Theatre in Wales

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Out of the Dark: Genuine Innovation for Theatre in South Wales

Quarterly Critical Round-up

Six More Companies Back Performing , Cardiff, Milford Haven & London , October 21, 2021
Quarterly Critical Round-up by Six More Companies Back Performing Performance has entered a fresh time of strangeness. But the great return, if variable, is unstoppable. In Cardiff the MILLENNIUM CENTRE is a receiving venue of significance so that its own production record has a tendency to be overlooked. It has in retrospect expressed modesty about “Tiger Bay”; it was nonetheless, a production on a huge scale with enormous gusto, the largest to be seen since the demise of the Wales Theatre Company.

“Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff”) threw a lasso around the effervescence of Carys Eleri. The production travelled in all directions, its southernmost point of call Adelaide where it won a Festival award.

For this time after the long collective privation Wales Millennium Centre seized centre stage. “The Boy with Two Hearts” was new theatrical territory for theatre in Wales and was well received. The Guardian was there, its critic liking what he saw:

“Amit Sharma’s inventive production for Wales Millennium Centre has clarity and immediacy. At the heart of Hayley Grindle’s design is a raised semi-circle stage that glows from underneath and switches from the warm sofra where the family eat to the anonymous, cold locations through which they pass. The play keenly explores how a sense of home can be quickly lost but also re-established in precarious circumstances...The cast of five are so close-knit as the family that it feels shocking when one of them breaks off to play an antagonist...this is a show that deserves as wide an audience as possible, from schoolchildren to politicians.”

DOMNINIC MAXWELL, a London critic of weight, was there for “The Times”. Maxwell praised the production, albeit calling for “harsher editing in the story-telling”. But “Amit Sharma's production makes up for that with its vivid sense of family” with praise for Ahmad Saki, Farshid Rokey, Shamail Ali, Gehane Strehler and Dana Haqjoo. He also picked out the singing from Elaha Soroor.

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The TORCH THEATRE, like Aberystwyth Arts Centre, has had not just pandemic to contend with but its physical structure suffered major damage from wind and rain. It too returned with a production that marked out new territory for the company.

PETER DORAN directed, teaming up with regular Torch collaborator designer Sean Crowley. Yasemin Özdemir is a former member of the Torch Youth Theatre and subsequently seen, among other roles, at the Donmar and Royal Court. She returned to Pembrokeshire to take the role of the “Angel of Kobana.”

Henry Naylor's play of a few years ago, acclaimed in Edinburgh and Adelaide, is powerful material.
The Angel of the title is Rehana, a Kurd in the town of Kobane. In 2014 she opted to stay and to fight the forces of Daesh, excelling as a sniper. Innovation and boldness were to be felt in equal measure at the Torch.

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“Anfamol” was a production by THEATR GENEDLAETHOL in association with the SHERMAN. RHIANNON BOYLE's play was performed in Cardiff and went on to play in Wales all points.

The Sherman, reflecting Joe Murphy's strong background in new writing, put on a mini-festival of 30-minute plays with a title to fit: “Reinvigorate. Revitalise. Reconnect. Reinvent.”

Seiriol Davies had a harsh lockdown fate, his musical “Milky Peaks” cancelled in March 2020 on the eve of its opening night. He returned with “The Messenger”, billed as “a witty and anarchic mini musical.”

Inspired by “Don Quixote” Mared Jarman performed in “Tilting at Windmills” by Hannah McPake. Aeschylus' “Prometheus Bound” was source and variation for “The Love Thief”, written and performed by Rahim El Habachi. “Hamlet” was a kind of source for “Hamlet Is A F&£$boi”, written and acted by Lowri Jenkins.

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MERCURY THEATRE had two performances at Cardiff's Depot Warehouse. “Finding Home” was written by Bethan Morgan and directed by Lynn Hunter. Like “35 Times” in 2017 it was motivated by a social issue of seriousness and had documentary input from those affected. Its subject was homelessness, its making aided by those with live experience.

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COMPANY OF SIRENS performed “Hitchcock Redux”, two one-act plays for a week at Chapter. “Twelve Cabins, Twelve Vacancies” and “Souvenirs Of A Killing” were written by Chris Durnall and performed by Durnall and Angharad Matthews. From Get the Chance:

“Hitchcock Redux” dramatises and meditates on two traumatic events in Durnall’s life and the Hitchcock films with which are intertwined. In the first play, “Twelve Cabins Twelve Vacancies”, Durnall recounts the time when, while watching the first television broadcast of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” in 1968, he learned that his father had died. The two are forever connected in his consciousness, and memories of both are shaped and distorted by each other. The second play, “Souvenirs of a Killing”, explores the tragic abduction and murder of a friend in 1973, the trauma of which is embodied and underscored by the film “Vertigo.”

“….Durnall moves as though monumentalised in grief, shifting between joyous reminiscence and solemn contemplation; Matthews moves ethereally, as light dances on the surface of rippling water; and the immersive music, composed and performed live by Eren, moves between original compositions and evocations of Hermann that cage the characters in a spiralling static state.”

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FLYING BRIDGE is the most travelled of the companies of Wales with a record of crossing continents. Last seen and heard doing a winter season in Vienna it was Welsh theatre's first post-pandemic export. “Horse Country” by C J Hopkins, a collaboration of Flying Bridge with Rive Productions, played late September into October in the unique Wilton’s Music Hall in London's east end. British Theatre Guide was there to enjoy what it saw.

Links to these productions.

“The Love Thief “ and “Tilting at Windmills” are two joyously irreverent and transcendent plays which argue that, while love may seem futile and dreams impossible, the adventure makes them worth the risk” at:

Flying Bridge Theatre:

Wales Millennium Centre

Company of Sirens

The Torch

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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