Pryd Mae’r Haf?

The Other Room yn nol am y blwyddyn newydd, gyda eu Tymor Fringe nhw! Kickstarted with a co-production from Theatr Genedlaethol a Criw Brwd, the cosy space in Porters is the perfect remedy away from the tywydd drycinog raging away outside! Pryd Mae’r Haf? see’s a group of three teenagers as they grow up and apart in Merthyr, o jôcs i ddadleuon.

We’re introduced to ffrindiau gorau, Christie and Luke, camping outside near their houses, taking the mick, ofn siarad â ferched… the usual! However, when Christie and Julie get closer, and relationships gyda eu teulu nhw deteriorate, Luke joins the army as a way to escape yr dre ac yr pobl sy’n byw yno. Proving the point that growing up isn’t hawdd trwy’r amser, and testing long term friendships, the performances from the three young actors take the audience on their rollercoaster ride with them.

While the stilted movements in between scenes can sometimes drag as the set moves from tent to bedroom, and the pace could be picked up a little at times, the story has been brilliantly translated and adapted to the Valleys yn Dde Cymru and the on stage relationships between the cast yn wych i wylio.

Fel dysgwr gymraeg, I decided to brave it without any translation help, despite the brilliant sibwrd app being available to any non-Welsh speakers or learners, and lost my way a little in the middle OND ro’n i’n nol gyda’r stori cyn y diwedd luckily!

Gyda perfformiadau cryf a stori diddorol iawn, Pryd Mae’r Haf yn sioe gwerth wylio a dw i’n edrych ymalen i weld beth sy’n nesaf o cwmni hwn!

Yn Ei Blodau

Based on Blodauwedd, Yn Ei Blodau is the first bilingual production a’r cwmni newydd, Criw Brwd, and has taken the latest slot in the Sherman’s play, pie and a pint performances; Get it while it’s hot.

A one woman show; this one is packed full of punches, chwerthin and relatable fury. As Katy Elis bring Fflur to life, mae’r stori unravels bouncing back and forth between Cymraeg a Saesneg as she brings the other characters alive one by one. Fflur yw athrawes, a fan of a cigarette a coffi, and her relationships with her parents, her partner and her students are all portrayed to the audience as her life takes turns she hadn’t bargained for.

Although some of the soundscape yn tipyn bach overpowering at times and the pace could be picked up a little, especially during the scenes cyntaf, the overall production value is high and Elis brings pure power and fury i’r ysgriffenu. Relatable throughout as Fflur goes from date nights, to clearing out a family members old home, to the lead up to extreme measures in pure Blodeuwedd fashion, for those familiar gyda’r stori Cymraeg.

Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg a dw i wedi mwynhau faint o geiriau, gallwn i deall i ddechrau (although there are surtitles throughout to double check)! Roedd ysgriffenu yn gwych a cwmni addawol yn bendant; edrych ymlaen i beth syn nesa!

Yn Ei Blodau runs at the Sherman until Saturday 23rd November. Follow @CriwBwrd for future updates.

Hela

For the third and final instalment of the Violence series at Cardiff’s one of a kind pub theatre, we are yet again taken to other dystopian scenes in a not too distant future. Hela, written by Mari Izzard, is a thrilling and fast paced, bilingual addition to the season, as the two hander leaves its audience thinking far longer than the 65 minute running time.

We discover Hugh (played by Gwydion Rhys), the son of the First Minister, tied up in what appears to be a basement overseen by a digital representation similar to Siri or Alexa, who fears he is being held hostage in a politically staged act. Enter Erin; an upbeat and dungaree clad young woman, who brings some humour to break up the space, as well as all of the questions. As the two bounce back and forth, one in English and one in Welsh, the language barrier is soon dismantled as translation tool Myfanwy helps not only any non Welsh speaking audience members, but also Hugh, to figure out Erin’s real motives behind her interrogation.

As it transpires, the basement is actually within Erin’s farmhouse, with walls covered in crime investigation evidence and CCTV screens, and she is seeking revenge from a previous encounter as the system appears to have failed her and her family. As the storyline hurtles towards its climax, the two actors work brilliantly with and against each other, Hugh becoming more Welsh and returning to his roots, while Erin (Lowri Izzard) spirals in to the English language as her emotions flare and the truth emerges.

With dim lighting and a haunting electronic score, the space becomes the scene (as with every production within The Other Room) as the audience are treated to a fly on the wall perspective. While the additional digital eye felt slightly unnecessary, the key to Hela is it’s bilingualism which sits at the heart of the writing and while it is able to comment on the importance of the language without being overbearing, it is also incredibly accessible for speakers of any level as the two languages sit side by side, complimenting the ebs and flow of the story itself.

Brilliantly written, beautifully creative in its bilingual nature and devastating it’s in reality and the short step away from current affairs: Hela is a well woven, TV crime drama style piece fuelled by emotion, revenge and tenacity. Definitely one not to be missed to end a promising yet pessimistic season at The Other Room.

Edrych ymlaen at beth sydd nesaf!

Hela runs at The Other Room until 24th November. For tickets and updates, check out @TORtheatre on Twitter.

The Story

Next up in the Violence series this autumn at Cardiff’s pub theatre The Other Room is another piece of new writing, The Story. Another dystopian and disorientating piece, this is one that leaves its audience reeling after 90 minutes of confinement and interrogation.

We are introduced to a woman waiting in an empty room, who we later find out to be X played by Siwan Morris, who has returned home following work as a volunteer the other side of the border and is keen to be reunited with her wife and stepchildren. Interviewed by Y, we watch as X is denied entry and inevitably her detainment is lengthy and sees her cell visited by one character after the other, some playing good cop and some bad cop. All played by Hannah McPake, these characters leave the audience unsure if we too are sucked in to the view of the faceless opposition, and McPake’s versatility shines through as she switches between light and dark with ease.

As X falters and panics, and her aims and actions whilst volunteering are questioned and revisited over and over, each new form of Y knows more and more about her life and the conversations overlap across days confined. The narrative itself is a little bit of a slow burner although this adds to the tension within the space, lightened only by Y’s wit which sparks humour amongst the audience. With no conclusive end to the narrative or the production, the discomfort sits long after the audience do as the reality of the situations in the current climate really touches a nerve.

Despite a haunting lighting design and soundscape, the video projections included proved a little distracting from the in person performances. With stellar performances and promising premise from an exciting new playwright , The Story will definitely leave you thinking and questioning long after the black out.

The Story plays at The Other Room until 27th October: follow @TORtheatre for more updates. Photo credit. Kirsten McTernan.

American Nightmare

After what seems to be a Cardiff wide summer holiday (probably while everyone hit up Edinburgh), The Other Room are back with their Autumn season, and yet again have created a whole new world tucked in to Porter’s wonderful pub theatre.  The first of their Violence series is American Nightmare, written by Matthew Bulgo and directed by Sara Lloyd, and intense is most definitely the word.

With a split set, and two very contrasting duos, this is very much a case of how the other half live and their cross over set in a dystopian America, in what appears to be the not so distant future.  We are presented with two characters in some form of bootcamp with electric implants in their arms to manage their stats; Daria who has taken the opportunity to escape from rummaging through rubbish to find a meal, and Elwood who appears to be a bit more clued up on what is lined up for him, as he ‘knows a guy’.  As the two strangers in the bunker compete in challenges in order to see who among the volunteers is mentally and physically fit enough to reach the initially unexplained final round over a series of weeks, meanwhile in a different time scale, the two seated above nurse dirty martini’s looking out over New York City, are trying to strike a deal to take advantage of the suave architect’s skills.

Thanks to brilliant lighting and video scenes across a very well designed space, it is clear that American society is a mess, with riots and dispute, and the stark reality especially plays across the minds of the two strangers.  Ruth Ollman gives a classy yet icy portrayal as she dances questions from the unsuspecting Englishman (Chris Gordon) and her dry wit makes the tension even more paramount, whilst Lowri Izzard plays Daria in an endearing yet bolshy fashion, and her on-stage chemistry with Gwydion Rhys adds to the discomfort in the situation.  As it becomes clear that the deal in the restaurant isn’t a straight forward job offer, and hysteria and desperation hits the bunker, the writing really hits home as the penny finally drops.

A not yet fully succinct piece, with some pacing issues and a lack of despair despite the stakes for the audience, however, American Nightmare will most certainly leave you with a lot to think about after a tense 90 minutes. With stellar performances, and a script to keep you guessing until the lights go down, this is one not to miss to kick-start those darker autumn nights.

American Nightmare plays at The Other Room until September 29th. For tickets and updates: @TORtheatre. Photo credit: Kirsten McTernan.

Blue

The theatre lull of January has been and gone, and Chippy Lane productions are back in Wales with their second production this week as BLUE has takes over the Seligman Theatre at Chapter.

Set in Carmarthenshire, this is a tale of family tragedy and a mother and her two children living trapped and haunted by their absent husband and father. We are introduced to polar opposites Huw, whose online gaming world substitutes human interaction, and his sister Elin, who has brought an old acquaintance back from the pub on a visit home from London, where she managed to escape the family home. As crossed wires ensue when it turns out Elin is not the only one who remembers her guest from school, it is clear that there is something not quite right behind the scenes, as their mother wills for her son to find a companion, and the subject of her husband is brushed under the carpet at an impromptu dinner party.

Gwydion Rhys as Huw, is very watchable as he attempts to get a word in against his mother and sister, and Sophie Melville plays the daughter who got away very well, with some scenes displaying very familiar family dynamics and chemistry for the audience to relate to. Despite the air of intrigue, the production lacks pace in the initial two thirds, and the storyline feels very compactly tied up in the final scenes, despite some larger revelations which potentially deserved a bit more chaos and emphasis to mirror their impact.

A trapped family, unexpected secrets and a guest with a new perspective; this is a promising, ambitious piece of new writing from Chippy Lane productions.

BLUE plays at Chapter until 16th February.

Cheer

The lights are up, the shoppers are out in force and the temperatures have dropped, it is indeed the most wonderful time of the year and yet again there’s an alternate Christmas offering at Cardiff’s pub theatre, The Other Room. This year, it’s the turn of young company, Big Loop and their production of Cheer.

Cheer revolves around a society, not entirely removed from our current one, where Christmas is for the wealthy and purchased via a license, while those who can’t afford one, make do with a drug to instigate that festive feeling. We meet two characters on either end of the spectrum, as Todd tries to buy a counterfeit license and is batted back and forth by Jules. Although it soon becomes clear that their experiences of this time of the year isn’t actually that different.

Another strong set design from the team as a standard office space turns into a grotto within the tucked away theatre, although the piece itself lacks pace and a clear message. As the drug kicks in, everyone can emphasise with the Christmas spirit which the two experience and the tinsel, and snowball fights really bring the piece to life. Cheer is a very ambitious production by an obviously young company behind it, as some of the choices lack maturity and clear purpose.

It will be interesting to see how this script and the company develops going forward, and while there are some moments to induce laughter and there are some interesting themes and ideas, the production doesn’t quite take off with all the extra festive baggage.

Cheer plays at The Other Room until December 15th