Theatre in Wales

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Things That Begin with C

101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 10, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer A preceding article, 3rd May, in this retrospective looked sceptically at the notion of ephemerality.

Earthfall created and performed and toured and gave beauty and meaning.

Mappa Mundi pioneered a style that was wholly its own. As for Bogdanov he was- he was just Bogdanov.

Earthfall and Mappa Mundi and Michael Bogdanov have their place in the performance history of Wales. That cannot be taken away.

So too Alan Hewson. He and his long-standing team produced musicals that ascended to a quality- Anthony Williams at the helm- to match the best of England.

And with a result. The names on the coaches that parked at the Arts Centre said it all. They had brought audiences from Dolgellau, Llanidloes, St Clear's.

From “Chelsea Hotel”, Earthfall, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 2013

“Chelsea Hotel” in the hands of co-directors Jessica Cohen and Jim Ennis is not a narrative but a richly threaded impressionist homage. Time shifts are indicated by the cast of four dancers travelling on film in a vintage lift with its double wrought iron concertina gates- the location is Cardiff’s Jacobs Market. Mike Brookes’ design, with collaborators Michael Blackwood Barnes and Julian Castaldi , creates emblematic images- a curlicue-patterned carpet, an elaborate glass chandelier, drips of water on a window pane. A flower-patterned wallpaper is not so far from Shani Rhys James’ obsessive “Rivalry of Flowers”, just a couple of walls’ distance from the stage.

“Time’s passing is marked by a decorative ceiling fan, itself emblem of a pre-air-conditioning age. Its speed of motion has been set to fit the rhythm of the music. The musicians, Frank Naughton, Sion Orgon and Felix Otaola, are all on stage with long hypnotic sequences that accompany the dancers. Live drumming produces that authentic crack of impact that escapes percussion when it is simulated...“Chelsea Hotel” does not exclude loss and pain, or the great gulfs of loneliness between human beings. But it is much more about youth, love, energy, and creativity.”

From “Chicago” Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, 2010

“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, treachery.” Michael Morwood, musical director doubling up as a debonair MC, stands alone on Aberystwyth's broad stage. “All those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.” So continues the opening line in Bob Fosse's and Fred Ebb's book, setting the tone, quite distinctive, for Kander and Ebb's hard-edged, cynical, brittle musical.

“The Aberystwyth summer musical has earned itself over a couple of decades a loyal audience franchise. From the sound of the reaction this year “Chicago” may be breaking new ground in tone and content but went down with no less rapture. What is interesting is how the Aber show has morphed into taking on the most demanding shows from the musical canon. It is difficult to envisage now a second-leaguer like “Godspell” being chosen...a consistent quality producing venue it stands alongside the Watermill and the Menier Chocolate Factory.”

From “A Child’s Christmas In Wales”, Wales Theatre Company & Swansea Grand Theatre, Carmarthen, 2010

“This adaptation follows faithfully the arc of the day from excited opening of the Christmas stocking to bedtime dialogue between boy (Dafydd Rhys Evans) and sage adult (Russell Gomer) in woollen waistcoat, who stands outside the action. At least not quite: at one point Gomer lends himself to be the hose so the fire brigade may douse the burning turkey.

“This version’s distinction is the music by Jack Herrick, fourteen numbers from upbeat to lyrical to hymn. A cast of ten ensures a harmony of singing richness. The instrumental texture includes musical director Terry Mortimer’s piano, Stephen Hickman’s guitar and Lauren Roberts’ accordion, although the cast are multi-instrumentalists. Jak Poore swaps violin for mandolin, guitar and drums. Heledd Gwyn is on flute and whistle but may also be seen on double bass. Overseeing the other musicians is a harp, with its appropriate light cover of snow. Mali Llywelyn plucks it, when not downstage playing Bethan, Megan and Aunt Hannah.

“Christmases past, those of childhood, can never be regained. That is the motif. Bells chime on this Christmas Day. Sean Crowley’s design of rich evocativeness has a Victorian lamp-post topped with snow. A giant backcloth shows a panoramic view of Swansea Bay, the sky’s light suggesting time of gradual winter dawn. The young Dylan plays in the snowy park, not just with gang Dan, Jim and Jack on Christmas morning but perforce with cousins in the afternoon as well. Scarves are long, tartan, and home-knitted. Tam o shanters are as shapeless as tea cosies. Kathryn Dimery wears long pigtails.”

From “The Compleat Female Stage Beauty”, Mappa Mundi & Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan, 2013

“Francois Pandolfo is a regular figure on the stages of Wales. Not so long ago in Mold he played five members of the same family. Edward Kynaston, the theatre star of Restoration London in Jeffrey Hatcher’s play, is just one role but Pandolfo brings a vaulting elasticity to the part. He opens with a transgender performance as Desdemona, enters and loses a rough scrimmage of politics, and ends as director and actor of Othello. An actor playing an actor, within kernels of modern and historical.acting styles, Pandolfo slips across the genders with authority. His is the role that commands and binds together Mappa Mundi’s exuberant production for 2013.

.A good script gets a good villain and Keiron Self’s Sir Charles Sedley is a white-faced horror of malice and vindictiveness...Mappa Mundi brings a characteristically jubilant sweep to its work. Carl Davies’ marvellous set comprises three stages, a Green Room, screens at skewed angles and portraits of dignitaries. It captures the packed hurly-burly of seventeenth century London where performance and politics are not far apart. The cast of ten, in their cascades of curls and luxuriant silks and ruffs, throngs the stage to convey the sense of urban and court profusion. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones doubles up as director and actor, his Samuel Pepys a smiling courtier, his little diary and ever-recording pen never out of his hand.”

Picture: "Chelsea Hotel"

"Chelsea Hotel" can be seen at:

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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