Theatre in Wales

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"Almost a Hundred Powerful Productions That Are Nationally Significant”

National Theatre: Comment

Fact-Check of Directors & CEO , BBC London & BBC Cymru Wales , October 26, 2023
National Theatre: Comment by Fact-Check of Directors & CEO The directors wrote in the annual return for the year ending March 2022:

“NTW has presented almost a hundred powerful productions that are nationally significant.”

FACT-CHECK

This is a remarkable production rate. Taking out the 16 months of the pandemic it means a new production opening every five weeks.

It is an incredible number.

It is a statement that is false.

The company has an archive. Its list runs to 93 items. It contains a false entry denoting a production that did not occur. Others have double entries under different names. Some of the entries employed no actors. It is evidence of a management uniquely unable to leave a record of its own activity in a trustworthy manner.

A truer assessment is 54 productions. Of those 31 took place between 2010 and 2015.

* * * *

The marketing messages sent to the company's mailing list have a distinctive character. That of 17th June opened:

“Wow, what a spring! We hope you’ve enjoyed watching the flowers bloom, taking in that fresh air and hot hot sun.”

That of 25th May told its audiences of Wales:

“We bedded into Newtown and had such a good time getting to know the locals. Castles were built. Shops opened. Mayoral elections were rudely interrupted by tiger chases".

On 17th August:

“We had a whole lot of fun at the Eisteddfod. Here, Kidstown was home to a huge volcano, a car made from cardboard that went to Paris to get cheese and an epic castle built to fight off monsters.”

The company records “Kidstown” as taking place 26-29 July at the Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown, 5-12 August at the National Eisteddfod in Boduan and 18-21 August at the Beaufort Colts Football Club in Ebbw Vale.

On Radio 4's “Front Row” 27th September Lorne Campbell told a national audience:

“Children who've been taking part in projects we've been running across the summer, at the Eisteddfod, Newtown, Ebbw Vale, other places.”

FACT-CHECK

The statement is false. There were no other places.

* * * *

BBC Cymru Wales ran a feature on the National of Wales on its "Sunday Politics" programme on 15th October. The written version on the broadcaster's website and the televised feature were not quite the same. On the website:

“Mr Campbell said: “We have a huge volume of Welsh writers under commission.”

COMMENT

The definition of “huge”- “exceedingly great size, extent, or quantity.” The company has not made public any artistic programme after 20th January.

* * * *

“According to Mr Campbell, it has upped the level of production.”

FACT-CHECK

The statement makes no sense without a qualifying time frame. After the pandemic the first theatre performance in Wales took place in June 2021. The National Theatre was the slowest to perform.

The company's own website shows that theatre productions in the last 28 months occurred in November 2021, March 2022, June 2022, November 2022 and March 2023

The National Theatre of Wales received public subsidy 63% higher than Bara Caws, Cwmni Fran Wen and Theatr na nÓg combined.

And performed less.

* * * *

The television feature opened with film from three productions. The three, said the voice-over,
“announced the company's arrival with a large fanfare.” One of the three was “City of the Unexpected”.

The event took place in September 2016; the company was incorporated in 2008. Quite a late arrival.

The Arts Council of Wales' sole statement was quoted to the effect that “the funding application did not convince.”

Film was shown of “Circle of Fifths.” It looked, on the face of it, to be closer to a music gig than theatre; it was certainly not drama. The venue where it took place had the scale of a fringe event. An outdoor sequence took place outside the Pierhead Building. The audience could be counted as numbering 39.

* * * *

Lorne Campbell's interview was edited to 127 words. The interview opened:

“Trust has to be earned. We've got to demonstrate that.”

FACT-CHECK

Trust was broken five years ago. The board and management since then have not mended it nor sought to. Before 27th September appearances in the media of Wales were rare.

Nick Davies on Radio Wales Arts Show 29th September:

“They seemed to burn bridges, first with the venues...and the venues were only used if they wanted their box office systems. It created a fissure there. And then it went on. The playwrights, and at the same time, quite naturally, the audiences...There is a great tradition of actors here in Wales, and writers, and there was a gap between them and National Theatre Wales in the end.”

Roger Williams, as below, was the first interviewee on the TV programme and provided the headline for the online version:

“The company has lost a meaningful connection with the artistic community in Wales, of actors, of writers, musicians, dancers and so forth. And they seem to have become a clique. Unfortunately, once you start losing those relationships with your key sectors, you find yourself in trouble.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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