The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Sophie Smith one of the founders of Outpost Coffee and Vinyl. Their aims are,
“To introduce you to new music, get you tasting amazing coffees and enjoying freshly baked treats. Cardiff is full of amazing music, food and drink, so come and check it out! We want to meet new people, introduce you to exciting things and see your lovely faces time and time again. We hope to create an environment that you can come and chat, socialise and enjoy, no pressure, no strings attached. So come and say hello!”
Hi Sophie, 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?
& William Onyeabor
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, so we want to ask you to list 5 records/albums which have personal resonance to you.
1 Brian Eno – Another Green World
2 The The – Soul Mining
3 Haim – Days Are Gone
4 Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
5 LCD Sound System – This Is Happening
Thanks Sophie, just to put you on the spot could you choose one from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
“Brian Eno’s Another Green World is one of my all time favourite records, it has such an interesting story behind it. The production on it is so layered, it’s a great album to listen to on vinyl. It took me a long time to track down & is one of my most prized possessions!”
Sunny Afternoon charts the rise of 1960s British rock band, The Kinks and if you don’t already adore their incredible back catalogue, then you will after seeing this hit musical.
Upon entering the auditorium we see an open stage, able to look upon the band warming up and the simple, yet extremely effective set which, throughout, allows the stage to be transformed from a teenager’s bedroom in a Muswell Hill flat to the rock ‘n’ roll stage at Madison Square Gardens, New York.
The costumes are wonderfully reflective of the time and are a nostalgic time travel back to the fashions of the era. In fact, one of the stand out musical numbers ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ sees Dave Davies donning a sharp suit and a feather boa whilst the rest of the band perform a dance routine with shop mannequins-utterly good fun!
The band’s story lends itself perfectly to its musical adaptation; a rags to riches tale with plenty of love, heartache, fame, fortune and even a few punch ups! But this is more than your average jukebox musical with every piece of music beautifully intertwined within the narrative including a stunning acappella rendition of ‘Days’ and a show stopping version of ‘Sunny Afternoon’ which combines a hark back to England’s 1966 World Cup victory (and could easily have been the finale!)
The production includes a stellar cast who not only provide various reincarnations of the story’s colourful characters but who also play a number of musical instruments throughout the piece (kudos to Andrew Gallo as Mick Avory for his immense drum solo!) Special mention must also go to Ryan O’Donnell as Ray Davies and Mark Newnham as his brother Dave-both flawless performances.
“Will they still be playing it in 30 years time?” asks lead singer Ray Davies, talking of his self penned title song. Well, it’s been over 50 years and I’m now evermore convinced that this ground breaking music will live on for a lot longer yet!
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
February 14th-18th 2017
Authors: Ray Davies music and lyrics, Joe Penhall book, based on an original story by Ray Davies
Director: Edward Hall
Design: Miriam Buether set and costume, Rick Fisher lighting, Matt McKenzie for Autograph sound
Musical Supervisor : Elliott Ware
Choreographer: Adam Cooper
Technical: Tom Nickson production manager, David Curl company stage manager, Deborah Andrews costume supervisor, Carole Hancock at Hum Studio wigs, Robyn Hardy, Hannah Sharp props supervisors, Suzanne Crowley, Gilly Poole casting for Hampstead and West End, Natalie Gallacher for Pippa Ailion casting for West End
Cast includes: Victoria Anderson, Nathanael Campbell, Tomm Coles, Deryn Edwards, Andrew Gallo, Richard Hurst, Sophie-Leigh Griffin, Mark Newnham, Ryan O’Donnell, Garmon Rhys, Joseph Richardson, Robert Took, Michael Warburton, Libby Watts, Lucy Wilkerson, Lisa Wright
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions with Tulchin Bartner Productions, Greg Ripley Duggan for Hampstead Theatre Productions, Tanya Link Productions, Just for Laughs Theatricals/Glass Half Full Productions, Rupert Gavin
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes (with a 15 minute interval)
Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently spoke to Newport born, writer, musician and West End star Christopher J Orton. Chris talked about training opportunities, his career to date, barriers in the arts and his new musical ‘My Land’s Shore.’
Hi Chris great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi Guy, great to meet you too. I was born and raised here in Wales. After finishing school I moved away for a while to study and work but now I’m back. When I left school I studied opera in Manchester and then musical theatre in London. After that I was working as a professional actor. I’m a musician too and a lot of the productions I have been involved in I have played violin, piano and guitar as well as acted and sung. I also do a lot of writing. I write plays, musicals, songs, novels. I have also set up a vocal group called The FlyBoys that I sing in and manage. We perform all over the world. I have semi-retired from acting now to concentrate on the various projects I have been putting off for years! I also, weirdly, invent and make board games.
You are from Newport and have worked on an amazing range of productions. Do you have any advice for any of our readers interested in following your career path?
My advice would be to get a thick skin. As thick as possible. And don’t become bitter. Anyone wanting to enter the competitive world of theatre will face more rejection than success. And it’s easy to become disheartened and embittered. You have to stay strong. And always have other things going on. Don’t sacrifice a social life for success and whenever you can, try to create your own work. Keep yourself motivated, learn an instrument or a new language, anything to help you achieve your goals.
When you are involved in a big West End musical what does your normal day usually entail?
It’s not particularly glamorous! After the excitement of rehearsals and opening night it starts to feel more like a job. Depending on where you live in London it can take a while to get into the centre of town so you are preparing to set off around 3pm. It’s easy to fall into the habit of getting up late because of the late finishes but if you can get out of that habit and get up early then the day is there to do whatever you wish with! I used to write music or paint or make my games. I have a reputation for not being able to relax and sit still so I’d be up to all-sorts! Once you are at the theatre you have a warm up with the rest of the cast and then the show. And then you’re running for the train so you can get home as quickly as possible!
Christopher playing Tom Jones
You have played the role of Tom Jones in Tom the musical I wonder if you can tell us some more about this production?
The production of TOM holds a very special place in my heart and my career. It was developed and produced by Theatr Na Nog, directed by the lovely Geinor Styles. It was an amazing piece of theatre. More a play with music than a musical though. The show concentrates on the early years of Tom Jones, before he was famous. It’s about the young Tom striving for success and how it affects his relationship with his wife, Linda. The music in the show was all played live by a very talented bunch of lads who were also amazing actors. It focused on his time with his band, The Senators. He used to cover numbers by Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis etc so it was incredibly exciting to perform live every night. It was like a rock concert! It was the hardest and best thing I have done in my performing career. It’s also the reason I don’t really act anymore…there aren’t any roles out there at the moment that excite me as much as that role did.
You are currently involved in a very exciting new musical called ‘My Land’s Shore’ can you please tell us more about his production?
My Land’s Shore is a musical I have written with Robert Gould. He has written the book and lyrics and I have written the music and lyrics. It’s fair to describe it as my life’s work. I started writing it 16 years ago. It tells the true story of Dic Penderyn and his involvement in the Merthyr riots of 1831. He became the first martyr for the Welsh working class and is a symbol of hope and rebellion against the establishment. It has been described as the Welsh Les Mis. At the moment it is in rehearsals for it’s world premiere in London. It is being produced by an off West End theatre company called All Star Productions. A lot of people have asked me why it isn’t being premiered in Wales. The sad answer is we tried for years to get funding and support in Wales but there just isn’t the support for a Welsh piece of theatre, about Wales, and written by two Welshmen!! Baffling! If anyone would like to come and see it in London it runs from Feb 7th – 26th at Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub in Walthamstow. More information is available at www.mylandsshoremusical.com.
You have a great deal of experience in musical theatre. Do you think this performance form still resonates for audiences and why?
I think musical theatre will always resonate with people. Music is a fantastic way into people’s hearts and sometimes words just aren’t enough. More and more people are being drawn towards it every year. And every year it becomes more and more accessible as genres evolve.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists?
I can only speak for myself and my own experience within this industry but I found a huge barrier was placed in front of us by the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. It is supposed to be a centre for the arts that caters for all audiences and nurtures new and emerging Welsh talent. Sadly, I have found it to be completely inaccessible and incredibly blinkered.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I would fund new talent, whether it be writers, composers, performers, choreographers, whoever and whatever. I would listen to ideas and explore them. It’s a sad state of affairs when the people holding the purse aren’t necessarily creatively minded. Just think of everything we are missing because the same people are getting the same chances over and over again. It’s a very closed shop at the moment. I would fund the opening up of that closed shop!
Thanks for your time Chris and good luck with My Land’s Shore.
This weekend Cardiff has had the luck of the Irish as Michael Flatley’s worldwide phenomenon ‘Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games’ has played in St David’s Hall. The tour is one of the biggest the UK has ever had and has currently been seen by 60 million people in 60 different countries on every continent. All of the stops are pulled out in this Irish Dancing Extravaganza with dancing that is simply mesmerising.
I have been looking forward to watching this show for a long time and being a tap dancer myself can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into this form of dancing. I knew from the opening sequence alone we would be in for a good night. As the first half of the show begins the audience are greeted with a projected Michael Flatley and a giant clock alluding to the opening of the show.
The cast are very well cast and all of the characters within the show work well as a dance unit. The perfectly balanced ensemble of male and female dancers help to give depth to the story and in the dance sequences when they are all in a line and coordinated it really is something to admire. Their collective talent is unbelievable and there are moments where your jaw is in your lap watching their feet move almost as too fast to comprehend. The main lead Lord of the Dance was played by James Keegan and the Dark Lord was played by Zoltan Papp.
The show seemed to have a variety show feel to it with all of the acts being very diverse. They all managed to hold attention of the audience due to their frequent costume changes and the cleaver projections that portrayed Ireland as an Idyllic place filled with Unicorns and rainbows. The plot follows a little Spirit with a magic flute who battles against evil to save Ireland from being taken over by evil cyborgs. Along the way the Spirit meets different dancers as well as a Black Swan like love triangle that threatens to turn the head of Ireland’s saviour, the Lord of the Dance himself. The show culminates with a big fight for the title of Lord of the Dance.
You can’t help but have a big smile on your face when the full ensemble cast fill the width of the stage at St David’s Hall and with their legs kicking and tapping in perfect sync. The show’s best section and what will always be their most iconic is the ‘Lord of the Dance’, and the skill of the cast is amazing in which they gave four Encores at the end of the show of that very dance which was met with a standing ovation from the whole audience at St David’s Hall.
If you’re a fan of this type of dancing and the Irish music and culture this show is without a doubt the show for you to attend next. It provides a 5-star evening of entertainment with lots of ups and downs within the story. In my opinion this show is something everyone should experience once in their lifetime as it will enthral you.
For more information about the tour of the Lord of the Dance please visit the official website to see where the tour will be heading next. http://www.lordofthedance.com/
La La Land is a movie that uses the same old tools from the classic musicals of old, like Singin in the Rain, Funny Face, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins, but is used by a man from modern times and sensibilities.
Damien Chezelle has an obvious passion for jazz music and about perusing dreams despite all the obstacles. Here, like his last movie Whiplash, he crafts a similar story where two people live in L.A. where dreams can come true, but not easily.
Our characters are Mia (Emma Stone), a young actress that is working at a coffee shop at the Warner Bros. lot but wants to be an actor. She auditions for many things but nothing. Then there is Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a musician that loves Jazz more than just about anything, worshiping the greats and hating having to simply play the mediocre tunes he’s given for his job. He wants to open his own jazz club where the classics and his own music will be played, in the same venue that was once a legendary jazz bar. But they both must face the reality of compromising in the real world and the sadness that maybe their either not good enough or nobody cares about what they want. Stone and Gosling work together splendidly, from dialog scenes that are as dynamic as Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday and the low-key but cute choreography. The characters are brilliant concepts and the actors make them realized.
The songs are composed in the same vein as the classic Hollywood/Broadway numbers but the singing never reaches that truly glass shattering volume. This is a more subdued musical style. Most of them aren’t meant for that, they’re more like little tunes you hum to yourself while walking home all alone. The most haunting of them all is the main song of the movie “City of Stars” the simple tune will hook itself deep in your mind and not let go.
Channeling the movies of old it uses lush, glowing colours for its environments and the characters costumes. This movie is expertly lit and colour coordinated to fit the characters and their character arcs. There is a scene (whether deliberate or not) that reminded me of another similar scene from Adolescence of Utena.
La la is a term for the sightly crazy or obscene. Which is certainly L.A. in a nutshell, it is these characters facing the world with what they want and it is this movie that channels the old classics but both sets it in modern times as well as selling it to the now young. But in order to pursue your goals you must put aside reality, even just the most little bit and delve into your dreams.
(4 / 5)
Conor Mitchell, associate artist at Sherman Theatre and fronting the Belfast Ensemble has enlightened us with his creation as writer, director and composer of the chilling play The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon.
The role of Catherine of Aragon is flawlessly performed by the award-winning actress Abigail McGibbon also part of the Belfast Ensemble creating the perfect duet between music, theatre and emotion. The play is a live concept album, each scene created resembles a live music track combined with performance; a powerful voice (without singing) and action! The way in which it was performed was beautiful.
What made this play so great? I felt as though I was inside the head of Catherine at times, a very tormented and religious woman grasping at straws when her reality as Queen is taken from her. The play takes us through her memories, through history, through war, the good times and the bad and of course the biggest divide in country, known to date.
When you walk into the theatre there is a strong smell and this sets the scene. The lighting, the costume and the make-up together with absolute discipline in role give Catherine a haggard, used and torn look about her with a modern twist, not something you would expect for our once Princess of Wales and Queen.
Mitchell’s absolute slay of music and scene setting was completely special and new for me. How often do you get to lie on the floor and watch an astounding actress bellow pain and abandonment whilst observing the composer, director and creator of such an art, almost dance with every touch of the piano, passionately stomping his direction to the violinists and leading us into deep historic heartache? Not often!
The music was intense, strong single cords and contemporary build ups. I especially enjoyed the scene where microphone techniques where used to full affect, almost like a horror movie. It was emotional and has had an effect my own story perspective. Have I made up my mind as to the real story of Catherine Aragon? No, not yet. Although, I do believe that the King was capable of anything and that she did seem very devoted, probably what sent her nuts in the end.
If you like history and appreciate magical contemporary music and art through theatre this is for you. It was absolutely… for me!
Get the Chance recently had the opportunity to run some free critical workshops as part of takepART 8 at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. takepART is aimed at the 0 to 18-years-old age group, but its open to parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who all get involved in workshops and craft sessions that take place throughout Venue Cymru.
Get the Chance was just one of the organisations running a series of free workshops during the weekend.
The Get the Chance staff had the opportunity to chat to some of the members of Young Critics North Wales who are supported by the venue. Young Critics North Wales is based at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. It is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and is the first scheme of its kind in North Wales.
The pop-up newspaper returned to Venue Cymru’s take pART arts festival where young people were given the chance to learn some of the skills of a journalist and news photographer. Under the guidance of Editor Joann Rae, Chief Photographer Paul Sampson and Chief Reporter Tim Moxley, young people were assigned a story to cover and photographs to capture from all of the exciting events at take pART! All the work below has been created by the young journalists and photographers of the Daily PlanART
It was a very welcome opportunity for Get the Chance to develop its critical network in North Wales. We thank the Arts Council of Wales for funding this opportunity.
With speckled references to the hits throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.
As we’re teased with references to the iconic You Really Got Me in the opening sequence there’s already a palpable sense of anticipation pulsing around the auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre as the cast of Sunny Afternoon prepare to take us on a 2½ hour musical journey through The Kinks rise to stardom. From the early days in North London; their debut on Top of the Pops; the infamous American tour; through to their triumphant comeback, Joe Penhall ingeniously weaves the hit songs from the 60s into the storytelling of one of the most influential bands of the era.
Our story begins in Muswell Hill, with performances by Ryan O’Donnell & Mark Newnham perfect characterisations of the often tense professional relationship between the rebellious Davies brothers, as they navigate the initial tensions to discovering the bands distinctive sound, the start of a journey which would shape a unique musical identity that would inspire generations. Throughout the evening O’Donnell, Newnham (a highlight performance), Gallo, Rhys and the supporting ensemble, blend effortlessly to recreate the iconic sound of the band, in what is a moving portrayal of both the professional and the personal lives of the band and their adjustment to the pressures of stardom. With references to the hits speckled throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.
Throughout the exploration of the soaring highs and the frustrating lows the band encounter, we join the cast in a celebration of how four working class musicians from North London changed the music scene for generations to come. Dead end street, weaved masterfully into Penhall’s narrative, particularly highlighting how the bands upbringing proved an ongoing source of inspiration for Ray’s writing with the majority of the works involving similar elements of social commentary, which inevitably played a large part in their then and ongoing appeal.
The staging enables the cast to create a certain intimacy during acoustic interludes including This Time Tomorrow and Thank you for the Days, contrasted with the gig feel of the iconic All Day and All of the Night & roof raising end sequence, and quirks of the choreography and use of props lend themselves especially well to the playfulness of numbers such as Dedicated Follower of Fashion.
The universal appeal of Sunny Afternoon makes it a must-see irrespective of whether you know the band or the songs. If you know The Kinks you’ll love it, if you don’t know the Kinks you’ll love it. A feel good musical and a moving portrayal to one of the defining bands of the 60s who will continue to inspire generations to come.
Ray Davies – Ryan O’Donnell
Dave Davies – Mark Newnham
Mick Avory – Andrew Gallo
Pete Quaife – Garmon Rhys
Music & Lyrics – Ray Davies
Book – Joe Penhall
Original Story – Ray Davies
Director – Edward Hall
Designer – Miriam Buether
Choreographer – Adam Cooper
Lighting – Rick Fisher
Sound – Matt Mckenzie
Musical Supervisor – Elliot Ware
So it’s January, everyone is detoxing, skint after Christmas and bruised after Brexit, Trump and a string of celebrity deaths in 2016. I can hand on heart say that if you are suffering from SAD or have lost all hope for the year ahead, you need to find the sun behind those clouds and get your butt down to WMC pronto to see ‘Sunny Afternoon’, the touring production running until Saturday 21st, before it shuttles off elsewhere.
Even if you are not a fan of The Kinks or a fan of musicals featuring the back catalogue of certain bands (let’s not even mention ‘Viva Forever’ here!), you will be hard pressed to find a more inclusive and entertaining musical in 2017.
A real kick in the 60s!
The soundtrack to your Mam and Dad’s wild years, the show focuses on four working class lads riding the crest of the wave of the ‘British invasion’ in the 60s – the meteoric highs and the crushing lows. Natalie Gallacher/Pippa Ailion’s casting of Ryan O’Donnell and Mark Newnham as brothers Ray and Dave is a triumph – the pair have sensational synergy and energetic friction on stage and O’Donnell’s sweet vulnerability shines through his entire performance.
Newnham is unmissable as outrageous rebel Dave, everything from his swagger, his cockney banter and his swinging from the chandelier in a pink dress had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
The most famous of the Kinks’ songs were cleverly deconstructed and re-packaged, allowing us to delve further into the back story to possibly the most influential riffs and tunes ever written. The scene where Ray and Dave are trying to perfect the edgy baseline to their hit song ‘You really got me’ is pure magic, reverberating through your chest and rattling around your rib cage.
There are some delicious comic lines, especially from the plummy stockbrokers-turned-agents Robert Wace and Grenville Collins, who groomed the four for stardom, even coming up with their name, with the help of another agent Larry Page. I couldn’t help laughing out loud when one of them says in a voice that may remind you of certain Harry Enfield characters: ‘Now…let’s talk about it over a nice plate of kippers’.
You’ll laugh when Ray’s Dad (played by Robert Took) complains about ‘wearing out shoe leather’, about the house prices in Muswell Hill (£3,500 – with a £500 deposit!)…and you wonder what the hell Mr Davies would make of the prices in Muswell Hill these days. This is nostalgic but not cloying, sentimental but not syrupy.
There are multiple sharp observations and throwaway comments referencing other 60s bands and celebrities. When the managers find Ray in a depression in bed with Rasa his wife, one of them quips: ‘You wouldn’t find John Lennon lounging around in bed with his wife!’. Later on, when the band are on tour in America and are uneasy about the guns and violence there, their manager assures them ‘You’re a pop star! You’re not important enough to shoot!’.
A blueprint for future musical trends
The real pleasure for those not born in the 60s is the discovery of music you didn’t know existed – for my parents’ generation, it’s all familiar territory. But if you only know a handful of the old (and most famous) of songs by the Kinks, you get to unwrap a new gift.
Aided by the clever studio/house/concert hall design of the stage by Miriam Bluether and the choreography by Adam Cooper, watching ‘Sunny Afternoon’ will transport you back to the excitement, the optimism and the feeling of being on the cusp of something completely original and unchartered.
From the time THAT guitar riff kicks in, you understand exactly what it is your Mum has been harping on about all these years. It’s hard to imagine how utterly new, how extraordinary this must have felt for teenagers in the 60s, to go from stale crooners in suits to long haired rebels with rock guitars.
The Kinks were the masters of social commentary which would foreshadow the later emergence of musicians and bands of my generation: the blueprint for American garage and rock bands like grungy Nirvana in the 80s and the Britpop boom in the 90s. I hadn’t realised it until last night but ‘A well respected man’ was clearly influential for Damon Albarn and his crew with Blur’s hit ‘Country House’.
Delightfully rebellious, clever and heartfelt
Credit must be given to the wonderful pacing, characterisation and story for the musical by Ray Davies himself. It’s clearly a personal and heartfelt snapshot of an incredible moment in history. The result is rebellious, clever and heartfelt and I witnessed something I hadn’t yet seen at the Wales Millennium Centre: an entire audience on their feet, no awkward seat lurkers in sight. Inhibitions were gone and for a moment I felt like we were watching the real Kinks. I was genuinely sad to leave the theatre and re-emerge into 2017.
My Mum, who had accompanied me (and by the end was a bawling mess) had enjoyed every last morsel of the show. I asked her why she was crying, she said: ’I remember it – I remember it all!’. If only to see what your parents saw, feel how they felt and see how bloody awesome the fashion and sounds of the sixties actually were, this is an absolute treat of a show.
Type of show: Theatre
Title: Sunny Afternoon
Venue: Wales Millennium Centre
Dates: 17 – 21 Dec (Touring show)
Directed by: Edward Hall
Music, Lyrics, Original Story: Ray Davies
Choreographer: Adam Cooper
Sound: Matt McKenzie
Musical Director: Barney Ashworth
Ryan O’Donnell (Ray Davies)
Mark Newnham (Dave Davies)
Richard Hurst (Larry)
Tomm Coles (Grenville Collins)
Joseph Richardson (Robert Wace)
Lisa Wright (Rasa)
Garmon Rhys (Pete Quaife)
Running time: Approx 3 hours (with interval)
Produced by: Sonia Friedman Productions and Ambassador Theatre Group
Interested in theatre, dance, visual art, gigs, poetry, film and more?
Want to access a free workshop which will give you an insight into the role of a critic?
Then, this is for you!
You will take part in a 1 hour workshop with Guy O’Donnell Director of online magazine website Get the Chance https://getthechance.wales
During the workshop you will be given an insight into the role of the arts critic. You will be given instruction on how to create a review and upload your response online. Participants will look at blogging, video, social media and much more! All workshop participants will get the opportunity for their reviews to feature on the Get the Chance website.
If you have one please bring a laptop, tablet and/or smartphone.
Workshops are on Saturday the 14th at 11.30 and 1.45 pm at Venue Cymru as part of Take Part 2017