Theatre in Wales

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The View from Row K (1)

Wales Theatre Awards

Wales Theatre Awards 2017 , Taliesin Swansea , February-27-17
Wales Theatre Awards by Wales Theatre Awards 2017 The Wales Theatre Awards have taken a commendable shift forty miles west for 2017. Nicola Heywood-Thomas is still at the microphone in a role that blends professionalism with warmth and depth of personal engagement. Back-stage operations, the delivering of envelopes and the trophies, are in the hands of a young trio of new faces. The Awards have slipped a few weeks later into the year so that they are taking place the same weekend as the Oscars. The organisational skills of Nia, Megan and Rhydian prove better than those that are to be seen this year in California. The Awards go to the right winners for a start. The Awards are a smooth production and Mike Smith gives rightful thanks to the technical and front-of-house staff at Taliesin.

Gareth Lloyd-Roberts is a new sprightly co-host. He does it with a degree of bounce and ease such that the organisers should definitely consider a re-booking for future years. A Swansea boy himself his city, he reveals, is more than the place of Dylan. Swansea is also the birthplace of custard. “No long speeches” he says “I have a Tinder date. When I say Tinder” he says “you know what I mean.” Everyone sticks to the rule. A lot of people get to rise to the stage and they collectively speak with grace and appreciation. There is a small touch of politics. “The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion” wins Gruff Rhys the Best Sound award. For those who were not there we are reminded it was about “a business mogul who targets minorities.”

The Awards are a collective celebration of a collective art. Chelsey Gillard says as much when she speaks on behalf of “Constellation Street.” Matthew Bulgo wryly recalls the Artistic Director's first response to his post-”Last Christmas” script “this isn't a play.” Maybe so but in the company's hands it was a production of such collaborative audaciousness that it took three awards. The company took to the Taliesin stage but one figure stayed in the anonymity of the auditorium. With no Dan Porter there would be no Other Room; actually there would be because its creation was fuelled by entrepreneurial fervour. But without Porters it would be very different in flavour. The Awards have yet to look to an award for producer.

Co-productions are an emblem of the times. It is noticeable how the great beast of the Wales Millennium Centre has spread its production wings. A receiving house of architectural wonder and home to WNO is one thing but it has more co-production credits among the nominees than any other company. “Cysgu'n Brysur”, “The Last Mermaid”, “La Voix Humaine”, “the Good Earth” and “Wonderman” is as eclectic a span of accomplishment as might be. If the mantle of home-grown musical theatre is to pass from Aberystwyth to Cardiff Bay then it looks in confident hands. “Tiger Bay” is a big show to be anticipated with relish. .

Angharad Lee is recipient for the award for “Nansi”. Its critical commendation had cited it as a struggle for a woman to become an artist. The card with the winning name is remarkably resistant to leaving its envelope. “The struggle continues” she says pithily. It is a nice metaphor, not least for its improvisational wit. The nominee companies span big and small, new and not-so-new. There are nominees like Joe Fletcher's lighting for Manon Eames' “Swansea's Three Nights Blitz” and the Richard Burton Company doing “the Taming of the Shrew”. The print media barely noted them but they were seen and relished by Mike Smith's phalanx of forty viewers. “The struggle continues” indeed because nothing good was ever made without struggle.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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