Theatre in Wales

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Sgript Xplosure! 4 @ Chapter     

After the Summer break, our regular development forum for playwrights returned to Cardiff’s Chapter, presenting readings, discussions and workshops while examining the possibilities for still entertaining and communicating through theatre in the wired century. Was there still a role for this low-tech medium, and where does the playwright belong in this brave new world?

Thursday night saw a reading of Miriam Llywelyn’s play “Skipping for Toffee,” directed by David Britton. Miriam’s play demonstrated how effective theatre can be in its simplicity and immediacy. Sioned, a young woman with learning difficulties, befriends a lonely old gardener and a complex relationship ensues. The play asks questions about the right to sexual freedom of the young girl and the sense of responsibility in the older man. Is their relationship based on need or exploitation? Miriam writes with great insight about what it is to be vulnerable emotionally. As their sexual relationship develops, the play challenges our thinking about dependency, manipulation and the glue that holds us together in any relationship. This was the first public showing of a play, which has been in development with Sgript Cymru over the last twelve months, and many people in the audience were moved by the story’s sympathetic and sophisticated handling of an potentially disturbing subject. Erica Eirian, Kate Jarman and Dorien Thomas gave committed performances.

Phillip Mackenzie led a two-day workshop with a small group exploring theatre beyond the confines of traditional play structures. For many years, Phillip has been at the forefront of risk taking performance in Wales with his company Man Act and through his site-specific work in Europe. Phillip wanted to spend time with theatre makers interested in developing ideas of form and responding to the intriguing possibilities that performance in the new millennium can offer. There is a deep need for a dialogue between the different strands of theatre making in Wales and the exploration of a common language. A few people in a room began a dialogue here.

Friday saw a challenging double-bill of speakers. Firstly, Geoff Moore and Michael Kustow - the producer of John Barton's “Tantalus” and author of theatre@risk - spoke about the challenges facing theatre makers in the 21st Century, and spoke of the roots of the Western theatre tradition in 5th Century BC Greece, its links with the birth of democracy, politics, systematised warfare and what relevance this might have to us now, experiencing these issues electronically. He argued that theatre and theatre-makers could still have a vital role to play in this changing world, but urged them, as the Greeks had done, to take the dissenting god of Dionysius as their patron saint.

Mike Pearson offered a high-speed, hyper-linked journey through his years at the cutting edge of performance via his innovative work with Brith Gof and more lately with Pearson/Brookes. Mike gave a useful reminder to those who think that the worlds of text and performance are opposed, by stressing that he has often used his own writing in his work, even if it is not necessarily the organising principle. Picking up from Michael Kustow, he also reflected on the democratic possibilities of performance, the place for the text within new structures and how our shifting positions within the polis (society), the demos (people) and the agora (market place) might be reflected through the occupation of a theatricalised space, be it in the streets of a city or with a couple of chairs. The evening made accessible to a fascinated audience a feast of ideas about theatre in our culture.

Saturday featured a reading of “King of the Jungle” by Swansea-born playwright, Stuart Allen. Directed by Helen Raynor and featuring lively performances by Steffan Rhodri, Nicholas McGoughey, Giles Thomas, David Rees Talbot, Rhian Gwyn and Nicholas Aaron (one of the main players in Spielberg’s new “Band of Brothers”), the play looks at three Port Talbot wideboys scraping along by dealing in soft drugs and dodgy gear, until they are caught up in a strike at a local factory, intimidation of a trade unionist and police corruption. The play had an intelligent and well-worked thriller structure underscored by issues of conscience and commitment, but, especially in David Rees Talbot’s shipping-forecast obsessed Barratt, the streetwise comedy was a joy.

The next Sgript Xplosure! willl be at Clwyd Theatr Cymru in November.
Sgript Cymru  
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Bill Hopkinson
Thursday, October 04, 2001back



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