Edalia Day has brought a very unique and very interesting
production to the forefront at this year’s Vaults.
Beginning slow and slightly awkward, Day seems nervous and
uneasy in this plain white room. Soon we are to realise, this is very much a
clever theatrical technique to their story and very much the beginning of
Too Pretty To Punch brings Day’s autobiography to the stage.
Identifying as trans, Day transforms the stage into their life story, the
trials and tribulations and turmoil in accepting who they are and seeking
acceptance in society. It then continues into a widen view of the issues trans
people face and eventually brings in verbatim videos to others facing the daily
It would be easily and still powerful to have used these
videos to support Day’s points, but they go the step further – animation is
projected onto screens, one an ordinary square screen, another slightly
misshapen and another as a moveable canvas. These are used to flick between
images and animations as they move across the stage, along with physical
theatre by Day, making the action come to real life in our eyes.
Some of the performance feels like we are getting to know a
new friend – Day addresses us and talks to us like a new friend being made, but
then some poignant moments being transferred into visual elements adds a unique
and clever nature to this production and hits the points home.
Supported at times with kitsch music that reminds me of
Golem by 1925, this makes the production feel a little special and like nothing
on the theatre scene right now.
Too Pretty To Punch is not only a really important production to see but is also one of the most unique and fascinating pieces of theatre I have seen in a long time.
What can I say that drew me to this production? Ultimately
that the show image is of two men in the nude hiding their gentlemans and
looking like they are loving life.
Animals is the story of two cousins, a long way from home,
trying to make a life in London. They enjoy drugs, music and cheese. They enter
moments of absurd hallucinations, finding the meaning to life but ultimately
gaining a new love for their friendship.
Animals is an interesting production; mainly consisting of a
duo doubling up on characters, there’s an element of The Inbetweeners, with
rude jokes, silly humour and really unique moments of comedy.
It took me some time to get into the rhythm of the
production and understand its niche concept, but equally there were moments of
comical genius and once I understood the approach, it became more enjoyable.
The two performers play very good parts; similar yet very
different, there was a naturalism to their performances, even as hallucinated
characters, and the chemistry between them was relaxed, bouncing off one
another with ease.
I am not sure where this production can and should go, but
it felt much as if there needed a bit of development and perhaps a moral
direction to the narrative.
Animals is comical, enjoyable and unique. While I wouldn’t say that this is a must see production at the moment, I would say that it is however a good laugh and an easy production when you’re not in the mood for anything too heavy.
Take audience participation, the hilarious parts of life and
throw in two comedians and you get a whole hour of a great night out.
Dave Bibby, in his new show, takes his usual love of getting
the audience involved and on stage and transports us through elements of life,
competing to be the better sex.
Games range from releasing blown up balloons, representing
our first poo as babies, to scooting along our bums in our first car, to losing
our virginities with slinkies. The inventiveness and creativity of the games
and their representation is unique and clever, leaving us laughing firstly at
the intelligent creations but also gearing us up for how the ordinary human
completes such a task.
Bibby is totally honest with us, finding elements hilarious,
turning any “mistakes” (as this is a show in progress) into a hilarious
addition, and picking up or moving along the action with ease and confidence.
We feel safe and well within his hands but happy to make fools of ourselves and
join together to cheer on strangers.
Life: The Gameshow is exactly what we need in these uncertain times; a moment to relax, have fun, be pleasantly surprised but also to join together for common enjoyment.
Hi Jon great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I was born in Llanelli, acted in Cardiff, in various bands in London, back to Llanelli to write TV and moved to Laugharne in 2012. I live in a house where a murder was committed in 1953 and a friend of Dylan Thomas was arrested. Dylan called Laugharne, ‘…the strangest town in Wales.’ He wasn’t wrong. I’ve written the Dylan Thomas ebook for the BBC, TV comedy drama for BBC & S4C and the David Garland Jones Youtube channel. Hail Cremation! is my fourth play after two plays for Llanelli Youth Theatre; Raw Material: Llareggub Revisited for NTW (co-created with Marc Rees) in 2014, and I’ve have been working on Hail Cremation! since 2016.
So, what got you interested in the arts?
My Dad read Dr Seuss and Charles Dickens to me when I was very young which I loved. I later raided Dad’s bookshelves and his Anglo-Welsh poetry, and became big fan of poet and polemicist, Harri Webb. In school I got into acting after seeing a performance of Wind In The Willows and later trained as an actor in the (Royal) Welsh College of Music & Drama. I’ve been in bands and written songs since I was a teenager, and once I started creative writing around twenty years ago, a musical was a logical step, tho’ it took me some time to realise it.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas seem to percolate for years. I try to create something I’d like to watch, and that I don’t think I’ve seen before… but those ideas are often outside the bounds of what people are prepared to commission. In terms of ideas, thinking about it, most of my writing is about real life stuff but then I like to drag it into left field.
Can you describe your writing day? Do you have a process or a minimum word count?
I don’t like staring at a screen for too long. I have a young daughter so writing time is precious, and when I do have time to sit and write, I throw everything at the screen. Sometimes it’s better to clear your head by writing 1000 words of rubbish rather than nothing at all. It’s all in the editing. I find a good walk, or a drive, is often beneficial, recording ideas into a phone ready for those gaps in real life when writing happens.
Why and where do you write?
We live in an 18th century cottage in Laugharne and my office is downstairs with a view of the street. I’m surrounded by books, cards, pictures, ornaments – or ‘junk’ as my partner calls them – and often scan the shelves when I’m stuck. It looks a bit of a mess, but you should have seen it before I tidied up.
Your latest play Hail Cremation will be produced by National Theatre Wales at Newbridge Memo from the 23 March- 04 April. The production is described as a musical odyssey through the life of cremation pioneer, Dr William Price – a complex and extraordinary Welshman. What drew you personally to telling your interpretation of Dr William Price?
Like many I knew about the infamous cremation, but initially I wasn’t aware he was a ground-breaking surgeon, vegetarian, feminist, nationalist, radical, a dandy and clearly a genius. However, his eccentricities in later life meant that many of those elements were ignored. If Price was around today, he’d be an inspiring leader, passionate about history, language and culture and I wanted to celebrate him with a spectacle that he would have enjoyed. On reflection most of my work is about Welsh identity, and Price was probably the person who tried to define it more than anyone else in the last two hundred years.
National Theatre Wales describe the nation of Wales as their stage. Their productions have ranged from We’re Still Here portraying the lives of Neath Port Talbot Steel Workers. On Bear Ridge which took place in “a lost village, blurred by redrawn borders” to this new production taking place at Newbridge Memo. Do you feel that Welsh Theatre is presenting representative stories of its citizens on our stages?
I’m interested in stories and legends that are uniquely Welsh. Wales is definitely the ‘secret Celtic nation’, and yet we have one of the oldest literary traditions in Europe. There is an ancient, supernatural, magical, mythical, witty, wild and wide-eyed side to Wales – Wales on mushrooms if you like – which is unique to us. I think more plays in this area would help establish, and then cement a Welsh theatrical identity not only in Wales but around the world.
Why do you think audiences should see this new play?
It’s part gig, part catwalk show, part cabaret. It has a wonderful troupe of dancers and actors, a rock band, incredible costumes, mad props, druids, goats, punk toads, wall to wall video projections, and an astonishing creative team lead by director, Adele Thomas. Yet at its heart is the story of a man who wanted his people to thrive. Dr Price met a woman called Gwen who was sixty years his junior, and they were a very loving, if highly unusual couple. They’d be unusual now, so it’s hard to imagine what 19th century non-conformist Wales would have made of them. Price and Gwen lost a child, and I nearly lost my daughter, so I had a small understanding of the grief they must have gone through. Then when Price’s powers started to wane and he went through a number of ordeals, he continued to charge on with Gwen at his side. He lived for ninety-two years and it’s still amazing how he crammed so much in. People should see this play because it tells a story of a dynamic couple in a wild theatrical arena, is both fun and emotional, and has something to say about Welsh identity.
Is it possible to sustain a career as a writer in Wales and if not what would help?
If the question is: ‘Can someone who writes plays about Wales and Welsh issues sustain a living in Wales, or indeed, anywhere?’ Then apart from maybe one or two exceptions, the answer is probably no. There are a lot of playwrights in Wales chasing a small pot of money and Welsh writers probably need working partners, day jobs, lecturing posts, etc., to survive. What would help? I don’t really know. We’re unlikely to see more arts funding for a while as the Welsh Government is looking to reduce public subsidy. Trying to be positive, successful and profitable shows that reach beyond Wales, and that couldn’t come from anywhere other than Wales, would help. We need to find our voice.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
There should be more development deals, so that writers are nurtured in plays, poetry, TV scriptwriting etc. More people need to feel they have a chance, get some feedback, be part of a dialogue, even if the ideas end up uncommissioned. There could always be more arts, but we also need to build and educate audiences too. It’s tough in this era of Netflix, deadly diseases, Just Eat and smartphones, but the more people that take an interest in the arts, the better off we’ll all be.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
My daughter, Sylvie, has had two heart operations and spent five days on life support, so seeing her enter a pool for the first time in Butlin’s Minehead last weekend was a truly great thing.
Hi Luke, great to meet you, can you tells us about yourself and your work?
I’m Luke Seidel-Haas, I’m a Cardiff based theatre maker and one of the founding members of new theatre company CB4. CB4 Theatre was founded a couple of years ago; we’re all Drama graduates of the University of South Wales and having done our separate things for a few years we found ourselves gravitating back to Wales and wanting to create theatre together. Right now, we’re about to perform our debut show “Back to Berlin” at The Other Room at Porter’s Cardiff. It’s a show that I’ve written and am performing in and is inspired by a true story my dad told me, about when he travelled back to Berlin to see the Berlin Wall come down in 1989. The more we spoke about his story, the more we realised how many parallels it had with what’s going on at the moment across Europe and around the world; while the story is set 30 years ago, so many of the themes feel just as relevant now as they did back then.
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?
Right now I’m listening to Kanye West’s most recent album Jesus Is King. It’s quite different to his previous albums, and is more influenced by gospel than his rap/hip hop roots. Kayne is often unpredictable, and I love that with every new album he releases you never quite know what you’re going to hear next – Jesus is King is no exception.
When I first heard it, I wasn’t sure about it, but after a couple of listens I think it’s a really interesting album which uses a type of music not often heard in the mainstream. I saw Kanye headline Glastonbury in 2015, and it was one of the most bizarre, intense but unforgettable performances I’ve ever been to.
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
I Choose Noise by Hybrid
Hybrid are a Welsh electronic music group who blend electronica and house with cinematic and orchestral stylings. Most of their music doesn’t have words, and so is really useful to use in a rehearsal studio to help devise or work on physical or movement based sections of work. Their music is often used by companies like Frantic Assembly, as well as on movie soundtracks. I could have chosen from a few albums, but “I choose Noise” is just a really varied album which has often helped me out of a rut when devising.
Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses by Slipknot
This album resonates with me more for personal reasons. As an angsty teenager whose wardrobe had a distinct lack of colour it was probably one of the albums I had on repeat more than any other. To some people Slipknot just sounds like angry noise, but I think this album manages to mix that aggression and anger with amazing hooks, guitar solos and powerful choruses. There are also a few tracks like Circle and Vermillion Pt. 2 which are unexpectedly melodic and emotional.
The World of Hans Zimmer by Hans Zimmer
Okay I’ll admit, this one is a bit of a cheat – I couldn’t choose just one album by this legendary composer. Hans Zimmer has written some of the most iconic music in modern cinema including The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, Pirates of the Caribbean, True Romance and so many more. His scores are so emotionally evocative, and to me they resonate because of how they help to drive plot, develop tension or reflect the underlying emotion of the scene. With a lot of films, the soundtrack ends up feeling like an accompaniment – something which adds a bit more flavour to the film, but that they could manage without. Zimmer’s best soundtracks rise far above this and become a vital part of the whole experience.
Angles by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip
This album resonates with me because of its mix of the deeply political with the outright silly. “Angles” manages to go from a reflection on the death of Tommy Cooper, to rapping the periodic table, to A Letter from God to Man, to a film noir style existential rap. Hip hop often unfairly suffers with the stereotype that it’s all about “guns, bitches and bling”, and before listening to this album I was probably wrongly was under that impression too. This album opened my eyes to how different genres can be used to make a political point. Scroobius Pip also has a fantastic beard.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by The 1975
The 1975 are a band that have really developed their sound over the course of each album. As a left-wing millennial, I think A Brief Inquiry… manages to brilliantly tap into a lot of anxieties that people of my age have. Songs like Love It If We Made It and Give Yourself a Try are on the surface catchy pop tunes, but the political and social messages they carry are a testament to the strength of the song writing. They are also a band that seem to (as much as possible) practice what they preach and are leading the way in terms of making live music and touring as eco-friendly as possible.
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?
Love It If We Made It from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by The 1975
To me, the lyrics of this song are some of the most powerful of any pop song released in recent years. The song leaps from talking about Donald Trump and Kayne West, to Heroin addiction via the Jonestown massacre and dead migrants washing up on beaches, but despite its rather bleak lyrics and content, its refrain of “I’d love it if we made it” makes the piece feel hopeful and optimistic. It’s a great piece of music if you want to get yourself angry about the state of the world, but in a way that makes you want to take action to make things better.
Back to Berlin By CB4 Theatre is running at The Other Room @ Porters from 3-6th March 2020. Tickets are available here
What do you get when you cross a budding relationship with climate change? You get Omelette.
Written by Anna Spearpoint, Omelette sees the meeting of Mo and Mia, as they embark on not only fixing the planet but on their developing relationship. The pair start by attending protests and quickly begin to make more and more changes to their lifestyles, together, to continue the good, all the while falling in love and falling out of love. Over a small period of time, the constraints of their lifestyle and the fast pace that their relationship has developed, all becomes sour until they realise how much an impact only one small change can do.
Set in the round, the actor’s begin quite far apart, slowly closing the distance and contact as their relationship blossoms, to eventually inhabiting the circular sheet in front of them. Representing the World (and possibly also an omelette) this circle is where it all happens – the dead centre of this play. For them, this is the centre of their World.
There are no curtains, very clever and quick scenes changes, making this seem a long period of time until we realise it is only a matter of days, weeks, months. The chemistry between the two performers is electric; it is both adorable and awkward, a period in new love that we can all relate to. They are almost an oxymoron – effortlessly and perfectly awkward.
At the beginning, the conversation is quick in pace and wit, and it is a wonder where they have time to get a breath but we realise this is a clever technique; reflecting their relationship stages, they become quieter, more silent and slower when they become angrier, less fond of one another and less in love.
Absolutely chocked full of comedy, Spearpoint’s play cleverly makes us think about climate change all the while making tears of laughter stream down our faces, all culminating in the realisation that all the drastic changes they have made haven’t made the World brand new but only made them miserable; when suddenly they figure out that even a small change is big in the long run, the whole narrative feels ironic and in itself is comical.
Omelette not only makes a political point but is full of fun, comedy, great writing and just as great acting. A real masterpiece.
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.
Take a hint of the 90’s. A dash of the noughties. And add the questions we all asked as young people. And you get The Paper Birds, Ask Me Anything.
Based upon verbatim questions and the performers younger selves, Ask Me Anything is a performance about what it is like to grow up and how hard life can be.
With a casual outlook to the performance, we are greeted by three women each showcasing what their childhood bedrooms looked like. We are given trust to join them on a personal level, with plenty of audience interaction and almost like a chin wag with a couple of mates, just with a hint of the theatrics. Taking questions from young people of today, they try to tackle questions many generations have asked: What is it like to have sex? Will I ever know what I want to do with my life? And then harder ones, that as three white women, they out-rightly outsourced to others better qualified to answer such as sexuality, race and mental health. The latter I felt was a great push in the right direction of theatre, ensuring that the majority of this country do not answer everything and instead tap into minorities, and bring them and the problems they can face to the forefront. Giving them the platform that they so rightly should have.
We feel safe and at ease, lulled into security until things get hard. I did feel that this could have been brought on sooner, feeling comfortable in a relative amount of time. It then felt a little long until we are hit with trauma. But when the trauma comes, it is heartbreaking and in your face; verbatim videos screening in a cannon on several screens and dramatic silence in its finale. Lulling us to then break the atmosphere, making a real point about mental health and hardships is a brilliant technique that The Paper Birds used well.
My favourite part of the production was that they were not just theatrical performers, but a 3 piece girl rock group. Interluding the action, brand new music written about and for the show are played, filling the room with an essence of girl power and for rock lovers like me, new favourites. I would happily see these women play a gig on its own if I could.
Ask Me Anything is poignant, comical and a musical masterpiece. A theatrical therapy for young people these days and a comfort for those still struggling with life.
Coined as Horror Comedy, What the Dolls Saw from House of Macabre is just that – full of twists, turns, comedy and crazy characters, this is 1 hour of a real treat for theatrical minds.
With an all female cast, the story sees the tale of a family of women on the wake of their late patriarch – the father of three girls, an adopted grand daughter and the wife left behind. All with their unique style, character and personality, this family holds a deep and dark past, not investigated, and yet now seems like the right time to do so.
With their father as a late famous doll maker and their mother a dramatic retired actress, it’s no wonder that this story verges on the comical and flamboyant but yet eerie and spooky.
The characters are well developed: we love and hate the mother who is mad as a hatter, glamorous and blunt which causes plenty of comedy; the daughters are lovable, fun and we believe their loving sisterly relationship implicitly and the granddaughter, who is mute, does well to convey amazement at this dysfunctional family.
With the bumps in the night, use of atmospheric music and lights not only from the set but use of torches (well known in spooky stories), we are often on edge and unable to see the twists in the story.
What The Dolls Saw is nothing but an enjoyable experience. As one who is a total wimp when it comes to horror, there is enough to keep my heart beating and make me jump but not so much that I have to run for the door. And when i’m not gripping onto my seat, I am laughing and smiling at every moment.
Have you ever felt entirely alone? Too loud for a room? Like you do not fit?
Gobby is a one woman play about self discovery, about changes in young adult life and finally being okay with who you are.
Set within the premise of 5 different parties, Bri (like the cheese but not because it is spelt differently) finds herself lost and alone in the aftermath of a destructive relationship. Her friends, that she ignored during this period, now don’t want to know her, and Bri struggles with this reality, and her own loneliness.
This narrative feels like something we can all relate to – bad relationships, loneliness, and a sense of not belonging. The play is written as an inner monolgue, occasionally breaking away with the use of props (balloons with party hats on top) or a mild change in stance and addition of a stereotyped accent to bring in other characters. The characters are funny at first, and the over the top expressions of them help differentiate the story line. It becomes more subtle when the story becomes more serious, which is a clever maneuver, keeping us engaged.
While staged as a retelling of Bri’s life, often Jodie Irvine (our only performer) addresses her feet when speaking to us. At times this is endearing and adds to the awkwardness of the character, but eventually we want to make eye contact with her more – evidently with her obvious skills as an actress, she has reason to be more confident in her performance and we desperately want her to bring this to the stage.
We also believe that much of the outbursts and way Bri feels is due to a past relationship. But little is explained about this and we come to a point where nothing will do but knowledge, for us to be able to connect to the character. The rest ranges from comical to climactic releases, and so despite the lack of story, we are surprised at every turn.
Gobby is a passionate play about liking oneself and discovering who you are after trauma. It’s about growing up but also growing into yourself and so becomes a real coming of age tale that many in their early 20’s need to see to know that it will be alright in the end. We just want Irvine to be more confident in her well devised production!
Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events. / Lleisiau amrywiol o Gymru yn ymateb i'r celfyddydau a digwyddiadau byw