Blackbird

Cardiff’s The Other Room is becoming renown for punch in the gut theatre and uncomfortable viewing sessions, and their latest production in their Autumn/Winter season is definitely no different. Blackbird, written by David Harrower, has been brought to Porter’s pub theatre by The Two Imposters and will leave you reeling long after you emerge in to the crowded bar.

A difficult two hander, performed by Sophie Melville and Christian Patterson, this play touches on the duo’s past of abduction and abuse when 40 year old Ray met his neighbours, 12 year old daughter Una. Una has tracked down the man who had a disastrous effect on her life, and they both have stories to tell that the other had no idea about, even 15 years on. 
In any other situation, you could pretty much call it as to who is the victim but David Harrower’s writing is expertly performed leaving the audience questioning their own moral compass and the laws of the country, even the day after the 75 minutes of compelling theatre.

The jittery energy emitting from Melville is contagious and has the compact audience on edge from the opening of the overly littered staff room door. The contrasting hunched, static stature of Patterson creates an unbalanced vibe across the room, as the adult of the tale is flown back to years he had made every effort to erase.

An unnerving, harrowing, brilliantly cast production which leaves the audience stuck in the emotionally charged performance. 

Blackbird plays at The Other Room until November 4th.

George’s Marvellous Medicine

Teamed with a post-show ‘Don’t try this at home’ warning and a Grandma with a love of gin before lunchtime, another piece of Dahl chaos is gracing stages nationwide to celebrate the centenary of the great authors birth.  Birmingham Stage Company are touring the UK with their adaptation of George’s Marvellous Medicine and this half term, Cardiff’s New Theatre has been taken over by hoards of children and families. 

Brought to life on a quaint farmhouse set with animal puppetry, the small cast tell the tale of George’s medicine making for his nasty witch of a Grandma when she decides to stay on the farm unexpectedly, with her bell ringing, tea drinking, demanding ways.  Combining household products galore and not forgetting a few chants and magic actions, George comes up with a concoction in true chaotic, Dahl fashion. 

One of the authors shorter stories, a wide eyed George (played by Ed Thorpe) has the audience completely on side as he enforces the message that nasty, rude people deserve a bit of nastiness thrown back at them sometimes. 

With a lot of repetition and audience interaction, this show is best placed with the junior school children in the sold out auditorium, although there were giggles from the young and old alike as chickens and Grandma grew and shrank with hilarious chase scenes and moments of pure magic. A cheeky fun-filled production, although it would have been great to see a little more Dahlian magic!

George’s marvellous medicine | New Theatre, Cardiff | Until October 29th 

Torch

Toilets at the fringe are never something to write home about and this performance takes us to a club toilet, lipstick messages still fresh on the walls and of course, no loo roll.   Written by Phoebe Eclair-Powell and performed solely by Jess Mabel Jones, Torch is at Underbelly Cowgate this festival and it’s a punched fist in the air kinda performance.  

We’re introduced to a nameless female who embarks on tales of past boyfriends, the disappointment of her relationships and a longing to reignite her teenage self.  Interspersed with brilliant pop classics which could have been belted out in front of the mirror or in a taxi home from a night out, Jess Mabel Jones really does it for the girls showing off an incredible set of lungs as well as the glittery personality beneath the script.  

Despite the tales of eating disorders and regret, she becomes able to celebrate her grown up self and while the whirlwind performance leaves little room for reflection, this is a cracker of a production.  As black balloons burst and songs light up the stage, the antics and revelations are compelling, humorous and touching, getting the audience on side from the word go.

Leaving completely blown away by Jess Mabel Jones’ committed performance:  this is full of feisty spirit, female belief and relatable anecdotes, and Torch is definitely one of the gems of the festival. 
Torch | Underbelly Cowgate | 20:50

Blush 

The internet is full of hidden secrets, a whole world of information and photos which could go for years undiscovered before they get caught up in the wrong hands. Blush from Snuffbox Theatre is a peephole in to a world many of us would rather stay buried well beyond cat videos, celeb selfies and the latest retail sales. 

As two actors switch between multiple characters, different aspects of the internet come to life in a fast paced, sometimes brutal manner. A younger sister who’s naked photos have gone viral, a girlfriend ghosted for no apparent reason who seeks revenge, a father who’s a fan of a webcam… The script flickers between each role, each bringing to the foreground the highs and lows of the power of social media and the web, as well as highlighting the impulsive nature of every post or camera shot. While the production emphasises that this activity happens to both sexes, the exposure and emotion is much more raw for the female performer creating compelling, if slightly uncomfortable, viewing. 
Although the energy is occasionally beyond control and the character changes are hard to keep up with, the monologues are skilfully delivered and the space is used well as cameras whur and flash at every turn as a snapshot of the humanity behind the online imagery. 

A highly relevant must see this Edinburgh Fringe, full of heartache, regret and disgust: Blush is an urgently needed take on revenge porn which doesn’t need to resort to nudity to captivate it’s audience. 

Blush | Underbelly Cowgate | 18:00

Katie Brennan’s Quarter Life Crisis

It would seem to be that the thing to do in your mid 20s is to binge watch Netflix, scroll through tinder and question all your life choices whilst wearing the same thing you wore when you were 7 years old. Katie Brennan’s show is proof of this as she sings and jokes her way through her Quarter Life crisis in a cabaret, comedy show at Underbelly this summer.

Katie moved to London after university and had big plans and big ideas, but due to high rent prices, a poor job market and a lot of bad sex, her life hasn’t turned out quite how she planned it! Featuring a poptastic medley of 90s songs as well as some hilarious songs, including Bad Bridesmaid and a disguised rant at Carrie Bradshaw, we are invited to emphasise and understand the ups and downs of life in your 20s in a wonderful glittery fashion. 

Not all smiles and gin, Katie also opens up about the anxiety she faced and gives out her tips about self care and treasuring those close friends who look after you. Joined on stage by her friend and pianist, the two have the audience totally on side and this is a great slice of relatable comedy. 

A brilliantly charming production from Katie Brennan which will leave your face aching from laughter, a pang of self belief and a sense that you’re not the only one who struggles with adulting at times! 

Katie Brennan’s Quarter Life Crisis | Underbelly | 22:45 

Z is for a Zest of Grimm

The Grimm brothers wrote over 200 stories but only a select few of them are still retold today; you know the ones: Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and all the others with the perfect happy ending. Not wanting to miss any stories, Avva Laff productions are at theSpace currently to tell the forgotten tales with the more gruesome endings.

The story squad are introduced and  as they all switch between various characters, the gritty tales are all played out before the audience. As one character tries to cheat death, one hen reaches an unfortunate demise and Hans my Hedgehog teaches it is always better to keep your promises, this show has something for the whole family with a few puns slipped in for the adults. 

The space is too small for the cast and their set, but the direction is clear and works well for the most part. Stuffed to the brim with puppetry, rapping, larger than life costumes and some straight talking story telling, the energy is high and this taste of the darker side of Grimm makes a change from the fairy tales and conventional happy ever afters.

Although the whole piece could be a lot slicker and some of the cheaper costumes and over enthusiastic clichés could be lost, the humorous storytelling itself is a treat for those aged 6+ and the constant switching between fact and fiction keeps the audience intrigued and involved.

The Grimmest of Grimm Tales | theSpace @ Surgeons Hall | 09:40

XY is for Xtra mischief for the Young ones

Barrowland Ballet are always a delight to see featured on any program and this year they’re at Dancebase on the Grassmarket with their show Poggle, aimed at those under the age of 4. Full of mischief, Poggle is a beautiful exploration of dance for the little ones with some added humour for their grown ups to appreciate too.

The piece explores how young children see the world and we are introduced to Poggle as she drags her new friend round the space on a journey of discoveries, including squelching through mud, climbing trees and blowing bubbles. As children (and adults) are picked up as they place hide and seek, the two friends roll and dance around the space, playing clapping games on their stomachs and finding new sounds amongst their surroundings. 

This cheeky magical performance is a wonderful escape and the onstage musical accompaniment and rhyming songs really add to the overall imagery. With the chance for the little ones to interact and play on stage at the end, Barrowland Ballet have pitched this just right, making this a treat and a wonderful introduction to dance for the under 4s.

Poggle | Dancebase | 13:30