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Review, Life of Pi, Wyndham Theatre, by Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Spoiler – if I could give this production more than 5 stars, then I would. It has been a long time since I enjoyed and was so utterly transfixed by something as I was with Life of Pi.

Brought out in film form a few years ago, Life of Pi took Hollywood by storm with the interesting and unusual story of a boy who finds himself stranded on a boat, alone with a Tiger.

When I saw the film, I wasn’t as bowled over as everyone else seemed to be. My experience and reluctance was still in situ when I came to see Life of Pi but the promise of puppetry and somehow a boat on stage, made me want to see for myself.

Firstly – the performers were ah-mazing. The interaction and relationships between them was entirely believable, and if this wasn’t on a stage, you could easily believe the relationships that were performed. Each character was fully realised and even when they doubled up on characters, you forgot that you saw them as, say, the uncle beforehand. Costuming helped to some degree but the pure talent of the performers really sold it. The main character of Pi was hilarious and cheeky and such a likeable character. This made emotional parts of the story more intense with someone you like and want to look after. His cheekiness was everything a 17 year old boy would give and it pocketed itself in between the hard moments of turmoil.

The staging was magnificent – unlike anything I have seen before; the whole stage had points where the elements rose from nowhere, where Pi jumps through the stage shocking us, where it changes easily from a zoo, to a ship, to a boat, to a hospital room. Instead of painted set, the entire aesthetic was brought by light and projection – and this became innovative from typewriting style lettering to pin point the place and date, to a starry sky or fish swimming below the boat. This alone was immersive and transfixed me along with the narrative and performance.

And of course, the pièce de résistance, was the puppetry of the animals. From life size Zebras to small fish, the puppetry took on the same technique as debuted in War Horse – entirely believable, the little mannerisms and personalities of these animals came through with the flick of a tale or the twitch of an ear. The larger creatures featured the full bodies of puppeteers inside to help the movement and others helped with various maneuvering by others. But as amazing as these performers were, they were forgotten by the realness they brought across with movement of these puppets.

I will freely admit that I found myself in tears, not only at the narrative, but at the beauty of these puppets, as if they were real animals on stage. They were magnificent and entirely believable.

The less wholesome elements of the story, which features animals being eaten or blood and gore to some degree, is done extremely well and tastefully, using lighting, coloured fabric and ominous music to accompany. You cringe away as if it is real but part of you knows that it is only the well presented theatrics.

Life of Pi, whether you enjoyed the film or not, is one of the best things I have ever seen and is the ultimate must see in theatre. It is every part funny, emotional, awe-inspiring and beautiful. For a West End production, there is the gorgeous element of immersion with the beautiful stage design and the action is shocking and intense as the narrative is meant to be. This is a show I will never forget and have ever since, not stopped thinking about.

Review Dreamachine, Temple of Peace by James Ellis

Photo credit: David Levene/The Guardian
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Something trippy this way comes. Curiously, the Dreamachine from Assemble, is from the jarringly renamed Festival of Brexit in an attempt to blast away British sensibilities and open minds.

Arriving to the Temple of Peace, the staff were warm and welcoming. We popped our shoes off and entered the Greek like temple, now with the enclosure for the experience looking like a building from Mesopotamia. Our host, reassured us and wanted us to know what would occur, if anyone was in discomfort they could leave. I was looked after well, yet found myself nervous for the near ritual.

Artist Brion Gysin created a device which could stimulate the optic nerve, manipulating the brain’s electrical oscillations. This is the Dreamachine. Laying back and getting comfy there was a space age feel to it all. What could only be described as violently hallucinogenic, patterns and constructions formed with my closed eyes. With the lighting at break neck speed to help the trip along, it was an almost unbearable vision. I saw scribbles and prisms within always flowing and hyper coloured yantras. I wondered if this was what it was like to have synesthesia. The score by Jon Hopkins works well, though I think I craved something with a bit more bite from a composer dubbed the next Brian Eno.

Though a shared visitation, what you see is very much wired into your own body and mind. It’s easy to marvel at how the eye takes in light and how the brain processes this information. Some might dub this a religious encounter, others a journey into the psyche. The chance to draw what we saw after with pastels brought me back to childhood and gave us the complete rest bite from an intense journey. A round table was filled with people’s visual testimonies.

What must also be considered is the element of health and what people bring to Dreamachine. Those with mental and some physical health conditions may need to enquire if the show is right for them. I caught a strong headache after the fact, a bout of anxiety did wash over me for the start of the experience as well. It felt as if I was stuck halfway between 2001: A Space Odyssey and a Gaspar Noe film.

The main event it the High Sensory experience (what I saw) along with the more laid back and inclusive Deep Listening encounter. This wont be for everyone, but by golly will it arrest you.

Now on in Cardiff and London, in Belfast and Edinburgh this summer.

Review the_crash.test, Hijinx Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

The award-winning Hijinx, one of Europe’s leading inclusive theatre companies, is always pushing the envelope on what ‘theatre’ is and what it can be. the_crash.test – in partnership with Wales Millennium Centre, Pontio and Theatr Ffwrnes – is Hijinx’s latest experiment in ‘hybrid theatre’, fusing performance and technology in an immersive experience like no other. Branded as a Frankenstein for the tech age, the show explores the responsibility we have as humans: to each other and to the things we create.

Directed by Hijinx’s AD Ben Pettitt-Wade, the_crash.test asks you to imagine a world in which your digital self could live for you (think the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates, only better). This is the promise of tech start-up Figital, led by preening CEO Michel LeCoq (Benjamin Victor), who zooms in from a wellness retreat in Bali to put the finishing touches on the ‘Fing-a-me-Bob’, or ‘Bob’ for short: a digital crash test dummy whose burgeoning sentience is about to throw a serious spanner in the works for world domination.

The show itself is a marvel of creativity and collaboration, devised and driven by a cast of performers on stage and via video link. The space is filled with two huge screens onto which is projected everything from a tropical paradise to a molecular wonderland, underscored by Tic Ashfield’s evocatively unnerving soundscape. The motion capture puppetry for ‘Bob’ is especially impressive, and Owen Pugh and Lucy Green, who alternate the role, really bring the character to life. Pugh carries much of the drama as both ‘himself’ and as ‘Bob’. Green is also hilarious as one of Figital’s increasingly concerned shareholders, zooming in alongside Richard Newnham (be-wigged, bothered and bewildered – to fantastic effect) and Lindsay Foster as the feather boa-ed investor riotously reaching the end of her tether.

Benjamin Victor conducts the show with a skittish charm, joyfully skewering the Elon Musks and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. Bethany Freeman steals scenes as the beleaguered cleaner Betty, whose interactions with Bob are genuinely moving. Meanwhile, Matthew Mullins is responsible for some uproarious moments as the cameraman watching everything slowly devolve into chaos. In a time when zoom call ‘comedy’ has become rote, Hijinx have found a way of making it feel fresh, new and funny – and when they go dark, they don’t pull any punches.

While the ending is genuinely spectacular, the show can be a little uneven at times, and the meta-narrative doesn’t quite pay off – but it is always dynamic, clever, and darkly funny, and whenever the focus is on ‘Bob’ and their increasing sentience, it really soars. Bob’s creators aren’t sure what he’s ‘for’ – but what are any of us ‘for’, at the end of the day? That sort of capitalistic thinking gets very dehumanising very fast: if all of us have worth based on what we can offer, then what does it truly mean to be ‘human’?

The interactive parts of this show are a lot of fun and it’s exhilarating to be able to explore ethical dilemmas alongside the characters. The audience can join in-person or online, and whichever you choose, do bring your mobile phone with you if you can as you’ll be asked to vote on certain moments, starting with ‘what colour should Bob be?’ and escalating to high-stakes questions of mor(t)ality. It might even be worth exploring asking the audience to ‘justify’ their ethical decisions.

The level of talent and creativity on display is staggering. the_crash.test is playing at the Millennium again tonight, and there are plenty of chances to see it again: at the Millennium on 24 June, Pontio Bangor on 29 June and Ffwrnes Llanelli on 2 July (all as part of Hijinx’s Unity festival). Innovative, imaginative and totally immersive, the_crash.test is bonkers in the best way and something you simply have to experience for yourself.

the_crash.test is playing 13 and 14 May 2022 in the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre and throughout June and July in Llanelli, Bangor and Cardiff. All performances are live-captioned and the 14 May performance will have BSL and audio description.

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

 
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Review One Another, National Dance Company Wales – Theatr Clwyd – 10/5/22

So much of what it on offer at the theatre is routine light entertainment or tired re-runs of old chestnuts. A lot of new material, despite the best endeavours of marketing departments, also fails to excite. But, off to one side of mainstream theatre, there is contemporary dance and ‘One Another’ is a show that would appeal to anyone who enjoys performance and who appreciates physical technique, vivid imagination and enthusiastic exploration.

The show consists of three pieces: Ludo, by Caroline Finn, lasting thirty minutes; Codi, by Anthony Matsena, lasting twenty minutes and Wild Thoughts, by Andrea Costanzi Martini. There are nine dancers.

Wild Thoughts is an introduction to the company, with individual dancers appearing, performing similar routines, followed by duos and trios until everyone is on stage and a lot happens simultaneously. It’s extremely energetic (the first performance of the evening?) and very tight. There might have been mistakes but you would have been lucky to spot them. Although it’s fast, athletic and technical, it’s by no means dry. The dancers add to their movements by calling out the names of body parts in a synchronised chant. It had never struck me before that the word ‘thigh’ could achieve dramatic intensity!

I’d seen Codi the last time NDCW performed at Theatr Clwyd. I found it interesting with its clever use of lights and its references to the real life of coal mining and coal mining communities. The second time around, though, as much of it is performed in semi-darkness, to make the most of shadows and the helmet lights, I missed the facial expressions which added so much to the other pieces. And, whilst the soundtrack, mainly consisting of percussive noises is appropriate, it didn’t appeal to me. Nonetheless, this is dance approaching social comment and some of the poses that were struck resonate.

Ludo was fascinating and completely mad. It is a pot-pourri of situations taking place on and around a large table and then a number of park benches, which the dancers can manoeuvre individually or link together. There are moments of surrealism, in which elastic costumes are pulled in all directions, concealing the head or the limbs so that weird shapes can be created – and moved around. Little scenes are played out, teasing the intelligence – you want – in vain! – to work out exactly what is supposed to be going on. Objects, like an old gramophone player and a jam pot, are used as toys. Elements of stage business, like conjuring tricks and trompe l’oeil occur almost randomly. There’s no logic to any of the way the moments segue together, but that’s the fun of the piece. It makes nonsense of the idea of narrative by keeping you guessing throughout. It also makes you wonder if the stream of colourful ideas came from a single choreographer (if so I’d like to have some of what she is on) or if the company contributed their own ideas to make up the mix. The soundtrack to the piece is also charming, including, perhaps inevitably, an accordion at one point. The show ends with a smile.

The only downside is that the evening can’t build as it might with a ballet or a full length play. There are effectively two intervals which are almost as long as the pieces themselves. The audience is left to sit and look at the curtain, talking amongst themselves, or to go outside into the tented reception area which was very draughty (Theatr Clwyd is being substantially rebuilt). There will be technical reasons for these gaps – the dancers need to get their breath back and the set needs to be re-jigged – but ideally, there should be something happening on stage – a talk or question and answer session or even a bit of live music. Performances engross our attention and extend our concentration. If you can find a way to do this cumulatively you achieve more momentum.

That said, NDCW are to be congratulated on putting on a diverse and original show, of the kind which keeps theatre alive. Theatr Clwyd are also to be applauded for keeping their programme varied and making sure their local audience can experience the best in modern contemporary dance.

Simon Kensdale

PREVIEW Rock of Ages UK Tour – Interview with star Kevin Kennedy

No stranger to the small screen, television’s Kevin Kennedy has left the cobbles of Coronation Street far behind him as he takes to the stage and embraces his inner rock’n’roll star in the UK Tour of ROCK OF AGES which comes to the New Theatre Cardiff from 17 – 21 May 2022.

Not just an actor, you’ve also been part of many bands over the years. Have you been enjoying indulging your musical side in Rock of Ages?
Oh yes, it’s incredible to be able to put your two passions together – one being of course acting and the spoken word and the other being music, which is something I’ve loved throughout my life. To put those together is a perfect marriage, and in a vehicle such as Rock of Ages it is a whole lot of fun as well!

Rock Of Ages Musical The Alexandra Birmingham New Tour Cast 21/22 ©The Other Richard


For those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit about the story of Rock of Ages?
Rock of Ages is set in Los Angeles, California in the mid 1980s. It’s about a rock club called The Bourbon Room, which is absolutely legendary, every single band you could think of has played there. It’s an icon of rock’n’roll and absolutely the place to be, but the local council are attempting to close it down so we are fighting them. Alongside all of that there’s a beautiful love story, lots and lots of jokes and of course some of the most incredible music from the 80s like “Here I Go Again”, “The Final Countdown” and “I Want To Know What Love Is”.

And how does your character, ‘Dennis’ fit into this?
So, Dennis is the owner of The Bourbon Room and he’s an absolute rock guru. He’s given all these now legendary bands their stars and he’s been in bands himself. He’s also embraced the drug culture and intense sexuality of the 1980s with much enthusiasm and regularity! He’s a very interesting man to play – he’s got a good heart at his core but he’s a child of his culture and loves his sex, drugs and rock’n’roll! He’s a lot of fun to play!

Kevin Kennedy as ‘Dennis Dupree’ ©The Other Richard

Audiences may know you best from your time on television, particularly as ‘Curly Watts’ in “Coronation Street”. What are the biggest differences between working TV and theatre?
TV is a totally different skill and technique to theatre. Not least because you may put something in the can after filming and not get the payback of that for months or event years. You can almost film it, and then forget about it. With theatre however, it’s obviously live and live theatre is one of the last true shared experiences you can have – along with football! In the theatre you are all together and sharing one experience which is happening live, right in front of you and there’s not a lot of that left. That in itself generates its own energy and excitement as no two shows are the same. The show that you come and see will never been exactly the same as that ever again which is quite an exciting thought.

“ROCK OF AGES” boasts some of the biggest hits of the 1980s as its soundtrack. Were you a fan of 80s rock music?
I was a young-ish man in the 1980s and not a huge fan of some dance music, so the last refuge of guitar music to a certain extent was that brilliant American glam-rock that we showcase in Rock of Ages. They play their own instruments and perform live on stage so I had a huge respect for that.

Kevin Kennedy as ‘Dennis Dupree’ ©The Other Richard

Are there any challenges to performing this style of music on stage? Have you drawn from your experience as a musician?
It requires a lot of energy! However, once the show gets going it’s so much fun and no longer feels like work. Once you’ve done the hard work of learning the lines and where to stand we’ve been allowed to just have so much fun with it. Audiences are absolutely loving it because it’s just bonkers.


Do you have a favourite moment or number in the show?

Numerous moments! Although what I really enjoy is watching the other members of the cast doing their big solo numbers because they’re all so incredibly talented and it’s great to watch and learn from them. It’s been so lovely to see them grow into their characters from the first rehearsal through to our performances on tour now, where it all comes to fruition.

Rock Of Ages Musical The Alexandra Birmingham New Tour Cast 21/22 ©The Other Richard

What about a favourite song?
Oh the entire finale is my favourite as it is just one big fat rock’n’roll number.

Do you have any ‘must-have’ items whilst on tour?
A cafetière, some coffee (obviously), my Manchester City mug, and of course the most important thing – a PlayStation!

Rock Of Ages Musical The Alexandra Birmingham New Tour Cast 21/22 ©The Other Richard

Finally, what can audiences expect when they come and see Rock of Ages?
They can just expect to have a great time. If you’re a seasoned theatre-goer or you’ve never been to a show before you will have a lot of fun. If you want to come dressed in your leather trousers and embrace your inner 80s rock star then do that! Even bring along an inflatable guitar if you want – everything is just a whole lot of fun.

Review Composition: Wales Concert Hoddinott Hall by James Ellis

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The future of music Welsh lies in events like this. BBC NOW have taken under their wings Wales’ budding composers for years and this reaches its zenith in the Composition: Wales workshops and concerts each year at Hoddinott Hall.

Several pieces were performed on the night and I will try and touch upon each one. Starting off with Haldon Evans and his Y Mynydd Du, we get a vivid depiction of famous Arthurian landscapes. You could feel the breeze, with Vaughn Williams and Britten as friends. The grand, old Welsh composer might just have more music to come. Sam Butler’s Stones Have Memory Here had a focus on time, with Cardiff Castle in mind and the centuries of masonry that lie within. This felt quite nondescript, something I would need to hear again to really drink in. Auburn Dusk from Jonathan Guy was an airy, folk like few minutes which held favour in this concert.

Leading things was the flamboyant Ryan Bancroft, who’s animation is always watchable and exciting. He lives the music in every bar. Tomos Owen Jones and his Daybreak from High House was a charming sign off from the Brecon Beacons, the composer here thinking of his new home and it’s place in the landscape. Nexus by Natalie Roe was an unassuming composition though filled with spice, seemingly venturing into suggestions of other music genres without ever crossing their thresholds. The jazz inspired Ascension by Jake Thorpe had none of the trappings of the genre and crossed over into a harsh encounter. Upper Structures by Jonathan Worsley held up as quite dense and dreamy, the last but one work on the programme. The feel of the theatre lies in BBC NOW’S clarinetist Lenny Sayers’ The Imaginary Carnival, proven by future promises of a staging. This felt like Petrushka hungover, yet the festive imagery was very clear and rowdy.

It is always a joy to hear the musicians play new music. BBC NOW should be proud.

REVIEW Rybish (S4C) by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Written by Barry ‘Archie’ Jones (Dimbyd, Run Sbit), Rybish (‘Rubbish’) is an s4c/Cwmni Da comedy series which follows the crew of Cefn Cilgwyn, a recycling centre in North Wales. The centre is understaffed and overlooked, but though the team often disagree or fall out, they slowly become a family. The series premiered during the pandemic and was one of the only British series which carried on filming during lockdown. It’s subtle, kind, mischievous, melancholy – and hilarious.

Clive (Sion Pritchard), king of detritus

Its characters, and the actors who portray them, are the jewels in its crown. Sion Pritchard plays Clive, site manager and hero of the wasteland. Clive is a beleaguered but gallant leader, and while he might lose patience with his team, he would defend them with his last breath.

Val (Mair Tomos)

Mair Tomos Ifans plays Val, the warden of the waste. Always in her yellow jacket and Wales hat, not a lot impresses her, and I admire that. Dyfed Thomas plays Eurwyn, the sweetest man in the world, innocent yet wise; a gentle soul and healer of broken things. You might remember Dyfed from his iconic turn as Brian Lloyd Jones in the series Siop Siafins.

Eurwyn (Dyfed Thomas)

Rhodri Trefor plays Nigel, a soldier in his dreams, a layabout in his reality – though he soon becomes the kind of person you’d want by your side in battle. And last but not least, Betsan Ceiriog plays Bobbi, a college student searching for direction in life. Ceriog, in her debut tv role, is assured and strong – and I’m sure this is the start of a long and successful career.

Bobbi (Betsan Ceiriog)

Clive, Eurwyn and Nigel are like ancient Welsh figures lost in the modern age: a prince without a kingdom, a bard without an audience, a warrior without a battle. Bobbi is the muse who inspires them all to be their best selves. And Val is the sentry who guards the gate – or a druid, whose ways are mysterious to all save herself. With Bobbi in their lives, they all have something to fight for: she is the hope of future generations.

Nigel (Rhodri Trefor)

Writer Jones gets that a comedy’s joy resides in both in the specific and the universal. Rybish examines tradition and innovation, old and new; it finds excitement in the mundane, beauty in the unloved. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, Rybish never throws anything (or anyone) away.

Series 1 a 2 are on Clic now.

Check out Gareth Williams’ excellent review here

The Cefn Cilgwyn crew

ADOLYGIAD Rybish (S4C) gan Barbara Hughes-Moore

Ysgrifennwyd gan Barry ‘Archie’ Jones (Dimbyd, Run Sbit), mae Rybish ydy cyfres comedi s4c/Cwmni Da sy’n dilyn criw Cefn Cilgwyn, canolfan ailgylchu yn y Gogledd. Mae’r canolfan yn brin o staff ac yn cael ei hanwybyddu, ond er gwaetha nifer o ddadleuon, mae’r criw yn araf yn dod yn deulu. Darlledwch y cyfres cyntaf mewn y pandemig, a Rybish ydy’r un o’r cyfres Brydeinig sy wedi ffilmio yn ystod y clo mawr. Mae’n gynnil, yn garedig, yn ddireidus, yn felangol – ac yn ddoniol iawn.

Clive (Sion Pritchard), brenin y sbwriel

Ei gymeriadau, ac yr actorion sy’n chwarae nhw, ydy’r gemau yn y goron. Mae Sion Pritchard yn chwarae Clive, rheolwr safle ac arwr y wastraff. Clive ydy arweinydd dan warchae ond dewr, ac allai golli amynedd gyda’i dîm, fyddai’n eu hamddiffyn â’i anadl olaf.

Val (Mair Tomos)

Mae Mair Tomos yn chwarae Val, warden y wastraff. Wastad mewn siaced melyn a het Cymru, dim lot yn gallu argraffi Val, ac rwy’n edmygu hynny. Dyfed Thomas yn chwarae Eurwyn, y boi melysaf yn y byd, diniwed ond doeth; enaid tyner ac iachawr o bethau toredig. Efallai eich bod yn cofio Dyfed o’i rôl eiconig yn y cyfres Siop Siafins, fel y gymeriad Brian Lloyd Jones.

Eurwyn (Dyfed Thomas)

Rhodri Trefor yn chwarae Nigel, milwr yn ei freuddwydion, lleyg yn ei realiti – er y daw yn fuan y math o berson y byddech chi ei eisiau wrth eich ochr chi mewn brwydr. Ac yn olaf ond nid yn lleiaf, Betsan Ceiriog yn chwarae Bobbi, myfyrwraig coleg sy’n chwilio am cyfeiriad mewn hi fywyd. Ceiriog, mewn rôl teledu gyntaf, yn gryf ac yn dibetrus – a ddwi’n siwr mae hyn yn dechrau gyrfa hir a lwyddianus.

Bobbi (Betsan Ceiriog)

Mae Clive, Eurwyn a Nigel sy fel cymeriadau hynafol Cymraeg, sy ar goll mewn oes modern: tywysog heb deyrnas, bardd heb cynulleidfa, rhyfelwr heb brwydr. Bobbi yw’r awen sy’n eu hysbrydoli i fod ar eu gorau eu hunain. A mae Val yn gwyliwr sy’n gwarchod y gât – neu derwydd, y mae ei ffyrdd yn ddirgelwch i bawb ond iddi. Gyda Bobbi yn eu bywydau, gallant gael rhywbeth newydd i ymladd drosto: hi ydy’r gobaith o genedlaethau’r dyfodol.

Nigel (Rhodri Trefor)

Mae’r awdur ‘Archie’ Jones yn ddeall bod llawenydd comedi yn gorwedd mewn y penodol a’r cyffredinol. Mae Rybish yn archwilio traddodiad ac arloesi, yr hen ac y newydd; mae’r sioe yn ffeindio cyffro yn y cyffredin, hardd yn y di-gariad. Yn eironig, neu ‘fallai’n addas, nid yw Rybish byth yn taflu unrhywbeth (neu unrhywun) i ffwrdd.

Gwyliwch Cyfres 1 a chyfres 2 am Clic nawr.

Darllenwch adolygiad gwych Gareth Williams o’r cyfres gyntaf yma

Y criw Cefn Cilgwyn

Review Eight Songs for a Mad King, Cardiff University School of Music by James Ellis

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

We lost Peter Maxwell Davies a few years ago and his legacy is being greatly considered. Whilst most might shy away from the blunt nature of his music, there is an always theatrical skill to it and he truly remained one of a kind.

Prior to Max’s masterpiece, the Mad Song Ensemble presented contemporary music of an impressive degree. Anna Semple and her Pinter inspired After Torcello starts as a counting game for the players, leading to wispy playing. Strings of the violin and cello are massaged not stressed, the keys of the flute dampened with no breath. The end also remained curious, the conductor leaves the stage, as the musicians pull poses as if to play on. To start, this was an evocative opening and had a real moody feel to it.

Within Richard Causton and Phoenix, the main point of reference is very clearly Messiaen and his Quartet for the End of Time. Inspired by the mythical bird, there is an energy and valour within, though the piece might slightly over stay its welcome. Blue-Green Hill from stalwart Judith Weir seems to have been forgotten about after an overture was hastily needed in a tour of India. Scottish folk melodies are the major factor and the work is the middle ground between dance work and dense, some uncanny doubts lingering in it’s undercurrent. There is an ending of plummy British feel, a vibrant cleansing of the palate.

For the big gun’s Maxwell Davies Eight Songs for a Mad King finally was heard after cancellations. There are no prisoners for this 30 minutes assault, detailing the madness of King George III. We hear quotes from his real life, though we can’t always make out the excellent libretto of Randolph Stow. How the king shrieks, grunts, babbles and blathers. This is purely because of the shattering of the words into pure letters and syllables. The king tries to teach birds to sing and other curiosities. Also, note worthy is the sheet music, with one page a birdcage creation, a symbol of the mental health struggles on stage and the birds in the sound world.

Truly a great work about going into the psyche, you need a committed performer to take it on. Benedict Nelson shines in this ludicrous role, arriving on stage with a shirt barely buttoned and socks tucked into his sweat pants. At one point he appears to inhale a tin of fish like a jackal puppy and a paper crown is adorned upon his head for a brief few bars at the starting line. Being in the front row might have been a mistake as you feel being too near a tiger in its cage. A violin is furiously smashed at one point, a metaphor for one of the king’s birds he is teaching to sing.

The players also shines in an incredibly demanding piece, the fitting harpsichord and flurry of random percussion are just some highlights. We of course expected there to be bird whistles and the like, though it is the brief blast of a didgeridoo that proves the work’s hippy period execution. Maestro Joshua Ballance is a young, bright keeper of proceedings and all through the evening he proved a love of experimental music.

Review Six, Wales Millennium Centre by Lauren Mallin

SIX by Marlow ; Directed by Moss and Armitage ; Set designed by Bailey ; Costumes designed by Slade ; Lighting designed by Deiling ; at the Malvern Theatres ; UK tour ; 2021, Marlowe Theatre Credit: Johan Persson

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.

The age-old nursery rhyme, right? History buff or not, most of us know it, have recited it, skipped and handclapped to it, used it to our advantage in a pub quiz…

But how often do we stop to think that these six words that have been periodically used to sum up the legacy and lives of six remarkable women in history? Six individuals flippantly reduced to six words. Words that ultimately reduce these women to the impact their husband had on them.

Henry VIII and his Six Wives have dominated the school curriculum for decades; a period romanticised by Hollywood, become an inspiration for artists, playwrights, authors… but how much do we really know about the women behind the marriages? The women behind the tyrant.

Time for history to be overthrown, thanks to the feminist fuelled ensemble that is SIX.

Prepare to feel empowered, uplifted, and hit by a wave of strength as these powerful Queens finally get their chance to sing their truths and become named, REAL women – not just one word in a stupid rhyme.

SIX perfects the unbelievably difficult task of towing the line between light-hearted, historical romp, while highlighting the major injustices and abuse faced by women in the Tudor Court. What’s more, the show ingeniously shows the hurdles faced by these women through a modern lens – everything from unachievable beauty standards, harassment, gaslighting and predatory behaviour that could easily paint Henry VIII as the Harvey Weinstein of his day. We quickly come to realise modern day women are still fighting the patriarchy in similar ways to that of our sisters 500 years ago.

But this isn’t a show to get you down!

Enough of Henry and his penchant for wedding (and beheading) – SIX shines a literal spotlight on each Queen, allowing the audience to learn more about their individual trials, tribulations and achievements over and above simply being wife. Their stories come to life through a range of girl power-fuelled song and dance numbers that give off a gig-like atmosphere as opposed to that of a traditional musical. The live band on stage, fabulously called The Ladies in Waiting, bring so much vibrance and energy to the show, making it almost impossible to stay still in your seat.

A gloriously diverse and talented cast bring the insanely catchy and clever score to life, with their real strength found when they come together to sing as the ultimate Tudor girl band! You’ll spend long periods of the show taking in the unbelievable detailing of each Queen’s costume, which mix Tudor embellishments with modern day sass – each one is completely different to the other, giving the Queens individual styles and silhouettes on stage. There is lots of funny and heartfelt moments too – the energy is infectious, and it is so obvious the cast are having the time of their lives on stage, which radiates into the audience. Feel good vibes all round!

No longer Divorced, Beheaded Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. They are Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr: inspirational women in their own right and so much more than who they married.

Too many years lost in history, these six remarkable Queens are finally free to take their crowning glory, so do your royal duty and spend the evening at the most inspiring royal court in HERstory!

SIX is LIVE at the Wales Millennium Centre until 14th of May