Category Archives: Theatre

Bang, Bang, A review by Richard Evans

Written by John Cleese, directed by Daniel Buckroyd,

Theatr Clwyd, February 18th 2020

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Was this a farce or was it farcical? With big names come many expectations and in the world of comedy in the UK, they do not come much bigger than John Cleese, from whom have come some of our seminal comic experiences.  Indeed, Monty Python must rank as one of the most influential comedy series of the last century.  Does this play match up to this reputation?  I think it is unfair to ask that question. 

The achievements of Cleese have stood the test of time and he need not do anything further to enhance this legacy.  So why is he venturing into being a playwright for the first time? I get the impression he has a profound interest in farce.  In fact his most famous sitcom, Fawlty Towers is pure farce.  And as he is a creative person, he has chosen to bring to the stage an adaptation of ‘Monsieur Chasse’ by Georges Feydeau, a prominent French playwright spanning the end of the 19th and start of the 20th Centuries.  This is someone whose plays have been adapted many times through the years, but to many more locally he is largely forgotten.  So Cleese’s play should stand on its own merit, irrespective of the writer.  After all, it is the play we view, not him.

Why do we need a farce?  Surely our humour has moved on, become more sophisticated?  Not at all.  After the political events of the past few years, the time has never been more right for a farce, to give someone a heartfelt laugh, gently lampooning our double standards leaving us with a feel good factor.  Does Bang, Bang succeed?  Of course!  With such a pedigree from actors and writer it would be hard not to fulfil its stated intention.  This was a really enjoyable evening’s entertainment that had the house laughing throughout.  It was well acted, with a real team ethic and great comic timing.

The plot was centred on a ‘happily’ married couple who pledged faithfulness to each other, however as their lives descended towards chaos, their infidelity and the accompanying tissue of lies was exposed in front of their peers.  It was a clever script, delivered at a fast pace and never failed to grab your attention.  The characteristics of good farce were all there.  A growing sense of cringe worthy embarrassment, where you knew what was coming yet the characters were powerless in their attempts to stave off disaster.  A ring of self-confidence, epitomized when characters made asides to the audience, which you knew would be shot to pieces as the play progressed.  There was more than a gentle poke at any pomposity in all characters as they tried to fend off disaster with a smooth urbanity or a sense of moral indignation. 

The script was true to the original work of Feydeau, yet had definite ‘Basil Fawlty’ moments.  While all actors were excellent, I particularly enjoyed Tony Gardner’s portrayal of Duchatel as he bumbled along from a position of trust and control to a place where he ate plenty of humble pie.  It was a nice comic touch to see the maid change increasingly from a deferential to a condescending attitude as the foibles of the characters unfolded. I liked also the set change where the cast doubled as scene shifters and acted as backing vocals to Leontine’s song.  In the second act when the scenery moved mistakenly, this was handled assuredly by Gardner who turned it into a nice comic interaction with the audience.

The language of the play was as colourful as you might expect of Cleese – he has often used such, but you can question its necessity in this context. There is plenty of humour throughout the play already and one wonders if it fits the polite respectability that is the backdrop to the action. 

If you are expecting this to be anarchic, avant garde humour, you will be disappointed, but this was never the original premise.  It was a farce, well scripted, well acted and true to the artistic heritage of good farces and those seeing the play in that context should really enjoy it. So in an age where this word is overused, it was great to see a return to a proper farce.

Go on, enjoy, and have a laugh. 

Review: Cara Vita: A Clown Concerto, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Clown meets Circus meets Classical Music.

Felicity Hesed has happily and triumphantly summed up this performance in her title. Full of comedy, music, Cara Vita is a great piece of fun for any evening.

Going through the trials and tribulations of a woman’s life, we meet Hesed on her wedding night all the way through family, breaking up and finding herself as a woman and a person again. The story is told with plenty of audience interaction, comical clown moments and up close and personal circus skills, flying high above us with a beautiful live played soundtrack.

Much of the telling of this tale is quite abstract; using sock puppets at one point to describe a break up; using other pieces of clothing to show the growth of children and the changes that come with this, to suddenly becoming invisible to rekindle the love for ones self when she then becomes visible to others on stage once again. The approach is very niche but not unwelcome, but it did seem to fall flat to some who one would assume came for a traditional clowning experience or traditional circus.

The pace of the production was quite similar; slow and steady, with pauses which eventually speeding up near the end for a climax. But it felt that little burst of energy could have kept us intrigued and engaged a little longer.

Cara Vita: A Clown Concerto is bundles of fun, comedy and a lovely narrative, celebrating women. A quicken of pace could have made it that little bit more special.

Review: Ask Me Anything, The Paper Birds, Vault Festival By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Take a hint of the 90’s. A dash of the noughties. And add the questions we all asked as young people. And you get The Paper Birds, Ask Me Anything.

Based upon verbatim questions and the performers younger selves, Ask Me Anything is a performance about what it is like to grow up and how hard life can be.

With a casual outlook to the performance, we are greeted by three women each showcasing what their childhood bedrooms looked like. We are given trust to join them on a personal level, with plenty of audience interaction and almost like a chin wag with a couple of mates, just with a hint of the theatrics. Taking questions from young people of today, they try to tackle questions many generations have asked: What is it like to have sex? Will I ever know what I want to do with my life? And then harder ones, that as three white women, they out-rightly outsourced to others better qualified to answer such as sexuality, race and mental health. The latter I felt was a great push in the right direction of theatre, ensuring that the majority of this country do not answer everything and instead tap into minorities, and bring them and the problems they can face to the forefront. Giving them the platform that they so rightly should have.

We feel safe and at ease, lulled into security until things get hard. I did feel that this could have been brought on sooner, feeling comfortable in a relative amount of time. It then felt a little long until we are hit with trauma. But when the trauma comes, it is heartbreaking and in your face; verbatim videos screening in a cannon on several screens and dramatic silence in its finale. Lulling us to then break the atmosphere, making a real point about mental health and hardships is a brilliant technique that The Paper Birds used well.

My favourite part of the production was that they were not just theatrical performers, but a 3 piece girl rock group. Interluding the action, brand new music written about and for the show are played, filling the room with an essence of girl power and for rock lovers like me, new favourites. I would happily see these women play a gig on its own if I could.

Ask Me Anything is poignant, comical and a musical masterpiece. A theatrical therapy for young people these days and a comfort for those still struggling with life.

Review: All Of It, Alistair McDowall, Royal Court Theatre By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

One woman. A microphone. Nothing else.

Being told a show is only 45mins long is really quite a mysterious thing. How can you bring a play across in that time? And when the performer comes on stage, takes a seat and has only a microphone, what do you think!?

We go through the life, loves, hates and tragedy of one person from literal birth to death. It begins with particular words on their own; Mum, Red e.t.c And then we get formed sentences. We then get paragraphs. We see this persons life develop.

To be able to remember this sequence of dialogue, much of which does not intermingle is extraordinary and to then be able to put in emotion, comedy, real feelings is just another feat.

We spend our lives reading books, watching interviews and real life documentaries which can last hours, seasons, lives finding out the ins and outs of a persons life when McDowall has done this in minimum words and thoughts in just 45mins.

We go on a roller coaster of emotion and understanding ; figuring out what is happening to enjoying the comedy of life, to agreeing and affiliating oneself to stories and anecdotes, to tears and real pain when it gets tough.

All Of It is a triumph of a production, making us feel so many emotions, feeling completely seen and thoroughly entertained.

Review: The Good Dad (A Love Story), Old Red Lion Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Often I have attend the Old Red Lion and it has been just a one person play. This little theatre above a busy pub has one of the most intimate settings and therefore, brings us close to these stories meant for dramatic effect.

Gail Louw has written this unusual play, with one actress playing the role of 3 women in a family. The production sees the story of Donna, who is sexual assaulted constantly by her own father, eventually forming a romantic relationship with him and having a family together. We not only see if from her perspective but from her twin sister’s and her own mother’s.

With the use of subtle changes in stance and movements, we see the performer inter-change with these character’s. For me, it felt like something was needed to distinguish these a little more, whether a prop was used just to really hit home at the difference in these character’s.

Louw’s writing is very candid and open, making us feel uneasy, angry and uncomfortable – while some would argue this isn’t what Theatre is for, I greatly appreciate the confidence Louw and the actress have in the delivery of this piece, leaving us really thinking about the horrors of this story.

The Good Dad (A Love Story) is haunting, uncomfortable and sticks with you. And these are all positives of good writing. With more development, this piece could be every bit of an uneasy star.

A spotlight On Technical Theatre by Connor Strange

South Wales came alive to the sound of Panto in Winter 2019 with Jermin Productions’ dazzling production of Cinderella, seeing performances across Carmarthenshire & Neath Port Talbot. Performances were held in Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre operated by NPT Theatres, Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre and Llanelli’s Ffwrnes Theatre operated by Theatrau Sir Gar.

And that is where I come in!

In this article, I will be giving you an in depth look into the roles that I worked on through the course of the production, and how important technical theatre is in the world of pantomimes and theatrical productions.

But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Connor Strange, I’m from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, and I was very fortunate to work on Jermin Productions’ Cinderella South Wales Tour as a Follow Spot Operator & Lighting Technician. I’ll go on to explain more about those roles later.

My journey into the world of technical theatre all started last year. I volunteered during Swansea Pride back in 2019. During this event, I met Mark & Nia Jermin for the first time which gave me an insight into the world of entertainment. This made me think about my future aspirations and made me eventually decide to want to pursue a career in technical theatre & drama. So, I made contact with Jermin Productions and expressed interest in working on their 2019 pantomime – Cinderella.

As someone who is relatively new to the world of technical theatre & drama, I was very excited to receive an email in August from Jermin Productions offering me a position on Cinderella. This was such an exciting moment for me as I had never worked on a professional production before. This gave me an opportunity to develop new skills and create connections in the entertainment industry.

Fast forward to November 2019 and it was time to start work on the most ambitious production that I have ever worked on – Cinderella. As with all major productions, first comes the get in. This involves bringing set pieces, costumes, lighting etc – everything that is paramount to a successful production. Then comes assembling sets, rigging lights, preparing costumes for cast & dancers.

As with any production, you need a team & I was very fortunate to have worked with an amazing team of people throughout my time working on Cinderella. This included Mark Jones who was Production Manager, he has overarching responsibility for the safety & security of cast, crew & equipment on site as well as ensuring that the pantomime runs successfully.

Other colleagues included Grace – Deputy Stage Manager who has similar responsibilities to Mark. Alice, Bryn and Jordan were Assistant Stage Managers. ASM’s are tasked with ensuring props are in their correct positions, costumes changes happen when they should and overall operation of the show.

Now earlier on, I mentioned a very important role that I held during the production – Follow Spot Operator.

For those that do not know, a follow spot operator operates a specialised stage lighting instrument known as a followspot. A followspot is any lighting instrument manually controlled by an operator during a performance. I worked alongside a second follow spot operator, Luke, where we both had to follow a professionally orchestrated cue sheet and following commands issued by stage management and lighting operations. All in all, the role of a follow spot was something that I had never done before but was a fascinating insight into lighting.

Technical theatre has such an important part to play in the running of a pantomime. There are so many elements involved behind the scenes to ensure a pantomime can run successfully & efficiently. These include the Lighting department, Stage Management, Sound & our Musical team. Without these departments and the people working in them, a pantomime could not exist. All of those elements work hand in hand, very much like parts in a car. Without one of those elements, the production does not work as efficiently.

But we must also pay tribute to the Cast, without the cast a pantomime could not exist either. Technical theatre combined with a cast ensures that a production works successfully and delivers a fantastic performance to the general public.

This year’s cast thrilled audiences across South Wales and gave amazing performances time and time again.

The cast of Cinderella:

Nicole Seabright – Cinderella

Adam Byard – JJ Buttons

Lewis Brimfield – The Prince

Jordan Bateman – Bree

Ryan Edmunds – Tree

Bethan Searle – Fairy Godmother

Working with this amazing cast has been an absolute pleasure & has been a real eye opener to how much work goes on to make a pantomime happen.

I spoke to some of our cast & crew about what they got out of working on Cinderella and their experiences working on a Jermin Productions pantomime. I also asked them what they would say to people wanting to start out in performing arts.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I got lots out of Cinderella, experience and social were my main ones! I hadn’t worked on a touring theatre show like this before, and I was really lucky to be offered a job by Jermin Productions. I learnt new ways of doing things, tips and tricks to make things easier and even a few life lessons! Socially, I made so many great friends, people I’d work with for the rest of my life. It can get difficult when you’re working together, living together and sharing rooms, but with Cinderella I didn’t get any of that.

If someone asked me if they should go into Theatre tech, I’d definitely say Yes! It’s good fun and you learn a lot of stuff on the job, so if you have a lot of experience beforehand it doesn’t matter! There’s a lot of variety in this industry, which means you can try out different jobs if you’re not sure what to do.” (Ollie Gordon-Rump, Lighting Operations/LX1 – Cinderella 2019)

“What I got from it? I got a great sense of accomplishment from doing Panto with Mark. It’s my second year working for him and it was an amazing experience. It was personal for me as I got to perform in my hometown and even in the place I went to uni. It was a brilliant cast and they are like my second my family. To work with people who were so dedicated and talented was just exceptional. The script was hilarious and we were allowed to add our personalities in the characters and give it our touch.

I’d say to never give up because if you really want something then keep going. I’m a simple boy from Port Talbot whom acts for living. Anything is possible if you believe. (Ryan Edmunds, Tree – Cinderella 2019)

South Wales will come alive once more to the sound of Panto with Jermin Productions’ Beauty and the Beast coming this Winter 2020.

Tickets are on sale right now for Beauty and the Beast in  Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre, Carmarthen’s Lyric Theatre & Llanelli’s Ffwrnes Theatre.

Tickets and show times are available on:

A big thank you to everyone who supported me in the creation of this article!

Review Winners, Nova, Sherman Theatre By Vic Mills

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

‘Get It While It’s Hot’ is a good vehicle in various ways for Lowri Jenkin’s honed, clever and at times visceral comedy, ‘Winners’.  It tells the old tale of how difficult is it to keep it ‘hot’ – whether that is the vegan dishes or the sex, fuelled by the aphrodisiac of the aptly named Dan Biggar and the colossus of Alun Wyn Jones.  You should know though that they succeed, in this warm-hearted, life-affirming and love-affirming piece, they succeed in keeping it hot – though we had to learn to change our minds a little about what that comes to mean for Cassie and Dafydd.

The stage is stripped to two very ordinary chairs and the production to a very simple and stripped lighting and sound plot.  This works very sympathetically with the stripping of the two characters as they face a ‘couples counselling’ session, an anniversary present from Cassie to Dafydd.  The device of the counselling session works beautifully too, as it allows for audience interaction as we become the counsellors for these two engaging and deeply sympathetic figures.

Jenkins’ is very well served by Samantha Jones’ direction and Garrin Clarke’s design – less is certainly more in this case.  We are allowed access to characters and actors who have nowhere to hide.

And Cassie and Dayfydd do certainly attempt to hide.  There is wonderful humour in the writing and in the performances of both actors from the first moment of the play.  Timing is crafted and almost every mark is hit.  Dafydd is warm, garrulous and very engaging from the outset.  Cassie is initially more poised and sophisticated – looking for the process to solve Dafydd’s problems whilst she makes suitable noises of support.  The play works, as these things do, to peel way the layers of her social pretences as the increasingly complex roots of the problems in their long term relationship are exposed.

The piece could have felt very familiar, safe and predictable had it not been for the quality of the comic writing, the beautifully honed and pacey dialogue and the genuine charm of the characters and above all the actors.  This is not challenging, groundbreaking theatre in any sense but it is an extremely well-crafted, warm, clever and engaging play, done wonderful service by two compelling and lovely performances.

Lowri Jenkins understands comedy and dialogue.  There are moments when the interchanges are too rapid fire and when we feel the writer trying too hard, but they are few and fairly insignificant.  She understands lyrical cadence and silence as well as crowd-pleasing belly laughs.  She looks honestly and unflinchingly at contemporary relationship issues and familiar gender tropes and there is a warmth and affection for both her characters and the audience responds with the real affection and engagement that this piece requires to succeed.

This play is a winner; it is a crowd pleaser certainly but it deserves to be.  The performances are very, very good and that they are equally good is rare.  Genuine chemistry on stage is the Holy Grail of theatre and these two have the cup of Christ in their grip.  Get to see it if you possibly can on one of these wet and wintry nights – it’ll warm you right through – it is hot!

The production plays at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff from 11 – 15 Feb 2020; 6.30pm

Review AutoReverse, BAC By Tanica Psalmist

Autoreverse is a chilled, solo performance, performed at BAC, played by Florencia Cordeu, directed by Omar Elerian. Florencia Cordeu speaks of her tradition, love & culture. Through her range of sound by Omar Elerian & Cassette tapes you get a clear, strong imagery of her family’s compelling history & strength of her family’s individual character as she reminisces on her family’s home from Chile, as she now resides in London.

Autoreverse embarks on epic adventurous timezones, making full use of her generational memories from tapes that’ll she’ll forever hold & cherish. The nature of this play holds strong, traditional values affiliated with her parents retaining of them holding on to its values. Her use of space whilst listening to her recordings in her room in London takes us back in time deeply. A time when her family fled Argentina’s dictatorship, hence the rising of audio letters to stay in touch with their loved ones.

Autoreverse infuses the meaning of family bonds from childhood, experiences through a moving and uplifting audio-visual. Chains that can’t be broken, acknowledgement of identity, legacy, adaption to a new country, environment, stability & individuality interlinked with warmth, hope & prosperity.

Review The Haystack, Hampstead Theatre by tanica psalmist

The ‘Haystack’, held at Hampstead Theatre is an awakening & enticing production; featuring the following cast members- Lucy Black (Denise), Oliver Johnstone (Neil), Rona Morison (Cora), Enyi Okoronkwo (Zef) & Sarah Woodward (Hannah). Written by Al Blyth & directed by Roxana Silbert.

Haystack is a detailed eclipse of artificial intelligence, surveillance, encrypted coding & eroding delusions. This production addresses the unknown world of undercover spies with two computer whizzes who’re of the same kind inclined to insights into outside proximities, high security & space infinity.

This play offers an in-depth realisation on safeguarding, the rise of national security machinery, protection of electronic intrusion as well as explorative strategies of how we can live freely through the advances of technology. Every speck of detail outlines perceptions that influence each characters mind, body & soul! 

This production is a hot dish, serving a variety of spices containing elements of truth, infused with evil forces hidden underground. A channel of divergent communication, conversions, traumatic effects, overwhelming regrets, mysterious deaths, unimaginable regrets; teams dealing with manageable projects until head-line stories get taken out of context. Intertwined with folded lies, portrayals & scandals, unsatisfying stunts pulled by discrete agents of technical intelligence, suspicious terrorism, infliction & love struck addiction.

A strong theme in Haystack is infatuation; exploiting the underestimated power of physical attraction, dopamine, endorphins & mental interaction. When Neil & Rona get to close for comfort chemistry soon increases into fateful attraction, triggered from Neil’s world of hacking. Feelings soon expand to overprotection & harmonious friendships eventually gate-crashing. Agility serving its purpose when suicidal thoughts & non-comprehendible media coverage; reveals to us a deeper understanding of how political control can be demonising. Haystack tells a strong tale of survival, the fittest for survival, hidden bugged devices, invasion of privacy, universal statements & manifestations of fugitive, fabricated disguised appearances. 

The logistics throughout Haystack touch on several dimensional powers of technology alongside phone hacks, identity tracks the cause behind secrecy, relationship distancing, uncertainty, institutionalised profit making, deliberate deaths, irrational thinking, heartache & pain as we’re exposed to unfettered access to not only the world’s data but also its infinite power!

Haystack is very thought provoking! Captivating the audience with additional touches such as video performances, seductive light glitches, cursor changes with different fonts & styled writing imagery. The beginning allies tightly with the ending. In this production you can expect previews of screen blasting lives of cascade database queries, network maps, spreadsheets, email accounts & phone logs piling up at a dizzying speed. As the speed of ‘Haystack’ is extremely rapid if you’re to blink for just a second please ensure you’re able to catch everything before it reaches the climax!