Theatre in Wales

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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY CULTURE COMMITTEE REVIEW INTO ANGLO-WELSH CULTURE: WALES ASSOCIATION FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS     

1. What is Anglo-Welsh Culture?

We see Anglo-Welsh Culture in drama terms as the ability of Wales to produce and foster good quality English language plays which are international in outlook but with a Welsh perspective.

2. How can a vibrant Anglo-Welsh culture be created?

* Increase resources: The three principal South Wales based professional producing companies (outside the TYP sector), the Sherman Theatre, the Torch Theatre and Sgript Cymru can afford to mount only 9 productions between them in the current financial year. If the Assembly does want to see genuinely high quality work then it comes at a price.
* Stabilise resources: There has always been a recognition of the need for forward planning (at least three years) but it has never happened. Funding Agreements do not of themselves answer the forward planning dilemma.
* Develop new talent: Create pre-service and in service training which targets key creative skills. There is no training or career structure for Welsh theatre directors for example. There is only one qualified Fight Director in Wales.
* Nurture existing talent: Welsh based actors, stage management, designers and other creative personnel, including administrators, are regularly undervalued and underused. All too often both the performing arts and the broadcasters have preferred to "ship in" staff from elsewhere rather than rely on indigenous talent. The development of a core of Welsh playwrights is critical to this process. Artists feel that they have to move out of Wales to be credible; we want to create reasons for them to want to move back.
* Promote Welsh work at a UK and at an International Level: Cross border touring into the rest of the UK is a current issue. Funds are available in England for companies to tour into Wales, but there are no reciprocal arrangements. The work of Creu Cymru (in the UK) and Wales Arts International (outside the UK) has begun to address these issues.

3. Does Wales need an English Language National Theatre?
It would impossible for WAPA to represent the range of opinions about this which include:

a. No
b. Wales already has a national theatre made up of the collective strength of its small companies
c. National status has to be earned and not simply appropriated.

The Scottish model is instructional. Originally their National Theatre debate centred on the creation of a building. This was rejected because it was agreed that sufficient buildings and workshops already exist. This is true in Wales also. A collegiate approach was agreed. The Scottish Arts Council have since then embarked on a policy of shoring up the existing infrastructure.



3. What issues need to be considered in the ACW Drama Strategy?
* It may be possible to raise production capacity by other means additional to the basic increase in resources. Co-production involving cross subsidy may be one answer. Re-touring may be another. The increase in capacity in Theatre for Young People could be transferred to main stages. Much of the work that is only seen in the educational system can and should reach wider audiences.
* If new resources are made available are they best used by giving them to the existing companies, by directing them to venues as well as companies or by creating more one off projects. If a vibrant Anglo-Welsh Culture in drama is to be fostered there will have to be more experimentation and therefore more risk.
* It remains a fact that the population in Wales is demographically fragmented which requires effective theatre to be that which goes to the communities every much as that which pulls in its own community. Therefore investment in, and strengthening of, the community touring circuit has to be a major policy concern.

3. What are the other considerations?
* We need the broadcasters and film-makers to support and compliment the work of the theatre industry. Wales must be able to support a pool of workers who feel confident enough to stay and work in Wales. The set back in radio and television in the last eighteen months with a cut back on programmes of a regional nature such as Station Road, The Bench and Nuts and Bolts is highly regrettable. The theatre cannot create an Anglo-Welsh culture on its own.
* We need to be clear what audiences want. They often get overlooked in the equation. We believe audiences do want to see the classics, to be entertained; but they also want the stimulation of a debate about contemporary issues seen through Welsh eyes and experiences.

3. What are the targets?
* Short Term: to get this issue debated further by the Culture Committee in the next administration
* Medium Term: to enable the artists to have sufficient resources to create the sort of Anglo-Welsh Culture that the ambitions of the Review reach out for.
* Long Term: To ensure that when the history of twenty-first century theatre is written Welsh drama warrants a chapter all to itself!
wales assembly government  
web site
:
Chris Ryde, WAPA
e-mail:
Saturday, March 08, 2003back

 

 

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