The Emperor’s New Clothes

Christmas is almost upon us, it’s a sneaky one isn’t it, where has 2016 gone?! But amongst the mince pies and the pigs in blankets, the Sherman have their double helpings of Christmas magic on offer once again and yesterday it was time for Alun Saunders’, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

The Hans Christian Anderson classic has been brought to life by the Sherman and Theatr Iolo and has taken over the studio space as clothes hang from the balcony and the stairs.  The setting is instantly very informal and interactive as the three actors encourage the children to sit on the mats near the front and talk to them as the audience enters the space.  

The story revolves around Kare and his life growing up to be an Emperor and having responsibillywhatsits and from his first yells and bursts of funny faces, the young audience members are roaring with laughter. As the three actors switch between songs, dialogue and musical instruments, the story comes to life and a little bit of imagination is in order as the minimal set design is injected with joy and new threads! 

With no pouting or pwdi’s in sight, Kare soon learns that his parents were right all along and that you must always laugh at yourself (or somebody else will do it fo you!) Ending with a lovely rendition of the title song, the young and young at heart are reminded that sometimes all it takes is a good chuckle and a bit of silliness.  The Emperors New Clothes is a wonderful delight of a Christmas show for 3-6 year olds. 

The Emperor’s New Clothes | Sherman Theatre and Theatr Iolo | At the Sherman until 31st December 

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A Good Clean Heart

Porters is fast becoming one of my favourite haunts in Cardiff, not least because the wine is good! But the edge above the other bars in town? The brilliantly tucked away pub theatre, The Other Room whose opening season has definitely not failed to amuse, shock and entertain thoroughly: each production bringing something brand new to the space.  The third in the aptly titled Life in Close Up season, Alun Saunders’ A Good Clean Heart is refreshingly touching and a brilliant tale of loyalty, family and the division between those geographically closest to us.

An entirely bilingual production, the narrative revolves around two brothers separated through the fostering system at a young age.  Older brother Jay ends up back with his biological mother in a council flat in London, recently released from a short stint in prison, whereas Kevin is scooped up by adopted parents when he’s too young to remember and has grown up in Wales under the name of Hefin. The two spontaneously meet again after the revelations on Hefin’s hangover induced 18th birthday, where his parents reveal that his older brother has been trying to contact him, and that he actually could be… English.

The events take place in one evening, beginning with an hilarious, awkward meeting at Victoria Coach station (25p for a Chomp?!) where it is clear that life’s dealer has issued each of the pair a very different set of cards, and ending in a much darker situation than the Welsh wannabe rugby player is used to. Alun Saunders’ script is touching, humorous and the intimate space allows audience members to fall in to the bilingual and bi-cultural world that the two young men have found themselves a part of.

The two actors bounce off each other brilliantly: their loyalty and love made even more prominent through thinking in different languages and the barriers between their lives.  Huge kudos has to go to the creative and tech team for injecting a refreshing modern design, taking us from the playground of the boys lost childhood, to Victoria Coach station to a drearily wallpapered flat, as well as keeping on top of the surtitles throughout.

As a wannabe Welshie, I left The Other Room with a huge sense of hiraeth and pride for the arts scene in Wales.  The combined brilliance of the direction, the script and the performances created a purely touching, thought provoking and honest production.