Guy O'Donnell

Hi I am Guy the project coordinator for Get The Chance. I am a trained secondary teacher of Art and Design and have taught at all Key Stages in England and Wales. I am also an experienced theatre designer and have designed for many of the theatre companies in Wales.

An Interview with Playwright Emily White

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


I grew up in Powys in the countryside on the outskirts of various small villages and towns (we moved a lot) although my mum now lives in Carmarthenshire in the countryside.  I started off wanting to be an actress and moved to London and trained at RADA when I was in my early twenties.  I acted professionally for some years, mostly in theatre and ran a theatre company with some friends for a while that did fringe shows in pub theatres in London and then I got to my mid-thirties and decided I needed to do something different so I went to University in York and did an MA in theatre writing, directing and performance.  When I decided to become a mature student I didn’t really have a new career in mind, I just wanted a degree because when I was at RADA you didn’t get one.  I was never particularly studious in High School (although I was always good at English and Drama) and I hadn’t written an essay since GCSE’s so I was amazed and thrilled to discover I was really good at it and that I really loved the playwriting part of the course especially.  I left with a distinction and hangover and haven’t stopped writing since.

So what got you interested in the arts?

My parents split up when I was two years old and my dad went back to London where he was from and my mum and I went to live in Wales.  My dad came from a working class background where no one in his family were interested in the arts but somehow he developed a love of the theatre and used to go to loads of plays and get the cheap seats way up in the gods and he also loves books and films and art, and passed all that on to me.  When I was three he got us cheap seats to see Peter Pan at the National Theatre and I was totally enthralled by it and apparently when we left the theatre I said ‘that’s what I want to do dad.’ So from then on whenever I went to visit him in London he would take me to the theatre, he’d take me to see Shakespeare, Chekhov, Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett and I just loved it, not that I totally understood everything that was going on but there was something magical about it all the same.  


My mum encouraged me to join Mid Powys Youth Theatre and Powys Dance when I was a teenager and I was really lucky to have some fabulous teachers and directors working with me who were really inspiring and got us all to work really hard and research whatever we were doing a show about – for example we did a show called ‘Frida and Diego’ about Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera so you had a bunch of kids in Wales learning about Mexican revolutionary painters and Mexican culture and Mexican dancing – totally mad and brilliant (not sure our accents were that authentic though!).  Mid Powys Youth Theatre won the National Youth Theatre awards twice and we got to come up to London to perform at the National Theatre – which was so exciting for all of us as teenagers as you can imagine.  


And my dance teacher at Powys Dance gave me my first professional job; touring a dance piece around Wales – which was during my GCSE’s so I’d finish and exam and leg it out the school gates to jump in a tour bus, go and perform and be back in school the next day for another exam.  I couldn’t have done any of that without the support of my parents so I’m really grateful to them for encouraging me to pursue the things I loved.  


Your new play Pavilion opens at Theatr Clwyd this autumn before then playing at The Riverfront in Newport. The production  has a wonderful tag line of “Dance.Drink.Fight.Snog” please tell us more!

The play is set in an old run down Pavilion where the local Friday night disco takes place every week and the whole community is out because the Pavilion is about to be closed down.  There has also been a protest that day about the High School being closed and merged with another school in a nearby town – so everyone’s a bit on edge.  One of the unique things about growing up in a small town is there’s only one place to go out and dance, so young and old have to socialise with one another and everyone knows everyone which makes for great drama and comedy.  So it’s a play about the effects of austerity on a rural community but it’s also a loud, raucous, all singing, all dancing, funny night out in a town full of larger than life characters.  


Pavilion takes place in a “small town in a forgotten corner of Wales.” As a Welsh writer how do you feel Wales has been represented on stage and screen recently?

We don’t see nearly enough stories about the Nations on our screens and stages and personally I think it’s important that we do, I feel representing the whole of the UK should be part of the diversity that theatre and television and film are aiming for.  We have a divided country at the moment so the arts has a really important role to play in representing the parts of the UK that feel invisible and unheard – people within the London bubble need to see our stories too.  How else will we begin to understand one another?


I’m interested in learning about other cultures and it’s been wonderful to see productions like Nine Night, Leave Taking or The Barbershop Chronicles and see a new audience in those theatres that are really excited to see their lives being represented on stage, I found it very moving to see that happening, I was watching the audience as much as I was watching the plays.  I’d hope audiences would be interested in learning about Wales: a country right on their doorstep with a fascinating history and it’s own language that they know very little about.  I have lived in London for 21 years now and in the theatre especially it’s rare to see a Welsh play about Wales, or a Scottish play about Scotland, Ireland gets a little bit more of a look in.  Things are starting to improve on television with the BBC encouraging writers in both the regions and the Nations by creating writing groups that help them into the industry – I was part of the BBC Wales ‘Welsh Voices’ group this year in Cardiff. 

And of course we have a very exciting boom of production companies starting up in Cardiff which have brought us some great TV shows like Keeping Faith and Hinterland – may they lead to many more!  As far as films go Submarine was fab, Craig Roberts has written and directed some interesting films recently and Pride was wonderful (although I would have preferred a few more Welsh actors).  

Tamara Harvey and the team at Theatr Clwyd have really invested and supported Welsh Playwrights. How did you become aware of the theatre and Tamara’s work supporting Welsh writers?


When I’d finished a second draft of Pavilion I contacted a tutor of mine at RADA, Lloyd Trott, he does a lot of work with emerging writers and arranged a table read, and workshop with RADA graduates and students.  He suggested we arrange a rehearsed reading and that I invite Tamara to come along.  She came up and saw the reading and then finally after a long hiatus she called me totally out of the blue (a year later) and said she wanted to do my play.  One of the most exciting phone calls of my life! 


I didn’t have an agent at the time so I had sent the play to every British theatre that had open submissions and received really glowing feedback from all of them but it was always ‘We loved it, it’s like a modern day Under Milk Wood but it’s not for us, good luck.’  Part of the problem being it’s a massive cast of eleven actors which costs a lot, theatre’s don’t have any money and I’m a totally unknown writer – so I really stacked the odds against myself ever getting this play on – looking back I should have written a play with two people in one room talking but unfortunately that is not the play I wanted to write!  So Tamara and Theatr Clwyd have really done something quite unheard of and amazing by deciding to put it on regardless of those things I am eternally grateful to them for their support.

Theatr Clwyd, Artistic Director, Tamara Harvey

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists? 


Well I feel I’ve answered this slightly already.  There is a barrier in Welsh writers getting our work on outside of Wales.  But I also think poverty is an issue – we need funding to be able support emerging writers and directors from working class backgrounds.  If you’re from a really poor family, you can’t afford to be part of a residency if it’s not paid or it doesn’t help with accommodation that’s going to be a big deterrent.  


In terms of public access, the lack of transport to the small number of theatres there are is a barrier – Theatr Clwyd is an incredible theatre but it is hard to get to if you don’t own a car – the council used to fund a local taxi company to lay on three buses a week that would collect anyone that couldn’t get to the theatre but with all the funding cuts that service is now gone.  I think that’s a crying shame for the theatre and for the audience because it meant that the elderly, the disabled, young people who can’t drive yet and just people who couldn’t afford a car, could go for a night out.  When I was a teenager we lived in a small town and my mum had to get rid of our car for a number of years because she was unemployed and there was no way to get anywhere to go and see anything.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

That’s such a difficult question because there’s loads of things I would like to fund.  But I think youth engagement is really important so I would want to put funding into that – funding to make sure that every child has access to a youth theatre, a dance centre, an art class or a writing class, music whatever it may be – and crucially enough funding that the organisation is subsidised so that children whose parents are on benefits can still afford to go.  All these groups allow young people to meet each other and encourage them to express themselves and to think about the world and their part in it.  Art encourages empathy and there’s nothing more important than that right now.  

What excites you about the arts in Wales? 

I think it’s a really exciting time for the arts in Wales.  The theatre scene in Cardiff has grown so much since I was a young, from home grown companies like Dirty Protest, Hijinx, and Chippylane to small venues like The Other Room and because of this there are a lot more Welsh writers around making their mark.  The new BBC Wales building and the television production company boom means there are more jobs in that sector in Wales than there has ever been so getting into the production side of the business is now a real possibility for young people in Wales and doesn’t feel so out of reach.  Theatr Clwyd are making great work in co-production with London theatre’s so is The Sherman, and NTW is touring round Wales taking projects to places that don’t have easy access to a theatre of their own – all really important, plus all these theatre’s are working with new writers which is fantastic. 

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers? 

Another really difficult question because I’ve seen so much great work this year.  But I guess the show which I can’t get out of my head is Cyprus Avenue by David Ireland – a writer from Northern Ireland – which was on at The Royal Court earlier this year.  The premise of the play is: an old unionist in Belfast is suffering with dementia and believes his new baby granddaughter to be a reincarnation of Gerry Adams. 


It was a surreal, obviously hilarious and at the same time deeply disturbing play that was an examination of blind hatred.  The play could only really end one way and he certainly didn’t chicken out. You spent the entire play crying with laughter but with this growing unease at what was coming.  He had us in the palm of his hand.  It also made me realise I don’t know nearly as much as I should about Northern Ireland and then we’re back to what I was saying earlier about diversity and representation.

I love a play that is politically charged but manages to still be funny and entertaining.  That balance of drama and comedy is, such an effective way to get an audience lured in and invested.  Humour is so important.  I talked about it for weeks afterwards.

Why working with Yeah Yeah takes you to a Magical Place!

Get the Chance are working with new theatre company YEAH YEAH to support audiences to attend a sharing of an in development piece of work, Magical Place and then discuss their thoughts. The sharing will take place at Chapter Arts Centre on Saturday the 13th July at 7.30pm. Please contact the venue to book a free ticket.

In the article below some of the creative team share their involvement in this new production and why its a must see production!

Hazel Anderson, Director

Hi Hazel, you are the Director of Magical Place how did you come to be involved with the company?

I was recommended to Tori and Morgan. They got in touch with a video of their sharing and the ambition for the piece. I was hooked from the get-go. My back ground is in work that puts the audience in the experience. Where there is no forth wall and the relationship is directly between the performers and the audience. It’s exciting, responsive, and open to anything happening.

Likely Story, Giant Who Had No Heart In His Body, Rachel Otterway Photography


I joined them for phase two of the development and we immediately jumped on to the scanned page, same sense of humour and the same desire to be silly and entertaining for entertainments sake. We explored what could be at the heart of the piece. I was delighted to be invited back to play again.

Why should audiences come and see this new production?

The show Morgan and Tori are creating is a world away from where they started. People should come to see it because it’s going to be fun to watch! An absolutely brilliant 45 mins of pure unadulterated rock and roll and musical escapism! Its a fun, ridiculously funny show with two talented and passionate performers. I’d be hard pushed to believe there isn’t something in it for everyone.

Dan Soley, Composer

Hi Dan you are the Composer of Magical Place how did you come to be involved with the company?

I met Morgan originally whilst we were both working with Hijinx Odyssey on their fab production Second Star to the Right in late 2017.

I think it was a disco track made for synchronised swimming merpeople that caught his ear to begin with. He introduced me to Tori and Yeah Yeah and I’ve collaborated with them since, developing some music and sound ideas for their show.  

Why should audiences come and see this new production?

The rock and musical theatre face-off packs loads of great tunes into this jukebox performance. It’s proven difficult to not have a splitting grin on your face whilst watching what really becomes downright, yet inventive, silliness. But I believe there’s also this kind of beautiful relatability to it all for everyone, which sweetens the package quite wholesomely.

Chelsey Gillard, Dramaturg.

Hi Chelsey you are the Dramaturg of Magical Place how did you come to be involved with the company?

I was invited to see the very first sharing of Magical Place a few years ago. After the sharing I didn’t really know what to say so I went away and had a think about what feedback might be useful to the company. We arranged to meet up a few weeks later and chat about the project. I was really honest about what I liked and disliked about what I had seen and let Yeah Yeah know that I thought they were making something really exciting unlike anything I had ever seen. 

From there we keep chatting about the project and then Yeah Yeah invited me to work with them on their next R&D. Usually I work as a director but I knew on this project I would be more useful as an outside eye or critical friend, checking in with the progress of the project from time to time and asking lots of questions. 

Why should audiences come and see this new production?

This show will make you laugh until you cry. It’s a joyful explosion of music and dancing to some of the very best anthems of rock and musical theatre. Tori and Morgan are full of infectious laughter and genuinely super talented. It will make you feel good and believe anything is possible.

An Invite to Visit the Magical Place

Get the Chance are working with new theatre company YEAH YEAH to support audiences to attend a sharing of an in development piece of work and then discuss their thoughts. The sharing will take place at Chapter Arts Centre on Saturday the 13th July at 7.30pm.

Please get in touch of you would like to attend.

https://www.chapter.org/whats-on/performance/magical-place-yeah-yeah/3532

YEAH YEAH are a new Cardiff theatre company developing uplifting gig theatre. A crossover for those that might enjoy a musical, tribute band, stand-up comedy, or a touch of ballet.

The work in development (working title) ‘Magical Place’ is free to attend.

Expect iconic songs you know and love plus drums, keytar, lycra, laughs, dance and the biggest pyrotechnics they can afford, Magical Place is a new work still in development and the company welcome your feedback

Please note, that this is a sharing of a work in progress, and therefore not the complete anticipated production. Sections of the work will be performed, with the aim to gather audience feedback. Audience members participating in feedback will earn two Tempo Time Credits for volunteering their time.

Tori is here to perform a musical, Morgan is here to perform a rock show.

So expect iconic musical and rock songs you know and love; comedy, dance, live drums, keytar and lycra.”

Age 16+

Duration: 1hr (which will include optional audience feedback)

Performers & Devisors: Tori Johns, Morgan Thomas

Director: Hazel Anderson

Dramaturg: Chelsey Gillard

Lighting & Sound: Gavin Hales

A co-production with RCT Theatres / Angela Gould

Funded by Arts Council Wales

Top Tunes with Phil Clark

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

I am a professional Theatre Director , I work Internationally. I also work as a visual artist.

Brecon Beacons (Gouache)

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. To start off what are you currently listening to?

I am listening to the songs of Irving Berlin. I’m about to direct Noel Cowards play BLITHE SPIRIT at Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall, Suffolk. The production runs from Tue 23rd July 2019 – Sat 31st August 2019.

The play is set in the 1940s so I’m immersing myself in the music of the period. I use music in my work all the time. I often direct shows created by actor/musicians.

In the Autumn this year we will be remounting the National Theatre Wales production of PEGGY’S SONG by Welsh playwright Katherine Chandler and starring Christian Patterson. This is one of a series of plays by Welsh writers in response to the anniversary of the NHS and the unique vision of the glorious Nye Bevan.

The play centres around a character who is a volunteer within the NHS. A volunteer DJ who, by his very being, proves that music can be a healer and how music is essential to our existence because unlike tablets it can touch, disturb and mend our soul. To know more. Come and see us on tour this Autumn. Its a great night out!

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?

1 BLUE Joni Mitchell This is the record of my teenage years

2 EVERYTHING MUST GO  Manic Street Preachers. I directed Patrick Jones play of the same name that used the music of the Manics

3 TAKE THAT GREATEST HITS….because!!!!!!

LADY IN SATIN  Billie HolidayI have everything that Billie ever recorded

5 WEST SIDE STORY Original Soundtrack The greatest musical of all time

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

STRANGE FRUIT Billie Holiday  A beautiful song that perfectly brings together form and content. Amazing. Never ceases to move me

Free Drama Workshops to celebrate 50 years of Llanover Hall

You can listen to an audio version of the written information below using Sound Cloud below.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Llanover Hall and Arts for All we have an opportunity for eight blind or partially sighted people to take part in a series of six unique drama workshops to be led by John Rowley (Brith Gof, Forced Entertainment, National Theatre Wales) and visually impaired artist Lou Lockwood.

The workshops will commence on Wednesday July 10th from six thirty till eight pm. The venue is Llanover Hall Arts Centre, Romily Road, Canton, Cardiff, continuing each Wednesday for five weeks.

The workshop on Wednesday 14th August will be followed by a presentation of the work to an invited audience. No experience is necessary. Observers and supporters are welcome to participate or observe. To book your place please contact Chris Durnall at the email below

cadurnall@googlemail.com

Top Tunes with Patrick Jones

Image credit Lucy Purrington

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

Hello I am a  writer living in South Wales. I write plays poetry and film scripts. I have hadd and left or lost 20 jobs before finally going full time writing in 1998. I have three beautiful sons Ethan, Evan and Elian who are my guiding lights. My work includes the plays Everything Must Go, Unprotected Sex and Before I Leave which I am currently adapting into a feature film. 

The cast of Before I Leave, NTW
Image Credit Farrows Creative

My books include Fuse, Darkness is Where The Stars Are and  just published by Rough Trade Books My Bright Shadow and spoken word albums Tongues for A Stammering Time, Commemoration, Amnesia and new work Renegade Psalms in collaboration with John Robb released in September on Louder Than War Records. 

I am currently writer in residence with The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales and take words to neglected sections of the community. I live small. I think skies.

Image credit Lucy Purrington

Music has always played an important part in my life and writing. I obsessively collect albums, still listen to my vinyl collection and create a playlist for every play I create. Music was always playing in our house as kids from Abba to Demis Rossous to Neil Diamond. It gives me happy thoughts to think of those summer evenings with Sweet Caroline blasting through the 6 ft long grampophone player in our living room! I play guitar badly but throw in a fuzz box and a flange pedal and no one knows the difference.

Image credit Lucy Purrington

My favourite lyrics would be ;

All that rugby puts hairs on your chest. What chance have you got against a tie and a crest.’

Eton Rifles  The Jam

and

One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity,…”

The Spirit of Radio   Rush

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

The Membranes ‘What Nature Gives Nature Takes Away”

Godspeed you Black Emperor  “ Luciferian Towers”

Hole ‘ Live Through This’

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 

1 A Farewell To Kings  by Rush – bought  from a friend in school when I was 15,  as needed to find my band and wanted to fit in! It was £2.50 which was a lot then. Started my journey into heavier music and to follow the band themselves. Opening track A Farewell to Kings just burst through my speakers and I was lost and found.  When I saw it was recorded in Rockfield in Wales I talked my Dad into driving out there to see if we could find the studio. We  didn’t! I just wanted to be Alex Lifeson! The guitar sound, lyrics to Closer to The Heart, the epicness of Xanadu and the gatefold photo just connected with me somehow. I still listen to it now.

2 The Indigo Girls  The Indigo Girls Certain albums have a strange quality that makes them timeless yet acutely of the moment. I first heard this when I lived in Chicago in 1989. I had left Wales to write the great American novel, was  madly in love and spent days wandering the Windy City streets in search of Kerouacian inspiration. Didn’t last forever as such wonder never can but it was a beautifully exciting visceral time. My American wife (though no one knew we were married as we had tied the knot in secret so I could stay in the country ( sorry U.S Immigration)  and we carve a life together) liked the Indigo Girls and this had just come out. So it reminds me of another life another place- happy in my neon  loneliness, my little apartment by the train tracks, coffee shops, cats, minus 20 Winters,  huge pizzas and slam poetry nights in downtown Chicago. I loved their acoustic sound and the lyrics were so personal and human.

Then,  fast forward to 2017 and a  complicated love affair which was destined to fail and  I turned to these songs to give me hope and to help to salve the sadness. Driving along the M4 listening to Blood and Fire which seemed to be written for the situation –

 “I am looking for someone, who can take as much as I give,
Give back as much as I need,
And still have the will to live.
I am intense, I am in need,
I am in pain, I am in love.
I feel forsaken, like to things I gave away.”

I get shivers just thinking about that song. So, 32 years apart but those songs timeless yet indelibly etched upon my mind.

3   U2  ‘War’ Special on many levels. 1983. I was 18 just finished my A Levels and had surprisingly passed with 3 ‘B’s”  and about to go to Swansea University. My Mother and Father had promised to buy me a guitar if I passed so me and my Dad drove to Cardiff ( quite a rare thing in those days – big shopping trip and my Dad never liked shops!) I will always  remember it was a cloudy overcast Summer day. The Fender acoustic was £75 ( bloody fortune when I think of it now) and my parents had saved £80 so there was a  fiver left over and my Dad said if I wanted  anything for University. I had been taping songs from the radio off the album so got the real thing. Oh that stark black white and red cover. The lyrics inside. Gatefold sleeve. A work of art in itself. Before memes, hashtags, likes and trolls just four people in a room making music.

New Year’s Day. Sunday Bloody Sunday. Drowning Man.

It got me thinking about politics, about loss, about how we treat each other and  about how can I get my hair cut like Bono! And of course The Edge’s shimmering guitar sound.

Still have it and still listen to the full album no skipping on CD. ‘A world in white gets underway”,

An album that resonates on the personal level as it reminds me of parental love and struggle and on a more political societal level it awoke my interest in writing about how the world works and fails.

4 Setting Sons The Jam Had always  loved The Jam. Always remember Going Underground  straight into at number 1 double A side in 1979 as I was in hospital with a shattered elbow feeling low and that song lifted me.

The cover, again pulled me in. It looked epic. Sad but strong. Those faces. There was a little record shop in Blackwood,  Martin Luther’s- it was where the cool people would hang out on a Saturday, flipping through the racks and then walking down the high street with the plastic bag that signified you had been there AND bought something! Then talk about it in school on Monday. This album reminds me of those days. Saving up for weeks to buy an album after taping the single from the Charts on Sunday. School discos on a Saturday night that would invariably end up with the hard kids  who didn’t go to the school but would find a way in and cause a massive fight and the night would finish early because of blood and smashed glass. So Eton Rifles reminds of not so much class war but tribal gangs rucking against each other on a Saturday night when alI I wanted  was to slow dance with a girl I had been fancying but too scared to ask out, for 3 months!  Little Boy Soldiers, Burning Sky  and of course Eton Rifles painted this battered landscape of late 70’s Britain. Wasteland and Saturday’s Kids connected to my own working class childhood. 10 songs that educated and entertained me for many a lonely rainy night in Blackwood. I recently bought the deluxe edition which has Going Underground on it. The missing piece finding its home on one of the most perfect albums ever made.

5 Lou Reed ‘Magic and Loss’ I came to Lou Reed late in life. So this 1992 offering didn’t reach me till a few years ago. Again something about the cover spoke to me. It features the musician dressed in black  upon what could be a road or a coffin with the text in Red. Looks like Winter. With a stripped back sound and many lyrics spoken it is a monument to two of Reed’s friends who had recently died. Personal yet easily accessible and universal in tone the 14 tracks act as a sort of concept album- linked by the magic and the loss. I would just put it on and drive the A470  that links North and South Wales during a period of my life where I was confused, angry and experiencing my own searching for magic in losing. His voice reaches in and pulls out your stomach. No hit singles on there just brutal  truth.  ‘Sword of Damocles’  which opens with spine tingling cello, tells of cancer treatment- 

‘to cure you they must kill you’

and  ‘Cremation’, one of the most beautiful tracks, tells of  the sea as keeper of souls

Well the coal black sea waits for me me me

 The coal black sea waits forever

 The waves hit the shore

Crying more more more

A bleak yet beautiful work of sonic art. It helped me feel unalone at a very difficult time and gave me strength to carry on and look to the future out of the detritus of the present.

As Shelley said ;

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.” 

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

I think it would be ‘Eton Rifles’ by The Jam. Still so relevant now. A perfect fusion of melody anger and hope.

Plus I can play it on guitar!

Review Rocket Man by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Rocketman is a drama/biography about the life of Elton John and his rapid rise to mainstream fame. The director of this film Dexter Fletcher, managed to perfectly blend the flamboyant , over-the-top campiness of Elton’s life with the seriousness of his battle with mental health and addiction which I imagine took a while to plan and execute appropriately. It was fun-filled and joyous but also emotional with serious message to all the viewers watching.

Elton John was played by Taron Egerton who performed an excellent and tasteful tribute to the icon and I was pleasant surprise by the performance skills that Taron possessed. Having known Egerton from Kinsmen where he played a ruffian who becomes part of a secret resistance force, known as the kinsmen, but his role in this was the almost complete polar opposite. If I was Taron , I would have been very afraid when given this role as it deals with real-life , close to the bone issues such as addition and mental health issues and being able to do these scenes and making them as realistic as possible would have been very daunting. Also being a straight man and having to act as the wonderfully camp homosexual Elton must have been difficult. I feel as if when doing an impression of someone you have to be very careful to not make it an over the top caricature but at the same time it needs to contain as many as the mannerisms and characteristics of the person you are imitating which I personally would not be able to do. Taron did a spot on tribute of Elton which was incredible to watch and he deserves mountains of praise for doing it so well. He was able to perform the showman Elton as well as the often hidden dark side of Elton excellently.

The costumes in this film were incredible. The designer must have spent hours and hours trying to recreate some of Elton most iconic looks while also making them as modern as possible. One of my personal favorites is the sequined baseball outfit that look flawless and looked as if it took hours to make. Another one of my favorites was the opening and closing outfit of the big red costume. This outfit , I believe was meant to point to deeper aspects of Elton’s character. When he wears it in the beginning , he talks about his drug addiction , mental health issues, sex addiction and his anger management problems and at this point the costume is meant to signify him as an almost evil character who is in a really dark place. I think it suppose to resemble the devil which allusion to him living it what he would describe as his own personal hell. Towards the end of the film the same costume is used but the is an exaggeration of the use of feather is the outfit. On top of this the song, “I’m still standing is playing’ which is an up beat song about getting through dark times, I think this costume was supposed to signify an Phoneix who famously raise from he ashes and in many stories bring new life. This was the show the audience that since then Elton has been sober and turned his life around and so the use of the mythical creature is apt.

Despite this film being about Elton John’s life it deals with issues that affect everyone at one time or another. One of the main messages of the entire story is accepting yourself and who you are. Elton through his life dealt with many people who wanted to change him or wanted him to suppress who he really was (including himself) and he eventually become the Elton we all know and love today but ignoring all these negative comments. One of the most iconic lines in the whole film is “why should other people care about you when you don’t even care about yourself?” which is obviously a way to remind people that they need to love themselves before other people can love them which is incredibly empowering and is obviously a concept that Elton himself felt strong about.

In general , this film was phenomenal. It blended fun musical numbers with serious real life issue effortlessly as well as educating viewers of the issues and struggles Elton dealt with behind the curtain. It is a fascinating watch with incredible costumes, a talented cast and superb acting. I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars. This is a film that you have to watch especially if you ever heard any of Elton John’s songs (and that’s most people) so don’t miss out because you’ll regret it!

Top Tunes with Rachel Trezise

Photograph of Rachel credit Jon Pountney

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

I’m a novelist and playwright, probably most well known for the Dylan Thomas Prize-winning short story collection ‘Fresh Apples.’ My plays include ‘Tonypandemonium’, ‘We’re Still Here’ and ‘Cotton Fingers’ which will be touring parts of Ireland and the UK this year.

In 2007 my nonfiction book about the Welsh music scene ‘Dial M for Merthyr’ was published. Somewhat bizarrely, Guns ‘n’ Roses bassist, Duff McKagan listed it in his autobiography as one of his all time favourite music books.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

‘The Girl from Chickasaw County’ box set was released in September last year, commemorating the legacy of country music singer Bobbie Gentry. There are eight CDs in all so I’m still digesting it. My mother was a huge country and western fan. She played Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Bobbie Gentry, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette throughout my childhood. Gentry was always my favourite. I was about nine when I really started listening to the lyrics and realised the songs were all short stories. I’ve had a lifelong obsession with ‘Fancy’, a song about a girl called Fancy who’s mother sells her into prostitution: ‘I might have been born just plain white trash but Fancy was my name.’

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?

1 Appetite for Destruction – Guns ‘n’ Roses – Guns ‘n’ Roses have been my favourite band since the age of around thirteen. They are my coming-of-age soundtrack. People have often asked me how I can be a feminist and love songs famed for so much misogyny.

I’ve tried to answer this question in an essay titled ‘Nothing for Nothing’ published in ‘Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women And The Women Who Love Them’ edited by Rhian E Jones and Eli Davies.

2 Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes – I listened relentlessly to this album while I wrote and rewrote my first novel ‘In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl’. I quoted a lyric from one of the songs on the flyleaf. The themes in it are guilt, alienation, childhood trauma and adult inadequacy. They are also the themes in my novel. At the time I was listening mostly to Metallica, Pantera and Megadeth. A female singer-songwriter, and piano music in particular was quite a departure for me.

3 The Holy Bible – Manic Street Preachers – The Manic Street Preachers were the first Welsh thing I was proud of. Growing up in the 80s, Welsh culture was all about Max Boyce and Aled Jones, then here was this intelligent working class band telling the real story of the boredom and alienation I knew growing up in a south Wales destroyed by Thatcherism. By extension, the Manic Street Preachers made reading literature something to be proud of rather than slightly embarrassed by. I still listen to this album every few months.

4 The Clash – Combat Rock – Whereas country was my mother’s thing, my brother who’s ten years older than me was always listening to UK punk: The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Generation X et al. Via him I discovered one of my favourite bands, The Clash. Combat Rock is a controversial choice but it includes my favourite song ‘Straight to Hell’ which talks of the immigrant experience and the death of industry in Northern England, but was mostly considered their ‘American album’ because it dealt with the aftermath of the Vietnam war, the hypocrisy of the American dream and referenced Taxi Driver. The Clash have always been relevant and seem everyday to grow more so.

5 The Future – Leonard Cohen – It’s difficult to choose one Leonard Cohen album but I’ve gone for ‘The Future’ which includes the song ‘The Future’ which is how I discovered Cohen via the movie soundtrack for ‘Natural Born Killers’ produced by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor.

Cohen said once that the demographic of people who like his songs could be called ‘the broken-hearted.’ I do go to him when I’m sore and looking to be mended. I listened to his early albums a lot after my mother died for example. I have the much-celebrated ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ lyric from ‘Anthem’ tattooed on my arm to remind me that however imperfect I am, I am enough. It works sometimes.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

IfwhiteAmericatoldthethruthforonedaytheworldwouldfallapart by Manic Street Preachers. I haven’t stopped thinking about this song since Trump got into power.

Using Sibrwd to access Welsh Language Contemporary Drama

Earlier this week I was invited by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru to use Sibrwd (which translates as whisper) to see their new productions Merched Caerdydd (Cardiff Girls) by Catrin Dafydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd (Saturday Night Forever) by Roger Williams. This was the first time the company has used Sibrwd to offer full translation of a theatrical production. Sibrwd is a free app for mobile devices that gives theatre audiences the ability to fully appreciate a (Welsh language) performance in (potentially) any language. The app gives access to theatre productions for Welsh learners and non-Welsh speakers for Welsh language performances. Sibrwd can offer audio or text based instant translation of live theatrical productions.

I went to see the production at the beautiful Borough Theatre, Abergavenny. The app is free and very simple to use. Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru have produced this excellent video which goes through the process of how to download it onto your device and then how to use it in the theatre.

On the night of the performance staff from Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru met Sibrwd users in the foyer prior to going into the theatre to check they were happy , additional smart phones can be provided by the company if required. I was informed by Chris who was operating Sibrwd that the translation would be text based for this particular performance, Sibrwd has the potential to offer audio or text.
Once in the theatre itself I checked I could pick up the Sibrwd Wi Fi signal and my phone was on aeroplane mode, this is very important to make sure no one can ring you during the performance!

Once the production begins the app automatically provides English Language text based translation. The user does need to be able to read fairly quickly as well as keeping an eye on what’s happening on stage but you quickly adjust to this. The app itself works flawlessly, I was surprised at my own knowledge of the Welsh language, I know more Welsh than I previously realised! For a learner like myself the frequent references to South Wales locations or the mixture of Welsh and English made the production vey accessible and relevant. Providing full English language translation for two contemporary productions of this nature are an excellent way to increase learning opportunities for people like me.

If full audio and text based translation can be offered through Sibrwd I think there would be a great deal of interest in Welsh Language productions from Blind or Deaf audiences.

Many thanks to Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru for supporting me to access more Welsh language contemporary drama, I will be sure to keep an eye out for more productions of this nature supported with Sibrwd.

Cathryn McShane on BSL supported Theatrical performances in the Welsh Language

“I feel providing access to Deaf audiences to Welsh language productions is significant because Deaf people in Wales have traditionally been excluded from this aspect of their culture and heritage.

From my experience, I am aware that Deaf children in schools are often exempted from the National Curriculum Welsh language requirements and historically even Welsh-speaking parents have been actively discouraged from using their mother tongue with their deaf children.  This has resulted in the Welsh Deaf community missing out on the rich and vibrant offerings that the Welsh language art scene provides.

Recently I have been involved in interpreting several plays that were once Eisteddfod pieces (Estron, Anweledig, Nos Sadwrn o Hyd and Merched Caerdydd).

The Eisteddfod to me is the epitome and hub when it comes to the best of contemporary Welsh writing and performing, so being able to facilitate access to these pieces to a Welsh audience who previously have not had access to Welsh culture in this form is a real privilege.

After agreeing to do one show two years ago, I have been inundated with enquires, and Deaf audience numbers have steadily increased (including individuals who had never been to the theatre before) so I’m really pleased with how these initiatives are developing. More recently companies are taking an interest in integrating BSL in their productions, so I can see scope for some really exciting work in the future.”