Theatre in Wales

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Siôn Eirian

In Memory

Playwright, Poet, Pioneer Television Writer , Culture of Wales , June 9, 2020
In Memory by Playwright, Poet, Pioneer Television Writer “His cherubic face and polite manner”. That was the description by author Gareth Price of Siôn Eirian in his book on Wales' television. That cherubic and polite personality was, added Price, in the history of national broadcasting writer of the most violent scenes seen to date in “Bowen a'i Bartner.”

Siôn Eirian has been part of the cultural landscape across so many genres for as long as I can remember. Personal meetings with critics happen, but they should not happen too often. It was not until January 2015 that our paths eventually crossed.

The occasion was a happy day, the event one to raise the spirits. At the Wales Theatre Awards Eiry Thomas took to the Sherman stage to collect an acting award. Rhys Parry-Jones did the same. The company of Theatr Bara Caws collectively took the award for Best Production in the Welsh Language.

Siôn capped an evening to remember for Bara Caws with the award for best playwright in the Welsh language. He was among friends but he took the time to thank me for my words on “Garw”, the only review in an English-language site. I think I repeated my own interpretation of the play, the powerful humanism at its heart. It ended with a generational reconciliation between father and daughter. It was about what really matters for men, surface masculinity subsidiary to a partnership of love that endures.

In “Garw” Siôn revealed himself as the best of writers on women. In his last appearances on this site he was in the company of women. It was Siôn's language that propelled the final two productions of that remarkable collective of women who made Theatr Pena. Eiry Thomas, a founder spirit of the company, has written her own tribute for Nation Cymru:

“Siôn was very supportive of the company and when we struggled to find classic plays that explored female stories and experiences, he very generously gifted the company his Saunders Lewis’ adaptations and translations Siwan and Blodeuwedd. They were true to the originals, but he had miraculously and seamlessly breathed beautiful new life and poetry into them. New characters too, putting women at the centre of the action.”

From the days in television Dafydd Rees:

“I have nothing but admiration for Siôn both as a man and a writer and feel honoured to have had the chance to work with him on a couple of projects for television. I consider both “Brad yn y Bae” and “Rygbi y Gem Agored” to be with the best projects that I had the good fortune to produce and it’s no coincidence that Siôn authored both. He had that extra something that elevated the script not only to beautiful spoken poetry at times, but also he added a deeper cultural dimension rooted in his Wales – in our Wales. Through his work he spoke for many of us, and through his humanity he reminded us of the fundamental principles of life.”

Ifan Morgan Jones has collated a collection of voices and memories in tribute for Nation Cymru. The span is unique in its breadth, ranging across theatre, television, literature and politics.

Jon Gower: “hard-working, iconoclastic and constantly explorative.”

Jim Parc Nest (James T. Jones): “Siôn...influenced by the radicalism of his parents...developed it into a rebelliousness which characterised his work, both as poet and playwright.”

Alun Wyn Bevan: “His talent as poet, writer, dramatist and scriptwriter was second to none – equally prolific in both Welsh and English languages.”

Adam Price: “Siôn was that rarest of phenomena: someone who could write with a voice and vision that was convincingly pan-Welsh. A pioneer in so many ways – of urban Welsh writing in “Bob yn y Ddinas” he was the first to bring LGBT concerns to the Welsh language stage in “Wastad ar y Tu Fas...In small nations especially poets must double-up as prophets or political commentators. Siôn was the compete trinity, holding up a mirror to us all of who we are and what we might yet be.”

Betsan Llwyd: “His true genius as a writer lay not only in the intellect and engaging discourse so typical of his work, but in the tangible humanity he imbued in each and every character, ensuring that the story was always kept ‘real’.”

William Owen Roberts, Sharon Morgan, Geraint Lewis and Endaf Emlyn are other contributors on the work, the life, the humour and the irreverence.

Manon Eames is author of an obituary for the Guardian. Selected:

“Siôn was charismatic, intelligent, witty, hugely talented, kind and generous. He was also – particularly in his younger years – a gentle, yet wild, poet: the youngest ever to win a bardic crown at the National Eisteddfod, at the age of 24. He was passionate about his country, his politics, and writers and writing, and was instrumental in establishing the Welsh branch of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain in the late 1980s. He was convinced that every nation should nurture, support and encourage its artists, and was committed to establishing and cementing professional standards and practices for writers in Wales. Many current writers owe Siôn a huge debt of gratitude for the endless hours of negotiation in which he took such an intelligent, active part.

“He wrote in English and Welsh with equal dexterity and style, contributing original work and adaptations to theatre, television and radio, winning many awards. His stage plays include Kipper (1983), Wastad ar y Tu Fas (1986), Epa yn y Parlwr Cefn (1994), the musical Nia Ben Aur (2003), Garw (2014), Woman of Flowers (2018) and Yfory (2017).

“He created and wrote the TV series Bowen a’i Bartner (1984-88), Mwy na Phapur Newydd (1990-94), Pen Talar (2010) and also wrote for many years for the series Pobol y Cwm. His screenplays include Noson yr Heliwr (A Mind to Kill, 1990) and Gadael Lenin (1993). Published works include poetry, and the groundbreaking novel Bob yn y Ddinas (1979), portraying Cardiff lowlife in the late 1970s. Siôn had energy, integrity and humanity in spades.”


Siôn Eirian 1954-2020

Sources: Dafydd Rees, private correspondence.

Manon Eames in full at:

https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2020/jun/11/sion-eirian-obituary?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR2XYb2J5XhBEmM7aJ3LBuBGou8pin6BGHRk3hJMbk2V155jWKsVacSsZ-s

All others taken, with thanks and acknowledgement, from Nation Cymru. They may be read in full at:

https://nation.cymru/culture/tributes-to-sion-eirian-1954-2020-poet-playwright-novelist-and-screenwriter

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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