Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Ghost: The Musical (Venue Cymru, Llandudno)

Live every day as if it were your last - that's the message to take away from Bruce Joel Rubin's Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1990 film, on which this Bill Kenwright Productions stage musical is based. The original film starred Man of the Moment Patrick Swayze and Soon-To-Be Woman of the Moment Demi Moore and became the highest-grossing film that year, scooping five Oscar nominations (winning two of them) and four Golden Globe nominations. It was a phenomenon.

Twenty-one years later it was rejuvenated for a stage musical version, with new songs added by Eurythmics maestro Dave Stewart and veteran songwriter Glen Ballard (he's good - he co-wrote Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror). This Kenwright production is enhanced even further, with an improved story and different songs.

Rubin's original story is an undisputed classic, it's one everybody remembers and loves. At the start of the show, Molly and Sam are head over heels in love, so we know straight away that something bad is going to happen, and it does. Sam is shot and killed by a street robber, leaving heartbroken Molly alone and vulnerable. But for all the proclamations of love and devotion in the early scenes, it's only when Sam's shot dead that the show comes truly alive as his ghost hangs around in order to protect Molly from ongoing dangers.

Monday, March 06, 2017

F.E.A.R. (Galeri, Caernarfon)

Every one of us lives in fear every day, from the moment we know what being afraid feels like, to the moment when the ultimate fear consumes us. We might not be consciously aware of all our fears, but they are there, programmed into us, subliminally controlling the way we live our lives, the way we react and respond. And then there are the greater fears that we recognise all too well - the phobias and the nightmares and the manias.

Gareth Clark is one half of the performing duo Mr and Mrs Clark (he's the Mr), but for F.E.A.R, he works alone in what is a solo show written and performed from the very depths of his heart and soul. A result of 12 months of research into both his own and other cultures, F.E.A.R is both an intensely personal work and also terrifyingly relevant to almost everybody who sees it. It speaks to every member of the audience as much as it does on behalf of Gareth Clark.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sinners Club (The Other Room, Cardiff)

Sinners Club is a gig. It's not a play, it's a gig. But then, it's also more than "just" a gig. It's an immersive experience, a theatrical spectacle which transports the audience to another place, another time, another society.

Sinners Club places the audience in a recording studio where The Bad Mothers are rehearsing and recording some songs for their latest live album. This concept album is inspired by the life of Rhyl-born Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, on July 13th, 1955 (the last man was in 1964). Ellis was just 28 years old, and was convicted of shooting dead her lover, the racing driver David Blakely, on Easter Sunday that year. Ellis gave herself up to police, took full responsibility for the murder, and conducted herself with grace and courtesy during the proceeding trial.

Ellis's story is ripe for dramatic interpretation. It's been done on TV (1980), film (1985) and stage (2007), but Lucy Rivers's production is the first time it's been done in such a stylistically broad, cabaret mould. Ellis's story involves nude modelling, prostitution, illegal abortion, domestic violence and, ultimately, homicide. How Rivers chooses to interpret all this sin and iniquity is through the power of song, as the lead singer of The Bad Mothers.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Winners of the Wales Theatre Awards 2017 announced!

The winners of the 2017 Wales Theatre Awards have been announced, taking in the best in opera, dance and theatre in Wales between December 1st, 2015 and December 31st, 2016.

The ceremony took place at Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea on Saturday, February 25th, from 5.30pm. Here's who won:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Skylight (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)

David Hare's Skylight debuted 22 years ago, but the socio-political themes the playwright addresses in the text are just as relevant today, if not more so. The two main characters (there is a third, but he is largely peripheral) represent the chasm between the two main attitudes toward society in British life - empathy and apathy.

East End school teacher Kyra is a forthright defender of the underdog, the dispossessed and the disadvantaged. She teaches difficult children in a difficult school in a difficult part of London because she believes she is doing good, that she is improving their lives and so, by association, is making the most of her own.

However, moneyed restaurateur Tom is in denial about how much good Kyra can do, and whether she really means what she says or whether she is holding herself back through some form of self-piteous punishment. Kyra lives in a freezing cold flat in Kensal Rise and seems relatively happy there, insisting that this way of living is really quite normal. Tom refuses to believe that is the case, and pushes Kyra to make more of herself, her intellect and her talents, to apply herself to self-improvement rather than that of others less fortunate than her.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wales Theatre Awards 2017 Shortlists Announced

The shortlisted nominations for the 2017 Wales Theatre Awards have been announced, taking in the best in opera, dance and theatre in Wales between December 1st, 2015 and December 31st, 2016.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea on Saturday, February 25th, from 5.30pm. See the Wales Theatre Awards website for more information.

Here's who's shortlisted:

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Bromance (Pontio, Bangor)

The relationship between men is a complex one. There are certain undrawn lines that you shouldn't cross if you're just mates, and there are certain things you need to be able to do in order to fit in. Masculinity has a habit of defining how far men's relationships with each other can go. The normative behaviour of heterosexual men means that emotion should be suppressed, not expressed, and that physical contact should remain blokey not invasive.

Bromance is a fascinating study on the different types of male relationships, and what restricts and enhances them, told through the medium of physical theatre such as circus, parkour and mime. Three performers - Charlie Wheeller, Beren D'Amico and Arthur Parsons - capitalise on their personal chemistry to present a show that balances physical expression with eye-popping spectacle to create a thoughtful, if sometimes roughly paced, hour of entertainment.

It explores the taboo of physical intimacy between men cleverly. When men touch, it's usually just to shake hands, or pat each other on the back. Maybe there's a drunken hug on a Saturday night, but rarely does it go beyond that. A bloke touching a bloke, especially without permission or unexpectedly, causes tension. The three boys begin by demonstrating the different types of handshake greetings, but show how some can feel too far or inappropriate. Some men aren't comfortable with a shoulder hug, others are more at ease with their bodies and don't mind an affectionate pat on the bum or chest.