Theatre in Wales

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David Lloyd George, Ray Gravell, Aneurin Bevan: Landmark Figures of 20th Century Wales on Stage

Quarterly Critical Round-up

D J Britton, Cwmni Theatr Mewn Cymriad, Owen Thomas & Gareth Bale, Wales Milllennium Centre , Theatre of Wales Winter 2024 , May 16, 2024
Quarterly Critical Round-up by D J Britton, Cwmni Theatr Mewn Cymriad, Owen Thomas & Gareth Bale, Wales Milllennium Centre David J Britton's “The Wizard, The Goat and the Man Who Won the War” was well received on its first tour. The then Director of the Wales Political Archive gave his verdict as “first-class, can't be faulted."

It subsequently travelled to Asia and had a revival this March at the London Welsh Centre. The hosts were the Friends of the Lloyd George Museum. Richard Elfyn reprised his commanding performance as David Lloyd George.

Set in Antibes on the day of his 50th wedding anniversary the once leader in both peace and war roamed in his memory through days of political triumph and hazard.

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The greatest of reforming chancellors, David Lloyd George was also subject of another play for one performer that toured in February.

“Dai” from Cwmni Theatr Mewn Cymriad or In Character Theatre Company was originally commissioned by the Lloyd George Museum for performance at the National Eisteddfod. Written by Manon Steffan Ros and directed by Eleri Twynog, Carwyn Jones took role of D L-G.

The company was founded in 2014 with a mission to create one-actor shows for primary schools across Wales. Prior productions have portrayed the lives of Cranogwen, Kate Roberts, Annie Jane Hughes Griffiths, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Dic Penderyn and Owain Glyndŵr.

Manon Steffan Ros: “It’s not easy to write about someone real. There is a responsibility, and a burden of truth for the author if we are being honest and to do him justice. All we have is evidence, and although there is plenty of it, speeches and letters and diaries are not the same as meeting someone, knowing them.

"...While researching his history, I fell in love with Lloyd George, and sometimes hated him too. It seems to me as two completely different men, and it was very difficult to decide, in the end, whether I, as a writer, liked him or not.

“It is surely up to the audience to decide that, and perhaps a story like Lloyd George’s raises the question – are there bad people and good people, or are we all a mixture of the two?”

“Dai” performed:

7 February – YMa, Pontypridd
8 February – Neuadd y Nant, Clydach
9 February – Llanover Hall, Cardiff
15 February – St Peter’s Hall, Carmarthen
16 February – Cardigan Castle
17 February – Theatr Gwaun, Fishguard
21 February – Theatr Silo, Caernarfon
22 February – Theatr Fach Llangefni
23 February – Pencae Chapel, Pencaenewydd
24 February – Theatr Twm o’r Nant, Denbigh

* * * *

It is a spin-up whether “A Regular Little Houdini” or “Grav” earns the title of most-seen theatre of Wales of the last decade. Flying Bridge takes the lead in being seen in Europe.

“Grav” in 2024 continues to run and run and project Wales' culture outward. The reaction in Australia is given below 22nd February.

The production went on to win two awards at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Thanks were given by writer and actor to Wales Arts International, Michael Blaha, Nigel Miles-Thomas, Joanne Hartstone, Peter Doran and the whole of the Torch Theatre.

“Grav” opened in Milford Haven 4th February, 2015. Since then it been to New York City, Washington DC, Lincoln Nebraska, London, Edinburgh, along with Mynyddygarreg village hall, a castle, a chapel, rugby clubs, village halls, a garden, a church and the visitors' changing room at the National Stadium of Wales.

Last voices in Australia wrote:

“The divine irony here is that, while set in a mens’ locker room, the play is about the wild physicality of rugby and the wide mountain landscape of Wales. It is a journey of the imagination which is guided by an accomplished Welsh actor, Gareth J.Bale...possessed of a wonderful, rich, resonant voice, complete with a beautifully lilting Welsh accent. He’s a joy to the ear.

"And, despite the tiny wee performance area, he shines as a beautiful mover. He’s an extremely fine actor.”

Quoted, with acknowledgement and thanks, from the full review which can be read at:

https://www.thebarefootreview.com.au/menu/theatre/119-2014-adelaide-reviews/2572-grav.html

“As Grav, Bale is magnificent! He scores goals all over the place with his so real portrayal. From the moment he walks into the space, one sees and hears Ray Gravell -the ‘actor’ does not exist. Bale delivers not only the lines, humour and emotion required but also every pause, nuance and inflection to pitch perfection. Drama students need to see this man in action.”

Quoted, with acknowledgement and thanks, from the full review which can be read at:

https://glamadelaide.com.au/fringe-review-grav/?fbclid=IwAR0OzuRKB9yJxDRT2dNTFQb9IEt1IS6UN77rzb2PVPmi5sYwrR90N77k4u8

* * * *

The big production was “Nye” which played March to May at the Olivier Theatre. It transfers to its co-producer venue, the Wales Millennium Centre, 18th May.

The critical response is summarised below 14th and 21st March. The audience response was deep.

Sam Marlowe is always a sharp-penned critic:

“Much of the action has a vivid, Dennis Potter-style wooziness. Hospital beds transform into desks or doorways. A schoolroom scene sees the teacher who cruelly torments Nye for his stutter wielding a pair of six-foot canes to beat children with; a mob of MPs in the Commons tea room eavesdrop, gossip and rattle their teacups in perfect synchronisation, choreographed by Steven Hoggett and Jess Williams. Ranks of surgical-masked medics and legions of the desperate sick and poor appear in Jon Driscoll’s video imagery, and as Bevan’s painkillers kick in, Sheen even leads a sparkling, drug-addled song-and-dance rendition of Get Happy.

“The human drama sometimes feels squeezed by the spectacle and the roll call of events, and it’s a shame that Small’s Lee, in particular, doesn’t get space to be much more than a loyal helpmeet – a role whose limitations, as she herself declares, were chafing for a woman with her own political career and breadth of ambition.”

Dominic Maxwell pointed to a paradox. “It feels odd to say it, but this sprawling bio-play about Aneurin Bevan, the man who forced through the creation of the NHS, could do with a bit more politics.”

Picture: Remy Beasley left and company "Nye".

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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