Wednesday, June 29, 2016

To Dream Again (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)

Dorian Simpson and Hannah Hutch as Robin and Sophie

At the end of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the characters of Helena and Demetrius are very much in love, despite the trials and tribulations getting to that point. One of the principal agents in the couple's game of 'he-loves-me/ he-loves-me-not' is Puck's magical love potion, which forces one to love another pretty much against their will or comprehension. It is a spell; the only natural thing about it is the love-in-idleness bloom from which it comes.

So Shakespeare left the audience with a dilemma: if the only reason Demetrius loved Helena was because of a love spell cast upon him, would that love last? Was it true love? Was it even fair for them to be together if one was blinded from the truth?

This is where Toby Hulse picks up the quill in To Dream Again, a co-production between Theatr Clwyd and Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, to where the play will transfer in March 2017. The play is aimed at children aged seven and up, and imagines the consequences of Demetrius and Helena's enforced romance. Set in the modern day, it plays out through the eyes of nine-year-old Sophie, who has a growing awareness of her parents' disintegrating marriage. Her parents are modern equivalents of Shakespeare's lovers, and it seems that the love they had when they first met has well and truly withered on the vine.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Alternative Routes 2016 (The Dance House, Cardiff)

Giving young dancers an opportunity to create choreography of their own, National Dance Company Wales's Alternative Routes strand is an important platform to nurture and encourage blossoming talent. And it's interesting to see how the training these young dancers have soaked up by performing the choreography of more experienced artists informs their own latent talent.

AltRoutes2016 comprised three new works by NDC Wales's company dancers, plus one work by a former Company dancer and another by current Artistic Director Caroline Finn. It made for a pot-pourri of styles in what was a delightful presentation of where NDC Wales is in 2016, and the fact the new work is forged in collaboration with design students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama made it all the more refreshing.

Before I Leave (Sherman Cymru, Cardiff)

Melanie Walters and Martin Marquez as Dyanne and Joe

Each May for the last decade Wales has held the Gwanwyn Festival, celebrating creativity in older age, which provides an opportunity for older people to get involved in different forms of the arts, whether visual, musical or literary. Last week I saw one of the many productions that have formed part of 2016's festival, Karin Diamond's play Belonging from the Re Live organisation, and this new production from National Theatre of Wales tackles the same topic of dementia.

But where Belonging was a small, intimate, thoughtful study of the emotional effects dementia can have on those living with the disease, Patrick Jones's Before I Leave takes a bigger, brighter, more bombastic approach. That's not say it's without its emotional side, but by taking the magic of music as its door into the subject, the production automatically adopts a brasher, more West End feel.

Dance Roads 2016 (Chapter, Cardiff)

Knots, performed by Lucie Augeai and David Gernez

The Dance Roads network has been touring contemporary work from establishing choreographers around Europe for a few years now (the network itself was set up in 1990). The aim of the tour is to allow artists from partner countries to be seen by new audiences in European countries that they might not normally visit, and consequently dance fans from these countries get the opportunity to see work from different cultures.

This year's three-week tour brought together choreographers from Wales, Italy, France, Holland and Romania, and the Dance Roads festival was presented to audiences in Bordeaux, Turin, Bucharest and Arnhem before finishing up at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. Audiences reacted in different ways to different works as the tour progressed, but one thing was common - the artists' passion for innovative work.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Interview with Gwyn Emberton on his career and Dance Roads 2016

This is a version of a feature first published by Arts Scene in Wales and Media Wales in June 2016

Gwyn Emberton has issued a call to arms to the Welsh arts community.

‘Wales needs its own conservatoire for dance, I feel very strongly about that,’ says the Powys-born dancer/ choreographer. ‘We need something like the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, but for dance; that’s really lacking in Wales.’

Gwyn bangs the drum for the blossoming contemporary dance scene in Wales. Just a few years ago there were very few, if any, university courses for budding dancers in Wales. This autumn there will be three or four, including a professional vocational course led by Matthew Gough at Cardiff’s Atrium.

Belonging/ Perthyn (Galeri, Caernarfon)

The ultimate power of theatre - as with any art form - is to provoke an emotional response. Whether it makes the audience laugh or cry, outraged or embarrassed, theatre should provoke a reaction. Nobody should leave the auditorium thinking about what to have for tomorrow night's dinner. Live theatre should leave a mark.

In the case of playwright Karin Diamond's Belonging/ Perthyn, most people left the theatre in tears, because this is one very powerful, and beautifully told, play. Five years in the making, Belonging is the brainchild of the Cardiff-based Re-Live project, which works with communities to share stories and transform them into live theatrical experiences. Diamond was inspired to write a play about the ups and downs, the truths and myths, of living with dementia in 21st century Wales after working with a Japanese theatre-maker who specialises in promoting a greater understanding of the condition through performance.