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
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.
(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.
All photographic credits Kirsten McTernan
(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.
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’.
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.
(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.
(4 / 5)
There was nothing quite like TV’s Batman in 1966 staring Adam West and Burt Ward. With its bold bright colours, dutch angles, lapse in logic, dedication to camp and ability to simultaneously produce silly and iconic images. It was something both of its time and enduring.
Now that the show has reached its 50th birthday and has more than stood the test of time it is being honoured with a full length animated feature film reuniting as many of the original cast as they can.
Our plot, well we actually get about three major plot points that lead to another, this is like four connected twenty minute episodes in one movie. Our opening is that The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler and Catwoman have taken over a television show and are holding the place ransom. That’s all it takes for the caped crusaders, Batman and Robin, to leap into action.
One of the big promotional point’s of this movie is that they got three of the original cast back to play their roles that they did all those years ago. Even though its been fifty years, they all still sound good. Adam West has never really stopped being Batman, never being too far from the world, always dipping back in for cameos. Here once again he brings his totally unique speaking voice with dry wit, but also dignity without a hint on irony to these ludicrous lines and situation. Burt Ward is the real impressive part, still being able to semi-convincingly portray a young, energetic man despite being in his seventies. Last but not least, is Julie Newmar as Catwoman, more of a soft kitten, being a playful and teasing villain. The casting is a nice touch though if the actors weren’t up to scratch it could have become awkward, but they can still, after all these years bring all the loving touches to these characters.
All the original Villain actors have passed so their roles have to be filled by others doing impressions. Jeff Bergman handles The Joker and is right for most of it, however he perfectly capture Ceaser Romero’s laugh. William Slyers doesn’t capture the same tones that Burges Meredith brought to the role of The Penguin. Wally Wingert as The Riddler is the most consistent, capturing Frank Gorshin’s delivery and energy throughout.
The script and story-boarding is filled with references, there are all the things you expect, like the red phone, the Bat-Cave looks like it should and the wall-walking but throughout are some visual gags in the background or lines they say that refer to pieces of Batman material that would come out after this is set.
This movie works because the creators behind the scenes clearly know and love the material. They came knowing what made the show so endearing and also with a love of Batman’s universe so they put those in as well. They don’t try and reshape it to fit modern audiences they stay true to the source material. Also being that this is an animated movie it is not bound like the live action show was with its budget and practical effects, I wont spoil any of them for you except just say this one word, Bat-Rocket.
Though some scoff and critique it there is no denying that Batman 66′ is one of the most recognisable television shows to ever be made. It was a channeling of the absurd that the comic books were doing at the time and gave us a world like no other. Fifty years later and that world still has some of the most vibrant colours and funnest cast and most memorable moments that have ever existed.
This is a BSL review of The Good Earth by Motherlode Theatre Company performed at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. A written transcription is available below the video.
It was interesting recently I saw a play named ‘The Good Earth’
An interpreter was provided called Julie Doyle. She was fantastic. The story was emotional. It was emotional though seeing change. Various people moving away. The spirit of the community was changing.
I became to understand Valleys and appreciate community. Change is not nice as when people do not people move away the spirit of the community changes
It was interesting to see the actors use chairs and tablets to show destruction
The Interpreter’s role did shift which is important to see and identify which character was talking.
At the end of the play I reflected it must be nice to live in a close knit community in the valley.
If you haven’t seen the play please do watch it.
(4 / 5)
Steel Magnolias is a well known 80’s film with Julia Roberts – an almost cult film it could be suggested.
So it is perhaps unforgivable that myself and my friend have never seen it. I wonder whether the tears my mother sheds after each viewing was a slight put off to watching it. I don’t think I ever wanted to know the sadness.
In a very 80’s style hairdressers in a transverse set up, the styling, the costumes, the hair is all shining Pretty Woman, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles.
The storyline is a great combination of fun, comical, relatable and sad. It would seem that not much happens – 5 women run through the year, trading stories, make up tips, tales of men…one may say it is all slightly un-feminist and stereotyped. But it’s all true – it’s all what small town women would talk about and what they would do.
We are drawn into their story very easily. It holds us and at times I wondered how such simple yet witty writing is keeping me from getting distracted. Of course the combination of comedy and reality hooks us but it’s only instilled this way by the wonderful and natural performances of each actor.
Steel Magnolias has you hooked and always crying, whether this is from laughing or because it has touched your heart.
(3 / 5)
The Folly Mixtures are a cabaret and burlesque troupe that are well known for their consistent and smooth performances using modern, remixed music, fire play and dirty comedy.
Tonight was of no exception. Listening to our compere between sections, the theme of America is picked upon satirically, with comparisons to us as Brits and our stereotypes. This is clever, at times improvised and makes us laugh at the irony of our own situation as well as the stereotypes of America.
With the performance, the different routines also pick upon stereotypes of America – the old 1950’s diner girls, baseball to even a poke at Donald Trump and the current election campaigns. We love all of these – bedazzled and glittered, the stereotypes are nothing but fun and gorgeous, high end and professional.
We are also introduced to our only male burlesque performer – Dave the Bear. While like the women, he is there to perform routines and for us to appreciate the human form, he is flirtatious with the male audience members, crude with his jokes but all of this is brilliant and comical.
My only issue with this performance is that Burlesque is known for its celebration of all body types – these woman have wonderful bodies, almost envious but very similar and lacking celebration of all women. I also find that the group performances get a little samey when solo performances would have been welcomed to showcase each performer and perhaps a little more comedy in these routines would have created a different dynamic.
Overall, the Folly Mixtures were beautiful, glamourous and skilled. A great night out none the less.
Romeo and Juliet, Everyman Open Air Theatre, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff,
Author: William Shakespeare
Directors: Mark Modzelwski and Jack Paterson
Cast: Mickey Howe, Helen Randall, Jon Barnes, Aisha Cecil, James Pritchard
Running Time – 2 hours
Photos courtesy of Keith Stanbury
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet couldn’t be a more polarizing play – that controversy, and of course it’s impenetrable brand, the reason for its longevity, despite the criticisms it’s been subject to throughout the ages. It also means every adaptation, no matter how well done or brightly framed, will have a clear divide between its fans and its skeptics, much like its own warring houses.
It immediately reminded me of Everyman’s 2014 production The Taming of the Shrew, which also played with a modern framing. In that case, it seemed disjointed and unconnected, this play’s firmer stance something I was glad of. An early warning sign was the wrapping of garish warning tape around the gorgeous set, itself an understated stage that easily turned from crumbled history to a modern ruin in the mind’s eye. Any foreshadowing in the archetypal tragedy seems dangerously close to being too loud for too little reason. Then, I turned thoughts to Last year’s As You Like it set completely within its time, which seemed less frantic to be thoughtful, its simplicity its making.
The scuffle between the houses was presented in a haze of echoed dialogue, each line chanted rather than spoken, chaotic drumming and West Side snapping fueling the anger. It was no doubt intended as a display of raw energy, but mine surely weren’t the only ears strained by a jarring start. A question common to the staging was that of cleverness or (with all such words improperly conveying the fact every polarizing part was played with conviction of delivery) clumsiness. Aggression dominating over clarity and a sense of unease are fitting for the play, but it felt a little rushed, easy to think about but harder to feel for – the presentation of the raw feeling ironically calculated.
Another of these dichotomies was the fact that Paris is shown sauntering through the warring families, often an agent of the discord the one to bang the makeshift drum of the stage – this could give the often slight role adaptations afford him gravitas, but there is too little of him otherwise to give weight to the staging.
Whilst experimentation is always welcome, the elements seemed jarring and improperly integrated, a few, small things that, in never fully being justified spoiled the flow. Costuming was fine, but slightly awkward with our leads, owing a tad too much to Danny and Sandy. The thing that dominated over everything, making niggles more off-putting, was that the overall transference to the modern day seemed slightly arbitrary – a live performance in the beautiful Sofia Gardens is certainly not the slickly edited City from Luhrmann’s fondly remembered film, and whilst it could be left to interpretation in another play, the fraught world of our times providing myriad examples of arbitrary, baseless conflict, the other small jarring features meant either that these less important things should have had some justification, or that this time leap needed more obvious suggestion.
The acting was certainly the best element.
Mikey Howe presented himself as a likable actor, but not as a Romeo stripped of the blandness which pervades even the best of his adaptations. He more often solicited motherly feelings of exhausted affection and useless foresight rather than showing us a passion we might forgive naivety more for. Mercutio was played memorably by Jon Barnes, remembered fondly from last year, the acidic chemistry between him and Asha Cecil’s flint like Tybalt alluding to something more complex and engaging than the titular love. Helen Randall’s Juliet was stunning, and did her best to convert us to her convictions with not just a sweet, but quietly intelligent and witty character, her superb delivery highlighting the odd dichotomy that one of Shakespeare’s most characters most scolded for their lack of better judgement has some such clever lines, full of wordplay and conviction. Another highlight was James Pritchard’s warm and fatherly Friar – although the general depiction of such is always odd, considering despite his gentle ways, he is the piece’s accidental murderer.
The anger was the most visceral, best felt emotion of the play, each character, Tybalt to the Montagues doing their best under rage, although such venom by the ensemble made Romeo’s anger seem a little paler than the devastation of the second act required.
Said second act was free from trips over the awkward trappings of the first allowing for a much smoother experience, beautifully and purposefully lit, each actor at their finest in this hour.
A fun, but at later thought somewhat frustrating decision was that to possess the apothecary by the devil – gleefully sadistic at first glance, and a synchronization of the ensemble used to much more coordinated and singular effect, you then realized how much trouble it presented. Shakespeare, here to Lear to his famous sonnets, was always interested in the conflict between the power of the damnation of God (and the Gods) and man, and how the devil is a part of both self-corrupting man and the omnipotent Lord who shows such little benevolence in his works.
This is the essence of the general trouble – that the productions experiments just don’t have a solid enough foundation to be felt more than gimmicky, when the more general elements are is all wonderfully done. Ironically, and somewhat sadly, when focused more on style than the unsure statements there was much more substance. In short, it’s a commendable performance with a lot to chew on regardless of whether you enjoyed such elements, but I’m afraid it may be looked with kinder eyes by those who love the lovers, and not those skeptical of the star crossed.
(3 / 5)
(4 / 5)
Bright pink and green wigs, ukuleles and a whole heap of fun. Coming to Chapter Arts Centre to see these two curious sisters in creativey was excitingly anticipated by me. I have heard so many wonderful things but never had the chance to grab a chance to see them.
Flossy and Boo as would seem by any images you see of them are eccentric, comedic and warm and friendly. Being welcomed one by one by each of them to the performance, it felt more of a personal gathering than of watching a performance piece.
Flossy and Boo had planned items but also random segments chosen by the audience in the form of picking items from a hat. This was full of anticipation to see the reaction of the performers and what material they brought into the mix. To be able to chop and change and bring a new show each time is a triumph and very clear of some talented theatre practitioners.
Their ability to change the scenario at last minute, combat sound issues and prop interruption was done seamlessly, with us enjoying how ‘natural’ they were with us. We were never quite sure if they were being their characters or their usual persona- which of course is brilliant to be able to achieve.
Flossy and Boo’s Curious Cabaret is side splittingly hilarious, extremely intelligent and masterful in its execution. Heading to Edinburgh, I urge you to see them. They’re ones not to miss!