Monday, October 30, 2017

REVIEW: P.A.R.A.D.E. (Pontio, Bangor)

P.A.R.A.D.E. (I'm not altogether sure what it's an acronym of; I suspect nothing in particular) is the impressive result of a collaboration between National Dance Company Wales, Dawns i Bawb, Rubicon Dance, Wales Millennium Centre, Pontio in Bangor, and artistic director Marc Rees, and forms a key part of Wales's R17 celebrations marking a century since the Russian Revolution.

What has the Russian Revolution got to do with the people of Wales, some people might ask. It's a good question, but the truth is that when the workers were going on strike and overthrowing their bosses in Petrograd, they were being watched and admired by the coal miners of South Wales, who were inspired by the fact the working man could triumph over the might of autocracy. Russia's uprising led to Maerdy in the Rhondda being nicknamed Little Moscow due to its people's socialist sympathies, and for producing the forthright trade unionist Arthur Horner, who helped found the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

REVIEW: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)

At the heart of Jim Cartwright's play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is a touching, sentimental story of a shy northern girl struggling to get heard by those around her, including her brash and selfish mother, who treats her the same way wicked stepmothers treat their Cinderellas. But at over two and a half hours in length, Cartwright struggles to fill the time with enough plot to make it as riveting as it should be.

The play (which opened at the National Theatre in 1992 and was written specifically for Jane Horrocks) was adapted into a film in 1998, and tells the story of a shy girl who can do stunningly accurate impressions of divas such as Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and Edith Piaf after listening to her beloved late father's LP collection. However, the film was significantly more concise in its plotting. Kate Wasserberg's production of the play packs plenty of wallop when it's needed, but there are also a few too many moments of ponderous water-treading, moments which allow the audience to shift in their seat, hoping something will happen soon.

This is particularly noticeable in Act 1, where too much time is spent building up characters who don't require that much time to be fleshed out. The audience gets what the playwright's trying to do much quicker than he does himself. In particular, LV's harridan mother Mari, a stereotypical northern sexpot straight out of the Lily Savage school of termagent matriarchs. All the hallmarks of such a part are there - the too-tight leopard skin skirts and heels, the flashing knickers, the sharp, foul-mouthed tongue and the total disregard for the feelings and needs of those around her. Nicola Reynolds throws everything she's got into Mari Hoff, perhaps more than she should at times, making her a loud, brash, abusive, unpleasant gorgon who cares more about her drinks cabinet and her sex life than her meek daughter. Cartwright may have written the role broadly, but with every part like this, there has to be a more human side, and unfortunately we get to see far too much of the tart and not nearly enough of the heart.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

INTERVIEW: Actor Catrin Aaron on playing Little Voice at Theatr Clwyd

Imagine a stage show where the late, great Judy Garland tops the bill, and the support acts are Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and Billie Holiday. Apart from the tiresome "some of them are dead" problem, you'd pay good money to see that show, wouldn't you?

Well, now you can, because Theatr Clwyd is staging a brand new production of Jim Cartwright's classic The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, which was specially written for actor Jane Horrocks back in 1992 for the National Theatre. Most people will remember the Oscar-nominated film from 1998, also starring Horrocks, but Theatr Clwyd's take casts the multi-talented Catrin Aaron as the shy, reclusive LV.

"I've never worked on a musical before," admits Catrin, "although I wouldn't really class Little Voice as a musical. It's more of a comedy drama with music."

Catrin trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and has got background in singing performance, including many educational and Christmas shows, "but this is the first time I've done it on my own," she laughs.