The Mormons have finally made their journey all the way from Utah and have landed at the Wales Millennium Centre to celebrate their first touring musical in the Donald Gordon auditorium. They bring with them their signature twisted comedy, super catchy musical numbers and (surprisingly) an unreal amount of camp fun! What is probably most important to keep in mind before deciding to watch the show is that it comes from the satirical minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who created South Park the tv series), and Bobby Lopez (who is one of the key writers of Avenue Q the puppet musical) and so this is not a musical for the faint of heart or anyone who is easily offended. There is constant bad language, sexual references and the jokes are usually based on outdated stereotypes who to a modern audience could be teetering on the offensive. It is extremely crude the entire way through and so is clearly meant for a more mature audience. This musical is very clearly a comedy which is shown in the opening moments of the show where all of the Mormons (who are devout members of the church) are all extremely flamboyant and camp! The choreographer Casey Nicholaw and their team had carefully crafted the dance routines in this musical to exaggerate the more effeminate physicality of every performer which let the audience know from the opening number that this was all supposed to be in jest and not an educational show (although their are a few moments where you will learn some new this about this religion) with the character Elder McKinley playing upon this throughout the show (but more on that later!)
The show is based on the very real moment in a Mormon where they are sent out of their mission trips to try and bring new people into the faith. It follows a shining star in the Mormon faith Elder Price, played by extremely talented Robert Colvin, as he is paired with the much more chaotic Elder Cunningham, played by the brilliant Conner Pierson, who are randomly paired together to spend the next two years in Africa specifically Uganda. The conversion trip is met by a lot of backlash for the locals as they have experienced numerous people coming over to try and promote Christianity but leaving the locals in the exact conditions they found them in. I thought that the casting of Rober Colvin as the up and coming leader of the faith Elder Price was fantastic! His physicality, vocals and facial expressions all helped to add to the preppy all-American character and purposefully reduced the amount of sympathy the audience have for the character and instead focuses this onto Elder Cunningham. This character goes through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the show from when he begins to lose faith in the religion he has been following since a young age, to the anger/frustration at being paired with his eccentric mission partner, to the moments where he is overflowing with arrogance. All these moments were performed beautifully by Robert and really took the audience of a journey with the feelings towards this at times selfish character. I thought that “I Believe” was a highlight for me as Robert seems to excel in and is more confident during the higher sections of his vocal range. This song was structured as an almost detailed list of what Mormons should believe but with sprinkles of comedy throughout.
Despite all this, however, the highlight in this production would have to be Elder Cunningham who was played by the wonderful Connor Peirson. This was an extremely comical role that very much starts off as the punch line of many jokes but by the end because of a very strong and powerful leader. Connor managed to captures the more timid and more energetic moments in the show flawlessly! I thought that his rendition of “Man Up” was incredibly fun and energetic which was the perfect way to end act one. This was a theatrical spectacle with Conner flying across the stage on a moving platform, creating his own magnificent stage lighting and dancing across the stage in the most over-the-top way I have ever seen. Every comedic moment within the song was performed excellently with the audience in hysterics throughout the whole number. Both Elder Price and Cunningham contrasting personalities clashed beautifully together so much so that it made sense why they got on so well by the end of the show. The duet of “you and me (but mostly me)” really showcased the more arrogant side of the former and the side-kick energy and sympathy required for the latter! Cunningham forms a relationship with Nabulungi (played by the incredible Aviva Tulley) who lives in Uganda with her father. These two perform the hilarious “Baptise me” which contains wonderfully awkward sexual energy the audience seemed to eat up every second of it! However, the highlight performance of this character was the song “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” which was flawlessly sung by the clearly very talented vocalist.
I mentioned early about how Elder McKinley, who was played by the incredibly entertaining Jordan Lee Davies, really leaned into the more camp elements of the musical. In fact, this is the only character that openly talks about being, I suppose you would call it, an ‘ex-gay’ member of the church. However, this character showcase a lot of ‘fruity’ behaviour which does make the audience wonder if the “turn it off” method actually works. Jordan performed this role with all the fun and energy it deserved and stay in character the entire time even stealing focus when they weren’t even speaking. McKinley alongside his wonderful gaggle of dancing moments were brilliant fun throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed “Turn it off” especially the magical costume change and tap number that occurred about halfway through the number!
Overall this was a very energetic, entertaining and fun musical that was crammed full of catchy musical numbers. If you have a darker sense of humour then I would strongly recommend this show for you but if you are even the slightest bit easily offend it’s probably not one for you. The audience were on hysterics throughout the majority of the show which made for a very relaxed environment. I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars!
Trigger warnings for the show: strong language, violence, and homophobic and transphobic slurs.
Before there was RuPaul, there was Priscilla – who, like Divine and Crystal LaBeija before her, brought drag to mainstream attention. The 1994 movie, starring Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp, won an Oscar for its spectacular costume design and introduced a new generation to a thrilling world of glitz and glamour, a world to which the stage musical eagerly wants us to return after being left so long in the COVID wilderness. Racy, rowdy and rambunctious, Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a riotously fun time that reminds you exactly why live theatre is irreplaceable and invaluable.
It’s thrilling to be back in the New Theatre after so much time away, and the Priscilla UK Tour is the perfect show to welcome us back through its doors. The show centres on three drag queens, two cis men and a trans woman, who journey across the Australian Outback on the titular tour bus. Tick/Mitzi Mitosis (Edwin Ray) persuades two close friends – egocentric ingénue Adam/Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Nick Hayes) and drag doyenne Bernadette (Michael Western) – to perform their act at a casino in remote Alice Springs, where Tick will have the opportunity to reconcile with his estranged wife and son. Along the way there are sequins, setbacks, and singalong disco classics that will have you dancing (COVID-safe) in the aisles. Fun, filthy and fabulous – Priscilla puts the ‘extra’ in ‘extraordinary’!
Directed by Ian Talbot and produced by Mark Houcher and Jason Donovan (who originated the role of Tick on the West End), the show is a jukebox musical brimming with camp classics from ‘Boogie Wonderland’ to ‘Go West’ to ‘Hot Stuff’. Every musical number is joyous and unique, and songs are beautifully woven throughout (like Dionne Warwick’s ‘I Say a Little Prayer’, which recurs in its most poignant moments). While the humour might feel dated at times, the songs never do. Charles Cusick-Smith’s sublime costumes do justice to the Oscar-winning originals while bringing a new flair and Tom Jackson-Greaves’ excellent choreography lights a kinetic spark that burns throughout the show – they, along with the exceptional live band (directed by Richard Atkinson), ensure that the production is a feast for the eyes and ears.
The level of talent on display is staggering. Edwin Ray brilliantly anchors the ensemble as a man trying to marshal all the facets of his identity, while Western’s Bernadette exudes Old Hollywood grace and glamour and Hayes’ Felicia bags all the best songs, including a truly show-stopping entrance number – you’ll know it when you see it. I have never seen a happier ensemble: from the main trio to the Three Divas (Claudia Kariuki, Aiesha Pease and Rosie Glossop) to the performers dressed variously as giant cupcakes, dancing paintbrushes and plaid-clad delinquents, the cast’s unadulterated joy at being back in action was palpable.
While the zingers sizzle and the sequins glitter, Priscilla doesn’t gloss over the real-life hatred and violence inflicted on the LGBTQ+ community. Bernadette not only faces transphobic bullying from bigoted straight people but from Adam, who repeatedly deadnames and misgenders her. Adam himself is the victim of an attempted assault, and even apparent allies can turn out to be fair-weather friends when the sun rises. Though the central trio often bicker and Priscilla often breaks down, they stick together and they neither give up nor turn back, proving that true allies are there even after the music stops and the engine fails.
Priscilla concludes that, no matter how long and winding the road, your family will always be waiting to welcome you home at the end of it – and that true family are the ones who stay by your side no matter how bumpy the ride. Family are the people who climb mountains with you, both literal and figurative; they are the people who help you follow your dreams. When the audience rose, as one, for a much-deserved standing ovation, it felt like the best kind of dream: the one that comes true.
After endless months of lockdowns, Zoom hangouts and laughable attempts to bake banana bread, we’re all dusting off our boots and getting our sequins out of storage as we take a step back into ‘ordinary’ life following an extraordinary year and a half. But Priscilla Queen of the Desert is here to put the ‘extra’ in ‘extraordinary’!
The UK Tour is the inaugural event of the New Theatre’s much-anticipated reopening, and there truly couldn’t be a better show to welcome us back. Based on the Oscar-winning 1994 filmwhich starred Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp, Priscilla Queen of the Desert centres on three friends as they journey through the Australian outback in the titular tour bus. Produced by Mark Goucher and West End icon Jason Donovan (in his producing debut), the show stars Miles Western as Bernadette, Nick Hayes as Adam/Felicia, Edwin Ray as Tick/Mitzi, who lead an amazing ensemble through such classic tunes as ‘It’s Raining Men’, ‘Hot Stuff’, and ‘I Will Survive’ and many more.
After so much uncertainty for so long, it’s amazing to be seeing a show which proclaims to be ‘pure joy guaranteed’ – and I for one can’t wait to hitch a ride.
If you are a millennial, I guarantee you watched Amelie the film when you were a teenager and fell in love with its weirdness, quirkiness and general artistic cinematography.
I feel that it was a cult film for us all, that we remember and hold a special place in our hearts. Which is why when I heard it had been turned into a musical, I was dubious on what they had done.
But boy was I wrong.
If you haven’t seen Amelie, it is about this girl who is sheltered from the World as she grows up. When she reaches adulthood, she decides to move away but still shies away from everyone, not going out or engaging. When one day, she bumps into the love of her life and everything changes. She goes on a journey to make people happy and in the process, coming out of her shell to grab love and hold onto it.
In true Amelie style, the whole production – set, lighting, costuming has this mellow tinge reminiscent of the 70’s. Dark blues, browns, yellows, reds all light up the stage, giving it that chic, French feel that the film holds so dear.
It also does not shy away from how quirky and original the original narrative is. Amelie is a strange girl and so is her story, and so no memorial points that I remember from the film are missed, bringing them in in poignant or hilarious ways, and integrating them into the songs. I feared that what I loved most about the film would be missing, but it wasn’t and was elaborated on with gumption.
The music was also reminiscent of the atmosphere created – all those on stage played a live instrument, and it gave that french, grungy, Paris street feel that you associate with the city; the chic, unusual, hippy feeling – the too cool for school feeling. It balanced the narrative well, and made me honestly forget that this was a musical. Usually, expecting something perhaps a little tongue and cheek, or satirical, this was complimentary and really reflected the story and its aesthetic.
The performers were also brilliant. Never missing a beat, they were so perfect, moving from scene to scene with effortless grace, sometimes it was easy to forget they were real bodies in front of you and not an edited film.
Amelie The Musical is everything you want it to be and more. For those millennials who grew up with this firmly in their teenage years, it brings the film and story to life, with all the original elements and enhances it before your eyes.
The best critic for a children’s show, are the children themselves. I was lucky enough to take my 3 year old nephew, an avid reader and Julia Donaldson fan, to see What The Ladybird Heard at the West End located, Palace Theatre.
Walking up to the theatre, the original book in his bag, he pointed out the poster on the outside in complete excitement. A rainbow ballooned archway was set up for the queue and ticket check, and straight into the auditorium, the stage was set out already ready for our viewing. His eyes were wide and so was his mouth in awe.
What The Ladybird Heard is a wonderful show about a farm yard with an array of the usual animals, including a prize cow. Two local thieves devise a plan to steal the prize cow, but their plan is foiled when the, usually silence, Ladybird hears their plan and involves the animals to scupper their attempt at stealing the cow.
My nephew has read the book many times, but I, myself, had no idea the premise of this production. As an adult, I loved the concept – it was easy to follow, it was fun and full of mischief and learning opportunities for children. The production takes the book and changes some of the written to a song, adds other songs, with dance and jaunty movements across the stage. This is fun and you find yourself often dancing along.
The Ladybird, Cats and prize Cow are already there and available, but a wonderful sequence occurs when the farm hands use bits and pieces on the farm to create the other animals for the tale. This is so fun when you try to guess what they are developing, what noise the animal may make, and this makes it full of magic and curiosity.
There are plenty of opportunities for audience engagement, with the encouragement for children to sing, to make the animals noises, to boo and hiss and cheer. As for my nephew, he stared in awe the entire time, my sister informing me that this means he is really enjoying it – a brilliant sign. Even offering him a drink and snacks throughout meant putting it in his eyeline because nothing else could take him away from the stage.
The set and props are so well thought out, with great attention to details. The paper flowers grow up the wall when they are watered, the sun and moon come up and down in the background, while most of the animals are moved by the performers, you soon forget this as they are so cute to look at and so funny when they get involved.
The performers themselves are so talented – at no point did they corpse or lose focus, when at times it could have been easy to do so with the silly, funny additions made. Along with recorded music, the performers add music and soundscapes using live instruments which I always think is a great thing to add to a children’s show, giving them a chance to see something they may have never seen or heard. They also sing live, with great voices and well thought out harmonies, the songs themselves are easy to pick up and after a sentence or two, you find yourself singing along yourself.
What The Ladybird Heard is perfection. It is funny, it is colourful, witty and well paced. As an adult, I found myself encapsulated, singing along, and enjoying every aspect, even guessing what would happen next. My nephew, was stunned into silence and when it finished, could not stop talking about what he saw on stage. It is the perfect production to watch with theatres opening up and to get children into theatre.
After 1 year of ups and downs in our industry, I cannot tell you how excited I was about tonight.
The brief period that we returned to Theatre near the end of last year felt like part of me returned but to be shut down again was hard for everyone. Suddenly, we are working our ways back and gosh, doesn’t it feel good.
What better way to celebrate our return than with The Producers (No, Not That One) at the Pleasance Theatre. With all proceeds going to the #TheatreArtistsFund, we were entertained with a cabaret style show full of talent, of fun and of joy while supporting those who have had a really difficult year.
While many, bar a couple of the performers, were new to me, we all laughed, we all felt comfortable and in tune with one another and it felt like a family enjoying a common love. To be back in a fringe venue felt like a homecoming amongst friends.
The Producers was as it says on the tin: A culmination of some of London’s finest Theatre Producers showcasing what else they can do. Often, we are all known in this industry as jack of all trades: giving our hand to a number of different elements (myself included) and often this is from starting with our love of the Theatre, perhaps to be performers and finding that our passion and talent in also in many other elements.
We were treated to wall shaking singing, some hilarious comedy, a circus routine, wonderful piano and a Host full of love and laughter. Every single person was full of talent and showcased that everyone from in the background to the forefront are full of talent and skills.
I could not imagine more of a perfect show to come back to, with our World returning somewhat back to how it was , than to bring some of the backbone of our industry and celebrate their talent as Producers but as performers.
Get ready for a good night out in your living room with Boogie On Up, a series of digital drag performances by Bonnie & the Bonnettes. The exuberant musical trio, made of Hattie Eason, Cameron Sharp, and Rebecca Glendenning, wants to inject fun into our lockdown lives with sequins-embroidered masks and a repertoire full of classic hits, feel-good ‘gay anthems’, some rock, some pop, and a new song by Newcastle-based artist MXYM.
Last year, Bonnie & the Bonnettes succeeded in fusing moving theatre with comedy and music with And She (see review). The pandemic made them want to go back to drag, which they did when they started off, and give the audience a “cracking night out,” as Hattie put it.
Rebecca said: “We wanted to offer our audience something to keep them going and give them a similar feeling to that of when they come to see us live.”
The performances are geared to make people sing and dance in their homes. That’s why the trio went back to their origin of drag performance.
Cameron said: “Drag is something we’ve always done and that we always like to do. I think that’s what people need right now, some relief from tension.” Hattie adds that she was feeling a little nostalgic about being in a theatre and “the rush of excitement, which the audience also feels. It’s the feel of a goodnight out.”
Cameron also tells me: “For us it’s important to give people that sense of community and togetherness. Drag comes from the Queer community. That community now with lockdown can’t happen. So this is our little way of making that community visible and present in people’s lives.”
Hattie said: it’s a way for us to reach people through the universal language of music. I remember a lady coming to me after a show and telling me of an amazing and euphoric night out of when she was a teenager. That’s why we have included 1980s songs. I’d like the songs to bring back great memories for people.’
Rebecca said: ‘in our drag performance we can go places that we might not get to otherwise. We can do some hilarious comedy that it’s just there to make people laugh. You can do it at a very high standard. The whole point is to have an absolute scream!’
Without the energy of a live audience, Rebecca, Hattie, and Cameron encouraged one another during recording and fill the performance with so much energy to get across to the audience. They’d like to see people dancing and singing and posting their videos online with the hashtag #boogieonup
In the article below members of the Get the Chance team share why the work of Get the Chance is important to them and their lives.
You can make a donation to support the work of Get the Chance here
Guy O’Donnell, Volunteer Director
Hi my name is Guy O’Donnell and I am the director of Get the Chance. In this short article our team share with you how vital Get the Chance is to them and their lives. If you can support our work, please donate at the link above.
Get the Chance is a social enterprise based in South Wales. We are Wales based with an international outlook. We work to create opportunities for a diverse range of people, to experience and respond to sport, art, culture and live events. We use our online magazine website as a platform to showcase our members activities. We provide a fantastic opportunity to develop cultural critical voices and ensure that people from certain groups of society, people that are often forgotten or unheard, are given a platform to share, review and discuss their lives and critique work in a public platform.
Not only have we supported conversations about the arts and culture in Wales, but we’ve also broken-down barriers and asked questions about who actually gets to critique art. It is this democratisation of criticism that is crucial to a healthy and thriving artistic community that listens to everyone. Thank you.
Gemma Treharne-Foose, Volunteer Director and Critic.
Hi, my name is Gemma Treharne-Foose. I’m a board member and volunteer with Get the Chance. We’re a community of volunteers, activists and enthusiasts dedicated to expanding the reach of arts, culture and sports in Wales. At Get the Chance, we exist to create a space and a platform for people to participate, engage in and respond to theatre, arts and culture. In particular, we help people who are perhaps traditionally hard to reach and support them to access and experience these spaces.
Part of the work we do with our community is to encourage and support them to build up their skills, responding to, vlogging about, and writing about their experiences accessing arts, theatre and culture, and also helping them access particular schemes and initiatives with partner organisations.
At the moment the arts and live event industries in Wales are hurting and they’re struggling right now as they try to access support and gain audiences in these uncertain times. I believe this is an arts emergency and I want part of my work with Get the Chance to support the industry to get back on its feet again and to get audiences enjoying live events and theatre again.
If you also want to support and highlight Welsh theatre, arts and culture then I’d encourage you to get involved. Let’s shine a light on the amazing work happening right now in Wales. The show must go on!
Barbara Michaels, Volunteer Critic.
As one of the most senior reviewers who has known Guy O’Donnell for many years, I can’t stress enough how important it is that Get the Chance continues to support the youngsters who want to become involved in the arts, many of them with the aim of a career in the media.
During the time over the years I’ve been reviewing, I’ve been really impressed by the young people who are coming up into the ranks, who have become very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about their involvement with theatre. Unless we get some financial support, it’s going to be so difficult to continue with an organisation like Get the Chance which does so much good, giving opportunities to young people who wouldn’t have them.
With the cost of seeing the performances of opera and ballet and theatre rising, and inevitably it is going to rise more, it is absolutely vital that we have some support both financially and in all aspects of an organisation like Get the Chance. Thank you.
Kevin B Johnson, Volunteer Critic
Hi my name is Kevin, I work in an office, I like long walks on sunny beaches and I’m Sagittarius. Apart from that, I’m a member of Get the Chance because I like seeing new shows, new films and sharing them with other people, bringing my discoveries to others and getting a chance to view them. I like to highlight what I love about the shows that I’ve seen.
Becky Johnson, Volunteer Critic
Hi my name is Becky Johnson and I’m a member of Get the Chance. I’m actually a freelance dance artist based in Cardiff and I’m a member of Get the Chance alongside that. So with my practice I tend to create work, I tend to perform and I tend to teach, and a big part of me being an artist is making sure that I can see as much work as possible and then also understand the wider perspectives, on not only dance but also the arts in general and the things that are going on in our current climate and our local area.
So with having Get the Chance alongside of it, it allows me to access these different things and to get opportunities to see these, which I wouldn’t necessarily financially be able to do otherwise. Also, it allows me to have that time dedicated to just look at these things analytically and also just to really try and understand what is going on in what I’m watching and what I’m seeing, rather than just watching it and acknowledging what’s happening. Writing with Get the Chance gives me an opportunity to use my voice to promote the things that I really care about and things I’m passionate about, the things I think need to be highlighted, whether that’s something that’s problematic that I see in a show or something that I think’s wonderful that needs to be shown more of and we need to see more of.
Another opportunity that I’ve had recently which has been amazing is the opportunity to interview people that I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to and to be able to give them a voice to speak about their platform and what they’re doing. This is really important to me as a lot of these issues are very important and very close to home and I think it’s something that without this platform I wouldn’t be able to do.
I’ve always loved writing, it’s something that I did always want to pursue but by being a member of Get the Chance I’ve been able to continue my writing in a way that’s still linked with my practice. It means that I can find the balance of both of these feeding each other. I’m really grateful for having this opportunity.
Leslie R Herman, Volunteer Critic
Get the Chance has been one of the ways I’ve been able to maintain a connection to the arts and culture in Wales. I’m writing this message from New York City. It is mid-August 2020. I’ve been unable to get back to Wales due to the Covid pandemic and the global lockdown. Not only am I really missing Wales, I’m missing connection, to people, to places and to the arts and culture that I’ve grown to love and live for – arts and culture that have helped me thrive throughout my life.
At the moment it really feels like we’re all of us spinning in our own orbits and cyberspace is our most vital tool but if that’s all we’ve got, I’m afraid it’s way too nebulous for me. I need to feel more grounded.
Get the Chance really has given me the opportunity to get grounded and to connect to people, to the arts, to culture. It’s given me the opportunity to mentor young people and it’s given me the opportunity to extend and rebuild my own career. What’s marvellous about get the chance is its open and flexible approach to giving people a chance to connect to culture. Why don’t you give Get the Chance a chance?
Beth Armstrong, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name’s Beth. I’m 24, and I’m from Wrexham, North Wales, and I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher. I’m a member of Get the Chance because it allows me to watch a great range of theatre performances which I wouldn’t normally get to see due to financial reasons, and also allows me to see a really diverse range of different kinds of theatre which I think is great for expanding my knowledge and experience of theatre in general.
Having my work published online is a great opportunity for me because it allows me to have a wide audience for my writing, and it also allows me to engage with other reviewers and read their work as well, so it’s a really fantastic opportunity.
Samuel Longville, Volunteer Critic
When I left university, Get the Chance was a really amazing, creative outlet for me. I was able to see so much theatre for free which would have been really difficult at the time, having left university as a not very well-off student. I was working a quite tedious nine-to-five job at the time so Get the Chance really served as that kind of creative outlet for me, allowing me to see as much theatre as possible, and not only to see it but to think about it critically and write reviews about it. So it really let me utilise the things I’d learned on my drama course at university.
I’m soon to start an MA in Arts Management at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and I think, without Get the Chance, my enthusiasm possibly could have wavered over the past year, and I still may be stuck doing the same nine-to-five job that I was previously doing. So I really can’t thank Guy and Get the Chance enough for all the opportunities they gave me over the past year.
Helen Joy, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Helen Joy, and I’m here to talk a little bit about my experiences with Guy O’Donnell and his extraordinary Get the Chance. I joined Get the Chance as a 3rd Act Critic when it started, which is a couple of years ago now, and I was a little less grey(!), and it has given me the most extraordinary opportunities that I would not have had the opportunity to take otherwise. For example, I was able to go to the Opera regularly, something I never thought I’d be able to do or that I would enjoy. I’ve been a keen follower of modern dance – ditto, never thought I’d do that – and it’s also given me the chance to really think about how I evaluate things.
So, for example, much more recently, I was given the chance to interview Marvin Thompson. I think this gave me one of the biggest challenges I’ve had for a long time. He, and the experience of planning and conducting an interview, and recording it visually and hourly on Zoom, made me really think about, not just how I wanted to react to him and to his work, but how I felt about it.
Often, I fall into a particular category: of the classic middle-aged, white, educated woman, where the opportunities are already ours, and we’re very lucky with that, but we’re also quite a silent group. People don’t really want to hear what we’ve got to say, which is why we tend to shout it from the rooftops I think; or why, equally, we disappear into the aisles of supermarket. This has given me and my colleagues tremendous opportunities to re-find our voices and to share them, to listen to what other generations have to say. It’s been a really important experience for me. Long may it continue. Thank you!
Barbara Hughes-Moore, Volunteer Critic.
My name is Barbara Hughes-Moore, and I recently completed my Doctorate in Law and Literature at Cardiff School of Law and Politics on Gothic Fiction and Criminal Law. So by day, I’m a scholar, a reviews editor, and a research assistant; and by night, I write longer retrospective pieces on film and television through a gothic and criminal lens on my personal blog.
I’m a member of Get the Chance because its mission is all about increasing the visibility of, and accessibility to, the arts for everyone. Since becoming a member, I have attended and reviewed numerous theatre productions at the Sherman Theatre, the New Theatre, and Chapter Arts Centre. I’ve been a featured speaker on the Sherman Theatre’s post-show panels. And, more recently, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing director Alison Hargreaves on her short film Camelot for the Uncertain Kingdom Anthology. Most importantly of all, Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity, and the confidence to use it.
Gareth Williams, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Gareth. I am 29 years old and I live in North East Wales, and I’ve been asked to say why I’m a member of Get the Chance, and I want to answer by slightly rephrasing the question in order to say what Get the Chance means to me. And first of all, it means having the opportunity to respond to the arts in Wales; to contribute to the discussion around arts and culture in Wales; and to engage with various art forms.
To that end, it is an opportunity to support and promote artists and organisations, particularly those that I’m passionate about. So for me, that looks like theatre, particularly the work of Theatr Clwyd in Mold; music – I’m a fan of country music, and it’s great to be able to showcase Welsh country music talent on the Get the Chance website – and TV drama. Welsh TV drama is going through a bit of a golden age at the moment, and it’s great to be able to be a part of that as somebody who critically reviews these shows as a writer.
I’ve always been much better at writing than speaking. I’ve never been very good at expressing an opinion though because of low self-esteem and confidence. But being a member of Get the Chance has given me an opportunity to express an opinion. It’s increased my self-esteem and my confidence to speak about how I feel about the things that I see and watch and listen to and engage with. And I think, for me, that is the most important thing about being a member of Get the Chance: that opportunity to express an opinion which, a couple of years ago, I would not have had the confidence to do.
Sian Thomas, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Sian. The main reason I joined Get the Chance is because I love reading and I’ve always loved reading, and I really like having a definitive place where I can put down my thoughts on any piece of media and see people respond in so many different ways, and even the authors of the books that I’ve reviewed responding in so many different ways as well. It’s really lovely to have that kind of freedom of expression and I really value being a member.
Amina Elmi, Volunteer Critic
I am a member of Get the Chance because it gives me a platform where I can speak my mind . It allows me to give my opinion and being able to do so enables me to explore the media, the news and whatever preferred genre or medium of entertainment I want.
When it was introduced to me I was into writing and that has helped shape what dreams and ideals I have while also keeping my writing skills at a solid, good level. I am fortunate to be a part of Get The Chance because it has given me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.
Hannah Goslin, Volunteer Critic
I am a member of Get the Chance because theatre and the arts is what I eat, live and breath. To be able to connect with fellow performers, practitioners, critics and journalists is a wonderful chance to learn, be inspired and to network.
Take me back to the days when we were never alone – well, let’s see, it was the month of March when creativity rocked the Arts Factory in Ferndale and we were altogether. The scene had been set in 2019 when the forward looking company Avant Cymru introduced a MaDCaff evening event to The Factory in Porth as part of the FestYPorth celebrations. It sparked an idea for such an event to be held in the Rhondda Fach. Proposals for a venue were put forward and the nucleus began to evolve as the Arts Factory (the Trerhondda Chapel Arts Centre in Ferndale) took up the baton for it to be staged as a Community activity to raise funds for Mental Health.
A MaDCaff event is an experience which is encompassed in its very title
Music Dance and a Café
It is an open mic where people can perform or be entertained, pressure free with a quiet place to talk if required. With DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) and the Arts Factory volunteers, the evening became a cornucopia of colour as musicians assembled their electrical equipment and sound tested their instruments, dancers waited in anticipation of opening the event, whilst people bought Raffle Tickets on their arrival, sourced the Refreshment stand and marvelled at the artwork that had been kindly donated by local artist Carole Kratzke for the Art Auction.
The young dancers of Avant Cymru, coming from their recent performance at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff, blew caution to the wind with their energetic and exhilarating movements, incredibly intricate and jaw dropping showing the skills that they had been taught by Jamie Berry, a company Director of Avant Cymru, who, in January 2020 won the deserved accolade of Wales Creative Tutor of the Year bringing his distinctive talent to develop the health and wellbeing, through dance, to the Valleys.
Gaudy Orde announced their arrival with their usual toe tapping eclectic music with Jeff Japers (aka Andrew Powell) on the ukulele, keyboard and main vocals; Tall Joy (aka Joy Garfitt), Helen Spoons (aka Helen Probyn-Williams); James Parr – Superstar; Barry Sidings (aka Alex Coxhead) and Romany Bob (aka Andy Roberts) providing a surreal and distinctive experience of music, song and humour into an intoxicating mix as the evening progressed.
In turn Jeff Japers, as the evening’s Master of Ceremony, introduced the Nutz ‘n’ Bolts duo which normally consists of husband and wife team Dawn and Dave Hoban, but on this night we were invited to meet Jowan who sang with Dawn. It was an experience of emotions entwined harmonies and excellent guitar playing.
Les Allen, Linda Michele, Ann Davies and Anne Lord, who are members of the RCT Creative Writers Group, read selections from their 10th Anniversary publication “Handle with Care” ably supported by Members Jess Morgan, Gerhard Kress, Helen Probyn-Williams and Rachel Williams. Jakey (12), our favourite therapy dog was present to ensure that everyone was feeling safe and well.
The interlude that followed included the results of the Raffle, closely followed by the Art Auction which had bids bouncing from every direction in the audience. The Open mic participation was offered to the audience as one of the young Avant Cymru dancers stepped forward to sing, closely followed by singer guitarist Lee Harvey from Aberdare. Talent can be found in quiet places as Josh and his “companion” dummy took up the Ventriloquist mantle for the night in a comedic conversation. The Bella Vista Coffee Club brought the house down with their jazz performance provided by Ann and Paul Hughes, Jim Barrett, Helen Probyn-Williams and Sally Churchill.
TimeLine a trio of local singers and musicians namely Nigel, Gary and Keith, opened the second half of the evening’s entertainment. Their songs were rich and melodious and the audience were soon joining in with the verses of the songs that brought back so many treasured memories.
Tricycle, comprising of Gerhard Kress, Paul Rosser and Michael Morton brought the event to a close with the atmospheric musical sounds of a fiddle combined with guitars alongside their passionate lyrics.
Louise Gaw, Project Coordinator for Changing People Changing Lives at the Arts Factory Ferndale introduced Sara Beer, South Wales Regional Officer of DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) to bring the evening to a close. Thanking all within the Arts Factory and DAC for their hard work in organising the event. Goody Bags were given to people as they left including items from DAC. Gifts were kindly donated by Francesca Kay the noted WordArt, Poet and Letter Press professional from Hay on Wye, who is a friend of RCT Creative Writers Group
I would like to personally extend my appreciation to all who responded to the request for participants and to RCT Creative Group Members who supported me in arranging this event giving their time and energy freely to provide a true Noson Llawen Merry Night to remember for those who attended.
We were all left with the memories of songs, music, dance, poetry and stories echoing the creative talent that is within the community.
Times have changed and we are now finding ourselves in an unprecedented situation.
WE are all the waves on the same sea, and at this moment we send each other a virtual hug with the message to stay safe and well.
MaDCaff maintains the talent of RCT.
With thanks and appreciation to Sara Beer and Volunteers of Disability Arts Cymru Louise Gaw and Volunteers of Arts Factory Ferndale RCT Creative Writers Group Members especially Anne Jess Les Gerhard Helen and Rachel not forgetting Jakey Carole Kratze Francesca Kay To photographers for their kind permission
Sara Mayo Gerhard Kress Anne Lord Jess Morgan Open Mic performers
Jamie Berry of Avant Cymru and dancers Jeff Japers for his Master of Ceremonies Gaudy OrdeNutz ‘n’ BoltzTimeLine Tricycle and for all who gave their support for this event to raise funds for Mental Health
Many Welsh or Wales based arts graduates are finding this current period especially difficult. Their usual opportunities to meet agents, prepare for final year exhibitions or productions may take place later in the year or sadly not at all. To raise awareness of the diverse talent graduating this year GTC is offering any Welsh or Wales based graduate the opportunity to be showcased on our website. If you are interested, please do get in touch.
Hi Francesca great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hello, thank you so much for this opportunity! I’m Francesca Waygood, 27 years old from Swansea. After completing a bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts in 2014, I decided to go into teaching and qualified as a lecturer, specialising in teaching performing arts. Although I loved lecturing, I felt I still had a lot more to learn about the performing arts industry; I truly believe the best teachers are ones who have a desire to keep learning and developing their own skillset and so I decided to gain more industry experience by furthering my studies with a masters degree. Today, I am studying at the Canolfan Berfformio Cymru (UWTSD Cardiff), for my Master’s in Musical Theatre. Musical theatre has always been my true love and so, I am very grateful for the opportunity to study here as my learning experiences so far have been invaluable!
My mum (a former dance teacher) initially taught me to dance. Some of my earliest memories are from around the age of 2, where my mum was teaching me good toes, naughty toes, step ball changes and splits in our living room! She enrolled me in ballet, jazz and tap dance classes soon after where I had the opportunity to attend workshops with Wayne Sleep. It was only when I joined the school choir, I became interested in singing. From there, I added musical theatre, singing and music theory lessons to my hobbies and completed exams in these areas. With this came shows and competitions, something which I always really enjoyed partaking in as a child.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
My creative process really depends on what specific skill I may be focussing on. During our course so far, we have had the opportunity to study the methodologies of Stanislavski and Misner. Both processes were totally different, allowing for new creative discoveries to be made each lesson. For example, within Misner, we looked at the use of repetition. I found this process very beneficial for learning text. With Stanislavski, we looked as various tools which included physicalising text with actions. Such methods I will now employ in future work.
As a young Welsh artist graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?
So many virtual opportunities have become available via Instagram and Twitter for artists. There have been so many performers from West End shows / UK tours offering workshops where you can learn choreography from the shows they are in. There have also been casting directors offering to provide feedback on CV’s and showreel material for a very small fee. Talent agencies have been so approachable, and many have specifically asked for un-represented graduates to contact them. I even had one agency who I spoke too, offer to share my details with other agency contacts and casting directors. Personally, I believe it is definitely worth getting involved in all the opportunities that are currently available to us!
A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?
I’ve seen so many musical theatre performers running online concert events, live from their homes, which audiences can buy tickets for. I think this is a great opportunity for us to support one and other, as well as admiring these amazingly talented performers. I am also aware of organisations showing performances on their websites for public viewing – making theatre so accessible for everyone to be a part of!
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I am a strong believer in incorporating more creative methods for learning into education. Everyone has a preferred way of learning; whether it be visual, audio, kinaesthetic or a mixture of these! During my bachelor’s degree, I studied a module called Applied Drama, where I facilitated at 7 primary schools in Swansea, taking elements of the curriculum and supplementing it with more creative features. For example, I can recall one school where the pupils were studying the Romans. Upon an initial meeting with the class teacher, an education pack was supplied which included a series of worksheets for the pupils to complete as part of their study of that topic. A co-facilitator and I leading the project decided to incorporate more performing arts based activates to accompany the pupils learning. For example, the pupils partook in role play exercises such as a Roman march and a roman battle. The pupils seemed to really respond to these activities as it offered a more balanced learning experience, suited to all their learning needs.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
From studying for my bachelor’s degree to where I am at now, I have met so many diverse creative people. The arts culture in Wales is constantly changing, it is not all about the larger scale theatres anymore. Some amazing work can be found in the smaller, less known creative spaces. My partner comes from a more contemporary theatre background and he has really opened my eyes to this.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Apart from watching Six the musical (UK tour) in Bath which was absolutely incredible, I would probably say performing in Nadolig Big Band Christmas with the university in December 2019 at the BBC Hoddinott Hall – such an incredible space and a wonderful experience for me as a musical theatre performer. Another would be having the opportunity to be a part of a choir recording some of the backing vocals for the film Dream Horse, set to be released later this year. Again, another wonderful opportunity.
Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events. / Lleisiau amrywiol o Gymru yn ymateb i'r celfyddydau a digwyddiadau byw