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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The Borrowers

Next up, as part of the Sherman’s double Christmas helping, is the classic children’s tale The Borrowers taking over the main stage this festive season.   Still just as relevant in today’s society, this story may focus on the small people under the floorboards or behind the clock, but they sure have a big message to get across to it’s audiences. 

Arietty has no idea what goes on above the floorboards besides the voices of the human beans and one day her dad takes her out to teach her how to be a true Borrower, kickstarting their big adventure. There were gasps of surprise as we were first introduced to a tiny puppet version of Arietty and even the adults of the audience were on the edge of their seats as the evil Mrs Driver hunted down the pocket sized family. The live music really adds to the performance and the actor musicians switch between roles and instruments seamlessly as the Clock family came across boys galore, a hilarious cricket and  a few others along the way. 

The set and design for this production is gorgeous and the size comparisons are incredibly clever, really making you believe in this magical tale. There isn’t a lot of audience interaction as per your typical children’s Christmas show, although this doesn’t stop the intrigue and interest from the young and the young at heart. 

Directed by Amy Leach, the cast are full of energy and bring Mary Norton’s classic story to life in an enjoyable fashion.  A beautiful tale full of magic, heart and messages of acceptance, letting go and above all, family: The Borrowers is well worth the trip to the Sherman this December. 

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 

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.

 

There once was an Ugly Duckling…

Taking over the Sherman theatre’s studio space this Christmas, is the gorgeous tale of The Ugly Duckling brought to audiences age 3 – 6 courtesy of Sherman Cymru and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru.

The story of a young duckling who doesn’t fit in in his nest and goes on a search to find himself, and his friends, begins with a warm Croeso from the three actors, instantly engaging the attention of even the grizzliest toddler. The other ducklings in his nest take great joy in making sure he knows he is different, as they can both quack and he can only honk!

As the duckling travels to find himself and some real friends, he comes across a hilarious hen who shows us how easy it is to lay an egg, a cat who doesn’t understand why everyone can not pounce and meow like him and a short sighted hunting dog who thankfully has no interest in making the duckling his dinner. The traditional story conveys all of the key themes that any good festive tale should, brilliant directed by Sara Lloyd and performed with total commitment and stunning energy.
The leaves swirl through the sky, snow falls and the stars shine brightly, as the seasons come and go illuminating the simple yet well used set, enchanting audience members young and young at heart with a stunning lighting design. Incorporating musical instruments and song in to the tale, the musical score is charming and full of joy – evoking cries of ‘wow it’s a harp!’ from the musicians of tomorrow in the front row!

A beautiful narrative brought to life in an incredible fashion full of delight, friendship and music, one not to miss this Christmas, to escape your standard Christmas carols and Santa Claus’.

Arabian Nights

Audiences are being transported on to sandy streets and magical lands this Christmas, as Arabian Nights takes over the Sherman Theatre’s main stage awash with music, laughter and a touch of romance.

Shahrazad has a gift for telling stories: wonderful tales of thieves, mythical creatures and jealous brothers… and and her younger sister loves to hear them.  But when the King’s wife is unfaithful, he sentences her to death, and the lives of those in the kingdom are changed for good.  The King swears to marry for only one day, marrying a different girl each night and having her executing her the following morning.  Shahrazad decides to try and change his ways and win the King’s heart, determined to save her village.

As she tells tale after tale, in order to delay her execution, we are introduced to a delightful array of characters from Ali Baba to Sinibad the Sailor… and the actor musicians work seamlessly to bring each story to life.  The talented, versatile cast bounce off each other, and work incredibly as an ensemble lead by on stage Musical Director and pianist, Gareth Wyn Griffiths.

The colourful performances are emphasised by a stunning set, as sand and snakes lace the floor, mountains and caves come to life, and light bulbs sway in the wind.  Audience members young and old were intrigued and enchanted from the first chords of the piano, and the clever twists in the stories were vividly brought to life.

Wonderful, entertaining and charming storytelling, full of magic and mystery, enhanced by a beautiful set – Arabian Nights is a beautiful Christmas treat this year with the same values of family, love and a happy ending.

Arabian Nights runs until December 31st at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.  For tickets and more information, click here.

Magic, music and mulled wine: it’s Christmas!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: tis the season to be jolly! And in theatre land it honestly is a lovely time to be involved!

Producing a Christmas show is most definitely not an easy task, especially if you’re straying away from the traditional pantomime and bringing something new and reinvented to the stage. It needs to be ready for an audience full of expectant children and families, and of course, those just looking for a slice of Christmas spirit! And a child could possibly be the harshest critic: mostly because lying and sarcasm has normally not been learnt to a good standard at a young age!

Sleeping Beauties, Sherman Cymru’s Christmas show this year, is a fine example of a brilliant combination of a beautiful set (seriously, a forest has never looked so stunning!) and amazing performances from all. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a fairy tale and this modern reinvention of Sleeping Beauty is one for all the family. Lisa Jen Brown has a stunning voice and her narration really pulls the audience into the carefully woven storyline, with the Prince (Adam Scales) on roller skates to bring some afternoon delight to the second act!

And for the little ones, Corina Pavlova and the Lions Roar is a true beauty. Lemurs, llamas, rats in pyjamas… Which pet would choose you? Mr McAlistair is there to help Corina find her ideal pet in time for Christmas, and meets lots of wonderful animals along the way. Kudos to the costume department, the set and costumes are lovely and they all got a few oohs and aahs from the grown ups in the audience! A lush show for the little ones with an incredibly hard working cast producing a magical experience!

So, even if you’re bored of the traditional ‘he’s behind you’ ‘oh no he isn’t’ routine this year, there’s always something new and exciting out there! And accompanied with a glass of mulled wine or a baileys hot chocolate… What could go wrong?!

Merry Christmas everyone!