Theatre in Wales

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National Theatre Wales to showcase homegrown talent after backlash     

Programme for 2019 features array of Welsh artists amid accusations of English bias

National Theatre Wales, which has been accused of favouring English artists, has announced a 2019 programme that it says will showcase the depth and richness of its homegrown talent.

NTW’s artistic director, Kully Thiarai, said she hoped the programme would address the concerns of more than 200 actors and writers, who had also criticised what they saw as the paucity of its output.

Among the highlights of the programme is a play by the Welsh writer Ed Thomas, co-creator of the successful Welsh language TV drama Hinterland/Y Gwyll. The play, On Bear Ridge, to be co-produced with the Royal Court Theatre in London, is inspired by his childhood village. It will open in Cardiff and also be staged in London.

NTW will collaborate with the Cardiff theatre company Hijinx on Mission Control, a production featuring a community cast of hundreds as well as professional actors that examines the mythology around the moon landing.

Other productions will look at topics including political and social unrest in Wales over Brexit, while the Welsh artist Sean Edwards will create an experimental radio play to be presented during the Venice Biennale.

The season will kick off with a free event in Cardiff in March where anyone interested in theatre will be invited to attend and have their say about its future in Wales.

Last month, more than 200 actors including Rhys Ifans, who has appeared in films including Notting Hill, Enduring Love and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Tom Cullen (Downton Abbey) and Aimee-Ffion Edwards (Peaky Blinders and Detectorists), signed a letter strongly criticising NTW. The move followed concerns expressed in an earlier letter from 40 playwrights and actors.

Thiarai told the Guardian the 2019 programme was packed and diverse. “This showcases what we believe in: great Welsh talent, great artists, a commitment to showcase Wales across the world and being very present in Wales ourselves.

“I hope that some of it will address some of the questions posed. We’re also very committed to continuing the conversations with all artists. By the nature of being a national organisation, you’re up for criticism and debate. Different people have different expectations of what you are and what they want you to be. That’s all valid and we are open to engaging in that conversation.

“It is always disappointing when it becomes a public row. That’s not my style of engagement. By hosting a big open conversation [the Cardiff event], we’re hoping we can collectively consider what theatre needs to be in Wales and what the NTW’s role is.”

One of the tipping points for some of the artists who signed the letters was a production called English, staged in the spring. Billed as “an exuberant A to Z of language and identity”, it was accused of failing to address what the English language meant in Wales.
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Asked if English had been a mistake, Thiarai said: “It was a piece of work exploring ideas about language, who has a voice and who doesn’t. I’m aware the title may have upset people. That was never our intention. We would reconsider those things and take them very seriously. At no point was that an attempt to undermine the Welsh language or culture. I believe in supporting and celebrating Welsh talent and Welsh artists.”

On the claim that NTW favoured English artists, Thiarai said: “It is difficult to hear. It’s factually not true. The history of the company is that almost 80% of all of its work has been led by Welsh artists.”

She argued that when companies or artists were brought in from outside Wales there were valid artistic reasons, and she rejected the notion that output was low. “Since I’ve been here [in May 2016] we’ve made 21 pieces of work,” she said.

Thiarai is of Indian heritage and grew up in Smethwick, West Midlands, the daughter of a steel worker. She says her nationality is British and cannot say whether her background may be an issue.

“Like many, people I understand what it’s like to be a minority and be a part of colonial history. I’m artistic director of NTW and employed to do that job. That’s what I’m doing.”
The Guardian  
web site
: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/dec/10/national-theatre-wales-homegrown-talent-amid-backlash
Steven Morris
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Monday, December 10, 2018back

 

 

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