Last week saw the second annual Cardiff Fringe Festival held predominantly at the Students’ Union between Friday 13th March until its climax with Go Global on Saturday 21st March.
Barney Willis, VP Societies reflects on the week’s festivities: “Fringe and Go Global have quite possibly been the best weeks of my job so far! The Variety show was fantastically well attended and showed off some of our incredible people, events such as the Music Showcase were student run yet organised perfectly and I thought Go Global was the best I have ever seen it! Highlights for me also include Act One’s original musical ‘Battle Scars’ – I honestly don’t know how those people manage a degree alongside being professional standard actors and actresses. Well done to everyone who helped make Fringe and Go Global the amazing events they are!”
The week kicked off with Afrogene hosted by the African Caribbean Society on the Friday, held in Y Plas. Afrogene is the ACS’ annual cultural extravaganza which was billed to be a celebration of African/Caribbean cultures through avenues such as dance, music, drama, fashion and even food.
The Operatic Society performed Purcell’s The Fairy Queen on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th March. Jordan Nicholls reviewed the opera at The Gate Arts Centre, stating: “Following on from last year’s roaring success of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Cardiff University Operatic Society staged Henry Purcell’s timeless classic, The Fairy Queen. First performed in 1692, three years before Purcell’s death, aged just 35, The Fairy Queen is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s beloved, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and centres around King Oberon’s birthday. After seeing her husband flirt with another woman, Titania, the king’s wife, summons a new suitor from the mortal world to join her in the Faerie Realm. They are disturbed by their encounter with Night, Mystery and Secrecy before the poet arrives to calms them. Following the fairies’ celebrations of the king’s birthday in Act IV of the opera the mortal man is reunited with his lover as are Titania and Oberon.
The Gate Arts Centre is a perfect venue for this opera, with entrances from the audience as well from on stage for the cast. This worked particularly well for the ‘Now Join Your Warbling Voices’ number where the fairies celebrate the mortal man’s arrival. The stage is transformed into King Oberon’s court and is quite convincing at doing it too. Certainly one of the biggest highlights of the evening was the Operatic Society’s take on the classic ‘Hush, no more’ choral number. Recently seen in the Welsh National Opera’s compilation of best-loved choral numbers in Chorus! it was a treat to see this beautiful song in context, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! The act II scene in the woods where Oberon and his attendants attempt to win Titania back was also well executed. The great thing about Cardiff University’s Operatic Society is it provides students with the opportunity to experience producing and performing an opera – which is certainly no easy task. The Fairy Queen did a great job of showcasing the talents of the students of Cardiff University and revealed some true gems among them too! Bring on next year’s production!”
The Art Society put on a Giant Art Attack in Y Plas on Sunday afternoon, using various natural resources and recyclable materials to create a giant reproduction of Cardiff Castle.
If you passed through the Food Court of the Students’ Union on Monday afternoon, chances are you were handed one of the many delicious Welshcakes which were being made fresh by the Baking Society. Unfortunately due to an error in promotion of the location, the Baking Society didn’t get as much involvement as anticipated. However, Em Lowthian, Baking Society’s president, stated that “some people had never even tried Welshcakes before so it was great to get them involved. Lots of people had a go at making the dough too so the event was very positive from those who did engage.”
Monday evening was the turn of the Variety Show featuring 11 different performance societies. Operatic Society member Katie Blackwell was in the show, and thought it went very well. She states “for me a particular highlight would have been Molly Garfoot performing her solo ‘O Let Me Weep’ with Jess Thomas dancing alongside her. Everyone participating in the variety show was brilliant, and I thought it was a great demonstration of the diversity of the performance societies at Cardiff University. It feels good that we got to show students who may never have seen an opera before some of our show.”
A real highlight of the Fringe week for many students was the Inner Child Day on Tuesday 17th March, attracting many not otherwise involved in the week’s events. Featuring inflatables, face painting, free refreshments and even puppies, the day was a roaring success with a consistently long queue for the puppies for the duration of their visit. The Inner Child day ended with three films screened by the Film Society: Mulan, My Neighbour Totoro and the Goonies.
On Wednesday evening the Photography Society headed down to Cathays Park for a Light Painting Workshop, changing the shutter speed on their cameras to create stunning long exposure images known as light painting.
Battle Scars, Act One’s new musical began on Wednesday 18th March and ran until Saturday at the YMCA Theatre. Described by many as ‘incredible’, reviews were staggeringly positive for director and writer, Alex Gatherer.
Ellie Philpotts reviewed the production on Friday 20th March, saying “I went along to Roath’s YMCA Theatre not too sure what to expect. The other Act One performances I’ve seen have been re-dos of already established productions, but this time was different. The clue was in the name – Battle Scars: A New Musical is the brainchild of Cardiff University graduate Alex Gatherer. Creating, writing and directing an entirely new show is no mean feat, but Alex not only managed to achieve it – he also broke every expectation I had of the traditional musical. The storyline depicts Lily Pewitt (Elise Parish) as she battles to cope with her mother’s unexpected abandonment and the spiral of negativity that follows, including a car accident, assault and experiencing psychotic episodes in which she barely recognises her own father. Despite a determination to not be deemed ‘mentally ill’, she finds herself thrust into a new life – within a young people’s mental health institute. The people Lily encounters here transform her life – notably, Nate, played incredibly by Ashley Rogers.
This relationship was arguably the centre of the performance, and kept me consistently surprised and enthralled. Although I knew the show was working hard at presenting the realities of mental illness, I wasn’t expecting something as dramatic as Nate dying – but this pivotal point was portrayed so strikingly. Lily’s response to the news was harrowingly heartfelt, but it eventually triggering her to find the most peace she’d ever known was a really beautiful thing to witness.
As well as the shock factors accurately summarising the spectrum of dramatic emotions that mental illness provides, Battle Scars successfully incorporated music and comedy into the plot. There were bursts of genuine laughter from the audience, and an array of songs, from Lily’s solos to the whole cast uniting – both brilliant to watch, as the lyrics were great and everyone had amazing voices, which of course is an added advantage! Throughout, I kept thinking ‘Got to make a note of that scene, because that was definitely the best bit’, then changing my mind – which has to be positive as it shows the whole thing was amazing! Although the main characters Lily and Nate were played faultlessly, I’d have to give special mention to Alex Johns, who played the protagonist’s father, Paul. His emotions were less screamingly intense than Lily’s, for example, but the trauma he undergoes as a helpless parent, traditional role reversal, was palpable, and made me feel achingly sorry for him. This conveyed the effects mental illness has on not just the patient – but their wider circle. I honestly can’t think of anything I’d improve, therefore Battle Scars has to be the best Act One production I’ve seen – and that’s saying something, as the society consistently put on fantastic shows. Massive well done to Alex and the crew – I think every Cardiff student should pay their performances a visit!”
The Comedy Society presented a Comedy Night on Wednesday 18th March in CF10. After several peformances by society members, Will Seaward performed an hour long set as part of his ‘Ghost Stories’ tour. Reported to have the audience in constant tears of laughter, his surreal storytelling style was a real hit.
On Thursday 19th March in CF10, the Jazz Society invited the public to join them in a Latin 60s themed evening, featuring a surprise performance from two Dancesport couples performing latin inspired routines, a set from Cardiff jazz/funk/soul band The Antz Wandle Project and finishing with a jam night. The jam nights are normally held monthly in the Yard bar in the town centre, so placing the nights in a new context and with a specific jazz sub-genre were welcomed by new attendees.
Patrick Reardon-Morgan, the Music Society’s President thought Friday’s Music Showcase was a fantastic success, “not only did everyone put on high quality musical performances, but we also managed to achieve a great, informal atmosphere that simply doesn’t happen in the vast majority of Cardiff concerts. One person said ‘it was basically a music social’, and that’s exactly the reaction we wanted.”
Featuring 7 different music societies: Blank Verse, Brass Band, City of Cardiff Concert Band, Healthcare Music Choir, Jazz Society (including Big Band, Jazz Choir, Jazz Orchestra and Sax Choir), Music Society (including Brass Ensemble, Male Voice Choir, the Palestrina Singers, String Orchestra and Wind Ensemble) and Operatic Society, the event was a collaboration like no other. All proceeds from the event went to Noah’s Ark Appeal, the only charity exclusively fundraising for the Children’s Hospital for Wales. They have already built Phase One of the very first Children’s Hospital for Wales which treats children needing medical and cancer care. They have also provided funds to enable the first Teenage Cancer Trust unit to be built and given hundreds of thousands of pounds to provide equipment and are now working to equip Phase Two, to ensure Wales has the world class children’s hospital it deserves.
Broadway Dance Society’s annual extravaganza was this year titled ‘Around the World’, held in the Gate Arts Theatre, Roath on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st March and featured a variety of dances from around the globe. Their society involves 18 hours in total of classes each week, from complete beginner to very advanced in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Street, Irish, American High Kick and Pointe. Proceeds from this event went to the charity Danceaid.
Ollie Sterlini, in the Advanced Performance Ballet dances said of the event “It was amazing! Everyone was really excited and the atmosphere backstage was great. From what I’ve heard people enjoyed it, we had lots of whoops when He’s a Pirate (Pirates of the Caribbean) started, one of the ballet dances. There were some girls in 13 dances!” The Advanced Performance Ballet group’s second dance was Arabian Nights, which won Best Ballet at a recent dance competition they took part in.
Go Global was the climax of the week of society activity on the Saturday night and is the Union’s annual festival of culture and diversity. The evening is all about the variety, colour and vibrance brought to the Cardiff University community by the fantastic international students here. The evening featured multiple performances from a wide variety of our international societies. It featured 13 different societies: Pakistani Society, Capoeira Society, Tamil Society, two performances from Chinese Society, YUVA Indian Society, Greek & Cypriot Society, Belly Dancing Society, Palestine Society, Bollywood Dance Society, Asian Society and Malaysian Society.
If you missed out, the whole Go Global performance is available online thanks to CUTV who recorded the event, featuring a commentary by Olivier van den Bent-Kelly and Menna Jones.
Becky Gardner, the Societies Coordinator reflects that “it was great to see the Cardiff Fringe Festival become really established in its second year. Everyone had a lot of fun and the talent shown by our students never fails to amaze me. I’d like to thank all the societies involved with the Fringe and Go Global for their commitment and continued hard work – you’re the best! I cannot wait to see how these events will grow in 2016!”
Cardiff Fringe Festival finishing with Go Global was a celebration of the dedication of students’ work with societies. The sheer amount of dedicated society members involved in the whole week is surely commendable, and hopefully will be even bigger and better next year!
(Image Credits: Laura Sargent & Cardiff University Students’ Union)