It’s Incubator time

It’s that time of the year again: five weeks of R&D for two companies, culminating in a showback performance in the Centre’s studio space.  Last night Likely Story and H & S took to the floor with very different but equally as heart warming performances.

Likely Story, a female group from Cardiff, took their starting point from a painting in an old pub entitled ‘Rude and Coarse’ Women and turned it into a sequence of moments reflecting the feeling that change is needed.  A charming and natural performance revolving around a rowing trip, highlighting the relationships between women and how they are represented to each other, and to the world we live in.  Seatown Ladies had me laughing out loud, and welling up with tears; and the mixture of live music and a close knit cast produced brilliant results.

Next up H&S took to the floor, amongst a beautiful set of wooden domino style blocks snaking around the floor and in stacks surrounding a rope hanging from the ceiling.  Mirroring human relationships in a combination of physical theatre and circus skills, the duo worked seamlessly together to produce a beautiful piece which had the audience mesmerised from the dimming of the lights.  Proving their worth as brilliant circus performers, the trapeze finale topped off a fab performance.

Two brilliant performances which I would love to see more of in the future and it was great to see the early development stages.  Heart warming and full of power in their own ways – thank you Incubator’14!

A whole lot of Bedroom Farce!

This weekend saw Black Rat Productions and their adaptation of Bedroom Farce take over Royal Welsh College on the final leg of their tour, providing a sold out crowd in the Richard Burton theatre with an evening full of laughter!

Set in three bedrooms, featuring four couples each at different stages in their relationships and focusing on one night’s events, we are taken back to the 70s with excellent platform shoes and wallpaper my Grandma would appreciate!  Kate and Malcolm have invited their friends to a house warming party, while Ernest and Deliah are off out for their anniversary dinner at their annual restaurant of choice.  The recipe for disaster is complete when Nick is laid up in bed with a bad back and Jan decides to go to the party without him, in the company of ex-husband Trevor and new wife, the slightly neurotic Susannah.  Exposing secrets and cracks in their relationships, the ups and downs of love and marriage are displayed with hilarious consequences!

With a well designed set and a stellar cast, Black Rat have done it again.  Full of giggles and excellent timing, the intertwining lives of the four couples creates a humorous production, if a little cringe-worthy at times! All in all a great night at the theatre full of fun and laughter!

Keep an eye on the Black Rat Productions website and their twitter feed @blackratprods for news of their future productions. 

I am the common man

Cardiff is not short of gutsy performances lately and National Theatre of Scotland’s visit to the Sherman this week was definitely that.  Gutsy, proud and full of heart, In Time O’ Strife had it’s audience gripped from the first bars of the opening song.

30 years on from the Miners Strike of ’84, the Scots have revisited Joe Corrie’s classic play, which focuses on the struggle of a mining community after over six months of strike action.  Entering the auditorium at the Sherman to a live band (who remain on stage for the entire performance) playing folk songs, we are welcomed in to the lives of those on the stage which doubles as both a community centre and a living room.

Each character’s life entwines with another, and another, and the demise of the community in a time of starvation and despair soon becomes apparent.  Each one is individually relatable to, coping with their struggle in their own way: whether it be through alcohol, attempts to flee or emotional breakdown.  With bursts of passion and energy demonstrated through strongly choreographed ensemble movements, the band come to life throughout the narrative, illustrating the emotion from the poems in the original play.  Although the script itself may have been lacking a little punch, the movement and live punk-folk music combined powerfully to really nail home the frustration and emotion of the close-knit community.

National Theatre of Scotland have proved that despite ending with a bitter and desperate rendition of ‘The Red Flag’, history definitely needed to be retold and the creative team have done so in style.  Full of power, energy and passion, In Time O’ Strife is a beautiful and moving production, gaining a well deserved standing ovation at the Sherman Theatre.

In Time O’Strife has sadly finished it’s tour now, but find out more about National Theatre of Scotland here and see the trailer here

Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to Claude’s

Performance and circus, mixed in with food… What’s not to like?! And Crashmat Collective definitely did not fail to excite, amaze and entertain as Facade took over the Weston Studio space at the Wales Millennium Centre last night.

Greeted at the door by owner of the restaurant Claude, audience members/restaurant goers are seated by a team of waiters and waitresses who also double up as highly skilled performers. As the piece kicks in, we are soon introduced to each different character and their relationships within the team: and the inner thoughts (hidden behind their customer service is key’ smiles) are relayed via voice overs with sometimes hilarious consequences.

Our three course meal is brought out to us, made of course with TLC (Tender loving cooking!) whilst the performance continues around, above and even on top of the table! The hopes, dreams and emotions of the waiting staff are shown through the intersections of circus and acrobatics. One falls through the air with one leg caught in a rope… And another walks her way around a pole, while the rest of the cast perform a beautifully choreographed selection of movements. The pure skill and strength is incredible and enough to make anyone put down their glass of wine or their dessert spoon for a few minutes!

The frantic switching between reality and the hidden circus skills of the performers is mesmerising to watch although it was sometimes tricky to decide on which character to focus your attention on with so much going on. The electric soundtrack and the clever lighting really pulled the piece together: instantly transporting everyone in the room to the stage.

From the classic romantic movie lift, to a waiter madly in love with another, to the skill used on the ropes and the hoop: Facade is an immersive theatre and dining experience like none other. I would definitely recommend a night at Claude’s, and next time I go out for food, I expect my pudding to be paraded down a catwalk first!

For full tour dates, go to the website or follow them on Twitter @crashmatcollect

‘Deny thy father and refuse thy name …

… And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.’ Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, arguably Shakespeare’s most popular play: whether it be the Leonardo De Caprio version or the battered play-text from your school days. And the new production currently hitting the Sherman main house is full of the same star-crossed lovers, family feuds and tragedy… But grittier and bolder than before under the direction of new Artistic Director, Rachel O’Riordan.

Having never seen a stage adaptation of Romeo and Juliet previously, it was a clean slate for me as an audience member.  With accents a plenty from Glaswegian to Valleys to Jamaican, the cast brought to life the tragedy with a fresh perspective whilst remaining true to the original Shakespearean language.  Although the dialect got lost at times, the brilliantly stylised fight scenes between the two families, directed by Kevin McCurdy, were cleverly effective without being overly brutal.  With comedic moments from the hot-pink tracksuit wearing Nurse (Anita Reynolds), a fatherly kindness from the Friar (Sean O’Callaghan), and a brilliant portrayal of Mercutio from Scott Reid, the key characters each brought something new to the scene: although I felt I could have gained a stronger connection/empathy for the two young lovers.

The grey scale stone wall backdrop brings to life Verona, but not as we know it.  Littered with bicycles, hooded youths and cans of Stella, the team have kept the piece timeless with no set decade of narrative, including their younger, new audience members with blasting contemporary music as more and more of the set is revealed.  An incredibly designed stage with dark alleyways and an orchestra pit disguised as a candle lit tomb, incorporating the traditional balcony scene to brilliant effect – massive kudos to the production team!

A bold and striking production from the first light switch and the opening lines, emphasised by a brilliant design choices and strong performances.  It was fantastic to see such an evolved piece of Shakespeare take over the Sherman stage!

Romeo and Juliet plays at the Sherman Theatre until the 18th October – tickets available online here or from the box office on 02920 646900. 

Keiron Self as Malcolm and Lizzie Rogan as Kate in Black Rat Productions' Bedroom Farce by Alan Ayckbourn

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

Introducing… On in 5 Productions!

Thats right, Cardiff has a brand shiney new company on the scene ready to shake things up, and On in 5 Productions will be hitting Llanover Hall and The Gate Arts Centre as of next week!

On in 5 Productions was created by actor, producer and all-round theatre lover Phillipa Burt who moved to Cardiff five years ago and has truly embraced the beauty of the Welsh spirit.  The company aims to create innovative, fresh productions which push boundaries for audience members, both young and old:  “On In 5 is about celebrating smaller scale work and the abundance of talent on offer today.”

Their first production, Me and My Friend, debuts on 25th September at Llanover Hall, Cardiff before moving on to The Gate Arts Centre in Roath, Cardiff (Full dates below).  Written by Gillian Plowman, the play features four odd characters who are thrown together under the same roof after being prematurely released from a rehabilitation centre.  Following their turbulent stories, the narrative revolves around the two couples and the heartbreak and humour in their everyday lives.

Phillipa sums up the production by adding: “I wanted to explore a poignant subject matter in a refreshing way.  Whilst the play does deal with the very real and serious issue of mental health, it does so with a comedic twist.  It’s thought provoking without being overwhelming.”

Each performance will be dedicated to a specific charity, and Me and My Friend aims to raise awareness and money for Mind Cymru: a brilliant charity which sets out to campaign and increase support for individuals suffering with mental health problems.

Sure to be a heartfelt and humorous production from this exciting new company: On in 5 Productions are definitely one to watch out for in the future!

Llanover Hall, Cardiff: 25th – 27th September.  The Gate Arts Centre, Roath: 2nd – 4th October.  Tickets available direct from the venues or online here.