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Posts Tagged ‘Abertridwr’

Contemporary Music

On the eve of my birthday with a 0, I went to see a role model who is 2 years and 15 days older, growing old gracefully and still seriously cool – Nick Lowe. A nice small venue, very attentive audience and great sound contributed to what was a brilliant experience all round. His keyboard player, Geraint Watkins, who hails from my village Abertridwr and went to school with my brother, also played support. An uplifting evening.

Opera

Miss Fortune is the fourth Judith Weir opera I’ve seen, but sad to say nowhere near as good as the other three. It’s a slight tale of a girl who becomes destitute after a financial crash and seeks to make a living from sweatshop to kebab van to laundry, stalked by Fate and his posse of break dancers. For a small show it gets a BIG production which it just doesn’t deserve. There’s a lot of talent on stage and a lot of talent behind the scenes, but it left me largely indifferent – with the exception of seeing an excellent break-dance group on the Covent Garden stage (and all credit to the ROH audience; they got the biggest cheers!).

Classical Music

The BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Shakespeare themed concert at the Barbican was an unusual affair as the audience was almost entirely there for the second half – the UK premiere of the orchestral versions of Rufus Wainwright’s five settings of Shakespeare sonnets, sung by him and spoken by actress Sian Phillips. The first half was a very accessible combination of Korngold’s Much Ado suite and Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet suite (plus a John Adams opener), the Prokofiev a favourite of mine. The sonnets were lush, lovely and moving – beautifully spoken, sung and played – but I enjoyed the evening as a whole because the theme of inspiration by the bard really came through.

It’s a long time since I saw Elijah; an oratorio I like very much. The Britten Sinfonia & Voices under William Carne (new to me) gave a simply brilliant performance at the Barbican, helped by four wonderful British soloists – Andrew Kennedy, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Lucy Crowe and most importantly the incomparable Simon Keenlyside as Elijah. An exhilarating end to an otherwise shitty day!

Art

I enjoyed Jeremy Deller’s exhibition at the Hayward Gallery much more than I thought I would. He’s a complete original, a real one-off, and I found the playful work, and description, videos and records of past work, absolutely enthralling.

Film

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a lot better than some of the reviews. It’s one of those feel good films (well, for people of a certain age – like me!) with a set of fine performances by wonderful actors also of a certain (but older!) age like Judi Dench and Penelope Wilton. Dev Patel rather over-egged the clumsy but lovable young Indian entrepreneur, but hey it was harmless fun.

 

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During the 18 years I lived in Abertridwr (the mining village in South Wales where I was brought up) I don’t recall ever seeing a show there – not even a panto. The only thing I do recall was a visit by BBC Wales to the Workman’s Hall to record a TV show with Victor Spinetti and The Flower Pot Men (well, that tells you how long ago!).

I’ve watched the rise of National Theatre Wales with great interest. The show in the Brecon Beacons intrigued me and I’d have loved to have been at the Port Talbot Passion. My first exposure was the terrific Dark Philosophers at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, which fuelled my enthusiasm and added more than a touch of pride that things that good were coming out of NTW so soon.

I was in Wales a few weeks ago when news that the premiere of their new show was in Rudry (I think I’m related to most of the inhabitants of that village, even though I’m no longer in touch with any of them!). Twitter started twittering, with the Guardian’s Lyn Gardner the first to suggest something special. I looked up the tour venues for a local friend and discovered it was going to theatre-starved Abertridwr. How could I resist?  So I rounded up five friends and relatives, bought 6 tickets for less than the price of one in the West End, and re-routed myself from York to London via Abertridwr (+200 miles and 6 hours). No pressure there then….

The show starts before the show starts with the five organisers of the annual Cae Bach (Little Field) village social making last-minute preparations, greeting people and panicking. There’s Clean Jean (as her badge says) the Health & Safety Officer (cleaner,) Security Dave feeling superior with his walkie-talkie, his wife Yvonne glamorous and just a little bit pissed, local historian yoga teacher and one-woman community force Lisa Jen, and self-appointed leader Lawrence. They’re later joined by Lawrence’s son Dion and what appear to be a ‘chorus’ of locals.

The star guest is a medium but she’s late, so there’s a lot of ‘filling in’ with songs and stories, the latter mostly folk myths and legends. When she does turn up, they get more than they bargained for as the myths come alive and more recent truths are revealed. This is all executed with great skill by Sue Roderick, Oliver Wood, Carys Eleri, Rebecca Harries, Darren Lawrence and Gwydion Rhys and there are lots of laughs and bucketloads of charm. It’s completely bonkers, becomes absolutely surreal and the smile hardly ever left my face.

There’s a small band led by co-writer Dafydd James (no relation – well, I don’t think so…) who was also responsible for that other Edinburgh Welsh hit (in Welsh) Llwyth. It’s directed, but seem not to be (this is a compliment), by co-writer Ben Lewis with authentically amateur designs (another compliment) by Cai Dyfan.

It was huge fun and I’m very glad I made the detour. I appreciate that there was an extra something ‘going home’ but I defy anyone not to find it enjoyable. Perhaps above all, for me, is that we have (and can hopefully continue to have) another National Theatre that lives up to its name. The wonderful National Theatre of Scotland pioneered this homeless outreach approach; now we have two. When I’m sitting in the National Theatre in London, which I often am, I will be thinking differently about the word ‘national’ and it took a trip back home to show me what it really means.

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