Theatre in Wales

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Three Points About National Theatre

National Theatre: Comment

Storm 1: Nothing Remains the Same- National Theatre Wales , Pafiliwn Pontrhydfendigaid , April 1, 2018
National Theatre: Comment by Storm 1: Nothing Remains the Same- National Theatre Wales A new quarter begins. The winter quarter has had its regulars; the pantomime month morphs into the touring shows, this season from Theatr Genedlaethol, National Dance, Theatr Pena, Franwen, the Llanarth Group, Miles Productions. Theatr Clwyd innovated by going down-town and Flying Bridge flew, a far way to the Adelaide Fringe.

And the National Theatre of Wales performed. A Theatre Wales reviewer was not there, although an article on the production features below February 18th. The production had so many characteristics of the company that, before swinging into enjoyment of spring and productions to come, it invites some comment. Three aspects are immediate.

The first has to be the paucity of performances. There were just three outings in a place unfamiliar to most review readers. There was an exchange last year, all on the public record, between the Culture Committee and the Arts Council, in which the latter explains that the national theatre has a low overhead.

As a statement it is true in absolute terms in that its fixed assets are negligible. But overhead is a ratio. What matters is the cost to output relationship. National Theatre Wales' production cost to audience is high. The figure is not revealed but it is not improbable that it is the world's highest.

A company, like any undertaking, has a teleology. That is, it has a purpose. That purpose is usually made explicit in all those value and mission statements but purpose is also implicit, made real in action. The actions of the National Theatre of Wales asks questions as to who it is for. At this point it becomes personal.

Pontrhydfendigaid is a place I know. I have been to the Urdd when the venue was packed with six hundred people, an occasion of delight. But the journey at night is not easy, on twisting lanes to get over the hills to Cors Caron. Rhodri Miles was also performing the same night that “Storm 1” opened. “Clown in the Moon” was not only in a regular venue but was the work of a Ceredigion playwright. In candour it also felt to be more theatre and more Wales.

It is a regular of national theatre that it performs in places without public transport. So too with Bont. Over the years much has been written, of a more mystical than analytical bent, about the locations of the company's events. But the choice of Bont was explained in a feature in the Cambrian News of 15th February. Readers in the south would not have had sight of the feature but it revealed, probably more than it wisely should, aspects about the national theatre.

The venue in Ceredigion was chosen for a reason. That reason was its convenience for Mike Brookes who is on the staff at Aberystwyth University. The same feature cited Mike Pearson on the lead-up to the three performances to the effect “the locals have been very welcoming and helpful with the project.” So it was not about us, who actually live here. This too, if looked at with candour, has been a recurrent feature of the company.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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