I’m told that a little some time ago that Bonnie Tyler was having a quiet drink with friends one evening in Mumbles. She was interrupted by someone she didn’t know. That someone walked up to her and asked her, ’Are you still singing a bit these days?’ I suppose Bonnie could have said that she had just come back from a sell out tour of Europe, her new album, that she had recorded in Nashville that was just about to be released and that the gig she did for President Putin was a private party so it probably hadn’t made the papers.
Now I know I’m no Bonnie Tyler and can make no such grandiose claims but this week something similar happened to me when I was asked did I have anything on at the moment. To be honest the new few months are going to be a bit hectic. I’m Chair of the Swansea International Festival. We are in the middle of final preparations to ensure all is good to go in time for our launch at the end of the month. I’m in the middle of an extended run of early morning radio shows for BBC Radio Wales because one of my colleagues has just had a baby. That’s 21 straight days of the alarm going off at 4am. Then there’s all the events at The Hyst that I’d like to film if possible which all seem to end at midnight!!!
Instead what I said was ‘Oh, well I’m currently rehearsing Cappuccino Girls because we have a run in Ammanford Miners at the end of the month’. The reaction on the face of my inquisitor was… quizzical. ‘I thought that had ended years ago!’. In many ways ‘Cappuccino Girls’ is very similar to the Eagles Hotel California. I can check out any time I like but I just can’t seem to leave. This summer the show heads west before we take up residency again in Swansea High Street before then heading for a one off at the Wales Millennium Centre just before Christmas.
Ammanford Miners Then and Now
Over the past few years we have performed the show a number of times at the lovely Ffwrnes Theatre in Llanelli but it has always been an ambition of mine to take the show further west. I first went to the Ammanford Miners Theatre a couple of years ago. I’d been sent there as a roving reporter for ‘Children in Need’ Day. Because its off the main road it’s not the easiest place to find so I only got there just in time for the broadcast. When I walked in the room literally took my breath away. I’m told it was originally built in 1935 as a multi purpose cinema and theatre space. In recent years it has been lovingly restored keeping its beautiful proscenium arch. It really is a little jewel.
Rehearsals in Glanalla
Having found the space the next thing is to round up the cast again. Being in a band or in a touring production company is a bit like being part of a little family. You share a changing room and gossip and if it’s going to work long term you have to like each other. I know they say confrontation between artistic types leads to greater art but I would much rather have fun and a great night out with friends than hate going to work. The other thing about a band or a theatre company it’s easier to do 100 shows than it is half a dozen.
Firstly, you need to rehearse a show if you are going to do lots of shows or just a couple. If you can keep the ‘band’ together and perform regularly doing an extra gig here or there is much easier. Here was my first problem this time around. Having checked everyone’s availability for the year one of our Cappuccino Girls got offered a job in a touring production. Whilst congratulating her on the good news my first thought was ‘oh dear, that’s;’ going to mean a lot of extra work I was expecting.
With a lot of the shows in the run being in Carmarthenshire I was relying on Sarah and Greg Arthur, 2 Llanelli based stalwarts of the company, to suggest some friends or colleagues from out west that we should chat to. Luckily one of the first people we approached was one, available and two, keen. I’ve known Llinos Thomas for several years. In the small world that is Welsh TV and Radio you do tend to bump into people every so often on the circuit. She’s a trained actress and great singer and has done lots of Tv and Theatre work. I asked her to learn one of the songs form the show and prepare some pages of script. Normally you play things a bit cool after an audition and say you’ll be in touch, but she was perfect, so I offered her the job on the spot.
Glanalla Civic Hall
With the first problem of casting solved, the next problem was rehearsals. In my mind I had originally planned a few refresher sessions in the week before we opened in the Miners. With the last minute addition of a new member of cast we suddenly had to plan a whole new rehearsal schedule, and find somewhere to rehearse. We intend to use the whole floor space of the Miners Theatre which meant we had to find a space big enough to replicate the theatre. Sarah Arthur suggested Glanalla Civic Hall in Llanelli.
Just like the Miners in Ammanford, Glanalla Civic hall has seen tough times in the recent past but has now been restored and it’s wonderful. It was built as a Methodist Chapel in 1909 but by 1987 it was closed and very run down. The local council saw that if they didn’t do anything something much more than just another old church would be lost so they decided to save the building for the community.
Now Glanalla Hall is a community centre, which is very useful of course, but for the magic is that the main chapel has been transformed into a terrific performance space. This week we finally managed to graduate from the anti-room to the main theatre space. The reason we had to make do with the smaller hall was that over the past few weeks a local dramatic group have been rehearsing ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat.’ It’s been uplifting to see our heritage being saved for future generations by forward thinking politicians. Once these buildings deteriorate too badly there’s no way back and we all lose something, and our communities are poorer for it.
In 2 weeks time we hope to turn Ammanford Pink as the ‘Cappuccino Girls’ roll into town. With the World Cup well underway by then I expect we’ll become a bit of a haven for football widows right across Carmarthenshire.