Oh Edinburgh…

It’s that time of year again. The most magical time of the year.

That’s right, it’s Ed Fringe time and this year it’s time to defy the norm. The biggest arts festival on the planet, hundreds of arts companies are about to transcend on the beautiful Scottish city for a month of entertainment, laughter, emotions and a touch of magic.

This year I’m lucky enough to be reviewing on behalf of the Network of Independent Critics – a brilliant new scheme set up this year which allows bloggers and reviewers to experience more of the festival than ever before.  I’ll be covering mostly children’s theatre but I’m sure you’ll notice a few other gems snuck in amongst the family friendly productions. 

If you’re performing or producing a production for children and young people, please drop me a line to let me know and I’ll do my best to check it out. Unfortunately I won’t be around for the whole month but I’m planning to try and cover and absorb as much as possible while I’m there.

Bring it on round four, I’m super excited! Keep an eye on Twitter for some #tweetsizereview ‘s and of course, right here for some slightly chunkier ones! 

Edinburgh, you beauty!

That’s it, another fringe over for me, and although the magic and chaos may still be continuing up in beautiful Edinburgh, I’m back to work tomorrow and a major bout of the fringe blues have kicked in. Although I didn’t manage to spend the whole month up there, I did squeeze in over 20 shows around working the box office (because I’m basically a ninja…) Here’s a run down of my top five and some other highlights:

Key Change: Open Clasp Theatre. Northern Stage @ Summerhall.

An incredibly authentic and refreshing take on female prison life, put together brilliantly and portrayed by a first class set of performers. Moving, funny and a bit rough round the edges: Key Change powerfully sings out loud the voices of female prisoners stuck in the system. 

Every Brilliant Thing: Paines Plough. The Roundabout @ Summerhall

This show left me an emotional wreck, an incredible performance and moving narrative, which had the audience involved from their first seconds in their seats. An insightful and beautiful piece, highlighting depression and self awareness, and reminding us of the little wonderful things we’re surrounded by… Number 14: Bed

Party for One: Christina Bianco. Assembly George Square Gardens.

Hilarious. Christina Bianco is a genius, and despite being one of the first shows I saw, still makes me laugh hysterically when picturing a Ariana Grande song, sang in Julie Andrews voice… Spot on impressions, sung beautifully with a heart warming and relatable story to match. 

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing: Traverse Theatre. 

An intense and gripping performance, with a lot of grit and a lot of heart. I left the Traverse with my heart in my mouth and in awe of such an emotive and epic performance from Aoife Duffin.

Ross and Rachel. Assembly George Square Theatre. 

She’s his lobster, and Molly Vevers was completely on it in her portrayal of any couple which start off with their happy ever after planned for forever. Switching between both sides of the couple, a couple which are now seen as an item, the clever script is laced with references and full of emotion. 

I also loved The Solid life of Sugar Water at Pleasance Dome: a heartbreaking story, expertly handled, and Jenny say qua from Jenny Collier made me cackle with laughter at the Three Sisters. Echoes at the Gilded Balloon was a brave and insightful comparative piece and last years NSDF winners, Naughty Corner and their production of The Bastard Queen was gritty, funny and a brilliantly polished production. Shitfaced Shakespeare was hilarious as The Merchant of Venice took to the cheap prosecco and beer, and Man to Man was an epic performance from Maggie Bain, and well deserving of all the rave reviews. Our Teachers a Troll made for another fantastic, fun morning at the Paines Plough roundabout as audience members young and old cowered and laughed as one, whilst Flossy and Boo was a fabulous pick me up for a Monday, proper feel good fun for all the family! 

As always, I had an absolute ball and Edinburgh was full of magic, chaos  and the wonderful team that is the Space UK family. I would definitely recommend checking out any of the shows above if you’re lucky enough to be heading up to the Scottish capital or if these companies ever decide to tour! 



It’s very nearly the best time of year again…

…this time tomorrow I’ll be back in beautiful Edinburgh, ready for round three of fringe chaos and I can not wait. Sorry for the recent silence, I’m not really sure where the year is going or how it is now August… but I’m currently packing the last few bits, in prep for 10 days of theatre, tickets, audiences and a few pints for good luck!

It really is impossible to describe the fringe atmosphere to anybody who hasn’t been… I would recommend it to anybody, avid theatre fanatic or not! There’s something incredibly reassuring about walking down the street, playing costume or real clothes with the person next to you, bumping in to someone you know from previous years, swigging from a Black Medicine takeaway cup and seeing up to five shows in one day.  Completely and utterly knackering but the best way to spend August, I guarantee you.

I’ve got my show wish list lined up, with ten days up there, I’m hoping to fit quite a few productions in around my shifts managing the box office of three venues. There are sure to be some familiar faces up there this summer too with a brilliant Welsh contingent as always… Sherman Cymru’s incredible Iphigenia in Splott, the Centre’s powerful production of Man to Man, Living Pictures’ endearing one man show Diary of a Madman, the chaos of Flossy and Boo’s Curiosity Shop and Torch Theatre’s well received Grav to name just a few!

I’m like a kid at Christmas, my rain mac, comfy shoes and hangover hiding sunnies are at the ready, and I’m super excited to see my SpaceUK family and get lost in the magic chaos of the fringe once more.

There’ll be some #tweetsizereviews coming your way over in the twittersphere so feel free to give me a follow @chaotickirstyy – Feel free to holla if you’re around and I’ll be doing my yearly round up when I return!

2014: The favourites and highlights

Wow what a year for theatre! 2014 has flown by in a complete blur and according to my calculations and well used diary, I have seen 121 productions in the past 365 days…making my top ten incredibly difficult this time round!

I have basically spent the majority of my year inside a theatre having worked for five different companies in one capacity or another and spending my spare time checking out what Cardiff and the surrounding area have to offer, as well as a wonderful Fringe filled summer and a few trips to the Big Smoke!

I’ve followed soldiers over the top of a trench in Usk, watched stand up comedy in a pub basement, and watched circus performers whilst eating my dinner… it’s been a pretty great year for theatre so thank you 2014! Here are some of my favourites: my top ten of the year, some which made an impression, made me cry or made me cackle with laughter and all of which you should all look out for if they ever tour again!

Maudies Rooms: Roar Ensemble in co-production with Sherman Cymru
An incredibly enchanting and touching production from start to finish, with wonderful performances allowing the audience to interact with the weird and wonderful characters of the past.

Lungs: Paines Plough
An honest, heartfelt and witty production which had the audience laughing and crying as one. My one standing ovation of the Fringe festival!

Once: Phoenix Theatre, London
A subtle and beautiful Irish folk tale of a musical which left me an emotional wreck, proving that not every musical needs jazz hands and a flash dance routine.

Travesti: Unbound Theatre Company
Incredibly thought provoking and heartfelt verbatim theatre which knocked me sideways slightly – embracing a subject matter which others have previously shied away from.

Gwyn: Cwmni Fran Wen
Full of giggles, bright colours and enchantment against a truly gorgeous set design: a true reminder of how magic children’s theatre can be!

Mametz: National Theatre Wales
An immersive and emotional journey back in history, entering the hearts and memories of those lost at war in a beautiful setting in the middle of Usk.

Bianco: Nofit State Circus
A crazy concoction of beauty, chaos and amazing skill: Bianco left me in complete awe and wanting to watch again and again!

Dark Vanilla Jungle: Supporting Walls
Full of power and passion: A completely on it and bare faced performance from Gemma Whelan, portraying the highs and lows of one girls life.

A Streetcar Named Desire: Young Vic (via NT Live)
A gripping and tragic portrayal of the classic Tennesse Williams play with incredible performances from all cast members: brought to cinemas nationwide via the magic of NT Live.

And last but by no means least…. Tiger: Barrowland Ballet
A beautifully unconventional piece of dance and physical theatre which left my mouth in a wow kinda shape at this years Fringe.

And there you have it, my favourites of the past year for you all.  I’ve already started my wish list for next year and I can not wait to see what else is round the corner.  The theatre and arts scene in Cardiff is going from strength to strength, and it’ll be great to see what The Other Room has to offer, as well as the exciting programmes lined up for the Sherman, the Centre and National Theatre Wales amongst many others.

Happy new year all and I will see you in 2015!

12 reasons to love Edinburgh during the Fringe

Just twelve of the gazillion reasons to fall in love with Edinburgh during the beauty and chaos of the Fringe festival, compiled over the month on Twitter…

1. The friendly and welcoming new people that you meet every single day

2. Signs like this one:

Not all who wander

3. The novelty of using a knife and fork and sitting at a table to eat!

4. Singing along to B*witched and High School musical in the Tron at 1am

5. Patisserie Valerie at midnight for a birthday treat!

6. Casually walking down the Grassmarket to the sound of bagpipes and fireworks

7. The meadows on a beautiful sunny day

8. Walking to the end of your road to be greeted by a circus tent (Kudos to the incredible Nofit State!)

9. Having to double take when seeing this… (The best thing I’ve ever seen)

InvisibilityCloak

10. Being able to play the ‘costume or real clothes’ game at every opportunity

11. Any show on the party bus (Courtesy of The Three Sisters, Cowgate)

12. All of the food places. All of them.

This time tomorrow…

That’s right it’s almost that time of the year again, this time tomorrow I will be in beautiful Edinburgh ready to start work on Monday for this years Edinburgh Fringe! After falling in love with the city and the festival last year, I swore that I would go back as soon as my feet touched back down in Bristol!

For the whole of August, I will be surrounded by numerous flyers and posters, actors, techies, other like minded people and the atmosphere is just indescribable! And there’s sure to be a lot of familiar faces up there this summer with a great welsh representation with the likes of Dirty Protest, Pluen Flake, Cwmni Fran Wen, Kitsch & Sync and many more!

Unfortunately I won’t have time to review everything I see as I plan on fitting is as many shows as possible! But I will be doing tweet sized reviews
(Follow me on @chaotickirstyy if you’re interested!) and a round up/top 5 when I come home to help me cope with the inevitable post fringe blues!

If you’re making the trip to Edinburgh too, give me a shout or if you’re taking a show let me know and I’ll do my best to check it out!

Everyone loves a good musical, right?

Musical theatre productions pull in huge audiences night after night across the world, from London’s West End to the Big Apple’s Broadway and everywhere in between and beyond. Whether it’s a subtle beautiful Irish folk tale like Once currently showing at the Phoenix, or the fabulous Wicked touring and defying gravity across the UK, audiences young and old are enchanted by the magic of the design, the songs and the stories.

But with so many people united by the sound of music, it always comes as a shock and a surprise when new musicals close so soon after opening. It was announced last night that the Harry Hill musical, I Can’t Sing, will be closing in two weeks time, after being open just two months. Despite great four and five star reviews from critics and backing of music superpower, Simon Cowell, not every new show can succeed. Following in the footsteps of Viva Forever and From here to eternity, it is not the first production to not be able to pull in the audiences and profits it needs to survive. Maybe there are already too many musicals out there (particularly in London) or maybe people prefer to stick to what they know, with shows like The Lion King and Les Miserables still going strong. Each show requires a clear target audience and a strong directive marketing strategy; and maybe word of mouth just isn’t enough to spread the excitement anymore…

However, newer musicals such as the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda, prove that it is possible to break through the saturated market and reach out to it’s audience. With intelligent writing and lyrics and first class performances from it’s young cast, it’s array of awards are just a hint at the magic involved in the Roald Dahl classic. London’s West End is currently full of brilliant productions and a great selection of upcoming musical theatre stars, and audience members are able to enter in to a new world from the comfort of a theatre chair every night if they wish to… I sure wish I could!

Unfortunately not every show can be an over night success, and not everyone is going to agree on every musical, it all comes down to a recipe of an interesting and relatable story, clever design and production, and musical numbers and performances which stay with the audiences long after they throw away their ice cream tub and ticket stub.

What do you guys think about the recent closures? Feel free to comment below or tweet me @chaotickirstyy