Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Just completed my first review for Buzz Magazine. Take a look here:


Friday, 9 March 2012

Hertiage Vs Happiness

A Provincial Life
National Theatre Wales
Sherman Cymru
Stars ***

National Theatre Wales have once again worked their magic to bring legendary director Peter Gill back to his home city of Cardiff to direct for the very first time. This re-working of Gill’s 1966 adaptation of Chekov’s short story gently tells the tale of Misail (Nicholas Shaw), a bourgeois young man, who wants to labour for his bread despite his privileged upbringing. Shunned by his father we follow him as he tries to build a life for himself and help those less fortunate in 19th century Russia.

Through their marketing strategy NTW have continuously pointed out the lavish set and costume design and it’s easy to see why - Alison Chitty’s design was superb. Huge bleached wood panels provided a blank yet imposing canvas that could be moved to suggest different spaces. Each scene was beautifully introduced by the chorus placing the furnishings of the rich or poor households in simple but effective choreographed sequences. These features perfectly framed the play as a whole and set the slow, almost dreamy state. The farmhands scything crops perfectly in time with Terry Davies’s haunting music was particularly poignant.

Performances from the 15 strong cast were impressive, in particular Alex Clatworthy as Misail’s unpredictable wife brought a real spark and energy to the production. Comic relief was delivered in the form of Misail’s rather odd collegue, Ivan (John-Paul Macleod). Lee Haven-Jones (Boris Ivanov Blagovo) and William Thomas (Andrey Ivanov) added true warmth and depth as Misail’s real friends.  

Definitely a slow burner, if you are a fan of punchy dialogue and fast paced action this may not be the show for you. Although many of the themes are relevant to today’s youth, who are also striving for change, the production lacked a certain fire and passion that you would expect in a tale of revolution. Perhaps for a plot that emphasised the need to work for what you have it was a little too cerebral. This lack of gusto meant the end – although touching – fizzled out and was rather unsatisfying.

Although Misail sets out to help those less fortunate it is those very same people who are helping him by the end. This intelligent production forces you to ponder what is really valuable in this life – wealth and power or compassion and community?

Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard
Runs at the Sherman Theatre until 17th March
Box office Phone: 029 2064 6900

Monday, 5 March 2012

Politics, Love and Loss throught the eyes of the only Welsh Prime Minister

The wizard, the goat and the man who won the war
Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD
2nd March 2012
Stars: ****

To create a one man show about a politician who has been dead for 67 years that is still relevant to a modern audience would be a challenge to any writer or director. Thankfully D.J. Britton took David Lloyd George as his inspiration; the only Welsh speaking prime minister (although he was born in Manchester) whose private life and flirty charm make him an exciting and interesting man to study.

Brought to life by the utterly brilliant, BAFTA-winning actor Richard Elfyn, we got to see all the sides to the man the media called the Welsh wizard, the Goat (for his reputation as a flirt) and the man who won the war to end all wars.

On holiday in Antibes, France to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary to his wife (whilst sending his mistress back to England) this fictionalised portrayal of the great man was firmly rooted in fact.  He was indeed there for his anniversary and he also had a mistress called Frances; but how he felt about these two women and how he juggled the two amid all his political duties is explored through Britton and Elfyn’s beautiful collaboration.

Elfyn danced around the bare stage, with only a bench for set. With minimal props, a walking stick became an umbrella, a golf club and even a beautiful young woman to dance tenderly with. He addressed the audience as the sea and touchingly pondered if it was the same sea that caressed the shores of his beloved home in Wales. His performance was so absorbing, so truthful and so engaging he even had the audience singing along to the Welsh classic ‘Myfanwy’ in a parody to the story that Lloyd George would get the members of his cabinet around the piano to sing at Number 10.

Richard Elfyn as Lloyd George photo by James Davies

It wasn’t all light-hearted though as he began to question himself. How could a man who claimed to be a protector of the poor, who established the beginnings of the welfare state, risk so much to gain more personal wealth? How could a womaniser claim to be a champion of non-conformist Christianity? Did he abandon Wales or did Wales abandon him? And how could one normal man from a small town in Wales deal with the guilt of losing of a child to a preventable illness?

This was a truly inspirational piece of theatre, perfectly crafted and brought bang up to date with witty asides about The News of the World and brothers competing in politics. Underneath all the showboating was a true sense of the man who did not care for a Union Jack but desperately longed for the Ddraig Goch of home. 

My only worry is that it is a Welsh piece at home in Welsh theatres and I’m not sure how it would travel, with its use of the Welsh language and patriotic passion that only those who have lived here can truly understand. 

Lyrical and absorbing, quite how Elfyn kept the one man show so engaging I will never know. The role of ‘Hamlet’ is notorious for being challenging but in this production Elfyn had over twice as many words as the ill fated prince, and was certainly more thna twice as likeable.

Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Second Helping of Mayhem with Cwtch Cabaret

Cwtch Cabaret
29th Feb 2011
Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD
Stars: *****

Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard

Back for a second round of mayhem Cwtch Cabaret’s second tour showcased a whole new bunch from the wacky, weird and wonderful world of variety acts. With a new Cardiff venue in the beautiful Richard Burton Theatre (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) Cwtch have clearly taken a huge leap forward and somehow managed to put on an even more spectacular show than last time.

Once again hosted by the beautifully mismatched pair of Chris Lynham and Kate McKenzie, they perfectly fanned the flames of madness and magic that made the night so spectacular. This duo never get boring, they are always exciting and unpredictable. The pure enjoyment they get from performing spills over into the audience and creates an atmosphere of fun and frivolity that you can’t resist. Chris’s offbeat satire on film noire was intelligent and hilarious, you can never predict what he will do next.

The most varied and versatile performer of the night was multi-award-winning Australian Jess Love, graduate of Melbourne’s National Institute of Circus Arts. Her first act, “The Majorette” delivered high-energy, body-bending skipping tricks. As “Maureen the Cocktail Queen” she presented new take on comedy burlesque, with a custom built bra that incorporated a fruit juicer she captured the audience with her kooky charm and charisma. Her final act was certainly one of the highlights of the evening, taking us on a trip to the land of the outright odd. A strangely feminine young man enters upstage and starts to perform a confused striptease, only to reveal a passion for wearing women’s underwear. If this wasn’t mind boggling enough, our confused young man then begins to hammer a nail into his nose! This fusion of off the wall burlesque and side show was completely original and gorgeously gruesome. Overall a delightfully talented young woman who will not fail to entertain.

Jess Love (From http://www.jesslove.com.au/Welcome.html)

Petra Lange is an aerial artist like no other. Punky Petra violently destroyed the delicate, gentle stereotype with her emotionally intense rope performances. Her “Tango” was confident, sensual and just simply beautiful. She performs with her heart, providing a story through her acrobatic skills and emotional performance. Her second routine on aerial silk or tissu, was overflowing with confidence, rebellion and in your face attitude! As she plunged from the top of the rope to stop just before hitting the stage the audience let out a huge gasp, equally dangerous and enchanting she is completely individual and spellbinding.   

Showcasing inventive card tricks and imaginative juggling skills Luke Wilson is the perfect showman. He elegantly framed his magic act with chat to the audience and natural, nerdy charm. Although he had to compete with an audience comedian who stated their name was “Dave Id” he still easily wowed the audience with his impressive sleight of hand. To keep his juggling act relevant to the 21st century audience he performed to a polished blend of British and Oriental music that perfectly complemented his routine. Using one to five clubs and his whole body to keep them airborne he proved why he is a visiting Professor of Juggling at Stockholm's University College of Dance and Circus. 

Luke Wilson (From http://www.lukewilson.de/ Photo by Matt Hennem)

Treading the tightrope of controversial comedy was Frank Sanazi. Fuhrer of the “Fatherlounge” he reinvented Sinatra’s classics to fit his extreme right (or extremely wrong) agenda performing “Mein Way” and “Feelin’ Guten”. The songs were painfully funny and his interaction with the audience showed a comedian of true talent.  His tongue in cheek performance made it impossible to take offence at the leader of the Iraq Pack, whose other members include Osama Bing Crosby, Dean Stalin and Saddami Davis Junior. As his website says “He may not be a real nazi but he'll still give you one helluva gas!”

The true variety and high speed pace of this season’s tour meant the fun was non-stop. With hardly a second to regain their breath the audience were alternately crying with laughter or gasping in admiration. Once again I encourage everyone to visit the Cwtch Cabaret website and get tickets for their next tour in May, when I’m sure they will offer up another first-rate serving of the brilliant and bizarre.  

From more info on Cwtch Cabaret and all the artists mentioned please visit:  http://www.cwtchcabaret.co.uk