What other people say about my work

As a performer:

“At the heart of it all is Gloria (Gwen Hales), a narcissistic egomaniac, styled on a Barbie Doll, who’s under the impression the show is all about her, but whose moments of glory keep being undermined by accidents or her fellow performers.”  The Arts Desk on FLOWN by Pirates of the Carabina, 2014

 “When such a strong female clown stands so rootedly to the show’s centre, circus can also be extremely funny.  Gloria is a riot.  Her timing is superb, and her frowns a delight.  This evening, she has certain sections of the audience so continually convulsed in laughter that everyone else laughs at the laughers, the laughers laugh back, ad infinitum, and Gloria can just stand back and let us do her work for her.  Which of course redoubles the effect.  Gloria also knows her tricks, very impressive tricks, and even better, she can clown them up a treat.” Brighton Festival on FLOWN by Pirates of the Carabina, 2014

“There were some great comic moments delivered by several members of the ensemble but one character that stood out was the Incredible Gloria (and her horse China). Gwen Hales’ narcissistic and self-obsessed clown was the crowning glory of the show. I adored her counterweighted silks act – which involved what seemed to be several hundred metres of fabric laced over two gigantic bobbins hung from the ceiling and weighted down by various cast members – not only for its creativity and panache but also because she inspired shrieks of laughter from a packed out audience. Not an easy feat. What’s more Hales’ monologue was the most touching of all; a moving commentary on ageing and its corollaries.”  Brighton Festival Review on FLOWN by Pirates of the Carabina, 2014

As Aerial Director:

“…sharp and clever choreography…impressive acrobatics (much of this show is an aerial feat)…Cookson and aerial director Gwen Hales have concocted a two-hour show that never drags and is brimming with energy and action without ever seeming frantic or over-busy.” British Theatre Guide on Hetty Feather, 2016

“Through the actors’ breathtaking aerial skills, produced by aerial director Gwen Hales, the audience is literally drawn into the whirl-wind adventure that is Hetty’s life….The ring, ropes and silk are consistently cleverly utilised by the actors, not only to show off their acrobatics, but also to tell the story, as the actors became children climbing into trees – or struggling to. The romantic and emotional aerial display created by Hales around the meeting of Hetty’s parents is the most unforgettable use of these props, the two actors effortlessly become one, intertwining with powerful movements in the air. The simplicity of the props has to be praised in this play, as two ladders, two large fans and a large tube that moved as an elephant’s trunk in and out of the audience, effectively created an elephant, as the travelling circus was brought to life in front of our eyes.”  Jess Rushton on Hetty Feather, 2016

“Hetty Feather, a rich, warm and inventive show that is one of the most charming dramas I’ve seen all year…Unbeatably fine.”  The Evening Standard on Hetty Feather, 2015

“Peter Pan is a triumph of imagination and ingenuity. It is a spellbinding family treat thanks to a little bit of that Bristol Old Vic magic.”  Bristol Culture on Peter Pan, 2012

“A story not about eternal youth but about parenthood and adventure. With plenty of flying thrown in….this is a piece of ensemble theatre with clever stagecraft at its heart…Cookson makes no attempt to disguise the show’s workings: she has no time for fairy dust. This Peter flies with ropes and harnesses – and that’s all part of the fun.”  The Independent on Peter Pan, 2012

“The pleasure of the show is that it always exposes the mechanics – including the rigging for the flying – and invites audiences of all ages to bring their imaginations to bear. It’s a wonderful idea and one that pays dividends in a cross-dressing, free flying production.”  Lyn Gardner, The Guardian on Peter Pan, 2013

As a mentor:

“Gwen’s clarity and thoughtful approach really helped us get to grips with what we were trying to achieve. Her experience and kindness gave us the confidence to question ourselves and take the risks needed to make the best piece we could. And we had so much fun doing it!” Louise Rennie, Curious Company