-Foose

Review, Awful Auntie, Gemma Treharne-Foose

 

(3 / 5)

Mini fans of Walliams will love this show brought to you by Birmingham Stage Company and there are plenty of the tried and tested ingredients of ‘children’s theatre’ that have become the staple: farts, tricks, screams, talking about pees and poos and generally making adults look a bit silly (of course!). It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but you either have the stomach for David Walliams or you don’t.

Walliams – and Director/adapter Neal Foster borrow from the familiar narratives of Dahl. At the centre of each story is the child protagonist who fights against and overcomes the unfairness of life and its complicated and often cruel characters.

Teachers, headmasters or even your own family members can be funny, but they often despise children and treat them terribly. So it’s all the more glorious when these beastly brutes get their comeuppance…

For those unfamiliar with the story of Awful Aunt, Stella (Lady Saxby) wakes up from a coma to find herself covered in bandages. She’s told she’s been in a coma for three months. When she enquires with her Aunt Alberta about her parents, she tells Stella they were killed in a car accident.

Alberta is desperate to find the deeds to Saxby Hall so she can become the new heiress to the family fortune. But it turns out there is more to the story than a crashed Rolls Royce. With the help of ‘Soot’, the ghost-boy at Saxby hall, Stella uncovers a disturbing truth – and tries desperately to stop Aunt Alberta turning her beloved Saxby Hall in to a tacky Owl Museum.

Awful Auntie brings to life the mischievousness of Walliams’ book and there are some sweet scenes between Stella and Soot. The two eventually discover they have more in common than they initially realise (but no spoilers!).

The epicentre of the whole production and plot line is orchestrated and led by Leonidas. Her unshakable energy, childlike innocence and optimism never falters – and she carries the hopes and wishes of the audience with her as she struggles to escape from the clutches of her dreadful Aunt.

Alberta really is awful, too – so awful that she fought with the Germans in the Second World War because ‘the uniform was better’.

Aunt Alberta’s voice and physicality is expertly depicted by Timothy Speyer. He’s like a cross between The Two Fat Ladies and Cruella De Vil and his plummy tones, tweed ensemble and battle-axe physicality are spot-on.

Gibbon’s confuddled turn as aging Butler (played by Richard James) tickled us pink. To paraphrase Soot (the cockney chimney sweep ghost) – he hasn’t got a Scooby Doo what’s going on, but you’ll chuckle watching him.

Set-wise, there’s a great use of twisting towers to depict different scenes and settings and the towers are eerily brought to life with clever use of lighting by Jason Taylor and Jaqueline Trousdale. What’s striking is the use of puppetry throughout the show – particularly for central character Wagner the Bavarian Owl, puppetted by Roberta Bellekom. The design of Wagner was great, but it’s difficult to replicate on stage the character of Wagner in the book who was by far more dastardly and devious.

The staging and changing of locations was good, notable scenes include the car on the ice at Saxby Hall and ghostly goings on in the kitchen. Soot (played by Ashley Cousins) gives a sweet portrayal of the ghostly chimney sweep, reminding you somewhat of Lee Evans/Norman Wisdom and together, he and Stella complement each other well.

The final scene before the interval finishes very abruptly and falls a little flat, the lights come up before you realise what’s going on. The script could have made more an effort to leave you hanging for the second half.

The actors do a stellar job of portraying the characters – and although my daughter and I liked the production, it won’t pack the same level of punch, sass and cleverness that you might find at a Tim Minchin production of Matilda, for example. For me, the script for the stage production made it harder to engage with and keep you on your toes.

That being said, this is a great little show – and I’d definitely recommend it for a day/night out with the kids.

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 Cilla The Musical, New Theatre, Cardiff by Danielle O’Shea

 

(2 / 5)

 

Cilla: The Musical follows the rise of Cilla Black from the small clubs of Liverpool to being a British icon. It demonstrates how large her impact was but this isn’t shown onstage but rather in the audience, who sang and danced the whole way through and hollered with every reference.


I am not a fan of Cilla Black and I would like to be upfront about this, but I do come from a family of them hence my going to see this performance. It seems that this was the main reason for my not enjoying it as it was solely a nostalgic whirl of songs of the time (from groups like The Beatles and The Mamas and The Papas as well as the songs of Cilla Black) strung together by a sometimes-flat performance.


However, there were positives. The performers were all musically talented and performed the rock and roll classics confidently and skilfully and the atmosphere of the New Theatre was warm and intimate yet again. But sadly this wasn’t enough to hold onto those in the audience who weren’t diehard fans.

 

Cilla: The Musical
New Theatre, Cardiff

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what%27s-on/cilla-the-musical/
November 2nd 2017
Running time: 2hrs and 42 mins
Director: Bill Kenwright
Design: Bob Tomson (co-director), Carole Todd (choreographer), Gary McCann (designer), Nick Richings (lighting designer), Dan Samson (sound designer), Richard Mawbey (wigs director), Scott Alder (musical director), Marc McBride (musical supervisor/arranger), Gary Hickeson (music producer and orchestral arrangement), Gabriella Ingram (costume supervisor), Helen Spall (company stage manager), Karly Hill (deputy stage manager), Erin Thomson (assistant stage manager), Paul Duffy (technical ASM), Steven Hoye (LX number 1), Freddy Marlow (LX number 2), Graham Burgess (Sound Number 1), Elliot Williams (Sound Number 2), Sarah Becs (Head of wardrobe), Rosie Daplyn (wardrobe deputy), Helen Williamson (Head of wigs), Claire Auvache (props supervisor),
Cast: Kara Lily Hayworth, Carl Au, Andrew Lancel, Pauline Fleming, Paul Broughton, Tom Dunlea, Billie Hardy, Amy Bridges, Gemma Brodrick-Bower, Bill Caple

Danielle O’Shea

Review Around The World In 80 Days by Jane Bissett

(5 / 5)

By Jules Verne

Adapted by Laura Eason

Phileas Fogg is a mysterious and wealthy man who while at his London club wagers his life’s fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.

Joining him on this mad cap and most impossible adventure is his loyal french valet, Passepartout. Leaving Victorian London behind they race against time and tide to fulfill their undertaking and to ensure that they return home in 80 days to the hour for Fogg to win the wager.

This production is a wonderfully funny romp around the globe with Fogg as our leader and Passepartout as our guide. From the exotic subcontinent to the American Wild West over land and sea there are laughs a plenty and audience participation. The fast moving pace leaves you almost breathless and it is impossible to believe that the 125 characters you see on the stage are only played by a cast of eight!

The energy of this magnificantly talented cast is inspiring as they move from trains to boats, across land and even travel by elephant!

There is also a daring rescue,four fights, three dances and two circus acts and they even manage a wedding!

The highly skilled performances for the non-contact fights including slow motion was punctuated by sound effects and comic timing which looked effortless. This was stage craft at its very best and the action just went on and on.

Director, Theresa Heskins, has achieved the impossible by bringing the world to the stage and the cast and creative team rose to the challenge of bringing it all to life by the use of stage, props, lighting and sound.

Whilst this was truly a whole cast performance, Michael Hugo as Passepartout was outstanding. He had the audience joining him on stage and off to great effect laughing at him, with him, and also at themselves.

This is a truly enjoyable show for which you need to take along your inner child and leave your inhibitions as home.

Prepare to go on a journey that will see you laughing your way around the world and leave you wanting more.

At the final curtain, when the cast returned to the stage the beaming smiles were a clear indication that they, the cast, had enjoyed performing as much as the audience had enjoyed the performance.

Around the World in 80 Days plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;

Tuesday 19 September – Sunday 24 September at 7.00pm

Thursday, Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2.30pm.

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

Review The Graduate, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett

(4 / 5)

The stage production of The Graduate  is Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the 1967 screenplay for the film of the same name. The story of the Graduate was written by Charles Webb and was his first novel written at the age of 24. Whilst it is not considered directly autobiographical, Webb’s own life is very much reflected in what he wrote and he has drawn on his own experiences to portray the, what was then, young Benjamin Braddock.

The play, set at the time it was written, gives us an insight into the world of the 1960s up and coming affluent American families and their aspirations for their offspring.

In contrast Benjamin shows us a confused young man who having graduated is unclear of his route ahead. His parents want him to follow a career path that will lead him to a secure future both financially and socially, however, Benjamin does not view this life with such optimism.

On the day of his graduation party he is propositioned by a friend of his parents, Mrs Robinson, a woman clearly bored in an unfulfilled marriage that denied her of a career and life before her life as a mother and housewife began and has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Shocked and knowing the close relationship between his parents and the Robinson’s he rejects her. Curious, bored and wanting to experience life Benjamin later begins an illicit affair with Mrs Robinson that lasts the summer. However, he quickly realises that he wants more from life and from a relationship.

Behind the scenes Mr Robinson and Benjamin’s father have been matchmaking and have arranged for him to take the Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, on a date. Disinterested Benjamin takes her to a venue that he is certain she will not like and he isn’t disappointed. Benjamin and Elaine continue to date much to the disapproval of her mother, his former lover, and when Elaine finally returns to college Benjamin announces to his parents that Elaine Robinson is the woman he will marry.

Benjamin then pursues Elaine, declares his love, only to be brought home by his father after the discovery of his affair with Mrs Robinson. As far as his parents are concerned his issues stem from his childhood and as a family they go to see a therapist.

The discovery that Elaine is to marry spurs Benjamin into action and his timely arrival at the church stops the wedding…. does it have a happy ending? Only time will tell but Benjamin and Elaine do end the play by running away together.

In Webb’s life his college romance with Eve Rudd (aka Fred) faced disapproval from her parents and despite numerous barriers put before them it went on to be a lifelong relationship that endured the tests of time and that of family life as they had two sons.

This production was set at the time it was written and had a very retro feel to the set design and the way in which the scenes changed. There were some up-to-date touches with dream sequences being projected as a film in the background which I felt visually worked well.

Jack Monaghan’s portrayal of Benjamin Braddock was very reminiscent of that given by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film of The Graduate. His slow American accent accentuated the personality of Benjamin and indeed allowed us to consider his age and thought processing of the situations that he found himself in. Whilst in 2017 a young man of 21 is worldly wise we have to remember that this was certainly not the case in the families of the new up and coming affluent classes of American society of the 1960s.

From the moment Catherine McCormack (Mrs Robinson) sets foot on the stage we see a bored middle aged woman who is desperately trying to cling on to her youth. Her marriage is unfulfilling and she has taken refuge in alcohol a poor excuse, even then, for her behaviour. As the story unfolds we see a woman who has lost control of her family and resents her daughter for having all the advantages she did not but who does not have the personality and enthusiasm for life that she considers young women of the liberated 1960 should have.

All the cast members enhanced the main characters and gave credible performances in their own right. It was a thought provoking and enjoyable production and never before have I seen a bed with so much stage presence and a the ability to move seamlessly between scenes.

The Graduate needs to be viewed in context to its time and place in history. From conversations around me, many of the audience had seen the film and clearly were enjoying this performance, the only thing that was missing was a Greyhound Bus.

The Graduate plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
Tuesday 20 June – Saturday 24 June 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.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/the-graduate/

Review Not Dead Enough, New Theatre, Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

(2 / 5)

 

Aficionados of the crime novels of multi-award winning playwright Peter James and their central character, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, will no doubt have been thrilled (forgive the pun) to discover that another of James’ books – the third in the series – has been adapted for the stage.   In Not Dead Enough, DS Grace has still not come to terms with the unexplained disappearance of his wife ten years ago. The DS’s present relationship comes to the fore in a complex murder case with the main suspect claiming to have been sixty miles away when he murdered his wife – despite the fact that all the clues add up. Intriguing, eh?

Unfortunately, there is a caveat. What promises to be a gripping evening’s entertainment is a slow burner with a lack of pace that does not bode well; the wait for the kettle to boil seems interminable. Director Ian Talbot does his best, but this world premiere production, adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna, whose adaptations of James’ previous two crime novels worked so well, fails to get going until almost the end of Act I. It is difficult not to become bogged down in a surfeit of minutiae, most of which ignore the sound advice of “show not tell.” Do we really need quite so much technical info as to what goes on behind the scenes in police investigation of murder? (Murders, actually – there is more than one.).

After a three year run in ITV’s Emmerdale, Bill Ward stars as the dishy DS, focussing on the man rather than the senior police officer. This is all very well, but at times it can make one feel irritated. When he does manage to keep his mind on the job, Ward’s Grace could be more emphatic. Opposite him, television presenter Laura Whitmore makes her professional theatrical debut as Cleo, Grace’s amore, who spends her working hours in charge of the mortuary and her off-duty time with Grace – when he is not off seeking the solution of the wife whose disappearance is still a mystery. Stephen Billington is suitably outraged as Brian Bishop, the chief murder suspect but could give a more sympathetic performance.

The action moves between Brighton and Hove police station and the mortuary. For those of a macabre taste, the latter setting may have added an enjoyable chill to the proceedings, but might have worked better if designer Michael Holt had been given the go ahead to design two separate sets rather than the split set used, with front of stage as the former with the freezers and cold rooms of the mortuary at the rear. Lighting designer Jason Taylor comes to the rescue to some extent with lighting that chills in all the right places.

The DS Grace crime novels are deservedly best sellers and the previous two books adapted well for the stage. Their popularity almost filled the theatre on opening night in Cardiff with an audience already on the edge of their seats with anticipation. Muted applause at the end was a reflection of the feeling that what works on the page doesn’t always cut the mustard on stage.

Runs until Saturday 24 June at the New Theatre Cardiff.

 

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 AGATHA CHRISTIE’s ‘THE MOUSETRAP’ BY JAMES BRIGGS

(4 / 5)

When looking at Murder Mystery stories it is extremely rare to find someone as talented and well-loved as Agatha Christie. On the 25th November 1952 Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, opened in the West End and has been running ever since, meaning the play is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. To celebrate this momentous  occasion the production company have taken the show on tour around the UK allowing a whole new audience to watch and enjoy.

Being an avid fan of Dame Agatha Christie I was very keen to watch this play as I wanted to see how similar the play would be to some of her most well-known work such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I must say that the play certainly does not disappoint and holds all of the key Agatha Christie characteristics to make it recognisable and familiar. Everything about ‘The Mousetrap’ seems very familiar as though we’ve read the story before. The play is set in a country house with oak-panelled walls with hidden back stairs and linking passages. It is the sort of house someone can leave the room by one door and reappear through another so you can never be too sure of where every character is. A snow blizzard takes hold and all of the roads soon become blocked to add to their problems the telephone is not working and on the radio there is a story about a murderer on the loose.  The house is full of the usual range of Cluedo style characters that have never met each other before. Is there a chance that one of these people could be the murder? All of the characters have their own secrets and as you would expect from an Agatha Christie mystery, the story is full of twists and red herrings.

Some of the cast of 'The Mousetrap'

Three of the play’s characters Sgt Trotter, Mr Paravicini and Miss Casewell. 

The characters are extremely well-defined and all very different and eccentric in their own ways. The cast of the play work really well together. Anna Andresen and Nick Barclay create a fitting partnership for Mollie and Giles Ralston showing well their nerves about their first attempt at running a Guest House. Sarah Whitlock portrays brilliantly the straight-talking, no-nonsense Mrs Boyle. Whom I thought had similar characteristics to that of Miss Marple as portrayed by Dame Margaret Rutherford. Amy Downham gives us a very secretive and mysterious Miss Casewell leaving the audience with many questions as to whom she could be. Gregory Cox is wonderful as Mr Paravicini and somehow seems to have created the character similar to that of Hercule Poirot. Oliver Gully is fantastically mad as Christopher Wren positively bursting with energy. Tony Boncza is ever so the retired Army type as Major Metcalf and Alan Magor played the part of Police Sergeant Trotter, a very good portrayal of a typical Agatha Christie detective putting all of the clues together and drawing all the attention of the audience.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple two characters created by Agatha Christie.  

I simply must mention the divine set that was created for the play which was made in such a way that it felt homely and inviting for the audience. The use of lamps on stage bought a sense of comfort for the audience and also an element of reality. The large wooden panels with the period furniture  gave the audience a wonderful setting for the story to play out.

The UK tour trailer for ‘The Mousetrap’.

I highly urge everyone to see ‘The Mousetrap’ whether you are an Agatha Christie fan or not. It is a wonderful ‘who done it’ mystery that is guaranteed to get you trying to solve the case. With endless twists and turns the audience are kept on the edge of their seats. But you must remember that EVERYONE is a suspect!

The Mousetrap is currently on a nationwide tour and tickets are available via this link –http://mousetrapontour.com/