Run away to the Circus..

You never forget your first time with NoFit State circus.  Mine was January 2013 seeing the sensational Bianco (literally) on stage at Wales Millennium Centre.  It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  Never before had I seen such death-defying stunts, such strength and such raw excitement from a company.

So when I saw that this world-class show had returned to Cardiff, this time taking place in the big top, I knew I had to see it again.  After a pretty vanilla few weeks, I needed that NoFit State injection of madness.  I needed to be transported to another world.

Stepping inside the big top, you knew something incredible was going to happen.  This expectation and intrigue in the air was palpable.  As the performers started “setting the stage”, limbering up and yelling instructions to one another, as the live band (an epic addition to the performance) started to play, the big top was totally absorbed.  And that says a lot seeing as it was a matinee performance; it must be the first time I have been to a performance at this time when a room full of children were silent the whole time.  It really does say a lot about the power of the production.

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Property of NoFit State website

And once it kicked off, it really kicked off.  Aerial stunts that left me totally speechless, my heart threatening to explode out of my chest… how could these stunts be physically possible?  How could the human body move in such a magical way?  What was truly spectacular however, was the way NoFit State told a story purely through the power of movement.  From start to finish a mesmerizing story unfolded before our eyes.  In my opinion, no other touring company quite manages to tell a story like they do.  It was intoxicating.  They managed to perfectly balance the raucous hysteria one might associate with the circus in big group numbers with intimate, sensual solo and duets; of course accompanied with absolute perfection by the band.

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Property of NoFit State website

Every performer was flawless, with a total disregard for gravity.  This team did things that humans should not be able to do.  They challenged the boundaries of physics and gave world-renowned gymnasts a run for their money.  Each one was fully engulfed in their character, making the performance all the more believable.

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Property of NoFit State website

After an extravagant two hours of explosive stunts, Bianco closed in a simple, beautiful and artistic manner.  The perfect close to the party, it drew this awe-inspiring show to a subtle and sophisticated finale.

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Property of NoFit State website

NoFit State are masters of the profession.  Forget clowns and slap-stick humour, forget the wackiness for the sake of it of Cirque du Soleil.  What NoFit State manage to do is present a magical world in a contemporary and classy way.  They take the audience on a journey, leaving them dazzled and delirious.  For anyone who ever dreamed of running away to the circus, this is the show for you.  For anyone who didn’t, you’ll leave ready to pack your bags.

Bianco is showing in the Big Top until June 7.  For £15, this spectacle is worth every penny.  Find out more here. 

 

 

Take a trip to The Magic Toyshop..

The Magic Toyshop

Audience members expecting a buoyant tale of happy ever after will have left Chapter with quite a surprise this evening after Theatr Iolo and Invisible Ink’s production of The Magic Toyshop.  Based on the gothic fairy-tale penned by Angela Carter, famed for her feminist and magical realism, the story explores the eerie world of forbidden desires and dark family secrets.

Following the death of her family, 15 year old Melanie is transported away from the classic, middle-class comforts of her safe, idealistic life into a parallel world.  Put in the care of her twisted Uncle Philip, her world turns a darker shade of black as the demented threads of her new family home quickly start to unravel, and an unsettling world of living dolls, abuse and incest rise to the surface.

The stage was used with strong effect, with elements of the set being transformed with ease, intensified by an interesting and intense use of lighting.  The five person cast was overall an effective team, although certain members of the cast quite easily outshone others.  Comedy was interspersed throughout which helped to reinforce the dark, Gothic undertones of the play; unfortunately, I did feel like this needed to be emphasised even further.  For such a disturbing (strike – incredibly disturbing.  Certain parts left me feeling quite uncomfortable) story line, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the darkness of the production.  Perhaps that was not the intention; and I can understand the way it was presented would appeal to a wider audience.  For my personal taste, if something is dark I want it to be dark!

Ignoring the (at times) disjointed and unexplained narrative, The Magic Toyshop did entertain.  It was not quite what I expected, but it did deliver a thought-provoking piece of theatre.  Whatever your response, it will totally engross, baffle, shock and disturb; for that alone, this one is worth a watch.

The Magic Toyshop plays at Chapter Arts Centre until Saturday 17th May. For tickets and information, visit the Chapter website.

SHAKESPEARE AS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT..

Tequila, pizza and gold spangled pants – no, it’s not a scene from your Uncle’s stag do, but rather a euphoric chunk from Filter Theatre‘s (in association with RSC‘s) production of Twelfth Night.  A 90 minute explosion of hysteria, live music and playfulness, this contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic was not for the faint-hearted.

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Held at Sherman Cymru, the play opened up with the foolishly lovable Orsino (played by Shakespeare veteran, Jonathan Broadbent) uttering those famous words: “If music be the food of love, play on!”.  And play on they did.   From start to finish, the show was mayhem – in the best sense of the word.  Well known for their bold and boundary pushing work, Filter Theatre has taken this churned out classic and spun it on its head making it more accessible – and more bizarre – than ever before.  The cast were comically en pointe, interweaving the much loved words of Shakespeare and the fresh, imaginative mind of director Sean Holmes.  With plentiful opportunities for audience interaction (including a theatre wide conga line!), the play had the room gripped from the word go.

And what was so incredibly refreshing to see was the hugely diverse audience.  People of all ages spanned across the theatre; it truly paid homage to the work of Filter, and the excitingly expansive audience their joyous adaptations called out to.

Really it’s difficult to sum up the experience the show gave me.  Part of me left bouncing off the walls, and the other half left not knowing what the hell had just happened.  Whatever it was, it was infectious.  Was it Shakespeare for me?  Probably not, but then who’s to say that’s a bad thing?  What Filter did was take what has become a rather tired piece of work and dazzled it into a heady concoction of carnival like splendour.  If you’re looking for a night to just let go and have some real laughs in the process, then this is a must see.  Although please be warned – you may never look at yellow socks the same way again.

BOLLYWOOD WITH A BANG..

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In the lead up to one of the most hotly anticipated film festivals the country stages, I have had the pleasure of speaking to Rabab Ghazoul, the WOW Women’s Film Club co-ordinator.  Rabab has been an integral driving force in the exciting Best of Bollywood Live, so it was an absolute delight to speak to her about the inspiration for the event, what she thinks is missing from the Bollywood culture in Cardiff and what we can expect for the future of this type of bespoke event.

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What was the inspiration for setting up the Bollywood Brass Band event?

The inspiration was wanting to do things a bit differently. I’d been running the WOW Women’s Film Club for years, and whilst a huge amount of women access our screenings at Chapter Arts Centre, I wanted to somehow combine and cross fertilise some of our audiences who wouldn’t normally come across each other: our Film Club members, the wider audiences who use Chapter Arts Centre, as well as people who might not use either Chapter or the Film Club. So the idea was to organise a pop-up screening in our of our faith/cultural communities, and try and invite ALL of these different potential audiences along to enjoy an exciting evening of film, but to do so within this very mixed environment.

Often we develop ‘tailored’ arts provision for ‘marginalised’ groups, and that’s all very well, but I felt that the future of really meaningful ‘access’ was to create cultural spaces that were increasingly inhabited by wider cross-sections of the community…not just those ‘targeted’ groups. I believe the more we mix, and experience culture together, the wider our sense of connection to community.

So within this ‘pop-up’ framework, the Bolllywood Brass Band seemed like the perfect vehicle for such an evening: something a bit different for the Hindu Gujarati community who were hosting the event, a chance for our usual Film Club (female!) members to take part in something that the whole family could attend (guys welcome too!), and something the wider Chapter Arts Centre audiences could take to! Given that our Gujarati hosts are cooking incredible food for everyone that evening, we thought, this is a great way to experience film within an authentically community setting!

Do you think that Cardiff has a sufficient amount of events / activities focused on the Bollywood culture; also do you think Cardiff has enough focused on women’s only events? 

It’s hard to tell whether we have enough Bollywood events, I’m not sure, but I certainly think there’s room for more. Within Asian communities themselves, there’s often all kinds of activities and events going on, no doubt including Bollywood inspired culture, but we rarely hear about these things. I know that for example Asian communities, in Cardiff and elsewhere, often go to Bollywood films that are put on at the big multi-plexes, or else book somewhere like Chapter Arts Centre for a special Bollywood screening, but it tends to be for that community so understandably, we don’t get to hear about it although I think it would be great! I think in a way that’s why we wanted to open out the Bollywood experience a bit to loads more people…

As far as women’s events are concerned, some people say to me…Really? Do we really need women-only spaces nowadays? And I tend to answer, well just ask the women who come! Our Film Club members absolutely argue for these spaces, for a chance for women to get together, have time out, meet each other, leave their kids in the creche and watch a film, unwind. It’s easy to take these things for granted, but many women simply don’t get a chance to do that or for that matter can afford it. Many of the women who come to the Film Club experience isolation of different kinds, we have women rom reguges, or asylum seeking women, or women who go for long periods without mixing with other people. So yes women’s spaces are important. And I think these spaces do exist in different ways across the city, perhaps we don’t have as many cultural events tailored for women, and that’s why the Film Club addresses a real need. 

Do you hope to go on to hold more of this type of event after WOW?

Yes we’d love to. We think the pop-up programme is a really vibrant part of what we have to offer. And whilst championing women’s spaces, lots of men often say to us, can you include us too please!! The pop-up events are a way to really open out to audiences, men, women, families, and a range of different communities. Pop-up film events have often happened in really interesting sites and locations across the UK (a castle, a park, a barge) but it tends to be the same audiences, just moving from an arts space over into a site-specific space or location. These pop-ups, located in the heart of cultural and faith communities, are about not just interesting spaces or locations, but really opening out, as communities, to each other.

What do you want audiences to take away from them after the event?

Well, to have a fantastic, inspiring, joy-filled time! If people aren’t familiar with the Hindu temple Samaj community centre, to leave feeling they’ve had a warm welcome and a taste of a community’s culture that’s right on their doorstep. And I suppose to really feel it’s been a great opportunity to experience something new, something fun, with a whole load of people we haven’t met before!

How difficult was the process of setting up this event… has it been in the pipeline for a long time?

It’s taken a while, things move in fits and starts as with everything. The challenges are funding a project like this, it costs a lot to bring an entire brass band outfit from London to Cardiff! So setting up isn’t so much difficult, it’s just events like this are different, logistically a little more complicated, and rely on us getting audiences in! We really need people to attend so we can break even basically, otherwise, there are serious questions over whether we can host things like this again. But we’re hoping to get a good crowd. That’s what makes the hard work all worth it!

Can audiences expect any surprises from the event?

I suppose if you haven’t experienced Bollywood before, that will an eye opener – over 15 classic, iconic Bollywood scenes from famous movies of the last 100 years. To be honest, the surprise as far as I’m concerned is the Brass Band aspect!! I’m trying to imagine how this will sound, the Bollywood given the brass band treatment! It’s fusion at its wildest! There might also be some other surprises in store, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if we told you!

Bollywood Brass Band

Thank you so much to Rabab for speaking to us – to book your tickets for the event, visit the WOW website.

 

DANCE THAT TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY..

National Dance Company Wales (NDCW) are well renowned for their intricate, slick and dynamic work.  An award-winning company, their pioneering work is challenging and thought provoking; exactly how contemporary dance should be.

Today their Spring Tour visited Sherman Cymru, and I was lucky enough to be able to experience their beautiful work.  For me, contemporary dance is up there as a favourite form of art.  I love the way it challenges expectations, using the body in a divine way that seems utterly impossible.

Of course, the production did all this and more.  Kicking off with Mythology,  the dancers performed as a community, delicately bringing their separate movements and motifs together as one to create a unity.  The dance gradually built up in a frenzy of movement; you almost didn’t quite know where to look.

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But then as the dancers drew together, and the individual movements bounced off one another, they created something truly amazing.  In a split second you could see exactly what Shropshire was aiming to do with his choreography; creating something all-together greater through the sum of its individual parts.  

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He likens this to the culmination of the company over four years, together creating a vision and a philosophy of movement.  A true testament to the power of the company and the journey it has taken to become an internationally recognised dance group.

Mythology was powerful and consuming; accompanied by a Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, an avant-garde composition for piano, jazz ensemble and spoken word, it was clever, expressive and deeply reflective.

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The Seek To Find The Happiness They Seem was totally different.

Whilst Mythology was an ensemble of manic yet controlled group work, this piece was a simple and moving duet between two exquisite dancers.

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An effortless portrayal of the inner world between couples and individuals, the dance told a classic story of dislocation and separation within a relationship.  With a single spotlight on the dancers, it begins reflecting an apparent closeness, with intimate movements and a breathtaking closeness of bodies.  Despite the beautiful accompaniment, it was as if the room was completely silent; eerie almost.  You felt you could have heard a single pin drop… as if had you made a noise, the movements would have stopped.

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It was as if you were peeking through a key-hole at this unraveling relationship, watching an initial intimacy turn to loneliness.  Both dancers were superb; their movements were smoke-like, floating across the stage and into your sub-conscious.  It was mesmerizing.

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Closing with my highlight of the evening, Water Stories was sure to be the crowd pleaser.  This piece focused on the magical waterscapes of Wales, creating a poetic and spine-tingling world of movement on stage.

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The costumes perfectly complemented the allusion of lakes, waterfalls, reservoirs… the gentle yet powerful fluidity of water.  This, alongside the dancers effortlessly flowing movements, made the piece incredibly believable.  Even for a non-contemporary mind, the subject matter was shouting out.

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Every dancer had the opportunity to shine.  Whereas I can normally focus on one performer and (secretly) pick my favourite, the choice was far too rich here.  Each individual was exceptional, taking dance to whole new levels.  The flexibility and strength of everyone on stage was jaw-dropping.  Throwing one another across the stage as if made of feathers, sinking in and out of the most stunning holds and stretches, whilst remaining in an ethereal state made this piece hypnotic to watch.

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During the dance projections of enchanting Welsh waterscapes were presented to the audience, allowing a literal representation of the very abstract movements.  It was a delightful touch, and a charming way to draw the topic, movements, music and costume in harmony with one another.

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I found myself wishing this piece would never end.  It was sublime, with some of the most exciting and natural lift work I have seen in a dance production.  I loved the attention it paid to every performer, and the variety of pace, power and emotion it reflected.

This was the first time I had seen NDCW.  After tonight, I will absolutely be following their journey and their performances, and cannot wait for their next visit to the city.

If you find yourself on their touring remit, I urge you to introduce yourself to their spell-binding work.  You will not be disappointed!

PREVIEW: NDCWALES EXCITE THE CAPITAL..

This month the awe-inspiring National Dance Company Wales (NDCW) will be returning to Sherman Cymru with a triple-bill of dynamic dance and classic Welsh talent.

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The award-winning contemporary dance company are taking their ever intelligent and inspiring work on a tour of Wales and England, with a one-day stint at Sherman on 10 February.  This season’s programme features the work of world-class choreographers and promises to be a mesmerizing and intoxicating series of dance.

The intriguing triple bill includes:

Stephen Petronio; Water Stories

In an exclusive premiere of his latest work for NDCW, Stephen Petronio teams up with Grammy-winning composer Atticus Ross (who created the score for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as well as the original visual design work of Matthew Brandt.  A delightful combination of sound, movement and sight, Water Stories portrays the magical and abundant waterscapes of Wales.

 Lee Johnston; Purlieus and They Seek To Find the Happiness They Seem

Working with the talented lighting designer Joe Fletcher, Lee Johnston presents two beautiful pieces of work.  Purlieus explores the intricate relationship between movement, light and animation in a bid to fully immerse both audience and performer in an overwhelming experience.  They Seek To Find The Happiness They Seem focuses on choreography, lighting and costume to evoke visions of dislocation and separation in relationships.

 Stephen Shropshire; Mythology

Stephen Shropshire’s captivating Mythology promises to capture and astound the audience.  Accompanied by Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, an avant-garde composition for piano, jazz ensemble and spoken word, this piece promises to attack the senses and absorb its audience.

Tickets are £15 – £22 with under 25s half price.  Book your tickets here.

TWEET TWEET..

To celebrate 2014 The Scribble Emporium has undergone a bit of a makeover!  I’m loving the slicker, more professional look to the site.  I feel like I’ve finally found a theme that fits what this blog is about.

I’m also excited to say that you can now follow The Scribble Emporium @ScribbleSays.  I’ll be posting regular blog updates as well as any art and culture news.  If you’re interested in the Welsh arts scene give it a follow!

You can also now contact The Scribble Emporium by emailing info@thescribbleemporium.com.  If you have any shows coming up that you would like me to review, just drop me a line.

As if that wasn’t all thrilling enough (yes, I live a simple life), the blog now has its own domain!  I will be dedicating a lot more time to the blog this year and already have some fantastic shows in the pipeline (look out for preview features and interviews coming soon).

I’m really looking forward to seeing where I can take this blog in the next year.  If 2013 is anything to go by there is hell of a lot to look forward to!