Tag Archives: Roald Dahl

Review George’s Marvellous Medicine, The New Theatre, Cardiff by Sarah Debnam


 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This year marks the 100th Birthday of the literary legend Roald Dahl but I’m sure you knew that already? If you live anywhere near Cardiff you would have seen the spectacular celebrations across the City Centre from National Theatre Wales and if not there would have been something nearby to mark the event no doubt. And since we are huge Roald Dahl fans in our house it was nice to get the chance to see George’s Marvellous Medicine in the New Theatre in Cardiff recently.

We arrived just in time to find our seat in the packed out theatre and settled into the seats. The music started and we were introduced to George’s family, as anyone who has read the book will know, it is a lively and interesting family, and George of course is the main character played by Ed Thorpe.

I quickly realised how much fun this show was going to be, and the audience were happily cheering along and getting involved from the beginning. Even the adults were laughing at the jokes, and the Mother-In-Law quips.

Preparations for George’s Grandma’s arrival began and the whole stage came to life, this was something I noticed throughout the whole show, when anything was happening the whole scene lit up, or the focus was brought firmly to one area, this really helped the smaller audience members concentrate on what was going on, as we know their attention span is naturally short, so the Birmingham Stage Company really did cater for this in my opinion.

So of course we meet George’s pretty awful Grandma, and she is as miserable as described in the original story, she is rude, bad tempered and demanding, and we instantly disliked her, as intended, well played Deborah Vale. Poor George has a miserable time of it when he is responsible for the care of his Gran, and he starts making up stories in his mind, except for this is the theatre and the scene comes comes to life with him.

The story continues and George comes up with his wonderful idea to make a new medicine for his Grandmother to make her nice…


I really appreciated the fact they used actual creams and other special ingredients rather than just pretending and I think it added something special for the children watching. I can only imagine the clean up operation after each show though. Of course this only made things more real when the inevitable happens and Grandma drinks her medicine and BOOM! She grows and grows….. I know my girls were mesmerised by the incredible growing Grandma and even I was sat wondering how they managed it.

I don’t think there was anything I could fault from this production, the acting was spot on, the scenery and props were amazing and the music and lighting cleverly used. Even the special Pigs and Chickens that were used in the story were impressive. Many things could have been missed or ignored but weren’t and the attention to detail was brilliant. As everything Roald Dahl seems to be, brilliant!

I would certainly watch another show from the Birmingham Stage Company, and can only applaud everyone involved in George’s Marvellous Medicine.

Free Workshops Wriggle ! & Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at NMW, Cardiff, Sat the 15th


This Saturday the 15th of October from 10-12 pm there is the opportunity to attend a free exclusive workshop at National Museum Cardiff. During this workshop we will be focusing on 2 exhibitions;

“Wriggle! The wonderful world of worms”

An exciting, family-friendly exhibition delving into the wonderful world of worms. Crawl inside the amazing ‘wriggloo’ and get an earthworm’s eye view of the world. Discover the mind-blowing diversity of worms and find out more about where and how they live. Use our fun interactive game to discover what kind of worm you really are! Explore how worms have crawled into all areas of popular culture, from books and movies to heavy metal music.


The group will also visit and discuss

“Quentin Blake: Inside Stories”

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories celebrates the work of one of the world’s most important and best-loved illustrators. Best known for his illustrations in the books of Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake’s work is recognised worldwide.

This exhibition gives a unique insight into the origins of some of Blake’s most iconic and popular creations, ranging from his illustrations in Roald Dahl’s The Twits and Danny the Champion of the World, to his own Clown, The Boy in The Dress by David Walliams and illustrations in books by John Yeoman, Russell Hoban and Michael Rosen.

It includes first roughs and storyboards, many never shown before, with finished artwork to demonstrate how ideas evolved, often in close collaboration with the authors. It shows how Blake brings to bear a wide range of different techniques and media including inks, watercolours and pastels applied with a variety of touch, in response to the particular mood of a book and the nature of its characters, to create his distinctive and unforgettable illustrations.


During the workshop the curatorial staff at NMW, Cardiff will discuss the exhibition with you all and you will be able to discuss how the exhibition developed and what the response from the general public has been. We will then go and discuss the exhibition together as a group. As usual everyone attending will be requested to create a blog type response. This can range from a formal review to imagery, video its up to you really but everyone has to respond!

If you would like to join Get the Chance and attend this free event please email, Guy O’Donnell, Project Director


Review Wonderman, Gagglebabble by Gemma Treharne-Foose


 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) Unmissable

A lucid, slightly seasick jazz-kissed dream

Have you ever had a dream and woken up not quite knowing if what you’ve just experienced was real? That hazy half-sleep mode when your sleep-induced mind hallucination feels like it could be real for a moment? Wonderman – an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s stories for adults perfectly captures the sheer silliness and absurdity of your dreams and the haunted ‘recollections’ of a shell-shocked airman during the Second World War.

Brought to us by Gagglebabble, National Theatre Wales and the Wales Millennium Centre, the show took place in Tramshed’s wonderful pub-theatre venue. Lit by fairy lights outside and with a dim candle-lit, stripped-down vibe inside the performance space, this was a fitting and cosy venue for the performance. Mingling with other audience members and taking in our pints felt informal and exciting – there was already the imposing presence of a 6-piece band, who were gathering in the bar getting ready to take us on an epic journey in to the mind of the troubled airman.

The band line up really is superb and Gagglebabble’s Lucy Rivers (who created the music, played multiple parts and devised the show with Hannah McPake and Daf James) has a magnetic stage presence, as does Hannah McPake. McPake plays an absolutely cracking rendition of a Brighton landlady who perfectly toes the line between Mumsy and psychotic taxidermist waiting to pounce.  Adam Redmore’s depiction of a traumatised, paranoid airman in the midst of a hallucinogenic dream is wonderful and raw.


The music and lyrics move the sequences along beautifully, the overall pace and energy is good and there are plenty of hearty chuckles and clever lines throughout.  Director Amy Leach manages to inject joy and colour in to a storyline that has the potential to be so dark and in such an engaging way – it is frantic, but it is clever and warm. I loved the way the storylines and dream sequences joined up at the end.

Dahl’s works in general exude a childlike charm  – and there are echoes of his characterisation present in his most famous children’s stories in this production – menacing enough to give you the chills, but without too much bitterness or poison.

Chatting with audience members before and after the show, Dahl leaves his mark on people in different ways.

We’re reminded of Dahl when we think of the sheer terror invoked by the TV adaptation of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (especially THAT clown under the bed) and of the way that even the most horrid and dodgy characters still have you rooting for them.

We get a weird perverse thrill when Mrs Trunchbull is on the scene and similarly, you’re fascinated by the somewhat pervy Uncle Oswald. In this production, we can’t help but like and want to believe the tender wife who clobbers her husband, the kooky landlady and the funny Jamaican guy who wants a souvenir of the airman’s finger.  At one point, the audience even cheers for the airman’s finger to be chopped off. There is a lot of chopping threat in this production…and you will never look at a leg of lamb without smiling again!

It is mad-cap, it is fantastic and the whole thing was a lucid, slightly sea-sick jazz-kissed dream. It’s quite fitting that the opening night for ‘Wonderman’ should fall on the centenary since the birth of one of Wales’ literary gems.

There’s an excited chatter, a feel-good buzz all over town as Cardiff prepares for a mammoth weekend of celebrating all things Dahl in the ‘City of the Unexpected’ events.

For me, this was completely unexpected – a surprise full of cheeky mischief, made by misfits…and if you too are looking for a chop-tittlingly toe-tapplingly lush-winkingly good time, you need to shake your tail and get over there to see this show (try the chips in the ‘Waiting Room’ bar/restaurant next door to the venue, too – lush!)

Type of show: Theatre

Title: Wonderman
Venue: Tramshed
Dates: 13 September – 18 September, PN 13th September
Devised by: Daf James, Hannah McPake and Lucy Rivers
Music by: Lucy Rivers
Design: Hayley Grindle
Technical: Joshua Carr (Lighting), Dan Lawrence (Sound), Lucy Cullingford (Chpreography & Movement), Bryony Tayler (Costume)
Cast / Musicians include: James Clark (Piano), PeteKomor (Double Bass), Hannah McPake (The Landlady), Mark O’Connor (Drums), Adam Redmore (The Airman), Lucy Rivers (The Wife), Joe Shire (The man from the South).
Running time: 1hr 45min

Review Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, WMC by Barbara Michaels

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Full of fun and fantasy, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang needs no introduction, rating as it does high among the icons of musical theatre. Full credit must be accorded to this production by West Yorkshire Playhouse both for the high standard of its performers and for coping with what must be incredibly difficult logistics in staging Chitty on tour, involving as it does the transporting of some large and unwieldy objects. I will say no more on this subject for fear of giving the game away to audiences who are seeing the musical for the first time.

Based on the 1968 film adapted for the stage by Jeremy Sams, despite differences between making a film and staging a musical, and the moving forward of the era in which it is set, under the direction of James Brining this Chitty has an aura of timelessness about it which spans the generations. Pure nonsense, but totally believable. At its heart is the boy meets girl romance of lonely widower Caractacus Potts, an inventor of strange machines who is struggling to bring up two young children on his own, and the delectable Truly Scrumptious. Add to the melée an aged and slightly doolally grandfather, a wicked Baron and Baroness, a spine-chilling Childcatcher and a magic car and the result is as sweet as a dolly mixture.

Lee Mead is a mop-headed Caractacus, seemingly bewildered by life but full of spunk and determination. The lyrics by the Sherman brothers are well-known, and Mead is great in the foot-tapping fun numbers such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which gives its name to the title, bringing an unexpected lump to the throat with Hushabye Mountain, which has the added poignancy of the vision of his late wife appearing to him as he sings.

Andy Hockley’s Grandpa, bushy-bearded and bandy-legged, is a delight, the Welsh actor being accorded a special round of applause on opening night in Cardiff. Hockley manages well the balancing act of adhering to the original character created by writer Roald Dahl, based on a story by James Bond Creator Ian Fleming, yet adding his own twist.

Carrie Hope Fletcher’s Truly Scrumptious eschews the frill and flounces of the film and opts instead for more modern attire such as jodhpur like trousers which have the added advantage of showing off her shapely form. You can’t fail to be charmed by this Truly. Hope Fletcher brings a warmth to the role which reveals an understanding of the importance of family life which is one of the underlying themes. Her singing is impeccable; outstanding in her solo Lovely Lonely Man reinstated in Act II after being eliminated from earlier productions of the stage show, melodic and perfectly balanced in the songs she sings with Caractacus and the Potts children.

That accomplished actress Claire Sweeney makes a comical and high-kicking Baroness Bomburst opposite Shaun Williamson’s perfectly petulant Baron.  More comic talent in that pair of would-be villains Boris and Goran, played respectively by Sam Harrison and Scott Paige. Matt Gillett’s Childcatcher is sinister and suitably spine shivering, while Bill Coggins gives a movingly compassionate performance as the concerned Toymaker.

It’s not only the wonderful music and lyrics that make this show what it is, but the choreography. Stephen Mear’s choreography is a star in its own right throughout, whether it be the foot tapping intricacies of Me Ol’ Bamboo in the fairground scene or the exotic rhythms of the Bombie Samba in which Sweeney’s take is a master piece of send-up on its own. Skilful video effects and animation work in tandem with an atmospheric yet simple staging which changes or revolves seamlessly. As for the music – under the baton of musical director and keyboard player Andrew Hilton it well deserves the applause it receives.

So what of Chitty herself? Let’s not spoil the surprise. Let’s just say you won’t be disappointed.

Runs until 21st August 2016

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Wales Millennium Centre
Writer: Ian Fleming
Music & Lyrics: Richard M.Sherman and Robert B.Sherman
Director: James Brining
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Review The BFG by Jonathan Evans

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Roahl Dahl was a true writer of children’s fiction. He created stories of the truly fantastical that stirred the imagination of all who read them. Also he shaped simple but deep plots that could be understood but the simple thinking of children but also complex in a way that you will keep coming back to them years later. The BFG is a story about bravery and the importance of dreams.

Put simply we meet Sophie, a little orphan that is more responsible that the head carer in her orphanage. She knows that there is something that moves the London streets at night, one night she sees it for herself. A large, twenty-four-foot figure in a black robe. The figure sees her too and takes her. She is whisked off to another world and learns that she is in Giant Country. The one that has taken her is a giant but has no intention of eating her.

He will not take her back for fear she will tell people. So Sophie is in Giant Country indefinitely. And must do her best to navigate throughout this world of giant oily vegetables and host that is so large his bed is an entire ship.

The best part of the movie is the giant himself. Mark Rylance moves and is able to deliver the giants fragmented form of English with utter conviction and ease. An actor that was uncomfortable with the material would overcompensate by being too hammy, Rylance is able to speak the unique dialog with warmth, humor and even regret at times. His design is also a technical triumph. Like with Tintin the effects team are able to take the original illustrated character design and add all kinds of skin texturing and wrinkles lines to create a balance that forgoes the Uncanny Valley and more of a detailed illustration come to life.

The other best thing is Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. Speilberg has a talent for working with children, somehow he is able to communicate with them and get them to understand that material and get very solid performances out of his young stars. But there does obviously need to be talent there and Barnhill has so much of it. She is able to interact with things that are not really there and able to pull-off scared, witty and awe convincingly.

The C.G.I. is something that’s beautifully realized. There are as much practical effects in the movie as can be, but most of it is C.G.I. and it looks like a lush, vibrant painting. The sunlight shines through the the hair and bounces off skin, dreams are matter that take different shapes depending on their nature.

What else can be said about Steven Spielberg? He is one of the most acclaimed names in all of movie history. He knows the formula of how to compose a satisfying movie. Knowing how to expertly compose and light shots but also also with the story for having moments of levity, but also dark ones to balance everything out. With this new technology he is able to have swooping, intricate shots that would be impossible in live-action. As-well as that show things that would be impossible, Jumping into a reflection, having the camera follow them and then flipping one-hundred-eighty degrees when they come out the other side, for example. Though there are a few moments that seem like he just wanted t make sure the kids would laugh.

As must always come with a Spielberg movie is the music of John Williams. Williams who has so many of the greatest movie scores under his belt doesn’t need another one. But yet he does anyway. His score here heightens the mood and feel of whatever situation it plays for and ranges from scary and intimidating, bouncing and magical, and quiet and lonely.

This movie is something that children should experience. They should know that dreams and courage are important, that there are threats in this world but they can be overcome. And see images that will enrich their imagination for years to come.

Interview Gwen Davies A young dancer with Ballet Cymru.

095Sian Trenberth Photography

Our project coordinator recently spoke to Gwen Davies, a young Welsh dancer with Ballet Cymru.

Hi Gwen, can you tell me how you got involved in your area in the arts?

I started dancing after a nursery teacher suggested to my parents to take me to ballet classes, because I was always active and loved dancing to music. At the age of four I took up classes locally in Cardiff at Chapter Arts Centre and then at 11 received a scholarship to attend Elmhurst School for Dance in Association with Birmingham Royal Ballet where i spent a further 7 and a half years training. I suppose I was immersed from a very young age in the arts and was lucky that my parents would take me to go and see various performances of all styles of art, from this I had an avid interest at a very young age.

You are currently working with Ballet Cymru, can you please tell us more about your relationship with the company?

I first got involved with Ballet Cymru after taking part in their Riverfront Summer Dance at the age of 8. After that I haven’t missed a single one of their summer school to date! I also took part in the workshops in Abergavenny which the company hold. Once I was training professionally the company were also really supportive in letting me partake in company class during the school holidays. I found it really helpful to be able to have access to professional standard classes from the age of 15. Something which is quite rare and it has definitely been invaluable to me in my development as a professional dancer.

Was there a moment when you thought this is the career for me?

I don’t think I have had one single definitive moment which made me decide it was the career path for me, but more the unfolding of events and opportunities I was given. I have always loved to dance but I don’t think I seriously considered it as a career until after I started vocational school in Birmingham where you then begin to have an understanding of the training and hard work required to make it professionally. Even then I think there is always an element of doubt as to whether you are actually good enough to make it after all the training. I think my mind was totally made up after getting more professional performing opportunities with Birmingham Royal Ballet. After getting a taste of working with the company when I was 17, in La Fille Mal Gardee and later Romeo and Juliet, there was no going back really. I don’t think I could find anything that could replace the feeling of performing to an audience especially when it’s with a live orchestra.

038Sian Trenberth Photography-3

When you aren’t dancing or watching dance what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to watch rugby in my spare time and have been an avid supporter of Newport Gwent Dragons, and I make it down to Rodney Parade as often as I can to watch matches! I also enjoy going to watch live music and any other kind of performance art to be honest.

Are their any individuals or organisations that helped support you once you realised a career in dance was for you?

In Wales my biggest support came from Ballet Cymru. They were really helpful in giving me advice when I was auditioning for schools and companies and really valued the opportunities, and improved in their classes. I’ve also been really lucky to have some inspirational and supportive teachers in Birmingham which I definitely wouldn’t have succeeded this far without. I have also been very lucky in receiving funding from the Elizabeth Evans Trust towards my training and also Cardiff Council who also funded an invaluable trip for Ballet Masterclasses in Prague for a fortnight which I learnt incredible amounts from and was an amazing experience to work with so many other professional dancers from all over the world.

What are the opportunities for those interested in dance as a career in Wales?

There are many companies across Wales which offer workshops and have associate classes. Ballet Cymru being one of them for classical dancers, and also National Dance Company Wales offer associates which focus on contemporary dance.

How do we get involved in your dance projects?

We are touring Roald Dahl’s Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs across Wales this season, opening on May the 20th in the Riverfront, Newport and continue to perform until early July. It will be a really fun performance to watch and is great for all ages! The company will also be teaching workshops in some of the venues we are touring to so there are  plenty of opportunities to get involved! We are also performing Romeo and Juliet for a small section of the tour in Portsmouth, Llanelli and Stevenage which will be a contrasting production to the more lighthearted Red Riding Hood.

Do you have any advice for anyone interested in following your career path?

To work as hard as you can but also to enjoy every moment of the process. It’s a career which requires a lot of determination and you will always encounter a lot of setbacks but the rewards always make every moment of perseverance worth it. I would also say to take every opportunity given to you, even if you think it might be relevant to what you’re interested in, but you would be surprised! I would try as many different styles of dance as possible but also to experience other art-forms to broaden your mind and experience something new. It’s always invaluable to have as much experience in anything you can, as you never know what will be thrown at you either in choreography or as a character in a production!

Thanks for your time Gwen