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.

WISHLIST TITLES: TAKE TWO

After being on a bit of a reading rampage this weekend, I realised it made no sense to do two separate posts about the two books I finished in the past two days (so many twos!).  So after thinking of the ways I could roll the reviews into one, I actually started to question the way I present book reviews.

And alas, an idea struck me.  I always hesitate with book reviews anyway (so dubious to give too much away, whilst keeping the main elements of the plot evident), so have decided to start formatting them slightly differently.

I may decide a few weeks down the line that actually this sucks, but for now let’s give it a go.

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

Rating: 5*

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Perfect for: The reader that is enchanted by the written word and loves a good cry

If you liked: The Boy in the Striped pyjamas and anything by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, this is the one for you

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages; in fact, when I was a lot younger I did give it a go… I just couldn’t get in to it.  But picking it up now took me to another world, full of innocence, history and magical passion.

The story follows Liesel, a girl from Nazi Germany, and her experiences throughout the war.  With unexpected twists and surprising additions to the cast, the historical context of the tale draws you in from the word go.

Narrated by death, you would expect this to be a dark novel; you may think that is where we draw the similarities with Zafon.  But no, it is deeply touching and intensely moving.  The similarities come from the role of words and books for the characters, and their power to transform lives.  A huge plus for the avid book lovers out there.

Full of the most endearing and heart-rendering characters I have ever found in literature, The Book Thief is quite easily one of the most delightful books I have ever had the pleasure to read.  From start to finish, the words spun like gold off of the page.

Final thought: Read the book before you see the film!  I am incredibly nervous about whether the film will capture the essence of the story.  Only time will tell!

Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson

Rating: 3.5 *

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Perfect for: The thrill seeker

If you liked: Gone Girl then you will absolutely adore this.

Christine is a 47 year old woman.  Every day, she wakes up and has no idea where or who she is.  No, it’s not a case of wine-head (guffaw guffaw); Christine suffers from anterograde amnesia.

An interesting subject even without the twist.  This psychological thriller delves into the idea of your history being re-written, and who we can really trust.

Reminiscent of Gone Girl (in the way that I nearly screamed when the twist unveiled itself), it’s a real page turner.  Incredibly clever and intricate in its plot, I finished this in a day. It was that gripping, there was no way I could put it down.

The structure of the book is integral to the pace and mystery surrounding the story.  It is what makes it such a spine-tingling read.  For me, it actually topped Gone Girl; a stunning debut novel for SJ Watson.

Final thought: This, I believe, is going to make a corker of a film.  If they do it right, it’s going to be something spectacular.

THE PERFECT NIGHT FOR THE PERFECT MURDER..

I adore surprises.  You can’t beat the look on someone’s face when you surprise them with something heartfelt and let’s face it, exciting.

So when I saw that Peter James was touring with the first ever stage adaptation of one of his books, I knew I had to grab tickets for my boyfriend.  As cliche as it sounds, he’s Peter’s biggest fan.  Before introducing him to Perfect People the most he’d read would be a Steven Gerrard autobiography (true story).  

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The idea of seeing one of his thrilling novels played out on stage was pretty exciting.  His stories are full of suspense, twists turns and devilish drama; to see  that live was bound to be a fantastic experience.

Although the thought of surprising my boyfriend with the show was brilliant enough, I was desperate for the chance to actually introduce him to his literary hero.  So after a week of tweets, Facebook messages, website trawling and emails my wish was granted.

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I’m not sure I have ever seen someone so star struck.  Not only was it the most beautiful feeling to see the look on the bf’s face as he shook his idol’s hand, but Peter James was quite easily the most humble, lovely man I have met in a very long time.  As we spoke of all things Roy Grace, potential movies, TV series and future books, I felt overwhelmingly lucky and blessed.  Here was an international best-selling crime writer taking the time to meet us.  It was an incredible experience.

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As if that wasn’t enough, the play itself was exceptional.

The Perfect Murder follows the life of Victor Smiley and his wife Joan.  Both detest each other; picture the marriage from hell and you’re nearly there.  Desperate for a way out, Victor meticulously plans the perfect murder… but little does he know what Joan has in store for him.

With a fabulous cast (including TV favourite Les Dennis), the Perfect Murder takes the audience back to the infamous Roy Grace’s very first homicide case.  As fans of the series we adored the copious links scattered throughout (I’m not going to give anything away!).  It felt like these special links had been intertwined especially to treat the audience.

In a more unexpected twist, the production was extremely funny.  Witty one-liners combined with comical personalities had the audience absolutely howling, whilst the eerie and intriguing magic of Peter James had us on the edge of our seat.  The perfect mix; the play ticked all the right boxes.

As expected, the play culminated in a deliciously shocking finale.  Curtain down, and the audience erupted.

Despite the Roy Grace references and the Peter James story-line, this production is easily attractive to fans and newbies alike.  There’s something infectious about this type of production.  You forgot you were sat in a theatre; suddenly you were transported to the keyhole of a neighbours dark domestic drama.

The Perfect Murder is touring to twelve different locations right up until April.  If you love mystery, suspense and cockney rhyming slang, this is the Perfect Play for you.

WISHLIST TITLES: THE TESTAMENT OF MARY..

Despite reading being one of my favourite past times, I pay little blog attention to the books I have the pleasure of reading.  And although I recently wrote a post about my books wishlist, I haven’t actually reviewed any of the incredible work from it.

So from this post onwards I will be including little reviews of the books I tick off my list.  And whilst my book shelf groans more and more by the day (I can’t go a week without buying at least three new additions) I hope I can bring a little bit of magic into your life by potentially introducing you to these inspiring titles.

1013733_10151826727841300_1400815285_nThis weekend I finished The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin.  I’d seen the novella on the Huffington Post top 30 books to read before you’re 30 and knew it had to go on the list.  Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013 the book’s kind of a big deal.  I was excited to see if it lived up to expectations.

Honestly, the book was an absolute delight to read.  I finished it in a day; it drew me in from the first page.  The novella follows the life of the Virgin Mary, a Mother whose son has been lost to the cruel dark world.  But don’t think that this book is full of religious imagery; that really wouldn’t be my type of thing.  No, it is simply a poignant portrayal of a Mother’s mourning.  The pages are full of mystery and unsolved questions, delicately touching on the story of Christ without overwhelming the reader with religious connotations.  In fact, not once is the word “Jesus” used.

Crossing between a present day aged Mary as she lives in exile and then back to Mary as she documents her son’s descent into execution, the story is raw, touching and thought-provoking.  It challenges your expectations, casting the Son of God in a naive, at times disconnected light.  As the story culminates with the crucifixion the plot deepens; these moments are particularly powerful, touching on disturbing.

The Testament of Mary was a moving, deliciously intelligent read.  It is one of those books I would happily read again and again, picking up further hidden threads with every turn of the page.  A combination of political messages and heart-rendering emotional battles, it is no wonder the book has made such a monumental impact.

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!

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!