Tag Archives: Porters

Review Death and the Maiden, Fio, The Other Room by Charlotte Clark

All photographic credits Kieran Cudlip

Get the Chance recently interviewed Abdul Shayek, Director of Death and the Maiden, who told us that he was very proud of the inclusive and political play which he aimed to raise awareness  against political oppression and abuse. Death and the Maiden is a play about the struggles of moving on after living in a dictatorship. It’s about the consequences of patriarchal rule and the abuse of power. It’s about women’s struggle.

Having never been to The Other Room Theatre before, I was pleasantly surprised. The quaintly small room and the centred stage layout created a very intimate feel. With just three rows of chairs on either side of the stage, and the backstage being entirely around the audience, it felt like we were quite literally in the middle of everything: like stage props, spoken to and manipulated for a brilliantly eerie effect. Actors walked on and off stage from all different locations around the room, which really gave the imposing feel of the audience being closed in on. Paired with the close-knit nature of the actor-audience space, it was impossible not to feel on edge. That feeling is exactly the right one to have to suit the mood of the production. To watch a kidnap scene, with a gun and shouting and to listen to tales of sexual and torturous abuse, it would be wrong to make the audience feel comfortable and at ease. We were meant to feel discomfort and awkwardness, and we did. It was powerful.

The acting was sublime. Lisa, Vinta and Pradeep did an incredible job of displaying emotional and genuine feelings that were so impressive on the audience. We all felt the tone of the room change as we shifted through monologue to dialogue, and back to angrier monologue. Lisa’s portrayal as a tortured woman trying to move on with her life is touching for all audiences alike, and her counterpart, Vinta’s, role as the husband struggling between revenge and democracy is played out so frustratingly well that I wanted to just go up and shake him and tell him what to do! Equally, Pradeep played a sick and twisted doctor, yet he did so in a way that still made the audience love him, and so this can be down solely to his beautiful acting. It was a pleasure to watch the three of them bounce off one another in the most sophisticated way.

I felt such a great sense of duty to go and watch this production. It felt like a necessity to go, and an ignorance if I didn’t. In a world surrounded by patriarchal dominance, sexual abuse, and inequality across the spectrum, this play could not be any more current. One only has to hear the name Harvey Weinstein to remember how current this play really is. Fio, the production company of this play also put on an all-woman project following this production to create a safe space for women to talk with each other about their experiences as women in the 21st century. It’s so important! As a 20-year-old woman living in Cardiff, I absolutely loved this play and was overjoyed when I heard the great work Fio was putting into safeguarding those affected by the personal and somewhat invasive (in a good way) themes of the storyline.

The Full link to Abdul’s interview with Get the Chance can be found here 

Cast & Creatives
Paulina Salas
Lisa Zahra
Gerardo Salas
Vinta Morgan
Roberto Miranda
Pradeep Jey
Writer
Ariel Dorfman
Director
Abdul Shayek
Producer
Shane Nickels
Designer
Amy Jane Cook
Lighting Designer
Ciarán Cunningham
Sound Designer
Dan Lawrence
Assistant Producer
Danny Muir
Marketing Officer
Lowri Johnston
Education Officer
Amy Morgan

Charlotte Clark

Review hang, The Other Room by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

hang is a play that I don’t think I’m going to be able to escape for a very long time.

5 Stars5 / 5

 

It’s audience are hooked, latching on blindly to the arbitrary snippets of circumstance that debbie tucker green permits; pounded and cemented by the horror enchaining the character ‘3’ – played and endured by Anita Reynolds; writhing in the uncomfortability and awkwardness of lapsing social formalities; and laughing throughout.

The Other Room unwaveringly, and continuously are staging ground-breaking and bold theatre in Wales. In this partnership with Run Amok it is no different. Izzy Rabey’s direction is playful, fearless and truthful.

With an all Royal Welsh trained cast,  performances are dependably spellbinding, spirited and exploratory and harmoniously attuned in this weighty three-hander. Seren Vickers’ breezy and oblivious brashness is wondrously complimented by Alexandria Riley’s  assured discipline; eventually unravelling, grasping for an established formality. 

But, Anita Reynolds is exceptional – and a f******g heavy weight. After running into her a few days after the performance I could not believe that she was not, a) suicidal, b) homicidal, or c) a moody bitch – she was delightful as normal. Her transformation, the truthfulness of her performance with modesty, respect and introspection – I was in awe to see her practicing what she preaches from ‘the church of Anita!’ – exclusive to YAS students at Royal Welsh.

Although minimal, technical aspects were similarly attuned and sensitive in the baring of characters. Set by Amy Jane Cook was successfully dull and abrasively unsympathetic

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hang is a play about boundaries, and morals, and empathy – and its limits – loneliness and entrapment and pain and consequence. I think it’s quite important; so book your ticket, head down to Porter’s a buy yourself an alcoholic drink, and enjoy.

by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

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Constellation Street, written by Matthew Bulgo is a combination of four monologues that interlink with each other. Just like Matthew Bulgo’s ‘Last Christmas’ these stories were cleverly thought out and were both captivating and raw. The production team at the Other Room Theatre completely had their work cut out. For anyone who had already been to the Other Room Theatre they wouldn’t have thought it possible that a conventional theatre space could be turned into three separate rooms in completely different habitats. One a hotel room, another a back of the taxi cab and one a bar. What made this show even more unique was they used a part of the courtyard for the final scene. It all worked magnificently. There were some occasions when you could hear what is being said in the other spaces but it didn’t take away from the performance. This really showed the different dimensions of each monologue.

Not only did I get the chance to watch this incredible immersive performance, I had the privilege to overlook one of their rehearsals to get a feel of what it would be like directing a production. Watching Chelsey Gillard and Dan Jones at work, both of them taking two monologues each to work on, it was evident that their artistic minds knew exactly how to take on this performance and they both did tremendously. In this rehearsal, a week before the show, I had the chance to watch Nicola Reynolds performing the pub landlady. Even at this point in time she had the character pretty much nailed and it was wonderful to watch. Her mannerisms and the way she effortlessly told her story was endearing. I’m gutted that I didn’t get to see her perform in the actual show but it gives me another excuse to watch this show again!

The first room I went into was laid out as if we were in the back of a taxi cab. Roger Evans, playing Frank had his back to us for the majority of the performance with the front mirror showing his reflection. This made his performance even more realistic and raw which made this scene more emotional and felt like you were there to really consolidate with the character. This is a great way to break away from traditional theatre settings and to show people that the character doesn’t always have to be on a stage speaking out to the audience.

Then our mini group got lead out into the courtyard for a musical interlude which was a rendition of “All I want” by Kodaline, sung by Gwenllian Higginson. What once was a lovely lyrical song turned into quite an amusing karaoke bash. Even though it was just a musical interlude we really felt for Gwenllian’s character, and it gave us an insight of what might to come later with her performance.

The second monologue I saw was the character of Stephen played by Neal McWilliams. We entered into a room that looked completely like a generic hotel room with the classic painting on one of the walls. We were all told to sit down, get comfy and even sit on the bed. Personally this took me out of the mind frame of being an audience member and here to really listen to what’s being said and to give advice or help in any way. The monologue was overall, heart wrenching, it showed themes of betrayal and loss. Neal really took us through the characters life which started off quite pleasant but then turned as the story went on. It felt like he was completely reliving what had happened and the memories he has. By the end of it all I wanted to do was give him a great big hug.

The final scene was taken place in the courtyard by the character of Alex, acted by Gwenllian Higginson. I already had the privilege to watch over Gwenllian’s scene, and see a section of it being done. However listening to it being doing outside it felt like it was the first time I was hearing the words again. Gwenllian, played Alex to be quite a sassy girl who appears to be in control of everything, someone who has been through a lot. Her ability as an actress to show the different emotions she has with ease and convincingness was inspiring to watch. There were some real comedic elements to this monologue which she played with great timing and demeanour. This monologue was tense and you were completely drawn in to everything she was saying. The only downside was that you could hear the Porter’s customers in the other section of the courtyard and due to it being a Friday night it was generally quite loud. However the one up side to this is that it felt like we were at a open mic night or at a stand up comedy where it would be loud. This I believe enhanced the intensity given to the scene.

Not only was the acting outstanding, but they really went above and beyond in making this performance unique and memorable. Matthew Bulgo I would definitely say is a genius when it comes to writing original and amazing stories that really grips into the hearts of people. The monologues interlinked beautifully. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and would love to be taken on that journey again.

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Lois Arcari

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A set of four intertwining monologues dividing tight – and tightly packed – spaces in a pub theatre tucked underneath the train stations – literally hidden gem.

Hardly a setup for convention.That, for the audience, is sublime.

The set design by the obviously talented Amy Jane Cook, catches you immediately, as you’re led through Constellation Street. The sets, three internal sets each toe the line between intimacy and claustrophobia just as the street itself does; a fifth character illuminated by its cast, the staging, and the experience theatre the play provides. The multiple sets were all done brilliantly but didn’t take the balance off the play itself. The outside platform fits perfectly; the noise of Cardiff against its backdrop illuminating rather than distracting; a brilliantly designed set up that draws subjective meaning without ever prompting it unsubtly.

This set up perfectly captures the mix of realism and delirium imbued in the play; the smallest pieces of the everyday evolving into a smooth hallucination between reality and melodrama. The play is flawlessly cast, each delivering their characters believably, and essentially, ambiguously. Each monologue in itself invites a wealth of interpretation, and the contradictions between them made for a more interesting whole; turning to pin point lies and honesty, or if indeed, they are even mutually exclusive at all. Distrust and uncertainty were the stars of the script, crawling under the skin the most effectively.

Tonally, the play was dark without nihilism, realism providing the comedy. Narratively, it could veer dangerously close to artifice; interweaving of monologues a little predictable at times, but with the cast and this experiential, experimental play nevertheless not straying from its basis in character, its brevity seemed at once a loss and a basis of its charms and wit. In its intimacy, the stories packed weight, but, because of its root in subjectivity were not always as deeply felt. We are dragged into the confusion, loss and grief of the characters, rooted in their street but projected through to any other. Although narratively slick, the close web of all the characters seemed to displace it from an every town, an idea the play needs to pack the punches it delivered, more lastingly for its audience.

One idea in particular, maybe from just seeing three of four monologues, was that one interesting idea seemed left to flounder. Parts were resonant, parts were shocking;but although technically brilliant, it never seemed to project itself onto the outside world. Perhaps, I must concede, the intention for us ‘invaders’ on the street.

It’s not that there was style over substance, but merely that the substance is felt harder to relate to in an outside context because of the stylistic excellence. As a piece of event theatre with the atmosphere of a clandestine treat, it is a must-see, but it’s genuine emotional resonance, or at least the extent of its power, is an ambiguous thing; as hard to track as the characters it writes of.

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Kiera Sikora

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Constellation Street; a place of conscience, cowardice, courage and heart-hurting honesty.

Firstly we meet Ruth (Nicola Reynolds) a brash and beautiful landlady with a lot to be said about good deeds, their punishments and the past they create. Set in her homely pub, she creates that warm atmosphere that lulls you to your local and before you’ve taken in her purge of emotions- she’s opened the door for you to leave her, silently.

But the night continues, we move on then for a brief song with Alex (Gwenllian Higginson) at a gig in what may well be the pub we’ve just left. Her wide eyed gazes and drunken antics on the stage make you laugh and wonder. She seems to think too much, yet little of herself.

Swiftly then we move into the humid hotel room where we are met with the seemingly sweet Stephen (Neal McWilliams). He’s awkward and intense, both distant and present. He doesn’t break his gaze. It’s almost like there’s nothing left in him to be broken, nothing more that he could break. You feel his pulse must match the pace of his speech as he punches your heart with his harrowing story of love, loss and loneliness.

We then head back outside to Alex and her cheap, cheap lager, and we listen to her as she lays her life’s bones bare in front of us. She’s like no one’s child, a girl with questions and no one around who’s patient enough to listen to them, until we’re there. Her actions don’t gain her the answers she was looking for, but they no doubt change and add to the questions she already has. That alone is something that connects these pieces and people together.

This play’s genius lies in its more than admirable attention to detail and how the writing doesn’t allow you to think that it’s ever been written. The emotions are raw and the situations so real it makes you think of the Constellation Street (or Streets) that exist outside of the intamcy of Porter’s.

It’s important to add here to that a fourth monologue exists in this play; Frank’s (Roger Evans) story completes Constellation Street.

The small space at The Other Room has been completely, wonderfully transformed, so that walking to the bar after the show feels a bit like a daze. Amy Jane Cook’s design is impeccable and deserves all compliments and more. As do the directors Chelsey Gillard and Dan Jones for collecting and connecting this puzzle of a play and completely utilising it’s uniqueness and relevance.

Review St Nicholas The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

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After seeing Christian Patterson in both Blasted and the Dying of Today, all from the Other Room at Porters it is evident that he is a highly talented and diverse actor. He is able to take on both challenging roles and in terms of St Nicholas, really comedic roles as well. Patterson was able to get the audience fully immersed within the story. He made us laugh hysterically, he made us get on the edge of our seats with anticipation and most of all he made us fully believe every word that he was saying, he is a great story teller.

5 - Christian Patterson in St Nicholas (photo credit Aenne  Pallasca)

Photographic credit Aenne Pallasca

One of the reasons for the success of this play is that Patterson had an incredible script to work with. The play written by Conor McPherson had twists and turns and in some areas it was completely relatable too.

The subtle use of the lighting and sound within this play was perfect. The lighting  by Katy Morison, created a lot of naturalism during the first act and in the second act the hanging light bulbs were a great touch. One moment that worked exceptionally well was when Patterson grabbed hold of the standing lamp and used it like a torch; the shadows it created were beautiful, shining against his face in an eerie yet mesmerising way. The sound, design by Matt and Sam Jones, was subtle throughout the performance without much going on yet it gradually grew in tense moments and then it stripped it back to make the whole atmosphere intensely quiet.

4 - Christian Patterson in St Nicholas (photo credit Aenne  Pallasca)

Photographic credit Aenne Pallasca

Overall, even though this wasn’t as serious as the other plays the Other Room has taken on, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night.

Review Play/Silence The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

 

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The Other Room Theatre kick of 2016 with their new season ‘Insomnia,’ bringing us a double bill of both Beckett and Pinter’s work. These 20th century playwrights are considered to be two of the most influential dramatists of all time.

The plays ‘Play’ by Beckett and ‘Silence’ by Pinter, both draw on themes around betrayal and lust. Both Kate Wasserberg, (director of ‘Play’ and Artistic Director of the Other Room) and Titas Halder, (director of ‘Silence’) made sure these plays were not only performed with great distinction but also showed great technical accomplishment.

Stepping into the first performance of the Other Room theatre there was soundscape in the background (composed and sound designed by Dyfan Jones) creating the mood that was hardly noticed at first but grew louder and louder until everyone was completely engaged and then it just cut out. A deathly silence where the audience was left in the pitch black, all senses removed, waiting in suspense. This was the first moment that completely drew me in to the performance, this moment never left me until I was ushered out of my seat. I was in complete awe at what I had just seen.

Floating heads on stage, muttering things one couldn’t comprehend, the imagery in this was beautiful. Then controlled by a single spotlight it shone onto the character speaking at the time with everything else surrounded in blackness. This technically was beautiful as we were transfixed on what was being shown. It felt like you were at a tennis match where you kept moving your head to the next performance not wanting to blink in case you missed the next moment.

The performers were incredible, their focused stare and fast paced speaking with hardly pausing was a treat to see. It was evident that they had complete dedication to this performance as their pronunciation was spot on even though the pace was remarkably difficult. The trio of performers even though they were speaking in quite a monotonous way showed great characterisation and we could fully get a sense of each personality.

After only knowing Matthew Bulgo through his great work as a playwright on ‘Last Christmas’ for Dirty Protest, his acting ability corresponded to the success of his play. Acting alongside him was Victoria John who showed comedy within this play and who’s laugh has to be up there with the greatest of evil laughs. Then Peta Cornish who captivated us with the use of her eyes and her elegant speaking voice.

This was a performance that frazzled my mind yet I would want to see it again and again just to get another glimpse into those lives.

The second performance, Pinter’s ‘Silence’ was technically less demanding but nonetheless just as beautiful, the simplistic set worked really well and it felt like the actors were in another dimension. What I noticed most of all was their use of spatial awareness, when one person moved to a different spot, the others would change their position so it always looked aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This was well thought through and blocked. The performers acting was equally accomplished with Matthew Bulgo playing Rumsey, showing us a more desperate side than the comical side we saw earlier, Peta Cornish playing Ellen uses her eyes as an emotive tool which was something I haven’t seen in a long time in a performance, truly remarkable. Then, Neal McWilliams playing Bates. Neal played a character who had a boyish charm that really put extra depth into this performance and made it stand out so much more. Each performer showed us what it felt like to be in desperation of love and hope, to have such strong feelings and the want to connect with one another.

This double bill was a great way to step out from the outer world into something much deeper. This is a performance that makes you feel something you definitely didn’t feel before entering the room. As an actor myself these plays are something every actor dreams to play, the way they are technically demanding for the voice and how you have to be completely disciplined with your whole body making sure you know every tiny movement you make will have great impact on the performance. I thoroughly enjoyed the night and cant wait to watch the Other Rooms next performance of ‘Sand’ by Nick Gill.

Photographic credit Pallasca Photography

 

Review Play/Silence The Other Room by Kiera Sikora

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It’s not often you get to say that you’ve seen both a Beckett and a Pinter play in one night, in an hour in fact. But The Other Room at Porter’s, yet again, delivers for it’s audiences a night of theatre that affects you and lets you indulge in it’s rarity.

‘Play’ begins, with whispers and hiccups from the faces in the glittering urns, designed wonderfully by (Amy Jane Cook). With the yellowish glow of rapid spotlights we hear the intricate thoughts of the man, the mistress and the wife. The hiccups, the pauses the whispers and the humour all a collection of brutally honest thoughts, each monologue justified by the other person’s words. On the left hand side we have W2, the wife of the man, played by Victoria John and next to her we have the Man in the middle (quite literally) played by Matthew Bulgo and to his right, W1, Peta Cornish, playing the mistress.

Play  - Victoria John, Matthew Bulgo, Peta Cornish 2

We race through the interior monologues, each contribution giving more than just verbal circumstance. We see what one could believe to be martial unhappiness mixed with a sense of neglect, regret and direct bitterness cleverly composed using just a few base notes and the odd pause, disguised as a ‘pardon’. The repetition in the piece doesn’t annoy, it’s evokes a different sense, a sense of memory. You feel comfortable enough to react but the lack of an entrance or exit reminds you that this is not a place to get comfortable in. To be alive in a funeral urn and only allowed to speak when the moonlight-like spotlight chooses you, in a place where you can’t imagine daylight- who knew it could be so comic?

After a short interval, one I wish hadn’t had to have taken place, we move on to ‘Silence’. A play that marked a change for Pinter, and certainly marks a change in this double bill. The actors are present on a well lit stage, looking lost in thought in a simple set of wooden side walls and a blank dim square at the back of the stage, representing a window.

Silence - Peta Cornish, Neal McWilliams, Matthew  Bulgo

Like ‘Play’, we are met by three characters, each sharing the space and look of nostalgia, and then Rumsey speaks. The interior monologue begins, this time casually, with a hopeless honesty exploring ‘the fleeting nature of love’ and the isolating recalling from what I gather to be different periods of time. Rumsey, played beautifully by Matthew Bulgo, poetically recalls his thoughts and ends as he begins, lonely and living from his past. Bulgo’s delivery of Rumsey’s first line is wonderfully ideal. We also meet The gentle Ellen played by Peta Cornish, who is this time, the lady in the middle. The middle of what is something that’s not completely clear from the text but as the monologues unfold we see the pasts of both these characters merge. We also meet Bates played by Neal McWilliams, a man who doesn’t share Rumsey’s soft tones but does share his interest in Ellen. He is the man Ellen had to choose after being rejected by Rumsey and ultimately, she loses loses him too, this time by choice, and they all have to live from within their memories and wonder what could’ve been, had life played out their ideal.

Both plays speak volumes and allow us as the audience to make sense of them, if we so wish. The directors Kate Wasserberg (Play) and Titas Halder (Silence), along with the entire cast and crew deserve multiple applause for attacking two brilliant plays and creating another fantastic night of insightful theatre.

Play/Silence runs at The Other Room at Porter’s until February 5th. It’s an unmissable double bill of the exact type of theatre we need. Go see, you won’t regret it!

Photographic credit Pallasca Photography

[vimeo 152270795 w=500 h=281]
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/152270795″>Play/Silence – a Beckett/Pinter double bill</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/tudleyjames”>TudorFilms</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Review Blud The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

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

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

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

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Photograph Credit Pallasca Photography

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

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Photograph Credit Pallasca Photography

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

othermother-KeitoProducer.

other Mother company members

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

Life in Close Up: The Other Room’s First Season Overview by Rebecca Hobbs

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Life in Close Up: The Other Room’s First Season Overview

Now that The Other Room’s opening season has reached its close, Kate Wasserberg and her team can breath their first sigh of relief after a hugely successful critical and public response to three very unusual plays. Spatially, with just forty-four seats, it was an apt move to shape the first season around the intimate experience that The Other Room offers as the performance sits on top of you wherever you are situated. As a final round up to reflect on the ‘Life in Close Up’ season’s antics and audience appraisals, I had the opportunity to catch up with artistic director Kate Wasserberg and Alun Saunders, the writer of ‘A Good Clean Heart’ to address those niggling questions and observations that struck me during these performances.

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Sarah Kane’s Blasted (1995)

It was bold choice by Kate and the The Other Room team to open the season and the theatre itself with a play that is engulfed in controversial and challenging criticism. The late 90’s reviews had originally brandished Sarah Kane’s Blasted as a sordid and immature piece of writing that for all intensive purposes was written to shock. Despite many of these accusations being revised, launching the ‘Life in Close Up’ season with Blasted instantly stimulated debate and got people talking about what the The Other Room in Cardiff was doing. This was my first piece as a young critic and I had no idea what to expect. After briefly flitting over a Wikipedia synopsis, I initially struggled to grasp the script’s bizarre intentions. However, after seeing it performed as a play rather than reading out a list of violent gimmicks, it became clear that these online summaries are hugely damaging to the play’s reputation; the impact lies within the performance. Despite its controversial standpoint, The Other Room’s production was given a 4* rating by The Guardian and overall it excelled in its reviews from critics who were somewhat shaken but left in awe.

Blasted- A Close up with Kate Wasserberg (Artistic Director)

Q: Recently, with Sherman’s ‘Iphigenia in Splott’ and Chapter’s more ambitious programme, Cardiff theatre seems to have dropped the conservative barrier but a script of this intensity has very rarely been performed on Welsh soil. This was out of Cardiff’s theatrical comfort zone. You clearly had confidence in the script and the fantastic cast. Were you concerned about the play’s notoriety and about challenging the relatively safe expectations of theatre that Cardiff sits comfortably with or did you anticipate that this would fuel its success? Despite the fact that I cannot pretend to have necessarily enjoyed watching Blasted, it was an unforgettable experience and one that has successfully conjured a huge critical response.

 

Kate: I have always thought of Blasted as a really honest, heartfelt play. Of course I was aware that it is shocking in places and yes that was a conscious decision, to offer up something new. But the main motivation was not so much a response to the arts scene but as a way to attempt to articulate the world as I was experiencing it at the time, not as wholly dark but certainly with cruelty and pain and callousness out there, on the news. The critical response was really varied, and the first few reviews that came out, they really disliked the show and that was quite a raw experience – I can’t remember the last time I have felt so exposed, the cast were giving these incredibly courageous performances and we hadn’t had long to rehearse it really so I felt very protective. But that’s part of doing this play, and approaching it the way we did – head on with no deliberate style. It’s not for everyone and you have to accept that. Of course then more reviews came out and some people did really like it and that was lovely and the audience started to feedback to us and we grew in confidence, but all responses are perfectly valid and that rawness is part of the experience, I think.

 

Q: Initially, I struggled to distinguish what exactly had bothered me about the play which was odd because the shocking violent junctures are overtly clear and it surprised me that they were not my primary concern. It was the moments of sympathy embedded in the horror, Kate’s uncontrollable laughter and the desperate cry for help read through Ian’s eye contact during the rape. It was the fact that there is never an entire loss of humanity which as an audience member is what you crave in order to dismiss what you have witnessed. Were you specifically conscious about how these moments were going to be directed?

 

Kate: I think I was, yes. Our starting point as a company was to be as real as possible – to ask, but what if this really was happening? It sounds a bit trite to say it now but in a play that is known for being shocking, it was important for us that the people were complex and human and real. Christian, Louise and Simon were all totally fearless about allowing themselves to go to some very difficult places emotionally and that did take a toll on them at times, but I think they all felt like we were engaged in something quite special and it was worth the vulnerability they felt.

 

Q: I am sure, particularly with this play, you witnessed a whole spectrum of reactions as people came out of The Other Room. Is there a specific response that stands out to you?

 

Kate: It was a bit odd in previews – perfectly content, happy people came in and shaken, crying people came out and I genuinely thought, my god, what are we engaged in here? Why do that to people? But of course to be moved is wonderful, even when it’s dreadful. I remember a group early on who really laughed at the jokes, right through to the end, they were wonderful. And an actor friend of mine who literally couldn’t speak, she had to call me the next day. But that’s the play – that’s Sarah Kane and her brilliance. We just tried to do her justice really.

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Howard Barker’s The Dying of Today (2008)

After the hype of the first production, expectations were high for the second play in the series, Howard Barker’s The Dying of Today. Inspired by Thucydides’ account of the destruction of the Sicilian expedition during the Peloponnesian War, the play is constructed from that anxiety induced moment of inevitability, considering the worst case scenario in order to deduce how we process the phenomenon ‘bad news’. This was an equally challenging script for entirely different reasons. Barker’s play is stripped of distractions; its plot can be summarised by one line. To keep an audience attentive when the play is entirely based around a conversation with two people in such a mundane environment is a challenge for any director and two man cast.

The Dying of Today- A Close Up with Kate

Q:When I came to see this play, I distinctly remember that I still had half a drink left after the production came to a close. I was immediately drawn into the performance. It almost had a hypnotic effect on me and I think that had a lot to do with the narrative’s rhythmic pace and the fluidity of Leander Deeny and Christian Patterson’s interactions. How did you initially approach this script, was maintaining the momentum a high priority?

 

Kate: Definitely. We slowed right down in rehearsal to get the detail in but we always had our eye on pace and the confidence with which the ideas develop. It’s acrobatics in some ways, part of the joy is watching them leap from one idea to the next without stopping. Dneister (Leander Deeny) talks for seven minutes without stopping at the beginning of the play and that in itself; to talk ceaselessly and hold the attention of those listening, is a daring feat, especially when the ideas are so complex. Then the barber (Christian Patterson) joins and seems at first to be much simpler and slower but he very quickly builds his own pace and the whole show feels almost like a running race, exploding into physical action with the destruction of the shop.

 

Q: When the material that is being performed in front of you is as intense as Blasted, the space suddenly becomes very theatrically claustrophobic but for The Dying of Today, the chess board floor manipulates the size of the performance area and it feels deceptively bigger. Has it been a challenge to make the best of such a small space? In this case, what inspired the retro fifties salon? I loved the concept of the audience being the reflection of what we were watching as we sat waiting in anticipation for the news ourselves.

 

Kate: I definitely wanted the space to feel radically different for each show in the season and for it to be as exciting to walk into The Dying of Today as it was for Blasted, when the audience were seeing the theatre for the first time since the conversion. The 1950’s feel was about tying to distil the essence of a barber’s – a sort of reference that everyone would recognise. We tried to references various time periods throughout to stop the play feeling ‘set’ in a time or place but we also really wanted it to feel like a real shop, that was very important, that these enormous ideas unfolded in this very prosaic environment. But it had a bit of romance too, which was partly about searching for a bit of softness after the rawness of Blasted.

 

a-good-clean-heart

 Alun Saunders’ A Good Clean Heart (2015)

The final play in the season was a newly commissioned bilingual work by Alun Saunders, a Welsh writer from Neath who trained as an actor at the RWCMD. A Good Clean Heart addresses a number of challenging questions about our cultural and personal identity but this is a truly unique piece of theatre for its ambitious and playful engagement with language. The play follows the story of two brothers raised in different cultures and familial environments; Hefin, adopted in Wales, well educated and a first-language Welsh speaker and Jay his older brother now living in London with his biological mother who they were originally taken away from. When Hefin is finally told on his eighteenth birthday of a sibling who has been reaching out to him, in a moment of spontaneity he initiates the long awaited meet where the pair struggle to come to terms with the years they have lost. Along with the discovery of his English roots, Hefin is introduced to his brother at a rather inconvenient time with the police waiting for an opportunity to bring Jay back in. The reunited family home is thrown into chaos where mother and sons are forced to make decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.

A Good Clean Heart- A Close Up with Alun Saunders

Q: Firstly, llongyfarchiadau on the incredible success that you have had with ‘A Good Clean Heart’. You must be thrilled with its critical reception?

 

Alun: Diolch! Thrilled is definitely one of the words… It’s a pretty overwhelming thing pouring your heart into a play without actually knowing how people are going to react. Did I say ‘overwhelming’? I mean terrifying. I imagine even seasoned Writers find it scary putting their work out there for public consumption as they’re under a different sort of pressure – the pressure to ‘keep up the good work’. For me, writing my first full-length play, I wanted to see whether what I had to say, and how I choose to say it, had a place in that public arena. The public and critical reception has absolutely spurred me on to knuckle down and write more. I’m really grateful.

 

Q: When you were addressing the notion of identity, it came across as a very fluid concept. I loved the intricate ways that this was incorporated into the script with James Ifan and Dorian Simpson jumping into the role of their mother and her boyfriend, drawing out that play on identity crisis. Whilst a national identity is a necessary central focus of the script, were you conscious to avoid restricting the definition of identity?

 

Alun: Abso-blinkin’-lutely. Having done a good bit of research into how people felt (and how strongly they felt) about their own ‘national identity’, I got such a varied response – some people aren’t bothered at all by it, where some people feel that it absolutely defines who they are. The important thing for me is that people are unique; stereotypes exist, but always with an element of contradiction (I’ve actually been called “a boy full of contradictions” myself). Whilst we constantly try to ‘order’ and categorise other people in order to help ourselves sort the ‘friendly /attractive/ positive’ from the ‘unfriendly/unattractive/negative’, nobody can decide our identity except ourselves. It was important that the characters of Hefin and Jay had a strong identity – even if that changed during the play – and that the audience were allowed to come to their own conclusions.

 

Q: Finally, in addition to the demanding technical work needed to create that bilingual accessibility, there was also a lot of visual play on language to the point that the words were literally bouncing of the walls. Was the animation of language and the bringing language to life something you enjoyed physically constructing?

 

Alun: From quite early on in the development of A Good Clean Heart, Kate Wasserberg and  Mared Swain  the plays director and I had discussions about the technical possibilities of this play. It’s been such a huge collaboration of ideas and skills to bring what was eventually seen to life, and I just feel honoured that so many people’s hard work created this success. For my part, I needed to create characters which the actors (and subsequently, the audience) could believe in, and a story and dialogue to channel that. I was always conscious, whilst writing, of the technical possibilities, so I was interested to see how we could bring a letter, an email and an online chat to life on stage, but the focus was always on where the story was going. Especially by Draft 14…

 

Kate: Huge praise is due to Zak Hein, who designed the animation, including the subtitling. He worked with Mared to create an incredibly bold visual language for the play that made the bilingualism a joy and also made the show very youthful. I think it worked brilliantly.

 

Alun: As a Playwright, writing my first full-length play under Kate and Mared’s mentoring has been invaluable. I’ve been pushed to the limits (and beyond) of what I thought I could manage, but seeing the end result has been worth every last blistered typing finger, every tear and 4am coffee. Had I given up four or five drafts ago then my life may, theoretically, have been ‘easier’, but the play we’d have ended up with would have been much weaker for it. I’m really grateful to those whip-cracking slave-drivers for believing in me, and for pushing me to get where we all wanted – only then could we justify the whole team’s hard work. Now to decide where we take it next…

A Final Word on the Season’s success…

 Q: The Other Room has clearly hit Cardiff by storm, you must be very happy with the overall response to the first season?

 

Kate: Of course, we are and incredibly touched and grateful that so many people have supported the project – by coming to the shows, spreading the word and bringing people along. We are so proud to be part of this fantastic city and hope to continue to be worthy of our brilliant audience.

 

Q: What can we expect next, are there big plans in the pipeline?

 

Kate: We are putting the finishing touches on our next season and I’m deep into programming 2016. Some very exciting plans and a new way of working – we’ll keep you posted!

 

The Other Room will be hosting its first Young Arts Festival from 18-20th June where young talents will be showcased through a series of short plays written and performed by all those participating in the week’s festivities. For more information visit: http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/current-productions/

 

A huge thank you to Kate and Alun for taking time out of their busy schedules for Young Critics.