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 

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.

Jem and Ella

Remember those days when you used to dance around at family parties, stood on your Dad’s feet as you wannabe-waltzed across the floor? (Before you were too cool to be stood next to him, of course!) Run Ragged Dance companies new offering of Jem and Ella is a wonderfully nostalgic and endearing piece as the dance worlds and styles of Father and Daughter collide. Taking over the Sherman’s studio space this weekend to end their Welsh tour, the duo are full of energy and spark in this short but sweet performance. 

Ella is an incredibly talented ballet dancer, and as she is about to be come a teen, she is struggling with her routine of Netflix, food of course and ballet lessons. Meanwhile, Jem who is just turning the dreaded 50, is a professional contemporary dancer, and typically, like any Dad, doesn’t like to admit when he is wrong! The trust and spark between the two is instantly apparent as their relationship is documented through a series of spoken word, movement, voice overs and home video projections.

The central Dance Rug, the space in any family home which turns into a shake it out zone, was beautifully lit and the soundtrack lifted the performance at just the right times throughout the hour. However, this piece really didn’t need any flashy production elements as it is the relationship between the duo and their skills and flexibility to bounce off each other which is the most interesting to watch. 

The younger audience members around me seemed genuinely disappointed that it wasn’t the interval at the end and many parents will have been asked for dance lessons in the car journey home. A warm and charming production, which made me want to dig out my old dance shoes a little or be small enough to stand on my Dad’s feet without breaking bones! A lovely end to the week and a pair to look out for. 

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.

 

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage

As the first person to openly come out in the sporting world, Gareth Thomas’ story is no secret to to the people of Wales and the rest of the rugby world.  A collaboration between National Theatre Wales and Out of Joint, Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage tells two stories in parallel, focusing around Thomas’ life and the events surrounding his decision to come out as gay to his family, his team mates and his fans. 

Set in a locker room, which doubles as a hospital, a living room and a bar, the cast of six each takes on the role of Alfie himself through a simple flick of the rugby ball and tells of the ups and downs of his career: from his rise up the ranks to his separation from his wife.  Each character comes in to their own, with a brilliantly endearing and funny relationship showcased between the parents and excellent comic timing especially from Lauren Roberts.  Alongside the rise to rugby stardom, we are introduced to two young teens growing up back in Thomas’ home in Bridgend, facing tough events in their day to day lives.  Despite highlighting their deeply personal yet contrasting situations, it is initially tricky to see the link in the stories but the element of revolving characters allows us to gain a window sil viewing space as the truth unfolds. 

A crowd pleaser which evoked a standing ovation lead by Gareth Thomas himself on press night, the production was warming yet humorous throughout. Despite the possibly unnecessary rugby clichés and choreography, the cast bounced off each other well to shed a new light on Alfie’s story in an enjoyable and touching production. 

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage plays at the Sherman until the end of this week before embarking on tour around Wales and England. For more details and to book tickets, Click 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’.