Sunday, 10 April 2016

Bright New Day...


 ... Well, not exactly all over again. All content will still be available, just in a new location.

It's time for this blog to pack up its bags and head over to it's new home at Wordpress. Here's the new domain: 

Show and Tell - Linking it Up

Round up, round up to what I'm hoping will be a weekly event - a show and tell of interesting links, videos or whatever other theatrical tidbits have caught my attention this week...

1. Kit Harrington and cast in rehearsal

The website Official London Theatre posted these pictures from the Doctor Faustus rehearsal room, on Wednesday - exactly 2 weeks before I head to London to see it. Needless to say, it has increased the excitement...

2.  Jesse Eisenberg's play 'The Spoils' coming to the West End

Also on Wednesday, it was announced this show would be arriving with us soon, starring both Eisenberg himself and Kunal Nayyar (Raj from the Big Bang Theory) but, given that it's quite a limited run, I'm not sure whether I'll actually get to see it. 

For those who can, though. Here's the ticket link...

3. Gavin Creel and Aaron Tveit 'Take Me For What I Am'

Musical Theatre fans both sides of the Atlantic went crazy for this video of two of theatre's hottest leading men performing the traditionally female roles of Maureen and Joanne's duet from 'Rent' at MCC Theater's Miscast gala

But what exactly is 'Miscast'? 
It's a show where performers get to sing songs from roles they would never normally be considered for. 
Check out their website for videos, photos and more info. 

4. Sierra's Motivational Talks

Sierra is not only a great singer, but full of inspirational, motivational wisdom too. She posted a video to her Facebook fanpage about 'elimating fear'. It's aimed mostly at encouraging performers to let go of their fear, but you can find relevance to any walk of life in the message.

5. Only the Brave - A new and original musical

Technically, I saw the show last week but it's stayed in my mind - surely a sign of a show which should not be allowed to disappear into obscurity? 

Take a listen to the Act One finale

Monday, 4 April 2016

REVIEW: Only The Brave

Company: Wales Millennium Centre, Soho Theatre, Daniel Sparrow Productions & Birdsong Productions 
Venue: Wales Millennium Centre    Date & Time: Saturday 2nd April, 2.30pm Writer: Rachel Wagstaff      Composer: Matthew Brind      Director: Steve Marmion


1940s Britain seeps into the soul upon entrance into Wales Millennium Centre. A band plays some swinging music, while dancers dressed in pretty floral dresses and dapper suits twirl around in time to the beat. Some hustlers sidle over and try to flog some wares. This is all part of an immersive build up, putting ones mindset very much in the era, ready to experience the musical based on the day D-Day landings.   

Writer Rachel Wagstaff and Director/Lyricist Steve Marmion have done a masterful job of bringing this complex story, based on real events and real people, to the stage in an uncomplicated way. There is quick connection to the characters, with insight into each of their personal stories. Wagstaff has a strong passion for war stories, which shines through in her considerate, thoughtful and honest story-telling. 

The company have a heavy duty of their own in this production – to give a performance that honours the memory of the soldiers they represent, to portray them as the brave heroes that they were, but more pertinently, the people that they were. That's why this story works so beautifully. It's not just cold, detached facts, it delves into the personal lives of each character. They're not just two-dimensional figures in a text book, or stone statues with plaques. Theatre has breathed life into them once more, so we can know them as people. People like us. People with personalities, hobbies, likes and dislikes, families and friends. 
Not only do the cast achieve their duty, but they excel, all showing incredible insight and sensitivity to their characters. David Thaxton plays leader of the troops, Captain John Howard, with authority and gravitas. Neil McDermott matches and balances this with his more laddish, fun-loving Lieutenant Denham Brotheridge. It is a testament to the skill of all the actors playing soldiers, that they can bound effortlessly from the demanding physical army workouts, straight into powerful songs with not a single tremor of the voice.  

A special mention must also go to Nikki Mae for her heart-wrenching performance of the robust, courageous Isabelle – a 16 year old French girl who, determined to help, relays back invaluable information that she overhears from the Nazis. Act One ends in a moving combination of poignant song and distressing scene, as Isabelle is found out and faces the consequences. That lingers vividly in the memory now, such was the impact. 

It's not all heavy hearts and tears however, for in the midst of even the darkest moments light can be found in laughter. There are jokes scattered about in the production, including a long-running one about a soldier who's always late, as well as witty one liners and what we would nowadays call 'banter'. 

While the story and the performances were intensely brilliant, the same cannot be said for the set design or general score. There were some standout songs such as the aforementioned Act One closing number 'A Band of Brothers' and the chokingly moving 'Regret and Sympathy' sung by the women, typing letters to the relatives of fallen soldiers. Unfortunately the rest of the score blurred into unmemorable blandness.  

The set design, created by Michael Vale, had some great conceptsThe use of the scaffold staircases was inspired and made for interesting visuals when combined with choreography from Alistair Davidmost memorably and strikingly in the 'landing' scene. The three layered projection was a great idea and created a depth to make up for lack of scenery... but this was the wrong show for it – too futuristic given the effort made to make everything else feel genuinely of the era 

With a little refining, this production seems destined for great things and certainly is a strong contender for a place in the West End

Monday, 21 March 2016

Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Company: Theatr Clwyd

Venue: Swansea Grand Theatre
Date & Time: Thursday 17th March, 7.30pm

Writer: Tennessee Williams
Director: Robert Hastie

Tennessee Williams once said “Words are a net to catch beauty” – I know this because I've been on a bit of an information kick since watching the play, which is testament in itself. The man himself is quite an interesting character.

If words are the net to catch beauty, then 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' covers the whole pond. So many words.  Words can reveal and illuminate, or they can obscure and distort, burying issues beneath lies or mundanity - sometimes we say so much, yet say nothing all.

This is my first dip into the plays of Tennessee Williams, so before this I knew little about him or his work. All I knew about this play was that it's considered a ‘great American classic’. I didn't even realise it had been turned into a film many moons ago, starring Elizabeth Taylor – I know, shocking, but remember my theatrical education until recent years has been solidly based in musical theatre.  Even during my actual theatre education, the syllabus focussed more on physical and experimental theatre.

We join Maggie and her incapacitated husband, Brick, in their bedroom as they get ready for the birthday of patriarch, Big Daddy. The set, designed by Janet Bird, portrays the families vast wealth with chandeliers, four poster beds and balconies and the gently whirring fans in the upstage corridor, set the balmy southern location of their Southern plantation family home.

It is up to Catrin Stewart as Maggie to set the tone, almost solo, which she does expertly – her southern drawl so real, that at times I have to use all my concentration to understand. Brick, played by Torchwood's Gareth David-Lloyd, lurks about the set moodily, glaring, blank and unemotional ahead, into a void as he gulps down drink after drink – Maggie talks at him, but he barely seems to hear her. He makes occasional interjections, but it's a monologue from Maggie for the first 20 minutes or so, where she moans about the 'no-neck monsters' (the kids) of Bricks brother, Gooper, eventually revealing her true message – her personal misery of Brick's lack of desire for her and, consequently, having no children of their own.

All the rest of the family seem to know Maggie's troubles and all pitch in their unsolicited advice, but there are many more lies and secrets that plague this family. One of which being the metaphor itself - Big Daddy has terminal cancer, unbeknown to himself and his wife, Big Mama.

Desmond Barrit's presence as Big Daddy is powerful, heavy and ominous. It is in his scenes with David-Lloyd that pulse at the heart of this production, as he slowly breaks through the dam and forces him to communicate. Where most characters create a lot of noise, Brick – as his name so perfectly suggests - remains still and silent. His scene with Big Daddy lets some of that emotion filter through, as he's forced to confront guilt and repressed sexuality.

The play closes on yet another lie – Maggie tells Big Daddy that she is pregnant and vows to Brick that she will make it true, and I the circle of mendacity is doomed to continue.

Williams's work is incredibly intriguing to me. This production was not an easy watch, but if you want that, go see one of the numerous cover bands that frequent the theatre's programme. If you want a deep, intelligent play with lots of meat on its bones, packed full of themes, both blatant and underlying, then you couldn't go far wrong with this. I will certainly be seeking out more productions from Tennessee Williams's back catalogue now that I've discovered his work.

Thank you Theatre Clwyd for your compelling and thoughtful production – it deserved a much bigger audience than it received on the Thursday evening production which I saw, and I cannot commend the cast highly enough for giving it their all, none-the-less.  

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Breaking Down the Wall

I haven't been here in a while. It seems cold and deserted, especially after the mad daily rush of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival... 6 months ago now?! how that flew eh?

I've been focussing on my new blog, Jabber Jac - a place for features and writing work. That doesn't mean I've been neglecting theatre as much as it would seem from this blog. I contacted my local newspaper and I've been reviewing locally for them. I also signed up to be a south-west 
regional reviewer for the Reviews Hub (formerly Public Reviews). They were the website I reviewed for during the fringe festival and it seemed silly not to continue in home territory.

Here are links to the some of the reviews, if you feel so inclined to look...

The Imaginary Menagerie - Les Infants Terribles
Richard III - Fluellen Theatre Company

Fame - The Sir Harry Secombe Theatre Trust

Photo courtesy of Clare Owen, Acting On It 
I also performed in a play for the first time since I froze on-stage as a teenager during my GCSE exam (the bitchy girls were in the front row and, as last to go on, I knew they were there, mocking everyone..... It also may have been somewhat my fault given that I hadn't learned my lines properly oops). 

I've travelled a long way since those days, much like my character in our production of David Campton's "Us and Them" - a play about the origins of war, the suspicion and mistrust of those 'behind the wall' that end with us turning on one another... to be safe, y'know.
This is a play with staccato, disjointed sentences and, having forgotten my words all those years ago, I dreaded the same happening... but, thankfully, it didn't. Confidence regained. I may venture back into the acting world in the not too distant future.

Despite my foray into the thespian side of theatrics, I haven't forgotten about tech. I rejoined Swansea Little Theatre's tech team and got acquainted with their new lighting desk... don't ask me what make it is though, we only just met, I didn't get to know it. In fact, I was merely the 'go' monkey..... but my ear-brain-hand co-ordination is up there with the best button pushers out there. 

So, that's the news. I do intend to start updating this more often now JabberJac is up and running and I've got into some sort of groove with that. There may even be a review this week... 

Monday, 2 November 2015

A Rebel With A Clause: NaNoWriMo 2015

Normally November is all about Abbey Players. This year isn’t normal. This year November is all about NaNoWriMo.

For those who are wondering “what the flippertygibbit is a NaNoWriMo?”, it simply stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is, basically, to get started on that novel you’ve been mulling over an hit a word count of 50,000 by the end of November.

Me, I’m using this time to work on a play script instead. I’m part of the super-cool group they call the ‘Nano Rebels’. Don’t cross us, we’ve got pens and word-processors and we’re not afraid to use them. I imagine us as the Sharks to their Jets.   

I was so inspired by a lot of the work at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year and it’s got me itching to get writing. I’ve attempted play-writing in the past but never seen it through, so I’m planning to use NaNoWriMo to keep me on track and motivated.

What to do about the word count? A play script isn’t going to reach the target and the reaching the target is the motivating factor. So, here’s the plan – One play script, several short scripts for a sketch I’ve been mulling over and… blogging. I’m not the most frequent blogger, I admit (with the exception of August, which proves goal-setting works). Despite this I’m setting up a second, more general blog, where I’ll talk about whatever nonsense I feel inclined to. It’s called Jabber Jac (notice a theme? cough branding cough too many business books) and I want to start off on the right foot with some regular content. I’m starting this one over on wordpress, though, after some battles with using the blogger app on my iPad.

So, step up Wrimo, lets do this. Hopefully, I’ll have a finished script and a hot new blog by the end.

I will be keeping this blog going. Theatre is the passion I am most, er, passionate about and I want to keep this as a space to write specifically about that…. But, you know, I have so many interesting and entertaining thoughts about so many interesting and entertaining things, I can’t keep them contained any longer ;)