Theatre in Wales

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One Voice Festival at Chapter Arts Centre     

It's a fairly daunting task to set out to review what was almost twelve hours of theatrical activity. I had to be away from Cardiff on other business the previous two days, otherwise the task would have been even more daunting and there would have been three days of Chapter's wonderful 30th Birthday celebrations to review.

The day was a two-way celebration. First, the last day of Chapter's 30th Birthday and Second the launch of three books of plays by Welsh Authors. The party spirit started at 11 am. with free Sunday papers and jazz provided by a
twelve! piece band, all members of the University's Life Long Learning
Department's Jazz improvisation class with their classy singer Carol Kellendark, lead by tutor Paula Gardiner. They can be seen again performing
in Roath Park on the 12th May as part of 'Lifelong Learning Week.' at 11pm. I
left Chapter with the sound of a jazz quartet tinkling in my ears

The core of the day was readings from the plays contained in the three books "One Man One Voice" "New Wales Drama 2" "One Woman One Voice". We were all welcomed by Lewis Davies, Managing Editor of the publisher, Parthian Books,
who opened up the first readings from "One Man One Voice" .The presentation had been arranged by Sgript Cymru and this section was introduced by director Simon Harris. We heard extracts from "Envy" by Ed Thomas read by Russel
Gomer, "Saturday Night Forever" by Roger Williams read by Darren Lawrence, "Marriage of Convenience" by Ian Rowlands read by Gareth Potter and "Sleeping with Mickey" by Frank Vickery read by Helen Griffen.

It was a unique experience to sit through four different play extracts in succession. Each of them looked at life from a Welsh perspective, but it was equally clear that these were all universal themes and by no means simply
'Welsh' plays.

Each of the actors, apart from Helen Griffen, had performed the role in the original productions and demonstrated quite differing approaches to
presenting the same emotions of sensitivity and understanding. The very real quality and strength of writing and acting in Wales was a key message
throughout the day.

Academic, critic and very good friend of the professional drama community in Wales, David Adams, had written an introduction to this work and spoke of the fine literary value of the plays. All David's comments were extremely
interesting and erudite, so the opportunity to criticise the critic never appeared! He brought our attention to the fact that in a one-man play the other character is the audience and that at times, in each of these works, it was impossible to be sure exactly what actual truth was being revealed and what was being held back. All the actors made the point that the vulnerability most of us feel as we expose ourselves on stage is very much greater in the one man situation.

This was followed by a look back at the original setting up of Chapter. A recording of a TV interview broadcast at the time with the first directors and creators of Chapter, Mik Flood and Christine Kinsey, was introduced by present director, Janek Alexander. Mik Flood and Christine Kinsey then went on to relate some of the nail biting experiences that they had to go through to meet their goal.

It was thought, by some, highly questionable whether the extraordinary degree of encouragement and understanding received at the time from The Welsh Arts Council and Cardiff Council would be the same today! It was generally agreed that the seeds then sown by Mik and Christine had produced the flowers they had aimed for.

And so back to the plays. A welcome but brief return to Cardiff of former Artistic Director of Made in Wales, Jeff Teare and his assistant Rebecca Gould presenting extracts from "New Wales Drama 2". Each of these plays had, in the recent past, been given a full production by the now sadly defunked "Made in Wales" (Defunked in production terms, that is, but the name, that
many of us hold close to our hearts, remains the property of the holding board, so watch this space!!!) We saw extracts from "Little Sister" by Sian Evans, "Giants Steps" by Othniel Smith and "Killing Kangaroos" by Roger Williams. Jeff filled us in on how some of the scripts came to be commissioned and told us of Roger Williams' visit to Australia and the problems that the Australian Actors had in performing his Welsh characters.

Again the high literary quality of the work was very evident.

After wine, teas and cakes we returned to "One Woman One Voice". Sgript Cymru's Artistic Director Bethan Jones presented the extracts. We heard Lucy Gough's "The Red Room" read by Ri Richards, "Queen of Hearts" by Christine
Watkins, "No Regrets" by Gwenno Dafydd and "Magic Threads" by Sharon Morgan.

Extracts from these last three plays were read by their authors.

From the whole day two extracts stood out for me, Helen Griffin gave a particularly sensitive and telling reading from rank Vickery's "Sleeping
with Mickey" and Sharon Morgan's reading from her own work "Magic Threads" was extremely beautiful and surreal.

A full performance by Josh Richards, taking time off from the RSC, of Mark Jenkins' "Playing Burton" rounded off the day. Josh's powerful performance is equalled by the very great skill Mark demonstrates as a writer. This is a
fascinating study of a man showing us that such an extraordinary life was too.

Burton just an everyday occurrence and, apart from the drink, one which many of us might welcome.

A great day at Chapter, well attended, largely by members of the Cardiff professional community. The event was well publicised and it would have been good to have seen more members of the public. And where were the TV cameras?

But Chapter will battle on. Since James Tyson has taken up responsibility for running the theatre many exciting productions have taken place and we can look forward to the next thirty years with great expectations.
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Michael Kelligan
Thursday, May 03, 2001back



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