Theatre in Wales

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

Carl Tighe & Made in Wales

Open Letter to the Wales Arts Council (3)

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 third part describes selectively a dramatist's encounters with Made in Wales, the company set up to champion new writing.

Open Letter

A Reply to the Arts Council Survey on Welsh Theatre

Made in Wales. I have become increasingly dissatisfied with this company's production work, working methods and commissioning processes in general, but in particular with their reluctance to encourage or help my work in any substantial or serious way. In their first year they held a rehearsed reading of my play “the Prince and the Dragon”- a short play, specially written for lunch-time performance in Wales at the time of a Royal Wedding. The reading was a success, but Made in Wales would not discuss commissioning the piece. They were surprised when I said I would not rewrite the piece for them without some kind of commission, especially after such a successful reading. When the wedding of Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York was announced- a perfect occasion for the piece- Gilly Adams said she was going to investigate the possibility of a late night performance at the Sherman. I have heard nothing more about the project since then.

A second play offered to the company was turned down because the language was “peculiar”, somehow “Irish”- in spite of the title page and stage directions the reader, Gareth Armstrong, seemed determined to remain unaware of the fact that the play was in fact set in Dublin: the play was rejected. This play was later given a rehearsed reading by PoW! It was also taken up and given a rehearsed reading by Tabard Theatre. I was recently approached with an offer to film it.

A third play was dismissed as “threadbare, nationalist nonsense”. Gilly Adams said she saw no point in attempting to rework the material and Michael Baker of WAC who had either see Then the play as a Made in Wales reader or had heard about it from the company described it to me as “turgid shit”.This play was given a rehearsed reading by PoW!, was taken up Tabard Theatre and went on to win the All-London Drama Prize in 1987.

In the winter of 1984 I offered Made in Wales a large-scale Community project set in Maerdy and which had grown out of my radio play on the life of Arthur Horner. The company said it could not make up its mind at that stage. In the autumn of 1986 Gilly Adams said she was planning to contact Spectacle Theatre about the possibility of a joint venture- an idea which had only been suggested in my original submission two years earlier. I am still waiting to hear the results of this contact.

In the spring of 1986 Adrian Mourby and I offered a stage version of our very successful radio play “Baku!” We were told that the company would consider the offer. I'm still waiting to hear a decision.

My request to take part in the script reading service [I had, after all been a BBC Radio and TV script reader for 2 years] went unanswered; my request to take part in company workshops, my request to take part in extended writing courses went unanswered.

My play “Yellow Roses” was turned down in the spring of 1987 on the grounds that nothing happened in it; even allowing for the matter of taste, this was such a grossly nonsensical reading of the play that I decided- at least in relation to my work- that any further attempt to persuade the company to do that for which it was funded was probably without point.

By this stage I had already argued that, in private and in print, that Made in Wales' taste and style were far too narrow to represent the whole range of new writing in Wales and that given their near monopoly position it was essential that they broaden their theatrical style and their political content. Up to this point I had been prepared to argue that if I disliked what the company was doing in its public performance work, that as a writer it was up to me to challenge them by constantly submitting my own work and ideas to their internal processes. Looking back I fear this was naïve and over-generous of me: perhaps there really was no logic at all in trying to influence a company whose work I did not particularly like and whose tastes were nowhere near my own. Yet just what is a writer supposed to do in a monopoly situation?

I feel that Made in Wales is a company whose ambitions are embedded in a very shaky grasp of politics [nationalist or otherwise], a very conservative theatrical taste and a very tenuous and embarrassed connection with Wales. As one colleague put it: “They seem to think the SDP is a dangerous revolutionary idea”. They are happy to see “success” defined as the transfer of shows to London. Taken together these factors make it very difficult for them to adequately represent Wales on stage because they will inevitably pander to what they think a London audience wants- and hence to a London vision of Wales. These factors have made it very difficult for me, a writer with a different vision of the world, of Wales and of the role and function of theatre, to gain access to production, a sympathetic hearing, or to elicit a sensible, sensitive response from the company.

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
27 June 2020


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