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

Christmas Show Overload

A trip to the theatre is a real festive treat. I know I go to a heck of a lot of live shows all year long because of work but there really is something magical in dragging the entire family to watch a classic children’s story or fairy tale come to life. It feels decadent and wholesome, charming and silly. It doesn’t have to mean panto and it doesn’t have to mean spending shedloads of money.

Family Friendly Shows in Cardiff and the Vale this Christmas

Sherman Theatre

Wind in the Willows / 1 – 30 December

£16 – £26 Range of prices. Previews (1 – 3 December) are cheaper so worth checking out. Under 25s are half price.

We’ve loved the annual Sherman Christmas show for many years and this sounds like it’ll hit the spot again. The classic Wind in the Willows story by Kenneth Graham will be brought to life with live music. There’s a lovely option to have a letter from Father Christmas for your child on their seat when you arrive. There are also accessible performances including Relaxed Performances.

The Magic Porridge Pot / 3 November – 30 December

£9. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Perfect for under 7s this show is overflowing with songs, music and fun. It’s a classic fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm, retold by the very funny Alun Saunders.

Chapter

The Giant Who Had No Heart in his Body / 22 – 23 December

£5. £17 family ticket. Aimed at ages 7+ but a comedy show for all ages. (Wins the CHEAPEST TICKETS award from me.)

A warm, funny show with original music, puppetry and a sprinkling of magic. Likely Story Theatre bring their unique story telling style to this classic Norwegian fairy tale. A story of friendship, courage, adventure, an umbrella cow, a giant’s heart and a silly duck.

Wales Millennium Centre

The Bear / 12 – 31 December

£10. Babes in arms tickets £2. Recommended for age 3+.

Based on the Raymond Briggs storybook this is a really lovely theatre show for children and their families. It’s only 55 minutes long so perfect for younger kids. It’s in the Wales Millennium Centre’s smaller studio space, the Weston Studio rather than the huge auditorium. The Centre are holding free Christmas crafting activities too so you can spend longer in the building. I walked through the building this week and it’s looking amazing with all the decorations.

Second Star to the Right  / 30 November – 2 December

£9. Under 6s are £6 and under 2 year olds are FREE. Recommended for everyone, all babies welcome.

A cast of disabled and non-disabled performers from Odyssey and pupils from Woodlands High School restore hope to Neverland in this new production.

The Gate

Hansel and Gretel / 2 December – 16 December (Fridays and Saturdays only)

£8.50/£8 for adults and £6 children.

The classic Grimm fairy tale is brought to life with puppetry and music from Black RAT. We’ve seen a fair few of this company’s Christmas shows over the past 7 years and the songs and humour have been a hit with the children.

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Cinderella / 3 – 5 December

£10. Under 16s are £8.

For something a bit different, try out this introduction to the orchestra for an age old fairy tale. Cinderella as you’ve maybe never experienced before with music, film and illustrations.

St David’s Hall

Tiddly Prom: Bert and Cherry’s Christmas Plum Pudding / 16 December – 19 December (10.30 and 12.30 each day)

£7.50

Ideal for under 5s, you can expect lots of silly songs to sing along to, a lively festive story and a large helping of musical plum pudding.

Ballet (3 different shows: The Nutcracker, Cinderella and Swan Lake) / Cinderella 19 – 20 December / The Nutcracker 21 – 24 December / Swan Lake 27 – 31 December

Ticket prices vary. Lowest is £8.25 for under 16s and £16.50 for adults at the 2pm matinees with a family ticket (2 adult and 2 children) for £46.50.

The Nutcracker, Cinderella and Swan Lake are also all at St David’s Hall in December. The Russian State Ballet and Orchestra of Siberia bring these 3 classic and enchanting ballets to Cardiff. There are lots of offers on including a multi-ballet saver. If your child is into ballet and has never seen a live performance, this could be a really special experience watching a popular ballet with recognisable music. The Nutcracker is set at nightfall on Christmas Eve and is perfect for this time of year.

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If you’re really gagging for a full on Panto experience, here you go, these are for you. Oh no they aren’t. Oh yes they are.

New Theatre

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs / 9 December – 14 January

Cheapest standard ticket is £13. Family Offer 4 tickets for £79 (only some shows). There are about a billion different ticket price options so check with the box office what’s best for you.

It’s panto as you know it, big costumes, big sets and big names. This year’s includes Gareth Thomas, Mike Doyle, Samantha Womack and Chico!

Memo Arts Centre, Barry

Snow Queen “A Frozen Tale” / 14 – 17 December

£13. Children £11. Family group £45.

Barry’s amateur dramatic drama company BillBoard Ensemble are back at the Memo with panto. This year’s is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the Snow Queen featuring songs from Disney’s Frozen.

Paget Rooms, Penarth

Beauty and The Beast / 7 – 10 December

£10. Children £8.

Penarth Operatic and Dramatic Society return with their annual family pantomime.

Jack and the Beanstalk / 4 – 10 January

£14. Children £8. Family £42.

Owen Money heads up this panto from Rainbow Valley Productions. It will be in Penarth following a tour of South Wales.

 

Let me know what you think of these if you get to any of them and if I’ve left any out!

 

 

theatre, Things To Do

Sci-Fi Treasure Hunting in Blackwood – Project: Oggbots

Today, I went hunting for a professor and a crazy artist while dodging shady agents on the streets of Blackwood on a mission to save some aliens.

True story. I took my nine and five year olds to help with the mission. They flipping loved it. They’ve seen more theatre than most kids could shake a stick at but this interactive intergalactic family adventure made a huge impression on them.

We started in the library, getting the back story and some essential training in observation and evasion tactics. Over an hour later we were working on circuit boards in a secret location. The boys were thrilled with the extra-terrestrials and electronics..

“I hope we get to go to another one like that soon!” – the nine year old said at bedtime.

Project: Oggbots is a show for 7-11 year olds by Root Experience. It’s only on for one more day but with plenty of times to choose from. Book your tickets with Blackwood Miners’ Institute:  Blackwood Miners’ Institute website or go old school and phone the box office 01495 227 206.

theatre, Things To Do

Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare and circus skills

If your idea of taking your children to see a Shakespeare play is a hellish few hours of numb bums and boredom then let the latest offering from Omidaze Productions change your mind.

We all know the Romeo and Juliet story. I had a mild obsession with the Baz Luhrmann film in my teens (still my top soundtrack album), my kids are more familiar with Gnomeo and Juliet and if you’ve never seen West Side Story where’ve you been?! It’s the perfect gateway play into the world of the Bard.

With a young and diverse cast of actors, this version from director Yvonne Murphy goes a step further in shaking up Shakespeare. Aerial circus skills add excitement to the experience with Lady Capulet elegantly twisting on silks and Romeo’s mates throwing banter around on swinging hoops. The audience don’t sit behind an invisible fourth wall but walk, sit and perch amongst the action, getting up close and personal with each scene.

This show is recommended for ages 7 and up. My eight year old is really looking forward to it. I take him to a lot of theatre (the perks of a mum working in the arts) but he’s never seen anything quite like this before. Family friendly theatre doesn’t have to mean puppetry and slapstick (don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of both) so give it a go and take your tribe.

Romeo and Juliet has been co-produced by Omidaze Productions with Wales Millennium  Centre and after touring Mod, Llanelli and Brecon they’ll be back in Cardiff on 27th April – 14th May. Get your tickets sharpish because they’ve a tendency to sell out. Tickets and details: Romeo and Juliet

ACCESS INFO: There’s captioning at each show and BSL interpretation on Thursday 11th May at Wales Millennium Centre by Sami Thorpe. There’s also a tactile model and a touch tour for blind and visually impaired audience members as well as audio description on Thursday 11th May 7pm and Saturday 13th May 2pm at Wales Millennium Centre by Alistair Sill.

Photography by Kirsten McTernan

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.