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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bianco

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. 

 

 

WELCOME TO THE DARK VANILLA JUNGLE..

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It takes a lot to unanimously grip an audience; even more so when there’s only one woman on stage.  But Philip Ridley’s Dark Vanilla Jungle did just that.  Performed by the exceptionally talented Gemma Whelan (best known for her roles as Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones and Rachel in One Man Two Guvnors), this 80 minute monologue told the traumatic story of Andrea, a young girl beaten repeatedly by the harsh sting of betrayal and loneliness, exploited and rejected by all those she ever loved.

Dark Vanilla Jungle delved into the uncomfortable and frighteningly real issues ever present in society; gang rape, incestuous relations, mentally abusive parents and the darker depths of the human psyche.  Despite the incredibly serious subject matter, subtle humour throughout kept the mood in the room rapidly changing; a nice touch, seeing as Andrea’s mindset did quite the same.

It was a tough 80 minutes; Whelan’s poignant portrayal of Andrea was so spot on that it left the audience reeling.  Despite there only being one actor on stage – no set, no props – the whole audience was there, peering in on this fragile girl’s life as it rapidly untangled.  In all honesty, you didn’t need set or props: if anything, they would have totally deterred from the mesmerizing words of Ridley.  One of the most beautiful elements of the production (and commented on by Director David Mercatali after the show) was that each and every member of the audience was given the tools to create their own version of the play.  Every one of us had a different idea of all the characters in the play, all the locations; it was quite an overwhelming experience, and gave us all a sense of control that Andrea did not have.

The drama and story gradually built up throughout the production, until a climatic twist that left the audience on the edge of their seats.  It was one of those moments where I didn’t want to look, but I couldn’t look away.  I was totally immersed in the spellbinding performance, the delightfully intelligent direction and of course the powerful, thought-provoking script.

I was left in total awe as the lights went down on Whelan.  The first professional monologue I have ever had the pleasure to see, Dark Vanilla Jungle affected me in a way that I have never been affected before.  Everything was en pointe, intoxicating and all consuming.  A beautiful experience.

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?