Theatre in Wales

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

Theatre in wales in January 1998

Swithin Fry reviews productions in wales in January 1998

The debate about why Wales is a leader in the world of international contemporary theatre could and will echo around forever. What is indisputable is that it is. One company at the cutting edge is the Swansea- based Volcano Theatre. Its current tour is The Town That Went Mad. This was originally Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood and under that name received rave reviews. The company took Thomas's now somewhat limp prose and violently shook it back to life. Then the purists got upset and performance rights were blocked. Undeterred, Volcano continued with the theme but withdrew the 'great man's' words, leaving a powerful dramatology of people inhabiting a world gone mad: and considering the furore, a refection which Thomas himself would have appreciated. Volcano has performed as much abroad as at home - if not more so. Last year it went to South America, Canada, Cermany, Norway, and two East European countries. This was on its own initiative.

And talking of initiatives, a new foreign touring initiative was launched recently called Wales Arts International. This is a co-promotion courtesy of the Arts Council of Wales and The British Council, aiming at helping Welsh companies tour abroad but also assisting foreign companies to visit here, with Wales being the starting point of a possible British tour. However, the initiative is not universally welcomed. Some think that many Welsh companies have already done the graft and are equally successful abroad as at home. Of course, this is true, certainly for the major Welsh companies, but many smaller and newer companies will benefit and it will be great to see more foreign companies here. Opera would not normally come within my remit except that a new Welsh co-production is so delightfully theatrical that it deserves a mention. Welsh National Opera has joined with Bayerische Stastsoper from Munich to produce Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea, a sort of celebration of elbowing people aside. It is visually stunning and the singing is wonderful - defmitely one to catch.

I have recently got hold of a copy of Staging Wales, a collection of essays published late last year and edited by Anna-Marie Taylor, a lecturer at the University of Wales, Swansea. The contributors include Gilly Adams, one- time artistic director of Made In Wales; dramatist Ewart Alexander; Paul Davies, co-artistic director of Volcano Theatre Company; playwright Lucy Gough; Mike Pearson of Brith Gof; and Nic Ros who has worked as an actor and director in Welsh-language theatre for over a decade. I hope to review the essays in the next edition. Anna-Marie Taylor says in the preface: theatrical art is the most ephemeral of all artistic forms, frequently unrecorded, not documented, and once the performance has passed sometimes only hazily recalled. In compiling this collection of essays, this sense of transitoriness seemed all too apparent, as I got actors out of rehearsals, spoke to directors on their way to places as diverse as Bangor, Barcelona and Harare, and distracted writers from their word processors and production deadlines.'

First glimpse is very encouraging!

author:Swithin Fry

original source: Plays International January 1998
31 January 1998


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