Category Archives: Theatre

Hyfforddiant Hanner Diwrnod Am Ddim Ar Waith Grŵp Creadigol Ar Zoom

“It’s been a life saver. It’s like I’ve got a blanket of friends around my shoulders” Cyfranogwr ar Zoom 

Ydych chi’n ymarferwr Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd sydd eisiau trosglwyddo eich gwaith ar-lein?

Mewn ymateb i Covid-19, mae Re-Live wedi datblygu ymarfer cynhwysfawr ar Zoom gydag oedolion hŷn, pobl sy’n byw gyda dementia, cyn-filwyr sy’n byw gydag anhwylder straen ôl-drawmatig a phobl sy’n byw gyda gorbryder ac iselder.

Ymhlith y sesiynau roedd: Bywyd Stori Gwaith, Drama/Gwaith Byrfyfyr, Cerddoriaeth a Chanu

Mae Re-Live yn edrych am 12 ymarferwr Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd i fod y cyntaf i gymryd rhan yn yr hyfforddiant newydd sbon hwn. Bydd yr hyfforddiant yn cyflwyno’r cyfranogwyr i sgiliau, offer ac egwyddorion hanfodol sydd eu hangen i gynnal sesiynau arloesol a moesegol y Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd ar Zoom. Bydd yr hyfforddiant yn:

●  eich gwahodd i gael profiad o sesiwn Zoom fel cyfranogwr ac adlewyrchu ar y profiad

●  rhannu ymarferion creadigol sy’n gweithio Zoom, gan gynnwys Bywyd Stori Gwaith, drama, canu,

cerddoriaeth

●  adeiladu sgiliau a hyder i arwain sesiwn Zoom, gan gynnwys rheoli ystafelloedd ymneilltuo

●  trafod cyfrinachedd a chysyniad wrth weithio gyda grwpiau agored i niwed ar-lein

●  darparu cyfle unigryw i artistiaid ddarganfod ffyrdd newydd o archwilio ac ehangu eu hymarfer

Cyfarwyddwr Artistig Re-Live, Karin Diamond, fydd yn arwain y sesiynau hyfforddiant. Cynhelir yr hyfforddiant yn Saesneg ond rydym yn croesawu ymarferwyr celf cyfrwng Cymraeg gan fod Karin yn ddwyieithog.

Os oes gennych ddiddordeb, anfonwch e-bost at karin@re-live.org.uk yn nodi eich profiad o’r Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd ac yn esbonio pam fod yr hyfforddiant penodol hwn o ddiddordeb i chi.

Gan fod yr hyfforddiant am ddim, byddwn yn gofyn i chi adlewyrchu ar yr hyfforddiant trwy ddarparu adborth ysgrifenedig neu ar lafar ar 3 cham: ar ôl yr hyfforddiant, cyn eich sesiwn cyntaf ar Zoom ac ar ôl eich sesiwn cyntaf ar Zoom. Bydd y broses gwerthuso yn cymryd tua 3 awr a bydd yn hysbysu sut mae Re- Live yn datblygu’r hyfforddiant hwn ar gyfer grwpiau eraill yn y dyfodol.

Hyd yr hyfforddiant: 3.5 awr (9.30am – 1pm) Ble: Zoom Pryd: 18 Mehefin 2020

Mae Re-Live yn fudiad Celfyddydau ym maes Iechyd sydd wedi ennill sawl gwobr sy’n darparu rhaglen ddeinamig, ysbrydoledig o ymarfer Bywyd Stori Gwaith trwy theatr, symudiad, cerddoriaeth a chân. www.re-live.org.uk

Free Half Day Training In Creative Group Work On Zoom

“It’s been a life saver. It’s like I’ve got a blanket of friends around my shoulders” Zoom participant 

Are you an Arts in Health practitioner looking to transfer your work online?

In response to Covid-19, Re-Live have developed an extensive creative Zoom practice with older adults, people living with dementia, veterans living with PTSD and people living with anxiety and depression.

Sessions have included: Life Story Work, Drama/Improvisation, Music & Singing

Re-Live are looking for 12 Arts in Health practitioners to be the first cohort of this brand new training. The training will introduce practitioners to essential skills, tools and principles needed to carry out innovative and ethical Arts in Health sessions via Zoom. 

The training will:

●  Invite you to experience a creative Zoom session as a participant and reflect on the experience

●  Share creative exercises that work in the Zoom Room, including Life Story Work, drama, singing, music

●  Build skills and confidence in leading a Zoom session, including managing breakout rooms

●  Discuss confidentiality and consent when working with vulnerable groups online

The training will provide a unique opportunity for artists to find new ways of exploring and widening their practice

Re-Live Artistic Director, Karin Diamond, will lead the training session. The training will be in English, but we welcome Welsh language arts practitioners as Karin is bilingual.

If you are interested, please send an email to karin@re-live.org.uk outlining your experience of Arts in Health practice and what has drawn you to this particular training.

As the training is free, we will be asking you to reflect on the training by providing written or oral feedback at 3 separate stages: post-training, before your first Zoom session and post-Zoom session. The evaluation process will take 3 hours approx and will inform how Re-Live develops this training for future cohorts.

Training time: 3.5 hours (9.30am – 1pm) Where: Zoom When: 18th June 2020

Re-Live is an award-winning Arts in Health organisation providing a dynamic, inspirational programme of Life Story Work practice through theatre, movement, music and song. www.re-live.org.uk

Creativity Rocks the Arts Factory, MaDCaff 2020 By Ann Davies

Take me back to the days when we were never alone – well, let’s see, it was the month of March when creativity rocked the Arts Factory in Ferndale and we were altogether. The scene had been set in 2019 when the forward looking company Avant Cymru introduced a MaDCaff evening event to The Factory in Porth as part of the FestYPorth celebrations. It sparked an idea for such an event to be held in the Rhondda Fach. Proposals for a venue were put forward and the nucleus began to evolve as the Arts Factory (the Trerhondda Chapel Arts Centre in Ferndale) took up the baton for it to be staged as a Community activity to raise funds for Mental Health.

A MaDCaff event is an experience which is encompassed in its very title

Music Dance and a Café

It is an open mic where people can perform or be entertained, pressure free with a quiet place to talk if required. With DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) and the Arts Factory volunteers, the evening became a cornucopia of colour as musicians assembled their electrical equipment and sound tested their instruments, dancers waited in anticipation of opening the event, whilst people bought Raffle Tickets on their arrival, sourced the Refreshment stand and marvelled at the artwork that had been kindly donated by local artist Carole Kratzke for the Art Auction.

The young dancers of Avant Cymru, coming from their recent performance at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff, blew caution to the wind with their energetic and exhilarating movements, incredibly intricate and jaw dropping showing the skills that they had been taught by Jamie Berry, a company Director of Avant Cymru, who, in January 2020 won the deserved accolade of Wales Creative Tutor of the Year bringing his distinctive talent to develop the health and wellbeing, through dance, to the Valleys.

Gaudy Orde announced their arrival with their usual toe tapping eclectic music with Jeff Japers (aka Andrew Powell) on the ukulele, keyboard and main vocals; Tall Joy (aka Joy Garfitt), Helen Spoons (aka Helen Probyn-Williams); James Parr – Superstar; Barry Sidings (aka Alex Coxhead) and Romany Bob (aka Andy Roberts) providing a surreal and distinctive experience of music, song and humour into an intoxicating mix as the evening progressed.

In turn Jeff Japers, as the evening’s Master of Ceremony, introduced the Nutz ‘n’ Bolts duo which normally consists of husband and wife team Dawn and Dave Hoban, but on this night we were invited to meet Jowan who sang with Dawn. It was an experience of emotions entwined harmonies and excellent guitar playing.

Les Allen, Linda Michele, Ann Davies and Anne Lord, who are members of the RCT Creative Writers Group, read selections from their 10th Anniversary publication “Handle with Care” ably supported by Members Jess Morgan, Gerhard Kress, Helen Probyn-Williams and Rachel Williams.  Jakey (12), our favourite therapy dog was present to ensure that everyone was feeling safe and well.

The interlude that followed included the results of the Raffle, closely followed by the Art Auction which had bids bouncing from every direction in the audience. The Open mic participation was offered to the audience as one of the young Avant Cymru dancers stepped forward to sing, closely followed by singer guitarist Lee Harvey from Aberdare. Talent can be found in quiet places as Josh and his “companion” dummy took up the Ventriloquist mantle for the night in a comedic conversation. The Bella Vista Coffee Club brought the house down with their jazz performance provided by Ann and Paul Hughes, Jim Barrett, Helen Probyn-Williams and Sally Churchill.

TimeLine a trio of local singers and musicians namely Nigel, Gary and Keith, opened the second half of the evening’s entertainment. Their songs were rich and melodious and the audience were soon joining in with the verses of the songs that brought back so many treasured memories.

Tricycle, comprising of Gerhard Kress, Paul Rosser and Michael Morton brought the event to a close with the atmospheric musical sounds of a fiddle combined with guitars alongside their passionate lyrics.

Louise Gaw, Project Coordinator for Changing People Changing Lives at the Arts Factory Ferndale introduced Sara Beer, South Wales Regional Officer of DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) to bring the evening to a close. Thanking all within the Arts Factory and DAC for their hard work in organising the event.  Goody Bags were given to people as they left including items from DAC. Gifts were kindly donated by Francesca Kay the noted WordArt, Poet and Letter Press professional from Hay on Wye, who is a friend of RCT Creative Writers Group

I would like to personally extend my appreciation to all who responded to the request for participants and to RCT Creative Group Members who supported me in arranging this event giving their time and energy freely to provide a true Noson Llawen Merry Night to remember for those who attended. 

We were all left with the memories of songs, music, dance, poetry and stories echoing the creative talent that is within the community.

Times have changed and we are now finding ourselves in an unprecedented situation.

WE are all the waves on the same sea, and at this moment we send each other a virtual hug with the message to stay safe and well.

MaDCaff maintains the talent of RCT.

With thanks and appreciation to
Sara Beer and Volunteers of Disability Arts Cymru
Louise Gaw and Volunteers of Arts Factory Ferndale
RCT Creative Writers Group Members especially Anne Jess Les Gerhard Helen and Rachel not forgetting Jakey
Carole Kratze
Francesca Kay
To photographers for their kind permission

Sara Mayo Gerhard Kress Anne Lord Jess Morgan
Open Mic performers 

Jamie Berry of Avant Cymru and dancers Jeff Japers for his Master of Ceremonies Gaudy OrdeNutz ‘n’ BoltzTimeLine Tricycle
and for all who gave their support for this event to raise funds for Mental Health

Diolch yn fawr iawn

Dance and Wellbeing During Lockdown, NDCWales, Dance Ambassador, Angharad Harrop

National Dance Company Wales Dance Ambassador Angharad Harrop reflects on the challenges and creative activity she has developed during the Lockdown period.

Angharad is employed as one of the NDCWales, Welsh Priority Venue, Dance Ambassadors. This project is funded by The Foyle Foundation

NDCWales supports seven Welsh Priority Venues. Each Priority Venue has a Dance Ambassador who is local to the venue, knows the companies repertoire and has received specialist training. Their role is to support the public to access the work of NDCWales and keep year-round contact with its communities Wales wide.

Delivery is informed by the dance already happening in local areas. This model supports local communities to become audiences and participants. This helps with engaging more people in a broader range of dance but also to sustain and develop the dance sector in Wales as more people engage with the artform.

“Before the COVID-19 crisis came, I was working as a Dance Artist in schools, a Dance Ambassador with NDCWales and with community groups. Some work has been postponed, though much has continued.

The projects that have continued have shifted into a digital space and are being shared, as best as possible, with the spirit of the live interaction and emphasis of community that drives the work – including NDCWales’ Rygbi education pack and Ribidirês – early years dance sessions supported by Pontio. I am fortunate to have young children, who love to move and use their imaginations, and a supportive husband. This has allowed us to collaborate as a family to create learning resources that engage both children and adults in dance that supports children’s education and development.

Creating videos in this way has allowed me to use my work to support the wellbeing of my family, with the exploration and learning of my children becoming the heart of the work. We have made some wonderful memories as a family from within our home, whilst supporting the learning and development of our children.

We have climbed through forests, flown to space and scored a try for Wales in a crowded stadium.

Our hope is that through working as a family, we can give confidence to other families to use movement and dance to support their health and wellbeing at this difficult time. Inspiring families to get lost in a journey into the unknown from their own homes, to discover the power of touch and to learn through fun.

Our hope is that through our work families can strengthen bonds and make magical memories, of meeting aliens and winning the Six Nations for Wales, and to allow themselves a minute to find the value in flying as freely as a butterfly, without a care in the world.”

More information on Angharad and her work is below.

Angharad is a Dance Artist working in North Wales. She has worked as a choreographer and dancer for companies such as Light, Ladd and Emberton, National Theatre Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol. She is co-director of Cymru:Brasil and intercultural performance company who create work inspired by Welsh and Brazilian culture. Angharad works across the community and within education delivering projects for companies including National Dance Company Wales (Dance Ambassador), Pontio at Galeri and Theatr Clwyd. Angharad has a passion for Dance in Early Years and through her company Ribidirês runs bilingual classes to encourage a love of the Welsh language from an early age.  

Theatr Hafren – Keeping in Touch by Barbara Michaels

The Hafren theatre in Newtown, Powys, leads the way with exemplary staff, volunteer and community support during lockdown. As soon as confinement became inevitable, they launched a weekly newsletter knowing that so many of their volunteers and supporters would be in vulnerable groups, so isolating for a long period.

Their connections were encouraged to write, and the ongoing programme is updated as it changes, showing ‘light at the end of the lockdown tunnel’. Volunteers tell stories of lifetimes in and around theatres while regular contributors, such as myself,  tell amusing tales, reviewing productions new and old so catering for wider interests. They also provide links to streaming and TV that may be of value to readers. Bravo The Hafren!

Are there other theatres and venues out there doing as much?

Barbara Michaels

HAFREN BOX OFFICE
boxoffice@thehafren.co.uk | www.thehafren.co.uk

My Story, Connor Strange

This post was written by Connor Strange. Connor is 24 years old from Ammanford in Carmarthenshire. He is originally from Wales but lived in England for about 4 years of his life, and is a former radio presenter from Eden FM Radio, a community radio station in Penrith, Cumbria. He now works in theatre & events as a freelance theatre technician & event crew.

He is also a champion & ambassador for the Time to Change Wales campaign. This has allowed him to gain new skills, meet new people and share his story of how stigma and discrimination has affected him in his life. 

In this blog post he discusses the experiences he has had in radio, theatre & events over the past few years, and his experiences during the current Covid-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.

Today in this blog, I thought it would be a good idea to share my experiences of volunteering in radio & events, my experiences in technical theatre and other things I have been a part of.

To understand my journey, I need to give some background to my story. I left school – Ysgol Dyffryn Aman in Ammanford back in 2011, and attended Coleg Sir Gar in 2012 studying Creative i-Media (Interactive Multimedia) – sound & video editing, flash animation etc.

I then left Wales for work reasons and moved to England in July of 2013 shortly after leaving college. I lived with my grandparents for a few months while I tried to find a place of my own. Unfortunately, I could not find much work until I stumbled upon the Prince’s Trust programme.

So during 2014, I was on the Prince’s Trust programme based out of Newton Rigg College just outside of Penrith, and as part of this programme I was required to do a work placement with a local organisation. I decided that I wanted to do my work placement with Eden FM Radio, a local community radio station serving Penrith & the Eden Valley. At the time they were broadcasting online, but shortly after OFCOM granted the station an FM frequency and licence.

It seemed like the perfect fit to me and so I asked the station manager if I could do a placement at the station. To my delight, Eden FM approved my request. I got the chance to do a variety of task ranging from production of programs, research for the sport programme & co-presenting alongside other presenters.

At the end of my placement, I was offered the chance to produce & present my very own show. To this day, I still can’t remember what I called it but never mind. It was the very first time I had ever presented live on the radio and was a surreal experience at the least. At the end of the show, I was offered the opportunity to come back and volunteer for Eden FM. So obviously I agreed, and went on to produce a number of shows including specialist shows like the Noughties Show & hosted Drivetime.

I am extremely thankful to the team at Eden FM Radio for allowing me to volunteer at their station. They supported me in developing my skills in presenting, and producing shows of a high calibre, which still serves me well to this very day. I wish them the absolute best. The station has gone on to be a successful station serving their local community with music, traffic and travel information, informing the public about local events and so much more. They are a shining example of local community radio in the North West of England.

During my time living in Penrith, I also volunteered at Penrith Players. Penrith Playhouse is the only permanent, member run theatre in Penrith, and rely on volunteers to run the venue. I supported one of their productions, Blackadder Goes Forth, as a member of the Stage Crew moving set pieces & elements onto and off stage. This was my first experience of working backstage & supporting a production. It got me thinking about my future aspirations, what I wanted to do with my life, and I decided that I wanted to work in some part of the creative industries. I am thankful to Penrith Players for the experience, as it gave me a real insight into productions and the amount of work that is put into making a play a reality.

In 2017, I decided to move back to Wales and volunteered with a local theatre company to build up some experience in technical theatre. I built up experience in sound, lighting & stage management having worked on 2 successful productions as lighting desk operator and assistant stage manager. The experiences have served me well to help build up a portfolio of work.

Over the last couple of years, I have volunteered with Time to Change Wales. This is the first national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. As someone who has mental health problems, and has faced stigma and discrimination, I felt that it was the right thing to speak out about my experiences.

As a result of volunteering I have had the opportunity to deliver anti-stigma talks at organisations and groups across South Wales, including at the Suicide and Self Harm Prevention Workshop organised by Public Health Wales in Swansea. In addition, I have spoken at Singleton Hospital, YMCA Swansea and Cardiff University. I have also spoken on a BBC Wales Live programme about my experiences of being bullied and discriminated against.

I have also taken the time to engage in interests that suit me. In 2019, I volunteered at Swansea Pride as a Parade Volunteer supporting the event. Also, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Insomnia Gaming Festival in Birmingham, one of the biggest gaming events in the country, featuring major YouTubers such as Call Me Kevin, WillNe etc.

It was during Swansea Pride that I met Mark & Nia Jermin from Jermin Productions. I started talking to them about my interest in technical theatre & other aspects of the industry. I got in contact a couple of months later and asked if there were any openings on any upcoming productions. I thought that it would be a long shot, but my patience paid off. In November 2019, I was given the opportunity to work on Jermin Productions’ Cinderella South Wales Tour as a Follow Spot Operator & Swing Technician.

Basically to sum up, a Follow Spot Operator is someone that operates a light called a Follow Spot (used to follow key cast members on stage). A Swing Technician is someone that works across all areas of the production & supports the different areas e.g. stage management, set building, pyrotechnics etc.

Looking back to when I was going through school & college, I don’t think I would ever have had the confidence to have been part of such a major touring production. I am forever grateful to Jermin Productions for giving me that opportunity, which has led on to exciting projects, which at some point I will come around to working on. Unfortunately, due to the current Coronavirus outbreak those projects have had to be put on hold for the foreseeable future.

I wrote a blog post about my experiences of working on Cinderella for Jermin Productions which you can find here

Keeping myself motivated throughout the current Covid-19 outbreak has been a monumental task, something that I found exceedingly difficult. This crisis has definitely taken a toll on me personally, having lost 4 months’ worth of work in the blink of an eye, losing a friend to the virus and feeling exceedingly anxious about the current situation. But, despite the situation, I have been keeping myself busy. I am forever grateful to the work that key workers from every industry are doing to keep our nation running, especially through an unprecedented time in our country’s history. From NHS workers to carers, police officers to supermarket workers. The list goes on. Thank you to everyone. Theatres & technicians will come back, actors & actresses will rise up and act again, and everyone from every area of the arts & entertainment industry will come back to give amazing performances. Until the time comes when this virus goes, I will carry on keeping myself positive and busy.

To finish up, I am grateful once more to the following companies & organisations for their support and helping me to develop as a person:

  • Eden FM Radio – for giving me my first chance in radio. Special thanks to Lee Quinn, Martin Cowin, Ben France & Andy Neen. Also special thanks to Zoe Badder for all your help and letting me shadow you on your shows.
  • Penrith Players – for giving me my first voluntary opportunity in technical theatre
  • Get The Chance – for featuring my blogs. Special thanks to Guy for always believing in me.
  • Jermin Productions – for giving me my first paid opportunity on Cinderella, special thanks to:
    • Mark Jermin – Director
    • Nia Jermin – Director
    • Ollie Gordon-Rump – Lighting Supervisor
    • Mark Jones – Production Manager
    • Grace Bilsborough – Deputy Stage Manager
    • Luke Jones – my fellow partner in crime (Second Follow Spot Operator)
    • Every cast & crew member on the production, too many names to write down

I hope to work with Jermin Productions on their next production – Beauty and the Beast, hopefully coming this Winter 2020 conditions permitting.

Thank you for reading my blog and hope that it has given you an insight into my life & why I carry on volunteering.

I hope you all stay safe and well and remember to stay home during this crisis & protect our beloved National Health Service.

Connor

Graduate Showcase Anna Billes

Many Welsh or Wales based arts graduates are finding this current period especially difficult. Their usual opportunities to meet agents, prepare for final year exhibitions or productions may take place later in the year or sadly not at all. To raise awareness of the diverse talent graduating this year GTC is offering any Welsh or Wales based graduate the opportunity to be showcased on our website. If you are interested, please do get in touch.

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

Hello Guy, of course! I have just graduated from my BA Hons Degree Course in Creative and Therapeutic Arts at The University of South Wales.

I have a background in Support Work, Drum Circle Facilitation and Therapeutic Work with the Touch Trust in Cardiff Bay, supporting participants who have a variety of needs to explore the Arts during sensory sessions. I am now going on to develop my business called ‘Young at HeArt’; supporting people of all ages and stages to explore the Arts in intuitive and creative ways. You can find out more about me at my website. Facebook or Instagram.

As part of my graduate, online art exhibition for the final year of my Creative and Therapeutic Arts Degree Course, I will be hosting an ‘Online Parade,’ based on the old folklore tale of Pontypridd’s River Taff. The ‘Online Parade’ will take place on May the 16th (2020) (arriving for 1:45pm) starting at 2pm.


So what got you interested in the arts?

I always enjoyed art in school. In fact, I went to a Steiner School from 14-18 years old. My education at the Steiner School in Edinburgh encouraged me to pursue art as my passion as everything we learned was taught in an arty and holistic way. 

Can you tell us about your creative process?

During my last three years at University, I have discovered that Community is my ‘Art’; my Arts practice revolves around the participants that I work with and their needs. I enjoy exploring the Arts in an intuitive sense, supporting my participants to shape our Arts sessions together in ways which suit them and their creative process. 

As a young Welsh artist graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

Interestingly, I’m actually from Scotland in Edinburgh, although I studied my course in South Wales. At the moment my biggest question is “Where would I like to live next?” In a sense, the world feels like my oyster. I’m happy to go where the work leads me at this point. If someone was to offer me a Community Arts job, working with participants of all ages and stages in a holistic environment, I would be very happy with that! 

A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

At the moment I am working on an online Arts project with Artis Community, exploring the mask making along the theme of ‘Your Inner Warrior.’ At the end of this project, once I have made a series of videos detailing how to make and what you can do with your ‘Warrior Mask,’ I will facilitate a ‘Masquerade Hour’ on Zoom. I’m really looking forward to this! 

I’ve also really enjoyed engaging with some of my drummer friends online. For example my friend Jane Bentley, Doctor of Music, has been working with ‘Luminate’ to show people at home how they can turn their living rooms into an orchestra made out of every day household items. 

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

I think I would fund more intergenerational projects; encouraging older adults and children to explore the Arts together and teach each other their own artistic skills. I am very passionate about working with intergenerational groups, as I think mixing the age groups can really encourage participants to try out new artistic mediums and most importantly, build positive friendships with each other. 

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

There seems to be so much going on in the South Wales creative scene! Through my University course I have connected with many amazing Arts professionals who are doing some very exciting and valuable work in hospitals, schools and communities. There seems to be lots of creative opportunities popping up all the time which is wonderful. 


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

Over the last year I have been working on a project called ‘The Heartbeat Project’ with Studio Response at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport; supporting children in hospital to create musical and artistic responses to their heartbeats which they heard through a stethoscope. While my participants played their responses to their heartbeats on djembe drums, bells, chimes and other percussion instruments, I recorded the them on my phone and then we listened back to the recorded sounds and painted what we heard onto a sheet of paper. I am currently in the process of also making a soundscape out of the sounds which I explored with each group of participants. This soundscape will be played in the Multifaith room in the new Grange Hospital in Cwmbran once it has been fully built.  

 Thanks for your time, Anna.

Showbiz Snippets with Barbara Michaels

Showbiz Snippets

 Olivia Colman and the rest of the ‘Royal’ family are preparing to film a fourth season of The Crown when restrictions are lifted.  Which brings back a Royal memory to me.

When working on the local newspaper in the Fifties, I was sent to report on a special  4th June firework display at Eton College to be attended by the Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by Prince Philip.  Knowing I would be the only female in the Press enclosure, I had lashed out on a new dress for the occasion. 

As the Royal party passed where members of the Press party were herded together behind a barrier, Prince Philip glanced our way. He then turned towards the Queen and said something sotto voce which made her smile.  For years I kidded myself it was a complimentary mention of me in my new dress, but knowing HRH’s penchant for pithy remarks it was more likely to have been: “Good lord – they’re letting women in now!”

On another occasion, I was sent to cover the tea the Queen was giving, in a huge marquee in the grounds of Windsor Castle, for tenants of the Crown lands.  Determined to be prepared, I went over the day before to check who would be sitting next to Her Majesty at tea.  A courtly elderly gentleman was putting around the place names at the top table.   On HM’s right was the name of a well-known member of the aristocracy, but the name on her left was unknown to me.

“Who is that?” I asked.  “I’ve never heard of him!”

My escort blushed.  “Actually,” he said. “It’s me.”              

Barbara Michaels

Showbiz Snippets

Did you know that Pierce Brosnan, soon to be seen on Netflix in a new comedy Eurovision, turned down the role of James Bond the first time he was offered it?  It took seven years for him to accept the role, in his first Bond film Golden Eye, to be followed by four more.

Don’t forget to watch the National Theatre’s Anthony and Cleopatra before Thursday.  Free on YouTube. As Anthony, Ralph Fiennes is a man of the flesh in all respects, while Sophie Okonedo is a manipulative Cleopatra.  Brought back memories of Richard Burton with Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film.

Graduate Showcase Dave Humphreys

Many Welsh or Wales based arts graduates are finding this current period especially difficult. Their usual opportunities to meet agents, prepare for final year exhibitions or productions may take place later in the year or sadly not at all. To raise awareness of the diverse talent graduating this year GTC is offering any Welsh or Wales based graduate the opportunity to be showcased on our website. If you are interested, please do get in touch.

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

My name is Dave Humphreys. I’ve recently graduated from the University of Chester with a distinction in the MA Drama course, following straight on from the BA (Hons) Drama and Theatre Studies course.

I live in Buckley, Flintshire in North Wales. The majority of my theatrical background has been as a result of one place; Theatr Clwyd. I have been a part of Theatr Clwyd in some way for fifteen years; whether it has been a part of the old Clwyd Theatr Cymru Theatre for Young People (CTCTYP) weekly workshops co-ordinated by Tim Baker and Jane Meakin, Taskforce ran by Anne Plenderleith, which encouraged conversation about the theatre and wider arts, to performing in two professional productions. Firstly, The Suicide directed by Barry Kyle and later in Phillip Breen’s Cyrano de Bergerac. In addition, the work placement opportunities I have had there. My highlight was supporting, observing and being a small part of the pilot for Junior Justice in a Day, directed and facilitated by Emyr John. A key moment in my career path. Now, I am proudly a part of the team.

I have been working on a freelance basis for four and a half years for the Creative Engagement department, co-ordinated by Gwennan Mair, to deliver weekly workshops and outreach projects.

Gwennan Mair, Theatre facilitator/artist sy’n dawnsio o hyd / \ Director of Creative Engagement yn Theatr Clwyd

In a way, it has come full circle for me in that I now support the delivery of the work that inspired me to get to where I am. We deliver workshops for a range of people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. By working with the amazing team, I get the chance to work week in, week out with wonderful groups and develop my people skills, which is handy for the career path I am following. But to work alongside so many different facilitators enables me to observe and take note of the way they work and how that influences my practice. The change I have seen from when I started fifteen years ago to now is just sensational to see and how much this theatre is pushing to deliver for its community.

Outside of Theatr Clwyd, I have performed at Storyhouse last year on two occasions; The Modern Prometheus, written and directed by Zoe Smith and A Crack Through Time by Clare Dudman. I have also carried out work for Minerva Arts Theatre, Chester with workshop cover and performing in their piece raising awareness of Loan Shark culture.

I have also devised, performed and written my own play; Lonely Together. Please follow the links to a video of the performance and also videos about my practice behind them. You can also visit www.dashoutreach.co.uk. There, an MA colleague and I, as part of our major practical, to see what it took to create an outreach theatre company. I must emphasise it is not an official theatre company, we are not working at this current time, but you can see what work we created together and the sort of workshops we would offer as a result of our collaboration during the MA course.

So, what got you interested in the arts?

For my eighth birthday, my mum recommended I join the CTCTYP workshops to see if I’d enjoy them. I’d seen pantos before then, but it was because of these workshops I became interested. I just loved the drama games, meeting new people, the chance to see theatre for free, to perform every term. And, as you can see above, lead onto many opportunities there. In fact, I didn’t study theatre in school until A-levels, so up to then, it was also where I would learn most about theatre.

Can you tell us about your creative process?

So, the videos links below will give readers some idea of how I work. There are a few quotes from Augusta Boal and Chris Johnston etc, but I’m a firm believer in contextualising my work.

My aim is to create work and pieces for communities. Whether it be Theatre in Education or Theatre for Young Audiences, I am always keen to ensure my work has a discussion element; l like to know the work I have created has sparked something in my audience. I suppose, as I tend to call it, this idea of theatre and discussion is my main goal. It may not have an education aim; the suicide piece as you will see cannot have an educative aim as there is no wrong way to support someone. Raising awareness is my aim, and actively see the affect it has had. My process has been hugely influenced by the writing of Chris Johnston and through observation of outreach work, specifically that created by Emyr John, Creative Engagement Associate, Theatr Clwyd.

Emyr John, Creative Engagement Associate, Theatr Clwyd.

From Johnston, his six polarities are my underlining foundation. These polarities are what Johnston considers to be crucial when carrying out workshops or creating theatre for everyday life. There are two which are at the forefront of my mind. Firstly, the fixed and free; as facilitators, we are constantly moving between these two polarities as to whether the discussion/activity/game can happen as it likes, but eventually that creativity becomes nothing. So, as a facilitator, a question or rule might be introduced to narrow the energy of the participants to get something out of them. When you watch the Lonely Together piece, there are elements of this in the post-show workshop. Secondly, from Johnston, is the centre and the edge. It is really important when we welcome in a group, that no one is at the centre of attention or that anyone feels left out. In that, the discussions must balance the participants’ input. Hence, sometimes I ask for those who say nothing, to bring the closer into that circle, that discussion. The use of ‘The Fish’ idea has been another huge influence. You will see this in my video on the devising process

On a practical level, Emyr John has been an inspiration. I have been lucky enough to know Emyr since I started at Theatr Clwyd and he has welcomed me, echoing the spirit of the team, into the rehearsal space. I have seen how flexible he is when carrying out his work, how to work with young participants in both Junior Justice and Justice in a Day. With the knowledge of Johnston in mind, his work has enabled me to see it in practice. Plus, his years of experience is invaluable to me. I have been able to incorporate his work into mine, take on board the hints and tips he has shared (especially what to be cautious of) and him allowing me into rehearsal spaces. As a result, I have been able to complete a dissertation on the piece in the context of theatre in education in Wales.

As a young Welsh artists graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

For me, the opportunity to collaborate is important. In these difficult times, we need to collaborate more than ever before. Theatre has probably never faced a tougher time on how to stay connected with audiences and continue to produce work, although that is just my perspective. For young artists, they need opportunities that not just offer Q&A’s or workshops, they need something that will allow them to get stuck in with it. I’m finding writing to be my thing at the moment; short monologues or audio plays for competitions. But I understand writing is not for everyone, so projects that enable us to collaborate with established artists.

I also believe that opportunities should encourage artists to think outside of the theme of ‘isolation’. I feel that it is too easy and can be personal. People may not want to discuss isolation and being at home; we don’t know what things people have going on. We should make projects based on historical events or themes that encourage audiences or participants to escape from those thoughts. That’s why people go to see theatre isn’t it? Escapism as well as entertainment. Besides, in the future, when we can go back to the theatre, the juxtaposition of live theatre with a focus on lockdown will surely be a better time to reflect. Right now, theatre needs to be there to help us mentally be free for an hour or so. Just my thoughts.

Link to performance and workshop of Lonely Together (does contain themes around suicide): https://youtu.be/U5dCVlURzMw

Link to video which shows a bit about my devising process behind Lonely Together: https://youtu.be/26yI6N7cq0Q

Link to video which shows the characterisation process behind Lonely Together: https://youtu.be/kXukIOUUBrg

A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

Well, I will begin with Theatr Clwyd. Their Together campaign was launched very early on in lockdown, offering challenges and tasks to their online community week in week out.They have offered voices to those who may have been unheard.

They have offered voices to those who may have been unheard. Through their memories task, to the dancing task. It has allowed professional artists and members of their community to perform and create on the same stage. But it’s not just that. Behind the scenes, via Zoom, we are able to maintain the delivery of workshops to all our groups. And it is amazingly heart warming how much it means to them; I never get very emotional as a person, but when you get to check in with participants and see you’ve made them smile, it means a lot. We are just beginning to embark how we perform through Zoom with all these groups so exciting times ahead. Just a quick shout out to Clare, Laura, Alex, Liz, Owen, Hester, Nerys, Gwennan and the rest of the weekly workshop team for carrying on and adapting their practice to digital media to continue this wonderful work. It really is a joy to be a part of.

Beyond Theatr Clwyd, there has been two stand out theatres in Wales; FranWen with 120960 and Sherman with Ten, monologues which have been written beautifully and performed fantastically (Steffan Rhodri a personal favourite of mine).

But FranWen have been amazingly quick to get online and work with young people to offer an online performance.

Hanna Jarman, video director Nico Dafydd and FranWen’s Gethin and Mari. The creative team on 120960

Now, I’m not Welsh speaking, but I’d certainly say this is one to watch. Beyond Wales, Theatre503 had a brilliant selection of ten minute pieces on their Rapid Write Response programme, two weeks ago I think.

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

Workshops and outreach work. No doubt. I mean, the teaching of drama is important and as is the performances we see in theatres all over Wales. But I’d fallen in love with theatre and drama way before I started studying it and before I’d seen it. I loved it because it was accessible. By funding small and touring shows to go out into communities to perform or carry out workshops, then the earlier theatre can start influencing and having an impact of people’s lives. I’m not saying that every participant who takes part should become an actor or be involved in theatre, but I will say this from personal experience. My confidence, team work and communication skills would be no where near the standard they are now if I had not been a part of those workshops. It seems like easy work to those on outside of the work we carry out, but the effect a weekly workshop can have on someone in the long term is huge, I believe. I would highly recommend to people of all ages and ability to give workshops a go. Even if it is just one, that is still a huge achievement. In this current situation, it is just as important to be a part of them too. I have become part of a monthly one, meeting and hearing from new people and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Theatres need to ensure that online workshops can run if possible, it really makes a difference.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The exciting thing about arts in Wales is our passion for culture and language. As I’ve said, I’m not Welsh speaking, but the arts is the way forward to keeping the language alive in my opinion. From where I am from, bilingual work is a huge opportunity, where respect for both English and Welsh can be built. But the work of FranWen is so essential to keeping Welsh fresh. I was lucky enough to see Gethin Evans, now the Artistic Director of FranWen, work as assistant on Mold Riots and I felt that his respect towards the community cast, who were a mix of English and Welsh speaking, was amazing to see, so I think the work produced by FranWen in the future will be exciting and imperative to theatre in Wales.

But again, the awareness of culture is what is really exciting. At Theatr Clwyd, Mold Riots was a huge success for being a community story told by its community. Next, when it is safe to do so, is Project Hush. I was lucky enough to be on work placement for a week and saw the R&D for this. It is an amazing piece, telling of local stories and how that affected the wider world. And on site too. Taking theatre out of the theatre is always very exciting, and even more so in the Welsh countryside and historical areas. I was even part of a Greenfield summer school as support worker where we did a small site specific piece; the enjoyment had by all was great to see. I have always wanted to create a promenade piece about the Buckley Bomber; I’d love to see how I could do that, creating a piece that revives the Buckley dialect, the use of the locations and again broaden opportunities for community to work directly with professionals. Anyway, our love for culture and the language is what makes our arts great.

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

Has to be Mold Riots at Theatr Clwyd. I was part of the chaperoning team from July, when rehearsals started, through to the performances. It was just monumental. A local story by local people (sounds a bit like League of Gentlemen that) where so many people were involved shows what theatre was really about. The end result was amazing; 100 people in wonderful costume taking audiences through the streets of Mold and giving passionate performances. You really could not tell the professionals apart in the end, it was that strong. But the process of getting to that point was unforgettable. The work and effort but into this piece by the professional team, the LX, wardrobe, creative team, the knitting groups. Kudos to Community Producer Alice Evans who did an amazing job to come in and co-ordinate this project. Seeing those young people be a part of something so young and as a group too. It reminded me of my time on The Suicide as an eleven year old. But I was on my own, not seeing the other performer often and trying to speak to the actors (who were lovely with me) but was still scary at that age. But due to the sheer size of Mold Riots, they could become friends and make great memories. What was better, they never argued between each other either, they looked after each other. I can only see how this experience made those 20-30 children happier. And, to me, that is what theatre is about. Experiences.

Thanks for your time Ed.

Thansk you can reach me at Twitter: @edhumphreys97 – much appreciate any feedback on this, Lonely Together videos or my dissertation.

Review Ripples, Sherman Theatre, RWCMD, National Theatre Wales by Samuel Longville

Theatre in lockdown: amidst this unsettling period for the arts, writer Tracy Harris and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama’s acting graduates bring original and pioneering theatre into our homes.

Picture the scene. It is 2018, two years prior to the pandemic. I am at a lively Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, having just watched a number of brilliantly talented RWCMD acting graduates perform a collection of new writing. Fast forward two years later and the setting is somewhat different. I am sat on my bed; dinner at the ready and eyes fixated on my laptop screen. I am watching eight of the 2020 acting graduates perform in the same new writing festival but this time the stage takes the form of their own homes. What clearly hasn’t changed under this unusual setting is RWCMD’s ability to produce some of the country’s best acting talent, as well as the Welsh conservatoire’s determination to produce new and innovative ways of storytelling.

Set on an online rehab course spanning ten weeks, Ripples sees eight strangers all suffering with some form of addiction confront the traumas of their past and recount these experiences to the group. Tracy Harris deals with the difficult topic of addiction with great sensitivity, giving way for sprinkles of humour as well as hope. Originally meant for the Sherman Theatre’s stage, the play’s adaptation for screen is innovative and wholly original. The weekly sessions take the form of a ‘Zoom’ meeting, and participants join from their respective rooms in the rehabilitation centre.

Without revealing too much, we see some wonderful creativity in the staging of the production. Matthew Holmquist’s sure direction not only allows the play to run smoothly, but the impeccable timing of individuals joining and exiting scenes (or their Zoom meeting) really plays into the ‘liveness’ of this event. Describing the performance as a ‘play-reading’ would serve to disparage the care put into creating this albeit virtual but very real narrative space. Holmquist’s clear direction, paired with tactful performances from his cast allows the audience to empathise with, and become wrapped-up in the characters’ stories. Ripples proves that it is possible to make high-quality theatre under these current constraints, with the immersive tech surprisingly running with ease, as though the play was in fact made for this digital setting. There is no doubt that Matthew Holmquist’s work with The Other Room, Cardiff, has made him the perfect fit for breathing lively and engaging narrative into such small, confined theatre spaces.

The creative team behind Ripples has produced a piece that sets a leading example to other theatres and theatre companies worldwide. They have proven that during these unprecedented times, Wales can still be a frontrunner in the world of new writing, standing shoulder to shoulder with its inspiring work in the ‘real world’.  

You can catch the RWCMD acting graduates on demand until 16 May at https://www.nationaltheatrewales.org/ntw_shows/ripples/

12 Plays in digital spaces:

National Theatre Wales and Sherman Theatre will work together with a range of independent companies and artists to produce play readings, showcasing the talent of playwrights, companies and creatives across Wales.

The partnership will enable Welsh directors, actors, and designers to be fully supported and funded to deliver the readings, while providing a platform to share homegrown work, alongside contemporary classic titles that may yet to have been performed here in Wales.

Find out more here: https://www.nationaltheatrewales.org/ntw-projects/network/#network_projects