Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

ACW Conference: The Case for Drama

Chair: Ellen ap Gwynn
Panel: Michael Bogdanov, Lyn T.Jones (Chair Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru), Jeremy Turner (Arad Goch) , Richar Hogger, (Creu Cymru).

Michael B kicked off with a mildly provocative “only in Wales” rant about how we keep messing things up (Opera House, National English language theatre based in a small town in the North which draws the majority of its audience from England etc etc)…Followed by his well argued (and 10 years on – well rehearsed) plan for a national theatre along “federal” lines. A very good line about theatre needing “an umbilical cord to the street” – and persuasive argument for a rich mix of world class standards and local voices. Something to chew on at least – and to swallow or spit out – depending on your inclination.

Lyn was unsuprisingly in upbeat mood as the newly appointed chairman of a resurrected national company in the Welsh language and concentrated on the need to develop Welsh voices, to create a new canon of sgripts and to be part of the European scene. Not much to disagree with there. The announcement in the press that the new Theatr Genedlaethol is to be based in Carmarthen, might have created some debate – but we didn’t know – so it didn’t…

Jeremy T was shocked to be invited – although not really – as ACW had transformed itself – a point illustrated by the fact that Peter Tyndall had showed his socks ( a savoury metaphor!) at a TIE performance for 6 year olds. Certainly a sea change since the Arts Council was brought to its knees by a disastrous drama “strategy” 4 years ago which threatened amongst other things – to cut the 8 TIE companies to 4 – or was it 5? With an additional 800k per year from 2003 for the 8 companies its not too surprising that relations are more cordial.

Richard spoke on behalf of the venues of Wales – or the “presenters” as we prefer to be called these days – now working together under the banner of Creu Cymru – the Touring Agency. Again, all pretty upbeat.

Deepy disappointing that no-one from Clwyd Theatr Cymru (aka “Almost the National Theatre”) was present to speak about how they spend the lion’s share of the budget for drama and their plans to move from that small town in the North to take Cardiff by storm. A debate between Terry and Michael would have been worth staying awake for. Can any conclusion be drawn from the fact that they are never seen together in the same room?

Maybe it was because the audience had been bored to a standstill by the previous (long) speeches by the local authority bods (well one of them anyway) but there was no debate.. Someone at the back asked something about finding out what was happening in Porthmadoc and then we had a cup of coffee. And got down to the real business of any conference – having a good old goss between the boring bits.

Someone commented that the “case for drama" was now 6ft by 3ft, plywood veneer and 6 ft under. The fact that there were no questions and a respectful silence replaced the "lively debate" promised by Peter Tyndall emphasised the funereal atmosphere. Maybe its because we’re all happy now and our stages are full of exciting drama from Welsh directors and performers? Or maybe not.

author:Sybil Crouch

original source: Commissioned article
27 May 2003


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