Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

How Abdul Shayek Broke the Mould

Theatre in Wales: Comment

Changes in 2017 , Theatre in Wales , January 11, 2018
Theatre in Wales: Comment by Changes in 2017 In 2017 two directors of theatre in Wales broke the mould. Performance is a fragile medium, more similar in that respect to the visual arts than film or literature. The National Gallery in London is currently displaying pastels by Degas from Glasgow while their owner, the Burrell Collection, undergoes refurbishment. The grip of the flakes of colour to the paper is so insecure that their transport required three sets of protective casing. Actors do not need triple packing for their transport but every performance has the fragility of being its own occurrence in time and space.

Lucid's “Little Wolf” was a stand-out tour for 2017 as attested by the review from the performance at Chapter on 23rd October. But the review reported only what played out that evening. “Little Wolf” in Newport and “Little Wolf” in Pontio were not what was seen in Chapter. As it happened a critic, with a fine sense for what he is experiencing, reviewed “Little Wolf” in the north.

In his memoir “Balancing Acts” Nicholas Hytner looks back at a production that missed the mark. His view of “Greenland” was that “the four writers all delivered interesting stuff but we chopped it up into small pieces and delivered a reconstituted turkey.” It is one thing for a director to weigh it up long after the event, but quite another to pitch right in at the moment. But that is what Simon Harris did. He responded and not in tetchiness but in a spirit of communication between maker and viewer. (Reference below.)

All communication comprises signal and meta-signal. The underlying message was that of confidence, the company conceding that whatever the reviewer saw was what he saw. Lucid Theatre comes out the stronger for the engagement. The dialogue also won praise among theatre's professionals. Angharad Lee: “Good work guys. At last. Sharing opinions rather than look how good we are. Art is about conversations and perspectives. Awesome work.” The phrasing is in the tone of social media but the content is of weight.

Abdul Shayek took engagement to a level that may well be a historic marker for theatre. He incorporated unfavourable comment into media for his production of “Death and the Maiden.” He highlighted a review which was not nice to him personally at all. “Abdul Shayek's direction is misinformed and outdated” ran the writer “his interpretation of “Death and the Maiden” is poorly handled...burdened by a misguided vision.” It was admittedly a poorly argued review in that unfavourable comment requires specific detail rather than broad-brush dismissal. Nonetheless, the director took the view that it was a valid part of theatre's prompting of discussion.

Again the underlying signal is Fio's high sense of confidence in itself. Shayek was also a strong new spokesperson for the medium of theatre itself. Get the Chance has filled a gap in the arts coverage of Wales. It performs a valuable task in giving makers and performers a platform on which to speak. Shayek on October 23rd was asked the question “with TV, film and social media, do you worry that there is a struggle to keep theatre alive?”

His response: “the live nature and the fact the audience is involved in productions and are living it as the actors are has such a powerful impact. There is a bigger sense of real-life empathy that you don’t get in the same way through a screen. Therefore, theatre will not disappear...It’s a shared experience, you’re there as a group and you share the experience together.”

A director who believes in his art form.

The exchange between Simon Harris and Steve Stratford is on

Charlotte Clark in conversation with Abdul Shayek is on

An Interview with Fio’s Artistic Director, Abdul Shayek. - Get The Chance

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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