Theatre in Wales

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Looking Back: Twelve Years of Fine Production Record

At Wales Millennium Centre

Rap Biography to Butetown to Afghanistan to Ebbw Vale & More , Wales, Scotland, England, Europe, Australia , June 7, 2024
At Wales Millennium Centre by Rap Biography to Butetown to Afghanistan to Ebbw Vale & More The Minister, appearing before the Culture Committee in the Senedd on 15th May, made promise of a new strategy for culture.

It is an enterprise of hazard.

Culture, a universal human activity, is as disaggregated as it is omnipresent. It has the power of the tides; strategisable it is not.

A surprising feature of the last decade's culture has been the moving to centre stage of the Wales Millennium Centre as a producing company.

It started on 9th August 2012 with an announcement by Conrad Lynch, then Artistic Director:

“The next phase in our development as a truly national centre for the performing arts is to produce our own work. In seven years the Centre has successfully established itself as a theatre which stages world class productions, by globally renowned producers, especially in the field of musical theatre and opera.

“As we mature our ambition is to produce and present new work, in both languages, to showcase the talent of Wales, as well as to continue to bring the best of the world to Wales. This production is our very first step towards realising that ambition, which makes it significant”.

* * * *

If the track record since has been one of thematic and stylistic eclecticism- rap to big-scale musical theatre to crafted modern-subject drama- the productions have been united in two aspects.

The critical responses have been invariably approving. The level of audience response has been high. In 2024 “Nye” may have been something of a phenomenon but its foundations were long laid.

* * * *

Graeme Farrow appears infrequently in the media. When he does his words are chosen and succinct.

As an instance, in the Sunday Times of 7th June 2015, he made a point that is both true but uncommonly said. (Much theatre talk, amplified by organs like “the Stage”, is echo chamber stuff.) Farrow, the interviewer noted, was “aware of the challenge for live performance- “how it can sell itself as being as exciting an offer as sitting in and watching “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men”.

He appeared on Radio Wales' Arts Show 31st January 2022.

“Wales doesn't export enough to the world” he said directly. The Government of Wales exhorts its artists to make a splash in the world beyond the far bank of Dee, Usk and Severn.

Of "Nye" he reported of the 30,000+ who were at the WMC in May.

"25% of this audience was new to the venue.

"17% were from outside Wales including visitors from 28 countries."

The Wales Millennium Centre has done it more than any other. It has picked up an award at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. It has partnered with the Kiln Theatre, the National Theatre twice, Cape Town Opera, Theatr na n’Óg.

“Branwen: Dadeni” was a major event in the Welsh-language record of 2023.

* * * *

John Tusa, in the previous article 30th May, wrote about strategy. “All organisations find it hard to devise a genuine and rigorous strategy. Instead we produced a “mission statement” but it was gibberish."

The Wales Millennium Centre has featured before for the quality of its communications with its public. (Below 1st March 2023.) Clarity of language has a double advantage. If a board descends into sloganising, private jargon and semantic obfuscation it is less likely to have any idea what it is up to. It is then rendered less likely that it will achieve what it is intended to.

The directors of the Wales Millennium Centre speak to their public with a notable clarity. The most recent report, 44 pages in length, has 4 tables and graphics and the text is broken into small paragraphs and bullet points that are easily assimilable.

On page 6 the board summarises the four-fold purposes of the organisation. As a managerial report numbers are provided that are full and frequent. As examples:

“The Lion, the Bitch and the Wardrobe” was a sell-out success and received an excellent response with over 40 pieces of press coverage...Over 2667 people attended across 17 performances.”

“Grandmother's Closet” returned. This followed a sold-out run at WMC in April 2022 and further performances in Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and Oslo.”

* * * *

Some of the Wales Millennium Centre Productions are reviewed below:

“Nye” 14th March 2024, 21st March 2024

“Branwen: Dadeni” 17 November 2023

“Es and Flo”: 22 June 2023

“The Making of a Monster”: 24 November 2022

“The Boy with Two Hearts”: 13 October 2022, 10 October 2021

"Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff"): 23 August 2019: 15 August 2018

"Tiger Bay": 16 November 2017: 15 November 2017

"Only the Brave": 01 April 2016

"Land of Our Fathers" : 19 November 2015

"Showboat": 23 July 2014

"Man to Man": 29 March 2015

"I'm with the Band": 20 October 2013

"The Igam Ogam Show": 04 August 2013

“Ma’ Bili’n Bwrw’r Bronco”: 09 September 2012

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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