Theatre in Wales

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101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 6, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer There is a regular theme from commentators in Wales. The domain can be politics or culture. Wales lacks a media of depth and robustness. An explanation goes back to my opening article on “Summing It Up” (below 5th January).

A hill country is necessarily a territory of disaggregation. So too a disaggregated media reflects geography. There is proliferation without depth. The state funds too many journals. Their circulations are stagnant and the content often laborious. Within the span there are some good, sparky commentators. There are also dreary explicators of the status quo.

A feature of this disaggregation is that the record is incomplete. The world ends at Dee, Usk and Severn. Those who take the arts of Wales to lands beyond are little recorded.

I went one cool day in May seven years ago to a field in Pembrokeshire. It is a surprise then to find that “Bianco” went on to Australia, China, the USA, winning awards as it went on its way.

It is a surprise to too find that Gagglebaggle was at the Brighton Festival. (Poster illustrated.)

To see Gagglebaggle was good. Theatre meets gig meets irreverent freshness. It was my only visit to the Halliwell Theatre and I sat within an audience that was overwhelmingly made up of young people.

I have now got bored with walking about. But five performance events were joyous. Constanza Macras in Flintshire was one of them.

From “Bianco”, NoFit State Circus, Narberth, 2013

“The directorial challenge is to create a shape and rhythm to encapsulate the physical performances. Director Firenza Guidi’s second act opens with a twelve-strong madcap version of a thirties bathing party, rubber rings, swimming caps and trampoline bouncing. A French domestic mutters eccentrically to herself and performs handstands on her coffee pot. Elements of fire and water appear. An old tin bath is beaten with vigour with a couple of towels. The first half closes with a line of flaming torches.

“Sequences of high energy alternate with moments of lyricism. Performers swing manically on three arc lights. A juggler sits in a white chair, and his eight balls seem to simply dance around him. Five women ascend in cages swirling with strands of silver beads. As for her ending Firenza Guidi creates an image of such spectral beauty and delight, that no reviewer should reveal it.”

From “The Bloody Ballad”, Gagglebabble, Carmarthen, 2013

“Theatre is collaboration, and a range of talents has contributed to this Ballad. Theatr Iolo are co-producers. Dafydd James is credited in that most modern of roles, the creative associate; a dash of Jamesian mischievous humour is discernible. Kevin McCurdy is impressive creator behind the head-buttings and full-on punches. Jem Treays is on movement, Dan Lawrence on sound. The programme gives thanks to NoFit State, the Sherman and National Theatre Wales and others who have lent a hand.

...“The Bloody Ballad” opens with a foursome, drummer Tom Cottle on vocals for Eddie Cochran’s “Something Else”. Accordionist-guitarist Hannah McPake takes the lead for a Johnny Cash number, and then Lucy Rivers’ boogying Mary makes her entry. She holds centre stage for over an hour...Mary never loses a quality of pearly-smiled guilelessness, that should send her to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry rather than to the venue of her final performance...Oliver Wood is her dramatic opponent, in bovver-boy jeans and braces, with a moody pace and a glint in his eyes. For “the Bloody Ballad” his hair has been cut back to a three-inch strip from temple to the nape of his neck...

"Hannah McPake re-enters the action as an apparent helper, with the biggest eyes ever behind a pair of retro spectacles. She sings the ballad “Drift Away, Slip Away”, before revealing that she too is something else. Her new manifestation includes leopard-print dress, black stockings and a near-to-hand whisky flask.”

From “Branches: the Nature of Crisis”, National Theatre of Wales, Wepre Park, Connahs Quay, 2012

“The production is played out in a steeply rising limestone valley. The company of eleven performers, seven community players and four musicians are dwarfed by Wepre’s trees, which are forty or more feet high. It is a windless night-turns-to-evening so that the sound of running water is ever-present and undiluted.

“...Constanza Macras creates a wide palette of aural and visual contrast. Six upturned wine bottles dangle on string from a branch. Their delicate tinkling sound has an echo in an unseen counterpart somewhere among the trees. The sense of entrancement is almost heightened with the passing by of the occasional, bemused evening jogger or dog-walker...Sergio Pessanha has hung trees with lights that subtly blend with or amplify the falling twilight. Constanza Macras’ choreography has a Dionysiac strand to it that, in the shaded settings, touches on something quite deep...Almut Lustig unleashes a ferocious drum roll and it is straight into “London Calling” with blistering breaks on saxophone from Sadie Finch. True to Allie Saunders’ costume design she is in pierrot hat, a frilled kilt and Sergeant Pepper jacket.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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