Theatre in Wales

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Welsh Dramatists Talking

Theatre Writer Book

Hazel Walford Davies- Now You're Talking , Parthian Books , December-09-18
Theatre Writer Book by Hazel Walford Davies- Now You're Talking This last season of reviewing has included some scouring of the bookshelves. The feelings are mixed,the pleasure to be had in hindsight on one side, the gloom that some aspects are little changed on the other. “Now You're Talking” is the last book to be published in Wales on its contemporary theatre- the excellent “the Actors' Crucible”, reviewed November 2015, is principally a retrospective.

“Now You're Talking”, published in 2005 had inevitably for Wales its source in public sector action. In 1993 the members of the Drama Panel of the then Welsh Arts Council were concerned that theatre practitioners in Wales lacked a forum for debate. New Welsh Review was provided with resources to produce a Theatre Supplement. They may be read on this site, the link fifth from last to the left on the navigation column.

Over the course of this period Hazel Walford Davies interviewed the dramatists of Wales. 15 feature in “Now You're Talking.”

The speaking voices are all distinctive and enlivened, cumulatively coming to form a vivid picture of an earlier time in Welsh theatre. The tonal range is considerable, irritation and vexation at one end to accomplishment and pride at the other.

Dic Edwards recalls that the BBC once wanted to enliven drama. His choice of subject, narcotics in the Valleys, was not wanted. Frank Vickery puts in a reminder that he was translated into Welsh, Gaelic, Spanish, Frisian. An earlier cohort of dramatists went out into the world. Mark Jenkins was performed in the Sidney Opera House.

Unexpected elements of biography appear. Greg Cullen spent a year and a half in Angola in the employ of a company that flew Hercules transport planes. Gary Owen spent a period in Jutland. Chapel is supposed to be a source for culture, in music at least. For Sion Eirian religion is the opposite of morality. “What I found in that upbringing as the son of a minister...was that it stultified anything creative...the writing was more to do with what I escaped from.”

There are comments on the craft. Sion Eirian again: “philosophy especially helps one to train and structure ideas and in the dialectic that always exists within dialogue itself, let alone within the general shape of a play.” Charles Way says rightly that theatre goes into an emotional place that is beyond words. Greg Cullen: playwriting requires “a cool head and a passionate heart.”

This was the period when discussion of a national theatre was a constant. The people of Wales, says Charles Way, are dispersed. Theatre needs to “go to them and be part of their lives.” Lewis Davies looks forward to a national theatre doing revivals of Alan Osborne- “that kind of production would certainly draw audiences.” “Those who plead for a National Theatre and do nothing to feed the roots are self-serving individuals” speaks another voice. Dic Edwards: “I think that a Welsh National Theatre would be a disaster.”

The critics of the time get their drubbing: “To engage in reading criticism is often to wade through an awful load of rubbish and I have to say that people who review for newspapers in Wales are generally not very good.

“Billington and a few other reviewers in England really care about theatre. That isn't the case in Wales. In fact, if you're a dramatist here and have any sense you probably won't read the reviews in “the Western Mail.” You can get wound up by the stupid things that are there. It's best to make a decision to ignore reviews and put your energy into your work. Writers need to have respect for professional reviewers who can give them informed and objective feedback. But that respect needs to be earned. It's certainly not earned at the moment.”

Some things endure. The media in England mainly dance to the PR piper. Ed Thomas: “the reality is that when it comes to our profile in the UK no-one cares whether we exist or not.” In fact it is worse 13 years on, big media a contributor to the distempers of 2018.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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