Places To Go, Things To Do

All Treats, No Tricks

Off with your kids over half term? Me neither. I’ll try squeezing in some mini jaunts to quell the FOMO beast but here are some of my top spots for this incredibly Halloween saturated week ahead.

Memo Arts Centre, Barry

Abominable Friday 25 October – Saturday 2 November (various times) from £3.50 in advance

Animation from the makers of How to Train Your Dragon about Yi meeting a Yeti and going on a quest to Everest.

There are loads of showings which include an Autism Friendly Screening on Tuesday 29 October at 11am for a more relaxed environment with the lights kept on low, the sound not quite so loud and a breakout quiet space.

Little Shop of Horrors Wednesday 30 October (4pm) £3.50 in advance

An amazing cast including Steve Martin and John Candy star in this 80s comedy musical about a plant with a taste for human flesh. Before the film they’ve got Halloween crafts in the café from 3.15pm.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Thursday 31 October (3pm) £3.50 in advance

Dress up in your Halloween gear for this Tim Burton animation about Jack Skellington. Before the film they’ve got Halloween crafts in the café from 2.15pm.

Oskar’s Amazing Adventure Friday 1 November (2pm) £7

I saw this lovely play in Edinburgh a few years ago and I’m so glad it’s coming to Barry. It’s about a puppy and uses songs and puppets. At the end the children can meet the performer and get to play with the puppets.

National Museum, Cardiff

Dippy on Tour Saturday 19 October – Sunday 26 January (10am – 5pm) FREE

It’s only bloody Dippy the Diplodocus from the National History Museum. He’s in Cardiff for a few months but this half term is the first chance to catch him here. There are some cracking Dippy themed events coming up like a Museum Sleepover on 16 November and a family friendly HUSH Silent Disco on 30 November.

Cosmeston Medieval Village, Penarth

Medieval Hallowe’en Event Thursday 31 October (10am – 3pm) £5 per child

Discover where the Monsters of Mayhem are hiding. For ages 5-12, accompanying adults are free.

St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff

Halloween Nights Tuesday 29 – Thursday 31 October (6-9pm) £13 adults, £10 children

We went to this last year and had I loved that the event tapped into the opposite of the overly Americanised plastic crap Halloween filling up supermarket aisles nowadays. There were traditional ghost stories steeped in Welsh history, folk traditions and ghostly guests. Suitable for ages 4-12 and their grown ups.

Pumpkin Picking Patch, St Nicholas

Pumpkin Picking Friday 18 – Thursday 31 October (9.30am – 4pm) parking and entry FREE, Crafts from £4.50, pay for your pumpkins

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that this will be incredibly busy with instagrammers, I fear that the best pumpkins have already gone and there’s potential for a mini squash flavoured Fyre Festival but PYO veg has that irresistible wholesomeness about it. I’ve not been but with the closure of Hendrewennol, there’s an appeal to a local pumpkin picking patch. Let me know what you think.

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps Thursday 31 October (7pm) £8

A dark and witty mix of storytelling and poetry from the BBC 6 Music Poet in Residence, Murray Lachlan. Bizarre and hilarious death stories told by a butler to a boy. Halloween outfits encouraged. From 6pm there’s a unique Virtual Reality prequel to the show. For ages 7+.

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

I Wish I Was a Mountain Tuesday 29 October – Friday 1 November (11am all days and 7pm on Tuesday) £7

Written and performed by former Glastonbury Poetry Slam Champion, Toby Thompson. Based on a fairy tale of a man who wishes to be turned into a mountain. Creatively translated into BSL by deaf poet Donna Williams at 7pm on 29 and 11am on 30 October. For ages 6+.

Central Park, Barry

Pumpkins in the Park Saturday 26 October (12 – 5pm) £2 for pumpkin carving

Online bookings have sold out but limited slots available on the day. Expect pumpkin carking, bouncy castle, fun fair, crafts and even a dog fancy dress show.

Scream Your Heart Out Saturday 26 October (7pm) £5

For adults only, this screening of the classic horror film Scream for over 18s is in the park, in the dark. Not a family friendly event, obviously.

Amelia Trust Farm, Barry

Pumpkin Patch Trail Saturday 26 October – Sunday 3 November (10am – 4pm) £2.50 plus entrance fee

Buy your trail leaflet from the café, solve the clues to find the pumpkin faces .

Creepy Crawly Shows Monday 28 – Tuesday 29 October (2pm) £3.50 plus entrance fee

Brave enough to meet rats, snails and snakes? Meet the creatures in these ticketed shows. For ages 1+.

These aren’t the only events and shows on this half term but it’s a starter. We can’t do everything and it can all get a tad overwhelming at times. This list is for when you’re looking for a treat.

theatre, Things To Do

Review: Discover Dance

Last night (Friday 9th February 5pm) we had an after school theatrical treat, discovering dance with National Dance Company Wales at Sherman Theatre. I was accompanied (as ever) by my 11 year old stepdaughter and 9 and 5 year old sons. None of them go to dance classes but they all enjoyed the event. Even surly Nine who didn’t want to join in the first half “no way”.

NDCWales’s Discover Dance production is a game of two halves. We kick off with an introduction from the effervescent Lee Johnston, the company’s Rehearsal Director which she explains is like being the coach. We’re taken through the dancers’ warm up routines with a chance for everyone who’s up for it  to join the dancers on stage.

It’s a credit to the team and the welcoming, open tone they set that so many of the children in the audience were keen to have a go. Eleven and Five threw themselves into the opportunity. As Five said:

“It was really fun to go on stage. I’ve never been on a big stage like that. Sometimes I get nervous but the dancer made me feel happy because they showed me the moves. I think all the other children enjoyed it too.”

We swiftly move on to some exercises and sections of Folk, the production we’re treated to in the second half. Again, we’ve got the chance to join in and one of the exercises in particular fired up my boys:

Nine: “It was really satisfying when they did the crackling out of the ice. That’s the kind of movement game I’d like to play at home or school.”

Five: “Also Mum I liked the bit when they were doing hurricane bits. I liked the bits where he finished one of them, he keeped quiet for a little bit then he said loudly “Crazy crazy! There’s a tornado! Then you can just feel the snow melting and the ice in the water.””

We get to wave at the techies at the back of the seats as Lee tells us about the lights and sound that play their parts in a show. It’s a great way to highlight the whole range of skills and roles that are needed to pull a production together.

Nine: Charlie was the boss of the music and Adam was in charge of the lights.

Five: They did a really good job.

Half time comes and we break for an ice cream from the mid-refurb Sherman foyer, wees and a chance for the dancers to get changed and ready for their performance.

The second half is a half hour dance piece called Folk which absolutely flew by. Choreographed by Caroline Finn, it’s a perfect choice for a family audience with characters that feel both otherworldly and recognisable and a beautifully striking set designed by Joe Fletcher.

Nine: “Folk was quite cool because the tree was hung from the roof. This woman was randomly speaking Italian and it was quite funny. It was quite witch-like when they were doing the witch circle.”

Five: “It was spectacular! I liked the show when it was nearly at the end because I like imagination. And I liked the other bit when there was a teensy bit left to the end because it was just like a made up language and it was really funny.

It was great because I like puppet shows, they were making them look like puppets because they were copying. (*Nine demonstrates the moves we learnt in our seats during the first part of the show*).

The whole thing used up lots of funny imaginations. Whoever’s imaginations they were, I like their imaginations.

The music, it was good because I liked the one where it was sort of harmony like sort of calm. The beginning sounded like they were definitely in France and then there was some music that made me feel in the jungle and then Tokyo, is that the capital of Japan?”

Eleven: “It was really fun. I thought the show was really good and I loved the music.”

After Folk, the dancers return to the stage to answer questions from a buzzing audience. “Where are you from?” “When did you start dancing?” “What’s your favourite type of dance?”

Nine: “It was great because you could ask questions at the end so we could find out where they came from and how they started dancing. They were from lots of different countries, even America.”

Watching dance is a fabulous way to inspire keen dancers but it’s also brilliant for kids in general. There’s room for imagination, the chance to weave your own story, to laugh at something because it tickles your funny bone without words or slapstick.

Wales should be very proud of their dance company. They’re presenting beautiful work and stirring a love of dance. Discover Dance is an ideally relaxed way to introduced new audiences to contemporary dance and gives young people a chance to interact with the professionals.

Five: “I’d like to watch more dance because it’s funny sometimes and you get to do lots of different moves and when you dance it’s kind of like doing exercise and it’s good for you because it helps you stay healthy.”

Nine: “I’d like to watch more dance because it can be strange in certain ways and funny. It was very weird because usually you’d have a tree on the ground and you wouldn’t use a brush to sweep leaves, you’d use a rake.”

We were also intrigued to get a sneaky peak at the developments in Sherman Theatre’s foyer, which got a thumbs up from hard to please Eleven: “I LOVED the redecorating, it feels cosy but big too.” We’re big fans of the venue, their range of family friendly productions and the utterly awesome Sherman 5 scheme that has genuinely opened up the doors to so many people.

Discover Dance is touring the UK this spring, heading to Huddersfield, Brecon, Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth, Newtown, Mold, Newport, Swansea and Derby. Full tour dates on www.ndcwales.co.uk.

theatre, Things To Do

Jason and the Argonauts – the ultimate hero quest comes to Cardiff

If your children are anything like mine they’ll be superhero obsessed. Superhero birthday parties, superhero bedroom and errant superhero figures down the side of the sofa.

Centuries before the Marvel universe was even a glint in Stan Lee’s eye, the ancient Greeks were telling stories of heroes with superpowers that would make Iron Man turn as green as the Hulk with envy.

Remember the iconic 1963 film of Jason and the Argonauts? No, I’m not old enough to have seen it then but my dad was a fan so I’ve seen it a good few times. Jason is an ordinary man in an extraordinary world of gods and monsters. He and his mighty Argonauts set off on an epic quest for the Golden Fleece. Adventures follow.

A family friendly stage version of Jason and the Argonauts has been touring Wales and is in Cardiff at Wales Millennium Centre (in the Weston Studio) this Easter weekend on Friday 14th April 7:30pm and Saturday 15th April 2:30pm and 7:30pm. Book online: Jason and the Argonauts tickets

From what the writer of this production, Mark Williams says, it sounds right up my son’s (and my brothers’) street: “We’ve drawn together a range of influences, from 1980s animation theme tunes and the soundtracks of Wes Anderson, to the fantasy films of Jim Henson, by way of the deck of the USS Enterprise and the Doctor’s TARDIS.”

The Argo could as easily be a spaceship as a seafaring ship. Is it a long time ago? Is it a galaxy far, far away? Is this production based on all of my dad’s favourite things (I lie, it’s missing cowboys)?

There’s only one way to find out. I’ve booked my tickets, get a shifty on and book yours. To the quest!

Jason and the Argonauts is a Blackwood Miners’ Institute/RCT Theatres Co-Production on tour across Wales throughout April. A full tour schedule can be found at www.jasonandtheargonauts.co.uk.

Argo Image 006 portrait text

Things To Do

You’ve Got Dragons by Taking Flight Theatre Company: a theatre show for everyone

You’ve Got Dragons has been touring Wales for a while now and still has a fair few left so if you haven’t caught it yet, do take your kids (and the grandparents and some friends and anyone else you can work your charms or magic on) along.

You’ve Got Dragons is based on the book by Kathryn Cave and is a delightful tale about a child’s journey to come to terms with inner dragons. Worries, fears, anxieties… they’re all dragons and they sneak up on most of us at one time or another. Lots of people get them. Even really good people get them. And sometimes they are hard to get rid of. So what can a young girl with a bad case of the dragons do?

One of my children has anxiety and I know what an impact it can have. This show is an ideal way to look at the issue with a creative eye. It’s also a lovely, Wales made family friendly show. I’ll be taking my brood along this Easter holidays, having been lucky enough to catch it with my working-in-theatre hat on.

The show is fully accessible and intergenerational featuring creative captioning, BSL and audio description at every performance. Taking Flight Theatre Company have been at the forefront of making theatre more accessible for everyone in Wales and You’ve Got Dragons is no exception. Taking Flight have been brilliant at working with blind, visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing people on developing theatre that includes everyone. They’ve got a captioned BSL flyer and an audio flyer all about the show over on their website: Taking Flight.

All of the remaining Wales theatres are members of the hynt scheme so if any of your family need a carer when they go to the theatre they can apply for membership and get a ticket free of charge for their carer, companion or Personal Assistant. More info on hynt on their website: hynt

With toe tapping music, this highly visual, sensitive production is a humorous and touching exploration of the dragons we all face.

“Dragons come when you least expect it. You turn round… and they’re there.”

TOUR DATES (if you click on the venue name you’ll be taken to their website where you can book tickets ’cause I’m nice like that!)

The Torch Theatre, Milford Haven – Wednesday 12th April 1pm and 3pm

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff – Thursday 13th April 6:30pm / Friday 14th April 6:30pm / Saturday 15th April 2pm and 5pm

Wise Words Festival, Canterbury – Monday 1st May

Newbridge Memo – Saturday 20th May 2pm (Relaxed Performance)

Park & Dare, Treorchy – Wednesday 24th May 1pm

Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon – Saturday 27th May 11am and 2pm

The Mission Theatre, Bath – Sunday 28th May 1:30pm and 3:30pm

also…

FREE WORKSHOPS at Chapter Arts Centre before the show – Thursday 13th April 5pm, Saturday 15th April 12.30pm & 3.30pm

Join them before the show in the theatre foyer to make tactile model houses which even light up! Or you can make a shadow puppet and test it out on their mini shadow screens. All for free with your ticket to the performance.

Accessible to all- this activity will be BSL supported and audio described. 

 

You’ve Got Dragons is a co-production with Abertillery Met and Creu Cymru.