A Good Clean Heart - James Ifan and Dorian Simpson 2        (credit Pallasca Photography)

A Good Clean Heart

Porters is fast becoming one of my favourite haunts in Cardiff, not least because the wine is good! But the edge above the other bars in town? The brilliantly tucked away pub theatre, The Other Room whose opening season has definitely not failed to amuse, shock and entertain thoroughly: each production bringing something brand new to the space.  The third in the aptly titled Life in Close Up season, Alun Saunders’ A Good Clean Heart is refreshingly touching and a brilliant tale of loyalty, family and the division between those geographically closest to us.

An entirely bilingual production, the narrative revolves around two brothers separated through the fostering system at a young age.  Older brother Jay ends up back with his biological mother in a council flat in London, recently released from a short stint in prison, whereas Kevin is scooped up by adopted parents when he’s too young to remember and has grown up in Wales under the name of Hefin. The two spontaneously meet again after the revelations on Hefin’s hangover induced 18th birthday, where his parents reveal that his older brother has been trying to contact him, and that he actually could be… English.

The events take place in one evening, beginning with an hilarious, awkward meeting at Victoria Coach station (25p for a Chomp?!) where it is clear that life’s dealer has issued each of the pair a very different set of cards, and ending in a much darker situation than the Welsh wannabe rugby player is used to. Alun Saunders’ script is touching, humorous and the intimate space allows audience members to fall in to the bilingual and bi-cultural world that the two young men have found themselves a part of.

The two actors bounce off each other brilliantly: their loyalty and love made even more prominent through thinking in different languages and the barriers between their lives.  Huge kudos has to go to the creative and tech team for injecting a refreshing modern design, taking us from the playground of the boys lost childhood, to Victoria Coach station to a drearily wallpapered flat, as well as keeping on top of the surtitles throughout.

As a wannabe Welshie, I left The Other Room with a huge sense of hiraeth and pride for the arts scene in Wales.  The combined brilliance of the direction, the script and the performances created a purely touching, thought provoking and honest production.

Ladies and gentlemen, cowgirls and cowboys…!

A family show with a difference, this Wild West treat from West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Egg, MAC Belfast and Theatr Iolo showcased something for everyone. On the Welsh leg of its tour, Little Sure Shot took over the Richard Burton Theatre this week at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

The story of Annie Oakley is one not many people are familiar with, but this brilliant story telling takes us on the journey with frightened and alone young Annie who has lost her father, to the standing ovations for the shooting star of the show. The Moses family are experiencing some bad times, and it is down to Annie’s shooting talent and big dreams which take her around the country and show the world that girls have just as much hard work and oomph behind them as any boy! Cleverly switching tone between scenes, the cast aptly move between light hearted clowning, country dance moves and touching solo moments highlighted by a stunning lighting design.

Verity Clark is brilliant as the title role and the ensemble of actor-musicians work seamlessly to entwine dancing, comic timing and song amongst the well written script. Set against a beautiful and cleverly designed stage and combined with a brilliant soundtrack from Lucy Rivers, this musical retelling is enchanting, good fun and full of the soul of the Wild West. The voices of the ensemble are enough to brighten any day and the

A brilliant tale full of determination, heart and spirit: Little Sure Shot is a heart warming and gutsy performance which has something for cowboys and cowgirls of any age! One to watch out for, for definite!

This is my box…

and this is my stick. Ordinary objects to you and I, but for this forty minutes they could be anything you dreamed they could be. Theatr Iolo are back with another delight of a production as Boxy and Sticky take over Chapter’s studio this Easter. 

Full of mischief and charm the pair take to the beautifully lit set, ready to take on an audience full of three to five year olds and their parents as their imagination is let loose. Boxy emerges from his box after getting himself well and truly stuck, whilst Sticky uses her newly found stick to turn Boxy into a variety of characters; ranging from a monkey to a squashed tomato! Creating a chortling, giggling response from the younger audience members, the two performers worked effortlessly together, mimicking each other’s actions and words to create a whole new world of fun.

Backed by a wonderfully calming soundtrack and design, director Sarah Argent has created yet another diamond theatre experience, mesmerising and entertaining not only the little ones but also the more grown up, not so little members of the audience! Chortling and laughter really is infectious and this show is a charming and mischievous treat not to missed out on!

Boxy and Sticky plays at Chapter Arts Centre this week: head to their website here for tickets and more details.

The dying of today…

Being the bearer of bad news and receiving bad news are not great from either perspective, in fact sometimes you have to just rip the band aid off and give in to the inevitable.  The Other Room’s latest venture revolves around this relationship in Howard Barker’s play The Dying of Today and audience members are transported in to a barber shop with a mirror side view for an intense 70 minutes. 

Barker’s play revolves around Ancient Greek historian Thucydides’ report of the battle between the Athenian fleet and the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War nearly 2,500 years ago.  Examining the moments that you deliver unfortunate news, the ones where you contemplate the worst and how news spreads like wild fire through communities. This has been brought in to the 21st Century with a bang under Barker’s writing and Kate Wasserberg’s direction, and the two performers bounce off each other intensely throughout, throwing the negativity around the space through their gaze and actions.  One charismatic traveller finds himself in the barbers chair, and takes it upon himself to deliver the devastating news, resulting in emotive outbursts and chilling observations from the two men as their guards break down and pure devastation breaks through the cold, hard exterior. 

 Incredible compelling performances which ended in a chilling scene with a beautiful soundtrack as the lone barber attempts to return to a new state of reality.  The Other Room was brought to life, and once again succeeded in transporting its intimate audience to another place, before releasing them back in to the bustling atmosphere of Porter’s bar.   A gripping and fast paced production not to be missed and now all we can do is wait and see what the third production in the ‘Life in Close Up’ season has in store! 

The Dying of Today runs until the 11th April, for tickets and more information: www.otherroomtheatre.com

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A night in Llanllai is never dull

No family event ever goes without a hitch, especially not where The Harri-Parri’s are concerned! And of course, they were never going to let the lovely Anni get married without putting on a do: they always put on a wonderful spread and of course, the whole village is invited! The Harri-Parri’s: The Big Day see’s the return of some of our favourites from The Leaving Do as well as a few new faces too. 

Anni is bringing her husband-to-be home to Llanllai to meet the family for the first time, praying that all will run smoothly… Greeted by ex-boyfriends, a traditional welsh sing song and pineapple fluff: it soon becomes clear that beanie wearing, Manchester born and bred, fiancé Ben might be in for a little bit of a shock! 

With wedding preparations in full swing in a village where everyone knows your name, it’s time for full introductions and to fine tune the smaller details for the upcoming big day! The bride and groom are flying on the wings of curry, and paired with a clever and witty script, each character is given full opportunity to shine and connect with their guests, even the ones which they’d rather not have turned up!

Full to the brim with some classic dance moves, brilliant songs and belly laughs, you would be as bonkers as they are to miss out on this show! A hilarious and incredibly, heart warming creation from Mai oh Mai productions

Next stop is Pontardawe! Keep an eye on twitter: @TheHarri_Parris for your invite to visit the Harri Parri’s household!

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

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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!