Theatre in Wales

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A Writer Enters the Public Forum- Part One

National Theatre: Comment

Critique by Dic Mortimer , History of the National Theatre of Wales , November 4, 2023
National Theatre: Comment by Critique by Dic Mortimer There have been words spoken and words written in the last five weeks. The record, sentence by sentence, has gone into the preceding articles. They have been revealing if little edifying.

On 26th October a writer of Wales entered the public arena. He unleashed a blast of polemic. The words are not perfect but they enrich the civic sphere.

The political scientist Albert Hirschman, who died in 2012, wrote a book in 1970 “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty”. He describes two possible responses to institutional decline. An ethics of participation divides between those choose “voice” and those who choose “exit”.

“Voice”, he said, belonged to those in demand of change to the ways of things. “Exit” is the turning away from participation. This is the mode that leads in Cardiff.

Dic Mortimer has chosen the path of voice and should, for all the sometime infelicities of phrasing, be applauded for his presence in the civil sphere. He also uses words that are direct. Thus:

“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.”

The first part of his article is covered below. He continued with 227 words covering the period 2016-2019.


An assessment of the second artistic director should be cautious and await the availability of more public information. A critical factor is the definition of the role as set by the board.

Statements from both Artistic Director and Chair can be read below 14th and 15th November 2018. A proper accounting of the era requires that documentation be released into the public domain from both the theatre company and the Arts Council of Wales. The directors could reverse the company policy and act in the public interest by making available whatever information is deemed useful by researchers.

* * * *

Dic Mortimer ascribes the arrival of Sir Clive Jones in the arts of Wales to his party membership.
He writes of the era since the pandemic:

“The Campbell years have been calamitous....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.

“NTW has produced:

Go Tell the Bees: a film documentary about the environment- NOT THEATRE

Land of Our Children: site specific residencies – NOT THEATRE

FRANK: a short film – NOT THEATRE

Springboard: 10 artists get bursaries – NOT THEATRE

Petula: a NTW/TGC joint production for children that briefly toured Wales – THEATRE

GALWAD: video and film for young adults – NOT THEATRE

A Proper Ordinary Miracle: a ‘co-creation’ with Wrecsam homeless – THEATRE

Fly the flag: a film about human rights – NOT THEATRE

The Cost of Living: a play that ran for a week at Swansea Grand – THEATRE

My Name is Joseph K: a short film about poverty – NOT THEATRE

Circle of Fifths: an outdoor event in Butetown – NOT THEATRE


“Possible” has not been included. A meandering item of solipsism it included cartoons and telephone conversations with Lorne Campbell.

Phil Morris wrote for Wales Arts Review: “Giving a cutesy shout-out to NTW artistic director Lorne Campbell, thanking him for putting the show into production is a post-modern joke without a punchline....such self-referentiality smacks of smug self-satisfaction.”

* * * *

Dic Mortimer's article continued:

“The standard of much of this was that of a small agitprop theatre in the back room of a pub in the 1970s not a serious National Theatre. In addition, NTW has spent scarce public money on various throwaway, trivial activities from an audio-poem to a boat-ride, photography to stand-up comedy – none of which amounted to theatre or had any relevance to Wales.”

“How did this happen? How, for example, has NTW gone from 2014’s “Mametz” “Kidstown” (essentially a play-pen where a few 6-11 year-olds can aimlessly muck around for a couple of hours)?

“The answer is simple: NTW was taken over by people completely unsuited to the task while the complacent ACW was asleep at the wheel.”


Mortimer is the first to use the word “trivial.” His apposition of “Mametz” and the company's diversion of a theatre budget to pay for a children's playgroup is a good one.

The role of the funding body itself is not clear. The enquiry will bring documentation into public view. The small evidence to date indicates that the Arts Council of Wales- or at least elements within it- was in full endorsement of the company strategy to deprive Wales of theatre.

The article can be read at:

Items for correction or comment from the National Theatre of Wales or the Arts Council of Wales should be sent to

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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