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.

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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.

Everyone needs to go on a Snark Hunt

Sometimes you just need a bit of silliness in your week, and the Hunting of the Snark at the Sherman Theatre is just what the doctor ordered. In collaboration with Alice House and RGM Productions, this production has taken over the main house in a delightfully bonkers fashion.

Adapted from the 1874 Lewis Carroll poem, this production has been brought right up to the present day with pop culture references making this a slice of fun for audience members of all ages.  The set takes us on a journey from London to the upside down world of Snark Island as Mr Belman, the Banker, the Boy, the Baker and the Butcher go on a expedition to find the Snark. 

As the group set off on their adventure, hoping they’ll find a Snark tomorrow, they encounter many hilarious animals including a knitting beaver, the brilliantly colourful Jub Jub bird and the light fingered Bandersnatch, and the younger members of the audience were not alone in their shrieks of laughter at the slapstick humour and witty lyrics. Amidst the topsy turvy world, this tale is full of adventure, bravery and family values. 

The whole cast is fantastic, as they switch between characters, and burst into each new song as effortlessly as the last. Polly Smith is especially brilliant as the Butcher as she snorts and cackles with glee at the thought of a nice piece of Snark (you know the type: the Olly Murs of food!).

With a brilliant on stage soundtrack from the constantly ridiculed Steve, Gemma Colclough’s direction is bursting with imagination and a bonkers silliness which is contagious. A wonderfully delicious summer treat for the whole family that will leave you with your foot tapping and tears of laughter running down your face!

The Hunting of the Snark runs at the Sherman Theatre until the 30th July.

A Sunny Disposition 

Not just any piece of theatre can make you feel guilty for clutching a half empty pint glass when the house lights come up, but Nicola Reynold’s A Sunny Disposition did just that last night. The closing production to The Other Room’s Insomnia season and yet another performance sure to leave you on the edge of your seat. 

Aptly named Charlie, wants people to like him. Perched on the edge of a table in a pub with carpet and wallpaper of the exact same pattern, the audience are drawn in to his jittery energy as he launches in to his monologue and it is soon clear that all is not peachy behind closed doors. Addiction is so often pushed under the bed or shoved to the back of a kitchen cupboard, and Nicola Reynold’s writing debut brings up the subject carefully but skilfully. 

Charlie, played by Neal McWilliams, to look at is a long way away from your stereotypical user and alcoholic, you know the ones… Park bench, string for a belt and a brown paper bag? But proving that there is no fixed stereotype, the audience are thrown up and down through the motions of the highs of Charlie’s friendship with alcohol and cocaine and left feeling almost as spat out as Charlie as events take a turn for the worst, and Charlie’s . 

With a simple set design and a slightly haunting soundscape, this performance effectively worked with stripped back, minimal staging. Despite a slow and slightly uneasy start, The Other Room is brought to life by the tale of chaotic highs at Soda bar (back when it was good) versus the wails of despair when tragedy hits. 

A whirlwind thought provoking production and a promising writing debut from Nicola Reynolds.
Keep an eye on @TORtheatre for updates from Cardiff’s first pub theatre. 

A trip down Constellation Street

Like every city, Cardiff is full of characters, some loud, some maybe less charming than others and some you would never guess have such a story to tell. The next offering from The Other Room’s Insomnia season is Constellation Street written by Matthew Bulgo, and like many of the others, the ticket comes with a punch in the gut that leaves you wanting more.

After apprehensively waiting in a holding area clutching a travel card, the audience are then ushered in to The Other Room which has been transformed once again… Just when you think the space couldn’t be used any better, TOR strike again. The attention to detail is incredible and designer, Amy Jane Cook has done a brilliant job in bringing alive each element. Split into smaller spaces, each audience member takes a different path through Cardiff’s back streets and it is very easy to lose your bearings as you move between various locations, each one with a new story to tell.

Each monologue is skilfully written, lulling the audience in to the small and slightly claustrophobic spaces with many a ‘take a seat, love’ and reassuring smiles from the ushering team, before hurtling in to dark confessions and stories of deceit, heart ache and despair. The performances are all very strong and Gwenllian Higginson especially, gives a heartbreaking and solid interpretation of Alex, even contesting with a reversing bin lorry and the buzz of the nearby railway adding to life on Cardiff’s streets.

Whether you are being offered a good deed pint, or your eye contact has been locked for one of the deeper explanations, each performance seems personal and natural; allowing audience members to connect with the characters one by one.

It is the writing which really struck a chord, as each story slowly overlapped and each monologue could be seen in virtually whichever order.  Matthew Bulgo has delved deep in to the back story of each individual, and they all entwine perfectly as the puzzle becomes complete.  Each audience member see’s three out of the four, however, out of of pure curiosity, this is one production I will be returning to specifically for the play text.

This promenade piece is one not to miss as the brilliantly directed Constellation Street brings Matthew Bulgo’s writing to life perfectly.

Constellation Street plays at The Other Room until April 30th. Follow @TORtheatre for updates and news. 

The Princess and the Pea

Chandeliers hung from the ceiling and pots and pans scattered the floor, as audience members filled up the studio at the Sherman for this years festive offering for 3-6 year olds – The Princess and the Pea.  A joint production from Theatr Iolo and Sherman Cymru, the three cast members were instantly engaged with the little ones brave enough to sit on the mats at the front and the music allowed both parents and children to relax around the stage area.

The Hans-Christian Anderson fairy-tale soon takes over the studio space, all be-it at a slow pace to begin with – although this didn’t seem to disinterest the younger audience members in the slightest.  The Prince is only interested in finding a Princess to marry, much to the Queen’s dismay and the two meet various potential suitors in order to make him happy.  As the rain falls on the old castle roof, the repetitive raindrops created mini musical interludes and the Sherman roof could well have been actually leaking!

The real sparkle comes when the unconventional Princess arrives, and as she chases, and plays, and makes the Prince laugh, the Queen decides to put her to the test to see if she actually is a real Princess.  Ceri Elen is brilliant as she takes over the space and the clever lighting design really emphasises the castle feel and changes in the weather.

A tale full of mis-used mash potato, a mattress or 20 and a lot of pans full of rain, the performance was enchanting for the younger audience members, although I felt it was missing a certain chaos or noisy interaction.  The Sherman studio space is full of magic and this gentle fairy-tale is a great treat for young families this Christmas.

Nadolig Llawen! The Princess and the Pea is on until the 2nd January 2016. More information and show times can be seen here.