Theatre in Wales

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Wales in Edinburgh & Theatre Commentary

Theatre in Wales: Comment

Welsh Companies, Kaite O’Reilly & Joyce McMillan , Edinburgh and Internet , August-12-15
Theatre in Wales: Comment by Welsh Companies, Kaite O’Reilly & Joyce McMillan The performers have gone north and there is not a lot to see in the west. “Legally Blonde” explodes into exuberant life seven times a week. A cross-gender treatment of “the Taming of the Shrew” plays at the stirringly restored Cardigan Castle, whose behind-the-scenes drama is as potent as anything on stage. In Edinburgh companies from Wales are at some nice venues. That is not to talk down Venue 13, which is an oasis, but its location is three hundred metres from the heaviest tramp of footfall in a Fringe that is in 2015 bigger than ever.

Gwyn Emberton has his dance adaptation of Caradoc Evans’ “My People” at the Pleasance. Gwyn Emberton is also a member of Light, Ladd and Emberton at the Dancebase with “Caitlin.” The Torch is at the Assembly with “Grav” and a revival of Dave Ainsworth’s “Oh Hello”, his one-man show on Charles Hawtrey. Mary Bijou with “Hitch” have changed their name slightly, but entirely accurately, from Social Club to Circus Company to fit their venue, Big Sexy Circus City. After being a centrepiece for the re-galvanising of the Sherman “Iphigenia in Splott” has just seven performances at the Pleasance Dome. At the Pleasance itself Robert Bowman for Living Pictures repeats his award-winning performance in “Diary of a Madman.”

These productions have been tested and well received at home. Carmarthenshire’s Familia de la Noche is at the Assembly Roxy with “the Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank” which had a quick pre-Fringe airing at Pontardawe. The company’s “Greatest Liar in the World” which was at the Pleasance in 2014 can be seen back home this autumn.

“Blogs I keep meaning to read” reads the right-hand page side of the blog of Fin Kennedy. The list runs to three dozen, a good place to start for the August stay-at-homer in search of some theatre reading. Fin Kennedy was author in 2013 of “In Battalions”, a twenty-two thousand word research piece on new plays and the development of playwrights; well worth the reading it is introduced along with Ministerial comment and press coverage on finkennedy.co.uk/ in-Battalions.

The blogs he keeps meaning to read includes good reviews, mainly of what is afoot in London. Pirate Dog, Postcards from the Gods and artsjournal/ performancemonkey are the noms de web for Aleks Sierz, Andrew Haydon and David Jays respectively. Articles and commentary on theatre are harder to find.

In truth the majority of the authors have not been checked out in a while. Many regularly stop a few years back or peter out after an entry or two. Clicks frequently result in “Error 404. Page Not Found”. Teenage Theatre Critic sounds inviting but she probably ceased being a teenager some time back. The Anonymous Actor too sounds interesting. A lively attack on the late critic of Telegraph damns him for “misogyny and contempt”. But sadly the author has written just this single piece dating from 2012.

The print newspapers publish their features, but they are nearly always written around a particular production. They are in their heart a part of the promotional package. An exception this year has been Max Stafford-Clark who published an unusual piece on the low number of tickets that he sold. It is an article that raises some odd questions and deserves a fuller response in its own right.

Online writing has a tendency to suffer several demerits. The first is the lack above of persistence and continuity. The other two are design and tone. One site with a good searchable name is a blur of news and reviews, but its main impression is it is trying to pick up some click-through commission on ticket sales. The result is that in design terms it is all over the place but then a lack of editorial voice is web default mode. The absence of an editor takes away consistency and distinctiveness. Paradoxically online, which ought by rights to be a place of ripeness and richness of voices, gets a little dry. An interview with the director of a revival of a play about AIDS turns out to be not much of an interview at all with too much of the author intruding. The 1980s, the time of the play’s setting, had a Conservative government with a thirty-six to thirty-eight percent electoral mandate. Ergo the 1980s, in the view of the author, must be like today; they’re not and they weren’t.

Audience makes performance and analogically it is the Barthes-ian reader that makes the writing. There is a selfishness to verbless sentences or any device where the reader has to go back in search of the author’s intention. The muddle between statement and description and social media confessional and faux-intimate pervades. A nicely designed site has a piece that opens

But, we’re back
Kind of.

Just a little different

Two women writers are always worth the search. There is a world of difference between the personal and the confessional, the motive for the latter being largely solipsistic. Kaite O’Reilly is a writer who writes about writing with illumination. The illumination comes from style and the style comes from skill. She knows the emphatic balance of blending words of Latinate and Germanic origin. An August 3rd article is about the life of a freelancer. On the second-guessing of what patrons might be seeking “It’s an understandable temptation but deadly.”

Theatre sites that try to make a penny or so on ticket referrals still divide theatre between “London” and “Regions”. That fifty-six strong tartan brigade may be making its mark in Westminster but in the little world of theatre Scotland is still a region. It has its own strong voice in Joyce McMillan, a rolling record that has no equivalent in Wales. If you want to know what know what happened when Rachel O’Riordan did Conor McPherson it is there in the McMillan description, in clear and full detail, of 14th February 2013.

Joyce McMillan has another side, that of columnist. On 17th July she wrote an article of bite and assault on Scotland’s unified police force. It has no counterpart in Wales in its currency and critique. Journalism in Wales has its low moments- see the trash that was dealt out locally to Plaid’s electoral candidate in May this year. But journalism is more often conceived to be a place for snuggles and cuddles. In Edinburgh Gwyn Emberton and his colleagues are performing their dance interpretation of “My People.” If the spirit of Caradoc Evans were to be granted a second term and he made a return in 2015 “the most hated man in Wales” would find plenty to do. His kind of bracing voice is but rarely heard.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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