Category Archives: Literature

Review ‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ Re-Live by Kiera Sikora

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Re- Live’s new theatre show ‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ is a moving, courageous composition of sadness, truth, celebration and sacrifice.

It begins at St Fagan’s Museum entrance where we are taken on a welcoming walk to Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, listening to various accounts of the thoughts and memories of the people connected to Oakdale. They tell us of the beauty of ‘devouring books’ from the library which was a rarity then, the joy of choc-ice treats and how Oakdale invited a ‘thirst for knowledge’ in the Institute.


We then reach the Oakdale’s Workmen’s Institute where (after a lovely cuppa tea) we are thrown into a World War I Victory Ball in 1919. The bunting is up, the tea is flowing, the Bara Brith is out and we are entertained with song, story and striking truths of what it was to be a soldier, a friend, a woman and a mother during The First World War. We are shown the thrill of the beginning of war, and the heartache it created during a time when so much was unknown medically about the after affects of battle and sacrifice.


The piece moves through dialogue, solo performance, touching physical imagery and choral singing with a nod for the audience to join in on a few wartime tunes. And there’s the beauty of Re-Live right there. Yes, it’s a show, a performance, but it’s a cwtch too. A really important, poignant, ‘so glad to be home’ kind of cwtch. The cast open their arms to you, smile at you, pour their hearts out to you and allow you to feel something about how they feel and have felt. Re- Live’s mission is to work with communities and to tell stories and truths from their lives and ‘Y Dychweliad’ is a beautiful shower of these things. These stories, this history, the effect war has on people around us and still has to this day are subjects that we must talk about. If we don’t talk about these things, if we don’t remember the history of our times,  and the affects it has on us still- will they be lost? Will we learn? Will future generations know these wonderful, war time songs, even?



Karin Diamond and the team have created a gorgeous concoction of story, song, music and poetry and a beautiful memory for all that see the show. The production ends as fuelled as it begins, with a personal poem ‘Mother Wales’ written by one of the cast- which makes your heart beam. The thankful, heartfelt, emotional response at the post show discussion is unforgettable. Talks from the cast about their own experiences, and how much support we must continue to provide for our Veterans is integral.

One of the cast said ‘ Once you leave for war, and go over there, coming back is.. alien. You’re petrified. You come home. But you’re never the same.’ Reading through the Oakdale information book, one Veteran writes (of working with Re-Live) ‘The project has saved me because it’s given me something to look forward to, it’s given me a purpose again. It helps me control my anxiety too. This is the one place I can come where I know I won’t be judged.’

And that’s Re-Live. Sharing words and feelings from people, to people and for people. With the utmost care, gratitude and heart. ‘Keep the Homes Fires Burning’, indeed. 



‘The Return/Y Dychweliad’ runs from 14-16 March/Mawrth, 

Oakdale Workmen’s Institute, St Fagan’s National Museum of History/ Sefydliad Y Gweithwyr Oakdale, Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru

Top Tunes with Adele Thomas

Credit Kirsten McTernan


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

I am a theatre and opera director. I am from Port Talbot originally and live in Cardiff now. I’m about to make my Royal Opera House debut with Handel’s Berenice

Credit Damien Frost

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? 

I am obsessively listening to Berenice as I’m about to direct it! So my iPod is pretty much given over to that and to some of Handel’s other operas. It’s good to get a sense of where this piece fits into his wider body of work.


But the latest thing that I saw and was blown away by was a gig by Hen Ogledd. Their album, Mogic, has just come out and it’s just sensational. I’m a vinyl lover, so I’ll be listening to it on the record player! 

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? 
1

Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles

I’m going to immediately preface this by saying that this is by no means The Beatles’ best album (for me, that’s Revolver) but it is the one that changed my life. I was struggling to fit in in my teens in a world of grey concrete and everyone in head to toe adidas block colour tracksuit and gangster rap. After one very late night of underage drinking, a friend took me back to his house and said “check this out”. He put the film of Magical Mystery Tour on and immediately my entire world opened up. The colour, the surreality, the clothes and, of course, the music! I became obsessed with the backwards tapeloops, the kaleidoscope camera, the technicolour kaftans. I binned the tracksuit and immediately became a 60s throwback. That one encounter opened up everything to me: art, counter culture, the music scene, a whole world of new friends. And I can still quote that film word for word. 


His ‘N’ Hers – Pulp 


When my school mates did all start listening to Oasis and Blur I was firmly in the 3rd camp: I was a massive Pulp fan. Different Class is the album that cemented them as working class hero for the wierdo amongst us, and This is Hardcore saw them reach the pinnacle of their orchestral ambition, but His ‘N’ Hers is my favourite. It captures something very real about being an outsider in the 90s: when charity shops were packed full of incredible 60s clothing for pennies, the seedy glamour of the beachside dirty weekend B n Bs along Mumbles road, sticky indie clubs and lager and lime. It’s an album that celebrates the trashy, sexy, the working class. Jarvis Cocker is still my hero and nothing makes me dance and cry at the same time like “Do you Remember the First time”.  

Work and Non-Work – Broadcast 


I wrestled between this and Dots and Loops by Stereolab (which is a masterpiece) but Broadcast just pips them for me. Warp records seemed to be the coolest thing on the planet, and Broadcast’s music touched a nostalgic nerve for a period I didn’t even know.  Their music seemed to be the subconscious by product of an alternative past: the mulch creepiness of Dario Argento’s fits, the sun saturated photography, the trippy wierdness of Public Information films. This album is incredibly beautiful and cinematic: every song on it lends itself to a film that has never been made. And perhaps the thing that pushes Broadcast’s work up the list for me is the tragic death of their singer and heart of the group Trish Keenan. She was a fashion icon and a poetic mind who went too soon. 


The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell


One night my boyfriend and I were driving very late down a pitch Black Country lane and we were listening to a radio show of Prince’s favourite songs. Suddenly this piece came on and it was so overwhelmingly beautiful, so totally perfect that we had to stop the car and just sit there in the dark listening. That song was Edith and the Kingpin from this strange and haunting album by the one and only Joni Mitchell. Poetically, every listen glistens with new meaning and her use of language is so incredible. “The helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof/ Like a dragonfly on a tomb”. Exquisite. Especially coming at you through that pure voice. 



Wozzeck – Berg


I discovered that I wanted to direct for stage when I sat down and watched Richard Jones’s production of Berg’s complex and terrifyingly hard opera based on the Buchner play. That production tore away any concepts I had of what theatre could be. The world on stage was so strange, so complete, and the performers were incredible musicians and amazing actors (Christopher Purves’ performance in that was one of immense human detail. All while singing some of the hardest music you’ve every heard over a full orchestra). Now I’m finally directing opera, this production is still the benchmark for me of what can be achieved. It’s really worth listening to: yes the music’s complex, but the tragedy of the story is brilliantly served here. Please note the version Adele describes is not available online. Instead we present The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra, The Chorus of the Hamburg State Opera, Conducted by Bruno Maderna, Directed for television by Joachim Hess. Set design: Herbert Kirchhoff Costumes: Helmut Jürgens Recorded 1970, Hamburg State Opera.

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?

I’m going to chose Babies from His N’ Hers because I think it shows how complex pop music can be. Melancholic, strangely profound: it captures the sense of teenage boredom on a rainy Tuesday evening between school and… But it also never fails to get everyone on the dance floor, and it builds into a euphoric, semi-spiritual exorcism of raw sexuality and kitchen sink drama. I can’t listen to this without dancing!


Review Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, Rocket Theatre Group by Helen Joy.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

It is a cold and snowy night in St Hilary. I drive up to the village hall. All is quiet. I tap on the door.  It creaks open…to expose a whole community packed into a warm space – already chatting and laughing and drinking tea. A blast of hot air and frivolity. An absolute treat to be amongst such a friendly bunch all ready to enjoy themselves. And enjoy ourselves we do.

You always think you know Oscar Wilde = that you are au fait with every quip and quiver but no, we all know so little of this clever writer, this scribe of human quirks.

Lord Arthur performed by Martin Harris is positively steaming with aristocratic lunacy – a Bateman come to life, facing out his audience and batting down his batman. Ah, Middlewick performed by Chris Bridgman. Valet, butler, gentleman’s gentleman,player of many parts. Subtle, farcical, multi-talented, the perfect foil.

They do not falter.

We are laughing from the off. We are relishing the peculiar gratification of recognising a line, a title, a character. And then it starts to take a tricky turn. We are being included. Not just eyeballed but persuaded onto the stage. Stage? A chair, a fireplace, a table and a stool just within the curve of our seating. A painting of Lady Savile, young Sybil in fine Edwardian garb, overseeing all of us. And we are suddenly nervous. 

Cries of, Oooh I’m glad to be at the back, go out. We egg on our comrades to join in with that curious mixture of jealousy and relief. It is expertly handled. Hilarious! Properly one of the funniest theatrical experiences to be had. The temperature starts to climb. The macabre nature of the tale unfolds and we accept not only the dark side of our humour but the apparent ease with which the upper class is seen to accept its position outside of the law. Lord Arthur and Middlewick start to play with our sensibilities and we are sucked in. We are all in the clutches of the palmist.

D’you think authenticity is what they’re after in St. Hilary?Clearly not! We want more Lady Clem.

A slightly clunky trip to Venice requires us to take a break and enjoy wine and ice cream while the snow falls outside and the temperature rises inside.

In our cups, we rise to the panto atmosphere and settle into the second act with enthusiasm. Lord Arthur, driven to a carefully controlled distraction by his failure to commit murder, pushes on with Middlewick riding shotgun to the story telling. We are roaring with laughter and starting to wonder how it all will end. 

And end it does. A sorry damp little ending, perhaps a bit like life itself. 

And we are released into the cold, a lot warmer and a little wiser to the power of suggestibility to the gentler mind. It’s all been such nonsense…

There was an Old Person of Ems
Who casually fell in the Thames;
And when he was found, they said he was drowned,
That unlucky Old Person of Ems.

(Lear)

Bring these players into your home

Review: Disconnected by Michelle Halket (et al) by Sian tHomas

I recently finished Disconnected – a collaborative and clever endeavour of alternating short stories and poems (with a handful of extra poems as well). I didn’t know how many to expect, nor how to expect it to look or be delivered, but what greeted me from inside the cover was pleasant and enjoyable. Alternating piece by each author was a nice succession, gave room for clarity and enjoyment, and was nice to see it neatly presented. Seeing their words and pieces in the put-together way of the whole book was fab, and even better was the feeling of consistency throughout all the pieces.
The emboldened and repeating lines, such as, “Here is how it works: you take your finger and write the most secret words you can think of on my skin…” in Amanda Lovelace’s short story “Small Yellow Cottage on the Shore”, even though that line is the majority of Iain Thomas’ poem, “The Way It Works”. These bits, scattered throughout each of the pieces gave the book a lasting impression of the book itself being made from togetherness and teamwork. As things related back and fore to each other, there was a gentle feeling of camaraderie between all the authors and also myself, as I can catching the dotted-around references to and from.
Both of my favourite short stories and poem came from Iain Thomas. The story, “Driving with Strangers” and the poem, “The Way It Works” were both lovely. The idea of driving with Death and also the idea of “owing” something to him/the world was definitely and interesting one. It inspired me, in its own little way. Plus, it had some really striking lines, such as, “another dark spark shines in the voice inside us and the night grows one iota blacker”, and, “bees come and bees go, and the bees die and are reborn as little boys and girls”. They were just so catching – easily hooking me in. After all, I love lines that snatch my attention like that. And I adored the poem. Short and sweet. Lovingly crafted, concerning love. Gentle and kind.
I’m not entirely surprised that these turned out to be my favourite of the collection. I bought the book as I knew he was a part of it. The rest of the experience was a nicely added surprise.
There were, also, some authors I’d never come across at all before, and similarly, some works and styles I’d never encountered before, either, like Liam Ryan’s “The Train”, and “Ultra” by Yena Sharma Purmasir. Both of these stories had a uniqueness to them, a gentleness and a tenderness to one that hooked me in, and a ferocity almost – a maternal flame and bright, bright instinct in the other, that made me feel a lot at once. I really like love stories, and they’re both one, if you try. Love for a child to come, and love lost and found (almost. Kind of).
On the flip side, there were some authors I recognised. Iain Thomas, of course, but also Trista Mateer, and Amanda Lovelace. I’ve read almost all of Iain Thomas’ other work, Trista Mateer’s “Honeybee”, and Amanda Lovelace’s “The Princess Saves Herself In This One” and, “The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One”. I could see through those pieces to how each of those authors come through, staying true to their styles and interests, and it impressed me each time over. The familiarity of it was nice.
Overall, Disconnected was an incredible read, especially for poetry lovers and short story lovers, too, and I’m glad I read it.

Sian Thomas

Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman by Sian Thomas

I feel as if I started reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman years ago, fell in an out with it as time went on, until I finally stumbled and stayed in its clutch.
    I remember hearing about it and thinking of it as interesting. Intriguing. I’m pretty sure it was described to me as light and easy, and I’m pretty sure the suggestion had come just after I finished A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Light as easy must have been what I needed, because at the very least, Neverwhere was something that stayed in the back of my mind as a quiet desire to get into – and that’s where it all starts, really.
    I’ve read Neil Gaiman before, both The Graveyard Book and Good Omens, and I can say with a complete certainty that the way fantasy is presented through his writing is done strongly, and in a way that’s wholly fascinating. The story I have different opinions on, but the way it was crafted and elegantly delivered to me I really enjoyed. Richard, the main character, was one I grew to be quite fond of. Especially considering that how he was written was the begrudging type in a fantasy novel – the one who is just trying their best to get home. I liked the way he was happy when his bank card worked again at the end of the novel – something so simple and joy-inducing considering everything else he’d seen throughout the novel.
The story itself was alright. Most of my reason for reading was that 1) I like the writing and, 2) I really liked the characters. It’s an easy story in a huge book – man dragged into a big fantastical fantasy-world journey of “London Below”, going on a mismatched-twisted-and-turned adventure until he can go home (and then immediately realising he didn’t really want to go home). Kind of predictable, but still enjoyable.
The main characters – Richard, Door, and the Marquis (later adding a woman named Hunter) – each had a specific feeling to them that – though recognisable in fantasy – still had their own little spins which was nice to see. They were all likeable in their owns ways – as were the villains, for people who tend to enjoy bad guys more. I do quite like Neil Gaiman’s characterisation – something about it is always very clear and well-liked. The characters had their traits, and their goals, and their rises and falls – and none of it was made too complicated for unnecessary reasons.
I really did like this book! I’m glad I read it.

Sian Thomas

Top Tunes with Megan Pritchard

A portrait photograph of Megan Pritchard.

Hi Megan, 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? 

At the moment I’m listening to the Lazarus soundtrack, it’s the current CD in my car and I haven’t changed it for about 6 months, so I often listen to it on short journeys around Cardiff – for me it’s the perfect mid-point between three things I really enjoy: story-telling, musicals and David Bowie. I was lucky enough to see Lazarus at it’s run in London in 2015 – it was brilliantly written by Enda Walsh, and the staging was a great balance between rock concert, performance-art and play. I especially enjoy Michael C Hall’s version of Lazarus as I still find the David Bowie recording quite painful to listen 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? 

David Bowie – Underground

I had to think for a long time about which Bowie track to include in this list. To say his work has been an influence on my life would be an understatement. Like lots of people my age, Labyrinth introduced me to Bowie, and as a fantasy-obsessed 9 year old, you can only imagine appeal of the mysterious Goblin King. My mum was happy to cultivate the interest and began to introduce me to his other albums; she even bunked me off school to see his Reality Tour at the NEC when I was 14 and the Lazarus a few years ago (I burst into tears at the end, it was all very embarrassing for her). 

Bowie’s influence has woven itself through me in fashion, philosophy and art as well as music. He is the poster-boy of reassurance for strange young minds that it’s cool to be weird; and whilst I have other favourite Bowie songs and albums, Underground was the catalyst.

Dick Dale – Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, Misirlou

I could have picked any track from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack to remind me fondly of my university years. As a young scenography student Simon Banham (who I’ve been lucky enough to cross path’s with again in a Professional capacity at NDCWales) decided we would study and create studio work based on Tarantino’s cult film.  


I fell in love with the movie and learned loads during the project. For me, the driving pace of this track takes me back to the craziness of deadlines. As soon as I hear Yolanda say the iconic opening words I’m always grinning, reminded of some of the best friends and best work I made at that time.

Nick Hennessey – A Rare Hunger

I’ve always loved songs that tell a story, I’d enjoyed musicals from a young age but not really considered a mixture of spoken word and song before going to a Story-Telling event at my local arts centre. Nick Hennessey (a singer, songwriter, storyteller and harp-player) quickly became a firm favourite in my playlists, and the more he toured, the more CD’s I was able to get my hands on. I’ve been able to see him live a few times now and he has a unique way of weaving vivid tales whilst also possessing the most wonderful voice.  A Rare Hunger is my favourite album he’s produced so far, the perfect relaxation for the active mind prone to imagination.

Johnny Hollow – Alchemy

I occasionally moonlight as a burlesque dancer, and whilst its certainly more of a hobby than a career; Alchemy is the track to one of my most requested acts, it’s carried me to some exciting shows both in the UK and further afield and allowed me to meet some incredibly inspiring women as well as life changing friends.  I was introduced to Johnny Hollow whilst part of a devising society at university. They have an affinity for creating emotive and atmospheric tracks that easily stir the imagination.

Adam Hurst – Midnight Waltz

This is track that fills me with pride every time I listen to it. It features as part of Caroline Finn’s Folk a contemporary dance piece that has become well known as part of National Dance Company Wales’ repertoire over the last few years. 

I’ve been working for NDCWales for 7 years now and have heard lots of music, there was plenty to choose from; but I can’t hear this without picturing Folk with joy. For me, it’s a reminder of some of the highlights of my career so far (and arguably highlights for the Company too) Like a few of my other fav tracks, it’s quite fantastical and evocative.

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?

Oh Gosh! To pick a favourite from the list above would be like saying one part of my life has been a more important part of growing up than another – but without question if you ask me my favourite musician, I’ll tell you Bowie; so lets go with that.

Interviews and articles from 2018

Please find below a range of interviews and articles from the Get the Chance team published in 2018.

Welsh and Wales based artists respond to the new Arts Council Wales Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”  

Guy O’Donnell.

A response to Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

Ahead of the 2018 Brecon Baroque Festival, Roger Barrington had the chance to chat to it’s Artistic Director, Rachel Podger about what to expect this year and also about her own flourishing career as one of the world’s leading violinists.

“Gramophone Artist of the Year” Rachel Podger in conversation ahead of Brecon Baroque Festival 2018

In this article we interview a range of arts professionals to share good practice in the areas of Access, Inclusion and Diversity.

Sharing Positive Action to support Access, Inclusion and Diversity

I am going to explore with you the invaluable discoveries and perspective gained from participating in the YANC event held at the Wales Millennium Centre over last weekend.

Beth Clark.

A response to Casgliad 2018 – Nurturing Youth Arts in Wales By Beth Clark

In this article we look forward to a range of cultural highlights in 2018. Thanks to all of the creative artists involved for their own personal response.

Guy O’Donnell

Looking ahead in 2018 Culture, Creativity and Change!

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Rachel Boulton, Artistic Director of Motherlode, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and Motherlodes new production ‘Exodus’ which premiers at the Coliseum Theatre, Aberdare on the 5th of October before touring.

An interview with Rachel Boulton, writer and Director of Exodus.

Philip Ridley’s acclaimed one-act 2000 play, “Vincent River” tells the story of a mother whose son Vincent has been murdered in a homophobic attack. In the aftermath, she learns about her son’s homosexuality. An interview with Director Luke Hereford.

Roger Barrington.

Preview with Interview of “Vincent River” at Jacobs Market, Cardiff 19-21 September 2018

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and her new production ‘Murmur’, taking place on Fri 14th September 2018 at Memo Arts Centre, Barry.

An interview with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance

An audio/subtitled interview with Carole Blade, Director of Coreo Cymru and Creative Producer for Dance in Wales. Editing by Roger Barrington.

An audio/subtitled interview with Carole Blade, Director of Coreo Cymru and Creative Producer for Dance in Wales. 

Top Tunes with Jonny Cotsen

Top Tunes with Jonny Cotsen

Get the Chance values the role Welsh or Wales based playwrights bring to the cultural life of our nation. Here is the latest interview in this series with actor and playwright Matthew Trevannion.

An interview with Matthew Trevannion

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with playwright and actor Joe Wiltshire Smith.They discussed his background, creative opportunities for young people in Bridgend, his new play Five Green Bottles and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An interview with Joe Wiltshire Smith

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aisha Kigwalilo. They discussed her background, a new arts project called G.I.R.L. Xhibtion and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An interview with Aisha Kigwalilo

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones. They discussed her background and training, a current project Gravida and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.

An Interview with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones

An interview with BSL interpreter Cathryn Heulwen McShane

An interview with Cathryn Haulwen McShane

The Get the Chance team choose their cultural highlights of 2018

We asked our team to choose their personal three cultural events of 2018 along with a favourite performance and/or organisation. Enjoy reading their individual responses below.

Barbara Elin

2018 has been quite a year; when I submit my thesis on New Year’s, it will be the culmination of four years of intense research, and quite the end of an era (and hopefully the start of a new one). So I’m lucky that, in between the furious bouts of writing and the dreaded editing, I’ve been distracted by some truly brilliant productions, too many to narrow down – from the vicious Motherf**ker with the Hat to the inventively-staged Turn of the Screw and the impressive evocation of character in This is Elvis and At Last: The Etta James Story, 2018’s theatre and dance landscape has provided an embarrassment of riches. So I’m going to cheat a little bit in narrowing down to my ‘top 3’…

3) For ingenuity and fun, Mischief Movie Night/ Murder for Two

No two productions have made me laugh this year more than these two – and though they share a common thread of entertaining ingenuity, they’re vastly different from each other. The former showcased the talent of Mischief Theatre’s on-the-spot improvisational skills, the latter was a tightly-wound machine of script, song and silliness. Both of these productions demonstrated how creative and clever the craftsmanship of theatre is – all while making you laugh too!

2) For pure, joyous entertainment, Young Frankenstein / Rock of Ages.

I love a good musical, and these are two of my favourites in recent memory. The original Young Frankenstein movie is in my top 3 movies ever, so I worried a musical version with a whole new cast could never do justice to the original – well, it did with bells on! Brilliant songs, spectacular setpieces and an original evocation of that original cast made this a must-see. And I have such special memories of seeing Rock of Ages for the first time, so it always has a place in my heart – it’s also one of the only truly great jukebox musicals I’ve seen, and this new cast reinvigorated an already raucous, rip-roaring ride! Can’t wait to see it a fourth time…

1) For powerful and haunting work,

Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein 

Theatr Clwyd/Sherman Theatre, Lord of the Flies

These two productions utterly blew me away with their beautiful, haunting performances – both reimagined old classics in new, intriguing ways and were utterly gripping from start to finish. There are moments in both shows that I will never forget, and without doubt they are the best productions of 2018 for me.

Personal Highlight: It’s only appropriate, given my research into Frankenstein and the bicentennial of the novel’s publication, that I started and ended 2017 with Frankenstein-related productions – Young Frankenstein on the West End in January and Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein on the tail end of November. So my personal highlight of this year would be presenting my research in Bologna for the Frankenstein bicentennial conference. I’m so grateful to Prof Anthony Mandal and the CRECS/ RomText team for this wonderful opportunity.

Venue of 2018: The Sherman Theatre’s dedication to inclusivity, accessibility and innovation remains unmatched in my opinion, and their post-show panels are always a joy to be a part of. Many thanks to Tim Howe for involving me.

Company of 2018: Cascade Dance Theatre’s Frankenstein did the impossible – reimagined Mary Shelley’s classic almost wordlessly, in imaginative new ways with stunning moments and dark, modern twists. Bravo!

Gareth Ford-Elliott

For number three I’ll say Cheer by Kitty Hughes at The Other Room. This was fun and alternative and out of the things I reviewed, definitely one of the best.

For number two I’d have to say Humanequin by Kelly Jones at Wales Millennium Centre. This was an important piece of theatre and despite not being the best was definitely the most important piece I saw this year.

For things I’ve reviewed I would definitely have to say Cardiff Boy by Kevin Jones at The Other Room is number one. This was the best all-round show I saw outside of the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Every aspect of it was brilliant and it’s up there with one of my favourite shows I’ve ever seen.

For the cultural events, things I didn’t review, I will say Five Green Bottles by Joe Wiltshire-Smith and Spilt Milk Theatre as part of the Cardiff Fringe Festival. This was an excellent script produced independently. Joe is one of the best upcoming writers in Wales and Spilt Milk are one of the most passionate theatre companies. Together they produced an amazing show which I can’t wait to see again, developed, at the Sherman Theatre in 2019.

Judith Hughes

Exodus by Motherlode

With underlying serious issues about the struggles and problems of working class Valleys people, Rachael Boulton and her team have created a funny, clever, relevant and thought provoking piece of theatre that strikes a chord with its audience; a reaction that can be heard in their laughter and the warmth of their response.  Suspend your disbelief and climb aboard Exodus airways, it’s better than Easyjet!

Passion, NDCWales/Music Theatre Wales

All credit must go to what must have been an incredible amount of hard work from all of the performers, creators and collaborators. I was unexpectedly riveted to the story they told and absorbed in the whole aspect of the show.

Best thing in 2018 overall was listening to Bruce Springstein’s autobiography (actually published in 2017) which I had on Audible and listened to it twice. What an amazing story – and such a fantastic storyteller. All my life I wasn’t a fan until I read this book.

Hannah Lad

My top 3

3.Dick Johns – Lets Talk about Death Baby!-Really enjoyed just watching a truthful story with no pretences!

2.Dirty Protest: Light Speed at Pembroke Dock – A lovely heart warming story that reintroduce play to theatre!

1.Comedy at Howl, International Women’s Day – Just so good to have such a diverse group of women together in one room!

My favourite arts event I have attended this year was Casgliad hosted by Youth Arts Network Cymru! Such a brilliant weekend with so many awesome creatives!

Sian Thomas

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella 
I’ve only seen two ballets ever and this was the best one. I followed the story and I really liked the subtle changes they made to it and the way it was performed. Lovely show.

Open Mic Night (Cardiff Fringe) 

Had to include the Fringe! It was the most fun thing I did this summer! Because god I just really really adore this event and I really hope it’ll be back next year – I always love testing out my writing on an audience there. It’s such a safe space and such a confidence booster! Lovely atmosphere, people, and always a lovely summery evening!

Ravensong by TJ Klune

Still because he recognised me, the group, and my old review. Loved feeling seen by an author I admire. The story was fab, the representation was great, and it was a lovely book to read to take one’d mind off things. Also ended with a great cliffhanger! I get so excited when he tweets about new books of this series come up. So this is definitely my #1!

My cultural event:

The fact that I wrote 100,000 words of the second draft of my novel!! I’m just super, super proud of myself. There’s not much to be told: I work on it when I can, work on it slow and steadily, make sure everything is okay, and it’s building itself up into something (hopefully) spectacular!

Barbara Michaels

My Three Best of 2018

With such a plethora of good theatre now available to us in Wales, it is difficult to select just three among the cornucopia of events that has been on offer – from the grandeur of Welsh National Opera, up there with the best in the world, to more humble productions working to tight budgets. For my money, here goes:

Alice in Wonderland at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

The multi-talented Rachel O’Riordan’s last production for the Sherman before departing for the Lyric Theatre in London.   O’Riordan pulled all the stops out, with the result that this was fun – as a Christmas show should be – but also showed the dark side of Lewis Carroll’s well-known story. Musical numbers were a delight, with several of the characters on stage musicians and rising to the challenge.  Not staged as a musical, but one waiting in the wings perhaps?  A cunningly designed black and white set allowed for the full range of Carroll’s famous characters – White Rabbit, Mad hatter and even the Caterpillar – to be displayed to advantage.

Moving on to Number 2:

Evita.  

This new production of a classic breathed fresh life into thetrue-life story of Eva Peron with a brand-new cast who more than justified their selection.  Following in the footsteps of Elaine Paige who made the role her own was never going to be an easy task and Lucy O’Byrne’s heart-rendingperformance of ‘Don’t Cry for me, Argentina’ at what was Eva’s last appearance before her death brought tears to the eyes.  It was also good to see some of the emerging talent coming out of Wales in the shape of Swansea-born Mike Sterling as Peron.

First on my list is WNO’s La Traviata  A revival, true, but excellently staged and performed and with Verdi’s wonderful score rendered with a master touch with two sopranos experienced in their roles and Roland Woods’ sonorous baritone lending gravitas to the role of Germont pater, how could it fail to please? An opportunity for the remarkable WNO chorus to shine and for the ladies among them to enjoy wearing elegant ballgowns. The excellent director David McVicar wisely chose to keep to the traditional, with a sumptuous period setting whose opulence reeked of decadence.

Personal best:

For me, it has to be musical theatre and The King and I, which I saw in London.  A sheer joy from start to finish, with Kelli O’Hara as Mrs Anna and Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam taking on the iconic roles made famous by Yul Bryner and Deborah Kerr and performing them with enthusiasm and expertise. First class.  Enhanced for me, I have to admit, in that I was accompanied by a posse of grandchildren helping me to celebrate a big birthday!

 

Karis Price

Theatre Clwyd and Sherman Theatre excelled this year with Lord Of the Flies, with its all female savage cast had me jumping out of my skin and seat whilst offering a critical insight to the frailties of humanity.

However it is the rip roaring, toe tapping hand flapping Great Gatsby from Theatr Clwyd/Guild of Misrule that topped the bill for me in 2018. This innotive, interactive piece held in a run down pub in town was totally engrossing, a brilliant use of venue and a talented cast not just of professionals but community too. (More of this in 2019 please Theatr Clwyd!)

On the whole 2018 was pretty dull in the cinema however one film stood out as been worth the trip to the big screen ” Marvels Infinity Wars” I am an Averger fan girl and this film ticked all the right boxes, it was the ending to the origional Averngers story arch, all the Marvel films todate were building up to this battle … it was worth the wait and the bitter end just left me wanting more.  Of course this doesn’t see the end of the Avengers, but it will be the end for some of the best loved characters and the begining for some new… I only hope the sad passing of the wonderful Stan Lee does not mean we loose the style and wit the MU has created.

 

E. M. BLESS’ON III

The Black History Month grand finale at RWCMD was my personal cultural event of 2018 because it attracted a broad spectrum of the community. Attended by many dignitaries including the outgoing First Minister – Carwyn Jones AM, newly-elected First Minister – Mark Drakeford AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport – Vaughan Gething AM, young people and several elders from various communities in South East, West and North Wales, it was a celebration of diversity in Wales.

Gareth Williams

Keeping Faith

From its humble beginnings as Un Bore Mercher on S4C, I could never have imagined that this drama would prove to be so popular with UK audiences. Subsequently broadcast in the English-language on BBC1 Wales, it would become the most downloaded show ever on BBC iPlayer before being shown on primetime BBC1 in the summer. Deservedly sweeping the board at the BAFTA Cymru Awards, I will be outraged if Eve Myles is not at least nominated for a BAFTA in 2019. Her portrayal of Faith Howells, whose world is rocked by the disappearance of her husband, is deeply emotional and utterly captivating. This is surely her defining role.

Wild Silence – The Wandering Hearts

If I had to pick one album to recommend from 2018, it would Wild Silence by The Wandering Hearts. When I first heard it, it was their incredibly refreshing and genre-blending sound that captured my attention. The more I’ve listened to the album, the more the lyrics have come to the fore and I’ve discovered another fascinating layer to their fabulous array of songs. To finish the year seeing them live in Liverpool confirmed my belief that these guys are destined for bigger things.

Home, I’m Darling, Theatr Clwyd

My theatre highlight this year has been this co-production between Theatr Clwyd and the National Theatre. With its life-size house for a set, its bold and brash set design, and its wonderful costumes, the overall look is enough to pull you into its 1950s world. Starring Katherine Parkinson and Richard Harrington as the couple living it up in a lifestyle of nostalgia, its saccharine exterior slowly melts away to reveal a darker and very pertinent narrative that will have you firmly gripped from beginning to end. Another triumph for Artistic Director of Theatr Clwyd, Tamara Harvey and her team.

Review: Alice in Wonderland, Sherman Theatre

The Sherman Theatre have finally let their Christmas show out into the world! This year, from Friday 23rd of November to Saturday 29th of December, you can catch Mike Kenny’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland at the Sherman theatre. I was lucky enough to see the show on its press night to see how Rachel O’Riordan’s direction combined with Mike Kenny’s writing to bring Alice in Wonderland to life. I’ll be reviewing this whole production including the cast, characters, design and also the style of the adaptation. Continue reading Review: Alice in Wonderland, Sherman Theatre

A response to Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

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

We have been in discussion with a number of colleagues in the arts sector in Wales to request a personal response to Commitment 2 and are pleased to share their responses below. Please do get in touch if you would like to contribute.

ACW are currently asking for responses to their Corporate Plan and future Lottery funding priorities from members of the public,  you can make an online response at this link .

Or attended one of the physical meetings. The public meetings associated with the consultation will take place at Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham (30 November), Volcano, Swansea (10 December), Riverfront Newport (7 January 2019), Aberystwyth Arts Centre (11 January 2019) and Pontio, Bangor (21 January 2019).

Further details are available on the Arts Council of Wales website. The consultation closes on 15 February 2019.

Carole Blade, Creative Producer

Coreo Cymru

During 2019, Bombastic and Coreo Cymru will be hosting Family Dance Festival, a 70-minute entertaining and interactive dance programme for families, presented free of charge in theatre foyers and outdoors during the Easter holidays. Piloted in 2017 and further developed in 2018, Family Dance Festival features three Wales-based professional dance companies and local youth groups at each venue plus taster workshops for all, framed within a bilingual (Welsh/English) context and supported with accessible shows and feedback systems.

Our 2018 programme delivered an accompanying training and seminar event to promote Audio Description, resulting in the first Welsh language audio described live performances. In 2019, we will also offer BSL interpreted shows and focus on developing an audience and appetite for these services by actively forging relationships with members of the blind and D/deaf communities. We will do this through visits to local support centres, clubs and groups, offering programme insight and critically supporting a dialogue, asking questions to inform our deliver methods and to reveal a wider view of general provision, requirements and needs. Working in collaboration with Creu Cymru’s Hynt and the local venue, we will gather data to support general approaches to accessible practice in Wales starting with visits to local clubs and later request feedback relating to their FDF experience.

We will again work with Audio Describer Ioan Gwyn, who benefited from FDF2018 bespoke training programme and toured with the company offering both Welsh and English language descriptions. We will also work with experienced BSL interpreter Sami Thorpe of Elbow Room, to support the text based work and our reach. Their understanding of the target audience and experience within the performing arts, coupled with our plans to consult with individual service users through visits to their respective clubs and groups, prior to the tour, will enable the means and structure for a quality service. Ioan and Sami will work with the Front Of House staff at each venue to ensure quality customer care of our accessible audiences, positioning themselves at the box office to welcome and familiarise. Where possible we will integrate Ioan and Sami into the actual performance to positively reinforce inclusiveness and will create specific feedback forms to inform delivery and methods.

Gareth Coles / Voluntary Arts Wales Director / Cyfarwyddwr Celfyddydau Gwirfoddol Cymru

The second commitment in the Arts Council of Wales’ new Corporate Plan recognizes that the challenge is to increase and diversify participation in the publicly-funded arts. But levels of participation in different forms of creative activity may actually be very high, as people practice their creativity in libraries, church halls, pub function rooms and on kitchen tables and bedroom desks. Voluntary Arts Wales estimates that there are around 4,000 community and amateur creative groups in Wales. But these voluntary and everyday creative activities may not benefit from public subsidy, and therefore may not regularly appear on the radar of public funders.

There is a rich and diverse ecology of the arts in Wales: an ecology that we believe includes amateur, everyday creativity as well as the professional arts, and in which all elements are interdependent and mutually supportive. An attempt to engage more people in the publicly-funded arts might start with an appreciation of the creativity that people choose to practice themselves. Rather than see a deficit of engagement in the arts, we might recognise the cultural assets and activities that already exist within communities across Wales, and build stronger links with the publicly funded arts.

 Diversifying governance

In 2016, Voluntary Arts conducted a project called Open Conversations to improve our understanding of creative cultural activity in Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities across the UK. We convened an Advisory Panel of experts in BAME creative activity, who made introductions, accompanied staff on visits, and met regularly throughout the project to discuss findings. Voluntary Arts staff and Expert Panel members conducted long, unstructured and informal conversations with practitioners across the UK. At the end of the project, we invited the Panel members to become Trustees of Voluntary Arts, and now 5 of our 11 Board members are from BAME backgrounds. As a result of this work, we became the first arts organisation to win a Charity Governance Award for Board Inclusion and Diversity.

We have also sought in recent years to celebrate the excellent work that exists in the voluntary arts sector to champion diversity, through our annual Epic Awards. Get the Chance was a recipient of the Celebrating Diversity award in 2017.

Increasing participation

Our Drawn Together project, a partnership with Coast Lines, has engaged over 2,500 people of all ages in producing over 5,000 observational drawings – creating a collective visual representation of Wales in 2018 (now on display in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff). The feedback shows that 96% of participants felt happier and more positive as a result, but the majority weren’t creatively active, or involved in any arts or community groups. We believe this worked because we took the project to places where people convene: in existing community groups, libraries, cafes, care homes, workplaces and schools. We worked with Big Issue vendors in Cardiff, residents living with dementia in a care home in Pembrokeshire, RNLI volunteers in Aberystwyth and farmers in rural Denbighshire. A majority of project participants now want to continue their creative practice.

Branwen Davies

Writer/Theatre Maker

I welcome this commitment. We all should. We all benefit from a wider diversity of people enjoying and taking part in the arts.It needs to be ever evolving and new energy and life bought in. We all have skills, experience and stories to share. Quite often I find we are ignorant or unaware of challenges facing others and it needs to be addressed and challenged and become second nature not a box ticking exercise.

In uncertain times socially and politically, especially where people feel threatened and surrounded by divisions and threats, the arts can play a pivotal role in confronting fears and open channels of communication. We are social animals. We need to seek each other out. We need to go knocking on doors and meet face to face and not rely so much on social media to connect.

I constantly bang on about the transformative power of the arts! It’s life-enhancing – music, theatre, images, installations, dance etc in all it’s glorious forms. They enable us to communicate, engage and express ourselves and that positive experience can spill out in to all areas of life. It gives us an emotional literacy and helps us try and make sense of the world and our surroundings. It infuriates me that music and drama and literature are constantly threatened within the education system and that there are less opportunities from an early age to engage and benefit. Mental health issues, anxiety and lack of confidence is on the rise in schools and I am in no doubt there is a direct link. The arts are essential to our wellbeing and the earlier we are exposed the better. It is also vital to ensure that there are opportunities for all ages and that it isn’t all focused on youth but continuous in to old age.

It has to start with a conversation – what are the complex needs of different cultures, genders and abilities in Wales? For a small nation our diversity and needs are huge! There is no one size fits all. What are the present weaknesses and gaps and challenges and how do we approach change and a new model of addressing and implementing things for the benefit of all? It’s essential to give a voice to those who aren’t usually given a platform and we must empower those who don’t think their story is of value. We also need to showcase and showoff what we can offer so that people are aware of the possibilities and the work that is and can be created.

The image of the arts needs to be changed so that people feel that they can take ownership and that it belongs to them. It’s up for the current gate keepers not to just welcome and implement an open door policy and a willingness to listen but to actually do the ground work and seek people out face to face. This connection and nurturing needs to be sustained. We have the talent, skills and expertise in Wales but we need, especially in times of funding cuts to pool resources and collaborate and communicate much better than we already do and to be in regular contact and communicate and share knowledge with each other.

My background is in playwrighting and one positive experiences I have had was ‘The Fresh Ink’ initiative with the Sherman Theatre where over a period of 10 weeks I visited St Teilo School in Llanedeyrn, Cardiff. I worked with a group of students who had never visited the theatre and who had little confidence or interest in writing. Allowing them to step away from thinking and writing academically, encouraging them to find their own voice and to take ownership of their language and rhythms of speech the students grew in confidence and produced extremely moving and passionate short plays that were then performed by professional actors at their school in front of their peers. Their reaction and their pride in their words and stories was empowering. For the first time some of them felt they had created something of worth and value and were proud to share it. The Sherman are currently running a playwrighting scheme for similar students to whom opportunities have been limited. The weekly sessions are free of charge and transport is provided. The students work will be performed at the Sherman in the spring.

 

 

Adeola Dewis

Artist, researcher, academic and TV presenter

I have just read the corporate plan. I feel little excitement although I think the targets are attractive. My main contribution to this goes back to the idea of getting out of offices and on to the streets, into community spaces without an agenda and seeing what one can learn.

This feels like wanting to do research and already knowing the answer. I think its problematic in its genesis.

Of course the key is the youth, the next generation but I also believe that bodies like the ACW already have a public image and in order to broaden its public perception (increase participation and attendance in publicly funded arts), honest work will need to be done from the inside, beyond inviting token BAME individuals to be on their board. This crucially involves getting to know who you are working with and for and perhaps getting your ‘targets’ from the people and what matters to them rather than the governments with their outward facing strategies.

I am struggling to articulate a coherent response to that as I believe the response would need to be rooted in research. What I mean is, we are talking about arts participation, but that is just ‘our’ arts. There are groups and communities making ‘arts’ and doing their thing that get washed over for various reasons. What is at the core of the desire to increase participation? What are ‘more diverse’ communities and groups already doing and how do we foster conversations that facilitate an equal space for voice and visibility and limits the threat of appropriation.

 

Bethan Marlow

Writer 

First of all, the fact that these goals and priorities have been set is fantastic because it means we’re really acknowledging that this is a problem. There are many, many people still feeling excluded from the arts (not just as audience members but as people wanting to work in it too) so having a goal to change that can’t be anything but a good thing.

How will it actually be achieved?…….. action. Action by all. Everyone, every single one of us currently working in the arts needs to assess our ways of working, our processes and avenues of finding collaborators and we need to really question how inclusive we’re been the past. And if we haven’t been inclusive, or inclusive enough, we MUST, must make change. From hiring to casting to finding audiences we must continuously ask ourselves whether we’re doing enough to make sure that ALL people feel invited. I sometimes feel like I’m the P.C police these last few years (I’m sure my co-workers feel it to!) because I have made a conscious decision to ask the difficult questions and speak up for those not in the room. And it’s not always comfortable. It makes people uncomfortable but the only reason we all feel uncomfortable is because we know there’s a problem. “Have we gone to all lengths possible to find BAME actors that can audition for this part?”, “Our focus should be on finding female musicians”, “have we considered Welsh learners for this part?” I don’t ask these questions to make people feel guilty, I’m doing it so that we can create active change so that we’re not guilty of being exclusive. We need to keep reminding each other of being inclusive until it becomes second nature.


Abdul Shayek

Director of Fio

I guess my major reflection on this has to be that whilst we have a statement being made by ACW which I believe is the right one. What seems to be missing is the response from arts leaders who have the resources to really make a difference. I guess unless a firmer and clearer picture is presented in terms of the sharing of power and resource, the inevitability is that this will remain words on a page. We, have to question how a sector which is led by same people will suddenly decide this needs to be prioritised just because ACW has said so, we need to go further and find other more innovative solutions where power is shared more equally?