A selection of Wales theater critics met at Media Wales last week to begin the short listing process for the TCWA’s 12 which will be held at Sherman Cymru on Saturday 26th January, 2013. The shortlisted nominees in each category will be announced mid December 2012.
We have aspired to truly reflect the range of work created this year and have endeavored to see as much work as possible, critics on the panel include,
Lowri Haf Cooke
Set in the heart of the Welsh Valleys in the early 1990s the Utah Bride is a production written by Carmen Medway-Stephens and produced by 1.168 Theater Company. The production focuses on the turbulent relationship between a mother and a daughter named Alice, throughout the play family is explored to create a thought-provoking narrative.
16 year old Alice is back from Utah after escaping the valleys four years previously to live the American dream with her Mormon missionary, her mother questions her motives for returning which I thought added stimulating anxiety.
The show starts and ends with a classic artist and a beautiful song by Dolly Parton, “Little Sparrow”. Its relevance to the play is blurred; I would have expected a Welsh soundtrack that would have established the setting of the production and would have made it feel more authentic.
The bright lights focused on the living room which established the setting for characters, I felt that the characters in the play were not sufficiently developed enough and were hard to connect and sympathize with. They were also over stereotypicalised as moments that touched upon their Welsh culture were much exaggerated such as the entire Welsh neighbourhood coming around to watch the birth of Alice in the back window of the house.I don’t think the narrative of the play was incredibly exciting as it did not take the audience on a climatic journey this could be due to it focusing too much on the relationship between mother and child.
However, for an hour and 30 minutes the play is intriguing and I was interested in the world created, I felt this was down to the brilliant and emotional acting of Sharon Morgan and Sara Lloyd-Gregory. When the actors were taking their bows you could see that they were both still emotional from the scenes, and it shows how deeply they entered their roles.
One very positive aspects of the show that I highly enjoyed was how the audience took on a voyeuristic stance; you felt intrigued to be watching a very personal moment between a mother and daughter.
The Utah Bride written by Carmen Medway Stephens produced by 1.168 Theater Company.
At Chapter Arts Center, Cardiff Fri the 16th and 17th December.
Dance House NDC Wales (in association with Cardiff Contemporary)
Created by Roy Campbell-Moore and Sue Williams
All good contemporary art is open to interpretation. Roy Campbell-Moore and Sue Williams’s collaboration, Cracked is no exception, posing a number of questions about the manifestation of sexuality and the relationship between man and woman.
Set to Tchaikovsky’s score from The Nutcracker, Cracked is a rebellion of the ‘fairy tale’. Instead, it explores the realities of relationships. The emotions and sexual tensions that we experience when starting a relationship, and the constant struggle for control.
We meet SHE as she dresses for a night out – picking clothes that accentuate her femininity and sexuality, a private moment adding her make up (which would have been a little more engaging with a larger mirror that reflected the mood and movement of the ritual), and then a full length check in the glass; a short dance that tests her outfit for suitability and sensuality, the tutu harking back to tradition and suggesting that, somewhere beneath the made-up exterior, every woman wants to be the fairy princess.
HE presents himself to us ready dressed, “effortless” in preparation for his evening. He responds to his own music with aggression and assurance; he WILL have a good night, and he WILL take what he wants from it. Though, beneath this demeanour of certainty and arrogance, there is a sense that it’s all a show.
In their meeting, there is a hesitance as they sit apart, not acknowledging the existence of the other until her small gesture of openness, willingness spurs him on, and he is suddenly all over her, falling (drunkenly) at her feet – using the most unromantic gestures to win her over. Their flirting and foreplay is a mix of desire and repulsion, though his main focus is the desire to have her, whether it is her will or not. The moment she feels sure of herself – confident enough to open herself up and give him a sense of her sexual self, he falls upon her, re-exurting his power and physical strength over hers.
A solo performance from SHE is re-empowering; she both embraces and rejects the traditional image of ‘woman’, and conveys her independence and the joy she feels in that.
The final scene between them is complex in theme if simple in design; a rope attached to the ceiling is incorporated into the dance. They each take turns manipulating the rope, though HE seems to hold it more often than SHE and is quickly frustrated and uncomfortable when it is wrapped around him, symbolising the male’s need to be in control, so that he can walk away at any time which, of course, he does, just when they have made a close and intimate connection.
Her final moment, alone is ambiguous. Is she happier this way, or is she devastated to have lost him? What’s wonderful aboutCracked is that the answer is different for everyone.
The use of the traditional, classical music that ordinarily evokes images of flowing white tutus and charming toy soldiers juxtaposes the harsher reality that is portrayed in Cracked, increasing the level of poignancy of each movement, each moment between the two dancers. And that reality is that there is no Prince Charming and, if there is, you might well be better off without him…