Theatre in Wales

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Summing It Up: Conclusion

Summing It Up

Summaries 19-29 , The Arts of Wales , December 11, 2020
Summing It Up by Summaries 19-29 Summaries of this sequence of summation articles can be seen below June 14th and June 17th.

The last sequence of articles looked at the following topics:

June 20th: A Discomfort with Debate

The article observes that the Senedd projects a discomfort with debate.

“Health, employment, education are what matter and need expertise. But it is to be expected that the non-governmental leaders of culture embrace it and warm to its practitioners. We should expect the Arts Council of Wales not just to embrace the dialectic but to be thrilled by it.”

July 26th- Why Creativity is Over-valued

The article argues against the notion of art-making being about the self and its expression.

“The writer Peter Flannery was once suffering a block. Sleep solved it. He woke with the solution-"Why don't you get out of the play?"

“One human capacity that is enormously important in certain types of creative achievement is that of abstraction, the ability to divorce thinking from feeling and to be more concerned with the relation between concepts than with the objects from which the concepts originated.”

“The route to form is slow, unsparing and repetitive via dedication to craft.”

August 1st- “Governance, Nation & State: A Right Tangle”

The arts are not there to favour individuals in power over other citizens.

“If the Arts Council operates as it should, it has no need of ministerial control and no means of conforming to it...The Minister's function is to provide the money, to seek to procure the greatest amount possible and, in discussion with the chairman, to learn of the intended policy and if necessary to express his views. But his views can have no greater cogency than any member of the Council and probably less since they are not aired at the relevant moment of discussion.

August 15th- Artists are not PR spokespeople for the ruling party. The Letter of Remit, Government to Arts Council, is missing this:

“Acceptance of the artists' role to question issues of state and to offer critiques of public policy- to challenge both rulers and the ruled. Arguably, this is particularly important in Wales where visceral issues of language and identity are contested issues. Throughout history, literature, plays and exhibitions have offered an alternative to issues on which there was a prevailing political orthodoxy.”

September 4th- Wales' theatre has a deficit of villains

“A good story starts with a deep-hued villain...A version of “Tartuffe” was due at Birmingham Rep 20th March, a reprise of a popular production. Its setting was to be a Pakistani-Muslim community in Birmingham... It is nocoincidence that the best drama of Wales is powered by the best villain. “Simon Nehan, shaven-headed with a tribal tattoo running from elbow to shoulder blade to ear, is simply terrifying.”

September 11th- Hebbel, Brecht, Kaite O'Reilly on writing.

Simon Stephens: “Dramatic narrative needs present tense action...common tendency in apprentice playwrights to write about ancient family secrets which are revealed four fifths through the play, often in a drunken confessional speech. This is theatrically inert. Another problem is that people see life as 'something that happens to them. It is the playwright's task to change the question from 'Why is this happening to me?' to 'Why am I doing this?'

September 25th- Brecht, Hare and others as to why Wales has difficulty doing political theatre.

October 9th- the ethics of theatre consists in shedding the self

October 23rd- the article suggests that anxiety of criticism runs through the public discourse of Cardiff

November 27th- Comedy is the genre most likely to appeal and achieve national status. This article looked at the inhibitions against. One factor- “the heritage of non-conformity runs deep. Puritanism has always been there strongly as a strand in cultural life. Cultural conservatism has been joined to political radicalism from Lenin onwards. George Orwell inveighed against it. Doris Lessing protested against “the deeply puritan pleasure-hating strand in socialism.”

In the theatre of England Nicholas Hytner openly talks of the pleasure in mounting comedies. A counterpart in Wales would not- perhaps could not- say the same. It is not just a matter of words. In 2007 Hytner directed “Rafta, Rafta”, Ayub Khan-Din's reworking of Bill Naughton’s 1963 play “All in Good Time”. Its theme was a marriage unconsummated, its setting a crowded Bolton home, its company of actors all of south Asian heritage. At its heart was a portrayal of a patriarch driven to dominate his son. It was comedy but serious stuff.”

December 4th- “Art Is Better Off Being Artistic”. This article looked at submissions made to the Senedd from experts. The contrast is made with pronouncements lacking evidence.

“The arts have a significant role to play in supporting...businesses to drive prosperity” is one. Prosperity is driven by, among other things, capital investment, innovation, infrastructure. The writers of the sentence simply have not thought. They have not looked at the world as it is. Prosperity drives a richness of culture, not the reverse.”

“The Culture Committee reported on the deficiencies of top-down non-artistic objectives.

“The imposition of an outcomes approach tended to discourage rather than encourage creative engagement”.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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