Friday, January 27, 2017

REVIEW: Richard Alston Dance Company Spring 2017 (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)

There's a distinct mix of the traditional with the modern in Richard Alston Dance's Spring 2017 tour, which takes the company from the wilds of North Wales to the hubbub of London, via the US, Germany and Yeovil.

Theatr Clwyd is the first stop on a series of performances that take the company through the first six months of the year, and the Mold audience was lucky enough to have a preview of a brand new piece commissioned by Peak Performances, the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming at Montclair State University in New Jersey, before its official premiere on February 2nd in the States.

That piece is Chacony, named after a type of musical composition which reached peak popularity in the 17th century baroque era. Like a pure dance version of Laura Wade's Kreutzer vs Kreutzer (seen at Theatr Clwyd last October), Alston's choreography takes its lead from two pieces of music which are directly interconnected, but quite different. First there's Henry Purcell's Chacony in G minor, then Chacony from 2nd String Quartet Op.36 by Benjamin Britten. Purcell's score is ordered, structured and carefully sequenced, the dancers moving in unison to music reminiscent of a 17th century Viennese masquerade. The polite composition is reflected beautifully by the mannered choreography, the dancers floating around the stage in Peter Todd's diaphanous burgundy outfits as one cohesive group.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Countdown to Wales Theatre Awards 2017 begins!

The countdown has begun to the most dramatic night in the Wales arts calendar, the Wales Theatre Awards annual celebration of the best in theatre, opera and dance across the nation.

This year the event is being held outside Cardiff for the first time, with Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea University, hosting the sparkling ceremony.

This highlight of the arts calendar includes the presentation of much coveted trophies in 20 categories and also an evening of entertainment from some of Wales' finest new and established performers.

The awards are a valuable way of showing appreciation and providing recognition for the huge variety of work done by all practitioners of the theatrical community in Wales, whatever the size, language or discipline of the companies involved. The awards evening is also recognition of the contribution of arts writers and critics. Performers, writers, directors, singers and actors are nominated by critics who have reviewed performances created and presented in Wales between December 2015 and December 2016.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

REVIEW: My Body Welsh (Pontio, Bangor)

Wales thrives on its mythologies and folklore. Whether it's the story of Gelert the hunting dog, the Mabinogion, the Roman Emperor Macsen Wledig, or the fiction of Geoffrey of Monmouth, they are tightly woven into Wales's history and heritage, and people are very reluctant to let them die.

But, as My Body Welsh makes plain, these ancient stories and myths are often mere fabrications, lies, or at the very least fairytales built upon grains of truth. And just like the creative shopkeeper who made up the world's longest place name - Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch - as a publicity stunt in the 1860s, the creation and proliferation of lies, half-truths and myths continues to this day, and in much more dangerous ways.

My Body Welsh is an innovative one-man show co-written by its performer, Steffan Donnelly, and director Tara Robinson, and cleverly weaves its own story of small-town deception with the existing mythologies of Wales. On the surface it's a "myth-tery" investigating the provenance of a skeleton found at the bottom of a well which two prominent local families claim ownership of. Donnelly tries to get to the bottom of the mystery: Is the skeleton genuine? Who put it there? Who was it? How did they die? This narrative gives the 65-minute show a backbone for the audience to latch onto, but shooting off from this trunk are a wealth of branches taking in everything from unrequited love to kidnap, from the importance of having the full facts before making judgements, to having the luxury of choice but not the confidence of which choice to make.