Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Strong Resurgence for Cardiff Theatre in Post-pandemic Season

Quarterly Critical Round-up

Hijinx, Music Theatre Wales, National Theatre Wales, The Other Room , Theatre in Cardiff Summer 2022 , September 14, 2022
Quarterly Critical Round-up by Hijinx, Music Theatre Wales, National Theatre Wales, The Other Room HIJINX produced "The_Crash.Test" at the Weston Studio in partnership with WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE, PONTIO and THEATR FFWRNES.

Wales Arts Review was there:

"...Directed by Ben Pettitt-Wade, the performance is the company’s third piece of “hybrid theatre” in which technology and performance are combined to send a message regarding 21st century society. Technology and its usage are at the core of this, as the audience is presented with a QR code that enables viewer participation via mobile phones. From this point onward, you know that this will be an unorthodox performance.

"Skilfully intertwining human interaction and technical advancement, The_Crash.Test uses a combination of human puppetry and motion capture technology to create BOB. The actors take turns to control the voice, gestures, and stance, with the audience fully aware of how this is being achieved. Through their mobile devices, too, the audience are able to have their say on performance direction through voting polls. With a sense of responsibility for the play’s outcomes placed on the audience, the question arises: who is really in control – the audience, the performers, or BOB?

The_Crash.Test is also a heavily stylised piece of theatre....Every aspect of the piece keeps coming back to the driving theme of technological advancement and the potential issues that may arise from it. With a minimalistic yet symbolic set, the stage is dressed with two screens upstage and another transparent screen taking up the length of the performance area downstage. The effect it creates is akin to watching the action through a device screen, as though the drama is controlled by the technology being used."

Quoted, with thanks, from the full review which can be read at:

https://www.walesartsreview.org/the_crash-test-wmc-hijinx/

* * * *

MUSIC THEATRE WALES' "VIOLET" joined writer ALICE BIRCH and composer TOM COULT.

It won a nice quotation from the Telegraph: "Violet" is the best new British opera in years". After the Sherman and Theatr Clwyd "Violet" travelled to the Hackney Empire and Buxton Opera House. It was broadcast on Radio 3 18th June.

Wales Arts Review was there:


"...Co-Produced by Music Theatre Wales and Britten Pears, the premise of Violet is bold and imaginative in the same way Nick Payne’s Constellations was when it broke new ground at the Royal Court Theatre in 2012, exploring questions about time, free will, choice and death. Its subject concerns a central premise in which time is disappearing an hour per day over 24 days, disrupting the balance of nature and an orderly life.

"Set in an indeterminate historical period and place, the story relates the effect of famine, drought and human misery on the personal lives of the characters, the fourth of whom is the clock-keeper (Andrew MacKenzie-Wicks) whose chief function is to manage the display on the clock-tower stage-right showing the passage of time and the diminishing hours.

"The dramatic narrative is set around the centre-stage dining table of a well-to-do couple, Violet (Anna Dennis) married to the controlling Felix (Richard Burkhard), supported by their maid Laura (Frances Gregory)....The backcloth shows a skyscape that changes as the hours disappear, from blue with white clouds to garish orange, purple and black intimating the arrival of catastrophe."

"The staging by director Jude Christian and designer Rosie Elnile is riveting in its focus to assist the narrative, with visual text beneath the stage in Welsh and English as helpful assistance. A particularly effective piece of staging appears on the last occasion we see the clock-keeper, up on his tower lamenting the end of time, lit from behind his shadow implies the shape of a hanged man... a brilliant touch."

Review quoted, with thanks, can be read in full at:

https://www.walesartsreview.org/violet-mtw-britten-pears/

* * * *

The first line of the review in the Stage stated that NATIONAL THEATRE WALES' "Circle of Fifths" was an event rather than theatre. Nonetheless, the reviews were strong.

(The company would have had more had it not a policy, against all the conventions, of disallowing two tickets for reviewers. Young reviewers in Wales are unpaid and would welcome a companion, maybe even a driver, to get to and from the venue.)

Buzz was there:

"...Once you arrive at the Wales Millennium Centre, you are immediately dropped into a wake’s strange and familiar world. People chatting or standing around awkwardly, unsure where to put themselves; music playing; friends hugging that haven’t seen each other for years. You’re told that this is how all funerals in Butetown start: gathering outside the home of the deceased and catching up with loved ones you haven’t seen in a lifetime.

"....Once you follow the coffin into Dance House itself, you’re hit with the uncomfortable smell of decay coming from the grass covering the floor of the studio. As you all gather, and you listen to joyous songs intertwined with tragic stories of grief and loss, you’re compelled to consider the bittersweet strangeness of our funeral practices. The celebration of life coupled with the despair of death.

"....The ensemble has no small part to play in this incredible experience. A collective of actors, musicians, and artists, many of whom work outside of theatre, their rawness and honesty keep the audience feeling engaged, safe, and held throughout. Their stories and performances invite you to sit with your own experiences of loss and create a space for catharsis unlike any I have ever seen in a theatre before.

"Wella and Drumtan are forces of nature, whose humour and passion pump the heartbeat of the piece. Kiddus and Bianca Ali’s powerful and evocative lyrics and poetry beautifully express the immensity of loss, and their performances are enthralling. The musical offerings of Rose Beecraft and Francesca Dimech are in equal parts joyous and heartbreaking, demonstrating the powerful role music has in allowing us to express and explore our own hurt. Maureen Blades’ stoic guidance holds the piece together, and her vulnerability is a beautiful and generous experience."

Review quoted, with thanks, can be read in full at:

https://www.buzzmag.co.uk/ntw-circle-of-fifths-cardiff-stage-review/

The IWA was there:

"...Gavin Porter’s ‘live documentary’ travels far beyond the cliche of ‘diverse’ Welsh life in Tiger Bay. Instead, Circle of Fifths taps into the universality of human emotions around death, and in particular the ceremonies we make to deal with them. It is a funeral in five acts: each suffused with raw stories of grief taken from the performers’ real lives.

"...And although it combines elements of theatre, film and dance, by far the most important artform in Circle of Fifths is music: not just a vehicle for the expression of emotion or even for connection between performers and audience, it is the production’s muse.

"....At the end of a powerful hour and a half during which each member of the audience is surely drawn into their own introspective reflections on the people we have loved and lost, we reach The Celebration. Beer, soft drinks, Welsh cakes and samosas are served, evoking the atmosphere of a real life wake. A display of multicoloured metallic balloons dedicates the production: ‘To the Elders
of Cardiff Docks, Butetown and Tiger Bay / Those Who Came Before Us and Paved the Way."

Review quoted, with thanks, can be read in full at:

https://www.iwa.wales/agenda/2022/06/review-circle-of-fifths/

* * * *

THE OTHER ROOM had a directorial debut by NERIDA BRADLEY for "REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN."

Buzz was at "Huno":

"A steady mixture of English and Welsh from the very start, "Huno" creates an atmosphere of mystery and otherness that a marginal tongue and accent can so easily and effortlessly evoke. Following the progression of native-born Branwen (Lowri Izzard) and Northern Irish Math (David Craig) from a chance encounter at the former’s family pub in Wales, through to their betrothal and subsequent discontent in Northern Ireland, the play gradually draws stark lines between the two, showing how a fervent nationalism and desire for home and a patriotic cause can pose some of the greatest challenges to love.

"....Well-paced, Huno’s ominous mood and tension grow at a steady cadence, refusing to spell out too early what the play is all about. Furthermore, the musical score provides a subtle accompaniment, turning from harmonious Celtic violins and violas to brooding, discordant synths. And despite there being clear references to the IRA and the Irish conflict, it’s just about ambiguous enough to apply to various troubles across the globe...Ultimately, however, "Huno"is an exploration of love, and whether or not it can survive amongst competing forces. A timeless question perhaps, yet asked here with enough terror, beauty and grace to appeal to the widest of audiences."

Review quoted, with thanks, can be read in full at:

https://www.buzzmag.co.uk/huno-porters-bar-the-other-room-cardiff-stage-review/

Image: Homage to Vermeer is of Frances Gregory in "Violet" by Marc Brenner

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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