Category Archives: Theatre

Review The Boy With Two Hearts, Wales Millennium Centre by Tracey Robinson

The Boy With Two Hearts written by Hamed Amiri, adapted for the stage by Phil Porter. Wales Millennium Centres’ first homegrown production since reopening and the first Welsh refugee story brought to the stage.

This true story moved me to tears, it was one of the most inspirational plays I’ve ever seen. This story could be happening today, with the recent events which has led to the fall of Kabul.

The play was performed by Hassam/Son (Shamail Ali) Hamed/Son (Farshid Rokey) Hussein/son (Ahmed Sakhi) Fariba/Mum (Gehane Strehler) Mohammed/Dad (Dana Haqjoo) and singer Elaha Soroor

In 2000, Hamed Amiri’s family have to leave their home and their life in Herat, Afghanistan. They need protection from the Taliban, who have issued a warrant to execute the mother, Fariba Amiri, for speaking out against the Taliban, demanding freedom for women’s rights. They also need medical help for the oldest son, Hussein, who has a rare, life-threatening heart condition.

Their journey leaving their home, learning to live with nothing, having to spend a long time on the road, never being safe, worrying every day whether they will ever make it to the UK, their “safe haven”, and having to put their lives into the hands of smugglers again and again is heart-breaking, one of many families who have left their lives behind to find safety in Europe and continue to do so.

Clothes hang from rafters above the stage in WMC and a disarray of suitcases and clothing are strewn around the edge of the stage. Creative stage captions set the scene and draw you in to the families fight and struggle but it’s not just about the hardship, it’s about fear, love, family, determination, courage and hope – these are the emotions that ignite a fire inside of you whilst you’re drawn into their powerful story.

The play is split between two emotional, nerve-racking journeys. The first shows the families cold and desperate journey through Moscow and then onto Europe, travelling by hiding in car boots, lowering themselves into the back of a lorry to hide from police and almost suffocating crammed inside a shipping container, without food or drink, however, these are only a small part of the family’s history. Their journey depicts how much they rely on the kindness of strangers, but we also see how so much cruelty while travelling to the UK leaves Hamed mistrustful of others.

The second path they take is through Hassam, Hamed and Hussein’s determination to succeed, once they settle in Cardiff, it also takes us on Hussein’s journey with the healthcare system for the treatment he so desperately needs. The wonderful vocals of Afghan singer Elaha Soroor, drifts on and off the stage throughout the play, observing the family’s’ heartache alongside the audience but also lending her haunting vocals, like death, to accompany the beat of Hussein’s heart, his fight for life and his struggle to breathe. Despite having been through the toughest times one can imagine, Hussein Amiri’s hope and positivity shines so bright and seems to have no ends.

The actors are so skilled at pulling you into every situation they encounter, drawing you into their love for one another and the pain they endure. This story is a moving and absorbing memoir, it is a very emotional love letter to the NHS. It oozes hope, courage and a love for life, it tells the story of how many lives a person can touch in just a short time and deserves to be shown to a very, very wide audience.

Review The Boy With Two Hearts, Wales Millennium Centre By Rhys Payne.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Personally, it takes a lot for me to be stunned into silence generally especially by a piece of theatre. There is nothing I love more, when within a theatre, than a pre, interval or post-show chat and meeting new people sat around me. My Aunty (who I attend the majority of the shows with) has in fact made a name for herself within the Millennium for chatting to everyone she encounters (usually with me trailing behind) during any break in the show so you can get some sense of how powerful this Wales Millennium Centre commissioned the production of “The Boy with Two Hearts” must have been for every person to be stood applauding at the end of the show (with the majority shedding a tear or two) and for there to be complete and utter silence for a good few minutes during both the interval and end of the show!

Usually, with plays/musicals, the bars and communal spaces in the Centre are filled with a buzz during the interval/at the end of the show, but this time there was a hush where people seemed to be tentatively whispering rather than the loud chatting that usually occurs. This was an emotional night for me before the show even started. The moment that I place my hands on the iconic doors the Wales Millennium Centre, after not being allowed in for almost two years, I was instantly filled with immense happiness as before the lockdowns I would be there two or three times a week but that was quickly stopped with the coronavirus restrictions were announced! Have a big theatre such as the Millennium producing new pieces of theatre truly marks not only the easing of restrictions but also the return of live theatre. However, this emotional revelation did not help or hinder the production I was there to see as I personally believe that I could be before in a field and still have the same emotional impact it possessed!

For the opening moments of this show, it was clear that it is a passion project based on a personal experience. The story is based on its writer Hamad’s own personal experience of fleeing Afghanistan and finding a new home in Cardiff. Throughout the show, we have moments of education regarding religious practises, honest/real portrayals of the journey and moments of comedy which all combine to show an authentic story of finding a refugee. This is something about writing from personal experience that makes storytelling even more powerful! We often hear stories of refugees and their journeys on the news, radio, television etc but we naturally put up a distance between us and ‘those’ people. For this show to show (as it is based on a true story from Cardiff) that it’s not an issue for different people or places, but instead is happening on our doorsteps it truly brings the message home. The issue of seeking refugees does not just apply to faraway lands but affects our friends, neighbours etc.

The show follows the Amari family who are forced to leave Afghanistan after the matriarch of the family (played by the incredibly talented Géhane Strehler) delivers a very controversial speech about the treatment of women in Taliban run countries. (If they had not amped up the emotion enough, before entering the theatre we were made aware that the Amari family who the story is based on where sat in the audience and the writer who is also apart of the same family supposedly watches every single performance.) This speech is controversial for two reasons, firstly it is against the law for women to deliver speeches in Afghanistan but also it is her essentially standing up to the Taliban government. What is very clever about the performance of the speech is that the actual audience are referred to as the audience of the speech (with direct eye contact, Gestures etc) with Géhane seeming to passionately deliver every single word of the speech to a point where I believe that even she felt moved by its words. This idea of carefully and cleverly breaking the fourth wall happens numerous times throughout the show with rotating narrators, being ‘brought in’ as fourth-year medical students and being visitors to a market. The inclusion of the audience only helps the impact of the show as the viewers feel as if they are also in the centre of the story! The rest of the play documents their dangerous and extremely difficult journey to the UK with all the high points and low points being shown.

I thought that the set designed by Hayley Grindle, used for this production featured some of the most ingenious set designs I have seen in a long time. The show opening with phenomenal Eloha Soroor, who performed the majority of the atmospheric music throughout in Farsi with subtitles being showed across a multi-storey structure on the stage. Eloha’s character within the play also acts as an sort of angel of death who is there for the majority of the close calls throughout the show. All of her appearances in the show are purposeful and her attention is always on the characters that she could be collecting soon. I think that all of the actors in this show (including Shamail Ali, Dana Haqjoo, Farshid Rokey and Ahmad Sakhi) all deserve incredible praise for bringing this story to life in a very accessible and real way! Also, the performers swap roles throughout the show which often means completely different accents, demeanours and physicality with all performances being very believable!  Being able to switch literally in front of the audience’s eyes and then to be able to easily follow the story and characters takes a lot of skill/talent so every performer deserves the highest of praise. The levels also had screens that would demonstrate the change of location, weather etc with carefully selected animated images. One particular moment stands out for me where the set is transformed into a defibrillator and the screen displayed the word shock after loading up with blue light which I thought was a very clever way to show what was going on. These panels and screen also move which comes in handy during points in the show were the character were crammed into the back of cars , lorry’s etc which looked absolutely amazing and the choreography of getting into these spaces being amazing to watch.

Another misconception that this show addresses is the idea that refugees simply jump on a boat to sail to the UK and simply leave because they just want to live somewhere else. It is so much more than just sailing away to find a new home and any person who takes this treacherous journey to possible receive a better life for themselves or their children deserve at the bare minimum your respect!  The show is also an almost love letter to the NHS as one of the main motivators for the Amari family coming to the UK is due to our incredible health service.

Overall this is an extremely poignant and powerful play that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout! It highlights the dangerous journey that many refugees which clearly surprises many people who watch it. I have never seen a piece of theatre move as many people at once like “The Boy with Two Hearts” did and I personally believe that everyone needs to see this show at some point. It should be shown to school learners above key stage 5 and the entire adult population as everyone will learn something and be moved by its emotional power! This is absolutely a 5 out of 5 show!

You can find out more about the production and book tickets here

Review, Miss Margarida’s Way, 5Go Theatre Company, Drayton Arms Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In this small upstairs theatre, we are taken back to childhood and enter the classroom of Miss Margarida.

Based on the original play by Brazilian playwright Roberto Athayde in 1971, the play sees us degraded, bullied, bombarded by two Miss Margarida’s who, are not by any stretch of the imagination, model teachers. There is a sense of oppression, and this is what Athayde had meant for: a satire on the dictatorship in his country, formulating this insistence from an early age in society.

5Go have decided to split the character of Miss Margarida, mirroring one another but in some moments showing some kind of alter-ego; not much different from each other but often one is highly sexually charged, the other much the disciplinarian. There is a lonely school boy on stage – often positioned in previous version within the audience, he takes a small but central role in Miss Margarida’s affections and spite. However, having him on stage but the Miss Margaridas mostly addressing us felt a little disconnected and would have helped the fourth wall break if he sat with us or not be there at all, as majority of the insults were thrown our way, but not his.

Unaware of this play before entering, I did wonder what I would encounter. When 2 hours of insults, of repetition on sexual education, on religion could sound tedious, it was very easy to watch and often provided comical moments, mostly at the audacity and sheer gumption of Miss Margarida and her opinions and views; I imagine, exactly how Athayde intended the play. It flowed smoothly, picking up and becoming hyperreal in moments, making this timeless and appropriate for any era, not just in Brazil in the 1970’s. We feel very under-fire, very spotlighted, sometimes quite literally with lights shined upon us, often something felt with oppression. But it did take some time to change tact, which is perhaps a criticism more of Athayde’s writing than it is of this production.

Miss Margardia’s Way by 5GO is well constructed, delivered well but there are moments of disconnect between audience interaction and the characters as well as taking quite a lot of time to pick up momentum in the narrative.

Leslie Herman Jones interviews Justin Teddy Cliffe

3 Nights Only! The TIGERFACE SHOW. (AGES 14+ SHOW LENGTH 70 MINS.) The Riverfront, Newport. Thursday 21, Friday 22 & Saturday 23 October 2021 at 7.15pm Tickets – £12, concessions – £9

The TigerFace Show is a funny and irreverent comedy performance about our expectations of adulthood, asking us to re-evaluate what it is we really want to be when we grow up whilst demanding we find some child-like happiness in adulthood.

Performed as a mad and frantic hour of physical comedy, TigerFace attempts to re-create the last ever episode of his old kids tv serial The TigerFace Show.

The performance quickly unfurls into a semi-autobiographical, audience responsive, ragged-scream-party-piece, that’s one part misery, two parts joyful.

All audience members will receive FREE Piña Colada!*

*There will be no Piña Colada. This show will explore themes around childhood, alcohol and mental health.

For more information on this production and to book go here

Review Anfamol, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru by Anna Arrieta.

Bethan Ellis Owen- Photograph taken by Kirsten McTernan

“Anfamol” is a fast paced and shocking insight into the life of a single mother living through the COVID-19 Pandemic

This was my first experience of live theatre in two years, and a new one- as I used the Sibrwd App to access the translation of this Welsh performance. Overall, I found the app fantastic, easy to use, and not at all off-putting, especially considering the style of the piece and the one-way monologue that was being delivered. Utilising the voice of Bethan Ellis Owen could only have made it better.

The play went through stages and had a clear sense of mission. Ani is a lawyer, she is also a single woman- yet she longs for a child. We get the feeling that even though she is a successful woman and has achieved a lot, there is still a gap in her life. After getting pregnant via a sperm bank, Ani starts to experience the struggles of motherhood. When it is time for her to return back to work, Ani is relieved, only to find out that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit and she must stay at home with her son. Rhiannon Boyle must be applauded for the bravery in her writing as well as her skill to bring together the chaos of a story like this one into a well-paced timeline of moments, which we can follow and observe.

The character of Ani was well-thought out- she was brutally honest and raw, which made the audience latch on to her every word from the beginning of the story. Bethan Ellis Owen portrayed the character with authenticity, and presented an energy which engaged the audience at every stage.

Bethan Ellis Owen- Photograph taken by Kirsten McTernan

The set design by Amy Jane Cook was simplistic and allowed Bethan Ellis Owen to establish the fourth wall. The audience were observing her story from above which I felt was in keeping with the themes of the play: Ani’s loneliness throughout the story, as well as her constant longing for approval from outsiders- e.g her parents, her family members, her nct group, and, of course, the audience. Though her monologue was veracious and really funny at times, there were moment’s where we saw Ani doubting herself in her speech, questioning her morals and some of her beliefs around feminism, which was a clear indicator of the outside pressures pushed onto her. As a woman she is experiencing the blurred lines between what she really thinks and feels, and what she is told she should think and feel. This doubt continues throughout the play and as Ani starts to lose her identity, we recognise that in her, her monologue becomes more chaotic, more disturbed, less positive and vibrant, and she is no longer the Ani we once knew.

Ani’s story is dark and “Anfamol” did a brilliant job of raising awareness of the struggles that many mothers would have gone through during the pandemic. So much so, that I was expecting the play to end on a commentary of the political and social issues of today. However in this case, Ani was lucky to be able to access the right support which gave her a positive new start in life. It is clear that Ani was in a much more privileged position than some women would be. Boyle’s purpose may not have been to slander the system, however she did an amazing job of raising awareness and showing women that they can get the support they need- and that’s ok too.

You can find out more about the production and book tickets here

Review Rent Party, Common Wealth Theatre by SL Brennan

‘Rent Party’ is the latest production by working class led theatre company Common Wealth. Based in Cardiff and Bradford and run by directors Rhiannon White & Evie Manning, Common Wealth are pioneers of championing stories of working class people, by working class people, in their own communities. Rent Party is no exception.

Held at Rumney Conservative Club (no the irony of that isn’t lost on anyone), the audience are invited to grab a pint before they head in to the main space. With tables laid out cabaret style, an open dance floor and a small stage at the back, this performance could be your Nan’s birthday party at the community hall, complete with the ubiquitous tinsel, balloons and disco lighting.

The performers hand out party rings, Haribos and jelly shots as a pianist plays soft jazz renditions of “All of Me” and “As Time Goes By”, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Inspired by Harlem Rent Parties of 1920s America, where working class black folks would perform to pay their rent, “Rent Party” seeks to bring this concept to life with an unapologetically Welsh twist. The show was originally staged Manchester by director Darren Pritchard, but is now being reimagined with artists from across the country, and this particular collaboration with Common Wealth theatre succeeds in creating what the programme describes as “a kaleidoscopic picture of what it means today to be gifted, Welsh and working class.”

At the start of the show some audience members are handed vouchers, and we’re told by our compere Stuart Bowden, that the four performers will each now sing for their supper. We must decide which performer’s story is worth more of our vouchers, and therefore, who can pay their rent this month. 

Each performer in turn gets to showcase their unique cabaret talent and talk movingly of their own experience in a monologue navigating class, race, gender and sexuality growing up in Wales.

Bowden, in a high ponytail, black spandex and heels describes himself as the “Margaret Thatcher of this Conservative club”, as he skilfully guides us through the worlds of each of the performers. Each cabaret performance is interspersed with a party game led by Bowden, including a memorable game of limbo where the height of the bar represents social barriers like public sector pay cuts, the average wage, or 1 million people in poverty. It’s more fun than it sounds.

First up is Darnell Williams who raps about Afrofuturism, hope, and coming into his power as a working class Welsh boy from Cardiff. He remembers thinking “no one is gonna make a black boy from Ely famous” but then he reconsiders, remembering black Welsh heroes like Shirley Bassey and Colin Jackson.

Next is Yasmin Goulden whose superb dancing skills run throughout the show. She dances to 1920s style music in a banana skirt: an homage to Josephine Baker. Yasmin talks about her struggles growing up in Swansea having moved from Malaysia, with racist comments and often “being the only brown girl in the room”. She comments “the arguments would start about anything but would always end being about my skin”, and ends her monologue by reclaiming her power as a talented, Welsh working class woman.

A highlight of the show includes Emilie Parry-Williams, a talented singer from Pontypool whose dream of studying at a London music conservatoire is crushed when her teachers make it clear they don’t believe a working class girl deserves to be there. Emilie’s performance of ‘I Could’ve Danced All Night’ (a song sung by a character whose ‘common’ accent has been smoothed out by an upper class man in order to win a bet) brings the house down.

The final powerful performance comes from Jude Thoburn-Price who reads to us from her “book of truths”. This is a piece of performance poetry-come-rap that talks movingly about the effect raising the retirement age has had on her life, the breakdown of her marriage, the freedom of getting older, oh and also the scourge of the dreaded itchy “pound pants”!

The performance can be rowdy and raucous during the upbeat dance and rap sequences (including a RuPaul’s Drag Race style lipsync battle), but is also gentle and intimate, with the performers speaking to us casually and conversationally about their lives.

There’s an undeniable tension in creating a scenario where working class people perform their trauma and show off their talents, in order for us the audience to decide who is ‘worthy’ of paying rent this month. The show displays for us how capitalism has created a false idea of a deserving and undeserving poor, the myth of the meritocracy, the barriers faced by people in society because of the community where they were raised. The show seeks to problematise these ideas, showing you the people affected most by the policies of austerity, and celebrating an array of dazzling talents from working class people.

It’s also just a lot of rowdy fun!

You can find more information on the companies work here

REVIEW Looking Good Dead, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Live theatre is well and truly back at the New Theatre Cardiff, as is the return of the ubiquitous mystery thriller. An Inspector Calls was one of the last shows to play here before lockdown, and it’s fitting that Looking Good Dead, a crime thriller by bestselling novelist Peter James, is one of its first since reopening.

The opening scene is easily its most dramatic. An escort is lured to an abandoned warehouse; once there, she is killed by a pair of masked men who broadcast the whole thing live on the internet (imagine if the torturers in Funny Games were Twitch streamers and you’ve got the general idea). The next day, Tom Bryce (Adam Woodyatt, of the EastEnders hall of fame) finds a USB on the train home and, with the help of his apathetic but computer-savvy son Max (Luke Ward-Wilkinson), accesses its contents. When they succeed, they open a link to footage of the escort’s murder and are plunged into danger from which it seems only Detective Superintendent Roy Grace (Harry Long) can save them.

Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle and adapted by the award-winning Shaun McKenna, Looking Good Dead is based on the second book in James’ Roy Grace series, the DS recently played by John Simm on ITV. Roy Grace is just about as typical a copper as they come, with a hair-trigger gut instinct and a tragic backstory (your common garden ‘haunted by the disappearance/death/divorce of his wife’ schtick, as ascribed to most fictional gumshoes). Grace may have the gut, but the show doesn’t have the guts to give him a proper hook – a novelty, or a tragedy – for us to cling on to. While Simm’s DS was haunted by the inability to solve his wife’s disappearance, Long’s is celebrating his recent engagement – not exactly meaty material. Don’t get me wrong, a good detective doesn’t have to be tormented to be compelling (and Long is likable and believable in the role), but they do need to give you a reason to join them on the trail – and a great detective is one who is as much a mystery as the cases they solve.

It’s notoriously tricky to pull off suspense in the theatre, and while Looking Good Dead never quite excels at chilling the blood, its central mystery is intriguing and there are twists and turns a-plenty right through to the final seconds. There’s a reason James is the bestselling crime novelist in the UK, after all, as Looking Good Dead is the fifth of his novels to make it to the stage with critical acclaim, following the likes of The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple. And the cast are a huge part of what makes it enjoyable. Adam Woodyatt, known to many as Ian Beale, invests the audience in the story from the second he steps onto the stage. Woodyatt’s award-winning tenure as EastEnders’ longest serving cast member has meant that he hasn’t trodden the boards since 1982, but he’s so natural in and committed to the role, it feels as though he’s never been away.

Co-starring Gaynor Faye (most recently of The Syndicate) as his glamorous and slightly chaotic wife Kellie and Ian Houghton as slimy American entrepreneur Jonas Kent, the show succeeds largely on the charm of its cast, which also includes Leon Stewart as DS Glenn Branson, Gemma Stroyan as DS Bella Moy, and Natalie Boakye as the ill-fated Janie. Easily the most impressive performance is that of Mylo McDonald, making his professional stage debut. His scenes are brimming with tension, underscored by the innovative stage design, lighting and sound by Michael Holt, Jason Taylor and Max Pappenheim respectively (not to mention an effective costume by Chrissy Maddison). The stage, primarily a sparsely stylish middle-class home interior, is frequently backlit to reveal a hidden set that looks like something out of Saw – and every time that part illuminates and McDonald skulks back in, it’s like entering another world. He not only ably holds his own alongside stars Woodyatt and Faye but steals the whole show – and I’m excited to see where his career goes next.

At times comedic, at others sadistic, the world premiere of Looking Good Dead is an enjoyable mystery for fans of Luther and Line of Duty. If you like your cases cold and your pursuits hot, Looking Good Dead is the mystery you won’t want to miss.

The world premiere of Looking Good Dead is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from Tuesday 28 September to Saturday 2 October 2021.

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 Small Change, Both Barrels Theatre by Tanica Psalmist

Small Change is written by Peter Gill & presented by Both Barrels Theatre. The play takes you on a journey of self-discovery from childhood to manhood as well as a poetic adventures exploring themes closely linked to identity, undealt issues, mental arrest, poverty & self-reflection. This play is set on the east side of Cardiff in the 1950s and 70s, which was known mainly from the characters’ accents.  Small Change centres around Gerard, a troubled man at the end of youth, trapped by his past mentally & emotionally. The play begins with Gerard and Vincent beginning as teenagers getting up to mischief, as though they were schoolboys finding things to do to relieve their boredom.

The Mis-en-scene in this production is kept simple, the set is made up of huge long rectangular blocks, which gets moved throughout. This play has to be well followed to grasp any surrounding narrative of who’s being directly referred to as there’s a lot of continuous character switches.  

Mrs Driscoll (Tameka Mortimer) struggles to cope as her complex home life feels surreal & distressing, she suspects that Mr Driscoll is seeing someone else due to his consistent absences from their house. Vincent, her son, had been thrown out of his local Catholic parish church – not much luck follows him soon after as his friend Gerard (Andy Rush) ends up drowning with guilt during adulthood, meanwhile Gerard’s mother, Mrs Harte played by (Sioned Jones) who’s character is extremely feisty as well as outspoken & consolidating has a strong nature to bite, however simultaneously loves her husband regardless.

The production portrays the impact of the past, present and future fairly well. The play become slightly unclear towards the end as situations portrayed climax differently, causing greater understanding although the understanding in the first place was not so transparent, it’s revealed towards the end that there are certain things that were left unsaid in an era when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. Here, we begin to see expressions of love between the two men on stage – however, despite the private setting of their conversation, it doesn’t quite convince Vincent causing them to distance further.

During this play sexual orientation is not, in any event, the central point of the show, which appears to be more to do with exploring why it is that people are driven to behave in certain ways. Whilst talking with several cast members after the play it was agreed that the script was slightly confusing, some felt that same way when they were first exposed to the script, I was slightly surprised to hear that the storyline of Mrs Driscoll was based on a true story. Overall, the humour of this play became more amusing towards the end, the small space was well used & each actor performed their characters well.    

Sioned Jones – Mrs Harte
Tameka Mortimer – Mrs Driscoll
Andy Rush – Gerard
Toby Gordon – Vincent

Creative Team:
Directed by: George Richmond-Scott
Movement director: Rachel Wise
Set and Costume Design: Liam Bunster
Lighting Designer: Ali Hunter
Sound Designer: Lex Kosanke
Production Manager: Gabriel Finn
Casting by Jane Frisby
Photography credit: Jon Holloway

Review, Small Change, Peter Gill, Both Barrels Theatre, Omnibus Theatre By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

A blanket white stage. Some old, red colour metal scupltures. I hear someone describe them as artwork much like Barbara Hepworth. Very old city feel.

A set design, perfect for such a play. Small Change is set in Cardiff – these “sculptures” reminded me so much of the Bay, the docks, the nooks and crannies of Cardiff. Where there’s always something to discover around a corner.

Small Change tells the story of 2 boys and their 2 mothers – it looks at their relationships, all intertwining into one another, of the time period and its taboos, of mental health and repression. It’s a lot to put into a play and Both Barrels Theatre do this well.

Firstly, we have to talk about the accents. All very perfect, I suddenly felt transported to my family, to my time in Wales, and it erupted personal memories for me. Granted, this may not do this for every audience member, but the thick sing song accent certainly helped place the performers before our eyes in Cardiff.

The play took another worldly, unusual turn. The writing of Small Change is at times nonsensical but also poetic – just like most Welsh writers, there is a poetic and descriptive aspect to the narrative, and this not only felt unique to the play but also highlighted a unique part of Welsh theatre. Repetitive statements, questions, rhetoric. The genius of the writing is one of truly great playwrights in that it is unusual, it is one of a kind but also allows the director and performers to read into it and develop their own opinions and approaches to the text. And Both Barrels have utilised this.

I wasn’t expecting and was certainly pleasantly pleased to see physical theatre – a type of theatre that I feel I see less of and which is a shame, because it is so interesting how atmosphere and feelings can be shown through movement. We really feel the struggle, the sense of looking back at the past, the changes in time, and the moments of real emotional turmoil not only through the writing and the performers conviction, but also their movement.

Small Change drew me in; it is poignant, it is a really unique take on a well known production and the physical theatre is fitting and fluid.

REVIEW Priscilla Queen of the Desert, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Trigger warnings for the show: strong language, violence, and homophobic and transphobic slurs.

Before there was RuPaul, there was Priscilla – who, like Divine and Crystal LaBeija before her, brought drag to mainstream attention. The 1994 movie, starring Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp, won an Oscar for its spectacular costume design and introduced a new generation to a thrilling world of glitz and glamour, a world to which the stage musical eagerly wants us to return after being left so long in the COVID wilderness. Racy, rowdy and rambunctious, Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a riotously fun time that reminds you exactly why live theatre is irreplaceable and invaluable.

It’s thrilling to be back in the New Theatre after so much time away, and the Priscilla UK Tour is the perfect show to welcome us back through its doors. The show centres on three drag queens, two cis men and a trans woman, who journey across the Australian Outback on the titular tour bus. Tick/Mitzi Mitosis (Edwin Ray) persuades two close friends – egocentric ingénue Adam/Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Nick Hayes) and drag doyenne Bernadette (Michael Western) – to perform their act at a casino in remote Alice Springs, where Tick will have the opportunity to reconcile with his estranged wife and son. Along the way there are sequins, setbacks, and singalong disco classics that will have you dancing (COVID-safe) in the aisles. Fun, filthy and fabulous – Priscilla puts the ‘extra’ in ‘extraordinary’!

Directed by Ian Talbot and produced by Mark Houcher and Jason Donovan (who originated the role of Tick on the West End), the show is a jukebox musical brimming with camp classics from ‘Boogie Wonderland’ to ‘Go West’ to ‘Hot Stuff’. Every musical number is joyous and unique, and songs are beautifully woven throughout (like Dionne Warwick’s ‘I Say a Little Prayer’, which recurs in its most poignant moments). While the humour might feel dated at times, the songs never do. Charles Cusick-Smith’s sublime costumes do justice to the Oscar-winning originals while bringing a new flair and Tom Jackson-Greaves’ excellent choreography lights a kinetic spark that burns throughout the show – they, along with the exceptional live band (directed by Richard Atkinson), ensure that the production is a feast for the eyes and ears.

The level of talent on display is staggering. Edwin Ray brilliantly anchors the ensemble as a man trying to marshal all the facets of his identity, while Western’s Bernadette exudes Old Hollywood grace and glamour and Hayes’ Felicia bags all the best songs, including a truly show-stopping entrance number – you’ll know it when you see it. I have never seen a happier ensemble: from the main trio to the Three Divas (Claudia Kariuki, Aiesha Pease and Rosie Glossop) to the performers dressed variously as giant cupcakes, dancing paintbrushes and plaid-clad delinquents, the cast’s unadulterated joy at being back in action was palpable.

While the zingers sizzle and the sequins glitter, Priscilla doesn’t gloss over the real-life hatred and violence inflicted on the LGBTQ+ community. Bernadette not only faces transphobic bullying from bigoted straight people but from Adam, who repeatedly deadnames and misgenders her. Adam himself is the victim of an attempted assault, and even apparent allies can turn out to be fair-weather friends when the sun rises. Though the central trio often bicker and Priscilla often breaks down, they stick together and they neither give up nor turn back, proving that true allies are there even after the music stops and the engine fails.

Priscilla concludes that, no matter how long and winding the road, your family will always be waiting to welcome you home at the end of it – and that true family are the ones who stay by your side no matter how bumpy the ride. Family are the people who climb mountains with you, both literal and figurative; they are the people who help you follow your dreams. When the audience rose, as one, for a much-deserved standing ovation, it felt like the best kind of dream: the one that comes true.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert UK Tour will be playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from Monday 20 – Saturday 25 September

Priscilla UK Tour

*The review previously misstated the show’s costume designer. This has been corrected.*