Theatre in Wales

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

My Year of Theatre 2015

Patagonia, Genet, Chekhov and Much Else

heatre in England has one advantage. It does not have to do Heritage. If the price of national redefinition is Heritage theatre so be it. Scotland gets Rona Munro and the James Trilogy. It could not happen in Wales because theatre's gatekeeepers are by and large faint of heart. Formal boldness can be applauded but it masks a timidity of content. Heritage is by default pious and earnest. A lively-minded teenager of my acquaintance was tasked to write for his Welsh Bacc an essay on a subject from the culture. His selection met with a frowsty reception. But Operation Julie is the most famous thing to hit the West in years. If Roald Dahl is all primed to be defanged include me out, as Sam Goldwyn put it.

After which Heritage in 2015 was nothing on the scale of Dylan and Marc Rees does not do earnest and pious. I liked “150” a lot, although some did not. Tim Baker too reportedly did an excellent job with “Mimosa”. “Mimosa” travelled far and was not alone in its travels. “Hiraeth” went to New Zealand. Two productions from the Year of Dylan were still out and about. Theatre Iolo went to Sydney. The small but nice “Crow and the Canary” performed in New York City and is still up for touring.

London in February 2015 passed a historic milestone. After four decades of shrinkage it turned direction and surpassed its historic high of a population of 8.165 million when it was a manufacturing giant of everything from gin to televisions. Cardiff is smaller than many a London borough. If London is building three new theatres then Cardiff's new venue is not a bad number. A mighty thumbs-up then to the Other Room, the largest omission in my own theatre-going of 2015. If the Other Room and Tent of Xerxes were arrivals there were departures. Terry Hands, Gaynor Loughor and John McGrath moved on. Theatre is nothing if it is not a rich ecology. All three have been pivotal for Welsh theatre.

London is the Goliath that is all too close. One effect is that some of the best writing does not get to play in Wales. In 2014 Tim Price was at the Royal Court with his most rounded work and in 2015 Gary Owen hit the same venue, “Violence and Son” having a richness fuller than the production in Wales for all its explosiveness of acting and incisiveness of direction. Owen Sheers is probably theatre's most-seen Welsh writer. His “the Two Worlds of Charlie F” toured and toured, the number of performances running well into three figures. “Pink Mist” was in the Guardian's Best of the Year and brought a whole new audience into Bristol theatre. It moves to the Bush this month. “To Kill A Machine” heads for the equally prestigious King's Head.

I saw fifty-three performances in 2015 and there was not a week when I was not cheered by actors and singers. The best of my year in Wales are entirely personal. They do not necessarily have the most accomplished direction, the most worked-through script, or the very best of any one element. But they have one thing in common- theatre is an art of collaboration. All the talents involved were zinging in unity.

In their order of chronology in the year only:

“Hamlet” Theatr Clwyd

“Playing the Maids” Llanarth Group

“Seagulls" Volcano

“{150}” Marc Rees and Too Many Producers to List

“Yuri” August 012

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
31 December 2015


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