Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A Visually Stunning Ensemble Production


National Youth Theatre of Wales- Mabinogi , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , September 7, 2008
At NYTW by National Youth Theatre of Wales- Mabinogi If a more visually thrilling production than this hits the stages of Aberystwyth, Mold and Cardiff in 2008 then I will happily scrumple up my reviewer’s notebook and eat it. I do not know Tim Baker so can say the company has secured an artistic director who fills the big shoes left by Greg Cullen after his five-year tenure.

What gives the 2008 production a particular spice is that it so utterly different from “Café Cariad” and “An Informer’s Duty.” First, the set- a stone turntable four or so metres in diameter, backcloths vertical and horizontal of apparent rock, jagged edged; in the gaps red backlighting, and a screen for silhouettes of animals. When a baby prince is snatched away by a giant bird a terrifying pair of giant claws descends. However hard I scrutinised the set it was simply beyond me how it will take to the road next week. It goes beyond expectation of what is a three-venue touring production.

In the foreground the actors become packs of hunting dogs. Nations go to war, the first act ends with the stage littered with corpses. This being the National Youth Theatre the cast runs to dozens, forty-something in total. Even so the tableaus of huge numbers of actors fall into patterns of great grace. Quite often exits and entries are done via running; the fact they never collide suggests hours of intricately worked out rehearsal.

The programme gives no specific credits for design, lighting and music; the quality combined is so high it could go on any stage anywhere. Writer Manon Eames states she owes a debt to Sioned Davies’ new translation. Her version of the stories plays to the strengths of the company. Speaking roles are spread across dozens of actors. She has also sprinkled her text with deliberate modernisms- monarchs are “dissed”, situations turn “pear-shaped”. Purists will wince but she gives it a vitality, a knowingness, and prevents the drama slipping into a tone of portentous earnestness. There is violence and humour. When a trio of skilled Welsh meet several groups of different regional English the result is quite hilarious.

The stated intention of the production is ownership- “of the stage, of the work, of ourselves as a nation.” “Magnificent Myths of the Mabinogi” is national without being nationalistic. I would have welcomed more song; the singing harmonies when they did occur were lovely. The company, sixty whittled down from hundreds of applicants, has a stream of strong performers. I liked in particular the ease and flow of word and movement of Hannah Good.

Performers and crew, staff and Board, backers and sponsors of NYTW, be proud.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru
Yr Wyddgrug/Mold

9 Medi/September 7.30pm
10 Medi/September 1.00pm

Box Office 0845 330 3565

Caerdydd / Cardiff

12 Medi / September 1.00pm & 7.30pm
13 Medi / September 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Box Office 029 2064 6900

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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