Theatre in Wales

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

The theatre in Wales awards 2005

Keith Morris looks at the awards and their importance

It’s the time of year for awards ceremonies, and although maybe not on the same glitzy level as the Golden Globes or the Oscars I in Wales also have an event to look forward to.

Tonight at Aberystwyth Arts Centre the winners of the 5th annual Theatre in Wales’ awards will be announced. These awards, organized by the Theatre in Wales Web site ( and sponsored by some of Wales’ leading publishers are an unique opportunity for audiences and theatre professionals to highlight the outstanding productions and performances from the past 12 months. What began five years ago as a small scale attempt to generate some publicity has grown like Topsy to become a key element in the Welsh theatre calendar.

Voting for this years six categories (best English production, best Welsh production, best male actor , best female actor, best dance work and best new writing) started on-line just after Christmas and by the time the polls closed last Sunday night an incredible 1900 votes had been registered. This is a six fold increase in the response last year and is proof positive of the massive amount of interest in and passion for Welsh theatre and performance. Votes came in from all sorts of people – members of the audience, actors, arts centre staff, educators, students, directors and writers. It was immensely heartening to see such a positive reaction

The shortlists of nominations covered the entire range of theatre and performance in Wales, from Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s blockbuster production of Brassed Off to Theatr Bwci Bo’s one woman show on the life and death of Catrin Glyndwr, from Marc Rees’s claustrophobic experimental installation art performance The House Project to Wales Theatre Company’s expansive Shakespeare trilogy. The actors nominated for individual awards range from famous names such as Nia Roberts in Clwyd Theatre Company’s production of Ed Thomas’s new play Stone City Blue to the newly merging talents of Hywel Morgan in Made in Wales’s production of Football at this year’s Edinburgh fringe festival

The awards are decided by a completely open vote by the users of the site – although it seems clears that as the prestige and status of the awards has grown a certain amount of discreet lobbying has been going on by a number of companies to get their supporters to turn out in numbers. Just like a ‘proper’ election, really…

As well as the six categories for which voting was public there is also a seventh, special, prize . Sponsored by Parthian Books, the James Westaway award is given every year to the young performer aged 25 or under , who, in the opinion of leading figures in the profession, has made the most significant contribution to theatre in Wales . I hope that this award will, over the years, become a highly prized and valued mark of achievement and that it will act as a springboard to help launch a new generation of young performers.

Of all the awards that will be presented on Friday, in my own mind the most important for the long term health of the theatre sector in Wales is the one for new writing. It is through new , dynamic, committed and controversial writing for the stage that we can grow as a creative community. New voices with new ways of looking at what the new Wales is about; who we are and what do we think of the world. We need to broaden our horizons and start to proselytise more . Staging new work is always a risky business for theatres and I sincerely hope that I can help in a small way to help raise the profile of the work that is produced.

I am constantly looking at ways to develop and improve the awards and to expand their coverage in Wales. One major area in particular has been sadly overlooked in the past . Theatre in Education, the jewel in the crown of Welsh theatre has as yet no dedicated category of award. This year I will be meeting with all the theatre in education companies during the Agor Drysau – Opening Doors festival of theatre for young people in March to work out a mechanism for getting the plays and performers assessed. I hope that the 2005 awards will be able to properly recognise the talent, skills and dedication of this part of our industry and to give it the status it so strongly deserves.

I will be looking too at ways of bringing music theatre and amateur theatre into the fold. A lot will depend on attracting more sponsorship.

We are at a critical time for the performing arts in Wales. The opening of the Wales Millennium Centre has given us a large scale venue for the first time, with all the attendant problems of having to fill its cavernous main auditorium. The Arts Council looks set to be swallowed whole by the Wales Assembly Government with no clear indication yet as to how the politicians will use these new powers and responsibilities. Opportunities, challenges and threats abound. I hope that the Theatre in Wales awards can act as a focus for attention and as a catalyst for development and growth. There is so much that is good about theatre in Wales that it would be a tragedy of immense proportions if the whole edifice were to come tumbling down. I believe that the Theatre in Wales awards are a vital part of our performance culture and look forward with great anticipation to tonight’s ceremony.

author:keith morris

original source:
20 January 2005


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