A Hijinx production really is a fabulous way of kicking off your Christmas celebrations. Following the success of The Snow Queen in 2016, Second Star to the Right by Llinos Mai is a re-telling of a familiar old tale. There’s a new dynamic this time. This story features three very modern, overstressed, selfie and health and safety-obsessed adults in place of children.
This time the Neverland newcomers are descendants of Michael, Jane and Wendy. As they navigate their way around the island, they learn to stop being so uptight and to dance, fly and synchronised-swim their cares away. Arthur – played by Simon Richards brings plenty of chuckles as he obsesses about the injury risks and dangers in Neverland and Blue Balmforth playing the part of Joe shines as a preening peacock – and he’s desperate to get back to his phone signal, hair wax and moisturiser. Alice meanwhile (played by Nia Ramage) is irritable and completely focused on getting to her meetings back in the city.
Created by Odyssey, a community group of disabled and non-disabled actors established by Hijinx Theatre Company, Second Star is more than ‘just’ a pre-Christmas show.
This year’s production is a celebration of a much-loved cast member Martin Vick, a long-standing performer with Hijinx for 15 years who sadly passed away in 2016. Martin had previously performed in Peter Pan and Wendy, travelled the world a special Olympian and more recently had performed with the award-winning Meet Fred, Directed by this production’s Artistic Director Ben Pettitt-Wade.
Odyssey theatre company is a community group brought together by Hijinx theatre company and don’t just create and devise imaginative theatre, they also run training academies to enable disabled actors to perform at a professional level. They’re the only company in Wales to do this. I was delighted to see Sara Pickard as the Captain in this show, having come across Sara in a professional capacity many months before.
The designer Kitty Callister and her assistants have created visually effective props and costumes – mixtures of slick modern black lines, whimsical multi-coloured bohemian and stripy sea dog gather under a star-kissed sky on window panels. Lost boy paint fights are depicted with handfuls of confetti and fairies are created via twinkling fairy lights. Its simple but creative, fitting the stripped back and intimate surroundings of the Weston Studio.
Attending a Hijinx show feels like you are part of the family, in on the joke and its informal nature is a great draw for families. This is theatre as it should be. Unselfconscious, approachable and completely inclusive.
The cast of actors have a wonderful synergy. Director Jon Dafydd-Kidd clearly has created an environment where actors of all abilities feed off one another’s energy, helping each other with the odd line and encouraging one another, just as Martin Vick had during his time with the company.
Creative Listening followed Advantages of Age successful season of hot tub salons in London. Advantages of Age received funding from Arts Council of England and were recently featured in The Sunday Times and this first event was, for all intents and purposes, the launch of Advantages of Age, Wales. Thanks to Suzanne Noble from Advantages of Age for her support for this first event.
You can read a blog post from Leslie Herman Jones on the background to this first event, here
In Leslie’s words “We will be a gathering of human beings investing a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in September sitting in and around a hot tub exploring what creative listening means.”
We can share a video of this first event and some of the participants responses below. Many thank to everyone who supported.
What effect, if any, has this Gwanwyn Festival event had on you?
Made me think more imaginatively about how we talk to each other, how we listen – I’m used to using creative activities to engage people so that they feel relaxed and safe and can then discuss harder subjects but a hot tub? Wow. Well outside my comfort zone but it worked!
It was really great to get together with ladies of different ages to share our perspectives on a topic of common interest. It has helped my confidence presenting myself and my take on things to a larger audience. It has also helped my listening skills as so many of us had something to say and share so it was a great opportunity to practice the pause.
This opportunity has stimulated my thinking and encouraged me to rekindle the importance of creativity in my life. Sharing time with like minded people, most of whom I’d not met before, in such an unusual setting, was indeed food for thought! I would say that the event has definitely strengthened my belief in myself as a person who thrives on creativity on a daily basis. Since the event, I feel I have pursued ideas and ventures which might not have happened otherwise.
It made me more aware of the importance of listening and the value and power of being listened to.
It was an incredible experience. It really opened my mind to other ideas, and to be a lot braver.
Please tell us in your own words about your experiences today and how you feel they have benefitted your creativity and wellbeing. If there was any way the event could have been improved please let us know that as well.
I was initially very uncomfortable with the idea of sitting in a hot tub with strangers – too far fetched for me – but I actually loved it. The meditation piece beforehand was definitely not me but I understand the thinking behind it and the value it might have for others. We needed more time – we just touched on our subjects – there was so much more to say. It was very well facilitated and organised by Lesley; a very professional and accomplished event and I was very pleased to have been a part of it.
As an Aries I am often a person who does a lot of the talking and favours leadership and presentation so it was an interesting challenge to be immersed in this informal group setting to work on my creative listening. I enjoyed the whole event, the hot tub, the lovely new friends I made and the examples they presented of how they use their creative listening skills in their every day lives; which really inspired me to join more groups and take part in more local creative activities. The hot tub was the perfect place to get to know each other and relax so that we could take part in a non-pressurised environment and the snacks and refreshments were wonderful and lovingly prepared. I enjoyed sharing my thoughts on the act of conscious listening and felt that what I had to contribute (metaphysical/esoteric perspective) was well received by most. This was also a great chance for business networking as well as making new friends and improving my health and well being. I think the next session could be a little more structured so each person could bring something they have prepared so that we don’t fall over our words.
I was naturally a little nervous about exposing my views on creativity and talking openly in a hot tub with people I hadn’t met before. The introduction to the event was well delivered by Leslie and we were put at our ease as she explained the purpose and makeup of the event and what could be expected. We had a getting to know you activity and by the time we entered the hot tub, the atmosphere was relaxed and there was an upbeat sense of expectancy. The physical sensation of the warm bubbly water in the fresh light rainy open air was quite exhilarating and in a very short time, we were relaxed and engaged as a group. The act of speaking and listening flowed well and Leslie facilitated the conversation very efficiently so that everyone had a chance to express views and to engage with one another. She was highly skilled in allowing a relaxed conversation to take place, as well as encouraging focus on the themes of creativity and listening. As a facilitator Leslie was mindful of the timescale and brought the conversation to a natural close. By doing so, there was no doubt that the topic we had begun to explore could be developed and continued and this was a very positive outcome of my experience of the event.
I enjoyed meeting new people and listening to their stories. I felt a bit more alive and stimulated at the end of the experience.
I was so so nervous. And then more nervous! I am not very good at meeting new people even if there are people there I know. I did not know really what to expect but as I arrived I immediately felt I had done the right thing. Leslie was incredibly encouraging, kind and welcoming. I was still feeling uncomfortable during the discussion and ‘meditation’ but it felt similar to going to one of those serious situations where everything seems so serious you just want to laugh and I realised that others too were delving into the unknown.. I say ‘do something that scares you’ to the people I encourage and support in the week, and thought I should self prescribe. It was the fear of wearing.my swimsuit, a fear of sitting in water, very close to load of strangers which actually petrified me, the fear of people looking at me – a fear I have whether in a swimsuit, which I discovered had lost all its elasticity, or fully clothed. But once in pool, after hilarious clambering in a non-lady-like fashion, and supported on the arm of a very good friend with a great sense of humour. The fall of laughter, much of it my own, made me realise that actually I was starting to have a really good time. The focus was actually about being in a hot tub, relaxed and free to discuss creative listening, and god was I focused on listening, rather hoping that the incredibly floating ability of my upper regions would not pull focus. The gander of ladies, incredibly intelligent, bright, charismatic, funny, kind and quirky in and out of the pool made me realise how lucky I was to be there. The discussion took us in a direction I never really felt confident to discuss, but I was, and people were listening. Learning needs thrown to the side, my inability to sometimes get my words out, fear of failure and sounding like a right numpty forgotten, the discussions were helpful, interesting, thought provoking and engaging. The time went too quick and if I was going to make suggestions for the future, make it a whole day experience or even a weekend. I have made new friends, I am starting to look at the world in a different light and if I was going to suggest anything for the future it would be ‘more please!’
Dirty Protest blasts off into 2018 with launch of project inspired by Wales’s claim to Star Wars fame.
“Lightspeed from Pembroke Dock, a co-production between Wales’s acclaimed new writing company, Dirty Protest, Chapter and the Torch Theatre, takes the 1979 Pembroke Dock building of the full-scale Millennium Falcon as its inspiration
The Millennium Falcon under construction in Pembroke Dock
Set in Pembroke Dock in 1979 and 2014, our hero Sam is a Star Wars obsessed kid in 1979 and a single father in 2014. His father is a redundant shipwright, employed to build the Millennium Falcon. Incredibly, far from being from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away; the ship featured in the second film in the Star Wars saga was constructed by a small army of tradesmen in the Pembrokeshire town’s Western Hangar. All were sworn to secrecy as the ship came together far from prying eyes. Now, Dirty Protest brings the story to the stage in a production that combines the thrill of 1980’s adventure movies with an intergenerational family saga all of its own.”
We caught up with Catherine Paskell, Artistic Director of Dirty Protest Theatre Company and playwright Mark Williams to discuss this exciting new project.
Playwright Mark Williams
Hi Mark great to meet you, so what got you interested in writing?
I’ve always loved stories, and was a big reader of books and comics from an early age. I had a great teacher in primary school, who encouraged me to let my imagination run wild in creative writing lessons. I remember vividly the moment when I realised that in a story, you could transform the world, in any way you wanted to. As I got a bit older, I became interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ world of TV and film. Magazines and movie tie-in books often had interviews with writers, and that opened up the idea that writing was a process, and something it was possible to do as a career.
Catherine Paskell Artistic Director of Dirty Protest.
Thanks Mark, Catherine can you please tell us more about your role?
I’m Catherine and I’m the Artistic Director of new writing company Dirty Protest. I have recently directed Sugarbaby by Alan Harris which Dirty Protest took to Paines Plough’s Roundabout Summerhall venue with Wales in Edinburgh last summer. I was a founding creative associate of National Theatre Wales – it was this opportunity that brought me back to Wales. I love what I do and connecting to people with theatre making in Wales.
Mark you are a playwright can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a theatrical production ?
So far, every production has followed a slightly different model. Sometimes my role has more or less ended when rehearsals began. Other times, I’ve been more actively involved, right up until the show opens, and during the run. There can be lots of factors determining the writer’s role, ranging from how the director likes to work, to the needs of the producing company, or your own time commitments on other projects. Ideally, I love it when the process is as collaborative as possible.
As a playwright you reference and are inspired by a range of elements of popular culture, why do you think this is?
George Lucas on the set of Star Wars with Mark Hamill (Luke Sywalker)
Many of the artists and writers that inspire me have always been proud of the eclectic mix of pop culture that informs their work – Ray Bradbury, Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Russell T Davies, and, especially in relation to this new production Lightspeed, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Pop culture is what first inspired me to write, and continues to do so. I think negative value judgements are sometimes made on aspects of it (perhaps less so these days, now it’s all-pervasive!) But as well as being entertaining, I love the fact that you can stumble on depth and substance in unexpected places, if you keep an open mind and a curious eye.
Steven Spielberg on the set of Jaws
And to continue the query above is this something you consider when thinking about developing audiences for your work?
Yes, always. When it comes to audiences for your own work, you start to think about what you can bring to the table yourself. How that can inform your own characters and stories, and connect with an audience’s own experiences.
CatherineI wonder if you could reflect on Dirty Protests’s journey from script in hand performances in the yurt in Milgi’s to this new production?
It’s been 10 years getting us to this point! We’ve staged plays in tents, fields, kebab shops, hairdressers, basement dives, attack bars and even theatres. Dirty Protest started in August 2007, with crowds of people crammed into the yurt in Milgi’s backyard, craning their necks to see the performers, reading from scripts-in-hands, stood amongst the beds and sofa cushions.
Script in hand event at Milgis
It was a must-be-there new writing event, and ever since then Dirty Protest have spent the last decade at the head of a revolution in Welsh new writing, building a community and being a place for theatre makers to belong. Now we work across Wales, with fantastic Welsh co-producers, theatres and venues. We have worked with over 250 writers and collaborated with fantastic partners outside Wales, including legends like the Royal Court, the Almeida, Paines Plough, Traverse Edinburgh, and Latitude. We have kept the same ethos and ambition to nurture a community, and forge new spaces and higher profile platforms for exceptional Welsh new writing to be performed in and out of Wales. We have always kept ourselves busy but so far, our 10th year anniversary is our busiest time yet! We have performed at least one event each month since our celebrations began in August. As I mentioned earlier we took Sugar Baby by Alan Harris to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of Paines Plough’s Roundabout programme. The show was well received, we were 1 of only 8 shows added to the British Council Showcase, alongside Soho Theatre, The Bush Theatre, Tobacco Factory and National Theatre of Scotland. We were so chuffed with that! But not content to just take one show to the Fringe, we also staged 5 additional new short plays by 5 Welsh writers at the Fringe to show international audiences just how fantastic our new writing talent is in Wales.
Production image ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ with Volcano.
Back home in September and October, we then created our Welsh language short play event Protest Fudur with our partners Galeri in Caernarfon, and staged more short play events with Wales Millennium Centre and Fuel, staged a 10-year take over of The Other Room, and celebrated that It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) with Volcano for their Novemberfest in Swansea. This December, over 4 days we are staging a development production of a brand new Christmas monolougue, Cut and Run by Branwen Davies with the incredible performer Catrin Stewart who will bring the story to life in the most beautiful way. This development Christmas monologue follows in the steps of our previous annual anti-panto Christmas shows, including the hugely popular Last Christmas by Matthew Bulgo (which was The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh’s studio Christmas show last year).
All that, and we are only 5 months into our anniversary year! So then we will deserve a Christmas breather before January kicks off with us producing a Contemporary Theatre Festival with the University of South Wales, before we travel across Wales trying to meet as many writers and actors and directors as possible. We will be developing writers and new plays with venues across Wales in the lead up to the Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock tour.
I can’t wait for the culmination of the tour: a Star Wars-inspired arts festival in Pembroke Dock, called the May the Fourth (be with you) festival happening on – yes, you’ve guessed it! – Saturday 4th May.
There’s still lots more planned that we can’t announce yet and loads more ways that people can get involved. Our 10 year anniversary isn’t just about what’s passed – it’s about what’s yet to come. I really hope that people will come and be part of Dirty Protest all across Wales and help us create the theatre of the future.
Mark, what do Dirty Protest mean to you as Welsh playwright?
Firstly, via their short play nights and events, they provide a brilliant opportunity for new and emerging writers to get their work read by actors in front of an audience, and for more established writers to try out new ideas, and have fun in a relaxed environment. Secondly, they’re fast becoming a leading producer of new writing in Wales, helping writers to get their work made, toured, and seen further afield. Their commitment and enthusiasm to actively developing both of these strands is a vital part of the arts in Wales.
Catherine this will be Dirty Protest’s third fully staged drama? is this correct? With your biggest tour to date, what does this mean for the company?
Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock is actually Dirty Protest’s sixth fully staged drama since 2007, on top of numerous development productions and short play events which bridge the gap between rehearsed readings and full-scale productions.
This production is hugely exciting for us because we can join the Rebel Alliance of Welsh theatre! It’s our chance to tell a story that is uniquely Welsh, connected to the people and society of Pembroke Dock, but also places Wales at the heart of one of the world’s biggest film franchises. It’s our first show that is specifically created for audiences of all ages. If you’re old enough to see a Star Wars film, you’re old enough to see Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock!
We are excited to be working with two collaborators – writer Mark Williams and director Julia Thomas – who have been with Dirty Protest since the early years, working with us on numerous short play events over the last 10 years. It’s fantastic that they will be making a fully staged production together with us and explore a new area of theatre making for Dirty Protest, as they are both experienced in making theatre for all the family. Julia is currently directing Leicester Curve’s Christmas Show, George’s Marvellous Medicine and I remember seeing a stage show of Horrible Science that Mark had written, where I had to wear 3D glasses so digital poo could fly out of a toilet into my face!
We can’t wait to take Lightspeed From Pembroke Dock on tour all across Wales and to meet new audiences who won’t have ever seen Dirty Protest before. We will be returning to some venues where we have performed previous hit plays like Last Christmas by Matthew Bulgo and Parallel Lines by Katherine Chandler, or staged our short play nights.
We are also going to new venues who we’ve wanted to visit for years, and now we can! I really hope that people who already know us, and people who we have yet to meet, will come and join us as we blast across the nation on our newest adventure.
Thanks you both and finally do you have a favourite character from the Star Wars movies and why?
Mark Han Solo. Who wouldn’t want to fly the Millennium Falcon?
Catherine Lando Calrissian from Episodes V and VI. He’s funny, and dramatically interesting and complex: he’s a kinda bad guy – he’s a gambler who loses his ship the Millennium Falcon to his friend Han Solo, and he also tricks his friends so they get captured by Darth Vader. But he then has a turn of conscience, helps his friends escape and joins the Rebel Alliance! So he turns into a good guy! He’s the epitome of what Star Wars is about, to me – growing up, surviving the galaxy, and being there for your friends.
And so, seeing the unquestionable success that MARVEL has been having with their shared cinematic universe DC have stumbled greatly to get to this point. But nothing was gonna stop this cinematic train so, we just have to deal with it.
What brings our different heroes together are three boxes called “Mother Boxes” if all three are brought together they’ll destroy the world (basically). The one that is out to get all these Mother Boxes is a giant being named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), he’s about ten feet high, clad in Armour, wields a large axe and spouts over-the-top dialogue. His role is similar to Loki in Avengers (even to the point of wearing over extravagant headgear) but he lacks Hiddelston’s charisma as well as fails to convey a real threat. He’s just a big threat that is no more interesting or memorable that a generic video game boss.
The first members that have already been established are Batman (Ben Affleck) the dark brooder that is just a skilled human with great technical resources and detective skills. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was the best thing in Batman v Superman and her own movie was the best of these movies but also rather good. The same present here. The Flash, the speedster played by Ezra Miller. He is here to portray the every-man, being more trepidatious and a lot more dumbfounded when giant man and bug creatures appear. But he says some things that are just odd, it is a weird thing that writers do where they put in quirks and think they’ve made a character, they haven’t, he gets better as the movie goes on but when he starts he might be an alien on Earth. Next is Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), he can breathe underwater, is very strong and wields a large five pronged spear (not a trident), he will probably be the breakout character, being a swaggering brawler. Finally is Cyborg (Ray Fisher), originally a young student named Victor Stone has now been transformed by the Mother Box technology and is fused with it.
Probably the worst kept secret and obvious plot point that any five year old could see coming is that Superman (Henry Cavil) returns (he died in the last movie). He does and he is much better here than in the previous two movies, he knows what smiling is, I believe he’s an optimistic person and they gave colour back to his costume instead of a grey filter.
Due to a family tragedy Snyder had to pull out of the movie. Most of it was completed but still needed finishing. Director Joss Whedon stepped in and completed the project. There is only so much one can really affect a movie when probably over seventy five percent of it has been completed. Whether it be due to fan outcry or Whedon inserting it in where he could there are much more smiles in this movie. Characters are smiling and aren’t brooding constantly. Having one moody one on a team is fine (that’s what Batman’s there for) but the others need to bring a balance of different types of characteristics.
Also more present in the movie is colour. They still use heavy amounts of black but they are contrasted with deeper, vivid colours of red, golds etc. This is a better direction to go, it keeps the colour but visually distinguishes it from the MARVEL movies.
Probably the biggest failure of the movie is the score by Danny Elfman. Not at any point did I feel my spirits roused by the music and I cannot hum any of the score. It is unfortunately forgettable and not moving.
Unlike all the other movies this one does have a post credits scene. So if you are so inclined stick around and you wont just see the credits scroll by.
So it has indeed been a very bumpy ride. It did not get off to a good start at all and from there on it got worse. But now the pieces have come together and the final result probably wasn’t worth it but it also wasn’t a complete disaster. It was actually rather serviceable.
The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Photographer/Videographer/ AV designer and Projection Mapper Jorge Lizalde. They discussed his training in Spain, his most recent work with Lucid Theatre Company on Little Wolf and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.
Hi Jorge, great to meet you can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi, I am Spanish and was born in Zaragoza and moved 12 years ago to the UK when I finished my art studies in Salamanca and then Madrid. When I arrived in the UK I worked for four years as a cinema projectionist at Vue Cinemas at the Angel (London) as well as The French Institute (London) where the projection is still old school, swapping film reels every hour over two projectors, a job that I loved but digital cinema has killed it. In 2009 I moved to Cardiff and since then I have been freelancing as Photographer/Videographer and most recently as an AV designer and Projection Mapper.
So what got you interested in the arts?
My grandfather Jose Luis Cano (on my mother’s side) was a famous watercolour painter from where I come from, his son, Jose Luis Cano (both my grand father and uncle, share the same name as it’s a Spanish tradition to name your son after your father.) my uncle, is a well known painter/illustrator, he creates the satiric daily drawings on the local newspaper, Heraldo De Aragon. My grandfather had an art studio, known as Studio Cano that’s why I trade commercially with that name, which is my second surname, in Spain we keep both surnames from the father and the mothers side. The different people I encountered at Studio Cano learned different painting styles and disciplines at the studio. I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years there, painting, drawing, etc. It is where I got ready for my University access as in Spain to study a BA in Fine Arts you need to know how to draw a life model as part of your A Levels. At Uni I learned many different disciplines of painting, sculpture and drawing as studies are quiet traditional, making my own canvas, paints, etc. My father was into photography just as an amateur but his brother was a commercial photographer. I didn’t really got interested in photography until my father passed away 18 years ago and I was passed down his heritage and his equipment at the end of my first year at Uni. In addition, many friends of my parents are ceramists, architects, etc. Art was always around, so I guess it was inevitable that my brother (classical/flamenco guitarist) and myself would finally become involved in the arts as a career.
Jorge Lizalde, “Mnemonic” at G39 gallery
You have a wide variety of film and photographic skills. When you are photographing a theatrical production how do you approach the process of taking an image?
With every shot I treat it as individual, my camera settings and focus are manually set so I have total control of the shot. Having started as self-taught on film, before digital photography took over, has helped me to have a good understanding of the tech, so I just have to pay attention to what’s going on in front of me (actor interactions, movements, reactions, expressions etc.) I don’t like to retouch pictures afterwards in post-production, I just readjust the white-balance that sometimes the camera can get wrong. Foe example theatre lights can have new LEDs which can be can be really tricky on temperature and contrast, but what you see on the picture is normally what I initially capture. What I do particularly like is to move around a lot as this gives me some perspective and creates more interesting shots that just an on the spot view from the auditorium. From a dress rehearsal session I can get around 150 usable shots, its then the job of the producer or the person in charge of marketing to choose the final images.
Credit: Gamta School by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
What makes a good image for a theatre production?
A well composed and focused picture of a scenario or situation that through the actors expressions tells you exactly what’s going on. If on top of that it gives you a sense of the stage or space that to me is a hell of a picture.
Credit: Roberto Zucco – August 012 by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
You also design and map Audio Visual projection for live performance, with new technologies this is a rapidly developing area, how do you see this art form developing?
LePage is known for some great experimentation and mapping projections, that production is 17 years, believe it or not! What it is really developing fast it is the technology is becoming faster and cheaper. What a projector could give you 10 years ago in terms of quality for £25,000 you can have it now for just £1,400 and in a 1/5 of the size too. It’s the same with computers, they are faster to process the video codecs, I can edit and program a video on the middle of the tech session if needed, something unthinkable a couple of years ago, so AV is no longer part of a privileged group with lots of money it can be also part of small budget productions or projects.
Untitled.mp4Credit: Clockwork Orange / Curve Theatre – AV Mapping by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
Continuing this theme of embracing new technologies you also utilise drone camera footage in your work, most recently in “Little Wolf” by Lucid Theatre Company. Can you tell us how you have developed your skills in this area and again how you see this art form developing in the future?
I bought my drone this summer for my own project about Brexit and what it means to be an EU citizen today in the UK, as at the moment I feel we don’t belong to any land. The model I bought has some great features as well as a quality image, you can control it with the hand. I took it this summer to Finland where I was part of Oulu Hack Week organised by Taikabox, three days of experimenting with new technologies and dance where we tested it and created a little presentation or dance piece with it.
Now I am developing and experimenting a bit more with its possibilities and limits for the stage. I will have a hack day with Lara Ward at the end of November and hopefully refine its use in the future to create a little performance with it . Since I bought it I haven’t stoped using it, for example as you mention with Little Wolf where I created some footage overlooking water, – a swimming pool, a lake and the sea, it was really helpful. It’s still early days to say where this tech will go but it has become cheap and really fast so I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone owns one, even if it is just for selfies which it is what my little drone was designed for in the first place!
Credit: Little Wolf / Lucid – Av mapping by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
Yes I am really aware, I am Spanish and have an accent that in many cases is judged as not educated or a knowledgeable person. I haven’t been able to get some jobs because of it. At the beginning it was annoying when people tried to maximise their mouth motion and slow their pronunciation when talking to me because they think I didn’t understand but now I just do the same to them if they do, I slow my talking and maximise my pronunciation, maybe that’s why I don’t get the jobs but who wants to work with someone that diminishes you by your accent? Also, I have been involved with Taking Flight Theatre Company
As well as other theatre companies developing live subtitles, I have been working on creating theatre which is more accessible to all audiences. I believe I am the only person in the UK using the software I am working with, or at least this is what a programmer recently told me! It is software created for film cinema subtitles but I adapted to theatre. It can be projected over projections, it can be programmed to be part of the stage and interact with actors, it can be shared in any device, Android or Apple, phone or pads and via a local network which can be used in a promenade performance without access to the internet. In addition I am developing live speech to text subtitles (same language or a live translation of it as for example Welsh-English or Spanish- English) but the technology is not there yet, hopefully with the development of home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa the interpretation of the language will get faster and better.
Credit: Yuri / August 012 | Subtitles and picture by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
I think it is pretty healthy, a bit more funding would be great, especially after so many years of having cuts in the arts budgets. The only problem I am facing this days is, I am in my late 30s so there are no prizes or opportunities for that age or not as many, most are focused on early career or under 30s. If you are a mid 30s or early 40s creative and want to start an art career there are not many opportunities to build a good portfolio and be quickly part of the art community.
Credit: Own Installation, “Editing my father” at Ffotogallery
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
To choose an specific area would be to discriminate against the others. I never understood targeting specific areas, all areas, race, social, cultural backgrounds, etc should be considered every year for equally and fund them according to the excellence of the projects and their outcomes. If that means some stablished organisations loose funding after many years receiving it because independent or small projects are creating better projects to present, so be it.
Credit: “Cymru & I” Collaboration with Japanese choreographer Yo Nakamura
What really excites me it is the size of the art community, it is not big, so you soon know most of the artists working in Wales. This also makes it really accessible, and that gives you great freedom to experiment and collaborate with other artists and start new projects or enterprises. It creates opportunities for pop up exhibitions, zines, performances, etc. I don’t think there are enough links with work which is part of a performance or the theatre/artistic community with visual or more modern arts groups but hopefully in the future there will be more collaborative work between art galleries – g39, Ffotogallery and Chapter – with the performance festivals – Festival of Voice, Cardiff Dance Festival – or venues like the WMC or Chapter – as well as artists from both backgrounds. When they have collaborated in the past at events such as Experimentica or Artes Mundi there are more interesting projects happening and everybody really gains from it, creatively and culturally.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I have always been interested on working with lights and mapping lights structures these are getting more and more interesting, especially with LEDs stripes, with them you can have as many different colours and sync as you like. A good example of it is Robert Hencke’s Lumiere III laser lights installation which I saw at the Barbican main theatre at the beginning of this year and it was one of the greatest art experiences I have ever seen.
Thanks for your time Jorge.
You can find more information about Jorge and his work at the links below. Personal Commercial
She is one of the most iconic female characters in pop culture. She is instantly recognisable and you most likely know her name. She stands for truth. But in creating her secrets had to be kept to preserve love.
Earlier this year the mass audience were introduced to Wonder Woman through her first film. Now she is more popular than ever, this is the perfect time to tell this fascinating story of the deep psychological ideas that went into her creation and first few stories as well as the just as interesting behind the scenes situation of the people that inspired her.
The man who co-created her was man named William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), a university professor who teaches psychology. He would go on to invent the lie detector machine. While there with his wife one of his students catches his eye. His classes teach about the mindset of giving yourself up to an authority figure in a relationship.
Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) is his official wife whom he has known since childhood, she has dark hair and is more than qualified to be a lecturer at any University, but because she is a woman she cannot gain any diploma. Her and Marston enjoy heated debates. Olive (Bella Heathcote) is blonde, a few years younger and even though she is descended from two of the most outspoken and radical feminist of her time was raised by nuns so is timid and tacked but still very intelligent.
He loves his wife, however he also loves Olive and they love him as well as each-other. What are they to do? The love is real but the society in-which they live will never accept them, is it even worth trying?
Luke Evans himself is a gay man and the writer/director Angela Robinson is a lesbian. They are both open about their sexuality but the world still does not fully embrace people of non hetero sexuality so they are probably the perfect people to tackle this material.
Adding to the revealing nature of the movie is the layering of the actual Wonder Woman comics that were written by Marston and indeed do feature Wonder Woman herself and other women caged, tied-up, spanked etc. The fact that they were able to get approval for the actual material shows and bravery and how unashamed on behalf of DC Comics. This is the story and ideas that went into the character and are addressing it.
The theory of loving submission isn’t just all about getting tied-up and/or spanked (though the physical acts are a part of it) it is about letting go of control, it has been said that you cannot love someone and control them, the acts allow the others to be the master to ones who would otherwise not be.
Being that this takes a look behind the public perception of a famous character and shows the story of the real people behind the scenes one will probably be reminded of Hollywoodland (an equally good movie).
This movie tells the story of love that is still rather unconventional now and seemingly impossible at the time it happened. There are details about the production of the character of Wonder Woman that are skimmed over as well as a few other moments that take a leap in time in order to fit the correct running time. But the story it tells is one of love and understanding and it effectively conveys that message.
The director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently met with writer Dr Branwen Davies. They discussed her training, career to date, a new work in progress ‘Cut and Run’ which will be performed at Chapter Arts Centre this December and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.
Hi Branwen great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I initially trained as an actor at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff after being involved with National Youth Theatre Wales as a teenager. I was interested in performing but realised I was a better writer than an actor and decided to focus on writing instead. My training gave me a really good grounding and introduction to theatre, plays and performance as well as the opportunity to meet some great people who I have been lucky to collaborate and work with later in life. I think actors can be great script editors – knowing what is needed and not needed in scenes and what can be conveyed without text. I think my actor training helped me become a better writer and theatre maker.
The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff.
So what got you interested in writing and the arts?
I’ve always written and I’ve always been involved in theatre in some way shape or form. I wrote plays as a child, took them to school and forced the class to perform them! I wrote whilst at RWCMD and after working as an actor for a few years decided to do a Creative Writing Masters at Bangor University. Whilst doing my MA I was commisioned by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru to co-write the Welsh language play DOMINOS that toured Wales. I’ve since been combining freelance writing work, lecturing and various theatre/performance projects with various companies in Welsh and English.
The writers of DOMINOS, Mared Swain, Branwen Davies, Manon Wyn, and Angharad Llwyd.
It’s been an eye opener talking to young people regarding the hard-hitting production of Mwgsi which is about a young girl who at the end of her A levels discovers she has Leukemia. I admire the young people’s honesty and frankness. They know what they like and don’t like and are able to communicate well their thoughts and reactions to the play. I feel it’s important that a play produced for young people is reviewed by young people – i.e the target audience and that Fran Wen – a company who aim to create exciting theatre that challenges young people with content and form approach schools and offer the opportunity. I’ve had many interesting discussions the past few weeks and enjoyed discussing what a review can be and should be and how to create a vocabulary to talk about performance and theatre and elements involved in a production in an engaging way.
I believe you have been working with older citizens. Can you tell us more about the project you have led on?
It was a privilege to work with the older citizens on the project Lleisiau/Voices with Pontio and Friars Secondary School in Bangor. We spent time with the residents at the old people’s home Plas Hedd at Maesgeirchen Bangor who specialise in care for people with Dementia. We created a verbatim piece of theatre after the students befriended the residents and talked and interviewed them. Seeing the frindships that were formed between the generations was heartwarming. Being able to see the residents as real people with stories and a past rather than patients in a chair and most importantly being able to give them a voice was very rewarding. I have never laughed and cried so much during a project. It really hit home the power of theatre, communication and engaging with the community. The stories that were shared were priceless – Mable’s fun and frolics with the Land Army, Margaret training to be a nurse and escaping from the window after lights out and Morus playing the piano whilst his father sang and his brother played the trombone. The end result was read to the friends and families of everyone involved and was a celebration really of the resident’s lives. But the process of befriending and giving the teenagers an opportunity to get to know the older generation and to share and learn from them was the real power of the project and seeing the residents light up and enjoy sharing and laughing and having fun.It was very real, very human and touching.
Gwanwynn celebrates creativity in older age, with an increasing older population in Wales is their enough support for the creativity of our older citizens?
I don’t think there is enough support for the creativity of our older citizens. There are some important and rewarding projects going on but there needs to be more. I feel we tend to forget or ignore our older citizens when they need to be celebrated. They have so much to share and we have so much to gain from them. Loneliness is such a huge problem with our elderly citizens and I feel an output for creativity would be a huge benefit to combat loneliness and eradicate the stigma of old age.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists?
Get the Chance do a great job. There are always barriers and always people fighting for equality and for more diversity. It’s the money element that worries me. The expense and cost of opportunities – even visiting theatres or booking a space! I wish there was more funding to collaborate with different artists on a research and development level. Introducing different artists to each other to experiment and play with different ways of working.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I would like to see more funding for children and young people’s theatre – theatre that provokes without preaching. Some of the most memorable performances I have seen have been for younger audiences. I still remember some productions that came to my primary school and feel that it is a mistake to steer away from visiting schools and performing at schools. It is the only opportunity some children will have of theatre. I would like to see more funding for the less obvious and less traditional forms of theatre and theatre making too and development of new work. Would be good to take a risk with funding and support less known and less experienced artists – we miss out by playing safe. There is room to push boundaries.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
What excites me? The talent!The practitioners and artists we have in Wales across the board – actors/directors/writers etc I just wish there was more opportunity to showcase the talent across the border and internationally.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I have just experienced a weekend at Ty Newydd in Llanystumdwy at a writing retreat where I was mentoring 6 new young writers with Elgan Rhys for Fran Wen.
Branwen working with one of the young people at Ty Newydd.
It’s a magical place and a weekend collaborating, talking and sharing was invigorating!
Elgan Rhys working with one of the young people at Ty Newydd.
Photographic credit: Mark Douet
Performance wise I recently saw National Dance Wales and Marc Rees’s P.A.R.A.D.E – yes I’m biased because I collaborated with the text for the performance but I enjoyed the experience, excitement and the spectacle of it all.
Photographic credit: Mark Douet
And lastly to finish what are you currently working on?
Cut and Run is a work in progress that Dirty Protest are developing/performing in the run up to Christmas at Chapter as an alternative Christmas show. You can catch it at the studio in Chapter December 20th-23rd. It’s a one woman show with mosquitoes, Texan tourists and a ticking biological clock!
As part of Dirty Protest’s 10 year anniversary celebrations, the company present a development production of a new Christmas monologue, Cut and Run by Branwen Davies. Branwen wrote for Dirty Protest’s very first short play night in 2007 and this is her first full length play for the company.
Cut and Run follows Dirty Protest’s tradition of alternative Christmas offerings and will be performed at Chapter 20th – 23rd December 2017. Tickets can be booked here
The debut album of Swedish duo Fifth Floor is a fine collection of tracks that draw together well-written lyrics and catchy musical arrangements. Imbibed with country-style riffs and rhythms, this selection of songs also features a fair bit of punkish attitude. Contrast that with some beautiful harmonies and you get an interesting overall sound from these ladies that makes Heartbreak Talks an intriguing listen.
You can hear the strength of their simultaneous singing in the opening track “Heart in Your Arms”. Despite the perceived weakness of their solo voices here, the two together create a really nice sound. It sets up their potential which is gradually fulfilled as the album progresses. The vocal arrangements on “Bought Me a Lie” are especially worth a mention. By the time we arrive at standout single “Sippin’ on a Coke”, not only do their combined vocals sound accomplished but there is real strength to their individual performances too. Though not quite my favourite, this song has a great chorus. Incorporating the themes of journeying and home, it reminds me a little of Ward Thomas’ A Town Called Ugley – its understated title line lends it a similar quirkiness though it is much more reflective in its overall tone.
Certainly, the end of this album heralds the strongest pieces from these two Swedes – Moa and Matilda – who moved to the UK in 2012. “These Days” is a lovely arrangement marked by a more stripped back style. The difficulty that I found with tracks “My Backyard, My Business” and “Diabolical” was that the musical power did not quite match the hard-edged attitude of the vocals – these rock-inspired tracks weren’t quite able to rock out. On the other hand, the title track, like “These Days”, with its more acoustic leanings, felt like a more natural fit for these ladies’ style.
Fifth Floor save the best until last. “The Girl” is a subversive ballad that combines the best of their punkish attitude with some gorgeous harmonies. It is understated, clever; heartbreak really does talk here. It leaves you in no doubt as to the theme that has been running through much of this album. Overall, Heartbreak Talks captures a really good, solid country sound. It is a really promising full-length debut from these ladies. Swedish they may be, but they are worthy of adoption into the ever-expanding UK country scene.
If you’ve never heard of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey or Henry Cyril Paget – that’s exactly what his family intended to happen when they erased him from their family history by burning every photograph and possession relating to his life.
Based on true story, this completely original production pieces together the charred remains and distant memories of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey – a cross-dressing dandy who inherited the keys to the kingdom in Victorian Britain, but lived fast and died young.
At one time the richest man in Britain, he rejected the duties of his title to live an outrageously opulent and controversial life, putting on elaborate plays, building over the chapel on the family estate to build a theatre and tour Europe with his ‘Electric Butterfly Orchestra’ – with himself as the leading artist, of course.
This is a fabulously foppish flight of fancy that will have you belly laughing from lights up until lights down.
The Marquess of Anglesey was an unapologetic narcissist, who if born in more recent times would no doubt be the subject of a gaudy commercial deal, a magazine spread or a reality TV series. But although the production pokes fun at the story, it is never cruel.
How to Win Against History is a high-camp, high energy extravaganza, subverting the almost homoerotic goings on within public schools, the aristocracy and the Empire.
Starring Seiriol Davies who plays (or should I say ‘slays’) as Henry Paget, this show chasses, minces and shimmies its way through his back story, shining a light on the social awkwardness of Victorian times, the absurdity and pomposity of theatre and the sheer hilarity of being a square peg in a round hole.
Matthew Blake plays the part of Paget’s right hand man – the Victorian west end actor Alexander Keith and the pair have incredible chemistry and comic timing. Every movement, sigh and flick of the hand is played up and milked for laughs.
Imagine a show featuring Lawrence Llywelyn-Bowen’s lovechild on acid at Mardi Gras, mashed up with Monty Python, Downton Abbey and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. That wouldn’t even come close to how remarkable this is.
Despite the madcap silliness and outrageousness though, it’s a show with substance and heart. Seiriol Davies has created something quite heartfelt and poignant, the music and lyrics are sharp and clever and the incredible vocal performances of the trio on stage meander from genre to genre.
You really want Henry Paget to win and the way audiences are responding to this production shows that in the end – he has.
Some lights are too bright to ever be distinguished.
Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events. / Lleisiau amrywiol o Gymru yn ymateb i'r celfyddydau a digwyddiadau byw