Theatre in Wales

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Things That Begin with D, E & F

101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 22, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer A previous article suggested that cultural policy-making, as for all human activity, would be better by using the words that fit. Elation is a good purpose for art-making. It is a word that is unspeakable by Council or Government.

Joy is the first word that links these four productions. In Edinburgh with Hijinx I sat among young people who were keeling over at forty-five degrees with laughter.

But joy is not a displacer of seriousness. Geinor Styles' script is about climate depredation. Marc Rees touched on the loss of war.

To revisit an Aberystwyth stage of eight years ago and to see the names is a reminder. So many names, year on year, have spiralled on to professional careers in dance and performance. Community is a word whose braying from Cardiff I have tired of. Community begins where it begins, in community.

The three-hour performance in Barmouth took place on 30th June 2010. My journey by rail took two hours either way to do twenty-something miles. The summer weather was glory; when I now walk the streets and cross the estuary my mind floods with the images of Marc Rees and company.

From “The Dreaming Beauty”, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, 2012

“The Dreaming Beauty” is a dark-hued “Inception” of a story. The plot, as re-envisaged by Jak Poore and Richard Hull, does away with Sleeping Beauty’s life before the pricking of the finger. Mari Fflur’s Beauty descends the gothic staircase in Cordelia Ashwell’s design, encased within the logic and illogic of a dream-cum-nightmare. A late plot element of a chocolate children cake has a touch of Dahl-ian shudder to it...The company is large and predominantly young. Chris Snow and Denise Williams are in the chorus to provide some adult ballast...Sian-Louise Thomas makes a suitably dark spider-woman of a villainous witch...But it is the young cast who is to the fore. Maeve Courtier-Lilley and Lucille Richards may be phantasm children, but they are deliciously perky, bossy and objectionable.

“Ryan Woodroff is a mummy’s boy of a tempter, dressed up in Ruritanian army uniform and boots. Bobby Standley is the hero and romantic interest whose solo song earns a special cheer from the audience. Ciaran Lindley and Marcus Dobson are a nicely timed and directed pair, forever squabbling Conscience and Temptation. The dance group is led by Gwawr Keyworth and Joseph Scannell. These are now experienced performers on the Aber stage, with an ease and lightness that belie their relative youthfulness of age...Choreographer Rachel West doubles up as the Queen who fills in the backward-explained narrative. Choreography and costume are crucial. Teresa Davies’ costume design is black with arachnid lines and web-like arabesques. The choreography has moments of automaton jerkiness that is the stuff of nightmare. Nick Bache’s lighting assumes a hellish red when Beauty is lured into marriage at the end of the first act. The sombreness of the stage is set against a backdrop of a blue sky and drifting cloud.”

From “Eye of the Storm”, Theatr na nÓg & Swansea Grand Theatre, Aberystwyth, 2019

“Rosey Cale sings like an angel and acts like a true star in the central role of Emmie; and with the rest of the company offering a whole range of fine voices and powerful music-making in support, Styles brings this hard-hitting and necessary piece of 21st century popular theatre to an upbeat conclusion that may be just a shade starry-eyed, but that young Emmie has earned, every hard step of the way.”

The ending may well be starry-eyed. It is completely off-beam but aesthetically satisfying. And it has been earned. A happy resolution- this is basic story-craft- can only work if there has been pain to get there. The pain in the script in authentic. Geinor Styles, when asked, says she is not a playwright. That may well be but there is a lot of craft in it...The visual impact is jointly the work of Elanor Higgins' lighting, Andy Pike's audio-visual design, Carl Davies' set and, Paul Brown. Amy Wadge's music on stage has credits across Barnaby Southgate, Mike Beer, Gareth Brierly and Matt Gibson.”

From “The Flop”, Hijinx and Spymonkey, Summerhall, Edinburgh, 2018

“The setting is old France so naturally Jonathan Pugh fits in a role as a fully kitted-out flamenco dancer...the energy and sheer enjoyment the cast get out of delivering an hour of mad-cap entertainment. And this sense of fun is infectious in what turns out to be a glorious romp in tights and wigs from start to finish. Absurd, farcical, surreal, anarchic and sometimes all four at the same time, it played to the actors’ obvious talent for high camp, commedia dell’arte and comic timing.”

“This a time when impotency is illegal. A suitably stupid Iain Gibbons plays the foppish Marquis De Longey. He and his bride Marie Saint-Simon, played with nothing short of spectacularly saucy comic acting by Jess Mabel Jones, are happy to spoon (with a catalogue of other innocent shenanigans that involve verbal gymnastics if not sexual ones) in bed instead of enjoying ‘rumpity pumpity...Marie’s Aunt, played by a brilliantly funny Hannah McPake, starts to investigate...the regency style panels transform to puppet theatres for these real actors where they can further stretch the bounds of belief in this corny but captivating piece of naughty fun. Costume makers Rebecca Jane, Jessica Hardy and Amy Barrett have created not only rather gorgeous but very clever costumes that accommodate the band’s uniform, yet easily become the bewigged aristos’ attire.”

From “For Mountain, Sand & Sea”, Marc Rees and National Theatre Wales, Barmouth, 2010

“A bronzed couple in thirties bathing gear, far out on Barmouth's sands, engages in thoroughly hearty and healthy acrobatics. It is vaguely suggestive- man wears a saucy sailor hat and blows on a football whistle. Slow-motion running mocks a once film convention. Even when the viewers have moved on to the next location the pair wave on and on and shout “yoo hoo”in a parody of some lost merry travel film.

“Marc Rees himself in a classic sixties suit stands in the doorway of an unreconstructed drapers' store. He tells the tale of Tommy Nutter, the path-breaking tailor who overturned Savile Row convention...Gareth Clark tells us Darwin visited on one of his many North Wales trips. A French naturalist took up residence in flight from the tyranny of the France of Napoleon the Third. He sings us a song which in truth has its silliness. “My friends they all say/ Come to the cit-ay.” But such is the spirit and good humour that it is wholly winning...Cai Tomos’ forties soldier dances in the steely fluorescent light. His movement encompasses the hazard of conflict and the physical demands of military training. When the music shifts from a choppy beat to easy forties dance music he is joined by a much older woman. Thus, says the production, is the harshness of history made palatable with sentimental overlay.”

Picture: Eye of the Storm

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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