The Sherman Theatre has, in recent years, become the most dynamic, forward-thinking and vibrant centre for the arts in Wales. Its productions are idiosyncratic in style yet universal in their message. And I’m sure you already knew all that. But haven’t you ever wondered how it looks beneath the surface? Well, guess who’s going to give you a whistle-stop tour from the comfort of your very own phone/laptop screen. Yes, me.
As part of my work experience, I got to spend a week roving around different theatres, snooping behind-the-scenes, probing directors and being generally nosy. And you lucky dogs get to know all about it through this mini blog. Not so I can brag – god forbid. Rather to alert you of all the bubbling arty hubbub that’s happening right underneath your nose.
The Sherman isn’t just made up of the one theatre. In fact, the entire building has the potential to become a stage. Lighting rigs even adorn the walls of the foyer should the Sherman staff feel the need to break into spontaneous dance. A regular appearance in the foyer is an open mic artistic event called Scratch That Itch supported by National Theatre Wales TEAM, where ten artists perform for ten minutes each to relieve themselves of their, erm, itch. Not a literal itch, of course; otherwise I’d advise some sort of cream.
The main theatre is more of a Grecian coliseum blissfully devoid of a bad seat. It is that broad sense of inclusion and versatility that compliments the aim of the Sherman.
The ‘other’ theatre, soon to be named The Studio, is even more versatile – a bare, black room housing nothing but chairs and an eerie white table. This space clearly lends itself to new writing allowing the text to stand unadulterated and unobscured. If raw, unabashed performance is what you’re after, this is the place to go.
You’d think seeing the set design workshop would spoil the magic but I think it only enhances it. The workshop comprises assorted detritus that looks extracted from a plethora of different realms, but are all mere replicas fashioned in incredibly deceiving ways. For instance, the mirrors are not glass but Perspex to avoid smashing. I guess all that glitters really isn’t gold, but probably spray-painted plastic.
The versatility continues in the rehearsal rooms which act as essentially blank canvases for anything remotely arty ranging from Shakespeare to high-octane street dance. The rooms are so immodestly naked that not much can be said of them apart from the immense feeling of freedom they can provide.
And that brings us to the end of our tour. Don’t stop there, though. Come and roam around there for yourself; I’d certainly advise you to visit this autumn with the wildly diverse season it’s boasting. Kicking off the autumnal season is the ‘unashamedly vulgar’ sexual comedy Wendy Hoose on 10th and 11th Sept. The romance continues with Shakespeare’s eternal tragedy of forbidden love Romeo and Juliet – the exciting first show by the Sherman’s new artistic director, Rachel O’Riordan and perfect for students who are fed up of over-analysing the text at school.
If love’s not the sort of thing you need in autumn, comedy could work instead. I’m looking forward to red-headed raconteur Ruby Wax who is bringing her show on mental illness and mutual insanity Sane New World after the release of her acclaimed book.Well, if that’s not your thing, novelist and Mock the Week regular Mark Watson will also be tickling audiences with his latest show Flaws.
As if the Sherman couldn’t get any more varied in their season, they’re also putting on a fusion of martial arts and hip-hop with The Five & The Prophecy of Prana just after a serious slice of contemporary opera in the form of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, composed by Philip Glass. Now that’s what I call diversity.
So, hopefully, this blog has urged you to get on the next train to Cathays and pop in to the Sherman. Please do. Hey, if you do it this week, you might see me there. Hope that doesn’t put you off!
Words and Pictures By Sam Pryce