Wednesday, May 02, 2018

REVIEW: Turn of the Screw (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)


Thirty years ago, Stephen Mallatrat's masterful adaptation of Susan Hill's novel The Woman in Black changed the way that ghost stories were told on the stage. Anybody who has seen either the West End or the touring version of the play will know how bone-chillingly effective the production is even today, especially if you don't know what to expect. Mallatrat's The Woman in Black remains the standard by which all other theatrical ghost stories must be held, and Tim Luscombe's version of the Henry James 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw is no different - especially as it mentions it in publicity.

Different people find different things scary, and there are very different approaches to making things scary within the horror/ supernatural genre. There's out-and-out gorefests, and the productions that go for the visceral as well as the visual (Ghost Stories, The Soulless Ones), while there's also the spooky, eerie, atmospherically charged productions - such as The Woman in Black - which creep up on the senses and shout BOO!

Friday, April 27, 2018

REVIEW: The Assassination of Katie Hopkins (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)


Everybody has an opinion these days. Including me. However, I'm invited to give my opinion (and sometimes paid to do it). But what about all the people who have opinions that nobody asked for? Are they still valid? Do people still want to hear them? Do people need to hear them?

The truth is, everybody's opinion is valid, but not every opinion is welcome. Social media allows the individual to speak to the masses at the touch of a button, and they can put as much or as little thought and research into that opinion as they like.

This frenetic new musical, written by Chris Bush and composed by Matt Winkworth, attempts to open up the national debate about freedom of speech, and whether what's called "hate speech" should be just as free as all the self-congratulatory back-patting and celebrity worship that happens online. For every tweet simpering over the birth of a new #royalbaby, there's another slamming the Duchess of Cambridge for looking too glamorous just hours after giving birth. For every #BlackPower hashtag, there's a thread bemoaning the loss of Little England and what it means to be British (and white).

Friday, February 16, 2018

REVIEW: The Weir (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)


Back in the 1970s, the film company Amicus made several portmanteau horror films which told eerie, sometimes light-hearted, but always gruesome tales of misfortune and tragedy. They were like Hammer films, but more lurid and macabre.

Conor McPherson's The Weir - celebrating its 20th anniversary this year - would make a cracking portmanteau horror film, with its four spine-chilling folk tales framed by an overarching story about a bunch of people whiling away an evening in a rural Irish pub. There's even a bonus tale in the form of a melancholy reminiscence of lost love and missed opportunity.

There's a good reason why McPherson won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 1999, because The Weir is a haunting, bittersweet, sometimes unsettling, often heartwarming story which beautifully reflects the laid-back, pastoral way of life in rural Ireland, as well as showing how we all carry with us our own demons and fears, which are often waiting keenly to jump to the surface if we let them.