How to be a Kid

Paines Plough are back with the beloved roundabout and a stellar line up once again at the festival this year, and their early morning kids offering is a total gem. How to be a Kid is just what any one needs first thing, young or young at heart, and the messages of not growing up too quickly resonate with a lot of the audience. 

Molly does all the cooking and cleaning, and looking after of younger brother when their Nan’s passes away and their Mum is struggling to cope. But Molly is only 12, and with everyone telling her different things about whether she needs to grow up or that she’s just a kid, one day it is all just too much. This show takes us on a break out adventure to find Molly’s inner kid once more, and with some help from Vera and a well timed promo voucher.

Although the story itself could do with a little more background into the family set up, the performances and messages are insightful and heart warming to see, as the bus zooms around the space, they dive in to the pool out of hours and Joe’s diplodocus moves hijack Molly’s cool levels on the walk home making two brothers down the front roar with laughter. With no props or set, the lighting design is crucial and works brilliantly to help us set the scene, from a dark house in the middle of the day to the bright lights of the Golden Arches. 

With chocolate cake, happy meals and a large dose of Taylor Swift, How to be a Kid is a wonderful piece on upside down family life, with a whole lot of heart and the roundabout stage suits the three hander brilliantly. 
How to be a Kid | Paines Plough Roundabout @ Summerhall

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E is for Earth, Fire and Water

Paines Plough have got a storming line up at the Roundabout at Summerhall this year and their slice of fun for children is no exception. I got superpowers for my birthday is a collaboration between Half Moon Theatre and Paines Plough, and transforms the space in to a battleground for monsters and an arena of superpowers as three school children get a little more than they bargained for on their thirteenth birthday. 

Ethan, Fiona and William are not friends in school, in fact they couldn’t be more different, but they all have the same birthday. As each of them becomes a teenager, something strange happens and they gain superpowers – Fiona suddenly has fire coming out of her fingertips, Ethan can make the earth shake and William can use water and ice to his advantage.

As the three fight off unwanted guests including Babs the humongous slug, gargoyles and a dragon with an appetite, they soon come to realise that if they join forces, something incredible might just happen.  The Roundabout is brought to life with things that go bump in the night and it is down to our three heroes to protect not only the biggest party of the century, but life on Earth as we know it. 

As one little girl cowered in the front row as the Darkness was unleashed and others wooped and high fived during victory dances, this earth-saving quest makes for a heart warming and exciting adventure. A brilliant production from start to finish as the direction lifts the three superheroes and the monsters off the page fantastically. 

I got superpowers for my birthday | Roundabout @ Summerhall | 11:00

Edinburgh, you beauty!

That’s it, another fringe over for me, and although the magic and chaos may still be continuing up in beautiful Edinburgh, I’m back to work tomorrow and a major bout of the fringe blues have kicked in. Although I didn’t manage to spend the whole month up there, I did squeeze in over 20 shows around working the box office (because I’m basically a ninja…) Here’s a run down of my top five and some other highlights:

Key Change: Open Clasp Theatre. Northern Stage @ Summerhall.

An incredibly authentic and refreshing take on female prison life, put together brilliantly and portrayed by a first class set of performers. Moving, funny and a bit rough round the edges: Key Change powerfully sings out loud the voices of female prisoners stuck in the system. 

Every Brilliant Thing: Paines Plough. The Roundabout @ Summerhall

This show left me an emotional wreck, an incredible performance and moving narrative, which had the audience involved from their first seconds in their seats. An insightful and beautiful piece, highlighting depression and self awareness, and reminding us of the little wonderful things we’re surrounded by… Number 14: Bed

Party for One: Christina Bianco. Assembly George Square Gardens.

Hilarious. Christina Bianco is a genius, and despite being one of the first shows I saw, still makes me laugh hysterically when picturing a Ariana Grande song, sang in Julie Andrews voice… Spot on impressions, sung beautifully with a heart warming and relatable story to match. 

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing: Traverse Theatre. 

An intense and gripping performance, with a lot of grit and a lot of heart. I left the Traverse with my heart in my mouth and in awe of such an emotive and epic performance from Aoife Duffin.

Ross and Rachel. Assembly George Square Theatre. 

She’s his lobster, and Molly Vevers was completely on it in her portrayal of any couple which start off with their happy ever after planned for forever. Switching between both sides of the couple, a couple which are now seen as an item, the clever script is laced with references and full of emotion. 

I also loved The Solid life of Sugar Water at Pleasance Dome: a heartbreaking story, expertly handled, and Jenny say qua from Jenny Collier made me cackle with laughter at the Three Sisters. Echoes at the Gilded Balloon was a brave and insightful comparative piece and last years NSDF winners, Naughty Corner and their production of The Bastard Queen was gritty, funny and a brilliantly polished production. Shitfaced Shakespeare was hilarious as The Merchant of Venice took to the cheap prosecco and beer, and Man to Man was an epic performance from Maggie Bain, and well deserving of all the rave reviews. Our Teachers a Troll made for another fantastic, fun morning at the Paines Plough roundabout as audience members young and old cowered and laughed as one, whilst Flossy and Boo was a fabulous pick me up for a Monday, proper feel good fun for all the family! 

As always, I had an absolute ball and Edinburgh was full of magic, chaos  and the wonderful team that is the Space UK family. I would definitely recommend checking out any of the shows above if you’re lucky enough to be heading up to the Scottish capital or if these companies ever decide to tour! 



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!

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!

‘I ain’t got a city named for me…

… But the swans have don’t they’ And it’s true, they do. Not the Worst Place, a three-way collaboration from producing powers, Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Sherman Cymru and Paines Plough, see’s pregnant teenager Emma coming to terms with the path paved in front of her. Set in front of a striking, cleverly lit backdrop, the well designed stage transports it’s audience from the Sherman’s studio space to the Swansea seaside.

Alongside hopeless boyfriend, Rhys, who can wonkily knit and and claims to be an expert in blagging, Emma is looking for an escape route from the life that Swansea has planned for her. With her overbearing, academic mother, and hypochondriac younger brother, Emma (played by Rachel Redford) compares her life to that of a Greek myth, and the battles she faces in the decision between her home security and boyfriend Rhys. Although the fascination with Greek mythology isn’t entirely clear and leaves the story a little muddled, despite the repeated links to Swans and tales of Zeus from her childhood.

Despite the reality of the context, the production as a whole was lacking grit and rawness for me. With little pause in the quick paced dialect to allow the audience to connect with the dysfunctional group of characters, the direction seemed to touch on some glimmers of hope and beauty and glaze over others. However, clever performances from some of the younger cast members and a witty debut from Sam Burns, it will be interesting to keep an eye out for her in the future.

Not the worst place runs at Sherman Cymru until Saturday evening.