Category Archives: Theatre

An Interview with Chris Durnall, Artistic Director, Company of Sirens.

Hi Chris so to kick things off, what got you interested in the arts?

A passion for books which I’ve never lost. The ideas contained within them have informed everything I’ve ever done. I love words but now I’m just as interested in what lies between them. There lies the drama.

Company of Sirens is working with Sight Life Wales to perform ‘How My Light Is Spent’ at Chapter from the 16th – 20th August. It’s a production which is described as “What lies beyond the purely visual?” How did this project develop and what are your hopes for the future?

For me the attraction of working with the blind and partially sighted was to discover what was possible. Lock down was a double whammy for many of them, marginalised by their condition and the pandemic the situation became frightening as their interactions shrank further and for many disappeared totally. The performance tells their experiences of this time.  

Locating the performance in a forest creates an analogy between lockdown and being trapped in a situation you can’t see yourself emerging from. The only solution being friendship, support and in this case the kindness of strangers.

Last November we presented “With Eyes Closed” performed between both lockdowns. This proved a life affirming experience that audiences responded to and identified with.

Image from With Eyes Closed

With this new piece we wanted to look more closely at when and how each person’s sight was lost and how they have reconnected with some of the things that are important to them.

The copy for the work references the Covid 19 Lock Down. With the successful roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will continue to return to venues and theatres. How do you think artists can best share stories of the recent Pandemic?

The pandemic was the seismic event of our time that artists will need to respond to. I believe this creative response will impact upon the nature of the work for some time. This project came from the participants’ need to express how lockdown impacted on their lives to a lesser or greater extent. There is much humor in the stories and definitely hope going forward.

If theatres want to attract audiences post Pandemic , what do you think they should do?

It seems that some of the ways theatre existed mid pandemic are here to stay in some form.

I personally feel separating theatre from a live and present audience response isn’t theatre. A live audience leads, creates and forms a performance. Without it you have only 50% of the experience. That’s not to say it can’t be appreciated online but you lose the power to inform the drama by your presence and direct response.

Company of Sirens have worked with members of Sight Life Wales before, how did this relationship develop and can you tell us about your creative process?

We led taster workshops three years ago in order to gauge interest and explore ways of working. The work is participant led while we as a company allowed their ideas to come to fruition. They learn skills, gain confidence and meet friends, while we explore a new and original way of extending our practice. 

My background stretches back  to working with companies such as Cardiff Lab, The Practice and collaborations and workshops with European artists. It is this visual and exploratory approach we look to introduce to the group.

The concept of people with sight loss participating in a highly visual performance style is an interesting paradox but hugely appropriate. Restricted by visual impairment the performers want the opportunity to move, and beautiful things occur.  

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 or audiences in Wales face? If there are any, what might be done to remove these barriers?

I think it lies in the mindset of the creative. We deliver a large programme of work, working primarily with new writers and professional actors and creatives as well as the community and groups with protected characteristics..

I think to be inclusive is to approach each project whoever it may be aimed at with fairness and integrity. It’s a way of thinking that once embedded flows naturally into each process. I don’t believe imposing conditions aids creative work and development. We need to always take risks but that shouldn’t negate inclusivity. 

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

Experimentation, risk and the right to fail, without those factors the arts are a museum and we are treading water.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The fact that current directives will, I believe eventually lead to a fairer natural way for all people to experience the empowering nature of the arts, and that young creatives keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

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

Working with Sightlife Wales

Thanks for your time, Chris

You can find out more about How My Light is Spent and book tickets at the link below. All performances are Audio Described.

How My Light Is Spent (chapter.org)

companyofsirens.com

Review, Peppa Pig: My First Concert, London Coliseum by Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I cannot help but think how lucky some children are to experience theatre like the work that is put on currently across the UK. While independent and fringe theatre is also fantastical and amazing, something about changing a well loved children’s classic and adapting into something new just adds to the wonderful experiences that children can undertake today. And set in the London Coliseum, surrounded by gold and beautifully carved architecture, this was the perfect setting for this show.

Peppa Pig: My First Concert is a little what it says on the tin. With the character’s of Peppa, George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig in a combination of puppetry and costume, Peppa and family experience the ranges of classical music but with a child’s input. Supported by a small but well equipped orchestra, children and adults a like are introduced to instruments in a simple and effective way.

We are introduced to well known classics such as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Mozart but to gain the interest of children, audience participation is involved with hand gestures, dancing, singing and basic description of what the music tries to convey. It not only makes something seen as potentially old fashioned into something youthful and exciting but also brings such beautiful music in a beautiful setting to the modern age, influencing children from young and changing the ideals of classical music as originally something for the old and middle class.

It also is an easy way for adults and families to get into classical music. We may have heard these songs, minimally on adverts or tv shows, in the background of productions, some of us perhaps knowing a little of the narrative but this was a great introduction to why composers wrote certain songs and what they try to convey.

Peppa Pig: My First Concert is a must see for all the family and especially a fantastic way to engage children in culture that is rich in our society and history.

Adolygiad A Pretty Sh*tty Love – Theatr Clwyd, Theatr Seligman, Chapter, Treganna gan Lowri Cynan.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

A Pretty Sh*tty Love – Theatr Clwyd

Actorion – Dan Hawksford a Danielle Bird

Cyfarwyddwr – Francesca Goodridge

Dramodydd – Katherine Chandler

Lleoliad – Theatr Seligman, Chapter, Treganna.

Credyd AB Photography

Dyma ddrama hynod bwysig a pherthnasol am drais domestig. Ond nid stori unochrog, ‘du a gwyn’ sydd yma ond yn hytrach stori gymhleth a chreulon dau berson – Hayley a Carl. Mae adegau doniol, tyner a chariadus i’w stori nhw ond, yn y pendraw, y trais, y gormes a’r ymosodiadau erchyll sy’n aros yn y cof.

Mae’r dramodydd Katherine Chandler yn hen law bellach ar greu dramâu bachog a ‘gritty’ am gymeriadau sy’n dioddef o drawma. Sbardun y ddrama oedd hanes personol Stacey Gwilliam merch ifanc a ddioddefodd drais domestig cyson gan ei phartner a geisiodd, yn y pendraw ei lladd a’i chladdu’n fyw ar draeth ger Abertawe. Ond mae’r awdures yn pwysleisio nad ymgais i greu theatr verbatim yw’r ddrama hon  – nid hanes uniongyrchol Stacey a gawn yma – yn hytrach stori ddychmygus sy’n trafod yr un themâu.

Mae Chandler wedi creu sgript arbennig, yn acen Abertawe sy’n llifo’n berffaith o un olygfa i’r llall ac mae’r cymeriadau yn rhai gonest, aml haenog a chymhleth. Mae Hayley’n chwilio am ei thywysog – yn dyheu am ramant – ac yn syrthio dros ei phen a’i chlustiau mewn cariad â Carl. Yn ystod ei monologau, mae’n olrhain ei chefndir teuluol, ei magwraeth a’r adegau o dristwch sydd wedi llunio ei bywyd. Y graith fwyaf yw colled ei thad, i deulu arall ac yna i alcohol. Ond mae’n ferch ddewr a phenderfynol, yn gymeriad sensitif a hoffus. Mae Carl hefyd yn rhannu ei fywyd anodd gyda’r gynulleidfa wrth drafod caethiwed ei fam a’i frawd yntau i gyffuriau. Mae e wedi ei greithio ond yn ceisio palu ei hun allan o’r byd hynny wrth fynychu’r gym yn rheolaidd a chynnal swydd. Ar ddechrau’r garwriaeth, mae Carl yn hynod o amddiffynnol o Hayley ac yn dangos munudau o wir gariad tuag ati. Ond, yn anffodus, mae ei deimladau’n tyfu i fod yn obsesiynol, yn beryglus a chymhellol ac mewn dim, mae Hayley’n cael ei rheoli’n llwyr ganddo. Rydym yn gweld ei bwer yn cynyddu, a’i dymer afreolus yn arwain at ymosodiadau ffyrnig arni ynghyd â munudau o wallgofrwydd llwyr. Ac er bod Carl yn flin wedi’r trais a Hayley’n maddau iddo dro ar ôl tro, yn y pendraw, mae’n gorfod gadael. Mae hyn yn dangos ei chryfder a’i phŵer hithau hefyd i geisio newid pethau. Y tristwch yw ei bod hi’n methu anghofio, a’i bod hi’n cael ei hela a’i herlid ganddo. 

Mae’r ddau actor, Danielle Bird a Dan Hawksford, yn cydweithio’n arbennig ac mae eu portread o’r cymeriadau mor real, bron rydych yn anghofio eu bod yn actio o gwbl. Mae’r cyfarwyddo hefyd yn hynod o gelfydd, oherwydd nid oes llawer o gyffwrdd corfforol rhwng y ddau, yn enwedig yn ystod yr ymosodiadau a’r trais. Yn hytrach, mae’r cyfan yn cael ei gyflwyno i’r gynulleidfa drwy waith corfforol unigol, gyda’r ddau actor yn sefyll naill ochr i’r llwyfan. Mae’r gwagle a’r pellter yn ein hannog ni i greu’r delweddau hyn yn ein meddyliau, ac i deimlo poen Hayley a chasineb Carl. Mae hyn yn hynod effeithiol ac roedd y cyfarwyddo i gyd yn glyfar a dyfeisgar iawn drwy’r holl sioe.

Nid yn unig y sgript, y cyfarwyddo a’r actio sydd i’w ganmol ond hefyd yr ochr dechnegol. Mae’r set yn gyfuniad gwych o ddrysau tryloyw sy’n agor a chau i greu lleoliadau newydd ac ar adegau mae delweddau, negeseuon testun a geiriau allweddol yn cael eu taflu arnynt. Mae’r sain hefyd yn creu’r tensiynau angenrheidiol ond heb amharu ar yr awyrgylch ac mae meicroffonau yn ychwanegu at erchylltra’r trais yn y golygfeydd mwyaf tywyll. Defnyddiwyd tywod  i amgylchynu’r llwyfan ac roedd y traeth, y môr a dŵr yn themâu pwysig drwyddi draw. Cafwyd cyfeiriadau at Chwedl Llyn y Fan Fach ar ddechrau’r ddrama ac roedd hyn yn berthnasol i stori Hayley maes o law. Yr eironi fwyaf yw  bod y ddau gariad wedi cusanu am y tro cyntaf ar draeth Caswell sef yr union le mae Carl yn ceisio lladd Hayley a’i chladdu’n fyw ar ddiwedd y ddrama.

Dyma ddrama boenus a chreulon fydd yn aros yn y cof.  Ond yr hyn sy’n cael ei gyflwyno i ni yw’r ffaith nad yw achosion o drais domestig bob amser yn syml. Ry’n ni i gyd yn euog o ddweud wrth glywed hanesion tebyg …. Pam wnaeth Hayley aros gyda Carl? Pam wnaeth hi fynd nôl ato fe? Beth sy’n bod arni?

Mae’r ddrama hon yn cyflwyno dwy ochr o’r  stori i ni – dau lais,dau fersiwn a hynny yn gelfydd drwy gyfrwng theatrig. Mae’n glyfar, yn dorcalonnus ar adegau ond yn hynod bwerus. Llongyfarchiadau mawr i’r holl dîm artistig.

Adolygiad Anthem, Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru gan Lowri Cynan

Cynhyrchiad hir disgwyliedig Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru yw Anthem sy’n cael ei llwyfannu yn y Stiwdio Weston tan Orffennaf y 30ain. Braf yw gweld cefnogaeth i’r Gymraeg a sioeau newydd mewn sefydliad sy’n denu cynulleidfaoedd eang a gobeithio mai arwydd o ymroddiad ehangach i’r theatr iaith Gymraeg yw hon.


Sioe Gerdd a chomedi dychanol yw ‘Anthem’ wedi’i selio ar fformat rhaglenni realiti megis ‘X Factor’ sy’n ceisio dyrchafu pobl gyffredin yn sêr dros nos. Mae chwarae ‘tafod mewn boch’ ar fformat rhaglenni adloniant sgleiniog fel ‘Eurovision’ a ‘Can i Gymru’ yn amlwg yma hefyd, yn enwedig o ran cynllun y set deledu, arddull y sioe a steil y cyflwyno cawslyd o slic. Cymeriadau stoc yw’r dalent sy’n aros i gael eu pum munud o enwogrwydd yn yr ystafell werdd – Teleri (Rhian Morgan), Eifion ac Esyllt (Gareth Elis a Lily Beau Conway), Leon (Iestyn Arwel) a Gerald (Rhys ap Trefor). Mae pob un o’r rhain yn cynrychioli ardaloedd o Gymru ac yn cynnal y gomedi wrth rannu eu bywydau bach pantomeimaidd gyda ni. Mae geiriau eu caneuon unigol wrth iddynt berfformio (a gobeithio dod i’r brig) yn adlewyrchu eu ffantasïau ystrydebol. Mae ochr dechnegol y stiwdio deledu yn siambls llwyr ac yn cael ei redeg gan griw bach hollol ddibrofiad ac aneffeithiol. Tudur y Cyflwynydd sy’n angori’r cyfan, yn ceisio achub y dydd, a’r sioe o ran hynny! – ac wrth gwrs ei yrfa, er bod ei ymdrechion yn aflwyddiannus yn y pendraw.

Yn sgil y rhialtwch, mae gan bob un ei angst personol, sydd wrth gwrs yn ychwanegu ymhellach at y gomedi a’r ffraethineb, e.e. Teleri, sy’n dyheu i gael ei derbyn gan yr ‘in-crowd’ Cymreig ac Eifion sydd eisiau rhedeg i ffwrdd mor bell phosib ohono! Mae’r cyfan, y themâu a’r mathau o gymeriadau yn dwyn i gof cyfresi teledu Cymreig o’r gorffen.

Cafwyd dawnsio a chanu, tantrums a dagre, gyda chydweithio hyfryd rhwng y cymeriadau. Ond mae’r cystadlu bitshlyd a’r antics erbyn y diwedd yn cilio. Yn hytrach mae’r cymeriadau, neu rai ohonynt o leiaf, yn sylweddoli bod eu bywydau bach cyffredin yn ddigon! Does dim angen yr enwogrwydd ffug arnynt i fod yn hapus!

Felly os y’ch chi ffansi noson ysgafn mas mewn theatr hyfryd, dyma’r sioe i chi. Mae’r deunydd yn addas hefyd i ddysgwyr gan fod y ddeialog a geiriau’r caneuon yn cael eu cyfieithu a’u taflu ar daflunydd sy’n rhan o’r set liwgar. Sioe 90 munud yw hon – dim egwyl, ac mae modd mynd a diod gyda chi i’r theatr. Ar ben hyn, mae pris y tocynnau’n rhesymol o’i gymharu â’r prif awditoriwm. Joiwch!

Review CHOO CHOO! You are not your thoughts StammerMouth Chapter by James Ellis 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is close to me and the people in my life. Recent theatre I’ve seen and my own work/fundraisers remain in the back of my head. How can we portray this ghastly condition on the stage. Can we truly make people care?

Along comes StammerMouth with an expectedly profound piece, about OCD and those around the people who experience it. Directed by Nerida Bradley with a sharp eye for detail, CHOO CHOO has the snazzy, primary coloured vibe of a 70s children’s programme. Yet, a helping of Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared and WandaVision peeps through with an angular distortion as the story stagnates. The feelings of isolation and worsening mental states are never far away in an ever increasing bout of anxiety. Both characters of Nye and Duncan have a strong, brotherly bond, leading to some later touching bits. You can only assume they spent lockdown together and this was the catalyst for the entire show.

Nye Russel Thompson (who also wrote the work) has poured his heart out here, the debilitating nature of the disorder constantly compromising his way of life. It’s clear that the condition can convince you making yourself think you’re capable of awful things. A radio set seen on a table spouts bile about a knife next to it and other horrible ideas that are naturally never acted upon. The efforts of fellow performer Duncan Hallis adds a soulful energy to the show, sincere in more sympathetic scenes. Both actors bounce off each other very skilfully, the humour is often solid. Some surreal moments, with dark comebacks remain as highlights. 

Much love needs to be sent to Julie Doyle, the BSL interpreter for the evening. Though she was a slight part in the actual drama, she could have been utilised even more, her loitering of  downstage right apparent throughout. Some sweet moments came when people in the audience before the show would sign with her, with some bouts of laughter. The set as well is simple and effective, white blocks which change colour work very well in the space. The opening song, heard throughout is such a catchy tune, I’ve yet to get it out of my head (speaking of which, the Kylie scene in a manic ). The song itself is a roll call for both guys, Nye’s slipping out of tune and rhythm due to the descent of his intrusive thoughts. 

It’s super to see more theatre being made about mental health, especially after the life altering pandemic, something were not fully out of. I said in another recent review about OCD that “work like this could save lives”. This remains the case with this most recent piece from StammerMouth.   

CHOO CHOO! You are not your thoughts continues at Chapter Arts Centre till 23rd July 2022.

Review The Lion King, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhian Gregory.

The outstanding Lion King musical has returned to Cardiff this summer.  The Serengeti of Africa was transported to the Wales Millennium Centre.  It brings warmth, light and darkness, with an emotive contemplative story line, and fantastic rhythms and lyrics. 

The Walt Disney animations studio created  The Lion King feature film back in 1994.  The Lion King musical, which is based on the original animated film,  made its first debut in 1997, in the state of Minnesota in the United States of America. In 1999, it was opened in the U.K. at Lyceum Theatre, and has been running ever since. 

The story follows Simba’s journey from a cub to an adult lion, becoming  the King Lion.  Simba is the son of Mufasa and Sarabi, and his jealous uncle Scar kills his brother Mufasa, blaming Simba, and as a scared grieving cub he is forced to run away.  Timon (Meerkat) and Pumbaa (Warthog) come across Simba, and they grow up together. The Pride Land in the mean time, is suffering under Scar and the hyenas reign.  Nala, who was Simba’s best friend as a young cub, is now grown up, and  while out hunting she is reunited with Simba.  Simba’s confusion on whether to go back is helped by a spiritual meeting his dad Mufasa. Simba returns, the truth is out who really killed Mufasa, Scar falls to his death, and now Simba is the rightful descendant King of the Serengeti pride land.

The classic songs “ Hakuna Matata”, “Can you Feel the Love Tonight?” and “Circle of Life” by Elton John and Tim Rice feature in the musical. 

There are a few song additions that don’t feature in film version, such as “Grasslands Chant” and “One by One”. 

In the musical Rafiki, who has a narrative role, is played by a female. It was decided this as production felt it needed another stronger leading female role.

The hyenas, although dark and scary, have a comedic side to them alongside Scar, and of course not forgetting the jokes from Timon and Pumbaa, and Zazu (Hornbill).

The cast ensemble play absolutely incredible roles, from different animals, to dancing grass features. The super creative costumes, alongside the fantastic choreography, bring the auditorium to life. Performing not just on the stage, but in with the audience too. This gives such an immersive interactive experience. 

My children who came along with me, age 11, 9 and 4, had their mouths wide open in awe of them, and couldn’t stop smiling. It really adds to the experience, and I got this warm magical feeling inside. We loved how the percussionists were positioned in the side boxes of the audience.

One thing I did notice with the performance I watched, I felt the volume needed to be increased as I felt it had reduced sound. I did question whether  it was a relaxed performance because of this, but it wasn’t. 

The first act seemed to be significantly longer than the second act. My children did start to fidget slightly towards the end of the first act and ask when they could get a drink and use to the toilet. 

On a personal note, The Lion King musical has always had a play in my heart and in my top 10 musicals of all time! I enjoy the storyline along with African musical rhythms, inventive vibrant costumes and artistic set design. 

The Lion King was also the first ever  live musical theatre performance my son at age 3 watched in Cardiff back in 2014.  He has been hooked on musical theatre ever since, and has a CD collection of soundtracks from the musicals he has seen since. 

The Lion King musical in Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre 2014, my son Cody at age 3. 

It’s certainly a musical for all the family.  Guidance is from 6 years plus, and no under 3’s.  It was approximately 2 hours 30 minutes long with a 15 minute interval. 

It has to be said the whole cast and crew are incredibly talented. 

You can book tickets here

Top Tunes with Director Francesca Goodridge.

Hi Francesca, great to meet you, can you tell us about yourself and your work?

Hi! I’m a female, working class director- born and bred in Swansea, then went to drama school in Liverpool, where I now live. After graduating back in 2014 I had a short stint of performing but I quickly realised how much I enjoy carving out the stories I want to tell. The fantastic Kate Wasserberg offered some assistant director experience as the trainee director at The Other Room Theatre in Cardiff. It’s through her that I met one of the most influential people over my career, Tamara Harvey and started my wonderful relationship with Theatr Clwyd where I went on to be one of the first recipients of the Carne Trust Traineeship for Directors in Wales.

The work I make is influenced a lot by music. Since a child I’ve loved singing and dancing, and I find music is at the core of a lot of my productions. I’m drawn to real stories, real people and the extraordinary moments in everyday life. 

 You have just directed a new play A Pretty Sh*tty Love, what role does music play in this production?

Before I even knew what the script would be, I had a composer on board. I love working with Alexandra Faye Braithwaite I think she’s extraordinary and her work is so intricate and emotive.

Alexandra Faye Braithwaite

We knew that the piece would be heavily underscored and that music would be its own character. It’s a real story about a real woman who was buried alive in Swansea by her abusive husband. It’s a two hander but heavily told by the main character, Hayley, who draws back on memories. Music is a way to evoke memories for all of us and, in this production especially, it’s the thing that helps lead her through her story. I feel like I won the theatre lottery by having Katherine Chandler write the script, because her writing is so musical anyway so it’s really beautiful to underscore. Kath writes real people better than anyone I know and I think it’ll be a really special, important story to tell. 

A Pretty Sh*tty Love plays at Theatr Clwyd from Fri 8 – Sat 23 July and Chapter Arts, Cardiff Wed 27 – Fri 29 July.

The performance at Chapter on Wednesday 27 July has a post show Q&A with Francesca and Writer Katherine Chandler.

There is BSL Interpretation by Sami Dunn on Friday 29 July

 This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. To get is started what are you currently listening to? 

I had serious FOMO not being at Glastonbury this year. I love live music and so I watched all of the highlights on TV. So, I think that’s influenced a lot of my current playlists. Currently, it’s Holly Humberstone, Maisy Peters and Haim. I always have Haim on repeat – I think they’re just amazing. Weirdly, I saw them in a tiny gig in Philadelphia back in 2012 when no one knew who they were and the drummer played one song on the kit with her heels. I knew I loved them then. 

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration; can you list five records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 

1.Tina Turner- Proud Mary.

This takes me back to uni, student nights out and moving to Liverpool.

2.Badfinger –No Dice (album)

 I’m currently developing a new Badfinger actor muso piece with my good friend and creative partner Daniel Lloyd, written by Swansea playwright Tracy Harris. I think this album is extraordinary; the talent of these boys is just unreal. 

3.Meatloaf- Bat Out of Hell 

I put this album on whenever I need a big pick me up, or long car journeys when I need a good sing-a-long. I love how theatrical it is and how every sing is a full production. Growing up I listened to a lot of musical theatre as I wasn’t that interested in new music (the exception being The Spice Girls obvs). 

4. Jamie T – Panic Prevention (album)

It was SO hard to choose just one of Jamie T’s albums. He’s always been one of my favourites and I think the person I’ve seen live the most. Me and my best mate Louise were just obsessed. We’d get in from a night out in Swansea and wake up the next morning with tickets to his gig, having no recollection of buying them. We’d know every song word for word and sing it as loud as we could in the car!

5.Phil Collins/Genesis

This is such a cheat, I’m sorry! But I really couldn’t pick one album or song. My parents would play Phil Collins constantly growing up and they still do! I love listening to him, it reminds me of home and makes me think of my mum and dad. The three of us recently went to his final Genesis concert in Liverpool and I remember thinking, I’m going to remember this moment forever. It was really special. 

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this? 

Without You – Badfinger. (From the No Dice album) 

The story of this band has stayed with me so much over the last year or 2 whilst working on the show. Just a couple of boys from Swansea, with so much talent who just wanted to make music, and they had such a sad end. The story is heart-breaking. People think this song was written by Harry Nisson, or maybe younger people might think of Mariah Carey, but actually it was a lad from Townhill, Swansea- Pete Ham. He wrote it with bandmember and scouser Tom Evans. So being from Swansea, living in Liverpool, it feels particularly special.

Review A Shoddy Detective & The Art of Deception by Tanica Psalmist

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

‘A Shoddy Detective & The Art of Deception’ features four energetic and talented actors; Becky Bartram, Luke Rose, Jordan Stratton and Mitch Donaldson. This play is amusingly cheerful from the offset; fuzzy smiles, warm welcomes & teases from the cast towards the audience casually strolling in, intrinsically lures the crowd in towards an evening of helpless chuckles, laughter, innuendos & classic banter for all age groups to understand & absorb well.

When the Great Lord & Lady Raeburn discover at their auction that their masterpiece painting has been stolen, instant panic and fear hits them hardcore. The Detectives are immediately contacted to intervene & catch the wanted thief! Assigned to this case is the disgraceful slacker ‘Brian Taylor’ who gets partnered up alongside the sharp & genius detective ‘Dusty Wills’ to help him get to the bottom of the crime investigation. 

Upon questioning and close examination, each and every one of Lord Raeburn’s staff and guests pays off nicely as they mysteriously get closer & closer to catching the mysterious thief by unlocking the houses deep, dark & deadly secrets; both the known and unknown, taking us all on an adventure to conquer this painting investigation. The multi-characterisation in this play is impressive, as well as the dashes of romance, excitement and enticement which continues throughout.

Overall, the actors held their accents well, their charm and witty humour and quick costume changes is well maintained, being the cushion of a true comedic parody which gives this play a unique comedic style. Whilst ‘Brian Taylor’ played by Luke Rose represents a shoddy detective without a doubt due to his slapstick act during the all cast fight scene towards the end, his helpless flirtatious moments and plot twists to win against the odds… not only satisfying to watch as we track down the smooth criminal but most definitely a good laugh too!

REVIEW Chicago, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Chicago, 1920s. In a city ruled by mob bosses and moonshine, misbehaviour ain’t just on the menu: it’s a way of life. If it’s fame you’re after, you might get fifteen minutes or fifteen to life – and Roxie Hart’s dream of seeing her name in the papers is one she’ll kill for. With blood on her hands and a song in her heart, Roxie (Faye Brookes) teams up with sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) to fool the masses, stealing the thunder of her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott), in the process.

‘All That Jazz’: the Chicago ensemble, led by Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly

Featuring classic songs by Kander and Ebb and original choreography by Bob Fosse (the trio behind the iconic Cabaret), Chicago is fresher, funnier and fiercer than ever. 25 years after its revival swept the Tonys, and nearly 50 since it first premiered on Broadway, the show’s satire of law, politics and the press could hardly be more relevant: after all, what’s the difference between a theatre and a courtroom when showmanship, not integrity, is the order of the day? Even when the actors are playing judges and reporters, they’re wearing mesh, fishnets, and leather: justice is showbiz, darling, and you’d better pray for an encore. Chicago is self-consciously theatrical, drawing attention to its own artifice: a gilt frame encloses the stage, but the set itself has no frills and few props: its simplicity spotlights the performances instead of the staging.

‘We Both Reached for the Gun’: Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) puppeteers Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) through a press conference

And what performances! Faye Brookes brings lashings of wit and charm to Roxie Hart: one part hapless crim, one part ruthless dame. Brookes is a hilarious and vibrant stage presence, particularly when pitted against Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly, whose stylish swagger makes for an effective foil to Brookes’ wide-eyed ebullience; their ‘Hot Honey Rag’ duet is a veritable dance masterclass.

‘The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be “Roxie”‘: Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) and her ‘boys’

There are excellent supporting performances by X Factor finalist Brenda Edwards as the sultry Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, Jamie Baughan as Roxie’s hangdog husband Amos and B.E. Wong as big-hearted but gullible journo Mary Sunshine. Meanwhile, Lee Mead as Billy Flynn really does give the audience the ol’ ‘Razzle Dazzle’, and Scott’s sensational rendition of ‘All That Jazz’ brings the house down by the time the show’s barely started. But the Cell Block Tango might just be the standout: by the final chorus, you’ll really believe ‘he had it coming!’

A chain-smoking tap-dance

The incredibly intricate dancing is executed with effortless precision, with every Fosse finger snap and hip roll present and accounted for. The ensemble is on top form as is the superb live band, directed by Andrew Hilton, who are seated onstage in striking, asymmetric tiers. You won’t find better singing, dancing or live music this side of the ‘20s: the cast prove once again why Chicago is still one of the best musicals around. If you love the Oscar-winning movie, you’ll be in your element; if you’re new to the medium, then you’re starting out with the best. Stylish, sexy and spectacular, Chicago is all that jazz and then some – it’s the most fun you can have without breaking the law!

‘I Can’t Do it Alone’: Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott) and Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) take their criminally-good show on the road

Chicago is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 25 June

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

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Review “I’m Just A Little Bit OCD”, Concept Theatre, The Cockpit by James Ellis 

Photo credit: Leon Bach 
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I arrived at The Cockpit Theatre tired from the rushed venture from nearby Paddington, for one last hurrah in London. I prepared for what I was about to see. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is very personal to myself and my family, with some friends also having the condition as well. Going in with my own history with the condition, I was curious to see how others would express their obsessions in a theatrical vein.

Concept Theatre have put their cards on the table in a telling depiction of OCD. Essentially a show of two halves, the sharp and witty Catarina Thane is Matilda, our guide through the show and creator of a podcast all about OCD. Elements of her performance give cabaret vibes with singing and audience participation. Catarina did a great job to make the audience feel welcome and relaxed, as we were about to infiltrate some dark territory.     

The other side of the shows sees scenes with the sisters Tilly and Grace, the latter arriving back from uni. Grace is not sure what’s wrong with her, craving reassurance that bad things won’t happen to the people around her and frantic draw opening and closing sessions are never far away. These moments are funny and honest, the dialogue realistic and far from arbitrary. Sarah Eakin as Tilly, demonstrates the condition well. Stewing in her rituals, lost to the world for a trinity of repetitions, this reaches its zenith when Grace sees the intensity of her sisters condition in full force. Jasmine Hodgeson, as someone who has OCD, gives warmth and a sisterly rivalry for Tilly’s plight, at first saying the typical quips you’d expect to hear (hence the name of the show). 

Matilda coming back and for between the tableau was a nice touch and gives rest bite to the intense anguish of the rumination seen within the sibling storyline. Director/writer Ria Fay also gives a pleasing turn as Grace the therapist who rescues Tilly from her own mind. Phrases such as “Groinal reaction”, “That’s against your views” and “Thoughts are not facts” pass the expert’s lips and have a profound impact on both Tilly and the audience. This hit close to the bone for me, as a person with OCD can convince themselves they are a bad person who may commit bad acts. Need I say more? 

Even with the grappling such serious topics the show still is amazing and had some powerful insights into the condition. Even for myself, with not a confirmed diagnosis, certainly find aspects of it within me, though I would never utter the name of this show as it’s easily become the definitive statement that people with the actual condition can’t bare to hear. My advice is to increase the Lynchian elements of the show, a lone, flickering lightbulb and some ominous whooshing set the scene to plunge into the recesses of the mind. 

A Q & A with the cast and director proved how important work like this is today. I hope the rest of the shows get good audiences and responses. Theatre like this could save lives…

“I’m Just A Little Bit OCD” continues on tour around London at Southwark Playhouse on 19th June 2022 and at Chickenshed for captioned performances on 26th June.