Theatre in Wales

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Radio 4 Front Row: National Theatre's Place in Civic and Cultural Life     

National Theatre's Place in Civic and Cultural Life

Front Row addressed the question of national theatre 10 days before the exit from the European Union. In abridgement.

Arwel Gruffydd: Our company was born out of a desire to have national status for a company that produced work in the Welsh language. In many ways we were born as a response to the National Theatre of Great Britain which produces work predominantly and I think even exclusively in the English language, the Welsh language of course being one of the official languages of the UK. We felt somewhat under-represented in that.

There was no master-plan to have two national theatres for Wales when Theatr Gen was born in 2003. We have a situation now that was born out of an organic situation, even an accident of history. It was not be design.

The Welsh language is spoken throughout Wales. We tour our work consistently to reach Welsh-speakers wherever they may. We''re also making our work accessible for non-Welsh- speakers. We've devised our own app that allows people to have a translation of the piece which is triggered live during the performance. In some instances it has increased our audiences by up to twenty percent. We're constantly trying to make our work accessible to non-Welsh-speakers without actually compromising the experience of Welsh-speakers themselves.

It's beyond any company to actually encompass and present a whole of a nation in what they do. What we do is give a platform to diverse voices, to express themselves on a national platform, to support artists to create work that's relevant, that speaks to audiences now, rather than say to the nation, or the world, “this is Wales” in any kind of definitive and final version.

How we respond to that [the Wales' vote as an entity of 23rd June] is that ensure we are as inclusive as possible, in the room of the work that we create and the work that we support, the communities that we support and engage with, to be as inclusive, while remaining true of course to our ethos of producing work in the Welsh language.

Kully Thiarai: We've have had a whole series of conversations with people who've been critical of us. What's been brilliant is that the recent big creative conversation created a real space for the arts community pan-Wales to come together and talk about and dream about what theatre might be like over the next ten years and that's been a real positive energetic and dynamic conversation.

[Response to 23rd June vote in Wales] Theatre is a kind of dress rehearsal for life at times. You get a chance to see a world or be provoked by a question or an experience or a character that somehow at its best is speak to you or for you. Part of the challenge around inclusivity is that we do not have enough diversity in the range of work that is out there, who's making it and how it's being made and how's it's being recognised and reviewed. All of that adds too the sense of feeling, people feeling that they are not being heard. Theatre has a role to play in telling those stories in their broadest context to have a place.

Jackie Wylie: The role of a national theatre in a divided world is of course to bring people together and theatre as an art form is arguably a place for community and celebration and discourse.

And we talk a lot about making sure that we are representing a complex version of Scottishness. We don't see our job to give one single version of Scottish identity but rather to have the broadest spectrum and definition of what Scotland in the 21st century might be.

I also think there's also something inherent within the process of making theatre, about collaboration and conversation and celebration. A national theatre in its best sense can be about promoting and contributing to a set of national cultural values.

I was wondering how long it would take you to ask me a question about 2014 [the referendum]. I think it's too simplistic to say that it helped the National Theatre of Scotland because it's such a complex situation for a national theatre to navigate, a time of political self-reflection.
The National Theatre of Scotland's founding principle was to be a theatre for everyone. Which means actually representing every single person in Scotland. Never take a political position because to take one position is inherently alienating to other positions.
BBC Radio 4  
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019back



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