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Review Zone Play Centre by Kate Richards


Get the Chance has a broad definition of cultural provision. Some of our team are parents or carers and may access theatre, soft play, cinema and leisure facilities. We are also part of the Spice Time Credits network. The Zone play centre supports Spice Time Credit spend.
Out of my Comfort Zone
I have to be honest, when I opened the door of Zone Play Centre on a drizzly Sunday afternoon my heart sank. I’m not a huge fan of indoor soft play centres at the best of times, so the noise that assaulted me and the orange-tinged glow of the artificial lights combined with the total lack of windows, was almost enough to make me turn back…..but breaking a promise to my 3 year old was not an option.
However, first impressions can be wrong. The first positive was the cost – Zone is considerably cheaper than some other options in Cardiff (£4.00 for under 4s compared to £10.50 for the same time in another well-known venue near the city centre).
Zone is also part of the Spice Time Credits Network,costing  2 Time Credits per child.

There is a link to the South East Wales Time Credits Spend brochure below
http://www.justaddspice.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/SE-Wales-Spend-Issue-2-2016-Digital-update.pdf
The second positive was the amount of seating and its proximity to the play areas; yes it makes it louder and a bit more cramped, but the grown-ups in our party were able to sit fairly comfortably with a drink, whilst maintaining sight of the children as they played, and this even though it was very busy and had two private parties going on simultaneously.
Our party consisted of 3 adults, two 3 year olds and an 11 month old (who got in for free with his paying older sibling), and I have to say that this was one of the best suited play centres for children of those ages that I have been to. The frames are not so high and so big that the 3 year olds couldn’t cope on their own, or were at risk of going too high and getting stuck out of reach. Even better was the dedicated area for the babies. Most soft plays I have been to have an area for little ones, but often these consist of a ball pit, and some moveable soft blocks or shapes – most of which tend to be still too big or heavy for them to do anything with. Zone however had a basket of small toys (which if necessary you can take back to your table to amuse them whilst you deal with your other little one and supervise snack time or whatever). There was also a play kitchen and wendy house for them to explore as well as the usual soft balls and blocks that you would expect to find in a soft play centre. This section for the very youngest children is located in the middle of the larger frames, so you can sit comfortably in there with the baby, and still see (or be seen) by the pre-schoolers playing on the main frame – ideal for parents coping with two or more children of different ages. Again, whilst at first it seemed a bit cramped and noisy for the little ones to be in the middle of the space – it turned out to be very practical for us.
The other positive for my son, were the cars and bikes. He’s happy to clamber up a play frame and dive down some slides for a period of time, but he will spend hours riding around on a little trike or sitting in a ‘Cosy Coupe’ car, so he was absolutely delighted at the number of those available – even at a peak time on a very busy weekend.
We only bought cold drinks, so I can’t really comment on the refreshments on offer at Zone, but one facility we did make plenty of use of were the toilets. It’s not a pleasant topic, but it’s an important factor for any parent like me, with a recently potty-trained toddler who struggles to prioritise trips to the toilet over playing with his friends, and like most kids of this age can easily misjudge the time it takes to get from the top of a play frame, to Mummy and then on to the toilet, so we were frequent visitors. Again I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst not the most modern facilities I’ve seen, the baby changer had a clean, soft mat on it – and I think there were even wipes available (though those could have been left by another customer I suppose), and in the ladies, there was actually enough space within the cubicles to attend to my 3 year old without me having to train as a contortionist beforehand.
By the end of our visit, whilst pleased to step into daylight and give my ringing ears a rest from the cacophony within, I had to admit, that the kids had a great time, and for young children like ours Zone play centre is very well suited to their needs.
Zone Playcentre
http://zoneplaycentre.co.uk/
Entry prices
Under 8 months Free
9 – 11 Months £1 (Free if accompanied by an older paying child)
1 – 4 Years – £4.00
5 – 12 Years – £5.00
Time restrictions of 2 hours play will apply on busy periods.
Opening Times
Open 7 days a week
Open from 9:15 am to 6pm Monday to Friday
Saturdays 10am to 6pm
Sundays 11am to 5pm from 1st February 2017
No admittance an hour before closing from 1st February 2017
Kitchen Opening Times
Open 7 days a week
Open from 11:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Saturday
Last orders 4.45pm
Sundays from 11.00am – 4.00pm from 1st February
Last orders 3.45pm
 

Review DenMARKED, Conrad Murray, Battersea Arts Centre by Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Raw. Interesting. Emotional. With a dash of music in the form of looping, beat box. All from one man.

DenMARKED is what can only be described as brilliance. Taken biographically, this one man show from Conrad Murray hits the emotional pedal, pulls the heart strings, but also gives you the giggles. From times of being beaten by his father, his life of constantly being put down and fear of going no where but to rock bottom, however coming out the other side with the help of Shakespeare, music and the arts, we feel as if we are on a roller coaster with him; being able to tell his story is a triumph in itself but to express and tell the tale with such confidence, such theatricality and reflectiveness brings all the different elements to this hour or so long monologue, keeping us interested and the growing sense of friendship with Murray.

Basic use of lighting, pre-recorded narrative titles are used well, not taking away anything from this man, his story, his guitar and loop machine. The music itself is incredible – if this guy was not talented enough with how he has created theatre and ‘performed’ it in such a fantastic way, he continues to shine through the great ‘beats’ he makes on the spot – a CD I would love to own.

DenMARKED parallels parts of Murray’s life with the story of Hamlet, using key quotes to add that little something extra to his message.

With all these elements, this is a clever production and one of a kind – some can do spoken word; some can beat box and use this as a story telling technique; and of course some act. Conrad Murray does all of these, and more, bringing a polished, honest and brave production to the Battersea stage.

https://www.bac.org.uk/content/42636/whats_on/whats_on/shows/denmarked

Review Live Before you Die, Battersea Arts Centre by Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Since coming to the same venue to see Hairspeace last year, I have noticed that there is little (or in my opinion not enough) of performance arts with honesty, in a sort of presentation style.

Walking into Live Before you Die, I was not expecting it to have this theme. But it’s a theme I’m beginning to love.

Live Before you Die is a performance art come presentation of Byron Vincent and Dave McGinn’s journey to fix Byron. With a long standing illness of Bi Polar disorder, this truthful, at times shocking, at others hilarious and brave performance looks into Byron’s disorder, Dave’s friendship and attempts to help and all the crazy, interesting and scary events through this journey.

From meeting American self help professionals, to a stint in Vegas, and a missed show at the Edinburgh fringe, this pair tell their story while bouncing off one another. There’s no fancy tricks, no crazy light and sound moments intervening, no progressive dance; simply two men, in a sort of ‘Pointless’ set up (I’ve got to admit, it was a younger and more interesting similarity to the game show) and video clips of the tale.

This may sound boring – who sees a show that is so minimalist? But do not be fooled – coming from such honesty is definite intrigue and to add all these atmospheric theatrical additions would only ruin what they are achieving. To try and explain such a diverse and complicated illness is hard enough, but to be open and bring your highs, lows and confessions to 40 or so complete strangers takes guts and counteracts the stigma around mental health in a way that I have never seen before or doubt anyone has tried to do.

We are made to feel like friends; we laugh and joke with them, and this relaxed performance isn’t just what we need but we also sense that for Byron and Dave, this is something they need too.

Finishing with a hug from Byron at the end, there’s no certainty of what is next for this pair, but we can be sure their friendship, talent for performance art and more antics are definitely going to continue in abundance. And we hope, positive progression for Byron.

https://www.bac.org.uk/content/42637/whats_on/whats_on/shows/live_before_you_die

An Interview with Elise Davison on Access and Breaking out of the Box 3

The Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Elise Davison Artistic Director of Taking Flight Theatre Company. Elise discussed her career to date, the arts in Wales, access issues and Breaking out of the Box 3.

This short video is an introduction from Elise Davison Artistic Director of Flight Theatre company. Elise introduced herself and briefly discusses Breaking out of the Box 3. There is an audio sound file interview with Elise below and a written one below that.

Hi Elise great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi, I started out as performer and toured for about 10 years living out of suitcase and having a reasonably successful career. I was also a drama teacher so that plugged any gaps on my theatre work. In 2008 I set up Taking Flight Theatre company with Beth House and in 2009 I moved to Cardiff, had my first child and I started directing. In 2010 I hung up my acting shoes and began my life as a theatre director and I love it!
So what got you interested in the arts?
My mum and my grandmother both danced to a high standard and despite some really exciting opportunities – neither of them went on to pursue it as a career and I think they both regretted it. I always thought I would be a dancer and studied ballet until I was 21. I realised, however, years before that that my real passion was for acting and so I went to Warwick University to study theatre – it was a very academic course and after graduating I felt I needed more practical training so I went to drama school in Birmingham ( I wanted to come to Cardiff then but it didn’t work out!)
Taking Flight have organised an event called Breaking out of the Box 3, I wonder if you can tell us more about this event?
Yes – it’s an access symposium focussing in particular about ways to increase access for blind and visually impaired audience members. We’ve got a really exciting line up and we will explore practical approaches to audio description and tactile access materials. We will discuss ways to access the blind and visually impaired audiences and hear about the innovative Ramps on the Moon initiative happening in England at the moment. I am really looking forward to it.
http://www.takingflighttheatre.co.uk/breaking-out-of-the-box-3/
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists?
There are always barriers especially surrounding with access, but as a country need to recognise these barriers and realise that we have a joint responsibility to start breaking these down. I feel there has been a lot of progress in the last few years in Wales to tackle some of these barriers but there is still such a long way to go.
As an inclusive company Taking Flight also carefully consider their potential audiences.  I wonder if you think there are any barriers for them to access cultural provision in Wales? On a positive I wonder if you can think of any examples of good practice?
One thing always strikes me as odd – there are often a lot of forums discussing access with no one who will be using that access present to say what they actually need. In 2015 TF did a lot of work with the D/deaf community in Wales to find out why they weren’t accessing theatre and how we could start to address this. The stories about mistrust of venues came flooding out. Stories of broken hearing loop, broken captions and shows billed as being interpreted not being. We realised that so much need to be done to make people trust that access would be provided before we could even start to build our audience. The blind and visually impaired audience also struggled to trust that their access requirements would be met. In addition it was hard to get the message out to the right people that shows were accessible. It was then that we started to look at our marketing and began developing BSL and audio flyers and made sure that the correct access symbols were clearly displayed.
The Hynt card is a great scheme and Sherman 5 have done some excellent work engaging new audiences.
http://www.hynt.co.uk/en/
http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/sherman5/
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I’m going to be a bit predictable and say access but I feel so strongly about this. I feel people are put off by the cost and the fact that it eats into your budget so much. I would make access costs an extra pot which sits on top of grant limits. This is because – I believe it is a human right to be able to access the arts and sometimes this is denied due to financial constraints – or companies are forced to choose which access to provide. In an ideal world -all shows should be captioned, be BSL interpreted and be audio described – or have that provision available so that D/deaf and disabled people have the same choice as non disabled people. Access is expensive, so I would like to take the barrier of cost away so people can be freer to experiment with creative access.
What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I love the arts community in Wales – it’s a wonderful place to live and make theatre. It’s a generous and support network and I feel honoured to be part of it. I’ve just comeback from an access forum (organised by Rhian Lewis at National Theatre Wales) where Jo Verrent spoke about Unlimited and it was wonderful, there were some amazing discussions, passion and desire to make a change.
http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/group/access-forum?commentId=3152760%3AComment%3A248505
I’m massively looking forward to seeing Graeae’s production of House of Bernarda Alda especially as one of TF’s associate artists Chloe Clarke is performing in it!

The House of Bernarda Alba


 
Thanks for your time Elise.

Review : Wish List, The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The Royal Court never ceases to amaze. Priding itself in great original writing, I keep expecting to come and not enjoy myself. Willing there to be something that I come away and not like, or be slightly unenthused with. But it never happens. And I am so glad it never happens.

Wish List a coproduction with Royal Court Theatre/Royal Exchange Theatre and written by Katherine Soper, (Winner of the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting) has a very inventive but minimal set. A conveyor belt that comes down from the ceiling and parts that are moveable around the stage, basing much of itself as a prop in the house which evidently is always on stage also, situated at the far end. A basic shower unit and kitchen, this is a basic home for a brother and sister duo that are far from simple.

Tamsin (played by Erin Doherty) and Dean (Joseph Quinn) are troubled siblings with a troubled past. Evident in his continual repetitive movements, the pair are struggling to meet ends with Dean’s incapability of working due to his OCD disability and Tamsin’s lack of time to work with helping him each day. Through the course of 1 hour and 40mins, we see them both grow together as people and as siblings, coping with one another’s issues and developments.

Our other characters are Luke (Shaquille Ali-Yebuah) and Tamsin’s new boss (Aleksandar Mikic) fit like a glove into the narrative. Each character has its own presence on stage and the performers do well to make them so different from one another.

Quinn has the uneasy job of making his ticks and repetitive gestures seem realistic; to show his uneasy sense around even his sister and problem with being touched. It is so naturalistic and probable that I felt myself wondering if he was even acting. But the real challenge lies on Doherty. She is not void of problems herself and is evidently an anxious, nervous, problematic person in herself while also being strong for her brother. She is so incredible with this that again, I struggled to not fall into the imaginative of the piece, which felt as if someone had taken away the window to this pair’s life.

Wish List from its set to the performers to the writing is nothing less than extraordinary and so perfect that one feels like an intruder into the private.

Wish List

2016 Cultural Highlights from the Get the Chance team

intro
Members of the Get the Chance team have selected their own personal highlights of 2016. Their first choice is that of three cultural events that they have reviewed  Their second is something they have personally experienced which has resonance for them as an individual.
3rd Act Critic Helen Joy
1 Tom Jones, The Musical Theatr na nÓg
Local boy made good in spectacular style by a local theatre company, brought alive through the lucky chance of sitting next to the daughter of the publican 
Review Tom: A Story of Tom Jones, The Musical by Helen Joy
2 Animatorium – Dance on the pavement with NDCW
getthechance.wales/2016/12/16/gala-night-national-dance-company-wales/
3 Kiss me Kate
“A feast WNO”
getthechance.wales/2016/12/09/kiss-kate-wno/
Personal Event of the year
“Being published, in a very minor capacity, in Country Smallholding magazine three times this year – and the latest article seemed to give so much pleasure to the group I reported on at the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival.”
Young Critic Amelia Seren
1. Clear-Cut @ M.A.D.E:
“The opportunity to catch a diverse range of artists or performers mid-thought, and to witness the creative process so intimately is valuable and rare. Clear-Cut is a must-see.”
getthechance.wales/2016/08/16/review-clear-cut-6-amelia-seren-roberts/
2. Cardiff Contemporary: Festival of the Visual Arts in Cardiff. [Especially the work of S. Mark Gubb at G39 and the opening of TactileBosch].
3. Sticky Intimacy @ Chapter: Works by Katie Cuddon, Emma Hart and Nicholas Pope.
Personal Event of the year
My personal highlight of 2016 has been graduating from Cardiff School of Art & Design with a First Class Masters Degree in Fine Art, [MFA]. I am extremely grateful for the knowledge I’ve developed whilst studying in Cardiff, as well as the opportunity to have gained valuable work experience in the arts in South Wales.
Community Critic Emily Garside
1. Romeo and Juliet Taking Flight
“For taking a classic Shakespeare play that is perhaps overly familiar for some and making it fresh and new by putting inclusive art at the centre of creativity rather than an add on or afterthought.”

TAKING FLIGHT THEATRE: ROMEO & JULIET | STAGE REVIEW


2.  Meet Fred Hijinx
“A clever, touching and at times hilarious look at life and the obstacles it throws at us (literally at times) through the eyes of two foot high puppet Fred”

Theatre | Meet Fred


3. A Good Clean Heart Neonatopia at The Other Room
“How could you not love a play that has a Dizzy Rascal rap in Welsh?”

Highlights of the Year 2016 Part 1


Personal Event of the year
‘My most important happening/event would be the Brexit vote, for being something that is likely to impact our lives (including cultural) but also for uniting people in the face of divisions as well.”
Young Critic Lauren Ellis Stretch 
1 Scorch Primecut Productions at the Sherman Theatre
“Scorch is electrifying. It alights, and it shocks, it launches you, and it takes no prisoners. Never have I wanted an actor to look me in the eyes more than Amy McAllister. She was fierce without anguish, and she was light without compromise. She is your friend.”
getthechance.wales/2016/09/07/review-not-i-scorch-sherman-cymru-lauren-ellis-stretch/
2 Bird The Sherman Theatre/Manchester Royal Exchange
Never have I experienced such encompassing performances. Bird holds  up a mirror to the real world and the audience are almost blinded by the familiar reflections.
getthechance.wales/2016/05/18/review-bird-sherman-cymru-lauren-ellis-stretch/
3 The Weir the Sherman Theatre/Tobacco Factory
“A classic of contemporary theatre; empathetic, voyeuristic, and unnerving”
getthechance.wales/2016/10/16/review-weir-sherman-theatre-lauren-ellis-stretch/
 
Young Critic Sian Thomas 
1 The Cardiff Book Festival
“I had such a brilliant time, and I was in my element surrounded by people who share the same interests as me and them being supportive and friendly. Though we were all at different stages of writing while some of us were published where others weren’t, it wasn’t even about that. It was nice that we were all there for our common interest and that alone which built us all up. I loved that day so much.”
2  Wolfsong by TJ Klune
“Definitely the best book I’ve read all year”
getthechance.wales/2016/09/01/review-wolfsong-tj-klune-sian-thomas/
3 Peter Pan at the Everyman Festival
“A truly wonderful production which I wholeheartedly enjoyed and would gladly see again.”
getthechance.wales/2016/08/01/review-disneys-peter-pan-everyman-festival-sian-thomas/
Personal Event of the year
“The most important thing is that I had ages this summer to work on my own writing and used that to my advantage. I was able to write a cohesive and structured 23,000 words, which is so important to me and something I am immeasurably proud of. I’ve continued working on it outside of this and instead in chunks and scenes around schoolwork to build it up before hopefully piecing it altogether soon.”
Community Critic Gemma Treharne Foose
1 Meet Fred, Hijinx at The Other Room
A work of art! A clever Japanese-inspired political puppetry tale of modern times. Completely original and unlike anything else out there.
getthechance.wales/2016/06/29/review-meet-fred-hijinx-theatre-gemma-treharne-foose/
2 Wonderman Gagglebabble/NTW/WMC at the Tramshed
“A jazzy and dreamy musical extravaganza – colour, joy, wit and wonder, inspired by Dahl and extra magic added courtesy of National Theatre Wales and the Wales Millennium Centre.”
getthechance.wales/2016/09/14/review-wonderman-gagglebabble-gemma-treharne-foose/
3 Bird The Sherman Theatre/Manchester Royal Exchange
A spot-on portrayal of growing up ‘in the system’ and the pervasive strength and bond of family and friends. Edgy, authentic and deeply moving. My stomach was in nots and I was a sweaty mess watching it!
getthechance.wales/2016/05/27/review-bird-sherman-cymru-gemma-treharne-foose/
Other memorable ones to note:
The Borrowers, The Sherman Theatre-  “I didn’t review it but saw with my family – completely beautiful production, fell in love with all the characters and cast – laughed, cried and left on a happy cloud. Superb!”
The Hunting of the Snark, The Sherman Theatre: “Again I didn’t review but saw it with my family – poignant and sweet, a funny romp of a tale with stand out characters.”
“The Sherman Theatre  is nailing these family shows, they don’t talk down to the audience, they bring them in for a ‘catch’ and a chuckle instead. There’s substance to the shows without being preachy or basic. I have thoroughly enjoyed the family productions there this year, faultless!”
Young Critic Hannah Goslin
1. Three Penny Opera – National Theatre
Three Penny Opera is a mixture of comedy, escapism and taboo challenging, all combined with fantastic acting, vocal accompaniment and overall, an excellent theatre concept.
getthechance.wales/2016/07/13/review-threepenny-opera-national-theatre-hannah-goslin/
2. Smash It Up – Mr & Mrs Clark, Battersea Arts Centre
“If there is only one thing you do this year, it should be to see any show by this formidable company. Their open and in your face opinion and protest to the state of art leaves you not only thinking but also rooting for them if you weren’t already involved In the conversation. Flying the flag for Wales – The Clarks have easily conquered London.”
getthechance.wales/2016/05/22/review-smash-mr-mrs-clark-battersea-arts-centre-hannah-goslin/
3. Unreachable – The Royal Court
“It was a joy and wonderful to see the actors finding the play just as funny as we did.”
getthechance.wales/2016/07/20/review-unreachable-the-royal-court-by-hannah-goslin/
Personal Event of the year
‘This year I decided to spend two months seeing a glimpse of the World. Travelling through South America, stopping in Canada, heading to Japan, Thailand, India and a quick dip in Abu Dhabi, I went away as one person and came back as a better one. I saw amazing things, met interesting people and found part of who I really am. An experience unlike any other.”
3rd Act Critic Barbara Michaels
1 The Marinsky  Ballet
Superlatives are usually to be avoided when writing a review. There are, however, exceptions. Perfection is the word that springs to mind. 5*

Mariinsky Ballet – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff


2 Mandela by the Cape Town Opera Company at the WMC
A unique piece of musical theatre and a history lesson.

Mandela Trilogy – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff


3 Romeo and Juliet Performed by the National Youth Theatre of Wales.
A cast of talented young actors under a brilliant artistic director daring to add their own interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.

Romeo and Juliet – New Theatre, Cardiff


Personal Event of the year
“As for my own top personal cultural experience – it is yet to come. On Christmas Eve, no less, when as a surprise present my family is taking me to Sadler’s Well’s to see a performance of Matthew Bourne’s new ballet ‘The Red Shoes.’ It has had rave reviews. Will be touring, so hopefully coming to Cardiff in 2017.”
Young Critic Osian Evans
1. Hub Fest
“Hub fest was spot on this year with it’s street party vibe, I wish Womanby street was like that every weekend. Dancing to a silent disco in a courtyard was a highlight for me.”.
2 Cardiff’s screening of Rogue One
3  Swn Fest
“It’s just perfect. It’s a festival that not only showcases the City of Cardiff but also the wonderful atmosphere of the city.”
getthechance.wales/2016/11/01/review-swn-fest-osian-ifans/
Personal Event of the year
“My personal event would be Foyer Sessions on the 29th of April at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. Yeah I chose my own event and what!? That’s the reason it was personal, it was great to see that many people turn up to see some live music and look at some art.”
Young Critic Kaitlin Wray
1. Constellation Street The Other Room Theatre
“The monologues interlinked beautifully. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and would love to be taken on that journey again.”
getthechance.wales/2016/04/23/review-constellation-street-the-other-room-by-kaitlin-wray/
2. Henry VI by Omidaze at WMC
“I would recommend everyone to watch this show, Shakespeare fan or not. Omidaze are challenging theatre conventions even more than we’ve ever seen and you should be a part of this experience.”
getthechance.wales/2016/02/08/review-henry-vi-omidaze-by-kaitlin-wray/
3. Bird – Sherman Cymru/Manchester Royal Exchange
“Outstanding direction, a story that’s so raw I felt like I was trespassing into their private lives”
getthechance.wales/2016/05/22/review-bird-sherman-cymru-kaitlin-wray/
Young Critic Amina Elmi
1 The article I wrote on diversity.
“We know that diversity does work and that it is not a risk. So why does Hollywood remain white?”
getthechance.wales/2016/08/15/diversity-media-amina-elmi/
Personal Event of the year
The most important event of 2016 for me personally Brexit as it is something that seemed trivial to me at first as someone who could not legally vote at the time, but as the result came in that the Britain was leaving European union it became apparent that it was much more Complicated than I previously thought. The rise in hate crime has also been an issue that I care about strongly.”
3rd Act Critic Catherine Parkinson
Personal Event of the year
“A cultural highlight for me this year was the Roald Dahl weekend. I was in the massed choir for City of the Unexpected, so my cultural highlight of the year was singing a medley of Welsh songs at the gates of Cardiff Castle in front of an enormous crowd. It was topped off by the ‘marriage’ event at City Hall that evening with Delibes’ Flower Duet being performed by two Opera Singers on the roof of City Hall with a live orchestra – a real ‘goose-bump’ moment for me, made all the more poignant by the fact that this piece was played at our wedding as I am sure it is many weddings.
In terms of the most important event of the year it has to be the Brexit vote. As an ex Erasmus student that had the privilege of studying in Italy for a year as part of my first degree, and now working in a University Science department, I can’t tell you the gloomy atmosphere that pervaded the University after the result. Our international students and colleagues alike, took it very hard and we continue to fear what the effect will be on science funding and collaboration with our European counterparts in the future.”
Community Critic Sarah Debnham
1. Mamma Mia at The Wales Millennium Centre
“Without a doubt the best theatre show I’ve seen yet!”
getthechance.wales/2016/10/13/review-mamma-mia-musical-wales-millennium-centre-sarah-debnam/
2. The Freddie Mercury Project Sinfonia Cymru at the RWCMD
“I think we witnessed something special in the Freddie Mercury Project, and think that the effort and skill poured into this production did not fail to impress. The standing ovation at both shows we went to echoed this as well I think.”
getthechance.wales/2016/07/10/review-freddie-mercury-project-sinfonia-cymru-rwcmd-sarah-lucy-debnam/
3. George’s Marvellous Medicine at the New Theatre
‘I don’t think there was anything I could fault from this production, the acting was spot on, the scenery and props were amazing and the music and lighting cleverly used.  Many things could have been missed or ignored but weren’t and the attention to detail was brilliant. As everything Roald Dahl seems to be, brilliant!”
getthechance.wales/2016/11/07/review-georges-marvellous-medicine-new-theatre-cardiff-sarah-debnam/
 

Kiss Me Kate, WNO

 
I am a woman who is rarely lost for words. I have no idea where to begin on this one.
So, let’s go with my first thoughts:
I witnessed an opera audience splutter and stutter into laughter and whoops of delight as a show became progressively funnier and livelier and more and more colourful.
My dear, this isn’t opera… it’s, um, a musical.
Shock horror! The Welsh National Opera does musical all right. It’s borderline panto.
It is singing, talking, dancing, ballet, tap – it is Baltimore, it is Shakespeare, it is Cole Porter.
We rush from dusty backstage to technicolour onstage with a rapacious love for the piece which infects everyone in the building.
There is even a stuffed mule.
Not funny, dear.
Oh it is. It is carry me out of here laughingly funny! It is a showcase for this multi- talented cast and how much they seem to enjoy their moments in the spotlight. Revelling in the bawdiness, the burlesque and the slapstick.
Asses seem to have quite a prominent role, one way and another.
It reminds me at times of The Good Old Days, vaudeville at its finest, people laughing at themselves in the story, in the audience. I fancy we should all be wearing doublets and bodices. A round of the Old Bull and Bush at the end wouldn’t go amiss, such is the atmosphere.
Well, I wasn’t expecting that!
Kate sings the songs of the wild and sexy and shrewish, Petruchio was an operatic twinkly eyed pirate, the gunmen do one of the best duets since Michael Ball and Les Dennis in Hairspray; and Bianca and Lucentio are utterly joyous in both song and dance.
It is obscenely good entertainment.
We come out to Christmas trees and misty cold, buzzing with that warm fuzzy feeling you get from a performance well done.
But this is Cardiff, a city, like many others, with a dark underbelly. There, under the lit arches of the Wales Millennium Centre, is a man completing a broadsheet crossword. I give him the change I find in the bottom of my bag – it is a paltry amount but it is the only cash I have. I apologise for my meanness. He smiles and calls me back.
Look at this, pretty lady.
My friend and I turn back and he shows us a magic trick with a 20p coin and wishes us a Merry Christmas.
 
 
 
 
Event:              Kiss Me Kate
 
Seen:               06 Dec, 2016
Reviewer:        Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics
Running:          06 Dec – 10 December 2016
Cost :               Tickets: £7 – £43
Running time: Approximately 2 hour 50 minutes with one interval
 
Links:               https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/KissMeKateDec16/
 
5 stars – spectacular
 
A Welsh National Opera production, sung in English
Conductor                              James Holmes
Director                                  Jo Davies
Set & Costume Designer       Colin Richmond
Lighting Designer                   Ben Cracknell
Choreographer                      Will Tuckett
Fred Graham / Petruchio      Quirijn de Lang
Lilli Vanessi / Katherine        Jeni Bern
1st Gunman                            Joseph Shovelton
2nd Gunman                          John Savourin
 
Music and Lyrics                      Cole Porter
Book                                        Bella and Samuel Spewack
Critical Edition                          David Charles Abell and Seann Alderking.

Review Choosers The Bread and Rose Theatre, Clapham Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

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2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

In the top of this theatre pub, the Clapham Fringe has been conjuring an array of performances. This day, I happened to be seeing the show ‘Choosers’.

Choosers sees the meeting and friendship between two homeless men. Spanning only a few months and based all around one park bench, these two unlikely kindred spirits meet, and we are introduced to their past present and future.

The set it simple – one bench, the younger homeless man with a suitcase of bits and pieces, the other with only what is on his body. There are leaves pinned to the staging and strewn across the rostra to give that ‘park feeling’.

Our younger performer is a university student who has run away from his course, his home and his responsibilities, feeling unloved and unseen in comparison to his marine brother. The older, full of secrets, some of which we never find out, has been homeless for 5 years out of choice.

Both with a different story to tell, yet both choosing this life, our views on the homeless are challenged, from not only why they have chosen to become homeless, but to the way they live – the older actor says that begging isn’t right and that it should not be done. He makes friends to find food and we soon warm to him as he warms to the younger performer. The younger performer is annoyingly young – perhaps slightly stereotyped, he is bouncy and full of naivety. At times it’s hard to keep up with his fast paced approach to the character, and becomes a little exhausting with consistent pacing.

Overall Choosers is a lovely performance, full of friendship and warmth, contradicting the world views on the homeless. Well worth a watch if you are able to keep up with the speed of the university character.

 

Review Blackbird The Other Room by Kiera Sikora

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All photographic credits Kirsten McTernan

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Set in an office break room, as unclean as their past, ‘Blackbird’ begins with Ray (Christian Patterson) and Una (Sophie Melville) on opposite sides of the small and intricate room, both wanting to speak whilst both unsure of what to say or where they can look.

With a firstly faltering light and some seriously uncertain small talk, a head-to-head confrontation begins between the two. They tell us of their past, how Una and Ray shared an illicit relationship which began and ended when Una was 12, and Ray 40, and how they both ended up here in Ray’s new life’s occupancy, after Una saw a photograph of him in a magazine. She tracked him down. And the past in put in front of them, staring at them in the flesh.

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What’s both horrendous and horribly beautiful about this play is how David Harrower has us question who the hell the victim is here. You see, Ray is not a monster- at least there was no sign of one at The Other Room for me. But his actions are undoubtedly monstrous. To abuse, a word prized from his own mouth by Una, a 12-year-old which has harmed her both emotionally and physically is evil. And there are more than a million of different kinds of evil in this world but I saw not just one on that stage, I indefinitely saw a few more. You see it seems that it is the cruelty of feelings that conjured up these horrendous events and emotional sky scrapers. Ray tells us that it was his genuine, non-tactical and uncontrollable desire to speak to Una. That ‘speaking’ lead to what they ultimately became. He would purposely look for ways and reasons to talk to Una not because he thought profusely about what she looked like naked but because he was emotionally attracted to her understanding of human feelings. Ray is likeable. Disturbingly likeable. You may well sit in the audience and see how he could be a very nice man to have a very nice chat with. He believes that Una ‘understood love’.

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But, for Una, it is that understanding of human feelings that could’ve been one of the ways in which she felt that she could and did love Ray. And it could’ve also been the reason why she thought he loved her too. From the beginning of the play we see that she is a girl who feels things on a deep and sensual level. That quality in a person is usually something that when discovered by somebody else can be a quality that helps them thrive together. But we can see here how that quality is what made her bleed for Ray. Una is delicate, a shadow of her youth who, though beautiful, is internally beaten. Seeing her at 27 with her heart pouring out of her mouth allowed us to see her as a 12-year-old. And seeing both her Ray (now 55) in the same room meant that what was put in front of us was two people who share a time that was both forbidden, but almost admittedly for both exclusively sometimes savoured.

This play is in very many senses difficult, wonderfully so under the direction of Rupert Hands who’s delicate and detailed direction compliments the script and its disorientating duologue of wretched honesty. It’s bright, bold and dissimilar design by Ruth Hall, with lighting designed by Alia Stephen and sound designed by Sam Jones commend the intricate space at The Other Room.

Christian Patterson and Sophie Melville are a credit to Harrower’s words making you throw your moral compass in a ditch and leave you wondering to the bar with no way of seeing what’s right and what’s honest.

Blackbird runs at The Other Room at Porter’s until Friday November 4th.

Prepare to be left in a concrete conflict of emotions.

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/seasons/autumnwinter-at-the-other-room/blackbird/
 
 

Review A Good Clean Heart, Wales Millennium Centre by Emma Shepherd

 

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This play – from writer Alun Saunders and director Mared Swain – started life in Cardiff’s award-winning pub theatre The Other Room, received rave reviews at Edinburgh and is now touring Wales.

Written while the playwright was going through process of adopting his children, it tells the story of Hefin – a teenager in a sleepy West Wales town – whose adopted parents reveal on his 18th birthday that he has a brother.

Angry and disillusioned, he flees home and heads to London to find his big brother Jay – who’s had a very different life to his younger sibling.

The play is all about contrasts: the comfortable middle class existence of Hefin against the dysfunctional urban upbringing of Jay; Hefin’s loving, caring mother versus Jay’s chaotic, colourful mum; growing up white in rural Wales versus growing up mixed race in London; and of course, the two languages.

The dialogue flows between English and Welsh, with projected surtitles in the opposite language forming part of the set. It’s done so slickly, I barely noticed that I was watching a bilingual play.

The play has a real passion and affection for the Welsh language, and a sense of humour about how others perceive the language – “So when I say ‘taxi’, I’m already speaking Welsh?”.

James Ifan and Oliver Wellington put in powerful performances as the fresh-faced Hefin and the streetwise Jay, but also as the other characters they portray – especially when they both slip into playing their troubled birth mother. A cleverly-done karaoke scene saw the pair perform a hilarious bilingual version of Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers.

The simple set that consists of a bus stop and a bin, becomes everything from a council flat to a classroom. Clever video projections take you on a tense bus journey through the inner city one minute, to a funny Facebook messenger chat between the brothers the next.

A Good Clean Heart was a touching, funny, modern piece of theatre that has left me thinking about adoption, family, nature/nurture, and all the Hefins and Jays out there.