Category Archives: Theatre

Bear, A Drama About Crisis, Community, Family and Blame.

Director Jack M Dunbar

Hi Jack great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi, I’m Jack. I graduated in 2019 from Royal Holloway, University of London with a BA in English and Theatre Studies. I’m a dirty Leeds fan, a chaotic book-worm and a prospective East 15 Acting School student.

What got you interested in the arts?

Musicals. I’m a hardcore thespian at heart. The unbridled joy of singing and dancing with a group of people at such a young age instilled within me the transformative qualities of the arts. Singing in particular engendered a keen interest in poetry; something I focused on for my undergraduate thesis. Everyone should sing and dance more.

It’s great to be able to discuss some positive news about a new play being produced and performed during this difficult Lockdown period. You have just directed BEAR by Bridgend based writer Jon Berry and it can be listened to now here…

…I believe the plays production has had some ups and downs?

Jon Berry and I were running auditions for BEAR in a comically cupboard sized space in the furthest corner of the Sherman Theatre, early March 2020 – our eyes set firmly on the Scottish capital. We had secured financial help from the Carne Trust and were assembling a company to take BEAR to the Fringe. Needless to say, the rest is history. Throughout the pandemic we met as a creative team and continued to rehearse and discuss the piece virtually, but the length of the pandemic took its toll and the viability of a live production at a venue vanished.

BEAR Playwright Jon Berry

Some months ago I thought to myself ‘enough is enough’ and with a bit of tenacity and good faith I pitched the project to some folk at Awen. I was looking for financial support for my actors as well as some much needed publicity. Awen were very generous and I was able to not only pay the actors involved but also myself, as well as the writer Jon and even get a fabulous motion designer on board to bring an even greater reality to the voices.

And now for the inevitable question, why should we listen to Bear?

Bear is a piece about crisis and community, family and blame; themes that we have all experienced intensely over the past 11 months. All the characters are managing their own crises whilst giving so much of themselves to a seemingly ‘bigger’ cause; a missing daughter. In addition to the arresting textural quality of Jon’s writing the audio drama features beautiful animation by Cardiff based animator Emma Davies.  It’s a play about resilience and keeping an eye on hope, something that I believe will resonate profoundly with all who choose to listen.

Cardiff based animator Emma Davies

The production has been supported by Awen Cultural Trust who are they and how did they come to be involved?

Awen Cultural Trust is a charitable organisation focusing on the enhancement and accessibility of cultural opportunities in the Bridgend area. I first encountered Awen as an employee at one of their beautiful venues. I joined after finishing my degree, as a Front of House assistant before successfully applying for a Duty Manager role at The Grand Pavilion Theatre, Porthcawl.

The Grand Pavilion Theatre, Porthcawl.

It was there that I forged some great relationships and organised ‘WHIP’ (Working Hard in Progress); my first collaboration with Jon Berry.

WHIP was, at its bare bones, a scratch night. We invited writers from around South Wales to send in new writing that they felt needed critical attention. Each writer had a six hour rehearsal process spread over 3 weeks where they could essentially ‘R and D’ their work with some local actors. Jon and I would aid the directors dramaturgically. The process culminated in a sold out event at an Awen venue where each writer celebrated their work as well as receiving the opportunity to ‘Q & A’ with the live audience. Lots of drinks were drunk and brilliant stories were shared – a cracking event we hope to revisit soon.

I believe you are based in Bridgend? Are there many opportunities to pursue a career in the arts where you live in this area of Wales?

Yes, I am based in sunny Porthcawl – a wee seaside resort for the beautiful and the damned. Sadly there aren’t a great deal of opportunities, particularly when you surpass the adulthood milestone. There are loads of Youth orientated events in the area, which is an amazing kickstart for anybody’s creative career, but nothing that really caters to those over the age of 18. Nothing that is readily available at least.

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 in Wales face. If you do what might be done to remove these barriers?

Diversity in the decision rooms of funding. Diversity in the creative teams. Diversity in the Front of House staff. It’s not enough for some of these big buildings and organisations to “discuss diversity” and talk about a community of people, they need to talk to them directly, include them in the discussion. We need to fundamentally change the makeup of who is creating and watching work. Reassessing the arbiter’s of taste in the Arts is a monumental task, but it’s necessary.

There was an important scheme some years ago from ACE called ‘Change Makers’. It was a fund directed at increasing senior leadership in art and culture by helping to develop a cohort of leaders who were POC or disabled by means of targeted senior leadership training.

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccines, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues and theatres. If theatres want to attract new audiences what do you think they should do?

Theatres are proper funny places. They are beautiful, intricate, complex and unlike any other building you will find. But they are buildings. And people make buildings. Theatres need to serve their community like never before and I believe this is vital. They need to be producing and creating theatre that seeks interlocutors, rather than just presenting to an audience; reflect the social geography of a location.

I always think of the panto model. It’s a big day out. It’s an event and not just a performance in a theatrical space with lights and actors and pricey ice cream. How do we generate that excitement and enthusiasm for every show all year round?

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Honestly? The Welsh language. I was born in North Yorkshire and only made the move to Wales at 10 years old. Learning the language was, and remains to be, daunting. Yet with the very recent strong and youthful charge for Welsh independence the language has gained a new found pertinence for my friends and I. We’ve all seriously started learning. I think the Arts has to take hold of this and broadcast it for everyone to hear. Whilst employed at Awen I witnessed some astonishing bilingual theatre for young audiences, and only just before lockdown took hold I watched the tragically hilarious Tylwyth (Kin) by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru at the Sherman Theatre. Tylwyth, performed entirely in Welsh, was a revelation to me as a director.

Firstly, I found that I understood so much through gesture and scenography, which is a completely separate phenomena. But more impressive was that, as a non-Welsh-speaker, I was still completely immersed in the language, the jokes, the fillers, everything! It opened my eyes (and ears) to the beautiful complexity of working and creating in Welsh and I think we should hold onto that dearly and not as a novelty either.

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

There are so many brilliant acts of art I have witnessed over lockdown, not least theatre. However, I have to give my immediate thoughts to France’s ‘Lupin’.

A Netflix mini-series that captures all the slickness of a Bond chase montage at one glance, only to be peppered by the implausibility and wit of Jonny English on steroids, the next. It was a perfect watch from beginning to end. Short, clever and all in another language. Language was no obstacle in this charming espionage thriller that was a much needed binge-worthy bit of fun to kick off (hopefully) a much better year.

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

Collaboration, Connection and Coronavirus: An Interview with Theatr Clwyd’s Tamara Harvey on new online production, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Get The Chance critic, Beth Armstrong, chats to Tamara Harvey, Artistic Director of North Wales theatre, Theatr Clwyd. Tamara is the director of new online play, The Picture of Dorian Gray, featuring cross-county creatives and a star-studded cast. This adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s famous novel is a collaboration between the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre and Oxford Playhouse with partner venues including Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Torch Theatre.

Tamara, congratulations on being named The Stage, Regional Theatre Of The Year. Can you tell me what that meant to you and the whole team at Theatr Clwyd?

Executive director Liam Evans-Ford and artistic director Tamara Harvey. Photo: Theatr Clwyd

It was just an amazing start to the year because everyone in the team has worked so hard whether they’ve been working on serving our community or creating online content or whether they’ve been on furlough and have had to navigate the emotional difficulties of that – home-schooling, friends and family being ill – so to have a moment where the industry and The Stage said ‘you’re doing alright’, you know, ‘keep going’ – it was a really good way to start 2021.

Well it’s a brilliant achievement. So your new production, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is an online play. Now online plays are becoming more commonplace amid the pandemic but each theatre has their own definition. Could you give us more details on what this play might look like or are you keeping it under wraps?

Yeah I’m very happy to. Essentially it’s born of the question of: ‘What can we do?’ So we can’t tell stories on our stages right now. What can we do? It’s a combination of audio recordings, found footage, filmed extracts – some filming taking place in person, socially distanced, obviously, and some in people’s own homes, so it’s come from adversity but hopefully it means that we’re just creating a slightly new way of experiencing the story.

It sounds really innovative. And there have been a lot of brilliant pieces of theatre, TV and film made during lockdown. Does your adaptation make any coronavirus parallels or does it provide a brief respite from it all?

I think it certainly provides respite, I would say, in that it’s full of brilliant actors and it’s a fascinating story. It is set now so there are moments that allude to the world we’re living in now but it isn’t a story about a pandemic. It’s a story about people living their lives in a particular moment in time.

So as you said it takes place now. The play modernises Oscar Wilde’s story and transforms Dorian Gray into a social media influencer. Recently many influencers have been criticised for travelling despite restrictions. Do you think audiences will have less sympathy towards the character in light of this? Will their opinions of him change in any way?

Ah, interesting…I think we each when we watch a story, when we experience of piece of theatre or digital storytelling, we bring our own experiences and our own opinions to it so I think everyone is likely to react to Dorian in a slightly different way, depending on whether they have experience of that online world or they don’t, whether it’s something that they’re completely familiar with or something that they find totally alien. I think, and I hope actually – it’s one of the stories with making a piece of theatre, whether it’s on screen or on stage – I hope that people will have different reactions depending on their own experiences.

Social media and the idea of keeping up appearances seem to be a key theme. Do you think the pandemic has increased our anxiety of showing off our best selves online or instead alleviated some of the pressure, as teachers and colleagues are now allowed a little window into our lives everyday – messy kitchens and all?

It’s certainly increased my anxiety! *laughs* There’s nothing like having to be on a TV screen every day, you know. The great joy of discovering you can turn off your self-view on Zoom is amazing. Look, I think it’s done both, hasn’t it? We’re having to spend more time – even if only at the moment when we sign onto a facetime or a Zoom or whatever – we’re spending more time seeing our own image and for some of us that’s, you know, not a pleasant experience, for others I’m sure it’s delightful. We’re also able to have pyjama bottoms on as long as only our top half is seen so it’s a really curious mix. I put on heels for the first time yesterday and it felt totally bizarre because I haven’t done that in months and so yeah, perhaps with all of these things, each of us is having such a different experience. You know it’s that thing – people have said we’re all in the same storm but in different boats. I’m having to spend almost all day everyday on Zoom and there are other people who don’t go near it. So I think it’s impossible to generalise really.

Rehearsing online and with social distancing measures must have presented a lot of challenges but are there any positive aspects or creative innovation to have come out of these restrictions?

Well the whole piece is a creative endeavour that wouldn’t have happened under any other set of circumstances. So the fact that it exists is in itself a positive coming out of this moment. Online rehearsals are…difficult. Partly because of the time lag, partly because there is a focusing thing that happens when you walk into a rehearsal room – you’re leaving your life behind, plugging into a different space and that focuses your mind, whereas if you’re in your own home, you’ve got the door going or you’ve got the dog barking, you know, or your kids running round, whatever it is. But there are advantages; I still get to have tea with my kids every day and people don’t have to leave their loved ones behind to travel. Given the choice, I will still want to be in a room with people but it is possible to find positives even online.

Yeah I think that’s true. So starring as the title character Dorian is actor, Fionn Whitehead, who audiences will no doubt recognise as the breakthrough star of Dunkirk. What do you think Fionn brings to the role?

Fionn is just extraordinary. On screen he is completely mesmerising and I think that’s to do with the rare combination of vulnerability and strength. And wit. And innocence. He’s a kind of fascinating mix and the other thing that’s such a joy about him is he’s just an incredible person to have on set because he’s utterly delightful every second of the day. That means that you can be playful and collaborative and try things and as a director, feel able to make mistakes or try something unexpected because he’s so open and engaged. He’s extraordinary.

Fionn Whitehead

The show is currently in pre-production but are there any aspects or ideas you’re particularly excited to share with the cast and other creatives?

Well we’ve kind of got everything, as it were, in the can. We’ve now done all of the filming. The bit that’s happening now, which is quite new for me and therefore really exciting, is the editing. And I’m in this lovely position where I’m spending most of everyday on Zoom with our amazing director of photography and editor, Ben Collins, from the Barn Theatre with both of us watching the dailies and working out the edit so there’s something really heart-warming in this moment about knowing that I’m up in North Wales in my regional theatre and he’s down in Cirencester in his but there’s this invisible string reaching between us as we both create a thing. And the whole time we’re watching onscreen all these other people who’ve come together, whether physically or remotely, to make a story in order to support regional theatre and that feels pretty special.

The cast of The Picture of Dorian Grey

I love that sense of connection that you have. So would you like to add anything else?

I suppose the only thing is that it’s worth saying that it does have what Henry Filloux-Bennett, who is the adapter, has done so beautifully – he’s managed to hold on to the spirit of the original which of course has all the wit of Oscar Wilde so as well as talking about social media and being about the downfall of this young man it’s also funny and fun and irreverent and all of those things.

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett

Thank you so much. I think that just leaves me to say best of luck and I can’t wait to see it.

Beth Armstrong

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

Major Bursary Success for Newport-born Artist Connor Allen

Local artist and The Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre’s Associate Artist, Connor Allen, has successfully received a £20,000 award from the Live Work Fund from Jerwood Arts. 

The fund received over 1,200 applicants and Connor is one of just 33 artists across the UK to have been successful.

Connor will be using the funding to set up a collective of professional black artists working across various artistic disciplines, of all ages and based in Wales.  The collective will support the development of artists during the challenges faced due to the current pandemic including mentoring, sharing and supporting each other’s practice as well as providing increased representation and professional opportunities for more black artists to grow and progress. Members will work together to learn and develop as well as to give back to the arts community and inspire the younger generation of black artists in the making.

The Live Work Fund has been created in direct response to the impact the Covid pandemic has had on self-employed artists across the UK and is the result of four major arts funders (Jerwood Arts, Wolfson Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Linbury Trust) coming together to award a total of over £660,000 to successful applicants.

About the bursary and project Connor said “My growth as an artist and the development of this project and my collective idea wouldn’t have been possible without the Jerwood bursary and the support of many organisations such as The Riverfront who have been instrumental in my success since me becoming Associate Artist.

“I believe that the impact of my collective idea can be exciting and influential on the landscape because it will allow artists of colour in Wales the opportunity to develop themselves and explore their craft alongside my own exploration throughout 2021. This has the potential to nurture the next wave of exciting Welsh artists of colour which in my opinion is awesome and so much needed.”

Since graduating from Trinity Saint David as an Actor, Newport-born Connor Allen has worked with companies such as The Torch Theatre, Sherman Theatre, Tin Shed Theatre and National Theatre Wales. He joined The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre as Associate Artist in 2020.

During the past 12 months, despite the difficult circumstance the pandemic has created for artists, Connor has written and performed multiple pieces across South Wales including Dom’s Drug Prayer as part of Sherman Theatre’s Ten and The Making of a Monster at Le Public Space’s Right Now Online Theatre Fest. He was also commissioned by Literature Wales to create an online album of creative mediums, 27, a collection of thoughts from his life, the journey he has been on and the lessons he has learnt.

Olivia Harris, Creative Producer for The Riverfront said “We’ve been working with Connor for some time now and are delighted his talent has been recognised with this bursary. He truly deserves it and we can’t wait to see where it takes him and go on this journey with him.”

To find out more about Connor Allen and to keep up to date with his upcoming work, visit https://www.connorallen.co.uk/

The Power of Dance is Magical! Simone Sistarelli and Popping For Parkinson’s

Hi Simone great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Thanks for having me! I am Simone Sistarelli, and I am the founder of Popping For Parkinson’s ®, a project that transforms Parkinson’s patients into Popping dance students. I am passionate about inspiring people. I am a dance artist, a social entrepreneur, a musician and public speaker. I am in the Universal Hip Hop Museum Hall of Fame for my contribution to Hip Hop Culture.

I have a BA in Contemporary Dance from Trinity Laban and an MSc in Dance Psychology from the University of Hertfordshire.

What got you interested in the arts?

I fell in love at first sight with dancing at age 10, and I have not stopped being in the arts world since! The arts are an incredible vessel of expression, and they feel liberating to me. 

You have been running Popping For Parkinson’s since 2015. On your website you describe your approach as

“Using Popping dance techniques as an innovative therapeutic tool for improving the physical condition of people affected by Parkinson’s disease. Participants see improvement in their natural movement capacities, but also gain confidence, feel less socially isolated and have fun.”

It sounds like a fascinating approach. Where did the project originate?

 I had the original idea in 2012 while training at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. It originated as a result of various inputs, from my granddad having Parkinson’s to the similarities between the Parkinson’s tremors and Popping dance. I thought: people with Parkinson’s shake without the beat;I train my whole life as a Popping dancer to shake to the beat. In my head, people with Parkinson’s could turn their symptom into a superpower! After years of research on Parkinson’s, dance, music therapy, dance therapy and more, I developed a methodology, started a collaboration with SLYPN (South London Younger Parkinson’s Network), I offered the first dance class as a trial run, people loved it, and we haven’t stopped since!

How does someone get involved, do they need to have any prior dance experience?

Absolutely no prior experience is needed! People can simply sign up for the online classes through our website and join us!

How would you like the project to develop?

There are around 10 million people with Parkinson’s worldwide. The ultimate aim of the project is to reach all of them and empower them all to become dancers! In practical terms, I am working on future developments by exploring different ways to reach people, from writing a book to creating dance tutorials (both on streaming platforms and DVDs), creating bespoke music for dance classes and more.

You might not normally think of Hip-Hop culture and Parkinson’s as strong partners. What has the reaction been to the project in the Hip Hop community?

My work has been recognised by the Universal Hip Hop Museum, the ultimate dream for anyone in the Hip Hop community. I hope I can inspire people in the Hip Hop world as much as Hip Hop inspired me in the first place.

There is a lack of Diversity in mainstream cultural provision. Do you think your project has connected with people who might not normally think of themselves as Dancers?

Yes! Dance is so much more than solely performing, and appreciating that is key to inviting more people to improve their life through social artistic movement.

Music is a key element of Hip Hop. How do you select the tracks to use in your class and if you had to choose one, what’s your favourite?

As a musician myself, I carefully choose the songs for my classes. I know the impact that a good tune can have! I am a record collector and I have a vast collection of songs to start from, then depending on the theme/mood of the class I will pick the most appropriate songs. Songs can go from classic Popping tunes (Cameo, Zapp) to Popping beats (Slick Dogg, Beatslaya), from recent Electro-Funk releases (Mofak, Makvel) to my own music productions. 

Asking for a favourite song/album to a collector is like asking for the favourite child to a parent, it’s impossible to answer! One of the songs that I keep going back to though is Brass Construction’s “Get up to Get Down”.

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 people living with Parkinson’s face to access dance and your organisations work? If you have identified any, have you been able to reduce these barriers in any way?

People with Parkinson’s face several challenges on a daily basis. Some of these limitations are specific to accessing dance classes. We did encounter some of them and we tried to reduce the impact that they had. One example was offering both seated and standing classes, so that people with limited mobility can access Popping dance (which tends to be a standing dance style).

Another limitation was costs, so from the very start of the project we offered the classes free of charge for participants (thanks to the support of funders such as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the National Lottery Community Fund). 

Now that classes are online only for obvious reasons, barriers are different. For example, commuting to class can be challenging for people with Parkinson’s, yet this particular limitation is not present online. At the same time, online classes present other barriers, such as technological knowledge, Zoom fatigue, access to broadband (especially for older people). We want to expand and offer several ways of participation, from interactive classes via Zoom to pre-recorded classes on YouTube, from dance tutorials to DVDs (coming soon) in order to minimise the impact that barriers create to people with Parkinson’s. It is a constant work-in-progress. 

The video below is a taster video of a Popping For Parkinson’s Class

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues and theatres. If theatres want to attract people living with Parkinson’s what do you think they should do?

Venues should understand the needs of people with Parkinson’s in order to accommodate them, making sure that venues are accessible and that staff are trained accordingly. 

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

All of them! But if I had to choose, I would dedicate way more funding to the phenomenal individuals that dedicate their lives to supporting people through artistic expression. The value that individuals bring to the arts is immense, and without them organisations could not thrive. 

What excites you about the arts at the moment?

Two main aspects really inspire and excite me at this stage. One is dance science, getting a deeper understanding of the relationship between arts and health, as I believe there is unlimited potential there.

The other one is the creation of new cross-disciplinary experiences that engage a diverse audience through the combination of several media (for example, from the genre-defying dance film TOM by Wilkie Branson to choreographing for drones).

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

Seeing my students come to class with severe difficulties and then leaving energised, smiling and confident is an experience I still cannot get used to after many years! The power of dance truly is remarkable, so much so that sometimes it feels magical!

Thanks for your time Simone

Thank you

You can checkout the PoppingFor Parkinsons Spotify playlis here

If you are interested in finsing our more abour Simone and his work you can do so at the links below.

Website: www.poppingforparkinsons.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/poppingforparkinsons

Facebook: www.facebook.com/poppingforparkinsons

Simone’s personal website: www.simonesistarelli.com

Boogie On Up with Bonnie & the Bonnettes. Interview by Eva Marloes

Get ready for a good night out in your living room with Boogie On Up, a series of digital drag performances by Bonnie & the Bonnettes. The exuberant musical trio, made of Hattie Eason, Cameron Sharp, and Rebecca Glendenning, wants to inject fun into our lockdown lives with sequins-embroidered masks and a repertoire full of classic hits, feel-good ‘gay anthems’, some rock, some pop, and a new song by Newcastle-based artist MXYM.

Last year, Bonnie & the Bonnettes succeeded in fusing moving theatre with comedy and music with And She (see review). The pandemic made them want to go back to drag, which they did when they started off, and give the audience a “cracking night out,” as Hattie put it.

Rebecca said: “We wanted to offer our audience something to keep them going and give them a similar feeling to that of when they come to see us live.”

The performances are geared to make people sing and dance in their homes. That’s why the trio went back to their origin of drag performance.

Cameron said: “Drag is something we’ve always done and that we always like to do. I think that’s what people need right now, some relief from tension.” Hattie adds that she was feeling a little nostalgic about being in a theatre and “the rush of excitement, which the audience also feels. It’s the feel of a goodnight out.”

Cameron also tells me: “For us it’s important to give people that sense of community and togetherness. Drag comes from the Queer community. That community now with lockdown can’t happen. So this is our little way of making that community visible and present in people’s lives.”

Hattie said: it’s a way for us to reach people through the universal language of music. I remember a lady coming to me after a show and telling me of an amazing and euphoric night out of when she was a teenager. That’s why we have included 1980s songs. I’d like the songs to bring back great memories for people.’

Rebecca said: ‘in our drag performance we can go places that we might not get to otherwise. We can do some hilarious comedy that it’s just there to make people laugh. You can do it at a very high standard. The whole point is to have an absolute scream!’

Without the energy of a live audience, Rebecca, Hattie, and Cameron encouraged one another during recording and fill the performance with so much energy to get across to the audience. They’d like to see people dancing and singing and posting their videos online with the hashtag #boogieonup

Your boogie nights start in March with two videos to be followed by two videos every month on Bonnie & The Bonnettes YouTube Channel.

Boogie On Up is in association with Northern Stage and Live Theatre in Newcastle. The eight videos were made by TJMov. The original song is by Newcastle-based songwriter MXYM.


The Play about Theresa May by Amie Maria Marie, Review by Lois Arcari

Figure 1: Amie’s costume of May accurately conveys all the warmth of a frozen kipper

Theresa May. She’s an easy political footnote to miss. She’d probably be overlooked in any year: but 2020 provided the perfect environment for this indentured Tory to withdraw from the public conscious. How we can imagine her laugh, head bobbing like a grotesque puppet, captured in a hundred memes, at each new Boris Johnson blunder, glad she’s not withering in the hot seat anymore.

A play about this unremarkable PM might seem like a hard sell. Playwright Amie M Marie’s book of the play, written in 2017, provides a look back to the politics of 2018. Practically a different century in the post Covid world order. Marie provides an especially important perspective as a queer, disabled writer, and comedian: belonging to two of the groups most marginalised by Tory leadership.

On the one hand, certain references date the play. On the other, the play can be harshly prescient. Jokes that once may have been played small, become harder to laugh with and easier to grimace at. The following exchange, part of a scene where Miss May is confronted directly by a member of the public, is one of those moments:

‘‘Do you think you could do a better job?’’ ‘‘I don’t know. Maybe any of us could.’’

This sounds just like the hand-wringing Johnson supporters’ level on his behalf. How could any of us know what to do when faced with a pandemic? In our current situation, as in this play, we might not have all the answers ourselves. But we generally have a better idea of what not to do.  What would rankle an individual conscience more than a political one. Marie’s play also shows how well-kept convictions, knowledge and assurance, have been damned by political inaction.

The play illustrates the failure of senior Tories to engage with – let alone convince us they believe – their own rhetoric. May repeats mantras which she’s well aware make as much sense as the ramblings of King Lear. Visual representations of sound bites, real statistics woven into dialogue may shock you. But that shock has not translated to a change in voting habits for the last 10 years. A play designed to tackle complacency has accidentally created an incriminating portrait of it.  

Theresa May, as played by Marie, appeared on stage with a red nose. An unconscious clown in the empress’ new clothes, alongside her party’s faithful hand-me-downs of cruelty and coldness. The play deftly illustrates May’s clownishness through frenetic physical comedy and a whirligig cast of political cameos. But when it slows down, it’s unafraid to show she is the owner and creator of her own devastating decisions – holding her to particular account over her policies towards disabled people.

One problem with the written material vs the performed play is that I can’t imagine to what extent the costuming works. As written, it makes sense. it’s hard to visualise the performance from her dialogue and monologue, and advertising for the play previews seemed quite ‘on the nose’: not just playful but almost self-congratulatory in a way the play just isn’t when you read it.

Figure 2: Amie Marie as Theresa May, wearing a red clown nose

The tension and exhaustion May’s character feels are tangible just through the written material, but Marie was careful not to fall into the ‘trap’ of portraying her sympathetically.

Although May’s tenure was dwarfed by the outlandish characters she was surrounded by, her calculated greyness enabled them to rise through the ranks the minute she jumped ship. The play introduces Jeremy Hunt (through a joke either I can’t remember or everyone else will have forgotten), Amber Rudd, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Macron, Trump and the Queen. While one thinks more could have been made of the President’s cameo, Macron provides a much more clever slice of comedy, while the interaction between May and the Queen provokes a hilarious crack in the Prime Minister’s mask.

The cast is rounded out by Two Points Garage, Hackman, Dim Bee and The Mail. TPG, as he is later referred, is as brash a character as you would expect, but there’s real tension in his control over May. Hackman represents media complicity, while the Mail is probably the most well written role. He offers rare detachment, perfectly content in the knowledge of his own power.

The play also contains a multiplayer role for 3 characters who represent the public: the Junior Doctor Clown, the Cleaner Clown and the worker Clown.

Their inclusion felt uncomfortable. The only characters who attempt to use their fragile autonomy for good, and they’re considered clowns. Their names implicate them as another class of fools in politics. Hope and conviction makes them clowns. Perhaps this hurts only because it seems true. It seems a foregone conclusion to Uk leftists that few people will hope for change, and fewer will act on that hope in the voting booths. But directly comparing them, by just their class of character, to May, seems mean-spirited. Again, it would be helpful if I had access to the original production. Are these dressed as clowns too, in full regalia, or merely named as such?

As a reading experience, it’s the subtler jokes and intense monologues that make an impression. As for the performance, jokes which seem a little stale on the page might have been the perfect laughs for a communal audience. An audience which the play hinges on. May directly addresses them and pleads with, belittles, and implicates them in turn.

The play will retail as a physical book and e-book, in both a bonus edition and as a basic performance script. I was given the copy flush with interesting bonuses. These included a number of introductions to the play, earlier short ‘Emperor May’ and, a brilliant interview between Amie Marie and clown Conér Swords about their political performance art, and finally reviews from the initial performance run of the play.  

However, I questioned the formatting at times. The sheer volume of additional material before the play seems like overblown padding. It’s interesting to see how the more intelligent play evolved from a less polished short (which you can watch a brief introduction of here). The short is a bit sophomoric, however, and depending on whether you think its humour lands it may predispose you against the longer play rather than show you just how much the latter developed.

Finally, the formatting and editing of the copy I received really let the content down. Certain images are copied to back-to-back and spelling and grammar issues are frequent annoyances. This carelessness shows a lack of respect to Marie’s material. I can only hope that she goes on to have more opportunities as a creator, and her later material has the support of publishers who give it the dignity it deserves.

The play is available to buy in multiple formats here.

An Interview with Writer Neil Bebber

In our latest Playwright interview Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell chats to Wales based Playwright Neil Bebber. Neil discusses his career to date, his latest project “Short Stories for Stressed Grown-Ups” and his thoughts on opportunities for Playwrights in Wales.

Hi Neil great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hello! I’m a playwright, screenwriter, copywriter and graphic designer. I enjoy cycling, sea swimming, hiking at night under star-stuffed skies, endlessly scrolling though Netflix trying to find something good to watch, cooking (though my recent attempts at culinary genius have fallen short) and playing online Scrabble with strangers. For the record, I haven’t lost a game. Yet.

So, what got you interested in the arts?

Pantomime. Probably. I remember the feeling I had watching a school panto when I was maybe ten years old. The Seven Dwarves had left for the day to hi-ho off to work and Snow White was left alone in the space. A sequence followed where she just made the most of having the space to herself and I was transfixed.

From an early age, I was curious about the world. Talking to people as soon as I could talk. Asking “why” even more than most other kids. That question can take a child either way. Science allows us to understand how something works. The arts allow us to explore how something makes us feel. I’m a combination of the two. But, having turned down a potentially lucrative career in banking, in favour of a poorly-paid graphic design “apprenticeship” (that’s a whole other story!) I’d chosen my path.

Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas come from?

I used to fool myself into believing the romantic notion that I could only write when I was wallowing in a pool of self-indulgent pity, but I now realise that’s not true. I don’t know who said it, but writers write. So, the most important part of the process is to start by writing something.

It’s a cliché, but it is a muscle. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. And the more addictive it is. On the many courses I’ve been on, the forensic detail of process has been useful, but I’ve always got more from the automatic writing exercises. It’s a great way to unlock the unconscious mind and discover those seeds lurking in there between the teeth of doubt.

And I make a lot of notes. The romance of a notepad and fountain pen has been superseded by the iphone, but I’m glad that, should I ever hit a pothole on my bike and find myself flattened by an oncoming bus, nobody will ever get to access my notes. There’s a lot of strange musings there. Today I wrote a paragraph about how a crow, battered by the wind, seemed to be perfectly content to walk across the road sideways. And how that might serve as a metaphor. But I don’t know what for yet.

GULL, the play recently read on Zoom by the brilliant The Far Away Plays came about like that. A note about watching gulls rip apart bin bags and hungrily tuck into a pile of used nappies. The revulsion fed the atmosphere of the play.

In terms of dialogue, I believe that writing good dialogue is more about listening than writing. Before our freedoms were curtailed by a microscopic enemy, I used to sit in a lot of coffee shops, just listening to exchanges and watching people’s body language. In recent years, I probably haven’t been the best company, socially, choosing to observe and makes notes, rather than get involved.

Can you describe your writing day? Do you have a process or a minimum word count?

Writing days vary depending on the project. I’m also lucky enough to be able to supplement an artist’s income with commercial copywriting. But, either way, I start early. Check emails, social media between 8 and 8.30 and then make a start on the writing. At the moment I’m in the process of editing an audio play for a competition, writing a new speculative TV drama and also writing, recording and editing my stories for my YouTube channel, “Short Stories for Stressed Grown-Ups”.

Producing my own work has also made me realise the amount of time that’s needed for its design and promotion. The “Short Stories…” project needed to have an eye-catching brand, as well as accompanying visuals for each story. And all of this needs to be shared with the online world. I hope I’m finding the balance between, “oh, that’s interesting, I’m so glad he let me know” and “for God’s sake, not another post about his bloody stories!” If there’s anyone brave enough out there, do let me know!

Why and where do you write? 

I write because I have something to say. About something I‘ve seen or something I’ve heard. Or something I feel passionately about.

I write because it’s a compulsion. A bit of an addiction. Especially when I get to see how an audience responds to it, good or bad. Maybe that’s some deep-seated need for validation. But then maybe that’s why any artist creates anything.

I write because it helps me repair. Relax. Forget. Make sense of a world (or of people) I don’t always understand.

I write because it’s satisfying and often surprising to be taken on a journey by imaginary characters, into unfamiliar scenarios and behaviours.

In terms of where I write, I can write anywhere. As long as I have something to balance a laptop on and a reasonably comfortable chair to sit on, I can write. There’s no ritual, no lucky desk or chair of inspiration. So, the photo is of a number of places where I could easily write. And the list is always being added to…

You are a prolific writer working across multiple mediums and forms. How has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected you and your creative process?

It was clear from the beginning that the lockdown, and the continuing response to a global pandemic, was going to fundamentally change a world that relied on the physical gathering of human beings in close proximity, whether audience or performer.

But, pretty early on, I saw an opportunity to get work out to a wider audience. Admittedly, it’s not the same experience as sitting in a studio theatre, tightly-packed with an appreciative audience, breathing the same air and having a collective experience.

When Jordan Bernarde contacted me about re-staging BREATHE (to avoid him climbing the walls during the first lockdown), after a short and successful run at The Bread & Roses the year before, I jumped at the chance. And it’s success has shown that there’s an audience for online theatre.

Theatres talk a lot about diversifying their audience base and this provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. Anyone who might previously have been intimidated by physically visiting a venue, can now watch a performance online and maybe discover that it isn’t the inaccessible, exclusive experience they may have expected. And, from a writer’s perspective, there’s an entire planet’s worth of connected people looking for content. The challenge is standing out amongst the noise!

From my own point of view, there’s been a shift towards demand for more audio drama. I’ve been working on a new play for the Papatango prize, which this year will be awarded to three audio works. And I was commissioned at the end of last year to write a multiple choice audio drama, which would be navigated purely through using Alexa. Exciting stuff!

One of your latest initiatives is the new new YouTube-based spoken word project, ‘Short Stories for Stressed Grown-ups’

You’ve written a number of short stories, which you’ve also narrated yourself. This is how you’ve described the project: 

“Remember when you were a kid? And how it felt to be all tucked up and have a story read to you? What a shame that, as adults, we don’t get to enjoy the sheer, indulgent escapism of those moments anymore. Well, now that’s changed. Short Stories for Stressed Grown-ups by Neil Neil is now live! So all you have do is find somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed, and listen to an original short story that will transport you from the troubles of your day. 

Whether you use it to help you get off to sleep, or to re-set in the middle of a busy day, every story is written just for you.”

What response have you had to this new area of writing and storytelling?

The short stories were a suggestion by a producer friend of mine, Simon Regan, who I’d worked with on an arts podcast, EVOLUTIONS, shortly before the pandemic kicked off

I was frustrated at the time it took to get work “out there” so he suggested I might do it myself.

I researched the short story market, as well as potential gaps in provision for audio content and I thought a combination of meditative and escapist character-based short stories, narrated in the style of a bedtime story, might work.

The response has been really encouraging. The audience has been very frank about what’s working and what isn’t, the real-time feedback giving me an opportunity to modify the style and content of each new story. I’m also keen to interact with the audience, using names for characters taken from contents pages and maybe asking for suggestions on story ideas and destinations.

It’s great to know, too, that these stories are temporarily distracting people from the stresses of their day and, in some cases, helping them sleep. I’m hoping my voice doesn’t have the same effect during face-to-face conversations, when we return to the “real” world!

In November your latest play GULL was read online by the team at The Far Away Plays. We think the Far Away Plays have been one of the highpoints of creative activity in Wales during the Pandemic. Have you had an opportunity to listen to any of the other Far Away Plays, play readings?  And how was it to have your latest play produced on Zoom?

GULL was originally scheduled to be performed at WMC’s Ffwrnes Scratch night in March 2020, but then the world plunged into chaos. So I was thrilled when The Far Away Plays chose it for one of their online performances late last year. Their commitment to getting work out to online audiences, as well as dealing with all the logistical stages in between, has been immense.

I was also excited to be able to cast three incredible RWCMD alumni. Luke Nunn, Cecilia Appiah and Meredith Lewis were just some of the standout actors from 2020 and it was a real privilege to witness their brilliantly instinctive and nuanced performances, especially given the limited time they had to rehearse.

The director James O’Donnell also deserves a special mention. Having put a callout on social media for a director at late notice, James answered the call. The way he was able to take a potentially static medium and turn it into such a dynamic performance was miraculous. I always get really nervous before any production of my work, but it was clear within minutes that GULL was in safe hands, so I was actually able to sit back and enjoy it!

I’m waiting to hear from FAP if there’s a recording I might be able to share with all of the Artistic Directors who weren’t able to make it, because, as good as it was to see the work performed online, this play would (and this team!) clearly work brilliantly on stage.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales-based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you? Is it possible to sustain a career as a writer in Wales and if not what would help?

“Healthy” might be a misleading term. The opportunities are available, but I wonder how writers are made aware of them. For opportunities, my go-to is BBC Writer’s Room Opportunities page. Then I check London Playwrights, which is another brilliant resource. I’m not sure if there’s a central database for opportunities in Wales. If not, it would be great to have one, where all aspects of writing were covered, plays, films, TV, etc.

Also, there are a number of theatres offering writer’s courses and residences, but there are rarely the resources available to sustain the momentum, once they’ve happened. I’ve been on three writer’s courses and one residency and none of these led to a tangible, ongoing relationship with the respective theatres.

In terms of sustaining a writing career, I think it’s important to diversify. I’m lucky to also be a freelance copywriter and graphic designer, but, even if I was commissioned to write three plays a year, the income generated wouldn’t be enough to sustain a family, mortgage and other regular day-to-day commitments. From what I can gather, to make any sort of living, TV writing seems to the way forward. Ideally I’d like to be able to do a bit of everything, though, as I’ve been lucky enough to so far.

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

I think a TV writing academy would be a valid investment now. As Wales becomes used increasingly as a destination for production, and companies like Bad Wolf continue to thrive, a joined up, sustained TV writing “lab” could help nurture home-grown talent and ensure Wales was increasingly self contained, moving forward. Especially given the increase in demand for content from online providers like Netflix and Prime.

Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner from production company Bad Wolf 

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Diversity. The sheer extent of opportunities to make and view art for a country with a reasonable small population. I’m hesitant to use the term, “punching above its weight”. Oh, too late. I have.

And then there’s always the occasional parallel universe curveball of one of Tactile Bosch’s performance art nights. That’s what first made me realise I was living in a capital city. Ah, I miss Kim Fielding. What a lovely man.

Image Credit Emmageliot’s Blog

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

There are so many things that have either left me speechless, laugh uncontrollably or made me cry, sometimes all at the same time.

I remember sitting down in my office (in the middle of the first lockdown), with headphones on, to watch Complicite’s “The Encounter”, and feeling within minutes as if I’d been transported to another world, by both the performance and its remarkable aural soundscape. Not sure if it’s still available to view online, but there’s more, here:

Charlie Kaufmann’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (on Netflix), whilst sometimes being incomprehensible, felt like a pure artist’s vision, unimpeded by the demands of people-pleasing. Maybe the best art is selfish. And this felt like that. But in the best possible way.

And no conversation (I say conversation, though this has all been a bit one way) with me goes without a music mention. The Dandy Warhols’ 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia has been my favourite album for years. And at the end of last year, they performed a live stream of it, in its entirety, for the first time. For that hour, I was there, front and centre, dancing like a kid in a sweet shop. The sweets being the songs. But not in jars. Obviously.

Anyway, that’s three. Because there’s never any shortage of great things to share.

Thanks for your time

And thank you for this brilliant opportunity to ramble.

Rising Stars Newsletter

We are happy to share the Newsletter for The Rising Stars.

Please find some information on the group below

The group was originally The Spotlight Theatre Company, which was funded and run by Interplay. When the funding was withdrawn in 2007 we were devastated. All our members have learning or physical disabilities, and there are so few opportunities for them outside of school/ college/ work that we as parents felt we must do something about it. So, we formed a committee and The Rising Stars Theatre Company was born.
We rely entirely on charitable contributions and grant applications.


We now meet every Thursday evening from 7-9pm at Friends of the Young Disabled, Cwmbwrla, Swansea under the leadership of Michelle McTernan and Nicola Woodrow. New members are by invitation only and at the moment we are full to capacity!
We perform two shows a year, and are available to perform at fundraising events etc


Our mission statement reads as follows.


To promote, maintain, improve and advance the health , well-being, education and citizenship of young people and adults with disabilities, particularly those within the Neath Port Talbot , Swansea and the surrounding areas, as well as for public benefit by the promotion and advancement of the arts; in particular, but not exclusively the arts of drama, music and dance. Also to offer opportunities to perform in integrated stage performances.

You can find out more about the group at their Facebook page here

“Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity and the confidence to use it.”

In the article below members of the Get the Chance team share why the work of Get the Chance is important to them and their lives.

You can make a donation to support the work of Get the Chance here

Guy O’Donnell, Volunteer Director

Hi my name is Guy O’Donnell and I am the director of Get the Chance. In this short article our team share with you how vital Get the Chance is to them and their lives. If you can support our work, please donate at the link above.

Get the Chance is a social enterprise based in South Wales. We are Wales based with an international outlook. We work to create opportunities for a diverse range of people, to experience and respond to sport, art, culture and live events. We use our online magazine website as a platform to showcase our members activities. We provide a fantastic opportunity to develop cultural critical voices and ensure that people from certain groups of society, people that are often forgotten or unheard, are given a platform to share, review and discuss their lives and critique work in a public platform.

Not only have we supported conversations about the arts and culture in Wales, but we’ve also broken-down barriers and asked questions about who actually gets to critique art. It is this democratisation of criticism that is crucial to a healthy and thriving artistic community that listens to everyone. Thank you.

Gemma Treharne-Foose, Volunteer Director and Critic.

Hi, my name is Gemma Treharne-Foose. I’m a board member and volunteer with Get the Chance. We’re a community of volunteers, activists and enthusiasts dedicated to expanding the reach of arts, culture and sports in Wales. At Get the Chance, we exist to create a space and a platform for people to participate, engage in and respond to theatre, arts and culture. In particular, we help people who are perhaps traditionally hard to reach and support them to access and experience these spaces.

Part of the work we do with our community is to encourage and support them to build up their skills, responding to, vlogging about, and writing about their experiences accessing arts, theatre and culture, and also helping them access particular schemes and initiatives with partner organisations.

At the moment the arts and live event industries in Wales are hurting and they’re struggling right now as they try to access support and gain audiences in these uncertain times. I believe this is an arts emergency and I want part of my work with Get the Chance to support the industry to get back on its feet again and to get audiences enjoying live events and theatre again.

If you also want to support and highlight Welsh theatre, arts and culture then I’d encourage you to get involved. Let’s shine a light on the amazing work happening right now in Wales. The show must go on!

Barbara Michaels, Volunteer Critic.

As one of the most senior reviewers who has known Guy O’Donnell for many years, I can’t stress enough how important it is that Get the Chance continues to support the youngsters who want to become involved in the arts, many of them with the aim of a career in the media.

During the time over the years I’ve been reviewing, I’ve been really impressed by the young people who are coming up into the ranks, who have become very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about their involvement with theatre. Unless we get some financial support, it’s going to be so difficult to continue with an organisation like Get the Chance which does so much good, giving opportunities to young people who wouldn’t have them.

With the cost of seeing the performances of opera and ballet and theatre rising, and inevitably it is going to rise more, it is absolutely vital that we have some support both financially and in all aspects of an organisation like Get the Chance. Thank you.

Kevin B Johnson, Volunteer Critic

Hi my name is Kevin, I work in an office, I like long walks on sunny beaches and I’m Sagittarius. Apart from that, I’m a member of Get the Chance because I like seeing new shows, new films and sharing them with other people, bringing my discoveries to others and getting a chance to view them. I like to highlight what I love about the shows that I’ve seen.

Becky Johnson, Volunteer Critic

Hi my name is Becky Johnson and I’m a member of Get the Chance. I’m actually a freelance dance artist based in Cardiff and I’m a member of Get the Chance alongside that. So with my practice I tend to create work, I tend to perform and I tend to teach, and a big part of me being an artist is making sure that I can see as much work as possible and then also understand the wider perspectives, on not only dance but also the arts in general and the things that are going on in our current climate and our local area.

So with having Get the Chance alongside of it, it allows me to access these different things and to get opportunities to see these, which I wouldn’t necessarily financially be able to do otherwise. Also, it allows me to have that time dedicated to just look at these things analytically and also just to really try and understand what is going on in what I’m watching and what I’m seeing, rather than just watching it and acknowledging what’s happening. Writing with Get the Chance gives me an opportunity to use my voice to promote the things that I really care about and things I’m passionate about, the things I think need to be highlighted, whether that’s something that’s problematic that I see in a show or something that I think’s wonderful that needs to be shown more of and we need to see more of.

Another opportunity that I’ve had recently which has been amazing is the opportunity to interview people that I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to and to be able to give them a voice to speak about their platform and what they’re doing. This is really important to me as a lot of these issues are very important and very close to home and I think it’s something that without this platform I wouldn’t be able to do.

I’ve always loved writing, it’s something that I did always want to pursue but by being a member of Get the Chance I’ve been able to continue my writing in a way that’s still linked with my practice. It means that I can find the balance of both of these feeding each other. I’m really grateful for having this opportunity.

Leslie R Herman, Volunteer Critic

Get the Chance has been one of the ways I’ve been able to maintain a connection to the arts and culture in Wales. I’m writing this message from New York City. It is mid-August 2020. I’ve been unable to get back to Wales due to the Covid pandemic and the global lockdown. Not only am I really missing Wales, I’m missing connection, to people, to places and to the arts and culture that I’ve grown to love and live for – arts and culture that have helped me thrive throughout my life.

At the moment it really feels like we’re all of us spinning in our own orbits and cyberspace is our most vital tool but if that’s all we’ve got, I’m afraid it’s way too nebulous for me. I need to feel more grounded.

Get the Chance really has given me the opportunity to get grounded and to connect to people, to the arts, to culture. It’s given me the opportunity to mentor young people and it’s given me the opportunity to extend and rebuild my own career. What’s marvellous about get the chance is its open and flexible approach to giving people a chance to connect to culture. Why don’t you give Get the Chance a chance?

Beth Armstrong, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name’s Beth. I’m 24, and I’m from Wrexham, North Wales, and I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher. I’m a member of Get the Chance because it allows me to watch a great range of theatre performances which I wouldn’t normally get to see due to financial reasons, and also allows me to see a really diverse range of different kinds of theatre which I think is great for expanding my knowledge and experience of theatre in general.

Having my work published online is a great opportunity for me because it allows me to have a wide audience for my writing, and it also allows me to engage with other reviewers and read their work as well, so it’s a really fantastic opportunity.

Samuel Longville, Volunteer Critic

When I left university, Get the Chance was a really amazing, creative outlet for me. I was able to see so much theatre for free which would have been really difficult at the time, having left university as a not very well-off student. I was working a quite tedious nine-to-five job at the time so Get the Chance really served as that kind of creative outlet for me, allowing me to see as much theatre as possible, and not only to see it but to think about it critically and write reviews about it. So it really let me utilise the things I’d learned on my drama course at university.

I’m soon to start an MA in Arts Management at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and I think, without Get the Chance, my enthusiasm possibly could have wavered over the past year, and I still may be stuck doing the same nine-to-five job that I was previously doing. So I really can’t thank Guy and Get the Chance enough for all the opportunities they gave me over the past year.

Helen Joy, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Helen Joy, and I’m here to talk a little bit about my experiences with Guy O’Donnell and his extraordinary Get the Chance. I joined Get the Chance as a 3rd Act Critic when it started, which is a couple of years ago now, and I was a little less grey(!), and it has given me the most extraordinary opportunities that I would not have had the opportunity to take otherwise. For example, I was able to go to the Opera regularly, something I never thought I’d be able to do or that I would enjoy. I’ve been a keen follower of modern dance – ditto, never thought I’d do that – and it’s also given me the chance to really think about how I evaluate things.

So, for example, much more recently, I was given the chance to interview Marvin Thompson. I think this gave me one of the biggest challenges I’ve had for a long time. He, and the experience of planning and conducting an interview, and recording it visually and hourly on Zoom, made me really think about, not just how I wanted to react to him and to his work, but how I felt about it.

Often, I fall into a particular category: of the classic middle-aged, white, educated woman, where the opportunities are already ours, and we’re very lucky with that, but we’re also quite a silent group. People don’t really want to hear what we’ve got to say, which is why we tend to shout it from the rooftops I think; or why, equally, we disappear into the aisles of supermarket. This has given me and my colleagues tremendous opportunities to re-find our voices and to share them, to listen to what other generations have to say. It’s been a really important experience for me. Long may it continue. Thank you!

Barbara Hughes-Moore, Volunteer Critic.

My name is Barbara Hughes-Moore, and I recently completed my Doctorate in Law and Literature at Cardiff School of Law and Politics on Gothic Fiction and Criminal Law. So by day, I’m a scholar, a reviews editor, and a research assistant; and by night, I write longer retrospective pieces on film and television through a gothic and criminal lens on my personal blog.

I’m a member of Get the Chance because its mission is all about increasing the visibility of, and accessibility to, the arts for everyone. Since becoming a member, I have attended and reviewed numerous theatre productions at the Sherman Theatre, the New Theatre, and Chapter Arts Centre. I’ve been a featured speaker on the Sherman Theatre’s post-show panels. And, more recently, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing director Alison Hargreaves on her short film Camelot for the Uncertain Kingdom Anthology. Most importantly of all, Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity, and the confidence to use it.

Gareth Williams, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Gareth. I am 29 years old and I live in North East Wales, and I’ve been asked to say why I’m a member of Get the Chance, and I want to answer by slightly rephrasing the question in order to say what Get the Chance means to me. And first of all, it means having the opportunity to respond to the arts in Wales; to contribute to the discussion around arts and culture in Wales; and to engage with various art forms.

To that end, it is an opportunity to support and promote artists and organisations, particularly those that I’m passionate about. So for me, that looks like theatre, particularly the work of Theatr Clwyd in Mold; music – I’m a fan of country music, and it’s great to be able to showcase Welsh country music talent on the Get the Chance website – and TV drama. Welsh TV drama is going through a bit of a golden age at the moment, and it’s great to be able to be a part of that as somebody who critically reviews these shows as a writer.

I’ve always been much better at writing than speaking. I’ve never been very good at expressing an opinion though because of low self-esteem and confidence. But being a member of Get the Chance has given me an opportunity to express an opinion. It’s increased my self-esteem and my confidence to speak about how I feel about the things that I see and watch and listen to and engage with. And I think, for me, that is the most important thing about being a member of Get the Chance: that opportunity to express an opinion which, a couple of years ago, I would not have had the confidence to do.

Sian Thomas, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Sian. The main reason I joined Get the Chance is because I love reading and I’ve always loved reading, and I really like having a definitive place where I can put down my thoughts on any piece of media and see people respond in so many different ways, and even the authors of the books that I’ve reviewed responding in so many different ways as well. It’s really lovely to have that kind of freedom of expression and I really value being a member.

Amina Elmi, Volunteer Critic

I am a member of Get the Chance because it gives me a platform where I can speak my mind . It allows me to give my opinion and being able to do so enables me to explore the media, the news and whatever preferred genre or medium of entertainment I want.

When it was introduced to me I was into writing and that has helped shape what dreams and ideals I have while also keeping my writing skills at a solid, good level. I am fortunate to be a part of Get The Chance because it has given me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.

Hannah Goslin, Volunteer Critic

I am a member of Get the Chance because theatre and the arts is what I eat, live and breath. To be able to connect with fellow performers, practitioners, critics and journalists is a wonderful chance to learn, be inspired and to network.

Review, The Dumb Waiter, Harold Pinter, Hampstead Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In a Covid world, when we thought that Theatre was losing its life, out comes Hampstead Theatre with their revival of The Dumb Waiter.

A long time fan of Harold Pinter from my study days, I am always intrigued with how his plays are performed and how the director has interpreted the piece.

Well known for his unusual yet naturalistic narratives and inclusion of his infamous pause, Pinter creates tension and atmosphere merely with his writing. Something so specific is always difficult to direct as your own and to bring something new. But Alice Hamilton achieves this while still keeping the Pinter essence.

The Dumb Waiter is the story of two men contained in one room, where their quite peaceful lives waiting for their boss to action their job is interrupted by a dumb waiter with unusual requests.

Hamilton, along with the actors Alec Newman (playing the character of Ben) and Shane Zaza (Gus) take on this funny, awkward and fantastically written play and run away with it. The purposeful silence never feels rushed, nor does the action; the pauses adds an atmosphere, a tension, and even at times, comedy.

Newman and Zaza in themselves are brilliant. Not only keeping to Pinter’s techniques, they embody their characters, to a point where we feel as if we really are intruding into this singular room and the unusual activities. Newman is content, calm, pristine – his newspaper is folded carefully and collected, his bed is tidy, even putting his clothing out is done slowly and precisely. Zaza in comparison is a little more energetic, messy, wired and this informs the action later on when the orders from an unknown entity come it; Zaza is heightened in his emotions and soon the unknown rocks the cool and collected Newman.

A short play, The Dumb Waiter felt as if no time had passed yet all the the time in the World had as it was so enjoyable to watch. In a time of uncertainty, something full of simplistic comedy, of simple yet effective design and so well acted and directed is what we clearly need.