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.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Richard Alston Dance Company Spring 2017 (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)

There's a distinct mix of the traditional with the modern in Richard Alston Dance's Spring 2017 tour, which takes the company from the wilds of North Wales to the hubbub of London, via the US, Germany and Yeovil.

Theatr Clwyd is the first stop on a series of performances that take the company through the first six months of the year, and the Mold audience was lucky enough to have a preview of a brand new piece commissioned by Peak Performances, the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming at Montclair State University in New Jersey, before its official premiere on February 2nd in the States.

That piece is Chacony, named after a type of musical composition which reached peak popularity in the 17th century baroque era. Like a pure dance version of Laura Wade's Kreutzer vs Kreutzer (seen at Theatr Clwyd last October), Alston's choreography takes its lead from two pieces of music which are directly interconnected, but quite different. First there's Henry Purcell's Chacony in G minor, then Chacony from 2nd String Quartet Op.36 by Benjamin Britten. Purcell's score is ordered, structured and carefully sequenced, the dancers moving in unison to music reminiscent of a 17th century Viennese masquerade. The polite composition is reflected beautifully by the mannered choreography, the dancers floating around the stage in Peter Todd's diaphanous burgundy outfits as one cohesive group.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Countdown to Wales Theatre Awards 2017 begins!

The countdown has begun to the most dramatic night in the Wales arts calendar, the Wales Theatre Awards annual celebration of the best in theatre, opera and dance across the nation.

This year the event is being held outside Cardiff for the first time, with Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea University, hosting the sparkling ceremony.

This highlight of the arts calendar includes the presentation of much coveted trophies in 20 categories and also an evening of entertainment from some of Wales' finest new and established performers.

The awards are a valuable way of showing appreciation and providing recognition for the huge variety of work done by all practitioners of the theatrical community in Wales, whatever the size, language or discipline of the companies involved. The awards evening is also recognition of the contribution of arts writers and critics. Performers, writers, directors, singers and actors are nominated by critics who have reviewed performances created and presented in Wales between December 2015 and December 2016.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Body Welsh (Pontio, Bangor)

Wales thrives on its mythologies and folklore. Whether it's the story of Gelert the hunting dog, the Mabinogion, the Roman Emperor Macsen Wledig, or the fiction of Geoffrey of Monmouth, they are tightly woven into Wales's history and heritage, and people are very reluctant to let them die.

But, as My Body Welsh makes plain, these ancient stories and myths are often mere fabrications, lies, or at the very least fairytales built upon grains of truth. And just like the creative shopkeeper who made up the world's longest place name - Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch - as a publicity stunt in the 1860s, the creation and proliferation of lies, half-truths and myths continues to this day, and in much more dangerous ways.

My Body Welsh is an innovative one-man show co-written by its performer, Steffan Donnelly, and director Tara Robinson, and cleverly weaves its own story of small-town deception with the existing mythologies of Wales. On the surface it's a "myth-tery" investigating the provenance of a skeleton found at the bottom of a well which two prominent local families claim ownership of. Donnelly tries to get to the bottom of the mystery: Is the skeleton genuine? Who put it there? Who was it? How did they die? This narrative gives the 65-minute show a backbone for the audience to latch onto, but shooting off from this trunk are a wealth of branches taking in everything from unrequited love to kidnap, from the importance of having the full facts before making judgements, to having the luxury of choice but not the confidence of which choice to make.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Love, Lies and Taxidermy (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)

Theatre presented in the round (ie, with the audience encircling the stage, which often has few or no vertical backdrops) is an ingenious way of making those watching a play feel part of the proceedings, or at least closer to them. The "us and them" barrier is removed by having the performance take place just feet (sometimes inches!) away from the audience. You can see the actors' faces clearer, the expressions they make, often even the thoughts running through their minds. It can be a beautifully immersive device to make the experience more memorable to the viewer, and more exhilarating for the performer.

But one drawback of staging in the round is that at some point the performers will have their back to one section of the audience, meaning projection is key to maintaining that shared space relationship. The most common way of tackling this is to have the performers move regularly around the space, changing direction and perspective so as to keep as many plates spinning as possible.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Rambert Autumn 2016 (Venue Cymru, Llandudno)

A Linha Curva

For Rambert's 90th birthday year, the company has put together a typically varied, colourful and challenging repertoire of dances which differ according to which venue you see them in, and for their visit to the North Wales coast the company chose three pieces of suitable contrasts.

First up was Mark Baldwin's Dark Arteries, an occasionally frenetic but always energetic piece accompanied by Tredegar Town Band. Matching contemporary dance with a brass band soundtrack might be seen as unconventional, and this eccentricity is carried through into both the score and the choreography.