Last night the four kids, my mum and I went along to watch a performance of Jem and Ella at the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven.
Jem & Ella
Jem & Ella, is a celebration for Dads and their daughters of all ages. This Spring, Run Ragged’s Jem & Ella are touring theatres around Wales. The show is performed and choreographed by father and daughter Jem Treays and Ella Treays. It is directed by Paula Crutchlow.
Ella is mad on ballet and Jem is a professional contemporary dancer and theatre maker.
Jem & Ella is a show about change: Ella is a 12 year old but will soon be a teenager; Jem has recently turned 50 and is developing a bald patch (his words not mine, I promise).
Over the past few years they have been trying to capture this change by recording their conversations and dances in the kitchen, whilst observing the rituals, the disagreements and the closer moments they’ve had together as father and daughter.
The show is a blend of home video, dialogue, and dance. It is aimed at adults and children alike and would make a lovely watch for fathers and daughters together (sadly Dave was at band practice).
Jem Treays says:
“When Ella asked me to create with her- I leapt at the chance. Developing the work over the last three years has given me the opportunity to dance with her and watch her grow. The work itself is live, energetic, improvisational and nuanced. I hope that audiences will find it funny, engaging, thought provoking and moving, and that we manage to shed some truth about the relationships between fathers and daughters.”
Ella Treays adds:
“I’ve enjoyed making the show because I like dancing with my dad. I hope that audiences enjoy it, have fun with us and recognise things from their own relationships. Working with my dad has been both fun AND stressful.”
We took to our seats and noted the simple set including just a few pieces of household furniture. I knew from the sypnosis that home video would be shown throughout and I wondered how this was going to happen as no screen was obvious to me.
The show opened with a solo by Ella. She is a natural and immediately likeable on stage. She also has an incredible talent and moved seamlessly through different dance styles (a strength that she herself has noticed grow throughout the show). We were in awe as she danced en pointe on top of the table (don’t try this at home, kids).
Despite initially expecting and waiting for him I found myself so engrossed in Ella’s dance that Jem’s subsequent entrance on stage then surprised me (I won’t give it away), but now with two dancers, the stage was complete and the two of them were soon filling the whole stage with wonderful dance together.
For me, the show came to life when Ella took out their dancing mat. Their part duet part dance off represented so well their changing home relationship and also gave us a glimpse of a home full of gatherings and social dance. I loved seeing Jem, a talented professional dancer truly enjoying dancing.
Their story of change is told through a patterned dialogue:
“So I asked Ella…”
“And she replied…”
Home video is at times projected onto the white furniture (ah, that’s how they do it) and audio recordings from their rehearsals and private life are intermittently played. It creates an overall intriguing multi layered performance.
I have to admit that I was worried that this show would be awkward to watch at times as it’s so personal. However, Jem and Ella display their close relationship but also extend a warm generosity to us, the audience, by kindly inviting us in. Myself and all of the kids (even the four year old) were gripped and enthralled and had lots to talk about at the end of the show (always a good sign of any form of entertainment).
The father and daughter relationship displayed reminded me of being young enough to be swung around and upside down by my own late father (and begging him to do it again, again, again). I love watching the changing stages of Dave’s relationships with his (three) daughter’s too. When he is easily scooping the girls (and Danny) up and running around with them I realise that there will one day be a time where he will no longer be able to lift them up like that. For Jem and Ella these physical changes will impact their dancing relationship too (routines in this show have already changed due to Ella’s growth since initial rehearsals).
Jem and Ella, like everyone, are changing and both have many changes ahead of them. As well as dance, they both have the all the other things going on just the same as their contemporaries- for Ella it’s school, homework, chores, becoming a teenager and for Jem it’s earning money, paying bills, home maintenance, paperwork, bike repairs and improving his fitness “must get fit“.
We see a playful relationship, we laugh at their funny heated discussions in rehearsals, we see anger and frustration. At times we wonder which one is really the teenager and really the adult. We see love, Ella not wanting her dad to leave her at bedtime and the most touching scene as Ella is cradled by her father.
When the show finished we were left with questions and wanting to see more. The kids were also inspired and want to return to dance lessons. I am going to label our own large mat, the dancing mat and remember to keep dancing with my own changing performers, growing over the years and taking mental notes of the changes (You can’t hold back time.)
We were pleased to hear that this talented duo both hope to write, choreograph and dance more shows together. I think that Dance Workshops before or after each performance would go well with these shows as well.
We can’t wait to come and watch again as we also grow and change along with you- thanks Jem and Ella.
Watch the Show
Jem & Ella runs until 9th April 2016
31st March 2016- The Riverfront 2:30pm- 01633 656757 newportlive.co.uk/riverfront
2nd April 2016- Criccieth Memorial Hall 7:30pm – 01766 780667 theatrharlech.com
8th April 2016- Sherman Theatre, 7:30pm
9th April 2016- Sherman Theatre, 2:30pm & 7:30pm – 02920 646900 shermancymru.co.uk
Performers and Choreographers: Jem Treays and Ella Treays
Director: Paula Crutchlow
Designer: Saz Moir
Lighting Designer: Jane Lalljee
Original Video Designer: Chris Young
Video Designer: Nic Finch
Choreography Advisor: Deborah Light
Sound Designer: Chris Young
All performances accessible for deaf and blind audiences through the App Access: a local wi-fi network that connects you to Audio Description or Captioning options. Ideal for Tablet or phone use.
Twitter: @runraggedance #jemandella
Facebook: Run Ragged Productions