Theatre in Wales

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Foundation of English-language National Theatre

National Theatre: Comment

Policy Declaration & Appointment of Chair , Senedd & the Western Mail , December 15, 2007
National Theatre: Comment by Policy Declaration & Appointment of Chair The timeline of events for the year runs:

3rd May 2007: The election for the Senedd fails to give any one party a majority.

27th June 2007: A coalition agreement is published. “One Wales” is the joint agreement between the Labour and Plaid Cymru Groups in the Senedd. Page 35 includes “We will establish a National English-language Theatre.”

3rd December 2007: The Western Mail publishes:

“The first chairman of Wales' National English Language Theatre yesterday vowed it would create work to "rattle the establishment". Phil George, pictured, a Rhondda-born and Oxford-educated television executive, was unveiled as the head of the pounds 4.5m project. He immediately set out his ambitions to commission work from scriptwriters such as Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies and great playwrights from outside Wales.

And he insisted it was right to invest in the arts at a time when different government bodies are competing for funds. "All the signs are that, when you do pursue an arts culture agenda vigorously and with a care for your audience and a real interest in their lives, then the whole society is given the injection of energy," he said.

Mr George is co-creative director of Cardiff-based Green Bay Media and former head of arts, music and features at BBC Wales.

He is adamant the public funding will not prevent the theatre commissioning work that may fire controversy.

"It will fail if it doesn't have that ambition and autonomy," he said.

The new body will not have a theatre or company of its own, but will have the freedom to create and commission work.

Mr George said, "It has to really open up the national conversation - get people arguing and thinking.

"You have to get it to people in their localities."

He added, "It just works with the existing companies and with its own talents to achieve a new focus for theatre in Wales."

As well as nurturing young talent, he hopes to commission some of the world's most talented writers.

He said, "Why can't we get Russell T Davies? And why can't we, at the right moment, invite in a great non-Welsh playwright to address our concerns and our needs?

"The sign of a confident, modern Wales is that, while we're driven by our stories, our questions, our writers, we can collaborate with other writers from outside and bring them to us."

He praised the achievements of the National Theatre of Scotland. Black Watch, which portrays the experiences of Scottish soldiers in Iraq, has been performed in sold-out venues around the world.

Mr George said, "Iraq is matter of massive international concern but [it] resonates with people on the ground." The artistic director should be appointed by autumn 2008. "In 2010 I would hope you would see a couple of productions," Mr George said. "I think one of them ought to be a major blockbuster and one would be more modest in size but not in its theatrical ambition." Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, Minister for Heritage, said, "The appointment of Phil George means that the National English Language Theatre company will have an experienced and passionate advocate at its helm."

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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