Tag Archives: RWCMD

Review of “The Magic Flute” performed by RWCMD at The Sherman Theatre by Roger Barrington

 

 

(4 / 5)

 

Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” which recently finished its short run at The Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, is an accomplished and often very funny interpretation presented by The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Prince Tamino, (tenor Huw Ynyr) is rescued from a serpent by Three Ladies, attendants on the Queen of the Night, (soprano Bernice Chitiul). She promises Tamino the hand of her daughter Pamina, (soprano – Lucy Mellors), if he can rescue her from the hands of the evil Sarastro, (bass – Blaise Malaba), who has kidnapped her. Together with the Royal Birdcatcher Papageno, (baritone – Dragos Ionel), they go off on search of the unfortunate Pamina. They have been granted two magical instruments to accompany them on their dangerous journey. Tamino is given a flute, personified onstage by Andrew Martin, and Papageno bells in the shape of xylophonist James Harris.

The remainder of the action depicts the rescue attempt and the trials and tribulations forced upon Tamino and Papageno to effect the rescue.

Mozart was a Freemason, and symbolism and ritual are shown in this opera in a thinly veiled allegoric way. Masonic themes such as good vs. evil, enlightenment vs. ignorance, and the virtues of knowledge, justice, wisdom and truth are all here. The mysterious worship of Isis and Osiris,  Egyptian Gods concerned with the Afterlife, and a libretto by  Emanuel Schikaneder is full of symbols and rituals associated with Freemasonry. The number three which has a strong association with Freemasonry features strongly as well. Witness the Three Lady attendants of the Queen of the Night, the Three Boys in their flying machines that guide our two heroes in the rescue attempt and the serpent that is cut into three pieces are just some of the references to this number in the opera.

Director Martin  Constandine has an impressive c.v. having previously worked with The Royal Opera House, RSC, English National Opera, WNO and a host of other influential companies. On the basis of what is on display in this production, you can clearly see why this is the case.

In his version, Sarastro is the leader of a totalitarian cult, (suitably named The Brotherhood), whose subjects are brainwashed on a daily basis to render them zombie-like in their passivity.

Masonic symbols abound although chevrons are, I believe, more associated with The Illuminati.

In one highly comic scene, the clones are transformed from their usual catatonic state into a dance troupe doing the twist upon reacting to the magical effects of the bells.

Chad Healy’s busy set design works well. At the opening to Act 2, the curtain opens to a number of girls in a typing pool and then in the upper back section a scene of a clone receiving their daily dose of “medication” contrasts brilliantly.

Huw Ynyr has a very pleasant tenor voice. He also sings with great clarity. This version is in English written by Jeremy Sams.

 

Likewise Lucy Mellors has a very fine soprano voice.  Her aria after Tamino refuses to speak to her, (one of the trials he must pass in order to gain admission to The Brotherhood), Tamino, see, these tears flow for you alone, beloved is sung with great sincerity and intensity.

 

 

Dragos Ionel’s Papageno, has a resonable baritone voice, but he excels in his comedic  acting.

 

 

Blaise Malaba as Sarasto looked the part as the arch-baddie commanding an ominous presence on stage. His bass singing may  lack a little power in the deepest range, but in other respects he is excellent.

 

Bernice Chitiul as Queen of the Night rendered a performance of the highest order. It didn’t surprise me when reading the programme notes that she has performed at London’s  Wigmore Hall. Her two arias, both technically difficult showed her ability as being able to master the coloratura skill required.

 

 

 

The Three Boys and The Three Lady Attendant offer admirable support.

The orchestra of the RWCMD under the baton of Gareth Jones, play Mozart’s score with the lightness and fluency required and complement the singing perfectly.

There are many future stars in the world of opera on view in this production, and one hopes that it will tour in the future so that audiences can enjoy to-notch opera at a very reasonable price.

 

Roger Barrington

 

‘Must-See’ FREE exhibitions at RWCMD

If you have an interest in theatre or the visual arts there are a range of free exhibitions taking place at RWCMD right now!

Gridding Up Exhibition

Tuesday 3 January – Tuesday 28 March

Painted in just four days, these works by our second year Design For Performance students and MA Scenic Art students are scaled up from small images using traditional methods of ‘gridding up’. A chance to admire their work off the stage as well as on, in the sets of our Richard Burton Company productions throughout the year. The exhibition also includes a sound installation by RWCMD Composer Naomi Wright, inspired by the artwork.

http://www.rwcmd.ac.uk/whats_on/events/gridding_up_exhibition.aspx

There is also an exhibition of set design models for Opera and costumes by BA2 & MA students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preview Two & One More, What Might Have Been Theatre, RWCMD/Venue 13 by Barbara Michaels

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En-route for the Edinburgh Festival 2016 – Exciting New Production from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

.Fasten your safety belt and prepared to be gripped by high drama in Tom Hampson’s exciting debut play Two and One More, which opens on August 21st at Venue 13 at the Edinburgh Fringe and runs until August 27th.   Members of What Might Have Been Theatre are producing and performing in the play at the venue, which is run by the college and has been providing a platform for performers and audiences to explore, create and experience some remarkable drama over the past twenty years.

Viewed at the RWCMD’s Bute Theatre during the run-up to the Fringe, Hampson’s play is set in London during the Blitz. A boy breaks into a London house and is discovered by the man living there alone. Or is he alone? What lies in the room next door? With young sector James Robert Rutherford as the young burglar, this play is guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat.

The high standard of the productions staged at Venue 13 has seen audiences returning year after year – a critic writing in The Stage described it thus: “If there was an award for the best run Fringe venue, then this would be it.”

http://www.venue13.com/production/two-and-one-more/

 

An interview with Theatre Designer Bethany Seddon

Our project coordinator recently spoke to Theatre Designer Bethany Seddon on her training at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Youth Theatre at the Sherman Theatre , recent production designs for Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival and career to date.

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Bethany (centre) working on the recent Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival

Hi Bethany, You have currently designed a range of productions for Everyman Cardiff Summer Festival You must be busy! Is it possible to give our readers some background information on yourself?

Of course! Well I was born in Newport, South Wales, and as a child and well into my teenage years I was fascinated with theatre and, in particular, acting! I took part in as many productions as possible with school, at the age of 13 I joined the Dolman Youth Theatre and at 16 joined the Sherman Youth Theatre, and both groups offered invaluable experience both on and off stage. As I was approaching the end of my A levels I had a huge crisis of confidence and decided acting wasn’t actually for me… so what was I to do? I took a year and did an art foundation which I loved but by the end of the course, scared of narrowing my options too much, I moved onto a Fine Art degree, which, unfortunately just wasn’t for me. By Christmas I knew I wasn’t enjoying Fine Art at all and I happened to be acting and designing a show with the company Inky Quill. I was so excited by the possibilities of design and part of me had always wanted to design for stage so this seemed like such a logical step for me to take. I did a quick google search, found out Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama did a Theatre Design course and applied straight away. A few weeks later I attended an open day and fell in love a little more, and few weeks later again and I had an interview and luckily, they accepted me onto the course. Three very hard years later, a little caffeinated and sleep deprived I was sent out into the world and, thankfully, I haven’t stopped working since. The course taught me such a wide range of skills that I work between designing for stage, to working in TV and film, and pick up bits of work in assisting and using skills for jobs in technical drawings, construction, painting, prop making and teaching/ creating workshops.

http://www.rwcmd.ac.uk/departments/theatre_design.aspx

You have worked for a variety of companies in the UK and especially Wales, what are the employment opportunities like for a designer based in Wales?

Between theatre and TV and film work, South Wales is a great place to be based. You have some wonderful companies that range in size and statue that are always looking for new designers to work with. Cardiff is bustling with a whole host of theatres and companies who are always creating new work and writing, which really is very exciting, both for work and just to go and immerse yourself in the creative world. The neighbouring cities around Cardiff are also bustling with creativity, so it doesn’t take much to find yourself working in Swansea, or Bridgend, or Bristol. The arts network is really incredibly small, but people are always on the lookout for a designer, or assistant so honestly it’s just being able to say yes to possibilities… without being taken advantage of, of course.

You frequently support workshop activity with members of the public, do you think this type of activity is important and why?

I believe it is incredibly important work, especially when you believe in what the company is creating. Working with Sherman Five at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff and Mess up the Mess have both shown me how an individual can develop in such a short amount of time through workshop activities, and I have witnessed massive developments in individuals self confidence.

http://messupthemess.co.uk/big-democracy-project/

The workshops are all about allowing creative expression, however simple to start and encouraging a participant to let go of their inhabitations. From long term projects to one off days like creating monsters at the Wales Millennium Centre , it’s such a joy to see people from various backgrounds and age groups connect with a task through their creativity.

Are their any individuals or organisations that helped support you in developing your skills and knowledge?

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Mr Phillip Mackenzie

Sherman Youth Theatre and the youth theatre director at the time Phillip Mackenzie were brilliant at helping me understand theatre wasn’t all about the text behind a proscenium arch. At the age of 16 I was allowed to explore different styles of theatre which I believe was just invaluable and the group I was working with were all so dedicated and focused on what we were creating, and we had so much fun working on our productions. I honestly look back and think about how lucky I was to be working with that group! I think I might be in a very different place if it wasn’t for the wonderful opportunities to act and travel I had with the Sherman. However my training and work ethic was greatly enhanced by Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the head of the BA Hons Design for Performance Mr Sean Crowley. I learnt so much in those 3 years and would not be doing as well as I am without the training and support of the alumni.

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Mr Sean Crowley

When you aren’t involved in the arts or culture what do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time?! After opening 4 shows in 4 weeks, and having very few days off this year I’m afraid I fail a little at answering this question!

I know I used to like to read and go to see theatre, but for me it’s been a while since I have done either! I normally crash when I get home, or continue working away till quite late, and try to see friends and my family when I can. Luckily most of my friends are in the arts so understand our varying schedules often conflict and the ones that aren’t in this little bubble are the most wonderful people to put up with me without getting too annoyed at long periods of silence!

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Model Box ‘Into the Woods’ Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival

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Realised Set  ‘Into the Woods’ Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival

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Model Box ‘Peter Pan’ Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival

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Model Box ‘Peter Pan’ Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival

More examples of Bethany’s work can be found at her website http://bethanyseddon.com

Thanks for that insight into your career Bethany.

REVIEW CABARET ((RICHARD BURTON COMPANY) RWCMD BY JAMES BRIGGS

(4 / 5)

Audio review of the production with music from the production

‘Cabaret’ is highly regarded as being one of the greatest musicals of all time and has some magnificent songs and fascinating characters, it also has a strong compelling and highly political storyline with a message from history that can’t be ignored. Set in Berlin on the eve of World War Two in the 1930’s, it shows the rise of the Nazis against the apathy of the masses, and describes a change that would prove to have terrifying consequences for everyone who lives in Berlin. Most of the story unfolds in the seedy ‘Kit Kat club’.

I was not sure of what to expect when attending the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for this production as I had only heard some of the songs from the musical and was unfamiliar with the storyline, so I must admit when the house lights dimmed and the characters began to enter the stage to the song ‘Willkommen’ I was slightly perplexed at the characters in front of me and their stage presence especially only being 17.

For many, including my mother who I attended the show with, imprinted on their mind was the film version of the musical starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, Joel Grey as the compère and Michael York as the young Englishman.
The stage show opens with the arrival of a young American, Cliff Bradshaw (played by Jonathan Radford) in Berlin on New Year’s Eve 1930. In a chance meeting at the railway station, he’s becomes friends with the very polite and helpful Ernst Ludvig (played by Tom Corbishley) who refers Cliff to Fraulein Schneider’s lodging house while he is staying in Berlin. Later in the story, Cliff is introduced to the ‘Kit Kat Club’, a cabaret club where anything can happen. He meets Sally Bowles, a singer who escapes reality when performing her songs in the club.

Set against Cliff and Sally’s relationship, and the relationship between Fraulein Schneider and her Jewish fiancée, the Nazis start to show their might and their threat is felt by all at both the unassuming lodging house and the Kit Kat Club. Adena Cahill as the upper class English Sally Bowles is very good. Fraulein Schneider was played by the believable Rosie Archer whose characterisation was excellent as well as that of Dafydd Gape who played the kind, caring and helpful Herr Schultz. Jennifer Ruth-Adams who played Fraulein Kost was able to do this very well and produced some comical scenes when trying to get her sailor lovers out of the lodging house without Fraulein Schneider finding out.

However, for me the star of the show was Corey Jones as Emcee, whose performance was outstanding and whose stage presence was simply mesmerising and as soon as he entered the stage you could not take your eyes off him. Jones’ Emcee was extremely dark and edgy with an exceptionally strong character and you were never quite sure if he was simply a welcoming host, or one that really despises all people.

Corey Jones as Emcee

Photographic credit Kirsten Mcternan

The level of the singing in the production was brilliant and there was not one character that slipped out of their German or American accents. It felt as though I was in Berlin watching the show. The performance of ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ by Ross Hoey as a young Nazi was very chilling and this was made more powerful when the Nazi flags dropped down on each side of the stage. With well-known songs such as ‘Maybe This Time’, ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Mein Herr’ it is sometimes difficult to live up to audience expectations but the cast of this production surpassed themselves. The band that played during the performance was equally exceptional and brought the music to life.

The ‘Richard Burton Theatre’ housing the performance was very fitting and gave the audience a feeling of intimacy with the characters on stage. You felt you were part of the audience in the ‘Kit Kat Club’ taking part in all the action.

The staging worked equally very well with the theatre and as one entered the theatre we were greeted by a large structure hanging diagonally on stage with simply some chairs below it. There was also a large use of period lights on chains that along with the structure moved during the performance. This was used extremely well as it gave the effect that the ‘Kit Kat Club’ was opening up in front of the audience. The minimal set worked extremely well and allowed the audience to concentrate more on the characters opposed to the surrounding.

The Entr’acte from the Musical ‘Cabaret’.

Overall, this is an utterly breath-taking performance even if it is rather risqué in parts with a chilling end but I will certainly be attending far more shows at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama because if the level of performance is always this high, you are guaranteed an amazing night at the theatre.

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Cabaret
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Dates: 22-30 June
Director: Paul Kerryson
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Musical Director: Nathan Jones
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Set Designer: Tina Torbay
Lighting Designer: Becky Heslop
Costume Designer: Jessica Campbell Plover

Review Cabaret (Richard Burton Company) RWCMD by Helen Joy

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(4 / 5)

I go into the theatre weighed down by the recent slating on social media: in response to a comment in favour of collaborative working, I was compared to those who did nothing as Hitler rose to power. Troubling from all sides.

I hadn’t seen Cabaret for a very long time, if ever, and couldn’t say that I knew the story. Apposite as it turns out. We all know the songs but few of us know the context.

Partly it’s the space, partly it’s the artistic direction, but this is in your face from the start. And everything is in your face – teeth and tits and hips and all the grotesque of the carnival, smiling, enticing and taking you in. I watch the audience press back in their seats, personal space invaded and we are thrilled.

The story begins and like the train, rattles along happily. Two love stories unfold through song and speech – the older grocer and the landlady, the young American writer and the English show girl – against the light and dark and desperate of mid war Berlin.

The completely brilliant and mesmeric Master of Ceremonies holds each of us in his stare, winking and steely, welcoming and chilling. Better than Wayne Sleep, says my neighbour, he was evil too but ooh, this one makes me shudder. We all want him to notice us, take us into his lascivious dangerous, oh so colourful world.

Sally is sumptuous. Her voice purrs lines of love and confusion and roars and rises as the cabaret of her life is told. As it all unravels around her and the snippets of intrigue evolve into the political cabaret of Nazi Germany, we want her to leave, go to Paris with her man – but she hates Paris.

We witness the sadly comic and beautifully performed love affair of the Fraulein and the Frau over fruit and schnapps come together and fall apart and he leaves, his Jewish faith unwelcome now.

It ends. Our MC rides out with our battered journalist on his train home. He strips. His pink triangle stitched to his shirt. He folds into stage black.

I wish they sold CDs, says the lady in front of me. Oh, so do I. How much would I have relished hearing it all again on the way home. Brilliant, says another. Shocking, says someone else, hadn’t expected it to be so, well, sexual, not sure some of it was necessary. Wonderful, says a young man, reeling slightly.

I am reeling too. How do you know when it is time to act and when it is time to wait and see what happens? Cabaret.

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Cabaret
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Dates: 22-30 June
Director: Paul Kerryson
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Musical Director: Nathan Jones
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Set Designer: Tina Torbay
Lighting Designer: Becky Heslop
Costume Designer: Jessica Campbell Plover

REVIEW ‘CABARET’ (RICHARD BURTON COMPANY) RWCMD GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

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(4 / 5) Very Good!

Whatever is in the water in the Royal Welsh College of music and drama, I want some of it for myself. Despite being a fan of many years of the soundtrack for the musical and Liza Minnelli’s legendary portrayal of Bowles in the film version – I hadn’t until tonight seen the full stage version of the production.

The musical tells the story of the seemingly wild and carefree days of Berlin in the 1930s and the outrageous goings on at the Kit Kat club, a place where the harshities of the rise of right wing ideology and the slow tentacles of anti-Semitism and Nazism will eventually bring the party to an end. Until then, as the fabulously quirky emcee reminds us: ‘Outside your life is disappointing….in here, life is beautiful!’

For those who are unfamiliar with the usual style of the musical, the usual depictions are famous for some of iconic choreographer Bob Fosse’s trademarks – bowler hats, canes. gloves, black clothes, wooden chairs, a smoky vintage jazz club, waistcoats, stockings and sleek buns. This production has turned the classic Cabaret on its head. It gives us 50 shades of sass. It has been dry humped by Beyonce and licked by Miley Cyrus. If as I did, you should see this show with your Mam, she may disapprove of the sexy stuff – far too many open legs and bending over perhaps. This may of course encourage you to like it even more. Corey Jones’ uninhibited performance may make your Nan or you Mam blush, but he and the cast execute Tom Jackson Greave’s choreography beautifully. I loved the freshening and brightening up of Jessica Campbell Plover’s costume design: flashes of pink bra or turquoise stockings and some strategically placed PVC bondage tape, a sweep of Adam-ant style eye make-up brought some a more modern and edgy look to the cast. The look and feel in the Richard Burton theatre was fresh and industrial – pendant lights lowering and raising up to complement the mood and pace of the songs, a cage wall which will remind you of the musical and film ‘Chicago’ and a stripped down feel rather than focussing solely on the style of the 1920s/30s.

Although the role of Sally Bowles can be a difficult one to pull off once you have seen Liza Minnelli mic drop it in the 1972 film version, Adena Cahill’s vocals are incredible and her performance of the song ‘ Maybe this time’ was blinding. Special mention also to Rosie Archer as Freulein Schneider and Dafydd Gape as Herr Schultz for their sweet portrayal of a blossoming relationship than never has an opportunity to come to fruition. The story of the play is as relevant in 2016 as it was when the play was first performed in the 60s, during a time of great civil unrest in the US. Politics and all the ugliness that comes with it is absolutely about us all, whether we realise it or not. At one point, Nazi sympathiser Ernst Luvig (played by Tom Corbishley) tells exasperated American Clifford Bradshaw (played by Jonathan Radford): “Enough politics…what does it matter anyway?”. Sally poo-poos Clifford and encourages him run an errand for the Nazis, as it’s ‘nothing to do with them anyway’. The friends and associates we think we know…we actually don’t. But life is a Cabaret and the show goes on, eventually. As Fraulein Schneider tells Cliff about all the hardships she previously encountered: ‘I survived’. It’s a message worth remembering this last week, especially.

I doff my bowler hat and wave my jazz hands excitedly in the direction of the Royal Welsh College. The show was a little bit saucy and a little bit rude…and I for one found it bloody ‘wunderbar’.

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Cabaret
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Dates: 22-30 June
Director: Paul Kerryson
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Musical Director: Nathan Jones
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Set Designer: Tina Torbey
Lighting Designer: Becky Heslop
Costume Designer: Jessica Campbell Plover

Review Alternative Routes NDCW by Helen Joy

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(4 / 5)

Dance. In a space I didn’t know existed. I am not proud of this fact. I am not proud that I know embarrassingly little about dance too.

We are met at the door by Paul Kaynes and his team and they welcome us with huge smiles and enthusiasm. Everyone chats and enjoys the view over Cardiff Bay from the rooftop of this marvellous building. We are given an introduction to the evening and invited in to the auditorium.

The seats are packed with colour and youth. I become slightly obsessed with wanting to swap this audience with that grey-haired one at the Cathedral earlier in the week. And as the evening progresses, I want to do this more and more. I want the opera lovers to be here, with me, sharing this beautiful experience. Oh to pull it all together somehow!

I confess, I don’t read programmes before I see something. I don’t want to be influenced. I want it to speak to me and me alone. This is about Voice, after all.

It begins with a woman and a man dancing to what feels like Eighties rave music with strobes and UV and hoops and planets and they tell a little love story through dance and gymnastics and ballet and they are so beautiful, just so beautiful. Luminously lovely. And I want to be Degas – I want to capture their shapes somehow. It is not enough to watch them.

Darkness. A spotlight. A man dances through a series of emotions and I feel I am watching his collapse into sadness. He makes me think of the loneliness of communication – the struggle to be understood. It is a deeply moving performance. I am relieved when finally he stands in the centre of the light.

A woman prowls onto the stage. She talks to us through her movements and I am desperate to interpret them. The music is sweeping and classical and it is all very pretty and acceptable and then it changes in a moment, it swells to panther proportions and I am watching a wild animal and the movements become the language of the wolf. Her body is not her own – she is absorbed in her passions and she is perfect in her credibility.

And then we break.

And I sit with Daniella. A student of dance. She looks me straight in the eye and tells me how wonderful it all is, how all she has ever done is dance, she has danced since she was a little child, it is who she is. She is enraptured by the second piece but she has loved it all. In her face I see that the gift of dance is a good one. There is such power in using dance to communicate – no-one else’s story, just your own; no tool as messenger, just your thoughts sent out there through your body.

It feels so loose, so uncontrolled, so unrepeatable. What an ability these people have and what a task to choreograph and to make it seem so easy every time!

We are asked to stand around the stage. It is a big space but we are shoulder to shoulder forming a square around a Crossword of 4 dancers. Each performs within a square, a battenburg cake of dance. Singly, together, this is an argument, a joke, a party, a series of opinions agreeing and clashing. I want to see it from above, see the patterns they make. It is gorgeous to watch and to be so close. I can see that I am not alone in wanting to join in – we all want to be part of it, to be understood.

We return to our seats. What now? Well. We get more cake, we get Nigella. We get a menopausal woman breaking the bonds of housewifery – as well as a few eggs! It is quite the most unusual performance I have ever seen and it is brilliant. I laugh! It is me!

I chat to others as we leave – what did you think of that last one? Oh yes, I do that – well, I want to do that…

I have loved it. Every minute of it. It has been challenging, beautiful, sad and funny. A novel in dance. And I still want to swap those audiences – bring those different voices together somehow and we will all be the wiser for it.

Event:                                       Alternate Routes

At:                                               National Dance Company Wales

Production:                           WMC, RWCMD & National Dance Company Wales for Festival of Voice

Artistic Director:               Caroline Finn

Choreographers:                Matteo Marfoglia, Camille Giraudeau and           Josef Perou

Chief Exec:                             Paul Kaynes

Seen:                                          6.45pm, 9th June, 2016

Reviewer:                                Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:                                   09 Jun – 11 Jun 2016

Links:

http://www.ndcwales.co.uk/en/what-s-on/alternative-routes-20161/

http://www.ndcwales.co.uk/en/about/latest-news/national-dance-company-wales-and-royal-welsh-college-of-music-and-drama-inspires-the-next-generation-of-choereograghers-and-designers-through-alternative-routes/

 

Star rating:                4

 

 

Review RWCMD The Cunning Little Vixen at the Sherman Theatre by Rebecca Hobbs

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Ninety years on and a cartoon strip that appeared in a Moravian newspaper continues to show us the nature of life and its cyclic immortality. Leoš Janáček’s beautiful and musically inviting The Cunning Little Vixen is currently being performed at the Sherman Theatre by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Every time this opera is recreated, the director is faced with a decision as to whether the human context is more important to focus on than the cartoon comic woodland fairy tale. On this occasion, Harry Fehr chooses an extreme and creates a complete human adaptation with a darker edge that plays against the cartoon (aside from the wedding party which is a welcome folk interlude). Rather than the human characters being anthropomorphised, Fehr concentrates on the characters’ animal instincts being dramatised.

 The ‘Vixen’ is a moniker just as her love interest (Zlatohřbitek) goes by the name of ‘The Fox’.  Throughout her youth Bystrouška (Sophie Levi) is convicted for a number of criminal activities. Locked up by Sheriff (Emyr Wyn Jones), her obsessive pursuer usually takes the form of a forester but the creatures of the animal kingdom are replaced by their domestic counterparts: holiday makers, police offers and a gang of ‘liberated’ female convicts that replace the clucking hens of the animal kingdom.

 Whilst the production loses its comic enchanting quality, it was an interesting interpretation and one that comfortably plays to all the advantages of a young ensemble; the life cycle focuses on growing up and the adolescent right of passage. Sophie Levi’s expressive and impassioned performance as the cunning Vixen also captures an awkward teenage insecurity whilst she is being courted by  Zlatohřbitek, her love interest, charmingly played by Jessica Robinson. In the male cast, Emyr Wyn Jones’ command of the Sheriff role and his character’s journey is particularly impressive. Whilst the futile attempts to catch the Vixen enrage him, his concluding paean to nature is poignant and his rich tone is perfectly complimented by the moving orchestral score.

Aside from a few stage glitches, the production was performed to an incredibly high standard and the star voices were as good any professional production. The RWCMD chamber orchestra conducted by David Jones brought the colourful and boisterous score to life as the comic character resonated through the music. If you are a fan of Janáček’s work,  this unusual adaptation is well worth a watch.

The Cunning Little Vixen is on from 7-9th July at the Sherman Theatre.

http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/performance/music/the-cunning-little-vixen/