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.

Emoticons and other modern things

Full of sex, comedy and a creme egg or two: This week see’s Wendy Hoose take over the Sherman’s studio to kick start an autumn season of comedy, dance and theatre billed for Cardiff audiences.

Laura and Jake have been messaging online, but when they arrange to meet up one night for a one night stand: things don’t exactly go as planned despite Jakes earlier claim that he likes his ladies legless on a Saturday night. Laura, who drinks her red wine from the fridge, and Jake, who is seemingly more concerned with how he can help Lara Croft get off the island, both have very different ideas on relationships and the night is a real mix of flirting, bickering and flying insults.

The production is crude and full of laughter, emphasised by the sarcastic deadpan audio description, the BSL interpreter who stops for a creme egg mid-performance and the true Paisely dialect style captions and emoticons! These extras are normally only seen or heard in specific theatre performances but they play a vital part of the humour resulting in brilliantly put together performance.

One not to miss, that will have you laughing when in any other circumstance you probably shouldn’t!

Wendy Hoose continues it’s run at the Sherman Theatre until Saturday. Tickets available here.

A whole lot of #tweetsizereview’s

A little collaboration for you all:

Show 1 of @edfringe: @DirtyProtest’s Last Christmas & what a cracker it was! Full of laughter & poignant storytelling! #tweetsizedreview

Really enjoyed @20sumthin’s 6: A new musical last night: brilliant lyrics, live band and clever staging @theSpaceUK! #tweetsizereview

Great to see a welsh language production @edfringe, Diolch yn fawr @CwmniFranWen, great performances in Dim Diolch! #tweetsizereview

Check out the thought provoking performance of Soldier Box @OneShotTheatre if you can: v.interesting & stylish production! #tweetsizereview

Wow. Tiger from @Barrowlballet was beautifully unconventional with a large dose of magic and talent #mustsee #tweetsizereview

Very much enjoyed my @ThePaperBirds double bill today: Blind and Broke both shows to see in the final week of @edfringe! #tweetsizereview

Really enjoyed the immersive & relevant production of Broke: flying chocolate bars would def be my cuppa tea! #tweetsizereview @ThePaperBirds

Amazing beat-boxing from Grace Savage in #Blind; something completely different, loved the blindfolded part! #tweetsizereview @ThePaperBirds

Brilliant busker riff off in @Group64’s Mind the Gap; catch them at @SpaceV45! #tweetsizereview #edfringe

Fantastic performances from the cast of Darkle @SurgeonsCourtyd tonight: especially Max! (@DarkleDog) #tweetsizereview

Loved @TheOutbackGames @SpaceV45 earlier: full of fun, smiles and charming music! Great start to the day! #tweetsizereview

Wow #LungsPlay: incredibly beautiful whirlwind of a script with two perfect performances to match #tweetsizereview @painesplough

Gritty, honest and well casted: really enjoyed #LaceUp @trigpoint13 this evening. Catch it @theSpaceUK! #tweetsizereview

Giggles galore in Last Chance Romance from @KitschnSync1 last night: all the single ladies put your hands up! @ZOOvenues #tweetsizereview

Brilliant range of characters brought to life by @Red_Belly_Black in Smoking Ban! Check it out @theSpaceUK #SurgeonsHall! #tweetsizereview

Cleverly staged and brilliant performances in The House of Bernarda Alba from @FourthMonkeyTC @theSpaceUK last night #tweetsizereview

Loved @Jenjencollier‘s show on the partybus: diolch for the fab dose of welshness, best comedy act I’ve seen @edfringe #tweetsizereview

Bottleneck from @_HighTide_ at @FollowTheCow: incredible example of a 1 man show, emotive, energetic, bang on throughout! #tweetsizereview

Taken aback by #TRAVESTIplay from @unbound_theatre: real, thought provoking verbatim theatre. Check it out @edfringe! #tweetsizereview

Loved @WeWereKingsPlay last night: a witty & engaging production from a brilliant team resulting in laughter & almost tears!#tweetsizereview

Check out the fab Piece of Paper Paradox from @bluemoon_tc: great performances! Final show today @SurgeonsCourtyd! #tweetsizereview

Beautiful visual storytelling in Feral from @TortoiseinaNut! Hooked audience from the moment the pen touched the page! #tweetsizereview

Feeling the urge to watch Pitch Perfect or sing constantly after a fab hour with @loveaccidentals! So much fun @theSpaceUK #tweetsizereview (The Accidentals: 99 Problems but a pitch ain’t one)

Lunchtime giggles galore from @IAmPippaEvans @freefringefest – she’s not posh! Def a show for @RealBrianConley! #tweetsizereview

Fab storytelling from @mulberrytheatre in The Domino Effect @theSpaceUK earlier today: a creative mix of raw-ness & love! #tweetsizereview

Brilliant, honest performance from @pluenflake in Llais/Voice @theSpaceUK – loved the live music too! Check it out! #tweetsizereview

Great show @TomDeaconComedy @the3sistersbar: big fan of anyone who will risk their life for a greggs pasty! @freefringefest #tweetsizereview

Loved the beautiful & funny Greatest Liar in All the World @ThePleasance from the fab @FamiliaDeLaNoch – One to watch! #tweetsizereview

Brilliant performance of Guttermouth from the Richard Burton co. @venue13 to start the day: incredibly written & devised! #tweetsizereview

Beautiful physical theatre from @ManicChord today: v.cleverly choreographed and performed! Check it out @bedlamtheatre #tweetsizereview (Don’t Let Go)

Loved @LaurenceOwen’s new & improved disney hit song in todays @_theratpack @the3sistersbar: evil queen is the way to go! #tweetsizereview

Freaking LOVED @LordsofStrut @AssemblyFest tonight! Go see! #chaos #tweetsizereview

Had brilliant fun @FourthMonkeyTC’s Treasure Island:full of giggles, songs & a treasure hunt! Def one to watch @theSpaceUK! #tweetsizereview

Hilarious toe tapping performance from @NowYouKnow14’s I love you, you’re perfect, now change! Check it out @theSpaceUK! #tweetsizedreview

Brilliant immersive lunchtime entertainment from @NotTooTame’s Early Doors! Join the fun at the Jinglin’ Geordie! #tweetsizedreview

Loved @BudJamesJones #hiraethshow @FollowTheCow – honesty, songs & welsh cakes: a truly lush performance! Diolch yn fawr! #tweetsizereview

Really enjoyed the physical theatre & ensemble elements of @HumanZooTheatre’s chaotic #TheHive earlier! #tweetsizereview

Before Us @FollowTheCow – Absolutely hilarious and beyond bizarre! Proper feel good mood now thanks to @StuartBowden! #tweetsizereview

Why is life like sparrows? was beyond bonkers and full of giggles, even when I got ejected! @venue13 #tweetsizereview

Laughter, tears and applause: Fringe highlights 2014

And that’s it, all over for another year… I am home, fed, watered and having slept for 12 hours: I’m definitely ready to be unbored again!

The Fringe festival flew by this year, and amidst the ‘I’ll just go for one drink’ nights out, the power-naps and the busy box office shifts, I managed to squeeze in exactly 50 shows! That’s right, 50! From stand up comedy on the top deck of a double decker bus, to a female accapella group agony aunt service, to an Australian musical in a Church hall, to a one man show based in a wheelie bin, I saw some incredible pieces of performance!

Although it’s incredibly difficult to narrow it down to one favourite, I’ve got it down to a top 5:

Lungs | Paines Plough:  No props, no set, no ensemble: just an incredible script, brought to life by two amazing performers. An honest, heartfelt and witty production which had the audience laughing and crying as one. My one standing ovation of the festival!

Tiger | Barrowland Ballet: A beautifully unconventional piece of dance and physical theatre which left my mouth in a Wow kinda shape. A magical production which was visually stunning with a huge dose of energy and talent!

Travesti | Unbound Theatre Company: Incredibly thought provoking and heartfelt verbatim theatre which knocked me sideways slightly: Female thoughts through male voices.  A very relevant, and brilliantly performed piece from Outbound Theatre Co.

Blind | Paper Birds: Something completely different but ultimately: amazing. Featuring beatboxing from the very talented Grace Savage in a fresh, creative and interesting take on finding your voice when the world keeps getting louder.

Bottleneck | High Tide Festival: A fantastic, fast paced yet emotive, one-man show which left me out of breath just watching. First class performance from James Cooney who is on the ball without as much as a blink out of place throughout.

As well as these, I had a fabulous time on the party bus with Jenny Collier in her hilarious, one hour stand up set (Diolch yn fawr!): definitely my favourite comedian of the Fringe! I also, loved the madness and the chaos of Lord of Strut for the second Fringe in a row and spending a fantastic lunchtime in the company of the Early Door‘s cast at the Jinglin’ Geordie. Fourth Monkey’s Treasure Island left me grinning and giggling away, as did Stuart Bowden’s performance in the beautifully bizarre Before Us Guttermouth was an incredible example of a one-man show and Feral was beautiful to watch as the puppetry was brought to life on stage. I managed to catch some great productions at Pleasance including The Greatest Liar in all the World which was wonderfully created and performed, and the engaging and thought provoking Broke from Paper Birds.  Back at theSpace hub, The Outback Games was full of fun and energy (I love a good musical!) and the funny yet moving We Were Kings, was beautifully performed and directed.

The Welsh companies really came in to their own this year, Dirty Protest’s Last Christmas was engaging and bang on the money, Llais/Voice was a brilliantly honest and raw performance, Hiraeth was fun, heartfelt and a total cwtch of a performance from non-actor Buddug, and Last Chance Romance was full of giggles and all the single ladies! There were brilliant reviews floating around for Land of the Dragon, The Future for Beginners and Wonders of the Universe as well, even though I sadly missed out on seeing them because there are just not enough hours in the day!

And that’s Edinburgh Fringe finished for another year: I was blindfolded, ejected from the theatre and joined by a pub full of people in singing the batman theme tune, I laughed, cried and held hands with strangers and sang… I had an absolute ball!