Theatre in Wales

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Writer of Wales: "The Years Have Been Calamitous"

National Theatre: Comment

Writers Comment and Contribute , Theatre of Wales , October 30, 2023
National Theatre: Comment by Writers Comment and Contribute The National Theatre of Wales made its debut on 12th March 2010. Its performance for 2024 goes no further than 20th January in Brixton. That is the end of the public artistic programme for next year.

Except that there appears to be a musical in the offing.

The public letter of 4th October from Lorne Campbell, Yvonne Connikie & Sharon Gilburd spoke of “leveraging another £500,000 into Welsh theatre.”

The company has spent much effort chasing funds specifically not intended for theatre. On 31st March 2022 it held a remarkable £1,625,030 not permitted for theatre.

But there is apparently a production to be seen.

In 2010 for the first season the tight team at the company included a press officer, of the highest calibre, and a marketing manager of character.

In 2023 the National Theatre of Wales employs a Director of Audiences, an Audiences and Brand Manager, A Development Manager and an Audiences and Communications Coordinator. That goes nicely into six figures of fixed cost. The burgeoning of the fixed costs has been unaddressed by regulators and media in Cardiff but is crucial to understanding the company's fate. It will be written about at a later time.

So a national company is unable to announce a major production that may be opening in 100 days' time. A musical is set to apparently play north, west and south including:

15-24 February,The Sherman

26 February–1 March, Aberystwyth Arts Centre

4-8 March, Pontio

11-13 March, Ffwrnes

18-22 March, Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

The marketing of the National Theatre of Wales follows its own way- not a word is to be breathed to the public. The same silence prevails across all five of these leading venues of Wales.

* * * *

Writers have played an important part in the history of the company. Their intervention, to little avail, in 2018 can be read in full below 25th September 2018.

Several returned to the public forum this month. Roger Williams is cited below 21st October. Alun Saunders wrote a fiery comment. A third writer, Dic Mortimer, published on 26th October a long piece of 2757 words.

Not every word needs to be agreed with. But writers are not there to be agreed with; they are there to widen the public sphere. With a public sphere in Cardiff that is so airless its arrival is to be welcomed. The language is not that of a critic but of an imaginative writer. It is none the less valuable and refreshing for that.

Dic Mortimer opens:

“Following an investment review the Arts Council of Wales (ACW) has announced it will end the annual £1.6 million funding of National Theatre Wales (NTW) in 2024. Although NTW has lodged an appeal it will almost certainly fail, meaning NTW will cease to exist by the end of March.

"The blame for this shocking turn of events rests entirely with NTW itself – or, to be more precise, the group of people who hijacked what was a hugely successful and thriving fledgling Welsh national institution and proceeded to destroy it.”

COMMENT

No names are given but the number required to do this was small. This group were the active agents but they could not have ended the company without the presence of others. These others stood and watched.

* * * *

Dic Mortimer continues:

“In 2003 the Welsh-language Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (TGC) was formed and then its English-language equivalent NTW was founded in 2009. So, after decades of campaigning, many set-backs and a number of false starts, Wales at long last had authentic National Theatres in both languages.

"Like TGW, which remains in good health to this day, NTW got off to a great start. Led by inaugural artistic director John McGrath, the travelling Theatre built a marvellous reputation very quickly, garnering critical acclaim and appreciative audiences wherever its range of eclectic, innovative, gripping productions were performed around Wales.”

"...the Campbell years have been calamitous. It is actually quite difficult to discern a single work in the last three years that can justify his £60k annual salary. What little has seen the light of day has been turgid, didactic, worthy, obvious and amateurish and, when not ignored altogether, most have received a scathing critical panning. “

COMMENT

The salary quoted needs correcting. In the year ending 31st March 2022 a salary in the £60,000+ band was paid to the second highest-paid staff member.

The highest-paid staff member received between £80001 and £90000. In addition the enquiry will reveal whether more was paid during the period of moonlighting at another organisation.

At Theatr Genedlaethol Cyrmru in the same period no staff member passed the £60000 threshold. The Theatr Clwyd Trust has a vastly greatly asset base and a major capital expenditure programme underway.

In the year ending 31st March 2022 the highest-paid employees, 2 in number, were paid in the £60001-£70000 band.

Section 3 of the The Handbook for National Companies is headed “Your role as a national company.” Page 14 includes “benchmarking against the best.” From the company's behaviours it can be concluded that the directors have paid as little heed to this as to other obligations in the Handbook.

Dic Mortimer's critical verdict is also not quite correct. It is true that the sole production to be directed by Lorne Campbell in Wales was manifestly appalling, below 1st April 2023. Some of the company events were so arranged that there would be no press coverage.

But “Petula” was the opposite. It was probably well received because it was, to all who saw it, an August 012 production through and through. Its strong critical reception was probably due to having escaped any artistic input from the national company.

There is much more to read. The full article should be read at:

https://dicmortimer.com/2023/10/26/national-theatre-wales/

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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