Category Archives: Literature

Review: The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth by Sian Thomas

(3/5)

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth had some reminiscent tones of Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End. The book, following Saoirse and Ruby’s summer romance, was fated to end with the beginning of university terms and the creeping cold of autumn.
After a good few years of university behind me, it was such good fun to read something light-hearted, summery, and fun. Saoirse is a sarcastic, snappy character navigating the transition from college to university struggling with her decision to go to Oxford and leave behind her mother with dementia and her father exploring new relationships and straining the family. Ruby is excited for the future and for the present, she’s looking for fun as time ticks by before she goes back home – from Ireland back to England.
They agree on a contract – they’ll have fun now, and when the summer ends, so will their time together. In the meantime, they’re living out a list of rom-com stereotypes: movie night, fun fair, teach the other a new skill, kiss in the rain, and every other thing from every other movie under “rom-com” or “cheesy flick” type categories that you can think of. Most of the book is compromised of this, the “fun” part but a depth gets explored as well, Saoirse’s past relationships, Ruby’s family, the ever-looming start of university. It was nice to watch the blossoming of an LGBT relationship. While I’ve read a lot of YA/LGBT books before, on reflection I’ve realised I’ve read more about gay men than I have about lesbians – so this was a great change of pace – and it shined a light on both me and on my bookshelf. There’s a line somewhere tucked in the pages that talks about the absolute lack of lesbian rom-coms which I realised, although I don’t typically watch rom-com movies, is true.
Although I knew that when the book ended so would their relationship and there wouldn’t be some classic “happy ever after” (and I thought I was prepared for that because, like They Both Die at the End, I had ample warning), there was still a strong tug to my heartstrings when I reached the final few pages. Saoirse’s father remarries to a woman that Saoirse grows to like – the relationship grows slowly into something that genuinely feels earned, which is lovely to see unfold after their rocky start – and, as expected, Saoirse and Ruby’s relationship comes to an end with the promise to send a few letters in the post, to show each other their “life debris” as time marches on.
The writing was gentle, funny, and very life like – I’ve found more recently than not that stories that decide to include text messages are getting better and better. The humour comes through them effortlessly – sometimes better than through the dialogue – and they bring an extra layer of life to the characters. This is the kind of book I needed just after a slew of classics and other tomes on my ever-growing university reading list. It was such a great change of pace to read something that was so enjoyable I read through it like a breeze.
The book was a great read, and came along at the perfect time. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy something easy but heartfelt, something fun and bittersweet. It really is a lovely book.

Sian Thomas

LOVEREADING LITFEST PARTNERS WITH THE RIVERFRONT THEATRE AND ARTS CENTRE AND NEWPORT LIVE IN WALES TO HIGHLIGHT THE EXPERIENCES OF REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS

LoveReading LitFest, the recently launched, digitally native, subscription-based books and literature festival, has partnered with Newport Live – a charitable trust providing cultural and sporting activities in Newport, Wales – to support the launch of the critically-acclaimed debut novel Many Rivers To Cross by Dylan Moore at an exclusive event. The talk will be live on LoveReading LitFest tomorrow.

The author, who is the editor of the welsh agenda, was interviewed about his new book by Sharif Gemie, with the session filmed at The Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre, right in the heart of the city centre. Sharif Gemie is a former Professor of History. He mainly researched people on the move, whether refugees (Outcast Europe, 2011), Muslims in Europe (French Muslims, 2010) or hippy travellers (A History of the Hippy Trail, 2017). He lives in Newport and is currently writing a novel set among UN aid-workers in Germany, 1945—46.

Written following a period volunteering at the Sanctuary Project in Newport, and partly based on interviews with asylum seekers and refugees, Many Rivers To Cross traces a series of journeys – migrations across time and space – from the streets of Pillgwenlly, Newport to the ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais, and from Ethiopia to the island of Lampedusa. Described by Welsh novelist, poet and translator Siân Melangell Dafydd as “an essential story for an age of migration”, the novel takes the reader to places most of us have never been, and would never wish to go.

The event also featured contributions from two refugees originally from Ethiopia, now settled in Newport. Biniyam Birtukan talked about how his work as a freelance magazine journalist in Ethiopia became impossible due to issues around freedom of speech, his role in establishing the famous St Michael’s Orthodox Church in the ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais, and the satisfaction he has found working as a healthcare assistant since being granted leave to remain in the UK. Yohannes Obsi talked about his mixed heritage background and how his support for the formerly banned opposition group the Oromo Liberation Front landed him in government detention, from which he escaped to make a dangerous journey through Sudan, Libya, Italy and France to reach the UK.

Paul Blezard, Festival Director at the LoveReading LitFest, said: “Dylan’s powerful new novel does something extraordinary. It takes us beyond the screen images that have filled us with horror and compassion for too long and straight into the hearts, minds, hopes and fears of those who are forced, or choose, to undertake life-risking journeys towards safety and sanctuary. We are so honoured and privileged to host Dylan, Biniyam and Yohannes and to support them through this important event.”

Alan Dear, Head of Theatre, Arts, and Culture at The Riverfront Theatre, Newport Live said: “TheRiverfront is delighted to make this new partnership and as we start on the long journey of Covid-recovery we hope that literature will form a core part of our future programme. We now have the capacity to provide content digitally and hope that this will provide pleasure to our new and current audiences until a time when we can reopen our doors again.”

Dylan Moore (@_DylanMoore) | nitter

Many Rivers To Cross by Dylan Mooreis published by local publisher Three Impostors at £10

Review Simply Charming by Nathan Scott Howe

Reviewed by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Having spent a year trapped in our towers and unable to let our hair down, it’s only natural we would long for the escapism of fantasy. Even before the world stood still, a rise in fairy tale retellings spoke to our collective yearning to break free from everyday existence; to conjure up a pumpkin carriage and finally go to the ball. Fairy tales have a unique power to transport you into a world where anything is possible. This is a realm in which good people get everything they’ve dreamed and deserved, where cynicism and cruelty go unrewarded, and where a happily ever after is only one wish away. If you want your wish granted, look no further than Simply Charming, a reimagining of Cinderella from her prince’s perspective, written and illustrated by Nathan Scott Howe.

Image credit: Nathan Scott Howe

Cinderella is one of our most culturally beloved stories, retold countless times in myriad ways – but the focus, as you might expect, has (almost) always been on its pure-hearted heroine. Simply Charming flips the script by centring on Prince Charming himself, a character so historically generic he’s become a byword for one-dimensional hunky niceness and very little else. In the original tale, he’s more a prize than he is a prince – simultaneously the person everyone’s searching for and the person whom nobody truly knows. Howe’s book not only gives Prince Charming a personality and a proper character arc, it shows how his parents shaped the man he would become; a man who would search an entire kingdom to find his true love.

Image credit: Nathan Scott Howe

Just as Maleficent fleshed out Sleeping Beauty’s ‘villainess’ into a complicated anti-heroine, Simply Charming takes a character formerly reduced to one-note chivalry and explores exactly why he deserves that much-prophesied happily ever after. Part one focuses on Florence, Charming’s mother, and part two on Charming himself. Howe takes time and care to craft sympathetic characters whose company it is a pleasure to share, and you can sense his genuine affection for the characters in every word. It’s a real labour of love, having taken eight years from inception to completion. This self-published book has both the grounded, loving feel of Ever After and the sumptuous palette of the Disney classic. Howe has an eye for tone, texture, and visuals in his writing, and his brilliant use of descriptive imagery often made me feel like I was stepping into a painting – an immersive experience enhanced by his gorgeously illustrated chapter headings (which eagle-eyed readers might spot changing as the story progresses). The stunning cover image alone, which combines illustrations from key moments throughout the book, is a work both of art and heart.

Image credit: Nathan Scott Howe

I was constantly thrilled by Howe’s inventive incorporation of the Cinderella mythos – right down to the pumpkin carriage and the vengeful housecat! – in ways which wonderfully expand on and enhance the original tale. Learning the origins of these elements, and especially the motif of time which underscores the tale, has made the story even more resonant than it was before. It’s a rare treat to watch an author hone their craft in real time, and you can witness Howe’s confidence and skill blossom chapter-by-chapter. Although it may at times seem a little uneven, I feel this can be forgiven as the first half is setting up the pieces which pay off brilliantly in the second. Though I would have loved for some intriguing story points and interesting characters to have gotten more of the spotlight (a Poppi/Samuel spinoff, anyone?), I greatly appreciated the book’s focus on character and theme over plot. It reminded me of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, which is more concerned with making you feel like part of a kooky and loving family than bamboozling you with twists. Simply Charming is a story for everyone: pure escapism into a kind and gentle world.

That the story concludes just before the happy ending we know so well is incredibly poignant. We know that Cinderella will marry her prince – it’s part of our collective consciousness, after all – but Simply Charming is about the journey to happily ever after. It’s like life: sometimes it all falls into place, and sometimes it doesn’t. Living happily ever after is never a certainty, and even if it does happen, we’ll never know where the fairy tale really ends. We’re left on the precipice of hope and promise; a precarity that a year in lockdown has only served to magnify.

Image credit: Nathan Scott Howe

Immersive, innovative, and involving, Simply Charming had me completely under its spell. Howe crafted a world I simply didn’t want to leave, and reading it was genuinely joyous from the first to the last word. During a time in which the bad news more often seems to weigh out the good, Simply Charming reminded me that people can be brave and kind, that wishes do come true, and that a love that is secure and unfettered and fought for is a magic all of its own. Last Christmas, Howe and his colleagues designed and produced Christmas cards to raise funds for the New Theatre (they sold out in less than a week). Profits from the sales of Simply Charming will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and it’s a beautifully generous act which underscores the heart of the fairy tale: that time is fleeting and therefore precious, that kindness and goodness always triumphs, and that a happy ending lies ahead of us all, if we fight for it. In Howe’s words, “Have faith in your dreams, they have more power than you think”.

Simply Charming is available for digital download on Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: The author has a pre-existing relationship with Get the Chance; a copy of the book was purchased in exchange for an honest review.

The Play about Theresa May by Amie Maria Marie, Review by Lois Arcari

Figure 1: Amie’s costume of May accurately conveys all the warmth of a frozen kipper

Theresa May. She’s an easy political footnote to miss. She’d probably be overlooked in any year: but 2020 provided the perfect environment for this indentured Tory to withdraw from the public conscious. How we can imagine her laugh, head bobbing like a grotesque puppet, captured in a hundred memes, at each new Boris Johnson blunder, glad she’s not withering in the hot seat anymore.

A play about this unremarkable PM might seem like a hard sell. Playwright Amie M Marie’s book of the play, written in 2017, provides a look back to the politics of 2018. Practically a different century in the post Covid world order. Marie provides an especially important perspective as a queer, disabled writer, and comedian: belonging to two of the groups most marginalised by Tory leadership.

On the one hand, certain references date the play. On the other, the play can be harshly prescient. Jokes that once may have been played small, become harder to laugh with and easier to grimace at. The following exchange, part of a scene where Miss May is confronted directly by a member of the public, is one of those moments:

‘‘Do you think you could do a better job?’’ ‘‘I don’t know. Maybe any of us could.’’

This sounds just like the hand-wringing Johnson supporters’ level on his behalf. How could any of us know what to do when faced with a pandemic? In our current situation, as in this play, we might not have all the answers ourselves. But we generally have a better idea of what not to do.  What would rankle an individual conscience more than a political one. Marie’s play also shows how well-kept convictions, knowledge and assurance, have been damned by political inaction.

The play illustrates the failure of senior Tories to engage with – let alone convince us they believe – their own rhetoric. May repeats mantras which she’s well aware make as much sense as the ramblings of King Lear. Visual representations of sound bites, real statistics woven into dialogue may shock you. But that shock has not translated to a change in voting habits for the last 10 years. A play designed to tackle complacency has accidentally created an incriminating portrait of it.  

Theresa May, as played by Marie, appeared on stage with a red nose. An unconscious clown in the empress’ new clothes, alongside her party’s faithful hand-me-downs of cruelty and coldness. The play deftly illustrates May’s clownishness through frenetic physical comedy and a whirligig cast of political cameos. But when it slows down, it’s unafraid to show she is the owner and creator of her own devastating decisions – holding her to particular account over her policies towards disabled people.

One problem with the written material vs the performed play is that I can’t imagine to what extent the costuming works. As written, it makes sense. it’s hard to visualise the performance from her dialogue and monologue, and advertising for the play previews seemed quite ‘on the nose’: not just playful but almost self-congratulatory in a way the play just isn’t when you read it.

Figure 2: Amie Marie as Theresa May, wearing a red clown nose

The tension and exhaustion May’s character feels are tangible just through the written material, but Marie was careful not to fall into the ‘trap’ of portraying her sympathetically.

Although May’s tenure was dwarfed by the outlandish characters she was surrounded by, her calculated greyness enabled them to rise through the ranks the minute she jumped ship. The play introduces Jeremy Hunt (through a joke either I can’t remember or everyone else will have forgotten), Amber Rudd, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Macron, Trump and the Queen. While one thinks more could have been made of the President’s cameo, Macron provides a much more clever slice of comedy, while the interaction between May and the Queen provokes a hilarious crack in the Prime Minister’s mask.

The cast is rounded out by Two Points Garage, Hackman, Dim Bee and The Mail. TPG, as he is later referred, is as brash a character as you would expect, but there’s real tension in his control over May. Hackman represents media complicity, while the Mail is probably the most well written role. He offers rare detachment, perfectly content in the knowledge of his own power.

The play also contains a multiplayer role for 3 characters who represent the public: the Junior Doctor Clown, the Cleaner Clown and the worker Clown.

Their inclusion felt uncomfortable. The only characters who attempt to use their fragile autonomy for good, and they’re considered clowns. Their names implicate them as another class of fools in politics. Hope and conviction makes them clowns. Perhaps this hurts only because it seems true. It seems a foregone conclusion to Uk leftists that few people will hope for change, and fewer will act on that hope in the voting booths. But directly comparing them, by just their class of character, to May, seems mean-spirited. Again, it would be helpful if I had access to the original production. Are these dressed as clowns too, in full regalia, or merely named as such?

As a reading experience, it’s the subtler jokes and intense monologues that make an impression. As for the performance, jokes which seem a little stale on the page might have been the perfect laughs for a communal audience. An audience which the play hinges on. May directly addresses them and pleads with, belittles, and implicates them in turn.

The play will retail as a physical book and e-book, in both a bonus edition and as a basic performance script. I was given the copy flush with interesting bonuses. These included a number of introductions to the play, earlier short ‘Emperor May’ and, a brilliant interview between Amie Marie and clown Conér Swords about their political performance art, and finally reviews from the initial performance run of the play.  

However, I questioned the formatting at times. The sheer volume of additional material before the play seems like overblown padding. It’s interesting to see how the more intelligent play evolved from a less polished short (which you can watch a brief introduction of here). The short is a bit sophomoric, however, and depending on whether you think its humour lands it may predispose you against the longer play rather than show you just how much the latter developed.

Finally, the formatting and editing of the copy I received really let the content down. Certain images are copied to back-to-back and spelling and grammar issues are frequent annoyances. This carelessness shows a lack of respect to Marie’s material. I can only hope that she goes on to have more opportunities as a creator, and her later material has the support of publishers who give it the dignity it deserves.

The play is available to buy in multiple formats here.

An Interview with Writer Neil Bebber

In our latest Playwright interview Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell chats to Wales based Playwright Neil Bebber. Neil discusses his career to date, his latest project “Short Stories for Stressed Grown-Ups” and his thoughts on opportunities for Playwrights in Wales.

Hi Neil great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hello! I’m a playwright, screenwriter, copywriter and graphic designer. I enjoy cycling, sea swimming, hiking at night under star-stuffed skies, endlessly scrolling though Netflix trying to find something good to watch, cooking (though my recent attempts at culinary genius have fallen short) and playing online Scrabble with strangers. For the record, I haven’t lost a game. Yet.

So, what got you interested in the arts?

Pantomime. Probably. I remember the feeling I had watching a school panto when I was maybe ten years old. The Seven Dwarves had left for the day to hi-ho off to work and Snow White was left alone in the space. A sequence followed where she just made the most of having the space to herself and I was transfixed.

From an early age, I was curious about the world. Talking to people as soon as I could talk. Asking “why” even more than most other kids. That question can take a child either way. Science allows us to understand how something works. The arts allow us to explore how something makes us feel. I’m a combination of the two. But, having turned down a potentially lucrative career in banking, in favour of a poorly-paid graphic design “apprenticeship” (that’s a whole other story!) I’d chosen my path.

Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas come from?

I used to fool myself into believing the romantic notion that I could only write when I was wallowing in a pool of self-indulgent pity, but I now realise that’s not true. I don’t know who said it, but writers write. So, the most important part of the process is to start by writing something.

It’s a cliché, but it is a muscle. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. And the more addictive it is. On the many courses I’ve been on, the forensic detail of process has been useful, but I’ve always got more from the automatic writing exercises. It’s a great way to unlock the unconscious mind and discover those seeds lurking in there between the teeth of doubt.

And I make a lot of notes. The romance of a notepad and fountain pen has been superseded by the iphone, but I’m glad that, should I ever hit a pothole on my bike and find myself flattened by an oncoming bus, nobody will ever get to access my notes. There’s a lot of strange musings there. Today I wrote a paragraph about how a crow, battered by the wind, seemed to be perfectly content to walk across the road sideways. And how that might serve as a metaphor. But I don’t know what for yet.

GULL, the play recently read on Zoom by the brilliant The Far Away Plays came about like that. A note about watching gulls rip apart bin bags and hungrily tuck into a pile of used nappies. The revulsion fed the atmosphere of the play.

In terms of dialogue, I believe that writing good dialogue is more about listening than writing. Before our freedoms were curtailed by a microscopic enemy, I used to sit in a lot of coffee shops, just listening to exchanges and watching people’s body language. In recent years, I probably haven’t been the best company, socially, choosing to observe and makes notes, rather than get involved.

Can you describe your writing day? Do you have a process or a minimum word count?

Writing days vary depending on the project. I’m also lucky enough to be able to supplement an artist’s income with commercial copywriting. But, either way, I start early. Check emails, social media between 8 and 8.30 and then make a start on the writing. At the moment I’m in the process of editing an audio play for a competition, writing a new speculative TV drama and also writing, recording and editing my stories for my YouTube channel, “Short Stories for Stressed Grown-Ups”.

Producing my own work has also made me realise the amount of time that’s needed for its design and promotion. The “Short Stories…” project needed to have an eye-catching brand, as well as accompanying visuals for each story. And all of this needs to be shared with the online world. I hope I’m finding the balance between, “oh, that’s interesting, I’m so glad he let me know” and “for God’s sake, not another post about his bloody stories!” If there’s anyone brave enough out there, do let me know!

Why and where do you write? 

I write because I have something to say. About something I‘ve seen or something I’ve heard. Or something I feel passionately about.

I write because it’s a compulsion. A bit of an addiction. Especially when I get to see how an audience responds to it, good or bad. Maybe that’s some deep-seated need for validation. But then maybe that’s why any artist creates anything.

I write because it helps me repair. Relax. Forget. Make sense of a world (or of people) I don’t always understand.

I write because it’s satisfying and often surprising to be taken on a journey by imaginary characters, into unfamiliar scenarios and behaviours.

In terms of where I write, I can write anywhere. As long as I have something to balance a laptop on and a reasonably comfortable chair to sit on, I can write. There’s no ritual, no lucky desk or chair of inspiration. So, the photo is of a number of places where I could easily write. And the list is always being added to…

You are a prolific writer working across multiple mediums and forms. How has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected you and your creative process?

It was clear from the beginning that the lockdown, and the continuing response to a global pandemic, was going to fundamentally change a world that relied on the physical gathering of human beings in close proximity, whether audience or performer.

But, pretty early on, I saw an opportunity to get work out to a wider audience. Admittedly, it’s not the same experience as sitting in a studio theatre, tightly-packed with an appreciative audience, breathing the same air and having a collective experience.

When Jordan Bernarde contacted me about re-staging BREATHE (to avoid him climbing the walls during the first lockdown), after a short and successful run at The Bread & Roses the year before, I jumped at the chance. And it’s success has shown that there’s an audience for online theatre.

Theatres talk a lot about diversifying their audience base and this provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. Anyone who might previously have been intimidated by physically visiting a venue, can now watch a performance online and maybe discover that it isn’t the inaccessible, exclusive experience they may have expected. And, from a writer’s perspective, there’s an entire planet’s worth of connected people looking for content. The challenge is standing out amongst the noise!

From my own point of view, there’s been a shift towards demand for more audio drama. I’ve been working on a new play for the Papatango prize, which this year will be awarded to three audio works. And I was commissioned at the end of last year to write a multiple choice audio drama, which would be navigated purely through using Alexa. Exciting stuff!

One of your latest initiatives is the new new YouTube-based spoken word project, ‘Short Stories for Stressed Grown-ups’

You’ve written a number of short stories, which you’ve also narrated yourself. This is how you’ve described the project: 

“Remember when you were a kid? And how it felt to be all tucked up and have a story read to you? What a shame that, as adults, we don’t get to enjoy the sheer, indulgent escapism of those moments anymore. Well, now that’s changed. Short Stories for Stressed Grown-ups by Neil Neil is now live! So all you have do is find somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed, and listen to an original short story that will transport you from the troubles of your day. 

Whether you use it to help you get off to sleep, or to re-set in the middle of a busy day, every story is written just for you.”

What response have you had to this new area of writing and storytelling?

The short stories were a suggestion by a producer friend of mine, Simon Regan, who I’d worked with on an arts podcast, EVOLUTIONS, shortly before the pandemic kicked off

I was frustrated at the time it took to get work “out there” so he suggested I might do it myself.

I researched the short story market, as well as potential gaps in provision for audio content and I thought a combination of meditative and escapist character-based short stories, narrated in the style of a bedtime story, might work.

The response has been really encouraging. The audience has been very frank about what’s working and what isn’t, the real-time feedback giving me an opportunity to modify the style and content of each new story. I’m also keen to interact with the audience, using names for characters taken from contents pages and maybe asking for suggestions on story ideas and destinations.

It’s great to know, too, that these stories are temporarily distracting people from the stresses of their day and, in some cases, helping them sleep. I’m hoping my voice doesn’t have the same effect during face-to-face conversations, when we return to the “real” world!

In November your latest play GULL was read online by the team at The Far Away Plays. We think the Far Away Plays have been one of the highpoints of creative activity in Wales during the Pandemic. Have you had an opportunity to listen to any of the other Far Away Plays, play readings?  And how was it to have your latest play produced on Zoom?

GULL was originally scheduled to be performed at WMC’s Ffwrnes Scratch night in March 2020, but then the world plunged into chaos. So I was thrilled when The Far Away Plays chose it for one of their online performances late last year. Their commitment to getting work out to online audiences, as well as dealing with all the logistical stages in between, has been immense.

I was also excited to be able to cast three incredible RWCMD alumni. Luke Nunn, Cecilia Appiah and Meredith Lewis were just some of the standout actors from 2020 and it was a real privilege to witness their brilliantly instinctive and nuanced performances, especially given the limited time they had to rehearse.

The director James O’Donnell also deserves a special mention. Having put a callout on social media for a director at late notice, James answered the call. The way he was able to take a potentially static medium and turn it into such a dynamic performance was miraculous. I always get really nervous before any production of my work, but it was clear within minutes that GULL was in safe hands, so I was actually able to sit back and enjoy it!

I’m waiting to hear from FAP if there’s a recording I might be able to share with all of the Artistic Directors who weren’t able to make it, because, as good as it was to see the work performed online, this play would (and this team!) clearly work brilliantly on stage.

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?

“Healthy” might be a misleading term. The opportunities are available, but I wonder how writers are made aware of them. For opportunities, my go-to is BBC Writer’s Room Opportunities page. Then I check London Playwrights, which is another brilliant resource. I’m not sure if there’s a central database for opportunities in Wales. If not, it would be great to have one, where all aspects of writing were covered, plays, films, TV, etc.

Also, there are a number of theatres offering writer’s courses and residences, but there are rarely the resources available to sustain the momentum, once they’ve happened. I’ve been on three writer’s courses and one residency and none of these led to a tangible, ongoing relationship with the respective theatres.

In terms of sustaining a writing career, I think it’s important to diversify. I’m lucky to also be a freelance copywriter and graphic designer, but, even if I was commissioned to write three plays a year, the income generated wouldn’t be enough to sustain a family, mortgage and other regular day-to-day commitments. From what I can gather, to make any sort of living, TV writing seems to the way forward. Ideally I’d like to be able to do a bit of everything, though, as I’ve been lucky enough to so far.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I think a TV writing academy would be a valid investment now. As Wales becomes used increasingly as a destination for production, and companies like Bad Wolf continue to thrive, a joined up, sustained TV writing “lab” could help nurture home-grown talent and ensure Wales was increasingly self contained, moving forward. Especially given the increase in demand for content from online providers like Netflix and Prime.

Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner from production company Bad Wolf 

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Diversity. The sheer extent of opportunities to make and view art for a country with a reasonable small population. I’m hesitant to use the term, “punching above its weight”. Oh, too late. I have.

And then there’s always the occasional parallel universe curveball of one of Tactile Bosch’s performance art nights. That’s what first made me realise I was living in a capital city. Ah, I miss Kim Fielding. What a lovely man.

Image Credit Emmageliot’s Blog

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

There are so many things that have either left me speechless, laugh uncontrollably or made me cry, sometimes all at the same time.

I remember sitting down in my office (in the middle of the first lockdown), with headphones on, to watch Complicite’s “The Encounter”, and feeling within minutes as if I’d been transported to another world, by both the performance and its remarkable aural soundscape. Not sure if it’s still available to view online, but there’s more, here:

Charlie Kaufmann’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (on Netflix), whilst sometimes being incomprehensible, felt like a pure artist’s vision, unimpeded by the demands of people-pleasing. Maybe the best art is selfish. And this felt like that. But in the best possible way.

And no conversation (I say conversation, though this has all been a bit one way) with me goes without a music mention. The Dandy Warhols’ 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia has been my favourite album for years. And at the end of last year, they performed a live stream of it, in its entirety, for the first time. For that hour, I was there, front and centre, dancing like a kid in a sweet shop. The sweets being the songs. But not in jars. Obviously.

Anyway, that’s three. Because there’s never any shortage of great things to share.

Thanks for your time

And thank you for this brilliant opportunity to ramble.

Review: Brothersong by TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

Please note review includes spoilers.

This book is a phenomenal climax to an already incredibly built series. This last book, Brothersong, capitalises on everything that the previous books – Wolfsong, Ravensong, Heartsong (and short stories Lovesong and Feralsong) have laid as a foundation.



I was beyond excited for this book to come out. Having read the first three books and the two short stories, I knew I was in for something amazing. I bought it as soon as I possibly could, but unfortunately had to backlog the book to prioritise some work for university. In mid-January however, I hit a vicious wall of both reader’s and writer’s block and couldn’t focus on any uni work put in front of me, and it took this for the idea to hit me: allow yourself to read TJ Klune’s Brothersong. It was a double edged sword: I knew I would devour the book and that this would spur me on in my own creative attempts, but I also knew that, being the last book, it would all be over as soon as I was finished. I thought that this would hinder me, but it didn’t. I finished the book over three evenings, I kept the story as my own for bedtime relaxation, although the “relaxation” part was assuredly difficult.

This was because the book is devastating. TJ Klune’s writing in this series is absolutely unmatched, no author has made me cry quite like this author has! I can only wish I had the skill to compare to it. Especially considering that this book builds on top of every relationship explored in the previous texts, every sentence you read digs deeper and deeper into your heart, and when that’s the case, the more something hurts when things go wrong for the characters.

In this book, our main character is Carter Bennett. In the previous books, main characters have changed to allow for the focus of the overall story to become more varied and be explored from a number of different angles. I think this was an excellent decision for TJ Klune to make: every character you come across is greatly fleshed out, and you get to intimately understand their connection to everyone, from four different points of view. The main cast are so interconnected that they work like one big family, and a lot of them are family, so a lot of the time the emotions behind these connections are charged with love and the desire to protect their own. Seeing as this is also a family of werewolves, the desire to protect their own is tripled, quadrupled, and beyond. The focus of the novels have always been on these werewolves and whatever “evil” they are up against – oftentimes fighting to protect their home, the civilians of Green Creek, and each other – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t take their losses, as well. There is enough tension in this book to build a house; a lot of “will they, won’t they” between our two main focuses – Carter Bennett and Gavin, and a growing feeling of unease and discomfort growing from the “bad guys”. The main antagonist, who has been a “bad guy” across each story, is Robert Livingstone – Gavin’s father (also Gordo’s father, another character in the series who is the main character in the second novel, Ravensong) which, quite expectantly creates tension between the main cast. What I think is amazing about this, though, is that the sons, Gavin and Gordo, are given time to process this, react to it, understand it and how it affects them, and lastly, at the very end of the novel when they successfully kill Robert Livingstone, Gavin and Gordo are shown burying his body and quietly grieving their loss, which every other character is shown to be completely understanding of, and completely welcoming of. The two sons are not chastised for their decision to do this, but are rather encouraged, and I thought that was a phenomenal writing decision on TJ Klune’s part. Bridging this gap between “good guys” and “bad guys” was lovely to see, and really elevates the book into maturity instead of being another “good-guys-kill-bad-guys-easy-peasy-no-remorse-no-thought” YA type of book, which is so refreshing to see, and I loved it.

For years now, Ox has been my favourite character. He was the main character in the first book, Wolfsong, and he was a lovely character. Transforming from a shy, quiet kid, into an Alpha with a powerful presence was amazing to see, it was like watching someone you love grow up. Through the next two books it was clear that there were things going on with Ox behind the scenes that we the readers did not have access to since we were following a different character with a different story being more important to them. This was an amazing tactic, and I really was in awe of it. Creating this mystery in turn created an unmatchable hype for the last book where we would finally realise what has been happening behind closed doors and get clued back into what Ox has been thinking this entire time. When the first little hints of self-sacrifice started to get peppered throughout the book, I was nervous, as I’m sure many other readers were. In the first book, towards the very end, Ox is very nearly killed before being turned into a werewolf to save his life. I had thought, initially, that I’d just read another book by some guy who had built up so much emotion only to fall into the “bury your gays” trope (Ox is bisexual, and discovered his love for another man – Joe – through the first book). When, in this last book, he was stabbed viciously through the stomach, I was terrified as I didn’t know of any in-universe way to save him and worried again, that after all this time, we had come on such a long journey just to trip and fall at the very end. Luckily, gratefully, I was wrong. I would give all of my trust to TJ Klune for the way that he treats his characters with such respect and love makes me feel so relaxed, and welcome into any of his worlds.

Admittedly, having discussed a lot of details from a lot of the series, this next statement might be considered redundant, but I will still stand by it: this series is one to experience, not one to read about second hand. This is the kind of series that you need to read for yourself, not reading about what I read and what I think. This book, this series, deserves more than 5 stars for the absolutely amazing effort it puts in, the story it tells, and the connections it makes. This really is a fantastic series, and TJ Klune deserves every piece of praise he gets for it.

Sian Thomas

“Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity and the confidence to use it.”

In the article below members of the Get the Chance team share why the work of Get the Chance is important to them and their lives.

You can make a donation to support the work of Get the Chance here

Guy O’Donnell, Volunteer Director

Hi my name is Guy O’Donnell and I am the director of Get the Chance. In this short article our team share with you how vital Get the Chance is to them and their lives. If you can support our work, please donate at the link above.

Get the Chance is a social enterprise based in South Wales. We are Wales based with an international outlook. We work to create opportunities for a diverse range of people, to experience and respond to sport, art, culture and live events. We use our online magazine website as a platform to showcase our members activities. We provide a fantastic opportunity to develop cultural critical voices and ensure that people from certain groups of society, people that are often forgotten or unheard, are given a platform to share, review and discuss their lives and critique work in a public platform.

Not only have we supported conversations about the arts and culture in Wales, but we’ve also broken-down barriers and asked questions about who actually gets to critique art. It is this democratisation of criticism that is crucial to a healthy and thriving artistic community that listens to everyone. Thank you.

Gemma Treharne-Foose, Volunteer Director and Critic.

Hi, my name is Gemma Treharne-Foose. I’m a board member and volunteer with Get the Chance. We’re a community of volunteers, activists and enthusiasts dedicated to expanding the reach of arts, culture and sports in Wales. At Get the Chance, we exist to create a space and a platform for people to participate, engage in and respond to theatre, arts and culture. In particular, we help people who are perhaps traditionally hard to reach and support them to access and experience these spaces.

Part of the work we do with our community is to encourage and support them to build up their skills, responding to, vlogging about, and writing about their experiences accessing arts, theatre and culture, and also helping them access particular schemes and initiatives with partner organisations.

At the moment the arts and live event industries in Wales are hurting and they’re struggling right now as they try to access support and gain audiences in these uncertain times. I believe this is an arts emergency and I want part of my work with Get the Chance to support the industry to get back on its feet again and to get audiences enjoying live events and theatre again.

If you also want to support and highlight Welsh theatre, arts and culture then I’d encourage you to get involved. Let’s shine a light on the amazing work happening right now in Wales. The show must go on!

Barbara Michaels, Volunteer Critic.

As one of the most senior reviewers who has known Guy O’Donnell for many years, I can’t stress enough how important it is that Get the Chance continues to support the youngsters who want to become involved in the arts, many of them with the aim of a career in the media.

During the time over the years I’ve been reviewing, I’ve been really impressed by the young people who are coming up into the ranks, who have become very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about their involvement with theatre. Unless we get some financial support, it’s going to be so difficult to continue with an organisation like Get the Chance which does so much good, giving opportunities to young people who wouldn’t have them.

With the cost of seeing the performances of opera and ballet and theatre rising, and inevitably it is going to rise more, it is absolutely vital that we have some support both financially and in all aspects of an organisation like Get the Chance. Thank you.

Kevin B Johnson, Volunteer Critic

Hi my name is Kevin, I work in an office, I like long walks on sunny beaches and I’m Sagittarius. Apart from that, I’m a member of Get the Chance because I like seeing new shows, new films and sharing them with other people, bringing my discoveries to others and getting a chance to view them. I like to highlight what I love about the shows that I’ve seen.

Becky Johnson, Volunteer Critic

Hi my name is Becky Johnson and I’m a member of Get the Chance. I’m actually a freelance dance artist based in Cardiff and I’m a member of Get the Chance alongside that. So with my practice I tend to create work, I tend to perform and I tend to teach, and a big part of me being an artist is making sure that I can see as much work as possible and then also understand the wider perspectives, on not only dance but also the arts in general and the things that are going on in our current climate and our local area.

So with having Get the Chance alongside of it, it allows me to access these different things and to get opportunities to see these, which I wouldn’t necessarily financially be able to do otherwise. Also, it allows me to have that time dedicated to just look at these things analytically and also just to really try and understand what is going on in what I’m watching and what I’m seeing, rather than just watching it and acknowledging what’s happening. Writing with Get the Chance gives me an opportunity to use my voice to promote the things that I really care about and things I’m passionate about, the things I think need to be highlighted, whether that’s something that’s problematic that I see in a show or something that I think’s wonderful that needs to be shown more of and we need to see more of.

Another opportunity that I’ve had recently which has been amazing is the opportunity to interview people that I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to and to be able to give them a voice to speak about their platform and what they’re doing. This is really important to me as a lot of these issues are very important and very close to home and I think it’s something that without this platform I wouldn’t be able to do.

I’ve always loved writing, it’s something that I did always want to pursue but by being a member of Get the Chance I’ve been able to continue my writing in a way that’s still linked with my practice. It means that I can find the balance of both of these feeding each other. I’m really grateful for having this opportunity.

Leslie R Herman, Volunteer Critic

Get the Chance has been one of the ways I’ve been able to maintain a connection to the arts and culture in Wales. I’m writing this message from New York City. It is mid-August 2020. I’ve been unable to get back to Wales due to the Covid pandemic and the global lockdown. Not only am I really missing Wales, I’m missing connection, to people, to places and to the arts and culture that I’ve grown to love and live for – arts and culture that have helped me thrive throughout my life.

At the moment it really feels like we’re all of us spinning in our own orbits and cyberspace is our most vital tool but if that’s all we’ve got, I’m afraid it’s way too nebulous for me. I need to feel more grounded.

Get the Chance really has given me the opportunity to get grounded and to connect to people, to the arts, to culture. It’s given me the opportunity to mentor young people and it’s given me the opportunity to extend and rebuild my own career. What’s marvellous about get the chance is its open and flexible approach to giving people a chance to connect to culture. Why don’t you give Get the Chance a chance?

Beth Armstrong, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name’s Beth. I’m 24, and I’m from Wrexham, North Wales, and I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher. I’m a member of Get the Chance because it allows me to watch a great range of theatre performances which I wouldn’t normally get to see due to financial reasons, and also allows me to see a really diverse range of different kinds of theatre which I think is great for expanding my knowledge and experience of theatre in general.

Having my work published online is a great opportunity for me because it allows me to have a wide audience for my writing, and it also allows me to engage with other reviewers and read their work as well, so it’s a really fantastic opportunity.

Samuel Longville, Volunteer Critic

When I left university, Get the Chance was a really amazing, creative outlet for me. I was able to see so much theatre for free which would have been really difficult at the time, having left university as a not very well-off student. I was working a quite tedious nine-to-five job at the time so Get the Chance really served as that kind of creative outlet for me, allowing me to see as much theatre as possible, and not only to see it but to think about it critically and write reviews about it. So it really let me utilise the things I’d learned on my drama course at university.

I’m soon to start an MA in Arts Management at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and I think, without Get the Chance, my enthusiasm possibly could have wavered over the past year, and I still may be stuck doing the same nine-to-five job that I was previously doing. So I really can’t thank Guy and Get the Chance enough for all the opportunities they gave me over the past year.

Helen Joy, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Helen Joy, and I’m here to talk a little bit about my experiences with Guy O’Donnell and his extraordinary Get the Chance. I joined Get the Chance as a 3rd Act Critic when it started, which is a couple of years ago now, and I was a little less grey(!), and it has given me the most extraordinary opportunities that I would not have had the opportunity to take otherwise. For example, I was able to go to the Opera regularly, something I never thought I’d be able to do or that I would enjoy. I’ve been a keen follower of modern dance – ditto, never thought I’d do that – and it’s also given me the chance to really think about how I evaluate things.

So, for example, much more recently, I was given the chance to interview Marvin Thompson. I think this gave me one of the biggest challenges I’ve had for a long time. He, and the experience of planning and conducting an interview, and recording it visually and hourly on Zoom, made me really think about, not just how I wanted to react to him and to his work, but how I felt about it.

Often, I fall into a particular category: of the classic middle-aged, white, educated woman, where the opportunities are already ours, and we’re very lucky with that, but we’re also quite a silent group. People don’t really want to hear what we’ve got to say, which is why we tend to shout it from the rooftops I think; or why, equally, we disappear into the aisles of supermarket. This has given me and my colleagues tremendous opportunities to re-find our voices and to share them, to listen to what other generations have to say. It’s been a really important experience for me. Long may it continue. Thank you!

Barbara Hughes-Moore, Volunteer Critic.

My name is Barbara Hughes-Moore, and I recently completed my Doctorate in Law and Literature at Cardiff School of Law and Politics on Gothic Fiction and Criminal Law. So by day, I’m a scholar, a reviews editor, and a research assistant; and by night, I write longer retrospective pieces on film and television through a gothic and criminal lens on my personal blog.

I’m a member of Get the Chance because its mission is all about increasing the visibility of, and accessibility to, the arts for everyone. Since becoming a member, I have attended and reviewed numerous theatre productions at the Sherman Theatre, the New Theatre, and Chapter Arts Centre. I’ve been a featured speaker on the Sherman Theatre’s post-show panels. And, more recently, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing director Alison Hargreaves on her short film Camelot for the Uncertain Kingdom Anthology. Most importantly of all, Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity, and the confidence to use it.

Gareth Williams, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Gareth. I am 29 years old and I live in North East Wales, and I’ve been asked to say why I’m a member of Get the Chance, and I want to answer by slightly rephrasing the question in order to say what Get the Chance means to me. And first of all, it means having the opportunity to respond to the arts in Wales; to contribute to the discussion around arts and culture in Wales; and to engage with various art forms.

To that end, it is an opportunity to support and promote artists and organisations, particularly those that I’m passionate about. So for me, that looks like theatre, particularly the work of Theatr Clwyd in Mold; music – I’m a fan of country music, and it’s great to be able to showcase Welsh country music talent on the Get the Chance website – and TV drama. Welsh TV drama is going through a bit of a golden age at the moment, and it’s great to be able to be a part of that as somebody who critically reviews these shows as a writer.

I’ve always been much better at writing than speaking. I’ve never been very good at expressing an opinion though because of low self-esteem and confidence. But being a member of Get the Chance has given me an opportunity to express an opinion. It’s increased my self-esteem and my confidence to speak about how I feel about the things that I see and watch and listen to and engage with. And I think, for me, that is the most important thing about being a member of Get the Chance: that opportunity to express an opinion which, a couple of years ago, I would not have had the confidence to do.

Sian Thomas, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Sian. The main reason I joined Get the Chance is because I love reading and I’ve always loved reading, and I really like having a definitive place where I can put down my thoughts on any piece of media and see people respond in so many different ways, and even the authors of the books that I’ve reviewed responding in so many different ways as well. It’s really lovely to have that kind of freedom of expression and I really value being a member.

Amina Elmi, Volunteer Critic

I am a member of Get the Chance because it gives me a platform where I can speak my mind . It allows me to give my opinion and being able to do so enables me to explore the media, the news and whatever preferred genre or medium of entertainment I want.

When it was introduced to me I was into writing and that has helped shape what dreams and ideals I have while also keeping my writing skills at a solid, good level. I am fortunate to be a part of Get The Chance because it has given me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.

Hannah Goslin, Volunteer Critic

I am a member of Get the Chance because theatre and the arts is what I eat, live and breath. To be able to connect with fellow performers, practitioners, critics and journalists is a wonderful chance to learn, be inspired and to network.

Ffilmiau Cwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru wedi’u comisiynu ar gyfer Cymru yn yr Almen 2021.

Prosiect traws-gelfyddyd Plethu/Weave yn cael ei ymestyn i 2021

Mae Plethu/Weave, cywaith traws-gelfyddyd digidol Cwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru (CDCCymru) a Llenyddiaeth Cymru, wedi cael ei ymestyn i 2021 ac wedi cael ei gomisiynu i fod yn rhan o lansiad blwyddyn Cymru yn yr Almaen 2021 Llywodraeth Cymru.

Yn dilyn llwyddiant cywaith traws-gelfyddyd CDCCymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru, bydd Plethu/Weave #2 yn cael ei lansio ym mis Ionawr 2021, gan gynnig rhagor o gyfleoedd i ddawnswyr annibynnol wedi’u lleoli yng Nghymru gael eu paru â rhai o feirdd mwyaf talentog Cymru i greu wyth o ffilmiau digidol, byr, cyfoes a chyffrous ar-lein.


Bydd ffilm gyntaf Plethu/Weave #2Aber Bach, a grëwyd gan Mererid Hopwood a dawnsiwr CDCCymru, Elena Sgarbi, yn cael ei rhyddhau ar 11 Ionawr, fel y cyntaf o dri chomisiwn CDCCymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru sydd yn rhan o lansiad blwyddyn Cymru yn yr Almaen Llywodraeth Cymru.


Yn 2020,parodd Plethu/Weave bedwar dawnsiwr o CDCCymru a phedwar artist dawns annibynnol gydag wyth o feirdd gyda’r nod o greu wyth ffilm fer ar gyfer cynulleidfaoedd ar-lein. Creodd y parau hyn weithiau traws-gelfyddyd sydd wedi’u hysbrydoli gan straeon, lleoliad, treftadaeth a chysylltiad yr artistiaid eu hunain â Chymru. 


Caiff Aber Bach ei enw ar ôl bae yng ngorllewin Cymru, lle gellir clywed synau melin wlân a’r môr. Ceir ‘Aber’ a ‘Bach yn y Gymraeg a’r Almaeneg, ond gydag ystyron gwahanol. O’r syniad hwn y daw’r ffilm – a gafodd ei ffilmio ym Melin Wlân Melin Tregwynt yn Sir Benfro, a’i chreu ar y cyd â Rufus Mufasa, Hanan Issa a Tim Volleman – ac mae’nn archwilio sut y gallwn blethu geiriau i greu patrymau newydd o berthyn.

Dywedodd dawnsiwr CDCCymru, Elena Sgarbi, “Mae gweithio ar yr ail gynhyrchiad o’r prosiect ffilm Plethu/Weave gyda Mererid Hopwood a Tim Volleman wedi bod yn gyfle gwych i ennill dealltwriaeth well o Gymru a’i diwylliant. Trwy frwdfrydedd Mererid i rannu ei diwylliant a’r prosiect hwn, ces gyfle i ddod i adnabod cornel brydferth o ogledd Sir Benfro drosof fy hun, a’i thraddodiad gwehyddu gwlân pwysig.”

Mae gan CDCCymru hanes o deithio i’r Almaen ers 2017, gan berfformio i gynulleidfaoedd yn bennaf yng Ngogledd Rhein-Westphalia, Bafaria a Baden-Württemberg.

Dywedodd y Prif Weithredwr, Paul Kaynes, “Rydym yn falch iawn y bydd CDCCymru yn cyflwyno dawns fel rhan o lansiad Cymru yn yr Almaen Llywodraeth Cymru. Rydym wedi bod yn datblygu ein henw da a chynulleidfaoedd yn Ewrop, yn enwedig yn yr Almaen a gwledydd cyfagos dros y tair blynedd diwethaf, gan berfformio i leoliadau dan eu sang gyda chryn gymeradwyaeth. Mae’n deimlad cyffrous iawn i ni ein bod wedi cael ein comisiynu i greu y ffilmiau Plethu/Weave hyn, fel bod rhagor o gynulleidfaoedd gartref a thramor yn gallu gweld dau gwmni celfyddydol cenedlaethol o Gymru yn cydweithio.”

Bydd y ddau gomisiwn Plethu/Weave #2 arall sydd yn rhan o raglen Cymru yn yr Almaen yn cael eu darlledu ym mis Mawrth ac ym mis Hydref, gan arddangos gwaith y bardd Alex Wharton a’r artistiaid dawns Krystal S. Lowe ac Osian Meilir.

Dywedodd Lleucu Siencyn, Prif Weithredwr Llenyddiaeth Cymru, “Mae Llenyddiaeth Cymru yn falch iawn o gael mewn partneriaeth â CDCCymru unwaith yn rhagor ar rownd arall o’r prosiect arloesol hwn, ac i gael dathlu ein diwylliant llenyddol ac artistig gyda’r byd fel rhan o raglen Cymru yn yr Almaen.”

Dywedodd Jane Hutt, y Dirprwy Weinidog a’r Prif Chwip: “Mae blwyddyn Cymru yn yr Almaen yn ymwneud â chryfhau’r cysylltiadau rhwng y ddwy genedl ac adeiladu rhai newydd, ac mae gan y sector celfyddydol ran bwysig i’w chwarae. Mae ein celfyddydau, diwylliant a chreadigrwydd yn rhoi i Gymru ei phersonoliaeth unigryw ac mae’n gryfder mawr yn nhermau hyrwyddo Cymru ar lwyfan y byd.

“Rydym yn falch iawn o fod yn gweithio â CDCCymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru ar y prosiect cyffrous hwn ac yn edrych ymlaen at arddangos gwaith rhai o’n beirdd a dawnswyr mwyaf talentog i gynulleidfaoedd yr Almaen yn y flwyddyn i ddod.”

Bydd Aber Bach, y comisiwn Plethu/Weave #2 cyntaf ar gyfer Cymru yn yr Almaen yn cael ei ddarlledu fel rhan o’r lansiad digidol ar sianeli cyfryngau cymdeithasol Llywodraeth Cymru ar 11 Ionawr. Bydd Aber Bachar gael ar wefannau a sianeli cyfryngau cymdeithasol CDCCymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru o 12 Ionawr ymlaen.

Am ragor o wybodaeth, ewch i ndcwales.co.uk

National Dance Company Wales & Literature Wales films commissioned for Wales in Germany 2021

Plethu/Weave cross-artform project extended into 2021


National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) and Literature Wales’ digital cross-artform collaboration, Plethu/Weave has been extended into 2021 and has been commissioned to be a part of Welsh Government’s launch of Wales in Germany themed year in 2021.

Following the success of NDCWales’ and Literature Wales’ cross-artform collaboration, Plethu/Weave #2 will be launched in January 2021, bringing more opportunities for independent Wales based dancers to be matched with some of Wales’ most talented poets to create eight more exciting contemporary short digital films online.

The first Plethu/Weave #2 film, Aber Bach, created by Mererid Hopwood and NDCWales dancer, Elena Sgarbi, will be released on 11 January, the first of three NDCWales & Literature Wales commissions, as part of the launch of Welsh Government’s Wales in Germany themed year.


In 2020, Plethu/Weave brought together four dancers from NDCWales and four independent dance artists paired with eight Wales based poets to create eight short films for audiences online. The pairings created cross-artform creations inspired by the artists own stories, location, heritage and connection with Wales.  

Aber Bach takes its title from the name of a cove in West Wales where the sounds of a Woollen Mill and the sea can be heard. ‘Aber’ and ‘Bach’ are words found in both Welsh and German, though with different meanings. From this notion, the film, which was filmed at the Melin Tregwynt Woollen Mill in Pembrokeshire, and created in collaboration with Rufus Mufasa, Hanan Issa and Tim Volleman, explores how we can weave words to create new patterns of belonging.


NDCWales’ dancer, Elena Sgarbi said, “Working on the second edition of the Plethu/Weave film project with Mererid Hopwood and Tim Volleman has been a great opportunity to gain a deeper insight into Wales and Welsh culture. Through Mererid’s enthusiasm to share her culture and this project, I have been able to get to know first-hand a wonderful corner of North Pembrokeshire and its important wool weaving tradition.”

NDCWales has a history of touring to Germany since 2017, performing to capacity audiences mainly in North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

NDCWales’ Chief Executive, Paul Kaynes said, “We are delighted that NDCWales will be presenting dance as part of Welsh Government’s Wales in Germany launch. We have been building our reputation and audiences in Europe, especially in Germany and neighbouring countries in the last three years, performing to packed venues and standing ovations. It’s really exciting for us that we’ve been commissioned to make these Plethu/Weave films, so even more audiences at home and internationally can see two Welsh national arts companies collaborate.”

The other two Plethu/Weave 2 commissions for the Wales in Germany programme will be broadcast in March and October and will feature poet Alex Wharton and dance artists Krystal S. Lowe and Osian Meilir.

Lleucu Siencyn, CEO of Literature Wales, said, “It’s wonderful to be able to partner again with NDCWales on another round of this ground-breaking collaboration, and to celebrate our literary and artistic culture with the world as part of the Wales in Germany programme.”

Jane Hutt MS, Welsh Government Deputy Minister and Chief Whip said,

 “The year of Wales in Germany is about strengthening the connections between our two nations and building new ones, and the cultural sector has an important role to play. Our arts, culture and creativity give Wales its unique personality and it is a huge strength in terms of promoting Wales on the world stage.

“We are delighted to be working with NDCWales and Literature Wales on this exciting project and look forward to showcasing the work of some our most talented poets and dancers to German audiences in the year ahead.”

Aber Bach the first Plethu/Weave #2 commission for Wales in Germany will be broadcast as part of the Wales in Germany Digital launch on Welsh Government social media channels on 11 January. Aber Bach will be available on NDCWales and Literature Wales’ website and social media channels from 12 January.

Home | National Dance Company Wales (ndcwales.co.uk)

‘Rebuilding Welsh Theatre: The Rise of The Playwrights!’

In this interview Catherine Paskell, Artistic Director of new writing company Dirty Protest speaks to Guy O’Donnell about the background of Dirty Protest, Right Now a new online theatre festival and her future plans.

Hi Catherine thanks for taking the time to chat with me. We last spoke as you were about to take Sugar Baby by Alan Harris to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017.

We are meeting today to discuss a festival closer to home which takes place in Newport this November.

Right Now, Online Theatre Festival. A short online festival of work in progress from some of Wales’ most exciting solo-performance-makers. The event takes place online from the 23 Nov- 28 Nov, 23:00 On the Le Public Space Website.

The event is described as,

“Right Now is an expression of urgency. Because theatre isn’t temporarily paused waiting to happen some where in the near future. It’s alive but physically unable to be experienced. It’s here now.”

This sounds like a vital arts event, how did Dirty Protest come to be involved?

It’s vital that theatre continues to be seen and enjoyed, because theatre and performance has continued throughout the global pandemic. Dirty Protest, like Le Public Space and many inspirational companies didn’t stop making work, engaging artists and talking with audiences and our wider communities as the Coronavirus hit. We found new and different ways to keep going and keep each other going. This is a celebration of that, and an invitation for others to join us in rebuilding and reimagining theatre in Wales.

One of the specific events you are supporting is an open conversation titled ‘Rebuilding Welsh Theatre: The Rise of the Playwrights!’ This takes place on Fri 27th Nov at 4.30pm.

Dirty Protest has a rich history in supporting Welsh Playwrights from script in hand readings in a yurt at Milgis, Cardiff, performances at The Royal Court in London to National tours of award-winning plays. Has the support networks for Welsh Playwrights and the resulting work being produced improved over the lifetime of DP and if so how?

When Dirty Protest first started in 2007, there was no one offering the network and opportunities that we built. It’s why we started in the first place. Over the lifetime of DP so far, many newer companies than us have cited Dirty Protest as their inspiration, including the founders of National Theatre Wales, The Other Room in Cardiff and other numerous Fringe theatre companies who have produced work by Playwrights. In that time, we have seen improvements, as well as the sector still struggling to offer the support that Playwrights really need to sustain their own careers and produce work worthy of our audiences.

In the past 13 years, the networks and opportunities for emerging Welsh Playwrights have become more numerous. The Fringe scene has grown exponentially. Having a big Fringe scene and more Fringe producing companies give more frequent opportunities for early career artists. In recent years, we have seen more Welsh Playwrights produce work that is noticed on stages, television screens and streaming services across Wales and outside our borders. More theatres and companies are offering early career development, and there have been opportunities for writers to get work out there across numerous digital platforms in the global pandemic.

In this time, we have also seen the erosion of openly available spaces for Fringe companies and playwrights to try out their ideas. Spaces that were accessible and free to use in our formative years – pubs and cafes and little shops – now either don’t exist, or those that do now charge hire fees for artists to use the space, or require a share of ticket sales, or guaranteed spend on the bar. The Fringe is bigger, but there are fewer open access spaces and less opportunities to get work made unless you are already connected to the “right” people, or have the money to hire a small space for performance. This squeezes out certain artists and also means we tend to hear similar voices and stories, at a time when we need to hear more under-represented voices and stories.

We also need to see more opportunities open up for our mid-career writers and those Playwrights who are stuck in the space after their first play, when they need a second, third and fourth investment (and maybe more) to kick off their career. We need much more investment for artists beyond the early years,  when companies and producers want to find “their” playwright or claim to have “discovered” a new voice. The truth is that Wales is a nation of playwrights who need sustained, long term investment and they are being underserved by the current system.

I believe you will be discussing the questions below for your Open Conversation, why did you decide on them and what do you hope to achieve? The questions are;

How relevant are playwrights? 

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected? 

Who gets to write the story?  

What do writers really need right now? 

We decided on these questions because these have come up repeatedly through the global pandemic in meetings with artists and audiences. We want to provide a platform to reimagine what we want theatre in Wales to be, and how we exist in the world during and after a global pandemic.

This conversation at 4:30pm on Friday 27 November needs to be useful for Playwrights and those who work with them, a practical resource as well as space for Playwrights to share, be listened to, and to take action towards changing the sector, to make it more democratic and more accountable. These questions frame real concerns for the sector and our artists and audiences, so it’s a place to start.

Please do come along and join the conversation, to be heard, to listen and to move forward.

Alongside Catherine we asked a range of Welsh/Wales based Playwrights to give their own response to the questions proposed by Dirty Protest.

Connor Allen

How relevant are playwrights?

Playwrights are integral to storytelling. Their relevance is second to none because stories are so important. Ever since the dawn of time stories have been a way of communicating and understanding our places and purpose. Thats where playwrights come in as they write the stories that entertain us, reflect our experiences back at ourselves. Without playwrights we wouldn’t have the broad range of stories to connect with. 

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected? 

I think both. I always say that theatre is a reflection of life and all lives are different so audiences get to see different reflections of different experiences all the time. BUT also audiences want to be entertained and an escapism of the real world can be achieved through theatre and TV. They can escape for an hour and just get absorbed in the joy and magic of the story being told. 

Who gets to write the story? 

I believe that anyone can tell and write stories. It depends on the context. Wether that comes from a genuine place is a different story. We all have stories to tell as we are all unique miracles with different perceptions of the world and different experiences that have made us the people that we are. Contained within that are beautiful stories that deserve to be told. I think in todays society we are more aware of the authenticity behind peoples stories and experiences. Where representation and opportunity is rife we can’t have the same people telling the same stories. BUT does that mean that only certain people can tell certain stories specific to them. Its a difficult question. I think there’s a difference between a white playwright writing a play with a black character in it as opposed to a white playwright writing a play about what it means to be black for example and I think a lot of people confuse those two points.

 What do writers really need right now?

Time and financial support. Those are the 2 key factors I think that writers need as of now. Time to work on that next idea without the  worry of how the rent is going to get paid. Also constructive feedback on drafts where playwrights can have their work in progress read to audiences to help the development. i  find it so helpful to hear my words read out loud. Having that option readily available for playwrights is another thing but in a  constructive way. There is no point saying “that was shit” because that’s not helpful to a playwright. Thats not helpful to anyone. Give  them constructive points on how to make it better and the current playwrights will develop work that is truly exceptional (not that it  isn’t already)

Rachel Trezise

How relevant are playwrights? 

More than ever before we need playwrights to tackle the issues of class and identity. The UK and beyond is dangerously politically divided. Times are strange and volatile. Out of all the art forms, theatre has the most ability to put audiences into characters shoes and consider other people’s point of view.·        

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected? 

Both! And a well-told story can do both. For some of the audience it will be escape and for others a reflection of their own experiences. We just need to make sure we have enough stories to speak for everyone. 

Who gets to write the story?  

Someone who knows it in their heart, their head, their bones. 

What do writers really need right now? 

To know how relevant they are. 

Jon Treganna

How relevant are playwrights?

Theatre is one of the oldest forms of storytelling. Clearly now people get drama from TV, social, books and online content, but a great piece of theatre can move people like nothing else. It’s a shared experience.

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected?

I’m not one for kitchen sink dramas and my heart sinks when I see a sofa and 2 chairs on stage. I think that people go to the theatre for a sense of adventure and to escape their lives, especially after Covid and austerity. Even if a play reflects their lives, it should be heightened and they should be moved or thrilled.

Who gets to write the story?

I like interactive dramas where the audience is part of the show. However, I might be old school but I think the playwright writes the story.

What do writers really need right now?

We need shows back on stages, even with social distancing. We need to create theatre shows that dazzle and entertain after such a dark period. And yes, we need more commissions.

Lisa Parry

 How relevant are playwrights?

Playwrights themselves or the work? Plays themselves ebb and flow depending on the times; I think that’s the magic of them. CP Taylor’s Good feels really relevant at the moment but it was commissioned in the early 80s. But if you’re asking whether playwrights in Wales are relevant to the scene here, then I would say 100% yes – you only need to look at the audience numbers for shows like Iphigenia in Splott or Sugar Baby. But I don’t think we’ve been given a chance to prove how relevant we are yet. I think that was only just starting to happen before lockdown with the announcement of a new literary department at the Sherman. During lockdown and the rest of this year, it’s been playwrights making the work that we’ve been able to experience, partly because it’s easy enough to do that over Zoom. And I think the commitment of companies like the Sherman and Clwyd to addressing BLM will help in terms of ensuring that the voices coming through are representational and therefore the work relevant to a whole range of different communities that make up modern Wales.

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected?

Both. It’s hard to enjoy a story – even if you’re after pure escapism – if you can’t relate to it in some way. There’s always a chink or an in. And you never know what that’s going to be for the individual audience member. But getting that balance right after Covid is going to be an interesting challenge and one I think we need to be mindful of.

Who gets to write the story?

I’m not sure it’s a case of who gets to write it so much as who gets to have it put on stage and there’s no escaping the fact that white male work has dominated our stages for generations, for various reasons. I think that’s changing and I think playwriting groups have helped it change but there’s still heaps more to do.

What do writers really need right now?

Support – whether that’s social support (writing’s lonely but Covid has made that a thousand times harder) and also financial support. You need time to write. Time’s tricky when you also need money to buy food and to pay the rent. The Writers’ Guild has been campaigning for theatres to keep commissioning writers so that they don’t get lost to the industry, which I think’s really important. I also think at the moment it’s really important that we keep talking to each other. It’s peculiar writing at the moment – I’ve deadlines for stages that are currently occupied by ghost lights. It’s a weird feeling. It’s also possibly the most optimistic and hopeful thing I can do and I think we need to somehow keep that belief going that we’ll be back as an industry and that the relevance of playwrights here will take a firmer hold.

Tom Wentworth

How relevant are playwrights?

We must try to reflect the times we’re living in as well as providing, as in my own work, some sense of escapism. These two potential outputs mean that playwrights are more relevant than they have ever been for reflecting and taking the temperature of the nation.

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected?

I firmly believe audiences want both. Every play should be a combination of dark and light. You can say a lot about the fractured, difficult and tremulous state of the world in  a comedy. 

 Who gets to write the story?

Whoever is from the community the play is about. I want authentic stories and top class writing. I want to see things I’ve never seen before. Say no to tokenism and cultural appropriation. If you’re from a community with a story to tell – write it .

What do writers really need right now?

Time and money, as ever. We may not have spaces for our work to be performed in but we need commissions so they will be full to the brim when performances are allowed again. Don’t skimp on the money. Pay writers properly and give them the time and dramaturgical support they need. This is not a luxury, it’s the way to ensure financial success at the box office.

Tim Price

How relevant are playwrights?

I think Playwrights have never been more important. Dramatic storytelling is the number one form humanity chooses to consume stories.  Of course there are plenty of other forms, and multidisciplinary styles and documentaries, and poetry and all the other rich outputs we achieve but fundamentally – a dramatic story is everyone’s preferred medium to understand the world. Cinema and television come from plays and playwrights. There’s a reason England and the UK generate so much Intellectual Property that sells globally, it’s because of the culture and tradition of dramatic storytelling. To build a theatre culture without dramatic storytelling at its heart is to condemn us to perpetual marginalisation. There’s vehicle to take Wales to the world, and it’s dramatic stories. We shouldn’t be anxious about it.

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected?

Probably both depending on where they’re at. When I was younger I wanted to see myself on stage because I didn’t see myself anywhere else. Now I’m older with responsibilities I think I want escapism. 

Who gets to write the story?

Even when I’ve written stories and had them produced I still doubt I was the right person to write it so this is a difficult question to answer. My thoughts shift week to week. I’ve been of the mind that as long writers research and write with respect they should have the freedom to write any story about any community otherwise those marginalised voices will forever be required to write stories about marginalised voices and communities. The problem is right now those with the power to get produced are predominantly from one group, so it looks extractive and exploitative when they write from places beyond their experience. I think maybe my instinct for writers to be free to write whatever they want is an aspiration the industry hasn’t earned yet. 

What do writers really need right now?

Opportunities.

Catherine Paskell

Please do come along and join the conversation, to be heard, to listen and to move forward.

We also have an event at 7:30pm on Friday evening called DIRTY PROTEST KICKS OFF. This showcases work in development by ten writer-performers, who responded to our open call out to KICK OFF.  These artists are sharing very short excerpts of work in development, to KICK OFF Friday night. Some are performing their work in Le Pub, others will be joining us on Zoom. Some are dramatic monologues, some are interactive, some mix languages of movement and text into a new play. All are the future of theatre. Come and join our Dirty Social! This is a great way to find out more about Dirty Protest, the kind of work we do, and get involved in our upcoming opportunities.

Both the Open Conversation at 16:30 and Dirty Protest KICKS OFF at 19:30 on Friday 27 November are closed captioned.

And finally, what’s next for you and Dirty Protest?

We have some really exciting announcements coming up!

As you already know, over the past 13 years, Dirty Protest has been able to support writers from the very start of early ideas, through short play development, full production and international touring. We are doing more of this, in new and bigger ways, in physical spaces AND digital spaces, with more writers, artists and arts workers. Our audio collaboration in Brazil with six young writers in the Complexo da Maré favela community in Rio will be released in December, and we have new collaborations to announce with more partners. We have been working since March to build opportunities for artists and meet with our communities and audiences – and we can announce the specifics of new Wales-based and international projects, new opportunities, a new writing artists network, and new shows in English and Welsh coming up next very soon! Watch out!

Thanks for your time Catherine

Get the Chance values the role playwrights living and working in Wales bring to the cultural life of our nation. You can read more interviews with the Playwrights above and a range of other Welsh/Wales based Playwrights here

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