Christmas with a difference has landed at the Sherman: amongst the brightly coloured lights and floating snowflakes, stands one man: devoid of renditions of ‘He’s behind you’, emotions run high and hangover’s hit hard when reality rears its head and the spirit of Christmas is floundering. Matthew Bulgo’s debut play Last Christmas explores the idea of finally growing up and realising happiness isn’t just about escaping the past, but embracing the future. Tom faces the ghosts of the Christmas past to head into his future.
There is a unique take on a seemingly clichéd topic in Last Christmas: Tom escapes the backwards, boring Swansea life for the lights and highs of London as a film maker, but after a while the drudgery of paying the bills and an ordinary office job seeps back in. The character’s and the detail of Swansea are vivid: Lanky, Spanner and Bins are that much more alive than the likes of London character’s ‘Suz’ and the Intern. If ‘ambition is critical’ enough for people to leave, Last Christmas highlights the fact that they end up leaving something behind: true friendship and family – what did Tom’s dad really think at the end? Was he proud? It is Tom’s journey home where he comes to realise, through a haze of alcohol that he need not have worried: he has after all begun to become his father.
A one man show is difficult to pull off but the combination of talent brought about by Dirty Protest’s collaboration with Clwyd Theatre Cymru creates an intimate piece full of emotion and passion. Siôn Pritchard’s skillful acting and comic timing is fantastic: he portrays this ordinary man in such a way that everyone can empathise with on different levels and his portrayal of those in his story is pitched perfectly, each personification adding to the depth of the story. Matthew Bulgo’s use of language and imagery is superb: he has brought a character – who could easily have slipped into a one dimensional life – into a multi-dimensional, full colour existence. Filled with stomach creasing rants that flow with ease into dark, grief filled moments that brings tears to the eyes. Kate Wasserberg has used her skill to mould these two talented elements of actor and writer into a seamless and striking piece of theatre.
Last Christmas was a captivating hour of theatre and joy to watch, filled with the mixed blessings that Christmas brings for so many and the joy for others.
Sunday, 18 November 2012
The Adventures of Sancho Panza
Riverfront Theatre, Newport
The Adventures of Sancho Panza is a modern twist on the Don Quixote classic, drawing the real and fictional worlds together and the Don is no longer centre stage. With an unusual opening scene, Sancho Panza and his mother are attending the funeral of their father and husband, it is after when Sancho cannot get his mother to read with him and he reads alone, that his imagination takes over, bringing the Don himself to life and launches Sancho into his adventure.
My only note would be that the piece felt like it faltered slightly: the pace started to wind down about two thirds through, rather than continue at a pace, almost if an interval might be needed somewhere. As it moves past this it does regain its momentum as Sancho is granted is own island to govern and the comedy continues.
The musical talent of the cast is brilliant: Maxwell James is handy with his guitar throughout. His rendition of the opening “There’s a million other places I’d rather be than here…There’s a million other people in the world I would rather be” is heartrending as we watch the funeral procession unfold. He plays challenging Knight in the Don’s (Gareth Wyn Griffiths) sing off. Wyn Griffiths is brilliant as the chivalrous, kind but occasionally daft Don.
Closing back in on reality, Sancho’s mother finds him reading out in the cold, his imagination having run its course and together they are able to work through their grief and Sancho’s questions of ‘Why?
A masterful, heart-warming and touching piece it is well worth seeing.
The Adventures of Sancho Panza is on tour again in 2013.
Info: www.hijinx.org.uk/ Hijinx as a theatre company are dedicated to creating accessible theatre for all the family and to the inclusion of actors with special needs.
Sunday, 11 November 2012
Saturday, 25 August 2012
Y Llwyfan, Carmarthen
Saturday, 11 August 2012
Faenol Estate, Bangor 2-6 October
Wednesday, 1 August 2012
The Monkey House, Edinburgh
(originally for Buzz Mag)
A post-apocalyptic interpretation, its intensified violence is blended with the text’s raw power and the original Shakespearean language. Piers explained the idea of a crumbling society, where Lear himself is a crumbling figurehead – losing power to his two callous daughters whilst the third daughter is banished and powerless to help. Gloucester, part of the only remaining sub-plot, is corrupted by his illegitimate son Edmund, forcing his elder son to flee.
To Piers heading up to the Edinburgh fringe is incredible and hugely exciting, particularly as they only ever envisaged it as a main Cardiff Act One production and to be there on showcase with great companies in an event where anything can happen is incredible. Performing in The Monkey House they have a prime afternoon spot away from the larger evening performances.
For those lucky enough to be heading up to Edinburgh in August @LearFringe2012 is their Twitter tag.
Tickets: £7.50. Info: www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk