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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Happy 70th Ed Fringe!

So my time up in Edinburgh may have come to an end but with two weeks to go, there is so much still to see and do. The atmosphere in Edinburgh throughout August is impossible to describe and is possibly the best kind of chaos you’ll find anywhere in the world. 

From children’s shows to alcohol fuelled Shakespeare, and one man shows to stages brimming with ensemble, 30 shows filled my schedule interspersed with bacon rolls, orange juice and lemonade, Lidl bakery treats and a pint or two for good measure.

I laughed until I cried with Tamar Broadbent’s and her newly single lifestyle in her new show, Get Ugly and survived the front row as Shitfaced Shakespeare‘s production of Romeo and Juliet took a turn towards a Hebrew wedding with an inflatable dinosaur as a guest. Gecko’s The Dreamer was mesmerising to watch with stunning imagery, whilst Translunar Paradise from Ad Infinitum showed a heart string tugging story of love and loss. The Paines Plough Roundabout hosted some brilliant performances from Dirty Protest’s Sugar Baby (a fab take of Cardiff life fuelled with energy and the words of Billy the Seal), to the wonderful three hander Out of Love, exploring growing up and growing apart with an honest and heart warming script from Elinor Cook.  

How to win against History is a huge dose of fabulous over at Assembly George Square, back for another year by popular demand, and the Stiff and Kitsch duo had us cackling with laughter in their highly relatable show Adele is younger than us. 

There was a distinct whiff of alcohol based wisdom during The Thinker Drinkers (the gin was most definitely my favourite!), and there were belly laughs galore during Jenny Collier’s, Fantastic Beasts and where to find Jen. Traverse Theatre once again had a super popular and stellar line up, with an endearing script and on stage relationship during Jess and Joe forever, and an absolute powerhouse of a vocal performance from Josette Bushell-Mingo in Nina: A Story about me and Nina Simone. Secret life of Humans from New Diorama is brilliantly staged and The Nature of Forgetting is beautiful in it’s choreography and live soundtrack as it explores dementia and the memories that stick with us.

The one (wo)man shows are out in force this year, with a fast paced, hard hitting hour from Milly Thomas and Dust, a grim and dirty take of a bereaved dad in Trashed, a high five for the NHS in Gutted and the highly important journey of Seline Thompson in Salt among many others. Over at Zoo Southside, Wanna Dance with Somebody! Or a guide to managing social anxiety using theoretical physics was one of my impromptu decisions and it was a diamond of a show which was impossible not to get up and dance along to at the end. 

I managed to catch Part One of The Divide as my first experience of Edinburgh International Festival and had massively mixed feelings but would be intrigued to see Part 2 at some point in the future if it’s set to tour. Despite the length, the staging itself is brilliant and my jaw dropped multiple times during Act 2. The Conti Ensemble are ones to watch as The Laramie Project was tense viewing with strong vocals from the ensemble throughout as witness statement after witness statement was presented following the horrific events in Wyoming. 

There is a brilliant concoction of productions for children and young people across the venues, with brilliant slapstick fun from Three Half Pint’s rendition of The Three Musketeers, and a great introduction to classical music from CCC in The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck over at the Circus Hub out in the Meadows. How to be a Kid made me feel all fuzzy inside as the importance of staying young and dancing to Taylor Swift became apparent, and there were songs and rocket fuel galore with Les Petits Theatre The First Hippo on the Moon. Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo that Can Never Be Caught! had the hippo hunters in the audience roaring with laughter and suggestions for catching a hippo, whilst Oskar’s Amazing Adventures took us to the snowy mountains for a puppies mission to make friends and explore. 

Whilst that’s my main round up out the way, there are thousands of productions at the festival which I didn’t get to and I had more than a few time clashes and ran out of hours in the day unfortunately! I’ve heard wonderful things about Jack Rooke over at Underbelly, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s other show Odyssey is sure to be brilliant, and Nassim at Traverse has had a fantastic response from audience members and critics alike. Monica Dolan has just won a Stage Award for her performance in The B*easts, and the awards will surely start to roll in across the board now as You’ve changed also picks up a gong. All we ever wanted was everything is said to be really strong gig theatre, Cosmic Scallies was on my wish list but clashed and DollyWould has had lots of recommendations from the twittersphere. Back by popular demand, Lemons, lemons, lemons… and Every Brilliant Thing are back again at the Roundabout, both excellent pieces which I have seen in previous years (take tissues for the latter!), and following its success at The Other Room, Cardiff, the incredible Seanmhair is over at Bedlam. And towards the end of the month the renown Fleabag is back again, so we’ll have to hope for a regional tour for that one! 

To everyone lucky enough to still be in Edinburgh or is heading up over the next two weeks, have an amazing time. I am back home for the first night in my own bed and despite this still have massive fear of missing out on anything and everything.

See you next year Edinburgh: Happy 70th you beauty! 

Tamar Broadbent: Get Ugly

Everyone has those ugly days, those days when you’ve not been matched on tinder or those days when you’re the reason there’s a smell on the bus… Tamar Broadbent is championing all females in their mid 20s with her show, Get Ugly, this year at Underbelly Med Quad and I’ll cut straight to the point, this show made me cackle. Loud.  

Tamar has just come out of a five year relationship and is struggling to come to terms with herself again as a singleton, especially when her sister points out that you get 25% uglier when going through a break up! As she battles hot gym girl on a daily, struggles with the app dating game of swiping and matching and reiterates the common thoughts on Facebook suicide, she tells how she has learnt to love herself again as she adjusts to independent life. 

This show is the perfect remedy for an ugly day and a slice of pure comic relief for a late afternoon. Through songs and anecdotes, and even a Britney moment, the sold out room was full of laughter, nods in agreement and a lot of hell yeahs. I mean, moving the fridge is super hard work for one person… but anyway, Get Ugly is for anyone who’s gone through a break up, fallen out with a friend or got stuck feeling a little less awesome than you should do, and I urge you all to get a ticket pronto. 

Tamar Broadbent: Get Ugly | Underbelly Med Quad

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 

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!

A whole lot of #tweetsizereview’s

A little collaboration for you all:

Show 1 of @edfringe: @DirtyProtest’s Last Christmas & what a cracker it was! Full of laughter & poignant storytelling! #tweetsizedreview

Really enjoyed @20sumthin’s 6: A new musical last night: brilliant lyrics, live band and clever staging @theSpaceUK! #tweetsizereview

Great to see a welsh language production @edfringe, Diolch yn fawr @CwmniFranWen, great performances in Dim Diolch! #tweetsizereview

Check out the thought provoking performance of Soldier Box @OneShotTheatre if you can: v.interesting & stylish production! #tweetsizereview

Wow. Tiger from @Barrowlballet was beautifully unconventional with a large dose of magic and talent #mustsee #tweetsizereview

Very much enjoyed my @ThePaperBirds double bill today: Blind and Broke both shows to see in the final week of @edfringe! #tweetsizereview

Really enjoyed the immersive & relevant production of Broke: flying chocolate bars would def be my cuppa tea! #tweetsizereview @ThePaperBirds

Amazing beat-boxing from Grace Savage in #Blind; something completely different, loved the blindfolded part! #tweetsizereview @ThePaperBirds

Brilliant busker riff off in @Group64’s Mind the Gap; catch them at @SpaceV45! #tweetsizereview #edfringe

Fantastic performances from the cast of Darkle @SurgeonsCourtyd tonight: especially Max! (@DarkleDog) #tweetsizereview

Loved @TheOutbackGames @SpaceV45 earlier: full of fun, smiles and charming music! Great start to the day! #tweetsizereview

Wow #LungsPlay: incredibly beautiful whirlwind of a script with two perfect performances to match #tweetsizereview @painesplough

Gritty, honest and well casted: really enjoyed #LaceUp @trigpoint13 this evening. Catch it @theSpaceUK! #tweetsizereview

Giggles galore in Last Chance Romance from @KitschnSync1 last night: all the single ladies put your hands up! @ZOOvenues #tweetsizereview

Brilliant range of characters brought to life by @Red_Belly_Black in Smoking Ban! Check it out @theSpaceUK #SurgeonsHall! #tweetsizereview

Cleverly staged and brilliant performances in The House of Bernarda Alba from @FourthMonkeyTC @theSpaceUK last night #tweetsizereview

Loved @Jenjencollier‘s show on the partybus: diolch for the fab dose of welshness, best comedy act I’ve seen @edfringe #tweetsizereview

Bottleneck from @_HighTide_ at @FollowTheCow: incredible example of a 1 man show, emotive, energetic, bang on throughout! #tweetsizereview

Taken aback by #TRAVESTIplay from @unbound_theatre: real, thought provoking verbatim theatre. Check it out @edfringe! #tweetsizereview

Loved @WeWereKingsPlay last night: a witty & engaging production from a brilliant team resulting in laughter & almost tears!#tweetsizereview

Check out the fab Piece of Paper Paradox from @bluemoon_tc: great performances! Final show today @SurgeonsCourtyd! #tweetsizereview

Beautiful visual storytelling in Feral from @TortoiseinaNut! Hooked audience from the moment the pen touched the page! #tweetsizereview

Feeling the urge to watch Pitch Perfect or sing constantly after a fab hour with @loveaccidentals! So much fun @theSpaceUK #tweetsizereview (The Accidentals: 99 Problems but a pitch ain’t one)

Lunchtime giggles galore from @IAmPippaEvans @freefringefest – she’s not posh! Def a show for @RealBrianConley! #tweetsizereview

Fab storytelling from @mulberrytheatre in The Domino Effect @theSpaceUK earlier today: a creative mix of raw-ness & love! #tweetsizereview

Brilliant, honest performance from @pluenflake in Llais/Voice @theSpaceUK – loved the live music too! Check it out! #tweetsizereview

Great show @TomDeaconComedy @the3sistersbar: big fan of anyone who will risk their life for a greggs pasty! @freefringefest #tweetsizereview

Loved the beautiful & funny Greatest Liar in All the World @ThePleasance from the fab @FamiliaDeLaNoch – One to watch! #tweetsizereview

Brilliant performance of Guttermouth from the Richard Burton co. @venue13 to start the day: incredibly written & devised! #tweetsizereview

Beautiful physical theatre from @ManicChord today: v.cleverly choreographed and performed! Check it out @bedlamtheatre #tweetsizereview (Don’t Let Go)

Loved @LaurenceOwen’s new & improved disney hit song in todays @_theratpack @the3sistersbar: evil queen is the way to go! #tweetsizereview

Freaking LOVED @LordsofStrut @AssemblyFest tonight! Go see! #chaos #tweetsizereview

Had brilliant fun @FourthMonkeyTC’s Treasure Island:full of giggles, songs & a treasure hunt! Def one to watch @theSpaceUK! #tweetsizereview

Hilarious toe tapping performance from @NowYouKnow14’s I love you, you’re perfect, now change! Check it out @theSpaceUK! #tweetsizedreview

Brilliant immersive lunchtime entertainment from @NotTooTame’s Early Doors! Join the fun at the Jinglin’ Geordie! #tweetsizedreview

Loved @BudJamesJones #hiraethshow @FollowTheCow – honesty, songs & welsh cakes: a truly lush performance! Diolch yn fawr! #tweetsizereview

Really enjoyed the physical theatre & ensemble elements of @HumanZooTheatre’s chaotic #TheHive earlier! #tweetsizereview

Before Us @FollowTheCow – Absolutely hilarious and beyond bizarre! Proper feel good mood now thanks to @StuartBowden! #tweetsizereview

Why is life like sparrows? was beyond bonkers and full of giggles, even when I got ejected! @venue13 #tweetsizereview

Laughter, tears and applause: Fringe highlights 2014

And that’s it, all over for another year… I am home, fed, watered and having slept for 12 hours: I’m definitely ready to be unbored again!

The Fringe festival flew by this year, and amidst the ‘I’ll just go for one drink’ nights out, the power-naps and the busy box office shifts, I managed to squeeze in exactly 50 shows! That’s right, 50! From stand up comedy on the top deck of a double decker bus, to a female accapella group agony aunt service, to an Australian musical in a Church hall, to a one man show based in a wheelie bin, I saw some incredible pieces of performance!

Although it’s incredibly difficult to narrow it down to one favourite, I’ve got it down to a top 5:

Lungs | Paines Plough:  No props, no set, no ensemble: just an incredible script, brought to life by two amazing performers. An honest, heartfelt and witty production which had the audience laughing and crying as one. My one standing ovation of the festival!

Tiger | Barrowland Ballet: A beautifully unconventional piece of dance and physical theatre which left my mouth in a Wow kinda shape. A magical production which was visually stunning with a huge dose of energy and talent!

Travesti | Unbound Theatre Company: Incredibly thought provoking and heartfelt verbatim theatre which knocked me sideways slightly: Female thoughts through male voices.  A very relevant, and brilliantly performed piece from Outbound Theatre Co.

Blind | Paper Birds: Something completely different but ultimately: amazing. Featuring beatboxing from the very talented Grace Savage in a fresh, creative and interesting take on finding your voice when the world keeps getting louder.

Bottleneck | High Tide Festival: A fantastic, fast paced yet emotive, one-man show which left me out of breath just watching. First class performance from James Cooney who is on the ball without as much as a blink out of place throughout.

As well as these, I had a fabulous time on the party bus with Jenny Collier in her hilarious, one hour stand up set (Diolch yn fawr!): definitely my favourite comedian of the Fringe! I also, loved the madness and the chaos of Lord of Strut for the second Fringe in a row and spending a fantastic lunchtime in the company of the Early Door‘s cast at the Jinglin’ Geordie. Fourth Monkey’s Treasure Island left me grinning and giggling away, as did Stuart Bowden’s performance in the beautifully bizarre Before Us Guttermouth was an incredible example of a one-man show and Feral was beautiful to watch as the puppetry was brought to life on stage. I managed to catch some great productions at Pleasance including The Greatest Liar in all the World which was wonderfully created and performed, and the engaging and thought provoking Broke from Paper Birds.  Back at theSpace hub, The Outback Games was full of fun and energy (I love a good musical!) and the funny yet moving We Were Kings, was beautifully performed and directed.

The Welsh companies really came in to their own this year, Dirty Protest’s Last Christmas was engaging and bang on the money, Llais/Voice was a brilliantly honest and raw performance, Hiraeth was fun, heartfelt and a total cwtch of a performance from non-actor Buddug, and Last Chance Romance was full of giggles and all the single ladies! There were brilliant reviews floating around for Land of the Dragon, The Future for Beginners and Wonders of the Universe as well, even though I sadly missed out on seeing them because there are just not enough hours in the day!

And that’s Edinburgh Fringe finished for another year: I was blindfolded, ejected from the theatre and joined by a pub full of people in singing the batman theme tune, I laughed, cried and held hands with strangers and sang… I had an absolute ball!