Category Archives: Theatre

“I won’t lie, it is the best job in the world” An interview with Theatre Designer Cory Shipp.

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

I’m Cory, I’m 29 and I am a theatre designer.  I was born in Wales and trained on the MA Design for Performance course at the RWCMD.  I’m an avid houseplant collector, a lover of cats and a huge drinker of coffee!


What got you interested in the arts?

I was always really lucky, Mum had a huge interest in theatre and took me regularly to see shows of all different scales.  I grew up listening the Les Miserables soundtrack and with both parents supporting me to go into it as a career.

I also had an incredible drama teacher who was my driving force.  I can remember going to see the Shakespeare histories on cycle at the RSC on a trip and just being absolutely captivated about how the words literally came to life – I still believe Shakespeare should never be solely read.  We created huge school shows on an assembly stage and a shoestring budget, with him spending all of his own hours building and scenery painting. His dedication to the arts and the creativity he showed me is absolutely the reason I do what I do today.

Prior to studying for an MA in Theatre Design at RWCMD you studied for a Degree in English and Drama at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Does your knowledge of text impact your approach to the design process?

Oh absolutely! Analysing text is a huge part of what we do, although perhaps not quite to the level of degree an English student does.  I think reading is generally a very important skill for being a designer – we get through a lot of scripts a year and the ability to absorb them easily and quickly is an advantage.  However I do occasionally get a little too analytical and technical, which can hinder the creative process slightly.  Being incredibly practical is part of the job, but teaching myself to get out of the “organised and analytic” brain and into the “free imagination” one was a huge learning curve.

The freelance sector has been hugely affected with the Covid-19 Pandemic and subsequent loss of work. How did this affect you and can you see things improving as the vaccine roll out continues?

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that everyone in the arts was hit massively – myself included.  I lost about 6 jobs over night to a point where I just turned my phone off and shoved it in a drawer to protect myself from the onslaught of sad news.  It only got harder when I realised myself, and many others like me, didn’t qualify for financial help regardless of being self-employed for years. 

It’s been a very hard year, but I have managed to try and find some positives.  I spent a few months improving some skills, making masks, meetings friends I had put off for years due to being too busy and generally just took more time for myself.

I would like to think the vaccine rollout will move things forward to a place where we can do things that resemble normal again, but it will take time.  For many of us, adapting to social occasions again will take time, and it’s important we remember that not everyone is ready for the welcoming hug in a rehearsal space.

There has been a great deal of discussion on new ways of working within the cultural sector as things improve. What ways of working would you like to see established, particularly for freelancers?

I’d like to think the industry will come back stronger – and there are signs of it.  For the first time in years we are seeing freelancers and artists being put at the forefront of buildings (which is long overdue – its how most of us ended up adrift and poor during the pandemic) with schemes like the WMC Creative Associates

New Diorama creating free rehearsals spaces and development for freelancers and hopefully this is just the beginning.  I want to see more open hiring (for anyone who hasn’t, sign up to Open Hire…) so that we get out of the bubble of the same creatives in the same buildings all of the time.  I want to see more diverse teams, where everyone is treated with respect and with value.

Selfishly, I want to see better designers’ rights.  We are hugely underpaid, have very little in terms of opportunities unless you know people, and ultimately for parents it’s even harder – how do you do tech working hours if you want a family and are seen as the primary caregiver? This isn’t just about women.  It’s a long overdue conversation, but we need more resident designer opportunities, more open job adverts and more flexibility for working parents everywhere.

If someone wanted to stay and train in Wales and then pursue a career in Theatre Design, what would you advise them to do?  Is a career in Theatre Design possible?

Networking is pretty much everything at the moment – who you know is half of the job.  It isn’t the way it should be, but it is.  Make an effort to introduce yourself to people who work in theatre, know who is making the work you like and see it so that you can talk about it. Absolutely train, you can do it without formal training, but a formal training centre will give you the boost not the industry that is so helpful – the RWCMD exhibition was a great step-up for us all. Yes it is possible – I’m managing it, and I never thought I would be able to.  It’s hard, I won’t lie but it is the best job in the world.  I am my own boss, I control my deadlines, I meet the best people and I get to create things that inspire audiences and thats amazing! Yes, the hours are really hard and the pay sometimes is awful – especially when you’re starting out, but its still worth it, just be ready to work incredibly hard and fight for your place.  There are so many things we need to change in the industry but we need people to help us change it.

Which theatre designers inspire your creative practice?

Colin Richmond, first and foremost.  I think there’s something beautiful about everything he does – even his costume sketches are a work of art. 

Secondly – Anna Fleischle for her arduous work on women in theatre and being very honest about her experiences. Her work is also incredible in a very different way.  For anyone unfamiliar, check out Hangmen at The Royal Court.

I’ve also got a huge amount of respect for Grace Smart, a designer who writes frequently in The Stage telling of her opinions on the rights of designers, the state of the theatre world and really opening the book up on how everyday is a challenge and as wonderful as the job is, it can be a challenge and a joy at the same time.

Grace Smart, photographic Credit David Monteith-Hodge, Stage Awards 2019

Can you share your approach to the design process? What would your normal working day consist of?

A normal working day? I don’t know if it exists! I spend a lot of time reading texts, and researching through various source books I’ve gathered over the year.   Sometimes a design concept appears suddenly out of somewhere you would never expect to find it.

A little further down the line an average day consists of model making, slaving over my desk with tiny furniture and endless coffee. Either that, or online shopping and charity shop trawling for costumes, or sketching them in all sorts of different styles.  Its why I love the job so much – a normal day just isn’t a thing, every day brings its own different set of tasks and challenges!

Cory’s workspace

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers that creatives in Wales face? If you are, what might be done to remove these barriers?

 The biggest barrier I found working in Wales was how hard it was to get employed.  Theres a systemic failing in British Theatre that to be seen as successful you have to have made work in London – its the only reason I moved, and sadly the move proved my point.   Wales (and other regional theatres) need to make hiring more accessible, allow people to apply for posts allowing a wider range of candidates – give priority to Welsh and Wales based artists.  I would love to see theatres give a show a year to a graduate or someone who graduated in the last 18 months in Wales and give them a shot to prove they can work professionally out of drama school.

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues and theatres. If theatres want to attract audiences what do you think they should do?

Ticket prices are a huge problem in terms of encouraging people in.  It will be a hard few months in terms of audience confidence anyway, but a lot of people who normally go to the theatre will be significantly worse off than they were before.  Opening previews with a Pay What You Can would be a great step to encourage people back, but I think we should also be open about what we are doing to make sure people are safe.  Advertise the covid measures for cast, crew and audiences to encourage audience support.  Audiences will return, live theatre is too unique of an experience to not be tempted!

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

I’d love to see the development of new musicals coming from the land of song! Wales is known for its arts and culture, our male voice choirs, our language. We should use these skills and become known as the producer of new musical work – the industry needs it desperately, as well as a producing house to put it in.  After all, we have some great producing houses – lets sponsor growing new talents.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Dual-language.  I think it’s incredible that works can be seen in two languages and how we blend those together to create something is really special.  I’m not a Welsh speaker, but I think the pride we have in our nation and our sense of patriotism is something truly special and to be able to present that in our own language through art is a truly amazing thing that I would like to see more of!

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

I recently managed to see Cruise the Play here in London which was truly incredible. One man show, an hour and a half long, played by Jack Holden who also had various other roles in the production.  He told the story of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s through the eyes of two men who were diagnosed but the ending truly hit me.  In a brilliant moment of stepping out of the dramatised narrative Jack tells of how he feared turning 30 through a pandemic (as if I’m honest, so have I) and that after walking through Soho in the current times during a health crisis of a different kind, he realised that he was lucky to be turning 30, when so many don’t get that chance.  It really put perspective on the last year and what so many have lost.

Review, The Merthyr Stigmatist, Sherman Theatre by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The beauty of The Merthyr Stigmatist lies in its contemporary gospel message. “Why shouldn’t God send a miracle to Merthyr Tydfil?” is the strapline. One would be hard-pressed to come up with an answer at this play’s ending. Writer Lisa Parry carries something into her production which feels like its been formed in the fire of direct experience. She uses Catholic theology and Jesus’ paradoxology to give it added form and meaning. It is a narrative which challenges the narrative – the narrative that seeks to define us; made by those in power which can silence us, if we let it; that Parry attempts to rewrite in this excellent two-woman show.

Bethan McLean makes an impressive professional debut as schoolgirl Carys, who claims to have the stigmata: Christ’s wounds from the cross. Challenging her at every turn is her science teacher, Sian, enigmatically played by Bethan Mary-James. The two riff off one another to great effect, Parry’s deft dialogue translating into a fascinating piece of ambiguous characterisation in their hands. The result is a one-hour piece which refuses to take sides. One is never entirely sure whether the fervent beliefs of Carys are a sign of mental ill health or the readily dismissive Sian is not masking some kind of deep trauma. What is clear is the passion that comes through in their exchange, as they wrestle with a sense of identity and purpose. Both McLean and Mary-James bring a bitter sense of the reality that their respective characters are facing. As a result, though the stigmata may present as a possible actual event in the narrative, its symbolic position at its centre is what’s most important here.

This is where The Merthyr Stigmatist really shows itself to be a story for our time. For it challenges the assumptions made by the establishment, told to us in our overriding cultural narrative, that in order to make something of ourselves we must leave our small, local, tight-knit communities behind; we must swap them for a university education in towns and cities where regeneration and chic, café-culture living represent a professionalism which indicates success; and if, for some reason, we don’t quite get on and have to return to our native home, we must become some kind of saviour to the next generation, repeating the same mantra to them, and thus becoming part of the false and disempowering system that does anything but allow young people like Carys to be proud of where they come from if only those in power would just stop and listen – really listen – to what they have to say*.

The Merthyr Stigmatist succeeds in deconstructing this established narrative, subverting the notion of salvific agency in the process. In the end, it is Carys who saves Sian, not the other way around. Yet neither is Carys left completely unchanged by her encounter with Sian. This is where I sense the theological dimension of Parry’s play coming to the fore, as the themes of interdependence (the power of community) and empowerment (self-confidence and self-belief) break through. The result is not only the championing of a repressed voice of the Valleys but also a tapping into an emerging zeitgeist with regards Welsh identity. In this way, Parry uses the local to also touch upon a national concern, namely how Wales sees itself, in the context of the UK and the world. It is a conversation already happening to which, I think, this play can certainly contribute. As such, those in power would do well to listen – really listen – to what it has to say. For it is speaking a truth that, sadly, remains unheard.

Click here to view the play for yourself.

Review by
Gareth Williams

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Gareth to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Review The Merthyr Stigmatist, Sherman Theatre and Theatre Uncut by Barbara Hughes-Moore

5/5 stars

“Do I literally have to bleed in front of you to get you to listen?” This is the question that haunts Lisa Parry’s visceral new play. Co-produced by the Sherman Theatre and Theatre Uncut, The Merthyr Stigmatist is a lean, lacerating two-hander that tells the story of sixteen-year-old Carys (Bethan McLean, in her professional debut) who claims to have received the wounds of Christ. Meanwhile, her sceptical teacher, Siân (Bethan Mary-James), struggles to believe that the hand of divinity has alighted, of all places, on Merthyr Tydfil.

It’s hard to express just how incredible it is to have the Sherman Theatre back. They’ve kept the artistic flame burning through unprecedented circumstances, and their latest production is a blazing triumph of personal and epic proportions. Parry’s play nimbly traverses the rocky terrain of politics, culture, and faith, and director Emma Callander, marking the tenth anniversary of Theatre Uncut’s founding, brilliantly balances tension and emotional tautness as the play moves pacily through beat after enthralling beat.

The Merthyr Stigmatist at the Sherman Theatre Writer Lisa Parry Director Emma Callander Designer Elin Steele Composer Eädyth Crawford Sound Designer Ian Barnard Lighting Designer Andy Pike Assistant Director Carli De’La Hughes (Supported by Ashley Family Foundation) Fight Director Kev McCurdy Carys Bethan McLean Siân Bethan Mary-James

McLean and Mary-James are not merely mirrors, personalities bleeding in between the cracks; they are each other’s prism. To bring more characters to the stage would have refracted the light these two blistering performers throw on each other. (Aptly, the patriarchal (God)head Mr Williams remains unseen and offstage). As the power dynamics shift they prowl around Elin Steele’s sinisterly symmetrical set, which variously evokes a classroom, a cage, and a confessional. Bordered by liminal space, and brought to pulsing life by Andy Pike’s vivifying lighting, the only signifiers of the outside world are the choruses of Carys’ disciples and a line of what looks like rocks, perhaps Welsh slate, lining the front of the stage. At first glance, it looked like kindling for a martyr’s pyre – but on further reflection, I detected littered scraps of the Valleys’ industrial past, and it called to mind the Welsh towns that were flooded to provide English regions with water: Tryweryn and Elan, Llanwyddyn and Claerwen. Each one an Atlantis. The ruins of these stolen cities can sometimes be seen on warm days.

Intergenerational Welsh trauma is a wound that runs deep in the show. The spectre of Aberfan is invoked more than once, and Carys chastises her teacher for leaving her hometown (and accent) behind for pastures new in Cardiff, which might as well be ‘a different world’. In comparison to the vibrant, distinct Valleys community ‘where we look after each other’, Cardiff is ‘somewhere that could be anywhere’, a metropolis in the mould of many before it. While potrayals of the Valleys have historically honed in on negative stereotypes, Parry’s play is a moving paean to Merthyr and its individuality, its beauty and its love, its humour and its character, and above all its sense of community.

Merthyr Tydfil, or ‘Tydfil the Martyr’, is named after the daughter of an ancient Welsh King, who was known for her compassion and healing skill. Her sister formed a religious community in what is now Aberfan – a vivid reminder that we are never far away from our saints. Tydfil did not run when Picts invaded her land: she knelt calmly and prayed. Parry’s play is very much in the spirit of its martyred namesake. You cannot heal a wound, or a town, by running from it. Ivan Illich described the stigmata as an ‘individual embodiment of… contemplated pain’, and Carys, like her peers and the generations to come, will have to bear the marks of damage wrought by their forebears. But, like the diamonds in Carys’ mock science exam, like the gems of the coalfields and of the pits, something special and beautiful can be formed under immense heat and pressure. You just have to know where to look.

Recorded live during the pandemic and available to stream online through to 12th June, The Merthyr Stigmatist is just under an hour of utterly transcendent theatre. It unflinchingly addresses mental health, rape culture, and self-harm, and makes space for women’s rage. The show itself is an open wound, presented to us, palms up, asking for supplication, or succour, or simply to be seen. Are the holes in Carys’ hands and feet the marks of divinity, or of delusion? That is a question for you to answer, but in doing so, you might risk missing the miracle entirely.

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Review Welcome Back, Justin Teddy Cliffe by Leslie R. Herman Jones

Full disclosure: I like this guy.

A conflict of interest may be real, potential, or perceived. You must disclose all actual and potential conflicts of interest promptly.[1]

I have only known and admired him in a professional context. Done.

#welcomeback, #justinteddycliffe.

In the fateful words of JTC, ‘everything online is weird and nebulous’, and the ‘South Wales-based performer + theatre maker-come-nonsensical ideasman’, Justin Teddy Cliffe, is no exception. Weird and nebulous figure large in his show, Welcome Back, livestreaming on YouTube, where his particular brand of weird and nebulous is well-worth watching.

In his 30-40 minute one-man show, Cliffe performs live at Le Pub in Newport (Gwent) to cardboard cut outs, while simultaneously reaching human audiences digitally in cyberspace. Nice juxtaposition.

Self-created, directed and performed, with dramaturgy by Jeremy Linnell, Cliffe shows up in his underwear on a circular stage the size of a lazy susan — enough space for one man and four cans of beer. I’m guessing the mini stage was a creative decision — it had to be tight enough to get an upstage shot of his arse and still get audience reaction.

Cliffe’s brand extends to a kind of civilised vulgarity, which, if you don’t typically dance to the vulgar beat, try it. Cliffe delivers vulgar on the off-beat — it’s charming, it’s gentle — but don’t be fooled, it’s still a roller coaster ride with heightened realism, giving us an up ’n over view of the human condition in all its pitiful frailty, perhaps a view from the ‘Pepsi Max aka The Big One’ he still dreams of, dreams crushed like his beer cans, crushed, to delineate scene changes. And if you do like to dance you won’t want to miss his beat box R&B number, Right on Time (Choreography, Kylie Ann Smith).

 The extent to which Welcome Back is autobiographical isn’t clear. His only character isn’t named. I suggest he represents Everyman. He questions: ’How will we cope going back into the world after having been in survival mode for so long?’ The Universe answers, ‘Who knows, but before you start worrying about all that, why don’t you toast this strange time with a drink or four and dance like it’s the end of the world as we know it.’ And so he does, for all humans and cut-outs to see.

The show deals with mental health, survival modes, memories, self-preservation and accepting change through a contemporary kind of clowning, and backed up by the science of survival we see in a slideshow at the top of the show, designed to assure us when he goes off on one.

His dreams — abstract memories — form the backbone of the show; song, dance and mini-riffs — like the ‘If You Haven’t Done That’ tale about his wild swimming, kombucha drinking, culture growing neighbours — are crack fillers. Cliffe’s recollections are mutually painful  — he hurts, we hurt; he confesses they are ‘not stories I really want to tell, so let’s get on with it,’ a way of bracing himself and suggesting we strap ourselves in, too. And he tackles some tough stuff — but he makes sure that there’s a soft landing, providing billows of laughter at his raucous characterisation and self-styled use of language.

 Justin Teddy Cliffe’s kind of humour begs the world to be a kinder, more humorous place. He manages to deliver raw stories, giving us something to really chew on, and edgy messages, sharp edges you’ve got to be mindful of. The combination is a prescription for our well-being: all that chewing flexes and stretches the brain muscles; and those edges require a wholesome flexibility and navigation skills.

Welcome Back is an essential work out.

Leslie R. Herman Jones

28 May 2021

[1] WGICodeofConductEthics.pdf

The Merthyr Stigmatist, A Sherman Theatre & Theatre Uncut co-production Review by Bethan Lewis

Image credit: Mark Douet.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

As a born and bred Valleys girl I have mixed feelings about plays that are set in “The Valleys”.  Although it’s great to see these areas represented on stage, in the past I have been disappointed by productions that include stereotypical characters portraying stories that no longer seem relevant (anyone else feel like there is a bit of a theatrical obsession with the miners strike?). As a local, I’m also attuned to spotting a dodgy Valley’s accent a mile off – so, basically, I’m pretty hard to please.

However, The Merthyr Stigmatist written by Lisa Parry is a breath of fresh air amidst this catalogue of out-dated, tokenistic work. The powerful production which had its digital world premiere this week, is the perfect choice for the Sherman Theatre’s first fully staged performance in over a year. It signals a bold return for the Sherman, demonstrating the efficacy of Welsh theatre proving that local stories can have a global resonance. 

As the play opens, we are introduced to the characters of sixteen year old Carys and her teacher Sian.  Carys, played by Bethan McLean who makes her professional debut in the production, claims to have received the wounds of Christ.  She believes that this is a sign that she has been “chosen” and is determined to capitalise on the experience to achieve social media fame.  Her teacher, played by Bethan Mary-James, feels that the only way to protect her pupil is to silence her.  Both actors give excellent performances, bringing authenticity to the piece. McLean is utterly convincing as a misunderstood, brash teenager who is desperate to be heard. As the piece develops and Carys learns she is able to push her teachers buttons, Mary-James’ “snobby” Cardiff accent subtly but cleverly slips back into her native Valley’s dialect signaling that she can no longer avoid her past.

All of the action takes place in a Merthyr classroom, the stage is simply set with bright intrusive lighting.  There is little space for the characters to move which adds to the intensity of the piece as the tension builds. The play translated well as a digital piece and, although I couldn’t help wishing that I could watch this performance in the theatre rather than through my laptop, it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the production. 

Lisa Parry describes Merthyr as “one of [her] favourite places in the whole world”, it is clear throughout that she respects the area and would like to “stop the stigma”  that some may associate with it.  Whilst the play is littered with local references and vivid descriptions of the area, the beauty of the piece is its universality. The play explores global issues, covering politics, culture and religion.  It raises pertinent questions about the motives of those in power and challenges our perception of truth. 

Ultimately, this play could be based anywhere; it is relevant, contemporary and provocative. The fact that Parry has decided to base the piece in Merthyr, shifts the power paradigm, allowing new voices to be heard.  Afterall, as Carys asks – “why shouldn’t someone from Merthyr be the chosen one?”

The production is available to view here online until the 12th of June.

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Review, Herding Cats, Soho Theatre by Leslie R. Herman Jones

Credit all screenshots Leslie R. Herman Jones.

The revival of Lucinda Coxon’s Herding Cats, first produced in 2010 at Theatre Royal Bath, and directed by Anthony Banks is a raw, complex and twisted dark comedy that hacks away unapologetically at some of humanity’s worst ills. This time, again directed by Banks, it’s at the Soho Theatre in London, and presented with a live-stream component, promising to be a groundbreaking experience.

Set in a hardcore, passive-aggressive emotional landscape, the play deals with loneliness, intimacy and trust, and Coxon’s cutting, acerbic dialogue — especially out of the mouth of Justine, played by Sophie Melville (Iphigenia in Splott) — hurts, a lot. Justine and Michael, played by Jassa Ahluwalia (Peaky Blinders) are 20-something flatmates. Justine works long hours in an office; Michael appears to work way fewer hours, from home. She dresses well and looks great; he doesn’t change his clothes throughout. Justine is hyperactive, a non-stop talker and an open book. Michael, while responsive, is subdued and reveals little. She is trying hard to resist a drink; he drinks and offers her drinks. Their relationship looks, for all their differences, to be one of good friends, who like and trust one another. But behind Micheal’s sealed lips are secrets, and the underlying cryptic tension questions everything.

The aura of the entire production, including the pre-set, is edgy. The notion of this shared live and digital performance space is edgy. The soundscape (Ben & Max Ringham) adds more edge. There is a sense that we are all in this together, but only in that we are all, audience included, flying by the seat of our pants. In all other ways we are disconnected, and that produces an uncomfortable energy in the house. Well, in my house anyway. Even digitally, this play insists we feel something, even if we don’t know what to feel yet.

‘Enter’ the third, especially evasive, character, Saddo, played by Greg Germann (Grey’s Anatomy). He’s in his car on the phone, literally elsewhere, and that’s the point. The achievement of his playing the scene live from L.A., alongside and together with  Ahluwalia live on stage in London, is very cool. That he hits his marks consistently without a hitch from start to finish is quite a feat, but once we’ve seen the technology work in Germann’s first appearance, it doesn’t wow us quite the same way again. We have become accustomed to the tech working in other settings, so I’d surmise that this is less breakthrough stuff for audiences and more for the producers (O’Henry; Stellar; Jeff Hollander; and Theatre Nerd). But you know, my response is based on having watched digitally at home. The in-theatre audience experience may be completely different, and I’ll be interested to find out more about that. I’d also like to get backstage and talk to the stage manager (Rory Neal-McKenzie) about his experience calling the show!

Through an exclusively on-screen persona and regular sexline chats with Michael, Germann delivers Saddo’s special recipe for evil-dipped-in-shameful somewhat flatly, but it is still a gut full. Saddo is Michael’s ‘Daddy’. Michael is Saddo’s daughter? More provoking is the jaded and skillfully manipulative Michael, and Ahluwalia’s vocal timing in these scenes is impressive. Almost in the same breath he switches using his little girl voice to seduce her Daddy and Michael’s adult male voice to insist that Saddo ‘put the payment through’.

Melville reaches the highs and lows of this woman’s desperately genuine, heart-on-sleeve attempt to be the best person she possibly can be, naively trusting, viciously self hating, with subtle precision. 

Doubly mention-worthy is the costumes (Costume Designer, Susan Kulkarni). Michael’s ‘look’ represents the popular pajama culture spawned years before we were locked down in our homes, but one that took firm hold. Multiple costume changes intimate that Justine’s clothes define her, and that she also defines her generation, and I’d bet there is interest in where to find them.

Throw in Justine’s love-hate relationship with her boss, who crosses the line; her on the wagon, off the wagon relationship with alcohol; and the nebulous way her panties keep disappearing, and you may find yourself crying and laughing at once. Genders, roles, intentions, and outcomes are blended into a sick smoothie of sorts, rich in nutrients and toxins in equal measure, not all ingredients are clearly listed on the label.

Justine and Michaels duet of The Twelve Days of Christmas serves as an Intermission and is much needed to break the tension, but it is not enough to brace us for what is to come. And the caustic ‘punch’ line — is not a joke.

Leslie R. Herman Jones for Get The Chance Wales, May 2021

Review, The Producers (No, Not That One), Pleasance Theatre

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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.

“Rwy’n cael fy nhynnu at nodweddion emosiynol a chorfforol y profiad dynol.” Cyfweliad â Hanna Lyn Hughes.

Clod i Noel Shelley

Helo Hanna, mae’n braf i gwrdd â chi. Allwch chi roi rhywfaint o wybodaeth i’n darllenwyr am eich cefndir os gwelwch yn dda?

Rwy’n ddawnsiwr llawrydd o Gaerdydd. Fe wnes i hyfforddi fel Aelod Cyswllt o’r Ysgol Ballet Frenhinol a Chwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru cyn mynychu Ysgol Ddawns Gyfoes Llundain yn 18 oed. Rwyf wedi gweithio gyda choreograffwyr gan gynnwys Crystal Pite, Caroline Finn a Dane Hurst ac wedi dawnsio gyda chwmnïau fel y Danish Dance Theatre a Just Us Dance Theatre, ac yn ddiweddar rwyf wedi ymuno â Ballet Cymru fel dawnsiwr cwmni.

Beth sbardunodd eich diddordeb yn y celfyddydau?

Rwyf wedi bod yn greadigol erioed. Gan amlaf yn yr ysgol, roeddwn yn dwdlan dros fy ngwaith cartref mathemateg ac yn creu dawnsiau disgo ar iard yr ysgol. Roeddwn hefyd wrth fy modd yn astudio Tecstilau a Drama Safon Uwch.

Clod i Sian Treberth

Rydych chi’n ddawnsiwr cwmni gyda Ballet Cymru ac ar hyn o bryd rydych chi’n gweithio gyda nhw i edrych ar ffyrdd o gefnogi cyflwyno dawns yn yr Iaith Gymraeg. Beth yw eich gobeithion a’ch uchelgeisiau ar gyfer y fenter newydd hon?

Yn dilyn cyfnod prawf llwyddiannus, rydym yn gyffrous i ail-ddechrau’r dosbarthiadau ballet dwyieithog i oedolion ar ôl y Pasg. Rwyf hefyd wedi bod yn dysgu Cymraeg i rai o aelodau’r cwmni; mae eu hyder wrth siarad yr iaith wedi cynyddu ac mae eu brwdfrydedd wedi bod yn galonogol iawn. Rydym bellach yn edrych ar fwy o ffyrdd o ymgorffori ymarfer dwyieithog ac mae hynny wedi cadarnhau i mi mai addysgu dawns yn ddwyieithog ddylai fod y ‘norm’ yng Nghymru. Os ydych yn ymarferydd dawns yng Nghymru, rwy’n erfyn arnoch i ystyried sut y gallwch ddefnyddio’r Gymraeg yn eich sesiynau. Gyda bron i 30% o’r boblogaeth yn gallu siarad a deall Cymraeg, mae’n werth yr ymdrech.

Pe bai dawnsiwr am aros ac ymarfer yng Nghymru cyn dilyn gyrfa, pa system gymorth fyddech chi’n awgrymu y byddai ei hangen arnynt er mwyn gallu gwneud hyn?

Mae mynychu eich ysgol ddawns leol yn le gwych i ddechrau ac os ydych yn ddigon ffodus i fod wedi’ch lleoli yn Ne Cymru, efallai y gallwch fynychu’r cynlluniau cyswllt sy’n cael eu rhedeg gan CDCCymru a Ballet Cymru. Ond nid yw’n bosibl hyfforddi’n alwedigaethol hyd at lefel broffesiynol yng Nghymru ar hyn o bryd, sy’n drueni mawr!

Llun o gynlluniau cyswllt Ballet Cymru
Clod i Sian Trenberth

O ran dilyn gyrfa mewn dawns, yng Nghymru, rwyf wedi canfod bod deall fy sgiliau a’r hyn y gallaf ei gynnig i sector Dawns Cymru yn bwysig iawn. Er enghraifft, mae cydnabod yr angen am ymarferwyr dawns sy’n siarad Cymraeg a darparu’r gwasanaeth hwnnw wedi fy ngalluogi i ennill profiad o greu coreograffi ac addysgu, ac mae wedi bod yn achubiaeth ariannol hefyd ar adegau. Wedi dweud hyn, rwy’n teimlo fy mod i’n cael fy ngwerthfawrogi a’m hystyried ar safon wahanol fel dawnsiwr oherwydd fy nghenedligrwydd a’r ffaith fy mod i’n siarad Cymraeg. Rwy’n teimlo’r un mor lwcus i gael cyfleoedd gan fy mod yn Gymraes, ond rwy’n poeni weithiau bod fy ngwaith yn cael ei werthfawrogi ar y sail honno’n unig. Rwyf wedi dod i delerau â’r teimladau hyn trwy groesawu’r llwyfannau sy’n cael eu cynnig i mi a’u hystyried fel cyfleoedd i herio rhagdybiaethau, ac i ragori ar ddisgwyliadau mewn rhai achosion. Rwy’n angerddol am fy etifeddiaeth a’m diwylliant ond nid yw’n diffinio fy ngwaith na’m hunaniaeth.Rwy’n angerddol am fy etifeddiaeth a’m diwylliant ond nid yw’n diffinio fy ngwaith na’m hunaniaeth.

Rydych chi’n artist sydd wedi gweithio gyda phobl greadigol o amrywiaeth o ffurfiau celf i greu perfformiadau artistig cyffrous yn y gorffennol. Sut fyddech chi’n disgrifio’ch ymarfer creadigol orau?

Rwy’n defnyddio ioga, hedfan yn isel a gwaith byrfyfyr yn fy ymarfer fy hun ac mae ansawdd fy symud fel arfer yn cael ei alw yn llyfn a chywrain. O ran coreograffi, rwy’n cael fy nhynnu at nodweddion emosiynol a chorfforol y profiad dynol, yn enwedig themâu marwoldeb a chreu. Rwy’n edrych ymlaen at ddatblygu’r syniadau hyn yn y dyfodol.

Clod i Erik Emanuel

A oes unrhyw enghreifftiau o systemau hyfforddi neu rwydweithiau cymorth sy’n bodoli mewn gwledydd eraill y gallai Cymru geisio eu defnyddio?

O ran systemau hyfforddi, dim ond dros y ffin i Loegr y mae’n rhaid i chi edrych i weld rhai enghreifftiau rhyfeddol. Byddai mentrau’r llywodraeth fel y cynllun CAT yn fuddiol iawn i Gymru, i fynd i’r afael â materion fel hygyrchedd a chysondeb mewn hyfforddiant. Mae angen sicrhau bod mwy o lwybrau ar gael i bobl ifanc sydd ag angerdd am symud i ymgymryd â gwaith creadigol ac ehangu eu haddysg dawns. Mae hyn hefyd yn cynnwys cael rhaglen hyfforddiant galwedigaethol i astudio dawns ar lefel broffesiynol.

Mae Get the Chance yn gweithio i gefnogi ystod amrywiol o aelodau’r cyhoedd i gael mynediad at ddarpariaeth ddiwylliannol. Ydych chi’n ymwybodol o unrhyw rwystrau y mae pobl greadigol yng Nghymru yn eu hwynebu? Os ydych chi, beth ellid ei wneud i gael gwared ar y rhwystrau hyn?

Un o’r rhwystrau rydw i wedi bod yn ymwybodol ohono’n y gorffennol fu’r diffyg ystyriaeth i ymarferwyr dawns mewn ardaloedd mwy gwledig yng Nghymru. Gan fod sefydliadau wedi gorfod addasu i ddulliau digidol o gynnal neu ffrydio eu digwyddiadau, mae’r ymarferwyr dawns hyn o’r diwedd wedi gallu mynychu digwyddiadau na fyddent wedi gallu mynd iddynt yn y gorffennol. Rwyf hefyd yn bersonol wedi gwerthfawrogi fy mod yn gallu cyrchu a gwylio perfformiadau wedi’u ffrydio’n fyw ar-lein ac er gwaethaf pwl achlysurol o ‘flinder Zoom’, rwy’n dal i obeithio y bydd sefydliadau’n parhau i gynnig o leiaf rai agweddau ar weithio/perfformio ar-lein.

 Pe byddech chi’n gallu ariannu maes o’r celfyddydau yng Nghymru pa faes fyddai hwnnw a pham?

Mae angen dirfawr am arian mewn llawer o feysydd ond hoffwn weld rhaglen hyfforddi broffesiynol gynhwysol ar gael yng Nghymru yn ogystal â gofod i uno lle gall dawnswyr greu, addysgu a pherfformio gyda’i gilydd (rhywbeth fel Dance City yn Newcastle)

Dance City, Newcastle.

Beth sy’n eich cyffroi am y celfyddydau yng Nghymru?

Mae wedi bod yn gyffrous gweld cymuned ddawns Cymru yn gweithio gyda’i gilydd i sefydlu cymuned fwy cysylltiedig o ddawnswyr trwy ddigwyddiadau rhwydweithio a thrafodaethau ar-lein. Edrychaf ymlaen at weld sut mae’r cysylltedd hwn yn digwydd yn Sector Ddawns flaengar ac amrywiol Cymru.

Beth oedd y peth gwirioneddol wych olaf i chi ei brofi yr hoffech ei rannu gyda’n darllenwyr?

Gwylio Revisor Crystal Pite a “BLKDOG” Far From the Norm fel rhan o Dance Nation. Mae’r ddau yn ddarnau rhyfeddol, ac maent ar gael i’w gwylio am ddim ar Iplayer.

Revisor Crystal Pite

“I find myself drawn to both the emotional and physical characteristics of the human experience” An Interview with Hanna Lyn Hughes.

Credit Noel Shelley

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

I’m a freelance dancer from Cardiff. I trained as an Associate of The Royal Ballet School and National Dance Company Wales before attending London Contemporary Dance School at 18. I’ve worked with choreographers including Crystal Pite, Caroline Finn and Dane Hurst and have danced with companies such as Danish Dance Theatre, Just Us Dance Theatre and have recently joined Ballet Cymru as a company dancer. You can find out more about me at my website

What got you interested in the arts?

I’ve been creative as long as I can remember. At school, I was more often than not doodling over my Maths homework and choreographing disco dancing routines in the school yard. I also loved studying Textiles and Drama at A Level.

Credit Sian Treberth

You are a company Dancer with Ballet Cymru and are currently working with them to look at ways to support dance delivery in the Welsh Language. What are your hopes and ambitions for this new initiative?

Following a successful trial period, we’re excited to bring the bilingual adult ballet classes back after Easter. I’ve also been teaching Welsh amongst the company members; their confidence in speaking the language has grown and their enthusiasm has been really heartwarming. We’re now looking at more ways to incorporate bilingual practice and it’s solidified my belief that teaching dance bilingually should be the norm in Wales. If you are a dance practitioner in Wales, I implore you to consider how you can include the use of the Welsh language in your practice. With almost 30% of the population able to speak and understand Welsh, it seems worth the effort.

If a dancer wanted to stay and train in Wales and then pursue a career, what support system would you suggest they require in order to be able to do this?

Attending your local dance school is a great place to start and if you’re fortunate enough to be based in South Wales, you may be able to attend the Associate schemes run by NDCWales and Ballet Cymru. But it’s not currently possible to train vocationally in Wales to a professional level which is a huge shame!

NDCWales Associates.
Ballet Cymru Associates, copyright Sian Trenberth Photography

In terms of pursuing a career in dance, in Wales, I’ve found understanding my skills and what I can offer the Welsh Dance sector to be really important. For example, recognising the need for Welsh speaking dance practitioners and providing that service has allowed me to gain choreographic and teaching experience and has at times been a financial lifeline. Having said this, I feel that as a dancer, I’m sometimes valued and held up to a different standard because of my nationality and the fact I speak Welsh. I feel equally lucky to be given opportunities because I’m Welsh but sometimes anxious that my work is valued exclusively on that basis. I’ve come to terms with these feelings by embracing the platforms I’m offered as opportunities to challenge assumptions and in some cases, surpass expectations. I’m passionate about my heritage and culture but it doesn’t define my work or my identity.

You’re an artist who has in the past worked with creatives from a range of art forms to create exciting artistic performances. How would you best describe your creative practice?

I draw upon yoga, flying low and improvisation in my own practice and my movement quality is usually described as fluid and intricate. In terms of choreography, I find myself drawn to both the emotional and physical characteristics of the human experience, in particular themes of mortality and creation. I’m looking forward to developing these ideas in future.

Credit Viktor Erik Emanuel

 Are there any examples of training systems or support networks that exist in other nations that Wales could look to utilise?

In terms of training systems, you only have to look across the border to England for some amazing examples. Government initiatives like the CAT scheme would be very beneficial for Wales, to tackle issues like accessibility and consistency in training. There needs to be more pathways made available for young people with passion for movement to engage in creative work and broaden their dance education. This also includes having a vocational training program to study dance at a professional level.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers that creatives in Wales face? If you are, what might be done to remove these barriers?

One of the barriers I’ve been aware of in the past has been the lack of consideration for dance practitioners based in more rural areas of Wales. With organisations having had to adapt to digital means of hosting or streaming their events, these dance practitioners have finally been able to attend events that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to in the past. I’ve also personally really valued being able to access and watch live streamed performances online and despite the occasional bout of ‘Zoom fatigue’, I still hope organisations continue to offer at least some aspects of working/performing online.

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

There are lots of areas in desperate need of funding but I would particularly like to see an inclusive professional training program available in Wales as well as a unifying space in which dancers can create, educate and perform together (something like Dance City in Newcastle)

Dance City, Newcastle.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

It’s been exciting to see the Welsh dance community working together to establish a more connected community of dancers via online networking events and discussions. I look forward to seeing how this connectivity materialises in a progressive, diverse Welsh Dance Sector.

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

Watching Crystal Pite’s Revisor and Far From the Norm’s “BLKDOG” as part of Dance Nation. Both extraordinary pieces, available to watch for free on BBC Iplayer.

Crystal Pite’s Revisor