Theatre in Wales

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Theatre in Wales: Comment

Writers , National Theatre of Wales Site , July-27-11
Theatre in Wales: Comment by Writers In 2003 sixty names put their names to an open letter “State of Play in Wales: Where Are the Stories?” Many of the same names featured in an eruption of comment this season. The concept of a national theatre attached to a forum is novel but ambiguous. The language by nature of social media is semi-structured and colloquial but now and then leaps with a jolt into moral seriousness.

At a high point Kaite O'Reilly wrote with a writer's skill about the work of making Aeschylus for Eppynt. The site has had its awkwardnesses. The odd actor has made a contribution. More often than not it has failed. One poor soul let out that it was an obligation under contract. Obliging an actor to write is as illogical as obliging a writer to act. It appears that the company may wisely have come to this view also, as this source of writing has dried up. The notion of nurturing critics to replace the dearth in mainstream media was noble. It had a downside when the four selected critics began to be...er...critical. It was a written agreement with the company and Literature Wales that the reviews would be hosted on the theatre site. After a few months of the year of thirteen reviews failed to appear. Had I been with the company I would have done the same.

The site's best use in the Writer's Group. On 21st June Tim Price made a contribution, his point being hat the foundation of the National Theatre of Wales had shifted the shape of theatre in Wales. Given that Theatr Clwyd, Theatr Genedlaethol and NTW all in different degrees worked with new writers where, he asked, did that leave the Sherman?

Tim Price wrote seven sentences, one hundred and fifty-four words. Two weeks later his question had provoked responses that ran to tens of thousands of words. It is the nature of the bulk of Internet commentary that writers tend to lack primary experience of the subject on which they are opining. “Comment” is a euphemism for a mix of irreverence and irrelevance, jokery, spiced with a good dose of bile, insult and prejudice.

Not so this thread; the contributors on the NTW site are the real thing, writers and directors with theatre and television productions between them running into three figures. The conversation is open, discursive, off the point sometimes. It captures a range of moods and personalities. It speaks, refreshingly, on subjects like money.
But there are some subjects that are passed over.

By their nature social networks are decentred, anarchic on the surface at least, and deficient in editorial voice. The two-week dialogue, or poly-ologue, is a digressive, circular affair in which voices dip in and out. Some key voices in the theatre of Wales, not least the makers of cultural policy, are mute entirely. The surge of comment circles around its subject, without ever quite reaching an endpoint. Not the least of the issues raised is that of how the Internet itself is used within an artistic community.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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