Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

View from the Coalface

Just Things

Scriptography , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , December-06-17
Just Things  by Scriptography The Third Age of life is downhill all the way, except for two advantages. One is memory, a knowledge that nothing is ever entirely new. A minority government eking its life out in permanent crisis month on month was 1976 onward and backdrop to my first working life. To be of a certain vintage is to have been there before. So too with the new drama in Wales. It takes memory to remember the time when a coffin was delivered in a mock funeral to the Arts Council's headquarters in Cardiff. The reason was its alleged murder of new drama. In a show of solidarity from beyond the Severn a cluster of heavyweight names- Churchill, Stoppard, Ayckbourn, Russell, Hampton- weighed in to criticize the Council and its plans.

Their words were polite. The Welsh section of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain used stronger language. “A colonial out-post which is outdated and failing Welsh artists and audiences badly” was its view with demand to the Assembly that it remove its support for the quango and replace it with “a new, exciting and pro-active body.” That is history but that is the thing with Third Agers. They cannot unremember the past. The loss of Meic Povey is reminder that the demolition of Sgript Cymru was...well, this is an all-access site with a U certification so the accurate words are better left unsaid.

Times have changed and a vibrant culture cannot be kept down. The modern day equivalents of the London notables are not going to be penning notes of disfavour to Cardiff Bay. If Butterworth, Raine, Franzen, Graham et al, notice theatre from Wales at all it is in the form of Tim Price and Gary Owen at the South Bank and Sloane Square. Wales at the Edinburgh Fringe is a peacock's tale of display. Lucy Rivers has the December slot at the Soho which Matthew Bulgo occupied a few years back. And Scriptography led a nub of an idea not so long back to fruition. It all ended with performances at Islington's top venue and nominations at the Wales Theatre Awards. Gwydion Rhys was always good but a tiddly incubator in West Wales made him great.

As with Angharad Lee and her own incubator company for musical theatre in the same space a month back this is not a review. It is a record that two hours of event took place on a December night. It is very Aberystwyth with aspirant dramatists swapping roles as performers and directors. Sian Taylor is well-known on the Aberystwyth theatre scene. In the director role she has created performances of depth at what is a script-in-hand event. There are experienced guiding hands off stage. Scriptography founder Sandra Bendelow is joined by Richard Hogger and Tom O'Malley as co-producers.

“Just Things” is one of eight plays in the company's development project that first had a public airing in March. Works of theatre have a myriad ways to reach their full form. The Scriptography approach is the opposite of Ed Thomas. His method on the public record is to write four hundred pages and then approach it with a lasso in one hand and an axe in the other. Scriptography has a methodology of concept and single scene to feedback and expansion. The first sighting of “To Kill a Machine” in a public place was just that and to be honest it was an odd fragment. But then so is the appearance of many a seed in nature.

Catrin Fflur Huws takes a lead role in her own play stepping in to cover an actor unavailability. There are no spoilers but in the long discussion after performance her second word is “dilemma”. The centre of her work is option, whether to take the easy choice or the other. But then as the discussion unpeels the situation the issue is mired in moral ambiguity. The author's instincts for drama run deep. At this stage structure is being grappled with. That is ever the case. Just eleven days ago in the same space Michael Mears described his course of getting the right structure to fit the content. (See “This Evil Thing” below.)

Other observations. Catrin Fflur Huws gives us people in apposition who do not normally rub shoulders. The situation is a cigarette break in a hospital car park. There are secrets between them. Our own lives comprise a series of tensions, some resolved some forever unsettled. Bad theatre- it's been on loud show this autumn- barks its opinions out. Good theatre knows that resolution is hard gained and comes at a cost.

She makes use of a physical object, a prop, to shocking effect. Theatre is vision not a pile-up of words. She is free from the influence of television. The stage does not want a chop-chop rhythm. Look at Martin McDonagh and see why he has every director of note queuing to do his latest. She sustains a long sequence of rise and fall of dialogue between the two principal characters that twists and turns. Still this is a work-in-progress and there is much to do.

Other credits for “PlayPen: Get to the End”. The Arts Centre has provided assistance and the cast along with the playwright were Lynne Baker, Emily Jeffery, Billie Taylor-Adam and Tom O’Malley.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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