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.

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: BLUE/ORANGE AT SHERMAN CYMRU..

21-23 January at Sherman Cymru.

Tickets £12 (Under 25s £6)

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Christopher has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  After a grueling 28 days detained under the Mental Health Act he is due to be released.  But as the NHS crumbles and institutional politics brim over the edge, where does his fate lie?

This month the classic contemporary play Blue/Orange comes to Sherman Cymru.  Following success at National Theatre (originally created by Joe Penhall over 10 years ago), Welsh theatre company Canoe Theatre now hopes to wow Welsh audiences with the experience of this fantastic production.  It’s the companies first production; by the looks of things, they’re going to kick off with an almighty bang.

It’s darkly funny.  A daring combination of race, mental health and social structure, the play resonates in a palpable way with the current politics of today.  Christopher’s destiny lies solely in the hands of two doctors; but what’s to do with a man who could well be the illegitimate son of an African dictator?

Director Julia Thomas puts the play simply: “It is honest, funny and well observed. It makes you think but also makes you laugh. It is a contemporary classic that will resonate deeply with audiences.”

Featuring a stellar cast (including Matthew Bulgo of Sleeping Beauties, I’m with the band and Praxis makes perfect) Blue/Orange hits Sherman Cymru on Jan 21 until 23.  If you’re looking for something a bit different, something meaningful or something raw, this is the play for you.

For £12 it’s an absolute bargain.  Even better, under 25s get in half price.  To find out more about the show and tickets, visit the Sherman website.

SHERMAN’S SLEEPING BEAUTIES SPARKLE AND SHINE..

It isn’t Christmas without a fairy tale story.

Well, that’s what I tell myself as I desperately cling on to my love of Princesses, magic and make believe stories.  And that’s exactly why I was childishly excited for Sherman Cymru’s latest adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, written by Robert Alan Evans.

I knew little about the show before entering the beautiful building that is Sherman; it’s the way I like to approach most shows.  All I knew is that Evans had taken the classical fairy tale we all know and love and given it a bit of a modern spin.  Always a risky business, but in more cases than not (in my experience anyway), a worthy choice.

The festive spirit was brimming at the edges as I walked through the doors; carol singers in one corner, majestic tree in the other, bunting, decorations, mulled wine, mince pies… the atmosphere was electric.  Families with children of all ages waited expectantly for the mighty call of the overhead speaker.  As we were eventually called to our seats I noticed I was probably the only 22 year old in a sea of pre-teens and gurgling toddlers.  I clung to my little cup of mulled wine (another bonus point; Sherman allows drinks inside the theatre) and waited cheerfully for the Christmas background music to softly drop and the lights to dip.

And what did transpire was quite simply the perfect family show.  Sleeping Beauties followed the lives of Dawn, the beautiful and cursed Princess, and Eve, her comical and dowdy friend.  Bound together by the curse of the Forest-bound Fertility Wife the girls are taken on a journey 1000 years into the future.

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 Images by Mark Douet

Evans plays with the drama of time and the horror of being forced to re-imagine the future; he brings the tale to a more modern time, whilst maintaining the charm and innocence of classic fairy tales.  Magic, intrigue, friendship and young love make this story captivating for a younger audience, whilst topical jokes and playful humour kept the theatre lively right through until the final line.

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 Images by Mark Douet

Lisa Jen Brown, cast as the Fertility Wife, was particularly commanding.  She played the part delightfully, with singing solos dispersed throughout to add even more sparkle to the festive mix.  As your perception of her character changed you realised how clever the plot really was, whilst remaining extremely accessible for the younger audience.

Clove, the “baddie” of the play, was your typical fairy tale scrooge; over the top, slimy and easily hated.  A bit much for me, but he certainly pleased the children with his extravagant gestures and excessive facial expressions.

The modest set was sweet and humble, adding to the endearing innocence of the performance.  The Forest scenes were especially enchanting, with sparkling trees glittering down from the ceiling for the characters to dive in and out of.  Despite the Forest supposedly being the “deep dark” setting, it kept the scenes light and appealing.

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Images by Mark Douet

Sleeping Beauties certainly ticked all the right boxes for family entertainment.  It’s engaging, pure and full of morals to keep the parents smiling.  Perfect for this time of year, it’s ideal for families with younger children.

My only negative is I was hoping it would be slightly more accessible to an older audience, whilst remaining jovial for the young ones. I didn’t quite get the feeling I normally do from these sorts of performances, but I don’t think I was really meant to.  It’s a fairy tale to keep children caring about the classic childhood stories; and it absolutely has the potential to do so.

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Images by Mark Douet

Sleeping Beauties is running from now until January 4th.