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.
Hi James, great to meet you, can you tells us about yourself and your work?
Hi there, and thanks for inviting me to do this.
I enjoy telling people that I’m quite a good poster-boy for how the arts can save young people who lack direction and, in my case lacked a stable family background.
I fell in love with Hip Hop & Breakdancing as a young teen, and then in my 20’s I discovered circus and aerial work which became my career for almost 20 years. Both things came along at times when I was heading down negative roads. What they have in common are the life benefits of physical training and a strong DIY cultural ethic of just making things happen before seeking permission.
The soundtrack to my early childhood was new-wave punk, Ska, and the early years of Hip-Hop. Breakdancing and the version of Hip-Hop culture that landed in Wales was my path away from the miserable cultural confusion of the 1980’s.
I’ve been lucky enough to live in Manchester at the height of it’s music scene, in London at a time when arts & culture really mattered, and back in Wales to work with NoFit State Circus when they were really hitting their stride.
I’m now Co-Artistic Director of Citrus Arts, along with the amazing Bridie Doyle-Roberts. Citrus have been making shows that combine Circus, Theatre, Dance, and Design since 2009 and we’re based in the Rhondda Valley. We tour shows around the UK and the last few years have seen us championing the hands-on skills that come with Circus life as a way to bring the people of our community together to create ‘Exceptional Experiences for Everyday People’.
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?
Music is and always has been, a major force behind my path as an artist.
As performers Bridie & I played in plenty of shows where the music felt like an add-on background texture, that’s why Citrus Arts places an emphasis on picking high quality soundtracks and live musicians for our shows.
Bridie & I have two small children, so it’s hard to find time to immerse ourselves in music. There’ve been dozens of times when the boys fall asleep in the car, so we keep on driving, talking about ideas for shows, playing albums, and making major decisions about Citrus Arts’ future as we keep going until one of them wakes up. It costs us a fortune in Ice Cream when we eventually stop to play in a park, or beach for a while before turning back home.
My go-to sounds at the moment all come from the brilliant Late Night Tales series of compilations. The LNT label invites top-notch musicians & producers to curate a 1-hour musical soundtrack for a ‘movie’ that’s never been filmed. My favourite track I’ve discovered so far is “Henry McCulloch” by David Holmes, BP Fallon, & Andrew Weatherall.
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list five records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
The Stranglers – ‘All Live & All of The Night’
My first music festival was Reading in 1987, where I saw The Stranglers headline the Friday night there along with The Cramps, The Pogues, and Iggy Pop over the weekend. This album was partly recorded that night. I still love the sound, image, and artistic message of the punk movement, but was just a young lad with a paper round when it had the real power to shock.
The musicianship in this album still stands out as a moment that shows how punk evolved into the more interesting areas of the charts in the 80’s.
Devo – ‘Q- Are We Not Men?’
I’m still enthralled by how this band made a unique musical, visual, and political style around their image and output. Two brothers in the band made Devo’s pop videos way before the advent of MTV, another member invented the Roland Emulator keyboard/synthesiser, and between them they built a complete and un-improvable artistic world for their music and message.
I love the fact that the lead singer Mark Mothersbraugh now makes music for Marvel super-hero movies.
Massive Attack – ‘Blue Lines’
I was working at a big record shop (a “Megastore”, according to Mr Branson) in Cardiff when this came out and nobody, and I mean nobody, from the Phil Collins-loving security guards to the guys in the classical music department had anything but huge praise for this album. For me it was a re-connection back to my years of loving early Hip-Hop, Soul, and Jazz influenced music, and represented a way to cross between tribes of taste and friendship groups.
Every single track is excellent, but the decision to choose “Safe From Harm” as the opener was a masterstroke.
Ted Barnes – ‘Underbelly’
It’s hard to find Ted’s wider work on the usual online platforms, but this album is a great example of his style. Citrus Arts’ first touring show was based around Ted’s music and if you listen to this, you’ll hear why we chose it.
Barnes was Beth Orton’s composer when she rode high in the UK album charts in the 2000’s. My favourite story about this music is knowing that Ted’s father was a Toymaker in the seaside town of Whitstable in the post-war years.
This album sounds like a boy sneaking-in to his Dad’s shed where wood was carved, and tiny mechanical things came to life.
DJ Shadow – ‘Private Press’
Another personal tale coming up here, but this is DJ Shadow’s best album.
In 2012 the Hip-Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa donated his personal record collection to NY Columbia University’s Cultural Archive – they were the plates of vinyl that were cut, scratched, and mixed to create Hip-Hop in the yard parties that founded the genre.
DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist were allowed to take those actual records on tour as the Renegades of Rhythm performances where they played them as a set, in tribute to one of the founding artists of Hip-Hop.
I saw the show. I listened to those actual grooves on those vinyl plates that inspired me to take a lifelong journey into physical performance, and the way that communities can make their own lasting mark on what I’m sure wasn’t considered ‘art’ at the time.
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
I feel like I want my own Radio show after doing this!
If there’s one track I’d like to share with you, rather than remember for personal reasons, it has to be Ted Barnes’ “Sting in The Tale”.
Its lush, gorgeous, beautifully crafted music that everyone should try dancing to.
Helo Sion braf cwrdd a ti, fedri di roi ychydig o wybodaeth am dy hun i’n darllenwyr ni plis?
Hi Sion great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Helo, diolch am y cyfle yma. Felly, ar hyn o bryd dwi’n astudio MA Perfformio gyda PCYDDS yng Nghaerdydd. Dwi’n wreiddiol o bentre bach o’r enw Rhydymain, ger Dolgellau, ond nes i symud lawr i Gaerdydd yn 2017 i ddechrau ar fy ngradd mewn BA Perfformio. Dwi wrthi ar hyn o bryd yn ffilmio selftapes ar gyfer showcase ar-lein, yn sgil i’n showcase gwreiddiol ni gael ei ganslo o ganlyniad i’r amgylchiadau heddiw.
Hi, thanks for the opportunity. I’m currently studyingMA Perfformio at UWTSD in Cardiff. I’m originally from a little village near Dolgellau, called Rhydymain, but moved down to Cardiff in 2017 to start on a degree in BA Perfformio. I’m currently self-taping for our university’s virtual showcase, as our original showcase was cancelled.
Felly, beth roddodd diddordeb iti yn y celfyddydau?
So, what got you interested in the arts?
Fel llawer o’m ffrindiau, fues i’n cystadlu mewn Eisteddfodau ers yn ifanc, canu mewn corau, a bod yn rhan o gyngherddau’r ysgol ac ati. Er nes i fwynhau’r dyddiau yna, yr hyn wnaeth fy nenu ac fy ysgogi i ddilyn llwybr o fewn y celfyddydau oedd ymuno â Ysgol Theatr Maldwyn. Ges i’r cyfle i fod yn rhan o amrywiaeth o sioeau a chyngherddau, gan drafeilio a pherfformio mewn nifer o theatrau gwahanol ar draws Cymru. Mae fy nyled i’n fawr iawn i Penri, Linda a’r diweddar Derec am yr holl brofiadau ges i ar hyd y blynyddoedd.
Like many of my friends, I competed in numerous Eisteddfods, joined choirs, and being a part of school productions. But on top of this, what really got me wanting to be in this industry was joining Ysgol Theatr Maldwyn. I had the opportunity to be in various shows and concerts, and to perform in many theatres across Wales. My gratitude is enormous to Penri, Linda and the late Derec for their work, and the chances I had throughout my years with them.
Fedri di son ychydig am dy broses creadigol?
Can you tell us about your creative process?
Mae fy mhroses i’n amrywio yn ddibynnol ar y dasg sydd genai. Dwi newydd gwblhau modiwl actio pellach gyda Angharad Lee, ble roeddem yn mynd ati i ymchwilio ac analeiddio darn o ddeialog yn gorfforol, yn defnyddio ‘toolkit’ o sgiliau methodoleg Stanislavski. Fyddai’n siwr o gario’r broses ymlaen i wahanol brosiectau gan ei fod yn diddymu unrhyw batrymau sydd genai, ac yn gwneud i mi gysylltu’n well gyda’r testun.
My process varies depending on the task ahead. I’ve just completed a module on further acting with Angharad Lee, where we had to analyse and investigate a piece of dialogue physically, using a ‘toolkit’ of skills from Stanislavski’s methodology. I will be sure to carry on this process onto different projects, as it gets rid of any patterns I have, and helps me to connect better to the text.
Fel artist ifanc o Gymru sy’n graddio yn ystod cyfnod anodd iawn, pa fuddsoddiad a chefnogaeth sydd eu hangen yn eich barn chi i alluogi eich gyrfa i ddatblygu a ffynnu?
As a young Welsh artists graduating during a very difficult period, what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?
Mae’r diwydiant yma wedi bod yn dda iawn yn ystod yr amser anodd yma i ni, fel actorion neu artistiaid sy’n dechrau ar eu gyrfa, drwy ddod at eu gilydd a rhoi llawer o gyfleodd allan yna i ni. Dwi’n meddwl fod o’n bwysig i hyn gario mlaen unwaith fydd popeth wedi mynd nol i’r arfer. Hefyd, falle defnyddio’r amser yma i fod yn greadigol, a gwneud rhywbeth megis, darllen mwy o ddramau neu dysgu acen newydd – ond wedi dweud hyn dwi ddim yn rhoi unrhyw bwysau na gorfodaeth i wneud hyn chwaith.
The industry’s been very good during this difficult period for us, as actors or artists starting on their career, by coming together and offering different opportunities for us. I believe it’s important that this caries on when life goes back to normal. Maybe, to use this time and be creative, and read more plays or learn a new accent, but after saying that, I’m not putting myself under any pressure to do anything either.
Mae ystod o sefydliadau ac unigolion o fewn y celfyddydau bellach yn gweithio ar-lein neu’n dod o hyd i ffyrdd newydd i gysylltu â cynulleidfaoedd. Ydych chi wedi gweld unrhyw enghreifftiau arbennig o hyn yn gweithio?
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?
Do! Neshi weld tweet yn arbennig i raddedigion actio 2020 gan National Theatre Wales, oedd yn rhoi’r cynnig i gysylltu a chyfarfod, a hynny dros Zoom, gyda nifer o weithwyr proffesiynol i gyflwyno ein hunain rwan bod ein sioeau terfynol ddim yn digwydd. Dwi’n meddwl fod o’n anhygoel i ni fel Cymry i allu cael sgwrs a dod i nabod pobl yn y diwydiant cyn mynd i’r byd gwaith. Fues i’n cael sgwrs gyda Jeremy Turner, sef Cyfarwyddwr Artistig Arad Goch heddiw, a mae gennai sgwrs gyda Sarah Bickerton, sy’n gyfarwyddwraig cyswllt â Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru ac Louisa Palmer, sy’n asiant i Shelley Norton Management i ddod o fewn yr wythnos. Nid yn unig mae hyn yn gyfle da i gyflwyno’n hun, ond mae o’n gwneud fi’n gyffrous i fynd allan i’r byd gwaith unwaith fydd y cyfnod yma yn dod i ben.
Yes! I saw a tweet from NTW for 2020 acting graduates which gives the opportunity to connect, over Zoom, with industry professionals and to present yourself now that end of year productions have been cancelled. I think it’s an amazing chance for individuals that are graduating in acting in Wales, or from Wales to meet and introduce yourself to professionals before going into work. I met with Jeremy Turner, the artistic director for Arad Goch today, and from now to next week I’ll be meeting Sarah Bickerton, associate director with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Louisa Palmer, agent with Shelley Norton Management. This has made me even more excited about joining the industry and going into work.
Os fydde modd i chi ariannu adran yn y celfyddydau yng Nghymru, beth fyddai hyn a pham?
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales, what would this be and why?
Dwi’m yn siwr iawn! Dwi’n meddwl swni’n licio gweld gwefan, tebyg i ‘Scribd’, gyda gweithiau Cymraeg, boed hynny’n waith gwreiddiol neu’n gyfieithiadau. Yn aml swni’n ei chael hi’n hawdd iawn i ddod o hyd i fonolog Saesneg, ond yn gweld hi’n anoddach o lawer dod o hyd i rywbeth Cymraeg. Falle mai fi sy’n edrych yn y lle anghywir, pwy a wyr! Ond dwi di dechrau prynu sgriptiau/dramau rwan ar ôl gwylio dramau Cymraeg, jysd rhag ofn ddoith o’n handi ar gyfer rhywbeth rwbryd.
I’m not quite sure! I’d like if there would be a website, like Scribd, but with only Welsh works, that being an original or a translation. I often find finding monologues in English easier, and find it much harder finding something in Welsh. It might be completely my fault, that I’m looking in the wrong places, who knows! But I’ve started buying scripts/plays after watching Welsh plays now, just in case it will come handy someday!
Beth sy’n dy gyffroi am y celfyddydau yng Nghymru?
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
Y peth sy’n cyffroi fi fwyaf ydi fod gymaint o gyfleoedd allan yna ar hyn o bryd, ac nid yn unig ar gyfer actorion. Mae’n braf gweld gymaint o artistiaid ifanc newydd allan yna, mae’n rhoi gobaith i mi am ddyfodol cadarn i’r celfyddydau yng Nghymru.
What excites me the most is, that there are so many opportunities out there, and not only just for actors. It’s great to see so many young artists out there, it gives me hope for a strong future for the arts in Wales.
Beth oedd y peth gwirioneddol wych olaf i chi ei brofi yr hoffech ei rannu gyda’n darllenwyr?
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Heb os, Tylwyth gan Daf James! Er na ges i gyfle i’w weld o’n iawn, a dwi’n hollol hollol gytyd am hyna! Ro’n i’n rhan o’r côr oedd ynddo, ac felly di gweld darna ohono. Dwi ddim isho sboilio gormod, ond oedd y diweddglo yn rhoi shivers i fi bob noson, ac oedd gweld gymaint oedd y gynulleidfa wedi mwynhau’r sioe yn galonogol iawn. Mae’n braf weithiau cael sioe gyda diweddglo hapus dydi!
Without a doubt, Tylwyth by Daf James! Although I didn’t get a chance to see the whole show, and I’m really gutted about that! I was a part of the choir, and so I saw parts of it. I don’t want to spoil it, but the ending gave me shivers every night, and just being able to see how much the audience enjoyed the show was heart-warming. It’s nice to have a happy ending sometimes!
Hi Lorne, great to meet you, can you tells us about yourself and your work?
I am the Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales, a role I have been in for all of three weeks. Before this I was AD of Northern Stage in Newcastle. I’m from Edinburgh, I started out in theatre as an actor but fairly soon figured out I was in the right room but standing in the wrong place and started directing. Throughout my career I’ve made a range of work from New-Writing, Classic text, devised and collaboratively written pieces and over the last couple of years a lot of work with music and video elements at the core. I am obsessed with liveness and the ability of actors to be utterly present in a moment, in making theatre that knows it is in the same room as its audience and cannot take place without their complicity and imagination. It is so exciting to be at the beginning of a journey in Wales, meeting new communities and makers from all walks of life, everything feels full of possibility.
Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
I am mostly listening to two Albums at the moment: ‘The Koln Concert‘ By Keith Jarrett, and ‘3.15.20’ By Childish Gambino. The Koln concert is one of my favourite records of all time and I always return to it in testing times and ‘3.15.20’ is just straight up remarkable, it takes not only bears but demands real concentrated listening to and I’m loving getting to know it.
Can you list five records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? So hard to pick just 5 but here we go:
1: The Koln Concert – Keith Jarrett.
It’s a totally magical transformative bit of music. The story of how the record was made is fundamental to the music itself. It is a live recording of a concert played on a totally unsuitable piano, the full story is here In short, the piano had virtually no bottom or top end meaning Jarrett had to play with huge force and rolling pattern of ostinatos to maintain the bass resonance and limit himself to the middle register of the instrument, in addition was in huge pain from a back injury so couldn’t sit. In these entirely unsuitable conditions he improvised one of the greatest jazz records ever recorded. It is a piece of pure creativity and beauty you can get totally lost in.
2.Three Feet High and Rising – De La Soul
This was one of those mind blowing, what-is-this,-I’ve-never-heard-anything-like-this-what-else-can-I-hear-like-that-passing-of-a-many-time-copied-pirate-tape moments. Released in 1989 It is amazing how fresh it feels today, it’s a lyrical, passionate, agile and deeply humane album. It has that amazing quality that even after all these years it still surprises and delights you, there is nothing taken for granted in its construction, every choice in it is made, nothing is default.
3. If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor By Sting (Performed by Frances McNamee)The Last Ship.
Specifically this version captured this spring on the U.S. Tour of ‘The Last Ship’: Working on ‘The Last Ship’ as director and book writer has been the huge creative endeavour of my life over the last two years. I have never known any music as well as know this score and this track embodies the show. Frances is an unbelievable performer blending bottomless skill with idiosyncrasy and passion and she totally meets the challenge of this incredible song from Sting. In his composition, influence, harmonics and phrasing Sting’s music asks so much of its performers, it is really remarkable to make it feel this effortless.
4: Midnight Train to Georgia By Gladys Night and The Pips
I’m a huge Soul and Funk fan, it is impossible to pick only one album artist or track but if I must, it’d have to be this one. It is that faultless four minute song that seems so simple, clear and direct yet bears a thousand hearings. Perfect.
5. The Goldberg Variations By Bach
There is a deep and mysterious magic in this music. I listen to it when I need to do something very hard. It does something remarkable to your mind, a sort of stilling, focussing and opening that permits a special sort of concentration. You can sit and purely listen to it or you can listen to it and think at the same time. It’s magic, I don’t even begin to understand it, but I know it works. There are of course many amazing recordings, Gould, Turuck, Schiff but the one I return to the most is Kimiko Ishizaka’s It is very pure, very clear, it seems to me to have almost no ego in its playing.
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
What a spot to be on. I think it would have to be the Bach as it is the one that I would miss most deeply if I couldn’t hear it.
A magnificent experience from start to end; if you haven’t been to see a live orchestra, I cannot recommend the experience enough, especially a performance by the BBC National Orchestra.
For the annual “Dydd Gwyl Dewi” by the BBC National Orchestra and chorus of Wales, a celebration of all things Welsh occurred. The event marks the start of a partnership with Orchestre Synphonique de Bretagne and was conducted by Musical Director Grant Llewellyn. This collaboration showcased performances from the National Youth Orchestra and the orchestra’s partnership with the Welsh folk band Calan.
The performance began with the string section and wow! The bows leaped and danced in bounds of rhythm and movement with each other. Mesmerised by the spiralling and winding of the violinists, the sound echoed both visually in front of us as well as audibly, surrounding our senses. It was only in the moments of rest in which the musicians once again became human. Otherwise, you were entranced by the bountiful immersion occurring on stage.
Whilst conducting Llewellyn, would dance (although often like a dad whilst making dinner in the kitchen) with the music taking over his physical being which would emit onto us, the audience. There were moments which were Matilda-esque, playing with the electricity between the different musicians.
Flickers of imagery from time to time would overwhelm my
thoughts, either that of memories of children playing in fields or of the roaming
hills I would often watch through a train window. I felt at peace.
Each piece within the performance held its own providing a
new stimulus for us to focus on. The second was more heavily percussioned. Again,
the musicians danced, but this time it was those playing the Glockenspiel that
lead the way, bouncing from note to note. My only questions being that once the
choir was introduced, does the orchestra take a backseat? As the audience, both
parts seemed equally powerful and important so I questioned whether one should
be a lesser superior component.
With the third piece, there was also this playing of power. The soloist, Angharad Lynddon, sombre in tone but beautifully delicate with accent, teased between the everchanging balance between the orchestra and herself. This teasing continued into the fourth piece, with a sense of non- competitive play in rolling waves of triumph.
The fifth, probably my favourite of the day, balanced the
old and the new in the most magical way. It balanced the factors of delicate
comedy with moments that were boisterous with power in such a way we were
enchanted by the relentless percussion.
This continuation of a modern fusion with the more classical
was profound in the second half of the show. There was an explosion of life
with odes to all elements of traditional welsh culture, with references from
Caws to clog dancing. However, I do feel with the introduction of Calan, both
the orchestra and choir became neglected. The percussion was replaced by the
rhythmic plucking of the guitarist and the focus was turned more towards the
band. I desired a more equal balance between the components, whether this could
have occurred spatially, with the band in the centre of the orchestra or if it
was something musical that needed to be altered. Although, it was incredible to
watch Llewellyn conduct both the orchestra and the band, with the relationship
between the three was clearly evident.
To conclude, the whole experience and atmosphere was a magnificent experience from start to end; if you haven’t been to see a live orchestra, I cannot recommend the experience enough, especially a performance by the BBC National Orchestra.
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