Mydidae

The Other Room play host to the debut production of new company, OtherLife as they take on Jack Thorne’s Mydidae this time round and as the audience takes their seats as dust bunnies on the top bathroom shelf, there’s already an air of unease within the space.

The whole pieces takes place within the bathroom of a couples home, and we are introduced to Marian and David, as she tries to learns French and he prepares for a big pitch in work. As they come and go throughout the day, it soon becomes clear that it is not all happy families within the household and their secrets are laid out when they are at their most vulnerable, in supposedly the most private place in the home.

As the pub theatre space has been transformed in to a fully working bathroom for this production, it is very easy to be caught up in the drama in the confined space as the story unfolds. However, despite the brave performances from the two actors, and a huge lack of physical inhibition which is taken as far as possible, the intensity is disorientating at times and it seems as though the direction struggles to fully establish the relationship and all its complexity.This is a confident debut production from OtherLife although the delivery is not quite fully formed, given the intensity of the underlying themes of Jack Thorne’s writing.

Mydidae runs at The Other Room until June 2nd. For further updates on The Other Room, follow @TORtheatre

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All But Gone

Next up in The Other Room’s Lovesick season is All But Gone, and is the first piece directed by Dan Jones after taking over as Artistic Director. Oh, and this is a production you won’t want to miss.

This time round your ticket is a seat at the kitchen table in Owen’s home, and we’re right up close as the story unfolds with a young boy breaking in to his home in the early hours of the morning. However, the writer is quick to make clear that this piece is not all staged in one set point in time, and we are transported back in time to key points in Owen’s life, as dementia slowly takes hold of his remaining memories and he has trouble differentiating old friends from new.

As people from Owen’s past are introduced, and storylines intersect and cross over, we learn of his difficult decisions, and his battles with society’s acceptable version of himself, as well as those who came in to his life and left again. The reliance between Kai and Owen is touching to watch, and the family dynamic between Bev, Howell and their mother will strike a cord with many in the audience. There are no weak performances within the cast, and the story flows fluidly through time and between moments of humour, loss and despair.

With a set like no other yet again in the intimate pub theatre, and clever lighting design transporting us back and forth in time with ease, All But Gone is a touching and poignant piece which glows with powerfully poetic writing and strong direction despite the vague memories presented. A stellar production, and one not to miss in Cardiff this month.

All But Gone runs at The Other Room until April 14th. Follow them on Twitter @TORtheatre

A number

The Other Room are back with their new season LoveSick, the first under new Artistic Director, Dan Jones. First up in the season is Caryl Churchill’s, A Number, proving that the writing is as relevant today as it was when first written back in 2002.

A fast paced two hander, as the two men take to the centre of the room the air is tense, unsettled and withthe space set up in the traverse, an uncomfortable but intriguing game of back and forth ensues. We soon learn that the two are father and son, and it seems their history was not all as it seems as the lies unravel and the truth comes to light. After unfortunate events years ago, the father chooses for scientists to clone his son to give himself another shot at fatherhood. But it’s not just the one, there’s a number of them, unbeknown to either of them.

This play showcases The Other Room in yet another new light as once again the set and lighting design soar. Being able to see other audience members on the opposite side of the room adds a sense of unease as nobody wishes to catch another’s eye, as we shift from one character to the other, and back again. Fortunately the piece itself is no longer than an hour as any longer and those in the centre of the room would have cramp in their neck trying to keep up. This is mostly down to the fact that each actor is hugely watchable and Stevie Raines in particular was brilliant to watch as he switched between a ball of nerves, an edgier alternative and a relaxed, happy with banana ice cream version of himself.

An unsettling but hugely relevant and interesting production, as identity and personality are put under the microscope and intentions are queried, with possibilities trialled and tested. Well worth a watch in The Other Room this season!

Flossy & Boo: The Alternativity

Christmas is all go, the shops are rammed, the decorations are up and an evening in a pub theatre is right up there on my list of festive musts this year. Flossy and Boo are The Other Room’s Christmas offering for this year and I dare you to go along and not leave with a grin on your face…

When asked to do a Christmas play, there is one main issue for the gleeful duo… they have no idea what Christmas is… or what a play is for that matter! So a period of research and development ensues, as the two have discovered that this is essential for any play, with your festive favourites and a few unexpected treats thrown in along the way in the build up to the nativity.

Flossy and Boo work incredibly well together as they rattle through their Christmas findings, reminding us of the downsides to the festive period from hangovers to commercialism to family arguments, whilst also riskily but cleverly allowing the audience to steer the order of their antics and sketches. The real gems of the piece are the musical interludes, as the talented duo switch from ukuleles to keyboards, as they sing about those round robin greeting cards which tell of boosted achievements, and lonely train journeys searching for love.

With some help from technician Bethan a long the way, everyone is welcomed in to Flossy and Boo’s version of Christmas as if they were long lost relatives, with songs, sprouts and party hats galore… what more could you wish for? A pure festive treat: this is an alternativity which will have you singing along, secretly nodding in agreement and cackling with laughter as the two prove Christmas cabaret is where it’s at.

Flossy and Boo (with a y and a double oo): The Alternativity plays at the Other Room until December 23rd.

My name is Rachel Corrie

Next up in The Other Room’s autumn season is the debut production from new company, Graphic. Directed by Chelsea Gillard, no stranger to the space, My Name is Rachel Corrie is spirited and ever important as it takes to the floor in Cardiff’s pub theatre this week.

American activist, Rachel Corrie was intentionally hit and killed by a bulldozer in Gaza when she was just 23 years old. This production is made up of diary entries and emails from her life up to this point as she leaves her teenage bedroom in Washington behind and travels to Gaza to bring that touch of humanity back to the war stricken border between Israel and Palestine. 

The soundscape is an excellent touch to the production and while Corrie rattles through conversations, nights sleeping on the floor next to the children of  her adopted family and her hunts for a ballpoint pen, the added background noise and changes in lighting really help to emphasise the timing and context of the piece 

Despite the power in the writing, the piece takes it time to get going and drama student Shannon Keogh struggles to add the needed darkness and light to the piece until the last 15 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, while the importance and truth in her words is apparent, she doesn’t quite seem to believe in her own performance and despite the brilliant stage design, her static presence unfortunately causes the mind to wander. 

Full of resistance and relevance, but with not quite enough fight or pace in its delivery, My Name is Rachel Corrie is a promising debut from Graphic. 

My name is Rachel Corrie runs at The Other Room until 21st October

hang

The Other Room are back with their autumn season and to kick start proceedings, Theatr Run Amok have taken over with their brave production of hang by debbie tucker green. In it’s regional premiere, having last been performed in the U.K. at the Royal Court, this is not one for those looking for a relaxed evening out that’s for sure.

We’re introduced to One, Two and Three as hang tells of one woman’s decision two years on from a situation unknown to the audience. Showcasing Cardiff’s pub theatre in yet another new light, the scene is aptly stark and simple as the water cooler takes centre stage and case workers, One and Two, do their best to make victim, Three as comfortable as possible… despite the elephant in the room. The death penalty. And what a weight to carry on your shoulders: Could you make that call?  To decide somebodies fate as the victim of their crime? As Three twitches, and shakes, with prolonged pauses, the audience are on edge from the opening of the door, as questions swim around the space and the awkward naivety of Two provides some light hearted relief to the situation in hand with expert comic timing. 
As the case workers story becomes unraveled and lies and home truths come to light, hints of Three’s experiences leading up to this point are revealed and the options for carrying out the death penalty are given in a heartless, factual fashion.  Whilst we never find out what really happened that day, Anita Reynolds is a true force behind the character as she simmers and eventually overboils, giving grit and power to the role and the whole piece.

While the play’s title may be a slight spoiler to Three’s decision, the script allows for no time to sit easy in confidence of the outcome as the dark, yet light words come fast and fierce. A powerful trio of performances, the casting is spot on for hang and under the brilliant direction from Izzy Rabey, this is another piece in The Other Room which will leave you questioning and reeling well after you’ve emerged back in to the reality of the busy bar next door. 

Theatre RunAmok’s hang plays at The Other Room until 16th September.

Happy 70th Ed Fringe!

So my time up in Edinburgh may have come to an end but with two weeks to go, there is so much still to see and do. The atmosphere in Edinburgh throughout August is impossible to describe and is possibly the best kind of chaos you’ll find anywhere in the world. 

From children’s shows to alcohol fuelled Shakespeare, and one man shows to stages brimming with ensemble, 30 shows filled my schedule interspersed with bacon rolls, orange juice and lemonade, Lidl bakery treats and a pint or two for good measure.

I laughed until I cried with Tamar Broadbent’s and her newly single lifestyle in her new show, Get Ugly and survived the front row as Shitfaced Shakespeare‘s production of Romeo and Juliet took a turn towards a Hebrew wedding with an inflatable dinosaur as a guest. Gecko’s The Dreamer was mesmerising to watch with stunning imagery, whilst Translunar Paradise from Ad Infinitum showed a heart string tugging story of love and loss. The Paines Plough Roundabout hosted some brilliant performances from Dirty Protest’s Sugar Baby (a fab take of Cardiff life fuelled with energy and the words of Billy the Seal), to the wonderful three hander Out of Love, exploring growing up and growing apart with an honest and heart warming script from Elinor Cook.  

How to win against History is a huge dose of fabulous over at Assembly George Square, back for another year by popular demand, and the Stiff and Kitsch duo had us cackling with laughter in their highly relatable show Adele is younger than us. 

There was a distinct whiff of alcohol based wisdom during The Thinker Drinkers (the gin was most definitely my favourite!), and there were belly laughs galore during Jenny Collier’s, Fantastic Beasts and where to find Jen. Traverse Theatre once again had a super popular and stellar line up, with an endearing script and on stage relationship during Jess and Joe forever, and an absolute powerhouse of a vocal performance from Josette Bushell-Mingo in Nina: A Story about me and Nina Simone. Secret life of Humans from New Diorama is brilliantly staged and The Nature of Forgetting is beautiful in it’s choreography and live soundtrack as it explores dementia and the memories that stick with us.

The one (wo)man shows are out in force this year, with a fast paced, hard hitting hour from Milly Thomas and Dust, a grim and dirty take of a bereaved dad in Trashed, a high five for the NHS in Gutted and the highly important journey of Seline Thompson in Salt among many others. Over at Zoo Southside, Wanna Dance with Somebody! Or a guide to managing social anxiety using theoretical physics was one of my impromptu decisions and it was a diamond of a show which was impossible not to get up and dance along to at the end. 

I managed to catch Part One of The Divide as my first experience of Edinburgh International Festival and had massively mixed feelings but would be intrigued to see Part 2 at some point in the future if it’s set to tour. Despite the length, the staging itself is brilliant and my jaw dropped multiple times during Act 2. The Conti Ensemble are ones to watch as The Laramie Project was tense viewing with strong vocals from the ensemble throughout as witness statement after witness statement was presented following the horrific events in Wyoming. 

There is a brilliant concoction of productions for children and young people across the venues, with brilliant slapstick fun from Three Half Pint’s rendition of The Three Musketeers, and a great introduction to classical music from CCC in The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck over at the Circus Hub out in the Meadows. How to be a Kid made me feel all fuzzy inside as the importance of staying young and dancing to Taylor Swift became apparent, and there were songs and rocket fuel galore with Les Petits Theatre The First Hippo on the Moon. Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo that Can Never Be Caught! had the hippo hunters in the audience roaring with laughter and suggestions for catching a hippo, whilst Oskar’s Amazing Adventures took us to the snowy mountains for a puppies mission to make friends and explore. 

Whilst that’s my main round up out the way, there are thousands of productions at the festival which I didn’t get to and I had more than a few time clashes and ran out of hours in the day unfortunately! I’ve heard wonderful things about Jack Rooke over at Underbelly, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s other show Odyssey is sure to be brilliant, and Nassim at Traverse has had a fantastic response from audience members and critics alike. Monica Dolan has just won a Stage Award for her performance in The B*easts, and the awards will surely start to roll in across the board now as You’ve changed also picks up a gong. All we ever wanted was everything is said to be really strong gig theatre, Cosmic Scallies was on my wish list but clashed and DollyWould has had lots of recommendations from the twittersphere. Back by popular demand, Lemons, lemons, lemons… and Every Brilliant Thing are back again at the Roundabout, both excellent pieces which I have seen in previous years (take tissues for the latter!), and following its success at The Other Room, Cardiff, the incredible Seanmhair is over at Bedlam. And towards the end of the month the renown Fleabag is back again, so we’ll have to hope for a regional tour for that one! 

To everyone lucky enough to still be in Edinburgh or is heading up over the next two weeks, have an amazing time. I am back home for the first night in my own bed and despite this still have massive fear of missing out on anything and everything.

See you next year Edinburgh: Happy 70th you beauty!