Wales Millennium Centre Uncovered In One Hour
Review of Wales Millennium Centre Tour – Cardiff Bay – Cardiff
On the hottest day of year yet, it’s no wonder the tour guide of Wales’ multicultural Millennium Centre was proud as he showed us around the building. Fitted with large vents and a layer of ice that melts to cool the building when a warm draft of air hits, it’s a pleasant escape from the 27°C heat outside. But that’s not the only reason you’d want to visit the centre. Carefully designed to resemble a ship, the aesthetics of the building are a feast to behold. From pillars that look like trees – “Wales is growing into a new country!” – to door handles in the shape of musical instruments, to the stairs that set the shape of a ship, there’s always something around the corner to surprise visitors.
The Wales Millennium Centre was designed intricately by three architects, Jonathan Adams, Tim Green and Keith Vince, whose brief at the outset of the project was to design a building that expresses ‘Welshness’ as recognisable as that of its Australian counterpart, the Sydney Opera House. From the particular use of slate from Welsh quarries, which is encased in a coloured layer to look like the different stone layers seen in Welsh sea cliffs, to the Celtic lettering on the front of the building, it is evident that every nook and cranny of the Wales Millennium Centre has been designed that way for a reason. The face of Wales Millennium Centre, known for its inscription, “IN THESE STONES HORIZONS SING” was interestingly chosen as they believed the stones would be literally singing with the music from inside. This in-depth design of the building, which caters not only for the comfort of the visitors but also radiates Welsh spirit, is just another way the building interests and entertains anyone that visits Cardiff Bay.
Since its opening in November 2004, the large steel building has prided itself on its open door policy. Informal spaces in the lobby are free to be hired out to school groups and performers, and their range of disabled facilities (lifts, automatic doors, and parking) make the centre easily accessible to all. However, the most welcoming thing of all has to be the centre’s bilingualism. A surprising approximate of over 60% of the staff can speak both English and Welsh and not a single sign is written in one language. Even the website is available in Welsh and English! One thing’s to be sure, you can always speak to someone without worrying you’re saying something wrong.
Another proud point of the Wales Millennium Centre is its theatres. The main theatre, The Donald Gordon Theatre, holds up to 1896 people, ensuring as many people as possible get to see the full wonder of the shows. Not only that, but the seats at the very back of the theatre are only an astounding 40m away from the stage, the same distance as if they were hovering from the sky towers above. This, coupled with the holes underneath seats and specialised drapes, which absorb sound to create the best atmosphere possible for the show, give the audience a spectacular experience they will find hard to forget. Smaller, but not less important, is The Weston Studio, which seats 250 people and is home to more small-scale productions, meetings or private dances, proving the centre’s claim that they are the host of a wide range of entertainment.
Although there is little to find at fault with a venue that has so obviously pulled out all the stops to please everyone, the food and drinks in the building are very costly. A small tub of 100ml ice cream costs a whopping £2.50 compared to the £1.00 tub you can buy in the Sainsbury’s opposite the centre. Although it is acceptable to take your own food and drink into the theatres, the trouble is inconvenient, and traditionally purchasing food at the venue is supposed to be one of the fun parts of the day.
To sum the Wales Millennium Centre up simply, I would have to say it’s an inviting, aesthetically pleasing venue with lots of high quality shows to pull people of all kinds into Cardiff Bay. In the future, I’ll be seeing the performance of Wicked, which I’m certain the centre will ensure is as pleasurable an experience as possible. Granted, the overpriced food and drink are a downer, but that’s only one thing to balance out the bounty of advantages the centre holds.