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Supporting Local Arts Projects – Review: Songs For a New World, Cardiff

On Wednesday the 22nd March, I ventured to Cardiff’s YMCA Theatre to see Act One’s production of ‘Songs For A New World.’ As a musical enthusiast myself having seen countless West End shows, I was enticed to see what this small group of Cardiff University students had pieced together over a relatively short rehearsal and production period.

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Photo Credit Facebook, Cardiff Songs For A New World 

The YMCA theatre is part of the non-profit organisation YMCA which seeks to establish “transformational opportunities for people and communities” and through their provision of a professional theatre with affordable rental costs, this allows many small-scale projects within Cardiff the opportunity to flourish. As the high cost of cultural funding can often be a barrier to entry for many enterprises, organisations such as these enhance Cardiff’s creative potential as a cultural city. Upon entering the YMCA theatre I was initially struck by the set, which although minimalistic with the staging consisting of two graffitied flats, was fitting to the show and allowed the cast to tell the story almost entirely through their performances.

‘Songs For A New World’ is no traditional musical, it is highly stylized and abstract, with each character based song being unconnected to the next, acting as a story-telling piece. The main element that links the show together is the overarching message of how one moment can stimulate having to make a choice, or take a stand, and the affect this pinnacle point may have, leading you to a “New World.”

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Photo Credit: Facebook, Cardiff Songs For A New World 

The cast of the production were solid, and despite the lack of fluidity of the nature of the script in the sense that the musical has no chronological order, each character’s distinctive solo was as good as the next, and explored themes ranging from a comical approach to a characters personal ‘mid-life crisis’, to the heart-breaking affect of warfare on a nation. A key theme underlying the show looks at the affects of different relationships, and the stories told surrounding these were captivating, from Esther Morris’s heartfelt rendition of “I’m Not Afraid” exploring attempting to remain fearless despite her unconventional relationship with her lover, or Katie Dougan’s version of “Stars and the Moon” which echoed the importance of passion over materialism, which was so raw and blended comedy and emotion effortlessly.

The ability of the cast to adapt so seamlessly from their solo pieces to the flawless group numbers of the show was impressive, and these moments really were the highlight of the piece, delivering the message of hope, despite the challenging concepts presented in their solo songs. The final number of the show “Flying Home” beautifully carried by Caspar Jayasekera, and complimented perfectly by the harmonising chorus, really delivered the pinnacle moment of the performance with the message “You’ll be fine” and despite change remaining difficult, not to fear it, but to embrace it. Georgia Tapp’s choreography was slick, further resonating the contemporary feel of the show and making the musical a visually stimulating piece of theatre to complement the strong sound quality throughout.

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Photo Credit Facebook, Cardiff Songs For A New World

I think what was most prominent as an audience member, was that there was simply no weak link in the show, the cast all triggered laughter, tears and compassion, and I was genuinely left captivated by the performance. ‘Songs For a New World’ was a true musical success, and aside from a few technical errors in terms of sound tech due to microphone wiring, the performance was seamless. The entire cast and crew, and most notably director Owain Huw should be basking in the amazing piece of theatre they have put together, and performances such as this re-iterate the importance of supporting small creative venues such as the YMCA theatre, as the arts are such a key element of Cardiff’s cultural hub.

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