Category Archives: Film & TV

Review, Yr Amgueddfa, S4C by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Two of my screenwriting heroes went head-to-head a couple of weeks ago. On BBC1, the master of social realism, Jimmy McGovern, brought us the incredible Time; and on S4C, thriller-extraordinaire Fflur Dafydd gave us the heritage-crime drama Yr Amgueddfa. The former may have been getting all the plaudits but the latter has not been without its supporters. The most prominent, Russell T Davies, has been shouting about it in the Radio Times no less. And deservedly so. For Fflur Dafydd has again created a drama that is well written, intricately woven, gradually builds tension, and offers plenty of twists and turns.

At first, it appears that Della (Nia Roberts) is the main character in the show. The opening scene sees her deliver her first speech as newly-appointed Director of the National Museum of Wales. The focus on her and her family gives the impression that these characters are going to be the bedrock of the series. And in some sense, they are. All have their own intriguing storylines that help flesh the drama out, making it a patchwork of stories that all, somehow, end up connecting as the series progresses. But the appearance of a mysterious young man called Caleb (Steffan Cennydd) in the grand entrance hall of the Museum in those first few moments, and his obvious attraction to Della, acts a bit like a red herring as, far from being the antagonist, he emerges over the course of six episodes as an empathetic protagonist.

It is testament to the clever writing of Fflur Dafydd and Steffan Cennydd’s subtle performance that Caleb is imbued with an ambiguity that keeps the viewer guessing his real motives throughout. One minute he appears vulnerable and fragile; the next, suspicious and manipulative. He seems to be seducing Della at one point, earning her trust to gain access to files from the Museum. Then, at another turn, he seems genuinely in love with her and self-loathing in his actions. Dafydd really plays with our perceptions of the character, as she does with so many here. This is what she is best at: subverting our expectations and playing with the objectivity of truth. Cennydd, for his part, ensures that this is achieved through minimal expression that is precise in its execution; and a deceptive amount of flat emotion that keeps us wondering who he is and what his intentions are.

Nia Roberts may be formidable in the role of Della, but it is Cennydd as Caleb that emerges as the most fascinating person in Yr Amgueddfa. It may not be as high-octane as its sister production, Y Llyfrgell, but it is as absorbing in its mystery and suspense. The fabulous sets and expansive scenes may have been a result of Covid protocols but they also give the impression of a sleek and modern Wales that is far removed from the rural stereotype. Fflur Dafydd has again collaborated with producer Paul Jones to create a series that is full of colourful characters, none of whom are wasted, all caught up in their own well-written subplots that gradually feed into the grand narrative. It has clearly struck a chord with viewers given its extended run on Clic and BBC iPlayer. So if you haven’t seen it yet, make it a priority for your summer viewing. You won’t regret it.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Artists enable care home residents to voice their experiences of the pandemic

A group of artists are working with Age Cymru to hold conversations with care home residents across Wales as part of a project to explore and capture how this group of older people experienced the pandemic.

The project, called Tell Me More, encourages residents to talk about what it was like to live in a care home during lockdown.  Of course, for lots of older people it was a torrid time as many residents and care staff became seriously ill or even died through Covid 19.

Up until now, residents have had little opportunity to voice their experiences of the pandemic. Age Cymru worked with the artists to make contact with residents through Zoom and used open conversations to gather the residents’ thoughts, wishes and experiences.

As the conversations were taking place, the artists sketched a portrait of the resident and sent it to them as a thank you in recognition of their participation. The artists then applied animation software to the sketches and the recorded conversations to produce a unique and creative method of capturing residents’ voices.

So far residents from homes in Anglesey, Fishguard, Mold, Porthcawl, and Port Talbot have taken part in Tell Me More. With funding from the Welsh Government, Age Cymru will take the project to more care homes across Wales so it can capture the voices of more than 100 residents by December 2021.

Age Cymru’s chief executive, Victoria Lloyd says: “During the height of the pandemic, care home residents experienced some of the strictest lockdown conditions in Wales. Most residents were unable to receive visits from family and friends and, at the same time, they were unable to do any of their usual activities or visits. It was even more difficult for those residents who were transferred directly from hospital to the care home as not only were they cut off from their family and friends but they had little opportunity to socialise and get to know existing residents.

“It is crucial that we hear the experiences of residents and understand how they have felt over the last year.  It is also wonderful to hear those experiences not just in peoples’ own words, but with the recordings, in their own voices too.

“Remarkably, some of the residents said their biggest concern was not being able to reassure their loved ones living outside of the care home. While others touched upon missing quite simple things such as going to the cinema, eating an ice cream at the sea-side or going to church.

“Tell Me More has given us a remarkable insight into how care home residents experienced lockdown and we look forward to hearing more of their voices in the months ahead.”

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “Care Home residents have been some of the most affected by the pandemic. After being isolated from family and friends, it is fantastic that we have been able to fund a project which gives care homes residents a voice and brings their experience to life. It is vital we hear these stories as we look to move forward and recover from the pandemic.”

Review Hamilton by Ethan Clancy

My name is Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait, just you wait”

That is the very first line spoken by Alexander Hamilton, and in it, we can see his character, he is nervous, repeating what he say in two instances, but yet, their is a era of confidence in his words, telling the world what he is going to do, and for them to just wait. Written, acted and published by musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was able to provide a boost of energy to perhaps an extremely boring subject. With a record breaking 16 nominations, and 11 awards. He clearly did something right. This particular version was uploaded onto Disney+, the show being filmed in the Richard Rodgers Theatre, over a course of three shows, each edited together in order to give a cinematic feel to this musical. Despite it technically not being a play, more of a film (Being nominated for the Best Motion Picture in the Musical or Comedy section) the editing is seamless, and it goes out of it’s way to make you feel like you are actually there. First performed on the 20th of January 2020, this version was released on the 3rd of July 2020, despite the original 2021 release, with the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the release was boosted by a year. Telling the story of the Founding Fathers of America, Miranda was inspired by the 2004 novel Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, it took him six years to write this, performing the first song at the White House, directed by Thomas Keil, this production combines the generations of music, in a masterpiece that is Non-stop. 

In Act I, orphan Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) makes his way to 1771 New York from his island of Navis, with dreams of joining the American Revolution, as opposed to Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr) who prefers to wait until the opportunity to come to him, advising Hamilton to do the same. However Hamilton disagrees, as he speaks his mind to the world of New York, impressing fellow revolutionists, the anti slavery John Laurens (Anthony Romos), the French Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (Daveed Diggs,) and the tailor Hercules Mulligan (Okieriete Onaodowan), however, as they sing to the revolution, King George the III (Jonathan Groff) insist on his authority, as the true war starts, and after impressing General George Washington (Christopher Jackson), Hamilton becomes his right hand man, and later at a ball, he meet’s and later marries Eliza Schuyler (Phillipa Soo), whilst her sister Angelica Schuyler (Renee Elise Goldsberry) supresses her own feelings for him, as conditions get even worse for the American’s, La Fayette and Mulligan leave, whilst John Laurens enters a duel with Charles Lee (Jon Rua) who speaks against Washington leadership, after this incident, Washington orders Hamilton to return home, where he discovers his wife is pregnant with his son. La Fayette returns to the battlefield with French aid and convinces Washington to call Hamilton back, as they engage in the battle of Yorktown, which they win due to Mulligan acting as a spy. With this victory, and their newly secured freedom, Hamilton son Philip is born, but he hears word that Laurens has be killed and he and Burr (Who is still waiting for his opportunity) plunge themselves into their work, as the now President George Washington invites Hamilton to join him as Secretary of the Treasury.                                                                                                         

In Act II, Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Digs), who was acting as the ambassador of France, which has now entered its own revolution, returns alongside his friend James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan) and immediately clashes with Hamilton. Under stress from his work, Hamilton enters an affair with Maria Reynolds (Jasmine Cephas Jones) whilst Eliza is away on a visit to her father. The affair is later discovered by her husband James Reynolds (Sydney James Harcourt) who blackmails Hamilton into giving him money, in exchange, he keeps quiet about the affair. Later, Burr, who watches Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison come to an agreement about the nation’s capital, becomes envious over Hamilton power, and finally begins to gain power, taking the role of Eliza’s father. Jefferson and Madison Agree to work with burr in order to find a way to discredit Hamilton, as George Washington steps down from president, as John Adams (Who does not make an appearance in the show) becomes president, firing Hamilton, who in retaliation, publishes a letter to the press, insulting and discrediting Adams, convincing him to one term. Jefferson, Madison and Burr discover the checks sent to James Reynolds and accuse Hamilton of embezzling government funds, forcing Hamilton to admit his affair with Maria Reynolds, ending his political career. Hamilton son’s, Philip (Anthony Romos defends his father’s name, however he is later shot and killed in a duel for this, leading Hamilton into a depression, however when the election of 1800 arrives, between Jefferson and Burr, he chooses to support Jefferson, stating that he would rather have somebody with disagreeable beliefs than no beliefs as president, leading to Jefferson winning. Butt insulted by this, challenges Hamilton to a duel, which he agrees to prostate, Hamilton however in his last moments, aims his pistol at the sky, resulting in him being shot, leading Eliza to tell his legacy, starting up a orphanage for children, like Hamilton, until she dies, like we all do eventually.

The death of Hamilton, in fact, is set up from the very first song, entitled “Alexander Hamilton” (Happening right after Jonathan Groff’s King George welcomes the audiences, kindly asking them to switch their devices off and telling them to enjoy his show, already telling us that this character is self indulgent), this song summarizes the first two decades of Hamilton’s young life, growing up as a son of wedlock, in the slums of a poor. In the very first line he is called a “Bastard”, “Orphan and “Son of a Whore”, these quotes are later used again in the musical, often as a motif to remind the character of his upbringing, the song is sung threw many of Hamilton’s friends and enemies, and Hamilton only speaks when he is asked to identify himself, which makes us familiar with each of the actor. However the song is primarily sung by Aaron Burr, the main antagonist of the show, and he even tells us at the end, when each character tells the audience their connection to Hamilton, he informs us that he is the “damn fool that shot him” his words echoing through the stage, effectively giving away the ending. However, it is much like the Titanic, it focuses more about how they got there, rather than the end result. The pace of the song also reflects the character of Hamilton, specifically his mind. The song starts off slow, however, as Hamilton slowly realizes that in order to live, he must work, it picks up as we can see him writing and writing. 

Another thing that is reflected in these characters is the costume. Every actor is dressed in white at the start of this number, with the expectation of Hamilton, he is the only one left out, showing us his loneliness which he did not conquer until “My Shot”. However, as the play goes on, as Hamilton gives more and more ideas, we see that colour is used significantly much more, and in Act 1 they start of rather grounded and darker, the majority being darker browns, but as the revolution stars, we can see that they are getting more colourful, until they are final their own colour, signifying that they are finally broken free, the costumes themselves are reflective of their times, as well as their different personalities. Hamilton’s primary colour is green, which is fitting since he was the secretary of the treasury. Whilst Thomas Jefferson appears to wear right and much more out tier costumes, showing us his own the top nature. Maria Reynolds wears red, the colour of love, as well as anger, which is what her presence in the show shall later provide. The historical accuracy of the costumes themselves are clear, and when it comes to the fight between Britain and America, we are able to clearly distinguish them. Britain’s uniform appears to be much more old fashioned, and royal, in comparison to America’s scruffy and messy outfits.

The portrayal of Britain is seen mostly through the eyes of America, as a tyrant, however, the few instances we have with Britain, come with the hilarious and light hearted King George the III. In his song, they provide a change of face, in opposition to the fast paced ripping of the Americans. Out of the three songs he sings, each song represents a stage in Hamilton’s life, His first song “You’ll be back” he sing his views on the revolution and how America will be lost without him, and not to fight, otherwise they will die, this song signifies the rise of Hamilton, how came from a gutter rat, to the right hand man of George Washington, whilst the second song “What comes next?” comes after America has won its freedom, King George does not stand around complaining about how they have left him, but instead informs them of the challenges about how hard it is to lead, and that, from now on, they are on their own, this announces respects the start of Hamilton’s political career and the many challenges he shall face. Whilst his third and final song “I know him” he sings about how George Washington is stepping down and his assessment at John Adams is the new president, making fun of him, and claiming that it is going to be fun. This song tells us about Hamilton’s downfall, as well as the basement people shall have at it. His character provides a piece of light hearted comic relief to the audience, and the style and the way he sings represents the old idea’s, whilst the new ideas that the American revolution fight for, are sung thru rap. There is a clear difference between the two, allowing people to easily distress the two countries. I would also like to note that in his final song, King George dances along to the rap, perhaps signalling that he has come to expect America’s freedom, and even ideas. 

The idea that the new ideas are represented is perhaps seen most clearly in “My Shot”. After Hamilton arrives in New York for the first time, he meets with Aaron Burr, and tells him that he wants to join the revolution, but Burr rebuffs him, disappointing Hamilton. Burr prefers to wait by the side, until an opportunity becomes clear, the safest opportunity, keeping his ideas to himself, but Hamilton chooses to say his mind to the word, and daring anyone to challenge him. From their very first introduction, the rivalry of these two characters is clear, from their opposing ideals and it shall keep creating tension between them for the rest of the play, however Hamilton chooses to point of the similarity between Burr and himself, stating that they are both perhaps, but they have gone down different paths. Burr attempts to give each Hamilton a lesson, taking him to a bar where we meet key players for the first act. John Laurens, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette and Hercules Mulligan, who sing their praises of the revolution an why they are doing it, Laurens in order to end slavery, La Fayette, in hopes that it shall lead to unrest in France, leading to their own freedom and Mulligan in order to advance his social status, they all sing independently, in their own tunes and styles. The only thing they sing together is the revolution. Until Hamilton steps in, no longer able to keep quiet after Burr shuns them, asking him “If you stand for nothing Burr, what will you fall for?” A question that shall haunt Burr for the reminder of the play. Hamilton immensely impresses them with his quick thinking and confidence, and they all join in with him, for once, all their tunes are both together into one voice, no longer disconnected, they are stronger in numbers, which is why the British attempt to break them apart. It also subtly sets up the idea that each character has their shot, and foreshadows later in the play that Hamilton will literally throw away his shot, and the song frequently makes a return whenever a shot arrives for a character, and whether they will take it or not. The song however also highlights the nervous side to Hamilton nature.

Throughout the play, every song is a form of narration, and the characters often break the fourth wall, sometimes for comic relief, or some time to serve as a history lesson. Whenever they do this, the lighting becomes darker, and everything else stops, to show that they are alone, this is most prominent whenever Hamilton sings in the “Eye of a Hurricane”, as he tells the story of how a Hurricane came to his town, destroying it, but he lived. The stage is painted in a blue mess, surrounding Hamilton as only when he amidst the truth to his affair, does sit vanish, for he is no longer alone. It has also been used in smaller ways, such as in “What comes next?” King George is surrounded by a red light, until he says that “I am so blue” stomping her foot to the ground, as it quickie changes to blue, reflecting his mood, however it has deeper meaning, representing where Britain was politically, surrounded by America, which took the colour of blue, whilst Britain was red.  Another instance when the lighting is used is whenever they need to create a room, due to the fact they did not redo each set, it is nothing more than a plain dock, with stairs that move around. This is most noticeable in “The Room Where It Happens”, as Burr sings his heart around, moving from place to place, as he attempts he wants to get into the room where it happens, however. Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison stand in the yellow light, representing the room, but Burr nearly steps on it, staying in the blue, showing that he has not been able to join. 

Aaron Burr serves as, in my opinion, a sympathetic antagonist, and he even states that history shall remember him as the villain in Hamilton’s story. His differences from Hamilton himself are present from his very first song, but whenever he sings with somebody, he is forced to the background, until he is on his own, where he sings his mind, and his reason, and why he shall wait. In the song “Wait for It” Burr sings his heart out to the world, explaining why he waits and waits, for he has too much to risk, and that he doesn’t do it because he is lazy, but because he has to, and this all changes. This all changes in “The Room Where It Happens’ ‘, which in my opinion, is perhaps one of the best, and most unique songs, with the tune of the song having a jazz feel to it. Burr has now stopped waiting, he has faintly found what he is waiting for, but it is motivated out of jealousy for Hamilton rather than his own feelings. The end of the song seven foreshadows where this design shall lead Burr to, with the last word being “Click boom!” I commend the musical for giving Burr a personality, rather than making him a dislikeable evil man, all his choices have firm motivation. However he lacks a physical presence to him, due to the fact he doesn’t commit any violent crimes, until the very end. I will say this though; his method of waiting until he chance arrives is effective. If you look at every other character who is introduced in Act 1, John Laurens, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette and Hercules Mulligan all disappear, simply because Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (Daveed Diggs, and yes, that is his full name) and the tailor Hercules Mulligan hey speak their opinions. Laurens is killed for his, La Fayette returns to France, and whilst it is not clearly stated in the play, he was imprisoned for 5 years for following the Americans into revolution, and Mulligan, well nothing particularly bad happens to him, in fact after the war, he became a full time tailor. But if you look at all these people, after Act 1, they are gone, whilst Burr remains, because he waited, like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who waited during Act 1, have taken their opportunity. That, or the same actors acted different characters in Act 2.   

Burr and Hamilton’s relationship is perhaps the most in depth of the play, as their contrasting ideals are present almost since the beginning, however we see that they share the same motivation, they are both doing this for their children. The song “Dear Theodosia” highlights this, as they both sing the same on to their children, saying that they will attempt to make the world a better place for their children no matter what. Conveniently, the two characters eventually meet their duel, as they have become more like one another, near the end, Hamilton has became to walk in straight lines and only speaking when it is needed, due to the harshness of the world shaping him like this, as opposed to his emphatic quick witted character for would not waste a single second. Burr however, ends the play, being loud; he walks in all different directions, which is different from his walk at the start of the play, walking only in straight lines. This small and to be honest, quite misable detail, shows the character how they have become more like one another, and it is equated to that, they have reached their downfall. Burr reached his downfall due to his lack of action in Act 1, in fact, he barely has any impact in Act 1, but in Act 2 he has became more active, due to the fact he was not active enough in Act 1, he no longer want to be ignored, even if he refuses to state his ideals. Another reason he may have started to distrust and dislike Hamilton, was the fact he started to dislike Burr, at the start of “The Room Where It Happens’ ‘ he reuses Burr exact words, inferring that Hamilton does not take Burr seriously. 

Hamilton’s relationships to other characters appear to be a major thread, for example, his relationship to President George Washington, appears to be a father to son relationship, it is flawed, but it is meaningful. His relations to his friends are strong, it was in fact the death of John Laurens that puts her mind back into focus, but all in all, the relationship that I think is most penetrating is, his and Thomas Jefferson relationship. Introduced at the very start of Act 2, Thomas Jefferson is given a similar introduction to Hamilton himself, except, instead of being about how he came from a poor background, we see Thomas bright, colourful, and most of all, rich. In his song “What I’D Miss” near the end, Hamilton arrives and cut’s his own medley into Jefferson’s, further creating tension, and later in “Cabinet Battle” which appears to be a parody of a rap battle, providing a douse of energy into what most people would consider boring. The song becomes more of a personal attack on Jefferson, however, despite everything Jefferson does, with his more sinister nature coming out in “Washington on your side” where we can see his pure hatred of Hamilton come into play. But in “The Election of 1800” Jefferson becomes president, and perhaps, finally a respect has been shown.

Despite all these relationships he has had, the most heart breaking is his relationship with the Schulyer Sisters. Mainly Angelica and Eliza. It is at this point in the play that I feel the pace slows down. Every time a more serious subject is brought in, the songs change from rap to more romantic. For example “Helpless” paints the image of how Eliza and Hamilton met, it is upbeat, and rather sweet, in contrast to the Helpless that Eliza will later experience in the play. The same could be said to “Satisfied” which is in my opinion, a ground-breaking song, not just for the technical feats it is able to achieve, but also a serves as a look into the character of Angelica, during the wedding toast, Angelica rewinds the events to witnesses them from her point of view, as we are told that she falls in loves Hamilton, and she gave up her love for him for her sisters own happiness. These songs are often more emotional than any other song. This emotional tone is not just restricted to love, but friendship, as shown in “The Story of Tonight” which is reprised three times. The first time we hear it, it comes after “My Shot” where the characters have finally shouted their beliefs out into the world. This time, it is quieter, and more personal, sharing and celebrating the revolution, as well as their newfound brotherhood, and the performance reflects this. 

I find it quite disappointing that, whilst the director was able to create these two strong plotlines, that being the more face paced Politics storyline, and the more slowed down romance story line. The two storylines are perfect, however they fail to connect the two together, as, up until “The Reynolds Pamphlet” were they attempt to connect the two together. The transition between the two also spoils the effort of some. For example, during the “The Reynolds Pamphlet” after Hamilton has published the story about his affair in order to end rumours, his enemies, most notably Thomas Jefferson, celebrate and dance in glee, however, the song swiftly changes into “Burn” showing how Eliza has taken the news, the transition feels rushed, they feel disjointed, the tone has significantly changed as well.

There are times that I feel the aspect was effective. “Non-Stop” the final song of Act 1, especially. Whilst I am biased, due to the fact this was my favourite song. The song is fast paced, to the point, and informative, and the final line is a combination of songs, which we have previously heard. The song takes place after the news of John Laurens death, sending Hamilton into his work, where he begins to climb to the top, Angelica moves to London as she is getting married, Eliza beg’s Hamilton to stop working in order to spend time with her, Burr jealousy of Hamilton only grows and Washington invites Hamilton as the Secretary of the Treasury as well as History has his eyes on him, each character sing’s their theme, surrounding Hamilton, Eliza and Angelica more romantic themes of “Helpless” and “Satisfied” by both his eyes, whilst Burr walk around, yelling “Non-Stop” whilst Washington stands above them all, reminding him that “History has its eyes on you” they overwhelm him, (I will note that their are call-back to song’s are present throughout the play, for example, “Blow Us All Way”, Philip sings about his achievements as well as his mind, similar to what Hamilton did at the start of the play, only this time, he does not get the same glory as his father, I would like to point out that the particular song has a child like Lytham too it) until Hamilton own theme of “My Shot” cut through all of them, as he joins Washington, whilst everyone tells him to wait, foreshadowing the conflict he shall face in the form of Thomas Jefferson, as well as the Reynolds. It surprises me that, in smaller instances, this effect has been achieved, but on a whole the show fails to combine the both storylines. 

Another thing I love about the song is the use of the set, as Washington stands above them all, at the side to begin with, however, the stairs then move to the centre of the stage. The use of a movable set is interesting, allowing characters to move without even walking. The set itself is extremely bland however. It has a state, but to both sides, there appears to be a stairwell up on both sides and a raised platform. The use of the raised platform is often used when characters are in different locations, for example in “Yorktown,” Eliza stands up there, as Hamilton sings about how he has to live in order to see her again, the stage itself is different to others due to the fact it is a Revolving Stage, in fact it uses a double rotating stage, which is comely referred to as a Concentric Revolve, allowing for them to have more flexibility, either by spinning in two directions, or at different speeds. This is used again in “Non-Stop” when Angelica fades into the background, the sage taking her to the back whilst Eliza comes into view, and during “Hurricane” as well as “My Shot” whenever Hamilton freezes as we hear the inside of this mind, the remaining actors stand upon it, as it slowly moves around, some holding objects, but as Hamilton speaks louder, it goes faster and faster. 

The pace of some of these songs is extraordinary. In fact the world’s fastest Broadway rap is featured in the number “Guns and Ships’ as La Fayette returns to the battlefield with French aid, and at the fastest speed, he is singing 6.3 words per second. This song is also notable for focusing on one of Hamilton’s friends, as well as highlighting the fact that the war was not only fought through America, but the French as well. Daveed Diggs is by far the most physically active actor, doubling as La Fayette as well as Thomas Jefferson, adding a boost of energy into every scene he is in, La Fayette event foreshadows the fact he will leave in Act 2 in order to fight for freedom in France in his final line. The use of foreshadowing is painfully clear though both acts. Some more obvious than others, as well as seen as a call-back, for example, near the beginning of Act II, Hamilton son’s Philip learn to play the piano as well as speak in French, however he struggles of number seven, which is late the number he shall be shot on during his duel, but perhaps the biggest use of foreshadowing is threw the character of the bullet. Portrayed by the ensemble cast member, Ariana DeBose, she acts as the personification of death. With the expedition of Hamilton mother, she is the first character to die, and every time after, every character she interacts with, will die. For example, she is the last character to be intact with John Lauren’s before his death, as well as informing Philip where the man who has insulted his father has been, and she is the one to hand Aaron Butt the letter he shall write to Hamilton, sealing his fate. 

The use of letter is by far the most commonly used prop. Their are in my opinion, no notable props, but the use of letters as a symbolic thing is seen, every time a letter is sent, it shall either bring good news or bad news, for example, the letter containing the affair shall later end Hamilton career, as well as the letter informing him of John Laurens death, and they bring news as well. “One Last Time” especially. The letter tell the actual evidence of what George Washington said as he stepped down as president, the song itself is wonderful as Washington sings about everything he had learned as he asks his friend to write it down, and as his declaration is read to the public, starting in Hamilton voice, he slowly goes into the background as Washington takes control of the letter, telling them about his choice, until he is the only voce. It is starting however, that Washington is the only character who is treated with any respect by all members, Jefferson claims that Hamilton is nothing without Washington, however he is immediately disproven after Washington steps down as president, and he even uses the same lyrics when he needs Hamilton aid.

George Washington’ s presence is not just physical, but mental, as he is the character to inspire Hamilton to live past tomorrow, giving him motivation, telling him that history has he eyes on him, and during the final number of the show, it starts with him repeating these lyrics. 

“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known

When I was young and dreamed of glory

You have no control

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

And rather appropriately, in the final song, Hamilton does not get a word to say, as it is in fact, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Angelica and Eliza who take the lead, singing about Hamilton amusements and seeds, as well as the stories of the soldiers who fought with him, as well as Washington, and themselves, with Eliza proudest accomplishment was her orphanage she opened up, for children like Hamilton. The last time Hamilton sings, he sings his mind, there is no beat or medley, like he previously wondered in “My Shot” singing about why he should waste his shot and how history shall remember him. The musical is a combination of excitement and non-stop musical genius, every song has its purpose, and no matter how long or how small it is. I have always loved musicals, and I love the way they have been able to make a rather bland subject into a 160-minute musical.  I will not be long, but in conclusion: I love it. 

Review, Humane, True Name Productions, The Pleasance/Omnibus Theatre/Arcola Theatre/Theatre Deli Sheffield/Compassion In World Farming, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In the last year we have seen a development in Theatre. Many, due to the pandemic, took to digital platforms and this has continued as the world opens up. This is a super interesting way of performance, not necessarily new in concept (The Archers for instance has been going for what seems a lifetime) but has its own challenges and positives.

Humane is a story about animal cruelty, about personal development, about feminism, race, friendship and secrets. We see the story of two very unlikely women, join together in protesting the export of live animals from their little Essex town. Their community grows but with this, while there is support and a joint agreement, there are also secrets and arguments, beginning to question nature over nurture and the society we live in.

Split into 6 parts and therefore hosted by different partners, these 30minute bursts are really great and easy to access when on the go, at a quiet moment, and great for a tube journey. They are also easy to listen to, which I found when I traveled to and from an in person show and enjoyed on my travels.

I think, without visuals, it can be quite hard to picture the story. The story itself starts at the end and we are then brought back in time to explain how we got there. This is slightly confusing when just in audio and took a few episodes in for me to piece together the narrative. The same can be said with the characters – with similar sounding voices and some doubling up on characters, it again took me some time to get my head around who was who and whose story I was listening to. Once I grasped this, it made sense and soon the different stories began to naturally interweave and compliment and contrast.

The final crescendo comes at a little surprise – without spoiling the story, part of the ending relating to race and friendships feels slightly out of place and thrown in as an after thought. I understand that perhaps the shortness of each episode and trying to get all the information into each one perhaps knocks some of these narrative plots out but it felt as if this should have been more interwoven into the story.

Humane nonetheless is a very interesting story, and perhaps goes down a route that you never expect while reading the synopsis. It just felt as if more direction was needed when deciding if this should be about animal cruelty, friendships, race and if it needed to be all of these, how they could be more interwoven together.

An Interview with Screenwriter Fflur Dafydd, conducted by Gareth Williams

In this latest interview, Get the Chance member Gareth Williams chats to screenwriter Fflur Dafydd. Their chat takes place in the form of a podcast, the second in a trial series in conversation with Welsh creatives. Fflur talks about her latest series, Yr Amgueddfa, as well as the writing process, her creative journey, Welsh identity, memory, and Welsh TV drama.

To find out more about Fflur, visit her website here, or follow her on social media @fflurdafydd.

You can watch the whole series of Yr Amgueddfa on BBC iPlayer here.

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Gareth to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here. Thanks.

Review Starlings (Sky 1, 2012-2013) by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Living in lockdown after lockdown has facilitated more binge-watching than ever before, and a lot of us have taken the chance to catch up on shows we missed the first time round. I’ve finally caught up on Fringe, Red Dwarf, and Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes. I’ve rewatched more of the Stargate franchise than is healthy and puzzled my way through Neon Genesis Evangelion. But two of my personal lockdown favourites, Spirited and Starlings, happen to have something (or, rather, someone) in common: and that’s Matt King.

King is known to many as Peep Show’s lovable crack addict Super Hans, but I first knew him as charming grifter Cookie in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla, in which he effortlessly stole scenes from the likes of Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy. While he’s perhaps best known for playing wide boys and weirdos onscreen (to great effect!), he’s also a dab hand behind the camera, having co-written and produced series like sketch comedy Dogface, acerbic sitcom Whites, and the subject of this review, Sky 1’s family dramedy Starlings.

Starlings Cast Shot © Adrian Rogers for Sky 1 HD

Written by King and Steve Edge (who also star) and produced by Steve Coogan, the series follows four generations of the lovable and slightly chaotic Starlings, an everyday working-class family who all live under one roof. At its heart is happily married couple Terry (Brendan Coyle) and Jan (Lesley Sharp), and their three children: eldest daughter Bell (Rebecca Night), separated from her boyfriend Reuben (Ukweli Roach) on the eve of giving birth to their son; Gravy (John Dagleish), the layabout son with a penchant for reptiles; and Charlie (Finn Atkins), teenage football hopeful and seemingly the only person in the family who’s got it together. Add in Jan’s jack-of-all-trades nephew Fergie (Edge), eccentric Granddad Billy (Alan Williams), and Billy’s long-lost son, Loz (King), and the Starlings’ detached red-brick house is getting rather cramped by the end of the pilot.

Set in Matlock, Derbyshire under perpetually blue skies, the world of Starlings is beautiful to look at and to live in. King and Edge set out to make a comedy drama without the caricatures you’d find in your common garden soap opera, and they succeeded: while its contemporaries wring laughs from families falling over, falling out, or downright falling apart, Starlings is about people who both love and genuinely like each other – even when they get on each other’s nerves. There’s not a weak link in the cast, and their rapport feels natural and lived-in. Honest, gentle, and understated, Starlings delights in the everyday. It doesn’t just give you a window into family life – it makes you feel part of that family.

The Starlings – Series 2 Gallery images Alan WIlliams as Grandad, John Daglish as Gravy, Finn Atkins as Charlie, Brendan Coyle as Terry, Lesley Sharp as Jan, Matt King as Fergie, Steve Edge as Loz, Rebecca Night as Bell and Ukweli Roach as Reuben. ©Des Willie for Sky 1 HD 2013

In doing so, it manages a deceptively tricky balance: it’s warm and genuine without being twee, funny without being farcical, snarky without being mean-spirited. It has an eye for detail and the small, quietly meaningful moments of life that other series tend to trample on or overlook entirely. It thoughtfully subverts toxic masculinity and crafts characters you relish spending time with. It’s also very refreshing to have a series where people are not just happy, but profoundly relieved, to be able to go home to their loved ones at the end of the day. In the Starlings’ world, family is sanctuary.

On an aesthetic level, Starlings is ideal summertime viewing. In many ways a modern pastoral, the series immerses you in a bucolic fever dream of British rural/town life that is still rarely seen on screen. Watch it in the winter, and you can feel the balmy breeze rustling through the trees of the Starling homestead; see it in the summer, and you can sense its warmth spilling over the edges of the screen. It was clearly a joy to make, and that affection is apparent in every frame – no wonder it attracted the likes of Dolly Wells, Cherie Lunghi, Vincent Regan, and Una Stubbs to guest star.

Starlings Cast Shot © Adrian Rogers for Sky 1 HD

As I wrote about the dearly departed Spirited, discovering a gem of a show years after it’s ended is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s the injustice of it being taken before its time, the realisation that there is a finite amount of the thing you love; a story unresolved. On the other, it’s like happening upon buried treasure; a rare jewel you never even knew existed and now couldn’t bear to be without. The appeal of unthreatening mediocrity means that countless copy-paste procedurals run ad infinitum and gems like Starlings get struck down in their prime. I wish it could have gone for longer. I wish it would come back. But whatever its fate, I’m grateful it exists in the world. It takes a little time to worm its way into your heart, but once it does, the Starlings come home to roost – for good.

Starlings is streaming on iTunes, Apple TV, Google Play and Amazon Prime Video.

Review by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Review I May Destroy You by Simon Kensdale

Please note this review contains analysis of the programmes plotlines.

I May Destroy You didn’t deal with murder: it dealt with Rape.  I don’t know why crime series don’t tackle more common crimes more often.  It’s as if only murder is considered sufficiently serious as dramatic material to engage our attention.  The victims of assault, fraud and dangerous driving would disagree with this assessment: crime often has life-changing consequences.  I also don’t know why ‘serious’ drama has to involve crime, anyway.  Does contemporary society lack internal tensions?

I May Destroy You scored points for me by tackling a subject important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is extremely rare for rapists to be convicted.  The series drew attention to the failure of the dedicated/honest, heroic/glamorous, photogenic/fascinating police force’s inability to deal with what is almost a routine occurrence.  I thought it would be more interesting than the standard foul murder- clever investigation – heroic arrest format normally served up.

I May Destroy You also drew my attention because it concentrated on young people and their lives, meaning it could deploy novel vocabulary and expressive idioms. The police were hardly relevant so there weren’t any of those terse office conversations building up the plot.  It came in half hour episodes, too, which meant it moved forwards quickly.  (Nearly all TV programmes fill a sixty-minute slot to suit the scheduling.  Nearly all could do with editing.)

Nonetheless, I found it disappointing and I lost interest half-way through.  The acting and camera work were good but I found the conversations limited, as if there was no point in our spending more time with the characters or in getting closer to their predicaments.

I think the problem was the subject matter proved too difficult for television in the end.  The combination of PTSD and writer’s block resulting from a date rape was never going to be easy to present.  Writers are not exciting dramatis personae and writers who can’t write are not interesting people to watch.  And, fatally, we were distracted from considering the initial issue by two further rapes – both variations on the situation of the removal or non-use of a condom.  I say ‘fatally’ because, as with the standard crime series where further killings are added to maintain momentum, more proves to be less.  By the time three people have been killed, the viewer has begun to lose interest in the first victim and a key element in the story – the motive of the killer and the circumstances that have driven him or her to kill – has been sacrificed to the simpler mysteries of who the killer might be and how they’ll be caught.

Thus, in I May Destroy You, the main character’s trauma was pushed aside when she is raped a second time – by a man removing a condom during sex.  We witness this rape as well as the homosexual rape of one of her friends and the graphic images displace the vague memories of what happened to her when she was drugged that she is trying to access.

There is a lot of sexual activity but none of it is ordinary.  The one sex scene in which rape does not take place involves the main character’s best friend in a one-night stand threesome.  Nobody appears to be in a settled relationship, turning sex itself into an issue, rather than showing it as a routine feature of everyday life, i.e. making consent a norm.

There is a reason for this, of course.  The series aims at exploring the ramifications of rape – its impact on victims, augmented by the inability of the police to deal with a serious crime.  It has been plotted so as not present the traditional, stereotypical view of rape, i.e. the violent assault, and it deserves recognition for this.  Unfortunately, as each of the three rapes is distinct – involving the absence of consent but also representing different aspects of the problem – they don’t complement one another.  It would have been better to have concentrated on a single incident, which is what I thought would happen, in order to allow the audience to consider the meaning of consent and the psychological consequences of intimate violence.

You could say that by illustrating rape so graphically and insistently, the series drew attention to a wide-spread problem, but I think we are mainly moved by the sight of one interesting and unforgettable individual’s experience or suffering and we start to step back once we suspect there is nothing unique about it.

In making these remarks, I’m conscious that I’m resorting to literary theory and I do enjoy novels more than the television.  It’s not wholly correct to compare a TV series with a novel and to expect the same kind of imaginative experience from both.  Equally, I May Destroy You is not a play, in which a dramatic situation can be explored and worked out in a single intense performance.  But some of the criteria applies across the board.  A long time ago, the BBC televised The Forsyte Saga.  Galsworthy’s Forsyte novels are not widely read any more – who has time for a saga, even one written by a Nobel prize winner? – but Galsworthy was ahead of his time in tackling marital rape.  By describing a single incident at the time of publication to his readers and then through the BBC series, I think his story highlighted the issue more memorably than if he had shown a multiplicity of cases and marital rape would have been as common when he was writing as it is today.  As a consequence of his concentration on the one event, Soames, the perpetrator of the rape, is criminalised and revealed for what he is and what he represents; Irene, his wife and his victim, monopolises our sympathy.  Both characters are memorable and, dare I say it, this suggests a more oblique, less elaborate treatment of rape may be more effective in terms of engaging an audience.

I’m disagreeing here with The Guardian’s write up on I May Destroy You which was an ‘unadulterated paean of praise’, the series apparently being ‘an extraordinary, breathtaking achievement without a false note in it’ and ‘the drama of the year so far’.

I enjoyed reading that review but it wasn’t critical.  It expressed the reviewer’s obvious personal enjoyment but one of the principles of criticism is – still – offering constructive feedback.  I think Michaela Coel, the writer and star of I May Destroy You is someone with both potential and ambition.  She wants to tackle big subjects in unusual ways but she’s more likely to make progress in the future if she remembers the traditional basics of story telling.  For my taste, I May Destroy You went too far in some directions and not far enough in others.

An Interview with Country Singer-songwriter Rae Sam, conducted by Gareth Williams

In this latest interview, Get the Chance member Gareth Williams chats to Welsh Country singer-songwriter Rae Sam. Their chat takes place in the form of a podcast, the first in a trial series in conversation with Welsh creatives. Rae talks about her debut album, The Great Escape, as well as songwriting, mental health, Welsh identity, and faith.

To find out more about Rae, visit her website here, or follow her on social media @raesammusic.

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Gareth to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here. Thanks.

Series Review, The Pact, BBC1, by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There is a moment during the final episode of BBC1 drama The Pact when its writer, Pete McTighe, attempts to deconstruct the truth. Julie Hesmondhalgh’s character Nancy, one of the four women caught up at the centre of a murder investigation, begins a Shakespearean dialogue with her priest (Mark Lewis-Jones), telling him that we all wear masks and play parts. No one is ever truly themselves, she admits. “I’ve come to realise that it’s the absence of truth that holds us together”. When Father Martin responds to her “cynical worldview”, I’m inclined to agree with him. But I do wonder if McTighe has still necessarily muddied the waters to offer a critique of truth as a negative construct: sometimes dangerous, potentially destructive, and capable of being subverted by something greater than itself.

Pete McTighe

This critique plays out in the central narrative of the drama. After brewery boss Jack Evans (Aneurin Barnard) is found dead in the woods, having been innocently left there by four friends in a humorous act of revenge for his snide comments the night before, the group endeavour to create a cover story so as not to be implicated in the subsequent investigation. They attempt to absolve themselves of the situation, thinking about the possible ramifications should their involvement be uncovered. They are driven by fear of where the truth might lead, and attempt to abscond it by living a lie. What takes shape over the course of six episodes is a fascinating interplay between truth and lie. It is at its most dynamic in episode five when Anna (Laura Fraser) reveals to her husband, police officer Max (Jason Hughes), what really happened. In doing so, she makes him complicit; forced to choose between his personal and professional commitments. It becomes a choice between telling the truth or living the lie; and in choosing the latter, the lie becomes the truth that drives the lie. In other words, he acknowledges the destructive consequences that the truth poses to his family, and so seeks to avert this risk entirely by becoming entangled, like the rest, in a web of deceit.

Anna (Laura Fraser) and Max (Jason Hughes)

Ordinarily, one might assume that McTighe is telling a simple story of corruption. However, I believe he presents a rather deft commentary on the nature of friendship. I think it goes to the heart of what Nancy means when she describes “the absence of truth that holds us together”. For the lie which Anna, Nancy, Louie (Eiry Thomas) and Cat (Heledd Gwynn) concoct, which some of their nearest and dearest are eventually drawn into, becomes the basis for which trust between them is built.  The Pact is not so much an exercise in secrecy then as trust. It may be that the lie wins but only as an expression of self-sacrifice. Nancy gives of herself in an act of grace that saves the guilty Tamsin (Gabrielle Creevy), complicating the typical formula of the crime drama where the mystery murderer is finally unveiled and given their comeuppance. There is no good and evil as solidly defined categories here. Instead, everyone falls short in their own way, having to pay penance for their actions on the night of Jack’s death, to paraphrase Nancy. Her response is, perhaps not surprisingly, steeped in a theology of sin and atonement which, though far from straightforward, still leaves plenty of food for thought on the place of justice and truth.

When I came to The Pact, I was expecting to comment on its place within the landscape of Welsh TV drama. It is certainly an interesting addition to the canon, with its strong Welsh cast supplemented by a scattering of British stars representing a Wales with fluid borders; a community with a recognisably local identity but peppered with the accents of Scots and English settlers. It is not quite the bilingualism of a Bang or Hinterland but neither is it a homogenously accented whole. It has given Eiry Thomas an opportunity to take on a role that sees her come into her own, her star turn opposite heavyweights like Eddie Marsan (Arwel) and Hesmondhalgh announcing her as an accomplished lead. Rakie Ayola is superb as deadpan detective DS Hammond, her commanding presence softened beautifully by her dry wit and no-nonsense comment. Meanwhile, Abbie Hern makes her debut acting role as Tish a memorable one, her performance opposite Heledd Gwynn making her one to watch for the future. However, for all its stunning shots of the landscape, its subtly effective music and excellent cast, it is the narrative themes that have really drawn me into this drama and kept my interest throughout. The Pact has been a thought-provoking crime thriller which has left me with something to think about.

Click here to watch the series.

Written by
Gareth Williams

Review Welcome Back, Justin Teddy Cliffe by Leslie R. Herman Jones

Full disclosure: I like this guy.

A conflict of interest may be real, potential, or perceived. You must disclose all actual and potential conflicts of interest promptly.[1]

I have only known and admired him in a professional context. Done.

#welcomeback, #justinteddycliffe.

In the fateful words of JTC, ‘everything online is weird and nebulous’, and the ‘South Wales-based performer + theatre maker-come-nonsensical ideasman’, Justin Teddy Cliffe, is no exception. Weird and nebulous figure large in his show, Welcome Back, livestreaming on YouTube, where his particular brand of weird and nebulous is well-worth watching.

In his 30-40 minute one-man show, Cliffe performs live at Le Pub in Newport (Gwent) to cardboard cut outs, while simultaneously reaching human audiences digitally in cyberspace. Nice juxtaposition.

Self-created, directed and performed, with dramaturgy by Jeremy Linnell, Cliffe shows up in his underwear on a circular stage the size of a lazy susan — enough space for one man and four cans of beer. I’m guessing the mini stage was a creative decision — it had to be tight enough to get an upstage shot of his arse and still get audience reaction.

Cliffe’s brand extends to a kind of civilised vulgarity, which, if you don’t typically dance to the vulgar beat, try it. Cliffe delivers vulgar on the off-beat — it’s charming, it’s gentle — but don’t be fooled, it’s still a roller coaster ride with heightened realism, giving us an up ’n over view of the human condition in all its pitiful frailty, perhaps a view from the ‘Pepsi Max aka The Big One’ he still dreams of, dreams crushed like his beer cans, crushed, to delineate scene changes. And if you do like to dance you won’t want to miss his beat box R&B number, Right on Time (Choreography, Kylie Ann Smith).

 The extent to which Welcome Back is autobiographical isn’t clear. His only character isn’t named. I suggest he represents Everyman. He questions: ’How will we cope going back into the world after having been in survival mode for so long?’ The Universe answers, ‘Who knows, but before you start worrying about all that, why don’t you toast this strange time with a drink or four and dance like it’s the end of the world as we know it.’ And so he does, for all humans and cut-outs to see.

The show deals with mental health, survival modes, memories, self-preservation and accepting change through a contemporary kind of clowning, and backed up by the science of survival we see in a slideshow at the top of the show, designed to assure us when he goes off on one.

His dreams — abstract memories — form the backbone of the show; song, dance and mini-riffs — like the ‘If You Haven’t Done That’ tale about his wild swimming, kombucha drinking, culture growing neighbours — are crack fillers. Cliffe’s recollections are mutually painful  — he hurts, we hurt; he confesses they are ‘not stories I really want to tell, so let’s get on with it,’ a way of bracing himself and suggesting we strap ourselves in, too. And he tackles some tough stuff — but he makes sure that there’s a soft landing, providing billows of laughter at his raucous characterisation and self-styled use of language.

 Justin Teddy Cliffe’s kind of humour begs the world to be a kinder, more humorous place. He manages to deliver raw stories, giving us something to really chew on, and edgy messages, sharp edges you’ve got to be mindful of. The combination is a prescription for our well-being: all that chewing flexes and stretches the brain muscles; and those edges require a wholesome flexibility and navigation skills.

Welcome Back is an essential work out.

Leslie R. Herman Jones

28 May 2021


[1] WGICodeofConductEthics.pdf