Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Adding to Wales' Theatre Record

Theatre History

Martin Morley , Cwmni Theatr Gwynedd , May 30, 2024
Theatre History by Martin Morley The theatres of Wales that have been celebrating their fiftieth birthdays were of a kind and of their time. Their lines were starkly modern, their locations on a height. Aberystwyth received its softening at the century's turn with the Alan Hewson-era addition of the domed studio and pottery workshop.

Theatre Clwyd is currently undergoing its great renewal. The Torch on its cliff-edge has had its times of wind and storm damage. Theatre Gwynedd is the exception. Opened in 1975 it closed in November 2008 and was demolished in 2010. Pontio took its place, opening in 2015.

The article on wicipedia is brief. Martin Morley has added to the record of Theatr Gwynedd. His account runs to over 2000 words. He has included descriptions of the designs and reviews of leading productions. 53 pictures of productions and designs accompany the writing.

From the account which can be read in full via the link below:

“Theatr Gwynedd was opened by the then University College of North Wales (later Bangor University). It was a 344-seat performance space presenting Welsh, English and International theatre as well as concerts, opera, dance, pantomime and children's entertainment.

“The open end stage functioned with/without proscenium and with/without apron. Raked seating was designed to allow level access to the auditorium for wheelchairs with full front of house facilities. These were enhanced by a gallery for art exhibitions at first floor level. Rectilinear in simple cubic forms, brick faced apart from the fly tower, square openings.

...in 1986 it became a producing company in its own right, though still owned by Bangor University. Most of these were directed by Graham Laker who I first worked with when I was resident designer with Theatr Cymru and he was a lecturer in the Drama Department at Bangor University.

“He later became Artistic Director with Theatr Gwynedd. He was an extremely talented, if under estimated director and always a pleasure to work with. He had a particular skill with large scale plays and musicals. The productions included, O law I Law by T Rowland Hughes, Y Gellis Geirios – The Cherry Orchard, Pwy Sy’n Sal? – Moliere Double Bill.

“...Dyn Hysbys – Faith Healer was directed by Sian Summers who followed Graham as Artistic Director. My last but one design for Cwmni Theatr Gwynedd was Dynes Ddela Leenane – The Beauty Queen of Leenane , directed by Ian Rowlands, the last Artistic Director before Theatr Gwynedd became solely a receiving house. Graham Laker returned to do one last production: a Welsh language version of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, a labour of love for everyone concerned.

“...In the days when the University had a drama department one of my jobs as resident designer with Theatr Cymru was to design the occasional production for the department. These included The Crucible, The Good Woman of Setzuan, Spring Awakening and Saved. It was also well used by schools and local groups.

“...During the summer season in its early years it produced English language shows for a tourist audience: particularly musicals but also popular drama. This tradition was started when Theatr Cymru ran the theatre on behalf of the university with Under Milk Wood and Irma la Douce. Graham Laker directed a string of very successful shows drawing on the talents of the university  and professionals in key roles. These included  Joseph and his Technicolor Dream Coat, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret and Oliver. There was also Sleuth Educating Rita and Relatively Speaking, and others. 

The artistic programme, particularly in the early years was very wide ranging, including visits from the WNO, Moving Being, Caricature Theatre and Theatr Clwyd and more recently, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. to name but a few. From 1986 it mounted three in house Welsh language productions annually, which then toured to the other medium sized venues in Wales.”

The full account can be read at:

https://mmorleytheatretvdesign.wordpress.com/going-freelance-1985-2010/

Illustration: Llyfr Mawr y Plant

Postscript:

Graham Laker also left a critical legacy.

New Welsh Review #41, Summer 1998- 01 June 1998

Creu cymdeithas greadigol : papur ymgynghorol ar strategaeth i'r celfyddydau yng Nghymru/ Building a creative society : a consultation paper on a strategy for the arts in Wales.

“This is the first paragraph of the introduction to Building a Creative Society:

"The Arts are fundamental to the development of Wales as a forward-looking and dynamic country. In the next century success will lie with those societies which can nurture and mobilise the creative talents of their people. Jobs increasingly will be in the knowledge-based and creative industries. Cultural activity will be crucial to the profile of Wales in its international setting, to the growth of an inclusive society and to a sense of national and personal identity

"Why is it impossible to read this without feeling mildly depressed? It's not that it's complete bullshit: somewhere in the midst of its "nineties-speak", there are some nuggets of truth. It's not even the ease with which the statement elides into a view of the Arts as just another component of Enterprise Wales. No, the problem is that it could have been written by Tony Blair, or Ron Davies or even Prince Charles; certainly not by Ed Thomas, or R.S. Thomas or Dylan Thomas or any other Thomas who has ever done anything genuinely artistic. If asked to subscribe to such a statement, they, along with Euripides, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Henrik Ibsen, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, Joe Orton, and today's young Turks at the Royal Court would reply with a resounding "Up Yours, mate!"

"It's one of the great ironies of state subsidy that any Arts Council has to argue its case on the basis of the dominant political ethos. Individually, of course, Arts Council officers and members know that the Arts have quite a different agenda: thev will chortle with as much glee as anybody else when a performance of Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and F***ing at Swansea Grand has the City Fathers foaming at the mouth with rage. Institutionally, on the other hand, the Arts Council of Wales feels that it needs to act as an extension of the Welsh Office, which to all intents and purposes it is.”

A GUIDE TO THE SEQUENCE “Theatre History” CAN BE READ BELOW 12th AUGUST 2021

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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