Theatre in Wales

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

My Year of Theatre 2008

Verbatim Theatre Takes the Lead

Deep Cut” was the most high profile production of 2008. It was seen widely and praised everywhere. My own review made comparison with the tradition of the judicial plays of Richard Norton-Taylor. Philip Ralph's script was “a proud addition, researched with colossal diligence, imaginatively constructed, and passionately played.”

Theatr Clwyd put on “Drowned Out”, Manon Eames' “Porth y Byddar” from last year in translation. With much of the same creative team it had parallels with “Deep Cut.” “Both are painstakingly researched, skilfully structured and humanly moving. Both deal with the practice of power, ostensibly rational and consultative, but selective and illegitimate in its deployment.”

A vibrant theatre combines new and old. Of the revivals Michael Bogdanov returned to “Romeo and Juliet.” At Stratford in the 80s Romeo made a first entrance on the bonnet of a red sports car. The model was an Alfa Romeo- (geddit.) His Verona this year was a city of motorbikes and drug dealers. It received, to put it diplomatically, a variety of responses.

There was no ambiguity of response to Judith Roberts' revival of “Siwan.” My review ended with mention of the lighting design: “a concentration of light and focus to the stage action. Add in the mesmerising soundscape by composer Jay Greave and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru has a proud addition to their track record, a production that brought the audience out in spontaneous cheering.”

The best Shakespeare in Britain north of the Avon has been a staple at Clwyd for years. It was a brave opportunity that Philip Breen was given for the winter classic slot. I liked his “Measure for Measure” a lot: “a fast-paced production, spare in set detail, sombrely coloured, with moments of black humour.”

To finish off a quartet of revivals the Aberystwyth summer musical is a regular whose audience comes from a huge geographical span. Michael Bogdanov in reviving “My Fair Lady” faced a dilemma. He was torn between two leads for Eliza. He solved the dilemma by casting both. In customary habit I saw the production twice. My second review ended “There is a couple of inches’ difference in height between Elin Llwyd and Kate Quinnell, and one is blonde, the other dark. But in talent and the playing of Eliza there is not a hair’s breadth of difference to be seen. For anyone planning to get to Aber’s summer production in its last week, spin a coin, for they are equals; better still see them both.”

The biggest tour of the year was the Sherman's production of Kaite O'Reilly's “the Almond and the Seahorse.” Aberystwyth was a late venue and my review, the sixth on this site alone, ended “Kaite O’Reilly has complete mastery over a territory that is distinctively her own.”

Of the productions that I did not see two would have been at the top of my wish-list. Eddie Ladd's “Cof y Corff/ Muscle Memory” was very well received. Chris Durnall revived “A day in the Death of Joe Egg” for Theatr Ffynnon.

The most innovatively structured theatre was True/ Fiction's “the Exquisite Corpse” commissioned by the Wales Millennium Centre. I saw it at Edinburgh where it did very well. I thought the whole was less than the sum of the parts but I was in a minority.

This response was characteristic: “Five Welsh writers have between them written fifteen short scenes. Each scene is numbered and the numbers are picked at random by the audience on the way in. The actors only know which scene they are to do next when the number is projected onto a screen...some are disturbing, some bleak, some whimsical, some's a genuinely intriguing project, totally absorbing and entertaining.”

So a year of as varied pleasures as any; my personal top six are evidence of theatre's sheer breadth of stylistic and thematic span.

Sherman: “The Almond and the Seahorse”

Sherman: “Deep Cut”

Theatr Clwyd “Drowned Out”

Theatr Clwyd: “Measure for Measure”

Aberystwyth Arts Centre: “My Fair Lady”

Theatr Genedlaethol: “Siwan”

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
31 December 2008


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