Tag Archives: Jason and the Argonauts

An interview with actor and director Gareth Warren

Hi Gareth great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hello! So, I’m an Actor from Cardiff and I trained at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. I’ve performed all over the world – from the West End to the Sydney Opera House to Hong Kong. And lots of other places in between!
So what got you interested in the arts ?
Funnily enough, I never wanted to be and actor when I was younger. I wanted to direct music videos or be a novelist. The same things that made me interested in those things interest me in being an actor. That is, telling stories. I always enjoyed making people laugh at school and playing around – so it just made sense. It just took me a while to realise that!
You are a director and an actor, can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a production ?
Well, I’m not quite a director at the moment. For our production of Jason & The Argonauts I’m the Associate Director – and playing Jason – I’ll be honest it can be quite confusing to explain! I was part of the original production of Jason & The Argonauts at the Hereford Courtyard in 2013 and the original Research and Development of the play in 2012. I’ve also worked with Mark Williams (the writer) on several other projects and we have developed a very close working relationship – basically we’re massive geeks and love Star Wars and comics! So… for this production I’m going to work closely with Julia (the director) and the production team to support in any way I can. This could just turn out to be making the tea and providing an array of chocolate based biscuits.
Thanks for clearing that up. As you have mentioned you are currently working on a brand new version of the classic legend Jason and the Argonauts. I loved the movie as a child so this new production sounds very exciting! Can you please tell us more about your role in this production?
So I get to play Jason. He’s just like us – a normal guy caught up in an incredible adventure – and surrounded by great hero’s of legend; Hercules, Orpheus and Medea. This show is a nod to many things – Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek and of course, the original movie. Essentially all great, epic quests. It’s been very playful to be a part of. We’ve enjoyed creating the monsters and having sword fights or messing with magic. And I’m lucky enough to be right in the middle of it.

Jason is the captain of the Argo in this production, it sounds a perfect production for teenage boys to see who might be interested in Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. What do you think live theatre can offer to audiences that differs from cinema?
Hopefully the show will appeal to a wide audience. Anyone who has an adventurous spirit! Whilst we have been influenced by science fiction and fantasy, you won’t need to be a fan of the genre to enjoy the show. This is how live theatre can differ from seeing a movie or watching a TV show. It’s all happening right in front of you – there’s no CGI and stunt doubles. It’s all happening right there! I think that can be very exciting for an audience to be part of. Because we’re doing it for you!
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?
That’s an interesting question. I think that in the past there was a feeling that you had to be in London to be able to have access to creative opportunities. More and more I am seeing opportunities arising in Wales. The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is here in Wales and is considered one of the, if not THE best Drama School in the UK. The College also connects with young people in harder to reach communities in West Wales and the Rhondda Valleys and potentially further afield. We have the incredible TV studios at Roath Lock, and we’re always hearing about films or TV shows being made in Wales. We have the great work of NTW which seems committed to taking performances and opportunities to every corner of the country. That being said I believe that as a country we can still continue to improve to make art accessible to all members of all communities.

RWCMD in Cardiff, South Wales

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I have been working with schools or young people in West Wales and in the Rhondda Valleys so perhaps I’m biased by this, but I would like more funding to be made available to those hard to reach communities. The world can seem quite disjointed to us at the moment. So community engagement through art is what I’d fund. Art can be used to change mentalities or to challenge stereotypes. It can also be used to educate in a creative way. And it should be fun! Everybody likes to have fun right?!
What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

City of the Unexpected

We have such a rich tradition of storytelling and have produced an unbelievable amount of talented writers, actors and singers over the years – and hopefully we will continue to do so. The last really great thing I experienced in the Arts was the Roald Dahl ‘City Of The Unexpected’ event that happened all around Cardiff City Centre. It was truly amazing. It featured so many different creative, quirky and stunning moments. And what I truly loved was that it was different for everyone who saw it – as some of the moments just popped up for a few moments and then were gone. Another thing about it that really excited me was the sheer number of people who attended. It made me realise that we, as artists, can make bigger and braver choices and people will embrace it. If the arts in Wales can continue to do that then I’ll think we’ll have a very bright future.

City of the Unexpected

Many thanks for your time
It’s been an absolute pleasure!

Designer Charlotte Neville on designing Jason and the Argonauts

Jason and the Argonauts Set Build Video One

Jason and the Argonauts Set Build Video Two

Charlotte Neville set and costume designer for Jason and the Argonauts gives us exclusive access to the set build process for the production. We were also lucky enough to see some of the amazing costume and mask designs for the show.
“We’ve drawn together a range of influences, from 1980s animation theme tunes and the soundtracks of Wes Anderson, to the fantasy films of Jim Henson, by way of the deck of the USS Enterprise and the Doctor’s TARDIS.”

The Set Model of the ship the Argo

A Golden Fleece mask during construction

Costume Designs

“Jason is an ordinary human in a world bursting with gods, monsters and superheroes. Assembling a team of mighty Argonauts, he takes the fabulous ship Argo on the ultimate adventure – the quest for the Golden Fleece. But it won’t be easy. Along the way, he’ll meet crazy Kings, horrific Harpies, sinister Sirens… and the skeleton army of the Earthborn Dead. Does Jason have what it takes to be a hero, and bring the Golden Fleece back home? 
Jason & The Argonauts is a brand new version of the classic legend – a blockbuster theatre experience full of hope, heart and humour for the whole family. Suitable for everyone aged 7 and over.”

An Interview with Director Julia Thomas

Hi Julia great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I’m from Llanelli and have been working as a director for a few years now. I trained as an actor originally at Drama Centre London and this gave me a solid foundation in understanding how to work with actors and writers. My curiosity for directing was ignited when I went on a course with Living Pictures lead by Elen Bowman. As the week went on I found myself gravitating to the director’s side of the room and shuffled away from acting. I’m currently based at Leicester Curve and have been developing some new initiatives to build relationships with the local community and look after new writing and Writerslab. I’m about to direct a promenade production of A Clockwork Orange at Curve. Before arriving in Leicester, I was Resident director at the National Theatre Studio which was an incredible opportunity to be immersed in an environment dedicated to enabling the spark of an idea to be made into a theatrical form. I’ve been able to continue my relationship with the NT through being the Leicester gatherer on My Country, a Work in Progress and I am also a Director for NT Connections and will be co-ordinating the Festival in Aberystwyth next month.

So what got you interested in the arts ?
When I was younger I spent a lot of time with my Grandmother who was always telling me stories and teaching me songs. We spent hours watching MGM musicals on the television and I loved imagining that I was Doris Day or Judy Garland. Coupled with the fact that my box of Lego was also at my Grandmother’s house, I had the ability to make anything with bricks that my imagination would allow and as I was very shy it was a real story telling haven. When I was ten I went to see my sister perform as King Herod in a brilliant show called ‘Follow the Star’ with Llanelli Youth Theatre. I was so bowled over that this was actually my older sister, she was hilarious and unrecognisable. I joined LYT for their next production which was Gypsy. I found lifelong friends and a love of theatre that brought me out of my shy shell and all of that story telling that had become a part of me finally had a place to be nurtured fully.
You are a theatre director can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a production ?
My role as director is to bind every person and every element of the production together. Quite often you will hear the phrase ‘the director’s vision’ to describe the idea that the director thinks about what it should be and gets everyone on board to realise that. I think that it is more than vision, the director’s role is to think about the audience’s experience which must encapsulate all of the senses to be truly engaging. This can only be achieved through creative collaboration with the performers, composers, designers, producers, technicians and magicians (well in this instance!)  My aim is to tell the story in the most exciting and dynamic way possible and to make the best use of the wonderful skills and talents of everyone around me.

You are currently directing a brand new version of the classic legend Jason and the Argonauts. This sounds exciting! Can you please tell us more about your role on this production?
I started working on this brilliant play in January. I have wanted to work with Mark Williams (the writer) for some time as he has an amazing ability to write for families and takes epic stories and makes them feel current and fresh. Mark and I had two weeks in the Park and Dare Treorchy with actors, our designer Charlotte Neville, Composer Dan Lawrence, Illusionist Neil Henry and Fight Choreographer Sam Davies. At this stage my role was to try to solve some of the challenges of the play such as ships crashing, Skeletons coming to life and various articles exploding. The ideas generated in that time had me in fits of hysterical laughter and it was a really joyous and playful process. It culminated in a ‘toga ban’ which helped set the tone of the production. Everyone has been working away to prepare their element of the production and when we get back to rehearsals we will fuse all of these elements together.
Jason and the Argonauts sounds perfect for families who might enjoy films like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. Do you think live theatre can compete when it comes to offering cultural experiences for audiences?
Absolutely. Because of our obsession with screens we are becoming more isolated. Theatre lets us share an experience as a community where we hear the laughter or gasps of amazement of others and feel that we belong. Jason is made for all of the family to enjoy, it isn’t a show for children that adults are made to suffer. There is genuinely something for everyone and to be able to share that across the generations will be thrilling. It’s good to get out too isn’t it?

How are the classical stories of Jason and the Argonauts relevant to todays audiences?
Jason has to do the right thing in order to become the hero that he longs to be. He fails in his first attempt to get the fleece but gets a second chance and learns that power isn’t the most important driving force. I think that in the current climate of uncertainty globally, we need to be reassured that human beings can do good. We can be selfless and fight on behalf of those who are vulnerable and exploited. We look for unlikely heroes and long for adventure. Classical stories give us that in abundance. This version will be advocating the toga ban and so the characters will feel more contemporary.
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?
I think that we are a country that should acknowledge the class barriers that have fuelled prejudice and disadvantage for centuries. We like to pretend that class doesn’t exist or that it has something to do with poverty. But just doing the odd project here and there isn’t going to stop this injustice. Self belief is the key to enabling people to achieve what they want to achieve and to live happy and fulfilling lives regardless of this no entry barrier. It is about a change of attitude and quashing of assumptions from those ‘in charge’ that will bring about social equality.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I would fund Youth Theatres across the country so that within a 30 mile radius of every part of Wales a young person could participate for free in a company. Joining Llanelli Youth Theatre was a pivotal factor in the building of my self belief and I learnt so much about working with others, speaking up and having an opinion as well as working on productions (On and off stage). It was a training ground for life. It baffles me that funding for Youth Theatre isn’t a priority. Only those who can afford to pay for Stage Schools are getting this opportunity and that saddens and worries me.
What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I think what excites me the most is that National Theatre Wales established a Community of theatre makers and that not a week goes by when I don’t hear about this writer working with that film maker or that director working with a choreographer. The mix up of how people work together is exciting and unique to Wales. When I arrived in Leicester, I was like ‘where is everyone then?’ Being so used the tight knit arts community it became my mission to bring everyone together to forge collaborations.

Images for The Nether, Killology and How my Light is Spent.

Now that I’m back in Wales for a little while, Productions that I’m looking forward to are The Nether at Chapter (I saw the original production in London and  I am keen to see how this can be done without the heavy use of digital technology). I’m also looking forward to How my Light is Spent and Killology at the Sherman. What a treat to have two new plays by Wales finest writers on in the next couple of months.
Many thanks for your time Julia

An Interview with playwright Mark Williams

Get the Chance values the role playwrights living and working in Wales bring to the cultural life of our nation. Here is our third interview in this series with 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.
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.
You are currently working on a brand new version of the classic legend Jason and the Argonauts. This sounds exciting! Can you please tell us more about your role on this production.
 ‘Jason’ was first commissioned by the Courtyard Hereford, and undertook a short English regional tour in 2013. This new production of the play developed from meetings with Sharon Casey and Angela Gould (at co-producers Blackwood Miner’s Institute and RCT Theatres). They’d enjoyed my family play for Theatr Iolo (‘Here Be Monsters’), and were keen to develop work for that audience. I’d always wanted to return to ‘Jason & The Argonauts’, as I felt it had the potential to have a further life. This new version is a very collaborative production. Two development periods explored elements such as music, set design, and how to really push the ‘legendary blockbuster’ feel of the story. I worked with one director (Owen Lewis) on an initial R&D, and then in a second development phase this year with Julia Thomas, who is directing the finished production. I’ve redrafted the script several times, as a result of the constructive feedback of the creative team – taking on board suggestions and new ideas, and then filtering them back into the script. Ultimately, my role on this production is to work closely with Julia, to ensure that none of the exciting new ideas are lost, but also that the spirit and tone at the heart of the story is retained.

I believe this new version of the story draws on the original interpretations of the tale, as well as modern stories inspired by Greek myth – from the Marvel Comics Universe, to Star Wars, The Lord Of The Rings and beyond. Do you consider audiences when you approach work of this nature.
Yes, absolutely! Director Julia Thomas is very audience-driven in her approach, and we’ve both had a family audience firmly in mind, at every stage of the process. A modern audience’s expectation of the story was a big part of my inspiration, right from when I first started working on the script. When you mention the title, most people think of the animated skeletons in the 1963 movie! So you’ve got to try to deliver those classic monsters and mythic heroes – but in a theatrical way, with a cast of four brilliant actors. In a wider sense, audiences (myself included!) are just as likely to know the stories listed above, as they are the legends that inspired them. There’s no “standard version” of Jason’s story, and there’s a great creative freedom in seeing it as taking place “out of time”. Our version of Jason’s ship The Argo could be a space-ship, just as much as a sailing vessel. I’m also constantly reminding myself that this adaptation should be a fun and exciting story – one that also hopefully has something to say to a modern audience, about what it means to be a human hero.
The marketing materials for the production reference lots of popular culture and films. With increased competition for live performances from on demand TV like Netflix. Do you think theatre can offers something different for audiences from film and TV?
I do! Modern audiences are very sophisticated, and well-versed in a wide range of storytelling, with a lot of entertainment competing for their time and money. But what theatre has is its immediacy and communal atmosphere – the excitement of taking people on a journey, together, in a live setting. We’ve approached this version of Jason & The Argonauts as being a fantastical playground, where we can have fun with all the theatrical tools at our disposal – music and sound, imaginative set design, stage combat and effects and illusions.

Here Be Monsters, Theatr Iolo

You have written a range of family production ranging from Horrible Histories, Here Be Monsters for Theatr Iolo to this new production of Jason and the Argonauts. Family productions are often many audience members first points of access to live theatre. Is this something you ever consider when writing and developing your work?
Very much so. I went to a Family Arts conference last year, and was struck by the statistic that most families only go to see a live theatre show once or twice a year. Which is not so surprising, when you consider how expensive a family night out can be. So you really want to push value for money, as much as possible. We’ve approached every scene as almost being a mini-story in itself, asking questions like: “what are the big set-piece moments?” and “what do we want people to be buzzing with excitement about, after the show?”
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
 Increasingly, a lot of my work is inspired by my native Pembrokeshire, and I’d love to see more funding for the arts there, to expand on the great work already being done in the local arts scene. I’d also love to see more promotion of, and focus on, genre writers, particularly in sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Wales has produced some brilliant and prolific authors in their field, writers like Tim Lebbon and Jo Walton, and I think we should champion them a lot more than we do.

 What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers? 
 I love the diversity of work, how eclectic it is. How we can produce world-class plays, music and opera; brilliant comedy like The Harri Parris and the Mach Comedy Festival, and innovative productions at The Other Room, that transform a small space with flair and invention. Lucy Rivers’ recent Sinners Club was brilliant – wonderful writing and performance. I loved the Llawn Festival last year, an eclectic mix of lovingly-curated art, taking place in Llandudno. And I’m a huge Meilyr Jones fan – his live shows are incredible, and I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with next.
Jason and the Argonauts, tour dates.
April 2017
The Park & Dare, Treorchy
Friday 7th 6pm
Borough Theatre, Abergavenny
Monday 10th 2.30pm
Maesteg Town Hall, Maesteg
Tuesday 11th 2pm
Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
Wednesday 12th 2pm & 7pm
Blackwood Miners’ Institute, Blackwood
Thursday 13th 1pm & 4pm
The Weston Studio,
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Friday 14th 7.30pm
Saturday 15th 2.30pm & 7.30pm
Torch Theatre, Milford Haven
Tuesday 18th 1pm & 4pm
The Welfare, Ystradgynlais
Wednesday 19th 2pm
The Hafren, Newtown
Thursday 20th11am & 1.30pm
Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli
Friday 21st 2.30pm & 7.30pm
The Met, Abertillery
Wednesday 26th 1pm & 7.30pm