(5 / 5)
Gary Owen and Rachel O’Riordan’s radical reimagining of Chekhov’s classic masterfully transports the narrative of The Cherry Orchard from pre-revolutionary Russia to early 1980’s Britain at the outset of the Thatcher regime. The parallels of the two landscapes, both on the cusp of societal upheaval, provides an apt setting for Owen’s exploration of class equalities, guilt and grief.
At the beginning of the play we meet Rainey, returning to the family home in West Wales and the memories of the son that continue to haunt her. With no money left and the future of their home increasingly uncertain, could an agreement with former tenant Lewis save the property from impending auction?
The one set staging creates an intimacy and surprising relatability between the family and the audience which transcends class preconceptions through the sense of a shared space which we co-inhabit over the course of the 3 hours. The clever use of space enables us to effortlessly join Anya in the Orchard, envisage the view down to the shore and experience the poignancy of Rainey and Dottie’s moment in the grounds. The presence of Josef is hauntingly conjured throughout.
Whilst Richard Mylan and Alexandria Riley provide us with a great deal of the humour throughout, it is Riley’s Dottie who most poignantly captures the extent of the injustices that class inequality can create; for in a society where time is money, who is afforded the luxury of the time to grieve? Juxtaposed with just how detrimental this ‘indulgence’ has rendered Rainey – a decade of alcoholism and guilt – we are left to un-judgingly straddle the vast void between the extremities of each’s experience.
A powerful, thought-provoking piece and one not to be missed.
By Anton Chekhov
A re-imagining by Gary Owen
Director Rachel O’Riordan
Designer Kenny Miller
Lighting Designer Kevin Treacy
Composer and Sound Designer Simon Slater
Casting Director Kay Magson CDG
Get the Chance member Corrine Cox.
With speckled references to the hits throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.
(5 / 5)
As we’re teased with references to the iconic You Really Got Me in the opening sequence there’s already a palpable sense of anticipation pulsing around the auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre as the cast of Sunny Afternoon prepare to take us on a 2½ hour musical journey through The Kinks rise to stardom. From the early days in North London; their debut on Top of the Pops; the infamous American tour; through to their triumphant comeback, Joe Penhall ingeniously weaves the hit songs from the 60s into the storytelling of one of the most influential bands of the era.
Our story begins in Muswell Hill, with performances by Ryan O’Donnell & Mark Newnham perfect characterisations of the often tense professional relationship between the rebellious Davies brothers, as they navigate the initial tensions to discovering the bands distinctive sound, the start of a journey which would shape a unique musical identity that would inspire generations. Throughout the evening O’Donnell, Newnham (a highlight performance), Gallo, Rhys and the supporting ensemble, blend effortlessly to recreate the iconic sound of the band, in what is a moving portrayal of both the professional and the personal lives of the band and their adjustment to the pressures of stardom. With references to the hits speckled throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.
Throughout the exploration of the soaring highs and the frustrating lows the band encounter, we join the cast in a celebration of how four working class musicians from North London changed the music scene for generations to come. Dead end street, weaved masterfully into Penhall’s narrative, particularly highlighting how the bands upbringing proved an ongoing source of inspiration for Ray’s writing with the majority of the works involving similar elements of social commentary, which inevitably played a large part in their then and ongoing appeal.
The staging enables the cast to create a certain intimacy during acoustic interludes including This Time Tomorrow and Thank you for the Days, contrasted with the gig feel of the iconic All Day and All of the Night & roof raising end sequence, and quirks of the choreography and use of props lend themselves especially well to the playfulness of numbers such as Dedicated Follower of Fashion.
The universal appeal of Sunny Afternoon makes it a must-see irrespective of whether you know the band or the songs. If you know The Kinks you’ll love it, if you don’t know the Kinks you’ll love it. A feel good musical and a moving portrayal to one of the defining bands of the 60s who will continue to inspire generations to come.
Ray Davies – Ryan O’Donnell
Dave Davies – Mark Newnham
Mick Avory – Andrew Gallo
Pete Quaife – Garmon Rhys
Music & Lyrics – Ray Davies
Book – Joe Penhall
Original Story – Ray Davies
Director – Edward Hall
Designer – Miriam Buether
Choreographer – Adam Cooper
Lighting – Rick Fisher
Sound – Matt Mckenzie
Musical Supervisor – Elliot Ware
As we congregate outside Butetown History and Arts Centre, our identity stripped back to little more than the number in our hand, Fio invite us to consider what life might be like if we were forced to leave everything we know and love behind in order to escape war and violence.
Civil war has broken out in the West. People are dying at the hands of the dictatorship and escape is the only option. The East can provide opportunities for some, but the fast track is only available to those with the right papers and the desired skills and experience. With our social media and newspapers plastered with news and images of mass migration to Europe, it is this reversal of roles which makes Swarm particularly interesting, directly provoking the audience to consider ‘What happens if this happened to us?’
“You’ve got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life” David Cameron, July 2015
A defining feature of the media narrative surrounding immigration has undoubtedly been that of the dehumanisation of migrants. Swarm captures this brilliantly through Cara Jayne Readle’s portrayal of a Media Representative, reporting on the ongoing tragedy in the war struck west for the no doubt passive consumption of those back home.
As we are herded into the overcrowded transit centre where we wait to be processed, tensions run high amongst overstretched medical staff. Natalie Edward-Yesufu’s heart-breaking performance of a young nurse as she struggles with her feelings of hopelessness to change the devastating tragedy around her and the possibility of hope and a new life in the East.
As we navigate our way through the building certain aspects of the set create a particular degree of poignancy; a section of Ruth Stringer’s #2868 boats installation, a paper boat to represent the life of every Syrian refugee drowned or missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far in 2016; children’s colourings created by members of the community cast as part of the performance created on pieces of paper bearing statistics of the unbelievable scale of death and devastation that the East has faced; screens with images of the horrifying conditions migrants face and the overplay of refugee voices all add to this already captivating narrative which examines how people in these situations are forced to act and interact with the circumstances placed upon them.
This timely and poignant site-specific performance reminds us, if we really needed reminding, that this is a human crisis.
Cast: Mathew David, Christina Dembenezi, Natalie Edward-Yesufu, Natalie Paisey, Cara Jayne Readle
Director: Abdul Shayek
Assistant Director: Chantal Erraoui
Producer: Alan Humphreys
Designer: Lizzie French
Stage Manager: Katie Bingham
Filmaker: Kym Epton
Community Cast: Jasmine Camilleri, Sahara Camilleri, Tia Camilleri, Josie Harding, Mira Lukawiecka, Stefan Lukawiecki, Donna Males, Geraint Stewart-Davies, Ananya Upadhyaya, Ayushi Upadhyaya, Akram Yasseen, Amani Yasseen.