Theatre in Wales

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Things That Begin with “Little”

101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , May 2, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer These three productions are linked. All took a story of old and gave it a dynamic treatment of modernity.

“Little Wolf” had a small ancillary piece of uniqueness to it. The quality framework of the Arts Council of Wales enjoins its beneficiaries to take notice of critics. Simon Harris took it a step further. A reviewer of note was not warm and the director undertook a public discussion with his critic.

From “Little Dogs”, Frantic Assembly & National Theatre Wales, Swansea, 2012

“The Patti Pavilion is a minute or so from Swansea’s university campus. There is a touch of fable to this thrilling production that Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett should depart as students, with a “Look Back in Anger” behind them, and return eighteen years later under the auspices of national theatre...“Little Dogs” is physically wild and ecstatic, thematically jagged and amoral, aesthetically iconoclastic and compelling. The fourteen performers, in hoodies, trench coats, micro-skirts, guide the audience from one part of the floor area to another... Tim Dickel’s design has turned the space into a collection of disconnected urban tableaus, a wrecked and abandoned Renault, a rubbish heap, a line of graffiti-spattered toilets. The choreography for the group dancing is electrifying. Speech is intermittent and subordinate to physical movement. A major portion of the text is given to tips and hints on romantic pursuit. If male, just never be seen with a Malibu and diet coke. The effect that ownership of a car has on a woman, or so the script claims, is unrepeatable on an open-to-all-eyes website.

“Love here, whether cross-gender or same-sex, has a single-minded, aggressive predation to it. Sex, gay and straight, has little finesse or affection. A couple of police suddenly emerge, none too keen on public toilets being commandeered. It is a gougingly telling portrayal of a sex-saturated, self-serving hedonism where much of love’s levity and delight have been discarded. This depiction of young peoples’ inner selves is true but true in the sense that a Diane Arbus photograph is true. It is an image that is true to itself in the particular, rather than the universal... As a picture it encapsulates the fearlessness, the openness, the sense of invulnerability that it is to be young. It lingers little on the underside... A silent Sian Phillips is in a cramped living room with a youngster. He is spike-haired, anxious, restlessly flicking a lighter on and off. He is true; his like are visible in every town centre. Carolyn Downing is sound designer. Music is by Hybrid, who are Michael Truman, Charlotte James and Chris Healings.”

From “Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs”, Ballet Cymru, Aberystwyth, 2012

“Ballet Cymru's adaptation of two stories from Roald Dahl's “Revolting Rhymes” captures the wit and the subversive touches that are the delight of his vast readership. Both acts end with a narrative twist that elicits a chuckle of nice malice. Dahl burnishes old stories with a few surprises. Emily Pimm Edwards’ Red Riding Hood is a flamboyant confident presence, not afraid to flex a bicep, who faces adversity with skills in martial arts and some hidden weaponry. Lydia Arnoux is an elegantly tailored piglet with a neat little pillbox hat. A sow sports a Wilhemine-era helmet. Iselin Eie Bowen is an irascible grandmother, ill-temperedly throwing empty wine bottles around her cottage.

“The wolves- Daisuke Miura and Jemma Beatty- are not too clever. “Thinking was not his strong point” comments Sam Bishop’s artful, waist-coated narrator. Paul Patterson’s score takes on a clumping rhythm to accompany the wolf’s entry. Later, reeds adopt whooping Gershwin cadences to illustrate the pigs’ foolish choices of building materials. It is small wonder they fall victim to the hungry hunter. “My tummy is bulging” he says after his second dinner “How I adore indulging.”

John Bishop’s lighting throws a dappled look over the uneasy, hazardous forest. The choreography by Darius James and Amy Doughty gives the ensemble some delicious tippy-toe steps of caution and alarm. They draw on Mandhev Sokhi’s training to add a surprising flamenco interlude...This is the first of the winter shows for children. They are out in force for a two o’clock matinee, with an age range dropping as low as twenty-two months. The troupe of ten dancers has them enthralled; me too. “

From “Little Wolf”, Lucid Theatre, Cardiff, 2017

“Simon Harris has hauled “Little Eyolf” of 1894 into a modern day setting... The result is rich theatre, intense in its performances and complex in its emotions. Simon Harris speaks of the engrainedness of Lutheran culture in Scandinavia which results in a directness of expression between people. The interchanges of tortured emotions in a British setting would ring false. The production is fixedly Norwegian. Children's song is used in the intervals between scenes and Holly Piggot's design uses palely coloured wood. The socks are woolly, the pullovers chunky. “The casting has been streamlined to a foursome, two women, two men... The fulsome background notes to the production place an emphasis on the importance of complex characterisation. Dramatists keep their private opinions under their sleeve. Our allegiances swivel as the scenes unfold.

“Alex Clatworthy's Rita has a volatility and freedom of expression... Melangell Dolma's Asta is a deep repository of ambiguous connection. It looks as if the male is the most under critique... Gwydion Rhys' Alfred may well have spent his long hours gazing into the deepest black of the Fjords. He is going to be viewed by a modern audience as citizen, husband, father. Thus his sudden declarations that he will become a reformed parent have small conviction. It is a regular tactic of those whose concerns are elsewhere. But it is not the point to slap good or labels on the characters. In fact the early scenes demonstrate the opposite. It takes two to make an emotionless desert from a marriage. “Say what you like...say something” runs the plea at one point. The emotional vacancy is translated into stage action. The child's train set that sits centre-stage is ignored, stepped over or occasionally kicked. Gwydion Rhys pulls up floorboards to reveal their dark voids. Simon Harris sets the spoken action going at a high pace. The actors speak in the breathlessness of crisis. He ends with a visual image of great power.”

Picture: “Little Wolf”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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