Theatre in Wales

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And That Was 2014- Commentary from Wales

Theatre in Wales: Comment

Cambria & New Welsh Review , Theatre in Wales , January-05-15
Theatre in Wales: Comment by Cambria & New Welsh Review Cambria is privately owned, family-edited and it shows. Its notion of cultural journalism is a feisty politics and a brevity of treatment. In truth the opportunity for commentary in Wales' funded journals is too often given to PhD students, in need of an extra groat or two. They have small experience in communicating to a general audience and are loyal to a style and a grammar that is now the lamentable price of admission to a career in the Humanities.

Cambria Volume 14/1 has a single page double review in two languages of “Blodeuwedd” on its tour at Ffwrnes. It is fairly well agreed that the tour of 2014 was not the same as those first outdoor performances at Tomen y Mur. Nonetheless Martin Davies applauded the acting led by Rhian Blythe- “peth actio arbennig.” In the view of Norma Lord the production was “enjoyable, thought-provoking and stimulating.”

Cambria has its regular essays of fire and polish by Sion Jobbins. New Welsh Review Issue 102 has a six-page opinion piece entitled “Political Theatre” with subtitle “On Bradley Manning and the Life of Brians.” It opens with a generalised description of Newcastle's admirable Live Theatre Company of forty years ago and jumps to Tim Price's play of 2013. The description is bland. “It is energetically and well performed by a company of six actors.” No further credit, acknowledgement or description is given to the actors. “The small cast...and its lack of set make it an inexpensive production” says the writer with an authority that deems any supporting statement or comparison unnecessary. I doubt it.

The author rightly looks to the uncertainties of a documentary admitting to fictionalised elements but too much of the essay is given over to generalities that meander. The author is predictable. So a light sneer is in order for “For most people, going to see a play has become a cultural “badging” exercise for the middle-aged/old and the middle class.” Class is endemic but the author cannot decide if class divisions have slackened or not. She closes by returning forty years to two actors both named Brian. Not a word is given as to their acting prowess or any actual performance- their social provenance is their sole defining virtue. The essay ends on a chatty note but it is in truth that of an observer who does not like performance much. Its has a narrowness of description and aesthetic judgement. If theatre does not fit an ideological prescription of a plodding predictability it isn't much good.

Theatre practitioners are not necessarily the best writers on their vocation. Some are and some are not; Kaite O'Reilly belongs in the first camp. New Welsh Review 103 carried a short article “Rich Text” with the subtitle “Kaite O'Reilly on Welsh Noh and Japanese aesthetics.” She recounts her role as dramaturg with the Llanarth Group on a visit to Japan's Ami Theatre. The approaches by Philip Zarrilli and director Okamura Yojiro are described.

Ma, the concept of negative space, well known to visual artists, is crucial. “For Zarrilli, this is a site filled with possibility, where acting begins.” O'Reilly observes Noh actor Hisa Uzawa at a Q&A who “proclaims that time is not linear, vertical or horizontal but about depth- going deep- her fist pushing downwards as she demonstrates.” This is an element of Noh where “inner time differs from outer time.” Critical bolstering is to be be found in Mari Boyd's “The Aesthetics of Quietude”. “Rich Text”- novel in material, open-minded, sharply descriptive- raises the spirits to the same degree that they are lowered by “Political Theatre".

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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