BOLLYWOOD WITH A BANG..

band and video - Exeter - photo Tom Hurley

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.

 

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WALES WELCOMES THE BEST OF THE WORLD..

From the Best of Bollywood, to the rolling mountains of Switzerland, Wales’ travelling film festival returns this March with an inspiring feast of cinematic magic from around the globe. First brought to our attention in 2001 – thanks to the daring imagination of festival director David Gillam – Wales One World film festival has continuously challenged, excited and touched audiences all across Wales. This year, the festival promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with a diverse range of untold stories and dazzling events to rival the popularity of previous years.

Travelling between Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, Clwyd Theatr Cymru Mold, Taliesin Swansea and Theatr Mwldan Cardigan, WOW 2014 brings 18 of the very best world cinema films to all parts of Wales, with exclusive events across every location.

A Story of Children and Film

A Story of Children and Film

 Kicking off on Friday 21 March until Wednesday 9 April, the festival opens at Chapter Arts Centre with the Welsh premier of A Story of Children and Film; a rich exploration of the position of children in arguably the most popular art form of our time. Drawing on scenes from some of the most recognised classics, the film is directed by the celebrated Mark Cousins, the director of Channel 4’s The Story of Film, and followed by a special Q & A session. 

Metro Manila, Sundance Film Festival 2013

Metro Manila

 But this year’s festival doesn’t stop there. Perhaps one of the most outstanding factors of WOW 2014 is the high level of work it is exhibiting, with award-winning and BAFTA nominated world cinema scattered throughout. Winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance film festival and BAFTA nominated Metro Manila promises to shock audiences with its tense and gripping thrill factor, whilst the winner of last year’s Best Documentary Prize at last year’s European film awards Winter Nomads looks to take audiences on a thought-provoking journey of discovery.

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Winter Nomads

 The ingenious work on display truly plays homage to the journey the festival has taken itself on since 2001, becoming a globally recognised and powerful event, attracting world-class talent and pulling in growing audiences year on year.

 The growing phenomenon that is WOW also means the festival can now put on bigger events, such as this years Best of Bollywood Live; a new departure for the festival thanks to a partnership between WOW and their sister project, WOW Women’s Film Club. The event will take place on Saturday 22 March with a pop-up film and live music experience at Samaj Community Centre, Grangetown. Magnificent clips of iconic Bollywood scenes accompanied by the encapsulating beat of the Bollywood Brass Band promise to transport its audience members out of the festival and into a whole new world, with a delicious array of authentic Gujarati food set to seal the evening in true style.

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Bollywood Brass Band

 And that’s not all. Big or small, popular or untold, every story that the Wales One World film festival brings to its audiences illuminates our world in which we live in, from the voices of those often kept quiet. The festival brings the world a little closer to home, and takes its audience on a journey to places they may have never been. It’s innovative, expressive and utterly inspiring; and this year’s programme looks to take the festival to new heights.

 TOP FIVE

 PAPUSZA

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 An inspired evocation of a Gypsy life lost for ever, this film charts the life of Polish Roma Poet Bronislawa, full of music, despair and triumph. With strikingly beautiful black and white imagery and a tale of discovery, this film looks to linger in the audiences’ mind for years to come.

 SOMETHING NECESSARY

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 The tale of Anne, a strong-willed widow trying to piece her life back together after the civil unrest of Kenya. The film follows her life after the 2007 elections, where devastation left her widowed, her son hospitalized and her farm in tatters. Inspiring, consuming and heart-rendering; a must.

 THE SECOND DEATH

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 Something entirely different, this classy supernatural thriller is a cleverly scripted and atmospheric portrait of a twisted ghost story and a paranormal murder mystery.

 WHEN I SAW YOU

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 A powerful Palestinian drama about a rebellious young refugee on the hunt to find his Father. A touching story of people affected by the trying times around them, desperately searching for a way out.

 THE LUNCHBOX

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Quaint and subtle, this film tells the romantic tale of two mismatched personalities that have never even met. Clever, comical and charming, this delightful picture promises to put a smile on your face.

WE’RE ALL MAD HERE..

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Who’s mad and who’s sane?  It’s a question that resonates deeply with literature (who can forget One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest protagonist Randle McMurphy and his battle with the system?), film and let’s face it, modern society.  The answer, balancing on a knife edge, can hold the key to all manner of things.  And in Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, that key is the key to freedom.

I recently previewed Canoe Theatre’s Blue/Orange, keen to drum up a bit of interest for this exceptional play that has seen huge success in the past with National Theatre.  The subject matter gripped me from the word go; a failing NHS, the ramifications of institutional politics and a young man wrestling with his identity and mental well-being.

Performed at Sherman Cymru, the story was set entirely in a doctor’s office.  We (as the audience) were led into the theatre where rows of plastic chairs surrounded this simple set up.  Immediately it reminded me of a doctor’s waiting room; I can’t be sure if this is what they were trying to evoke, but it certainly did the trick for me..

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The intimate setting was integral in the drama and power of the performance.  Played entirely by three actors, we were so close we could quite easily touch them if we reached out and tried.  That uncomfortable feeling and closeness encapsulated the paranoia projected by the play’s main star, Christopher (played by RWCMD student, Simon Mokhele).

As we eagerly awaited the start of the play, I as always had high expectations.  I knew it would go one of either way; the play would be thought-provoking, intellectual and powerfully compelling, or it would miss the real issues at hand.

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Well, happily it went the first way.  Blue/Orange tackled the ever-present problems of a poorly funded NHS, where professionals lose sight of their obligation to help the sick and the mentally troubled in a bid to cut costs and free up beds.

Christopher, who has been detained under the mental health act with borderline personality disorder, is due to be released.  His fate lies in the hands of Bruce, a doctor certain that Christopher’s issues run far deeper than originally imagined, and Robert, the “big dog” of the hospital, with his sights set entirely on promotions, publishing a book (with a focus on “black psychosis”… yep, seriously) and cutting corners and costs in any way possible.

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As Bruce persists to try and detain Christopher for longer (with the worry that actually he is suffering from schizophrenia), Robert further and further asserts his place, juggling with Christopher’s mental-wellbeing in the process.

It’s the soul-destroying tale of those in charge being able to do whatever the hell they like, even if it does lack any morality and suggest utter insanity.

And there the question lies; who is truly insane?

Is the Orange really blue?

Is Christopher really the son of Idi Amin?

Obviously I don’t want to give too much away.  What I can say is Blue/Orange attacks this profoundly complicated theme with wit and dramatic vigour.  It dives straight into the issues of racial prejudice and cultural judgement; almost painfully so.

Political, funny and seriously unnerving.  It was brilliant.

My only criticism would be the length of the first half.  I think it could have been cut easily by half an hour; and it wasn’t until the second half that I was truly consumed by the play, feeling anger, resentment, shock and pity all in one bundle.  The subject matter was so poignant and the acting was so superb that I think the dialogue could have been reduced… just to make it a bit snappier and more attention-grabbing.

Overall the play did exactly what it set out to do.  It highlighted the problems overwhelming the NHS and the racial prejudices still existing, challenging and evoking emotions; but it did all this in a somehow light… but equally powerful way.   It was quite magic.

Blue/Orange is showing at Sherman Cymru until Thursday.  Catch it while you can.

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!

THEATRE CRITICS OF WALES AWARDS 2014..

It’s back; the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards is once again returning to the big bad city of Cardiff.  Celebrating Welsh talent, the awards are put together and hosted by the Young Critics Scheme; a group I love to get involved with.  It’s an exciting opportunity to take a look back at the year and remind yourself of the exquisite talent all around us.

And so much fantastic work I had forgotten even happened this year… NoFit State’s magical Bianco for example.  What an intoxicating production; a highlight of the whole year for me, and one of the first productions I independently reviewed (take a look here).

To my delight Dirty Protest’s Parallel Lines has swept the board with nominations, and rightly so!  Anyone who follows this blog will know it was one of the most captivating shows of 2013 for me.  A remarkably talented team of people with a real passion and power for their work.  Inspiring.

I am so excited to see who walks away with the awards on the night, and what productions go on to wow us in 2014.

NOMINATIONS:

Music and sound

• Praxis Makes Perfect – National Theatre Wales

• Sue, The Second Coming – Dafydd James/Ben Lewis

• The Bloody Ballad – Gagglebabble

• Tir Sir Gar – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Chelsea Hotel – Earthfall

Lighting

• Diary of a Madman – Living Pictures /Cegin Productions

• Pridd – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Turn of the Screw – Torch Theatre

• Romeo a Juliet – Ballet Cymru

• Praxis Makes Perfect – National Theatre Wales

Design and costume

• Sexual Perversity in Chicago – Living Pictures

• Blodeuwedd – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Sleeping Beauties – Sherman Cymru

• Salt, Root and Roe – Clwyd Theatr Cymru

• It’s a Family Affair – Sherman Cymru

Digital/online content

• Chelsea Hotel – Earthfall

• Y Bont – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Love and Money – Waking Exploits

• Praxis Makes Perfect – National Theatre Wales

• Letters from Another Island – Almost Human

Inspirational educator

• Raina Malik: School of Basic Islamic Studies – Sherman Cymru

• Ioan Hefin: You Should Ask Wallace – Theatr na nÓg

• Aled Jones Williams – Theatr Bara Caws

•  Amanda Gould – Foundation Phase, S.E.W. Education Achievement Service

• Elen Bowman – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Director

• Arwel Gruffydd: Blodeuwedd – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Kate Wasserberg: Salt, Root & Roe – Clwyd Theatr Cymru

• Catherine Paskell: Parallel Lines – Dirty Protest

• Wils Wilson: Praxis Makes Perfect – National Theatre Wales

• Mathilde Lopez: Caligula – August 012

Male in an opera

• Christopher Turner: Albert Herring – Mid Wales Opera

• Marcus Farnsworth: Greek – Music Theatre Wales

• Bruce Sledge: Maria Stuarda – Welsh National Opera

• Kelvin Thomas: Eight Songs For A Mad King – Music Theatre Wales

• Gary Griffiths: Roberto Deveraux – Welsh National Opera

Female in an opera

• Marie Arnet: Lulu – Welsh National Opera

• Gwawr Edwards: Barbwr Sefil – Opra Cymru

• Serena Farnocchia: Anna Bolena – Welsh National Opera

• Leah-Marion Jones: Roberto Deveraux – Welsh National Opera

• Alexandria Deshorties: Roberto Deveraux – Welsh National Opera

Opera production

• Paul Bunyan – Welsh National Youth Opera

• Wagner Dream – Welsh National Opera

• Barbwr Sefil – Opra Wales

• Lohengrin – Welsh National Opera

• Lulu – Welsh National Opera

Male performance in the Welsh language

• Emlyn Gomer: Llanast – Theatr Bara Caws

• Sion Ifan: Tir Sir Gar – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Ceri Murphy: Dyled Eileen – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Owen Arwyn: Pridd – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Carwyn Jones: Dim Diolch – Cwmni’r Frân Wen

Female performance in the Welsh language

• Siw Huws: Trwy’r Ddinas Hon – Sherman Cymru

• Ffion Dafis: Anweledig – Cwmni Fran Wen

• Rhian Morgan: Tir Sir Gar – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Morfudd Hughes: Cyfaill – Theatr Bara Caws

• Rhian Morgan: Dyled Eileen – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Production in the Welsh language

• Llanast – Theatr Bara Caws

• Y Bont – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Cyfaill – Theatr Bara Caws

• Blodeuwedd – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Tir Sir Gar – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Production for children and young people

• Here Be Monsters – Theatr Iolo

• Halt – Theatr na nÓg

• Dim Diolch – Cwmni’r Frân Wen

• Sleeping Beauties – Sherman Cymru

• Silly Kings – National Theatre Wales

Ensemble

• Cyfaill – Theatr Bara Caws

• Dr Frankenstein – Tin Shed Theatre Company

• Age – Re:Live

• Bianco – No Fit State

• The Bloody Ballad – Gagglebabble

Small scale dance production

• Flights of Fancy – RCT Theatres

• Hide – Deborah Light

• The Day We Realised The World Was An Oyster – Chloe Loftus

• Chelsea Hotel – Earthfall

• Mac//beth – De Oscuro

Large scale dance production

• Stuck In The Mud – GDance / Ballet Cymru / Hijinx Theatre

• Noces – National Dance Company Wales

• A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Ballet Cymru

• Romeo a Juliet – Ballet Cymru

• Water Stories – National Dance Company Wales

Playwright (Welsh language)

• Aled Jones Williams: Pridd – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

• Meic Povey: Man Gwyn Man Draw/Rhwng Dau Fyd – Living Pictures/Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru/Sherman Cymru

• Rhian Staples: Cynnau Tan – Sherman Cymru

• Francesca Rhydderch: Cyfaill –Theatr Bara Caws

• Roger Williams: Tir Sir Gar – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Playwright (English language)

• Greg Cullen: Fallen – Shock N Awe

• Dafydd James and Ben Lewis: Sue: The Second Coming

• Rachel Trezise: Tonypandemonium – National Theatre Wales

• Katherine Chandler: Parallel Lines – Dirty Protest

• Tim Price: Salt, Root & Roe – Clwyd Theatr Cymru

Male performance (English language)

• Oliver Wood: The Bloody Ballad – Gagglebabble

• Lee Mengo: Spangled – Mercury Theatre Wales

• Robert Bowman: Diary Of A Madman – Living Pictures

• Dafydd James: Sue: The Second Coming

• Christian Patterson: Translations – Clwyd Theatr Cymru

Female performance (English language)

• Katie Elin-Salt: Educating Rita – Clwyd Theatr Cymru

• Sara Lloyd-Gregory: Love and Money – Waking Exploits

• Lynne Hunter: Dandelion – Welsh Fargo Stage Company

• Siwan Morris: Tonypandemonium – National Theatre Wales

• Rachel Redford: Parallel Lines – Dirty Protest

 Production in the English language

• The Bloody Ballad – Gagglebabble

• Tonypandemonium – National Theatre Wales

• Parallel Lines – Dirty Protest

• Love and Money – Waking Exploits

• Caligula – August 012

 Check out Karen Price’s round-up of the nominations in today’s Western Mail and also online.

Who wins your vote?

THE BIG 2013 ROUND-UP..

After starting this little blog only five months ago, I’ve been invited to some fantastic shows and events.  I’ve had tickets to the ballet, Shakespeare, site-specific dance, political comedies and daringly realistic plays.  I could not be more grateful that these fantastic, exciting theatres and companies have wanted me to review their brilliant shows; the arts scene in Cardiff is superb, and something I am incredibly passionate about, so to be able to express my opinion on it is a wonderful feeling.

So in good New Year fashion I have decided to post my “top five” events of 2013.  Here’s to many more inspiring shows in 2014!

5) Cedar Lake

NECESSITY, AGAIN, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Baden Baden, Germany.

Contemporary ballet is my favourite form of dance, and Cedar Lake ticked every single box for me.  The New York dance company are known for their edgy, adventurous performances, daring to be different whilst providing exceptional talent through their awe-inspiring dancers.   This trio of performances was exciting, dynamic and captivating.  The time flew by, leaving me wanting more from this exciting company.  And more I certainly got, as a few weeks later I won a signed programme from the team – perfect!

 

4) Takeover Cardiff

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In October I followed the first Takeover Cardiff (put on by British Council Wales).  I interviewed three fantastic international artists and then attended the day long event before writing a review of the whole event.  The event was thought-provoking and touching; a showcase of young talent in South Wales, it took artists to the iconic cultural hubs of Cardiff.  These were kids that would normally not be given the platform to play out their talent.  British Council Wales gave them the chance to throw it into the public’s attention.  The day left me feeling like anything was possible if only you have the passion, confidence and drive to achieve it.  A stunning event which I will always remember.

 

3) The Selfish Giant

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Although not technically a performance, I can’t have a write up of 2013 without mentioning The Selfish Giant.  Clio Barnard’s modern adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale classic affected me in a way that I’m not sure a film ever has before.  It was poignantly beautiful and utterly raw, leaving me quite literally breathless in the closing scenes.  It is a film that didn’t shy away from the uncomfortable truths encapsulating modern society, whilst reflecting the most delicate friendships and love in a superb way.

 

2) Clod Ensemble’s An Anatomy in Four Quarters

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Last month I was invited to a rather unusual show.  The advertising around it gave little away.  I had no idea what to expect… but always keen to see something new, I went into it with an open mind and intrigue.  What I experienced was something I could never have expected.  An Anatomy in Four Quarter’s was spellbinding, exquisitely intelligent and overwhelmingly consuming.  A mesmerizing combination of drama, music, dance and spoken word, the performance brought the audience into the performance and took us on a journey through the anatomy of the body and the theatre.  It really was an exceptional experience, and one of those performances that days later still left you questioning the deep messages behind every movement.

 

1) Dirty Protest’s Parallel Lines

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There is no doubt for me that the highlight of 2013 was Parallel Lines by Dirty Protest theatre company.  The powerful play depicted the gritty and forbidden relationship between a seemingly perfect teacher and an under privileged student, set on the simple set of two parallel kitchens.  Everything about this play was superb; the acting, the script, the direction… it all fell together in a fantastic presentation of class, truth and relationships.  The deeply disturbing subject matter was portrayed with maturity, authenticity and skill; Katherine Chandler truly has a talent for the written word.  I cannot do this play justice; but what I can say is I cannot wait to throw myself into more of Dirty Protest in 2014.

 

I hope you all have a beautiful New Year!  Let me know of any shows that have made your 2013 special… and remember, email me if you would like me to review any of your shows in 2014! Peace!

WALES INTERNATIONAL YOUNG ARTIST AWARD TAKES THE COUNTRY BY STORM..

Last week I was lucky enough to receive an invite to the Wales International Young Artist Awards.  The event was organised and carried out by The British Council Wales, and if last month’s incredibly successful and inspiring Takeover Cardiff was anything to go by, I knew I was in for a treat.

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The awards were held at the Radisson Blu hotel in Cardiff; a fantastic venue in my opinion.  I’d not visited the hotel before, and was immediately impressed by the lavish décor and various bars and rooms.  Kicking off with a champagne reception and delicious canapés, the room quickly started filling with arts enthusiasts, friends and family and of course the talented nominees.

I love the atmosphere at arts events; it’s a wonderful feeling to be in a room with so many like-minded individuals.  I find it inspiring, and the WIYAA was no exception.  Everyone was milling around, chatting and enjoying the delectable treats on offer, whilst the nominees nervously awaited the big announcement.  It was glamorous, exciting and tense!

After about an hour we were led over to another conference room where a two piece band greeted us with a selection of smooth and lyrical songs.  Here the artist’s work was displayed prominently for guests to admire.  There were five nominees; a fine-art sculptor, a film-maker, two photographers and a ceramic designer.  The wide spectrum of work was fantastic to see and highlighted the different levels of art out there.  Every piece was exceptional with a beautiful story behind it.  I couldn’t believe that these young artists had produced such mature and intricate work.  Crowds were gathered by every piece, drinking it in and letting it take over.  You couldn’t help but notice the artist’s proud faces; what a fulfilling feeling it would be to see so many people blown away by your work!

Everyone was then directed towards the seating area, with nominees sat nervously in the front row alongside the (not so) frightening judges.  After an introduction by the Director of British Council Wales, Simon Dancey, it was time for the judges to take to the floor.

The judges talked through every piece with enthusiasm, knowledge and admiration.  First up was Eluned Glyn, a ceramic designer from Cardiff Metropolitan University.  Eluned created a selection of abstract tea-set pieces, taking her inspiration from the classic ceramic of the 20th and 21st century.  Her work echoed the old chinaware from her Grandmother’s dresser with a new lease of life from the re-creating process.  It was interesting, sophisticated and exuberated an effortless elegance.  It was chic but full of risks and daring.

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Next was Eugene Finnegan, a photographer from Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen.  Eugene’s work depicted the struggles felt by the new generation of adolescents told through a series of black and white images.  His pieces portrayed their attempts to fit in and understand the world they live in, where perceptions of ordinary are challenged on an endless basis by the hyper real portrayals of media.  Such a deep and meaningful topic was told poignantly with the simple but effective images.  You felt as if you were peering through a keyhole at an intimate moment; a perfect snapshot of reality.

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Following Eugene was Georgia Hall, a third year student of Fine Art Sculpture at Howard Gardens.  Her piece, titled ‘Conversations’, was a highly figurative form made from various materials; chicken wire, foam, concrete, cardboard, paper, tape, plaster, nylon rope and chair.  Georgia hoped that the interesting materials would entice the viewer closer to the sculpture, physically drawing them in so that they become a part of a momentary play, creating a visual narrative as if they are in conversation with a possible character.  It focused on presentation and the response of the viewer, whilst exploring the properties of materials with regards to weight scale and balance.  It was a form of art I had never experienced before.  But the mature subject matter and barrier breaking approach enthralled me; it was an exciting and an extremely communicative piece of art.

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Next up was Richard L. Pask from Caerphilly, a highly experienced individual in the film industry.  His piece of short film reflected his own stories, and the stories of the people and places around him.  It was beautifully cut and attention-grabbing, with the flair and technique of a film-maker with years of professional experience.

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Finally we were introduced to the work of Andrew Morris, a photographic artist based in Swansea.   His touching piece “What’s left behind” invited the audience to contemplate one of life’s biggest questions… what is left behind?  The interiors depicted in each of Andrew’s images belonged to a number of empty houses that had been put on the market with the intention to be sold following the death of the owner.  The images were so striking and emotional, including possessions that had belonged to the deceased owners.  The powerful photographs were almost eerie, reflecting the sad remains of a person’s life once they are gone.  Again, so simple but commanding, Andrew’s work left the audience with real food for thought.

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So with a metaphoric drum-roll, the grand envelope was handed to the judges.  The nominees took an audible deep breath, whilst the families clung to the edge of their seats.  Even I had butterflies!  This work was clearly so important to these five individuals, and their nerves must have been sky high.

“And the winner is… Andrew Morris!” And with those six words, I was subjected to the most raucous and excited celebration of a proud Mother I have ever seen!  Andrew’s family were in tears; it was the most amazing thing to watch!  As Andrew proudly took to the front to collect his prize the feeling of pride was palpable.  And rightly so!  Andrew will have his work projected on an international platform through the British Council Wales network of offices in six continents and over 100 countries!  And of course, a cash prize of £500!

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These awards were a fantastic move by the British Council Wales.  It is so important that young artists are given this platform to promote their work, and to be awarded for their talent and dedication.  As always with these events, I left feeling so inspired and proud to be a young person in Wales.  I cannot commend the British Council Wales enough for their devotion to the arts and young individuals; I look forward to all their future events!

Take a look at Andrew’s award-winning work here.