Wales Millennium Centre, Sun 24 July
The South Wales Intercultural Community Arts group (SWICA) are an energetic and creative organisation committed to celebrating cultural diversity in South Wales. With their roots in carnival performance, SWICA were first established in 1990. Since then, they have produced a broad range of carnival events and theatrical performances all around South Wales. With regular creative workshops and a genuine community atmosphere surrounding them, the organisation is fantastic for supporting local communities with fun activities and bright and colourful performances.
In their latest performance, Magick: The Last Royal Wizard, SWICA have produced a mythical adventure that takes in elements of magic acrobatics and vaudeville. Appearing outside the Wales Millennium Centre as part of the Blysh Festival, the colourful group of performers were decked out in a fantastic variety of costumes – from tribal to mystical beasts. Having drawn a relatively large crowd ahead of their 30-minute theatrical performance – which goes by the longer title “Being The Curious Adventures Of Dr Dee And His Imaginary Friend, Welsh Prince Madog” – I was intrigued to discover what was in store for the waiting crowd.
The title alone reveals that this isn’t any old theatrical performance; and so it proved as the nonsensical plot unravelled in a mystical series of choreographed dances, magic tricks and acrobatics. The performers ask the question, “Dr Dee who are you.” And by the end, I struggled to answer this fundamental question myself as Dr Dee (a scientist, alchemist and the greatest thinker of the Elizabethan age according to the performance’s press release) is revealed in a series of bizarre plotlines that see him founding the British Empire, stargazing and predicting the key events in Elizabeth I’s reign, spying, intelligence gathering and scientific séances with his nemesis Edward Kelly.
As the performance continued, the energy of the 50-strong cast was commendable, and the kids in the audience were clearly entertained by their flamboyance. However, despite their admirable attempts at providing a credible theatrical performance, their obvious energy and colourful costumes was severely let down by a nonsensical plot. While SWICA triumph in creating a vibrant carnival atmosphere, their attempt at theatre leaves a lot to be desired. Revealing a “universal truth” and “the meaning of life” via Dr Dee and Edward Kelly strapped into a zorbing ball at the end of the performance really pushed the performance beyond the ridiculous.
SWICA certainly put a lot into their costumes – imaginatively made by the performers themselves – and the weird and wonderful creations were certainly eye-catching and very entertaining. SWICA’s house band, The Magicians, were also entertaining and skilled. A lot of effort had clearly gone into the performance and they were all clearly having fun. But despite this, the pointless and ultimately ridiculous plot was its ultimate let-down. SWICA triumph with the more carnival-based aspects of their performance and the final short parade in front of the Wales Millennium Centre was a better representation of what SWICA can achieve than their attempts at theatre. Bright and flamboyant, SWICA are well worth watching out for at their 22nd Cardiff MAS Carnival parade on Sat 6 Aug as they are sure to provide a lively shot of flamoyant exuberance as they make their way form the Wales Millennium Centre to Cardiff’s City Hall.