Swansea Council, who run the city’s Grand Theatre have cancelled performances of ballets Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, considering it “inappropriate to stage the shows at this point”.
The performances were due to take place on 17 and 18 November by a company called “The Russian State Ballet and Opera House”.
The England-based company has denied any links to the Russian political state and has since rebranded themselves “Classical Ballet and Opera House”.
The council have decided to cancel November’s performances anyway.
A spokesperson for Swansea Council said: “Although the promoters have stated that they have no connection with the Russian political state, we consider it inappropriate to stage the shows at this point.
“We have informed the promoters that the shows are cancelled. Those who have bought tickets will be refunded.
“The Grand Theatre offers a wide, engaging and increasingly diverse programme to as it continues to play a key role in Swansea’s cultural life.
“The recent launch of our Grand Ambition initiative will help the theatre attract new audiences and develop local talent.
“The council supports the venue, has maintained it in excellent condition through the pandemic and we look forward to audiences enjoying its forthcoming rich and varied programme.”
“We deplore the unacceptable aggression that President Putin has taken against the people of Ukraine, bringing war once more to the continent of Europe
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“Swansea is known for being a city of sanctuary and as such we stand ready to support any people who are displaced following the terrible actions taken by the president of Russia by invading a sovereign state.”
Last week the council announced that they would be bringing an emergency notice of motion in solidarity with Ukraine to its next full council meeting on 3 March.
It has been lighting up the city’s historic Grade 1 listed Guildhall in blue and yellow, the colours of Ukraine’s flag, to show its support.
Ballet company distances themselves from Russia
The ballet company, whose parent company is called Amande Concerts, has been attempting to distance itself from Russia, following the country’s invasion of neighbour Ukraine.
In an earlier online statement, Amande Concerts said: “In light of the current tragic situation in Ukraine, we would like to make clear a few facts and state our position.
“It goes without saying that we strongly condemn the violence in Ukraine. Arts and politics are not connected, these are innocent people who are being affected. They cannot alter any political situation; however, they do feel the effect of them!
“This production is brought to you by an English company Amande Concerts Ltd, registered in UK, who have worked with the best of the best performing arts organisations from Eastern Europe for over twenty years.
“Russian State Opera is a brand name established by a UK company, Amande Concerts. This brand acts as an umbrella for the presentation of artists of many different nationalities that have graduated from artistic institutions in Russia and countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. We understand the potential for confusion this name causes, but there is no link between Amande Concerts to the Russian ‘state’ as a political entity.
“The Russian State Opera is a UK registered trademark that has been used in the same context as for example English National Ballet. The brand name only relates to the geographical location of the performing artists. Amande Concerts Ltd, does NOT receive any public or commercial money from Russian organisations. Amande Concerts has been self-sufficient WITHOUT any sponsoring support from ANY state or organisation, including Great Britain.
“Please also note that Amande Concerts brings ballet and opera productions from Eastern Europe, including Russia, which include various nationalities. We have in our casts, nationalities from all over the world including Russia, Belarus, Siberia, USA, Japan, France, Kazakhstan, Estonia, and of course, Ukraine. The latter individuals who are also currently on tour in the UK still have family members currently in Ukraine and of course, are even more affected by the current situation.
“Furthermore, I would like to state that the current opera theatre that is on tour in the UK, is based in the region of autonomous republic of Mari El, in northern, central part of Russia. This region has its own unique culture which is closely related to Finno-Hungarian roots. The opera theatre is its own entity and is part of the cultural ministry of Mari El republic.
“In light of the current situation, Amande Concerts, has removed the brand name Russian State Opera’ from all media, and replaced with Amande Concerts.”
(Lead image: Kiran Ridley / Swansea Council)
A night to celebrate all that is Grand about The GRAND
A host of well-known names and familiar faces will come together on Swansea’s best-loved stage to celebrate 125 years of Swansea Grand Theatre on Saturday 23rd July.
Places change over the years, civic buildings come and go and the landscape of a city can become unrecognisable over a relatively short time.
Then there are the buildings that stand the test time and become so ingrained in the life of a place that you cannot imagine that it was ever not there. For people in Swansea there are few places of which that is truer than Swansea Grand Theatre.
For 125 years this pastel-hued beauty of a building has brought talent from across the globe to Swansea, and to celebrate this milestone, resident company Grand Ambition has brought together a host of Welsh talent to say thank you to the theatre and to inspire a new generation of audiences.
On Saturday 23rd July, Grand Ambition is producing a night filled with music, dance, drama, song and entertainment from a star-studded line up, including Ria Jones, Mike Doyle, Kev Johns, Mose1time, Ify Iwobi, Valley Rock Voices, Karl Morgan & Who’s Molly?, Mal Pope, Crossing Borders, Hayley Gallivan, Bronwen Lewis, Steve Balsamo and Lee David
As well as established artists, a debut performance from The Rising Stars Theatre Co and the brilliant Fluellen Theatre Co, the Gala will also showcase young talent from the city, including resident companies Harry’s Youth Theatre, Mellin Theatre Arts and many, many more.
With a programme combining West-End show stoppers with Dylan Thomas, rap and powerful choral numbers, the Grand Gala promises to be a joyous celebration of Swansea.
Grand Ambition is a new and exciting creative collective based at The Grand Theatre with a focus on developing audiences by telling Swansea stories and developing young and existing creative talent.
The company has been created in collaboration with Swansea City Council and Swansea based professional artists – Richard Mylan, Steve Balsamo, Michelle McTernan and Christian Patterson.
We asked them to tell us what inspired them to produce the Gala.
Michelle explained: “We all started our careers here at the Grand. It has a very special place in all our hearts. The fact that we have the opportunity to create “in house” engagements and work in this beautiful building is an absolute honour. Swansea Grand Theatre has stood the test of time and served our people and its city when she needed it the most. She has proved
to be a great institution and we must celebrate her in all her glory. The 125th birthday celebration will be a night to say thank you to her for always being there for us.”
“I feel now more than ever we should celebrate this theatre having been there for us for the last 125 years. We must honour its past and it’s incredibly bright future. The talent that we have on stage for this one-off event will reflect just that” actor and director Richard Mylan continued.
Musician Steve Balsamo is the third director of Grand Ambition and will perform on the night. He said “The Grand has always loomed large in my life and it’s always been a thrill to perform here. It’s so important to mark this 125th birthday and to pay tribute to this beautiful building, to remember the past and look forward to the future. Personally, to be able to sing my own song on this special night and to leave a thumb print on the legacy of The Grand will be an absolute honour”.
Directing the event is writer, director and actor Christian Patterson. “It is an honour to be directing this Gala in the theatre that inspired me to be an actor. The Grand Theatre has graced Swansea for 125 years! It has entertained, delighted & enthralled people every single day of its existence and will continue to do so for many, many years to come. It will be a joy to
commemorate its glorious past and look toward its glittering future. Happy Birthday & long live Swansea Grand Theatre!” he enthused.
That future is fired by a new desire to connect with communities across Swansea. Cabinet Minister for Regeneration, Robert Francis-Davies commented, “These are exciting times for our city. Swansea Grand Theatre has always played a key role at the centre of Swansea’s cultural life, offering lots of opportunities for creativity for all of our communities.”
Recently appointed manager of the theatre, Grant MacFarlane, summed it up nicely: “I am immensely proud to be associated with the Grand Theatre and to be a part of its future. The Grand speaks directly to people’s emotions, is inextricably linked with the fondest and most vivid memories of Swansea’s citizens, and is at the heart of the city and its people”.
Tickets for the Grand Gala are available now for Swansea Grand Theatre box office, online, by phone and in person. Full details can be found at swanseagrand.co.uk/BirthdayGala. All line up announcements and updates will be available on Grand Ambition’s social media channels.
The History of The Grand Theatre: A timeline
125 years at the very heart of Swansea, thrilling countless generations of theatregoers along the way from Shakespeare to Pantomime.
1897: Mouillot and Morell, two entrepreneur actor/managers, seized an opportunity to build a Theatre in Swansea. They purchased the former Drill Hall in Singleton Street, demolished it and employed William Hope – an experienced Theatre architect to design The Grand – it is the only surviving example of his work. The estimated capacity was 2,500.
1897: Swansea Grand Theatre was opened by the opera star Adelina Patti. She arrived at Swansea train station and boarded an open top horse and cart, the streets were lined with all her fans. It was a truly grand event.
Despite early success the Grand Theatre has had a chequered history.
1930: Swansea Grand Theatre was a full time repertory theatre.
January 1933: the Theatre closed for six months because of the flu epidemic. The audiences seem to miss the regularity of attending and after this break, there was a noticeable decline.
1933: The theatre became a “Cine Variety Theatre”
1934: The theatre closed. It lay empty for a while with just occasional use
1947: Bought by Captain W.E.Willis
1950s: The struggles continued. The problem – apart from television, was the public investment and civic support that was happening for theatre in Cardiff. The privately owned Grand was falling behind in terms of attractions and the physical state of the building. It was
showing its age.
1957: Actor/director – John Chilvers presented a successful repertory season at the Grand. And eventually became the manager and stayed for over 25 years.
1970: Vivian Ellicott the Front of House Manager wrote:- “We have just reported on our first year’s business. The actual loss to the ratepayers has been £5.900 – chicken-feed! Thanks to John Chilvers, the figures are healthy”.
1978: At the end of a 10 year lease, the local council bought the Grand – making it Swansea’s civic theatre.
1982-1986: £5million worth of renovation and building was carried out. The impressive new look Grand re-opened on 17th December 1986 with the pantomime Aladdin.
1999: A new arts wing was added housing a new box office, studio theatre (capacity 150), exhibition area, rehearsal rooms and café.
2020: The Grand Theatre stage became a testing centre for Covid19 during the pandemic until Aug 2021 with the public entering through the scene dock doors where sets along with their builders and technicians would normally have entered.
2020/21: The Multicultural Hub was built and became home to (RCC) Race Council Cymru, Chinese in Wales and The African Community Centre.
2022: The Theatre has a new manager Mr Grant McFarlane. Grant will undertake the leadership of the new manager for Swansea Grand Theatre and The Brangwyn Hall, in conjunction with the Council’s Cultural Services’ management team.
2022: Grand Ambition become the theatre’s resident production company. Swansea Grand Theatre is steeped in history and the future looks bright.
Heres to the next 125 years!
(All images: Swansea Council)
Search begins for Port Talbot panto princess
A South Wales theatre production company is looking for a member of the public in Neath Port Talbot to join its professional pantomime cast this year by playing a princess in Jack and the Beanstalk.
Newly formed MTAZ Productions Ltd is behind Jack and the Beanstalk which runs at The Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot from December 1st to 10th this year and the company is looking to the local community to find its princess.
The lucky person will star alongside a professional cast of actors and will be chosen from an open audition being held on July 21st at the theatre.
In order to audition you must be 18 years old or above and be available for all rehearsal and show dates.
The show’s director, Anthony Argyle said: “We are incredibly excited to meet possible actors to play the princess. We have a great line up for this year’s panto and would love to cast a local actor in the role.”
Zoe Richards, Producer at MTAZ added: ‘It’s the first time we have produced the panto at Port Talbot and with Anthony being a local lad we want to make sure it’s a traditional panto experience created by professionals who grew up and have connections in the area.’
To find out how you register for an audition email email@example.com
MTAZ Productions’ spellbinding Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime will be taking over The Princess Royal Theatre’s stage in December – with both family and ‘adult only’ performances.
Audience members can expect plenty of laughs, incredible music, spectacular special effects, magic beans and bundles of audience participation in what is planned to be a “giant” of a pantomime!
Tickets are on sale now and already selling fast, to book call The Princess Royal Theatre’s Box Office phone line on 01639 763214 or book online at www.princessroyaltheatre.com .
MTAZ Productions Ltd is a newly formed company co-owned by Anthony Argyle and Zoe Walters. Established to create experiences in storytelling in family and young people’s theatre.
Urdd Youth Theatre to return to the limelight
The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced new funding to support the re-launch of the Urdd’s national youth theatre, Cwmni Theatr Ieuenctid Cymru.
The Welsh Government will invest £1 million over a five-year period to support the re-launch of the theatre.
Cwmni Theatr Ieuenctid was set up in the 1970s, with the objective of providing opportunities for 14 to 19-year-olds to enjoy and expand their arts experiences through the medium of Welsh, but ceased to operate in 2019.
The Urdd celebrates its centenary this year, with the Urdd Eisteddfod returning for the first time since 2019 in Denbighshire. The Welsh Government has provided funding so that entry to this year’s Eisteddfod is free.
Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said: “I’m delighted to support the Urdd with re-establishing the Youth Theatre, which provided stage time to so many young actors for generations, some of whom have gone on to worldwide fame.
“The theatre will continue its tradition of providing opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to work with top professionals from the world of theatre, while opening up Welsh-language drama to new theatregoers through the Urdd’s strong community links.”
Siân Lewis, Chief Executive of the Urdd, said: “We are extremely grateful to Jeremy Miles for confirming the Welsh Government’s continued support to the Urdd as an organisation, and securing the future of our Youth Theatre for the next five years. We are committed to supporting the Government’s national strategy to reach one million Welsh speakers by 2050 and are determined to maintain and develop the Urdd’s century-long service and provision for the children and young people of Wales well into the future.”
Director of the Urdd Eisteddfod and the Arts, Siân Eirian added: “Over the decades the Urdd’s Youth Theatre has offered unique and unforgettable opportunities for thousands of Wales’ youngsters interested in theatre. We see the need today more than ever, due to the impact of Covid, to provide equal opportunities and invaluable training for our young adults who want to pursue a career in the arts, and the re-establishment of our Youth Theatre will offer that at a national level.”
Actor Richard Lynch said: “I am delighted to hear of this support to secure the future of the Urdd’s Youth Theatre and look forward to future performances. I had the privilege of travelling with the Youth Theatre twice in the 80s, and I can’t explain how important those experiences were to me, and how they triggered my first steps into the world of theatre. Being given the opportunity to practice and then perform on Wales’ main stages as well as making lifelong friends was amazing, and I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity.”
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