Theatre in Wales

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

A Clustering of Critics: Five Points

New Critics Day: National Theatre of Wales & Literature Wales


The venue brought all the visitors out in admiration. That the terrace looked out on the trees of Bute Park in an eighty-degree temperature certainly helped.

Cultures speak through their buildings. It is fitting that the first great building into London from Heathrow should be the HQ of the mighty GlaxoSmithKline. It is emblematic that Cardiff’s first building to catch the eye coming in on the A470 should be one devoted to the performing arts.


All assembled were in assent, that good commentary requires a good theatre to respond to, and vice versa. Criticism is not good for the individual work. It can be calamitous for the artist who has spent three, six, nine months on a work and for it be dismantled by a stranger who has spent of a couple of hours in its watching. (The Internet is particularly cruel as it never goes away. As author of a script attached to a withering one-star put-down I know it.)

But criticism, bad for the individual piece, is good for the genre. The worst of commentators are peacocks of self-display. A common characteristic of those who matter, whether it be film, visual arts, performance, is that they care. A television critic, whose name will be unmentioned on a Welsh site, when required shows that he cares deeply about genres such as documentary and drama.


Writers from Wales see the work here through a different lens from the writers from London. The London critics possess their far greater awareness of theatre in England and elsewhere. But they will not see theatre that inhabits a Pembrokeshire farm, a Valleys ‘Stute, or a Gwynedd coastal town with the same layer of experience and familiarity.

All praise then to National Theatre of Wales, management and Board alike, for generating their cluster of commentators, who turned out to be anything but docile and house-trained.


A speaker declared theatre in Wales to be in a state of sickness. A dramatist from the floor spoke of a culture in fracture. Maybe so. Maybe, according to another contributor, the last eighteen months have produced as great a variety as anywhere in Europe (I admit the contributor to be myself).

One of the most insightful comments came from Arwel Gruffydd. In the international melee that is Edinburgh, Theatr Genedlaethol is just another company. The language is just another language; with the surtitles the audience doesn’t care.


The young writers travelled from Bridgend, London, Yorkshire’s East Riding. The Arts Council of Wales was there. Theatr Genedlaethol was there. On a hot Saturday in their own time representative writers from Guardian Media Group, News International and International Herald Tribune travelled to Cardiff. Aleks Sierz, who probably knows more about new drama than anyone in Britain, made the trip.

They came because they felt there was something in theatre in Wales worth listening to, theatre-makers and theatre-writers worth talking to. They came on journeys that lasted hours on end. The women and men of Mold can be excused; they are a ten hour round trip away, and should be judged on their works. Senghenydd Road is a distance of an eight-minute walk away.

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
11 October 2011


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