There’s a murderer on the loose…

And he goes by the name of Roberto Zucco. Based on the true life story of the Italian serial killer, August 012′s brings the unpredictable and chaotic world to Chapter Arts Centre’s studio space, where nobody is safe from the action!

As the audience are ushered in to the room, the cast and choir ensemble are scattered around, immediately placing everyone in a position of involvement, really proving that anybody in society could be a killer! The narrative features a number of episodes surrounding the killings, beginning with his escape from prison and going on to focus on his involvement with a family and his relationship with a young girl.

The narrative introduces us to all the characters involved in the Zucco case with three of the four cast members cleverly switching persona’s within seconds, from policemen to innocent bystanders, to the victims themselves. Zucco himself, played by Adam Redmore, is brilliantly vacant, encouraging the audience not to feel too much sympathy or empathy with him, but focusing on the lives on the everyday people effected by his crimes.

Although I felt the narrative was slightly messy at time, and I struggled a little to keep up with the multiple layers, after time to think and digest, I was able to appreciate the chaos a lot more! The set design cleverly allowed us to bounce back and forth between the various victims, with an echo from the community choir surrounding the audience at alternate sections of the piece. Constantly being aware (and panicking slightly!) that you could be pulled up as part of the action, however did pull us out of the mindset of Roberto Zucco slightly but definitely added a sense of unpredictable irrationality to the events!

The production was grim yet humorous in parts, with an added touch of a chaotic reality. A provocative piece of theatre from start to finish, allowing us access to the bonkers world of Roberto Zucco!

Playing at Chapter Arts Centre until the 19th July, tickets available here.

Parti yn llawn tryblith!

As much as I try and join in conversations in work, my Welsh isn’t great…. But I do try! And I was very proud of how much I understood of Theatr Iolo’s latest production this morning! At Chapter Arts Centre this week, Penblwydd Poenus Pete is full of laughs and chaos from start to finish.

With an audience full of incredibly excited school children, the studio at Chapter has been transformed into a family home and we are soon welcomed in to their lives. The initial introduction of hyperactive feline, Cadi, has the audience intrigued from the first dimming of the lights and the mess and family chaos soon unravels. When Dad decides he doesn’t want a fuss for his birthday, Mum and the twins do exactly that… Nothing… Of course, Pete is furious and with his feline sidekick, the peace is soon shattered with hilarious results!

Full of giggles, walking the plank, a huge mess and even a cream pie to the face… This production is pitched brilliantly to it’s family audience! The cast bounce off each other brilliantly, replicating the dynamics of any loving everyday family, and Meilir Rhys Williams portrayed Cadi with brilliant character, leaping and prowling around the set and purring in his sleep!

Even as a very basic Welsh Learner, I was definitely able to understand the gist of the story: much to my delight! A fun filled production for all the family, a real feel good performance from the creatives at Theatr Iolo once again: Llongyfarchiadau a diolch pawb!

Penblwydd Poenus Pete plays at Chapter Arts Centre this week until the 12th July and continues on it’s tour into August. For full dates and to book tickets, check out the Theatr Iolo website.

The demon barber of Fleet Street

The biggest open air festival in Wales,
Everyman is back this summer and they weren’t going to let a teeny bit of rain get in the way of their performance in the beautiful Sophia Gardens. Tonight was the turn of the first show of the festival, and Sweeney Todd was brought to life on the outdoor stage…

Now unfortunately Johnny Depp wasn’t involved this time, but this production of Sweeney Todd is nothing to be sniffed at. The audience are instantly catapulted back in time to Victorian England, and directly in to a murder investigation complete with modern day high-vis emergency service jackets and sirens! The demon barber is focused solely on revenge after wrongful exile and the loss of his wife and daughter, and using his talents, he and pie maker, Mrs Lovett concoct a evil yet brilliant business plan, allowing nobody to stand in their way!

Awash with songs, throat slitting and a brilliant set utilising the fading natural light at sunset, the production was cleverly created from start to finish. Brilliant performances from all involved, especially from Joan Hocter as Mrs Lovett, whose vocal talent proved itself with a deliciously witty accent throughout, and brilliant comic timing !

Full of gore and chaotic madness, with a touch of meat pies (no longer the worst pies in London…), the production is completely apt for the outdoor setting, with a little drizzle really adding to the grungy Fleet Street. There may be no place like London… But Everyman have done a brilliant job of showcasing the ever talented and incredible Cardiff!

Sweeney Todd continues until Saturday 12th July. Tickets are on sale for the show Everyman festival here and you can read my preview of the festival programme here

Lest we forget

100 years on and the emotions are still there underneath the surface from World War 1. And as part of the centenary year: events, productions and exhibitions are popping up all over the UK, each as a reminder of the great losses to each of the nations involved in the brutality of war.

This month saw the arrival of the National Theatre’s triumphant War Horse in Cardiff and it definitely did not fail to impress! Gracing the stage of the Wales Millennium Centre with it’s presence, the tale of Albert and Joey’s journey to the battlefield was beautifully portrayed and the incredible skill behind the puppetry and movement had the audience gripped from the opening bars of the score. As cliche as it sounds, the puppeteers simply faded in to the darkness, and the skill of the performers left me in awe.

Brought to life from the popular children’s book by Michael Morpugo, this is a tale focused on family, bravery and determination which never blames one side or the other or glorifies war. An emotional and incredible productional; finished off with a well deserved standing ovation from a sold out auditorium! It really was a wow moment, looking around to see everyone on their feet from school children to war veterans, absolutely amazing! (Sorry, I’ll stop being soppy now…)

Also, in South Wales at the moment is the latest site specific exploration from National Theatre Wales: Mametz. This time round, the location of choice is the beautifully scenic Great Llancayo Wood in Usk, Monmouthshire where the audience is transported to the Somme and the Battle of Mametz Wood. Concentrating on the 38th (Welsh) Division who lost 4,000 men, the audience is soon thrown into the action as we are lead through a trench on an ‘experience tour’ and taken back in time to relive history.

An emotional journey, as we enter the hearts of the soldiers and their families back home, seeing both sides of the battle from a very personal perspective, especially when the audience too are sent over the top and into No Mans Land… concentrating less on the action but more on the men as people: sons, fathers, husbands… Highlighted by the haunting final scenes where large photographs drape the floor and the trees of the forest. The scale of the site itself is simply incredible, and the gripping narrative from Owen Sheers, reignites the memories of those young men lost at war. It was really refreshing to see such a young cast taking on such a challenging subject matter and there were some incredible performances from all involved. National Theatre Wales have produced a mesmerising and moving commemorative production: creating an immersive experience rather than your standard night at the theatre!

Two incredible productions, both showcasing brilliant storytelling and staging and proving once again, that those who were lost at war will never be forgotten.

War Horse continues it’s run at the Wales Millennium Centre until the 19th July, while Mametz continues amongst beautiful scenery come rain or shine until the 5th July. Tickets for both available from the Centre. Two performances not to be missed this year!

‘All the world’s a stage…

…and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.’

As You Like It may not be one of Shakespeare’s most popular or well known plays, but this comedy brought to life by Taking Flight Theatre company last night in Cardiff was full of laughter and excellent performances, and in my case, a very large dose of hayfever!

The venue? The beautiful Thompson Park in Canton where the promenade performance took us through the forest, up hills and all over the place really as we travelled along with the characters and the narrative. Taking Flight are a company which creates productions including both those with disabilities and those without, and the performance started with Hijinx Academy as part of the ensemble as the audience were encouraged to roll up and give it a go at the fairground, with fortune telling, a coconut shy, the whole experience!

The tale of As You Like It is full of romance, exile, fighting and comic timing, and there was never a dull moment, sometimes not knowing where to look as actors appeared in trees, over the hills, etc! The narrative itself was truly brought to life by a brilliant cast: with some fantastic facial expressions and reactions from the two cousins Rosalind and Celia (Alison Halstead and Lizzie Rogan)!

It was especially great how the BSL interpreter (Sami Thorpe) was included in the scenes, and the off the cuff moments where the cast embraced the company of the audience and those who just happened to be in the park were hilarious! A couple painting the scenery were shooed along so the rocks could be used by the actors and a gentleman trying to nap under the trees, quickly realised he’d chosen the wrong spot!

Although it could have maybe been cut a tiny bit, and the narrative proved a little wordy at times, the open air experience went down a storm with the audience. The scenery and performances combined created an evening full of laughter and good fun; Taking Flight proving their worth and really injecting their own personality in to Shakespeare’s writing!

As you like it continues to tour, next stop, Merthyr! Check out the Taking Flight website for more information!

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.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous: Everyman are back!

Wales’ biggest open-air theatre festival is back again this year and is heading to Sophia Gardens, Cardiff next month from 4th July – 2nd August.  The Everyman Open Air Theatre Festival has a program full of delicious entertainment for 2014, ready to entertain thousands of audience members, bigger and bolder than ever before.

Take a trip to the barbers with the witty and bloody musical, Sweeney Todd (4-12 July) or join Blackadder and Baldrick in three episodes from Blackadder II (15-21 July).  Watch Kate and Petruchio’s relationship from a new perspective in Shakespeare’s outrageous romantic-comedy, The Taming of the Shrew (25 July-2 August) or swim deep under the sea with Ariel and friends in Disney’s The Little Mermaid (26 July-2 August).  All full of magic, drama and a slice of madness, it’s set to be a real highlight of the summer theatre season for audiences young and old.

All seating for the festival is reserved and under cover, so come rain or shine, the show must go on, as we all know the unpredictable nature of a British summer!  Situated just outside the heart of the city centre, the festival is easily accessible by all modes of transport and with the brilliant team of Everyman volunteers on hand to help, there will definitely be a crew of friendly faces waiting for you!

A whole new world lies just off the main road and you’re invited to be a part of it: Sure to be full of intrigue, excitement and brilliant theatre, the Everyman Open Air Festival is one not to be missed this summer!

Reviews to follow very soon. For more information and to book tickets online, go to the Everyman website or alternatively ring the box office on 03336 663366 for ticket prices from just £7.  Follow @everymanCDF and @everymanfest for more frequent updates or like Everyman Festival on Facebook.