Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A Big and Rousing Call for Ambition: the Most Significant Media Item of 2018

Theatre in Wales: Comment

Christmas Special: Gary Owen , Chippy Lane Productions , December 22, 2018
Theatre in Wales: Comment by Christmas Special: Gary Owen The seventh podcast from Chippy Lane is billed as a Christmas special although recorded in May. It is topped and tailed with a Christmas message with a dedication: “to the great Frank Vickery, the people's playwright.”

This is an important item of media for the theatre in Wales, the most significant of 2018. It contains biography and reminiscence but its critical core is a rallying cry for ambition. A small group of people has responsibility for making cultural policy; it should be listened to.

As previously the tone is informal. Episodes are recalled from the life, including work on the Ty Glyn Davies Trust building in the Aeron Valley, times in Snowdonia and Jutland, the unexpected contribution to a film festival in Aberystwyth, the revelatory impact of Sarah Kane in performance.

The second half is devoted to television and film. It is revealing in its own right on budget decisions by the BBC since 2008. There is pointed, and accurate, comment on the speaking of Welsh accents by actors not of Wales.

The critical centre is compressed in the first quarter of the 57 minute podcast.

11:00: Recapitulation of the history of new writing- Made in Wales, Dalier Sylw onward.

12:45: Jordan Bernarde: “Do you know why we haven't succeeded?”

The response, given that it is spoken and presumably unprepared, is a masterly summation that lasts several minutes.

14:28: “Too often we have been shy of making work that will pull in big audiences.”

15:22: The difference with Scotland and Ireland is made to the demerit of Wales. “It is entirely normal for writers in Ireland and Scotland to write big plays that open on main stages that connect with a much wider audience.”

Jordan Bernarde: “Here is that down to the attitude of us, the creatives, to the infrastructure of writing, or the Council, the Arts Council?”

Gary Owen: “It's all those things. The audience is here...There's a sort of cycle that has taken taken hold of us. Because we have not connected to audiences on that scale [“the Weir”] we don't aspire to, we don't see that as theatre's job...continue to do work that will only appeal to a small number of people...A healthy sector is an ecology....If we are going to truly connect and truly serve a purpose as public artists, in the sense of publicly funded artists, we need to take on subjects that are going to pull people in and we need to be gripping and thrilling and suspenseful and funny.”

“...thirty or forty people...that's a failure in a 100-seat studio..Frank Vickery can do it and we pretend he doesn't exist.”

45:00: National Theatre Wales enters along with the Festival of Voice and the current standing of the Sherman with theatres in England. “Killology” has played, it is revealed, in Istanbul and Seoul. The genesis of “Iphigenia...” has a rich deliciousness of hindsight to it.

This is the most significant media item of the year on the theatre of Wales. There is a parable in that it comes courtesy of a self-organised group from a new generation determined to make a difference.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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