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?

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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.

ANATOMY GETS A SPELLBINDING TWIST WITH CLOD ENSEMBLE..

Clod Ensemble are a company renowned for breaking the barriers of traditional drama.  They challenge, they experiment and they throw themselves into the public’s attention.  Unafraid to take risks, they take their work into new territories, forcing the audience to re-think their expectations and perception of theatre.

An Anatomie in Four Quarters was of course no exception to this.  Despite knowing about the enchanting work of Clod, I really did not know what to expect.  The press and marketing around the performance gave little away; a bold (but wise) decision in my opinion.

Before the performance, the audience were led to the top floor of the Wales Millennium Centre.  Looking at my ticket, I realised that we hadn’t been assigned seats.  Everyone around looked the same as I felt: a bit confused, uncertain of what to expect and excited.  We were led into the upper circle where we were told to fill the middle four rows.  A hush fell across the auditorium.  And with that, the most exciting and thought-provoking piece of theatre I have ever seen begun with an almighty bang.

An Anatomie in Four Quarters was “a celebration of the physical structure of the bodies we inhabit and the ways we attempt to see, define, contain, name and value them.”  It took the way we perceive the body and broke it into a million pieces, threw it around a bit and then pulled it back together.  The way Clod played with choreography, audience viewpoint and music was exceptional.  Each movement was a mesmerizing dissection of the body, taking hold of your senses and pulling you into the performance.

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Presented in “four quarters”, each section of the performance literally took the audience on a journey across the beautiful space that is the Donald Gordan Theatre.  Travelling from the Upper Circle, to the Raised Stalls, down to the Lower Stalls and then eventually up onto the stage, the audience was provided with the tools to view the performance from a variety of compelling positions.  The dancers themselves used the theatre to its full advantage, crossing between the main stage, the seating area and even positioning themselves across the ceiling (with only their feet visible to the audience).  It was an experience I have never had before.  Not only was it captivating to perceive the same piece of dance from different perspectives, but also to be introduced to different areas of the theatre was a beautiful experience.

Clod Ensemble, An Anatomie in Four Quarters.

The music across the four sections also played a huge part in the evening.  Slipping between live strings, percussion, bagpipes and a powerful guitar and drum score, the audience was again forced to reconsider the way they saw the dance.  My personal favourite composition was the partnership between the enthralling contemporary movements and the heavy rock accompaniment.  It took my breath away.  Two seemingly parallel forms of art were presented in a way that was natural, dynamic and explosive.  I literally found myself leaning forward in my seat, jaw-dropped, as I was pulled further and further into the performance.

The final section had to be the highlight.  Invited onto the stage, the audience were encouraged to take their time as they weaved in and out of the performers.  Standing so close to these exceptionally-talented dancers was incredible.  You could see every single bit of muscle definition, the sheer strength of their movements and the fluidity of their bodies.  Unfazed the dancers performed just as beautifully as when you were sat right at the back of the theatre.  Staring at you straight in the eyes you were drawn even more deeply into the performance.

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As the audience took to the seats at the back of the stage, the show continued. Seeing it from this position, and seeing the empty theatre in all its glory was the most exhilarating feeling.  You were a part of the performance.  You were a part of the dissection.

Closing in a spectacular way (a way that I don’t want to give away!) the audience erupted.  Together we had been taken on the most fascinating journey, and the ending drew it to a close in the most spellbinding fashion.

An Anatomie in Four Quarters was the perfect blend of video and spoken art, live music, site specific choreography and audience interaction.  It was adventurous, intelligent and hypnotic; it called into question everything you might have considered classic art.

You cannot put into words the feeling it left you with.  It really is something that has to be seen to be believed.

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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.

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE GETS A DASH OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL…

What do you get when an Englishman, an Irishman, a Welshman and a Scot walk into a recording studio?

A compelling and intricate tale of our ever-changing political landscape, that’s what!

Perhaps not the typical answer to the question, but Tim Price’s latest production is anything but typical in its approach.  Set in the simple set of a recording studio, I’m with the band was performed entirely by four characters; an Englishman, a Northern Irishman, a Welshman and a Scotsman as they battle with the financial crisis of their band, The Union (very fittingly named!).

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Image by Jeremy Abrahams.

Of course, the characters all adhere to the stereotypical, highly “un-PC”, portrayals of their nation’s personalities.  You’ve got the Englishman, played by James Hillier, as domineering head of the band, reluctant to take advice and convinced he’s always right.  Then you’ve got the ditzy Welshman, played by Matthew Bulgo, as a harmless chap with little to no self esteem.  Then of course the recovering drunk and bulshy Irishman (note point, the recovering drunk, bulshy, VERY handsome Irishman) played by Declan Rodgers.  And finally, you’ve got the smart Scot, played by Andy Clark, determined to gain his independence from the rest of the band.  Ringing any bells with our current political climate?

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Image by Jeremy Abrahams.

Although going down the cliche route may seem like an obvious choice, it does provide a hilarious script.  Adding to that, the cast played each character superbly, and portrayed their character in a clever and interesting way.  My only issue with cliches, is despite them obviously being used for comical purposes, they do tend to frustrate me.  The Englishman and Irishman’s utter refusal to accept the Scotsman’s departure from the band – or let’s say, from the other nations – compared to the Welshman’s indifference was slightly uncomfortable viewing.  Perhaps just a personal point living in Wales, but the constant portrayal of the Welsh nation being “dopey” and not as important a component to political decisions is getting a bit tiresome.  I understand these things are done for dramatic purposes, but it is slightly disheartening that these stereotypes are still prevalent.

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Image by Jeremy Abrahams.

Saying that, Price did not rely solely on these stereotypes to provide a winning story.  Told not only through spoken script but also live music, the show was energetic, fast-paced and incredibly witty.  Each scene was introduced as a title of one of the band’s tracks, projected on a screen behind the stage.  I thought this was a really quirky approach, and something I appreciated a lot!  All four characters had equal “stage time”, and were all equally talented.  Clark played a strong character, battling with his journey to independence – a difficult road for the Scotsman.  Price exposed it as a problematic path, with many bumps along the way; really, it only scratched the surface Scottish independence, but for the purpose of this play, I believe it did the job.

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Image by Jeremy Abrahams.

Price’s aim for the production was not to say whether Scottish independence is a good or bad idea: it was to highlight the emotional, physical and psychological impacts on the other nations.  And this he does exceptionally.  That is why it was not necessary for him to delve into the history and facts of the movement.  What Price delivered was an inventive and though-provoking piece of work that left you with a different opinion every time you thought of it.  Political undertones aside, it was also fantastically funny, and a play I would happily see again and again.

A BEAUTIFUL WEEKEND FOR THE ARTS THANKS TO TAKEOVER CARDIFF..

As you might have guessed from my recent posts, I’ve been pretty excited for Saturday’s Takeover Cardiff.  And rightly so – it was a fantastic idea.  I believe arts and culture are vital to society, and to be able to inspire and engage with young people in this way is fundamental to ensure that a love of the arts never dies.

The event was a huge success.  Every venue was buzzing with crowds of spectators, and social media was going mad for the whole thing.  It was touching to see such beautiful work by these young curators, showcasing their creativity and passion in Wales’ most iconic venues.

Kicking off at The Senedd…

The event kicked off at the Senedd, with a brass band playing as the seats quickly filled.  People of all different ages congregated in The National Assembly Building – including many young kids that might have never visited it before!  As the fanfair came to a close and the crowd hushed, Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding took to the stage.  His speech played homage to the vibrant culture and confident youth of today, and how fantastic it was to see young people take over the political and cultural venues of Cardiff.  I couldn’t agree more.

Following his speech, young critic Ethan Evans delivered a moving, poetic speech of his own.  His words floated across the Senedd and left the audience in awe.  It was amazing to hear such a young person speak with such poise, elegance and linguistic talent.

After an introduction from Young People’s Laureate for Wales, Martin Daws, it was then time for the children of Literature Wales to take to the floor.  This 16 person bilingual poem was performed to a steady drumbeat, with the children performing solo, in pairs and as a whole group.  It was dynamic and sincere, encapsulating the beauty of Wales and what it meant to these incredible children.  One particularly beautiful metaphor came from a young boy from Napal, who described climbing on the back of the Welsh dragon, giving him courage and flying him back home.  With references to Welsh cakes, daffodils and the nation’s favourite sport, the poem was wonderful to watch, transporting each and every member of the audience back to their dearest memories of their country.

Next up were street dance team Rubicon.  The all-female group performed an exciting Ethiopian Street Dance, with carnival-esque music to get the crowd really going.  The dance was lively, fun and exhilarating, with talent in abundance.  You couldn’t help but clap along – and I definitely had to keep myself firmly rooted to my seat to stop jumping up and joining in with the party!   It was a clear hit with the crowd, who’s cheers showed the girls it was a job well done.

The Senedd section of the day finished off with an intimate performance from up and coming singer – songwriter Dan Bettridge.  His folk / american style music was reminiscent of Johnny Cash and John Mayer, with delicate lyrics that left the crowd wanting more.  There with the Young Promoters Network, Dan left a lasting impact on the Senedd – particularly with the younger girls!

On to the Wales Millennium Centre…

Next stop, the Wales Millennium Centre!  Opening the next part of the show was African Dance company, Ballet Nimba.  And what a way to start!  With exceptional music, dance, song and energy, the group had the whole of the WMC up and dancing.  With Welsh participants involved, the group encapsulated joy, spirit and passion, performing a fantastic form of music that may have been unknown to some members of the audience.  By the end, whether you were aware of the music or not, everyone wanted a piece of it.  I could have listened to that showcase all day and night – it was the perfect portrayal of a life free of inhibitions, where beauty and happiness were the only things that mattered.

Following Ballet Nimba was the exquisite Gabrielle Murphy.  Like Dan Bettridge, Gabrielle came to Takeover as part of the Young Promoters Network.  A 17 year old from Treherbert, her voice took the audience away.  Again, she was lyrically superb, with a soulful and exhilarating voice.  I found myself sat there wondering why this fantastic girl didn’t already have a record deal.  The deep and personal songs were touching to hear – and to make the deal even sweeter, Gabrielle came across as a beautiful individual, inside and out.

Next on stage were the Literature Wales team again, introduced by American poet Michael Cirelli (you might remember him from my recent interview).  Michael had been working with the group throughout the week to create this work of art, which the WMC crowd loved just as much as The Senedd did.  It was great to see the confidence and sense of pride of the children on stage; they knew they had created something fantastic!

Closing the WMC was the crowd favourite Rubicon – with (if possible!) even more fire and energy than the first time round!  Again, it was amazing to see the girls once the performance was finished as they soaked in the raucous response from the crowd.  Well done girls – you were out of this world!

Happenings in the Hayes..

Over the The Hayes for the next installment of Takeover.  There was lots going on around the city center, with buskers entertaining the crowds and the Zoom Cymru documentary films playing on a loop in CFQ.  I took myself down to the National Library, for a poetry recital by the YPL and Lit Wales guys.

I expected a calm recital of tender poetry; what I got was entirely different!  The recital came from Michael Cirelli, Martin Daws and Rapper / MC / Singer Songwriter / Scriptwriter / Stand Up Comedy (yep – cracking CV!) Rufus Mufasa.  With topics ranging from hard hitting political raps to love poems about spaghetti, the content was varied and liberating.  Each poet took turns to perform; there were lyrical pieces, spine-tingling songs, theatrical recitals and empowering spoken word showcases.  Rufus wowwed the crowd with her fantastic voice, dipping in and out of Welsh and English.  Martin became a different person with each piece, performing as if it was the most important performance of his life.  Michael was engaging, fun and extremely talented with his words.  They were a terrific trio.  It was like something I had never seen before, and left me inspired.

Next stop on the map was a performance I was personally very excited for – Mutle Mothibe’s powerful showcase with the children of Grassroots.  Held in the perfect venue of the National Museum, the group had a huge crowd ready for them.  For me, this was the highlight of the day.  Watching the Grassroots kids on the side as they prepared, they looked anxious and pretty terrified.  When they took to the stage… well, it was another story.  They presented MC performances, hip hop acts, acoustic renditions of popular songs, incredible singer-songwriters and jaw-dropping dances.  It was a feast of talent – there’s no other way I can describe it.

It wasn’t even the talent that left me so speechless.  For every performer, it was clear how much it meant to them.  With the countless talent-less celebrities filling our TV screens day after day, to see real, raw talent within people who had so much passion was absolutely beautiful to witness.  Particularly with the kids that had written their own work, it was stunning to watch – at times it left me on the verge of tears it was so sublime.  The positive messages resounding in the showcase was truly inspiring and reminded the audience of the brightness and wonder all around us – particularly in an age where all too often the negative aspects of the world weigh people down.

A surprise performance came from Martin Daws joining Mutle on the stage – the two had spent the week under the same hotel roof, and it was evident they had become great friends.  They took to the stage doing what Mutle does best – turning sincere and tender words into pure art.

The showcase ended with a glorious bang, in a collaborative piece between Cardiff and South Africa where everyone joined on stage.  Every single performer here was given a chance to show their fantastic talents to the upbeat crowd – which by now was huge!  The electric atmosphere inside the museum was magnified as instruments were scattered throughout the crowd, ensuring each and every person inside the museum was a part of the party.  It was the perfect end in the perfect venue to a perfect event.

Celebrations in Chapter..

After an inspiring screening of animation students from Oslo, Norway and Newport’s work, the Takeover crowd were invited to enjoy the food and drink of Chapter.  It was a fantastic chance for performers to mix and for connections to be formed.  The atmosphere was incredible – everyone was so proud and empowered by the work they had seen and performed.

I left the night feeling motivated and moved.  To be around such fantastic, inspiring people – not just the performers, but the incredible people that made Takeover Cardiff possible – was an invigorating experience.  It is rare to be around people that share such passion and dedication, and for that, Takeover is an event I will take with me for the rest of my life.

INTRODUCING… LOTTE VAN GAALEN: THE NETHERLANDS’ HIGH-FLYING FILM MAKER..

It has been an absolute pleasure meeting some of the International stars of Takeover Cardiff  this week.  Not only has it been wonderful to speak to such inspirational people, but it has been incredibly interesting and inspiring to see  the different ways in which they work.  I am so excited for the fantastic things that tomorrow has to hold, and humbled that I have had first hand experience of the artist’s incredible work.

Today I met Lotte van Gale: the documentary film maker from The Netherlands.

Lotte has come to Cardiff for the very first time to work alongside Zoom Cymru for Saturday’s event, creating incredible films with 17 – 23 year olds.

Lotte’s work is emotional, appealing and innovative, and she brings to Zoom Cymru a wealth of experience and knowledge. Earlier I met her for a low-down of all things “filmy”, and what exciting things we can expect from Saturday’s showing…

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the work that you do? 

A: In the Netherlands, I work as a documentary film maker. Since graduating last year, I’ve been really lucky with some of the exciting work I have been asked to do. When I first met the guys from Zoom Cymru, I was actually participating in a European Film Forum in Milan. The Forum was basically a chance for young film makers from all over Europe to get together, network and learn from one another. That’s how I got to know them – Zoom Cymru were also there! They told me they were working with Takeover Cardiff, and were looking for an international artist. When they invited me over, I was overjoyed to say yes!

 Q: What led you to become a documentary film maker?

A: I always wanted to do something creative. Initially, I was really interested in journalism. At about the age of 17, I was introduced to this critical film by a Dutch film maker, Sunny Bergman. The film was called Berperkt Houdbaar, and revolved around the notion of female beauty, and the way that women are pressurized by the media to look a certain way. This film hugely inspired me, and let me down the path of documentary film making.

I then got into film school – quite a big feat as places are coveted in the Netherlands! This was a brilliant learning curve for me as it taught me that I didn’t want to make political or critical films. I wanted to make “film films”!

Q: What does your work tend to be about? 

A: There is no particular theme with my work. I’m not really drawn to subjects portraying actuality. I prefer to evoke a level of emotion in my work, and something that is understandable to everyone, regardless of education and background.

For example, I created a graduation film centred around the Dutch Coast. The film wasn’t filled with facts, but rather encapsulated what the coast meant to me in a poetic way. I’m currently working on a film about family relationships, and in particular gay men’s relationships with their Mothers. It’s subject matters like this that I love to convey; things that people can relate to.

 Q: Why did you want to get involved with Takeover Cardiff?

A: Firstly, I had never been to Wales! So that was an exciting step for me. It’s been brilliant to get to know Cardiff, and I’ve already met so many incredible film makers. Secondly, I felt a real connection with Zoom when I met them in Milan. I knew there and then that I wanted to work with these people.

Working with Takeover has also been fantastic as it means I get to do what I love: making films and coaching young people. Although I have taken part in many workshops, I have never taught this age group before – so it’s been a real learning experience! They have a whole new attitude to film which is so exciting to see.

 Q: Do you think events like Takeover Cardiff are important to youths and the arts community? 

A: Definitely. For the arts community, it is great to be able to cease this opportunity to display work. Although there is so much going on in the arts, often it is not visible to the community. Unless something is pushed right in front of your face, you might miss it altogether. So Takeover Cardiff is ultimately making arts available to a mass audience, allowing people to be challenged and inspired by it.

I like to think for young people that making films and taking part in media courses allows them to learn so many more general skills that will help them throughout life. Through the process of film-making, they learn how to express themselves, communicate, negotiate, plan things in advance, compromise and learn from their mistakes: I believe these are all powerful learning tools!

 Q: How have you found working with Zoom Cymru? 

A: I’ve really enjoyed it! They have provided me with a nice balance. I am given room to do my own thing and communicate in my own way, but then they are there to back me up when I need them. As I am new to working with this age group, and the people of Wales, they really help me understand people’s backgrounds and needs. I couldn’t do this alone – I have learnt so much from them, things that I will now implement in my own work away from Cardiff. They have made me feel so at home; a real family atmosphere!

Q: What do you hope to achieve through your work with Takeover Cardiff? 

A: I really hope that participants feel like they have learnt something; this is so much more important to me than the end result! I want them to feel proud of what they have achieved, and confident in their film-making skills. If the participants leave feeling like they have really contributed something, and have had a good time, then that is the best reward for me.

Q: What can we expect from Saturday’s performance? 

A: There will be two films shown on Saturday – they are really quite short films, and will be playing on a loop throughout the day at CFQ (Womanby Street). The general idea was to give participants a chance to express their view of culture in Cardiff. The first focuses on the opportunities young people are given in the arts in Cardiff. The second is a bit of a social advert; it portrays the frustration of kids about the lack of interest in teens about the history of Cardiff – this really surprised me! I mean, this kids were genuinely disappointed in the small number of their peers that were interested in places such as the Castle and Museum. Throughout the day, the participants will also be floating around the city centre, handing out leaflets and bringing in new crowds to see the films. They are all very excited to see people’s reactions – as are we!

For more information on Zoom Cymru, visit their website.

For more information on Takeover Cardiff, and a list of our partners, visit the British Council website. 

Join the conversation on Twitter @bcwales, Like ‘British Council Wales’ on Facebook, Hashtag: #TOC #YoungCurators.