NT Connections supporting young performers at Sherman Cymru.

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Sherman Cymru are hosting The National Theatre’s Connections Festival in Cardiff this weekend. This year Sherman Youth Theatre present Mark Ravenhill’s Citizenship, along with ten other productions from local schools, youth groups and drama groups. This years groups include; Caerleon Comprehensive, Everyman Youth Theatre, West Glamorgan Youth Theatre Company, Caerphilly Youth Theatre, Mark Jermin Stage School, Riverfront Youth Theatre, Found in The Forest and Bridgend College.

Connections inspires 13 – 19 year olds with high quality new playwriting, encourages young people to get involved in all aspects of theatre making and celebrates young people’s talent.

During the weekend of Connections we will be sharing productions reviews, feedback on the free workshops that we will be running on Saturday and Sunday and much more!

To begin please find some reviews of productions first performed in some of the local areas of the youth theatres performing this weekend.

IT SNOWS 4

Review It Snows, Bryony Lavery performed by Found in the Forest, review by Artgroupie

6 actors, 2 ladders, 2 rugs and a scaffold with a white canvas attached. A small theatre space in the Forest of Dean is transformed into a creative trampoline that springs the audience immediately into the world of teenage wildlife. Found in the Forest Youth Theatre presented It Snows at the Forest Theatre. A piece by Bryony Lavery, Steven Hoggett and Scott Graham.

No stock, stereotypical representations of snow in this work. The talented ensemble collectively represent snowfall in a highly theatrical way, exploiting a complete creative tool box. A mature piece of work with a underlying subplot of isolation and mental illness is explored, a subtle subtext that is never totally explained. With an inventive use of puppetry, these sequences were part of the plays overall charm. They permitted the audience to create their own interpretation. This is theatre as it should be, raising questions and letting the audience make up their own minds.

Classic storytelling always uses song and music and the piece is complete with repeated riffs that hook. There are many golden theatrical compositions in the piece, the modern selfie generation and ‘sassitude’ of adolescence is captured with a knowing theatricality that flows.

The performers energy and excitement is infectious throughout. A snow fight on stage, what could be a health and safety nightmare is captured with accuracy and imaginative staging. Perhaps my favourite moments were the party misdemeanours, complete with furniture damage, vomiting and bad music. I will never listen to the “Macarena ” song in the same way again!

This youth theatre perform in a style that is often lacking in professional companies, they create theatrical magic with an energy that is refreshing and inspiring. Ensure you book tickets for Cardiff!

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Review Citizenship Mark Ravenhill Sherman Youth Theatre, review by Rhiannon Moriss

Citizenship explores the difficult discovery of sexual identity and the meaning of sex in the vivid and distorted world of a teenager. The story is navigated by Tom (played by Rhys Owen) who dreams of kissing a genderless figure, and desperately strives to determine his sexual orientation.

The play brilliantly captures the teenage environment. Provocation and crude judgements from peers intensify the pressure for Tom to look to sex as means of validation and pressures him to decide who he is. The ensemble cast of Sherman Youth Theatre young performers accurately conveyed this immaturity and emotional nonchalance, whilst the two leads deliver a contrasting emotional depth. The plot became slightly messy with the blend of surrealism and realism and I felt the introduction of a teenage pregnancy was too serious of an issue to be used casually against the main theme of sexuality and identity. Stylistically, images of objects relevant to the scenes, such as cigarettes and lipstick help to physically evoke key themes of the play such as sensuality and deceit. This encouraged the audience to really think about the nuanced effects assumptions and opinions on sexuality have on an individual and a group. However, on occasion these images could distract from the dialogue.

The two lead actors stood out, their portrayal of Amy (played by Megan Edwards) and Tom (Rhys Owen) using their body language superbly, to express insecurity (lowered heads and gazes, and fidgeting hands.) Both actors use the chair which is moved around the stage, which represents a sense of interrogation as Tom interrogates his teacher, but is also symbolically interrogated himself about his identity and choices as he attempts to physically transform himself, to display their inner thoughts and personality. Amy is often cross-legged depicting a sense of tranquillity and recovery as she goes through therapy, and more comfortable in herself than Tom who is often bowed forward, looking for self-assurance.

Most of the sound effects were produced on stage with a drum kit, which created a strong sound representative of heartbeats, emphasising the hormonal and very human aspect of the theme and increased the intensity and suspense of the events, dramatizing the emotional impact. The minimalistic stage setting is given an added presence by the use of lighting which highlights the main actors performing in the scene, particularly in moments where the bounds of reality in the play are tested.

Citizenship does a good job drawing attention to the lack of acceptance and information for young people struggling with their understanding of their sexuality and sex. Tom has no one to discuss his feelings with who fully understands and gives him advice and this leads him to make decisions that seriously affect both his life and Amy’s. He discovers what he wants in life, mutual love and affection, only at the very end of the play. This play shows us that it isn’t always possible to get it right, particularly when experience and understanding is hard to come by, but slowly through our own actions and decisions we find our identity. This play and its young cast clearly illustrate that it’s a momentous, exciting and vivid journey that combines mistakes and inexperience to achieve a sexual self-confidence and identity.

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 Review Citizenship Mark Ravenhill Sherman Youth Theatre review by Eve Limbrick

‘Citizenship’ is a play written by Mark Ravenhill in 2005 about the struggles and problems that may arise when a teenager is discovering their sexuality. The play also represents many problems faced by many adolescents such as mental health, drugs and rebellion.

I enjoyed the play of because the way the script communicates the struggles of teenage angst and sexual frustration in a way that appeals to teenagers and attracts their attention. The use of humour quite prominently throughout the play kept people interested. The impulse of sex and intimacy is a key part of growing up and the first sexual encounters are important to many teenagers. But to some people this sexual impulse can be terrifying if you don’t know whether you like men or women. And that was the problem for the male lead Tom. He talks to his Citizenship teacher during a detention and is quite persistent with his questions. Tom suspects that his teacher is gay so feels he can talk to him.

There is an accurate representation of teenage rebellion and the consequences that come with things like drug use and teenage sex. The play delivered messages. Though these messages were informative, I feel that it took away from the story they were the kind of messages that would be given to teenagers in school, not performed in a theatre.

The colour red was used heavily throughout the whole of the play, red uniform, red lipstick, red lighting etc, red is the colour of seduction, a sexy colour. I found this a great way of symbolising sex throughout the play because this was one of the main themes.

 I believe the play communicates the  complexities and struggles that come with teenage angst and sexual frustration.The play focused a lot more on the loss of virginity and sexual status among the kids than the discovery of Tom’s sexuality and the struggles that come with such a battle of emotions. I enjoyed the play but overall I believe it didn’t portray Toms battle with his sexuality in a way that would speak on an emotional or empathetic level to someone like myself, who is out in the LGBT community as a bisexual. The playwright has focused on sex, not sexuality.

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Review Citizenship Mark Ravenhill Sherman Youth Theatre review by Helen Joy.

Well, perhaps it didn’t help that I had the big 5-0 birthday this week but even so, has school changed so much since the ‘80s?

The younger critics around me assured me that they were as surprised by this sinister portrayal of life in a contemporary school as I was – all those public service messages and swearing teachers… not in my day, we agreed.

How does a young man, a school boy, choose his sexual route in such a crude and unrelenting place? His best friend is self-harming , his pals are cock-sure of their heterosexuality, his stressed-out teacher is unhelpful to say the least.

Why does he have to choose? It is a play about the pressures put upon young people by their friends, their schools and by implication, their families. It didn’t sit well with me – I worried for them.

Rhys Owen playing Tom is strong in his role; Megan Edwards playing Amy is outstanding.  Black, white, grey, red uniforms in a simple set with a teasing video backdrop; all trips along pretty well until the delusive teacher stands at the microphone with caustic red lips speaking who knows what whilst red painted male lips dance on screen behind him and where a red lipstick rises n falls in its case – I felt this was a dream sequence crow-barred into a credibly real and visceral performance from this strong young company.

Neither a parent nor a school friend, I wondered what Citizenship could offer me. But let me say this: at my school, we were all talk and no action; here, all action and misunderstandings and ignorance of consequence.  I considered their opportunities over mine, their broader education; their ability to act it all out in public.

We could not have done that. Those young actors made me wish we had been less afraid at their age and they have left me wondering what their futures hold.

“If you were born with the ability to change someone’s perspective or emotions, never waste that gift. It is one of the most powerful gifts God can give—the ability to influence.”

― Shannon L. Alder

 

Sherman 5 does London

‘People know, you’re my boy… You are safer here with me, than you have ever been’

Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to Gary Owen’s ‘Iphigenia In Splott’ which premiered here at the Sherman in May, Sherman 5 arranged a visit to see Gary’s next play ‘Violence and Son’ at the Royal Court, London.

‘I was so impressed with Iphigenia in Splott when that was in The Sherman , so much so when the opportunity arose to see Violence & Son I immediately said yes!!’ Michelle, Sherman 5 member.

Amongst the lively travellers were Sherman Cymru friends; actors, writers, critics, Sherman 5 members and Sherman staff. Spirits were high as we left Cardiff, many of us saying that we felt like we were on a school trip.

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Staff at Royal Court were friendly and welcoming; answering questions and telling us about the history of the building. On one of the hottest days of the year so far, Ushers were on hand to provide a bottle of cool water at the top of the stairs. The Jerwood Studio space is located in the rafters of the original theatre but was thankfully air conditioned. It was a sold out performance, with the audience seated in the round. This seating arrangement really added to the tension and unease as play progressed.

‘I like how life relating it was also how easy to follow it was it had my attention throughout’ Cheri, Sherman 5 member.

The actors were kind enough to come back out into the auditorium after the performance to have a chat to us, and take photos. They were really interested in the Sherman 5 project and how time-credits worked.

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Michelles Royal Court photo

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Despite a slow journey back to Cardiff, and a long day, we’ve received some brilliant feedback from all involved.

‘All in all I had A Top Class Day Thanks to Sherman 5 & Mr Guy O’Donnell Diolch Y Ti’ Michelle, Sherman 5 member.

If you’d like to read more about the show, reviews can be found below:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-reviews/11658941/Violence-and-Son-Royal-Court-Upstairs-review-every-teenager-should-see-this.html

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2015/violence-son/

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/reviews/violence-and-son-jerwood-theatre-upstairs-royal-court-review-fizzes-with-scabrous-humour-but-concludes-unconvincingly-10307495.html

Cast: Jen – Morfydd Clark, Rick – Jason Hughes, Liam – David Moorst, Suze – Siwan Morris

Creative Team: Director – Hamish Pirie, Designer – Cai Dyfan, Lighting Designer – Lizzie Powell, Composer & Sound Designer – Mark Melville, Assistant Director – Roy Alexander Weise, Casting Directors – Amy Ball & Louis Hammond, Production Manager – Jessica Harwood, Fight Director – Brent Yount, Costume Supervisor – Holly White, Stage Managers – Jules Richardson & Kate Wilson, Stage Management Work Placement – Oana Birgean, Set Constructed by Ridiculous Solutions, Scenic Artist – Sarah Hall

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Sherman 5 is a project funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, at the Sherman Theatre.

Sherman Plays premiere at the Sherman Theatre, with Two by Jim Cartwright

At the end of June, Sherman Cymru hosted its first Sherman Plays event, a joint initiative between the Big Lottery, Sherman 5 with support from Age Connects Cardiff and Taff Community Housing Association. Sherman Cymru have been providing script-in-hand performances by professional actors within the community over the last couple of months, which have been very popular. Our first Sherman Plays performance was ‘A Chip in the Sugar’ by Alan Bennett. This comical monologue, set ‘oop North, in the 1980’s, portrayed themes and issues that still resonate today. Sherman Cymru regular, Keiron Self, performed the piece in a number of residential housing complexes, community centres and day centres across Cardiff.

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Sherman Plays at Fairwater Leisure Centre

The aim of the project is to provide an entertaining and thought-provoking piece of theatre to generate a discussion after the performance. We want to take theatre out to those who, for a number of reasons, might not be able to attend the theatre. We have had massive support from organisations such as Ty Canna, Moorlands Community Centre, Age Connects Healthy Wealthy Wise group and Taff Community Housing Association.

Our very first Sherman Plays performance at the Sherman Theatre was ‘Two’ by Jim Cartwright. This ‘two-hander’ set in a pub introduces the audience to a number of colourful characters, including the pub Land Lord and Lady, played by Matthew Bulgo and Joanna Van Kampen. Like ‘A Chip in the Sugar’, serious and sometimes sad situations are interspersed with cutting comedy.

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Sherman Plays at the Sherman Theatre

The performance was amazingly engaging, many of the audience members stating that they didn’t need props and staging; they could imagine that they were in a real pub, meeting the various characters. After the performance, we provided a bit of tea and cake to refuel our audience for what can often be very animated post-show discussions! The post-show discussions ranged from why we love attending the theatre, to touching personal stories:

‘We’ve been unlucky in life, but lucky-ish in love’

‘With pubs closing now, where would people go for social interaction?’

‘Live theatre, you can’t beat it. People in front of people.’

‘It’s a fabulous opportunity.’

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Thanks to the Sherman 5 project, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we have been able to provide transport to those groups who would otherwise struggle to get to the venue.

For more information on the Sherman 5 project, please go to our website http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/sherman5/ or contact Guy O’Donnell on guy.odonnell@shermancymru.co.uk or 07703 729079.

If you are interested in getting involved in Sherman Plays, coming to our next event, or would like us to come out to you, please contact kelly.barr@shermancymru.co.uk or call 02920 646900.

The next Sherman Plays event is on Thursday 30th July, 11am at the Sherman Theatre. Tickets, just £2.50, are available now through the Box Office on 02920 646900 or online.

Fresh Ink

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We’ve just wrapped up another edition of Fresh Ink, here are some of the hilarious and (occasionally) rather silly scripts, written by pupils of Evenlode Primary, Penarth and Maesteg:

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The Cardiff Coach and the Waterboy – Leo Watkins
The Knights and the Dragon – Otis Colderley
Lizzie and her Puppy – Levi Evans
The Museum and the Children – Cara Griffiths
Real Madrid vs Man U – Gabriel Davies
The Forest – Kaia Colomazza
The Dream – Reuben Williams
Danton and Dr Tryarrus and Uneasy Panda – Rhys Steadman
Kim’s first day at School – Megan Mae Beynon

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They thoroughly enjoyed their day in the building. None of the pupils from Maesteg had ever been in the building before and 27 of the pupils from Penarth were first time visitors.

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Both schools are now looking at how they will develop their own creative projects in school!

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New Sherman 5 experiences ‘Stick Mania’ at the Sherman Theatre

Last week, we labelled Stick Man as ‘Stick Mania’ as hundreds of little ones and their families visited the Sherman Theatre, including many new audiences through our Sherman 5 scheme. Sherman 5 co-ordinator Guy O’Donnell tells us more…
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All Photo Credits Nick Allsop

The Sherman 5 project here at the Sherman Theatre works with a range of professional and community partners, as well as individuals, to support audiences who may have not have been to the theatre before.

For the Sherman 5 performance of Stick Man we worked with Just Add Spice and the Time Schools project to support 140 members of the public to access the work in our venue through Time Credits on one day.

We arranged a full day’s worth of activities for our new visitors which included tickets to the show in our main theatre, a free lunch in our café and then free family Stick Man costume art workshops. We had hundreds of Stick people in our building by the end of the activity!

In total over 2 days we supported 247 attendances to the theatre for this production and lots of new future theatre attenders!

Here is just some of the lovely feedback we had from our visitors through Sherman 5:

Stickman costumes backstage“The best day of my life” and ” Wow! I’ve never been to a theatre before”
just a couple of quotes from the children.
V. Richards
Assistant Head Teacher, Ton Yr Ywen Primary

This is our first time at the Sherman, we really enjoyed it. I liked the part where they threw balls in to the audience. It was really great to have a few hours of family time It was amazing! Sherman 5 is fantastic.”

“Really good because it makes it easy to get here. Without the help of Sherman 5 we wouldn’t be able to access the theatre because of transport and cost. It was awesome-I laughed all the way through. This was my first ever visit to the theatre.

stickman costumes 8 niceSherman 5 is amazing, I brought a group of 10 with me today-none of them even knew where it was before today. Today people have had new experiences and done something out of their ordinary routines.
Millbank Primary, Time Schools Credits network

To find out more about Sherman 5 and future Sherman 5 events please visit www.shermancymru.co.uk

More info about some of the groups we work with…

Just Add Spice

What and who are Time Credits?
Time Credits strengthen and build communities by engaging those who may not normally get very involved in their local area, as well as by encouraging people to be involved in different ways in order to add a new dimension to their lives (and the community).
Time Credits are a way of ‘thanking’ people for any time that they choose to give.
Time Credits build local networks, by linking schools, businesses, community groups and individuals.
How does it work?
For every one hour of time that an individual gives to a community focused project, group or activity that is a part of the Time Credits network, they will receive one Time Credit (worth one hour) which can be used to access a variety of different services or activities within the local community; for example bread-making classes, swimming sessions, ten-pin bowling, hair and beauty treatments or trips to the theatre – on an hour for hour basis.

Working with the Education Service
For the Stick Man performance we were also supported by Ruth Wiltshire from the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service.
Ruth helped us to work with families from local schools to support the link between parents and children. We had many parents coming to see Stick Man with their children who had never been to the theatre before.

Mermaid makes a big splash with audiences. We went on a road trip to find out why

MermaidThe award-winning Shared Experience opened their new bold modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid last week. We’d heard fantastic reviews and wanted to find out more about the show, so we sent some of our Sherman team members to find out more…mermaid1Opening the play in a teenage girl’s bedroom, Mermaid is the retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid through the eyes of Blue, a young girl struggling with all the recognisable pressures of teenage life, including boys, body image and bullying. While her friends are out drinking and dancing she instead decides to stay home and focus on her planned modernised take on The Little Mermaid tale.

mermaid5Framing the play in this way, Blue then narrates a parallel coming of age tale that takes place under the sea (on the lower level of the set) where a bored young mermaid longing for adventure rescues a troubled Prince, battling with his own memories of war, who accidentally falls overboard and into the ocean. Having saved his life the two fall in love instantly and the mermaid vows to give up everything for him, including her voice.

mermaid7With clever scenes detailing their royal wedding, parallels are drawn with both Diana and Kate Middleton’s “fish out of water” portrayal by the media and the intrusion that follows. But the Prince, suffering from both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the strains of his own political responsibility, is a man so traumatised that not even love can heal him fully.mermaid8The visuals are stunning. The marble-effect surroundings perfectly capture the glistening waters and the floating physicality of the chorus of young girls, creates both the movement and the mysterious, otherworldly feel of the ocean.

With numerous modern-day references including mentions of The Great British Bake-Off and the twerking of Miley Cyrus, the production is comfortably modern, however there is a robust and traditional narrative framework, which holds you firmly within a story you know and love and with a strong moral code, it feels very much like a Christmas show… but one that swims in darker waters.

Basically, we loved it, and we really think you will too!

We hope to see you there,

Adam and Ceriann

Mermaid is at the Sherman Theatre on 21 – 25 April at 7.30pm (Matinee, Saturday 25 April, 2pm). Tickets are £15-£25 (Matinee: £12-£20) Concessions: £2 off, Under 25s: Half price. Running time: 90 minutes with an interval. 029 2064 6900 | www.shermancymru.co.uk