Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Two Productions & Two Prize-winning Designers

Quarterly Critical Round-up

Grand Ambition & the Other Room, National Theatre Wales, Linbury Prize-winners , RWCMD & Touring Autumn , December 18, 2023
Quarterly Critical Round-up by Grand Ambition & the Other Room, National Theatre Wales, Linbury Prize-winners Izzy Rabey first appeared on this site in 2014 directing a revival of Ed Thomas' “Flowers of the Dead Red Sea.”

“Baba Joon” came to Wales via her time with the Royal Court. It became a co-production between the The Other Room, currently between homes, and Grand Ambition. Grand Ambition's debut features below 19th May 2023.

Wales Arts Review was at “Baba Joon”:

“Baba Joon covers a lot of ground. In part, it is the story of a young man from Iran finding a new life in Swansea in the 1970s, but it also recalls the experiences of his daughter – Lisa Zahra – growing up in this city in the 1990s. Alongside these dual narratives, we are additionally guided by a version of Lisa in modern day, as she embarks on a journey to embrace her mixed heritage.

“All of this is punctuated by sharp humour, authentic and relatable reflections on familial relationships – and a fair bit of 90’s house music thrown in too.

“Lisa Zahra commands the stage, performing various incarnations of herself and family with ease. You warm to her instantly, with plenty of charisma and wit on show, but predominantly it’s the way that she exudes affection for her father that really invites you into her world.

“Director Izzy Rabey...swift pace,...energised this one-person play with creative blocking...

“...movement direction provided by Gemma Prangle. There is one particularly striking sequence, in which a young Lisa dances to traditional Iranian music, later transitioning into adulthood with a remix of ‘Sweet Dreams are Made of This’. Partway through, there is a cacophony of different sounds which are expertly embodied through Lisa’s movements with competing sets of choreography. As the song ends, we see Lisa exhausted, shaken by the toll of this daily struggle with her identity.

“Her struggle, it emerges, is defined by shame. She fears not being Iranian enough in her father’s eyes and wrestles with his perception that she is straying away from her heritage...thought-provoking and essential theatre...captivating performance from Lisa Zahra.”

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

https://www.walesartsreview.org/baba-joon-review/

* * * *

National Theatre Wales revived “Circle of Fifths” and toured to the Riverfront, Ebbw Vale Institute, Black Park Chapel, Chirk, Small World Theatre, Drill Hall, Chepstow, Hopkinstown Hall, Pontypridd and Butetown Community Centre.

The Guardian was there:

“First performed in Cardiff in June of 2022 and now restaged for a national tour, Gavin Porter’s Circle of Fifths is a celebratory exploration of grief and the necessity of community ritual as told through the experiences and funeral traditions of the residents of Butetown. A patchwork of live music, film, movement, and storytelling it is a beautiful and often moving portrait of a place and its community.

“Porter, along with his performer, musician and storyteller collaborators Shakeera Ahmun, Rose Beecraft Music, Francesca Dimech, Anthony “Drumtan” Ward and Wella guide the proceedings. It begins with a death, leads through to the burial, and ends at a wake, replete with drinks, samosas, and Welsh cakes. Threading together individual testimonies, it unfolds into a meditation on community and parental legacy, a tribute to those who had to find their own square miles, and the importance of maintaining communal traditions in an age when there are fewer of them.

“On occasion, the proceedings have a slight tentative, provisional edge. But this is also a work of striking theatrical economy, wholly concrete and unencumbered by dramatic tricks. The performances are never less than heartfelt, and one thing comes after another: a story, a song, a recollection. Dealing as it does with the material stuff of death and the grief of real people, it feels very unmediated and there is an elegance in its assured makeshift nature. Whatever happens we are in safe hands, and those at the front will lead us gently through the dance because they know, as a community always knows, how things should best be done.”

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

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2023/oct/22/circle-of-fifths-review-beautiful-and-moving-portrait-of-a-place-and-its-people

* * * *

The Linbury Prize for Stage Design was founded in 1987. The prize recipients receive a bursary together with a design placement with a major company. Companies that have collaborated with the Prize in recent years include Birmingham Opera, Headlong, National Theatre of Scotland, Lyric Hammersmith and Scottish Dance Theatre.

Two of the prizewinners for 2023 were selected for work at RWCMD and WNO. All the prize-winners can be seen in an exhibition at the National Theatre until March 2024.

The work of Jodie Yates for “Consent”, “the Book of Dust” and “Dreams Beyond the Shops” can be seen at:

https://www.thelinburyprize.com/portfolio/jodie-yates

The work of Bethan Wall for “Candide”, “Urinetown” and “An Enemy of the People” can be seen:

https://www.thelinburyprize.com/portfolio/bethan-wall

Photo: Adam Somerset at Lyttelton Theatre

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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