Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Tours & Eisteddfod: Summer Theatre in North & West

Quarterly Critical Round-up

Arad Goch, Bara Caws, Eisteddfod, NYTW, NoFitState Circus, Theatr Clwyd, Volcano , Theatre Summer 2022 , September 15, 2022
Quarterly Critical Round-up by Arad Goch, Bara Caws, Eisteddfod, NYTW, NoFitState Circus, Theatr Clwyd, Volcano The companies, and the dramatists, of Wales made a strong showing in Edinburgh.

Back home "Operation Julie" took musical theatre to places it had not been.

Other theatre over the summer included:

ARAD GOCH toured with their tale of the most famous of highwaymen. Thomas Jones from Tregaron became "Twm Siôn Cati", a Ceredigion Robin Hood figure of popular liking and admiration.

The company performed in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Brecon, Barry, Newport, Bangor, Pwllheli, Cardiff, Rhosllaenerchrugog, Rhyl, Caernarfon, Felinfach, Pontardawe, Pontypridd, Carmarthen and Merthyr.

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BARA CAWS toured "Draenen Ddu" by Charley Miles, translated by ANGHARAD TOMOS. BETSAN LLWYD directed RHIAN BLYTHE and RHYS AP TREFOR.

"Draenen Ddu" was performed in Llanllyfni, Llanrwst, Felinheli, Nefyn, Llanffestiniog, Bethesda, Llansannen, Aberffraw, Pwllheli, Talybont, Talgarreg, Carmarthen, Cardiff.

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The NATIONAL EISTEDDFOD presented "Lloergan" at the Pavilion in Pontrhydfendigaid. The large-scale production mixed professionals and community actors with the festival choir.

Its tale of an woman astronaut, set in 2050, was written by FFLUR DAFYDD and described as an allegory. Musical collaborators included GRIFF LYNCH, LEWYS WYN, RHYS TAYLOR. ANGHARAD LEE directed, among others, leads LLYNWEN HAF ROBERTS and SAM EBENEZER. The roles of children were played by GRUFFYDD RHYS DAVIES and MIRI LLWYD.

The project had an unusual partner in the ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY.

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NOFITSTATE CIRCUS performed "Sabotage" at Pembrokeshire's County Showground 8th-23rd April. In co-operation with THEATR SOAR "Sabotage" was presented in Pandy Field in the grounds of Cyfarthfa Castle. Beach Road was the venue 27th May-11th June.

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NATIONAL YOUTH THEATRE WALES at its peak held a particular place in theatre's ecology. Audiences got to see a big play on a public theme. The end-of-summer production would play three prime venues, north, west and south. A writer would get the opportunity to compose on a big scale. The young performers got to see how a story made itself work across two hours of performance.

It may be the post-pandemic period still exercising its effect. With "The In-Between" it read as if NYTW had thinned the theatre ecology. It lasted 55 minutes. It read like another fringe-scale production on a domestic theme. It bypassed a performance at Aberystwyth and thus escaped a review on this site

In Cardiff the reviewer for Get the Chance was not wowed. Multiple actors playing the same character sounded gimmicky and indicated the lack of scale in the conception. The ending was predictable, the subject thin and unexciting, the form "a series of small sketches....as a piece of contemporary theatre, it fell a bit short."

The National Youth Theatre of Wales does not fall short. The producers for 2023 need to have a think.

The list of actors who started with the company is a formidable one. The cast for 2022 were Yoyo Baron, Dafydd Evans, Glain Llwyd-Davies, Lili Mai Davies, Gwenno Fôn, Megan Gillard, Anesha Hamood, Harriet Haylock, Katie Haywood, Hafwen Hibbard, Alex Jones, Dyddgu Jones, Ariadne Koursarou, Kellie-Gwen Morgan, Nadia Nur, Arwen Skinner, Jasper Smith, Tomos Stokes, Nel Hâf Williams, Carwyn Healy, Marteg Dafydd, Mia Morgan, Nathaniel Abdo.

The production team were Hannah Noone director, Jacob Hughes designer, Katy Morison lighting designer, Samuel Barnes composer and sound designer, Marcus Jarrell Willis movement director, Juliette Manon Lewis associate director, Harriet Stewart and Nia Morris stage managers

Details at:

https://www.nyaw.org.uk/nytw-digital-programme-2022

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THEATR CLWYD's "A Pretty Sh*tty Love" came with poor advertising copy. Why is theatre marketing so feeble? A limply generic line read "about dreaming of love, living in fear and finding the strength to pull yourself out" and did not describe Katherine Chandler’s play.

The Guardian got there:

"...a fictionalised account of the real-life story of Stacey Gwilliam who in 2015, after being violently attacked by her partner on the Swansea Bay coastal path, managed to crawl out of the shallow grave in which she had been left for dead. It is not an easy watch.

"....From the outset, on Lulu Tam’s stage, gritted with sand and filled with jagged Perspex edges, Chandler’s script possesses a dangerous volatility: men are not who they appear to be, the faith of children in responsible adults is misplaced, and violence flares up with terrifying regularity. It is a complex, challenging exploration of domestic abuse and particularly of its insidious, coercive oppressiveness (emphasised by Alexandra Faye Braithwaite’s soundscape), where a glance can have unimaginably distressing consequences.

"....Under Francesca Goodridge’s precise direction, this violence is never actualised, only – brutally and devastatingly – inferred. With the aid of Yandass Ndlovu’s choreography, the production conveys an evocative and powerful theatricality that adroitly abstracts its most dramatic moments without ever diminishing their impact. Such nuanced complexity is also to be found in the performances: Danielle Bird as Hayley and Daniel Hawksford as Carl are excellent, humane and sad, individually and as a pair....a production imbued with delicacy and compassion."

Review at:

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2022/jul/14/a-pretty-shtty-love-review-powerful-exploration-of-domestic-abuse

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VOLCANO commissioned a series of solo or two actor performances, thirty minutes the average duration. The subjects were: "robots, rain, rising sea levels, unaffordable homes, musical agony aunts, chocolate cake, averted apocalypses."

The following performed in the company's Swansea High Street complex, 18th April to 21st May.

BILLY MAXWELL TAYLOR "Rain Pours Like Coffee Drops": JAMES NASH "Automa": RHIANNON MAIR "Ar Lan y Môr": BURIED THUNDER THEATRE CO "Ibeji (The Twins who Danced with Death)": REBECCA SMITH WILLIAMS "Chocolate Cake": FRANCESCA FARGION "The Singing Agony Aunt"

“Sincere as Objects” was performed 8th June. The company's own description: “We have spent three weeks transforming the theatre at Volcano into a life-sized artwork made of several bizarre and beautiful interconnected rooms or landscapes.”

The design was by artist BOURDON BRINDILLE. PAUL DAVIES directed ANDRE BULLOCK and HELENE GREGERSON.

Wales Arts Review was there:

"...The repetitive loop of work, eat, sleep, repeat can leave us feeling as if we’re living a life stuck on pause. Sincere as Objects – the latest collaboration between Swansea’s Volcano Theatre and artist Bourdon Brindille – explores this theme of personal stasis through its use of abstract performance and innovative set design.

"....Taking place in not one, but three distinct performance spaces, the audience is guided through extravagant sets by the play’s two unnamed protagonists (Andre Bullock and Helene Gregersen) as they contemplate what it means to live, and whether we are living to our full potential.

"...The dynamic between the two actors adds another level of distortion to an already abstract performance. It becomes apparent early on that rather than playing specific characters, Bullock and Gregersen are portraying representations of a spiralling mind. Instead of traditional dialogue, the script opts for the use of rhetorical questions, metaphors and analogies, as well as monologues containing a combination of personal experiences and metaphysical explanations about what it truly means to be alive....it is a beautiful piece of drama that seeks to inspire and give a new outlook on life – that it is not forever and nothing is guaranteed, so live in every moment, even if you haven’t got a clue what is going on."

Review at:

https://www.walesartsreview.org/sincere-as-objects-volcano-theatre/

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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