Category Archives: Theatre

Review The Penis Apology, Anker Sengupta by Rhys Payne.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There is nothing I love more on a lazy weekend than wrapping myself up in a cosy blanket and watching re-runs of the mockumentary sitcom The Office. If you haven’t heard of this show before it’s set in a fictional paper distribution company Dundee Mifflin which is run by an incompetent boss. I know that this is going to start a debate but, despite Rocky Gervais’ comedy, I do much prefer the American version of the show which stars Steve Carrell. The reason I bring this up is that many fans of this show will be slightly confused and excited by the title of the latest play I have watched. Within this fictional show, a character simply referred to as Andy (played by the wonderfully talented Ed Helms) jokes about writing a companion to the controversial “Vagina Monologues”, which is a series of stories of real experiences of women, which he would title “The Penis apology.” This comment comes after this character stating that he had experienced numerous women’s studies classes while at college but still expressing his frustration at the modern feminism movement. While the play of the same title is not a parody or extension of this character’s creation (it’s not a play set in a similar time frame or location as the office) it is based on a very similar experience and/or frustration.

The play is created by Anker Sengupta who also stars in this one-man production. Performing in a one-person production must be incredibly difficult as the actor is solely responsible for keeping the audience’s attention throughout. This is even more impressive as Anker was able to keep a hold of the viewers throughout the whole hour show with no use of props/theatrics and very little movement which goes to show the acting ability that he possesses! This production was performed at Cathays Community Centre (which is not a venue I have been to before) which is a very cosy and intimate theatre experience. The smaller audience allowed Anker to be able to give direct eye contact to every person in the audience which further engaged them into the centre of the story. He was able to perfectly balance the opening moments of the show where the arrogant narrator expresses all his controversial options/frustrations with modern feminism with the closing moments of the show where we see a much more vulnerable side of the character. This contrasting book-ended structure helps the audience to get to understand the character and despite only knowing them for a short hour, you leave feeling as if they have been a close friend for many years!

The show starts with our character brainstorming how he is going to explain to his girlfriend that he had ran over her cat and follows their stream of consciousness in a meandering monologue that explores some of his viewpoints on modern issues. The narrative circles back at key points veers randomly and include a range of emotion that mimics the way in which people tell stories in real life which alongside the eye contact and content of the monologues allowed the audience to warm to our character despite their very controversial viewpoints. The end of the show is much more emotionally driven and powerful as we explore our guides childhood and some of the traumatic events that led to this more negative stance of life. Anker was able to flawlessly switch from the arrogant and confident aspects of the character to this more vulnerable perspective that had me very close to tears. I would say that “The Penis Apology” is a show for a more mature audience due to the apparent issues with feminism that may go over younger viewers heads. Additionally, there is strong language throughout with references to violence, alcohol and many other controversial modern issues that would not be suitable for young people. I also think that this show could have used some sort of cue to mark the beginning and the end of the performance. Whether that is a spotlight, a section of music, an action etc that would demonstrate to the audience that the show had begun/ended they seemed to blend into each other which some audience members may find confusing.

Overall, The Penis Apologies is an excellent portrayal of the ‘modern mans’ issue with feminism who, despite how controversial his viewpoints are, we get to understand and develop a fondness for as the play progress. It is very impressive that Anker is able to keep the audience’s attention sharply on him during this one-man show without the use of any props, staging etc and the structure of the monologue has been carefully crafted to showcase a believable character.  I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars!

Rhyddhad Mawr i Theatrau Cymru wrth i Gyfyngiadau Covid Gael Eu Codi ond bydd £10m o Golledion yn sgil Cau Dros y Nadolig yn Amharu ar yr Adferiad.

Newyddion i’w croesawu yw cyhoeddiad diweddaraf Llywodraeth Cymru o ran dechrau codi cyfyngiadau cadw pellter cymdeithasol i sector y celfyddydau perfformio, ond mae adroddiad newydd gan Creu Cymru yn dogfennu cyflwr argyfyngus y diwydiant a achoswyd gan y cyfyngiadau Covid yn enwedig dros gyfnod y Nadolig sydd fel arfer mor brysur.

Mae Creu Cymru, gynghrair sector y celfyddydau perfformio yng Nghymru sy’n cefnogi ac yn cysylltu pobl, cynulleidfaoedd a chymunedau, wedi amcangyfrif mai cyfanswm y refeniw a gollwyd gan ei haelodau, sy’n cynrychioli bron holl theatrau, canolfannau celfyddydau a chwmnïau cynhyrchu’r genedl a reolir yn broffesiynol, yw £8-10 miliwn ers i Gymru fynd yn ôl i Lefel Rybudd 2 ar 26 Rhagfyr. Canlyniad gorfod dychwelyd i’r rheol o 6 gydag uchafswm o 200 yn y gynulleidfa oedd i’r rhan fwyaf o theatrau yng Nghymru ganslo perfformiadau neu gau’n gyfan gwbl gan nad oedd yn ariannol gynhaliol i barhau.

Mae Creu Cymru wedi bod yn lobïo Llywodraeth Cymru a Chyngor Celfyddydau Cymru ar ran ei aelodau am gymorth ariannol pellach ac i ailystyried yr angen am gadw pellter cymdeithasol mewn theatrau. Mae wedi bod yn eirioli dros y sector theatrau ers cyn i’r cyfyngiadau diweddar yma gael eu rhoi yn eu lle, gan gynnwys cyflwyno’r achos i Bwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol y Senedd fel rhan o’i ymholiad undydd i’r celfyddydau a’r diwydiannau creadigol. Tynnwyd sylw at bwysigrwydd derbyn cyllid yn gyflym yn dilyn unrhyw gyhoeddiadau ariannu.

Yn ôl Louise Miles-Payne, Cyfarwyddwr Creu Cymru, “Rydym yn cydnabod ymateb cyflym a chadarnhaol Llywodraeth Cymru i’n lobïo parhaus ers diwedd 2021 am gefnogaeth ariannol i sector y celfyddydau yng Nghymru. Roedden ni’n hynod falch o weld y Prif Weinidog yn cyhoeddi dyddiad terfyn posibl ar gyfer y cyfyngiadau ar theatrau a sectorau adloniant eraill heddiw. Ochr yn

ochr â’r newyddion ynghynt yr wythnos yma am Gronfa Adferiad Diwylliannol bellach o 15.4 miliwn, bydd hyn yn mynd ymhell i helpu sector y mae’r cyfyngiadau wedi effeithio arno’n enfawr.

Mae tymor y Nadolig yn gyfnod hollbwysig yn y calendar theatrig; mae’n denu incwm sydd ei ddirfawr angen ac yn dod â theuluoedd ynghyd. Ein hamcangyfrif oedd cyfanswm colledion o tua 8-10 miliwn i theatrau yng Nghymru yn y rownd ddiweddaraf yma o gyfyngiadau. Rydym yn ddiolchgar am yr ymgynghoriad y gallen ni ei gael â Gweinidogion a swyddogion Llywodraeth Cymru sydd wedi gwrando ar ein pryderon a’n cwestiynau.

Ar ran ein haelodau, rydym wedi pwysleisio’r angen am amser digonol i gynlluniau gael eu rhoi yn eu lle. Mae’r newyddion heddiw’n golygu bod y miloedd o gynhyrchwyr, actorion, cerddorion, canolfannau a staff cynorthwyol ar draws y diwydiant sydd wedi bod yn trafod yn bryderus a ddylent ailddechrau sesiynau ymarfer a’r marchnata cysylltiedig â chynyrchiadau sydd yn yr arfaeth ar gyfer mis Chwefror ymlaen, yn gallu symud rhagddynt gyda mwy o sicrwydd.”

Mae adroddiad Creu Cymru i Lywodraeth Cymru ar statws y sector yn nodi bod o leiaf 19 o theatrau’n gorfod canslo eu cynyrchiadau i’r Nadolig a pherfformiadau ar y gweill ym mis Ionawr.  

Mae Llywodraeth Cymru hefyd wedi cyhoeddi taliad brys o £1000 ar gyfer gweithwyr llawrydd sy’n gweithio yn y sector a fydd ar gael drwy awdurdodau lleol o’r wythnos nesaf, gyda’r manylion llawn yn cael eu cyhoeddi 17 Ionawr. Fe ymddengys y bydd lleoliadau perfformio a chanolfannau celfyddydau ac amgueddfeydd diwylliannol yn debygol o fodloni’r meini prawf ar gyfer y gronfa £15.4m gan eu bod yn gallu dangos yn haws y golled incwm a gafwyd. Fodd bynnag, hyd yn hyn, nid yw’n eglur sut y bydd cwmnïau cynhyrchu’n cael eu cefnogi os na all prosiectau arfaethedig fynd yn eu blaenau neu pa fathau o yswiriant a allai fod ar gael os bydd gwaith sydd wedi’i gomisiynu’n cael ei ganslo.

Welsh Theatres Relieved As Covid Restrictions Lift But £10m Losses Resulting from Christmas Closures Will Hamper Recovery

The latest Welsh Government announcement to begin lifting social distancing restrictions is welcome news for the performing arts sector, but a new report by Creu Cymru documents the crisis-status of the industry caused by the Covid restrictions particulary over the typically busy Christmas period.

Creu Cymru, Wales’ Performing arts sector alliance that champions and connects people, audiences and communities, has estimated that the total loss of income for its members, who represent virtually all the nation’s professionally run theatres, arts centres and producing companies, is between £8-10 million since Wales re-entered Alert Level 2 on the 26th December. Having to return to the rule of 6 with a maximum capacity of 200 resulted in most theatres in Wales cancelling performances or closing completely as it was not financially viable to operate.

Creu Cymru has been lobbying Welsh Government and Arts Council of Wales on behalf of its members for further funding support and to reconsider the need for social distancing in theatres.  It has been advocating for the theatre sector since before these recent restrictions were put into place, including presenting the case before the Senedds Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee as part of its one-day inquiry into arts and the creative industries.

The importance of getting funds turned around quickly following any funding announcements was highlighted Louise Miles-Payne, Director, Creu Cymru said “We recognise the swift and positive response by the Welsh Government to our continued lobbying since the end of 2021 for financial support for the Welsh arts sector. We were extremely pleased to see the First Minister announce a potential end date to the restrictions on theatres and other entertainment sectors today.  Alongside the news earlier this week of a further 15.4 million Cultural Recovery Fund, this will go a long way to help a sector hugely affected by restrictions. The Christmas season is an incredibly important part of the theatrical calendar, it brings in much needed income and brings families together.  We

estimated total losses of around 8-10 million for theatres in Wales in this latest round of restrictions.  We are grateful for the consultation we’ve been able to have with Welsh Government Ministers and Officials who have listened to our concerns and questions.

On behalf of our members, we have stressed the need for sufficient time for plans to be put into place. Today’s news means that the thousands of producers, actors, musicians, venues and supporting staff across the industry who have been anxiously debating whether to begin

rehearsals and the subsequent marketing of productions planned from February onwards, can now proceed with greater assurances.”.

Creu Cymru’s report for the Welsh Government on the status of the sector documents that at least 19 theatres had to cancel their Christmas productions and performances scheduled in January..

The Welsh Government also has announced a £1000 emergency payment for freelancers working in the sector which will be made available through local authorities from next week with full details announced on January 17. Venues and cultural arts centres and museums look likely to meet the eligibility criteria for the £15.4m fund as they can more easily demonstrate the loss of income they have suffered. However, it is as yet unclear how producing companies will be supported if planned projects cannot go ahead or what insurances could be available if cancellations come after the work has been commissioned.

REVIEW Hamlet is a F&$boi/The Messenger, Sherman Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

What’s in a text? The novel, the written word – what’s it made of? The paper, the binding, the ink? Or something more elusive and ethereal? The four plays comprising the Sherman Theatre’s ‘Radical Reinventions’ series explored this question in earnest. Referencing everything from Goethe to Grindr, these plays used a handful of props and lashings of creativity to examine (in thirty minutes or less) why we continue to tell these stories hundreds, or even thousands, of years later.

Two of the plays, The Love Thief and Tilting at Windmills, I have already enthused about. I happened to see the final night of performances of Hamlet is a F&£$boi and The Messenger, which allowed me to reflect on how and why these four plays affected me so deeply.

Hamlet is a F&£$boi is written and performed by Winners’ Lowri Jenkins and directed by Mared Swain, based on the works of William Shakespeare among others. Essentially Fleabag meets My Fair Lady (only with the roles reversed), the play follows the lovelorn Evie (Jenkins), who would very much like to take a match to tinder and burn the whole thing to the ground. Fed up with the foibles of flesh and blood boyfriends, she turns to fiction to find her own personal Mr Darcy. Jenkins is daring and dynamic, and the play itself a whirlwind of venom and melancholy that savagely skewers the modern dating scene.

I wonder how Jenkins would have dealt with three of Shakespeare’s heavyweights – like Romeo and Macbeth, for example – instead of teaming Hamlet with Paris (from Homer’s The Iliad) and John Proctor (from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible) – though it would be hard to improve on such a funny and powerful play. It’s genuinely hilarious to watch Jenkins convey the waning swooniness of her literary crushes (and to watch her mimic the puffed-up bravado of the titular heartthrob), not to mention how genuinely affecting it is to watch her explore the reasons why we return to books and when we should put them down.

The Messenger is written and performed by Sherman Associate Artist Seiriol Davies (How to Win Against History) and directed by the Sherman’s Artistic Director Joe Murphy. Inspired by Romeo and Juliet, The Messenger is a musical epic in miniature, charting the changeable fortunes of its titular emissary, trainee priest Giovanni (real name: Shane), as he is tasked with a holy mission that might just determine the fate of the fisticuffs between the Montys and the Cap-Caps.

The Catholic Church urges Shane/Giovanni not to climb every mountain, definitely not to ford every stream, and to avoid rainbows like the plague (though after the last two years, I think we’re going to have to seriously rethink that idiom) – and he does just that, with a lot of singing, rhyming and sexy dance fighting along the way. I have genuinely never been more entertained; Davies is a one-man West Side Story, blazing through each number with brio and spiriting the audience away on a breathlessly anarchic adventure.

So, other than the obvious, why have the Sherman Theatre’s ‘Radical Reinventions’ continued to occupy my mind? It’s because they’re not only rollicking good stories, but that they speak to why we continue to tell stories at all: because they give us permission to hope, to dream, to love, and to live vividly and boldly and bravely. They’re not only smashing the text, they’re remaking it for a new, better world. Fiction, like life, has its limits – but as long as there are barriers and binaries alike, the Sherman Theatre and its exceptional talent will continue to break through them.

All four of the Radical Reinventions have been a joy; together, they are a triumph.

Hamlet is a F&£$boi is now available to stream on demand anytime until 24th December and you can see The Messenger’s Seiriol Davies as The Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol at the Sherman until 31st December. (Tilting at Windmills is also available to stream on demand anytime until 24th December – here’s why you should).

REVIEW Aladdin, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

It’s Christmas at the New Theatre again, and there’s nothing more festive than a pantomime. After nearly two years of not being able to boo or hiss (except at our elected representatives), pantomime is finally back – and you can’t get better than Aladdin, which graces the Cardiff stage this month. Produced by Crossroads Live, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, Aladdin has honed a recipe for the perfect panto: a dashing hero, a charming princess, a nefarious villain, and more ‘Oh no it isn’t’s than you can shake a stick at.

Denquar Chupak, Gareth Gates, Lorraine Brown, and Gareth Thomas

Though my latent love of panto has only recently been reawakened, I do have very fond memories of the Aladdin that ITV used to re-run every Christmas in the early 00s (the one featuring a knock-out performance by S Club 7). And this new version is even better, with Alan McHugh’s script and The Twins FX bringing the story and effects right up to date while retaining that rambunctious sense of classic family fun. Directed by Matt Slack, the story is set in ‘the mystical Empire of Caerdydd’ and follows Aladdin (Gareth Gates) and Princess Jasmine (Denquar Chupak), who want to get married against the wishes of Jasmine’s mother, the Empress (Lorraine Brown). Unbeknownst to him, Aladdin is the Chosen One, the only person who can retrieve the Magic Lamp from the Cave of Wonders – and an evil sorcerer, Abanazar (Stefan Pejic), plots to use him to steal the Lamp and rule the universe.

Stefan Pejic and Gareth Gates

Now a star of musical theatre including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Les Miserables and Legally Blonde, Gareth Gates first stepped into the spotlight during the first series of Pop Idol, and has never looked back. Gates and Chupak make a perfect fairytale couple, and lay claim to some of the show’s poppiest highlights, featuring songs like High Hopes, Permission to Dance, Dynamite and a gorgeous rendition of Unchained Melody (Gates’ first number one single, and one which he sings even more beautifully now – and that’s really saying something). It’s also wonderful to see that this Princess Jasmine is more than capable of saving herself.

Pic Tim Dickeson 03-12-2021 – Cardiff New Theatre 2021 – Aladdin

The show’s main purveyors of unhinged hilarity are legendary entertainer Paul Chuckle as Aladdin’s brother, Wishee Washee, and the fabulous Mike Doyle as their mother Widow Twankey (aka the First Lady of Panto). Chuckle’s comic timing is second to none, while Doyle, the New Theatre’s Pantomime Dame in residence, has fine-tuned the art of hamming it up. Doyle makes an unforgettable entrance: wearing a washing machine on his head and twerking to Bang Bang by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nick Minaj (one Dame to twerk them all?) Somehow, the outfit which features a stuffed panda on each hip isn’t even the most OTT ensemble he sports – though the award for best dressed might just go to local hero Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas as the Genie of the Lamp, who flexes his way across the stage to David Bowie’s Jean Genie wearing little but harem pants, feathers, and a smile. He’s as thrilling to watch on the stage as he is on the pitch – and, along with Chuckle and Doyle, make for one hell of a triple crown.

Mike Doyle and Paul Chuckle

Everyone on stage is having a blast, and the joy is (dare I say) infectious. Doyle and Chuckle are constantly trying to one-up each other in the slapstick department, but the true winner is the audience. Lorraine Brown is an uber-glamorous Empress and Stephanie Webber an exceedingly elegant Scherezade, Spirit of the Ring; meanwhile Michael Morwood and the New Theatre Orchestra are on top form, and the Flying Carpet is used sparingly but spectacularly.

Stefan Pejic

As the ominous Abanazar, Stefan Pejic slinks around the stage like the eyelinered lovechild of Tim Curry and Ming the Merciless, stealing scenes, hearts and hisses as he goes – don’t get me wrong, the rest of the cast are on their A-game, it’s just that Pejic has transcended the alphabet entirely. He opens Act 2 with a bang, performing Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name while ninja-dancers do a Matrix Paso Doble around him (kudos to Rory Beaton’s lighting and Steven Harris’ choreography too). I would gladly have watched Pejic read out a manual on installing drywall for two hours and I would have loved every second.

Stephanie Webber, Gareth Thomas and Gareth Gates

Aladdin is a story we all know and love, and this new production is brimming with tongue twisters and double entendres and slapstick – oh my! The energy of the cast is simply incredible – and with two shows a day, that’s nothing short of Herculean. If you get three wishes this year, make this one of them.

Aladdin is playing at the New Theatre through to 2nd January 2022

In line with Welsh Government legislation, everyone over 18 attending the show will need to show an NHS Covid Pass or proof of a recent negative Covid test result with photo ID. The New Theatre Centre have implemented a number of COVID safety measures to keep audiences and the cast safe throughout performances.

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore


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

REVIEW Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Wales Millennium Centre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

A beauty, a beast, a castle, and a rose: these are the pieces which make up one of the most beloved stories of all time. Disney’s animated classic has enraptured audiences for thirty years, and for good reason, featuring memorable characters, iconic songs, and awe-inspiring animation. It’s no wonder that it took Broadway by storm soon after, and now a new touring production has made its way to Cardiff to remind us just how special a show this is. It’s easily one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen on the stage.

The team who brought the film to Broadway in 1993 have assembled to weave their magic once again, furnished with new technology, designs and special effects. Featuring music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and from a book by Linda Woolverton, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast brings to life everything you’ve ever loved about the original. This is a cast and creative team that are second to none, and together they make every frame a painting – you’d need ten pairs of eyes to take it all in.

Directed and choreographed by Matt West, Beauty and the Beast is a visual spectacle like no other. The Millennium Centre is the perfect location for a show of such immense proportions, and not one inch of the space is wasted. Ann Hould-Ward’s costumes, for which she won a Tony in 1994, continue to amaze and Stanley A. Meyer’s sets astonish – each one a work of art, they simply have to be seen to be believed. John Shivers’ sound design and Natasha Katz’s lighting, together with Darryl Maloney’s projections, are the unsung heroes of the production – and combine most thrillingly in an atmospheric chase scene in the woods that will get your heart pounding. Danny Troob’s sumptuous orchestration breathes life into Menken’s spellbinding score and Jim Steinmeyer’s illusions truly make you believe in magic. It isn’t just like walking into the movie, it’s like walking into a fairytale.

But their artistry can only thrive in the hands of a wonderful cast – and what a cast! As Belle, Courtney Stapleton commands the stage with a quiet power and a stunning voice, qualities which are showcased to perfection in the song, ‘A Change in Me’. She shares a wonderful chemistry with Alyn Hawke as the Beast, who brings a fantastic physicality to the role and a fabulously grumpy sense of humour that’s just like his animated counterpart (not to mention his magnificent rendition of ‘If I Can’t Love Her’). Sam Bailey’s Mrs Potts is a delight and she performs a gorgeously moving rendition of the title song that would make Angela Lansbury herself proud. Meanwhile, Sam Murphy as Lumiere and Nigel Richards as Cogsworth are the double act dreams are made of: Murphy is delectable as the charismatic candelabra with showmanship to spare, while Richards as the crotchety clock channels Ronnie Corbett via Dame Edna, but with a charm that’s completely his own. And there are excellent supporting performances by Samantha Bingley (Madame Garderobe), Emma Caffrey (Babette) and Martin Ball (Maurice), plus Iesa Miller as the most adorable Chip.

Between the audience and the actors, it was difficult to tell who was having the most fun – but I think that honour might go to Tom Senior as Gaston and Louis Stockil as Le Fou. Their rousing performance of ‘Gaston’ is the most fun to watch, and their (literally) rabble-rousing ‘Kill the Beast’ was both the most moving and unnerving number on the night. But for pure, breathtaking, all-out entertainment there’s not much that can top ‘Be Our Guest’, a feast for all the senses that evokes Busby Berkeley and Max Bialystock – Matt West and the cast have truly outdone themselves here.

I simply don’t know how you could get better than this – my expectations were astronomical and this show soars to the stars and back. This is a masterpiece which is every bit as good as the Disney original: if you love the animated film, you will adore this; if you don’t, you will be swept up by the magic, skill and spectacle on display. Enchanting visuals, a flawless cast, and a timeless story make Disney’s Beauty and the Beast an unmissable experience this Christmas. This tale as old as time has never been needed more that it is now: it tells us that true beauty can only be found within, that love is more powerful than fear, and that we need to keep hoping even after the last petal falls.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is playing at the Wales Millennium Centre through 15 January 2022.

In line with Welsh Government legislation, everyone attending the show will need to show an NHS Covid Pass or proof of a recent negative Covid test result with photo ID. The Millennium Centre have implemented a number of COVID safety measures to keep audiences and the cast safe throughout performances.

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore


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

Review Black Box’s Murder Under the Mistletoe at Theatr Clwyd by Donna Williams

Black Box Events, set up by Denbigh born Mark Hughes, specialise in unique events and entertainment across North Wales. Since its creation in 2019, the company have provided a variety of successful events across a number of different venues in the region. Mark initially started hosting murder mystery events back in 2017 as fundraisers for varying causes and enjoyed it so much he decided to turn it into a part time job! All Black Box’s actors either have professional training or a wealth of experience in performing and this was certainly made clear throughout their latest production Murder Under the Mistletoe at Theatr Clwyd.

On entering the Clwyd Room at the venue, we are greeted with what looks like an office party set up; lots of tables boasting beautiful festive centrepieces, a makeshift bar (with a free glass of wine included on entry…I like this office party already!) and Christmas tunes playing through the speakers. There is even an office Santa making his rounds. The only giveaway that this is not your average office party is a notebook and pen atop the table for scribbling down clues and musings, and a QR code (how modern!) which, when scanned, takes us to a set of character profiles, giving us an insight into the characters we will be meeting this evening. And before we know it, those characters are in the room, chatting, not only amongst themselves but to us, transporting us to their office party and making us included in their company. That company being TechQ. The company director, Jackie, has seemingly thrown us all this party to celebrate such a successful year. Although we already start to get a glimpse that something is not quite right as the characters begin to bicker, throw looks at each other and, as is somewhat expected from a murder mystery evening, one goes and pops their clogs. And it just happens that Inspector Beckett is attending the party and so begins the fun! The inspector duly lines up the culprits ‘on stage’ and we start to learn a bit more about them. After this, it is our turn to interrogate and so ensues a hilarious back and forth between the inspector, the audience, and the characters, all of whom are portrayed brilliantly throughout and, even more impressively, the company improvise most of the piece. As the audience interaction heightens it is wonderful to look around the room and see audience members get so involved: writing in their notebooks, chatting to their friends and family about who they think’s ‘dunnit’ and even turning to guests on other tables and comparing clues! Towards the end, the audience must put on their ‘Sherlock’ heads and decide who they think did it! There is even a prize for the correct guess!

Despite it being ‘murder most horrid,’ this truly was a festive evening; we were even treated to a few Christmas numbers by the boss’ PA as well as her son! All music, sound, props etc. were organised by the cast super slickly and each character had their own clear aesthetic and personality; often stereotyped but not too over the top. There was plenty of dark drama from Jackie and her family, perfectly balanced by some wonderful comedy moments from Jackie’s PA, Josie…and Edward’s wig! The action was not without excitement but there were also a few interludes where the characters left the ‘stage’ and the audience were able to take toilet breaks, purchase another drink and/or discuss the goings on at TechQ! The company even stayed behind at the end of the performance to talk to the audience and take photos with them-a lovely gesture.

Black Box can cater for a wide variety of events including weddings, parties, corporate or even nights in with friends! They can hire out singing waiters, flash mob choirs and even a cinema screen/projector; bringing the magic of the movies into your home (something which went down a storm over lockdown!) And in 2022, Black Box will be hosting their murder mysteries all over North Wales so make sure to keep an eye on their social media channels for ticket info!

You can find them on Facebook and Instagram (just search for Black Box Events North Wales), or you can give Mark a call on 07748 747209 to start organising your personalised event!

Theatr Clwyd, Mold

December 11th, 2021

Writer: Mark Hughes

Director: Mark Hughes

Cast:

Inspector Beckett: Mike Teeson

Jackie Guzzel: Karen Campbell

Sophie Guzzel: Sei Watkins

Ben Guzzel: Mark Hughes

Edward Bamford: Shea Farron

Donna Jarvis: Norma Davies

Josie Davies: Sarah Leanne Davies

The Wonderful – There’s No Place Like Peckham. Review by Tanica Psalmist

In the heart of Peckham, Theatre Peckham showcased ‘The Wonderful – there’s no place like Peckham’. Prior to the show, Theatre Peckham kicked off in festive spirit style. The atmosphere in the theatre once you’d entered lingered with seasonal warmth from Christmassy smells oozing from moist raisons in delicious mince pies, citrusy bursts from mulled wine, fizz bubbling Prosecco, orange juice and original home-made Kromati rum.

The set designer; Emma Wee made good impressions from the get go! As soon as you walked in to Theatre Peckham you were greeted by the fantasy realm, the designs won the hearts of both children and adults due to the familiar elements from memory lane from our beloved musicals; such as the yellow brick road from the Wizard of OZ, which lead the audience up the staircase to see the show.

‘The Wonderful’ is a vibrant unique pantomime production, wonderfully infused with great concepts inspired by ‘Black Panther’ & the ‘Wizard of OZ’. ‘THE WONDERFUL’ is a modern twist of fanatical & mystical fairy tales guaranteed to offer vibrancy that’ll stimulate enough laughter to keep you wanting more! 

Well delivered and received cultural innovation from Africa, with an abundance of hip hop groove, vogue, topped with well-choreographed dance moves and catchy singing verses from the entire cast which belted into sweet harmonies from the souls and hearts of the audience subconsciously. This production would not have been possible without the creative team – Director; Geoff Aymer, musical director; Ben Christopher, writer; Suzanne Mcclean, lighting designer; Designer; designer; Katrina Russell Adams, Tim Speechly, choreograpgher; Christopher Tendai, Composer; Jordan Xavier, and Set & costume; Emma Wee. 

‘The Wonderful’ features a modernised twist of Afrofuturism where an unstoppable crew expanded on the pros & cons of how Artificial intelligence feels from a non-existent soul, (Cyri) played by ‘Amy Bianchi’, social media (Tik Tok) played in the form of a dog by ‘Sebastian Chambers’, technology, Pinky without the brain ‘Manny’ played by ‘Billy Lynch’ and the evil forces in the midsts of realty & fantasy from villain ‘AyGum’ played by ‘Tarisha Rommick’ and the sensation & importance of community from the fellow cast.

The moral of this production was that irrespective of personal missions, challenges are inevitable, however in spite of disasters there is always hope to allow us to overcome. Greatly presented by the main character ‘Efe’ played by Ashleigh Mae, who achieved and accomplished her pursuit of happiness from clarity to realisation within the fantasy world, which prepared her for the physical conscious realm back home in Peckham. Transpiring from the realistic elements experienced in households where we tend to feel misunderstood & unheard at times.

‘The Wonderful’ featured not only local talent but fun, upbeat and enchanting talent from the young company dance team. Having the presence of children in this play exuded a youthful experience which made this play even more worthwhile to watch and enjoy.

‘The Wonderful’ is a true magical reflection sprung to life, this production takes each audience member on an unforgettable adventure. Each character sparkled mystical stardust of optimism, laughter and the feelings of hope. The modern spin of the ‘Wizard of OZ’ & ‘Black Panther’ provided exceptional strengths that alienated distorted weaknesses from each character- highlighted by the hilarious & wacky character ‘The Wonderful’- played by ‘Ray Emmet’.

From magic machinery, dazzling flashing lights displayed on the multi- colourful set, dance, spice & everything nice, sass and so much more… the passion, music and entertainment expressed from all of the above is enough to keep you wide awake throughout!

Review, The Queen of Hearts, Greenwich Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This isn’t my first Panto of the year, but I could happily see Panto after Panto all year long. And so my invite to The Queen of Hearts at Greenwich Theatre reverted me to my childhood of Panto tradition around Christmas.

We are all used to a Panto being based on some famous tale: Aladdin, Cinderella, Snow White e.t.c. so I was massively intrigued by a Panto with a title and potentially a premise that I didn’t know about. Of course all the same elements were there; the audience interaction, “HE’S BEHIND YOU!”, the call and response of the tragic yet loveable sidekick, the moment where audience birthday’s are called out and of course, the pantomime Dame and her ever more extreme costumes and lust for… well… men.

However, The Queen of Hearts is to some degree a new story. Following most of the basic pattern, we see a love story between a Prince and a Princess; Jack the side kicked is over looked; The Dame has been widowed and on the search for her next man, yet is the mother to all and finally, the bad guy is only out to destroy the kingdom and support his own cause. But it isn’t as straight forward, when the twists and turns that usually we would see coming as we know the initial story (think of Aladdin will at some point rub the lamp; Cinderella will run away from the ball). It is new. It is shiny. It is fun.

Not a lot of Pantos have live music either. Usually it’s a recording or if they are lucky to, they are in the orchestra pit. But, much thanks to the Theatre’s architecture, some to just sheer genius, the small band featured on stage and they were every bit part of the production. From the piano player breaking out of his pit to come and act, to the guitarist laughing at every joke, corpse moment and funny improv, them and along with the other performers who clearly loved every moment on stage and had liberty to change slightly and corpse, showing that they loved it as much as the audience.

My only grumble was the absence of two distinctive Panto parts – the throwing of sweets (ok, Covid!) and the song and dance when they are randomly in the woods and sing a song to keep the Ghosts away; slowly being picked off one by one. Sadly, I waited for this bit and it never came. I love the ridiculousness of it and how it never fits in with the story and it was just a shame that it wasn’t in this particular production.

The Queen of Hearts is a fresh and exciting take on the traditional Christmas staple. It keeps to all the things we expect but adds something new and refreshing to the age old tradition.

Review, Dog Show, The Pleasance Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In the upstairs of The Pleasance Theatre, in the cabaret space, a unusual and interesting world unfolds. Firstly, I want to comment on this space and how brilliant it is with what the theatre has done. And it felt sophisticated and relaxing like the 1920’s cabaret theatres of old.

Dog Show is a cabaret meets storytale by the masterminds that are Ginger Johnson and David Cummings. Think drag meets Battersea Dogs Home… in fact, this is the aptly named Crappersea Dogs Home, and we are all the mangey mutts that have been left here. At Christmas, we are told to be on our best behaviour while the highly stylised drag-dogs show us the best ways to be a dog, the dirtiest ways to be a dog, and how we can too find a home for Christmas.

This is, without a doubt, the most unusual of Christmas shows but I think this would be a great start to your Christmas theatre season. It is rude, it is funny, it is utterly hyper real. Each performer has their own Drag-Dog persona: The utterly glamourous who reminded me much of the Poodle in Oliver and Company, the social media Pug star, the raggedy mutt who is a little deranged and so many more. Each are given their own performance moments and they are crude, they are hilarious and in a weird way, recognisable. For instance, a feature of a dog being lustful with a footstool, a age old tale that we hear about dogs and their strange behaviours.

There is also comments and stories that relate to the history of dogs such as the first dog in space. Many were laughing at this, but actually the whole scene was very sincere and quite emotional. It was that perfect addition to the comedy and the camp (although, featuring a swing on stage is a little of both anyway).

Unfortunately for Dog Show, Drag and Cabaret really thrives on its audience and for some unknown reason, the atmosphere wasn’t there. Jokes and beautiful moments fell on deaf ears and while I was cackling in the corner, I felt awful for the performers that there wasn’t that oomph from the audience to support their creativity.

Dog Show is full of comedy, of s-mutt, with excellent content and vision, not to mention beautiful costumes and even more beautiful performers. With a ready and willing audience, they could reach the stars!