Theatre in Wales

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Wales Arts Review Critique

At National Theatre

National Theatre of Wales- Tide Whisperer , Tenby , September 21, 2018
At National Theatre by National Theatre of Wales- Tide Whisperer Lyn Gardner and I crossed tracks in an early morning in Edinburgh. It was one of those criss-cross, must-rush-to-a-show conversations that are quintessentially of the Fringe. Her enthusiasm and energy were undimmed and we swapped views about “On the Exhale” versus “Gloria”, another US drama on the same theme.

On a Saturday evening at the Paines Plough Roundabout I was two seats away from the CEO of London's top PR firm and words were also exchanged. These two are professionals at the peak of their game, and to be admired as such. Their influence on the culture of Wales is modest, but their influence on the boardrooms of the national company, and its funder, is immense.

The Guardian in particular has been crucial in reinforcing the company's image as a plucky little fringe player. A London critic has no interest in the responsibilities of a national company. The phrase coined on this site five years back was “tourist criticism.” The ignoring of any feedback from within Wales was set as a key company value many years ago. The difference with the situation in Scotland, as reported last month, is a chasm. Scotland's National Theatre is of, by and for its people.

But the message from the new management at the Guardian is quite clear. It is a good message- fine investigative reporting and averting bankruptcy are good objectives. So it is no more to be present as a critical bulwark to prop up the company in Cardiff. The poor old national company- ten years old as of last week- is stuck with the judgements of the writers who actually inhabit the country whose name it carries.

All of which is prelude to the fact that not a London broadsheet was prepared to travel to Pembrokeshire for another dose of pop-up theatre. Faithful to company policy Pembrokeshire is a county bereft of directors or writers, and hardly any actors, able to represent it. Once again the call has to go to friends of Contact Theatre to put right Wales' deficiency of theatre professionals.

But Wales Arts Review, admirably true to its name, was there. A good critic pulls out the different elements, makes judgements and looks to wider purpose and intent. So Jafar Iqbal in microcosm: great lighting from Ceri James, great music from John Hardy, slack direction, an inert presentation, a poor use of a fabulous locale, capped by “the true horror of the situation is held back in favour of an uplifting and remarkably whitewashed climax.”

The review in full is indispensable reading.


Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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