10 Minute Musicals / Open Space was a week of sharing and discussions culminating in a sharing of what the artists had created from this innovative process. The week was run by Leeway Productions, a new company set up by director Angharad Lee and held at The Other Room, Cardiff. Arts writers from Arts Scene in Wales went along to join the discussions and watch the performances in this “safe space” for artists to explore and development their own practice.
The four performances were not for reviewing, rather they were for showing how the artists responded to the challenge (or opportunity) of working together in this supportive environment. Some have experience of musical theatre, some not, some were well established in the Welsh arts scene while others were just starting out.
The four pieces shared with the audience were very different, reflecting the personalities and experience of the creators/performers, their own artistic backgrounds (beat box, singing, drama writing, acting, directing etc) with the starting point for each being reacting to a prop, such as a golden flamingo or Russian wooden toy.
For a critic rather than performer/creative what was most impressive was that after such a short time of working together the artists had devised, written, created and were able to then perform four complete musical scenes which each had a clear narrative, dramatic context and dynamism, self-contained and, frankly, extremely enjoyable and entertaining. I would have happily paid to see this as an evening of musical theatre scenes!
The next step? That was largely both the reason for director Angharad Lee of Leeway productions putting the week together, researching how this format would work, how artists would respond, what could be created to help develop individuals and the genre in Wales. The post performances discussion with the audience which included critics and venue and arts organisation partners and representatives (crucially) was overwhelmingly positive.
So watch out for steps on to the next stage.
Not being anything that I’ve given much thought to before, the assumed wisdom has been that musical theatre has certain looks and certain sounds. At the very least, I’ve come to expect a certain nasal, Noo Yock brash vocal delivery as standard.
I am pleased to have been invited to see what’d been going on at The Other Room all week, from which the basic frameworks of four ten-minute musicals had surfaced. The first dealt with matters familiar to many a musical; a broken relationship, disappointment, breaking away to be free. Elaine Page could have featured.
The second gave us multiple laughs per minute with a comic tale of supermarket love amongst the fruit and veg. Wittily absurd in the best way.
The third offering was sung in the Welsh language but managed to convey much of its tale to those without a grasp of the tongue through staging and acting. We learn in the later discussion that the character was a Russian bride on a train that we had recognised through sound and rhythm and some hard working, ingenious violin playing.
The final presentation took place in total darkness except for the torch-lit face of the singer. An eerily atmospheric and malevolent story unfolded that was quite thrilling.
The week’s experimental exercise has opened a wealth of possibilities for new musical theatre in Cardiff. It has been eye opening to learn that much more is possible from this art form that I had previously expected so little from. Well done to all concerned and I look forward to seeing the next developments.
Lowri Hâf Cooke:
Â minnau wedi cael blas ar sioeau cerdd Cymreig diweddar gan waith Dafydd James a Ben Lewis, Llinos Mai, a chriw Gagglebabble, difyr iawn oedd mynychu sesiwn ’10 Minute Musicals’ Angharad Lee. Y bwriad, hyd y gwelwn i, oedd i herio artistiaid heb fawr o brofiad yn y maes, i chwarae â syniadau, a ffurfiau o fewn y genre, i ystyried cyfrannu i’r cysyniad o theatr gerddorol Gymreig – ac ar y cyfan, bu’r fenter yn llwddiant.
O’r pedwar ‘cynhyrchiad’ a brofias i, llwyddodd pawb i greu naws ac awyrgylch, ac i ddatgan ‘llais’ newydd, unigryw. Yn achos y cyntaf, heriwyd y syniad mai rhywbeth ‘fflyffi’ yw sioe gerdd, wrth gyfosod cerddoriaeth epig â thema am drais emosiynol. O gofio llwyddiant aruthrol taith sioe fawr fel Legally Blonde yma yng Nghymru, a’i negeseuon o hunan-feddiant, difyr iawn fyddai gweld cynulleidfaoedd o’r fath yn cael eu hudo gan sioe bur wahanol. Yn achos yr un sioe, llwyddwyd i lunio seinlun hudolus, a uwch-oleuodd nifer o fotiffau, a roddodd lwyfan gadarn i negeseuon y darn.
Synhwyrais ddylanwad abswrd, a hwyliog dros ben, Llinos Mai ar thema’r ail soe; rhamant a leolwyd yn oriau mân shifft hwyr yn Tesco Extra. Slice-of-life bur gredadwy, sy’n dyrchafu profiadau bob dydd pobol ‘gyffredin’, go-iawn, i uchelfannau celfyddyd.
Gyda’r trydydd gynhyrchiad, archwiliwyd ymhellach i’r thema cariad cyfoes – gan ganolbwyntio ar ferch o Rwsia o’r enw Dasha. Trwy ddefnydd dyfeisgar o offerynnau amrywiol gan Branwen Davies ac Angharad Jenkins, fe’n trawsblannwyd i fyd o ansicrwydd; ac er mai stori ‘Russian Bride’ a geir ar yr arwyneb, stori am ddeffroad merch, a’i hunan-hyder cynyddol sy’n ffrwtian islaw, ynghyd â chariad cynyddol at ei hunan.
Er y ngadawyd i’n, llythrennol, yn y tywyllwch, ynglyn a stori’r cynhyrchiad olaf, dyma sioe synhwyrus a ddenodd fy chwilfrydedd. Ai dirgelwch oedd ar waith, ynglyn â merch a gaethiwyd mewn ystafell, fel cynifer o straeon newyddion erchyll diweddar? Ynteu archwiliad o psyche gwraig briod wedi hen syrffedu â’i bywyd allanol berffaith? Fe’m cynhyrfwyd gan y sefyllfa – a dewis yr artistiaid i ddiffodd y goleuadau – ac fe’m cynhyrfwyd gan lais grymus, hudolus y gantores, Joanne Thomas.
Fe’m cludwyd dros dro, gan y pedwar cynhyrchiad, i fydoedd tra gwahanol. Yr hyn a sefydlwyd yn bendant oedd yr ysfa gynhddol gan nifer am theatr cerddorol ymylol yng Nghaerdydd – a thu hwnt- mewn ymateb i’r ‘brain drain’ syrffedus i’r West End yn Llundain gan dalentau Cymreig. Gyda lleoliad berffaith ar ein cyfer, bar Porters yng nghnaol y ddinas, ymddengys fod yma hadau gwirioneddol o gynnwrf, a thalent eithriadol ar waith.