Campus Life

Cardiff Fringe Fest- All the shows reviewed

Charlie Knights ‘ CUTV duties have brought him far and wide this week with the Cardiff Fringe in full swing. Here he gives GR Societies the low-down.

I’ve always loved fringes; block, side parted, and the Cardiff one. Cardiff Students’ Union puts on a fringe week each year which showcases the best of societies as a series of showcases. From Variety to Go Global, and from dance to singing to comedy. I’ve managed to go along to most of the events.

Though not strictly Fringe, last week also saw the Act One Production of Find Me, a gripping play based on the true story of living with a person who suffers from mental illness. Verity Taylor was a girl thought to have autism and schizophrenia (in a time when services were not fully equipped to handle any of this situation) and her family’s lack of understanding. Act One put on a great version of this where all the characters were played by different actors alternating between the different roles, with quick costume changes sometimes on stage. I worried about seeing this play, having suffered from mental health issues myself, yet it was a telling and emotional journey, that saw a great insight to the troubles and trials of a truly broken family. Watching Verity grow up, from a young child interested only in blocks and with a bad relationship with her mother to a disturbed adult locked up in Broadmoor, was a fantastic experience. It features the best scene I have seen in a long time, wherein Owen Strawbridge, portraying Verity’s brother Mark, delivered a monologue on how his sister ruined everything. Congratulations to the entire cast, especially the five different personalities of Verity, and Liz Clements as a very strained and emotional mother. Whilst the start seemed rather weird and very blocky, the play grew into itself especially in the second act. Director Rhian Peake should be incredibly proud of what was a tasteful depiction of a horrible condition.

Saturday brought around Broadway Dance’s phenomenal D.A.N.C.E annual show case. With everything from Irish, to jazz, to ballet, they put on a fantastic show, with even the beginners standing out. Personally my favourite was the Advanced hard show Irish dancing at the beginning which absolutely blew me away, or perhaps the sassy ballet to Mika’s Grace Kelly. Dance isn’t something I know much about, but I do love to watch people with more talent in the sole of their tap shoes than I will ever have.

I never expected to watch an Opera, but on Sunday I did. What in my head was contained to the stuffy upper class, was in actual fact an incredible performance of Carlisle Floyd’s 1955 Susannah. It’s the tale of Susannah Polk, an innocent girl who is targeted as a sinner in a small town deep set within Bible Belt Tennessee. Watching an opera on what was basically the origins of slut-shaming was an odd experience, with a full orchestra and some incredible lighting work, I was enthralled. Sound could have been better balanced as it was tough to get what was going on a lot of the time during the first act, but they powered through and the second act shone. Special shout out to Act 2 Scene 2 in the church with the whole cast, which was the stand out moment of the whole night. It seems I will be going back to the opera more often, well done CUOS!

Monday was a big day with the Variety performance, where we saw students from a range of performance based societies, including Jazz, Expression, TCUPS, Broadway, Comedy, FAD, A Cappella, Healthcare Music, Bollywood, Windband, Slash Hip Hop, Belly Dancing, and Blank Verse. I love live music and dance, and it was incredible to see such a wide range of groups! A special shout out to Mac from Comedy who blew me away with some rather out there jokes, and to the Decibelles- a group who I have seen perform dozens of times over the last year but still blow me away with unheard of levels of sass.

By Tuesday I was shattered, but the Union knew how to treat me well with the Inner Child Day by Student Minds. That was followed up by an evening where I was running between a live music event and a comedy showcase- Fringe really shows off the huge range of groups in the Guild of Societies. From a string orchestra performing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song to a man dressed as a pirate working in a job centre, it sure was a surreal night. All the music acts were amazing as per usual, some songs seemed shaky at parts, but overall the quality and passion of all the performers shone through. Jazz Choir’s rendition of Blame it on the Boogie with some very energetic dancing was hilarious as well. The Comedy night was great, the announcer had me laughing between sets, and whilst personally I feel that the stand-up was a lot stronger than the sketches, the whole night was incredibly enjoyable.

The final event I managed to make my way to was Songs for a New World. Musicals have always been a love of mine, but somehow Songs for a New World had stayed relatively under my radar. Described in the program and promotional material as an abstract musical about that tipping point in life; about that one moment in life when everything you thought you knew crumbles beneath your feet, and you embark on a journey through a new world. I liked the choreography, as anyone that knows me is well aware that I know very little about dance, but this however did not stop me enjoying the dancing which flowed so well! I try to be harsher towards the end of reviews. Shows deserve to be scrutinized, they should be called out if they make a mistake, be it tech or a shaky singer or a bad costume. However, I honestly cannot think of a fault with Songs. The singers were solid, obviously there was some tech difficulties in the first act but that’s what happens when you run eight radio microphones and a band at the same time. In over a year of reviewing this might be the best production I have seen come out of Act One, and that certainly is saying something.

Sadly deadline was before the end of the week so I will be talking next week about Go Global, another variety showcase of culture on Friday. I just want to say a huge thank you and congratulations to all the groups that took part, thank you for inviting me along to be a part of this amazing week. Well done to Sam Cook and Milly Dyer for their work over the last many months arranging this whole event. If you missed out though, remember there are still several showcases left to come over the next few months, and some are probably already gearing up for next year’s Fringe, I know I am!

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