Theatre in Wales

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

Evading the Point

Radio 4 Front Row at the National Theatres of Scotland & Wales

he national theatres of Scotland and Wales have nothing in common. One voice has asserted a link between the two. The author discussed in the article above, 17th November, is widely considered, rightly or wrongly, to have been encouraged by the company to sidestep the objections of writers, actors and directors.

The letter of 20th September was quite clear. It was made of three components, one of which was the failure to put on much theatre. “Despite NTW being in receipt of a regular annual income from ACW of roughly one and a half million pounds, just one project is listed on your website for the remainder of 2018 – an exhibition of photographs taken with disposable cameras in Haverfordwest. And in the company’s latest public report to its trustees, just one production is listed for the entirety of 2019.”

The third demand looked at the use of theatre budget being used not to put on theatre. “A National Theatre Wales show has to have theatre in it."

The Front Row introduction read: “The current criticisms aimed at National Theatre Wales, that neither their productions nor their casts are Welsh enough, echo the criticisms that the National Theatre of Scotland faced a few years ago.”

This is false, picking out one of the three objections. The heading ran “How nationalistic should national theatres be?” Thus, from the start the programme premise was wrong, intent on not giving the situation in Wales the attention it warranted.

A Welsh speaker appeared and was asked about nationality. “It does matter because we need that connection with Wales and people want to see that connection, whoever is in charge.”

The same old mantra was repeated. “One of the aims of National Theatre Wales, when it was established, was to work with local communities and it is very difficult to do that effectively unless you have an understanding of what's going on in those communities, the history, the background, the challenges. It shouldn't matter but it does...They are doing an awful lot of work at community level.”

The National Theatre was signed into being by the government of Wales to be national theatre.

“What we do know so far is National Theatre Wales have been quite eager to talk to actors and directors...and are eager to respond.” This is apologia. The demands have not been addressed in any public way.

Ironically, it took a Scottish critic to speak with characteristic forthrightness. “What a lot of boards fail to do is to make sure that the top candidates for these jobs have some knowledge of the Scottish creative scene.”

Would that anyone of Wales could speak in the same vein as Joyce Macmillan: “It is astonishing sometimes to see boards appointing people who literally know nothing about the place, don't know its geography, don't know anything about its recent cultural history. Yet no-one in England would ever think of appointing someone, say, to be director of the National Theatre who knew nothing at all about English theatre and didn't know that Manchester is sort of north of Birmingham. That sort of thing happens all the time in Scotland.”

Compared with the lack of impact of the Welsh company she spoke with respect for the Scots company. “National theatre has to provide a forum in which a nation can see itself and its life reflected. It is also very important to have a national theatre that will, and can, stand on the international stage and take that voice out across the world. “The Strange Undong of Prudencia Hart” has been to an amazing number of places. “Black Watch” toured for almost ten years.”

Front Row was broadcast 30th November and can be heard at:

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
01 December 2018


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