Category Archives: Musical

Arddangosfa Graddedigion/Graduate Showcase, Sion Emlyn

  • 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 studying MA 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.

Here is Sion’s Spotlight link – https://www.spotlight.com/interactive/cv/6930-1278-7802

Picture of BA Perfformio’s 2019 production of Cysgu’n Brysur, directed by Elen Bowman, Sion played Cai. 
  • 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.

Angharad Lee

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.

Picture of BA Perfformio’s 2017 production of Sweeney Todd, directed by Angharad Lee, Sion played Tobias Ragg, centre.
  • 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.

Picture of BA Perfformio’s 2019 production of a Welsh translation of 100 by Neil Monaghan, Diene Petterle and Christopher Heimann, directed by Aled Pedrick – Sion played Ketu
  • 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!

  • Diolch am eich amser/Thanks for your time

Diolch yn fawr

Top Tunes with Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales.

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.

Review St David’s Day Concert, Welsh National Orchestra, St Davids Hall, Cardiff by Becky Johnson

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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.

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.

Musical Director Grant Llewellyn

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.

Angharad Lynddon

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.

Arts Online, A Guest Post by Megan Pritchard, Marketing Campaigns Manager at National Dance Company Wales

We are both saddened to see the vast array of cultural cancellations over the past day and proud to see so many companies putting the health of their staff, participants and audiences first. 


The arts are an important part of many of our lives, and we’re also excited to see so many isolation friendly options arising. We’ve started a list of online dance and yoga classes, digital only festivals and a huge array of dance, opera, theatre, museums and CPD activities you can do from home – including full NDCWales performances.  Please share this resource and let us know of other fab things we can add to it. 

______________________
Mae’r ddau ohonom yn drist iawn o weld yr ystod eang o ddigwyddiadau diwylliannol sydd wedi cael eu canslo ers ddoe ac yn falch o weld cymaint o gwmnïau yn rhoi iechyd eu staff, cyfranogwyr a chynulleidfaoedd yn gyntaf.
Mae’r celfyddydau yn rhan bwysig o fywydau sawl un ohonom, ac rydym hefyd yn teimlo’n gyffrous i weld cynifer o opsiynau y gellir eu gwneud wrth hunan-ynysu yn codi.Rydym wedi dechrau rhestr o ddosbarthiadau dawns ac ioga ar-lein, gwyliau digidol yn unig a llu o bethau yn seiliedig ar ddawns, opera, y theatr ac amgueddfeydd, a gweithgareddau y gallwch eu gwneud adref – gan gynnwys perfformiadau CDCCymru llawn.


Rhannwch yr adnodd hwn a rhowch wybod i ni am bethau gwych, eraill y gallwn eu hychwanegu ato.


***********
DANCE CLASSES 
Gaga is a unique dance training, Gaga Movement Language גאגא שפת תנועה NYC are currently offering 3 classes a day 7 days a week with a suggested donation.  https://www.gofundme.com/f/gaga-nyc-online-classeshttps://www.facebook.com/groups/mootmovementlab/


Moot – The Movement Lab are making their resources as available as possible and have great updates on other training online. 


Juliard School of Performing Arts are running ballet barre classes through instagram https://www.instagram.com/juilliardschool/


You can learn the famous Rosas Danst Rosas from Anne-Teresa De Keersmaecker here online, easily done at home with a kitchen chair  https://www.rosas.be/en/news/814-dance-in-times-of-isolation


The Dance Centre is offering fun online musical theatre inspired classes. https://www.facebook.com/1thedancecentre


Rebecca Lemme / Acts of Matter offers a free online Barre Class you can do without a proper Barre https://vimeo.com/398046579/cdfec48e01?fbclid=IwAR2AlsTXHcg7–4ulAhmvpNotiVJIMz3Z3v_PIYW6pKyT0bZ_JQFfJN0Cow


The Guardian has an article on tips for dancing at home.https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/22/fitness-tips-online-dance-tutorials?fbclid=IwAR2DKtULuSlfcB7TueCKqAbegoM4OYJFrRoCX5mwpwsWO_NILQsn6sHKXxI


YOGA CLASSES

Overwhelmingly our dancers suggest following Yoga With Adriene for youtube yoga https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene


Cat Meffan Yoga – another office fav, with a huge range of free classes on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVrWHW_xYpDnr3p3OR4KYGw


Our dancers also enjoy the Down Dog App which also has a ballet barre class option https://www.downdogapp.com/


Rosanna Emily Carless our Dance Ambassador is streaming free yoga classes daily on her facebook page.


AT HOME ARTS FESTIVALS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19


These festivals aim to gather streamed content and classes in different ways – Social Distancing Streaming Concerts https://www.socialdistancingfestival.com 

The Social Distancing Festival https://creativedistance.org/ 

Creative Distance, The Theatre Cafehttps://www.facebook.com/thetheatrecafe/photos/a.1597256473856456/2552997778282316/?type=3&theater 


LIVE EVENTS STREAMED TO YOUR DEVICES 


NDCWales P.A.R.A.D.E.  including choreography by Caroline Finn, Marcos Morau and Lee Johnson, in collaboration with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rubicon Dance and Vertical Dance Kate Lawrence; filmed by The Space Arts. https://vimeo.com/248459479


Tundra by Marcos Morau https://vimeo.com/254300487


Reflections documentary and dance film from our Dance for Parkinson’s participants. https://vimeo.com/ndcwales/reflections


The Metropolitan OperaAre running nightly live streams, up at 7.30pm(EDT) each left up for 20 hours. http://metopera.org/

Rosie Kay’s 5 Soldiers https://youtu.be/2urN4ESejFo

Or Zosia Jo’s – Fabulous Animal is available to stream for donation here https://www.zosiajo.com/fab-animal-film


Berliner PhilharmonikerUse the code BERLINPHIL by March 31 to get 30-day access to the orchestra’s stunning work https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/home


Marquee TVOffer plays, dance, opera and theatre all to stream on a Netflix like service, offering free 30 day trial at the momentmarquee.tv

Twitter Search #togetherathome to see bands streaming intimate concerts live from their homes.

 
The Guardian have posted their own list now too  https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/mar/17/hottest-front-room-seats-the-best-theatre-and-dance-to-watch-online?CMP=share_btn_fb

Filmed on StageHosts links to mostly paid streams of large Broadway shows and musicals http://www.filmedonstage.com/

You can watch the west end production of Wind in the Willows here https://www.willowsmusical.com/ 


Netflix and Amazon Prime VideoBoth have a small selection of stage shows to stream


Other Cultural Activity 


Free Museum tours from across the world https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours


Free colouring pages from museums http://www.openculture.com/2019/02/download-free-coloring-books-from-113-museums.html?fbclid=IwAR3wPlZLs00PCl-tilb9jXHKJPUSDa2oui1SHQC-iEsh40w7b_ZN5DIyglU


Free National Park tours https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/google-earth-virtual-tours-of-us-national-parks


David Bowie is At the V&A MuseumAn augmented reality tour of the singer’s costumes, notebooks and life’s work. https://davidbowieisreal.com/


CPD FROM HOME 
ETC have made their online training courses free during this time: training for technicians Courses.etcconnect.com  The following performers offer one to one tuition, find them on facebook. 


Rubyyy Jones – Cabaret MCing Paul L Martin – mentoring for cabaret performers  John Celestus – one to one Flexibiliy and Strength, contortion, compare 
Skillshare International Offers photography, illustration, design with a 2 month free trial available https://www.skillshare.com/


Welsh for work with Learn Welsh Cardiff – Dysgu Cymraeg Caerdydd A 10 hour course free https://learnwelsh.cymru/work-welsh/work-welsh-courses/work-welsh-taster-courses/


Say Something in Welsh A podcast based language learning system with free and paid options including Welshhttps://www.saysomethingin.com/


Duolingo The number one free language app has a great Welsh course toohttps://www.duolingo.com/

Review ‘Beautiful’ – the Carole King Musical at WMC by Vic Mills

Review of ‘Beautiful’ – the Carole King Musical at WMC

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

It is hard to overstate the talent and importance of Carole King as a songwriter.  118 top fifty hits in the US gives some indication of the success she has enjoyed, but doesn’t in itself demonstrate the quality of her writing or its importance.  Her first hit, written with Gerry Goffin as lyricist, when she was just sixteen, ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ is astonishing in its quality, particularly for one so young and from such a non-musical background.  Writing a string of hits for women and black artists, predominantly though not exclusively, in the sixties and then the move to LA after finally having enough of Goffin’s faithless behaviour, shows her incredible courage.  The weeks recording ‘Tapestry’ – one of the most successful albums of all time – next door to Joni Mitchell recording ‘Blue’ and Jackson Browne recording ‘Late For The Sky’ have gone into modern musical folklore with some justification.  Carole King is essential and central in the rise of the singer-songwriter.  She is an essential and wonderful part of the story of women’s voices being heard and celebrated.  She is a wonderful, wonderful talent.

Given all this, a musical telling the story of her early years, leading up to her legendary solo performance at Carnegie Hall, should be a glorious and fascinating thing.  ‘Beautiful’ certainly is not that.  What this is, unfortunately, is a cut and paste comic-book story homage of the sort which might have been serialised in ‘Jackie’ in 1973.  A sequence of incredibly short and trivial scenes, fly in or slide in, at bewildering pace, with cardboard cut out characters of managers and mothers and friends, who speak in ghastly and trivial cliches before being whirled away to be replaced with more cliches on the breakdown of married life from a cardboard Carole and Gerry, who seem to have stumbled onstage from a black and white episode of ‘Bewitched’ circa 1968.

The songs and the dances which attend them are adequately delivered at very best.  These are amazing and wonderfully memorable songs, loved by the audience, and, given the budget of this kind of show and the talent pool available, should have been superbly and innovatively choreographed, orchestrated and sung.  However, on an expensive but deeply unimaginative set, some very, very ordinary dance and movement did nothing to enhance the songs or bring the stage to life.

There was nothing wrong with Daisy Wood-Davis, Adam Gillian or Laura Baldwin in the lead roles.  I quite liked Wood-Davis – she had an energy and commitment which was pleasing and a decent voice.  But it is hard to imagine what anyone could have done with a script like this.  When you think of the issues Carole King’s story throws up around women, race, the music industry, the sexual revolution, the inequalities marriage imposes etc – this is a playwright’s goldmine, surely?

There was not a memorable line or genuinely theatrical moment in the entire piece.  When Carole decides to leave New York to set off for LA as a performer as well as songwriter, she sits at her piano and tells her friends that she is ‘saying goodbye with a song’ and sings them, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ as they circle her at the piano and join in.  There is a ghastly level of embarrassment to this smaltz.

Cards on the table, juke-box musicals are not my favourite forms of entertainment and I wouldn’t dream of paying money to see anything about Abba or Queen under any circumstances, but this is Carole King and what an opportunity to tell explore her incredibly important story is missed in this silly fluff-piece.

Vic Mills

Review: Beautiful The Carole King Musical, WMC By Lowri Cynan

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This is an enchanting show which is both pacey and entertaining. It follows the early life story of Carole King, an aspiring young American songwriter and musician who teamed up with her then partner and later husband, Gerry Goffin, moving to Manhattan to compose songs to sell to other artists in the 1960’s – some of the most evocative and iconic songs of their generation. The plot shows the struggles and frustrations facing the fledgeling composers and how they were controlled and ultimately manipulated by the dog eat dog nature of the music industry. We witness each song constructed in their purest form, before being transformed into full production numbers sung by various top chart artists and groups, from The Drifters and Aretha Franklin to James Taylor and The Shirelles and Neil Sedaka and King herself. 

The audience were engrossed by the litany of hits which were performed most authentically, proceeding to sing along to the likes of ‘Locomotion’, ‘Natural Woman’, ‘Will you Still Love me Tomorrow’, ‘You’ve got a friend’ and ‘Take good care of my Baby’ to name but a few.

I particularly enjoyed the staging which was very effective, without fuss and with efficient transitions. We were transported from one location to another by way of an array of moving rostra and backdrops creating the perfect mood and atmosphere for each scene. Costumes were in keeping with the style, reminding us of the quirky, colourful fashion of this heady creative period.

However, without doubt the main highlight was the music – the crisp, vibrant band arrangements by the eminent Steve Sidwell to the well known tunes and songs written by Carole King.  The majority were sung with vigour and enthusiasm by a number of the talented ensemble cast.

The performances of the two main characters – Daisy Wood Davis as King and Adam Gillian as Goffin – were believable and emotional with lovely interaction. They were accompanied by many other actors who sang and danced and multi roled throughout the show providing a very compelling overall experience for the audience.

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening with these 60s legends and it was very pleasing to see the Donald Gordon Theatre full and bopping to the hits. If you are around, check it out – I’m certain you won’t be disappointed. You’ll no doubt feel the earth move and you won’t want to get out of this place!! The production is in Cardiff until March the 14th before resuming their UK tour.  

An Interview with Playwright Jon Tregenna

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

I was born in Llanelli, acted in Cardiff, in various bands in London, back to Llanelli to write TV and moved to Laugharne in 2012. I live in a house where a murder was committed in 1953 and a friend of Dylan Thomas was arrested. Dylan called Laugharne, ‘…the strangest town in Wales.’ He wasn’t wrong. I’ve written the Dylan Thomas ebook for the BBC, TV comedy drama for BBC & S4C and the David Garland Jones Youtube channel. Hail Cremation! is my fourth play after two plays for Llanelli Youth Theatre; Raw Material: Llareggub Revisited for NTW (co-created with Marc Rees) in 2014, and I’ve have been working on Hail Cremation! since 2016.

Marc Rees and Jon Treganna, Co-Creators,Raw Material, Llareggub Revisited, NTW.

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

My Dad read Dr Seuss and Charles Dickens to me when I was very young which I loved. I later raided Dad’s bookshelves and his Anglo-Welsh poetry, and became big fan of poet and polemicist, Harri Webb. In school I got into acting after seeing a performance of Wind In The Willows and later trained as an actor in the (Royal) Welsh College of Music & Drama. I’ve been in bands and written songs since I was a teenager, and once I started creative writing around twenty years ago, a musical was a logical step, tho’ it took me some time to realise it.

Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas seem to percolate for years. I try to create something I’d like to watch, and that I don’t think I’ve seen before… but those ideas are often outside the bounds of what people are prepared to commission. In terms of ideas, thinking about it, most of my writing is about real life stuff but then I like to drag it into left field.

Can you describe your writing day? Do you have a process or a minimum word count?

I don’t like staring at a screen for too long. I have a young daughter so writing time is precious, and when I do have time to sit and write, I throw everything at the screen. Sometimes it’s better to clear your head by writing 1000 words of rubbish rather than nothing at all. It’s all in the editing. I find a good walk, or a drive, is often beneficial, recording ideas into a phone ready for those gaps in real life when writing happens.

Why and where do you write?

We live in an 18th century cottage in Laugharne and my office is downstairs with a view of the street. I’m surrounded by books, cards, pictures, ornaments – or ‘junk’ as my partner calls them – and often scan the shelves when I’m stuck. It looks a bit of a mess, but you should have seen it before I tidied up.

Your latest play Hail Cremation will be produced by National Theatre Wales at Newbridge Memo from the 23 March- 04 April. The production is described as a musical odyssey through the life of cremation pioneer, Dr William Price – a complex and extraordinary Welshman. What drew you personally to telling your interpretation of Dr William Price?

Like many I knew about the infamous cremation, but initially I wasn’t aware he was a ground-breaking surgeon, vegetarian, feminist, nationalist, radical, a dandy and clearly a genius. However, his eccentricities in later life meant that many of those elements were ignored. If Price was around today, he’d be an inspiring leader, passionate about history, language and culture and I wanted to celebrate him with a spectacle that he would have enjoyed. On reflection most of my work is about Welsh identity, and Price was probably the person who tried to define it more than anyone else in the last two hundred years.

National Theatre Wales describe the nation of Wales as their stage. Their productions have ranged from We’re Still Here portraying the lives of Neath Port Talbot Steel Workers. On Bear Ridge which took place in “a lost village, blurred by redrawn borders” to this new production taking place at Newbridge Memo. Do you feel that Welsh Theatre is presenting representative stories of its citizens on our stages?

I’m interested in stories and legends that are uniquely Welsh. Wales is definitely the ‘secret Celtic nation’, and yet we have one of the oldest literary traditions in Europe. There is an ancient, supernatural, magical, mythical, witty, wild and wide-eyed side to Wales – Wales on mushrooms if you like – which is unique to us. I think more plays in this area would help establish, and then cement a Welsh theatrical identity not only in Wales but around the world.

Why do you think audiences should see this new play?

It’s part gig, part catwalk show, part cabaret. It has a wonderful troupe of dancers and actors, a rock band, incredible costumes, mad props, druids, goats, punk toads, wall to wall video projections, and an astonishing creative team lead by director, Adele Thomas. Yet at its heart is the story of a man who wanted his people to thrive. Dr Price met a woman called Gwen who was sixty years his junior, and they were a very loving, if highly unusual couple. They’d be unusual now, so it’s hard to imagine what 19th century non-conformist Wales would have made of them. Price and Gwen lost a child, and I nearly lost my daughter, so I had a small understanding of the grief they must have gone through. Then when Price’s powers started to wane and he went through a number of ordeals, he continued to charge on with Gwen at his side. He lived for ninety-two years and it’s still amazing how he crammed so much in. People should see this play because it tells a story of a dynamic couple in a wild theatrical arena, is both fun and emotional, and has something to say about Welsh identity.

Is it possible to sustain a career as a writer in Wales and if not what would help?

If the question is: ‘Can someone who writes plays about Wales and Welsh issues sustain a living in Wales, or indeed, anywhere?’ Then apart from maybe one or two exceptions, the answer is probably no. There are a lot of playwrights in Wales chasing a small pot of money and Welsh writers probably need working partners, day jobs, lecturing posts, etc., to survive. What would help? I don’t really know. We’re unlikely to see more arts funding for a while as the Welsh Government is looking to reduce public subsidy. Trying to be positive, successful and profitable shows that reach beyond Wales, and that couldn’t come from anywhere other than Wales, would help. We need to find our voice.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

There should be more development deals, so that writers are nurtured in plays, poetry, TV scriptwriting etc. More people need to feel they have a chance, get some feedback, be part of a dialogue, even if the ideas end up uncommissioned. There could always be more arts, but we also need to build and educate audiences too. It’s tough in this era of Netflix, deadly diseases, Just Eat and smartphones, but the more people that take an interest in the arts, the better off we’ll all be.

 What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

My daughter, Sylvie, has had two heart operations and spent five days on life support, so seeing her enter a pool for the first time in Butlin’s Minehead last weekend was a truly great thing.

Many Thanks for your time Jon.

14 Months On A Response To Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

In November 2018 we published an article in response to the new Arts Council Wales Corporate Plan “For the benefit of all..” with a range of contributions from Creatives in Wales. We revisit this area in the updated article below with responses from one of the creatives featured in the article as well as an additional contribution.

Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”

We were very pleased to see some of the priority areas in the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

In particular we were interested in Commitment 2 below

We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.

ACW then go onto make a series of intentions (below) for where they want to be in 2023 (5 years)

We will be able to demonstrate clearly that all our funding programmes promote and contribute to equality and diversity

There will be a narrowing of the gap between those in the most and least affluent social sectors as audiences and participants

We will develop the creative work of disabled artists by funding “Unlimited” commissions and developing a scheme similar to “Ramps on the Moon” operated by Arts Council England

We want to introduce a “Changemakers” scheme placing BAME and disabled people in senior executive positions in the arts

We want to see a doubling of the number of disabled people in the arts workforce

We want to see a doubling of the number of Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds in the arts workforce

We want to have introduced an Arts Council Apprenticeships scheme designed to provide opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds

We will have achieved a trebling of the number of BAME and disabled and on APW boards of governance

You can read the full article from last year here

Adeola Dewis

Artist, researcher, academic and TV presenter

I struggle to fully engage this as a response. My recent experience has revealed that there is certainly a surge to include diversity in all its forms on boards and in creative spaces and projects. However, this new ‘interest’ feels more like organisations ‘needing’ to diversify rather than ‘wanting’ to diversify, in order to secure their future and funding. I am hopeful though.

Elise Davison

Artistic Director, Taking Flight Theatre Company

What a year of change 2019 has been.  For Taking Flight it has seen the company move away from the annual Shakespeare production to more indoor, venue-based work.  

peeling by Kaite O’Reilly, opened on International Women’s Day in March at The Riverfront, Newport and then toured Wales and England and was a huge success earning 4 and 5* reviews.

The Guardian stating “Accessible theatre? Do it properly – do it like this”.  Following this Taking Flight was invited to Grenzenlos Kulture festival in Mainz, Germany as an example of best practice in accessibility.  It was a huge tour and highlighted once more the inaccessibility of much of Wales; accessible accommodation is very hard to find, and some venues struggled to meet our access riders.  However, this did lead to some very inventive solutions involving temporary dressing rooms created with flats, curtains and even a marquee! Obviously not the ideal but with our hugely creative stage management team always looking for solutions rather than the problems and the support of venues we made it work. High applause to Angela Gould at RCT Theatres for her work in this department. 

Angela Gould, Theatre Programme and Audience Development Manager, RCT Theatres.

One of our lovely actors toured with her dog who was a lovely addition to the team. Max is a therapy dog; many places we visited were only familiar with guide dogs, which made us realise how much there is to learn about the different types of assistance dogs.  

Everything we learnt during this extensive tour will feed into the work we have been developing towards a scheme like the Ramps on the Moon initiative.  A scheme like this can never be replicated, but the interest and passion from venues in Wales to be involved is overwhelming.  Creu Cymru, hynt and Taking Flight have been in ongoing discussions about ways to make this happen.  We read with interest that it was also a priority for ACW and have begun conversations with them around a similar scheme. As we have been researching and pushing for this to happen since ‘Ramps’ began in 2016, we are passionate that this becomes a reality.  Taking Flight has just received funding for their next production, Road, at Parc and Dare, RCT Theatres and we hope this partnership will be the first step.   Taking Flight will give support to participating venues to be confident to manage and produce inclusive work, to provide excellent access and a warm welcome to all- both audiences and creatives. 

While peeling was out on the road in the Autumn, we also remounted the hugely successful and totally gorgeous You’ve got Dragons.  After a run at WMC we hit the road again for a UK tour including a week run at Lyric Hammersmith which was almost sold out and incredibly well received. The desire for inclusive and accessible work for young people is growing.  Watch this space for more news on You’ve Got Dragons next adventure.

getthechance.wales/2017/04/25/review-youve-got-dragons-taking-flight-theatre-company-ysella-fish/

Taking Flight has often dreamt of setting up a Deaf- led Youth Theatre for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing young people and with funding from BBC Children in Need we have finally done it. Led by the tremendous Stephanie Back in BSL and English, the youth theatre began last week and the results are already fabulous. The Wales Millennium Centre are our amazing venue partner and host the weekly sessions for D/deaf children aged 4-18. We have been overwhelmed with interest in this project, demonstrating that this has been needed in Wales for a long time.     

There has also been a surge in interest from companies and individuals wanting to consider access while writing funding applications.  There is a general excitement around making work accessible. There are some brilliant intentions and I’ve had exciting conversations with companies about different types of access and have been able to recommend consultants and access professionals.  

The ground has been fertile for change for some time and there is much more inclusive and accessible work being created here than when we first started 12 years ago.   Theatres are also much more interested in programming diverse work and many have invested in Deaf Awareness training with Taking Flight (Led by Steph Back). 

Steph Back

 There is a real desire to diversify audiences and welcome them to theatre spaces.  Taking Flight’s next symposium on 28th Feb at Park and Dare RCT theatres on Relaxed Performances brings the brilliant Jess Thom, Touretteshero to Wales to discuss ways to provide the warmest possible welcome to those who may find the traditional etiquette of theatre a problem.   

Jess Thom, Touretteshero

There has been a surge of work featuring D/deaf and disabled performers, productions like Jonny Cotsen’s Louder is Not Always Clearer, Leeway Productions Last Five Years and Illumine’s 2023 really engaged new audiences and the venues have really built on this success.    There have been more productions that embed access in a creative way, a gorgeous example in Gods and Kings by Fourinfour productions with integrated BSL from Sami Thorpe.  I had lots of fun working with Julie Doyle and Likely Story integrating BSL interpreter Julie Doyle into Red. Companies are choosing to interpret, audio describe or caption all the shows in a run rather than just one which is really encouraging and promoting more equality of access to shows.

So, the will to make accessible work is absolutely there, the best of intentions are definitely there and, now the funding for access is factored into budgets, the funds are usually there. However, why is it still access that falls through the cracks, gets pushed aside or forgotten as a production approaches opening night?  I hear stories of interpreters and audio describers who can’t get into a rehearsal space to prep or are placed somewhere on stage that is neither aesthetically pleasing nor practical.  It can still sometimes feel like access is something that needs to be ticked off a list in order to fulfil a funding application.  

I am absolutely sure that this is not the intention; but we are all so overstretched, one person is often doing multiple jobs (especially in small companies) and when no one is directly responsible for access or it simply forms ‘part’ of someone’s role. So those best intentions and exciting plans are really hard to fully achieve.  Taking Flight are exploring this lack of provision for access co – ordination with Bath Spa University so watch this space for the results of our research… The next generation of theatre makers are coming, and they really care about making work that can be accessed by all – that makes me happy.

Rview: Six the musical Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

Where to start with Six? Is it a musical, is it a concert or is it a degree in Tudor History?

It’s all the above and some more. If like me you didn’t do very well on your History GCSE, but have since seen Horrible Histories, the story of Henry 8th’s six wives should be known to you in some way.

Divorced, beheaded, and now live, Six The Musical’s success of the last few years has been extraordinary. From humble beginnings at the Edinburgh Fringe, back to the West End, UK tours and being performed around the world. It’s quite a feat for something that on paper doesn’t sound that brilliant, but when you see it, you get proven very wrong.

Performed as a concert, Six is the 6 wives of Henry 8th telling their individual story through the means of song. The twist is that each queen is based on a 21st century female pop icon. Be that Adele (Jane Seymour), Lily Allen (Anne Boleyn), and Beyonce (Catherine of Aragon). What this brings is a modern contemporize twist to history from hundreds of years ago, but in realizing that, there’s an underlying cause that brings it to the present with the likes of #MeToo.

The production, the sound and the overall feel is something that hasn’t really been done before. Maybe this will see more musical theatre being created this way. It was nice to see a spread of ages attending too. People going for different reasons, maybe history students, young teenage girls, or wanting to witness something quite special and different from a normal musical.

Performance wise it would be unfair to pick one individual since that’s what the whole remit was supposed to be. Individually, the Six women sing amazingly, as a group is where their power truly lies. If there’s going to be a new girlband, maybe they’ll come from the one of the Six’s line ups? All I do know is that it was an amazing afternoon spent at Wales Millennium Centre, witnessing something quite unique – plus it meant I went home and watched documentaries on Youtube about the 6 wives.

Don’t worry about losing your head – it’s worth it.

☆☆☆☆☆☆ performance (See what I did there)

Reviewer: Patrick Downes

The Get the Chance 2019 Cultural Highlights

Sian Thomas

1) getthechance.wales/2019/10/30/review-heartsong-by-tj-klune-by-sian-thomas/. I was so excited for this book to come out and it really delivered. It’s on one of my favourite series with an exceptional way of world building and atmosphere, and the way the characters act towards each other and their surroundings is incredible. It’s funny, loving, and full of action, and I love it.

2) getthechance.wales/2019/05/02/review-every-word-you-cannot-say-by-iain-thomas-by-sian-thomas/. Another amazing book from Iain Thomas. Also it’s very new and different! Bright, too. Since the I Wrote This For You collection all have white/grey colour schemes, this one being bright blue was a lovely change. I adore it – it’s got some really powerful words in it, too.

3) getthechance.wales/2019/03/02/review-how-to-train-your-dragon-3-by-sian-thomas/. End of an era! I loved this series when I was in my early teens and kept a close hold of it all the way until the end. I cried when I saw it in the cinema, at the end, when Hiccup and Toothless went their separate ways and then saw each other again a good number of years later. An amazing film about people and creatures and their relationships. Also, visually stunning. Animation is a top tier medium.

Personal: I finished my first year of university this year, and did so well in my classes that the university gave me a cash prize. There was a chance for people to win £1000 by getting a really good mark for their first year, and I had no idea about it until I received an email saying I’d won. Which was amazing news! It made me really proud of my both my actual work and my work ethic from the first year. It was a big academic confidence boost!

Barbara Michaels

With such a cornucopia of goodies on offer theatre-wise during the past year, it isn’t easy to single out just three.  For my money, two of these have to be musical theatre productions: Kinky Boots and Les Misérables, both staged in the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre.

First on my list has to be Les Misérables.  Cameron Mackintosh’s production, first staged almost a decade ago to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Les Mis, once again proved what a sure-fire winner it is. Grand theatre at its best, top of the tree for music, lyrics, storyline et al.  A privilege to watch, all presented by a multi-talented cast, among them Welsh actor Ian Hughes as a nimble-footed Thenardier who brought the audience to its feet on opening night with his uproariously funny rendering of Master of the House. 

Closely followed, I must admit by Kinky Boots which was, start to finish, a joy to watch.  So much more than “Just another musical,” it has at its heart a subject which nowadays is treated in most cases empathetically but which was by any means the case only a few short years ago.  I refer to transgender. Kinky Boots tackles this head on, with the occasional heartbreak mixed with the fun and verve which is characteristic of this amazing show, all dished out by a superb cast.

On to number three – also at the WMC, home of Welsh National Opera who once again proved what a top-notch company they are with their new production of Bizet’s Carmen. An operatic sizzler with wonderful music, the story of the torrid but doomed relationship of the gypsy girl Carmen and her solder lover is given a contemporary twist by director Jo Davies which works brilliantly, with the added advantage of French being the native tongue of mezzo soprano Virginie Verrez in the title role. With the mesmeric Habanera in Act I, wonderful music and at times gut-wrenching libretto, this Carmen is proof – if, indeed, proof was needed – that a new slant on an old favourite can actually work.

And now to the best “Cultural experience.”  I am going to go off piste here, for to my mind it has to be the film Solomon and Gaenor, given a twentieth anniversary screening at Chapter with the film’s writer/director Paul Morrison, producer Sheryl Crown and leading lady Nia Roberts on stage afterwards for a Q and A.  The Oscar-nominated and BAFTA award-winning film, with dialogue in Welsh, English and Yiddish, set in the Valleys back in the time of the Tredegar riots, tells the story of forbidden love between a young Jewish peddler and a young girl from a strict Chapel going family. 

Pinpointing how attitudes have changed, despite still – as Morrison commented during the discussion afterwards – having a way to go, Solomon and Gaenor, shown as part of the Jewish Film Festival, is riveting from start to finish in a drama that is upfront and unique in its presentation.

Barbara Elin

2019 was a brilliant year for Welsh theatre, a real abundance of riches across the stages of Cardiff. American Idiot started off the year with a bang, Peter Pan Goes Wrong brought comedic chaos, and Curtains brought the kind of vintage charm you can only usually find among the bright lights of Broadway and the West End. Narrowing it down is a tricky task, but there were a few shows that stood out among the rest for me…

#3: The Creature (Chapter Arts Centre)

In what daily seems like an increasingly unkind, apathetic world, The Creature was a beam of hope in a dark time that didn’t shy away from trauma or tragedy but which held with it the promise of a better future – if we fight for it. It seemed perfectly tailored to me and my research interests – a modern take on the criminal justice system via a pseudo-Frankenstein adaptation, it hooked into my soul and still hasn’t let go. I’m eagerly anticipating the future endeavours of this fantastic creative team.

#2: Cardiff Does Christmas – Cinderella (New Theatre) and The Snow Queen (Sherman Theatre)

The Christmas shows this year were the best I’ve had the privilege of seeing in quite some time. Cinderella was the show that reignited my long-dormant love of panto and saw the season in with festive cheer, while Sherman Theatre’s The Snow Queen was brimming with Christmas magic and a sweet tale of friendship, courage, and the fight against seemingly-insurmountable odds – a message we could all use about now.

#1: Hedda Gabler (Sherman Theatre)

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that the Sherman is the soul of contemporary Welsh theatre – consistently producing creative, fascinating and timely plays ‘rooted in Wales but relevant to the world’, as AD Joe Murphy said of his artistic vision. Their staging of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler was an utterly stunning adaptation that haunts me to this day – and Prof Ambreena Manji and I were blessed to be able to bring our Law and Literature students to the production as we’re studying the text this year. You know it’s a roaring success when the students want to write their coursework on Hedda!

Reviewing for Get the Chance has been my cultural highlight, which includes being continually in awe of the kindness and generosity of the Sherman, New Theatre and Chapter: the future of Welsh Theatre is in good hands indeed!

Losing Home, My 2019 Highlight, Les Misérables, Eva Marloes


As 2019 comes to a close, so vanishes the last hope of stopping Brexit. It is decided. Parliament has agreed our ‘divorce’ from the EU. Some feel elated, some relieved, some dejected. The morning after the 2016’s referendum, some people in Britain woke up and felt stripped of their very identity. The EU question was never about rules and regulations, trade agreements or sovereignty; it was about identity. In the political debate, only the Leave side appealed to identity. The European identity of many Remainers was and still largely is neglected. This is what makes Mathilde Lopez’s interpretation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables so poignant. It gave voice to the emotional attachment to the EU some people have always felt or have begun to feel once that belonging came under threat.

The beauty of Lopez’s take on Hugo’s masterpiece lies in interweaving the ‘small’ lives of individuals with the ‘big’ events of history. It is personal and political. It speaks of today by reaching into the past. With Les Misérables, Lopez brings together the battle of Brexit with that of Waterloo. It is a tragi-comedy that makes the lives of ordinary people part of history. Amidst the blood of Waterloo, the crisps devoured while listening to the referendum results, and the summer music of holiday-makers, we experienced the banality and significance of the Brexit decision.

The play was fun and moving. It was original, innovative, and thoughtful. It wasn’t perfect and wasn’t the best show I’ve seen in 2019 (that should go to WNO’s Rigoletto), but it was the most significant of what the country is going through. By mixing the escapism of the holiday feel with the horror of Waterloo and the shock of people watching the referendum results coming in, Les Misérables captures the closeness and distance we feel when caught in events of historical significance.

In one night, something changed radically. For European citizens in Britain, Brexit has created insecurity about their status, brought extra costs to get documentation that might allow them to stay, and has made them vulnerable to attack and insults. They don’t belong. The nostalgic identity the ideologues of Brexit have conjured is too narrow and homogeneous for some British people too. They too don’t belong. As Britain seeks to close its borders and refashion a nationalistic identity, some of us have lost their home.

In my review of Lopez’s Les Misérables, I wrote that the play appealed to faith, hope, and love. It was an acceptance of defeat without despair, a search for strength in love, not distance. Hugo described Waterloo as ‘the beginning of the defeat.’ As the first phase of Brexit concludes, it is tempting to use Hugo’s words for Brexit as the defeat of the dream of an inclusive and welcoming society, but it is not over. Nostalgia is incapable of meeting the challenge of the present, let alone of envisioning a future. That is for us to do. It is for all of us to imagine our future and rebuild our home. It begins now.

(My behind the scene article on the production Les Misérables can be found here)

Rhys Payne

Bodyguard at The WMC

The biggest and boldest production I have ever seen with music that has become iconic.

Meet Fred, Hijinx Theatre Company

A fantastic piece of theatre thy showed the true meaning of inclusivity while also showing an unique art form of puppeteering.

Stammer Mouth

A fantastic and modern piece of theatre that literally gave a voice to someone who doesn’t have one.


Gareth Williams


Pavilion, Theatr Clwyd 

A sharp and witty ode to small town Wales, Emily White has produced a great piece of engaging drama out of the mundane, the everyday. With recognisable characters brought to life by a hugely talented cast, this represents an excellent debut for a Welsh writer whose talent is sure to be noticed. 

35 Awr 

Writer Fflur Dafydd continues to demonstrate why she is one of Wales’ foremost scriptwriters with this intriguing mystery drama. Her intimate characterisation and weaving narrative kept viewers gripped right to final moments of its eight-part run.


Anorac

A really important and culturally significant film, providing a fascinating insight into the Welsh language music scene. Huw Stephens deserves huge credit for spearheading it. I urge you to see it if you can’.

Samuel Longville

Cotton Fingers, NTW by Rachel Trezise and On Bear Ridge, NTW by Ed Thomas, both at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. Having returned from University in Brighton this year, it was brilliant to see the Sherman Theatre flourishing as much as it was when I left Cardiff 3 years ago. The detail that went into Cai Dyfan’s set design for On Bear Ridge was incredible to witness. His level of craftsmanship, often only found in commercial and west end theatres, was a delight to see on a smaller, regional stage.

Meanwhile, a more stripped back Cotton Fingers let its script do all the talking and was skill-fully delivered by actor Amy Molloy.

Shout out must go to Katherine Chandler for her play Lose Yourself, also at the Sherman Theatre. Although I did not review this play, it was definitely one of my highlights of 2019. Gut-wrenching for all the right reasons, its finale left the audience silent. I’ll never forget heaviness in the air at the end of play felt by everyone in the audience who just experienced something very important together.

Personal cultural event of 2019: Slowthai at Glastonbury – never before have I been so instantly hooked on an artist I’ve never listened to before. The way he riled up the crowd with his boisterous, unapologetic stagemanship was incredible to witness and I haven’t stopped listening to him since.

Richard Evans

Christmas Carol, Theatr Clwyd

A thoroughly enjoyable interactive performance that communicated much of what Dickens intended yet had a lightness of touch, an impish humour and a sense of occasion that made it well suited to a Christmas show.

Yes Prime Minister,Theatr Clwyd