Helen Joy

Smallholder, artist, aspiring writer

Review In Parenthesis WNO by Helen Joy

WNO In Parenthesis. Photo credit - Bill Cooper 925

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Remember me. The evening before I had sung those words when rehearsing with the Forget Me Not (dementia) Chorus. Haunting to hear them sung out again across the cavernous auditorium of the WMC by men in khaki uniform looking to their end in the First World War.

I am surrounded by men in uniform. Bearskins worn at the doors borne by giants amongst men. Soldiers in full dress, silver horn covers wedged in place with bits of blue cardboard and happy for a head scratch. Red carpet. ‘Busyness’ everywhere and the Centre comes alive to remember the dead.

The first half is hard going, like the waters of the Channel and the muddy war-torn ground Royal Welsh Fusiliers will tread on the Somme. Granddad Joy was injured out on the Somme. Joined up at 17, he would never talk about the war. Here we are, being entertained by it.

I wonder what the soldiers around me are thinking. The first act is removed from them by at least two generations, probably three. Soldiers on the stage sing their way into personalities of a different time.

Act two is different. The visceral consequences of a, by now, boring war. Surreal; trees engulf the men and pick them off one by one. The floral bonnets of the women are lain on the laps of the dead and they are commemorated, returning to the soil to push up new daisies, new trees.

I wonder how the men around me are feeling now.

The choral pieces, from both the male voice choir and the women’s, are gently discordant and hauntingly beautiful. David Jones’ words are spun through the air. The solos are clear and strong and tell the tale of men, old and young going to war. The women are left behind.

There is some humour amongst the pathos – in the back-chatting amongst the men – but not many of us laugh. We all sigh with the joyful relief of recognition when our lads sing Sospan Fach but we are only half way through. We sigh again over the filthy battlefield of Mametz and hope for them.

The sets are clever and simple – the inscribed grey wall slides down and the floor rises and soldiers are in a bunker, crawling away from safety and towards the light of fire.

We leave and push out into the red light of the commemorative installation outside the doors of the Centre. We have been entertained by war. It has been magnificent and dreadful and mad.

Type of show: opera

Title: In Parenthesis

Venue: Wales Millennium Centre

Dates: May 13 to July 1, 2016

Composer: Iain Bell

(Libbrettist: David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins – after David Jones)

Conductor: Carlo Rizzi

Director: David Poutney

Designer: Robert Innes Hopkins

Lighting Designer Malcolm Rippeth

Cast includes:

Private John Ball Andrew Bidlack

Bard of Brittannia/HQ Officer Peter Coleman-Wright

Bard of Germania/Alice the Barmaid/The Queen of the Woods Alexandra Decorates

Lieutenant Jenkins George Humphreys

Lance Corporal Lewis Marcus Farnsworth

Sergeant Snell Mark Le Brocq

Dai Greatcoat Donald Maxwell

The Marne Sergeant Graham Clark

Performances start at 7.15pm, except Royal Opera House on 29 June and 1 July at 7.30pm

Running time: approximately two hours and 30 minutes including one 20 min interval

Sung in English with subtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff)

See more at: https://www.wno.org.uk/event/parenthesis#sthash.6q0pYOy8.dpuf

Review by Helen Joy

www.theblockhouseblogger.wordpress.com

Project Review, Making It! by Helen Joy

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Parama 2 Making it – LIVE!

A review of the programme of scripting workshops leading up to and including, the production: by a participant.

A small group of women of a certain age gather together in the curious spare rooms and spaces of the Wales Millennium Centre every Tuesday afternoon for 9 weeks.

March 15th

We introduce ourselves cautiously to our facilitators, Valmai Jones and Catrin Edwards; and to each other. Why are we here? Personal growth and development, honing skills and learning new ones, changing paths, making connections. A mixed bag of skills too–clowning, illustrating, writing, performing, acting – and a fair few years of life experience to boot. We watch Catrin’s film, Voices From the Factory Floor, with extra voices from the WMC breast cancer charity fashion show below. A heady mixture of women’s words on a Tuesday afternoon.

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Responding to the characters in the film seems easier to some than others. Some slip into roles easily; others struggle a little; I have no idea how to pretend and can only be me. I am astonished at the ease with which our group brings life and animation and speech to these women we have only glimpsed, sometimes second or even third hand. Real stories slip out so naturally hidden in the make-believe.

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Now, Val employs a little trick each week. Relaxation exercises for the body and the brain with closed eyes. Her mellifluous Welsh lilt calms our nervous spirits and revives our inner creativity. Staring intensely at paper mandalas to free up our right brains – mind over myth – becomes part of our shared experiences, part of bonding the group and comforts changes with consistency. This is neat.
We play a kind of Consequences – throw our titles into a hat, pick one, write some lines, pass it on… we read them out – remarkably adept little stories, tight, funny, sad, clever but mostly text, not so much dialogue.

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As the weeks roll on, we learned to examine characters and how to bring them to life through words and play. We had homework: write up your character – give her life. Give her words to say. And playlets form with monologues, dialogues, complex scenarios. Characters cry, laugh, shout and dance. Some of us stay with the themes of the film; some use the Consequences storylines; others choose something new. Somehow, perhaps not surprisingly, we all talk about the influential women n our lives.

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I struggle with reading out my words, my dialogue. And the first time it matters, I can’t do it. I am ten years old and I will be humiliated. I hand my script to Val. She is so kind and talks me through ideas and scenarios and builds my confidence.

The call goes out – posters are ready, the time and date is set – we will be performing at 3pm on the 9th May in the Preseli Rooms at the WMC. Tell your friends and families.

I write a script over an evening. I have been mulling over the idea for a few weeks now without realising. I cannot face reading it. I wonder how the others are managing.

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May 8th

Rehearsals. It is a beautiful, hot sunny day outside and we are all inside, fretting over scripts, tripping over stage hands and working with professional actors. This is getting very real. We are called to the stage, Val is acting and Catrin is directing. We are multi-tasking at a superhuman level.
I cannot open my eyes when they start to read my play. Gradually, I uncurl and watch and listen and begin to edit and critique and love it. Not love my work – but love the process. I discover acting is a joy – to be someone else for someone else is a privilege. I try so hard to do it as well as I can. Everyone else seems so much better at this but inside, I guess, we all feel the nervous.

May 9th, 3pm

Somehow, out of all the chaos, a slick series of plays is presented to a small but hugely appreciative audience. All credit to Catrin and Val for their inspiration and facilitation. All credit to the actors and stage hands for adding that professional edge.
And to us? Well. We pulled it off.

The audience, mostly made up of women from Voices from the Factory Floor, has enjoyed our efforts very much. The plays remind them of conversations had with their own mothers, fathers, daughters and friends. One said that we hadn’t needed scripts to read – that we could have just chatted amongst ourselves on stage – and there I see the compliment, our work was natural, candid observation with each of us adding our own personalities and quirks to tell tales. Not perfect but gentle, the work of women who have been there.

I am not alone in being relieved yet ecstatic as the event closes but oh so sorry that this series of workshops is not continuing and that we are left to go our own ways with our words.

The project  was supported by Age Cymru’s Gwanwyn Festival which is funded by Welsh Government and Arts Council of Wales, WI in Wales and Women’s Archive of Wales

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http://gwanwyn.org.uk

http://gwanwyn.org.uk/events/making-it-free-drama-scripting-workshop-for-older-women/

http://gwanwyn.org.uk/events/parama2-presents-making-it/

Review Belonging Re-Live Theatre by Helen Joy

Belonging

Review from a 3rd Act Critic and Older People’s Involvement Worker

“Feeling Affected, in a Good Way”

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

It’s sold out.

Gently twanging music plays around the warm space as we settle into our seats. I am sitting between the usher and two women from the Wales Arts Council. We introduce ourselves and look down on the audience – average age, maybe 35? Surprising. And I am pleased.

The stage is dimly lit and we can see a wooden room – a staircase, bookshelves, television and pictures, a small lamp on a side table. Simple. It is a home, someone’s home with the usual vase of dried flowers gathering dust and memories to one side.

I have been warned. It is a tear jerker. Ah but it will be bread and butter to me, apparently. It won’t touch me – it’s my job.

It is two stories – a mother and her children; and a long married couple. It is a small cast scampering through complicated emotions, making us believe they are different people at different times even when they are the same person by name. From the start, I am transfixed by their abilities and follow their journeys with some fear and some hope. But only some hope – I am convinced this play will go the way of most – a depressing indictment of dementia and social services.

It does make a few political points about services – unnecessary, I feel – please do not tell me what to think; I have been there, you know. I am here for a play about belonging.

And this they do well. The stories duly plunge into confusion, misery, loss and anger with moments of utter hopelessness. But they hold on.

Through scenes of stress-driven tragedy we join in their epiphanies and cariad, we move on. My tears – and I am not alone, all around me people gently wipe their faces – are now for joy. The future is ok. These remarkable characters are safe somehow.

Does this play glorify dementia and its impact? Most definitely not. Does it give false hope? No. Does it give some sense that people experiencing dementia are lessened by it? No.

Practitioners should see this work – it offers an oriel onto the legitimate feelings of everyone affected by this disease and its different forms.

We are always being told how we should behave, what we should and shouldn’t say and do around people experiencing dementia.. but we are all human, with all the complexities that brings; and this play shows us that that is ok too.

Huge applause and the usher steps aside. We nod to each other and I leave the dark womb of the theatre.

Cat, apple, sausage – we are all checking our memory function and checking our tears as we wander into the light outside.

ReLive H Joy

Event:                      Belonging

At:                             Chapter Arts Centre

Playwright:          Karin Diamond

Director:               Peter Doran

Theatre:                Re-Live Theatre

Seen:                      2pm, 6 May, 2016

Reviewer:           Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:              May 2nd – 7th 2016, May 2nd – 7.30pm, BSL May 3rd                                                                         6th – 2pm, 7.30pm daily

Links:               http://www.re-live.org.uk/belonging/

 

REVIEW HOGIA NI: YMA O HYD (OUR BOYS: STILL HERE) BY HELEN JOY

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Hogia Ni: Yma o Hyd (Our Boys: Still Here)

A review from a 3rd Act Critic

It is powerful stuff. 2 men, 1 woman sitting on crates against a screen, like three wise monkeys in black and khaki. This is going to be a neat, clever, visually adept production. I am not wrong.

They are back from Afghanistan in a pub in Caernarfon; they are in Afghanistan. Their language changes, their behaviours change and the screen goes from dusty blue to sunset desert scenes behind them. It is so simple and so clever; and so effective.

They reluctantly share their experiences both at war and at home; and their emotions spill out into tears and aggression and strange army humour. The audience tentatively laughs with Iwan at Telor’s mistakes, ‘Hedd Wyn, the Welsh war poet’ from Trawsfynydd, not ‘Eifion Wyn’, a poet from Caernarfon. Hedd Wyn, his bardic name, means ‘Blessed Peace.’

But there is a problem for me. I can hear swearing, guttural and harsh and entirely appropriate. I can hear conversations in English and Welsh. I don’t speak Welsh but I can follow much of the action easily. I am using Sibrwd – a translation app; it allows me to read or hear the play in English and I have chosen to read what I think will be the lines of the play. It is not. It is a mixture of précis and quotations and description. I hear ‘fucking soldiers’ and I see, ‘Iwan is struggling with his return from Afghanistan’ or something very similar. Interpretation and translation. I am being told what to think.

Many of the lines are superb: ‘terrorists don’t fight for a country’, ‘Talibans don’t come into Caernarfon and piss on our statues and shag your girl’, ‘never tell your girlfriend or your wife that you are enjoying yourself’.

War is, they say, ‘bananas’ but it is enjoyable – it is a buzz, an excitement, a sense of worth and purpose for these fucking soldiers. Without it, they are lost, dangerous and confused.

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This is a timely, impressive and well-written tale; acted with strength, assurance and conviction. I believe every one of them. I do not feel sorry for them but I wish them well.

Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,

A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;

O’i ôl mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,

Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.

Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw

Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;

Mae sŵn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,

A’i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.

Mae’r hen delynau genid gynt,

Ynghrog ar gangau’r helyg draw,

A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,

A’u gwaed yn gymysg efo’r glaw

Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God

Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,

Now wields the sceptre and the rod?

Man raised his sword, once God had gone,

To slay his brother, and the roar

Of battlefields now casts upon

Our homes the shadow of the war.

The harps to which we sang are hung,

On willow boughs, and their refrain

Drowned by the anguish of the young

Whose blood is mingled with the rain.

Event: Hogia Ni

At: Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

Playwright: Meic Povey

Director: Betsan Llwyd

Producer: Theatr Bara Caws

Seen: 8pm, 24 March, 2016 (last night)

Reviewer: Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running: 22 March – 24 March, 2016

Links: http://www.chapter.org/hogia-ni-yma-o-hyd

Performers: Lance Sargeant Iwan Jones Owen Arwyn

Sergeant Diane Taylor Manon Wilkinson

Guardsman Telor Roberts Gwlon Aled