Theatre in Wales

The latest theatre, dance and performance news

7 wonders of National Theatre Wales     

Launching the company... with a man dressed as a chicken The first moment of a National Theatre Wales play (A Good Night Out In The Valleys, March 2010) saw Boyd Clack walk out onto the stage dressed in a chicken costume - undoubtedly, we are the first national theatre to open in this way.

It introduced the fact that we were going to be a different kind of national theatre. We wouldn't always be taking ourselves seriously.

Boyd is a great Welsh actor but he's not a classical theatre actor and we wanted to grab hold of his unique and anarchic spirit and make it central to what we did.

Transforming Michael Sheen into Jesus The Passion (staged throughout Port Talbot during Easter 2011) was a large-scale production but it engaged so deeply with the local community and had a big international profile.

And it was incredible to have someone as significant in the arts and theatre as Michael working with the community.

The Passion really helped us establish ourselves as a national and international force. It felt like National Theatre Wales was doing something which hadn't been done before.

I don't think anyone thought we would pull it off until the end - everyone behind the scenes knew how much things could have gone wrong, even until the last scene.

Tackling big international issues We've demonstrated that the company can take on big international issues with dramas like The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (April 2012).

When we were performing the play in Edinburgh and getting five-star reviews, it was the same time that his trial and sentencing were happening. I felt like it was the moment we engaged in an important international debate.

It also highlighted one of the strengths of NTW all along - the importance of digital. We've been one of the leaders over the years in terms of how digital theatre can work and it's been great to own that in Wales.

Wales is seen as a land of tradition but we've shown that digital is something cuttingedge in relation to performance.

Taking our shows to international audiences Opening a new show (The Opportunity of Efficiency, April 2013) by a Welsh writer in Tokyo and experiencing making that work in a very different culture was a great experience.

It was really interesting in terms of how the Japanese audiences reacted. We worked with a translator in the rehearsal room - it was a big challenge for me.

And it was amazing for Alan Harris, the writer, to write in English and have it translated into Japanese and premiered in Japan, which was the first time he ever saw the play.

We also took some of NTW's trademarks to Tokyo, such as the assemblies (debates responding to local or global issues) which we hold all over Wales.

Using the amazing Welsh landscape The Persians (August 2010), The Gathering (September 2014), For Mountain Sand And Sea (July 2010) and Mametz (June 2014) all used the Welsh landscape, with Mametz probably featuring our most dramatic use of landscape of all.

Wales is an amazing, beautiful and varied country.

The drama of the landscape is so extraordinary in Wales that in some ways it would be crazy not to use that for theatre. It's been great to be able to emphasise that part of the Welsh tradition and do it on a scale.

Discovering that people look at theatre in Wales in a new way People are excited by the things we're trying out - and often that work is taking place in unexpected places and with unexpected combinations of people.

People never used to travel to Wales before for (theatre) work or travel within Wales to see exciting work. Those two big factors are really important and National Theatre Wales helped make this happen.

A national theatre has to have a big national impact and we are building a sense that theatre is something that can be exciting to people in Wales from all sorts of backgrounds.

Also, outside Wales theatre is seen as something we do in an exciting and unique way.

Mixing different art forms With both Candylion (which is currently taking place in Cardiff ) and Praxis Makes Perfect (May 2013) we've had a musician at the centre of the show (Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys) - they are theatre events which are more like gigs. It's good to play with the different combinations.

Building up a community around theatre in Wales This has been the most important thing of all for me...

Alongside the main performances, we have created NTW Team (an ever-growing support network), our online community and WalesLab (an initiative for emerging artists and new theatre ideas).

It's satisfying to see how much independent theatre and performances there are out there.

I would hope National Theatre Wales has been a big part of encouraging people to get involved in theatre and make their own work.

¦ Candylion is at the SSE SWALEC Stadium in W Cardiff until January 2.
Echo/Wales on Sunday  
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Friday, December 18, 2015back



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