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 :  

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