Mydidae

The Other Room play host to the debut production of new company, OtherLife as they take on Jack Thorne’s Mydidae this time round and as the audience takes their seats as dust bunnies on the top bathroom shelf, there’s already an air of unease within the space.

The whole pieces takes place within the bathroom of a couples home, and we are introduced to Marian and David, as she tries to learns French and he prepares for a big pitch in work. As they come and go throughout the day, it soon becomes clear that it is not all happy families within the household and their secrets are laid out when they are at their most vulnerable, in supposedly the most private place in the home.

As the pub theatre space has been transformed in to a fully working bathroom for this production, it is very easy to be caught up in the drama in the confined space as the story unfolds. However, despite the brave performances from the two actors, and a huge lack of physical inhibition which is taken as far as possible, the intensity is disorientating at times and it seems as though the direction struggles to fully establish the relationship and all its complexity.This is a confident debut production from OtherLife although the delivery is not quite fully formed, given the intensity of the underlying themes of Jack Thorne’s writing.

Mydidae runs at The Other Room until June 2nd. For further updates on The Other Room, follow @TORtheatre

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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. 

Blud

My favourite small theatre space is back for a new season and what better way to kick off The Other Room’s autumn season than a play from brand new all female company, otherMother! Tucked away inside Porters, the space has been transformed in to a locker room ready for Blud: a piece of new writing from Kelly Jones, winner of the 2014 Wales Drama Award. 

Revolving around football rivalry and loyalty, Blud is full of sparks of magic, excellent one liners and a sense of desperation only fixed by the right pair of hands. We’re introduced to Rita, a painstakingly loyal football player and fan, and her younger sister Lou, innocently baring the weight of her family, split up by the system as children. 

As Lou is forced to grow up too quickly when she finds herself alone and vulnerable, Rita also has to face the realisation that being independent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as she waits for the back up of her Girls in the fight to defend her beloved Cotley.  Olivia Elsden has expert comic timing as the younger sibling and provides light hearted relief to a mostly dark narrative. Alongside a brilliant sound design, Blud shows a different angle to the typical family portrait and allows the characteristics any sibling can relate to, to bounce around the space.  Despite the narrative and ideas getting a little lost in translation at times, the two girls work brilliantly together and the direction from Anna Poole shows off the small space with statement performances.

A witty and dark production with committed and powerful performances from all involved. The female trio, otherMother are most definitely a company to look out for in the future if their first production of Blud is anything to go by, because as Queen Bey always says, who runs the world? 

Blud is playing at The Other Room at Porter’s until 18th September. Tickets can be bought online or follow otherMother on Twitter: @HeyOtherMother

A Good Clean Heart

Porters is fast becoming one of my favourite haunts in Cardiff, not least because the wine is good! But the edge above the other bars in town? The brilliantly tucked away pub theatre, The Other Room whose opening season has definitely not failed to amuse, shock and entertain thoroughly: each production bringing something brand new to the space.  The third in the aptly titled Life in Close Up season, Alun Saunders’ A Good Clean Heart is refreshingly touching and a brilliant tale of loyalty, family and the division between those geographically closest to us.

An entirely bilingual production, the narrative revolves around two brothers separated through the fostering system at a young age.  Older brother Jay ends up back with his biological mother in a council flat in London, recently released from a short stint in prison, whereas Kevin is scooped up by adopted parents when he’s too young to remember and has grown up in Wales under the name of Hefin. The two spontaneously meet again after the revelations on Hefin’s hangover induced 18th birthday, where his parents reveal that his older brother has been trying to contact him, and that he actually could be… English.

The events take place in one evening, beginning with an hilarious, awkward meeting at Victoria Coach station (25p for a Chomp?!) where it is clear that life’s dealer has issued each of the pair a very different set of cards, and ending in a much darker situation than the Welsh wannabe rugby player is used to. Alun Saunders’ script is touching, humorous and the intimate space allows audience members to fall in to the bilingual and bi-cultural world that the two young men have found themselves a part of.

The two actors bounce off each other brilliantly: their loyalty and love made even more prominent through thinking in different languages and the barriers between their lives.  Huge kudos has to go to the creative and tech team for injecting a refreshing modern design, taking us from the playground of the boys lost childhood, to Victoria Coach station to a drearily wallpapered flat, as well as keeping on top of the surtitles throughout.

As a wannabe Welshie, I left The Other Room with a huge sense of hiraeth and pride for the arts scene in Wales.  The combined brilliance of the direction, the script and the performances created a purely touching, thought provoking and honest production.

The dying of today…

Being the bearer of bad news and receiving bad news are not great from either perspective, in fact sometimes you have to just rip the band aid off and give in to the inevitable.  The Other Room’s latest venture revolves around this relationship in Howard Barker’s play The Dying of Today and audience members are transported in to a barber shop with a mirror side view for an intense 70 minutes. 

Barker’s play revolves around Ancient Greek historian Thucydides’ report of the battle between the Athenian fleet and the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War nearly 2,500 years ago.  Examining the moments that you deliver unfortunate news, the ones where you contemplate the worst and how news spreads like wild fire through communities. This has been brought in to the 21st Century with a bang under Barker’s writing and Kate Wasserberg’s direction, and the two performers bounce off each other intensely throughout, throwing the negativity around the space through their gaze and actions.  One charismatic traveller finds himself in the barbers chair, and takes it upon himself to deliver the devastating news, resulting in emotive outbursts and chilling observations from the two men as their guards break down and pure devastation breaks through the cold, hard exterior. 

 Incredible compelling performances which ended in a chilling scene with a beautiful soundtrack as the lone barber attempts to return to a new state of reality.  The Other Room was brought to life, and once again succeeded in transporting its intimate audience to another place, before releasing them back in to the bustling atmosphere of Porter’s bar.   A gripping and fast paced production not to be missed and now all we can do is wait and see what the third production in the ‘Life in Close Up’ season has in store! 

The Dying of Today runs until the 11th April, for tickets and more information: www.otherroomtheatre.com

Well and truly Blasted!

So this week The Other Room opened it’s doors for the very first time and welcomed audience members to Cardiff’s one and only pub theatre. Kick-starting their programme with Sarah Kane’s infamous work, Porter’s cinema room has been transformed in to a black box theatre and in turn, a hotel room to create the set of Blasted. Not for the faint hearted or those looking for an easy watch at the theatre, Blasted was uncompromising, intense and raw from the dimming of the lights.

The dark story revolves around an odd couple who escape to a hotel room in Leeds: one older, sex-hungry journalist who drinks gin like water and one vulnerable young girl who can’t stand the smell of meat. A brutal and unhealthy relationship is instantly apparent (especially to those in the front row!) and it soon becomes clear that the violence and power is not isolated to the hotel room as a soldier later seeks refuge also. Sarah Kane’s vulnerable state is reflected instantly and throughout, as things turn from bad to worse and the war rages on and pain is inflicted upon the three characters as desperation, greed, dominance and lust hit hard.

As explosions hit, the space grew and the well-designed studio extended brilliantly to show off the outside terror, causing gasps amongst the crowd. Our window seat view allowed us up-close and personal access to the pain and terror inflicted as each character took it in turn to show off their vulnerable sides and their harsh, more dominant shells. Each performance was incredibly brave with an especially amazing demonstration from the talented Louise Collins as Cate, full of raw emotion and investment in her character.

A proper example of punch you in the gut, makes you want to vomit/curl up and cry in a corner theatre which left me a little shell shocked.  An incredible start to The Other Room’s ‘Life in Close Up’ program with brilliant performances from a stellar and brave trio.

‘Blasted’ is at The Other Room at Porter’s Cardiff until 7th March.