Theatre in Wales

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Artistic Directors: Voices from Wales

Theatre in Wales: Comment

Commentary on Collapse , Theatre Across Wales , July 4, 2020
Theatre in Wales: Comment by Commentary on Collapse Artistic Director North

Tamara Harvey on Radio Wales the Arts Show 19th June reported that the theatre was a hub for blood donation and food delivery. “Flintshire County Council stepped up hard and stepped up fast.”

In a press interview: “What challenges is Covid-19 bringing the theatre?-

“When I became artistic director I never imagined we’d have to find a way to run the theatre with its doors closed and its stages empty. The immediate challenge is how we stay afloat with no income and no certainty as to when we can reopen. But there is a quieter challenge that’s harder to meet head on - the challenge of how we make sure that all of us - our staff, our audiences, our freelance artists, our whole community - stay strong in mind and spirit so that we’re all ready to come together again as soon as the world allows.

“How has the theatre responded to Covid-19?

“We’ve focussed on all the ways we can help our communities through this - with weekly challenges and fun online content via our Theatr Clwyd Together programme, with Zoom workshops for our regular companies, young and old, and with physical deliveries - food from our stores to local foodbanks, creative packs to vulnerable individuals, rainbow shoe boxes to children most in need. We’ve also been doing all that we can to continue developing work with freelance artists, so that they can survive through the crisis and we have wonderful shows to share once we can open our doors again.

Artistic Director: West

“We are in a pretty desperate situation as it stands – income from live performances has disappeared whilst theatres are shut, which means that extra funding is the only way theatre will survive and continue to be viable in Wales. Small theatre companies’ impact and role in the community should not be underestimated. Arad Goch reaches over 24,000 children and young people annually, and plays an important role in Welsh language targets that the Welsh Government has set. It’s important for children and young people to be exposed to Welsh within the arts to understand that the language is used and valuable in all areas of society, not just in schools.

“Our work also has a role to play in the wellbeing of children and young people as in a recent production of INSIDE OUTSIDE about the effect of ACEs on children’s mental health. The theatre productions companies in Wales, including the community theatre companies, are just as important and threatened as the large theatres and arts centres.

“If the Welsh Government doesn’t ensure that there are funds flowing through the industry to keep it going, the future of Welsh theatre will be very bleak indeed. Direct and strategic investment is needed from the Welsh and UK Governments to cover the next year or two at least.

“The theatre economy in Wales has already been struggling for years, since it seems that the arts are always the first to take a hit when there are cuts. Staff within the industry, especially in small- and mid-scale companies, are already stretched, filling multiple roles simultaneously; there isn’t headroom for months without income.”

Jeremy Turner, Arad Goch, 24th June

Artistic Director South-west

“The priority has been to keep our permanent staff in jobs. We kept on a skeleton team but everyone else has been furloughed, including me. In February, we lost part of the metal cladding on our fly tower during Storm Dennis, and as we’re built on the edge of a cliff, the cost of the scaffolding alone is massive… The only alternative is to close your eyes to the problem but with an 8ft by 4ft metal sheet blowing over the cliff in Milford, we just can’t risk any more coming off – sadly it has to be the priority. I know other theatres have been given some emergency funding by their local authority to see them through this crisis. We, on the other hand, were given notice just before lockdown that Pembrokeshire County Council would, in fact, cut our grant to a bare minimum.

“One thing we were very proud of was our technical team putting their heads together and developing a way of making visors for NHS staff and community health workers. We made about 2,000 of them during the period when PPE was not readily available to so many on the frontline.”

Peter Doran, the Torch, 24th June

Artistic Director South

“My first day was on the 16th March – so I arrived into full-on crisis. We spent a day in crisis meetings looking at all the projects that were laid out for the next three months. We had one show which was in its first day of tech [Hail Cremation!]. We decided to let that run on through tech to try to get to a dress-rehearsal on the Saturday so we could do a capture of it.

"But when I got home, I switched on the TV and Johnson was making his statement – which meant we could in no way ask anyone working in that show to continue working on it. So I jumped in a taxi, went to Newbridge, 45 minutes away, and caught the team before the end of the tech and said ‘Sorry, this is the last day of this, everyone needs to go home’. Next day we closed up the office and moved everyone into home-working – because of the itinerant, peripatetic nature of the company, we’re set up to do that – every member of the company has a laptop, everything is cloud based. So that for us was relatively simple.

"Then on the Wednesday I got the virus! I was knocked down for 10 days with that, so it was quite a baptism of fire. I was fairly lucky. I had a bad fever and the exhaustion was the worst thing, a few days of being unable to lift my head off the pillow. I had all the symptoms, I lost my sense of taste and smell etc, but nothing that was scary on the respiratory side.

Partly it’s about creating moments of theatre and community for audiences who are experiencing this profound sense of isolation – the idea of connection and coming together has hugely underpinned the way we think about that. The other imperative has been about creating employment for freelancers, from stage managers and production staff, to directors, writers, actors. We have a strand of new digital commissions – that will be work that will happen live in digital spaces. We will capture them so people can access them later but the first iteration will be live within a digital space so the audience, the artist and the performance are there at the same time – and interrogating what is that kind of theatre, ‘this thing that is happening now and I’m connected to it, on whatever platform’. We’re working with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, BBC Arts and BBC Wales.

Lorne Campbell, National Theatre Wales, 17th April

Abridged with thanks and acknowledgement. Full reports:

Tamara Harvey at:

Lorne Campbell at:

Jeremy Turner and Peter Doran at

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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