Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Winter Wonder

A Child's Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs

Ballet Cymru & the Riverfront , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , December-12-18
A Child's Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs by Ballet Cymru & the Riverfront Performance in Wales is enriched by its doughty survivors. Arad Goch is as strong as ever with its fine Chair standing down this month. A theatre piece about Operation Julie has been whispered about for a while. Theatr na nÓg unveiled it this week. Theatre in Wales is going to do an LSD factory! - and it looks as though it is too late for Tourist Board and Government to move against. What is most revealing is the co-producer, the Eisteddfod no less.

A key to ageing well, for company and individual alike, or rather maturing is self-renewal. Ballet Cymru, at thirty-four years of age, has made an inspired step in its collaborations with Cerys Matthews. It has also been a skilled exploiter of digital technology, used for artistic purpose rather than gaudy gimmickry. This facet of their productions goes back at least to their part-Cocteau tribute several seasons back.

The third element in the company's audience-wower of a winter tour is Dylan Thomas. In the first half the unmistakable Matthews' voice is joined to “the Hunchback in the Park”, “Do Nor Go Gently” and a cluster of other poems. The company of twelve dancers on a plain stage become ghosts and herons; one image is as simple and as seasonally affecting as a couple moving arm in arm. The stage is unadorned until the close. For “Fern Hill” the dance takes place over a wide circle of dappled leaves.

The visually stripped-back quality of the first half changes with the main event, “A Child’s Christmas In Wales”. The music and arrangements are by Cerys Matthews and Mason Neely. The video design starts off with the inimitable candour of children of today in large shot in interview. Snow is important for memory of Christmas, although it is an aeon since it last coincided. But the images summon up terraced houses encased in snow. An inspired picture has a plain home emblazoned with the motifs of wrapping paper.

Onstage an array of Dylan Thomas' characters emerge. The kitchen of Mr and Mrs Prothero fills with smoke. For the young Dylan a Chinese lantern is a thing of wonder. He sets to build his man o' war from his Young Engineer kit. Aunt Hannah overdoes the parsnip wine. One uncle plays the violin and the other sings. In the park the children dispute how best to deal with an approaching hippopotamus. Six of the company combine to make the clumping beast. The dancers at times hop, waggle and shake. There is invention galore in the choreography from Darius James and Amy Doughty.

A floor below Theatr y Werin, the Arts Centre Gallery is showing an exhibition of Andrew Logan. “My subject is joy and its celebration” runs Logan's thematic introduction. As a pursuit for art it is not a bad objective, and one well mirrored above in the audience's whole-hearted appreciation of the company of visiting dancers.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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