Theatre in Wales

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

Critical Christmas Cracker 2019

Thirteen Cheering Items First Half 2019

Every day floods of words pour out- they are sign of a vibrant culture. These caught my attention.

23rd January: Radio 3's “Free Thinking” was about the perception of pictures. Neuroscientist Daniel Glaser was refreshingly candid: “We have absolutely no idea how it works.”

26th January: Gareth Leaman was at Wales Arts Review writing on film and television: “a perfect summation of ‘official Welsh culture’ at present: no real representation of ourselves on screen; a superficial idealisation of the natural landscape; exploitation of crumbling socio-political structures. Wales as a hyper-real netherworld in which decaying infrastructure can only be used as props to tell other people’s stories.”

February 7th: Film critic Kevin Maher took a view on “the Shape of Water”

“The award-givers get it wrong. Frequently. It's what they do. Shapeless drippy Oscar bait, crass, simplistic and undeserving.”

February 14th: Dominic Maxwell sees “All About Eve”

“Listless, misguided, muddled multi-media staging, drains energy from the action.”

February 13th: an audience member is also at “All About Eve”

“I don’t want to go to live theatre and watch video screens as a major component of the performance. It seems ungracious to the trained theatre performers. And this ongoing vogue for stage adaptations of famous films is yet to justify itself. Can’t see the point.


“This show was a bit of a mess, Some great performances aside, the staging was all over the place. Actors were often shut off in cubicles at the back of the stage and only visible through screens above the stage, while cameramen often stood upfront of the stage with their backs to us, filming the actors and obscuring our view of them. The vast set and the glitzy decoration absorbed rather than complemented the actors, often bordering on disorientating.”

March 11th: TV's Omnibus had an hour on dramatist James Graham that featured Kate Wasserberg:

“People want to hear someone who's interested in what makes people do the things they do, not someone who affiliates with a tribe and attempts to justify that.”

17th March: Radio 3 Chris Anderson talks to Mellody Hobson:

“That desire for a person's race to be invisible, you can call it colour-blindness. Colour blindness is dangerous. It's time for us to be comfortable with uncomfortable conversations about race. We have to be colour-brave not colour-blind”.

6th April: Richard Morrison reads a document from the Creative Industries Council:

“I have spent two hours perusing the glossy 72 pages of propaganda and am none the wiser...this seemingly ineradicable stain of hypocrisy across all British political parties- one that glories in the global stature of the UK creative industries while eradicating creativity from state schools. That makes no sense. Never has and never will.”

May: Reading “the Uncommon Reader”, Helen Smith's acclaimed biography of David Garnett, find a writer who does not take rejection lightly.

July 3rd 1912 D H Lawrence wrote to Garnett after Heinemann turned down “Paul Morel”, the first version of “Sons and Lovers.”

“Blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wringing invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that makes up England today.”

April 11th: The Stage has a line that challenges the notion of theatre's short-term-ness:

“The show begins when you first hear about it and only finishes when you stop thinking and talking about it. As time goes by, I may no longer recall the detail, but I will remember something of how it made me feel.”

June 15h reading biography of Jonah Jones. In February 1989 he records a meeting in Cardiff:

“I keep preaching that Arts Council money should be spent on art.”

I come across Graham Laker reading another cuture policy document from the 1990s:

The document: “Wales as a forward-looking and dynamic country. In the next century success will lie with those societies which can nurture and mobilise the creative talents of their people.”

Laker: “Why is it impossible to read this without feeling mildly depressed? It's not that it's complete bullshit: somewhere in the midst of its "nineties-speak", there are some nuggets of truth. It's not even the ease with which the statement elides into a view of the Arts as just another component of Enterprise Wales.

“It's one of the great ironies of state subsidy that any Arts Council has to argue its case on the basis of the dominant political ethos.

Individually, of course, Arts Council officers and members know that the Arts have quite a different agenda: thev will chortle with as much glee as anybody else when a performance of Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and F***ing at Swansea Grand has the City Fathers foaming at the mouth with rage.

Institutionally, on the other hand, the Arts Council of Wales feels that it needs to act as an extension of the Welsh Office, which to all intents and purposes it is.”

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
22 December 2019


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