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A Grand Ambition for Swansea

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A new “creative collective” has launched based at Swansea’s Grand Theatre that aims to “focus on a new perspective to capture the arts through the Swansea lens”.

Named Grand Ambition the group is a collaboration between Swansea Council and Swansea based professional artists Richard Mylan, Steve Balsamo, Michelle McTernan and Christian Patterson.

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A spokesperson for Grand Ambition said: “Swansea has such a wealth of talent, an incredibly rich cultural heritage, so why then do so many artists and creatives go elsewhere for work?

“The last two years have been difficult for everyone especially within our industry. The pandemic has hit venues and fellow freelancers very hard, so now more than ever there is a greater need to encourage, support and connect the arts to our home city.

“Swansea is changing and it’s cultural landscape is changing with it. We want to be a part of that change. It’s a very exciting time. Time to regenerate and reimagine.”

“Everything that Grand Ambition produces will be through the Swansea lens. We will focus
on its cultural and diverse communities and champion the unheard voices of its people as
well as nurture and support established and emerging artists.

“We want to work with local freelancers and organisations that are passionate about celebrating our city’s history as well as carving out an exciting and ambitious future.”

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Rachel O’Riordan, the Artistic Director of Lyric Theatre in London’s Hammersmith said: “I am delighted to be able to contribute to this endeavour, and look forward to bringing exciting work to life on these amazing stages . Wales is very close to my heart and I look forward so much to being part of the Grand Ambition we have for Swansea.”

Writer, Gary Owen said: “Grand Ambition want to break the mould of Welsh theatre – creating brilliant shows that connect with a wider audience. The appetite for theatre in Wales is vast, as packed houses at the cavernous WMC show. But so far Welsh theatre companies have failed to connect with our audiences. Grand Ambition are out to change that, and I’ll be helping in any way I can”.

Tracey McNulty, Head of Cultural Services for Swansea Council: “Grand Ambition will contribute to our cultural strategy for the City and region, helping us and all our partners, engage with new audiences and help deliver a vibrant cultural offer now and for our future
generations.

“We’re so pleased to have been able to work together to create this partnership. It’s an exciting time to get involved in the arts in Swansea and we hope many will take the opportunities to participate in the work, as they develop”.

Robert Francis Davies, Swansea Council Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism said: “We are delighted to be supporting our home grown talent to create even more opportunities for young people and communities in Swansea to get involved in the cultural and creative industries here in Swansea.

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“The investment in our cultural offer is taking shape with the new Arena and city centre regeneration, as promised when we sought a ‘city of culture’ status previously. Working in partnership with local and national talent will help sustain this and ensure Swansea takes its rightful place as Wales’ capital of culture”.

Grand Ambition members

Richard Mylan is a Swansea born Theatre, Film & Television actor, whose work ranges from drama to comedy in television shows such as Waterloo Road & Coupling (BBC), to leading roles in Theatre productions in the West End & Olivier winning plays.

None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the crucial support from Swansea Council, which enabled Richard to train at the Urdang Academy in London. Richard says, “At the time, I was 12 years old, living in Blaen-Yr-Maes, zero income, single parent family with two siblings. There’s no way I’d have been able to afford the train fare, let alone go to London & train full time. Swansea Council literally made my dreams a reality”.

Ever since then, Richard has been driven by thoughts of giving back to the city that made it all possible. Sadly, it took the death of his mother who passed suddenly in September 2020, to realise that life is far too short for ‘One Days’ & he immediately took steps to come home & finally be in a position to give back.

By May the following year, Richard, his wife Tammie, son Jaco & young son Acen had moved back home. A meeting with Council leader Rob Stewart quickly followed, after which Richard assembled a formidable creative collective who went on to work with Tracey McNulty (Head of Cultural Services in Swansea) & roll out an ambitious creative plan for the city at the city’s cultural home, the beautiful Grand Theatre Swansea, where Richard’s love of theatre began. “It’s very much full circle” says Richard.

Michelle McTernan is a Professional Actress who has worked extensively in Theatre, TV, Film and Radio. Most recognised for Stella (Sky 1) The Crown (Netflix), The Revlon Girl (Olivier Award Nominated). She is also a Drama/Arts Practitioner, Writer, Tutor and Community Artist.

In 2009 she launched her own business Jamba Drama which provides fun, dynamic drama classes/workshops for young people. Jamba Drama is about developing key skills for young children, building confidence in a fun and safe environment.

In 2012 Michelle was employed as The Artistic Director of The Rising Stars Theatre Co which is a Disabled Theatre Company based in Swansea and has over 40 young members who are Neurodiverse/Additional Learning Needs. October 2015 Michelle became an Acting Tutor for HIJINX Academy, Carmarthen.

Michelle has been a lead tutor for West Glamorgan Youth Theatre’s Outreach. She has
worked in various schools throughout South Wales as a drama practitioner for the Lead
Creative School projects run by The Arts Council of Wales.

“I’m so excited to be part of Grand Ambition. Together we can build new beginnings,
spark new energy and create a space for the arts that feels like home”

Steve Balsamo born in Swansea and raised a stone’s throw away from The Grand Theatre in the Sandfields, passing it every day on his way to school. Learning the ropes in local rock bands, Steve shot to fame in the mid 1990’s as Jesus in the West End revival of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, where he won The Variety Club’s ‘Best Newcomer Award’.

Soon after Steve was signed to Columbia Records where he released and toured a solo album, ‘All I Am’ before forming The Storys with three other Swansea singer-songwriters. The Storys signed to Warner Records, recorded 3 albums and travelled the globe, opening shows for Elton John, Celine Dion, Joe Cocker and Santana – winning amazing reviews, fans and song writing awards along the way.

Five very enjoyable years as a singer and songwriter with Jon Lord of Deep Purple followed, as well as writing songs for many artists including Meatloaf, Slash of Guns and Roses and Sir Cliff Richard. Steve is currently performing with ‘Balsamo Collins Riley’ and their debut EP is coming soon.

“I’m very excited to be part of Grand Ambition. I am passionate about passing on my
knowledge of the industry and can’t wait to develop, mentor, facilitate and inspire the
next generation of musicians, songwriters, composers and performers within my home
town of Swansea. If we don’t act now, we will lose them”.

Christian Patterson born in Swansea, trained as an Actor at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and graduated with a 1st Class Honours Degree. As well as being a TV and film actor, he has worked with many of the major theatre companies in the UK including the Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Theatre, Theatr Clwyd, The Donmar Warehouse and The National Theatre of Wales to name but a few.

He was appointed Associate Artist of Theatr Clwyd by Terry Hands in 2003 and still remains an Associate Artist under Tamara Harvey.

As well as working as an actor, Christian is an award winning writer. Writer for Theatr Clwyd, Bristol Hippodrome, The Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, The Regent Theatre in Stoke and Venue Cymru in Llandudno. He has directed hugely successful Pantomimes for the Ambassador Theatre Group, First Family Entertainment, Qdos and Crossroads Live and in 2019 he directed the world premiere of Jacqueline Wilson’s ‘Wave Me Goodbye’ for Theatr Clwyd.

“I am incredibly proud to be an integral part of Grand Ambition’s Creative Collective and I look forward to producing, creating and curating world class theatre by the people of Swansea, about the people of Swansea, for the people of Swansea”.

(Lead image: Kirsten McTernan)

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Swansea

Swansea panto favourite Kev Johns to return as Grand Theatre announces Beauty and the Beast cast

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Swansea Grand and Pantomime producers, Imagine Theatre, have announced the first casting for their 2022/2023 panto season – with favourites Kevin Johns and Matt Edwards set to return in the cast of Beauty and the Beast from 14 December 2022 to 15 January 2023.

Panto fans will be delighted to hear that Kevin Johns MBE will be playing the role of Nanna Penny and this year will mark his 30th year in panto and his 24th at the Grand.

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Kev’s stage career has been varied including drama, comedy, musicals and of course pantomime.

He has recently returned from Snowdonia in North Wales after filming an episode of the very popular US TV show Documentary Now which is also to be seen on Amazon TV here in the UK.

Kev said he was delighted to return to Swansea Grand theatre for this year’s Imagine Theatre’s production of Beauty and the Beast

He said: “I am so excited to be returning to the fantastic Swansea Grand for panto this year. The Grand is such a wonderful theatre with a great staff and the best audiences in Panto land. Beauty and the Beast is a great panto with something for all the family and a new panto for me!

“I’m so looking forward to working with Matt Edwards who is one of the funniest people I know. Matt is a wonderful entertainer and a great friend. See you all in panto at the Swansea Grand!”

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Matt Edwards

With further star casting to be announced, Kevin will be joined on stage by Britain’s Got Talent finalist, Matt Edwards, in the role of Cyril

Matt said: “Hello Meow. It’s Me, Matt Edwards. I’m so super excited to be coming back to Swansea, for what promises to be the most spectacular pantomime the Swansea Grand has ever seen. Come and join us for some Christmas magic.”

Beauty and the Beast will be the first partnership between Imagine Pantomimes and the Swansea Grand Theatre and this year’s pantomime is set to be pretty spectacular with a brand-new production using LED screens and animation.

Swansea Grand Theatre Manager, Grant McFarlane said, “We couldn’t be more delighted to welcome our panto favourite Kev back to the Grand along with Matt Edwards. Our annual pantomime is a huge family tradition for our audiences, and we hope to see you all there for this, our first with Imagine who will be bringing our most exciting pantomime to date as it will be our first using LED screens with animated scenes.

“It’s really ground-breaking whilst keeping all of the traditional elements that our audiences have come to love”

When an arrogant Prince is cursed to live as a beast, his only hope of salvation is to find love before the last petal falls from a magic rose. When pretty village girl, Beauty, comes into his life, is this the chance he has been waiting for?

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Beauty and the Beast will be sure to make you laugh, cry and fall in love with a host of hilarious and hairy characters; so book your tickets now and discover if Beauty can see beyond appearances and learn to love a beast!

Tickets are on sale now at swanseagrand.co.uk or visit imaginetheatre.co.uk

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New Welsh musical ‘Milky Peaks’ heads to Swansea next week

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North Wales’ Theatr Clwyd are touring the world premiere production of Seiriol Davies’ brand new Welsh musical Milky Peaks, which heads to Swansea’s Taliesin Arts Centre on 21st May 2022.

Set in a fictional village in Snowdonia that is nominated for the ‘Britain’s Best Town’ award, this hilarious comedy follows three lost souls and a shabby drag queen as they try to save their community’s heart all while the dark side of the award threatens to blow the community apart.

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The show welcomes back many original cast members including: Seiriol Davies (How To Win Against History (UK Tour) and Mission Control (National Theatre Wales)), Dylan Townley (How To Win Against History (UK Tour), Austentatious (Piccadilly Theatre)), Matthew Blake (How To Win Against History (UK Tour), The Third Day: Autumn (HBO/Sky Studios in partnership with Punchdrunk)), Sophie Winter (Jude Starbeam and the Shadow Planet (The Albany), Don’t Panic! It’s Challenge Anneka (UK Tour)), and Lisa Jên Brown (Praxis Makes Perfect (National Theatre Wales), Sleeping Beauties (Sherman Theatre)).

New to the company for 2022 is Tanya Bridgeman (Shoes To Fill (Fair Play & Iris Theatre)) and Miriam O’Brien who performed in Curtain Up! at Theatr Clwyd. 

Milky Peaks is a production by Theatr Clwyd, Áine Flanagan Productions and Seiriol Davies. The show reunites collaborators Matthew Blake, Alex Swift and Dylan Townley who alongside Seiriol Davies and Áine Flanagan Productions co-created the acclaimed, award-winning musical How to Win Against History. Milky Peaks has been recognised by The Stage as one of the best musicals to watch in 2022. 

For some, the title Milky Peaks may sound familiar. Back in 2020 the show was in its final rehearsals when the pandemic hit, and the venue was forced to close. It’s a day that Tamara Harvey, Theatr Clwyd’s Artistic Director, remembers well: 

“I walked into the Theatre with a sinking heart. Our Milky Peaks company were just finishing their sound check – we had to tell them that the Prime Minister had advised everyone in the UK not to go to theatres and so we were sending our team home.

“They asked to perform the first and last numbers from the show. I sat in the darkened auditorium, laughing and weeping in equal measure at this brilliant show that was suddenly in limbo.

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“It means more than we can say to be bringing it back to life now – the wildly funny and bitingly satirical world that Seiriol Davies and the company created all those months ago feels more vital than ever to share with our audiences here and across Wales.”

When asked about returning to the project, writer and performer Seiriol said: “It is surreal and brilliant to be coming back to Theatr Clwyd and to finally be opening Milky Peaks.

“It feels gorgeous and right to be telling this dark, sparkly, stupid-ferocious fable about our crazy world, which has not in any way de-crazied in the last two years.

“The creative team is on fire (not literally), the cast is also on fire (literally: it’s a rehearsal technique): EVERYTHING is in place. Come on, Milky Peaks!”

This brand new musical has been supported by Theatr Clwyd, the National Theatre New Work Department, Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru, Battersea Arts Centre and Ovalhouse.

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(All images: Ffotonata)

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Strictly winner to star in Rocky Horror Show at Swansea Grand

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Strictly Come Dancing winner, Ore Oduba is coming to Swansea’s Grand Theatre to star as Brad Majors in the legendary musical extravaganza, the Rocky Horror Show from 9 to 14 May.

Actor, presenter and winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Ore Oduba said: “I can’t wait to join the cast of the Rocky Horror Show. Like everybody, I’ve missed the stage so much and Rocky really is the perfect show to welcome audiences back to theatres.

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“It’s such an iconic musical with songs that everyone knows, so I’m sure the Rocky fans will be desperate to do the Time Warp again! I’m so excited to get started and tour the country with our production… just got to remember to pack my stockings!”

Joining Ore and returning to the cast of the Rocky Horror Show as Frank is Stephen Webb (Jersey Boys / Legally Blonde), alongside Philip Franks (The Darling Buds of May) as The Narrator.

They will be joined by fan favourite Haley Flaherty (Mamma Mia / Chicago) as Janet.
Kristian Lavercombe (Jersey Boys / Jesus Christ Superstar) will once again reprise his role as Riff Raff, following more than 1350 performances around the world, with Lauren Ingram (Beauty and the Beast / My Fair Lady) as Columbia. Callum Evans (Grease / Miss Saigon) will be take on the role of Rocky, with Joe Allen (Little Shop of Horrors / Charlie & The Chocolate Factory) as Eddie & Dr Scott.

Joining the cast as Phantoms are Reece Budin (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical / Man of La Mancha), Jordan Fox (Kinky Boots / Hairspray) and Rachel Grundy (Starlight Express / Peter Pan), with Danny Knott (Saturday Night Fever / A Midsummer Nights’ Dream) as Male Swing.

Since it first opened in London in June 1973 at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show has become the world’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll musical, having been performed worldwide for over 45 years in more than 30 countries and translated into 20 languages.

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Directed by Christopher Luscombe, the smash hit show features all of the famous musical numbers which have made the Rocky Horror Show such a huge hit for over four decades, including Sweet Transvestite, Science Fiction/Double Feature, Dammit Janet and, of course, the timeless floor-filler, The Time-Warp.

The Rocky Horror Show tells the story of Brad and his fiancée Janet, two squeaky clean college kids who meet Dr Frank’n’Furter by chance when their car breaks down outside his house whilst on their way to visit their favourite college professor. It’s an adventure they’ll never forget, with fun, frolics, frocks and frivolity, bursting with timeless songs and outrageous outfits. The Rocky Horror Show is a guaranteed party, which famously combines science-fiction, horror, comedy and music while encouraging audience participation, meaning, of course, getting dressed-up in the most outrageous fancy dress.

The Rocky Horror Show first began life in 1973 before an audience of just 63 people in the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs. It was an immediate success and transferred to the Chelsea Classic Cinema, before going on to run at the Kings Road Theatre, 1973-79 and the Comedy Theatre in the West End, 1979-80.

In 1975 it was transformed into a film called The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This film adaptation took over $135 million at the Box Office and is still shown in cinemas around the world more than 40 years after its premiere, making it the longest running theatrical release in cinema history. Many stars including Russell Crowe, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Jerry Springer, Jason Donovan and Meatloaf have appeared in The Rocky Horror Show over the past 45 years.

Ready to thrill you with fun and naughty moments, The Rocky Horror Show is the boldest bash of them all. But be warned, this show has rude parts!

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Tickets are available from Swansea Grand Theatre’s box office or online.

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