Theatre in Wales

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

Best of 2018

The Review Show Does the Best of the Year Gone By

BBC Cymru Wales has done close-of-year retrospectives before. They have varied from the good to the not-so-good, the reason being the dependence on news extracts made over the course of the year. That meant a skewing of attention away from the aesthetic best to items available on film.

The Review Show on BBC Sounds comes on a platform that works better for the topic. It also has a presenter with more than just a manifest knowledge of the arts. As in every human activity it is lifted by enthusiasm. There is too a careful subtlety in the phrasing where it is required. The 30 minutes also concedes that it is a distillation. National Dance, Mid Wales Opera and WNO are fine examples that simply could not make the squeeze.

The summary for the visual arts: “something of a bumper year.” Literature: “Welsh publishing, it's been quite breathless...It's also been a successful year on the international scene...major awards.” Television: “the phenomenon that was “Keeping Faith”, BBC's first i-Player mega-hit, although I would argue it was rather a middling show lifted up by Eve Myles' irresistible performance.”

A guest critic at Swansea: “The images that stay in my mind are from “And Now the Hero”. That was ambitious, immersive- dance, drama, performance, community project all in one...It finished with Eddie Ladd walking vertically down the clock tower of Swansea's Guildhall, a very powerful image...just a superb achievement, from the point of the community involvement as well I thought it was just wonderful.”

The section on theatre features 11:47- 18:00.

“My goodness”, it opens, “it's been a busy year both on and off the stage. I have nothing but sympathy for anybody trying to keep up with was testing the stamina of the most ardent theatre-goer. I think Welsh theatre has made a great stride this year in the area of inclusivity and we've seen increased success for Hijinx on the national and international stage...“The Last Five Years” incorporated BSL and SSE into the fabric of the show.”

Further extracts:

“...Kaite O'Reilly's “Richard III Redux” was a complex and entertaining deconstruction of the representation of disability on stage throughout the ages.”

“..Dirty Protest have continued with their brand of hit-you-right-in-the-heart theatre with a DIY aesthetic.”

“...Another ingenious company Tin Shed...blew everyone away by putting on an adaptation of “Moby Dick” hanging in the gondola of the Transporter Bridge.”

“...There have also been some fantastic successes for Welsh productions during UK-wide award seasons for both Theatre Clwyd and the Sherman Theatre...Fantastic work from Tamara Harvey and her team. “Home, I'm Darling” has been receiving rave reviews from the national [sic] press.”

“... there was so much to talk about in Welsh theatre we could devote a whole show to it but one thing we can't avoid is a certain letter signed by 40 Welsh playwrights...focused on what the signatories believed to be a shortcoming in the philosophy of National Theatre Wales...It's all become a bit of a mess and conversations between NTW and the signatories have apparently been moved behind closed doors. But there is still a public conversation going on and one that brought a UK spotlight on the Welsh theatre landscape that is not altogether at its best at the moment from a PR perspective. Try as we might to talk about the great work being put on in Wales by a diverse range of artists we are forced to keep coming back to this.”

“...the nature of the public debate throws a light on a topic that I think is more important than the others that speaks to Wales as a country, not just the bubble of the theatre community. What is Wales? How should Wales represent itself and how should we best serve its culture and artists?”

… “My favourite production of the year, “Highway One”, a rollicking musical quest..”

The article on this site of December 19th cited 10 professionals and their expectations from critics. The last from the director of “Woman of Flowers” this year reads:

“The critic’s responsibility is to the audience, not to the artist. As a director I expect more than a free marketing tool and more than just a personal opinion. I expect well written, informed, considered and honest reviews which place our work in a context and provoke thought and debate around our work. Only if we have a robust critical culture can we expect a robust theatre culture.”

The Review Show came up to this standard. This send-off to the culture of 2018 was a step-up for BBC Cymru Wales.

The full programme deserves to be heard:

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
02 January 2019


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