Theatre in Wales

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

Carl Tighe: Drama Submissions and Companies

Open Letter to the Wales Arts Council (2)

After his departure Carl Tighe wrote an Open Letter to the Wales Arts Council in response to a survey that it was conducting.

Running to 3411 words it is a document that shines a light on a period that is under-documented. In the pre-digital era Wales lacked a medium for its publication.

It has been divided into four parts for easier reading. Its second part describes selectively a dramatist's encounters with eight theatre companies.

Open Letter

A Reply to the Arts Council Survey on Welsh Theatre

Action PIE. I was taken on in 1982 for a three month residency and then commissioned to write a play. During the period of the residency I saw the company on only two occasions. It was clear from the start that they had decided to work with a writer because internal faction fights had come to a stalemate: employment of a writer was seen by all merely as a temporary cessation of hostilities. In fact the writer simply became the focus of hostilities at one remove. The clear working problems were compounded by a very strange attitude to the work of the company's resident designer. Without consultation the the play I had written as a static show for a highly wrought set and “total environment” was trimmed down and taken out on tour- a development for which the script was not designed.

The day before the first performance I was invited to see the dress rehearsal- it was only then that I realised the piece would be seen as a touring show and that even as a touring show the set was still incomplete. I also noted that a scene had been removed from the play without my agreement. I was so appalled that I asked for my name to be removed from the project and offered to pay the cos of taking my name off the advertising copy. Sue Parlby, the company administrator, begged me not to do this saying it would be so damaging to morale the company might collapse altogether. I visited the touring show several times: on the first day of the tour, a fortnight later and again, finally, six weeks into the tour. On each visit I pointed out that the missing scene had not been played, that the set had still not been finished, and that important pieces of furniture referred to in the text and which had to be used by the actors, were still missing. The result was a show that was bizarre and confusing in the extreme.

Coracle. After the success of my 1985 radio play for RTE on the life of Arthur Horner, Coracle contacted me about the possibility of adapting the play to tour round South Wales. Upon request I sent them a copy of the script. After this they did not answer any of my inquiries, neither by phone nor by letter, and finally returned the script after some 15 months had elapsed. There was neither apology nor explanation for this behaviour.

Cardiff Laboratory Theatre. I am one of the very few writers to have an interest in experimental theatre. In 1976 I attended an extended course at the Polish Research Theatre of Nations in Wroclaw, Poland, run by Jerzy Grotowski, and thus felt some confidence in approaching Cardiff Laboratory with a project. I contacted Richard Gough twice in 1983. On both occasions he manifested a lack of interest in anything that a writer might have to offer. Although basically unsympathetic, he nevertheless promised to set up a meeting at which I could explain my ideas and the proposed project as a whole. After phone calls, letters and visits- none of which the company answered- I finally received a letter from the Laboratory telling me of the time and place of a meeting. The letter was posted the day after the meeting was to take place. I judged further contact professionally inappropriate.

Brith Gof. I have long been an admirer of this company's work. I wrote to them about a possible project in 1986. There was no reply. After waiting six months I spoke with Mike Pearson about the idea, he said he had read my letter with interest and promised a meeting. After waiting one year I wrote again and then in the summer of 1987 finally withdrew the offer. There was still no response.

Sherman Theatre. On my first meeting with Geoffrey Axworthy, he showed me a shelf in his office full of scripts from Dedwydd Jones- “a complete set: un-producable- full of puss and bile and hatred of the world.” He also showed me a large cardboard box full of unsolicited play scripts that had been sent to the theatre. My feeling at the time was that if he had no company with which to stage these plays he ought to return the scripts; Axworthy was keen for me to give him my plays but I declined as his secretary had already warned me that scripts were rarely returned within nine months. He offered to put me in touch with John Linstrum and the Sherman Arena Company. Rather than risk indefinite consignment to his cardboard box, I accepted his offer.

Sherman Arena Company. It took one year from first contacting John Linstrum [1982] to get him to agree to a meeting. He eventually took two of my scripts and promised to set up readings and workshops with his students with a view to possible production. One year later, two years after first contact, after numerous phone calls, the scripts were returned unread with neither explanation nor apology. I judged it unwise to attempt any further professional contact with either Linstrum or Axworthy.

Theatre Clwyd. In 1979 George Roman asked to see a script of mine called “Jewels”. I sent the script and heard nothing for a year. When I rang to enquire what had happened to it I was told it was at that moment being read, and I was asked to ring back in a week. I rang as requested only to be told that they knew nothing of the script, that it had never arrived at the theatre. I rang back a week later to be told that the script had arrived over a year ago but had been lost and would I kindly send another copy. I sent a second copy. Theatre Clwyd claimed that this too never arrived. I sent a third copy and followed this up with a visit to Clwyd. George Roman showed me a pile of scripts behind his office door- a pile that was nearly as tall as he was- and said he had no recollection of asking me for a script. If I could find my property in the pile I was willing to take it away.

A short while after this a writer in residence [Gareth Jones] was appointed to Clwyd and he invited submissions. I again sent a copy of “Jewels” and received by return of post an enthusiastic reply saying that the play had been recommended for immediate production. I phoned again to hear that Roger Tomlinson was actually costing the production. I phoned again to find out who was directing the production and to ask about attendance at rehearsals for possible rewrites only to be told by George Roman that he was not planning a production because the script had never arrived at the theatre.

Just after George Roman left for Exeter, a single extremely battered copy of my script was sent back to me without explanation. After complaint through Theatre Writers Union about the behaviour of Clwyd their new resident literary advisor invited me to submit my script of “Jewels” again. I did so. After four months Clwyd admitted they had not read the script; when pushed they admitted that again they had lost it. I wrote at once to say that whether they ever found the script or not I was withdrawing my play. Three weeks after I had withdrawn the play I received a calculatedly insulting letter of rejection from Tony Robertson. The script itself was returned several weeks later. A wait of nine years must surely be a record of some sort, but not one that any theatre would be proud of inflicting.

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
26 June 2020


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