Theatre in Wales

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“He Saw in Young People the Essence of Creativity”

In Memory

A Teacher of Greatness- Godfrey Evans , Theatre & Education of Wales , September 21, 2023
In Memory by A Teacher of Greatness- Godfrey Evans Angela V John wrote of Godfrey Evans in her book “the Actors’ Crucible”. He was “a pivotal figure in the development of many an actor."

"The name of Godfrey Evans”, she wrote, “has a marked effect on those who have come into his orbit. Their faces light up and they are at pains to say how much they owe him.”

She cited Gary Lagden: “he saw in young people the essence of creativity.”

Godfrey Evans was appointed in 1963 as the drama specialist in Port Talbot's Sandfields school. With local government reorganisation in 1974 he was appointed Drama Adviser to the new authority. In 1975 he became Director of the new West Glamorgan Youth Theatre.

The Wales Theatre Awards gave Godfrey Evans a Special Achievement Award in 2018. Simon Harris gave a public address that spoke on behalf of many. It included:

“Perhaps then we are only as good as the teachers we had and the opportunities we are given.

“I went to see a school friend in a play. It was a production of “Under Milk Wood.” It was quite unlike any production of Under Milk Wood I had ever seen. In fact, I’d go as far as to say - to this day - it’s the best Under Milk Wood I’ve ever seen.

“Instead of folksy sentimentality and overblown romanticism, it was harsh, bizarre, funny, disturbing. The aesthetic was spare and focussed. The staging was sublime. It took the idea of Llaregub as an asylum seriously and wore the influences of Brecht and Artaud – not that I would have heard of them at that time – but it was still something very much true to itself.

“It was nothing short of visionary and it was performed by teenagers, many ordinary working-class kids – some of whom you will have heard of, know, or may even be friends with now – Rhian Morgan, Caroline Berry, Phyl Harries, Martyn Ellis, Rhys Parry Jones, Russell T Davies.

“The following year I was lucky enough to be part of that group – through productions of Peer Gynt, The Cherry Orchard, Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Oresteia, Twelfth Night, The Crucible and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (featuring my Bottom with Marc Rees as Snug.) We were introduced to devising, movement, playwrighting – Russell and I had our first plays performed together. We worked in Welsh and in English.

“None of us who took part have ever forgotten how important that time was. We learned the value of concentration, craft, collaborating, storytelling, the ability to be vulnerable and make an emotional connection onstage. But we also learned to laugh, enjoy and appreciate differences. We drew so much from the beautiful diversity of our group.

“Above all, there was an enormous commitment to artistic quality because – you see – it didn’t matter whether we came from Sandfields, Waun Wen, Sketty or Seven Sisters – we all deserved the best. West Glamorgan Youth Theatre – for that’s the group I’m talking about – changed my life. I’d go as far as to say it might even have saved my life. I went from under-achieving at O Level to a high-flyer at A Level.

“...Wales has benefitted hugely from the youth theatre movement. Many youth theatres – Clwyd Youth Theatre, Mid-Powys Youth Theatre, Gwent Youth Theatre and others - have shone brightly and allowed an engagement with the performing arts that would otherwise not be available to young people from a wide-variety of backgrounds.

“...I am honoured to introduce someone who helped make them so meaningful to so many young people. To me, he has always been a guiding light. The number of people who he has influenced and supported is a veritable Who’s Who of Welsh arts – Steffan Rhodri, Sean Crowley Sophie Melville, Dan Jones, Christian Patterson, Maxine Evans, Michelle McTernan, Edward Thomas, Kevin Allen, Jae Alexander, Cathy Boyce, Matthew Bulgo. I could go on. And on. And on.

“But beyond the world of the theatre, the impact on ordinary young people’s self-esteem and well-being is simply beyond compare. He has been an important figure across arts and education at all levels in South Wales and now in retirement is a much cherished – indeed loved – mentor and friend.

“Another well-known alumni is Michael Sheen. He and I became friends through youth theatre and he requested that this message be delivered:

“I owe not just my career to Godfrey Evans but also, and most importantly, my belief in what can be achieved when a community works together with common purpose. He has changed the lives of generations of young people and brought possibility and greater opportunity to literally thousands of us. I will never be able to thank him enough or express fully how much I, and countless others, owe to him.”

Godfrey Evans 1941-2023

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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