Theatre in Wales

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Theatre Wales: the Why, the When and the What     

Theatre Wales: the Why, the When and the What Theatre Wales: An Introduction & Guide


Theatre Wales was founded by Keith Morris in 1991. It was substantially redeveloped ten years later to take on its present form.

In 2016 the site's management was taken over by Michael Kelligan and in January 2022 I became its third administrator and editor.


The site was conceived and launched in an era before social media existed. Theatre companies did not have websites nor any online presence.

The site was thus conceived to serve an all-encompassing range of purposes: a database of companies, actors, commentary, a forum and a site for reviews. The usefulness of most of its original functions has been superseded.

By the end of this century's first decade its function had settled as a point of reference, principally for reviews and, to a lesser extent, comment.


The pool of reviewers has shrunk dramatically over the site's lifetime. The national titles were first to cut their reviewing outside London. The shrinkage of local coverage is a mirror of local journalism where employment has dropped by ninety percent.

Local arts are now reported on with the same scantiness as are local government and the local courts. This thinning of the ecology of information- a theme that re-occurs in the later writing- is like all ecological loss. It is not good for culture overall.

The subsidised sector has not taken up the slack. The last book to look at contemporary theatre in Wales was published in 2005. An article in the sequence "Theatre Writer Book" of 9th December 2018 offers a retrospective.

The subsidised magazines offer an occasional, if often tendentious, coverage of performance. New Welsh Review for a period produced a Theatre Supplement that ceased in 2006. They are held on on this site, readable via the navigation column.


The great majority of the 4600+ reviews over 185 pages are of theatre and, to a lesser extent, dance, opera and, circus.

The reviews of books on theatre are divided by author category: those by actors, directors, critics or historians.

A shorter sequence "Public Event" covers live events that related to performance.

The sequence "In Memory" remembers actors, writers and directors of Wales.

All these sequences of articles can be accessed via the top 50 articles located on the right side of the reviews page.


Technological advancement has made evident the longevity of Theatre-Wales. Its age, by the timescale of the Internet, is antique.

But the cornerstones of Total Quality Management do not rest on novelty of surface. Its bedrocks are “achieving constancy of purpose” (W Edwards Deming) and “conformance to requirements, not elegance" (Philip Bayard Crosby). Following these models the site fulfills its purposes of observation, analyis and record.

Exploration of past productions can be done via the navigation and search functions to the left. The most-read list to the right of the reviews page opens up guides to indexes of past entries.


Criticism itself is the subject of the sequence "On Criticism & Critics." The articles, accessed via 45 on the top 50 list, mix reportage, book reviews and commentary.

An hour with Simon Schama prompted the following:

"Critics move across four levels. They home in on the detail. They know their aesthetics intimately, confident in their judgements on form, content, meaning, expression. They have facts at their finger-tips: the life, love, money, or the lack of both, the context of history, the critical climate. And they yoke the first three to personal response."

A O Scott asserts his role:

“Criticism is not an enemy from which art must be defended, but rather another name-the proper name- for the defence of art itself.”

Martin Scorsese recalls a critic:

"I was in the company of someone who felt a sense of responsibility toward it as an art's nice to be appreciated. But it's genuinely heartening, and rare, to be understood.”

Erica Eirian speaks similarly:

“I expect critics to come to our work with open minds and a discerning eye and to respond to our work with constructive, insightful judgements rooted in knowledge and experience expressed with lucidity in reviews which give aesthetic pleasure to the reader.

“The critic’s responsibility is to the audience, not to the artist. As a director I expect more than a free marketing tool and more than just a personal opinion. I expect well written, informed, considered and honest reviews which place our work in a context and provoke thought and debate around our work. Only if we have a robust critical culture can we expect a robust theatre culture.”


For a culture to thrive it needs close-up, insightful observation.

Commentary takes second place to the reviews. They are divided into two sequences: "Theatre in Wales: Comment" and "Theatre in England: Comment".

A guide to the articles on Wales may be accessed via the Top 50 Reviews list, at number 34. The articles about England are summarised in an article in the reviews list 24th February 2022.


A critical culture, artistic and political, achieves vitality in addressing the specific.

The makers of art are deserving of responses that are close and attentive.

Theatre, along with all public activity, vanished in March 2020. The gap in reviewing during the time of the pandemic lasted from 12th March 2020 to 28th June 2021.

Over that period the hollowed-out weeks were part-filled with a sequence of articles that looked at the culture generally.

They were grouped under the heading "Summing It Up". The subjects were various: geography, the sociology of hill countries ("arts that conserve the status quo fare better than those of social and political critique. Drama has a tough time”), the lack of confidence within government ("the Arts Council’s aims should reflect Welsh Government policies”), the recourse to history as a cultural comfort blanket, diversity, the decline of public language, the lack of much in the public sphere for young people, the discomfort with difference, the merging of state with society, declarations without substance, the wide areas that are off-limits.

Summaries appeared in the review pages during the lockdowns of 2020: 14th June, 17th June and 11th December.

The other articles that look at the culture more generally were occasional and are grouped under the heading "Arts Policy Report". The sequence reports regularly on commentators whose concern is the decline in the quality of public language. Some examples:

"Why should people be interested in something that’s dressed up in a language they don’t find easy to understand?”

"Wales' absent public sphere constrains cultural output, impedes the development of a collective civic identity."

"This sentence- lackadaisical, empty, void of specifity- would never appear from a counterpart in Holyrood or Westminster. It appears in Cardiff because everyone knows that no-one will notice. From not noticing it is a short step towards not caring."

"Banality regrettably runs through public documents. So back to Orwell in 1946: “The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts...If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration."

“The Plan, in making government and people synonymous, shrugs off its obligation to serve the public. It is in the public domain but the public are not expected to read it. The public is certainly not expected to comment."

"Audiences of Wales have to suffer an arts governance they never asked for. The resolve to deprive audiences of comedy is as fixed as it is undiscussable."

"This says nothing. The report comes weighted with verbal ballast."

"The writing lacks force, at least for the lay reader, with the phrasing opaque and without specificity or example."

Dai Smith, a former Chair of the Arts Council of Wales, is cited as writer of a language that is no longer used:

"...cosy nonsense that promotes the Idea of Team Wales or attempts to issue Brand Identities centred on spurious notions of Celticism or hands out badges for linguistic Good Behaviour. Cultural criticism would be a threat, an exposure of the comfort Welsh blanket with which we are so ready to drape ourselves, all cwtched-up and myopic..."


The trend is firm. Cultural reportage will most likely continue to contract both in quantity and quality. The forces in opposition are strong. Reviewers are highly welcome; enquiries & submissions happily received at

Adam Somerset

16th September 2022

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Adam Somerset
Friday, September 16, 2022back



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