Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas comes to City Road

Dirty Protest: Office Christmas Party
Various locations on City Road, Cathays
1st December 2011

Personally I feel the first of December is a little too early to be getting festive, but then I am known to my friends as ‘The Grinch’. Luckily for me Dirty Protest’s Office Christmas Party wasn’t all tinsel and cheesy pop songs, instead they showcased five intriguing new plays that tried to dig deep and find what really bothers us during the holidays.

After being welcomed into Cathays Conservative Club with the offer of chocolates and party blowers the first event proceeded in front of a packed audience. A Cold Coming focussed on Carrie, a bar tender whose evening has been disturbed by the arrival of a corpse and a pizza. Before his death the deceased asked Carrie to find a priest to read his last rights. In an odd yet convincing mix between dark humour and high drama three very different priests arrive, but all are too late. The relationship between the three holy men, although perhaps a little clichéd, was very amusing as they argued and discussed the benefits of holding a zumba class in the church hall. Although the heart of this piece was a debate around religion and forgiveness it never became too heavy or self-important. This was definitely one of the strongest pieces of the evening and it perhaps would have been better at the end of the night to bring the audience together for an exciting and intriguing climax.

The audience were then split into three groups and I had the pleasure of being part of the Dirty Elves for the evening. We were taken to CF24 hairdressers where we met Sabrina and her staff as they closed up shop before their Christmas party and one member of staff is Foiled after being caught stealing. This piece relied a little too much on the ditzy blonde and outrageously camp hairdresser stereotypes but this wasn’t too much of a problem as there was a lot of humour and given such a short performance time it helped the audience to connect to the characters instantly. Unfortunately in theatre sometime lines are dropped and cues are missed but in this performance it happened a little too often to be completely forgiven, Dirty Protest like working to tight deadlines and perhaps this section could have benefitted from a little more rehearsal time.

Next up was a trip to Ambala Indian Restaurant, which somehow still managed to serve customers as the performance, Mistakes Have Been Made, took place. In this one man show, the audience became the employees listening to the smooth talking yet untrustworthy manager giving his Christmas speech. It soon becomes clear that all is not well with the company, the recession has hit but the employees are hitting harder. With wide spread disobedience and malicious prank playing going on throughout the company, the management are worried. This script was brilliantly witty with a strong undercurrent of violence that cumulated in two “employees” bundling the Boss into the toilets and giving him a bit of a beating. This was definitely the piece that worked best within the restrictions of the evening; the audience didn’t feel like invisible voyeurs in someone else’s space and the plot was small but perfectly formed.

Within the cosy and atmospheric setting of Milgi’s yurt there sat a sad and lonely santa, who wanted to reach out to the woman he loves before he literally disappears. Before I Go was a melancholy piece dealing again with the effects of the recession and in some ways talked about the restrictions we put on ourselves because we are worried about what society will think of us. This script was intriguing and I was really willing it to grab hold and not let go but it never quite reached its potential. I don’t know if it needed to be longer or just more developed but there was never a moment that I really felt empathy for the tragic character John. Having said that I do think it was well acted by Sion Pritchard and I really can’t put my finger on the missing link.

The last performance for my group took place in a bus stop on City Road. Inside, the slightly disturbed Mary is waiting for a bus. At first she seems like a bit of a social outcast, a bit different, one of those people who like to be on their own. Soon it becomes clear she is completely off her rocker as she plots The Demise of Photocopy Boy. Poor photocopy boy is going to pay the ultimate price for flirting with this black widow. This piece took us into the region of the surreal and although the plot was a little unbelievable as a real life situation, Hanna Jarman played the role of Mary so well that you could really imagine her dark side breaking through the socially awkward exterior.

Overall the night was enjoyable, but I felt there was something missing. Logistics were handled well considering the massive audience numbers and the need to move between five different venues. All the plays were daring but some didn’t quite hit the mark. In some ways the event felt like we were seeing five plays in the development or prototype stage rather than fully formed performances. Despite my criticism I do have to applaud Dirty Protest for their innovation, they really are bringing theatre to the masses with accessible plots and unconventional venues. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do next, what will they change and how will they grow? Keep your eyes open because I really think this company are going to hit Cardiff with something spectacular in the near future.   

Review by Chelsey Gillard

For more info on Dirty Protest click here.
For more reviews click here.
To see what the other Young Critics thought click here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Crazy Cwtch Cabaret hits Cardiff

Cwtch Cabaret
Wales Millenium Centre, Weston Studio
Stars: **** 

After the massive revival of cabaret acts at the Edinburgh Fringe over the last few years it was only a matter of time before the wild and wacky world of variety acts hit Cardiff. Thanks to Citrus Arts and Pontardawe Arts Centre some of the very best in cabaret are now touring Wales with an electric showcase of international talent.

Hosted by the wonderfully unpredictable Chris Lynam and the glamorous, charismatic Kate McKenzie the show was never dull, many of the acts were intense and rather serious but this zany duo always managed to pick up the pace. In between acts Chris would perform his unique brand of alternative comedy whilst Kate had her hands full keeping this little man, with big hair and an even bigger imagination in check. Occasionally Chris’ almost psychotic character would slip and even he couldn’t help but laugh along with the mayhem he created.

Kate and Chris

The first act to perform were the cheeky and charming Bella Kinetica with their retro four-wheel roller skate routine. The multi-award winning pair have been performing together for three years now and their hard work has obviously paid off – their tricks were impressive and well rehearsed. However this first routine was by far outdone by their return in the second act on the double trapeze – original and full of energy they worked hard for the audience’s admiring applause.


Carrying on with the circus skills theme was Finnish Tiina Tuomisto, with an amazing display of strength and control during her hand balancing act. Her first performance was tense yet enchanting, you couldn’t take your eyes off her but didn’t want to clap in case it distracted her and caused her to fall. Her second routine was a little more relaxed and upbeat, her hula-hoop display far exceeded anything you see on TV talent shows – a performer of true talent.


Offering up something different was Oxford educated, magical boffin Oliver Meech. His brain-bending tricks fused great showmanship, psychology and intricate sleight of hand in a way that could rival superstar Derren Brown. He performed with great enthusiasm and a boyish charm that allowed some of his slightly cheesy gags to be instantly forgiven.  I literally have no idea how he achieved some of his tricks and would love to see him in his own full-length show – great performer!

Duo Majestic


Rounding off the night of talent was Duo Majestic – a pair of finely-toned Polish hunks. The two were so in tune with each other as they performed incredible displays of strength and balance, it was simply mesmerising. Although the performance sometimes veered towards being homoerotic, I could completely forgive these two fine specimens of manhood. Just stunning, both in their physical appearance and their huge talents (no pun intended). Wow!


Overall it was a brilliant night out and I would urge everyone to get tickets for the next round in February, where a whole new set of acts will amaze and amuse. Cwtch Cabaret sum it up perfectly on their website “Free your mind, explore the extraordinary and enter a place where normal rules do not apply.”

For more info on all the acts and Cwtch Cabaret click here.

Review by Chelsey Gillard

Monday, 7 November 2011

New and Exciting Theatre in WMC’s Incubator Project

Icubator Project
Wales Millenium Centre Weston Studio

WMC’s Incubator Project offers a platform for artists and companies to develop and showcase new work in order to get feedback from industry professionals and the public. The centre offers rehearsal space, monetary grants, technical support and specialised tutoring to the companies involved. They welcome work in Welsh and English, in the mediums of theatre, dance, circus, site specific pieces and digital or online art. The WMC website describes the Project as “a test bed for creation, a hub for development and an opportunity to grow networks and receive feedback.” 

As part of the Weston Studio’s Autumn line up, four companies developed and performed their ideas.  The first company to take to the stage (or not quite in this case) was Notional Theatre who performed their piece Awkward Turtle Flips the Bird. This is thought to be the first time anyone has tried to stage a dictionary and in this case the language of choice was slang gestures.  Using many novel ideas like projection screens, voice-overs but no dialogue and putting the audience on the stage whilst the performers jumped around the seating area and raised platforms amongst the spectators made this piece very intriguing. Although I have no idea how this piece will develop or where it could find a home it was still very interesting and hilariously funny as the performers put everything into “flipping the bird” or demonstrating “the awkward turtle” alongside a whole menagerie of creatures mimed to point out a situation is somewhat awkward. I really enjoyed this performance and I hope to see it develop into something that could be staged at a festival. Keep an eye out.

Next up was 3D Theatre with their Welsh language play Wyneb Dros Dro (Temporary Road Surface). Although I am not a Welsh speaker it was clear to see that the piece explored family tensions at Christmas time. Dyl and Rhian spend the whole journey from North to South Wales bickering and even manage to switch the SatNav to speak German. When they arrive at Dyl’s mother’s house she has a surprise for them; her new toyboy! Even though much of the language went over my head this was a dynamically performed piece and I really wish I could have understood more. Originally performed at the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham the incubator project has given the company and the writer, Glenn Jones, the chance to develop the script and the characters and with a bit more work I think this could be a really funny slice of Welsh theatre.

Crashmat Collective took us out of the theatre into the rehearsal space which had been transformed into a restaurant, complete with climbing ropes, an aerial hoop and a trapeze bar for their performance Super Pseudo.  In their circus-theatre piece their aim was to blur the lines between audience and performer and explore the idea of private and public personas in the work place. Each performer was outstanding, showcasing a variety of circus tricks that blended seamlessly into the narrative. The music was well chosen and some of the lighting was just stunning. The company hopes to develop this idea into a full dining experience and I will be one of the first to put my name down for tickets. 

Last but not least we were taken to the foyer where Jessie Brett performed her dance piece Woolgatherer. At first Jessie blended into the audience sat on sofas in a circular arrangement, then suddenly had broken into a quirky and inventive dance. With a range of musical styles the dances were always endearing and fun. She bought a smile to everyone’s face. The idea is that this would be performed outside in a crowded space such as a bench in a shopping centre or at a festival. I can really imagine seeing Jessie perform in the Meadows in Edinburgh during the Fringe.  I really hope she can take this piece to a wider audience because she has a brilliant and heart-warming character. 

I wish all of the artists and companies who performed at Incubator the best of luck and I really hope to see their work at a later stage of development in the future.

Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard
For more info on the Incubator Project click here
For more reviews click here

NTW's Grand Opening for Year Two

The Village Social
Neath Little Theatre

As we enter “the dark half of the year” NTW invite all sorts of ghosts, ghouls and mythological beasts onto the stage in the first production of their new season.

In a small town hall, in the fictional village of Cae Bach the local town committee try to run the annual Autumn Social. The theme this year is “Autumn Glamour”, resulting in the tragic gold foil decorations proudly hung among tapestries and murals with the town’s name proudly embroidered upon them. 

From the moment the audience enter the front door they are part of the action, buying raffle tickets where first prize is rather odd and very gory. Invited in by foot stomping-ly good folk music that is later described as a passageway into other worlds, it is obvious that the night’s entertainment is going to be unforgettable.

The town committee, led by the brilliantly ‘David Brent’-esque Lawrence (Darren Lawrence), take to the stage to welcome us and apologise that tonight’s entertainment, spiritualist medium Madame Isis, is going to be late - her Sat-Nav has broken down and the spirits are not reliable guides. To keep things going super-keen local historian Lisa-Jên (Rebecca Harries) delights in telling the audience local myths and legends; including that of the stag god who with the original godly inhabitants of Wales danced and frolicked the night away until they were chased away to the underworld by human settlers. The stag’s antlers were trapped above ground and over time turned into a beautiful yew tree, that was until recently Cae Bach’s crowning glory, that is until it was mysteriously burned down. 

This unsettling undercurrent of violence continued as Madame Isis eventually shows up, only to reveal each and every member of the committee’s secret desires and bad habits; beautiful blonde Yvonne (Carys Eleri) has the most terrible smelling wind, her husband Dave (Oliver Wood) longs to dress up as a woman. Soon a pattern emerges and it is clear to see that the members of the committee each relate to one of the five myths told earlier. After a disagreement with the townsfolk Madame Isis disappears in true panto style in a puff of smoke, but not before she curses the town, saying the gods want Cae Bach back!

Descending into further madness and hilarious chaos, health and safety conscious Jean (Sue Rodrick) declares she is feeling funny - she grabs and brandishes a spear from the stage decorations and leaves the social, only to return with the dismembered head of next door’s dog proudly worn as a hat. This theme continues with each committee member being transformed with riotously funny results; Yvonne comes back as the stinky, sack wearing monk, Papa Begw; Dave shows up in a tutu and dances just like Little Missy who danced herself to death (or according to some beautifully non-politically correct historians Little Missy was actually an epileptic boy); and in an almost pornographic and highly amusing moment Lawerence and Lisa-Jên are revealed as secret lovers!

Unfortunately after all the hilarious and gruesome antics of the night, the production takes a sharp and jarring u-turn to become overly serious, Lawrence’s son Dion (Gwydion Rhys, who also had the stand out performance of the night as Madame Isis) tells us of his ill-fated mother and the evening ends in tragedy. In a weird way I hardly questioned the odd transformations and surreal goings on, yet when a brutal moral tale was force fed to the audience I was left a little confused. The rushed ending left me slightly disappointed; it didn’t fit in the otherwise brilliant production.

NTW gave every person in the hall a brilliant -if rather odd- night out, everyone laughed until their faces hurt, the memorable musical numbers will be hummed for days on end. On the night I attended it was a sell out, with the audience ranging from nosy old women to curious youngsters, and even if not every one of them understood the production in its entirety I truly believe each of them enjoyed it. Yet somehow it felt as if the production was just a warm-up for what’s to come. Having said that, if this is a harbinger of the year ahead it looks like NTW are going to blow last year’s productions out of the water and continue to bring new, exciting theatre to Wales.

Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard

Runs until 12th November at a number of venues

For venue specific booking information please visit:

For really great photos of the production :  

For more Reviews visit

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Innovative Welsh Company Take on the Notorious "Clockwork Orange" - interview with the cast and show review

Volcano: A Clockwork Orange
Taliesin Arts Centre
22nd October 2011

 Interview by Chelsey Gillard and Rachel Williams
photographs kindly supplied by Volcano

Tucked away on Swansea High Street, Volcano Theatre’s cast are rehearsing for their approaching UK tour of A Clockwork Orange. Volcano have made their home in an intriguing empty space – initially for their 1977 original production Volcano are now resident there long term. The space is misleading as its small front room with scattered sofas and chairs opens on to a bigger, industrial space where artists and actors are able to take over, to rehearse and develop new pieces.

Between preparations two Young Critics catch them for a quick chat.  

The cast: Paul Coldrick, Billy Rayner, Kyle Edward-Hubbard, Mairi Phillips and Alex Moran
The cast are a varied group, coming from a range of nationalities; ranging from a Scot in Mairi Phillips and a strong American accent in Billy Rayner. There also seems to be quite an age gap, between the innocent, fresh faces of Alex Moran and Kyle Edward-Hubbard to the more experienced world-wise cockney Paul Coldrick.

Our Chat with the Cast:

First things first, what five words would you use to describe the show?
After much debate between themselves and some questionable hyphens, five words just couldn’t quite cover all the ideas covered in the show. The resulting eight words the cast decided upon were: Energetic, Full-on, Weird, Challenging, Beautiful, Funny, Spooky.

With the recent riots in London A Clockwork Orange appears to have more validity in today’s society, unlike the 60’s when Burgess’ believed that the Soviet Union would take over Britain and everything in between. Do you think the story holds even more relevance for today’s audience?  
Of course and riots are mentioned but work actually started on the show well before the London riots so we don’t want the focus to be on that but the fact that this is a great adaptation of the book. The story is all about pushing boundaries, youth aggression, adult fear and the lack of police so there are definite parallels there. Anthony Burgess was certainly ahead of his time, he predicted that footballers would be paid ridiculous amounts and we would all use TVs, so there is definitely something to be taken from the text in today’s society.

Burgess invented a new language, Nadsat, that the teens in A Clockwork Orange speak. As it is a mix of English, Russian, Gypsy, Cockney rhyming slang and all sorts of other languages do you worry that the audience won’t understand you?
No, not at all. The Nadsat words carry a lot of weight and emotion so even though the exact meanings may not be understood, they still make sense in context. It’s quite similar to watching Shakespeare, at first the language can be difficult but you soon pick bits and pieces up and everything makes sense in its own way.

The role of Alex is split between each of you; please explain how that has worked?
Alex is the narrator of the story and so we have all become narrators. We are all different and have our own interpretation of the character so by sharing the role we can each bring something different to the stage. Alex is a complex mind and hopefully you get that through the way we have chosen to stage it. Also this suits Volcano’s ethic better, there is no hierarchy, no lead role, everyone is equal and everyone’s contribution counts.

Mairi, being the only woman in a play centred on ultraviolent, male behaviour do you think you had more of a challenge than the men?
No, not at all. It hasn’t really been an issue, most of the time gender isn’t even an issue, I’m just playing Alex. The only time I play a woman is as Alex’s mother, I’m not there to be a rape victim. I think it has been really challenging for all of us.

In the book, music is a very big part of Alex’s life, how has music influenced the production?
Actually the music is only just starting to come in. We wanted the scenes to have their own weight first, without having to rely on dramatic music. It’s there to add another dimension rather than overpower the scene.

Lastly, we asked Volcano what the inspiration was behind the picture of a young boy as the promotional material:
It shows a balance between innocence and aggression, both are looming at you from the picture. Although he is a young angelic looking boy there is a lot of action going on behind him. It’s open to a lot of different interpretations, perhaps it could be Alex as a young boy or maybe even Alex’s future child.

As a Theatre company Volcano are very much up for pushing boundaries and not holding back, for 25 years they have made extraordinary theatre, provoking and stimulating with strong yet unpredictable performances. With this in mind, A Clockwork Orange ought to be done justice as a performance. Keep reading to find out how these ideas translated onto the stage and what we thought of the performance..... 

A balancing act between good and evil.

What I Thought of the Production:
review by Chelsey Gillard
Take one of the most controversial stories of the last century and give it to a theatre company that prides itself on being “disruptive, immoderate, responsible and bold” and the result is guaranteed to be explosive. Volcano’s original stage adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange” certainly didn’t disappoint.

This version of the dystopian tale of Alex and his ultraviolent “droogs” focussed on the moral tale rather than plot and left out many influential characters from the book. The role of Alex was played in turn and sometimes simultaneously by the five cast members; this allowed the audience different routes into the mind of this teen terror. Each actor had their own way of presenting not only his vile, destructive side but also his vulnerable, mixed-up adolescent hormones. Even though new comers to the story many not have completely understood the ins and out of the plot they would have been left with a strong image of Alex and the debate about free will VS enforced goodness will certainly stay with them.

As you follow the gang of youth criminals on their drug fuelled adventures it’s impossible not to encounter their unsavoury actions. Volcano’s sensitive and intelligent interpretation managed to take the shock factor away from those scenes, allowing the audience to view the action in an objective way, rather than be shocked and disgusted. In true Brechtian style the audience was given a brief summary of each scene before it happened, also allowing Alex, the “humble narrator” to develop a relationship with the spectators. The rape scene was navigated with the use of Barbie dolls and violence was portrayed through contortionist tap-dance. Alex’s final crime before being incarcerated, the burglary and murder of an old lady was repeated over and over bringing a dark humour to the play and through farce it illustrated the vulnerability of the rough-tough gang leader. 

Vunerable and Alone.

The action from Alex’s arrest onwards seemed a little rushed and the demonstration of the mind-washing Ludovico technique wasn’t as powerful as it could have been. In this ground-breaking procedure, the criminal is injected with drugs that make them feel nauseous, whilst they are forced to watch violent films, therefore each time they even think of something violent they will feel sick and be incapable of committing violent crime. A short onstage debate about the difference between how we in Britain treat our criminals and the death penalty attitude of America gave a lot of food for thought and set the audiences’ mind thinking about whether it is better to have an almost automatronic boy who is capable of no harm or whether free will should always win, even if that means violence and crime. 


Presented in a somewhat Epic style, this performance managed to foreground a serious political message about the state of youth culture whilst appealing to the animalistic, visceral side of human nature. Use of on stage TV screens and projections added depth to the action, often offering a different perspective to the really powerful set movement pieces or giving an insight into Alex’s mind.

Volcano decided to keep the novel’s original ending in which Alex, after a failed suicide attempt is cured of the Ludovico Technique but tires of his ultraviolent pastimes. He begins to muse upon the possibility of having a child himself and whether that child will follow in his footsteps. As these words were spoken two of the cast performed a really touching piece of movement that for me summed up the reasons for Alex’s actions; if he had been given good support and good role models maybe he would have be able to support himself and lead a better life. This tortured youth had been mistreated and let down by every adult he encountered; from his parents through childhood to the power abusing doctors in prison. Yet even after this neglect Alex shows the possibility of change, there is a small glimmer of hope for this hopeless young man. 


A really sensitive and intelligent adaptation that managed to be innovative and truthful. It really dug to the heart of the novel and completely destroyed the negative attitudes surrounding this story due to the notorious 1970s film. The production is on tour until the end of November, be sure to catch this show “oozing with juice and sweetness”. Real “khorosho”.

Silenced by society.

For more on Volcano theatre and “A Clockwork Orange” tour dates click here.

For a Nadsat dictionary click here.

To find out what Rachel thought of the performance click here.

For more of my reviews and articles about performances in South Wales please click here.