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.
Firstly, a massive thank you to YANC and Get the Chance for the opportunity to be part of this event. Ground breaking engagements are being made by YANC with a diverse scope of arts practitioners and young people of today pushing boundaries in delivering up to date masterclasses, whilst providing and facilitating the relaxed and required networking opportunities. I loved the fact that YANC seemed to be almost inclusively driven by what the Youth want out of these sorts of occasions, with lots of brain storming and idea throwing activities around.
As soon as, I walked in, I was greeted by Sarah Jones, YANC network’s Chair and artistic director for Mess Up the Mess. Sarah kindly told me exactly what was going on and where. A welcome pack was provided in English and Welsh, this included the days schedule where you would choose what masterclasses you wanted to attend which was also sent by email prior, a feedback pull-out, a substantial list of delegates names, company and their email was provided (invaluable data!), when your wish to pursue contact with people that you have met. This handy touch further enables the networking continuing process, after the event, something that is sometimes missed at previous events similar to YANC’s.
The types of delegate in attendance
There were various freelancer’s in attendance, dramaturgs’ and performers’ from many companies and practitioners, many having toured throughout the UK, ladies from SPARC theatre and Valley Kids, Various personnel from Mess up the Mess Theatre, tutors from CAVC and RCT, Flossy and Bo, Opera Sonic, Rawfest, Ethnic minorities and youth support, Team Wales (EYST), Narbeth Youth Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre, 20 stories High, Circus practitioners, Theatre Na nOg, Jukebox collective, Young Identity, Common Wealth theatre, and Paper trail.
I especially enjoyed my chats with a young man called EZ Rah, a Cardiff based Mike Controller, who has recently won an award for his contribution in attendance at Jason Camilleri’s Radio Platform held at the Millennium Centre and that was launched last year. It was also good to see, such a myriad of people from all over Wales and even outside of Wales enjoying and interacting creatively.
Young Identity is Led by outstanding facilitators, versatile poets and established spoken word performers. Shirley A May @thegirldreams is one of the founders of Young Identity, someone who I found talks deeply from the heart.
It was herself, her daughter, practitioner and spoken word artist Nicole May and Reece Williams, an artist development advocate and one of BBC1 Extras Words First Finalists, that delivered to the group.
The session starts with interactive word, action and mind play. “Hulla hulla Dance, Dance – Hoop, Dance. It was extremely interactive with competitions from the offset. After all that dancing about and whilst our adrenaline was pumping, they asked us to talk about our life stories. They used their own life experiences to encourage people talk about theirs. “Today I was feeling” and you were then asked to write for 5 minutes about this. Some were spoken aloud, then significant sentences were drawn out, through a thought provoking process they taught. “Cloudy with a chance of rain” and, “I often get nervous around people, but I love them”, were proudly spoken by others. Many other practical skills and ways of creating structured poems in the conventional and un-conventional ways were explored and I ended up coming away feeling I could literally carry on with the process they taught and explore the whole concept a lot more having been in attendance.
Shirley May talked about visiting Picasso’s house in Malaga and the journey that Picasso took to get to the end art product and breaking form. She said Art; whether, it’s in written form or whether its structured to everyone’s approval or not, it is about developing but not discarding the old forms and the characterized elements like rhyme, line length, and metrical pattern.
Young Identity encouraged participants to always read; whatever that may be. To push yourself to overcome barriers, stance and with practice how, power can come through your body. The no disclaimer policy whereby you are not allowed to say anything to support or condemn your own words before talking. This is great because it encourages equal levels when delivering this art form. Another thought concept noted, “Is it even a poem, if we cannot hear you speak it?” Reece Williams told us that we could click our fingers also known as snapping, instead of clapping our appraisals and that this is becoming more and more popular in today’s culture.
Young Identity is part of the Frankfurt International school, but sadly has had their funding cut recently from the government. For me an absolute shame, as the work they are doing as like YANC and Common Wealth Theatre needs to be done.
Common Wealth Theatre
Common Wealth make site-specific and award-winning theatre events that encompass electronic sound, new writing, visual design and verbatim. Their work is political and contemporary – based in the present day – the here and now. Described by Lyn Gardner from the Guardian, “a company that bursts open our consciousness”, a statement, I wholly agree with.
Facilitating this event was the absolute amazing Rhiannon White. Rhiannon is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Common Wealth and a Cardiff local. I received an outstanding energy from Rhiannon and the depth of her work is liberating. This part of the day is where I felt I was intensively challenged positively, enforcing collectiveness and the freedom of individual thought. Rhiannon did this well, by firstly asking us to speak to people and tell them random things about yourself, what we are most proud of etc. Before I knew it there was fully grown and smaller humans of all walks of life, dancing around imitating Body Builders, their Fathers after a few, and people in-love.!
It was hilarious, but a respected art form at the same time. Jumping back into the thought pool you were asked to write down three things to do with each thought induced subject. The subjective answers of individuals were then placed into a centred bundle, we talked about these, using different forms of expression, whether voice, movement or complete silence. The range of ways that you could respond in felt like art in present and was moving, emotional and sometimes philosophical.
Rhiannon talked about her projects, what she feels about theatre and how we can all be a part of it. WOW is a festival that celebrates the achievements of woman and girls, also looking at the obstacles woman face across the world. They are holding think in sessions and big public planning meetings starting Wednesday 2nd May at Butetown community centre and around Cardiff at various locations over the period of four days. I would highly recommend attending one of these sessions, which are open to everyone, woman, men, girls and boys.
Last but not least
The YANC Meeting
The very important YANC meeting took place, minutes were provided and accounts. Why did this happen at the networking event? I was thinking this at first then it come to me. If you are going to buy a membership and invest in this group, then surely you would want to know where the money is going? It was a brilliant way of demonstrating just how much work and support is provided. Also, how most of the work done is voluntary, reflecting just how much this group wants to help the youth sector. There is to be a lot of role swapping and the inclusion of new people this year which is hoped to bring for new and exciting projects. YANC will be supporting RawFfest this year and planning more Casgliad events.
I need to be honest and give you how I saw attending this event from my very personal view. I had been looking forward to this event for weeks, but I suffer with acute anxiety. My anxiety stopped me from attending the first day as I hadn’t been to this sort of event for some time, I felt I was totally out of the loop, but with help from the fantastic Guy O’Donnell, I attended Sunday and I am elated from the experience. My barriers were instantly broken down, I was enjoying myself, learning, laughing, meeting new people and wondering why the heck I was scared to go in the first place. So, If you are reading this and you too, have anxiety, about these sorts of events, then get in touch with YANC because these meetings are so inclusive, down to earth and real in approach you will worry about nothing and instead be in one creative bubble to the next. They also offer support and membership through email and social media interaction and one to one meets if necessary as well as these fabulous events.
A production exploring the Inner self that tells us to just – Do it!
Betty Bruiser lives inside of Liz but is projected as a character completely outside the norms of Liz Clarke. Betty is a person of complete contradiction to Liz, who is an insider living in the comforts of motherhood and home. The show creates a sense of grief and the trauma that has engulfed her from the loss of her sister. Growing from this is Betty Bruiser, the electric blue superhero alter ego.
Betty is tough, Loud and electric . Betty captivated the entire audience with her incredible mix of live art, music and burlesque.
Cannonballista explores grief in a completely new light, losing someone who is close to you and the ways in which we escape from bereavement. For Liz, Betty is a powerhouse who brings Liz out of herself and into a complete sense of invincibility even in the moments that Liz wants her gone, Betty is there fighting for Liz and her need to cope. The audiences were given the opportunity to form a bond with Betty and understand Liz when we delve into the character.
It is show worth the watch if you are exploring yourself and your womanhood. You may find your own inner superhero such as Betty Bruiser. Cannonballista is an explosive performance that will stick with you in times of love and times of loss.
How lucky am I, that less than a week after seeing a theatrical hero for the first time, I was able to see the show that started it all – Red Bastard : The Original Show.
While Lie With Me focuses on love and how we all lie, the original show questions our dreams, our lack of or even fear of the truth and our lack of being interesting. What a perfect audience are the British to tackle these issues!
Red Bastard has a commanding power. Unlike other performances when audience members hesitate and struggle with being interacted with, you expect it with Red Bastard. But part of you wants to be commanded by him, you want him to interact and his clever approach to the performance is to feed off what we give. How amazing is this performer that he is unfazed by this and utalising it for his own theatrical creation.
He is mean. He is loving. He gives 0 sh**s and we love it. We are masochistic in a sense that we crave his abuse, his comedy and his surprises. Because BOY are there surprises. You can never tell when the next one will be.
It is admiring to watch his ability to push boundaries with a sense that the fundamentals are rehearsed but that Red Bastard is the master of improv.
If you ever do anything with your life – see Red Bastard. Join in. And come away with possibly one of the funniest, most enjoyably insulting performances that you will never want to end.
A room with only a table, bible and vase of flowers, Be Prepared certainly is not preparing us for what is ahead.
As the lights go down, some quirky music begins from the audience and out comes our performer, hidden within us.
Be Prepared takes a look at one man, his grief of losing his father, reminiscence of his childhood and life and his chance encounter with a stranger that brings his life and grief into perspective.
The majority of this production is a monologue; chopping and changing the story, we pick up bits and pieces of his narration and feel the tense and nervous mannerisms of the character. Ian Bonar is captivating in his production and this monologue is never boring and always engaging; taking the time to look directly at us as he talks, making us feel included and that this production is very personal.
This addictive speech is interrupted by physical breaks, highlighted by changes in light and sound. It shocks the system, shocks you out of rhythm and emanates the system interruption that grief must also give.
This combination of two theatrical forms is never boring and we sit wishing to hear more, to know the story and find out what happens. He is comical, earnest and friendly and all we want to do it sit and listen.
Ian Bonar has taken on a creative and unusual approach to story telling in theatre. Be Prepared is honest, warm and in a way relaxing to watch which is what captivating theatre should sometimes be.
In the deep dark underground of The Vaults in London, Vault Festival obtains every corner. Lightened by UV and Neon, packed full of people, in rooms that seemingly appear from nowhere – what a perfect place to stage an apocalyptic underworld full of circus extraordinaire. Becoming Shades is mostly entirely run by women – but these women are fierce. They occupy this expanse of an Underworld, making us stare and gasp in awe at their circus techniques – but not all is what it seems. This is dark, real dark – a feeling of two acrobatics with a grudge; a girl pulled into the chaos and forced to perform; three henchmen and their comical relationships; all run by our ‘ring leader’ – a gas masked mystery, moving almost like an old person but still curious and inhuman-like.
This promenade performance moves the audiences across the space – our henchmen guiding us with mime and fear – we’re never sure if they will hurt us or play with us. They move us with such ease – the lighting changing and acting as a beacon for where we must go.
The costumes and set are exactly what you would expect – reused material yet with a finesse of circus tradition; everything encompasses this watery, dark underground world.
There’s no ‘tud dah’ moments; no smiles; we know we cannot be hurt and we will leave eventually but there’s the 1% that makes you think you’ll be with this group of mischiefs forever.
The stunts are undeniably creative, surprising and inspiring; seeing each muscle in the performer’s bodies move in the light as their sheer strength and flexibility turns around a rope; silks; flaming hoops and so on. And then there are fire breathing, juggling, all to grab your attention and keep you guessing.
The cast themselves did a great job of constant character; the interval let us stay in the area and they loitered; looking sad and bewildered; listening to the live music which was very necessarily dark, indie and mood enhancing. Or they decided to play with us, invite us to be entertained instead of checking Twitter.
Beyond Shades evokes a little reminder of No Fit State Circus ; energetic, unusual but still with their own take and own identity. Just as No Fit, they are incredible and nothing short of sheer perfection, something like you have never seen before. Hannah Goslin
Slava’s snowshow is completely original and unlike anything you might have seen before, although it may be triggering for those with a serious clown aversion (thanks to Stephen King and his fondness for drain-based terror!).
Polunin’s production straddles the traditional theatre show, mime, the avant garde, the clowning niche and pure spectacle. The resulting concoction is one that surprises, delights and tickles the audience. Balloons crop up here and there. A rocking horse, stars and a moon, a music box, a swing. Beautifully designed props and scenery by Ivan Yarapolskiy and Dmitry Khamzin pick at your childhood memories (and at times – your nightmares!).
Slava’s snowshow does not have a narrative or a beginning, middle or an end. It’s actually hard to know where the vignettes and sketches will lead, but beneath the playful care-free demeanour of the show, every step, breath and look is careful, choreographed and deliberate.
An insignificant nod of a head, a wink, a snail’s pace trudge across the stage – the movements toe the line between tenderness and tragedy, laced with clownery and foolishness.
This production deliberately disrupts the frenetic pace and convention of many modern productions. It crosses the barriers between the audience and the action on stage and playfully invites adults to re-enter the colourful imaginarium of their youth.
You will instantly lower your guard, becoming absorbed in the wonder of the physicality and comic energy of the clowns the and sheer absurdity of the vignettes. But Slava’s snowshow truly succeeds in speaking to your inner child – and the sheer simplicity of this patchwork of comedy is effective and stunning.
The theatrical inspiration may have come from Chaplin, from Ukranian dramaturgs like Gogol and from street theatre and pantomime – but the language of Slava Polunin is completely universal.
The on stage action is part-dream, part-fantasy and complete spectacle. Polunin’s aim was to fuse together the tragic and the comic and create a kaleidoscope of colour, events and sound. His intention was to revitalise the way modern audiences respond to clowning…the result is more personal, more intelligent and intriguing than anything you might have experienced at a birthday party or witnessed on cheesy Saturday night TV.
The scenes created on stage are wonderfully inventive – a bed becomes a boat, a coat stand becomes a person and curtains become snowy rocks. The action on stage spills out into the audience frequently. Slava’s clowns walk over the backs of audience chairs, a giant cobweb is passed over the heads of the audience and without spoiling any surprises – there is carnage in the theatre at the end of the show. I feel sorry for the people brushing that up!
Even if clowns really aren’t your cup of tea – this is unmissable. 4 stars
Type of show: Theatre
Title: Slava’s Snow Show
Venue: Wales Millennium Centre (Cardiff)
Dates: 17-21 October
Created and staged by Slava Polunin
Stage Technician: Ivan Yarapolskiy
Sound Technician: Alexey Lavrentyev
Light Technician: Alexander Iakolev
Photographic credits Keith Morris www.artswebwales.com
Hi Des great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi my name is Des and I am based at Neuadd Dyfi a venue in West Wales. The venue you support is called Neuadd Dyfi and is in West Wales. how is the venue used by the local community?
Over the last 20 years we have worked hard to create a flexible space. Flexibility is the key. A community hall has to attempt to do all things for all. Though there are some compromises we manage to hold full scale pantomimes, art exhibitions, community lunches wedding receptions play groups dance theatre workshops, Zumba Women’s institute and blood donor sessions.
Theatre Rum Ba Ba performing “L’Hotel at Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdyfi
How did you get involved in supporting Night Our performances at Neuadd Dyfi?
I met the legendary John Prior at a village hall forum around about 1999 he suggested Frank Hennessey & Friends we had a superb “Night Out “ and I was sold on the concept Night Out financially underwrites the majority of the cost of booking professional touring work for smaller venues, community halls and schools. Would you be able to book work in your venues without Night Outs support?
We do book work in our hall without Night Out support but if we didn’t have their help this would severely restrict the range and quality of the events we put on. Night Out gives us and the performers the confidence to “be bold”
Your venue has a very diverse artistic programme including family productions, folk music, musical cabaret, adult drama and opera. How do you decide on what type of work to programme in your venue?
It would be great to say that it is based on sound market research and a deep understanding of the Arts. To be honest is largely what tickles our fancy. For the last three years I have attended the National Rural Touring Forum conference which has been excellent for seeing showcased examples some of which are in their development stage. Hosting an event that has been through the Night out vetting procedure is also a good filter. Variety and quality are the key. Congratulations on winning the award for Best Promoter in the Ticket source Rural Touring Awards. The awards recognise the valuable work of productions, venues, promoters, schemes, and staff in the rural touring sector What qualities would you say are required for a successful promoter?
Research, marketing and being prepared to take risks. Develop and look after your audience. Create a welcoming atmosphere. Think about the layout most appropriate for the show theatre, cabaret , in the round. This can make a great difference to the success of the event. Be prepared to take risks and move on from failure. We spoke to Peter Gregory, Head of Night Out at Arts Council Wales about the Night Out scheme and Des. How does Night Out as an organisation support organisations such as Neuadd Dyfi to programme high quality touring productions?
Des George and the team of volunteers in Neuadd Dyfi work tirelessly organising a myriad of events and activities for their community. They use the Arts Council of Wales’ Night Out scheme to take away the financial risk of booking professional shows. In the same way that many of the major Theatres and Arts Centres get funding Night Out allows small community halls to book amazing shows. Night Out provides advice ,support and will often ensure that high quality companies that normally tour to Theatres also provide high quality shows for community halls. http://www.nightout.org.uk Des recently won the award for Best Promoter in the Ticket Source, Rural Touring Awards. In your own words why do you think Des won this award?
The commitment from Des is second to none and the feedback we get from the companies who perform in the hall is always positive. Not only does he ensure everything is correct technically, the performers are fed and watered and welcomed into the local community. In the words of one happy company “ Des is a God amongst men” 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 accessing high quality productions for the audiences you support?
There is often a perception that because it is held in a village hall that it will be an amateurish production. There is so often the statement “Oh I don’t like that sort of thing” . In today’s environment of every home having widescreen TV’s, iPods, iPad’s, streaming videos, instantly obtainable music of any genre it is a battle to show that a shared experience at a live production is special If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
For us I would like to develop our youth theatre provision. Active involvement. What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I think that ACW has been absolutely right in concentrating on maintaining their support for performance. They have been good to us in a number of our capital projects but without the performances we wouldn’t have a community hall we would just have a hall. The recent report that support for the Arts is being strengthened in the regions not just London centric is very encouraging.
My advice to a potential audience member is do take the time to read that poster, have a look at what’s on locally and make that small bit of effort needed to venture out for a “Great Night Out”. Thanks for your time Des
Described as a crossbreed of traditional African dance and circus stunts, Mother Africa is an explosive and fun event to attend.
While I felt it more leaned to the Circus route, the setting, language, music and dance all had the essence of traditional Africa, or at least what we believe it to be. Implemented with short narratives, the performers keep to a native tongue, and so the use of the universal language of gesture is relied upon, giving us the essence of peering through to their way of life. The production looks at the difference levels of Africa- the poor, the average, areas of boosting economy and the rich, not relying purely upon the negative connotations that can be associated with this vibrant country.
The music is interesting, majority positive and easy to listen to. The dancing is incredible, fast paced and interesting – leaving you slightly awe inspired as to the earthly, natural positioning of their body and its movement.
But what struck me was the circus skills. As a (not so secret) wannabe circus performer, despite my 0 skills, I have seen many a circus show/act in my years in performance art . And when you have seen something as much as that, you would think that you would grow a sense of numbness to the awe, to the fear. And I have to some extent. This is not to mean I do not enjoy it as much as I would have with those feelings still, but I have grown a different sense to it – more inspirational and a sense of learning. But somehow, Mother Africa revoked those old feelings. They take skills to a new death defying level, and the gentle shake of my head and grin at being shocked at the unbelievable tricks was constant.
Speaking to Jolene, one of Sadler’s Wells press managers, we agreed that Mother Africa is a interesting, warm and welcoming show mid-week after a hard day of work, a boring time in life or in general, a fantastic show to invest in.