Category Archives: Literature

Review John Waters, False Negative Barbican by James Ellis 

John Waters, filmmaker and writer presents his comic monologue covering his career, movies, fashion and art in the Barbican Hall on Friday, 10 June 2022. Photo by Mark Allan
 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Dubbed “The Pope of bad taste”, anyone who has ever seen a John Waters film (I’m talking about the early stuff) will never forget it, try as they might! With this notorious reputation, John aged of 76 finally written his first novel: Liarmouth. I get the feeling he has done his live show just to do a shameless plug, the queue after the performance was a long as the Barbican is a maze. No doubt he would never take offence to any of my words.

His film work is a revelation, a huge point of reference for the LGBT community, even with the tidal wave of problematic themes and subplots. The giddy air at the Barbican greeted John with huge burst of loving applause, arriving in a bold, yet fashionable floral, black and white smock (something I adored). Of course, he had his famous, pencil moustache to boot. It’s the insights, the references, the name dropping and the snarling comebacks that made this live experience an overwhelming gush of camp. The spirt of drag artist Divine, John’s most infamous collaboration was ever present on this night. Divine, who may have been one of the funniest and brilliant people ever to be on film, also proved his chops with more acclaimed work of John’s with Polyester and the original incarnation of Hairspray. 

I knew this would be funny and it was. I found myself scoffing as many times as I was amused, the compulsion of big, hearty laughs caught me off guard. More recent remarks about Covid, vaccines and even Johnny Depp (he worked with John on Cry Baby) stood out as highlights. The amazing thing about this man is he makes you love trash, through a mirror of irony and self confidence. No one really makes me feel like John, his openness and mockery of things he adores are proof that comedy can be funny and not always mean at the same time. You just can’t cancel him, try as they might. A frenzied Q & A proved how much adoring fans can’t get enough of him, John declaring on a few occasions “One at a time!” due to his poor hearing. 

He declared that Liarmouth is the most outrageous piece he has done since Pink Flamingoes of 1972. That is saying a lot, but the book is now top of my list of must read books. Only I don’t think I’m quite ready for it…            

Liarmouth, published by Corsair is now available online and all good retailers. 

Review: Conversations With People Who Hate Me by Dylan Marron, By Sian Thomas

Four stars

I remember when this podcast went live, boosted somewhere into my online feed because I had been a fan of Welcome to Night Vale, even as I felt it slipping from my grasp of enjoyment (it’s back now).

“Conversations With People Who Hate Me” is a podcast initially beginning with Dylan Marron, the creator, reaching out to people who have left him mean comments on his online work. They discuss the comment, among other things, and while not strictly having to come to some ample, satisfactory conclusion, usually both parties leave the table feeling different to how they sat down at it. It would later evolve into Dylan moderating a conversation between two people – one whose work or art piece or the like received a mean comment, and the person who left it.

I thought this was an interesting idea when it first came out back in 2017, mostly because I’d seen nothing like it outside of thinking back to when you’d get taught as a kid to “be nice”, or “not get angry” that kind of thing, that parents kind of do: “Remember to share!” when they’re, I don’t know, in the kitchen, and not watching you not share. “Just talk!” felt like impractical advice, I wasn’t sure how it would help, if it even could. But I remember listening to a few episodes before I fell off of podcasts entirely, (not for any particular reason, I think it would mostly down to this itch in my brain that told me if I’m listening to people speak then I have to listen and I found myself unable to do anything else if I had a podcast on, and I must not have been getting enough A-Level revision done as a result) listening to the back and fore of a conversation that would definitely frustrate me, but I found Dylan was navigating well. It wasn’t something I could have done. I’m not certain it is now, five years on.

The book was quite a lot about how the podcast came to be, and what was learned during its creation process. Which is fine, truthfully, I wasn’t sure it would be about anything else since the book and the podcast shared the same name. There is a tale woven within it about what the internet is and what it could be – how it effects us and the kinds of things, good and bad, it can lead us to doing or feeling. I enjoyed seeing the depth of something I had liked and then lost hold of years ago, re-entering my vision in a way that contextualised and solved what probably caused me to drop it in the first place. I don’t think I was ready to have the kinds of conversations Dylan was having then, and while I’m not convinced I am now, either, one thing I found dazzlingly soothing was the understanding of the “Everything Storm”. The “Everything Storm” is kind of how it sounds: everything is happening all the time, all at once, and if you can’t keep up, someone on the internet definitely thinks you suck. I never realised this was what was causing my own version of an internet fatigue, but on reading Dylan’s detailing of his own (even as it was attributed to discussions he was having and manifesting as different emotions and actions for him), I was like, oh man, this is it. This is what pushed me to the private twitter with all of my ten highly vetted followers, what made me rest my phone face down. It was nice to put a name to that weird feeling of guilt when something happens and all I can think when I look at it was, “Oh no. Not now. Please.”

This was definitely a feature of the book I really enjoyed, the detailing of the arcs of a conversation, serving you pieces you can recognise and take away with you, the smallest of navigation tips to assure your nerves if you ever take on the kind of conversations Dylan does.

The book is delightfully written, reading like a winding story while instilling a genuine lesson. I don’t often read non-fiction, but when I do I find I prefer it to feel almost personal. I enjoyed this deep dive into the very back of Dylan Marron’s mind: what lead to the podcast and the further book, and all the nuances of creation that came both before, and during, this chapter of his life. I can see why it would have been difficult to write, after learning it was supposed to release in mid 2020, not the first half of 2022. The deliberation of what may come of these “pieces” – the consequences to all of Dylan’s actions, in a way -was purposeful and honest. Which is refreshing to see in world tearing itself apart wondering who the main character of the day is, and how exactly then can get got.

I think Dylan Marron is the kind of person you either quietly follow through the years, even if you’re not aware that you are (which is the category I fall into: I heard of him through his work on Welcome to Night Vale, and found myself coming back to his page every so often to see what, if anything, had changed), or, one day, you happen upon him by accident entirely. For a long time he was just “that voice on that show I used to listen to”, but I realise now Dylan is much more and has been doing much, much more than that. I get the feeling that this is something of a memoir rather than a self-help-essay-type of book like Good Vibes Good Life by Vex King, which I really, really like. It feels real and honest; genuine and undoubtfully true. It has a similar kind of vibe to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic – a snippet of a wide, three-dimensional life, and how it made an unfathomably large ripple across the rest of that person’s days.

It was a fantastic read. I don’t know that I would recommend it to everyone, but I think it’s one of those books where if you look into it yourself and think yeah, I can get behind this, then do.

Sian Thomas

Review: The Damning Stone by TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

Five stars

The most recent instalment of TJ Klune’s Tales From Verania series hit this week. I had it on pre-order once I’d realised how quickly this book had snuck up on me. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect; I knew there would be more on my reading of the last book in the series, Fairytales from Verania, and I knew that the point of view was set to shift from Sam (who the main series has as it’s point of view) to Prince Justin (a character greatly involved in the main story – in the main cast, but a side character of the main cast). This was something I initially felt a little unsure of – although this is something TJ Klune has done before in his Green Creek series, something about a series so firmly set in one characters eyes for four (and a bit) books, the jump felt a little out of left field, and I was left wondering if it would feel too different to cohesively flow. But, luckily, the writing is as seamless as ever; the dialogue continues to be a fun twist of modern and sharp, playfully funny, and honestly genuine.

The story itself is full of twists and turns; a seed of doubt blossoming and the aftermath of the “main” series concluding neatly, which I liked to see. I went into this book quite blind as, I’ve found, TJ Klune does an excellent job at saving the cliff-hanger for the next book to the very, very last moment, so I had nothing bracing me for the story of this book. Which made it great fun as it unfolded before my eyes. I read it in about two days, absolutely enamoured by the way the cast dynamics were shifting, and the story that was before me. I don’t want to write about any spoilers (especially since the book only came out this week, so that wouldn’t be fair, and I think it’s better to go in with the rest of the series strapped to your back, rather than jumping into this one and being blindsided entirely).

I feel as though once you start a TJ Klune series, there is a comfortable air of “sameness” that begins to gather around you. This cast of characters was familiar to me, to a point where I could start to guess their reactions to events in the story – I usually don’t enjoy this, but with a series of books I find it just different enough for me to forgive. I’ve spent countless hours reading these stories and getting familiar with the characters to the point where I am entrenched in the world, and I feel better every day for having decided to read this series. TJ Klune’s writing, while always excellent, is beginning to feel homely and safe, which I genuinely appreciate in a world of shock-death-endings or abrupt cancellations. So, when the tense “final battle” of this book began (and tense it was!) I found that I wasn’t nervous – I didn’t have a coil of disappointment ready to spring in my gut, because it simply wasn’t there. TJ’s storytelling is a great skill of his, but I find his openness with his audience something far more remarkable.

The Tales From Verania series is an excellent (albeit, not a child-friendly one) story of love and hardship, friendship and connection. This book pushes that even further, now with the invitation to further lands in the fictional world which will, I’m sure, draw more characters into the wide circle of the main cast. And I am excited to meet every single one that shows its face.

Sian Thomas

Review Spring’s Green Shadow by Cecily Mackworth Publisher: Honno Welsh Women’s Press Review By Barbara Michaels

 ISBN 1912905493,9781912905492,

 price £10.23 paperback, £7.59 Kindle (Amazon)

One of the latest additions to the Welsh Women’s Classics series published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press, Spring’s Green Shadow is a novel based on a true story – that of the author herself.  Cecily Mackworth, born in the early years of the twentieth century, (1911) was a journalist, author, and poet born and brought up in Wales who later lived in Paris during a period of political turbulence.

First published in 1952, set in both Wales and Paris, this new edition of Mackworth’s novel has a lengthy introduction by historian and biographer Angela John, an honorary professor of Swansea University.

And thereby lies the rub, for worthy and meticulous in detail as is John’s introduction, it also to some extent gives the game away.  In many respects, Cecily Mackworth’s own story can be seen as similar to that of the novel’s fictional heroine, Laura Gethryn. However, any sense of deja vue is justified giving as it does the raison d’ȇtre of the novel.

As the story opens the reader is introduced to Laura, the intellectually inclined and high-spirited daughter of a father left broken and emasculated by the first World War and a mother, made demanding and bad tempered by events.  The early years of Laura’s life are spent living with her parents in Monmouthshire where her father’s family have been landowners for many generations. Continually berated by her parents for not conforming to the dictates of the time regarding a woman’s role in life and a daughter’s duty – make a good marriage – Laura’s frustration erupts into action when she comes under the influence of the working-class intellectual Mr Howells. Rebelling against her mother’s refusal to allow her to pursue her education, Laura escapes to begin a new life with the Howells family

The focus on woman’s emancipation gives a contemporary feel to this novel, despite it being evocative of a bygone era.  Mackworth’s brilliant descriptive powers give a vivid and at times uncomfortable portrayal of life as it was back in the early part of the twentieth century for an ambitious woman writer determined to bring some unpleasant truths to the notice of the powers that be.

 While it has to be said that this part of her book is to a degree biographical, giving as it does a close resemblance to Mackworth’s own experiences as a woman who was herself involved in at times dangerous confrontations regarding a number of controversial issues., it is none the worse for doing so.

Not only is Spring’s Green Shadow an interesting read in its own right as a novel, it has the additional benefit of historical worth, documenting as it does the mores of an era in which long-held beliefs both at home and abroad were questioned as the winds of change blew over Europe.

Review: De Cineribus From the Ashes by Thomas Vaccaro by Sian Thomas

Four stars

Thomas Vaccaro’s De Cineribus: From the Ashes was a book I honestly wasn’t sure I’d like. I like Thomas’s YouTube videos a lot (their channel name being Unicorn of War), as I am certainly a sucker for a good video essay to absorb over a plate of food (my favourites being their RWBY reviews and rewrites, and their Taylor Swift song discussions), but I’d realised with YouTuber books they were often – well, bad. Or at least, would quickly fade from the limelight or fall from grace in a record speed. I was worried, at first, that this book would be similar; a money grab, rather than a labour of love.

I was wrong, and pleasantly so.

One of Thomas Vaccaro’s strengths, I think, is their ability to think far ahead with their plots. Admittedly, I found their channel because I was actively looking for content about RWBY that would prove its awful writing, terrible production, and overall bad reception, and what I found was someone who was lovingly taken the broken, beaten show, and making it into something of their own. RWBY is its own show, yes, but I admired Thomas Vaccaro’s way of reshaping the information we (RWBY’s audience) have, and turning the plot into something both actually palatable and genuinely fun. This was a quality I was sure would shine through in their book, even while I still quietly worried about the production quality of it. Despite that, at the very least, I knew the story was in perfectly capable hands.

And it was.

De Cineribus mainly follows Felix, a young adult about to enter the college scene, heading off to a college for those with magic powers. He finds friends, enemies, suffers his wins and his definite losses. A few other perspectives are followed throughout the story but this, I realised, does not take from Felix’s perspective as sometimes multiple POV stories can do. Rather I found the jumps in perspective enlightening, and definitely enriching of the wider plot as new characters would pose new questions to me (what’s happening here? How does it relate back and affect Felix? How much do they know? Whose side are they on?).

As I said, I admire Vaccaro’s dedication to writing and storytelling. It’s most definitely a skill of theirs, and clearly shows through the books. First of all, the book is just over 500 pages long, so you can tell that’s dedication to a story for one! But mainly it comes in the depth and complexity of their characters (and there’s a good number of them!) but while the cast of characters is big, it is not overwhelming. There are not so many that I can’t keep track, or I can’t remember whose skill is what, or who matters to who. This is something I was incredibly relieved to find out as often college/magical fantasy stories often have casts as far as the eye can see. This is something RWBY is completely guilty of, and I found myself noticing Vaccaro’s particular points about RWBY being contested in their own work. Characters in De Cineribus are fleshed out, have their own skills and limits, motivations, and broad personalities. I liked being able to not expect what a character would be like based on their skills. Healers who aren’t friendly, teachers who are cranky, teachers who are jovial, etc. I liked, especially, that while Felix was for the most part sweet and caring and loyal, he also had a very clear dark underbelly to his character; one that was angry, determined to the point of obsessive, and sometimes a bit scary. It was nice to see a main character with real faults, and real regrets when those faults caught a hold of him too strongly.

The writing is strong and done with precision (although I’ll admit I found a few typos – but to err is human. And even so, I can’t even remember where they were or what they were!), Vaccaro’s skill and dedication really shine through the way the dialogue is youthful but not cringey, and the way their descriptions are alluring but not droning. The prose itself was enjoyable, turns of phrase appearing that I wouldn’t have expected, I think I was most fond of “bust a gut” to describe laughter, since this isn’t an image I usually come across, and it definitely elevated the youth of the characters and the depth of their emotions.

The book is, as I said, just over 500 pages – so, not a quick read, but a fun, entangling one.I trust Thomas to make a strong series based on their passion and unwavering dedication. Since this is called book one, and I’m excited to see where the rest of the story may go. Especially since the books ends in a very apt spot for a sequel to take over.I admire their dedication to their craft and in particular, to their audience.

I appreciate aspects I’ve otherwise never seen in literature such as their comprehensive list of trigger warnings at the beginning of the book, and good sized chapters – long enough to engage, short enough that I don’t get bored.

I was initially worried about boring fantasy tropes showing their head throughout this text, as most fantasy books fall victim to at least a few. And while I’m sure a few did seep in there, I was pleasantly surprised when things didn’t turn out that way and I actually couldn’t guess where the story would go as it progressed, which was definitely a breath of fresh air for me.

Overall, the book was a fun, immersive read. Especially for fans of things such as Harry Potter but have outgrown it or do not wish to support its author. It’s a fun, youthful take on the “wizard school” idea, one ripe for a new generation and a new presence in literature. 

Sian Thomas

Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover by Sian Thomas

Four stars

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover is one of those books I heard about over and over and over again and kept skirting the edges of to get away from. With her skyrocket into popularity, I found myself jumping through hoops to avoid her work, for no other reason than: I had a weird feeling I’d like it, and because I know she has so many books published, I simply didn’t have the time or money to fall into her work and out the other side, changed.

Then I got paid.

It Ends With Us was the kind of book floating all over booktok, appearing and disappearing in book group posts I would skim read; it was popular, easy to read, and seemingly either incredibly well-liked, or vehemently hated. I wanted to know why. Even when I was actively avoiding it, I wanted to know what it was that was happening to people that their reviews were becoming so mixed.

I thought, when I was reading it, that it would be down to its “chicklit” factor. The book itself being pink, and Hoover being notably a romance writer, I thought people were detesting it because it was a gooey, lovey dovey easy read, and not an absolute draining challenge of some such classic literature you’d find on a university reading list that I’m sure I would hate after half of the first page. I found myself believing this at one point, questioning if something that had so clearly rocketed into pop culture, wouldn’t it be too easy for me?

And then I decided I didn’t care. I’d been paid. My New Year’s Resolution was to read twenty books this here and here was a book I was interested in; I had to take the opportunity before it skirted me, the same way I had been skirting It Ends With Us. I bought it one day after work, snatching it from the shelf before I had a chance to think about it too long, rushing myself through the till before I had the chance to turn around and put it back.

Besides, if I didn’t like it, there is a cute phone-box-library right by my house, and I’m sure someone, somewhere, would like it more than me.

I kept it. I’m keeping it forever, tucked nicely into the pink section of my bookshelf. Because I liked it. As I, ironically, knew that I would.

It Ends With Us is a fun book at first. A real page turner as one relationship blossoms right before the reader’s eyes and the other notable relationship come sneaking out of the shadows, piece by piece. I admit, I’m no high class literature snob (except for when I want to be), so when the blurb said something much more wordy than simply “Man A meets Man B and which one will it be at the end?” I had two main thoughts: I’m too good for this and this is going to be a great read for me. I got over myself quick when I found I was six chapters in the same day I’d started reading, and had the feeling that by that time tomorrow, the book would be finished.

I had heard a lot of different opinions on Colleen Hoover’s writing style, and I had initially been worried that I wouldn’t like it. But admittedly, the writing style is easy and quick. Not plain, exactly, but simple. Easy to follow and, as I found out, easy to get lost in. The book is fast paced with short to mid length chapters (which I certainly appreciate, I always felt like short chapters feel more like the book is moving, rather than longer ones), and with its page-turner ability, I found the book was over far sooner than I’d expected.

The story progresses as (no spoilers): Lily meets Ryle and they hit it off. It’s great, until. And also in the mix is an old friend of Lily’s she was once in love with.I know it sounds very chicklit-y. It is. But that’s honestly what made it fun for me. I’m excited for the sequel to be released and seeing what happened to the cast of characters next.

There are a few things I have noticed in my last few reads, and this one, that have pulled me from my escapism of reading and placed me squarely back in real life. I’m not sure if it’s a trope in and of itself, but I’ve noticed a prevalent “rich best friend” character appearing; funding or enabling the main characters lifestyle, existing for exuberant gifts, there for not much more of a purpose than “be rich” and “be convenient”, which is a shame. I get the feeling that it’s easy, that Rich Best Friend nullifies a lot of typical people-problems, but I find this also voids a certain aspect of relatability to the cast of characters. But honestly, that was the only flaw I saw in the book – everything else about it was compelling and emotional, intriguing and fun!

Sian Thomas


Mae Am Ddrama yn gynllun ar y cyd rhwng Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Theatr Clwyd a National Theatre Wales i ddod o hyd i sgriptiau a dramâu newydd a chyffrous gan ddramodwyr sydd wedi eu lleoli yng Nghymru. 

Dros y flwyddyn nesaf, bydd Am Ddrama yn galluogi dramodwyr i anfon eu sgriptiau a’u dramâu  anghyhoeddedig yn ddienw at banel eiddgar o ddarllenwyr i gael adborth gwerthfawr. Mae’n bosibl y bydd cyfle i’r sgriptiau mwyaf addawol gael eu datblygu, gan baru’r sgript a’r dramodydd gydag un o’r tri sefydliad sy’n fwyaf addas i’w datblygu, ei chomisiynu a’i chynhyrchu.

Mae Arwel Gruffydd, Cyfarwyddwr Artistig Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru,yn esbonio sut mae’r bartneriaeth hon yn gyfle unigryw i ddramodwyr yng Nghymru:

“Dyma’r cynllun cyntaf o’i fath yng Nghymru. Rwy’n hynod falch ein bod yn cydweithio gyda National Theatre Wales a Theatr Clwyd ar arbrawf mor gyffrous. Gobeithiwn y bydd yn gyfle i ni rannu’r neges yn eang ac yn genedlaethol ynghylch y cyfleoedd sydd ar gael i’n dramodwyr gyflwyno eu gwaith yn y ddwy iaith i dri o’n prif gwmnïau cynhyrchu theatr, trwy ddull ‘siop-un-stop’. Mae Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yn gobeithio y bydd y fenter hon yn caniatáu i ni glywed gan leisiau amrywiol a dramodwyr newydd o bob oed, waeth beth yw eu profiad blaenorol.”

Yn ystod y broses, bydd y dramodwyr yn cael mynediad at banel eiddgar o ddarllenwyr llawrydd a mewnol, a ddewiswyd gan y tri phartner yn dilyn galwad agored a wnaed ym mis Awst 2021. Mae’r darllenwyr wedi eu penodi am 6 mis, a bydd cyfle arall i ymgeisio am y rôl. Am y 6 mis cyntaf, bydd y darllenwyr yn cynnwys Charles O’Rourke, sydd â chefndir mewn gwaith â llaw, cyfieithu llenyddol ac ymgyrchu cwiar, ac sy’n ddarllenydd sgriptiau i Everyman Playhouse, Lerpwl a Channel 4. Lowri Izzard, a hyfforddwyd yn RADA ac sydd newydd orffen gweithio ar ffilm gomedi nodwedd newydd, sef Brian and Charles, ar gyfer Film4 a BFI. Mary Davies, dramatwrg lawrydd, sydd newydd gwblhau ei Doethuriaeth yn Athrofa Shakespeare a’r RSC. Melangell Dolma, dramodydd, actor a Chydlynydd Datblygu Creadigol gyda’r Theatr Genedlaethol, a Yasmin Begum,o dras Cymreig-Pacistanaidd, sy’n ymgyrchydd, awdur ac ymarferydd creadigol. Ar hyn o bryd mae hi’n gweithio yn Gwasg Honno, y wasg annibynnol hynaf i fenywod yn y Deyrnas Gyfunol. Mae Rahim El Habachi, sy’n Gydymaith Creadigol gyda NTW, ac yn ymgyrchydd dros ffoaduriaid a cheiswyr lloches LHDT+, wedi gweithio gydag Opera Cenedlaethol Cymru a Theatr y Sherman; mae’n berfformiwr ac yn wneuthurwr theatr.

‘Mae’n wych i fod yn cyhoeddi’r rhaglen hon, sy’n agor llwybr newydd a hygyrch at gyfoeth, amrywiaeth a thalent anhygoel ym maes ysgrifennu dramâu yng Nghymru. Mae NTW, ynghyd â’n partneriaid, yn ymrwymo i agor sgyrsiau creadigol gydag awduron o’r llu o gyd-destunau a diwylliannau sy’n creu Cymru gynhwysol a modern. Mae dramodwyr Cymru yn gaffaeliad anhygoel i elfen storïol a hunaniaeth esblygol ein cenedl. Mae’n holl bwysig i sicrhau bod lleisiau profiadol a newydd fel ei gilydd yn cael llwybrau tryloyw a hygyrch i’w galluogi i rannu eu syniadau a gweithio gyda’r prif gwmnïau cynhyrchu.

Lorne Campbell, National Theatre Wales.

Rhan gyffrous arall o’r cynnig yw’r cyfle i’r darllenwyr barhau i ddatblygu sgiliau dramatwrgaidd. Mae Raphael Martin, rheolwr llenyddol a dramatwrg o dras Prydeinig/Americanaidd, yn berchen ar The Lit Shop Ltd, cwmni rheoli llenyddol ar gyfer theatrau sy’n dymuno cael rôl fel hon ar drefniant ymgynghorol. Mae wedi gweithio fel dramatwrg a rheolwr llenyddol mewn nifer o sefydliadau o fri yn cynnwys yr RSC, Sonia Friedman Productions, ATG, The Bush, The Gate Notting Hill, The Royal Court Young Writers’ Programme, The National, Manhattan Theatre Club a Soho Rep. Ar hyn o bryd, mae ei gleientiad yn cynnwys sefydliadau sydd wedi eu lleoli yn y Deyrnas Gyfunol, yr Unol Daleithiau, Canada ac ac Awstralia.

Mae’r ddramatwrg Ffion Emlyn yn Gymraes sydd wedi gweithio i’r BBC am dros ugain mlynedd, yn bennaf fel Cynhyrchydd Drama Radio i BBC Radio Cymru. Mae Ffion hefyd wedi gweithio fel Golygydd Sgript a Chynhyrchydd Straeon ar rai o raglenni eraill y BBC, megis Casualty a Pobol y Cwm, ac wedi mwynhau datblygu talentau ysgrifennu newydd dros y blynyddoedd.  

Mae Theatr Clwyd wrth eu bodd o fod yn rhan o’r cynllun: “Rydyn ni, fel lleoliad, yn credu bod Am Ddrama yn gam pwysig tuag at sicrhau bod lleisiau newydd, amrywiol a thalentog yn cael eu clywed ar lwyfannau ledled Cymru. Rydym yn falch iawn o gael y cyfle i weithio gyda’r Theatr Genedlaethol a National Theatre Wales ar y prosiect cyffrous hwn.” Tamara Harvey, Theatr Clwyd.

Galwad agored yw hon am sgriptiau sydd eisoes mewn bodolaeth, nad ydynt wedi cael eu cynhyrchu ar unrhyw adeg yn y gorffennol, na chwaith wedi eu cyflwyno’n flaenorol i’r un o’r tri sefydliad partner.

Gall y sgriptiau fod ar gyfer unrhyw grŵp oedran ond rhaid iddynt fod ar gyfer perfformiadau byw, yn cynnwys sioeau cerdd. Gwahoddir unrhyw ddramodydd 18 oed a throsodd i gyflwyno’u gwaith yn Gymraeg neu yn Saesneg, a/neu yn ddwyieithog. Darllenir pob sgript yn ddienw, a nodir y dylai sgriptiau fod yn 20 tudalen neu fwy. Bydd y cyfnod ar gyfer cyflwyno sgriptiau yn cychwyn 16 Chwefror 2022 hyd at 31 Mawrth 2022. Cyhoeddir gwybodaeth bellach am sut i gyflwyno sgriptiau yn fuan.

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 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I’ve often wondered what defines the United States. Is it the polarising politics? The proud, hammering patriotism?The melting pot of cultures and lifestyles? Within this reassurance of nostalgia hyped up by popular culture, one book returns from the past with a subtle yet brilliant impact.

Though met with puzzlement when first published, Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces is a very telling piece of its time. Having traveled in 1972 from New York to Texas and back, Shore inhales everything around him. No sight is too banal or sordid and we get these really telling moments from a bygone era. A “palette of the age” seems to capture what I’m trying to say here. All images appear to utilise flash, all are in landscape and their breadth remains impressive.

We see meals, buildings, portraits and everything in-between. Though the shots of food make us think of today’s influencers, he seems to capture houses and other buildings rather well. The pop art feel comes in with the many photos of adverts, stands and sign posts throughout his American journey. Though only 24 at the time, his eye for a real cracking image is proven here and would herald a fine career in photography.

You can see Andy Warhol and his numerous polaroids soon to create similar sights, though on a much more intimate scale. An interesting feature here is the ominous shadow which lingers over models for their portraits, due to the intensity of the flash. This is undoubtedly the most 70s thing you will ever see…the fashion, design, cars and advertisements are all its testament. This is very much my parents era, yet I still have a pang for this yesteryear.
There truly is a real joy in these haunting, candid shots.

Although this revised and expanded edition is sold out, we can only hope more copies come out soon.

Price: £49.95 Published by Phaidon.



5 Stars

I read this book in about, let’s say, ten hours total. Over two days, because I’m grown and have a job and go to bed at 10pm and stuff like that, but I thought about this book the entire time I wasn’t reading it. I thought about this book when I was clocking into work at 5:58am this morning, I thought about this book when I was making lunch and left it upturned in my armchair, I thought about this book when the delivery company told me “It’s on the way!” because my excitement was obliterating, and I just could not stop thinking about what a treat I was in for.

Because I was. In for a treat.

I was achingly awaiting the release of TJ Klune’s Under the Whispering Door and wanted something to scratch the itch sooner. I have the Green Creek Series on my shelf, and the House on the Cerulean Sea, too, but I was looking for something new to me to prep for the all-new new-to-everyone release of Under the Whispering Door. I was excited, since The Lightning-Struck Heart is the foundation of a wider series, and I was ready to commit to something fun, light-hearted, and absolutely intoxicating. Since, I reiterate, I read it in about ten hours. It was an excellent start to what I’m sure will be an incredible series, setting up a joyous protagonist with his mismatched, knit-together found family; a unicorn (Gary), half-giant (Tiggy), knight (Ryan), mentor (Morgan), parents, king, and later, dragon, and prince. And I love them. All of them. Just so much. TJ Klune has a fantastic way of crafting the nuanced relationships between his characters; they feel like genuine people, like real conversations are taking place and I can see where they can go before they do, and I adore that. I can see the bonds through their words and the love through the thoughts of the protagonist (Sam Haversford). This is something I have always admired from TJ Klune – I find it remarkable how well done it is every single time. In the Green Creek series, the pack bonds speak for themselves; they are visceral and enveloping. In the House in the Cerulean Sea, they are endearing and heartfelt. In this book, they are tantalizing, fun, witty, and downright hilarious. I think only a few choice authors have ever made me laugh out loud while staring down at the book in my hands in an otherwise silent room. So loud you’d think I’d have barked like a dog. This was one of those authors, making one of those special books that seem to fit in my hands just right. Isn’t that neat?

I loved it. Could you tell? Probably.

The plot is there, in between the bits and pieces of the romance story I was absolutely absorbed in. I find it a really good starting point for a wider series, it deals really nicely with the world itself and the character dynamics, and where/how they fit into their world of Verania, and it sets up really well where the rest of the wider story will go. I love the way the magical creatures were involved with every bit of their own flare, the individualism of TJ Klune’s work is astounding; unique and much needed in the fantasy sections of stores that are just far too filled with whatever new cover Harry Potter has now. I’m excited to see the way this wide world will expand and how the characters fit into it as they, and it (I’m sure), will change around them. And honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing what conflicts will arise between everyone and what exactly it might lead to. I’m doing my very best to not spoil everything about the first book, and I’m trying my best to enter the rest of the series as blindly as I can (I find that best with TJ Klune books – he assures his readers of happy endings, which I have seen time and time again and never once got tired of, but I love the rollercoaster feeling of his novels too much to ruin my fun before I’ve had it).

If anything is a take away here, I find TJ Klune books, this one in particular, about connection, at the heart of everything. Yes, magic is cool, and mystery is fun, but my favourite thing about any TJ Klune story is that it is simply not the same without the connections made along the way. I love seeing it, and I’d love to be able to explain it without screaming “READ THIS BOOK” or “OH MY GOD” or, I don’t know, squealing a little. But it is most definitely a skill I admire in a writer and would love to learn to do myself, one day. Sam Haversford has his best friends, and slowly collects more as the book goes on (which I love. It’s like there’s no bad guys. There’s just stubborn strangers who slowly becoming a part of the group), and his energy is contagious, his demeanour perfectly sunshine-y, his dynamic with his friends complementary and genuine.

To talk about something else, I really loved the humour of the book. It feels youthful and energetic, and it’s perfectly in my style. The thought-process of the main character, his quick wit, and the back-and-fore of him and the other characters is absolutely adoring. It’s fun, snappy, and all-around joyful; there were so many times where I had a huge grin on my face, watching jokes fly between characters for pages and pages, one thing snowballing into another before the plot reintroduced itself to me.

The book is fun. I really, really liked it. I can tell my reading slump has ended on account of, I then immediately bought the rest of the series, Under the Whispering Door, and another book on my way home from work. TJ Klune’s writing is real, and special, and means the absolute world to me. I am beyond excited to experience more of it.

Sian Thomas

Review, Immersive Gatsby, Immersive LDN, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Greeted at the door by a man with an excellent hospitable nature and his 1920’s attire on, in the heart of London, we enter into what feels like some form of speakeasy at the top of this lovely building, where the doors open and you are (nicely) bashed in the face with jazz music and dancing.

Immersive Gatsby is based upon the well known American Novel, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, which you likely know from recent film adaptations, or were subjected to at school. I admit, that I have a love/hate relationship with the novel, mainly with school ruining it. But as adaptions in film and theatre continue, I appreciate it more in older age.

The story is about old lovers who meet in later life. Both changed dramatically, their love is reignited but is doomed by circumstance, by gossip and cheating, by lies and love. And so we see them fall in love but also fight for one another, amongst the many love triangles.

The story of Gatsby is well known for the fact the character of Jay Gatsby throws lavish parties where anyone who is anyone will be. Full of booze, of colours, dancing and care free lifestyles, and this is what we initially get a taste of. The performers do quintessential moves from the 1920’s, in their beautiful and stylish outfits, encouraging us to dance, and at one point, putting us through a dance class. Certainly a good way to have a great night out and feel pleasantly out of your comfort zone.

The joy of Immersive theatre, especially in large venues, is that there are pockets of events happening in different rooms, in little groups, in corners of the room. Depending where you are placed, you may get to chat with Daisy about her love for Jay, or Muriel about her love affair. Not everyone gets to go in another room, or be spoken to and that’s what makes each experience different to the last. This is what makes you want to go again; to fill your FOMO needs.

However, with this, it can also feel a little frustrating. The placements of the rooms are almost in each corner and until you realise this, it’s entirely possible you won’t be lucky enough to be whisked away in the group. It’s impossible to be sure everyone out of potentially 150 people in a room has had their turn to see the new spaces. And so we unfortunately left with only seeing the main area and 1 extra room. I wouldn’t say we felt cheated but it certainly wetted our curiosity appetite and left us a little deflated with the knowledge there were scenes and rooms we never saw.

I was lucky enough to be taken away on my own with the character Muriel. My social awkwardness did not help here but it was really interesting to go into this quiet room and talk with the character as if we were old friends. A very special part of the evening indeed.

Knowing the story well, it confused me that character’s seemed to be doubling up and being put in parts of the story that they were not in the novel. It is clearly for logistical reasons, and they do well to keep in character and to continue the momentum, so we enjoy this as it is but it conflicts what we know about about the story and somehow undermines some of Fitzgerald’s intentions. Some characters also didn’t come across as they were intended in the novel and again, this is a juxtaposition on the initial story. I couldn’t help but be critical, thinking that that was not how a character was meant to be or how the story goes.

I cannot leave a review without mentioning Gatsby himself: there are moments of the above to help inform the transition of the space and the story but Oliver Towse is the right brooding, distant but hopelessly in love character that Gatsby should be… and clearly his attractive nature, in his well known pink 3 piece, makes us all swoon. As if we are in the room of a Rockstar.

Immersive Gatsby is for sure a brilliant night out; filled with dancing, elation, champagne and a 1920’s Eastenders style vibe with conflict. But for those who know the story well, the need to utilise the space unfortunately sees changes to the novel which makes a stickler a little anxious.