After 1 year of ups and downs in our industry, I cannot tell you how excited I was about tonight.
The brief period that we returned to Theatre near the end of last year felt like part of me returned but to be shut down again was hard for everyone. Suddenly, we are working our ways back and gosh, doesn’t it feel good.
What better way to celebrate our return than with The Producers (No, Not That One) at the Pleasance Theatre. With all proceeds going to the #TheatreArtistsFund, we were entertained with a cabaret style show full of talent, of fun and of joy while supporting those who have had a really difficult year.
While many, bar a couple of the performers, were new to me, we all laughed, we all felt comfortable and in tune with one another and it felt like a family enjoying a common love. To be back in a fringe venue felt like a homecoming amongst friends.
The Producers was as it says on the tin: A culmination of some of London’s finest Theatre Producers showcasing what else they can do. Often, we are all known in this industry as jack of all trades: giving our hand to a number of different elements (myself included) and often this is from starting with our love of the Theatre, perhaps to be performers and finding that our passion and talent in also in many other elements.
We were treated to wall shaking singing, some hilarious comedy, a circus routine, wonderful piano and a Host full of love and laughter. Every single person was full of talent and showcased that everyone from in the background to the forefront are full of talent and skills.
I could not imagine more of a perfect show to come back to, with our World returning somewhat back to how it was , than to bring some of the backbone of our industry and celebrate their talent as Producers but as performers.
Hi James, great to meet you, can you tells us about yourself and your work?
Hi there, and thanks for inviting me to do this.
I enjoy telling people that I’m quite a good poster-boy for how the arts can save young people who lack direction and, in my case lacked a stable family background.
I fell in love with Hip Hop & Breakdancing as a young teen, and then in my 20’s I discovered circus and aerial work which became my career for almost 20 years. Both things came along at times when I was heading down negative roads. What they have in common are the life benefits of physical training and a strong DIY cultural ethic of just making things happen before seeking permission.
The soundtrack to my early childhood was new-wave punk, Ska, and the early years of Hip-Hop. Breakdancing and the version of Hip-Hop culture that landed in Wales was my path away from the miserable cultural confusion of the 1980’s.
I’ve been lucky enough to live in Manchester at the height of it’s music scene, in London at a time when arts & culture really mattered, and back in Wales to work with NoFit State Circus when they were really hitting their stride.
I’m now Co-Artistic Director of Citrus Arts, along with the amazing Bridie Doyle-Roberts. Citrus have been making shows that combine Circus, Theatre, Dance, and Design since 2009 and we’re based in the Rhondda Valley. We tour shows around the UK and the last few years have seen us championing the hands-on skills that come with Circus life as a way to bring the people of our community together to create ‘Exceptional Experiences for Everyday People’.
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?
Music is and always has been, a major force behind my path as an artist.
As performers Bridie & I played in plenty of shows where the music felt like an add-on background texture, that’s why Citrus Arts places an emphasis on picking high quality soundtracks and live musicians for our shows.
Bridie & I have two small children, so it’s hard to find time to immerse ourselves in music. There’ve been dozens of times when the boys fall asleep in the car, so we keep on driving, talking about ideas for shows, playing albums, and making major decisions about Citrus Arts’ future as we keep going until one of them wakes up. It costs us a fortune in Ice Cream when we eventually stop to play in a park, or beach for a while before turning back home.
My go-to sounds at the moment all come from the brilliant Late Night Tales series of compilations. The LNT label invites top-notch musicians & producers to curate a 1-hour musical soundtrack for a ‘movie’ that’s never been filmed. My favourite track I’ve discovered so far is “Henry McCulloch” by David Holmes, BP Fallon, & Andrew Weatherall.
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list five records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
The Stranglers – ‘All Live & All of The Night’
My first music festival was Reading in 1987, where I saw The Stranglers headline the Friday night there along with The Cramps, The Pogues, and Iggy Pop over the weekend. This album was partly recorded that night. I still love the sound, image, and artistic message of the punk movement, but was just a young lad with a paper round when it had the real power to shock.
The musicianship in this album still stands out as a moment that shows how punk evolved into the more interesting areas of the charts in the 80’s.
Devo – ‘Q- Are We Not Men?’
I’m still enthralled by how this band made a unique musical, visual, and political style around their image and output. Two brothers in the band made Devo’s pop videos way before the advent of MTV, another member invented the Roland Emulator keyboard/synthesiser, and between them they built a complete and un-improvable artistic world for their music and message.
I love the fact that the lead singer Mark Mothersbraugh now makes music for Marvel super-hero movies.
Massive Attack – ‘Blue Lines’
I was working at a big record shop (a “Megastore”, according to Mr Branson) in Cardiff when this came out and nobody, and I mean nobody, from the Phil Collins-loving security guards to the guys in the classical music department had anything but huge praise for this album. For me it was a re-connection back to my years of loving early Hip-Hop, Soul, and Jazz influenced music, and represented a way to cross between tribes of taste and friendship groups.
Every single track is excellent, but the decision to choose “Safe From Harm” as the opener was a masterstroke.
Ted Barnes – ‘Underbelly’
It’s hard to find Ted’s wider work on the usual online platforms, but this album is a great example of his style. Citrus Arts’ first touring show was based around Ted’s music and if you listen to this, you’ll hear why we chose it.
Barnes was Beth Orton’s composer when she rode high in the UK album charts in the 2000’s. My favourite story about this music is knowing that Ted’s father was a Toymaker in the seaside town of Whitstable in the post-war years.
This album sounds like a boy sneaking-in to his Dad’s shed where wood was carved, and tiny mechanical things came to life.
DJ Shadow – ‘Private Press’
Another personal tale coming up here, but this is DJ Shadow’s best album.
In 2012 the Hip-Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa donated his personal record collection to NY Columbia University’s Cultural Archive – they were the plates of vinyl that were cut, scratched, and mixed to create Hip-Hop in the yard parties that founded the genre.
DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist were allowed to take those actual records on tour as the Renegades of Rhythm performances where they played them as a set, in tribute to one of the founding artists of Hip-Hop.
I saw the show. I listened to those actual grooves on those vinyl plates that inspired me to take a lifelong journey into physical performance, and the way that communities can make their own lasting mark on what I’m sure wasn’t considered ‘art’ at the 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?
I feel like I want my own Radio show after doing this!
If there’s one track I’d like to share with you, rather than remember for personal reasons, it has to be Ted Barnes’ “Sting in The Tale”.
Its lush, gorgeous, beautifully crafted music that everyone should try dancing to.
Felicity Hesed has happily and triumphantly summed up this performance in her title. Full of comedy, music, Cara Vita is a great piece of fun for any evening.
Going through the trials and tribulations of a woman’s life, we meet Hesed on her wedding night all the way through family, breaking up and finding herself as a woman and a person again. The story is told with plenty of audience interaction, comical clown moments and up close and personal circus skills, flying high above us with a beautiful live played soundtrack.
Much of the telling of this tale is quite abstract; using sock puppets at one point to describe a break up; using other pieces of clothing to show the growth of children and the changes that come with this, to suddenly becoming invisible to rekindle the love for ones self when she then becomes visible to others on stage once again. The approach is very niche but not unwelcome, but it did seem to fall flat to some who one would assume came for a traditional clowning experience or traditional circus.
The pace of the production was quite similar; slow and steady, with pauses which eventually speeding up near the end for a climax. But it felt that little burst of energy could have kept us intrigued and engaged a little longer.
Cara Vita: A Clown Concerto is bundles of fun, comedy and a lovely narrative, celebrating women. A quicken of pace could have made it that little bit more special.
In November 2018 we published an article in response to the new Arts Council Wales Corporate Plan “For the benefit of all..” with a range of contributions from Creatives in Wales. We revisit this area in the updated article below with responses from one of the creatives featured in the article as well as an additional contribution.
Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”
We were very pleased to see some of the priority areas in the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”
In particular we were interested in Commitment 2 below
We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.
ACW then go onto make a series of intentions (below) for where they want to be in 2023 (5 years)
We will be able to demonstrate clearly that all our funding programmes promote and contribute to equality and diversity
There will be a narrowing of the gap between those in the most and least affluent social sectors as audiences and participants
We will develop the creative work of disabled artists by funding “Unlimited” commissions and developing a scheme similar to “Ramps on the Moon” operated by Arts Council England
We want to introduce a “Changemakers” scheme placing BAME and disabled people in senior executive positions in the arts
We want to see a doubling of the number of disabled people in the arts workforce
We want to see a doubling of the number of Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds in the arts workforce
We want to have introduced an Arts Council Apprenticeships scheme designed to provide opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds
We will have achieved a trebling of the number of BAME and disabled and on APW boards of governance
I struggle to fully engage this as a response. My recent experience has revealed that there is certainly a surge to include diversity in all its forms on boards and in creative spaces and projects. However, this new ‘interest’ feels more like organisations ‘needing’ to diversify rather than ‘wanting’ to diversify, in order to secure their future and funding. I am hopeful though.
Artistic Director, Taking Flight Theatre Company
What a year of change 2019 has been. For Taking Flight it has seen the company move away from the annual Shakespeare production to more indoor, venue-based work.
peeling by Kaite O’Reilly, opened on International Women’s Day in March at The Riverfront, Newport and then toured Wales and England and was a huge success earning 4 and 5* reviews.
The Guardian stating “Accessible theatre? Do it properly – do it like this”. Following this Taking Flight was invited to Grenzenlos Kulture festival in Mainz, Germany as an example of best practice in accessibility. It was a huge tour and highlighted once more the inaccessibility of much of Wales; accessible accommodation is very hard to find, and some venues struggled to meet our access riders. However, this did lead to some very inventive solutions involving temporary dressing rooms created with flats, curtains and even a marquee! Obviously not the ideal but with our hugely creative stage management team always looking for solutions rather than the problems and the support of venues we made it work. High applause to Angela Gould at RCT Theatres for her work in this department.
One of our lovely actors toured with her dog who was a lovely addition to the team. Max is a therapy dog; many places we visited were only familiar with guide dogs, which made us realise how much there is to learn about the different types of assistance dogs.
Everything we learnt during this extensive tour will feed into the work we have been developing towards a scheme like the Ramps on the Moon initiative. A scheme like this can never be replicated, but the interest and passion from venues in Wales to be involved is overwhelming. Creu Cymru, hynt and Taking Flight have been in ongoing discussions about ways to make this happen. We read with interest that it was also a priority for ACW and have begun conversations with them around a similar scheme. As we have been researching and pushing for this to happen since ‘Ramps’ began in 2016, we are passionate that this becomes a reality. Taking Flight has just received funding for their next production, Road, at Parc and Dare, RCT Theatres and we hope this partnership will be the first step. Taking Flight will give support to participating venues to be confident to manage and produce inclusive work, to provide excellent access and a warm welcome to all- both audiences and creatives.
While peeling was out on the road in the Autumn, we also remounted the hugely successful and totally gorgeous You’ve got Dragons. After a run at WMC we hit the road again for a UK tour including a week run at Lyric Hammersmith which was almost sold out and incredibly well received. The desire for inclusive and accessible work for young people is growing. Watch this space for more news on You’ve Got Dragons next adventure.
Taking Flight has often dreamt of setting up a Deaf- led Youth Theatre for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing young people and with funding from BBC Children in Need we have finally done it. Led by the tremendous Stephanie Back in BSL and English, the youth theatre began last week and the results are already fabulous. The Wales Millennium Centre are our amazing venue partner and host the weekly sessions for D/deaf children aged 4-18. We have been overwhelmed with interest in this project, demonstrating that this has been needed in Wales for a long time.
There has also been a surge in interest from companies and individuals wanting to consider access while writing funding applications. There is a general excitement around making work accessible. There are some brilliant intentions and I’ve had exciting conversations with companies about different types of access and have been able to recommend consultants and access professionals.
The ground has been fertile for change for some time and there is much more inclusive and accessible work being created here than when we first started 12 years ago. Theatres are also much more interested in programming diverse work and many have invested in Deaf Awareness training with Taking Flight (Led by Steph Back).
There is a real desire to diversify audiences and welcome them to theatre spaces. Taking Flight’s next symposium on 28th Feb at Park and Dare RCT theatres on Relaxed Performances brings the brilliant Jess Thom, Touretteshero to Wales to discuss ways to provide the warmest possible welcome to those who may find the traditional etiquette of theatre a problem.
There has been a surge of work featuring D/deaf and disabled performers, productions like Jonny Cotsen’s Louder is Not Always Clearer, Leeway Productions Last Five Years and Illumine’s 2023 really engaged new audiences and the venues have really built on this success. There have been more productions that embed access in a creative way, a gorgeous example in Gods and Kings by Fourinfour productions with integrated BSL from Sami Thorpe. I had lots of fun working with Julie Doyle and Likely Story integrating BSL interpreter Julie Doyle into Red. Companies are choosing to interpret, audio describe or caption all the shows in a run rather than just one which is really encouraging and promoting more equality of access to shows.
So, the will to make accessible work is absolutely there, the best of intentions are definitely there and, now the funding for access is factored into budgets, the funds are usually there. However, why is it still access that falls through the cracks, gets pushed aside or forgotten as a production approaches opening night? I hear stories of interpreters and audio describers who can’t get into a rehearsal space to prep or are placed somewhere on stage that is neither aesthetically pleasing nor practical. It can still sometimes feel like access is something that needs to be ticked off a list in order to fulfil a funding application.
I am absolutely sure that this is not the intention; but we are all so overstretched, one person is often doing multiple jobs (especially in small companies) and when no one is directly responsible for access or it simply forms ‘part’ of someone’s role. So those best intentions and exciting plans are really hard to fully achieve. Taking Flight are exploring this lack of provision for access co – ordination with Bath Spa University so watch this space for the results of our research… The next generation of theatre makers are coming, and they really care about making work that can be accessed by all – that makes me happy.
In a one-person performance, there is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the actor as the whole narrative is told through them and they have to keep the audience engaged and enthused. Which is clearly very difficult but Jose Pedro Fortuna didn’t seem to even hesitate in his one-man production of Entree performed at USW Atrium Theatre.
The plot of this play was pretty simple as it was about a master of ceremonies going to deliver some sort of speech. But as he gets ready start to go wrong and hilarity ensues. This shows a modern and contemporary interpretation of the classic art form of clowning by using magic tricks (which were incredible and mind-blowing to watch) and sound effects. One of the highlights of this concept was a trick where Pedro made a dropped card float from the floor to the top of a ladder where he was stood. This art form (clowning) is fundamentally very comical and Pedro also included traditionally physical theatre tropes such as being stuck in a curtain, the constant dropping of his bow-tie and misplacing props to create a piece of theatre that respected the tradition of clowning while also bringing it to the 21st century.
Pedro decided to make some other creative decisions such as having no dialogue in the entire play, a focus on physical comedy and having it be a nice easy production to watch. Because of all this and the nature of this show, I think the show would work better as a dinner time entertainment in a fancy restaurant rather than in a theatre as a play. Pedro has devised this play so that it built in a logical and natural way. Each prop was introduced in its own sketch before being included in the final set up which was really nice to watch. As a performer, Pedro was entertaining and jovial but also as a magician he was able to manipulate the audience attention and focus so he could perform his sleight of hand trick and certain comedy skits which worked excellently. It was especially fantastic to see the blending of magic and theatre which was a unique blend that I personally had never seen before but I definitely want to see explored again in the future.
This was a thirty-minute show which only added to how easy it was to catch. There were discussions about expanding it to an hour show in the future. This clearly shows how the play is in a sort of developmental phase. On top of this there were feedback forms handed out to find out what the audience enjoyed or not but also a Q and A at the end of the show (which was a fantastic idea as it allowed the audience to find out about the show making process etc) during this we found out that some aspects of the show are improvised and also that Pedro introduces new skills and tricks in different performances. This all means that no two shows of Entree are the same which makes it a very exciting piece of theatre.
In conclusion, Entree is a modern piece of clowning that had the audience laughing throughout. It is a unique show that is one not to miss. I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars. Entree is a really entertaining piece of theatre that’s shows a side of clowning that many people have not seen before.
Who couldn’t be excited by an adult only circus? We begin our night by our intro full of comedy, verbal notes on a good time and nudity – and this is exactly what we get.
Amongst awe inducing stunts, flying high in the air, balancing
on unstable chairs, fire, whips, you name it, we get a show full of attitude,
hilarity, tongue and cheek and lots of naughtiness. It’s true that this is a
circus unlike any other.
This isn’t a show for the prudish, or the shy. The group openly admit that their idea behind the show is breaking down gender and sex roles, and so we see plenty of sexual tension between all sexes – they throughout cross gender roles, with femme and androgynous looks as well as woman taking a lead in dominance. And this shows another great step towards more open and equal performances that are popping up across the theatrical scene.
Don’t be shocked if you fall in love with these characters –
each with their own personality on show, they can be demure and intense with
more serious acts but none are afraid to make a fool of themselves, taking playful
approaches to S&M, hilarious dance routines with obscured faces by a lamp
shade and dancing to a song stating ‘turn me on’ – at this point a light switch
by their genitals can be flicked on with light blasting out. There’s no end to
the inventiveness and comedy with their routines.
And of course, the more intense stunts are beautiful, well-rehearsed
and stunning. The ability to make it look so easy, but with our full knowledge
of the strength and skill going into these. They keep their performance faces
on, even if the heat literally gets turned up as they swallow fire or keeping
their head as they are swung around the room.
Rouge is raunchy, a great degree of enjoyment and certainly a brilliant night out – For ADULTS ONLY!
Rouge plays at Underbelly as part of the Southbank Festival until the 15th September.
The only way to start this review is to announce that this
was one of the best and most inventive things I have seen for a long time.
The word ‘circus’ could however be a loose term for the
performance; there are some small stunts, a little aerial and flexibility, but
this is not the main focus, and that does not make me mad.
This all female group openly spit in the face of the
patriarchy, but with a sense of humour and no fear. The YUCK ladies take
elements of female life, from menstruation, to talking about messy nights out,
pubic hair to ‘dick pics’ and ultimately doing this with a hint of satire on
how women are perceived in Circus shows.
The YUCK performers are dressed in basic black shorts and
tops, modest and purely to help with the stunts. But at one point, they point
out that there has been little circus; to fuel our need, they do a balancing
act, but not before pulling their shorts up, exposing their bottoms and facing
the audience. This is not only hilarious but is addressing the importance that
we are used to seeing scantily clad circus performers, and at times we question
if this is really for function or for the ‘male gaze’.
They are unapologetic in parts of life that are not feminine
– beer drinking, burping – who cares! They certainly don’t and through this
humour and inventive acts, they poke fun and make a stand at the same time.
They interact fully with us, making eye contact, coming into
the audience and so this is not a show for the shy by any means.
There is also music; and again, these range from satirical
live music, poking fun at what the aerialist is doing, as well as some quintessential
feminist songs, some disco – all the tunes you cannot stop yourself dancing to.
YUCK Circus is what every feminist woman should go to to feel another push in what we are striving for in society; for every woman who is still in the dark; and for every man who is stuck in the patriarchy. It is for everyone who wants to laugh, has a slight dark and unbarred humour and to feel really empowered by these unapologetic and fierce women.
In the last few years, there seems to have been a break out
of traditional circus. The tricks and skills are generally the same, but the
themes, the approach and ultimately the execution are all so different and
Race Horse Company bring their carnival, grown up kid-like
circus to us, full of crazy stunts and belly laughing comedy.
This male group, a cross of hipsters meets a lad group who
have been friends since childhood, they quite obviously explicitly trust one another
(a must in circus) but also really enjoy what they do, while parading around in
close to matching outlandish shirts and beach shorts.
As any circus, we have a mixture of low level tricks to
dangerous stunts – one minute the group are juggling or creating a comical
dance routine wearing large horse puppets, and the next they are throwing one
another up into the ceiling and performing in circular tubes that spin on their
own at the same time on their own axis. Yet no matter what the performance, it
seems effortless, smooth and there’s always an element of comedy to what they
A giant teddy bear being flung into the air, brightly
coloured balls bouncing everywhere, this show is completely geared for children
and you can hear the innocent giggles amongst the audience, along with gasps of
all ages. Of course, any good show throws little jokes for the adults that go
over the children’s heads and so we enjoy is just as much as the children are –
giggling in our own corners and gasping in awe.
Super Sunday is extremely exciting, shocking in their courage and stunts but ultimately a brilliant Circus show.
At half 9 at night, the last thing you would be expecting to
see is a sock puppet show. I love a good puppet, but I equally love an usual
concept. Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (SFSPT) sure are the unusual.
Opened to the world of adult puppetry and it becoming more
familiar a concept, we have all heard of the adult themed ‘Avenue Q’ and a few
years ago, ‘Hand to God’. Even cartoons have become more adult friendly,
opening up a whole new world in performing arts.
And while I hesitate to compare SFSPT to such shows (a joke
in the performance itself reflecting this), it is agreeable that this concept
Is not as unusual as it may once were. Yet I was still pleasantly surprised and
Puppetry come comedy, the FSPT does not rely on humour alone
to get by. There is a theme, and it is ever changing (as we hear from its 15 or
so years of its presence). This round is Circus themed –with The Greatest
Showman being so prevalent in the last year, SFSPT draw upon this to create a
narrative, but feels free to go a little off course, ad lib where necessary and
it is all just as funny as the original plan. We are at times asked to use our
imagination, thinking of a sock puppet out of shot on a tightrope or completing
an another amazing feat.
They keep the information present – keeping to events and
news from the last year, even making jokes and making it clear that some of the
audience may find some too obscure, we cannot help but love it and definitely
With only one man, two puppets, and maybe around 5
character’s, it is a feat of genius and skill at set and ‘costume’ changes with
one hand- a magical experience we all wish we knew the answer to. He manages to
give each character its own personality, even with their interaction with one
another being quick. Of course there are times when a Australian accent is
suddenly Scottish and he soon realises it. But this only adds to the humour –
there is no masking mistakes, only inclusion of them.
The narrative went a little off course and dark humoured,
but you know what, I was not mad at it. I was sufficiently entertained, laughed
my socks off (pardon the pun) and had a really interesting and splendid time.
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre is not exactly breaking theatrical boundaries, but my gosh was it a lot of fun. If you fancy something unusual, ridiculous (is a good way) and a good laugh, then this show is a total must.
Ahead of the 2018 Brecon Baroque Festival, Roger Barrington had the chance to chat to it’s Artistic Director, Rachel Podger about what to expect this year and also about her own flourishing career as one of the world’s leading violinists.
The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Rachel Boulton, Artistic Director of Motherlode, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and Motherlodes new production ‘Exodus’ which premiers at the Coliseum Theatre, Aberdare on the 5th of October before touring.
Philip Ridley’s acclaimed one-act 2000 play, “Vincent River” tells the story of a mother whose son Vincent has been murdered in a homophobic attack. In the aftermath, she learns about her son’s homosexuality. An interview with Director Luke Hereford.
The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and her new production ‘Murmur’, taking place on Fri 14th September 2018 at Memo Arts Centre, Barry.
The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with playwright and actor Joe Wiltshire Smith.They discussed his background, creative opportunities for young people in Bridgend, his new play Five Green Bottles and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.
The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones. They discussed her background and training, a current project Gravida and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.