A little bit of Dahl magic

Everyone knows the stories of Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs… But do you know the re-imagined Roald Dahl versions where pistols and sass outweigh tradition, and not all is as it first appears? Kicking their tour off at Newport’s the Riverfront last night, Ballet Cymru have brought Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes to the stage as part of the centenary celebrations this year with a simply, mischievous piece of dance.

Despite a few opening night hiccups and a slow start, the stories were brought to life for a busy auditorium with humour and beautiful imagery as the performers took on various roles alongside the poetic narrative.  With minimal set and props, it’s down to the movement and strong characters to pull off the story and our heroin in red is particularly enchanting to watch as she leaps and soars across the bare stage.   As Little Red proves herself to be slightly less innocent than you may have previously imagined, and the house building materials chosen by the three little pigs result in tragic consequences, Dahl’s witty rhymes and wonderful imagination are injected carefully but firmly in to the choreography.

The movement of the ensemble in sync was wonderful to watch and the combination of the fun writing and the upbeat yet charming musical score was a winning formula.  As a first time ballet experience for many young audience members: Ballet Cymru have created a brilliant piece with a distinct hint of Dahl magic.

On tour across Wales and the rest of the UK for the rest of the year, click here for further tour dates and follow @balletcymru on twitter for more information.

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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. 

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. 

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

Black RAT are back in the game

That’s right, the Cardiff based company are back with a vengeance with their autumn tour of Bedroom Farce!  This fast paced comedy will visit seventeen venues across Wales beginning next week in Blackwood Miner’s Institute and ending at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff in November (See below for full tour dates).

Written by award winning playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, Bedroom Farce focus on the lives of four couples, all at different stages in their relationships… from new love to a lifelong partnership, and the stages in between.  The four relationships are put to the test in a dramatic night of mayhem, exposing secrets and hidden cracks with hilarious results!  With quick comic timing and a strong set design, the production brings together all the essential elements of farce and gives the audience a proper insight in to 1970s suburban life and marriage.

Black RAT Productions are a professional company who’s ethos consists of introducing emerging talent and well established actors to produce ‘classic theatre’ with a strong focus on the text and characterisation.  They’re past productions include Bouncers, Up ‘n’ Under and Boeing Boeing, and the company welcome back old regulars to the cast as well as some new faces.

Sure to be a night of laughter, bickering and the ups and downs of love and life: a night out with Black Rat is one not to be missed!

Full tours dates below: for more information and for tickets click here, or contact the venues directly. Or click here and check out the trailer.

30th September – 2nd October: Blackwood Miners’ Institute
3rd October: Grand Pavillion, Porthcawl7th October: Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli
8th October: Theatr Colwyn, Colwyn Bay
10th October: Borough Theatre, Abergavenny
11th October: Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
15th October: The Metropole, Abertillery
16th October: Pontardarwe Arts Centre
17th October: Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan
18th October: Theatr Hafren, Newtown
20th October: Congress Theatre, Cwmbran
21st – 22nd October: Colliseum, Aberdare
23rd October: Arts Centre, Aberystwyth
24th October: Stiwt, Wrexham
30th October: Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
5th November: Theatr Halliwell, Carmarthen
6th – 8th November: Richard Burton Theatre, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

Bore da Gwyn!

And what a beautiful morning performance it was! Cwmni Fran Wen’s Gwyn took over the Urdd hall this morning at the Wales Millennium Centre, welcomed by an audience full of little ones, their parents and the few young at heart with no child as an excuse! Having first seen the production performed in English by Scottish company Catherine Wheels two years ago at the Sherman, I was incredibly excited to see the Welsh language adaptation, especially as a Welsh learner!

Gwyn revolves around two friends in their world full of white: white clothes, white food and drink, white eggs which fall from the sky. They spend their days cleaning their home and looking after each other, waiting for eggs to fall. So when nuggets of colour start to appear for the very first time… A pink bobble, blue milk… the two panic and try to hide the new objects, before gradually embracing the glowing colours and treasuring the variety in their world. The production is not just an introduction to primary colours for the little ones, but also shows how to embrace and accept change, a challenge even for grown-ups sometimes!

Set against a truly gorgeous backdrop of little houses on stilts and a disco ball, the white world is cleverly designed with a few tricks up it’s sleeve as the pinks, the blues and the yellows begin to appear. Greeted by oohs and aahs from the young and the old, the explosion of colour and clever lighting created a really lovely piece of theatre.

A beautiful production from start to finish, a true reminder of how magic children’s theatre can be! Full of giggles, bright colours and enchantment: Llongyfarchiadau a diolch yn fawr to Cwmni Fran Wen!

Check out the Cwmni Fran Wen website for further dates as Gwyn continues it’s tour around Wales.