Tag Archives: Theatr na nOg

Review, Eye of the Storm, Theatr na nÓg at Pontio Arts Centre by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

My love affair with theatre began a few years ago with Under Milk Wood. Theatr Clwyd’s production of Dylan Thomas’ most famous work was a revelation, a conversion experience that has led me to take a seat for many a show since. Over the last year or so, such journeys have become less frequent. Life has a habit of evolving with time, and I think I lost a sense of what made theatre so special for me in the first place. Two plays have recently rekindled the fire within me. I do not think it a coincidence that both happen to be made and based in Wales. Along with Emily White’s Pavilion, Theatr na nÓg’s Eye of the Storm reflects the nation in which I live; the nation from which I claim part of my identity. I wonder whether a lack of representation has been a factor in my dulled appreciation of theatre. If so, these two plays have supercharged my passion for the medium back to life.

Set in a small town, post-mining community, Eye of the Storm draws numerous parallels with Pavilion. This includes a focus on young people and the theme of aspiration. Writer and director Geinor Styles chooses to tackle the challenges faced by this demographic through an excellent supporting cast that circle around the main lead, played by Rosey Cale. Cale gives a strong and quietly emotive performance as Emmie Price, an intelligent and practical teenager whose ambition to study tornadoes at an American University is severely tested by the circumstances of her present reality. Living in a caravan with her mum, who has bipolar disorder, Emmie must juggle her role as a young carer with the demands of school and household chores, along with negotiating the rent and constant electricity problems with inept park manager Mr Church (Keiron Bailey). It is a wonder that she has the time, let alone the inclination, to dream big. Yet Styles has created a dogged and determined young woman whose empowering presence makes her the perfect role model for those facing adversity. She represents what can be achieved if you pursue your dreams in spite of your present situation.

Geinor Styles

Eye of the Storm is an uplifting narrative that does not shy away from the difficulties of life but adds splices of humour throughout. The poise and astuteness of Emmie is beautifully contrasted with the lovesick innocence of Lloyd, the cartoonish physicality of Dan Miles making for a truly affectionate character. Along with Keiron Bailey, who is fantastically hilarious as class clown Chris, Miles ensures that laughter is never far away in this production. For all that it deals with bigger issues such as climate change and the effects of austerity, like Pavilion, the real joy of Eye of the Storm is in its shrewd observance of ordinary life. The characters on stage are recognisable, relatable; all the more so to a predominantly Welsh audience who see and hear something of themselves reflected, including in the witticisms and references that season the script with a particularly Welsh flavour.

The script is bolstered by an original soundtrack created by prolific songwriter Amy Wadge. Most recently known for her work on Keeping Faith, here the ethereal, soulful sounds that accompanied Eve Myles and co are nowhere to be found. Instead, country music provides the backdrop to the action on stage. And it complements the narrative really well, offering extra pathos to the character arc of Emmie in particular. ‘Emmie Don’t Say’ is my personal favourite track, not least because Cale and Caitlin McKee (Karen) duet with such gorgeous harmonies, creating a poignant and tear-inducing moment that also represents a neat summary of the character of Emmie. It is a song that will stay with me for some time to come.

Awarded ‘Best Show for Children and Young People’ at the Wales Theatre Awards, such an accolade could lead to some confusion over its target demographic. Indeed, if my motivation to see Eye of the Storm had not come off the back of meeting Rosey Cale in her other guise as an independent singer-songwriter, it is highly likely I would have overlooked it entirely, considering I’m now approaching thirty. It is certainly a show suitable for children and young people but do not mistake Eye of the Storm as a show written exclusively for this age group. It can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone from 8-98. Indeed, overhearing the feedback as the audience filtered out at the end, it was overwhelmingly positive, from old and young alike. Coming off the back of Pavilion, it certainly made its mark on me. It reignited that spark which I had lost somewhere along the way, returned through seeing something of my own life reflected on stage. Eye of the Storm has been, for me, a reminder of the importance of representation on stage.

Click here for show dates and tickets.

gareth

Review Tom The Musical by James Briggs

Tom1A thrilling new musical has hit Cardiff Bay this week in the form of Tom Jones: The Musical. Presented by Theatr na nÓg/TNN and performed at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. It is long overdue that the pop sensation from Treforest, South Wales gets the ultimate honour of a show telling his story. As I was born in the 90’s it was only as I got older that I began to find out about Tom Jones and his wonderful music. As a young boy I would always hear his music playing on my mothers CD player (she is quite the fan!). When attending the musical I was well aware of his best hits but not so sure about his story and how he rose to fame. I must say the opening to the musical came as a surprise when the Narrator said “There’s not a bar he didn’t walk into or a chip shop window he wasn’t pushed through,” which I must say came as quite a shock. As Tom Jones’ story began to unwind in front of the audience we saw him at a young age already in good voice but working in a paper mill. He strived to be just as good as his father and provide for his family. The progression from this young boy to the superstar he is now was really something to be admired.

Tom the Musical Gordon Mills

The musical focuses on the early years of Tom Jones’ life. The star of the show is Kit Orton who plays the teenage Tommy Woodward later to become Jones. We see the relationship blossoming between Tommy and his girlfriend Linda, whom he married and had a child with at the age of just 16. We see the early gigs with his band The Senators in Welsh valley’s working men’s clubs and the regular occurrence of local raffles offering a 12lb turkey as the main prize.

Tom 2

Kit Orton has too been given a fantastic voice of his own. However many attending the show including myself were going with Tom Jones’ voice in mind for the most famous songs and so it took some adjusting but by the end of the show the audience are up dancing and singing with him, as though Orton was actually Tom Jones. Those early years didn’t feature Tom Jones’ most memorable hits, but Orton was able to deliver plenty of toe tapping covers from the swinging sixties. There was even a very brief blast from The Kinks with ‘You Really Got Me’ showcasing the excellent talent of the on stage band.

As good as the show was there was a part of me left feeling the first act of the musical seemed a little slow. I think that an inclusion of some of Jones’ famous hits could have been used to help tell the story a little better. Many of the first act featured music composed by other musicians opposed to the hits of Tom Jones and so left the audience wanting to hear more of Tom Jones’ songs opposed to covers. There was also the inclusion of the struggles with Tom Jones’ then manager Gordon Mills and him almost going bankrupt to make Tom Jones a star.

Tom3

It was the end of the show that really got the audience going. Suddenly the staging changed from a set representing Tom Jones as he was much younger to how a concert would look today. A large rig lowered on stage full of lights and the party really began! The finale was a medley of Tom’s hits which instantly got loud cheers and applause from the packed audience. The auditorium changed from theatre to pop concert with everyone up dancing and singing. Favourite’s for many in the audience definitely seemed to be ‘Delilah’ and ‘What’s New Pussycat’. With the show ending on a standing ovation you could tell the musical was a hit, and it most definitely was. However I can’t help but feel if there had been more inclusion of Jones’ hits during the production the audience would have been even more impressed. There are no boots bigger to fill than that of Tom Jones’ his booming voice is most definitely a one off but Kit Orton does a wonderful job. This is most definitely the musical for any Tom Jones fan but more so if you would like to find out the story of how he rose to fame.

Tom: A Story of Tom Jones The Musical is currently showing in the Wales Millennium Centre until the 12th March 2016 and then tours the UK.

http://www.tomthemusical.co.uk