Tag Archives: Cardiff

Creative Cardiff Pop-Up Hub: Reflections on Hub Environments for the Arts

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All images taken from social media linked to the project

In the same week that it was announced that Britain was leaving the EU, free-thinkers in Cardiff were exploring new and innovative ways for arts professionals to work together as part of the Creative Cardiff pop-up hub.

From the 20th-24th June selected creatives occupied a temporary pop-up workspace in the Wales Millennium Centre as part of an initiative organised by Creative Cardiff. Sara Pepper, director of Creative Economies at Cardiff University, was a key organiser of the event having researched existing approaches to creative hubs both within, and outside of Wales. Pepper champions ‘hub’ models as potential centres for innovation within the Cardiff creative economy. Sara Pepper has authored a blog post in which she outlines her research which you can access via the link below:

http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/creative-economy/2016/06/16/a-creative-hub-for-cardiff/

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Creative Cardiff is an online network of practicing creatives in the Cardiff area initiated by a team at Cardiff University. The network went live in October 2015 and already currently has a membership of over 550 practitioners.

This form of online network has already proven useful to both my peers and myself, practicing within universities as well as on a freelance basis. Organisations such as EMVAN (The East Midlands Visual Arts Network) provide valuable access to creative opportunities and share relevant events information, thus implementing a meeting of like-minded practicing creatives and audiences alike.

What Creative Cardiff achieved in this recent venture is to demonstrate that the hub environment prompted an acceleration of the outputs of its occupants whilst retaining its supportive values. There are early indications that hubs may prove to be beneficial to the development of creative networks and productivity within the city. That these values could be propagated successfully within the physical space of a hub supports the demand for more dedicated collision spaces for creatives, which could support existing online networks.

“Our network aims to bring together people from across the full breadth of the city’s creative economy – from dancers and marketing professionals to architects and app developers. By collaborating and sharing ideas we want to encourage more innovation and creativity in our city” – Creative Cardiff.

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Reflecting on my own experience of working in the hub, I found the pop-up nature of the arrangement provoked thought and reflection on the nature of the co-operative working arrangement rather than focusing on the development of individual creatives. This differs from the way in which arts students or employees within other creative industries are usually encouraged to practice, and on the surface seems to contradict productivity. Although the arrangement of the short-term hub might have been initially disruptive, established examples have indicated that co-operative working increases productivity – hence Google’s eagerness to provide exciting, open workspaces for their employees to work collaboratively.

I found the group was particularly concerned with how professionals from various creative fields might gather to achieve the aforementioned aims of Creative Cardiff, whilst still continuing to realise autonomous objectives within their own creative practices. Countless discussions were had on the topic, and throughout the week questions were raised regarding the benefits, physical design, core values, social and creative impact of working in this way to name but a few. Issues such as these are often interrogated on occasions where creative practice mingles with academic insight.

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A particularly successful feature of the pop-up hub was the daily ‘Provocation Sessions’ provided in the mornings within the hub space. During these sessions, the hub members were invited to hear professional reflections on the nature of creative spaces and productivity and discussion on these topics was encouraged. We heard from a range of speakers including Prof. Wayne Forster of the Welsh School of Architecture, Clare Reddington and Jo Landsdowne of WATERSHED (Bristol) and Prof. Jonathan Dovey, UWE Professor of Screen Media and director of REACT. Such sessions provided an opportunity for focused learning and interaction amongst the hub members that I believed complimented more casual encounters experienced in the joint space.

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I found Prof. Jonathan Dovey’s insights regarding the hub as a creative eco-system especially informative and motivational. His experience has demonstrated that hubs can provide instances of exchange, impacts and continued mutual support amongst their occupants. Dovey placed particular emphasis on the benefits of shared values within creative hubs, such as generosity, openness, trust and excitement.

It is the presence of these shared values, possessed by the members of the pop-up, which contributed towards the success of the Creative Cardiff hub, and defined the unique and progressive environment that I experienced as a member.

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With the project only spanning over a short week, the conditions of the hub could not be established in the way in which an organically cultivated hub space might. However, many would agree that the potential for development and continuation of the project was evident. Through research carried out by Cardiff University, we can be positive the project has contributed to the development of creative hubs in Cardiff in the future. As well as this, I hope there is recognised potential for such hubs to become part of an interconnected network of creatives spanning Wales, the UK, and even Europe and globally.

Perhaps the potential of a hub network is way in which creatives can demonstrate that, despite established individualist tendencies, we are in fact better together.

To view Amelia’s Creative Cardiff profile, please follow the link below:

http://www.creativecardiff.org.uk/users/amelia-seren-roberts

Twitter: @amelia_seren

 

REVIEW CABARET ((RICHARD BURTON COMPANY) RWCMD BY JAMES BRIGGS


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Audio review of the production with music from the production

‘Cabaret’ is highly regarded as being one of the greatest musicals of all time and has some magnificent songs and fascinating characters, it also has a strong compelling and highly political storyline with a message from history that can’t be ignored. Set in Berlin on the eve of World War Two in the 1930’s, it shows the rise of the Nazis against the apathy of the masses, and describes a change that would prove to have terrifying consequences for everyone who lives in Berlin. Most of the story unfolds in the seedy ‘Kit Kat club’.

I was not sure of what to expect when attending the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for this production as I had only heard some of the songs from the musical and was unfamiliar with the storyline, so I must admit when the house lights dimmed and the characters began to enter the stage to the song ‘Willkommen’ I was slightly perplexed at the characters in front of me and their stage presence especially only being 17.

For many, including my mother who I attended the show with, imprinted on their mind was the film version of the musical starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, Joel Grey as the compère and Michael York as the young Englishman.
The stage show opens with the arrival of a young American, Cliff Bradshaw (played by Jonathan Radford) in Berlin on New Year’s Eve 1930. In a chance meeting at the railway station, he’s becomes friends with the very polite and helpful Ernst Ludvig (played by Tom Corbishley) who refers Cliff to Fraulein Schneider’s lodging house while he is staying in Berlin. Later in the story, Cliff is introduced to the ‘Kit Kat Club’, a cabaret club where anything can happen. He meets Sally Bowles, a singer who escapes reality when performing her songs in the club.

Set against Cliff and Sally’s relationship, and the relationship between Fraulein Schneider and her Jewish fiancée, the Nazis start to show their might and their threat is felt by all at both the unassuming lodging house and the Kit Kat Club. Adena Cahill as the upper class English Sally Bowles is very good. Fraulein Schneider was played by the believable Rosie Archer whose characterisation was excellent as well as that of Dafydd Gape who played the kind, caring and helpful Herr Schultz. Jennifer Ruth-Adams who played Fraulein Kost was able to do this very well and produced some comical scenes when trying to get her sailor lovers out of the lodging house without Fraulein Schneider finding out.

However, for me the star of the show was Corey Jones as Emcee, whose performance was outstanding and whose stage presence was simply mesmerising and as soon as he entered the stage you could not take your eyes off him. Jones’ Emcee was extremely dark and edgy with an exceptionally strong character and you were never quite sure if he was simply a welcoming host, or one that really despises all people.

Corey Jones as Emcee

Photographic credit Kirsten Mcternan

The level of the singing in the production was brilliant and there was not one character that slipped out of their German or American accents. It felt as though I was in Berlin watching the show. The performance of ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ by Ross Hoey as a young Nazi was very chilling and this was made more powerful when the Nazi flags dropped down on each side of the stage. With well-known songs such as ‘Maybe This Time’, ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Mein Herr’ it is sometimes difficult to live up to audience expectations but the cast of this production surpassed themselves. The band that played during the performance was equally exceptional and brought the music to life.

The ‘Richard Burton Theatre’ housing the performance was very fitting and gave the audience a feeling of intimacy with the characters on stage. You felt you were part of the audience in the ‘Kit Kat Club’ taking part in all the action.

The staging worked equally very well with the theatre and as one entered the theatre we were greeted by a large structure hanging diagonally on stage with simply some chairs below it. There was also a large use of period lights on chains that along with the structure moved during the performance. This was used extremely well as it gave the effect that the ‘Kit Kat Club’ was opening up in front of the audience. The minimal set worked extremely well and allowed the audience to concentrate more on the characters opposed to the surrounding.

The Entr’acte from the Musical ‘Cabaret’.

Overall, this is an utterly breath-taking performance even if it is rather risqué in parts with a chilling end but I will certainly be attending far more shows at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama because if the level of performance is always this high, you are guaranteed an amazing night at the theatre.

Type of show: Theatre
Title: Cabaret
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Dates: 22-30 June
Director: Paul Kerryson
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Musical Director: Nathan Jones
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Set Designer: Tina Torbay
Lighting Designer: Becky Heslop
Costume Designer: Jessica Campbell Plover

Review Return of The Grumpy Old Women- Fifty Shades Of Beige, St Davids Hall by James Briggs


 
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
 
Returning after their sell-out Spring 2015 tour the Grumpy Old Women are back to share their Grumpy tales and tips with the nation. Award-winning comedian and original star of Grumpy Old Women Jenny Éclair is accompanied by fellow recruits Susie Blake (star of Mrs Brown’s Boys) and Kate Robbins (Singer and star of Casualty). Before I go on with the review, however, I must mention I cannot go into too much detail as to the tales told with my review because as Jenny Éclair said “What goes on in Grumpy club stays in Grumpy club”.
The Grumpy Old Women
Landing at St David’s Hall in their shed from outer space the grumpy old women, spacewalk onto the stage complete with space helmets and uniforms to a momentous applause from the audience, unsurprisingly the audience was mainly made up of women, with just a few men dotted about the auditorium. Given that I was possibly one of the youngest in the audience and being male I still felt as though I was able to relate to the topics they discussed – mind you having a Mum the same age as the Grumpy Old Women did help!
The Grumpy Old Women talked about a wide range of subjects that any person was able to relate to including a guide to nagging, how to get a roof rack put on a car without your husband moaning, dancing at weddings and pole dancing. Props littered the garden set and were used to brilliant effect during the show and even included a gigantic pair of pants and a BBQ.
The show is very clever in that it can be talking about a topic and then the lighting will change and you are plunged into a mini sketch. The sketches highlight the brilliant acting skills of all the Grumpy Old Women. The amazingly funny script really worked well for the stars and left the audience in stitches and in my case tears streaming down my face. I really like the fact that all of the comedy was good clean fun with very little use of bad language. When the language was used however it was delivered with fantastic comic timing.
The second half of the show sees them return to the James Bond theme which sparked a debate into why there has not yet been a female Bond. With the current news of Daniel Craig’s decision not to carry on playing Bond there is no better time than now to consider the possibilities of a female actress playing Bond and the three Grumpy women are obviously showcasing their talents to play Jane Bond.
For me there were two stand out moments in the show that were utterly hilarious, the first of these was when team Grumpy took part in ‘Grumpy Come Dancing’ based on the hit BBC show which had the audience in hysterics especially with Susie Blake’s pole dancing performance. The second stand out moment for me was the posh version of The Jeremy Kyle show, the writing was amazing and Kate Robbins impersonation of Jeremy Kyle was brilliant and even mimicked the way he lies on the step and goes up close to the faces of the people on the show. The content of the Jeremy Kyle sketch is also fantastically funny due to it being based around a mother complaining ‘My son will not practice the cello’.
At the end of the evening the audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation. Anyone who watches this show is guaranteed to have a fabulous night and will most definitely be leaving with an aching jaw from laughing so much. This really is a must see show that should not be missed and is most definitely the best night out I have had in a long while.

Return of The Grumpy Old Women- Fifty Shades Of Beige is currently on a UK wide tour and all of the dates are available via this link- http://www.grumpyoldwomenlive.com/

Review Richard Herring St David’s Hall, Cardiff

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I must admit I knew very little about Richard Herring so didn’t know what to expect when attending his stand up show at St David’s Hall in Cardiff. Richard Herring is a 48 year old father and husband.

Herring begins his routine talking of the night his daughter was born and the hours afterwards seeing his wife in pain and giving birth. Herring does say that he doesn’t want to be one of the comedians that has just become a father and solely talks about that topic, however, this does form much of the material for the first half of the show. He does briefly talk about life pre marriage and the birth of his daughter which was funny and which was more relevant to my age group but on times was a little too explicit. However, the older members of the audience found it very funny especially on the topic of a possible affair with a life-like robot similar to that of Gemma Chan from ‘Humans’ at some point in the distant future.

In the second half of his show Herring moves away from family stories as he begins to think about the grammatical correctness of his mother in law’s door mat which welcomes people to their house with ‘Grand Children Spoilt Here’. His deconstructing of the lyrics of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed was very well received with the audience. One feeling you really get from the show is that Richard Herring is extremely proud of his family and this is very much part of his act.

He confesses multiple times that his life has been totally focused on his career and since having a wife and child his priorities have changed and questions how we as adults can reach pure happiness like that felt by a child and whether it is even achievable at all. He also talks about how at the time of the moment of pure happiness we are too busy thinking about what could go wrong rather than really thinking about how important this moment is. Herring tells a story of how a three year old child walking on a beach in a hot country eating a Cornetto is as good as it can get for them at that moment and yet within a matter of hours they will forget the experience and may never feel that happiness again. All very philosophical!

When considering Herring’s performance and routine one can easily describe him as delivering comedy that makes his audience laugh out loud as well as ponder life’s big questions. Herring also talks about how he may not be as famous such as his friend Steve Coogan but seems very happy with his lot. It does encourage you to reflect no matter who we are or how successful we become there is always going to be someone doing that bit better than you and it is also important to remember that there may well be others looking up at you.

This show is not going to leave you with an aching stomach from laughing but will leave you with a smile on your face and a greater sense of appreciation for the smaller things in life that you may well have taken for granted before.

Review Sand The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

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It’s always hard when you have to do a monologue on stage, but a 40 minute intense one with only one week practice is pretty much impossible. Yet that is what Sara Lloyd Gregory did. Even though she had her script on stage she didn’t falter one bit. Taking on Sand by Nick Gill,  a monologue that took on the themes of grief, war and nuclear weapons. Sara’s intensity kept gradually building until the very end when she just blew us away. Her vocal training and breath control was impeccable even when the pace was phenomenally quick.
Kate Wasserberg, director of this production lead this performance to a success, the timed pauses and the changes in emotions and attitudes were completely on point. One thing that also has to be applauded was the use of sound by Sam Jones and lighting by Katy Morison, both aspects made the performance mesmerising to watch and in some parts it even felt like it was in a different dimension.
One of the main aspects I love coming to watch the Other Room’s seasonal performances is that they always pick challenging pieces yet they always bring in such professional actors that completely deliver.

Review Barnum at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

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Barnum at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Book by Mark Bramble
Lyrics: Michael Stewart
Music: Cy Coleman
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
Rating: 4.5
Jugglers, acrobats, gymnasts et al entertain as the audience takes their seats – latecomers miss a treat. Spectacle and excitement with dazzling displays of circus expertise – Barnum has them all. Based on the life of American showman Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum who took his team of trapeze artists clowns, jugglers plus talented performers such as the singer Jenny Lind all over America and the major cities of the world, this is musical theatre traditional style given a new fillip by Cameron Mackintosh in this Chichester Festival Theatre production.
All the elements of the original Broadway production are here, but for those who were fortunate (or are old enough!) to have seen the production starring Michael Crawford which ran for a record-breaking 655 performances at the London Palladium after it opened in 1981, the big question must be: Does Brian Conley who is playing the demanding and exhausting role of showman PT Barnum live up to the almost-impossibly-high standard created by Crawford?
The answer has to be: Yes! Yes! And Yes! Conley’s Barnum is a likeable con man who could charm monkeys off trees – and does. Though when he forsakes his long-suffering wife Chairy, whose views differ radically from his as to what is right and what is not, siding with him becomes momentarily difficult. Even here, how can you feel anything but gut-wrenching suspense for a man who walks a tightrope to get to the temptation awaiting him on the other side in the shape of a delectable Swedish opera singer?? Metaphorically speaking, you say? No – in a daring act which took weeks to perfect, Conley actually does walk the tightrope. Indeed, throughout the show, along with the rest of the cast, he runs the gamut of acrobatic and dance skills with aplomb and style.
The bubbly Linzi Hateley more than holds her own as Chairy, the wife who despite brooking none of her circus-loving hubby’s nonsense, remains true to him till the end. The story of their marriage, with all its ups and downs, runs in perfect tandem with the on-going razzmatazz of the show, peppered with songs such as the foot-tapping ‘Come Follow the Band’ which opens Act I and Barnum’s theme song of ‘There Is A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute’ plus the poignancy of ‘The Colors of My Life’ sung with feeling by Conley and Hateley, as is ‘So Little Time’ later, in Act II.   If there is a criticism to be made – and in such a polished production it seems almost invidious to do so – it is that Kimberly Blake as opera star Jenny Lind, while looking stunning and ethereal in an ice blue creation that would not look out of place at the Oscars, is a tad too ethereal. The lack of chemistry between her and Barnum renders their love affair not entirely believable – a minor hiccup in an otherwise five star production.
A considerable chunk of credit for the fizzing excitement that characterises this high-energy show must go to the ensemble. On stage for most of the time, the acrobats, trapeze artistes, high wire experts and dancers never flag. Some neat cameo roles, too, from David Birch as an anxiety-ridden Wilton, while   Edward Wade’s Julius Goldschmidt is a gem.
With great costumes and breath-taking staging – including a mock-up of the nether limbs of an elephant – this show is a firecracker.
Runs until Saturday August 15th
https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2015-2016/DonaldGordonTheatre/Barnum/

 
 
 
 

Review Everyman Open Air Festival, As You Like It by Lois Arcari

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The music, folky and rustic was the backbone of the play, and was much like the play itself, pitch perfect, warm, and a crossing through time. As ever, the work on the stage was wonderful, the evening and the garden behind turning a sparse stage into a well made wood, the perfect stage for our characters to play on.
Rosalind was performed well, but shone as Ganymede, who it was obvious the actress relished playing, and did so with perfect comedic timing and a real chemistry with Orlando, who stole the audience in his wrestling scene.
Though the actresses in the parts were wonderful, there was little point turning the Duke’s into Duchesses, especially after the deliciously evil one disappeared from the play promptly and had nothing much to do.
Celia was played warmly and with wit, Pheobe and her lovelorn puppy were brilliant comically, and Touchstone was a very well-played fool, but nothing particularly new was brought to the play’s most famous phrase.
The folk songs gave a sense of real community, both to the fictional Forrest and to the audience, and, as said before, were probably the best and most memorable element of the play, with the wonderful happy ending a joy to behold for even the most cynical.
All in all, this was a play with a warm heart and brilliant players, and Sophia Gardens made the Forest of Arden come alive.
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As You Like it runs until the 1st August
http://everymanfestival.co.uk/#/list
 

Review Everyman Sweet Charity by Lois Arcari

 
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Everyman have done it again; with a feel good, bubble-gum musical, with subtle intelligence and integrity in a candy wrapper.
Charity herself could verge into the territory of annoying with her relentless optimism, but the subtle grit of her allows for her buoyancy without ever giving the audience a cavity. Charity is played vivaciously, and her joy is as infectious as the songs. The big number, Big Spender was brilliant and brassy; a real crowd pleaser, to be honest every song was well delivered, and every dance expertly choreographed. The one weak note in the soundtrack, however, is one of the most well-known songs – while The Rhythm of Life is sung with as much power and passion as any of them, it didn’t seem as polished, and sometimes tripped over itself. By no means a bad song, it had moments of the trademark excellence, but felt mostly underwhelming. Still, the lesser known songs, and the entire soundtrack save that shone. The actor portraying Oscar had brilliant comedic timing, and won the audience over in his first appearance, while Charity’s best friends gave great supporting performances.
Overall, this was a real big winner of a show, whipping up a delight for the near packed audience.

Review Beneath the Streets: Lost and Found Hijinx & Punchdrunk Enrichment by Sarah Finch

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Before starting this review I would like to congratulate the collaborators Hijinx and Punchdrunk Enrichment on arguably the most incredible and engaging immersive, site specific performance that I have ever had the pleasure of participating in, a bold statement that I hope this review provides justification for.
“We’ve all lost something: glasses, keys, memories, love, loved ones, our way…Are these things gone forever or have they found a home elsewhere? Hidden in Cardiff is a world of lost things. In the shadows, behind closed doors, we await you”

On Wednesday the 1st of July I joined a steadily growing queue outside the Maldron Hotel in Cardiff to see Beneath The Streets: Lost and Found. An exciting buzz of anticipation was rippling through the audience and before long a briefing on what was to come was delivered, along with mandatory dust masks. The buzz was now turning into excited curiosity as we were  led to the front doors of Jacob’s Antiques Market.
Upon entering the space I was immediately drawn to the attention of detail that had been used. Given that I am familiar with the regular layout of Jacob’s Antiques Market I was extremely impressed with how the design team and stage carpenter had utilised the space given to create this incredibly beautiful maze spanning two floors. I will admit I had trouble finding my way around for the first 15 minutes. Everywhere you went you were met with a corner, a drape or darkness! Opening doors to nothingness, dim lighting that cast shadows over performers and beautiful decorations adorning different sections of this new world.
My particular favourite was a pyramid made from pages and pages of books in the section of lost words, the impressive set design continued as I found myself being led by an actor into a dark room lit with a few candles, to be told a tragic love story, only to find him conversing through a non-existent mirror with his lady-love. An extremely clever trick that left myself and the other audience member, that had been lured to the ‘other room’, in complete shock. Upon discovery of the lower lair I came across sets of actors telling different stories, all looking for something or finding something. Ascending to the upper we were greeted with corporate scenes, scientists, products, offices and even a small exhibition. Eventually a message sounded over the tannoy asking that all staff report to a meeting on the upper level, the audience then witnessed the delivering of an elixir which had side effects on every staff member. The staff began to engage with the audience, but in a different way than before – this was then our signal to be led out.
I feel that words simply cannot describe how beautiful, thought-provoking and magical the experience was. Every actor was superb, it was inspiring to see the relationships between characters and the chemistry felt in each situation, credit is due to all that participated. The set and costume designs were outstanding and considering how much effort had gone into stage production I felt this really complimented the actors and helped to bring the performance to life.
As an actor that has performed in immersive theatre I applaud with admiration each and everyone that performed in this flawless production, immersive theatre is the most exciting of theatre forms that I hope all actors enjoyed delivering to their audience. With the element of lost and found I can speak from personal experience when agreeing that I did lose myself here because I was so completely engaged with this perfect production, I will definitely be the first in line for tickets when Hijinx and Punchdrunk Enrichment honour the people of Cardiff with another outstanding show.

Review Blasted, Sarah Kane, the Other Room by Eifion Ap Cadno

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The Other Room has undergone a transformation and after a certain amount of hype, has opened its floodgates with the aim of producing a torrent of new Welsh plays, as well as a foundation of post-1950 classics. The first of these is Blasted.
The bus journey home after seeing Blasted – my first live Sarah Kane play, having read them all – was an interesting one. Unsure of how I felt I started projecting my feelings onto the world around me. A large boxer dog was wailing loudly fairly continuously for a few minutes, before a man approached it with his own, smaller, more placid dog held under his arm, like a gun. He held his dog close to the boxer so that they could sniff each other for a while before he returned to his seat. The boxer fell silent, its anxiety eased.
I felt like that boxer. I wanted to howl with it. I needed someone to sniff, to connect with, and to understand.
Blasted is not a good play, nor an enjoyable play: those are simply the wrong words. It is one heck of an experience however, and you will feel something, whether that’s disgust or arousal, horror or empathy.
This is Sarah Kane’s first play, and when it opened at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 1995 it was called a “disgusting piece of filth” by Jack Tinker of the Daily Mail. This opinion was shared by many.
However, many critics backtracked in subsequent years, such as The Guardian’s Michael Billington who said “I got it wrong”. Since her suicide in 1999 – leaving five plays and one short film behind – she has gained further reverence posthumously.
Blasted manages to pile horror upon horror. It is only by going to such dark extremes that certain philosophical ideas come to light, and a moral is found. What makes one death worse than another? A life more valuable? To paraphrase one of the lines: your arse is not special.
In the face of abjection, each character has their own defence mechanisms; their way of rationalising the irrational. It is a wonderfully complex exploration of human interaction and broken, vulnerable minds.
Louise Collins plays the innocent Cate, and manages to straddle the chasm between waif and harbinger-of-doom. She gives us and Cate her all, complete with tears, snot and unnerving blackouts. From the moment she steps fresh-faced and wide-eyed into the room, to the pallid, red-eyed bowing at the end, she undergoes a slow catharsis throughout the play. A brutal transformation and performance.
In contrast, Christian Patterson is the foul-mouthed, capricious Ian – a tabloid journalist paying for the two’s stay in a hotel in Leeds. He is every bit the antithesis of Cate, who he manipulates and hurts in order to appease himself. Christian bares all; despite his character’s anger and bigotry, he allows us to see the hurt and the fear. There is humour too, which bobs to the surface when desolation sits like oil.
If Ian is the great white, Simon Nehan gives us the Megalodon as the Soldier. He is vicious and feral; yet for all his barbarism he too is darkly comic. He executes the bloodiest and most heinous acts that society is too ashamed to call its own. Blasted is arguably an anti-war play; it certainly shows war to be the worst of humanity. Within a character that is extreme and highly symbolic, Simon mines little personal nuggets of truth and reason.
Director Kate Wasserberg has no doubt spent a long time with the actors, pushing them to places which had me squirming in my seat and neurotically twirling my pencil. A feeling of tension prevails throughout.
The production benefits from a commissioned soundtrack by composer Nick Gill. Piano, marimba, whisperings and static haunt and fill the darkness between scenes.
The Other Room really is small: with just 44 seats the audience are in the hotel room in Leeds, which despite being expensive looks unsettling from the start. A large and oppressive painting evocative of the River Styx hangs above the neatly-made bed, contrasting with angelic white curtains that surround the venue’s fire escape. There is a smoky whiff of The Royal Court.
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Kane said of the theatre “I keep coming back in the hope that someone in a darkened room somewhere will show me an image that burns itself into my mind”. Last night, completely by chance, a cloud of dense white smoke curled behind Ian and the Soldier, and formed what I thought was a ghost. I was simultaneously horrified and praising of the production values. It soon dissipated and I realised my mistake, but I am thankful The Other Room provided such a personal and uncanny experience.
To return to my bus journey home: I sat beside a man listening to heavy metal and thought how anxious and stressed I would be listening to that- why on Earth does he?
Then I realised, Blasted is heavy metal.
As part of The Other Room’s ‘Life in Close Up’ season, it runs until March 7th; tickets are available from their website www.otherroomtheatre.com.
I recommend getting along and seeing what this budding new theatre has to offer.
Review by Eifion Ap Cadno
Production photo by Pallasca Photography