Tag Archives: The Other Room

An interview with Ben Atterbury, Associate Artistic Director, The Other Room

Hi pleased to meet you. Can you please give our readers some background information on yourself and your role in the arts in Wales?

Hi! My name is Ben Atterbury and I’m an English Literature graduate turned Digital Marketeer turned Creative Producer turned Associate Artistic Director (whatever that means, titles are a funny thing). I grew up loving theatre and, although not Welsh myself, I spent three brilliant years at University falling in love with Cardiff and decided to stick around for a bit afterwards; it felt like something was about to happen in the city and I wanted to be around and be a part of it. That thing happened a year later when I met Kate Wasserberg and Bizzy Day and started to help them set up The Other Room, where I still work, although I now run the theatre with Bizzy and our newly appointed Artistic Director, Dan Jones.

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/
Can you tell us about the work your company is taking to this years Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Seanmhair is a new play by the brilliant Welsh writer Hywel John. It is a play about a chance meeting between two children, Jenny and Tommy, on the streets of Edinburgh that brings about a terrible reckoning upon them both, which resonates and reverberates throughout both their lives. It’s a vivid and dynamic show about love, fate and blood beautifully performed by three incredible female actors who play the central character Jenny at different stages of her life, along with every other character in the story. It fuses epic romance with a kind of modern poetry and I’d never really read anything quite like it, so it’s brilliant to see it brought to life, first in Cardiff at our theatre, The Other Room, and now as it moves to Edinburgh!


How is work selected to go to the festival?

One of the most brilliant things about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is that if you have something that you want to take, you can take it. With the growth and expansion of things like the Free Fringe over the past 20 odd years the only barriers that exist now are practical; most financial. Bigger producers (Pleasance, Underbelly, Summerhall etc.) obviously have more selection barriers and they will programme the work they think is the best fit for their programme and their venue but ultimately, the only person who can select whether to be at the fringe or not is you!
Wales Arts International who have funded some of the companies this year state,

“The idea is to help the selected Welsh companies to present their work at the Fringe in the best possible way – with the best conditions – and, importantly, to connect with international promoters and programmers participating in the British Council Edinburgh Showcase.”

Why is their support important along with Arts Council Wales and British Council Wales?

It’s crucial. Without this support the huge financial risk that we are taking in mounting such an ambitious show in Edinburgh would be insurmountable. This investment in the arts (and it is investment) actively takes work made in and for Wales and places it firmly on the international stage at the biggest arts festival in the World. If we are to live in a country and a world that values and promotes culture, and I would prefer that we did, the support of organisations like Wales Arts International, the Arts Council of Wales and the British Council is of critical importance in affording us the opportunity to be daring, risky and ambitious in pursuit of making great theatre.
The festival features a huge range of productions and there is great deal of competition for audiences, why should audiences come and see your companies work?
Audiences should come and see our work because it features amazing performers telling a dark, gripping story in a beautifully designed space with really cool lights and sound. And the comfiest theatre seats in Edinburgh. In all seriousness, they won’t have seen anything quite like Seanmhair before, and the seats really are very, very comfy.
Welsh artists/Companies will be showcasing a range of art forms including theatre, new writing, site-specific work and contemporary dance. In your opinion is there anything that is distinctly Welsh which links them?

Unfortunately I can’t speak in absolutes here as not only have I not seen all of the shows, but I’m not Welsh myself. But I would question the idea of something distinctly Welsh that links the work itself; I think what does bind us is that spirit of all being Welsh companies, together, in Edinburgh, showing work that was made here at home. There’s a bond and a solidarity in that I think, that I’m really looking forward to strengthening over August.
What would you recommend seeing from the other Welsh/Wales based companies going to this year’s festival or perhaps the festival as a whole?


All of it! Obviously in terms of new writing and our own tastes we’ve got to give those Dirty Protest kids a shout out (they’ll be over at the Paines Plough Roundabout) but honestly, go explore! It’s what Edinburgh is all about. In a festival as a whole sense, I’ll definitely be booking in for The Wardrobe Ensemble’s Education Education Education and Barrel Organ’s new show, but that’s all you’ll get from me for now!


What do the artists and companies do when they aren’t performing?
Watch shows and drink beer. Although I’m really only speaking for myself on that one!
What’s the best Fringe show you’ve ever seen?

Oh that’s really hard! I’ve seen some of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the fringe. But one that’s always stayed with me was a show by Chris Larner called An Instinct For Kindness, it was a one man show about Chris taking his ex-wife (who he had remained great friends with) to Dignitas after she was overwhelmed by her multiple sclerosis. It was so moving, beautifully simple and passionate that yeah, I think it’s stuck with me ever since.

http://www.aifk.co.uk
Thanks for your time Ben.

 Listings  

Fri 28 July, 8pm & Sat 29 July, 3pm & 8pm

Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre

Tickets – www.otherroomtheatre.com

 2-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-28 August at 4.55pm

Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49)

Tickets – www.edfringe.com

 

Review Blackbird The Other Room by Kiera Sikora

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All photographic credits Kirsten McTernan

4 Stars4 / 5

Set in an office break room, as unclean as their past, ‘Blackbird’ begins with Ray (Christian Patterson) and Una (Sophie Melville) on opposite sides of the small and intricate room, both wanting to speak whilst both unsure of what to say or where they can look.

With a firstly faltering light and some seriously uncertain small talk, a head-to-head confrontation begins between the two. They tell us of their past, how Una and Ray shared an illicit relationship which began and ended when Una was 12, and Ray 40, and how they both ended up here in Ray’s new life’s occupancy, after Una saw a photograph of him in a magazine. She tracked him down. And the past in put in front of them, staring at them in the flesh.

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What’s both horrendous and horribly beautiful about this play is how David Harrower has us question who the hell the victim is here. You see, Ray is not a monster- at least there was no sign of one at The Other Room for me. But his actions are undoubtedly monstrous. To abuse, a word prized from his own mouth by Una, a 12-year-old which has harmed her both emotionally and physically is evil. And there are more than a million of different kinds of evil in this world but I saw not just one on that stage, I indefinitely saw a few more. You see it seems that it is the cruelty of feelings that conjured up these horrendous events and emotional sky scrapers. Ray tells us that it was his genuine, non-tactical and uncontrollable desire to speak to Una. That ‘speaking’ lead to what they ultimately became. He would purposely look for ways and reasons to talk to Una not because he thought profusely about what she looked like naked but because he was emotionally attracted to her understanding of human feelings. Ray is likeable. Disturbingly likeable. You may well sit in the audience and see how he could be a very nice man to have a very nice chat with. He believes that Una ‘understood love’.

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But, for Una, it is that understanding of human feelings that could’ve been one of the ways in which she felt that she could and did love Ray. And it could’ve also been the reason why she thought he loved her too. From the beginning of the play we see that she is a girl who feels things on a deep and sensual level. That quality in a person is usually something that when discovered by somebody else can be a quality that helps them thrive together. But we can see here how that quality is what made her bleed for Ray. Una is delicate, a shadow of her youth who, though beautiful, is internally beaten. Seeing her at 27 with her heart pouring out of her mouth allowed us to see her as a 12-year-old. And seeing both her Ray (now 55) in the same room meant that what was put in front of us was two people who share a time that was both forbidden, but almost admittedly for both exclusively sometimes savoured.

This play is in very many senses difficult, wonderfully so under the direction of Rupert Hands who’s delicate and detailed direction compliments the script and its disorientating duologue of wretched honesty. It’s bright, bold and dissimilar design by Ruth Hall, with lighting designed by Alia Stephen and sound designed by Sam Jones commend the intricate space at The Other Room.

Christian Patterson and Sophie Melville are a credit to Harrower’s words making you throw your moral compass in a ditch and leave you wondering to the bar with no way of seeing what’s right and what’s honest.

Blackbird runs at The Other Room at Porter’s until Friday November 4th.

Prepare to be left in a concrete conflict of emotions.

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/seasons/autumnwinter-at-the-other-room/blackbird/

 

 

An Interview with playwright Kelly Jones

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Playwright Kelly Jones

Get the Chance values the role playwrights living and working in Wales bring to the cultural life of our nation. Here is our second interview in this series with  playwright Kelly Jones.

Hi Kelly great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I’m Kelly, a playwright and occasional performer based in Cardiff. Originally a Dagenham girl, I’ve lived in Wales since 2007. I moved here to study the final year of my degree at Swansea Met and never went back. My course was mainly performance based but after graduating I realised this wasn’t something I wanted to do, so I began writing. I took part in various writing initiatives to hone my craft and develop my voice and I got asked to write for a few shorts nights.

In 2013 I decided to leave my full time job in a betting shop to go full time freelance. It was the scariest and most exciting thing I have ever done. I’d been offered a place on NTW’s summer camp, however, my work said I couldn’t have the time off to go so I quit – It was a real now or never moment.

Since then I have won the Wales Drama Award with a play of mine called TAMMY, got an agent and have been offered commissions from various theatres. Oh and I also got married, which was very exciting! So that’s me.

So what got you interested in writing then Kelly?

When I was at university we did a unit called ‘ Writing for performance’ – I hated it. But after graduating I started writing parts for myself to show work at scratch nights and I caught the writing bug! It developed from there

I suppose the main reason I wanted to write was because I never felt there were parts for me; that said what I wanted to say about the world that I lived in at that time.

In my work I like to write life and put real people that I know at the heart of the action. Growing up in Dagenham I was led to believe that a career in theatre wasn’t meant for a girl like me by both peers and teachers. Fortunately I grew up in a very supportive family full of natural born storytellers and as a result I love to tell stories, of course I was meant for theatre! I like to challenge the idea of who theatre is for and often find myself using my upbringing in London and rooting in Wales as start points for my work.

You were part of the Sherman Theatres Young Writers Programme, how did this work?

Yeah, so not long after I moved to Cardiff I got involved with the Sherman’s Company 5 drama group, ran by Jason Camilleri and Llinos Mai. We did a performance piece of monologues we’d written about things that had happened to us. I wrote a comedy piece about when I came out as gay to my family. Llinos  really liked it and put me in touch with Sian Summers who used to be the literary manager at the Sherman and she invited me to be on the program. The program was so great! I learnt a hell of a lot and just being surrounded by other writers was motivating and inspiring. Alan Harris was a great teacher!

I think it’s incredibly important for writers to meet other writers; being a writer can be a lonely job and sometimes it just helps to have someone else to chat to.

As a playwright a lot of your work is funded through grants and the like have you ever approach the Arts Council of Wales or similar organisations for funding or support?

I have a good relationship with Arts Council Wales and have been very fortunate to receive funding from them. They’re approachable and friendly as an organisation and are always happy to help if you have questions.

I’ve found getting venues to produce your work is difficult in Wales and if you don’t self-produce sometimes unfortunately your work won’t get on.

As funding is limited I always try and seek it from other sources or contribute my own funds so that the amount I’m asking for is less. Sometimes this isn’t always possible but it’s important to get to know what else is out there.

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Kate Rowland (BBC Writersroom), Kelly Jones, Faith Penhale (BBC Wales Drama), John McGrath (Ex Artistic Director National Theatre Wales)

You were the winner of the Wales Drama Award 2014 that’s a brilliant achievement!, can you please tell us more about this award.

I still can’t quite believe it to be honest! It’s been nearly two years and it has opened so many doors for me. The award is a biannual prize given to a writer in Wales, supported by NTW/BBC Wales and BBC Writersroom. I submitted the first time it was launched in 2012 but didn’t get anywhere and to be honest the play was awful. I wrote what I thought the judges wanted which is not a good idea.

Before I submitted in 2014 I attended the session about the award hosted by the Sherman and it was during that session that I had the idea for my play, TAMMY. I submitted a real rough and ready first draft and never expected to get passed the first round. When the email came through to say I’d be shortlisted to the final 4 I laughed then cried then phoned my mum.

The next stage was an interview with the judges at Roath Lock, where we had to pitch two ideas- it was scary! I pitched a play and a TV series; the play is now a seed commission with NTW and the series in development with BBC Wales. I really enjoyed the interview process. Post winning; Lucy Gannon was appointment my TV mentor and Sherman Co produced a reading of my winning script TAMMY with NTW. There have been so many great things to come off the back of the award and I am excited for the next winner to start their journey.

 As a playwright award-winning playwrights Tim Price and most recently Katherine Chandler have mentored you. Why is this mentoring process important for playwrights? Do you think this support is something that should be funded for playwrights in Wales?

I think it is so important to have a mentor no matter what stage you are at. Mentors are a support and resources. Whether you want to talk something through with them or get them to read something of yours, that’s what they’re there for. Both Tim and Kath were great for me at different stages of my career.

In terms of funding it’d be great if their was funding for peer-to-peer mentoring.

I often get asked to read writers work and am more than happy to do it. However I’m not able to always give it the time it needs. I think funding could help free up some time to devote to it. A nurturing mentor program for writers would be great to help develop the next generation of talent.

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 Your play Blud was performed at the Other Room, it was set in the world of female football, which isn’t often seen on stage. Is presenting diverse views of the world important to you?

For me BLUD felt like a play about where I grew up. The women in my family are more into the football that the men and girls like Rita are ones I used to go to school with when I was a teenager.

I’d say it’s important to me that the world I know is represented on stage and with authenticity. I get very annoyed when I see something that plays to all the ‘poverty porn’ stereotypes. Especially when they’re written by someone who grew up in Chelsea who ain’t got a clue about growing up in a council house. I feel similarly about LGBT characters. A lot of my community work is with LGBT organisations and gay representation is very important in my work. I write and volunteer for LGBT organisations is to combat this. Authentic representation is very important and I would never attempt to write something I didn’t fully understand or have a personal relationship to.

 In your personal opinion what sort of support networks are there for playwrights in Wales, can more be done?

I think the biggest support network for writers in Wales is other writers. I think more could be done; I’m not quite sure what but maybe a writer led discussion would help to tackle this.

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To bring us up to date this autumn your play Snout will form part of A Play A Pie and a Pint and be performed at the Sherman Theatre/ ÒRAN MÓR. The synopsis of the play sounds intriguing! I wonder if you can tell us more?

Yes. The inspiration came from an article I read about fashion designers who we’re tattooing pigs and posthumously using their tattooed skin to make handbags, that sell for thousands of pounds. I began reading of farmers who were also doing this but using the pigs as blank canvases to advertise local businesses and help local economy. I found this fascinating and began writing. I was particularly shocked at this heightened level of exploitation to satisfy the demand for a handbag made from a tattooed animal. Animals are voiceless and as one of the most intelligent animals, pigs don’t have a say in this. It made me think of parallels to slavery, exploitation of some communities and modern day sexism.

So, the play is set in the back of a van on its way to the slaughterhouse. It shows the last hour in pigs Viv, Coco and Lacey’s life as they make plans to escape the chop. I wanted to question whether they have the right to escape when they were breed to be slaughtered and whether it’s right to kill animals for fashion that changes so often. I certainly wouldn’t want to end up as a jacket for Kim Kardashian.

Aesthetically, I wanted to play on the whole ‘Pie’ part of the evening and have the play feel like they audience are watching their dinner before it becomes their dinner- if that makes sense? The van is quite claustrophobic in a bit of lobster tank way and I want the audience to really feel for them whilst being surrounded by the smell of pork pies. It’s been amazing working with Oran Mor, Sherman and director Kenny Miller, it’s really allowed me to be bold in the choices I’ve made and write something really exciting. The first draft I submitted was quite different and Kenny really encouraged me to be braver and his support has been invaluable. I can’t wait for you all to see it

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/a-play-a-pie-and-a-pint-november-16/

Thanks for your time Kelly!

 

Young Artists Festival 2016, The Other Room by Lauren Ellis-Stretch

 

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5 Stars5 / 5

The Other Room Theatre, founded in 2014, is not only Cardiff’s first pub-theatre, but it is a platform for all theatre creatives in Cardiff to produce, showcase, and be showcased as exciting, emerging artists, in their own right. Also, did I mention that they are Fringe Theatre of the Year? This year’s cohort (the second to tread the, alcoholically doused, boards of Porter’s bar) certainly held a prestige in being there. The festival itself only reflects what The Other Room already embodies in its very existence: collaboration, support and exploration; a platform, a place where you land your first job. As participants of, not only, an intense work-shopping programme but a profit share job, the young artists finished the week with enough of the box office profits to forget the majority of the days before by paying their round at the bar. Young director, Bruno Chavez, (previously involved in the 2015 festival as a writer) beautifully articulated, when expressing his own experiences with TOR, that ‘The festival is a purified version of what theatre is.’ Bruno, as well as young writer Susan Monkton (previously an acting participant), are proof of TOR’s undeniable devotion to their community. And, after director Kate Wasserberg’s declared, on the very first day, ‘You’re our guys now’ the sentiment became only more solidified.

In order to respond to the festival with the respect and admiration that I hold for it, and everyone involved, demanded from me was a personal investment – a vulnerability and an immersion. I began writing a play about garden gnomes, I played a ‘dramatised’ game of ‘Never have I ever’, and began to develop a directorial eye for pioneering, new theatre. But, I never f***ed the chair… So, yes, I now hold very little objectivity, but the The Other Room’s dedicated ethos in its love for artists is infectious.

It seems only apt that TOR team would open the festival, Monday morning, with an introduction to starting a company from scratch. Something emphasised by every industry professional from Tamara Harvey (Artistic Director of Theatr Clwyd) to Gemma McAvoy (Agent from Emptage and Hallett) was the roots accessible to an emerging artist, and a desire to empower the individuals. Unfortunately, if I were to delve as far as I would like, into all the insightful workshops we have experienced this week, this would end up resembling a governmental report, so that’s not happening. However, highlighted by Tamara and Kate was a need for equality within our industry (not only as female directors but as parents, regardless of gender); it is something that I’d like to reiterate. Following http://www.pipacampaign.com/, provides support to the Parents in Performing Arts campaign, allowing equal opportunities and access for parents and carers working in the performing arts. Now, for any aspiring theatre makers, to gain just some of the knowledge and empowerment that the chosen 40 artists involved in the festival have acquired, the following websites are not to be overlooked: https://www.equity.org.uk/home/ and http://www.arts.wales/. Of course, you could just sign up for next year’s festival. Stay posted via http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/.

Acting, writing, stage management and directing are professions massively stigmatised, and consequently individuals succumb to a generalised stereotype. The stereotype is wholly valid… Stereotypically, they are rule-breaker. Artists – they deify revolution, eccentricity and creation! Required for such demanding crafts are: specifically unique individuals, indispensable in their, collaborative, quest for creation. So, these people, that is what this article and this festival is all about.

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Most of the week culminates to the formation of the artistic companies and their performances of new, ten minute, plays written by acclaimed playwrights; Joel Horwood, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Lisa Jen, Alun Saunders and Sam Burns. Shadowing these companies has not only been insightful, but a lot of fun! At this point I would like to throw a shout out to Porthcawl Comp who let me chill in a bar all week, in the name of work experience – you the real MVP. So, without any further ado, here’s what the companies did, and how that became to be.

 

Mirror Loop – Morgan Lloyd Malcolm

A primal uproar against society’s shredding and crippling expectations. As women continue to precipitate actions of self-deprecation and disbelief in ability we subject the next generation to the cycle. The unity of women in a palindrome of a script. Of course, we could also see the piece as a comparison between the mid-life crisis and the intoxicated, purposeless 20 something.

What really struck me about this company, led by Seren Vickers, was the call for an open dialogue and conversation. As a response to this, actors, Andrea Edwards and Alexandra Lewis clearly embedded their souls, in a devotion to the truth within this piece of feminist prose. The scattering of a character’s direction, thoughts and inanimate props seamlessly fuel an uprising for something more.

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Look Up – Nicola Reynolds

Thought provokingly normal. All of us have had conversations which hold a clear resemblance to that of these characters’. We all have experienced, or can acknowledge, a friendship with unexplainable depth; how much do we, and can we, actually understand? And, should we be questioning the societal demands to talk ‘Game of Thrones’ around confessional suicidal thoughts. Susie Gale and Lauren Page, in the space of days, were able to develop an unwavering bond that bred a very real and tangible world within The Other Room.

The bleakness of an exposed hate, post-EU Referendum, the indifference to prior civil awakenings, and the objectification of a society’s primped and preened as sexual props. A constant agitation, an uprising within one’s self simply leaving only an ugly aggressor. ‘I’m twenty two and I’m so tired.’ It isn’t too extravagant of a statement, really.

A piece demanding in such an investment from one’s self (a vulnerability to be showcased) also demanded a directorial nurturing – with compassionately insistent nudges Nicola Reynolds urged and empowered her actors to be able to ‘pick it up,’ by themselves – resulting in a flawless performance.

The Ugly Pen – Sam Burns

The timeless story of how ugly boy meets ugly girl.

In a societal info structure of discrimination and oppression those who stand up are the ‘ugos’. As an audience positioned to be inactive, unaffected ‘tourists’, Sam Burns and this company dare to question our responsibility to accept and cherish all within our society. So, the cast defiant, and unrefined, challenge us. As the four cast members stand within their chalked ‘ugly pen’, their entitled ‘environment’, what cannot be suppressed is their voice of antagonism, as the characters insuppressibly narrate their stories.

For this cast, perhaps the most blatant, if not most challenging, of obstacles was their own attractiveness. Yet, alike a blinding charisma – counteracting a director’s, somewhat, restricting vision – their gurning faces shone through a window (coverall hole) of opportunity.

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You Make Me – Joel Horwood

Tobias Weatherburn and Rebecca Ormorod are tireless fabricators of energy. Director Emily Stroud offered an open plane for exploration – evident in a mutual vision of their story as a (brave) freed movement allowed actors to thrive.

Horwood’s script holds matter to the derailed relationship – what will be the inerasable snapshots in the aftermath? Nostalgia has become a cultural phenomenon. Facebook memories, snapchat, timehop, Horwood and the company suggest that it’s not just a self-indulgence but a self-inflicted spiralling of regret and, with a scattering of joy, an inevitable sadness. With the cast’s domineering presence it hauls an immediacy of passion.

Frozen – Lisa Jen

Strikingly real, relevant and receptive. Bruno Chavez simplistically stages the offensive stamp of a Western civilisation upon a broken people. Through its dialogue is an exposed brutality, torment and desperation, captivatingly delivered in Melanie Steven’s (symbolically) broken English, but through Disney’s lyrical genius it swells in gravity.

My first interaction with this group included a frenzied, exploration of youth with cast member Carys McQueen. Yes, we danced to ‘For the First Time in Forever’, and it was art. But, now, ‘Open up the gate’ will never sound as self-possessed, or melodic, to audiences as it was before. From young Rima’s wandering escapism to her mother’s entrapment, both actors selflessly stripped inhibitions raw. A desperation – in Carys’ fixation and Melanie’s stare -, and an intensity of character than only a subjection to abject horror can bring. An essential provocation.

Blue Sky Thinking – Alun Saunders

People, bacon, insecurity. What does any of it really mean? Seriously, it would make my job a lot easier. However, in the uncertainty is its charm. Frederick Wienand confines his actors to a self-containment of character as they interweave monologue. The performance itself exudes an air of philosophical debate. Through all the societal questioning, the cast master a comedy eased from simplicity and truthfulness. A coincidental humour in coincidental lives.

‘What is in the script, and what have we invented?’ A question posed by, actor and mentor to the artists, Steffan Rhodri. Not only for a progression in the script’s direction, but also as an existential question for the characters. What boundaries do draw, what mechanisms do we develop, how do we structure humanity?  Engaging and endearing.

A Play That Isn’t About Sex – Joel Horwood

I have spent days in tormenting deliberation as to how I could express my love for this group without sounding perverted… the eternal struggle. This group exposed themselves in a way in which I have never seen people soberly do – this circle of trust stimulated by director Duncan Hallis was almost a testament to humanity.

Experimentation and exploration was key to this piece. A use of physicality, embedded and emphasised from the first rehearsal, enabled the symbolising of tyrannical power, or down-trodden vulnerability, or a corrupted youthfulness. Sex in the grand scheme of things? It embodies everyone. It embodies our everyday lives. War, children, food, euphoria, disturbance. The opting to possess a sense of ambiguity within the piece maximised an accessibility to it, as well an acceptance of murky circumstances. Seven exceptional performers with one chair, in unity, highlighted an unquestioned societal morality in the availability of sex as an inanimate exercise. At what age did we begin to sexualise bananas?

‘A Play That Isn’t About Sex’ – Allowing ourselves to feel in an overwhelmingly constructed reality. But, perhaps it’s easier to do when ‘The chair doesn’t have eyes.’

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Too often forgotten, but never to be unappreciated in their abilities and dedication are the stage managers. Dunyasha Barrow and Amy Arkle-Jones (mentored by, the festival’s Stage Manager, Steffi Pickering) managed two groups each, in which they took a responsibility for; the sourcing of props and costumes, lighting and sound – all that is technical. Rehearsal reports and call sheets. It is all mind- numbing, so here’s an homage to you guys. Also, there’s young artistic lighting designer Alia Stephen who devotedly lighted every single performance with skillful insight. I’ll move on now, because we all know you’re not ones to relish in the spotlight.

Writers – ever enigmatic and elusive – were to emerge on the Friday morning with their plays to offer, each in their own specifically self-deprecating way. From Monday’s workshop with playwright Mathew Bulgo – hospitable in its musing silence and offerings of Haribo Starmix – the young writers began to develop (or birth) their stories. Bulgo, as well as playwrights Gary Owen and Alun Saunders, tutored their writers through the struggles of writers block and finding their own voice. Seamlessly flowing words, the visualisation of text/the creation of something ‘watchable’ – the pinnacle of the craft. They are all very smart, but in addition to that, writers strip themselves to expose a vulnerability, which many artists would never dare to do. But, it’s the sharing – that’s the scary part. But, the love they receive from those they share their pieces with – that’s what they chase. From the corner that I peered from, from the bar stool that I perched on, in every initial reading there was a warmth and a collective of smiles as the gravity of what was happening, and what these pieces symbolised, was digested.

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Warlines – Holly Fry

Holly, in response to meeting a sincere and personable tramp in London, took to chronicle the strands of such an unfortunate life. A truthfully cutting Welsh voice. In its simplicity and cheery pessimism, a silenced story and people rise. Insightful and intelligent.

Angus – Bruno Chavez

Daring, unconventional and shameless.

Schizophrenia – a mystery to many in its misrepresentation, and ‘taboo’ nature – is tormenting in its clarity, in this striking piece. Demanding in investment, a menagerie of individual response, as well as embodiment and exploration surfaces, for an audience, as well as performers. In their addressing, the audience are torn from their self-contained bubble, and seized.

Service Please – Melanie Stevens

Melanie Stevens sings the anthem of a people – a people who work in customer service. With a singeing relatability and humour, Melanie encompassed the audience with ease. Within a simple reminder that waitresses are people what surfaces is a profoundly honest, and suppressed outrage.

Always Tuesday – Emily Garside

A real world full of real people. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine.

Emily Garside offers a special relationship – with dark intricacies – and it’s fascinating. Do we just comply with society’s rules of relationships/connecting? And, how meaningful can these ‘approved’ relationships be?

Through art and cake we are happy – discussion or involvement in a form of creation, beauty and self-indulgence. (Garside’s piece, intended or not, truly embodies the Young Artists Festival itself.) Of course, vomit too – as a subject – can fasten a connection with human kind. But, through a fear of rejection, or being denied, we discuss soaps instead of mental illness.

‘I’ve tried mindfulness, but I prefer vodka’

Bloody Paperwork – Lawrence Quilty

Is there truly a humanity behind politics? Politicians. What are they pushed to? Trained to be? I ask because I have no idea. Like, how I assume, many of us feel about politics.

Something highlighted in a rehearsal of the piece was the character’s movement. Confined by so many bodies Aiden Glass (MP) can only infiltrate or resign – a life in parliament. But, these people have families. Those families are hounded as the tabloid media stir and agitate within the pot-holes of fear within a nation. Corruption has seeped so deep it has stained even the bed-rock of our democratic nation.

Quilty skilfully probes into the intrigue of a plagued and destructive system.

Who Was Howell Davies? – Dai Hill

Death is awkward. Where is the line when discussing the dead? Perceptive in the exploration of a relationship between father and children, and with a compassion documents the life of a man plagued by his hindrances. A blinding ignorance and naivety in Hill’s characters sources a golden Welsh humour. But, with it comes the undertones of a despondent, misogynist Welsh working class.

Beautiful – Susan Monkton

A conflict of interest. Rape. Who is to blame?

An issue as relevant today as it was for previous generations. A simple misunderstanding, illustrated through destructive, self-assured monologues. Monkton’s twining of dialogue highlights a desired gender equality disregarded by the sports industry. Class, sexism, mental illness all suppressing; whether they silence or provoke is profoundly individual. The actors sat, inactive. In its rehearsed reading Emily Stroud brought a required simplicity to the staging; it is how it is deciphered – true and false.

C

 

Lastly, I would just like to thank all the wonderful artists who welcomed me to create with them, and shared their work with me. I don’t doubt that I will see you and your work sometime in the near future, hopefully in The Other Room.

Review (BSL) A Sunny Disposition The Other Room by Heather Patterson and Gareth Freeman

 

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This is a BSL review of A Sunny Disposition, written and directed by Nicola Reynolds, performed  at The Other Room, Cardiff. A written transcription is available below the video.

Hello, my name is Heather Patterson and this is Gareth Freeman.

We recently went to see a performance in Porters which had a small theatre inside a pub! Gareth felt the pub had a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere. The BSL interpreter was on hand to give information before the performance started.

We watched a performance called ‘A Sunny Disposition’ which was performed by a single actor throughout for approximately an hour. The story was about the effects of alcoholism and it’s knock on effects on others.

Heather asked Gareth how he felt watching the performance and he said that the story hit home as he has personal experiences of this in the family. Gareth felt that the story was realistic and he could connect with it. Heather mentioned the impact, the memories and how it can affect you as a person.

Heather asked Gareth how he managed to watch the performance using a BSL interpreter? It was generally felt by Gareth that the story was not lost in translation, he possibly missed the understanding of some signs used due to the regional dialects used in BSL but this did not affect the overall enjoyment. The venue was perfect for this type of performance as you are so close to the acting to be able to read all the emotions in the actors face and body language.

In the Q&A session Gareth wanted to asked questions but felt he did not have the confidence to do so. He wanted to say how much this performance related to his own experiences. The Q&A session was interesting and we both enjoyed that part.

We felt that that the story was realistic, emotional and understood the issues that it had a powerful impact on us. We both agreed having addiction issues were not easy for the person and others living with it.

Heather asked Gareth if this performance should be seen by more deaf people and he felt that everyone was different but encourages them to see it. Gareth will definitely be going to see more performances in Porters as it gives him an avenue to relate to his feelings/personal issues through theatre. Having theatre in BSL enables Gareth to have a social life, to enjoy watching things on an equal par to others (those who can hear) and generally feel less isolated.

We were most impressed that the writer wrote the story based on her own personal experiences, this helped us to really absorb the story and the performance. We will certainly look forward to another story by the same writer.

Thank you for watching us.

Review A Sunny Disposition The Other Room by Caitlin Finn

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A Vlog review by Young Critic Caitlin Finn of A Sunny Disposition written/directed by Nicola Reynolds, The Other Room, Porters Cardiff.

4 Stars4 / 5

A Sunny Disposition, The Other Room, Porters, Cardiff.

Cast:
Charlie – Neal McWilliams

Creative Team:
Director – Nicola Reynolds
Designer – Amy Jane Cook
Lighting Designer – Jane Lalljee
Sound Designer – Matthew Jones
Stage Manager – Lauren Dennis
Assistant Director – Alex Parry
Photographer – Aenne Pallasca

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/seasons/insomnia/a-sunny-disposition/

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Lois Arcari

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review Constellation Street The Other Room by Kiera Sikora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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