Category Archives: Theatre

Review Ballet Black: Heroes, Cassa Pancho, Barbican Theatre by Tanica Psalmist

Cassa Pancho, the founder, Artistic dDirector & CEO of Ballet Black has again showcased raw, passionate and tightly synchronised works, with new choreography by Sophie Laplane and Mthuthzeli November. The first piece on the bill is entitled; About it First, exploring the themes ‘heroism & its complexities’ of everyday people, & everyone’s oblivion, inability & disservice to recognise heroic acts at times. We also witness competitiveness & vanity due to social media’s addictive streak in bringing out others ego in being recognised & acknowledged, as well as non-attempts to be seen and how everyone’s relationship with heroism plays out differently in the ordinary & the extraordinary.

The soundtrack includes music from Ludwig von Beethoven to Michelle Gurevich, with original sections composed by Tom Harold. The ambience throughout each dance set is eclectic & magnetic. The piece delved deeper into the themes; resolution, kindness, community orientation & mutual support, foretelling how heroism can act out in our daily lives. Each cast member’s unique tenacity combined with depth, energy and melody, additionally told a unique, empowering story of the human spirit. With sparkly jackets and other interesting detail to the Ballet Black casts outfits due to costume designer: Jessica Cabassa.

The second piece The Waiting Game‘ offers a different spin of being torn between work-life balance, fine tuning between sanity & reality, navigating through uncertainty, collecting our thoughts & re-building strength, courage, rediscovering purpose and re-gaining hope.

The Waiting Game:

Choreography: Mthuthuzeli November

Music: The Waiting Game (2023) composed by Mthuthuzeli November & Alex Wilson

Lighting Design: David Plater. Original costume designs for 2020 by Peter Todd

Door Design: Richard Bolton & Phil Cristodolou

Review, Spirited Away, London Coliseum, by Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

From My Neighbour Totoro, to the world acclaimed Spirited Away, Anime theatre is growing as a trend on stage and Studio Ghibli is taking over the scene. Full of Japanese folk magic and stories, the exploration of different culture is hitting mainstream and changing the way of theatre.

Studio Ghibli has a enormous following. It has transferred to memes, popular culture, a staple amongst the alternative and with all films on Netflix, crossing into the more well known. Totoro began this new theatrical stream last year, in partnership with the RSC and has lead the way to new grand and impressive performances.

Spirited Away is the story of Chihiro who gets lost in a magical bathhouse and meets strange creatures and gods along the way. She gets tangled into misadventure on her quest to get back to her parents and her real world. It is comical, strange and magical.

The story begins in a forest and so the stage is already set up for this, foliage creeping into the walls, across boxes and the orchestra pit, giving that sense of immersion and invitation. Generally, the set is incredible: revolving structures, elements that come from the floor, the ceiling, the wings – there is so much to making the ever changing scenes and this happens seamlessly and effortlessly. The set itself is well crafted and beautiful, reflecting to minute detail the scenes and colours in the film itself. It is very much as if the film has been transferred exactly to the stage, supported by exact costuming and theatrical techniques to bring the magical creatures alive.

Puppetry is huge in this piece, with standard puppetry, supported by puppeteers, to fantastic inventions using different sizes of the same character for perspective, surprising use of the auditorium, creating those “wow” moments. The larger creatures range from the building of different pieces together to formulate as one, operated by various puppeteers, to full bodied costumes. The effect is incredible and reflecting almost exactly to the film. No Face, noted for growing in stature throughout, begins as one person – the costuming and movement, almost butoh-esque and bouffon-esque, is unusual and works together to create this figure that is almost human but certainly moves differently. As it grows, more people add to this movement and large props are used. The impression is magnificent and so fantastically well done.

A live orchestra makes this especially special, bringing life to Joe Hisaishi’s well known compositions and filling the auditorium with whimsy. I say it all the time, but there is certainly something awe-inspiring of live music accompanying theatre. While the production is innovative, the live orchestra brings it back to theatrical roots.

What was also brilliant and unlike the recent Totoro, is that, along with keeping to the story almost exactly, the production was in Japanese. It was wonderful to hear original language on a west end stage and enveloped us in that immersion. However, subtitles were supplied but very much at the side of the stage. While I know the story, I felt my head consistently turning to read and unfortunately, this took me away a little from the scene. I felt I missed the beautiful minor elements and some action and likely will have to come and see again without engaging in subtitles.

Spirited Away is magnificent, beautiful and extremely theatrically clever. It is almost a carbon copy from film to stage and a great introduction to Anime but also a proud moment for already existing fans.

Review, Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, Awkward Productions, Kings Head Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What do you expect from a show with such a title? I’m not sure. I wasn’t sure if I was attending satire, a royal love letter or a complete reinvention of Diana Spencer. In a way, it was a little bit of all this and a whole lot more.

We meet Lady Di, in heaven, retelling her * untrue * story of love, loss, death and gay rights. We rush through her life in a whirlwind, facing facts we know from the papers and others that are assumed/invented. Boundaries are blown away, laughter is rife amongst the chaos and reinvention is something of genius.

Linus Karp is the absolute spit of Diana in physical form and in every mannerism. They have it down to a tee in the subtleties and in the elements we know her for; the voice, the slight head tilt, adding other hilarious physicality such as the perceived stiff royal wave. While scripted, there are moments of ad lib which are done in the most Diana of ways and keeping entirely to character. There are certainly moments when you need to remind yourself that this is not the real Diana and this is the untrue story.

Camp, hammed up multi-media and narratives are included, moving a story to something very theatrical, satirical and utterly hilarious. Repeated phrases such as “I am the Queen” or “Whatever X means”, just become funnier and funnier. Expected but always a brilliant theatrical addition. It adds to the chaos and the comedy of it all. Karp is also not afraid to attack conspiracy theories, pop culture references, bold statements, change facts to fit the comical narrative, about the royals and the dark humour of this is done without holding back, which only makes it more genius and more funny.

With this being a 1-2 person cast, many other elements are supported by audience members, prompted by the big screen, to get up, perform and read lines. We have Lady Di’s parents, a corgi, made up nannies… all which threw themselves into the roles and had fun. The audience was spectacular and really took the interaction with all they had. It made the show flow and added to the comedy and enjoyment, to see that they also were having a great time being involved.

Diana: The Untold and Untrue story is a laugh a minute, humorously dark and boundary pushing, with that extra sprinkle of campness: a perfect performance if you want your sides to split while questioning if Diana has been resurrected in front of you.

Review, The Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadlers Wells, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge and version of Sleeping Beauty is entirely from Disney. I’m used to the owl dancing in a coat, an impossible leaning cake (which I want for every birthday, even at 31 turning 32) and the big dragon. So when I came to this production, the storyline following, at times, a different path, it was like a new story for me.

These differences are subtle. But to summarise the story of The Sleeping Beauty in this production: a girl (Aurora) is cursed by an evil fairy, after she isn’t invited to her christening. When she pricks her finger on a spindle, she would fall into a 100 year sleep. And so up until her 16th birthday, all sharp objects are eliminated from the palace. The evil fairy manages to sneak a spindle in and Aurora falls to her fate. Only true loves kiss releases her, where she awakes to a beautiful marriage and guests of fairy-tale royalty.

In this day and age, we are so used to modernisation of tales, of a reinvention of tradition, and often this is refreshing and allows the story to be told in a new way. However, Birmingham Royal Ballet went against this grain and kept it very traditional. And this, in itself, was absolutely refreshing. The opulence of the stage, the set, the costumes was exquisite and gave me a goosebump-ed feeling of the days of old, where audiences dressed up to attend and were part of the elite. The beauty of this, is that, at a very affordable price, anyone could come to this production and get that exact feeling. They get to come and feel special, and that was evident in the eyes of many young children in attendance.

The stage had so many layers to it and rose so high, that we felt as if we were really in a grand European castle or palace, with all the pomp and circumstance, the historical costumes along with the beautiful and decadent tutus, allowing us to not only be transported in time but in place.

Accompanied by a live orchestra, the tradition continued with the accompaniment, but also felt extremely special. There’s something about live orchestral music that makes you shiver with awe and excitement, and the atmosphere it helped to create were effective with the change of the mood of the scene.

The dancing of course was spectacular. Not a foot was wrong and tradition continued to seep through in each member, whether a principal or in the background. The only qualm is that some more technically advanced moves that required balance did not always translate to the dancers face and so the panic and concern of this became evident and made that moment lose its magic somewhat.

The end of the story, we are treated to new characters who attend the wedding. Puss in Boots, The White Cat and Little Red Riding Hood are introduced, providing some giggles and some change of pace. It’s only at the end in the final bow that a few more appear in the guise of a Sultan and another furry creature. This was a little confusing and likely to do with some tradition in the ballet. However, it felt a little out of place and distracted somewhat from the celebration of the cast.

Overall, seeing traditional ballet and in the form of a story I thought I knew, but evidently did not, was magical and special. We were transported in time, in place and into a fairy tale world.

Review Oh What a Lovely War, Theatr Clwyd by Donna Williams

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Marking the 60th anniversary of Joan Littlewood’s epic anti-war musical, the award-nominated Blackeyed Theatre production of Oh What a Lovely War brings this outrageously satirical production to Theatr Clwyd in Mold this April, and what a triumph it is, earning a much-deserved standing ovation on opening night.

Oh What a Lovely War was developed by Joan Littlewood and her ensemble at the Theatre Workshop way back in 1963 and is a satire based on World War I. You might be fooled in to thinking then, that this piece is surely outdated with its traditional war songs and sarcastic of-the-period humour, but how wrong you’d be! This musical has spanned the decades and is sadly more relevant now than we would wish to admit: the idea of war as a ‘game,’ the harrowing casualty counts displayed for all to see, the pompousness of the ‘higher ups’, hosting parties behind closed doors whilst young men fall at the front. This production exposes war as an oxymoron in itself- a laughable tragedy. We know how the Great War went, but we are still shocked and somewhat guilt-ridden when we go from a Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts singalong with the cast, snap into the latest number of dead and wounded displayed on screen and the disgusting dismissal of these by those in charge as simply that, numbers.

The cast take us on a journey of emotions from the get-go. As we enter the auditorium, members of the cast are already in full swing- talking to the audience, passing round balloons, allowing us to play their tambourines and so on. Total theatre at its very best- we are already immersed in the action. Victoria Spearing and Naomi Gibbs’ design falls somewhere amid the original production’s use of Pierrot costumes and Richard Attenborough’s 1969 film version’s more literal use of military uniform, with a simple yet effective set which, at first, transports us to a circus tent complete with strong man and ringmaster, then on to a music hall venue with pianists and cabaret singers before heading to the trenches, the towns and cities of Britain and beyond.

The cast are flawless and not only take on several roles with a multitude of accents and characteristics (often only visualised with a small accessory such as a hat or a coat) but are also the ‘band,’ playing a variety of musical instruments throughout. They also provide the vocals for all songs as well as all sound effects. There are moments when it is hard to believe we are not hearing real gunfire- no recorded SFX needed. It would be unfair to single any cast member out as they all quickly proved to be triple-threat performers and told the story with incredible energy, excitement, and sentiment.

The direction, by Nicky Allpress, is superb with so many visually stunning elements. The contrast of these beautiful moments against the backdrop of the brutality of war is extremely powerful. Highlights include passionate versions of well-known melodies including Keep the Home Fires Burning, Roses of Picardy and And When They Ask Us, the infamousChristmas Truce in the trenches beginning with the British Expeditionary Forces hearing German troops singing carols and a cleverly staged generals’ Ball, during which the male cast dance with sequined gowns and take on the roles of the generals as well as their wives!

This production is pure entertainment from start to finish- aesthetically exquisite, perfectly cast and the ideal combination of hilarious and horrifying.

Oh What a Lovely War completes its run at Theatr Clwyd on April 27th, 2024. The tour will conclude at Cornerstone, Didcot on May 17th, 2024.

Recommended for age 11+

Running time: Approx 140 minutes (including interval)

Oh What a Lovely War | Theatr Clwyd

Cast:

Tom Benjamin

Tom Crabtree

Harry Curley

Alice E Mayer

Chioma Uma

Euan Wilson

Creatives:

Director- Nicky Allpress

Musical Director- Ellie Verkerk

Movement Director- Adam Haigh

Orchestrator- Tom Neill

Set Designer- Victoria Spearing

Costume Designer- Naomi Gibbs

Lighting Designer- Alan Valentine

Projection Designer- Clive Elkington

Company Manager- Euan Wilson

Technical Stage Manager- Symon Culpan

Assistant Stage Manager/Swing- Elli Damarell

Set Construction- Russell Pearn

Properties- Chantal Addley

Producer- Adrian McDougall

Press- Chloe Nelkin Consulting

Review, Operation Julie, Theatr na nÓg, The Riverfront, Newport

 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

I’m not sure what to expect as I take my seat at The Riverfront in Newport. A tree trunk branching over a stage set with psychedelic colours and ready for a rock gig is the perfect set for this show. The true story of the greatest drugs bust in history bursts onto the stage with its actor-musician performers alive with energy and blowing the roof off the theatre, even in the opening number.

The loveable cast of characters are introduced through their instrumental solos; an eclectic mix of guitars, percussion, cow bell, oboe and more. They switch between instruments, being ‘in the band’ and in the show and even between characters with poise and speed, costumes change in the blink of an eye, accents alter and even the stage crew are in costume, moving the set on and off stage. This means we are instantly transported back to the events of 1975 and 1977 in rural West Wales, the music mixing perfectly with the sometimes barmy, but always heartfelt plot.

The action opens with Londoner, Richard Kemp in his lab, mixing his latest batch of acid, the one that will cause a catalyst that he hopes will change the world. The couple of Richard and Christine are excellently played by Joseph Tweedale and Georgina White and their singing voices are amazing; ethereal in places, singing the prog rock score with ease. From there, we are catapulted into the lives of Smiles and Buzz with a hilarious section of Buzz driving Smiles to pick up his acid from various locations. Gerry accompanies them in a surreal yet side splitting section, where we feel ourselves swerving with the ‘car’ as Buzz spins the wheel. More excellent voices and fantastic comedic chops come from Daniel Carter-Hope, Sion Russell Jones and Dan Bottomley.

We visit the various other locations of the story including the police station where the ‘chameleon’ of the piece Phylip Harries delights us as PC Evans (he also plays Wil Bach and Wright throughout the rest of the tale). The scenes alongside Kieran Bailey as Richie Parry are so well executed, the lines pacey and thick with local references that the audience love. Richie is the perfect opposite to Steve Simmond’s cockney copper, Dick Lee. They’re like the original odd couple, colliding worlds, and personalities in their efforts to execute the largest drugs bust in history. A highlight for me, (without spoiling the surprise), is Steve’s musical number at the end of act one; he definitely got the audience rocking! Finally, Caitlin Lavagna gives a multi-role masterclass as she switches roles (and costumes!) with ease between landlady, Sgt Julie, Meg and Anne Parry.

These talented performers navigate the material with ease, expertly directed by Geinor Styles, who also wrote the show after interviewing a range of people who lived through the events, including Smiles himself and Anne Parry, Richie’s long suffering wife. This lends an authenticity to the piece; the characters live and breathe on the stage, brought to life through excellent writing. The musical direction also brings out the best in this talented cast, the music of the time brought to life by Greg Palmer.

The show is very funny, but at the heart of it all is a story which pulls us right back to the modern-day issues we are facing now. Kemp’s moving speech at the end, intended for his court case, but never delivered, is poignant; emphasised by the images projected behind him as he speaks. This movement was not only about the drugs; it was so much more; it was the start of a revolution intended to make people sit up and listen to the very real world issues starting back in the 70s and that we are now facing in 2024.

I was sorry I missed this when it toured in 2022, so I am thrilled I got to catch it this time. This psychedelic, surreal, trip of a musical play makes us laugh, makes us feel joy but is counterbalanced with this powerful message that we are left with as the music fades. The real-life Smiles sums it up perfectly; hoping the play hits the right chords of the serious issues that the LSD was trying to tackle, but also hoping that the sheer joy of the time is captured. I think the audience members would definitely agree that Operation Julie hits these targets and a lot more. Catch it if you can on this limited 8-week tour!

A Review, Voices – can you hear the Voices?

The Silent Volunteer, featuring Hiraeth by Sue Bevan.

Do YOU remember 1966?

Ah yes, England won the Soccer World Cup – lest we forget!

WE REMEMBER 1966

A terraced community aligned on a mountain slope. Aberfan, a South Wales mining village facing the ravages of time, when despite the warnings a darkness of coal sped downwards as a generation slipped into eternal slumber as heavy rain mixed with wind and an encompassing mist descended on the village that very morning

The date was the twenty-first day of October 1966.

Avant Cymru – Rhondda’s very own forward thinking theatre company – had been preparing the play “Hiraeth” producing the Valley Voices for playwright Sue Bevan’s portrayal of her experience as a young First Aider who attended the avoidable tragedy that struck that village community. Like so many others from the mining communities, alongside essential workers, local T. A.s (Territorial Army cadets) and including a newly trained nurse who in the future would become the mother of actor Richard Harrington.

Their memories linger long

Two venues presented “The Silent Volunteer” Two performances were at St Elvan’s Church, Aberdare on Thursday,11 April followed by two performances at the Tylorstown Welfare Hall and Miners’ Institute on Friday, 12 April.

Devante Fleming distributed the Meeting Agenda as people gathered at the Welfare Hall in Tylorstown. Matthew John Bool and Rachel Pedley joined Devante as Adam Vaughn addressed the audience to begin the play. They entered an exchange of conversations on the state of the past, discussing the present situation as Cler Stephens approached the audience. Cler’s monologue was both eloquent and poignant interpreting the playwright Sue Bevan’s very words

“Have you ever washed a child’s hand?” cleaning the bodies in an attempt to rinse the blackness of slurry and the turmoil that arose from within the deep blackened thoughts.

“Were you, as a parent, asked to prove how close you were to your child?” The audience remained visibly shaken

I would challenge anyone not to be moved by these powerful words. Cler was in front of the audience pleading for them to think of the future of their children and grandchildren. Their faces told her that they were listening. It was a genuine voice its message ran true.

The cast assembled on the stage dressed as of the sixties, mini dress, high platform white boots, the shirt and cardigan the dad who worked in the pit and the Mam in an office or factory. The Bopas (honorary name for the Valleys female neighbours as Aunts who would look out for the children in their street.)

A time when the children could play safely in the streets no heavy traffic, the boys perhaps wishing to be a Bobby Charlton (playing for Wales of course!), the girl who would perhaps become a teacher or for them to be grandparents to a family that would cherish them.

“You watch my windows boyo!” Bopas would shout as the opposing teams shifted the football from one side of the street to the other.

The Secretary who would take notes taken from the Engineering Official expressing concern about the tip overlooking the Pantglas School adjacent farm and village. Letters were sent throughout the 1950s and 1960s highlighting the danger and anxiety of the community as the coal tip loomed larger and larger. Urgent requests for investigations to be conducted answered stating that the “pipe” or “culvert” problem had been rectified.

Suddenly there was an almighty Roar that exploded within the Hall leaving us all slightly shocked as the cast remained rigidly still on the stage. The cauldron of neglect reverberated the terror of it all. The silence was deafening

It was around a quarter past nine in the morning when a catastrophic collapse of colliery spoil (around 140,000 cubic yards) engulfed the school and surrounding area.

School assembly had finished, attendance records were being taken as the children looked forward to the Half Term holidays No one would hear the distressing screams, the adults clasping the children close to their bodies, for they must have known what was coming and could not do more than cover the children in a quilt of love and comfort. 28 Adults and 116 children lost their lives that day. Do you remember?

Adam Vaughn sang Ar Hyd y Nos an emotional Farewell to innocence. Later the cast came down from the stage and asked the audience what they could have learnt from that time. Rachel portraying a Mam who was unconsciously wringing her hands in torment as she rinsed the school clothes of a beloved lost child. The World claimed Aberfan as its own with a warning that other tragedies could and would occur with no accountability

Tears were visible in the eyes of all the cast and audience, emotionally drained and moved by this brilliant performance highlighting the obscenity of such a disaster.

There were Guests at both venues. At Aberdare, the Lewis Merthyr Band played their Requiem to Aberfan. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes viewed the assessment for compensation as “appalling”. It was a performance that left the audience in tears and still angry as it is relevant today as the village of Aberfan may lose its Community Centre

The Guest at the Welfare Hall in Tylorstown (the only such Miners Institute that remains in the Rhondda Fach and is the heartbeat of the community) was Natalie Sargent, Development, Manager Wales, of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, who in a Question and Answer Session alongside members of Avant Cymru believed that we should all share a community of voices for future generations. Let the message be that the coal tips of South Wales are NOT SAFE. Coal may well have empowered the UK and yet, with a cry, the Valleys are raped repeatedly.

On a personal note, across from my house I saw the landslide of slurry slide like a tsunami one February day in 2020 I screamed inwardly and groaned “Not again!” No one heard me. We were lucky there were no fatalities. My village lies beneath the Tylorstown Tip aka Old Smokey (as it once did) below it is a farm and at the valley bed stands the Junior School (sound familiar?).

Aberfan is sometimes referred to as a “unique catastrophe” Not in the eyes of the communities of the South Wales valleys. It grew from the past capitalist greed and gross contemporary official negligence for which no one was punished. A standing ovation was received by the cast members and playwright. They had told, presented and produced the story in a superbly thought-provoking way. This play should be shared across the UK

To end thus

To misquote an Agatha Christie novel

Why didn’t they ask the people or community /

There are some wounds that apologies can never heal

All photographs courtesy of

TRACEY PADDISON PHOTOGRAPHY



Adam Vaughn

Matthew John Bool

Devante Fleming

Rachel Pedley


7 Words 1135

Devante Fleming

Adam Vaughn

8 Words 1135

Matthew John Bool

Devante Fleming

9 Words 1135

Cler Stephens

Ann Davies

Jess Morgan

10 Words 1135

Appreciation from the audience at the Tylorstown Welfare Hall and Miners Institute 12 April 2024

11 Words 1135

Cler Stephens

“Have you ever washed a child’s hand?”

Monologue from “The Silent Volunteer” by Sue Bevan

Review, Gunter, Dirty Hare, Royal Court Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Gunter, by the initial synopsis, sounds like a story we know well. A witch trial, where the outcome either way is not a way out and where women have been condemned, sexualised and abused. However, Gunter is a little different. This particular trial starts with a football match. The richest man in the village, Brian Gunter, murders two boys at a football match, escaping imprisonment because of his status, gender and his money. But when his daughter suddenly begins convulsing and acting strange, it descends into a witch hunt for the two boy’s mother, who is believed to have cursed Gunter’s daughter in revenge, commenting on the difference of gender in finding justice, when she is sought after to be condemned.

A historical tale with only a small amount of fact recorded, the story is translated into modern day to try and place it in our minds as prevalent. The themes themselves are comments on gender inequality, patriarchy and injustice between women and men which is seen in today’s society, as much as it was in the 1600’s. This is effective in not placing the story in the past, allowing us to relate and to bring it to modern day. This is supported by the actors in football kit, beginning the show as we walk in with images of football hooligans projected onto the back wall and the continued inclusion of multi-media throughout. It is important that we don’t push the story into the past, making it seem like fiction or the past and not really a reality. However, the football aspect feels a small part of the overall story and a slightly disconnected element as the play unfolds. Perhaps it is there to remind us of how football has been historically male orientated from both players and fans but this loses its power during the production, in a good way, when it is replaced by much more.

Such a theme, on the outside, would seem intense. But there’s something special about this production when it’s actually very funny. Perhaps the content shouldn’t be so funny, but how the actors and the writing bring across these nuggets is so superb and does well to help build up the crescendo of the end of the play.

Multi-media is used effectively, to not only modernise the story, but to bring different levels and different and eerie elements to the production, with microphones and a live band, unique songs and soundscapes. The immense energy of the performers is powerful and energetic, making me wonder how exhausted they must be after each show. Their ability to change characters throughout, with only their skill and nothing more is extraordinary. At times, I wanted to pin point an actor for standing out particularly, but this was too hard. They all were monumental and brilliant in every role they took through sheer physicality.

Gunter makes so many poignant and important comments on past and presence differences between men and women and the injustices in this. A historical tale, centered in a time of witches and magic, which can still be translated to modern day, but with some comedy, some modernisms and an overall fantastic tour de force of theatre.

Review For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy, Ryan Calais Cameron, Garrick Theatre by Tanica Psalmist

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

For Black Boys, Written & directed by Ryan Calais executes several delicate themes within this production successfully, serving blacks boys worldwide unapologetically. Justice is performed intrinsically as the black boy experience gets relived & told through the lens of six black men, who speak on behalf of black boys prohibited from speaking their truth out of fear, incarceration, elimination or self-destruction.

This production deeply reveals roots of oblivion, shame, guilt and suppression; depicting the multiple shades & textures of black boy’s strengths, weaknesses, femininity and masculinity which inevitably get covered by layers of pain, denial, toxicity, fragility, conflicting thoughts, emotions and feelings as a response to feeling emasculated, oppressed, subjugated; as well as belittled from police brutality, high unemployment rates, pre-judgements and discrimination.

From family complications to what it means to then become the man of the house once dad walks out, especially when all your life you’ve been stigmatised, misunderstood, marginalised, disfranchised, economically stagnant and secluded. For Black Boys highlights raw truth, distasteful secrets and unshaken ancestral knowledge, depths of supreme black history to reverse disempowerment to empowerment, victory, breakthroughs, self-discipline and mastery to prevent gang affiliations, knife crime, lack of positive male influences and internal suffering leading to sorrow, despair & suicide.

Each personal experience, whether love, homosexuality, exclusion, mental health or hyper-sexuality was magically expressed through dance, freedom of expression movement and singing, belting from the depths of their soul to demonstrate liberation, vulnerability, livelihood and desire to escape judgment, to just be, to be seen and acknowledged in the midst of white supremacy and conflicting institutional spaces.

Each cast member brought to life characterisation that’s individualistic and unique, infused with variety, personality types and how being grouped to fit into one box label ‘black’ is detrimental, pressuring black boys to put on a front, suppress their emotional side and refrain from making wise decisions in the name of being a man that should act tough, insensitive, prideful & egotistical. This powerful dynamic reflected the difficulties affiliated with feeling a sense of belonging, community and purpose when you don’t fit the narrative of being black within social settings but may neatly fit into white groups until they state the obvious.

For Black Boys who have considered suicide when the hue gets too heavy takes you on rollercoaster of black boy’s highs & lows. Witnessing blackness being diminished and dehumanised leading to vulnerability to then becoming fully black conscious, fully present in this world and confidently outspoken as the foundation to a hopeful future, living with purpose, no longer just existing due to knowing you have the protection of ancestors, a legacy infused with powerful African genetics and success stories rewritten in your name if only you are willing to fight that good fight and not give up no matter how heavy your hue gets. This play touches on the significance of black boys removing the negative residue that the world had ignorantly smudged on black boys from childhood, & how irrespective of how much residue & scars visibly remain, black boys, you are and always will be special.

Highly recommended! For Black Boys will be running until June 2024.

CAST:

Tobi King Bakare, Shakeel Haakim, Fela Lufadeju, Albert Magasi, mohammed Mansaray, Poshi Morakinyo

Review Kill Thy Neighbour, Theatr Clwyd By Donna Williams

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Those who are lucky enough to get over to Theatr Clwyd in Mold over the next week or so to witness Kill Thy Neighbour will be surprised to learn that this is writer Lucie Lovatt’s first full-length play. It has been a long time since I saw a play that captured my full attention and imagination throughout, as this one did. Lovatt had been inspired by an article about Cwm-Yr-Eglwys and the fact that only two of the fifty properties there currently had permanent residents: the political backdrop of the second-home crisis being current and resonating with, not just Welsh communities, but communities across the globe.

The play opens with the audience looking in on a family home in a little Welsh coastal village abandoned by its former residents and now overrun with wealthy folk from the cities buying properties as holidays home or weekend getaways. The house in front of us could belong to any of us- there’s washing up in the sink, dozens of coats hanging on hooks near the door, most probably not worn anymore, a couch that’s seen better days, a table and four chairs donning a cork board and a door that creaks open with the slightest breeze. This is no Instagram home, but a home that has seen generations of the same family living under its roof, a home that is loved, a home that has seen more than we first realise. The phrase ‘if walls could talk’ certainly comes to the forefront as the action progresses. And there is so much action despite the play not moving from these four walls. The characters, the setting, the plot keep the audience completely hooked throughout- a real mix of hilarity and darkness and yet everything believable despite the explosive secrets that are unearthed.

We meet long-married couple Caryl (Victoria John) and Meirion (Dafydd Emyr) who appear to be at odds- Caryl has called in camp-as-a-row-of-tents estate agent, Gareth (Jamie Redford), to value the house even as Meirion insists he is never moving; this is where generations of his family grew up and he never intends to sell the house. Later we learn there may be more to his decision that first meets the eye, Lovatt consistently dropping hints and clues of the drama that is about to unfold. Nothing is predictable but we are left frequently wondering.

The outsider invasion is represented by Max (Gus Gordon), a Bristol-based marketing consultant who has just bought the property next door, which Meirion has agreed to keep an eye on while Max is still commuting back for work at the same time as attempting to salvage his relationship with his girlfriend who doesn’t seem all too keen on the move.

The drama continues to unravel as Caryl and Meirion’s thirty-something daughter, Seren (Catrin Stewart) arrives on the scene with a few secrets of her own. She escaped the village years ago, much to the disappointment of her mother. Arguments and revelations ensue and there is a constant undercurrent of something like the bubbling of a volcano ready to erupt at any moment. We hang on every word of each character, all of whom we can relate to in one way or another; the near retired wife who doesn’t feel wanted, the downtrodden father who has always worked hard but isn’t satisfied with his lot, the happy go-lucky guy next door who just wants to please everyone, the local estate agent who wants his next sale but who also has a heart and the daughter who moved away and wants a family of her own.

The cast are simply superb and play every word and emotion perfectly- it is impossible to single out one player. The comedic elements are skilfully balanced against the raw issues arising in this production and has certainly left me wanting to see more of what this writer has to offer in the future. From the set to the direction, the casting to the interweaving lives of these characters before us- this is a must-see piece of theatre!

Kill Thy Neighbour completes its run at Theatr Clwyd on April 20th.

Kill Thy Neighbour | Theatr Clwyd

Cast:

Gareth- Jamie Redford

Caryl- Victoria John

Max- Gus Gordon

Meirion- Dafydd Emyr

Seren- Catrin Stewart

Company:

Writer- Lucie Lovatt

Director- Chelsey Gillard

Set & Costume Design- Elin Steele

Lighting Designer- Lucia Sánchez Roldán

Composer & Sound Designer- Tic Ashfield

Assistant Director- Ellie Rose

Intimacy Director- Bethan Eleri

Casting Director- Polly Jerrold

Wellbeing Facilitator- Hester Evans

Company Manager- Alec Reece

Deputy Stage Manager- Tyla Thomas

Assistant Stage Manager- Emma Hardwick