Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“Skills and artistry...never loses pace”- hip hop from the Rhondda

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Avant Cymru- Blue Scar , C Venues-C- +2, Edinburgh , August-22-18
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Avant Cymru- Blue Scar In mid-2017 the former Minister asked the Culture and Language Committee to conduct an enquiry into enhancing non-public funding for the arts in Wales. The Committee received 30 submissions of varying length and quality.

The first attempted a synoptic view and made the declaration: “Wales has a theatre of a quality and a scale that belies its size. No community of three million in the world has a larger. It is a record in which all concerned should take pride, makers and government equally.”

However, there are downsides. One, although far from not universal, is regular enough to be noticed. Public support links to a lack of commercial push. The terms sales and sales manager are little used in the arts. So, hip hop from the Valleys is to be seen in Edinburgh all month. The C venue is ten minutes' walk from Creu Cymru's accommodation. I passed it four times daily and had no idea it was on.

Scotland is the host country and has its offerings encapsulated in a single location headed “Scotland Showcase". By contrast the Theatre Editor for Wales Arts Review is reduced to casting around online to be told about companies of or related to Wales. Dirty Protest is a proven presence of ten years standing in Welsh theatre. When they are not doing “Sugar Baby” they too would love to see other theatre from Wales. “Please tell us” they ask.

There are several branches of government in Cardiff involved in the Arts. Is it not beyond someone's capabilities to promote the joint presence of all this talent at the greatest arts shop window in the world? A jaundiced eye might conclude the opposite, that they are little interested in Wales being taken to the world outside.

On the ground there has certainly been some vigorous activity. Softsod Productions' “UnSpoken” is earning outstanding audience feedback. People are there because the company is out there selling. “Bumped into the author on the Mile”, reports one viewer, “he said it would be good, and he wasn't wrong.” We were in the audience on Saturday”, says another, “after we were approached by the lovely lead actress on the Royal Mile. She took time to tell us about her play and we were so glad we came to show support - it was truly excellent.”

Feet on the ground are good. But press releases before the event are an important part of marketing communications. Admittedly a good notice in Wales Arts Review is not going to shift a lot of tickets this week but it has a footprint across the world in 190 countries. In addition the Arts Council of Wales may or may not be chasing every last notice on the Skinny or the Wee Review. But the men who have life-or-death decisions over project funding have sight of what the reviewers of Wales are seeing.

So sadly no review from me of “Blue Scar”. Just one review from the Edinburgh Guide, there on August 7th, to see dancers Rachel Pedley, Jamie Berry and Tommy Boost.

“'Blue Scar is a hip hop dance project from the proud past of the South Wales Valleys. It tells the story of how children in the Rhondda gained "Blue Scars" from playing on the mountain side. Some would call it "The Scar of Pride".

The music is created by welsh hip hop musicians - beatboxers and rappers collaborating with a welsh violinist.

Some genres are limited by both their audience but also by their insulation within one framework or context. Avant Cymru have developed a show here which will attract audience members from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests but with a common locus of Hip Hop. But in this instance they are pushing the dance form into an area it is commonly unseen; storytelling and natural theatre. It's an interesting approach with an effective combination of video media, theatre and dance sequences.

The South Wales context, the protagonists and the story which has been drawn from everyday life gives it an appeal. And the focus of the drama I suspect most people will be able to relate to. The sequence and cross cutting between the dance, dialogue and video works well and the piece never loses pace. The three performers have varying levels of hip hop dance skills and theatre presence and the characters support one another on the stage both in the story and in reality.

It was interesting to watch this show, taking what is usually a confined and limited medium and pushing it out of its comfort zone. I would like to see them take and develop this further to see exactly what they could create with their combination of skills and artistry.”

Blue Scar performs at Oxford Pegasus Theatre September 21st

The review can be read at:

http://www.edinburghguide.com/festival/2018/edinburghfringe/bluescarcvenueschamberstreetreview-19278

POSTSCRIPT

This summary piece was written and ready. A last cross-check before publishing revealed that Wales Arts Review had indeed got to “Blue Scar.” As expected a superior piece of writing by far was delivered.

Criticism can undoubtedly be bad for the individual performance but is good for the culture. Scotland has a long-standing critic of worth- see “Theatre of Scotland- Field of Dreams” 19th August- and a brace of dramatists who are exported across the world. The two are not unconnected.

Wales has a fine tradition of scholarly criticism. It is deficient in bracing, popular criticism from writers who both know their field and care about it. Reviewers who show no favour and take no prisoners ennoble and strengthen a culture.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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