Wednesday, September 27, 2017

REVIEW: Uncle Vanya (Theatr Clwyd, Mold)

OK, let's get the headline out of the way first - Jamie Ballard is simply extraordinary in (and as) Uncle Vanya. Voted by the Guardian as one of the "ten best Hamlets ever", Ballard is an absolute revelation as a man whose entire life has been dictated to and shaped by other people's, whether it be the death of his sister, an unrequited love, or his supercilious brother-in-law. Vanya is one of life's great losers, and Jamie Ballard not so much plays the part as inhabits it.

One of the biggest problems some people have with theatre is the suspension of belief. When you watch a film or TV drama, you already know subconsciously that none of it is real, and you accept that, because you're watching these people on an oblong flatscreen several feet in front of you, like a window into a universe of fiction. But when you're at the theatre, sitting just feet away from a live action performance, you're being asked to believe that the drama is really happening right in front of you, as in life, and that can be harder for some people to swallow. Sometimes, audiences treat it as a challenge - "Convince me!" they smirk. "Convince me that you're really in that three-walled kitchen and feeling suicidal!"

The magic of live theatre is when the audience is utterly convinced that what they're witnessing is real, when they are duped into accepting the facts of the fiction before them because the talent and experience behind it is just too damn good. Achieving verisimilitude is a constant ambition for theatre makers, and director Tamara Harvey achieves it in spades in Theatr Clwyd's Uncle Vanya.

Monday, September 18, 2017

INTERVIEW: Actor Jamie Ballard on Uncle Vanya at Theatr Clwyd

In 2010, the Guardian's Susannah Clapp listed actor Jamie Ballard as one of her "ten best Hamlets", alongside high profile figures such as Henry Irving, John Gielgud, David Tennant and Mark Rylance. Jamie played the Prince of Denmark in Jonathan Miller's production at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory in 2008, but is now swapping tragedy for comedy as he's about to take on the title role in Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya for Theatr Clwyd in Mold.

But hold on. People don't generally associate the 19th century Russian playwright with laughs and giggles, do they?

"Chekhov thought of his plays as comedies," says Jamie. "It was only his creative relationship with Constantin Stanislavski [the Russian theatre practitioner who staged a pioneering version of Chekhov’s The Seagull in 1898] that made the perception of his work all heavy and serious."

Friday, September 08, 2017

PREVIEW: Llawn05 (Llandudno Arts Festival 2017)

Llawn is a free arts festival that celebrates and explores Llandudno through art, artefact, sound, comedy, performance and participation. This is its fifth successive year, and across the weekend visitors to the North Wales seaside resort can explore this work in unusual and surprising places, including baptist chapels, empty shops, shipping containers and even a set of Victorian bathing machines! Past Llawns have also featured work in the caves of the Great Orme, and on the roof of Venue Cymru!

So what has the arts festival weekend got up its sleeve for visitors this year? Curators Lisa Heledd Jones and John Rostron have lined up a plethora of stunning, inspiring and entertaining works. The fun kicks off on Friday, September 15th and continues throughout Saturday and Sunday too. Here's a guide to some of the best, most unusual and exciting exhibits and presentations to catch: