My daughters (Nia, 12, and Megan, 8) and I went to the Riverfront Theatre in Newport to see Ballet Cymru’s production of “A Child’s Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs” and having never been to this theatre before we were impressed by the venue itself as well as its accessibility.
This production was a new ballet by the dance company, featuring an interpretation of a number of Dylan Thomas’ most well-known and well-loved poems. Music and narration was provided by “Wales’ own icon”, as she was billed in the programme, Cerys Matthews.
In the first half Cerys joined the ballet company live on stage to provide narration to a number of Thomas’ poems, including “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” while the dancers behind her interpreted the poems. Cerys was joined on stage by jazz musician Arun Ghosh who provided an unobtrusive soundtrack. Unobtrusive did not describe Cerys who was dressed in full rock-chick mode with bright red boots, leather trousers and a fedora. Despite being a big fan since her early days in Catatonia I did, unfortunately, find her presence on stage somewhat distracting and felt that the spotlight was unfortunately shifted away from the dancers and their interpretation of the poems which was in turns funny, enthusiastic, poignant and sad. So what did the girls think of the first half? Megan felt that it was “a little bit boring” although she enjoyed watching Arun Ghosh using different instruments to produce different sounds. Nia, however, was surprised by how much she did enjoy the production, picking out some of Thomas’ words which she found particularly striking (“and the wild boys innocent as strawberries” from “The Hunchback in the Park” being a favourite line) and also enjoying the music.
The second half, on the other hand, delighted us all! In contrast to the bare stage of the first half, the stage was now draped in white curtains and projected backdrops immediately evoked wintry scenes as the ballet company performed to the words of Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”. In this half Cerys again read the words but instead of being on stage her words were played over the speakers and, in my opinion, this was much more successful with her lilting, melodious tones adding to, rather than distracting from, the piece. This half was joyful, nostalgic, energetic and at times hilarious and the girls’ and my opinion could be summed up as “loved it, loved it, loved it”. We left the theatre with a warm glow, feeling Christmassy for the first time this year, even if it was only early November!
Images: Sian Trenberth
For tour details: http://welshballet.co.uk including Cerys Matthews appearing live with Ballet Cymru at Pontio, Bangor on December 1, 2018