Theatre in Wales

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

Neil Docking: A Rightful Ending for Stand-out Thea

Neil Docking Wins Best Play Award for "the Revlon Girl" Off West-End Theatre Awards 2018

It has been a remarkable journey by any count for Maxine Evans and Neil Docking. Historians of the future will write of how the culture responded to its half-century commemoration of an event of unspeakable awfulness. They will read “the Revlon Girl” for testimony and understanding as to how we were in 2016. But theatre is not made for the gratification of the future. If it happens it happens. It is made for us now and the lessons are threefold.

The first is the role of public subsidy. The Senedd Committee is awash with documents with justification for the role of art in the public sphere. Some are reasoned and some are assertion with no empirical base. They skirt around the true justification. That is, if the allocation decisions have breadth and depth, something now and again will emerge that jumps out from the small circle of afficionados. It becomes a part of the common cultural currency that binds us. The analogy is with sport whereby certain figures emerge who become larger emblematic figures than the sport they lead. Sir Roger Bannister, who died 4th March, was one such. An arts culture that is not driven to aspire to wide cultural impact becomes just another lobbying group.

The productions nominated for the awards, “the Offies”, are a formidable collection. Neil Docking's win shows that a play of Wales is capable of competing with the best of London. The reasons are several and are encapsulated in my own response at the production's beginning in 2016. The first is courage. Neil Docking: “the prospect of trying to shape dramatically and render the nature of the village's loss seemed emotionally daunting and fraught with difficulty.” Beyond courage is the commitment of ambition, that a subject matters.

“The Revlon Girl” won its award because it accords with the art of theatre: formal skill, rhythm, ebb and flow, crescendo, revelation, the power of metaphor. And of course actors. In the cast of which I wrote: “In the quality of the playing there is not a hair's breadth of quality between Michelle McTernan, Bethan Thomas and Charlotte Gray.”

The last point of the triumph of “the Revlon Girl”, seen by many across Wales, Edinburgh and London, is opportunity for the cultural leaders in Cardiff to reflect. All of the qualities of the previous paragraph, the art of theatre, are considered disposable. Wales is now unique in the world in a state culture that favours pop-up theatre of two or three performances that are seen by few. The historians of the future will visit and take their view on that too.

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
05 March 2018


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