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If only Rosa could do magic

Greeted by an audience of giggling and screaming families, a vision in pink cycled on to the studio stage at Chapter Arts Centre to enchant, amuse and entertain this half term! Presented by Theatr Iolo and brought to Cardiff following her success at the Imaginate festival by Norwegian performer Katja Brita Lindeberg, If only Rosa could do magic is full of charm and laughter!

Rosa has everything a little girl could ask for: beautiful pink dresses, a crown fit for a princess, lovely pink toys, a pink bicycle and of course, a wand. But her parents are always busy or away with work, and she has no friends to share her lovely things with so she creates her own world of Princesses and frogs and peppers which turn into fathers with a bit of help, hard work and a few magic words. With some very helpful audience participation, Rosa creates the world of her dreams but maybe needs to work on walking in heels… don’t worry Rosa, it happens to the best of us!

Katja has the audience involved from the word go and has a brilliant stage presence as she shows off her toys and tries to bring a little magic and sparkle into her life. One dad from the front row made a brilliant and endearing attempt to become the King and Father she hoped for so much and the audience rendition of ‘Twinkle Winkle’ to send Rosa to sleep was beautiful to listen to after laughing so much.

A pure afternoon delight, with an enchanting performance from Rosa herself, who had audience members big and small in fits of laughter! Full of charm and sparkle, Katja Brita Lindeberg is one to watch out for in the future for sure!

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.

2014: The favourites and highlights

Wow what a year for theatre! 2014 has flown by in a complete blur and according to my calculations and well used diary, I have seen 121 productions in the past 365 days…making my top ten incredibly difficult this time round!

I have basically spent the majority of my year inside a theatre having worked for five different companies in one capacity or another and spending my spare time checking out what Cardiff and the surrounding area have to offer, as well as a wonderful Fringe filled summer and a few trips to the Big Smoke!

I’ve followed soldiers over the top of a trench in Usk, watched stand up comedy in a pub basement, and watched circus performers whilst eating my dinner… it’s been a pretty great year for theatre so thank you 2014! Here are some of my favourites: my top ten of the year, some which made an impression, made me cry or made me cackle with laughter and all of which you should all look out for if they ever tour again!

Maudies Rooms: Roar Ensemble in co-production with Sherman Cymru
An incredibly enchanting and touching production from start to finish, with wonderful performances allowing the audience to interact with the weird and wonderful characters of the past.

Lungs: Paines Plough
An honest, heartfelt and witty production which had the audience laughing and crying as one. My one standing ovation of the Fringe festival!

Once: Phoenix Theatre, London
A subtle and beautiful Irish folk tale of a musical which left me an emotional wreck, proving that not every musical needs jazz hands and a flash dance routine.

Travesti: Unbound Theatre Company
Incredibly thought provoking and heartfelt verbatim theatre which knocked me sideways slightly – embracing a subject matter which others have previously shied away from.

Gwyn: Cwmni Fran Wen
Full of giggles, bright colours and enchantment against a truly gorgeous set design: a true reminder of how magic children’s theatre can be!

Mametz: National Theatre Wales
An immersive and emotional journey back in history, entering the hearts and memories of those lost at war in a beautiful setting in the middle of Usk.

Bianco: Nofit State Circus
A crazy concoction of beauty, chaos and amazing skill: Bianco left me in complete awe and wanting to watch again and again!

Dark Vanilla Jungle: Supporting Walls
Full of power and passion: A completely on it and bare faced performance from Gemma Whelan, portraying the highs and lows of one girls life.

A Streetcar Named Desire: Young Vic (via NT Live)
A gripping and tragic portrayal of the classic Tennesse Williams play with incredible performances from all cast members: brought to cinemas nationwide via the magic of NT Live.

And last but by no means least…. Tiger: Barrowland Ballet
A beautifully unconventional piece of dance and physical theatre which left my mouth in a wow kinda shape at this years Fringe.

And there you have it, my favourites of the past year for you all.  I’ve already started my wish list for next year and I can not wait to see what else is round the corner.  The theatre and arts scene in Cardiff is going from strength to strength, and it’ll be great to see what The Other Room has to offer, as well as the exciting programmes lined up for the Sherman, the Centre and National Theatre Wales amongst many others.

Happy new year all and I will see you in 2015!

There once was an Ugly Duckling…

Taking over the Sherman theatre’s studio space this Christmas, is the gorgeous tale of The Ugly Duckling brought to audiences age 3 – 6 courtesy of Sherman Cymru and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru.

The story of a young duckling who doesn’t fit in in his nest and goes on a search to find himself, and his friends, begins with a warm Croeso from the three actors, instantly engaging the attention of even the grizzliest toddler. The other ducklings in his nest take great joy in making sure he knows he is different, as they can both quack and he can only honk!

As the duckling travels to find himself and some real friends, he comes across a hilarious hen who shows us how easy it is to lay an egg, a cat who doesn’t understand why everyone can not pounce and meow like him and a short sighted hunting dog who thankfully has no interest in making the duckling his dinner. The traditional story conveys all of the key themes that any good festive tale should, brilliant directed by Sara Lloyd and performed with total commitment and stunning energy.
The leaves swirl through the sky, snow falls and the stars shine brightly, as the seasons come and go illuminating the simple yet well used set, enchanting audience members young and young at heart with a stunning lighting design. Incorporating musical instruments and song in to the tale, the musical score is charming and full of joy – evoking cries of ‘wow it’s a harp!’ from the musicians of tomorrow in the front row!

A beautiful narrative brought to life in an incredible fashion full of delight, friendship and music, one not to miss this Christmas, to escape your standard Christmas carols and Santa Claus’.

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Arabian Nights

Audiences are being transported on to sandy streets and magical lands this Christmas, as Arabian Nights takes over the Sherman Theatre’s main stage awash with music, laughter and a touch of romance.

Shahrazad has a gift for telling stories: wonderful tales of thieves, mythical creatures and jealous brothers… and and her younger sister loves to hear them.  But when the King’s wife is unfaithful, he sentences her to death, and the lives of those in the kingdom are changed for good.  The King swears to marry for only one day, marrying a different girl each night and having her executing her the following morning.  Shahrazad decides to try and change his ways and win the King’s heart, determined to save her village.

As she tells tale after tale, in order to delay her execution, we are introduced to a delightful array of characters from Ali Baba to Sinibad the Sailor… and the actor musicians work seamlessly to bring each story to life.  The talented, versatile cast bounce off each other, and work incredibly as an ensemble lead by on stage Musical Director and pianist, Gareth Wyn Griffiths.

The colourful performances are emphasised by a stunning set, as sand and snakes lace the floor, mountains and caves come to life, and light bulbs sway in the wind.  Audience members young and old were intrigued and enchanted from the first chords of the piano, and the clever twists in the stories were vividly brought to life.

Wonderful, entertaining and charming storytelling, full of magic and mystery, enhanced by a beautiful set – Arabian Nights is a beautiful Christmas treat this year with the same values of family, love and a happy ending.

Arabian Nights runs until December 31st at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.  For tickets and more information, click here.

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.