Tag Archives: Review

Review Cardiff Fringe Theatre Cafe by Sian Thomas

I went to a handful of Fringe events last year, and I was very efficiently swept up into that kind of theatre world. The Fringe Cafes, as well as the majority of the Fringe festival events themselves, have a very specific kind of feeling to them. One that I firstly associate with summer, since that’s when the festival really kicks off, and another that’s associated with quiet fun.
Not too jam-packed, and neither too empty that it could be kind of awkward, last night’s Fringe Cafe managed to achieve a really good balance and really open a door to a good night in a room full of people who were minded like me; who love theatre and jokes and that same quiet fun.

The night consisted of two acts and a quiz. The acts were good; performed well and low-key, the kind where there was no shame in flubbed words or coughs and honestly, I really liked that. It ties back into the vibe of the festival; it’s safe, and there’s a supportive feeling all throughout it. I was more partial to the second act, though. Both were monologues, but I did have more fun listening to the second. Something about it was a little more accessible; the trials of dating and trying to have a good time except you don’t have any money. I enjoyed it!

Admittedly, the quiz was my favourite. It made me the right kind of nervous when answers were being called out, and the right kind of excited when prizes came into the picture. It was fun to take a break; to enjoy the time with who I went with and be posed questions I definitely did not know the answer to at all, and ended up guessing (we still won a prize though, which was nice!).
I had a really great night; I enjoyed myself a lot and I was so glad I went to experience this last Fringe Cafe before the festival really kicks off!

I’m so sincerely looking forward to the rest of the events I can attend. I had an astounding time last year and I’m already sure I’ll have a brilliant time this year, too. This festival very quickly became very meaningful to me, and based on last night, I’m sure that’ll stay the same for this year.

I’m particularly excited for the open mic night at Deli Rouge on June 10th. I went to this event last summer and had such a wonderful time and it was there that my confidence had a huge boost. I’m very indulgently hoping that the same will happen this year, and I’m looking forward to hear the kinds of things people have written this year, to see if improvements make themselves known to my ears.

I’m happy the festival is back. I really am. Please, go to it. Enjoy yourselves as much as I have and as much as I am sure that I will.
Information can be found here:

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And sometimes soon, here too

Sian Thomas

 

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella by Sian Thomas

 

(5 / 5)

Last March I was lucky enough to have a relative key me into ballet. I saw Matthew Bourne’s “The Red Shoes”, and when I was invited to see his take on Cinderella, I already knew I was bound to have a wonderful time – and I did. Though The Red Shoes will always harbour a soft spot in my heart because it was my first ballet, I think it’s safe to say I liked this one much more. First of all, as a novice, I think it’s pretty important that this time, I knew what was going on. The story of Cinderella does not escape me even as it harbours a few changes (like being set in London 1940 and having a war theme, and Cinderella’s family being bigger than I remembered).

Costumes were incredible, and I think by “costumes” I mean “Cinderella’s dress”, because if we’re being honest, I was excited to see what it would look like as an audience member, rather than in pictures and pamphlet photos. And it was stunning; truly. Even her costume before the dance was lovely. I’m always a fan of flowing skirts and dresses, so seeing the way they moved as people danced was such a treat to my eyes. So, in that vein, the dancing was incredible. Still, a year later I don’t know much (or anything) about ballet or dancing in general and my eyes continue to be unaware of mistakes and unable to form any critiques (not that I have any at all, actually).

When I left The Red Shoes, I remember I came out on a high, as if I could suddenly redirect my life even though it was 10pm and I would be going home to bed afterwards. The same high followed me out of the theatre after Cinderella. An odd kind of high, one that left me sitting quietly and thinking and reflecting and just trying to figure out what words I would use to really show how much I loved this performance. I couldn’t find many. It’s definitely a “you have to see it to understand” kind of thing (which is why I’m going a step further to place some links here: in case anyone becomes interested in going).

Five stars because it really was wonderful and I’d love to see it again and I know I would enjoy it just as thoroughly every single time.

Review The Sound of Music by Jane Bissett

 

(5 / 5)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sound of Music

The New Theatre Cardiff

Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 February 2018

Evenings 7.30pm

Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday Matinees 2.30pm

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

Review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay by Sian Thomas

I’ve recently finished The Witches of New York by Ami McKay. For quite some time, the book was the base of my “Big Pile of Books I Need to Read” – purely because it was the largest one. I thought it intimidating at first – I hadn’t expected it to be the size that it was. However, by the time I reached the end, I found myself wishing that it was longer. The book has potential, I do believe, but I’ll get to that later.

For a while now, stories with a strong aesthetic have appealed to me more than stories with some unfathomably-mind-blowing plot twist that I never asked to be on the other end of. This book, this style of writing, was right up my alley that it and I more or less lived in the same block of flats. It was so gorgeous – all this talk about a tea shop, girls, style, soft magic, attraction (straight and gay). Even the way littler things would be described; colour, cups, plants, glass, feathers on a bird, silk of a dress, the appearance of ghosts. All of it just seemed to constantly scream out for me, and it was what I enjoyed about the book the most. I have things that agree with me, the things I find pretty or such, and this book just seemed full of them. I love the way a tea shop exists; quiet and usually more than meets the eye (as was the case here). I love little glass bottles filled with things like glitter or seeds (as was, also, the case). I love small keys, things kept on a chain because of how important they are, I love different blends of teas that all, above having their own flavour, seem to also have their own meanings. There just seemed to be so much care and effort put into every little detail with this book, and I really loved that.

The characters and the story both I’ve decided not to go into very much. The characters, Eleanor, Adelaide, and Beatrice, were all intrinsic, individualistic, and all in all, just quite lovable. I’d rather people went into the unravelling of both them and the plot blind, but I will say: I did enjoy it; the story was gripping and the characters were lovely. It touched on a lot of things I like (amongst the already incredible scenery and the like) and I relate to: the subtle fear of pushy men that every girl seems to know and knows how to combat, the camaraderie of women. While intriguing, it wasn’t too fast. It really was enjoyable. I think a lot of people all sorts of ages would enjoy this book.

Back to potential: the book has it. Ending happily, but with just enough of a nudge in some characters direction, I feel like I did certainly have closure, but just a tiny smidgen of it was withheld. I suppose I may have become fond of stories with a neat little bow wrapped around them and then encased behind glass for the rest of time. That’s on me, I do think, but you’d catch me picking up a copy of any book that would follow at the heels of this one, that’s for sure.

Review Madonna or Whore? The Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

Practically living at the Vault Festival, I decided last minute to book into another show – Madonna or Whore? With 4 and 5 star reviews, I was eager to see what looked like from the posters a different and comedic production.

Madonna or Whore takes a look at misogyny through time, highlighted by Freud’s ‘Madonna or Whore’ theory, and emphasised by  (very good) karaoke Madonna songs.

Now that all may sound like a random concoction but it isn’t. Holly Morgan and her fiancé Tom Moores bring together not only each of their own essence to the production, bouncing off one another as naturally as you can imagine they do in person . Whilst also looking at history, they bring in their personal experiences. With the current #MeToo movement, this production is relevant, shocking but also so true and close to our own lives and experiences.

Now, as really this is some deep stuff to be watching, Morgan and Moores turn it on its head; part stand up, part farce, part comedy duo, they are turned into comical overturns helped by home made props and audience participation.

It is for sure that a review cannot do it justice.

Madonna or Whore? is nothing short of brilliant – topical and very important, Morgan and Moores are just hilarious, clever and totally bonkers. This really is the type of work that should be seen by everyone not only for its importance but for its sheer hilarity and clever approach.

(5 / 5)

 

Review Red Bastard : Lie With Me, The Vault Festival by Hannah Goslin

(5 / 5)

Bouffon : A theatre concept that is unique, niche and rarely seen in contemporary theatre. Red Bastard could easily be said to be the father of this style.

As a student studying performing arts 5 years ago, I was introduced to Red Bastard and fell in love with not only him but Bouffon – a type of theatre where a character who is misshaped and says the things no one should ever say, it is shocking, hilarious and fantastic. Not for those who are too PC!

Lie With Me is Red Bastard’s second show. This time he takes on love, and asks the questions we are all scared to ask and think about – What counts as cheating? What even is love? And pointing out that we all LIE.

Red Bastard uses 3 alter egos – Red Bastard is the devlish and mysterious figure who gets off on our lies, our infidelities, our animal instinct. Eric is the performer – he almost does not agree, he is apologetic and horrified by Red Bastard. And finally a man with no name, who just wants love and to be loved – he’s respectful, giving and rounds up the show with a wonderful soulful ending.

Red Bastard moves across our stage, like a little round devil ; licking his fingers as he enjoys our lies like a delicious cake, miming making sandwich’s, cutting deserts, and filling his evil belly with it. You cannot help but laugh at this but admire his precision in his movements; his known movement of walking and rubbing his misshapen body as he speaks to us is almost like a star struck moment to us fans.

It is unclear how planned and how much improv he uses – he interacts with us but seems to be ahead of us all. This shows true skill as a performer that we know he cannot possibly predict all the infinite options that can come from the audience, but he is so precise and perfect that he takes it in his stride and reacts perfectly every time.

Red Bastard is a hero of mine and he did not disappoint. A well researched performance, he has no qualms, fears or want to not offend, to not tell us what we are thinking, and makes us come away contemplating what life really is, whilst our stomachs hurt from laughing so much.

Hannah Goslin

 

 

Review: Gaslight by Eloise Williams by Sian Thomas

I read Gaslight by Eloise Williams recently. What pulled me to it was definitely the setting – I love a story set somewhere I was born, somewhere I continue to be (and probably will remain – I’m certainly happy for that to be the case). Cardiff has a history, it has looked so many different ways, been so many different things (which can continue to be true as we all trudge through time together). I really did enjoy experiencing it in the Victorian Era. Something about knowing my home completely differently while I also have the pleasure of following a story was lovely.

This may be a peculiar thing to lead off with, but I really liked the line under the title on the cover of the book: “Have you seen her?”. Sometimes words strike a chord with me; this did. I like the mood this seems to create from the very get-go. The book does have quite the atmospheric feel to it. From cover to cover, there’s something enchanting about the intricacies of the character and the setting she resides in. “Have you seen her?” makes me feel as if I should be looking; as if hints of the character (Nansi) or other characters or even of this version of Cardiff’s past are still all over the place, waiting for the kind of attention only I can give them, because I’m already where they were. Something about that, that co-existence, is pleasing.

The story itself I don’t want to spoil, but the allure of a theatre story (definitely with some other things thrown in) in this era was a good combination. It was nice to imagine, and it was just as nice to be led into imagining it and down the path of the story. There was a moment I liked in particular; Nansi steals a piece of sea glass for a show, and during the show that piece of sea glass is used to really sell an act. The way the audience’s rapture is described, and the way the ploy plays out and the anxiety and nerves of Nansi’s surrounding it, was always a scene that had me hooked because of how easy it was to get lost in it, to become enraptured myself.

I think the book is good for a lot of ages. I enjoyed it, and I’m sure that relatives my age or younger (or older!) would, too. There is something about a young person’s endeavours (in this case, Nansi discovering the truth of her mother’s disappearance and her family in general) and watching them grow from their starting point of “clueless” to a stronger character with an ending to be proud of. It’s nice in a sense, to watch someone grow like this. To watch a character stand up for people who can’t, to stand up against people she hadn’t dreamt of standing up to before. I am immensely pleased to hear that Gaslight won the Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year 2017 award. Being good for all sorts of ages, and a story of fair intrigue, I’d say it did deserve it – and the four stars I give it.

Review The Band, The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Jane Bissett

(5 / 5)

WOW!   Where to start?

Having never been a fan of Take That, or indeed boy bands in general, I was a little apprehensive as to what lay in store when entering the Wales Millennium Centre for the opening night of ‘The Band’.

The night was memorable and the performance totally unmissable!

For the first time in Cardiff, this wonderful new musical by Tim Firth hit all the right notes and pushed more emotional buttons than the audience could possibly have prepared themselves for.

A delightful mix of dialogue and song, the story follows teenage friends, Rachel, Heather, Debbie, Claire and Zoe, as they share their love of music and the same boy band.

The girls are full of life, funny with a deep friendship that binds them together. They share their inner most thoughts and aspirations. Rachel declaring that she wants to marry all the members of the band and Debbie agreeing to be her bridesmaid.

Debbie wins tickets to a concert in Manchester and the girls set off on their big adventure seeing the band, missing the last train home and having to make it part way home on the bus.

This musical is a coming of age story that every teenager has experienced even if musical tastes do change you never forget your teenage loves.

The two greatest sensory markers in our lives are music and smell, they have the ability to transport us instantly to another time and place whilst bringing to the forefront our greatest and most precious memories.

Move on 25 years and Rachel has moved away and the girls have all lost touch. Then Rachel wins a radio competition for tickets to see the band at a concert in Prague and the only thing on her mind is getting the girls back together.

Having made contact the girls (now 41yrs old) meet at the airport and fly out togther on another adventure. Their experiences and revelations in Prague serve to cement their friendship and to change their lives again.

The soundtrack of the girls lives are the songs of Take That, they punctuate the story in a way that gives it depth and meaning.

Five to Five, the boy band chosen through the talent show ‘Let it Shine’ gave an inspiring performance by almost being in the background. There is no doubt of their musical talent and the vocals were seamless and outstanding.

All credit goes to the Creative Team, too numerous to mention individually, who staged and produced this remarkable new musical, one that I am sure will endure for many years to come.

The stage craft of every cast member drew us ever closer to the action. We laughed, we cheered, we shouted, we sang, and some of us even cried.

At the end of the performance the entire auditorium was on their feet, waving lit mobile phones and generally going wild. I can honestly say that this was an experience like no other and despite myself, like everyone around me I just wanted more.

THE BAND plays at Wales Millennium Centre;

Tuesday 9 until Saturday 20 January

For further details about the show visit www.wmc.org.uk or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920636464

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 Justice League by Jonathan Evans

(2 / 5)

And so, seeing the unquestionable success that MARVEL has been having with their shared cinematic universe DC have stumbled greatly to get to this point. But nothing was gonna stop this cinematic train so, we just have to deal with it.

What brings our different heroes together are three boxes called “Mother Boxes” if all three are brought together they’ll destroy the world (basically). The one that is out to get all these Mother Boxes is a giant being named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), he’s about ten feet high, clad in Armour, wields a large axe and spouts over-the-top dialogue. His role is similar to Loki in Avengers (even to the point of wearing over extravagant headgear) but he lacks Hiddelston’s charisma as well as fails to convey a real threat. He’s just a big threat that is no more interesting or memorable that a generic video game boss.

The first members that have already been established are Batman (Ben Affleck) the dark brooder that is just a skilled human with great technical resources and detective skills. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was the best thing in Batman v Superman and her own movie was the best of these movies but also rather good. The same present here. The Flash, the speedster played by Ezra Miller. He is here to portray the every-man, being more trepidatious and a lot more dumbfounded when giant man and bug creatures appear. But he says some things that are just odd, it is a weird thing that writers do where they put in quirks and think they’ve made a character, they haven’t, he gets better as the movie goes on but when he starts he might be an alien on Earth. Next is Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), he can breathe underwater, is very strong and wields a large five pronged spear (not a trident), he will probably be the breakout character, being a swaggering brawler. Finally is Cyborg (Ray Fisher), originally a young student named Victor Stone has now been transformed by the Mother Box technology and is fused with it.

Probably the worst kept secret and obvious plot point that any five year old could see coming is that Superman (Henry Cavil) returns (he died in the last movie). He does and he is much better here than in the previous two movies, he knows what smiling is, I believe he’s an optimistic person and they gave colour back to his costume instead of a grey filter.

Due to a family tragedy Snyder had to pull out of the movie. Most of it was completed but still needed finishing. Director Joss Whedon stepped in and completed the project. There is only so much one can really affect a movie when probably over seventy five percent of it has been completed. Whether it be due to fan outcry or Whedon inserting it in where he could there are much more smiles in this movie. Characters are smiling and aren’t brooding constantly. Having one moody one on a team is fine (that’s what Batman’s there for) but the others need to bring a balance of different types of characteristics.

Also more present in the movie is colour. They still use heavy amounts of black but they are contrasted with deeper, vivid colours of red, golds etc. This is a better direction to go, it keeps the colour but visually distinguishes it from the MARVEL movies.

Probably the biggest failure of the movie is the score by Danny Elfman. Not at any point did I feel my spirits roused by the music and I cannot hum any of the score. It is unfortunately forgettable and not moving.

Unlike all the other movies this one does have a post credits scene. So if you are so inclined stick around and you wont just see the credits scroll by.

So it has indeed been a very bumpy ride. It did not get off  to a good start at all and from there on it got worse. But now the pieces have come together and the final result probably wasn’t worth it but it also wasn’t a complete disaster. It was actually rather serviceable.

Jonathan Evans