Category Archives: Uncategorized

Review of “Vincent River” at Jacob’s Market, Cardiff by Roger Barrington

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Philip Ridley’s tense two-hander receives its first performance in Cardiff with the action relocated to the Welsh capital.

In-Yer-Face theatre associated playwright Philip Ridley is renowned for his uncompromising scripts and action, and nearly twenty years on from its Hampstead Theatre premiere, “Vincent River” still packs a punch.

In a famous review of 1994 of Ridley’s “Ghost from a Perfect Place” Michael Billingham, probably Britain’s most renowned theatre critic launched a rant on the gratuitous violence on display. In turn Billingham was criticised for not getting the point.

In “Vincent River” the explicit violence is only spoken about in a flashback”, and it is identified with lengthy soliloquys from Davey, (Aly Cruickshank) towards the end, more reminicent of another highly regarded Ridley play, “The Pitchfork Disney”.

As a gay man, Ridley often writes from his own personal experience, and this is shown in “Vincent River”, not only in terms of homosexual alienation, but in the character of Anita, (Victoria Pugh) who has been forced to relocate due to the unwelcome publicity in the aftermath of her son Vincent’s murder.

Davey has been stalking Anita for a while, anxious to offload something  that is weighing heavily on his mind. After plucking up the courage to confront Anita in her new flat,  and after an uncertain nervy start, the two of them engage in a feisty dialogue over the remaining 80 minutes. Ridley develops the character by both of them relating stories about their past –  Anita with Vincent and Davey with his trophy girlfriend Rachael and his dying mother.

The climax is memorable with Anita bawling a Primal Howl, (I wanted to write Primal Scream to honour a favourite band, but it is a howl not a scream), that will echo in the memory of the audience long after the end of the play.

The blinding light as Davey leaves Anita’s flat may indicate a kind of release from the revelations that the charged conversation had revealed, but there is no catharsis in this play. You can’t really expect this in a play where a gay young man dies from a frenzied, pointless homophobic attack.

The question is why is Davey feeling a craving to speak to Anita? He found the body and reported it in to the police, but isn’t he too personally involved. That’s what Anita is wondering.

Ridley’s naturalistic dialogue urges fine performances from the two actors, and he receives it here. Aly Cruickshank  who impressed me recently in Spilt Milk’s, “Five Green Bottles” provides another edgy performance, at times deserving the audience’s hostility and at others our sympathy.

Experienced actress, in all formats of performance,  Victoria Pugh offers at different  times an angry, grieving, sexy inquisitor a performance of subtly and emotional depth. Although, at times, when she showed anger and spoke more quickly, I did have a little difficulty understanding her. Mind this might be down to me, for in Aberdare, I do have some problems understanding my neighbours when they get agitated… which sadly is quite a regular occurrence!

Luke Hereford’s assured direction  complements the two actors, although I think he has a little work to do in the middle of the play, that dragged a little, but that could be down to first night blues. Also a strategic repositioning of empty bottles may be considered.

Composer Josh Bowles’s input worked well within a space that exudes a great atmosphere for such an intense play as “Vincent River”.

One problem that I have with this play, from a didactic standpoint,  is that audience members, whether gay or straight will already be sympathetic to the cause. I can’t envisage many homophobes parting with a tenner to watch this.

I shall finish with one sobering thought. It has been reported in The Independent newspaper last year, that in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, homophobic attacks increased by 147%.  The re-emergence of nationalism and far-right governments have a tarnished history with regard to minority groups and one only has to think about Nazi Germany who persecuted homosexuals as well as Jews, Gypsies and political opponents with a relish that new no bounds.

“Vincent River” is a thrilling intense drama that gets the treatment from No Boundaries Theatre that it deserves.

An interview that I conducted recently with director Luke Hereford about this production can be found here.

https://getthechance.wales/2018/09/11/preview-with-interview-of-vincent-river-at-jacobs-market-cardiff-19-21-september-2018/

The play uses pervasive language and covers mature themes and is deemed suitable for those aged over 14.

Its run ends on 21st September.  I understand that tickets are only available for the performance this evening, (20th September).

 

Roger Barrington

Preview with Interview of “Vincent River” at Jacobs Market, Cardiff 19-21 September 2018

 

Philip Ridley’s acclaimed one-act 2000 play, “Vincent River” tells the story of a mother whose son Vincent has been murdered in a homophobic attack. In the aftermath, she learns about her son’s homosexuality.

“Vincent River” stars Victoria Pugh (Hidden – BBC One, Rownd a Rownd – S4C) and Aly Cruickshank (Five Green Bottles for Spilt Milk Theatre and Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival).

It is directed by Luke Hereford  (Sherman Theatre Director’s Programme).

I posed the following questions to Luke ahead of the performances next week in Cardiff.

Q1. What drew you to Directing “Vincent River”?

Philip Ridley is a writer who is instrumental to the shape of contemporary theatre, and played a huge part in making theatre available and accessible for a number of new audiences by addressing some often controversial issues that a staggeringly large number of audiences can directly relate to. Vincent River is one of those plays. Like lots of Phil’s plays, it puts taboo opinions and subject front and centre, and demands the audience to sit up and listen, through the means of darkly beautiful poetry. That is everything I look for in theatre.

Q2. The play is set by writer Philip Ridley in Dagenham, an area of longstanding homophobic prejudice. Do you retain the location or do you change it to Cardiff?

We have been lucky enough to have Philip Ridley’s direct support of our production. He actually suggested changing the location to Cardiff. He said he thinks it’s important to remind audiences that the events of this play aren’t exclusive to London, so we’ve decided to relocate it. We also think that there’s something especially chilling, for Welsh audiences, about hearing street names and locations that they recognise.

Q3. Coming out of Q2, due you think there is a homophobic problem in Cardiff above the average, and is enough being done to combat this?

I don’t know if it’s Cardiff-specific, but in the last few years, I have found in my personal life the occasional comment or word in public situations aimed at me – particularly if I am with my partner – that I haven’t encountered, probably since I was in High School. It’s not that I feel unsafe, but I think there is less encouragement – due to certain world leaders – to be accepting of everyone. In terms of combating it, I’d like to think that by making people aware of such casual marginalisation, and where it has the potential to lead, the play might help to at least continue conversations about modern day homophobia and prejudice.

Q4. What difficulties did you encounter when producing this play?

We are uncovering a lot of themes that we hadn’t anticipated might be present, which is a gift more than anything; there is a delicate balance in terms of being aware of when to draw out the right themes, but we have been very gifted with our actors. Victoria Pugh and Aly Cruickshank are just a joy. They are intelligent and instinctive, and are vivid storytellers, which is exactly what this play requires. I feel so privileged to be working with them.

Q5. Philip Ridley is a pioneer of “In-yer-face” theatre, which emerged in British theatre in the 1990’s. “Vincent River” being first performed in 2000 to critical success. Do you think that this “brand” of theatre is as vital twenty years on, and how do you think our next Brit-style theatre will develop out of it? Or will it go in a different direction?

I think it’s clear that the shock factor of In-Yer-Face theatre has certainly subdued, but actually, it makes these sorts of plays pertinent in a very different way. I saw Shopping and F***ing at Lyric Hammersmith, just two years ago; it’s a play with themes of prostitution, sexual abuse, drug use, consumerism – to name a few – and seeing it in the age of Amazon and Netflix, when everything is instantaneous and transactional, the play had a very different feel to what I imagine people who saw it at the Royal Court in the late 1990s would have felt*. Something like Vincent River continues to remain pertinent, because fundamentally it’s about hate. Sadly, for that reason, I imagine there will always be a level of relevance within the play, and right now it feels particularly urgent.

*I saw this production, as I did Sarah Kane’s “Blasted” in its first week and they certainly left a massive impression on me.

Q6. Jacob’s Market in Cardiff, the venue of your production, is an unusual choice. Is there any reason for this?

Well, we wanted somewhere that was almost site-specific. I originally viewed to perform it in a living room, or someone’s basement, and then I found the Basement in Jacob’s sort of by accident. It instantly felt like the kind of space that Philip Ridley would write, and it all slotted together perfectly. You really have to see the space to know what I mean!

Clearly, “Vincent River” is as important a play now as it was nearly 20 year ago, and the promise of an interesting pace to view it,  makes it even more appealing.

Jacobs Antique Market is located in West Canal Wharf, a few minutes stroll from Cardiff Central Railway Station.

Tickets available online.

END

Roger Barrington

 

Review: ‘Jurassic Kingdom – Where dinosaurs come to life’ by Eloise Stingemore

The dinosaurs have been let loose and have arrived at Cardiff’s, Bute Park.

The beautiful grounds of one of Cardiff’s most loved parks has been turned into a prehistoric world this summer, where over 30 interactive, life sized replicas rome the grounds. Brave explorers come face to face with a 26m long Diplodocus and the notorious Tyrannosaurus Rex, all of which come to life before your eyes, with their tails, eyes, heads and arms moving and making you jump with their raging roars.

In the education marque one can watch a 30-minute viewing experience produced by the BBC, which plays on a large projection screen and documents the dinosaurs time wandering the earth right up until the ice age.

One aspects of this attraction aside from the dinosaurs themselves which are fantastic, is the excavation, which will keep mini-dinosaur palaeontologists entertained for hours as they dig for bones.

There are a herd of street food and drink vendors for when the gang gets peckish or thirsty. A retail marquee sells a range of educational and entertaining branded merchandise so dinosaur-lovers can remember their experience.

This is the first outdoor dinosaur experience of its kind in the UK and a truly entertaining and educational experience for children of all ages.

The event is open daily from 10am to 6pm with last entry at 5pm. When selecting tickets you will be asked to select a time slot and entry is at hourly time slots from 10am to 5pm. Once inside the event visitors can stay as long they wish but it will close at 6pm.

Tour dates be found here: http://www.jurassickingdom.uk

Review, DOTS by Annie Cheung, Camden Fringe, The Lion and Unicorn by Hannah Goslin

 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

 

In the simplistic black box at the top of The Lion and Unicorn, we are confronted by a minimalist set featuring upturned chairs and small balls.

Annie Cheung is a performing artist from Hong Kong, with her work dipping into a combination of therapy and theatre.

With DOTS, the main intriguing aspect of this production is the narrative. We see Cheung go through a series of emotions, stories, and feelings ; there’s a sense that this may be biographical but if not, and changed for dramatic effect, she still manages to pull at our heart strings, make our sides split and relate wholeheartedly.

Some of the narrative relates more to theatre and her struggle as an actress – asking whether The Stage and its uncertainties are worth it over the sturdiness of The Law Firm. A clever viewpoint of this is that she makes these as character’s themselves – she interacts and refers to them as if they were human, adding her husband’s business, or his ‘Mistress’, to the mix. It gives these more of a face, and the conversation is comedic and relatable.

And while her production is very much about the narrative, combating her mental health and the ups and downs in her life and industry, she manages to throw in physicality, using a chair as former partners when referring to her sex life, and moving around the small stage at great speed.

I would have liked to see more- while I love minimalist sets, and for a show to be all about the writing and the physicality, I do feel that DOTS could go even further, and maybe could develop into something even bigger.

DOTS really combats the mental health in the arts, but also manages to connect with anyone who has ever felt lost or struggling with where they are, at any time in their life.

 

 

Review of “Twelfth Night” performed at Hatherop Castle by Roger Barrington

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

The Venue – Hatherop Castle

 

Cotswold Arcadians 2018 Shakespeare production, performed outdoors in the gorgeous surroundings of Hatherop Castle, is The Bard’s exquisite  comedy, “Twelfth Night or What you Will”.

This tale of mistaken identity, cross-dressing and humiliation is regarded, by many, (including myself), as Shakespeare’s finest comedy.

Viola has been rescued from a storm at sea and lands on Illyria. She believes that her twin brother Sebastian has not survived the ordeal and has drowned. Disguising herself as a young man, she enters the service of Duke Orsino.  The Duke belives himsellf to be in love with the highly desirable countess Olivia, and uses Viola, (now known as Cesario to act as a go-between to aid his courtship. Olivia, much impressed with Cesario, fulls in love with him.  Cesario, in the meantime fulls in love with Orsino. Still with me? The matters are brought to their conclusion when Sebastian enters the confused threesome’s world and all is happily resolved.

Sub-plots involve some of Shakeseare’s most famous creations. Sir Toby Belch, (Countess Olivia’s kinsman), who is fervent i n his desire to live the heady time of “cakes and ale”, typical of the twelve days of Christmastide to its utmost. His silly friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Olivia’s fool Feste, (although he disputes his role himself), Maria, (Olivia’s gentlewoman companion), and Flavia, (a servant in Olvia’s household). combine to humiliate Malvolio, (steward to Olivia), because he is a prig and pompous fellow, full of his own self-importance. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” (Act II, Scene v), read out by Malvolio from a letter written by Maria, and thereafter used as his creed.

One of The Bard’s themes in this play is to bring attention to the controversial law regarding no female performers at this time being allowed on stage. Therefore, young boys tended to play women parts and this led to inevitable problems relating to sexual exploitation, homosexuality and prostitution.

Since 1991, Cotswold Arcadians have produced an annual Shakespeare production, which has been performed at Hatherop Castle for the past fifteen years or so. The Company has acquired a respected reputation within the amateur theatrical world, and has been recognised by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in its Open Stages project as a Company worthy of assistance, and this has been shown through members taking parts in workshops at Straford-upon-Avon.

Director Geoff Butterworth has set the plot in the 1920’s, the Jazz Age era. This is exemplified by period costume and a live band playing 1920’s hits. This isn’t the first time that I have seen a Shakespearean play adapted in this way. Back in 1992, I enjoyed David Thacker’s, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” which did exactly the same thing. It work’s well, although I felt that the frivolous nature of flappers and The Jazz age is a little at odds with the Yuletide setting of “Twelfth Night”. The hot summer evening didn’t help either, but, I would much prefer viewing in this climate outdoors, than a cold January night in a deep beak winter.

The grass stage lies between two temporary stands in a traverse style.  On either side of the space there are two primitive doors, one of which has a raised balcony . The four-piece band is placed just off-stage.

The quality of acting is of a good standard and in some instances reaches a height that would grace a West End stage.

Samantha Swinford as Viola/Cesario, after a nervous start, grows into her role and is particularly  good at displaying masculine gait and characteristics. I watched the first night of this production, and based upon her improvement as the play progressed, I believe that she will do full justice to this demanding role.

Olivia, (Lizzie Leach) and Maria, (Heidi Price), both possess fine voices for Shakespeare and are equally impressive.

Fabia, (Caz Shaw) delivers her lines with a deadpan voice, if she added a rural Berkshire accent, with her appearance, you could take her for a youthful Pam Ayres.

On the male side, I warmed to Tony Free’s, Sir Andrew Aguecheek. It is easy, (and indeed I have witnessed it in a RSC production), to overplay this part, and it must be tempting to do it, but in this case the balance is spot-on. Some of the best scenes are reserved for his interaction with cronies, Sir Toby Belch, (Dave Kilmister), and Feste, John Salter), both of whom are also very good.

Jonathan Vickers, as the humiliated and somewhat tragic  Malvolio is excellent, both in his early pomposity and latterly as the affronted victim.

There are no weakness in the remainder of the cast who collectively pull off a highly accomplished performance.

Veteran director Geoff Butterworth keeps the action rolling along at a good pace and shows nicely judged delicate touches. I feel that he should reconsider the opening scene whereby Viola’s voice is largely rendered inaudible due to sound effects of the tempest. I feel that Viola’s voice should be amplified somewhat whilst the effects moderated to get a balanced result. I also felt that the actors’ voices were louder after the interval, and as it being an outdoor production, this greatly added to the enjoyment. The actors’ delivery of both prose and iambic pentameter are conscientiously delivered.

I am not sure whether the live band worked that well. It seemed to me to be an odd variety of instruments and may have been improved by just a soloist or duo. Piped music may even work better. To have a live band is ambitious, but you need it to work well, and to depict the Jazz era more realistically, I feel the playing needs more zest.

These issues aside, this is a worth presentation of one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays and together with its idyllic outdoor setting marks an enjoyable evening’s entertainment in the Cotswold, on a warm summer’s evening.

The performance runs for about 160 minutes including a 15-minute interval. It continues to run until July 28th.

Continue reading Review of “Twelfth Night” performed at Hatherop Castle by Roger Barrington

Review For All I Care, National Theatre Wales by Kevin Johnson

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Last night I saw For All I Care, part of National Theatre Wales’ NHS70 Festival. Written by Alan Harris, it’s a one-woman show about Clara, a girl on the fringes of society, suffering from mental illness, and Nyri, a nurse struggling to keep her life, the NHS and Clara together.

Yet again I was amazed by the talent we have in Wales. Harris has that rare ability as a writer, making a serious point one moment & making you laugh the next. In Clara we have a girl who is slipping through the cracks of the system, in Nyri we have a woman desperate to save her. Both characters are fully fleshed out, but they are brought to life by Alexandra Riley, a young actor who seems to get better with every role. She gives Clara a streetwise innocence, making you warm to her. She then switches to show Nyri, a nurse & Mam, made of steel and love. I’ve seen Alexandra Riley in four different roles now, and she was good in all of them, but always as part of a cast. In this play it was just her going solo, and what a marvellous thing it was to see her stretch her wings and take flight.

Go see for yourself, thank me later.

Venue 1, Georgetown, Tredegar NP22 4LD. Details on NTW website. There is a minibus from Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, to the venue & back. The final two shows are today 5pm & 8pm.

The venue itself is owned by the community and they’ve done an excellent job with it. One woman told me how the kids go there after school for dancing and singing lessons, often doing their homework upstairs.

We are told by the ‘Powers That Be’ that the arts are not essential, and we can’t afford them. Looking at that place last night, the hard work that’s gone into it, and the pride that woman showed me in front of her grandson, you can see what a lie that is.

The arts are essential.

Review: ‘Misfire’ from Old Sole Theatre by Gareth Ford-Elliott

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Misfire from Old Sole Theatre Company is relevant and shows real promise to be an excellent piece of theatre.

In the interest of clarity, I’ll start this review by saying I am good friends with the director Nerida Bradley, despite what she may tell you. That said, I believe in constructive, critical response and it is what I would want as an artist myself. You can either believe me or not.

I will also be reviewing this piece based on it being an R&D production and part of the Fringe Lab at the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival. So, the star rating is given on the basis it is R&D and the review is also acting as feedback.

This piece is here to further the discussion of the main theme of the play, toxic masculinity. It also takes inspiration from the exposé of the #MeToo Movement, exposing the likes of Harvey Weinstein.

The play is a monologue set up as anti-stand-up comedy. A stand-up comedy show that goes wrong if you will. We immediately get a sense of the character’s obnoxious nature during his entrance. Jon Parry plays Jake, a stand-up comic, who enters, demanding a drink at the bar. Unsuccessful, he goes to the stage and waits for the music, ‘The Entertainer’  by Tony Clarke, to stop.

Jake then proceeds to make some terrible jokes. “Next joke… Carrie Fisher died… Princess Leia’s gone.” This just isn’t funny – but the distasteful pleasure of the joke shows us a glimpse of this characters mindset and the dry delivery from Parry enforces this well.

The great thing about this play is, from the start of the play you really have no idea what is going to happen. You have no idea what Jake is going to do.

Jon Parry does a good job of portraying the stand-up comedian, who is drunk and stoned. The highlight of the performance comes when Jake has a gun in his mouth and tells the story of a congressman, Budd Dwyer, who shot himself in the head on camera. In this we also have a double-entendre of speaking about dying. The comic doesn’t reveal whether this is dying on stage as a comedian or literally dying. But to the relief of anyone who doesn’t like death endings, like me, he doesn’t kill himself, literally. And he dies on stage at the start of the play.

The writer James Neale does a good job of covering the subject on the scale of your average guy. However, the piece often lacks vision and ambition. The feeling that the stand-up comic could do anything is good, but needs to be met with sufficient vision and structure. It also feels like the boundaries could be pushed much more. In the post-show Q&A it was clear from a few of the audience members, that the script needs work in this sense.

Structurally, the script gets going into the theme very quickly, but then dies out a little. Not completely, but the most explicit stuff comes at the start. The piece doesn’t build particularly well. We need to be building to something. This is what the piece lacks more than anything. We don’t need to know where we’re going, but need to be taken on a journey.

The language used is good and we get a really good sense of the character. There are parts of the script which are very well written. But when you’re talking about toxic masculinity, it needs to push more.

The direction for this piece is good. Jon and Nerida worked well together to portray James’ script. The messy moving around the venue – AJ’s Coffee House – works well as it feels naturalistic.

We could see a more sinister approach at times, particularly when Jake talks about stalking girls and choking his girlfriend during sex. The relaxed nature works in that it shows these things as normal to the character. But the tone is often quite relaxed and with this, these significant moments only stand out in text and not in the performance. The tone and pace of these things could be played with.

Overall, I’ve given the play a star rating of four as I feel with a bit of work, when it gets to a place where it is ready to go on stage fully, it will be a very strong show. It was certainly a strong R&D performance and exactly what the Cardiff Fringe Lab is about.

The post-show Q&A was an interesting discussion – but it definitely became clear that there is more vision and potential not being explored in the text and in the rehearsal room to come from this play.

Also, very quick note. It’s really nice to see shows that are BSL interpreted – but sometimes this can’t be arranged for whatever reason. It was nice to see an apology for this on the freesheet. The more we can normalise BSL interpretation, even if we aren’t using it, the better.

Tonight, June 12th at 7.45pm, you GET THE CHANCE to see this production again. Tickets are available here.

Misfire – Presented by Old Sole Theatre Company and Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival.
AJ’s Coffee House – June 11-12, 2018.
Written by James Neale.
Directed by Nerida Bradley.
Starring Jon Parry as Jake.
Poster art by Miles Rozel Brayford.
Running time: 30 mins approx with 30 min Q&A about the play and toxic masculinity following.

Review by Gareth Ford-Elliott

Free Workshop: How to Win Friends and Influence Critics

Free unticketed development event

Venue: The Other Room

Host: Guy O’Donnell

Should you care about a five star review? Which online platform connects most with audiences? Is everyone a critic these days?

All these questions and more will be discussed and answered in this fun quiz-based workshop geared towards new critics, companies, arts marketing staff and interested audience members.

Speakers at this event include:

Alice Baynham

Alice Baynham is a Cardiff-based PR and marketing specialist working mainly in the arts and has previously worked at organisations including the Sherman Theatre, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Welsh Government and Cirque Bijou.

For the last seven years, Alice has been freelance and has worked with a variety of companies on their marketing and PR activity, including Theatr Iolo, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Chapter, WOW Film Festival, Trac Cymru, The Torch Theatre and The Spring Arts Centre in Havant. Alice is also press officer at Cardiff’s pub theatre, The Other Room, where she has delivered all press activity since the theatre’s launch and first season.

Matthew Bulgo

Matthew trained at LAMDA and is an actor, playwright and dramaturg. He is also an Associate Director of Dirty Protest.

As an actor credits include: The Cherry Orchard (Sherman Theatre); All My Sons (Theatr Clwyd); I’m With The Band (Traverse); Praxis Makes Perfect, The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion (National Theatre Wales); Kenny Morgan (Arcola); Under Milk Wood (Royal and Derngate); Play, Silence (The Other Room); The Prince Hamlet (Toronto Dance Theatre); Breakfast Hearts, Choirplay (Theatre 503); The Play About The Baby (Battersea Arts Centre).

As a playwright credits include: Last Christmas (originally produced by Dirty Protest/Theatr Clwyd before being remounted at the Edinburgh Fringe, Soho Theatre and the Traverse); Constellation Street (The Other Room); #YOLO (National Theatre, NT Connections); The Knowledge (Royal Court, ‘Surprise Theatre’ season); My Father’s Hands (Paines Plough, Come To Where I’m From); Lacuna (New Wimbledon Studio).

He also writes plays for young people including THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE (performed by WGYTC at the Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD), Homo Economics (Bridgend College) and The Hydra (Young Actors Studio, RWCMD).

He is currently under commission to write new plays for Theatr Clwyd, Theatr na nÓg and Papertrail along with a number of other projects in development.

Ben Cook

Ben Cook is the South Wales Partnerships Manager for Spice Time Credits. Time Credits are a community currency where each note (worth one hour) is earned from an hour’s volunteering – these credits can then be spent accessing over 600 venues across the UK. Ben is responsible for over 230 partner venues from Pembrokeshire to Monmouthshire, many of whom are arts, theatre, music and cultural venues.

 

Nick Davies

Nick Davies is a Wales-based theatre reviewer for The Stage. Nick is also a freelance writer of screenplays, novels and magazine articles. He lives in Cardiff and previously spent 17 years working for the Arts Council of Wales covering the performing arts.

Emily Garside

Emily Garside is an academic, playwright, dramaturg and theatre critic (not always in that order). After starting as a historian then training as a performer in Montreal and at RADA she became an academic. Her PhD looked at the role of theatre as a response to the AIDS epidemic, with particular focus on Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Her first book, reflecting on the history and significance of the play will be published by McFarland in 2019. As a playwright she is currently working on a commission around the subject of HIV today, and in 2019 her play ‘Don’t Send Flowers’ will be produced by Clocktower Theatre Company. Emily writes about theatre for many publications, including American Theatre, Howlround, Wales Arts Review, BBC Cymru, Get the Chance and Miro. She has also written essays for theatre programmes and runs several blogs. Emily is also Social Media and Website Manager for The Society of Theatre Research New Researchers Network.

Jafar Iqbal

Jafar currently works on both sides of the fence. As an Associate Editor for Wales Arts Review and contributor to The Stage and WhatsOnStage, he has travelled around the country talking about theatre. As a Marketing Campaigns Manager for the New Theatre, he is responsible for putting bums on seats and developing relationships with critics. He’s also a writer, a performer and a cake (though many have argued he may be a biscuit).

Sarah Jane Leigh

Sarah Jane Leigh is the Senior Producer of Producing and Programming at the Wales Millennium Centre. In her role she looks after the teams who programme the Performances of the Curious Seasons and the Public Spaces along with the in-house productions the Centre is now producing including Highway One, Double Vision and Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) which are currently being performed as part of Festival of Voice 2018. Before working at the Centre, Sarah was an independent Producer working with companies in South Wales such as Motherlode, August 012, Dirty Protest, James Jones Collective and Jem Treays. Sarah studied at Goldsmith’s University in London and gradated with a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts and a MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy.

 

Mair Jones

Mair Jones is Marketing and Communications Manager at Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, the national Welsh language theatre company.
Prior to joining Theatr Gen, she worked as Communications Officer at Chapter, where she was responsible for Welsh language policy, print and PR.
She started her career in arts education (secondary and further ed) before moving to communications. Whilst her background is in the visual arts, she has experience of marketing all art forms. Originally from Newtown, mid Wales, she now lives in Cardiff.

Megan Merrett

Megan has been Projects Administrator at Creu Cymru since 2015 where her main role is managing hynt, the national access scheme for theatres and arts centre in Wales. Hynt is an Arts Council of Wales initiative managed by Creu Cymru in partnership with Diverse Cymru. Megan has also undertaken several freelance roles including her current work on Theatr Pena’s R&D for Blood Wedding as Access and Engagement Officer following 3 years as their resident Marketing Officer. Previous to this Megan worked at National Dance Company Wales for a decade as Participation Officer. Whilst at NDCWales Megan completed a post graduate diploma in Arts Management from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Megan is also a school governor and Chair of a community focused charity and a community hall in Barry.

Stella Patrick

Stella has worked in Arts Marketing in Wales for just under 20 years. As well as venue based marketing, she has worked on national and international touring projects; EDFringe events and site-specific work.

Employers/clients include: Taliesin Arts Centre, Blackwood Miners’ Institute, Cascade Dance Theatre, Theatr Pena, Pontardawe Arts Centre and Dirty Protest.

During the workshop you will be given an insight into the role of the arts critic. You will be given instructions on how to create a review and upload your response online. Participants will look at blogging, video, social media and much more!

We will also hear from freelance arts marketing staff and producers about how companies can best present themselves to venues to develop relationships and maximise their impact.

All workshop participants will get the opportunity for their reviews and feedback to feature on the Get the Chance website.

Access information: This venue is wheelchair accessible, via the back entrance.

Thursday, June 14, 2018
1:30 PM 3:30 PM
The Other Room
Harlech Court Cardiff, CF10 2FE

REVIEW: ‘SON OF A PREACHER MAN’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It helps when you see a show if you take along someone who actually remembers the era the show was set in. When I saw ‘Sunny Afternoon’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, my theatre companion (who happens to be my Mum) remembered the energy and the buzz of the musical revolution of the 60s.

Through them, you get to imagine what it was like – they are the ‘litmus paper’ for the legitimacy and authenticity of the storyline, the music, the fashion and the dancing. Sunny Afternoon captured the wonder, the outrage and the rebellion of the era – and even if you have no direct experience of it, you admired it and felt part of it. It was beautifully done without overly relying on nostalgia and famous songs. Although I didn’t know anything about Dusty’s life, I knew many of her songs through my mother and was hoping for a feel-good good show which would bring her original material to life – perhaps even a sense of nostalgia for my own childhood, where I spent many happy hours dancing in the kitchen and living room to my mother’s vinyl records.

Son of a Preacher man is clearly written to cater to the boomers and the sense of nostalgia they feel about their teens. The British public clearly still have a sense of loyalty and affection towards Dusty Springfield, whose memorable songs were the soundtrack to their youth.

My mother recalls seeing Dusty Springfield perform in Cardiff during her teens. In a nod to the rivalry (real or imagined) between Dusty and Sandy Shaw, Dusty came on stage wearing massive comedy feet – taking a pop at Sandy’s reputation for singing on stage while barefoot. Perhaps this is testament to Dusty’s rebellious spirit and humour. I hadn’t known until my Mother relayed it to me in the interval but Dusty’s real life was marred by a set of tragic and difficult events, from her early childhood in a children’s home run by Catholic nuns, to being in the closet then losing her eyesight at an early age.

The production doesn’t really pick up much on Dusty’s legacy or life story – this is a show punctuated by her musical repertoire plus a few additional tracks from the era. This production looks back wistfully at a more innocent time – spent in Saturdays in record shops, dancing, and dating.

The three central characters all have a connection with the ‘Preacher Man’s’ record shop. Somehow they all end up going back to find him – and find their histories and collective futures become intertwined. We blend in an out of the 60s back to present day, through the youngest character Kat (played by Alice Barlow), Michelle Gayle’s character Alison and Paul – who on the night I attended was played by Gary Mitchinson.

Audiences will surely remember Michelle Gayle, best known for playing ‘Hattie’ in Eastenders and releasing a number of hits in the 90s including ‘Sweetness’. Her role as Alison is a little awkward at times – she doesn’t really suit the character she plays.

Hats off though to two of the show’s stand out stars – the incredible Alice Barlow who played Kat – her vocals were incredible and she is magnetic on stage. Also, the charismatic Nigel Richards who plays Simon (The Son of a Preacher Man) had a beautiful baritone voice and great comic delivery.

It was easy to forgive some of the cliches of the script when Alice Barlow was performing. It’s a credit to the cast that they were able to rescue the credibility of the show with their fabulous ensemble performances and blended vocals. Michelle Gayle is far too fabulous for the role of Alison – but her vocal performance is still hitting the spot years after ‘Sweetness’ was released and she is an accomplished singer and dancer.

The jury is still out on how well the show straddles both the 60s flashbacks and present-day vignettes. We get scenes talking about Tinder interjected with a cheeseball 60s routine with an unhealthy dose of Dad-dancing. So much Dad-dancing! But perhaps I wasn’t the right demographic for this show. When I whispered to my Mum ‘Look at that Dad dancing!’ she said ‘That what it was like – it WAS hammy and cheesy.’

Perhaps best known for his attachment to the show as Director with a musical staging credit is Strictly Come Dancing’s outrageous judge Craig Revel Horwood. His flamboyant touches are evident throughout – and don’t always land in the way they are perhaps intended – the ‘Cappucino Sisters’ deviate between 60s dancing and the occasional twerk, bump and grind.

I’m going to be frank. The story was a little…underwhelming. A teacher falling in love with a teenage boy, a teenager falling in love with someone she saw on Tinder and a man who is still in love with a guy he danced with a few times in the 60s. It was weak and was held up (just about) from the talent of this great cast and fabulous on-stage musicians. For me (and I speak as a lover of the poptastic and the cheesetastic), I found certain elements a little cringeworthy. The show was overly wistful, the opening scenes with the smoke and the ‘I remember it…. I remember it….I STILL remember it…’ were overdone and made me fear for what was ahead.

Was it just me?

Apparently not, according to the criticisms I heard in the queue in the lady’s loo during the interval. You know you’re in trouble as a theatre producer when you hear a lady say to her friends “The music is brilliant, but the story! It’s like pulling teeth” and everyone else in the queue laughs and agrees.

Theatre producers should be made to listen to reviews of their shows in ladies loos – they could learn a thing or two and perhaps even improve it before they tour with it.

Musical theatre isn’t to everyone’s taste. Some complain that songs are shoehorned in, there are too many ‘filler songs’ and some even dread the moment an actor starts singing. With this production, I found myself hoping they would hurry up and get to the song. It’s hard not to enjoy the music and it’s done really well – it’s the saving grace of the production. But It’s such a shame the show didn’t quite hit the mark. It just doesn’t quite match up to the true legacy of Dusty Springfield – and she deserved better.

If you’re a die-hard Dusty fan, you need to take the show with a pinch of salt and keep a (very) open mind. If you go – go along for the ride, have a few glasses of vino and enjoy the music. The story is a bit of a stinking bishop, but who doesn’t love and look forward to a slice of cheddar or a Dairylea triangle now and again?

Son of a Preacher man is currently on tour and will play in Venue Cymru in Llandudno on May 29th-June 2nd. The production will then visit King’s Lynn Corn Exchange in Norfolk, Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, Orchard Theatre in Dartford and Empire Theatre in Liverpool.