Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Towards a National Theatre (2)

National Theatre: Comment

Michael Bogdanov & Phil Clark , Theatre in Wales , December 9, 1999
National Theatre: Comment by Michael Bogdanov & Phil Clark 4. A FEDERAL MODEL

We believe that the model that best meets the criteria is a federal one, loosely based on the German system. There would not be one specific centre but a series of affiliated buildings and groups, co-producing projects, operating in partnership with and co-ordinated by the twenty-two Welsh Local Authorities in conjunction with a ministerial body.(A Ministry for Culture)

It would provide an educational and theatrical service for all, being mindful of the regional and linguistic differences that make Wales unique in the British Isles. It is predicated on an educational and training infrastructure, establishing a career base for practitioners in both the Welsh and English languages. The aim would be to provide a chain of resources available to individuals and groups alike - a series of educational, linguistic and geographical bases from which to operate. Productions would be branded National Theatre productions irrespective of the centre of origin.

Shared output and facilities ensuring the best possible use is made of resources and funding would be a hallmark of the federal system. Co-productions , combining the organisation of projects from a number of venues, will ensure the quality, value and individuality of the National Theatre of Wales. Buildings are necessary, but the National Theatre is not simply buildings. It is an idea and a movement. A vision.

We believe that a National Theatre of Wales should be about

recognising the cultural diversity of Wales

creating a new and larger audience for theatre in Wales

uniting the dual language cultures of Wales

providing a greater educational and training infrastructure

enhancing the working lives of individual artists and groups

enhancing the existing structures through professional activity

increasing employment in the arts

establishing large scale theatre spaces to celebrate the culture of Wales

placing the artists of Wales on the world stage and the culture of Wales in a world context

initiating co-productions with theatres and groups throughout Britain, Europe and the world

professionalising the profession
In defining a model for a National Theatre of Wales we have been anxious to ensure that it should

maximise existing potential
be an inclusive rather than exclusive concept
embrace, North, South, East and West
embrace both languages
acknowledges the richness and diversity of existing work
be a flexible, not a centralised concept

Cost alarum.

We realise that what we are proposing is more than ambitious - it is idealistic. The sums required are enormous and outside current budgets and thinking. It must be made clear that the creation of a National Theatre should not be at the expense of the present provision. New monies have to be identified for the vision to succeed. It is clear, therefore, that a sound business plan must be presented in order to negotiate a financially sound future. It is vital that the private sector, the business community, economists, media houses and politicians are involved from the beginning in the development of the proposals. A thorough investigation should take place into European Funding policy, the current funding policy of the ACW and the " Better Wales" financial funding in terms of central allocation.

Unless we shoot for the moon we will not get further than the bottom of the garden.


What is gained by increasing activity?

Per capita, Cardiff must have the greatest music provision in the whole of Great Britain. This is due in large measure to the BBC designating Cardiff a ' centre of excellence ' for music. And audiences for music are there. This level of interest , which has come about through a long period of growth in facilities, education and access, is mirrored throughout Wales,. More activity creates more interest. We believe that the creation of more theatre provision will have the same effect. New companies are needed throughout Wales, above all in the urban South.

A producing company is a maker and an employer, an exporter and a contributor to the economic infrastructure of a nation. It's back-bone is the home created programme that reflects the cultural traditions of it's region and communities as well as drawing upon a range of the best of world theatre. It works with children, young people, disenfranchised groups, the elderly and reflects a multi-cultural cross-fertilisation of ideas and attitudes, It stimulates, challenges and entertains the broad base of it's communities and is at one and the same time specific and encompassing.

It's outputs are

created productions in the region's theatres and venues

development work with writers and artists

education and schools activities

community projects

training and apprenticeship programmes

Such a company enriches and deepens it's communities understanding of their world and it's values. It is both a catalyst and a nucleus for the broader role the arts can play in a society - acting as a cohesive and educational force.
All of which is central to this Government's agenda.

The performing arts will be a vital component in the Government's strategy for life-long learning and in its proposals for wider educational attainment and higher standards.

It is this role of creator , provider, catalyst and focus within the performing arts that characterises a producing company from the one that just provides product.

This plan seeks

to redefine the ambition of theatre in Wales
to define a model for the National Theatre of Wales

to stop the haemorrhaging of talent from Wales

to encourage those artists currently working outside Wales to identify professionally with their native culture

to reflect the multi-cultural nature of large sections of the population

to empower children and young people through their engagement with theatre

to maximise the existing audience

to create a new audience for theatre throughout Wales

...We propose therefore that concurrently the following large scale adult producing centres should be established and developed: Cardiff, Mold, Swansea, Bangor - twin Northern and twin Southern peaks. Of these only Clwyd Theatr Cymru is currently a full time large scale producing house, though hampered in terms of audience size.

Swansea is possibly the only feasible large scale adult producing theatre in the South, currently a receiving venue with occasional co-productions. Bangor is the only Welsh language producing theatre, small scale and its productions extremely sporadic.

Fill paper at

Reviewed by: Michael Bogdanov

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