After its acclaimed debut on S4C in 2017, it was surely only
a matter of time before Bang returned to our screens. Over
two years have passed since the first series, with writer Roger Williams
wasting no time in getting down to business. A visceral opening scene throws us
straight in at the deep end, posing plenty of intrigue. What follows is a
well-plotted second season that melds the development of returning characters’
stories with those of brand-new faces.
There is no sign of second series syndrome, with Williams
developing a strong central crime narrative that works perfectly well as a
stand-alone. This means that there is no overreliance on the likes of Sam
(Jacob Ifan) and Gina (Catrin Stewart), the brother and sister who were central
to the show’s original run. Instead, the continuation of their storyline is
just one of a number of other narrative strands – each fully rounded and
complete – that tie together nicely. It is the tightly-crafted way that
Williams weaves these strands and slowly draws them into a collective whole
that makes Bang such a satisfying
The gun remains a potent symbol in series two, though its
appearance is much more sporadic. It has shifted from being the singular
obsession of one to being the shared object of many. Its presence is felt, but
always underneath the surface in this latest six-episode run. The ramifications
of its use, however, are potently displayed in the character of Sam. Still
trying to come to terms with the death of his father by such a weapon in series
one, we find him grappling with PTSD. Ifan does an excellent job of conveying
Sam’s mental state; in fact, it is one of the most genuine onscreen portrayals I
have ever seen. Most make clear what they are trying to do. Yet here, through a
combination of fine acting, clever editing, choice camera angles, and pervasive
music, the producers of Bang manage
to capture Sam’s struggles so powerfully that I couldn’t help but be
The domestic abuse by DI Morgan Riley (Dyfan Dwyfor) on wife
Caryn (Hedydd Dylan) is no less affecting. Williams captures the subtle
manipulation and invasive cruelty of the husband really well, causing me to
turn away from the screen several times such was my discomfort in the face of
his underhand brutality. In fact, this subplot became more absorbing than the
central storyline, involving a serial killer enacting revenge for the rape of
Marissa Clarke (Sophie Melville) ten years earlier. The bloodbath that ensues
across the course of six episodes is fairly graphic. Yet it was the unseen
mental and emotional scars inflicted on the show’s characters that had me
reaching for the remote in distress.
Writer Roger Williams has not returned to Port Talbot in a
hurry. This second series of Bang feels
as much a labour of love as its first. It is another compelling story full of well-defined
characters dealing with pressing issues. Returning fans will not be
disappointed. And for those who haven’t yet seen it, I would recommend adding it
to your isolation watch-list.
Terry Gilliam’s three-decade-long struggle to bring Miguel Cervantes’ seventeenth-century novel Don Quixote to the big screen is an epic saga worthy of its knightly hero. Everything short of divine intervention seems to have scuppered the Monty Python alum’s numerous attempts, including lost financing, flash floods, legal disputes and personal injuries. The film took so long so produce that the two main roles, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, were recast numerous times, with the likes of Robert Duvall, Michael Palin and John Hurt for the former and Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor and Robin Williams for the latter. It was such a chaotic production that it’s intended ‘making of’ featurette, 2002’s Lost in La Mancha, turned into a documentary of its quixotic plight, predating the actual film’s completion by some fifteen years.
That the film finally got made is nothing short of a miracle. That it’s not particularly great is unsurprising, though it’s a triumph that it’s anything resembling coherent at all. Here’s the gist: while shooting a vodka commercial in Spain, Toby Grisoni (Adam Driver) comes across his first student film, an adaptation of Don Quixote he shot in a nearby village, Los Sueños (which aptly translates to ‘The Dreams’). Having long abandoned his scruples in pursuit of the big leagues, Toby ditches the shoot in an attempt to rekindle any artistic integrity he has left by revisiting the place where his love for movies began – only to learn of the collateral damage he unwittingly caused to the village where he shot his first feature. This is embodied in the fate of local cobbler Javier (Jonathan Pryce), whom Toby cast as the titular hero in his movie, and who now believes he is Don Quixote and that Toby is his loyal squire, Sancho Panza.
That synopsis alone may give you an idea of how convoluted the film is, but despite its over-complicated premise, its execution is often too simplistic. Most of its drawn-out run-time is spent on watching our odd couple traipse around the countryside with no real aim (or end) in sight – it’s even referenced when Toby breaks the fourth wall to exclaim, ‘There’s a plot??’ And while rural Spain looks utterly beautiful thanks to Nicola Pecorini’s sumptuous cinematography, the visuals mean little without some kind of plot to back them up. Perhaps it was meant to play like a nightmare, but it’s lacking even the dreamy coherence of a fairy tale. Many scenes feel superfluous, but none is quite so poorly handled as the grand ball, an exercise in exasperation which plays a lot of casual xenophobia and misogyny for laughs, and which features a truly abysmal scene where Quixote is fooled into ‘going to the moon’ to save fair maidens.
But at least the acting here more than makes up for the shaky narrative. As sardonic ad director Toby Grisoni, Adam Driver turns in yet another excellent performance. His character is supremely unlikable practically from start to finish, but his arc wraps up an interesting and not entirely predictable way. He’s a lightning bolt of smarmy charisma and manic energy, and any strength the film has traces back to the strange and spiky chemistry between Driver and his onscreen partner in crime: Jonathan Pryce, as the charmingly delusional Quixote. Pryce is absolutely wonderful here – he feels simultaneously ancient, chivalrous, masterful, adorable, mad, sane, wise, foolish, otherworldly and mischievous. Perhaps something magical happens when Pryce and Gilliam collaborate, given that some of their best work can be found in their last collaboration, 1985’s Brazil. There are shades of Midnight Run in the scenes where Driver’s sweary Millennial tries to cart around Pryce’s endearingly doddery oddity like an exasperated babysitter. Their interactions are funny, chaotic and sometimes moving, and they are easily the best part of the film. Even Óscar Jaenada and Jason Watkins excel in small roles.
It’s a shame they’re saddled with such scant material. Don Quixote may be Gilliam’s best work since 1995’s Twelve Monkeys, but it’s still a haphazard scrawl of a movie with way too many eccentric sojourns that makes it feel like ten different versions smushed together. Its despicable portrayal of women is easily its worst element, though, throwing Gilliam’s Madonna-Whore complex into stark relief. Jacqui, the character played by Olga Kurylenko (a supremely multi-faceted actress who excels across multiple genres from drama to action to romantic comedy) is portrayed as a nymphomaniacal harpy who throws herself at Toby any chance she gets. When Toby gropes a woman on his crew, it’s played as some kind of joke; in fact, it’s Toby’s inability to remember her name that is played for laughs – his casual groping of her is completely brushed over. And Angelica (Joana Ribeiro) caught Toby’s eye on the set of his original film when she was fifteen years old. They never progressed past innocent flirting at the time – thank god – but it’s uncomfortably specific, especially as Toby and Angelica do become romantically involved during film.
It’s a difficult film to review because, in a way, it feels as if it involves appraising Gilliam’s soul. Gilliam has long been likened to Quixote, both dreamers who defiantly live a fantastical existence in the face of orthodox society. Watching his finally finished treatise to the elusive knight errant feels like a trip into the windmills of his mind. He even gets to wreak cinematic revenge on the producers who dashed his hopes for decades by framing Stellan Skarsgård’s producer character as the embodiment of all evil in a way that resonates with M. Night Shyamalan’s decision to write the gruesome death of a callous film critic in Lady in the Water. It’s a fittingly metatextual adaptation given that the novel played with those kinds of elements, branded as a relic from the ‘archives of La Mancha’ in order to enhance its credibility. And though the line between fantasy and reality remains, as in much of Gilliam’s filmography, blurred, its period features seem to comprise a fantastical gloss over the modern world – modern-looking security guards with shades and earpieces line the castle walls, and Kurylenko, resplendent in gaudy medieval finery on a horse, taps away at her smartphone.
The narrative may be rickety, but the film’s presiding theme decidedly isn’t. Gilliam expresses it through one of the film’s tertiary characters – Rupert, Toby’s agent (Jason Watkins) – who tells his client that ‘we become what we hold on to’. It’s sneaked in so early in the film, and spoken by such a minor character, that it almost slips under the radar, but it’s essentially the mission statement of the movie, which goes on to literalise it in many ways, not least through Pryce’s Quixote, and of course through Gilliam himself. A significant portion of his personal and professional life has been tied up in this movie’s making (and ‘unmaking’, as he memorably states in the title credits); to even conceive of its completion was viewed by many as Gilliam tilting at windmills, so of course he feels justified in a little self-indulgence. But Gilliam does seem acutely self-aware of his own impractical endeavour, as the film directly tackles the notion that collateral damage always accompanies obsession, and that a singular artistic vision may take its toll on many.
I think Mark Olsen of the L.A. Times said it best: ‘For anyone struggling with whether to give up, concerned that the result will not match the effort, Gilliam seems to be planting a flag — or more accurately charging a windmill — to say the effort is the reward.’ Having seen the film while I was in the final weeks of my PhD corrections, I felt rather warmly towards it – like Gilliam, I too just wanted to get the thing done at last. There are moments of brilliance here, when Gilliam considers the social cost of filmmaking, the melancholy of growing old, of losing hope, and becoming set in your ways. But the power of transformation, for better or worse, also remains. There’s merit in watching a filmmaker produce something so bizarrely incoherent that only about three people will enjoy it – and though it makes The Adventures of Baron Munchausen look as finely crafted as Memento in comparison, I was grateful that Gilliam still has windmills at which to tilt.
We are both saddened to see the vast array of cultural cancellations over the past day and proud to see so many companies putting the health of their staff, participants and audiences first.
The arts are an important part of many of our lives, and we’re also excited to see so many isolation friendly options arising. We’ve started a list of online dance and yoga classes, digital only festivals and a huge array of dance, opera, theatre, museums and CPD activities you can do from home – including full NDCWales performances. Please share this resource and let us know of other fab things we can add to it.
______________________ Mae’r ddau ohonom yn drist iawn o weld yr ystod eang o ddigwyddiadau diwylliannol sydd wedi cael eu canslo ers ddoe ac yn falch o weld cymaint o gwmnïau yn rhoi iechyd eu staff, cyfranogwyr a chynulleidfaoedd yn gyntaf. Mae’r celfyddydau yn rhan bwysig o fywydau sawl un ohonom, ac rydym hefyd yn teimlo’n gyffrous i weld cynifer o opsiynau y gellir eu gwneud wrth hunan-ynysu yn codi.Rydym wedi dechrau rhestr o ddosbarthiadau dawns ac ioga ar-lein, gwyliau digidol yn unig a llu o bethau yn seiliedig ar ddawns, opera, y theatr ac amgueddfeydd, a gweithgareddau y gallwch eu gwneud adref – gan gynnwys perfformiadau CDCCymru llawn.
Rhannwch yr adnodd hwn a rhowch wybod i ni am bethau gwych, eraill y gallwn eu hychwanegu ato.
NDCWales P.A.R.A.D.E. including choreography by Caroline Finn, Marcos Morau and Lee Johnson, in collaboration with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rubicon Dance and Vertical Dance Kate Lawrence; filmed by The Space Arts. https://vimeo.com/248459479
CPD FROM HOME ETC have made their online training courses free during this time: training for technicians Courses.etcconnect.com The following performers offer one to one tuition, find them on facebook.
Rubyyy Jones – Cabaret MCing Paul L Martin – mentoring for cabaret performers John Celestus – one to one Flexibiliy and Strength, contortion, compare Skillshare International Offers photography, illustration, design with a 2 month free trial available https://www.skillshare.com/
The Time Machine is based on the different dynamics existing around time travelling – written by Jonathan Holloway & directed by Natasha Rickman. Featuring Rhodri Lewis (time traveller), Funlola Olufunwa (chat show host), Graeme Rose (computer), Paul Taylor (time traveller), Sarah Edwardson (DRI), Clare Humphrey (time traveller). This play was derived from the book HG Wells giving it a different spin, even more so having this play performed at The London Library.
The start began with a scientist captured in a hologram screen prepping the audience by giving us a mental break down of the implications that was going to be unravelled. Then driving us down a road of discovery by providing a brief overview of the fundamental factors we as the audience would be encountering in solidarity motion . A unique achievement of being explicitly imaginary but maintaining the feel of being realistic as we experience a close reflection of what it’ll be like to tap into a new era through time travel. Shortly after the hologram we were accompanied by a time traveller who held a big brown bag which contained primal survival tools to break free from the power of the unknown that goes beyond our era when we as an ensemble yell ‘Zoom’!!!
‘Time Machine’ depicts technical intelligence, artificial intelligence infused with exclusive insights into the implications of the barriers facing us through trial & tested climaxes throughout humanity. This play projected the manifestation of the consequences of knowing too much, knowing too little, etc. All information used to produce this play were a collection of research data from scientific findings.
This play is truly a powerful dystopian as well as an utopian visionary becoming the space between the extraordinary taking us through a primitive space of human being counterfeits operated primarily on robotic-systemised technology; diminishing the present from the future giving off a nurturing fugitive space. The exploration of the library feel was what led this to feel like fantastic promenade performance. Extracting elements from smart devices, computer sequences, repetitive patterns helped to structurally enhance a rich flavour to secure an effective transition as we continued to time travel throughout the library, in various locations inciting new information to process every time.
Time Machine speculates on all the If’s & but’s, hidden truths that could make or break, cause heartbreak, confusion, seclusion then delusion before it all becomes to much handle! This play offers a unique experience shared between the audience & the actors creating a divine collective experience explored when going on a journey through some of lives most evocative spaces.
The use of space in this play was pure genius! the creativity, inspiration & innovation to what the future awaits was key to successful suspense & tension in this play! I managed to catch up with Jonathan Holloway after the show who’d gently touched on the amount of research which was a massive contribute to putting the play in its full effect!
Hi Tracy great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hello. I’m from Swansea. I went to an amazing creative primary school where we were taught Beatles songs, bombarded with the chronicles of Narnia and where I met some of my closest friends. I then went to a pretty tough all girls school where I met girls from all walks of life and then I went to Gorseinon College where under the brilliant Simon Pirotte, my love of theatre grew. I then went to Lancaster Uni to study Experimental Theatre after being highly influenced by Volcano, and as part of that course I did a playwriting module where I wrote my first play ‘past away’ which was commissioned by Sgript Cymru, on my return to Wales. I then went on to write a number of plays for the Sherman and other companies. Alongside writing,I started making TV Documentaries and set up ‘Gritty Productions’ with Chris Rushton. We make hard hitting films and radio programmes for BBC about homelessness, prostitution, and the benefit system.I also make my own performance work, writing and performing and collaborating with other artists, which is more experimental/ autobiographical.
So, what got you interested in the arts?
Well there’s definitely been a number of inspirational teachers along the way. Then my Dad used to make up silly bedtime stories and I’d always loved dressing up and making up songs, so I guess it secretly was always there. My sister whose an English teacher now, definitely passed on to me the love of words and stories. I never really went to the theatre growing up other than the Christmas panto at the Grand Theatre with the social club, my parents used to go to. The earliest memory I have of theatre was when I was 6, my infants school were doing a production of The Wizard of Oz. The teacher’s asked for people to volunteer to sing and my friend Lucy literally pushed me on to the stage. I was terrified but I did it, and I got the part of Dorothy, that moment actually propelled me into theatre and I’ve loved it ever since.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas come from?
Ideas come to me randomly, often when I’m out and about, sometimes from images, sometimes from conversations I’ve heard or had or something I’ve read. I’m a bit of a hoarder, so I often keep postcards, photos, bits of text etc and they get recycled. I’ll often think of visual moments first and write from images/ photo’s as starting points and then plays start to build from there. I also like to think about what I’m scared of, or what questions I want to ask about the world right now and that often starts my brain ticking.
Can you describe your writing day? Do you have a process or a minimum word count?
Since having Hartley, my 4 year old, my writing process has changed (for the better I think) Now, because of time restraints, I write for a few hours in the morning while he’s at nursery and then at night when he’s gone to bed. I have to be much more structured and give myself deadlines and tasks, like to complete a scene in a morning, but I think that definitely has made me procrastinate less and value my writing time more.
Why and where do you write?
I write because I often find that’s the only way I can express what I really want to say about the world. I often write when I have a strong feeling or instinct about something that I really need to say and don’t know how else to articulate it. Normally I write on my desk at home. It’s an old-fashioned writing desk, which we’ve named William! I like to think about the stories that were created on it previous and the people who sat at it. I also have a few little inspiring things on there and things that are important to me- they keep me going when I get stuck. I also often have music that I rely on for the play and will listen to that constantly through the process. (I tidied it for this photo!)
Your latest play Ripples, co-produced by Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in collaboration with Sherman Theatre takes place in a group rehab centre in Bridgend. It “compassionately explores what leads us to seek help.” How did you come to tell this story?
I think every play is different and therefore has a different approach. With Ripples the commission and challenge was to write a play for 8 people, which is both terrifying and exciting. I did a lot more planning with Ripples at the start of the process, thinking about where 8 characters may be thrown together in a dramatic situation. I also really wanted to challenge myself to write a play where the 8 characters are on stage for the majority of the play together- That was a big challenge I tell you!
As I mentioned, as well as theatre, I make Documentaries and a few years ago, I had been doing a lot of research about Rehabs and found a brilliant one in Bridgend and that place always stuck with me. Then I had questions about how I felt about the world right now- I was thinking a lot about ‘How do you fix people in a world that’s broken?’ Where are the safe places? and also personally about how I felt overwhelmed by the constant bombardment of bad news stories and out of the combination of all those seeds, Ripples started to grow.
Why did you choose Bridgend as the location of this play?
I chose Bridgend as that’s where the original rehab I had been researching was, but spoiler alert- this isn’t a play specifically about Bridgend and it isn’t verbatim either, although I have done a lot of research to make sure the stories are authentic and true to what might go on there. I think with every play, you have to find the right form and story for that play, so the actual Rehab and Bridgend as a place was just a starting point. I then starting thinking more about the technique I wanted to explore in the play and the characters I wanted to create. I was drawn to psycho-drama as I felt this was the most dramatic and instinctive technique that I could play with. The great thing about the New season is that you get to work with the actors and director early on in the process to workshop the script, so they have been involved and invested right from first draft stage and this has been invaluable, as I’ve been able to bounce ideas around with them and really flesh out the characters and stories collaboratively- and they are a really talented bunch- so that’s such a treat!
With productions such as We’re Still Here by NTW portraying the lives of Neath Port Talbot Steel Workers. Theatr na nOgs production Nye and Jennie examining the political background and personal inspiration of Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee, and your new production based on the real lives experiences Bridgend residents do you feel that Welsh Theatre is presenting representative stories of its citizens on our stages?
I think it’s important to tell welsh stories that have a universal reach, so for me the themes of the play; Trauma, Survival, Empathy and Compassion can all relate to Wales but also have bigger resonances in the world right now. The next project that I am working on with Paul Jenkins is wholly a verbatim play about the Banksy that appeared in Port Talbot and this is specifically a Welsh story, right from the heart of the community in Port Talbot, but again it raises universal questions about community, art, money and values and I think I’m drawn to projects that do that.
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you? Is it possible to sustain a career as a writer in Wales and if not what would help?
This is a tough one. I think there are opportunities in Wales, but they are few and far between and often there a lot of people fighting for those opportunities and commissions, so you have to keep proving yourself or have someone fighting your corner. I couldn’t survive just writing plays, but I also wouldn’t refer to myself as wholly a playwright as I love working in TV and film and creating my own work. I find that I need that variety to keep my creative juices flowing I feel extremely lucky and thankful to Simon Harris, who took a massive chance on me (back in the day as a young 22 year old, first time writer) and more recently Wyndham Price who last year commissioned my first feature film and Philip Carne who has supported my last 2 plays, without those people I definitely wouldn’t be writing now. Also I feel it’s great to have development schemes, readings and competitions, but playwrights need productions and I wish there was more money being thrown at dramaturgical support and development that could lead to this.
Sherman Cymru have recently announced the reinstatement of their literary department, on a one year pilot basis funded by ACW. What does this say to you as a Playwright as regards the venues intention to support your craft? What change do you hope will be realised with this new department at Sherman Theatre?
The news of a new literary department at the Sherman is really exciting as I feel there has a been a big gap in Wales in this area. Hopefully this will mean more plays will get read and developed so more voices will be discovered and produced, which is really a brilliant thing. Joe Murphy at the Sherman, Paul Jenkins and Adele Thomas have been great dramaturgical support and I think it’s important for writers to have that support early on in the process, from people that they trust. I think I need to be challenged as a writer. I need to be able to talk about my work and have people really interrogate me about my ideas- this has been invaluable for me to progress further.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
There are so many things I would like to fund, but if I had to choose one, I would fund writing/theatre workshops for younger people. I think we really have to nurture that next generation of welsh talent, support them and encourage them to get their voices heard
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
I love the network of artists in wales. I often rely on my fellow artists to bounce ideas around and give me feedback on scripts. I also like to repay the favour when I can and I think that that critical eye is crucial in order for us to keep upping our game and challenging ourselves to be bolder and braver. The Playwrights programme and the JMK directors programme at Sherman Theatre were both brilliant as I feel from that I have developed a great network of writers/directors who I can now call upon and trust; Working with Hannah Noone on previous plays and Matthew Holmquist on ‘Ripples’ has been such a joy.
The new Unheard Voices scheme the Sherman has just launched is a brilliant step in the right direction- we definitely need more female voices on our stages! and the literary department is such an exciting thing too and I really hope it will encourage the next generation to get writing, and all those writers with plays in their bottom drawers to dig them out and develop them further.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
The last show I saw that really hit the emotional button for me was; I’m a Phoenix Bitch by Bryony Kimmings at BAC. I’ve always loved her work it’s honest, raw and emotional and she’s one of my biggest inspirations. It’s on at Mayfest in Bristol, if you get chance to catch it- I’d highly recommend it.
After the fairytale grotesque of Series 1, writer Carys Lewis has done a far better job than her predecessors Mark Andrew and Ed Talfan, with this second slice of Snowdonian Scandi-Noir.
The cinematography and direction, which was accomplished and stylish in the first outing, is now established, highly honed, consistent and heavy with painterly symbolism. The police characters and their families are becoming more familiar and a depth is being added to the character of DI Cadi John, played with gruelling conviction by Sian Rees-Williams. The other recurring characters have been downgraded to background figures for the most part, only interesting as they interact with Cadi John and provide foils for her story.
The bleakness mist-ridden and unremitting; a pallet of every shade of grey and blue grey and ink is smeared with heavy cloud and drizzle. Every interior is chaotic – oozing poverty and misery with its browns and umbers and filthy, greasy greens. No-one smiles unless it is ironic or through gritted teeth.
The building blocks of misery are familiar ones: poverty, family death and other tragedy, loss of reputation, illness and disfigurement, drug abuse and sexual abuse are all rife in these dark and exposed wildernesses around Snowdonia. But, after the awful cliches of Series 1, with its house in the woods peopled by a serial killer and his insane, grotesque mother, we now have something altogether more worthwhile. The plot takes a small group of dysfunctional and damaged youngsters and explores two of them with real depth and quality of writing, acting and directing. There is cliche here too but it is managed and gone beyond.
There is a wonderful sub-plot around a petrol station and shop with a father and daughter, wonderfully played in her case. The tenderness which develops between her and the ex-convict who helps out at the garage is beautifully written and realised.
The pace is slow – painfully slow and over-self conscious at times and there is perhaps too much focus on style and the noir market; but, having said that, the acting throughout is excellent: Annes Elwy and Steffan Cennydd being outstanding and time and care has patiently shaped a very fine piece of original Welsh drama.
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
The first original TV drama of 2020 to emerge from Wales is a short one-off piece called Handstand. It may be quirky and slightly clichéd on the surface, but there is a dark underbelly that gradually reveals itself over the course of half an hour. Director Peter Watkins-Hughes has chosen to shine a spotlight on domestic abuse through what is essentially a love story between the hardworking and compassionate Luke (Darren Evans) and his new neighbour Sarah (Mabli Jen Eustace).
Evans and Eustace demonstrate a wonderful onscreen chemistry from the get-go, their characters’ first meeting being the perfect mix of socially awkward and humorously sweet. The telling camera angles and silently knowing looks to one another add to the sexual tension between them, whilst the synth-pop soundtrack and cinema setting coat their relationship in youthful possibility and nostalgic innocence respectively. It is this portrait of young love that makes the turning point in the story all the more dramatic and affecting, as Luke hears the raised voice of Sarah’s father, Alan, resonate angrily through the ‘shockingly thin’ walls of his bedroom. What follows is a moral dilemma centred on the public and private dichotomy, where the question of intervention is explored rather well, given the drama’s brief running time. Christian Patterson is excellent as the two-faced Alan, whose jolly exterior slowly slips away to reveal a manipulative man whose obsession with power and control is ultimately his undoing.
As a stand-alone piece, Watkins-Hughes has created something that is both entertaining and informative. It is also educational insofar as it deals with the subject of domestic violence, thereby reflecting the three Reithian ideals that the BBC was founded on. I believe that this is important to highlight as the BBC and its licence fee comes under increased scrutiny and ever sharper criticism. There is no doubt a conversation to be had about its future funding model, but I believe Handstand is an example of what publicly-funded broadcasting does best, supporting projects that have no commercial value but nevertheless tell important stories that need to be heard. It is also why public service broadcasting is needed, because without it, I fear that the voices wanting to tell such stories in Wales may be bereft of opportunities to do so in a media marketplace driven solely by profit.
In November 2018 we published an article in response to the new Arts Council Wales Corporate Plan “For the benefit of all..” with a range of contributions from Creatives in Wales. We revisit this area in the updated article below with responses from one of the creatives featured in the article as well as an additional contribution.
Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”
We were very pleased to see some of the priority areas in the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”
In particular we were interested in Commitment 2 below
We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.
ACW then go onto make a series of intentions (below) for where they want to be in 2023 (5 years)
We will be able to demonstrate clearly that all our funding programmes promote and contribute to equality and diversity
There will be a narrowing of the gap between those in the most and least affluent social sectors as audiences and participants
We will develop the creative work of disabled artists by funding “Unlimited” commissions and developing a scheme similar to “Ramps on the Moon” operated by Arts Council England
We want to introduce a “Changemakers” scheme placing BAME and disabled people in senior executive positions in the arts
We want to see a doubling of the number of disabled people in the arts workforce
We want to see a doubling of the number of Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds in the arts workforce
We want to have introduced an Arts Council Apprenticeships scheme designed to provide opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds
We will have achieved a trebling of the number of BAME and disabled and on APW boards of governance
I struggle to fully engage this as a response. My recent experience has revealed that there is certainly a surge to include diversity in all its forms on boards and in creative spaces and projects. However, this new ‘interest’ feels more like organisations ‘needing’ to diversify rather than ‘wanting’ to diversify, in order to secure their future and funding. I am hopeful though.
Artistic Director, Taking Flight Theatre Company
What a year of change 2019 has been. For Taking Flight it has seen the company move away from the annual Shakespeare production to more indoor, venue-based work.
peeling by Kaite O’Reilly, opened on International Women’s Day in March at The Riverfront, Newport and then toured Wales and England and was a huge success earning 4 and 5* reviews.
The Guardian stating “Accessible theatre? Do it properly – do it like this”. Following this Taking Flight was invited to Grenzenlos Kulture festival in Mainz, Germany as an example of best practice in accessibility. It was a huge tour and highlighted once more the inaccessibility of much of Wales; accessible accommodation is very hard to find, and some venues struggled to meet our access riders. However, this did lead to some very inventive solutions involving temporary dressing rooms created with flats, curtains and even a marquee! Obviously not the ideal but with our hugely creative stage management team always looking for solutions rather than the problems and the support of venues we made it work. High applause to Angela Gould at RCT Theatres for her work in this department.
One of our lovely actors toured with her dog who was a lovely addition to the team. Max is a therapy dog; many places we visited were only familiar with guide dogs, which made us realise how much there is to learn about the different types of assistance dogs.
Everything we learnt during this extensive tour will feed into the work we have been developing towards a scheme like the Ramps on the Moon initiative. A scheme like this can never be replicated, but the interest and passion from venues in Wales to be involved is overwhelming. Creu Cymru, hynt and Taking Flight have been in ongoing discussions about ways to make this happen. We read with interest that it was also a priority for ACW and have begun conversations with them around a similar scheme. As we have been researching and pushing for this to happen since ‘Ramps’ began in 2016, we are passionate that this becomes a reality. Taking Flight has just received funding for their next production, Road, at Parc and Dare, RCT Theatres and we hope this partnership will be the first step. Taking Flight will give support to participating venues to be confident to manage and produce inclusive work, to provide excellent access and a warm welcome to all- both audiences and creatives.
While peeling was out on the road in the Autumn, we also remounted the hugely successful and totally gorgeous You’ve got Dragons. After a run at WMC we hit the road again for a UK tour including a week run at Lyric Hammersmith which was almost sold out and incredibly well received. The desire for inclusive and accessible work for young people is growing. Watch this space for more news on You’ve Got Dragons next adventure.
Taking Flight has often dreamt of setting up a Deaf- led Youth Theatre for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing young people and with funding from BBC Children in Need we have finally done it. Led by the tremendous Stephanie Back in BSL and English, the youth theatre began last week and the results are already fabulous. The Wales Millennium Centre are our amazing venue partner and host the weekly sessions for D/deaf children aged 4-18. We have been overwhelmed with interest in this project, demonstrating that this has been needed in Wales for a long time.
There has also been a surge in interest from companies and individuals wanting to consider access while writing funding applications. There is a general excitement around making work accessible. There are some brilliant intentions and I’ve had exciting conversations with companies about different types of access and have been able to recommend consultants and access professionals.
The ground has been fertile for change for some time and there is much more inclusive and accessible work being created here than when we first started 12 years ago. Theatres are also much more interested in programming diverse work and many have invested in Deaf Awareness training with Taking Flight (Led by Steph Back).
There is a real desire to diversify audiences and welcome them to theatre spaces. Taking Flight’s next symposium on 28th Feb at Park and Dare RCT theatres on Relaxed Performances brings the brilliant Jess Thom, Touretteshero to Wales to discuss ways to provide the warmest possible welcome to those who may find the traditional etiquette of theatre a problem.
There has been a surge of work featuring D/deaf and disabled performers, productions like Jonny Cotsen’s Louder is Not Always Clearer, Leeway Productions Last Five Years and Illumine’s 2023 really engaged new audiences and the venues have really built on this success. There have been more productions that embed access in a creative way, a gorgeous example in Gods and Kings by Fourinfour productions with integrated BSL from Sami Thorpe. I had lots of fun working with Julie Doyle and Likely Story integrating BSL interpreter Julie Doyle into Red. Companies are choosing to interpret, audio describe or caption all the shows in a run rather than just one which is really encouraging and promoting more equality of access to shows.
So, the will to make accessible work is absolutely there, the best of intentions are definitely there and, now the funding for access is factored into budgets, the funds are usually there. However, why is it still access that falls through the cracks, gets pushed aside or forgotten as a production approaches opening night? I hear stories of interpreters and audio describers who can’t get into a rehearsal space to prep or are placed somewhere on stage that is neither aesthetically pleasing nor practical. It can still sometimes feel like access is something that needs to be ticked off a list in order to fulfil a funding application.
I am absolutely sure that this is not the intention; but we are all so overstretched, one person is often doing multiple jobs (especially in small companies) and when no one is directly responsible for access or it simply forms ‘part’ of someone’s role. So those best intentions and exciting plans are really hard to fully achieve. Taking Flight are exploring this lack of provision for access co – ordination with Bath Spa University so watch this space for the results of our research… The next generation of theatre makers are coming, and they really care about making work that can be accessed by all – that makes me happy.
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