Shakespeare Made Fun!
I will admit that in 2016 I had the privilege of watching The Tempest at the Southbank Globe Theatre. One may argue that this would be the best way to experience Shakespeare and up until a viewing of Taking Flights production, I too was under this impression. However following this production my opinion has somewhat changed.
The production broke many of the rules of theatre. Instead of sitting in a darkened theatre, we the audience watched the play outside, toe to toe with the performers. It was also not stationary as we moved around the park to a different setting between each scene. The performers frequently broke the fourth wall and interacted with the audience, giving one the impression that they are intimately involved in the story: you may find yourself getting quite friendly with the characters. This is also aided by the smaller audiences, giving the play an exclusive “Just for You” feel.
However, having the play performed in this way did cause some minor inconveniences. Having to bring your own chair and then to move it around between each scene may feel a little tedious. Fumbling with an umbrella (for it was raining) was also not brilliant. The quality of the acting along with the quality of the play is enough to distract from these little hiccups, though. And really, isn’t that what we came out to see?
The production has a distinctly surreal 1920s vibe about it, keeping the atmosphere true to the original play. It’s cleverly integrated audio descriptions and sign language allow the world of Shakespeare to be open to the blind and deaf among us, something that is not necessarily offered in conventional performances. Younger audiences, as well as those who are not well acquainted with Shakespeare’s language will also find themselves at an advantage for the more difficult elements of speech are edited just enough to be understood, but carefully enough to retain their beautiful Shakespearian quality.
It’s not just the story that’s worth seeing: the musical performances demonstrate the performers’ vocal and instrumental skills with flawless performances in several genres from traditional Baroque to modern Rockabilly.
In conclusion this production is an engaging and delightful little show, accessible to all and a lot of fun. It is a perfect blend of traditional Shakespearian humour and modern quirkiness: there is definitely a whiff of ‘Carry On’ in there. Speaking for myself, I found myself smiling and engaged all the way through, as I’m sure did many others.
Naturally I did know what to expect but I was very confused by the way the scenes transitioned from normal then into Shakespearean language. The weather was bad and there were midges too!
The sign language was integrated into the production naturally as was the audio description,
Hi Sam great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
I’m a playwright and actor-musician from the Rhondda Valley.
From the age of 13 I’ve been playing guitar and singing in bands.
I found my feet in 2010 when I met Elise Davison and joined Taking Flight Theatre Company. Their Shakespeare tours are always very music orientated.
I spend my summers as a sort of ‘wandering minstrel’, which is a joy. I am currently part of the cast of Taking Flights production of The Tempest which is currently touring Wales and England.
I’m currently listening to James Blake – The Colour in Everything.
Beautiful and virtuoso electronica and sublime songwriting. I urge you to give it a go if you haven’t done so already.
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
To pick out just five albums is tricky, but here goes;
Radiohead – The Bends
One of the first albums I ever owned. Radiohead are and always have been pioneering and non-complacent with their songwriting, and have never stopped experimenting. This makes them one of the most exciting bands in the world to me.
Reuben – Very Fast, Very Dangerous
Probably the best British band that never quite ‘made it’.
Bilious, angry tunes.
Stereophonics – Word Gets Around
Along with Radiohead, these were the band that got me into playing guitar. Every song is a classic, and even all these years later I still know it word for word.
Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise.
It’s just superb. The man is a genius.
I think this one is self explanatory. If not, you’re either too young or a troglodyte.
Thanks for your time Sam
Top Tunes is brought to you in collaboration with Outpost Coffe and Vinyl.
Photograph of Sam Bees and Chloe Phillips by Jorge Lizalde Cano
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.
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
You’ve got Dragons is a short, one act play targeted towards families and young children. Based on the book of the same title by Kathryn Cave, it follows Benjamina’s (Axelina Heagney) journey to come to terms with her dragons.
Despite a fairly slow start, this gave plenty of time to admire not only the chalkboard-effect set, designed by Stacey-Jo Atkinson but also the original music composed by Dan Lawrence which was still soft enough to allow chatting among the audience.
As the performance started, the introductions of Chloe Clarke and Hermon Berhane as the dragons caused gasps to come from the audience although humour was quickly created again through ‘old man dragon’s’ farting, which had many giggles coming from the audience.
Not only was Benjamina’s relationship with her dragon developed but her relationship with her father (James William Ward, who successfully played multiple roles) was too. The scene with Ben refusing to go to sleep was probably familiar to the many parents in the audience.
Having seen previous Taking Flight performances, I was interested in seeing how they created an accessible show while ensuring it was simple enough for children to follow. And they have delivered! Young children were clearly considered by Director Elise Davidson in all aspects of the performance, the caption boxes often use colourful pictures in place of long paragraphs of text while BSL and audio description were interwoven so well that they felt like an integral part of the story rather than being a distraction.
The performance is also often highly visual, creating many beautiful moments such as the postman where the cast used ribbons to create an image of a bike, while also adding audience interaction to make the children feel fully involved in Ben’s story.
Overall, the performance clearly highlighted for me how naturally Taking Flight have succeeding in creating an inclusive performance for children while still managing to make it enjoyable for all ages.
A BSL subtitled video review of You’ve Got Dragons by Taking Flight Theatre Company performed at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff reviewed by Steph Back.
“A delightful tale of one child’s journey to come to terms with their dragons, told in Taking Flight’s unique style. With toe-tapping music, this highly visual, sensitive production is a humorous and touching exploration of the ‘dragons’ we all face.
A fully accessible intergenerational show featuring creative captioning, BSL and audio description it is a treat for all the family … and remember ‘no dragon is more powerful than YOU’!”
Hi Connor great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi there. Honour to be here. I’m an actor and a writer based in Wales. I was born and raised in Newport. I trained as an actor at Trinity Saint David in Carmarthen and graduated with a degree in 2013. Since then as an actor I have worked in both theatre and TV with companies such as Taking Flight Theatre, BBC Wales, Fluellen Theatre, National Theatre Wales, Sherman Theatre and more recently Omidaze.
Connor in As You Like It, Taking Flight Theatre Company .
Photo by Jorge Lizalde
As a writer I have been commissioned by National Theatre Wales, Dirty Protest, Avant Theatre and No Boundaries. I am a member of National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, a member of National Theatre Wales’ TEAM Panel and I’m also the winner of the 2015 Welsh MonologueSlam run by Triforce Creative.
I think it was the chance to play different characters and explore, create and escape to new worlds whilst in my late teenage years. I had a lot of anger and frustration back then and drama gave me a creative outlet. A way to channel that into acting.
You are an actor can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a theatrical production ?
On a theatrical production an actor is the one that brings the characters to life and speaks the words written in the script. They bring the characters from the paper to the stage. We attend rehearsals and work with the director and other members of the team such as vocal coaches, choreographers, lighting and sound designers, stage managers and many more to rehearse the piece for a certain amount of time and bring it all together so it’s a polished piece ready for audiences.
You are currently working on a new version of the classic play Romeo and Juliet which is being produced by Omidaze Productions. Do you think Shakespeare is still relevant to todays audiences?
The Romeo and Juliet Company in rehearsals
I believe Shakespeare is still relevant. He was a playwright and wrote stories with various themes and many of those stories still resonate with audiences today, the themes remain and we still experience them (Wether you are dealing with grief like Hamlet, Prejudice like Othello, Betrayal like Macbeth or falling in love like Romeo.)
Take Romeo & Juliet for example, yes it’s the classical love story of two young lovers but amongst that we have two families who have been feuding for years. That conflict is still relevant to today’s audience. Be it not between two families but even two countries. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper or turn the TV on and conflict is among us. People rebelling, people fighting and just like in Romeo & Juliet, unnecessary people get hurt and dare I say killed as a result of that conflict. The more you delve into Shakespeare’s stories the more you unlock and the more you then find that you can relate to on a human level. We are all human after all and we all feel emotion on different scales. Shakespeare highlighted many issues which I believe are still present in today’s society that why his stories still get told.
The Romeo and Juliet Company in rehearsals
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 or specifically writers?
Theatre is a reflection of life and every life is different.
Not every life is white.
I recently tweeted #walestheatreawardssowhite which was the case (and my frustration at the time) as the last three awards now since 2015 have had all white winners in all the acting and directing categories. I would like to delve deeper into my reasons for this. I think Alexandria Riley this year was the first BAME nominee in a lead actress category (and rightly so!) but that in itself is wrong because there is an abundance of BAME talent here in Wales and it isn’t being utilised. I obviously realise that this issue goes far beyond awards and is a reflection of something greater in society.
For me diversity and representation is so much bigger than just skin colour. It’s gender, sexual orientation, disability, social status and more.
We live in a multi-cultural world and this isn’t being represented on stage. We need audience members from different backgrounds and generations to go to the theatre and see theatre they can relate to. If we don’t see ourselves or our culture on stage (and screen for that matter) how are we meant to be engaged. If young people don’t see themselves represented on stage they won’t go to the theatre, if they don’t see themselves represented on TV they’ll turn the TV off. We have to show all walks of life to engage all people.
Every life is different after all.
To quote Viola Davis (who is an actress I am hugely fond of)
“The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity:you cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there”
For minority actors to be considered for awards they have to be cast in productions. So it stretches to the casting directors, directors, theatre companies to be imaginative and widen their casting pools. Think outside the box when it comes to casting. BAME playwrights to write more stories so their voices are being heard. Their voices need to be heard for the work to be made. And once the work is made they can be in contention for things like awards.
Connor in Bird, Sherman Theatre/Manchester Royal Exchange
It’s the vision of bold people like Directors Yvonne Murphy, Rachel O’Riordan, Elise Davison and Casting Directors like Sophie Parrott that allow me to stand here today fulfilled with the opportunities I’ve been given so far in my career.
Directors Yvonne Murphy, Rachel O’Riordan and Elise Davison
It’s the vision of these people and many more that break these boxes and allow diversity and representation to flourish. They don’t see risk, all they see is talent. And we need more people to think on that same wavelength for real change to occur.
Diversity has become this big taboo as of late and all I see it as is the ‘why cant’. Why can’t Iago be a black actor?(which has happened now to some criticism) why can’t Juliet be a disabled actress? Why can’t James Bond be an actor of colour? or Doctor Who be a woman?
Talent is everywhere in all shapes and sizes. So we have to make an effort to go and seek this talent out. Look for it. Everywhere.
Young people are the next generation. The next generation of voices to be heard. The next actors, directors, playwrights and producers. If they don’t have anything to relate to when they watch the arts then how can we inspire them to be the next generation of change? We have to inspire them. We have to empower them and by doing that we secure a fighting chance for a diverse and equal future in the arts.
Do you feel the situation is the same for English speaking Welsh actors?
I feel there is a lack of diversity for English speaking Welsh actors especially on TV but I feel it’s different from Welsh language actors. I can’t comment too much as I’m not a Welsh language actor. But even in Wales there is more English speaking work being produced than there is Welsh speaking so Welsh language actors are already at a disadvantage.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
If I were to fund an area of the arts in Wales it would have to be showcasing new writing from younger talent of all backgrounds (say 18-25) as I believe they have so much to say about the world and at times not the tools necessary to get their voices heard. The fund would allow them to all come together in a space once a week for let’s say four months. Partnered with an arts organisation or producing theatre or even just a group of actors it would give them the tools to be mentored by experienced professional writers, hone their craft, get their voices heard and shake things up drastically with their take on the world. It also gives them the chance to hear their text spoken by actors and try new ideas out to see what works and what doesn’t. At the end of the four months the theatre would showcase their writing with a series of performances to paying audiences. It would give actors the chance to work on new, fresh writing and younger generations of writers to be nurtured and mentored along the way by having more established writers like your Gary Owens’, Katherine Chandlers, Matthew Bulgos, Kelly Jones’ and Nicola Reynolds’ running sessions with them about writing stories and what that entails. Ultimately it’s giving the next generation a great stepping stone into the industry and new voices are given a platform.
Writers Gary Owen, Katherine Chandler, Matthew Bulgo, Kelly Jones’ and Nicola Reynolds.
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?
What excites me has to be its potential. There are such great companies and artists making great work at the moment like Gary Owen’s return to the Sherman with Killology, Hijinx and their unstoppable MeetFred, National Theatre Wales taking over Cardiff with the City of the Unexpected and the Other Room going from strength to strength with every show they do. Even smaller companies like Critical Ambition, Avant Theatre and No Boundaries are all striving forward and raising that bar. All this gives me confidence for the future of Welsh arts and for the next generation of artists in Wales because right now Wales is living up to its potential of being a beacon of influential, thought provoking work that will inspire and mesmerise audiences.
Tour Dates for Romeo and Juliet
Mold Theatr Clwyd 5-8 April
Llanelli The Ffwrnes 12 April
Brecon Theatr Brycheiniog 23 April
Cardiff WMC 27 April-14 May
Get the Chance to be a Theatre Critic with Taking Flight Theatre Company
Are you aged 16-100?
Interested in theatre, dance, visual art, gigs, poetry, film and more?
Want to access a free workshop which will give you an insight into the role of a critic?
Then, this is for you! The workshop will be BSL supported. It will be suitable for D/deaf, hard-of-hearing and visually impaired participants.
All participants will be able to access the workshop for FREE and see Taking Flight Theatres new production for FREE
You’ve Got Dragons
“A delightful tale of one child’s journey to come to terms with their inner dragons. ”
A fully accessible intergenerational show featuring creative captioning, BSL and audio description
You will take part in a 90 minute workshop with Guy O’Donnell Director of social enterprise and online magazine website Get the Chance https://getthechance.wales
During the workshop you will be given an insight into the role of the arts critic. You will be given instruction on how to create a review and upload your response online. Participants will look at blogging, video, social media and much more! All workshop participants will get the opportunity for their reviews to feature on the Get the Chance website.
If you have one please bring a laptop, tablet and/or smartphone.
The workshop is limited to 10 places. All participants will be expected to review the production
The workshops is on Thursday the 13th of April at Chapter Arts Centre, 40 Market Rd, Cardiff CF5 1QE
Anna and I are in Thompson’s Park. The last time we were together here we were in school, in single figures and holding hands, plump little girls telling each other fairy stories under the trees.
I can’t get the memories out of my head.
But we cannot reminisce for long as the Verona College classmates of ’63 sport their straw boaters and burgundy blazers and bound across the turf towards us. Rowing, fighting, slipping in the mud, the cast takes Shakespeare’s teenage drama and hurls it into our faces. Narrated , compered, signed, sung and spoken – every aspect is communicated with a robust concern for comprehension.
Tybalt played Toby Vaughan and Ania Davies as Nell your friendly Access Prefect taken by Jorge Lizalde Cano.
And the compere is masterly. Her hold over events is complete. Perambulatory it may be, drifting it is not. A neat conflation of original text and twentieth century conversation makes for an irrepressible production.
The acting is good. Romeo is ardent; the lads lusty and exuberant; the lasses witty and charming. Juliet is perfect. She is the most expressive and believable Juliet I have seen, maturing easily from silly schoolgirl to tragic heroine.
Lord and Lady Capulet are, in turn, pompous, funny, angry and very married – both to each other and to their roles in life. Lady Capulet, as pretty in pink as the girls in their ballgowns, is a clown – comic and tragic, Mercutio in a frock.
Nurse. Ah. The school nurse of school books and boy, she is splendid in her cape and boots. The buffoon, the go-between and the butt of jokes. Well-played, indeed. We wish her well in her romance with the Friar! We feel for her at the end.
Truly Shakespearean, this multi-talented and multi-tasking troupe of players understand that the more we laugh, the more we will cry; that life is a glorious, terrible muddle, however well-flowered is your pump.
Choose a sunny day and join in! And do buy a programme – and a college sweater!
Event: Romeo and Juliet, a promenade performance
At: Thompson’s Park, Cardiff
Playwright: Shakespeare, originally
Producer: Beth House
Director: Elise Davison
Theatre: Taking Flight Theatre
Seen: 6.30pm, 17th June, 2016
Reviewer: Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics
Running: Romeo & Juliet will tour all over Wales, in beautiful outdoor spaces