Tag Archives: Sherman Cymru

Review: WOOF at Sherman Theatre by Gareth Ford-Elliott

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Please note this review contains references to sexual violence and detailed analysis of the productions plot.

WOOF by Elgan Rhys is a new Welsh-language (occasionally bilingual with English subtitles at every performance) play about two men, Daf and Jesse, who have different expectations of one another.

In a lustful first meeting we see the pair’s first sexual encounter and follow their romance along some ups and downs until their final “sexual” encounter and the fallout.

Woof portrays big topics such as open/polyamorous relationships and sexual assault both in the context of modern gay life. However, Elgan Rhys fails to really explore any of these topics in a way that does them justice.

One main reason why is because the characters are cliché “types” of gay men. One wanting marriage and kids, the other wanting an open relationship. But this is the extent of their individuality. Even the way they speak is basically identical and generic.

Because of this, despite the characters having clear goals, the motivations that drive them aren’t clear. For a play that relies so heavily on bubbling under the surface, we should be understanding the motivations.

Rape is used as a “turning point” and feels more like a plot point than a major life event in Jesse or Daf’s life. Things do change after this, but again, the motivations that drive these changes are invisible. Because of this, it doesn’t feel like we’re watching a play, we barely see how they’re feeling and when we do, it mostly comes through speech and feels unnatural.

Things happen, we get spoken to about them, and then the characters move on to the next stage of the plot. It feels like a draft of a script that has figured out its structure, but not found the character’s voices or even the characters themselves.

One positive is that we see real love from both characters to each other, even if they don’t always care for the other.

Elgan Rhys presents a lot in Woof and some people will really identify with it, because of the evocative nature of the topics presented. But it explores very little of these huge themes and how they affect the characters, which is where this play particularly falls down.

The tone of the direction from Gethin Evans doesn’t help solve this. It’s quite flat throughout. The odd scene or moment is well controlled by Evans. But the piece overall feels odd. The subtext isn’t portrayed well throughout the performance at all and the build-up to the rape scene, as well as the scene itself, is really poor because of this.

Whilst neither Aled Pedrick as Jesse or Berwyn Pearce as Daf do particularly badly in portraying what they’re given, neither really rise and meet the task either. There are great moments from both, however.

Jesse’s immediate reaction to being raped is horrifying. The confusion and fear are portrayed well – but this doesn’t hold and the performance of Jesse declines into mediocrity afterwards. Meanwhile, the performance of Daf peaks in more comedic moments – but struggles with the darker ones.

There are moments of good chemistry between the two, particularly in the first third of the play. A scene where the two characters exchange phone numbers is particularly nice. Some real chemistry which is lovely as well as being the first time we see real care and love in the two. But then, there’s a lot that feels unnatural. For example, whenever the characters talk about their relationship – which is the central conflict of the piece.

The set and design from Elin Steele is simple. Nothing out of this world but it works. It’s a similar story for Katy Morison’s lighting design too. Some moments that are good, the club scene in particular, but ultimately underused.

The sound by Sam Jones doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall production. An announcement of “Happy New Year!” on the sound system doesn’t fit the tone and music isn’t exploited nearly enough.

The design elements really could set the tone for the piece but instead, as happens too often, feel like an afterthought.

Now that we have critically assessed the play itself, there are some other things that desperately need to be addressed.

Firstly, the lack of trigger warnings was a huge issue. “Sexual content” does not equal “rape/sexual violence”. This desperately needs addressing by the Sherman in the remaining shows as this was incredibly irresponsible.

The tone on the night and marketing is out of place with the nature of the piece. Having feedback boards outside with various LGBTQ+ flags on it, was a strange contrast from portraying a toxic gay relationship and gay rape. Marketing it with the words “bold” and “gritty” are also out of place with what we see. This isn’t a bold play because it doesn’t challenge its audience.

In the programme notes, Rachel O’Riordan, former artistic director of the Sherman Theatre and the person who commissioned this play, said, “the play…will ask our audience to look at some uncomfortable truths.” This is true. It asks its audience to observe some uncomfortable truths but doesn’t challenge them by exploring those truths.

It seems that from start to finish, the whole theatre had the wrong attitude with this play, from top to bottom. From commissioning, to presenting, to marketing and warning its audience about the issues it deals with. It’s a presentation of something that may well be true, but not an exploration of the themes or characters.

There will be people who really enjoy Woof and it is worth seeing, in full knowledge of what it’s about.

WOOF is a dark portrayal of a toxic, yet loving relationship, between two male characters who are ultimately underdeveloped.

WOOF performed at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
31 January – 9th February 2019
Written by Elgan Rhys
Directed by Gethin Evans
Cast:
Daf – Berwyn Pearce
Jesse – Aled Pedrick
Designer: Elin Steele
Sound Designer: Sam Jones
Lighting Designer: Katy Morison

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 Bird Sherman Cymru by Gemma Treharne-Foose

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

“We can’t escape who we are”

‘Bird’s popularity is simply soaring at the moment. As it approaches the end of its successful run in the Sherman, I (fashionably late as always), rocked up to the Sherman on Thursday night to finally see what the fuss was all about. The play, written by Katherine Chandler and directed by Rachel O’Riordan, focuses on two girls (Ava played by Georgina Henshaw and Tash played by Rosie Sheey) living in a care home facility finding their way in a world which has so far been  cruel to them. They are on the cusp of something and we feel it intensely – but what?

The opening scenes between Ava and her Mother (played by Siwan Thomas) are awkward, desperate and heart-breaking to watch, setting the scene for the play. A raw, nervy and tense romp through the concepts of family, motherhood, friendship, coercion and control. The story of the play is depressingly commonplace (for those who have ever worked in/been associated with social care)  Georgia Henshaw’s performance as Ava is simply spellbinding to watch as she squirms, paces and darts around frantically on stage. The girls, bound by tragedy and victims of terrible circumstance, are headed towards something they do not even understand themselves. Who will love these girls and who will look after them? Dare they even dream that there could be another life, another fate for them?

The play flitters between moments of light laughter and innocence, the joy of the affections the girls have for each other and the murky, intimidating relationships closing in on Ava and Tash. There are some difficult scenes and parallels echoing tragedies in recent years in Glasgow and Rochdale. There are moments in the play where your heartbreak for Ava’s and her (perhaps) inevitable fate  will punch you in the gut.

“We can’t escape who we are” (Tash)

The play seems timely with recent reports suggesting that children in care homes are over-represented in the criminal justice system and criminalised over minor incidents.

‘Children in care should not be prosecuted for minor offences, a report looking at their over-representation in the criminal justice system says. The review for the Prison Reform Trust calls on the government to draw up new procedures to protect these children from criminalisation.’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36342621

http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/In%20care%20out%20of%20trouble%20summary.pdf

There has been an increasing focus on plays like Bird acting as a form of ‘cultural tourism’ or ‘poverty porn’. We’re saturated with so-called poverty porn in wider popular culture. In recent times, television shows like Benefit Street, Shameless and even the Jeremy Kyle show sensationalise and feed in to the wider dominant narrative around the deserving poor vs. underserving poor. Our tolerance and understanding of these central characters often depends on the characterisation of the subjects/case studies within the production: are they even trying to change? Are they worthy? Are they a lost cause? Damaged goods? Could they ever be ‘useful citizens’, whatever that means. Are theatre productions like Bird, Boy (Almedia Theatre, London) and Re:Home (The Yard, London) recreating a similar kind of ‘human zoo’ that we see so often on the TV?

Depicting poverty in popular culture can have positive consequences on our understanding on social class and real poverty.  The appalling slums and workhouses depicted in Dickens’ novels serve as a form of social commentary of life in Britain during rapid industrialisation and urban growth.

“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.” Charles Dickens

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Slum housing in Providence Place, London, 1909. Copyright: © London Metropolitan Archives 

Stateside, documentary photographer Dorothea Lange’s photograph of a desperate and hungry mother during the Great depression would propel the Government in to action to aid migrant labourers and their families.

1936 --- Florence Owens Thompson, 32, a poverty-stricken migrant mother with three young children, gazes off into the distance. This photograph, commissioned by the FSA, came to symbolize the Great Depression for many Americans. --- Image by © CORBIS

Migrant Mother Dorothea Lange

In 1960s Britain, we were rocked by Ken Loach’s drama documentary ‘Cathy Come Home’, which exposed the harsh realities of homelessness and unemployment. (Loach continues to focus on this themes with his film  ‘I, Daniel Blake’ recently winning the  Palme d’Or at Cannes. ) ‘Cathy Come Home’ caused outrage, prompting a debate in Parliament and leading to the establishment of the charity ‘Crisis’. It is a great example of how culture can influence the political agenda and is widely recognised as one of the greatest drama documentaries ever made.

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Theatre like Bird can challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone  Are we actually mobilised and ready for any sort of real change in ‘Austerity Britain?’ and does the play actually inspire you to do anything with your emotional investment in the characters? Are we now too apathetic to be shocked in to action? It is surprising that in the play it is Lee who highlights how disconnected Ava – and we – are with the wider world. “Human contact – it’s important.” Yet as he tells Ava, we are too busy looking at our phones to connect (face-to-face) with one another and have difficult conversations. Are we also too busy being manipulated that we are now more focussed on debating over who ‘deserves’ our help and feathering our own nests?

Theatre can and should be a vehicle for social change, just like a well-made viral video or popular cause campaign. Plays like Bird can shine a light on the problem. Could more be done to  help audiences think about solutions? Could charities and outreach organisations capitalise on these engaged audiences? In much the same way as the creation of the charity ‘Crisis’ was born from ‘Cathy Come Home’ Like so many of those who’ve been coming to see Bird and emerging from the theatre positive, pumped and ready to make change in society, charities may well be in a prime position to help. A text donation, a volunteering opportunity – anything! That’s something I’d like to see take off…

Drama

Bird
Sherman theatre
May 26th

By Katherine Chandler

Director Rachel O’Riordan

Designer Kenny Miller

Lighting Designer Kevin Treacy

Composer and Sound Designer Simon Slater

Assistant Director Elgan Rhys

Casting Director Sophie Parrott CDG
Cast

Ava – Georgia Henshaw

Claire – Siwan Morris

Dan – Connor Allen

Lee – Guy Rhys

Tash – Rosie Sheehy

Running time: 1hr 20 mins.

Review Bird Sherman Cymru By Kaitlin Wray

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Bird’ the title of this play took off just like a bird itself. A play that took hold of us from the very moment the first word was uttered until the blackout at the end. Rachel O’Riordan, the director of ‘Bird’ with assistant director Elgan Rhys by her side made sure this play not only, ticked all the boxes but was a complete success.

This was a very clever production written by Katherine Chandler that had twists and turns, it was a play about two young girls in a care home struggling with their past but trying to face up to their future. This is a story that’s so raw I felt like I was trespassing into their private lives. Due to the raw nature, some of the words are at times  lost due to the quick-pace naturalistic acting  but even so, that didn’t take away from the performances overall. Each actor didn’t fault within their characters and it was definitely perfectly cast. The set, designed by Kenny Miller, was simplistic yet effective and I loved the use of the two levels.

Georgia Henshaw, playing the 15 year old protagonist, Ava, showed her naivety and was full of the energy that you could imagine from a girl of that age. However she also portrayed a girl that has been through a lot. Georgia really embodied her character and it was a great performance to watch.

Siwan Morris, playing Claire, Ava’s mother, did a phenomenal job at making the audience completely loathe a character and then feeling sympathy towards her in the end. After loving the character of Angie, Siwan played from the first two series of Skins, she was nearly unrecognisable as Claire. Yet both characters she played were phenomenal.

Rosie Sheehy, playing Ava’s best friend had a voice with such vocal clarity that I loved to listen to, furthermore her dancing skills were on point. Connor Allen, playing a 17 year old Dan who is Ava’s love interest felt like the realest character out of them all who says things as they are. Connor’s characterisation was comedic and entertaining. Last but not least was Guy Rhys who did a great job at acting like a creepy fatherly figure-like role. Throughout the performance it was unclear of his intentions with Ava and Guy and he did a good job at portraying this. This character has one big secret that causes the biggest twist of all.

If you want to know what happened then I would highly recommend going to see ‘Bird’ as it’s a performance that has great technical proficiency with outstanding direction and performers who will no doubt make a great career out of acting.

Director- Rachel O’Riordan

Writer- Katherine Chandler

Designer- Kenny Miller

Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater

Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin

Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy

Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Corinne Cox

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.

Ava is on the cusp of adulthood. 16 next month and facing a future outside the care home, all that currently lies ahead of her is an expansive and overwhelming unknown. Her mum doesn’t want her to come home, sheltered accommodation will be miles away from manipulative Lee, and Dan might just like her. Luckily, as best friend Tash reassures her, they always have the option of just flying away…

As we join Ava as she navigates her way through this minefield of complex relationships, from the exploitative to the genuinely heartfelt, Chandler weaves a narrative that is a mix of raw heady emotion with some truly lyrical writing.

The stand out performance for me was Siwan Morris’s portrayal of Ava’s Mum, Claire. Throughout her interactions with Ava there was a stark discrepancy between what I was seeing and how it made me feel. We witness a mother, riddled with jealousy, rejecting her daughter time and again, in complete denial of the fact that her judgement of a new partner could be at fault. Yet underneath this front we feel the desperation of Claire’s intrinsic love for her daughter, a love that perhaps blinds her to the fact that she could ever have wronged her to this extent. A denial which continues to define both her and her daughter’s lives. Morris draws us in with her subtle portrayal of Claire’s own vulnerability as she asserts, as if to convince herself more than us, that she ‘had no choice’.

Georgia Henshaw’s portrayal of Ava is brave, raw and heartbreakingly funny, achieving a sensitive balance between Ava’s anger and her innocence, which is frequently represented in the damaging relationships she enters to fill the void that the desperation for a sense of belonging can create. Georgia subtly teases out these different levels of Ava, from the frantic energy that exudes from the character when she is engaging with her mum, to the fiery exchanges her evident frustration at her circumstance often results in these exchanges resorting to.

What is undoubtedly a challenging view is softened by some stark moments of tenderness – beacons of hope which the audience cling to desperately amongst the evident turmoil Chandler’s characters are facing. The unfiltered emotion in Dan and Ava’s embrace, Ava’s raucous cackling as she’s tickled by Tash, Claire’s reluctant admittance that she may in fact have got it wrong; moments such as these provide some light relief for the audience and humanises the characters.

The world premiere of Katherine Chandler’s Bird at Sherman Cymru this month immerses audiences in a range of difficult themes which more often than not simply aren’t provided with a platform. By giving a voice to those who are increasingly marginalised by society and the media, Chandler humanises individuals in Ava’s position, providing a refreshing alternative narrative which challenges established preconceptions and explores the individuals behind the circumstance. Bird is a thought provoking piece and an accolade to Welsh new writing.

 

Director- Rachel O’Riordan

Writer- Katherine Chandler

Designer- Kenny Miller

Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater

Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin

Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy

Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Kiera Sikora

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If you believe that theatre should make you feel like you’ve been hit in the head and heart with raw, honest and thought provoking reality then ‘Bird’ is a play that will soar through your mind well after you’ve applauded and left the theatre.

Set by the coast ‘Bird’ follows the story of two young girls in a care home, lost to the loniless of forced and inflicted cruelty. Ava, played incredibly by Georgia Henshaw, is torn inside the comfort she wants and the comfort she is given. Her friend Tash (Rosie Sheehy) a victim of the same complex, is her stead and dancing heroine who speaks more sense than sense usually allows. Together they are our focus- and we are thrown into their world of dance, danger and desolate distress.

We meet Ava’s mother (Siwan Morris), an irate yet seemingly frightened woman with a brash voice and an even brasher manner, who’s discomfort with dialogue mirrors her daughter’s physicality, and we are immediately shown the disfunctional relationship the two share- with the reasons why hinted at ambiguously. We see from the very beginning that Ava longs for a relationship with her mother, the lack of which which we assume to be her reason for wanting to find a certain sense of comfort wherever she can. It is this search for comfort and security that throws both of these girls into the danger of the men around them. Dan (Connor Allen) is a young boy looking to get lucky with a kind wit and a convincing smile, and Lee (Guy Rhys) is a middle aged taxi driver looking to lure and nest young sparrows at their very weakest.

But it is what Chandler does here, that really makes ‘Bird’ the prime play that it is. She humanises each character. With every flaw and every laugh, every smile and every slice of persuasion- she lets us see the people inside the story so closely that you feel sick for thinking that you could like a person like Lee. The horrendous thing is, Bird shows you how easy it to like him. And also how easy it is for vulnerable young women to disregard themselves so deeply that they become a target for the inhumane vultures who prey on them as he does. We steer away from these people in society, we ignore them and hope that we aren’t the type to socialise with ‘people like them’. But when human interaction is all that you want because it’s all that you feel you need to make your world more liveable, then you will find it and you will saver it, whether it’s wrong or right because nothing is more overpowering than desire. It is that that connects Ava and Lee, Lee and Tash, Dan and Ava and indeed Claire and Paul. The connections, the emotion and the drama that corrupts these individuals is harrowing and it’s hunger for revelation is hurtfully desperate.

There is so much to be said for this play- it’s impact, it’s design, it’s softly suited sound and simplistic yet cleverly constructed set. But it’s what this play achieves, along with it’s strong cast and carefully crafted direction that headlines it’s importance. To voice what it is to be a person on the outskirts of a society that has disregarded them. And what it is to listen to those voices and know that it’s happening. It’s real. And that we must think. Deeply. Often.

Katherine Chandler yet again strikes a burning match with her words and invites the audience into a world that many feel they cannot or will not understand- we owe her greatly for giving us the chance to try.

‘Bird’ runs at the Sherman Cymru, Cardiff until 28th May and then at Royal Exchange, Manchester from 8th-25th June.

It’ll hurt your heart but it’s worth it.

Director- Rachel O’Riordan
Designer- Kenny Miller
Composer and Sound Designer- Simon Slater
Deputy Stage Manager- Charlotte Unwin
Lighting Designer- Kevin Treacy
Assistant Director- Elgan Rhys

Review Bird Sherman Cymru by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Ava (Georgia Henshaw) and Tash (Rosie Sheehy) are young, optimistic and disfigured teens. Their friendship and integral bond is rooted within the whirlwind of complicated lives and a callous society. As Ava dashes and flitters off every object, person and syllable, Tash is always at heights, dancing at the edge of the world – awaiting flight.

Never have I experienced such an encompassing performance. I strolled into the Sherman, and left sprinting. But, regardless of my train times, Bird is a play that melts the facades and the barriers, and leaves you trying to fly – in all senses of the word.

An elderly man, as the audience were sipping the last dregs of their wine/settling, I heard from the front row, turn to his wife and speculate ‘I think it’s a comedy’. ‘I don’t think so mate’ I quipped, in thought. However, now I see that Bird cannot be constrained to a genre, or what people want it to be. Ava – stunningly performed by Georgia Henshaw – has an infectious spirit and an undeniably truthful perception of life. Resulting in imposing moments of frolic and uncontained rage, I didn’t feel the back of my chair once. Rosie Sheehy, too, must be applauded. Her exploration of the depth within the thirteen-year-old was wonderfully perceptive and chilling.

Katherine Chandler is a writer who sees the world empathetically and urges us all to do so. Desperation is far too attainable as the play’s women appease the men surrounding them. Does the honesty of ‘It just got too much,’ vindicate all the vodka, and the manipulation, and the self-serving? Chandler holds up a mirror to the real world and the audience are almost blinded by the familiar reflections.

Close to the surface lurks the grit and tensions of the women’s lives. The set designed by Kenny Miller, ingeniously incorporates this theme as the characters stand upon the yellowing, moulded tiles of a swimming pool beneath a sky of industrial light.

‘Bird’ is a sharply directed play – so successfully done that it’s easy to forget it had to be constructed that way. Rachel O’Riordan presents a piece of astoundingly compelling theatre as every silence, gesture and intonation propels the audience deeper within the crevices of the narrative.

Very rarely do you leave the theatre in, slightly paralysing, awe. A play as impacting as ‘Bird’ is not to be missed!

“It’s All About the Bus” 3rd Act Critic Leslie Herman Jones on Sherman 5 and access to drama.

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(You know) It’s all about the bus…

When is a bus not a bus? When it’s a cycle bus or a walking bus. Please read on….

Guy O’Donnell coordinates Sherman 5 at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff. This Sherman 5 event supported a group of older people to see Happy Hour (written by Anita Vettesse; directed by Gethin Evans; and part of the Òran Mór series: A Play, A Pie and A Pint); and have a discussion afterwards.

When I pulled up on foot outside of The Sherman Theatre, I saw all these busses (as you do outside of a theatre on a performance day)…. and for some reason, this image resonated. I stored it away inside my writer’s brain, and went inside. And then I learned that when you join Sherman 5, and you book a ticket to see a range of the Sherman Theatre’s productions, you do not have to worry about getting there. Because (you know) it’s all about the bus, you can choose the Sherman 5 coach (which is a bus by another name), or you can choose the walking bus or a cycle bus.

I’d never heard of a walking bus or a cycle bus before now. Walking busses, I have since learned, operate for Sherman 5 family productions; and a lead cyclist will accompany audiences from the four Communities First areas of Cardiff to the theatre on Sherman 5 nights. That’s the Cycle bus. For further information, on this or any aspect of Sherman 5, please contact: –

Guy O’Donnell, Sherman 5 Coordinator, Sherman Cymru.
Tel 07703729079
E-mail guy.odonnell@shermancymru.co.uk
http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/sherman5/

Also steering this bus with Guy were Artistic Associate (and Happy Hour Director) Gethin Evans, and the Sherman’s Creative Learning Associate, Andrew Sterry.

This was an early matinee, 11am on a Thursday. That was just about the most perfect time for this event to occur. Five stars on timing, guys. And, instead of a pie and a pint, a cake and a cuppa were offered – very well received, thanks again!

As a dramatist, I can’t help but find symbolism in everyday occurrences, and like the busses, I knew that somehow the overturned milk jug during the interval would serve me. The play is about a dysfunctional family. ‘The family have gathered in the back room of the pub ready to scatter Dad’s ashes which currently reside in a Nike shoe box. But bitter resentments and long-held grudges might hinder Dad from resting in peace…’ Their ‘stuff’ (like the milk that accidentally spilt all over the Sherman foyer floor during the interval), spills across the pub floor in a tragic and hopeless way, as did the ashes in the penultimate scene….

The only ‘happy’ in this play was in its title. Happy Hour was not an easy play to watch; it left me feeling quite bereft. Personally, I am compelled to seek happy endings or at least a glimmer of hope in my own work; and I prefer to leave the theatre with some sense of promise so, when I asked on the day, I said I didn’t ‘like’ this play. But in retrospect, perhaps its dark rawness was its strength and perhaps it was necessary. (Perhaps Vitesse is writing a sequel? The characters were deep and full, and I was invested in their drama. I cared about them, and would like to know what has happened to them.)

I’d bet that the majority of older people in the audience, if not the world, can relate to family dysfunctionality in one way or another. By the time you’ve reached 50 it’s inescapable to have encountered it in one shape or form. And the discussion afterwards gave voice to their varied experiences. Respectfully, Andrew made the group aware that ‘the language of the Glasgow pub lives and breathes in the piece’. As the discussion again proved, there were not many in the group who hadn’t experienced vulgarity sometime or other in their lifetimes.

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The post show discussion

The happiest part for me was observing an audience of older people at the theatre for a challenging production. The team had considered age and appropriateness, and deemed Happy Hour fit for purpose. They also considered all the logistics and variables to ensure the success of experience. The discussion was well-led by Andrew Sterry, who genuinely made everyone feel welcomed and valued; and the extra added bonus of the STAR Communities Volunteers on site offering hearing-aid testing was a stroke of genius.

Leslie Herman Jones
Third Act Critic
8 December 2015

Review Ti.Me Cwmni Pluen by Kaitlin Wray

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Cwmni Pluen company presents Ti.Me, a performance that symbolised the worlds greatest universal language, love. It was a representation of what it’s like to fall in love, to be in love and then when love deteriorates. Through the construction of physicalisation, live music and spoken language the company infused deep symbolisation with comedy.

Directors Elgan Rhys and Gethin Evans devised this piece with performers Heledd Gwynn and Alan Humphreys. Together they had 2 weeks to create a performance, and from watching it, it felt like it was months of hard work. The piece was original yet relatable to every person who’s ever been in a relationship.

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The company in rehearsals

One of the main aspects that struck  me was the use of the English and Welsh language during the production. Heledd’s character was fluent in Welsh where as Alan’s wasn’t. When Heledd was frustrated she would speak in Welsh, therefore Alan’s character didn’t have a clue what she was saying. This was an interesting way to portray the lack of communication between them. Furthermore the physical language between them shone out. When they were deeply in love they would be breathing simultaneously together, conversely, when they were having problems they would be out of sync with each other. This simple method was powerful to watch as they would be pretending to each other that everything was fine, when everyone in the audience could see that it wasn’t.

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Performers Heledd Gwynn and Alan Humphreys

What made this piece stand out to me even more was the use of live music, composed by Chris Young. He used synthesisers to create music out of everyday sounds. The physical aspects of the piece wouldn’t have evoked as much emotion without the music. They go completely in hand.

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Composer Chris Young

This piece was emotional, hilarious and mesmerising to watch. The performers interacted together so perfectly that you would think they were actually a couple. It was a piece full of truthfulness and it would be a shame if you missed out on it.

The production can be seen at Galeri Caernarfon on the 18th of this month

http://www.galericaernarfon.com/digwyddiadau/manylion-digwyddiad.php?eventKey=2054