Theatre in Wales

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

Dire Quality Performance Art

Single Reviewer at Another Pop-up National Theatre Production

The two summary pieces, preceding, for the first quarter of 2019 covered Wales in the world, the award nominations and the attention of the broadsheet critics. National Theatre Wales did not go out in the world, is remote from any awards, and no reviewers from London- a usual bastion of support- travelled to Newport.

The national theatre performed on three days in the first quarter of 2019. That is an increase on the last quarter of 2018, when it produced no theatre at all. £4000 a day of Arts Council cash is deployed to put on three performances. The three performances will have been all there is over a timespan of 221 days.

The first paragraph by the forty dramatists in the letter of 20th September addressed the issue of output. It was a question legitimately raised, its fate to be downplayed, sidestepped or refuted. It is all on the public record, the collective playwrights of Wales being seen off with: “The suggestion that the company’s output has drastically diminished in the last two years is an example of such inaccuracy.” Thus the Chair of the company added his contribution to the theatrical record of Wales on 18th October 2018.

Performance is for audience. The overhead in relation to audience has no higher anywhere in the world. In fiscal terms the operational policy is straightforward, a transfer from the many, the citizenry of Wales, to the few. Since other companies, which do not have a building to support, have a far lower cost of sales its role in the theatre ecology is clear. Its presence is to reduce the production of theatre for audiences of Wales. That is the quantitative aspect; the qualitative is another question.

The national company was long in gestation. The many papers and discussions prior to 2007 are all recorded on this site. Ironically there was more national theatre- small letters- in 2007 when there was no National Theatre, with capital letters, than there was in 2018. In 2019 a collective of feisty, motivated, new generation directors, writers and actors makes up Chippy Lane. Chippy Lane- and it is not alone- is a more significant player in the culture than the national theatre.

So what we have, and what has come about over the course of 12 years, was never intended . Given that all concerned are motivated by high purpose and public-spiritedness, this particular example of the Law of Unintended Consequences ought by rights to be a puzzle.

But it is not a puzzle. This site is crankily old-fashioned by the standards of now but it is a repository of documents running to the thousands. The story, which has four principal components, is all here for the reading. Its collation awaits any journalist with a curiosity, but then Wales has a deficit in the useful profession of investigative journalism.

These paragraphs are not even a critical comment. Critical comment can be rebutted as opinion, and quite rightly too. Historically critics have at times been foolish in their judgements. But these preceding paragraph are uncritical. (Although it must be said it feels, in the climate of life and letters in Wales, to be a Bad Show to even make mention of them.) But the historians of Wales are going to write about this period anyhow and their study is that of facts. The paragraphs above are simply statements of record of what took place and did not take place.

So to the piece of theatre itself. The language in social media from those who were at “Storm3: Together” used words like “truly dreadful.” The company's own management reportedly came not to like the sole production it had commissioned. There were no London broadsheets but a reviewer of Wales was present for one of the three performances on behalf of the admirable Get the Chance. Although she makes no mention of it, it is also part of the record that after alienating the body of dramatists of Wales the company has apparently added the alienation of the maker of Brith Gof and “the Persians.”

Mike Brookes' production is the third in a series. Gary Raymond was lukewarm about the first in Pontrhydfendigaid. Jafar Iqbal reported that the second in Cardiff was more a lecture than theatre. So too did Harriet Hopkins find the third to be bereft of the qualities of theatre. “Overwhelming monotony of it all” is as bad as it gets from an audience member.

But a reaction of “It simply felt tedious...the total absence of energy” is not an accident. The reasons and the causes for the national company choosing dreary theatre are all blatant. It is here on the public record awaiting the task of melancholy exegesis. By way of prelude the record shows that the seeds of distemper were sown long prior to the arrival of the second Artistic Director.

The causes are firmly rooted in Cardiff.

Get the Chance at “Storm3: Together” can be read at

This article, written in a location 100 miles distant from Cardiff and Newport, is not based on primary experience but on documents in the public domain.

In case of inadvertent inaccuracies and errors in interpretation, opportunities for correction are welcome.

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
06 April 2019


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