Category Archives: Festivals

Review: Number Please, Paprichoo, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Think back to the Agatha Christies. Miss Marple, Poirot. Think even to the extent of Sherlock Holmes. These crime stories, full of mystery and far fetched narratives. Number Please felt very reminiscent of these.

When a telephone operator hears a murder on the telephone, she is dragged into a world of secrecy, double crossing and spies. Enter train chases, over the top character’s, and London (because a murder always happens in London and alien invasion, but that is Doctor Who and off topic).

This female lead company came to bring us fun, frivolities and intrigue. And they execute some of this. I am glad that it was meant to be ‘hammed up’ as the characters seemed quite one dimensional, and my worry was for the stereotyping of women. Saving this, the 1950’s styled era saw a strong female lead, solving the murder and uncovering the mystery.

While I had a lot of fun and enjoyed their performance, I could not help but wonder whether it was meant to be unintentionally of an amateur persuasion or whether this was the point; a metta/ironic take on the absurdity and predictability of these genres.

What cannot be argued is that the performers put their all into their performances. Every facial expression was executed, every pun and the fact they high-kneed ran for a good 5 minutes non stop is something to be admired.

Number Please is a fun, easy going, easy watching show. If you want to just sit back and have a little giggle, this is for you.

Review: Ned and The Whale, Flossy and Boo, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, by Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The last thing you would expect in a city like Edinburgh is to be swept away to the ocean.
But swept away, we were.

Ned and the Whale is the story of a nervous boy, obsessed with facts to keep him safe who gets taken into a magical and fanciful world inside a book, meeting exciting and interesting characters, helping each of them along the way, and in turn, they help him to overcome his fears.

Flossy and Boo bring this story to us in the form of puppetry, recycled props and costumes, musical interludes and comedy. Now, anyone who knows me, knows I am obsessed with puppets and Ned and The Whale are no exception. They are little things of beauty, and Anja Conti, (Flossy) and Laura Jeffs-White (Boo) manage to move them with ease and such perfection, that we even forget that there are real humans behind them.

But do not take that as they forget where they are – their facial expressions mimic the character’s and shows that they are really invested in their work and the story.

When not handling puppets, they are either other interesting and hilarious characters such as the twins in a cave obsessed with slime and parties with rocks, or a stranded pirate, missing his disappeared crew. Each character I fully formed, well thought out and with their own clever unique qualities. This isn’t Flossy and Boo, this IS the pirate, this IS the twins.

And then added to this, another dimension as Laura and Anja – those who know this group will know how well a relationship they have on and off stage, and how they play on this; calling out each other’s silliness, being other funny and likeable characters. Usually these are as Flossy and Boo as we know it, but this time around we know them as Anja and Laura, and love them just the same.

Audience interaction is key for children’s shows, and this is no exception. Child or adult, we all are given eye contact, smiles, no one is excluded; we all get ‘slime’ put on our heads, we are all asked for suggestions and we all love the whimsy and comedy.

Musical interludes are delightful, simple with acoustic guitars or banjos, with beautiful harmonies and funny concepts. Personally, I could happily sit with an album of just their music and walk away happy.

Ned and The Whale is a triumph of a production; fun, comical and magical, it still manages to teach us vital lessons of life and we leave the tent they are in, smiling and elated.


Review: Space Junk: A Soviet Musical, Slipshod Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

‘Soviet’ and ‘Musical’ are two words you would not necessarily put together. So imagine my intrigue of being invited to this show.

Space Junk is the biographical and musical-styled hammed up story of the first man into space. Once he reaches his fame, he faces a harder life back on earth and faces losing his love for space, his love for his family and his love for himself.

The production itself has a full band on stage – I love this. I personally think that live music really adds an extra tier to performances and it was nice to have this option in this production. The music was all based on David Bowie – another tick in the box, another great way to interact with the audience (who doesn’t know Star Man? Space Oddity?) and well themed – a great choice for Slipshod.

Now whether it was the room, the heat therefore the need for a fan make noise or a tweak the company need to make, a lot of the speech was missed. Projection was excellent from our main man, but the rest seemed to get lost to the space, and this was a shame to miss some of the narrative.

However, the main character is played by a brilliant actor. His projection is on point, he executes the right emotions and the right time, and really makes his presence known on stage. He somehow salvages where the sound goes missing and brings you back to date. But also makes you feel heartbreak when needed and really throws his all into this production.

The production itself is full of humour, typical musical theatre over the top nature and some kick-ass music to boot. Space Junk is a lot of fun, and something recommended to see if you fancy sitting back, having a sing a long and not needing to decipher too much of a storyline.

Review: Twice Over, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, By Hannah Goslin

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

With the current climate, and the news of a new, and not much wanted Prime Minister, a political play is just what we need.

Twice Over compares the political climate when our only two women Prime Minister’s have be in office; with the use of two women, both in their 20’s but at different time points (the 80’s and 2017) we see how ideals have changed, how attitudes have changed yet the confidence in politics remaining the same.

This production is very simple; two performers, a guitar, basic lighting and basic set. For something with intricate and complex issues in its narrative, this simplicity is all that is really needed to bring the concept across.

Part poetry, part scripted, part verbatim, I found it difficult to follow.  The writing was interesting and I loved the approach taken, but I couldn’t define the difference in these writing styles and suddenly we would be hearing rhyming couplets, the next an almost political speech. If there was an added dramatic change to these, whether this was performative or even a lighting change,  it would have complimented it more and gave more complexity.

The music was beautiful – again, simple but really effective and gave a nice break to the very hard going narration.

I really applaud the Twice Over production for taking on such an important subject, triumphing women and feminism. There is a way to go with this production, with a little tweaking, it could be a really hard-hitting production. Never the less, with politics in the current times, it is definitely worth seeing.

Review: Ollie Horn, Pig In Japan, Edinburgh Fringe Festival By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Ollie Horn, a young comedian by chance decides to move to Japan. He has no experience in TV, as an actor or presenter, but almost overnight, becomes semi famous on Japanese television.

Horn brings his comic styling as well as evidence in the form of video to tell us about his time in Japan, why he went, what he experienced and why he was on their tele.

Horn is energetic, in good timing and definitely funny. He does well to explain Japanese culture but is admittedly still slightly clueless after admittingly not integrating as much as he should. His antics are nothing short of what you would expect from the hyper realistic and unusual Japan.

If you have been to Japan, the jokes land a little funnier – true statements about how clean the country is and the polite interactions of the Japanese is a general ‘stereotype’ but also rings true; comedy based on these observations just jumps a little further for the experienced traveller.

His comic timing is on point – bringing a statement to us, this is often accompanied by a short video clip, sometimes rewound, zoomed in to emphasise, adding meaning, a purpose and additional laughter; we do not have to imagine, we plainly see – seeing is definitely believing.

Lastly, Horn interacts with us well – his confidence illuminates his story telling, and while not every gag gets a laugh, he continues a momentum that never stops. Laughter or not, Horn can put on an honest and funny performance.

Review: For All I Care, National Theatre Wales, Edinburgh Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Sometimes it’s quite nice to see a celebrity on stage. In Wales, they feel like they are in abundance on the Welsh Theatre scene, with the pool of the industry in this country being small. So it was a surprise to watch For All I Care, and not realising until after that the performer was Hannah Daniel of Keeping Faith fame.

This surprise is a good surprise. I entered the performance and found myself so engrossed that it was not until I read later on that day of who she was; a performer who I (only too recently) had just seen in a huge binge of Keeping Faith series 1 and 2.

For All I Care is a one woman show looking at mental health, Wales and the magic that is the NHS. Daniel takes on around 6 characters in total – we see majority of the play focussing on the relationship between Clara and Nyri; two very different women leading very different lives. Clara is a young woman suffering with her mental health, and attempted suicide. Nyri is a mental health nurse who tries to help Clara, but she is not totally altogether herself. Daniel also takes on other intermittent characters such as Marco, the mental health Doctor, Nyri’s son, Alex the younger man Nyri sleeps with and ‘The Devil’; Clara’s controlling crime boss.

Daniel does a brilliant job of chopping and changing these characters – to help with this the basic staging has 3 microphones hanging from the ceiling. She picks these up when another character comes in to the scene, into the main character’s story. This creates a barrier; it is so disassociated and almost hyper-real that it works; it suspends our disbelief and we see that other person, almost as if another actor had walked in. My only criticism is that we know Daniel is capable of more, and for me, it felt like there needed to be more definition of each character, whether this meant more of a physical change, more pronounced vocal differences or both.

The narrative itself is a fresh take on mental health; with this once taboo subject being encouraged more into main media and society, there’s many a play I have seen where the medical professional is clean nosed and almost angelic. Clara has real problems; real psychological issues. And while Nyri may not be to this level, her life is not perfect; she still makes mistakes, she has her own issues and her own past. She is more relatable and more likeable than other productions that make us almost shake our head at the lack of realism to a medical character.

For All I Care is a lovely piece; it provides a fresh narrative, and really has the ability to showcase a performer as a solo talent, with some minor tweaking.

Radio Rhondda Visits The Rhondda Fach By Ann Davies

Music echoed around the valley, the time had come. Radio Rhondda had come to the Rhondda Fach with its supporters and volunteers. The hills surrounding the area, nestled between the villages of Tylorstown and Ferndale were alive with the sounds of people enjoying themselves as the music reached out on the airwaves. Community radio had come to the communities of the Rhondda Fach.

A beautiful sunny day, the pleasant and atmospheric venue of the Scoops & Smiles Diner/Parlour in Oakland Terrace which had been the premises of the former Lockyer and Pacey Garage and forecourt.   How many cars had been bought or stopped to refuel there over the years? Present day traffic hooted as they drove past; water fountains were available to all (as were toilet facilities) plus a cool area inside the Diner or at the rear of the building.

Colourful balloons adorned the area provided by ‘Just for you’ of Ferndale, there were stalls offering information on Cancer Research and Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water as they continue their essential work throughout the area renewing water pipes. Representatives from the Police were also present. The central part of the programme was the Official launch of Radio Rhondda in the Rhondda Fach, which was performed by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Susan Morgans (Ferndale Ward) and Councillor Jack Harries (Maerdy Ward).  The diner offered all the delights and descriptive flavours of ice cream in cones and tubs – marshmallows on crepes – plus their usual food fare. Children dug deep into sweet bottles that were offered to them, finding themselves lucky to receive various extra goodies. Face painting with the logo of the station was available. Free key rings and notices promoted the event. A Raffle was held with prizes donated by local businesses.

Commentators promoted the Radio station, introducing their main programme holders and interviewing local people. There was a miscellany of music provided by their own presenters, including Lorraine Jones and a chat about gardening from Terry Walton. Musical compositions were provided by the group Fiddlers Elbow (where were you, Gerhard Kress?) The Arts Factory Ferndale duo of Ben and Louise provided a melody of songs which received phone calls from people who knew them having tuned into the station. Thanks and appreciation to Louise for mentioning our group RCT Creative Writers.

It was a warm day, which offered entertainment and conversations with people who soon became friends. Sun cream and Sunhats were the essential requirements on this day.

Thank you to Radio Rhondda and all who supported and volunteered for this event. Please come again.

Perhaps like WAM (Mike Church) and Voices from the Bridge (Rob Cullen) you should go “On Tour”  People in the Rhondda Fach are friendly and creative persons although we often feel forgotten!

Ones To Watch from Focus Wales 2019 by Gareth Williams

Focus Wales in one of the nation’s premier music showcase festivals. Held in Wrexham, it brings together some of the best people in the music industry for three days of talks, meetings, and, of course, musical sets. The best of both emerging and more established talent from Wales and beyond featured on various stages around the town centre. Headliners on Friday night, 9Bach were excellent, as per usual. But apart from these giants of the Welsh folk scene, who else stood out? Here are my personal ‘ones to watch’ from this year’s festival:

Hannah Willwood

Hailing from Snowdonia and currently studying in Leeds, Hannah Willwood and her band created the most incredible sound during their set. Blending jazz, folk and indie, her music is at once familiar yet fresh and unique. With resonances of an earlier era, it is a sound that intrigues, mesmerises, and captivates. This girl is going places.

Katie Mac

If I had to pick a winner for Best Performance at this year’s festival, I would award it to Katie Mac. The singer-songwriter from Huyton played an absolute blinder from start to finish. She delivered such an enthralling set that I became completely absorbed in the experience. Here was a prime example of quality songwriting overlaid with some incredibly accomplished musicianship.

Albert Jones

He proved popular with the Old Bar No.7 crowd. And it wasn’t just his interaction with the audience that made this performer standout. Take a listen to Albert Jones and you will find a vocal that is incredibly soulful and wonderfully versatile. Comparisons with James Morrison are inevitable. But to try and pin down his sound is much more difficult. Whether blues, country, folk or pop, it seems that Jones can turn his hand to anything. A really engaging performer.

The Dunwells

What a stonker of a set from The Dunwells. Full of energy, enthusiasm and real excitement, every song seemed to be a crowd-pleasing anthem. They not only succeeded in winning over a raucous, increasingly drink-fuelled crowd. They managed to encourage some well-judged audience participation that only added to the feel-good factor, rounding off the festival (for me at least) in style.

If God Were a Woman / Beta Test

The inaugural Focus Wales Short Film Festival had an excellent shortlist of eight films. All independent, all made to a high standard, my personal front-runners were If God Were a Woman and Beta Test. The former is a provocative and thought-provoking spoken word from Evrah Rose, made all the more so by the choice of director Joe Edwards to film in a derelict Church. The latter is an American production that is very much in the mould of Black Mirror. It sees Eric Holt enter into a simulated world to relive some of his favourite memories. But then a glitch in the programme leaves him facing much darker stuff.

gareth

YOUNG ARTISTS FESTIVAL at The Other Room by Gareth Ford-Elliott

The Young Artist’s Festival (YAF) is a week-long, annual event run by The Other Room, Cardiff’s only pub theatre. For the festival, the theatre invites between 35-50 participants from Wales’ emerging creative scene into their doors to gain invaluable experience working with their peers.

The initiative is open to actors, writers, directors and stage managers and aims to provide an opportunity to explore their chosen discipline, encourage collaboration and artistic risk-taking. The participants are shown the value of hard work with an intense, but rewarding, week. They’re given the opportunity to work with new, contemporary work. But the ultimate aim is for participants to gain confidence, grow and keep creating beyond YAF.

The week starts with various workshops and talks from The Other Room’s staff and industry professionals from a broad range of backgrounds. These workshops include casting, starting and maintaining a company, arts council applications, marketing, community theatre as well as sessions for skill-sharing and networking. They also have specific workshops within their respective disciplines with industry professionals.

The participants are then introduced to their companies, comprised of a group of actors, one director and one writer, and start working towards their end-of-week goals. Actors and directors present a performance of a given commissioned script and a dramatic rehearsed reading of their writer’s script. Writers write that ten-minute play whilst stage managers make it all happen.

Actors

The actors workshop this year was with Keiron Self and had a specific focus on how an actor interprets text. The actors from YAF tell me this was vital for the short rehearsal period they had. You don’t have long to get to know your character, and it’s especially important in shorter pieces where characters rely more on performance for characterisation.

Once the actors are in the rehearsal room they have a couple of days to get off book before their first performance. Something some saw as a somewhat daunting task, having never done it in such a short space of time before. However, they realise it’s perfectly possible and that the experience is vital for them moving forward. Especially when preparing for auditions or working in the fringe environment where time to learn lines is limited.

The performances at the end of the week come and go, but it’s really about the experience of the week, of putting yourself out there and on stage that seems to last beyond the week for the actors.

Directors

The directors had a workshop with Simon Harris, who focused on doing text work before rehearsals and working with new writing. The directors tell me this was great experience going in. Often their teaching has focused on working in the room and once again, the workshop complimented the direction process for the week.

The directors also have a production meeting with stage managers where they set out their vision and discuss the possibilities. This is something few of the directors had done before and again, it’s something that really helps with their personal growth.

Directors also expressed the experience of being able to work with a writer and have them in the room. Directing for rehearsed reading is something that kept coming up also. Directing with a specific focus on displaying the writing, which is different from directing the commissioned piece. Directing both during the week is a valuable experience to take away.

The trust and support given to directors to control not one, but two pieces of theatre, be placed in a room full of actors and deliver their own vision is something the directors also spoke highly of. The support from The Other Room’s artistic director Dan Jones and YAF producer Claire Bottomly was a big part of the director’s experience.

Stage Managers

As previously mentioned, the directors and stage managers have a production meeting near the start of the week. For the stage managers this is something none of them had done in this way before and is extremely helpful moving into YAF.

The stage managers are very hands-on during the week. With the support of a professional stage manager, in 2019 being Kristian Rhodes, they effectively make the shows happen. Bringing the director’s visions to life by sorting set, sourcing props and arranging lighting and sound. They’re present in some of the rehearsal process and get to tech a run of the final performances.

Overall, the experience is positive for the stage managers. They’re constantly busy and feel like they’re just on the job. But, crucially, have that support from a senior stage manager and The Other Room staff.

Writers

The writers start their week in a writing workshop with a professional playwright. This year, and the year I did it in 2017, it was with Matthew Bulgo. Bulgo is an excellent playwright and I can say from experience, very good at leading a workshop. He focuses this one on structure and writing for short-form, which is key for the week moving forward. All writers expressed how helpful this was on many levels.

Bulgo also returns to offer feedback, which is also offered by The Other Room’s staff throughout the week.

The writers spend the first half of the festival writing a ten-minute play. Something that sounds quite scary at first, but from watching the scripts performed at the end, easily possible to a good standard.

Writers then go into the rehearsal room on the Friday and Saturday to see their scripts rehearsed. This is a new experience for some, as is what happens in the afternoon on the Saturday when their scripts are performed in a dramatic rehearsed reading.

The writers seem to be the most stressed during the week, but as a result the most relieved and happiest at the end when they see their work. It’s an intense but rewarding week and in some cases the writers take their scripts and develop them further.

Speaking to participants from all disciplines, it’s clear they’re there for similar reasons. To make connections and friends, learn, explore, grow, reignite a passion, re-motivate, progress ideas, bounce off others, practice professionalism and a collaborative process in a supportive environment.

By the end it’s clear the week has been valuable, often in more ways than they realise. It gives participants a sense of pride if they need it or helps to ground them if they’re more critical. To realise that not everything has to be a masterpiece, and anything produced within a week won’t be perfect. But that it can be done. It shows them that this can be done and all it takes is a bit of hard work and the knowledge, which YAF provides, to do it.

When I did the Young Artists Festival in 2017, it didn’t seem much different. The main difference is it seems more focused on creating an environment of collaboration. Not that it wasn’t there in 2017. It’s hard to really progress YAF every year, because it’s always been a really great week for anyone involved. They’ve always been aware that people are different and always tried to cater to everyone, making young artists feel comfortable in an environment that, for many, is fairly alien – the world of professional theatre making.

Review Post, Xavier de Sousa, Battersea Arts Centre by Tanica Psalmist

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Post is a solo, immersive play written and performed by Xavier de Sousa. Xavier’s play is an intimate and vocal production that creates a traditionally Portuguese and friendly atmosphere. There’s nothing more accommodating then attending a show that has tasty smells fuming in to your nostrils and discovering different methods of cooking and learning about new ethnic dishes, whilst getting served.

Post is all about joining Xavier at a grand table for some delicious portuguese food and merrily discussing hot topics around the dinner table whilst you eat. Xavier chose four people to voluntarily accompany him at the dining table on set which had a variety of sweet smelling foods such as homemade bread, soup, Green wine and Cachaca, which is a strong Portuguese spirit he served for shots. 

Once the beautifully infused scents, tastes and imagery of the set began to feel like a warm heavenly paradise, Xavier was ready to present his questions. After he’d selectively chosen who to be seated around the table to discuss national matters, it got a lot more interesting and compelling. The primal talk was on challenges the nation faces, especially as we are heading towards Brexit.

The semi-focus revolved around factors in political and geographical landscapes. It was great to see Xavier invite down different ethnic groups to the table as this made the show even more crucial to watch. The conversations were far from demoralising to hear as they were all uniquely angled. Answered with the intention to help openly express, relate it individually or encourage significant family memories.  

Post is a play that exploits different topics in a safe, non-judgmental environment exploring what it means to be and feel a migrant in this day and age. As well as conforming to a culture to gain acceptance, followed by the exposure of non-friendly and ignorant people, who feel more confident to be openly racist and discriminative towards opposing ethnic minorities during this moment in history.

Xavier did a great job in keeping the humour alive and not excluding the audience by offering and serving food whilst conversations commenced! Xavier defiantly made a great host! Overall Post was fun and engaging to experience as whether you were involved in the conversation or not, the topics were self-identifying to all.