Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

"Whip-smart, Clever, Merciless, Has a Go at Welsh Language Snobbery & Hypocrisy"

Quarterly Critical Round-up

Ballet Cymru, Theatr Clwyd, Ffion Dafis, Theatr Genedlaethol, Lighthouse, National Theatre Wales, the Torch , Wales Performance North & West Winter 2022 , December 15, 2022
Quarterly Critical Round-up by Ballet Cymru, Theatr Clwyd, Ffion Dafis, Theatr Genedlaethol, Lighthouse,  National Theatre Wales, the Torch BALLET CYMRU: “Dream” was a new version of “A Midsummer Night's Dream” with music by Frank Moon that toured October and November.

The eleven dancers included familiar names, like Robbie Moorcroft, and new ones. Chloe Willis impressed.

The Aberystwyth performance took place on 23rd November, a day in which the sky was grey and the temperatures finally dropped to their seasonal norm.

The colours were rich in greens and blues; Chris Illingworth was lighting designer, Calum Dunbar lighting technician. The back-projections were ingenious and imaginative. Costume design was by Angharad Spencer.

Darius James and Amy Doughty let their imaginations rip with their choreography for the mechanicals. The dancers wore heavy boots, in hi-visibility jackets and safety helmets, had a repeated thematic stomp. The Pyramus-Thisbe enactment was a crescendo of enchanting vivacity.

The dancers played multiple roles with frequent costume changes. The full company was made up of Jacob Hornsey, Isobel Holland, Beth Meadway, Caitlin Jones, Kotone Sugiyama, Samuel Banks, Jethro Paine, Sanea Singh, Jakob Myers, Chloe Willis and Robbie Moorcroft.

* * * *

THEATR CLWYD: Tamara Harvey directed “The Famous Five” written by Elinor Cook, music and lyrics by Theo Jamieson.

A co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre it played Chichester 21st October to 12th November.

The Times on 30th September gave it a five-star review.

Clare Brennan was less pleased:

“...a dastardly villain disguised as an artist; a top-secret formula; a hidden tunnel leading to the ruined castle on Kirrin Island… just the sort of elements you might hope to find in any adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels. What this new musical version lacks, though, at present, is Blyton’s dramatic drive. Where she tucks her moral messages into the children’s adventures, Elinor Cook (book) and Theo Jamieson (lyrics and music) mostly intrude theirs via songs of introspection tinged with self-pity that dam the flow of the action...these numbers come across as worthy, dull and overlong.

“The strengths of director Tamara Harvey’s production lie in its atmosphere and its performances....We are magicked through the story’s varied locations by Lucy Osborne’s multifaceted design, evoking places and spaces through combinations of visual synecdoche (oars for a boat, branches for trees) and colourful projections (waves on sand, mathematical formulas racing across a wall). The puppetry, if not always crisp, is beguiling: a gull swoops, rabbits hop, a seal peeks over a rock (designed and directed by Rachael Canning)...a few kind cuts, this new musical might really sing.”

The review can be read at:

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2022/oct/09/the-famous-five-a-new-musical-theatr-clwyd-mold-review-lashings-of-vim-chichester-festival-theatre

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The Monumental Welsh Women project builds statues of women in Wales. The site and sculptor for Cranogwen, the third, are decided for Llangrannog with an unveiling date on 10th June 2023.

“CRANOGWEN” was an accompanying work of theatre written by Ffion Dafis, played by Lynwen Haf Roberts and directed by Janet Aethwy.

The production was a partnership between Cerflun Cymunedol Cranogwen Community Monument, a sub-group of the Llangrannog Welfare Committee and Mewn Cymeriad Theatre Company.

Cranogwen, born in 1839 as Sarah Jane Rees, was the first woman to win a prize for poetry at the National Eisteddfod. She went on to travel and lecture across Wales, England and the United States. A biography is being written by Jane Aaron.

“Cranogwen” toured bilingually to Neuadd Pontgarreg, Canolfan y Celfyddydau Aberystwyth, Canolfan Gartholwg, Neuadd y Nant, Clydach, Llanover Hall, Cardigan Castle, Theatr Twm o'r Nant, Denbigh and Plas Glyn y Weddw, Llanbedrog.

* * * *

LIGHTHOUSE THEATRE toured “Miracle On 34th Street – A Live Radio Play." It followed the joyful “It’s A Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play” , reviewed 15th December 2019.

Credits included director Joe Harmston, designer Sean Cavanagh, composer Robert Singer, foley artist and musical director Kieran Bailey.

A co-production with Pontardawe Arts Centre, supported by Tŷ Cerdd, the production was seen north to south at:

Pontardawe
Aberystwyth
Canolfan Ucheldre Holyhead
Blackwood Miners Institute
Lyric Carmarthen
The Welfare Ystradgynlais
Treorchy Rugby Club
Theatr Mwldan
Rudry Village Hall
The Savoy Monmouth
Pontio
Ffwrnes Llanelli
Taliesin Arts Centre
The Riverfront Newport
Neuadd Dwyfor Pwllheli
MOMA Tabernacl Machynlleth
Theatr Brycheiniog
Ebbw Vale Institute
Theatr Hafren Newtown
Maesteg Rugby Club
Blaengarw Workingmen’s Institute
The Met Abertillery

* * * *

NATIONAL THEATRE OF SCOTLAND tours, tours and tours again.

October into November it toured for three weeks with “Enough of Him.” Orla O’Loughlin directed May Sumbwanyambe’s new drama, the tale of Joseph Knight , a slave in Scotland, and cause of a legal case that eventually established the principle that the law in Scotland would not uphold the institution of slavery.

* * * *

Only one production of Wales in this round-up was selected for publicising by Radio Wales Arts Show.

NATIONAL THEATRE WALES had no playwright for “A Proper Ordinary Miracle” 15th to 20th November, its sole theatre for Lorne Campbell's winter season.

The Artistic Director did not feature in the radio interview which lacked any enquiring questions about the company.

The location was Wrexham, a peripatetic event in a squally month in which audiences walked in the rain on several nights.

“A Proper Ordinary Miracle” was performed without press release, opening night or critical review.

The company has not issued any press releases about anything at all in the last six months.

There was commentary:

“National Theatre Wales have done it again and created something magical” was one comment.

“Something unique and quite exceptional” was a second.

The first was written by a member of staff for the company micro-blogging site.

The second was written by a member of staff in the production's programme.

The company was non-compliant with the quality handbook which governs holding the status of a national company. This occurs because the Arts Council of Wales waives enforcement of its own quality requirements.

* * * *

THEATR GENEDLAETHOL: “Tylwyth” was mid-tour in early 2020 when the pandemic broke out.

Theatr Genedlaethol got it back on the road two and a half years later.

The Review Show on BBC Radio Wales 30th September was approving:

“showed really well the chosen family...delves into a lot of interesting things, gay culture, Welsh culture...really admirable....anyone could enjoy it...the writing stood out.

"Arwel Gruffydd sees the value in good writing...whip-smart, clever writing...pretty merciless, has a go at Welsh language snobbery and hypocrisy...sharp satire going on...the speed of the language, the quips, the energy.”

Production details archived at:

https://theatr.cymru/sioeau/tylwyth-1/

* * * *

THE TORCH : “Of Mice and Men” was the last autumn production to be directed by Peter Doran.

The cast was led by Jâms Thomas as George and Mark Henry-Davies as Lennie with Samuel Freeman, Dion Davies, Gwydion Rhys, Dudley Rogers, Chris Bianchi, Shameer Seepersand and Alexandria McCauley.

The production features in Wales Arts Review's best of the year retrospective.

As does “Angel”, the first production from the Torch after the pandemic in 2021.

Directed by Peter Doran it went to the Edinburgh Fringe, below 1st September, and toured to Cardiff, Ffwrnes, Aberystwyth, Galeri, Hafren, Mwldan and Pontio.

Jon Gower was at the Sherman for Nation Cymru

“Viscerally powerful and emotionally dismantling...Yasemin Özdemir deftly conjures up a cast of characters with small changes of voice, posture and gesture so that she not only creates a world but busily populates it too...the audience was on its feet...an ovation both richly and properly deserved.”

“The show, designed by Sean Crowley is visually spare and affecting. There’s a line of broken wall which mirrors the way in which Rehana aligns herself with the rubble of her desecrated home and abandoned village. A drape of camouflage netting acts as scant foliage and a reminder of the ever-present danger of soldiery. A desert sun beats down on hard-baked earth. An upturned crate might carry ammunition or orange pop or even someone to the grave in the immediate vicinity when that sad time comes.”

The review can be read at:

https://nation.cymru/culture/theatre-review-angel/

Picture credit: Ballet Cymru by Sion Treberth

Commentary, notification of error and correction required welcome at editorial@theatre-wales.co.uk

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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