Cardiff Comedy festival has brought many opportunities for a belly laugh over the last few weeks. Being invited to watch comical plays by South London group, Velvet Trumpet was a great opportunity and just what I needed today.
Toast began with us looking at a simple dining room table with all the pieces to the puzzle for Toast eating. What made this short skit special was that the toaster was fully functioning, filling the room with the smell of warm bread and the steam against the simple whitewash lighting. We are introduced to Michael; the usual man, making his breakfast and getting ready for work. His love affair with toast is something that most can relate to. The gluten and wheat intolerant in me could even relate to the versatility and ease of toast eating in a previous time. However toast is only a metaphor for Michael’s failed marriage and his way of coping. Hilariously taken through his story, his take on his ex-wife and his life provided many opportunities for a laugh. Interaction with the audience, bringing one on stage also made us feel hilariously awkward, such as the story at that point in time tried to express and the uneasiness of this made the audience laugh continuously. The actor playing Michael managed comedy in an almost natural way in this story telling style, without trying to bring slapstick into the performance which could have been an easy way out; so when the story turns a strange journey, this provided more comical outlets for the absurdity.
A short ten minute break and the change from the original minimalist staging and props turned into an even more simple projection. This longer piece began with a short video of Ken and Steve and their travel of 200 miles from London to Swansea, all in the name of art. However, the support of the Welsh for these two Swansea Jack’s were severely lacking, and during their ‘presentation’ Ken’s anger comes alive. This, what seemed slightly unscripted, piece was a complete turn on the night so far. A simple piece focussing mainly on the telling of a story had turned into the back and forth relationship between Steve – an average and calm man and Ken – a melodrama-ed version of a proud Welshman. More audience interaction, multimedia usage and plenty of slapstick, it was hard to not laugh. Since the actor of Ken was played by the same man as Michael in Toast, himself as a performer was really interesting to watch to show his versatility as a performer; from a naturalist story-teller to a complete over exaggerated being. Ken and Steve picked up many part of Welsh comedy, looking at stereotypes of the Welsh and of particular places in both their telling of their journey, their quips and characters themselves. Combined with high energy movement at times and use of film, this simple but effective piece was a great ending to the night.
Velvet Trumpet had combined the two pieces well by beginning with something so calm and ending with something so solidly humorous – this company sure know how to get their audience and how to combine two different forms of comedy for a fantastic night.
NoFit State Circus
Wales Millennium Centre
3rd May 2013
To describe exactly what happened would be to somehow diminish it – words could never give you the same feeling of excitement, wonder and fear as the daring feats performed by the cast of Bianco right above your head!
In their daring promenade performance NoFit State invited the audience up onto the WMC main stage where the performance took place around, in and above the crowd. Huge pieces of mobile scaffolding were manoeuvred to constantly redesign the performance space and unveil the next spectacle.
True to their style there was no concrete narrative through the piece, just reoccurring themes particularly that of shedding what is unnecessary in order to achieve more. One particularly striking scene presented immaculately dressed blonde bombshell Ariele Ebacher traversing the tightwire in high heels. Gradually she shed her tailored dress, shoes and even the blonde wig to reveal an even more agile, strong and athletic brunette – her at her best.
As if there wasn’t already enough to entertain you a fantastic live band played throughout. Their range of styles was incredible; from moody and tense to upbeat and stereotypically circus-y. Sometimes they provided an abstract narrative to the aerial action that was particularly striking when combined with the powerful grace of August Dakteris.
Some moments were truly touching, a duet performed on a suspended frame seemed to say all there is about love. The finale in which beautifully tattooed Sage Cushman joyfully performed dance-trapeze whilst a blizzard fell around her was again stunning.
These incredible moments of finely crafted theatre were sadly diminished in places by the constant movement of the huge set and more could have been done between the set changes to keep the pace as high as it was in the breakneck ensemble pieces. Also on the rare occasions that the performers poke it was impossible to hear them.
The lack of storytelling allowed the company to focus on creating a series of otherworldly and breathtaking images. This experiment into promenade circus theatre although flawed in places was certainly exciting and engaging.
Dressing Up Too
|Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre , Sherman Cymru , February 23, 2013|
To get nearly 100 young performers on stage is no mean feat, yet Sherman Cymru Youth Theatre’s inventive catwalk show was engaging and unusual. In form and content it covered material that is completely out of the normal comfort zone of other youth theatres. There were no ‘lead roles’ for the star performers, no mediocre chorus – just a group of talented young people who worked together to produce a polished and touching show.
The production explored the dichotomy between what we show on the outside and what is going on inside each of our minds. Described by Head of Creative Learning, Phil Mackenzie, as a ‘catwalk circus of fractured narratives’ the show jumped between each of the five youth theatre academies. Each one having worked on separate narratives that all linked to the theme of social perception and inner turmoil.
A deeper layer of meaning was given to the performance by the presence of a group of elderly citizens who remained onstage throughout. At intervals each would come forward and share a story from their life, often humorous, sometimes tragic. One of the older women amused the audience with her phobia of finding a dead body around every corner and then proceeded to ask ‘do you think I watch too much TV?’
One of the highlights of the night was undoubtedly the story of Harry who is different, quirky, unaccepted by his peers. After a mysterious visit (just like Harry Potter) our Harry goes away to school but this time he is to become a cardboard box. After finishing school Harry becomes a fashion icon and soon everyone is wearing his cardboard creations. Everyone except a young woman brave enough to be different, she’s a tin foil girl. This clever commentary on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook was light enough for the age group but still touched on the hugely important issues surrounding cyber bullying and isolation. Political theatre from young people is so rare but clearly much needed.
Any casting agents out there should definitely keep their eyes on the members of the oldest group of young performers – Company 4. In their late teens and twenties the group is chock full of focussed and talented actors. Their group work was flawlessly timed and each of their sections was intense and emotional. With plenty of youngsters to take up the mantle this group is sure to be strong for years to come.
Mention has to be made of the beautiful costume design by Deryn Tudor, combined with hair and makeup by Alice Pattillo that added so much drama to the more traditional theatrical sections. Also the multimedia aspect of the show (John Ingham ) ensured there was a constant visual feast that captivated and intrigued.
For young performers to be given the opportunity to develop such highly polished and professional work is amazing. More importantly however, they all seem to love what they are doing and put their all into giving great performances and making sure everyone there has a great time. With the ages of the young performers ranging from 11-26 the skills they will pick up will be invaluable – confidence, focus and teamwork.
Any young person with an interest in performance should get involved with these groups; they will constantly be creating stimulating work that they can be proud of.
To find out more visit: www.shermancymru.com
To read my interview with Phil Mackenzie : http://hypercriticreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/you-must-see-this-show.html
Chelsey is a member of the Young Critics Scheme, fur further information on the scheme contact
There is a unique take on a seemingly clichéd topic in Last Christmas: Tom escapes the backwards, boring Swansea life for the lights and highs of London as a film maker, but after a while the drudgery of paying the bills and an ordinary office job seeps back in. The character’s and the detail of Swansea are vivid: Lanky, Spanner and Bins are that much more alive than the likes of London character’s ‘Suz’ and the Intern. If ‘ambition is critical’ enough for people to leave, Last Christmas highlights the fact that they end up leaving something behind: true friendship and family – what did Tom’s dad really think at the end? Was he proud? It is Tom’s journey home where he comes to realise, through a haze of alcohol that he need not have worried: he has after all begun to become his father.
A one man show is difficult to pull off but the combination of talent brought about by Dirty Protest’s collaboration with Clwyd Theatre Cymru creates an intimate piece full of emotion and passion. Siôn Pritchard’s skillful acting and comic timing is fantastic: he portrays this ordinary man in such a way that everyone can empathise with on different levels and his portrayal of those in his story is pitched perfectly, each personification adding to the depth of the story. Matthew Bulgo’s use of language and imagery is superb: he has brought a character – who could easily have slipped into a one dimensional life – into a multi-dimensional, full colour existence. Filled with stomach creasing rants that flow with ease into dark, grief filled moments that brings tears to the eyes. Kate Wasserberg has used her skill to mould these two talented elements of actor and writer into a seamless and striking piece of theatre.
Last Christmas was a captivating hour of theatre and joy to watch, filled with the mixed blessings that Christmas brings for so many and the joy for others.
Sunday, 18 November 2012
The Adventures of Sancho Panza
Riverfront Theatre, Newport
The Adventures of Sancho Panza is a modern twist on the Don Quixote classic, drawing the real and fictional worlds together and the Don is no longer centre stage. With an unusual opening scene, Sancho Panza and his mother are attending the funeral of their father and husband, it is after when Sancho cannot get his mother to read with him and he reads alone, that his imagination takes over, bringing the Don himself to life and launches Sancho into his adventure.
My only note would be that the piece felt like it faltered slightly: the pace started to wind down about two thirds through, rather than continue at a pace, almost if an interval might be needed somewhere. As it moves past this it does regain its momentum as Sancho is granted is own island to govern and the comedy continues.
The musical talent of the cast is brilliant: Maxwell James is handy with his guitar throughout. His rendition of the opening “There’s a million other places I’d rather be than here…There’s a million other people in the world I would rather be” is heartrending as we watch the funeral procession unfold. He plays challenging Knight in the Don’s (Gareth Wyn Griffiths) sing off. Wyn Griffiths is brilliant as the chivalrous, kind but occasionally daft Don.
Closing back in on reality, Sancho’s mother finds him reading out in the cold, his imagination having run its course and together they are able to work through their grief and Sancho’s questions of ‘Why?
A masterful, heart-warming and touching piece it is well worth seeing.
The Adventures of Sancho Panza is on tour again in 2013.
Info: www.hijinx.org.uk/ Hijinx as a theatre company are dedicated to creating accessible theatre for all the family and to the inclusion of actors with special needs.
Sunday, 11 November 2012
Saturday, 25 August 2012
Y Llwyfan, Carmarthen
Saturday, 11 August 2012
Faenol Estate, Bangor 2-6 October
Wednesday, 1 August 2012
The Monkey House, Edinburgh
(originally for Buzz Mag)
A post-apocalyptic interpretation, its intensified violence is blended with the text’s raw power and the original Shakespearean language. Piers explained the idea of a crumbling society, where Lear himself is a crumbling figurehead – losing power to his two callous daughters whilst the third daughter is banished and powerless to help. Gloucester, part of the only remaining sub-plot, is corrupted by his illegitimate son Edmund, forcing his elder son to flee.
To Piers heading up to the Edinburgh fringe is incredible and hugely exciting, particularly as they only ever envisaged it as a main Cardiff Act One production and to be there on showcase with great companies in an event where anything can happen is incredible. Performing in The Monkey House they have a prime afternoon spot away from the larger evening performances.
For those lucky enough to be heading up to Edinburgh in August @LearFringe2012 is their Twitter tag.
Tickets: £7.50. Info: www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk
A Second Serving of Mayhem from Cwtch Cabaret
29th Feb 2011
Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD
Back for a second round of mayhem Cwtch Cabaret’s second tour showcased a whole new bunch from the wacky, weird and wonderful world of variety acts. With a new Cardiff venue in the beautiful Richard Burton Theatre (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) Cwtch have clearly taken a huge leap forward and somehow managed to put on an even more spectacular show than last time.
Once again hosted by the beautifully mismatched pair of Chris Lynham and Kate McKenzie, they perfectly fanned the flames of madness and magic that made the night so spectacular. This duo never get boring, they are always exciting and unpredictable. The pure enjoyment they get from performing spills over into the audience and creates an atmosphere of fun and frivolity that you can’t resist. Chris’s offbeat satire on film noire was intelligent and hilarious, you can never predict what he will do next.
The most varied and versatile performer of the night was multi-award-winning Australian Jess Love, graduate of Melbourne’s National Institute of Circus Arts. Her first act, “The Majorette” delivered high-energy, body-bending skipping tricks. As “Maureen the Cocktail Queen” she presented new take on comedy burlesque, with a custom built bra that incorporated a fruit juicer she captured the audience with her kooky charm and charisma. Her final act was certainly one of the highlights of the evening, taking us on a trip to the land of the outright odd. A strangely feminine young man enters upstage and starts to perform a confused striptease, only to reveal a passion for wearing women’s underwear. If this wasn’t mind boggling enough, our confused young man then begins to hammer a nail into his nose! This fusion of off the wall burlesque and side show was completely original and gorgeously gruesome. Overall a delightfully talented young woman who will not fail to entertain.
Jess Love (From http://www.jesslove.com.au/Welcome.html)
Petra Lange is an aerial artist like no other. Punky Petra violently destroyed the delicate, gentle stereotype with her emotionally intense rope performances. Her “Tango” was confident, sensual and just simply beautiful. She performs with her heart, providing a story through her acrobatic skills and emotional performance. Her second routine on aerial silk or tissu, was overflowing with confidence, rebellion and in your face attitude! As she plunged from the top of the rope to stop just before hitting the stage the audience let out a huge gasp, equally dangerous and enchanting she is completely individual and spellbinding.
Showcasing inventive card tricks and imaginative juggling skills Luke Wilson is the perfect showman. He elegantly framed his magic act with chat to the audience and natural, nerdy charm. Although he had to compete with an audience comedian who stated their name was “Dave Id” he still easily wowed the audience with his impressive sleight of hand. To keep his juggling act relevant to the 21st century audience he performed to a polished blend of British and Oriental music that perfectly complemented his routine. Using one to five clubs and his whole body to keep them airborne he proved why he is a visiting Professor of Juggling at Stockholm’s University College of Dance and Circus.
Luke Wilson (Fromhttp://www.lukewilson.de/ Photo by Matt Hennem)
Treading the tightrope of controversial comedy was Frank Sanazi. Fuhrer of the “Fatherlounge” he reinvented Sinatra’s classics to fit his extreme right (or extremely wrong) agenda performing “Mein Way” and “Feelin’ Guten”. The songs were painfully funny and his interaction with the audience showed a comedian of true talent. His tongue in cheek performance made it impossible to take offence at the leader of the Iraq Pack, whose other members include Osama Bing Crosby, Dean Stalin and Saddami Davis Junior. As his website says “He may not be a real nazi but he’ll still give you one helluva gas!”
The true variety and high speed pace of this season’s tour meant the fun was non-stop. With hardly a second to regain their breath the audience were alternately crying with laughter or gasping in admiration. Once again I encourage everyone to visit the Cwtch Cabaret website and get tickets for their next tour in May, when I’m sure they will offer up another first-rate serving of the brilliant and bizarre.
Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard
From more info on Cwtch Cabaret and all the artists mentioned please visit: http://www.cwtchcabaret.co.uk
For more reviews visit : http://www.hypercriticreviews.blogspot.com
New and Exciting Theatre in WMC’s Incubator Project
Wales Millenium Centre Weston Studio
WMC’s Incubator Project offers a platform for artists and companies to develop and showcase new work in order to get feedback from industry professionals and the public. The centre offers rehearsal space, monetary grants, technical support and specialised tutoring to the companies involved. They welcome work in Welsh and English, in the mediums of theatre, dance, circus, site specific pieces and digital or online art. The WMC website describes the Project as “a test bed for creation, a hub for development and an opportunity to grow networks and receive feedback.”
As part of the Weston Studio’s Autumn line up, four companies developed and performed their ideas. The first company to take to the stage (or not quite in this case) was Notional Theatre who performed their piece Awkward Turtle Flips the Bird. This is thought to be the first time anyone has tried to stage a dictionary and in this case the language of choice was slang gestures. Using many novel ideas like projection screens, voice-overs but no dialogue and putting the audience on the stage whilst the performers jumped around the seating area and raised platforms amongst the spectators made this piece very intriguing. Although I have no idea how this piece will develop or where it could find a home it was still very interesting and hilariously funny as the performers put everything into “flipping the bird” or demonstrating “the awkward turtle” alongside a whole menagerie of creatures mimed to point out a situation is somewhat awkward. I really enjoyed this performance and I hope to see it develop into something that could be staged at a festival. Keep an eye out.
Next up was 3D Theatre with their Welsh language play Wyneb Dros Dro (Temporary Road Surface). Although I am not a Welsh speaker it was clear to see that the piece explored family tensions at Christmas time. Dyl and Rhian spend the whole journey from North to South Wales bickering and even manage to switch the SatNav to speak German. When they arrive at Dyl’s mother’s house she has a surprise for them; her new toyboy! Even though much of the language went over my head this was a dynamically performed piece and I really wish I could have understood more. Originally performed at the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham the incubator project has given the company and the writer, Glenn Jones, the chance to develop the script and the characters and with a bit more work I think this could be a really funny slice of Welsh theatre.
Crashmat Collective took us out of the theatre into the rehearsal space which had been transformed into a restaurant, complete with climbing ropes, an aerial hoop and a trapeze bar for their performance Super Pseudo. In their circus-theatre piece their aim was to blur the lines between audience and performer and explore the idea of private and public personas in the work place. Each performer was outstanding, showcasing a variety of circus tricks that blended seamlessly into the narrative. The music was well chosen and some of the lighting was just stunning. The company hopes to develop this idea into a full dining experience and I will be one of the first to put my name down for tickets.
Last but not least we were taken to the foyer where Jessie Brett performed her dance piece Woolgatherer. At first Jessie blended into the audience sat on sofas in a circular arrangement, then suddenly had broken into a quirky and inventive dance. With a range of musical styles the dances were always endearing and fun. She bought a smile to everyone’s face. The idea is that this would be performed outside in a crowded space such as a bench in a shopping centre or at a festival. I can really imagine seeing Jessie perform in the Meadows in Edinburgh during the Fringe. I really hope she can take this piece to a wider audience because she has a brilliant and heart-warming character.
I wish all of the artists and companies who performed at Incubator the best of luck and I really hope to see their work at a later stage of development in the future.
Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard
For more info on the Incubator Project click here
For more reviews click here