Theatre in Wales

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

In Praise of the Small

David Adams' Critical Legacy

David Adams did not leave a formal summing-up of his long critical service to the theatre of Wales. But his conclusions may be gleaned from the articles that make part of his legacy.

His perspective can be seen in the substantial article “State of Play at the Stage Door” published in the Western Mail 5th December 2003. It is a good 1740 words in length and is a declaration of conviction.

Adams does not care for big companies.

“Wales would still be dominated by big companies created mainly for political reasons.” As a long-term observer he was there for the vigour of the 1990s and sees decline that coincides with the arrival of the Senedd.

His verdict over the period 1993-2003:

“In the last 10 years Welsh theatre has spiralled from being one of the most exciting small nation scenes to one that most people in the business would consider is in a state of terminal decline.” He writes: “the powers-that-be have done everything they could over the past decade to destroy a broad-based Welsh theatre in order to have a monolithic "national" theatre - or, rather, two, one in each language.”

He diagnoses the cause:

“It's simply that those who control the public purse strings (without which no serious theatre exists anywhere) don't know what they're doing.”

He lays into companies that have given me pleasure: Theatr Clwyd, the Sherman, Mappa Mundi, Wales Theatre Company.

He lists the companies that he thinks matter:

“But in the modern world beyond Wales, if Welsh theatre is known at all, it is through Arad Goch, Carlson Dance, Earthfall, Elan, Frantic Assembly, Green Ginger, Sioned Huws, Sean Tuan John, Marc Rees and Small World. Not many people know of our would-be "national" companies. Readers with long memories will recall Cardiff Lab, Moving Being, Paupers Carnival, Y Cwmni, Brith Gof, Hywl a Fflag, The Magdalena Project - all now defunct, though their legacy lives on (Good Cop Bad Cop and Eddie Ladd, for example, were originally Brith Gof performers).”

“These were the companies that defined Welsh theatre, along with the admirable theatre-in-education and community theatre provision.”

He is passionate for the small:

“The strength of theatre in Wales to outsiders does not lie in worthy and large institutions run by big-name directors but, as with other small countries, in the variety and innovation of smaller groups and individuals. The future of Welsh theatre must depend on developing audiences at home, regardless of any overseas renown.”

Drama has declined:

“I haven't even started on the subject of playwrights - the people who would ideally be producing the work to be seen on the stages of the new national theatre. The principal new-writing company, Sgript Cymru, and the smaller Theatr y Byd are both starved of funds. And that's to say nothing of smaller venues who could do with more money, such at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven.”

“State of Play at the Stage Door” can be read in full at:

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
01 July 2019


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