Always winter, never Christmas!

Christmas at the Sherman is always magical from your first steps into the foyer, and this year’s festive offering is a trip to one of the most magical places of all, Narnia! The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has taken over the main space and was welcomed by a packed audience for press night.

The story sees the four Pevensie siblings evacuated to a Professor’s house in the countryside, and immediately decide to explore the various rooms to keep themselves entertained. Lucy soon finds herself tumbling through an old wardrobe and into the snow-covered land of Narnia where talking animals are the norm, and the White Witch rules to ensure that it is always Winter but never Christmas – imagine that?!

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 11.55.37When the other siblings are forced to believe that such a place exists, the four children are thrown into the midst of the battle with Aslan; thanks to the beautiful set design based around the revolving stage, the audience are taken on the journey with the characters. The storyline is jam packed full of allies, sword fights and Turkish Delight but sometimes felt a little rushed, meaning we didn’t get a chance to connect directly with each individual.

The cast made up of actor-musicians are full of energy, and having the piano and Musical Director on stage really adds another dimension to the production, especially in his moment as a startled squirrel!  Various members of the cast take on the role of narrator as C. S. Lewis’ words are played out in front of us under O’Riordan’s direction, and brilliant performances in particular from Gwawr Loader as Lucy, and Keiron Self who interchanges between various roles.

Despite leaving the theatre feeling a little underwhelmed by the more subtle hints at magic, the majority of younger audience members seemed enthralled as the action unfolded, and this festive family show is full of catchy musical numbers and a stunning use of staging and lighting.  A festive trip to Narnia is definitely worthwhile for the whole family if you have a spare evening this holiday season, people of Cardiff!

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe plays at the Sherman until the 31st December.  Tickets and more info available here

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We’re all mad here

A trip to Wonderland was never going to be a normal night at the theatre, and as soon as The Other Room declared the house open, it was clear that sanity was not high on the agenda.  Ending the year with an alternative Christmas production, the team at TOR and Difficult Stage have created a hilarious slice of pub theatre in Alix in Wundergarten. 

Entering across the stage to get to our seats, the audience are instantly thrown in to a world where the weird and the wonderful are all part of the script! Alix is set in a cramped radio studio where a group of actors at various points in their careers have come together to record the classic, Alice in Wonderland.  It is soon very apparent that the director is not the only one with ideas of how the scene should play out and the initial calm of meet and greets, soon descends into chaos, reflecting the world Lewis Caroll created all those years ago down the rabbit hole. 

From 80s pop classics to Les Miserables references, and from a strange obsession with a Santa toy to name dropping and signing CDs for Grandma, this insight in to a radio recording session is truly bonkers. A curious and frantic production which still somehow manages to keep the audiences full attraction throughout the 100 minutes, with the cast doing a fabulous job of engaging the entire audience, as much as some may try to avoid the interaction!
The show made me cringe almost as much as I laughed and I spent the entire show dodging the eye line of the actors and trying to work out what was going on! Alix is a well directed and hilarious piece of theatre from the gang at Difficult Stage, which had the audience in stitches from their first step on a squeaky dog…!

Alix in Wundergarten plays at The Other Room until 19th December. For more info and tickets click here

I love you. Caru ti.

Pluen are back after the success of their debut Llais/Voice last year, this time with the beautiful and powerful Ti.Me which took over the Sherman’s studio space. Hitting the nail on the head with relationships everywhere, this production had me glued to the performers before the bass had even dropped. 

Devised between the Pluen team, the two actors and one musician in just two weeks, Ti.Me highlighted every girls attempt to lure a guy in a club, every guys attempt to dance with style and every couples everyday ups and downs across a four year relationship. A night club meet up, a trip to IKEA and the awkward talks about life: many of the audience left questioning whether someone had followed our own past relationships 

As both Heledd Gwynn and Alan Humphreys proved themselves to be incredibly committed and brilliant actors, the couples story came to life as they bounced off each other, fell in love and tried to hide secrets from their other half.  Switching between Welsh and English, as the two struggle to understand the other, the audience laughed and gulped in sync and despite not understanding every word, non-Welsh speakers were able to relate and enjoy just as much as the others as the chemistry drew the audience in to their lives. 
Brought to life by an incredible live soundscape and a traverse set up, Pluen have brought their personal experiences together as one and produced a punch in the stomach, rip of a daisy chain kind of night in a black box theatre. A bilingual treat of a performance with laughter, sparks of in sync magic, and utterly relatable characters. Da iawn pawb!

The lovely bunch at Pluen will be touring Ti.Me to Y Galeri, Caernarfon on 18th September and keep an eye on @CwmniPluen for more updates. 

Blud

My favourite small theatre space is back for a new season and what better way to kick off The Other Room’s autumn season than a play from brand new all female company, otherMother! Tucked away inside Porters, the space has been transformed in to a locker room ready for Blud: a piece of new writing from Kelly Jones, winner of the 2014 Wales Drama Award. 

Revolving around football rivalry and loyalty, Blud is full of sparks of magic, excellent one liners and a sense of desperation only fixed by the right pair of hands. We’re introduced to Rita, a painstakingly loyal football player and fan, and her younger sister Lou, innocently baring the weight of her family, split up by the system as children. 

As Lou is forced to grow up too quickly when she finds herself alone and vulnerable, Rita also has to face the realisation that being independent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as she waits for the back up of her Girls in the fight to defend her beloved Cotley.  Olivia Elsden has expert comic timing as the younger sibling and provides light hearted relief to a mostly dark narrative. Alongside a brilliant sound design, Blud shows a different angle to the typical family portrait and allows the characteristics any sibling can relate to, to bounce around the space.  Despite the narrative and ideas getting a little lost in translation at times, the two girls work brilliantly together and the direction from Anna Poole shows off the small space with statement performances.

A witty and dark production with committed and powerful performances from all involved. The female trio, otherMother are most definitely a company to look out for in the future if their first production of Blud is anything to go by, because as Queen Bey always says, who runs the world? 

Blud is playing at The Other Room at Porter’s until 18th September. Tickets can be bought online or follow otherMother on Twitter: @HeyOtherMother

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Edinburgh, you beauty!

That’s it, another fringe over for me, and although the magic and chaos may still be continuing up in beautiful Edinburgh, I’m back to work tomorrow and a major bout of the fringe blues have kicked in. Although I didn’t manage to spend the whole month up there, I did squeeze in over 20 shows around working the box office (because I’m basically a ninja…) Here’s a run down of my top five and some other highlights:

Key Change: Open Clasp Theatre. Northern Stage @ Summerhall.

An incredibly authentic and refreshing take on female prison life, put together brilliantly and portrayed by a first class set of performers. Moving, funny and a bit rough round the edges: Key Change powerfully sings out loud the voices of female prisoners stuck in the system. 

Every Brilliant Thing: Paines Plough. The Roundabout @ Summerhall

This show left me an emotional wreck, an incredible performance and moving narrative, which had the audience involved from their first seconds in their seats. An insightful and beautiful piece, highlighting depression and self awareness, and reminding us of the little wonderful things we’re surrounded by… Number 14: Bed

Party for One: Christina Bianco. Assembly George Square Gardens.

Hilarious. Christina Bianco is a genius, and despite being one of the first shows I saw, still makes me laugh hysterically when picturing a Ariana Grande song, sang in Julie Andrews voice… Spot on impressions, sung beautifully with a heart warming and relatable story to match. 

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing: Traverse Theatre. 

An intense and gripping performance, with a lot of grit and a lot of heart. I left the Traverse with my heart in my mouth and in awe of such an emotive and epic performance from Aoife Duffin.

Ross and Rachel. Assembly George Square Theatre. 

She’s his lobster, and Molly Vevers was completely on it in her portrayal of any couple which start off with their happy ever after planned for forever. Switching between both sides of the couple, a couple which are now seen as an item, the clever script is laced with references and full of emotion. 

I also loved The Solid life of Sugar Water at Pleasance Dome: a heartbreaking story, expertly handled, and Jenny say qua from Jenny Collier made me cackle with laughter at the Three Sisters. Echoes at the Gilded Balloon was a brave and insightful comparative piece and last years NSDF winners, Naughty Corner and their production of The Bastard Queen was gritty, funny and a brilliantly polished production. Shitfaced Shakespeare was hilarious as The Merchant of Venice took to the cheap prosecco and beer, and Man to Man was an epic performance from Maggie Bain, and well deserving of all the rave reviews. Our Teachers a Troll made for another fantastic, fun morning at the Paines Plough roundabout as audience members young and old cowered and laughed as one, whilst Flossy and Boo was a fabulous pick me up for a Monday, proper feel good fun for all the family! 

As always, I had an absolute ball and Edinburgh was full of magic, chaos  and the wonderful team that is the Space UK family. I would definitely recommend checking out any of the shows above if you’re lucky enough to be heading up to the Scottish capital or if these companies ever decide to tour! 



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It’s very nearly the best time of year again…

…this time tomorrow I’ll be back in beautiful Edinburgh, ready for round three of fringe chaos and I can not wait. Sorry for the recent silence, I’m not really sure where the year is going or how it is now August… but I’m currently packing the last few bits, in prep for 10 days of theatre, tickets, audiences and a few pints for good luck!

It really is impossible to describe the fringe atmosphere to anybody who hasn’t been… I would recommend it to anybody, avid theatre fanatic or not! There’s something incredibly reassuring about walking down the street, playing costume or real clothes with the person next to you, bumping in to someone you know from previous years, swigging from a Black Medicine takeaway cup and seeing up to five shows in one day.  Completely and utterly knackering but the best way to spend August, I guarantee you.

I’ve got my show wish list lined up, with ten days up there, I’m hoping to fit quite a few productions in around my shifts managing the box office of three venues. There are sure to be some familiar faces up there this summer too with a brilliant Welsh contingent as always… Sherman Cymru’s incredible Iphigenia in Splott, the Centre’s powerful production of Man to Man, Living Pictures’ endearing one man show Diary of a Madman, the chaos of Flossy and Boo’s Curiosity Shop and Torch Theatre’s well received Grav to name just a few!

I’m like a kid at Christmas, my rain mac, comfy shoes and hangover hiding sunnies are at the ready, and I’m super excited to see my SpaceUK family and get lost in the magic chaos of the fringe once more.

There’ll be some #tweetsizereviews coming your way over in the twittersphere so feel free to give me a follow @chaotickirstyy – Feel free to holla if you’re around and I’ll be doing my yearly round up when I return!

‘We can take it cos we’re tough, the lot of us’

‘But what’s going to happen when we can’t take it anymore?’

Even if the title doesn’t ring a bell, you have no knowledge of Greek mythology and you’ve never been to Cardiff before; this production is hugely relevant, honest and touching at it’s core. Gary Owen’s Iphigenia in Splott opened at the Sherman last week, aptly programmed to coincide with the results of the General Election.

Effie is the sort of girl you would avoid a run-in with if you could: abusive on the streets to fat women with fat children and riding the bus of unemployment in a midst of three day hangovers and cocktail pitchers (which are basically £15 worth of ice). Her life changes one night as she falls for a wounded soldier in The Great Western, ditches her friends and her no-hope boyfriend, and we follow her journey of love, anger and tragedy as the chapters of her life play out through her monologue. The sold out studio audibly gasps, laughs and sniffs away tears as Effie ignites the bleak and perfectly minimal set, and reminds us of the consequences hiding beneath the cuts and the politics of today’s Britain.

Sophie Melville is perfectly cast, making the audience fall in love with the volatile Effie and her story: the whole studio completely behind her from the first drop of her guard. She strides with confidence, and crumbles in despair as life spins it’s web under O’Riordan’s purposeful direction and an incredible, raw and on point script from Gary Owen.

One not to miss out on, and you’ll probably be hard pushed to get a ticket by this point but it’s most definitely worth begging your better half for a tenner if you have to.  An incredible, heart wrenching, kick in the gut back to the reality of austerity brought to life in a beautiful, yet bitter performance from the team at the Sherman.

Iphigenia in Splott plays at the Sherman until 21st May, before featuring in the British Council Showcase at the Pleasance King Dome, Edinburgh, from 24-30 August.