Theatre in Wales

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

Theatre Directors of Wales Speaking

Directors Not Much Wanted in Theatre of Wales

News of the arts in Wales suffers from the media deficit. Happily there are new outlets like Get the Chance and Wales Arts Review that fill the gap. They and their like are the creation of cultural entrepreneurs who believe that a spirited response to the arts is a part of the arts. As Dylan Moore put it on a public platform (“The Talk in Wales”18th July 2012) his motive for writing was to enter “an engaged conversation, a re-presentation of the work.”

Big media has little interest in a doughty theatre company in Neath. It takes Wales Arts Review to meet Geinor Styles (November 2nd) to reveal they have a big story to tell. “Tom” was seen by 40,000 people. Their theatre piece about Alfred Russel Wallace was seen in Rio de Janeiro and Singapore.

The Society of Directors took an unusual step in the summer. A report on a survey of Welsh directors was released into the public domain. The report can be read in full on the reference below. Its overall finding appears in the first paragraph: “a damaging and impoverishing lack of capacity around the job of director in Wales.”

The report locates causes: “More often than not, theatre in Wales seems structurally designed to keep people out, rather than to include and enable. For a sector that prides itself on its progressive qualities, it is sometimes hard to fathom. Little wonder then that there is a talent drain as people move out of Wales or leave the profession entirely, as is evidenced by this survey.”

In terms of professional fulfilment “Very few of the respondents had directed fully-realised productions and most of the opportunities represented support for R&D that did not go to full production. One of the most employed freelance directors is neither Welsh nor Wales-based.”

Of the major Cardiff companies the report records “National Theatre Wales offered 19% of the opportunity available, but, other than productions by its own artistic director, it was entirely manifested as support for R&D, assisting, rehearsed readings and dramaturgy. Of 31 events hosted by NTW since May 2014, 20 have been theatrical experiences, as opposed to curated events or online experiences. Of these 20 distinct theatrical presentations, 4 have featured Welsh or Wales-based artist/theatre-makers – none of whom were respondents to the survey or typically identify themselves as directors.”

Sherman Cymru was reported in better terms: “well-represented as a provider of directing opportunity at 15%. This may be said to represent more meaningful experience in that, beyond assisting opportunities to emerging directors, some directors are employed on full productions. These are either as part of co-productions – for example, the Christmas show for young audiences or as part of the lunchtime new writing partnership with Oran Mor – or as part of work on productions through the Sherman’s community and engagement work.”

The opportunities are scant: “88% have never had an opportunity at any point in their career to direct on a main stage in Wales, despite some doing this at theatres elsewhere. It is worth emphasising that many of the respondents were extremely experienced and, in some cases, award-winning directors with an acknowledged track record of work. Of the remaining 12% who had directed main stage work, two were specialist opera directors based with the WNO and one was an artistic director producing work they had commissioned themselves.”

On the issue of assisting: “it is an issue of concern that some respondents reported that they had undertaken assisting without pay and that assisting opportunities were mainly considered to be there to enable emerging directors to find their way into the industry in a county where resources are limited and competition intense. The opportunity for mid-career and established directors to further develop their practice through experience in working at different scales or within more specialist areas was rare to non-existent.”

The comments and wish-list were various: “Support that takes r&d through to production." "Venues that act as co-producers in more than name only”. “Wales based directors being employed by portfolio organizations to direct mainstage productions.” The heritage looms: “Wales has, historically, also harboured a lack of faith in its home directing talent and haemorrhages talent to other major cities.”

Insiders in England like Fin Kennedy have been reporting on theatre and the arts for years. Whether the report is right or not does not matter. It is bracing to have a perspective expressed in plain language in an arts environment where in general a stifling airlessness pervades.

The full report is on

Louise Swindell in conversation with Geinor Styles.

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
21 December 2017


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