“To know yourself, you must accept your dark side. To deal with others’ dark sides, you must also know your dark side.”
Tonight, with this piece, Ballet Cymru gives us a vision of utter loveliness in dance, in theatre and in purpose. Tonight, I cry with the utter elevated beauty of it all.
The dancers are beautiful, confident story-tellers and they revel in the simple stories they tell.
Exposed and discerning, gentle and strong, they seem so utterly happy out there under the lights. Oblivious to the likes of me, gazing at them with wet eyes.
The painfully perfect shadow of the Royal Ballet is cast and it serves to brighten our Ballet Cymru. This is the most gorgeous coupling. We can feel the reverence and respect and sense the raising of the game; we are in the presence of greatness and its impact: the lifts a little higher, the smiles a little wider, the precision of ballet in the arena of modern dance.
And danced to such music! Such mournfully sweet song. Just perfect. It reaches inside me and touches the soul in me.
Stripped, bare, tops and tunics against dark stone wall, it is just light on dance, lightness and dancers. All darks and lights and thoughtfulness.
Visually, aurally, this is just sublime.
Shadow Aspect starts with Jung so should end with Jung:
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
Thank you, Ballet Cymru, for striking the match.
Choreography By Tim Podesta
Music by French composer Jean-Phillipe Goude
With kind permission from www.icidailleurs.com
Stage design by Australian architect Andy Mero & Tim Podesta
Costumes Design Yukiko
Photo credit Jason Ashwood
Reviewed by Helen Joy for Get the Chance, Friday 3rd November, 2017.
Tag Archives: Helen Joy
Review One Man, Two Guvnors, Black RAT Productions by Helen Joy
A slapsticky ribtickling romp through Mr Bean’s homage to the Italian original.
I love this theatre company. They make me laugh. Properly head back gasping for breath laugh. This multi talented bunch of actors and their production team are properly good.
I love the venue. I love the welcome. The busyness of the place. The swirly carpets and the polished wood and the atmosphere of years of local folk heading here for a night out. Marvellous.
And marvellous to take a glass of wine into the theatre and settle into your seat whilst the cast play their way through a series of ‘60s songs, washboard ‘n’ all. A band which reforms for set changes – how delightful, how clever to keep us all singing and clapping along.
Never afraid to look you in the eye, to include you in the action, to keep you alive with the threat of putting you too on the stage, it’s bright and buzzing throughout.
And the lead, Francis Henshall, is, quite frankly, fabulous! A tweedy oaf with a lust for food and a hunger for love, he draws us in, right in.
But he wouldn’t be half so good without his sidekicks.
Every character is perfectly overblown and overplayed. Exaggerated, exaggerating, they are funny and likeable and strangely believable. All very special in their own sweet Brighton rock kinda way.
Every seat is filled. Everyone is laughing. Everyone is having a very good time.
There is an energy to this production which drives through to the end.
Nothing unpredictable, nothing too challenging but what a wonderful slapsticking backslapping suitcase swapping utterly joyous night out!
Black Rat Productions is an extraordinarily talented company. There to be enjoyed.
One Man, Two Guvnors is a play by Richard Bean, an English adaptation of Servant of Two Masters (Italian: Il servitore di due padroni), a 1743 Commedia dell’arte style comedy play by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni.
Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.
A Black RAT Productions, Blackwood Miners’ Institute and RCT Theatres co-production supported by Arts Council Wales
Gareth John Bale … FRANCIS HENSHALL
Lee Gilbert … HARRY DANGLE
Phylip Harries … CHARLIE CLENCH
Sarah-Jayne Hopkins … DOLLY
James Lawrence … STANLEY STUBBERS
Daniel Miles … ALAN DANGLE
Caryl Morgan … RACHEL CRABBE
Alice Strachan … PAULINE CLENCH
Chris Tummings … LLOYD BOATENG
By Richard Bean
Based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
With songs by Grant Olding
Directed by Richard Tunley
Designed by Anna Marie Hainsworth
Production Manager / Lighting Design Robin Bainbridge
Stage Manager Claire Roberts
Musical Director Rob Thorne
Review Benny by Helen Joy
(4 / 5)
CHAPTER IN ASSOCIATION WITH GARETH JOHN BALE AND OWEN THOMAS
This is very uncomfortable viewing in a very small intimate space. We are witnesses to a private life in a public space.
Laughing at jokes our present vox populi disdains. Awkward. Funny. Have we forgotten that some things are just funny? Not sexist, dirty, grubby, misogynist, vile, elitist. Just funny.
From the mid 1980s onwards, we start to judge. We start to create a view of things humorous according to an assumed view of things social, socially acceptable. We start to judge a man according to his popularity, his means. Mean, they said. Was he?
Was Benny even half the terrible things we said he was? How refreshing to get another view.
Not mean but normal. Not lecherous but admiring. Not base but witty.
Hugely popular for years, a hard-working comic who paved the path others trod. A quiet man. A man who sat in his chair and who we all like to think died in shame and misery and silence.
Silence, yes. Peace, yes. The peace of his own home, his own chair.
Why do we fear being alone in death so much? What else have we, the populi, also lost along with our ability to judge individually and in context?
Our vox seems louder than ever but is it shouting down the debate and silencing the dissenters? Uncomfortable viewing indeed.
An outstanding, enjoyable, humane performance by Liam Tobin. Clever direction, clever script. Enough hopping back and for through time to make it theatre, not so much as to make it contrived.
I absolutely loved the final scene – the main man, the person, Benny, playing out of the television and over his room, his chair, his body. Playing that tune, that background music to life as we know it.
Very, very good stuff indeed.
It is a grey audience tonight. How would a younger audience react, I wonder. It would be interesting to show a Benny Hill programme beforehand. Even more interesting to get each member of the audience’s honest reactions.
Could be a shocker!
Oh and I sat next to someone who knew someone who knew one of Benny’s Angels… and she had had a blast!
Performed by Liam Tobin
Written by Owen Thomas
Directed by Gareth John Bale
Reviewed by Helen Joy, 3rd Act Critic for Get the Chance, Friday 9th September
Review: The Reenactement of Isandlwana (aka The Great British Stuff Up) Cardiff Castle
(*Referred to as The Great British Stuff Up… to quote an official speaking at the Re-enactment.)
The sun came out. But not enough people came with it.
Cardiff Castle – a spectacular venue and in the coursing heat of the last day of summer, we saw the Battle of Isandlwana replayed. We heard speeches addressing the contemporary relevance of this violent occasion. We heard of the move from land grab to tourism; of enmity to friendship. Good speeches but hard to hear in fact as many of the people around me talked all the way through them.
So many chose to experience this remarkable and apposite performance through their phones and not through their own eyes and senses. Such a pity so many of us no longer look and listen and absorb in the moment any more. So many wandered off before the performance had finished – pity, they missed the Zulus and their Royal family chanting, singing and mingling with the crowd.
Where is the respect for the people who have travelled so far to share with us their culture and their skills, history and time? Where is the respect for ourselves to return that compliment?
Our guests deserved better and the organisers too.
It was also a pity that Cardiff Castle insisted n charging entrance – although the Re-enactment itself was free. The performance started at 4pm so it was not as if the Castle would have lost a day’s revenue. Sometimes generosity has its own reward and our guests should have had a bigger turn out.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I cannot thank the organisers enough for giving us the most impressive and life-affirming hand-shake between two nations, Wales and Zululand, after all these years.
Review: King Cetshwayo, The Musical, Theatr Brycheiniog by Helen Joy
(4 / 5)
The opening night of any performance is usually pretty interesting This was something else. A royal visit, the hands of conciliation shaking across the decades, the welcome of the Welsh to the Zulus, the acknowledgement of the times past and present with no apology.
I cannot say that it was a comfortable feeling in the room when the British role in the taking of Zululand was portrayed. The massacre of British forces at Rorke’s Drift promptly followed by the razing of the villages and the kidnapping of the King. An unrecorded conversation between Queen Victoria and King Cetshwayo and his return to South Africa.
Some of us in the audience dared to laugh at what that conversation may have comprised, given the dear Queen’s proclivities! This lightened an otherwise confused response to a musical storytelling which did not portray our Empirical desires in a good light. But a portrayal generous enough to acknowledge the bravery of soldiers on either side. Bold enough to openly regard a mutual respect for the field of battle and conquest.
Beautiful in its dance scenes, fearsome in its warring, acute in its narration – comic in its mimicry of the gun-carrying redcoats. The skin-prickling returning cries of warriors in the audience. The poet. The costumes. The toe-tapping music. The beat. The heat.
This was a slightly chaotic, slightly shambolic, utterly brilliant rendering of a terrible business all round.
A theatre packed with dignitaries and artists; and the men stand for the Queen. A queen surrounded by family and protected by warriors. Splendid and significant, she spoke of their visit as an advance party whose report back would determine any subsequent visit by the King. I get that. This is not easy political fayre.
Dorcas Cresswell and her team should be applauded for their efforts in bringing these extraordinary and important events together in ways accessible to all of us. It was refreshing not to hear apology for events long past but acknowledgement; commemoration not dismissal. Art and theatre expressing easily subjects otherwise difficult to discuss openly.
I hope I shall never forget seeing Zulu warriors hop on a bus in central Brecon. I have a feeling I might not be alone in this. Never underestimate the impact of a well-placed assegai.
As part of this series of events you can still catch the event below
Now – end of October: Sibanye – Brecon Welcomes the Zulu’s!
Free, non-ticketed exhibition in the Andrew Lamont Gallery, top floor of Theatr Brycheiniog.
An exhibition of photographs that were taken during a visit in January 2017 to KwaZulu-Natal by five members of The Friends of The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, Brecon.
The visit was by invitation of KwaCulture – an organisation based in Durban and the visit coincided with the annual commemoration of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift which took place in January 1879.
The exhibition is part of the King Cetshwayo 135th Celebrations in Wales, August 2017 that has been organised by The Friends of The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum in partnership with KwaCulture and Maluju Charity.
The Andrew Lamont Gallery is open during Theatr opening hours and is fully accesable via the lift.
Review: Many Man, Spilt Milk by Helen Joy
(4 / 5)
What an interesting evening! Enjoyable company, a suitably fringe-y venue complete with glitter ball and gold chairs and wine in a plastic goblet in the attics of a Cardiff bar and I’m happy. Nice bit of chatter in the foyer before and after and much to chat about. A very welcoming experience.
And Many Man begins. His little stage reminds me of someone moving house, just leaving, just arriving, in boxes, in transit. He is in our faces and alone. He is a comic, a stand-up, a young man telling us the ordinary story of his younger life and he makes us laugh.
The audience is mostly young men. I could be his mother. Their mother. I could be the woman in the kitchen of his past making chicken dinner on a Sunday. I could be the youngster bored with the comfort of the repetition of a safe and ordinary life. We all connect with something in his history and it is safe to laugh. But we know something is amiss. We glimpse his torture and we wait.
There are no breaks, no let up. We are strapped to our seats and braced for the ride. He is a phoney, a liar, a conman. He is an American, a Scot, a Welshman. He loses more than he gains in his efforts to be extra ordinary: to get the girl, to keep the girl, to love the girl and to love himself. It is not funny; it is tragic. And we are awkward in our responses. I can see people reaching for their drinks, looking away, no longer smiling but embarrassed, caught out.
It is a story of self-loathing. It is a breakdown. It is La Voix Humane and Many Man is singing his heart out through the window of the stage. For him, it is a long hour. It is a cleverly sculpted piece, still rough, still forming; hard and physical.
The church bells of St John’s ring in practice session and lend a certain resonating presence to the tale. I am not sure we like this man, this me.
Cast & Crew
Tobias Weatherburn – Writer, Performer
Becca Lidstone – Director
Company Spilt Milk
Reviewer Helen Joy for Get the Chance
Where The Big Top, Church Street, Cardiff
When July 20th, 2017; 1930 – 2040h
Review All About My Tits, Chapter Arts Centre by Helen Joy
(3 / 5)
All about my Tits
I know Anna, a bit. We worked together briefly in a local charity supporting people receiving mental health services. We stayed in touch as she moved her career into the arts. I interviewed her on Radio Cardiff about this play. Her play. Her life. Her tits.
Anyone thinking this was going to be about anyone else’s tits is mistaken. Any social-political commentary is suggestive rather than overt, Anna is her own one woman treatise on the elastic line between tit and breast, sexual objects and milk bar.
I really like the atmosphere as we walk in to take our seats. The room is dark, girls are dancing, pop is playing, pictures of breasts various on the screen. White Russians are handed out. Not sure we get the significance yet. Much clearer when the breast milk samples are offered ’round later in the performance.
The dancing girls insinuate themselves into the audience. Hecklers and fighters for the views of others on breastfeeding as it progresses. A messy milky fight for rights.
It is a monologue of Anna’s experiences, a voyage ’round her breasts from girlhood to adulthood to motherhood and beyond. She refers to her book, diary perhaps, along the way. Stories are started, we are left to draw our own conclusions.
Anna uses her heckling dancers to good effect. A male heckler is used to make the point that it is not a show for titillation, ‘though Anna is fearless and shares her body appropriately and willingly and with a gentle self-deprecating humour.
Now. Here’s the thing. I haven’t had children and frankly, I don’t know much about tits as mother nature never felt much inclined towards generosity in that department.
This is a play about Anna’s tits. I have no idea what she is talking about for most of the time. I can see that the audience loves it – mostly women, mostly women with children I would assume, they are nodding in agreement and laughing with Anna throughout. She relates back. It is very nicely done.
Anna is sharing the intimate details of her life and most of the women, and a few men, are with her. Laughing with the relief of their own confusion, pain, embarrassments and pleasures being given air-time.
The atmosphere becomes heady with love for Anna, for her honesty, for the sisterhood. But I am lost.
I am sitting next to another woman equally detached from the proceedings. We want to love her too but we can’t. We are not part of this. But we admire her, enormously.
Afterwards, by invitation, the foyer is full of women signing the cartoon tits laid out on tables, they are groupies waiting for their heroine, their voice, to join them. Something powerful is happening here.
The clue was in the title. This is a brave, funny, honest autobiography and like many things we don’t quite like, don’t quite understand, it will stay with me far longer than anything I have enjoyed more. It made me think about the changing roles of the breast in society and in nature. It made me slightly jealous.
PS typing this has been annoyingly tricky as predictive/corrective text replaces TITS with TITUS, BREASTS with BEASTS. Says it all really.
Seen: Friday, 7th July, 2017
Venue: Chapter Arts, Cardiff
Reviewer: Helen Joy for Get the Chance
Performer, producer, director, writer: Anna Suschitsky
Review The Tempest, Taking Flight Theatre Company by Helen Joy
(4 / 5)
It is indeed a rough magic. A clever, witty, kind sort of rough magic woven through this production of one of Shakespeare’s stranger tales.
Ambulating through Thompson’s Park, a space for the imagination if ever there was one, this charming, funny and imaginative version enchants us all.
Dull and colourless as this audience is in its raincoats and wellies, we provide a suitably leaden contrast to the spangles and sequins of the cast. Blue against the green leaves, gold against the grey bark. Barque. The puns are smart, the lines are clear. Nothing is left unexplained, untranslated, misinterpreted. It is all done with a competent amusement.
It is a marvellous interpretation. A 1930s cruise, flamboyant characters and the utter bonkersness which this Company does so brilliantly.
One of the things it also does so well is multi-casting. The comedy trio of Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban is just joyous. I absolutely love them – and this audience laughs back into their contorted faces. The three of them swap between roles smartly and provide that bit of Shakespearean slapstick we need between the heavy bits. Caliban is familiar, he reminds me of Moriarty, all cute and smarmy. Handsome as the glorious Miranda’s short (you will have to see it to get that) lover, he is captivating all round.
As is Prospero. A difficult and lengthy role which is delivered with assurance and terrific suavity. The compere of the evening, he is maitre d’ of his Island and of us all. He is appropriately edgy and advances on us loitering observers with confidence, making us fearful of his abilities. His soft voice persuades us to come closer, he is in charge.
Now. Ariel. The singer. The dishy sprite with the admiring backing group. Another tricky role and well played. As are all the roles. The exaggerated expressions, the songs, the comic timing, the acting, is all delightful. There is magic here. There is nothing not to like here. Shakespeare would’ve loved it, loved the inclusiveness of it all, loved the weather it played out in – can we ever control anything, anyone, however powerful we think we are?
We trip into the performance on bright blue boats and trip out wishing Prospero well in his new life. We have understood this complex play in a way we never have before, we have been entertained, educated and included.
Go see – take a lightweight, foldable chair & check the weather forecast as you may need a hat; sensible shoes are de rigeur.
Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.
Photography – Jorge Lizalde- Studio Cano
TAKING FLIGHT THEATRE COMPANY
THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare
Director- Elise Davison
Designer- Becky Davies
Composer and Musical Director- Dan Lawrence
Costume Maker- Angharad Gamble
BSL consultants- Jean St Clair and Daryl Jackson
Milton Lopes- Ariel
Dean Rehman- Prospero
Stephanie Back- Miranda
Sian Owens – Antonia/ ensemble
Paul Henshall- Gonzalo
Sami Thorpe- BSL Dance Captain
Sam Bees- Alonso/ Stephano
Ioan Gwyn- Ferdinand/ Caliban
Huw Blainey- Sebastian/ Trinculo
Shannon Davison- ensemble
Lauren Burgess- ensemble
Audio trailer- English
Audio trailer Welsh
*Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07785 947823 to discuss any access requirement. Touch tours and BSL introductions are available by arrangement.
Supported by Arts Council of Wales
Unless otherwise stated next to date, follow this link below for tickets.
Thompson’s Park, Cardiff
(meet at main gate on Romilly Rd)
June 8th 12pm & 6.30pm
June 9th 6.30pm
June 10th 2pm & 6.30pm
Chapter.org 02920 304400
The Pavilion, Langland, Swansea
11th June 2pm
Bryntirion Comprehensive, Bridgend
June 15th 6.30pm
Buy on the door
(meet at visitor centre)
June 16th 12pm & 5pm
June 17th 4pm
Roath Park, Cardiff
(meet at conservatory)
June 18th 6.30pm
June 21st 7pm
Coed Y Brenin
(meet at visitor centre)
June 22nd 7pm
June 23rd 12pm & 7pm
June 24th 2 & 7pm
Loggerheads Country Park
(meet at visitor centre)
June 25th 7pm
Tickets also bookable at site
June 28th 7pm
Strata Florida Abbey
June 29th 7pm
Dylan’s Restaurant, Criccieth
For theatre tickets only please use Ticketsource link
For theatre and dinner tickets email email@example.com or call 01766 522773
Hijinx Unity Festival
Caernarfon Doc Fictoria
July 1st 12pm
July 2nd 2pm
Bellevue Park Newport
(meet at The Tea Rooms)
July 5th 12pm & 7pm
July 6th 7pm
Blaise Castle Estate Dairy Farm
July 7th 12pm & 7pm
July 8th 2 & 7pm
bristolshakespearefestival.org.uk or use ticketsource
July 9th 5.30pm
Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr
(meet at bandstand)
July 11th 12pm & 7pm
July 13th 7pm
July 14th 12pm & 7pm
Valle Crucis Abbey, Llangollen
July 15th & 16th 7pm
llangollenfringe.co.uk / 0800 1455779 or use ticketsource
July 19th 7pm
Stackpole, Nr Pembroke
(meet at Lodge Park Woods)
Carpark postcode SA71 5DE
July 20th 7pm
July 21st 12pm & 7pm
July 22nd 2 & 7pm
Hilton Court, Haverfordwest
July 23rd 6.30pm
Beechenhurst Lodge, Forest of Dean
July 25th 7pm
July 26th 7pm
July 28th 7pm
Trelai Pavilion, Trelai Park, Ely, Cardiff
July 29th 12pm
The Kymin, Penarth
July 30th 4pm
penarthtowncouncil.gov.uk 02920 703200
Taking Flight Theatre Company (TFTC) was formed by Beth House and Elise Davison in 2008. Beth met Elise whilst working on a youth theatre project in South Wales. Having worked extensively together since then on a freelance basis, they decided to make it official and set up Taking Flight Theatre Company. Our aim with this company is to work with groups of people who have traditionally been underrepresented in theatre, film and television, and to make fully accessible and integrated theatre for all ages. Taking flight Theatre Company regularly tour to some of the most gorgeous open spaces across Wales (and occasionally England) with beautifully realised Shakespearean adventures every summer. TFTC have also led on a Welsh Government initiative tackling Disability Hate Crime for the last 3 autumns- reaching over 9,000 young people in the last 3 years. TFTC also perform festival and street theatre pieces during the summer. You’ve Got Dragons is their first production especially developed for theatres and professional and community performance spaces.
Taking Flight Theatre Company have an integrated casting policy which goes hand in hand with their belief in creating fully accessible and integrated theatre- employing the best creative talent regardless of visible and invisible abilities. Our philosophy reaches out to performers who might traditionally have been overlooked by mainstream theatre, and as such they often employ disabled, D/deaf and sensory impaired performers, placing positive disabled role models centre stage.
Follow us at: @takingflightco
Like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Takingflightco/
Selection of cast biographies
Following 4 years of touring theatre across Wales with various companies (Arad Goch, Bara Caws, Mess up the Mess), Ioan went on to study a Masters in Classical Acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Since graduation he has performed in a variety of classical plays such as Volpone, Cymbeline and a one-off performance in Shakespeare’s Globe of an unearthed play by Thomas Jordan, Tricks of Youth.
Aside from performing Richard III at The Tower of London, this is Ioan’s first outdoor theatre tour, and he looks forward to the inevitable performance in the rain!
Paul trained at Manchester Metropolitan School of Theatre.
He has worked extensively in theatre, and his TV credits include; Dr Dean West: Holby City, Paul Ball: I’m With Stupid, Michael Scant: A Thing Called Love, Ollie Beresford: Casualty, David Hobbs: Playing the Field, all for BBC. Prankster: Off Their Rockers – Blue Badge Special, ITV
Paul was the first disabled person in the country to gain a qualification in stage combat from the British Academy of Dramatic Combat, and in 2007 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Staffordshire University for services to acting and the promotion of disabled actors.
Paul is also a trained and registered Hypnotist, specialising in confidence, stage fright and phobias, and also performs comedy stage hypnosis shows
Review: The Request Show – The Cooperativa Maura Morales by Helen Joy
(3 / 5)
Smart hand-drawn backdrop. Black and white lines of a kitchen-living-room. Strange distorted dystopian home of the bored and disaffected. With a loo off the side. A few spots of red from some flowers in a painted jar. She is black and white too.
This is a very odd start. A woman neatly dressed piddling noisily, then stroking her hair back from her head with her wetted hands. What a thing to remember so clearly. How shocking it is. How very very personal. And so it continues.
Intense, in your face, curiously flamboyant. Radio triggers a reminder of passions unspent. English at first. German later. This is an extraordinary physical breakdown of a woman tried by her own life, afraid of engaging with the outside world, trapped in her silence. It is her world and she seems ok with that.
Till she changes half way. When her hair comes down.
One very able dancer expresses the need for company and contact through a very emotional, tight series of movements which I long to become fluid and sloppy, warm from cold. Which they do, just for a short while, not long before the end, not long before she eats the red roses, dropping their bloody petals onto her green dress. Her mouth crammed with sadness, her tears quite real.
It seems completely inappropriate to applaud. Wrong. Hurtful.
The audience slopes out. A few check out the set, taking pictures, reverently whispering. Me too. I do not ask anyone what they think this time.
Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.
The Request Show – Cooperativa Maura Morales
The Request Show (Cuba/Germany)
Performed by Maura Morales
Music composed by Michio Woirgardt
Seen: 6th May, 2017
Where: Dance House, Cardiff
For tour dates and more information:
To support the National Dance Company Wales, please consider their new Lift Lifft scheme at http://www.ndcwales.co.uk/en/about/support-us/individual-giving/
Review tic toc, a sharing, Parama2 by Helen Joy
All photographs credit Kirsten McTernan
Review: Tic Toc, a sharing
An invited audience to consider, critique and approve a new play from the Parama2 team, staged during Age Cymru’s Gwanwyn Festival 2017.
Examining and delighting in the lives of female factory workers in Wales
As part of a series of creative activities working with factory workers and the likes of us, the public
This time last year, I was one of a small number of women lucky enough to play a part in the MakingIt! creative writing workshops. Loosely addressing the broader project researching the lives of women in Welsh factories, we wrote and acted in our resultant plays. It was fantastic! It opened my eyes to these remarkable women and to the impact their lives had on ours; and a glimpse into the world of writing, producing and acting.
So, when I had an invitation to attend a sharing, a mid-way production of a play written and produced by the same team, I was delighted and very proud. It was joyous to meet my writing group again and we are very much looking forward to the next stage in our joint creative development, thanks to Parama2.
And as to the play itself. Well. What a thing.
Some things make you feel like you have seen them before. You haven’t. They just have something about them which you recognise, instinctively. They appeal on some very basic level. They are the stories you have heard all your life but never read.
This is how this play makes me feel. I know these women. They are the women I descend from. They would not know me at all. I would be English to them, posh, privileged; and they’d be right. I loved everyone of them. I wondered how my grandmother in the ribbon factory during the war would’ve fitted in.
Great characters all and very well played. Each one clearly defined early on, no messing. Nice clear scripting supported by simple direction and uncomplicated acting. Neat storytelling, relying on the punch of the words and their delivery. Everyone different and balancing against each other perfectly. Enough given away to know there is a bigger story or two out there in the wings but that we will have to wait to hear them. A precious ring and a grammar school kid for starters. Great stuff. Nothing spectacular, realistic and homely.
And funny. A terrific bombastic lead with a right few pals around her but no one hogs the show. This is partly because of the singing. We sing. We’re Welsh. We can’t help it, apparently. It turns a play into a musical and in those moments, we get the chance to breathe and to think and to piece it all together. The songs are clever, witty, sad and funny and really well sung. There are some really good voices on that stage and they add to the individuality of the women, they make them even more solid and agreeable.
And as a retired factory worker in the audience said,
‘We were on the bus and this woman wouldn’t stop singing – someone shut that woman up, they said. Shirley Bassey it was.’
We all like a tune to take home.
We are shown a film too. A touching vignette of a tea dance in Porthcawl wrapped up with Tom Jones. And there they were, some of them, sitting just in front of me. Truly delightful and very much part of the story of the factory workers but I wasn’t sure how this fitted in with the play. Perhaps it was just a reminder of the continuing zest for life they had, in spite of or perhaps because of, the hard work and their fights for rights. And to remind us that they are not all dead, it is not that long ago. Keep up.
Discussion afterwards is relevant and interesting. It has the feel of an audience wanting to be heard, full of ideas and histories.
More men comment than women. Maybe they still just shout louder. Different people from different backgrounds suggest different angles – more facts, more slog, more reality. There is enough of all of these. These women found fun in what did, they were the trailblazers for our freedoms and quite frankly, we could learn a thing or two from them.
This play will help them teach us, if only we listen.
I loved it.