Review by Lowri Haf Cooke
I was attracted and distanced by Rhwydo/Vangst, and that’s not a bad thing. I can’t say in honesty that I ‘really enjoyed’ it, but I was touched in an unexpected way.
Like a work of fine art or a solemn memory, what you have here is a place that wakes up the soul.
What awaits us in the big blue shed – which is Theatr Gendlaethol Cymru’s new travelling production, is not a drama. Physical theatre, and a deep meditation that penetrates the hidden places of our humanity.
This is THGC’s first co-production with a similar company in Europe. After Arwel Gruffydd saw Vangst at the Oerol Festival in Friesland in the Netherlands, he decided that the piece by Roos van Geffen could be adapted easily to Welsh.
But the trilingual production is not just a translation; the original performers – the dancer Anne van Balen and mime artist Fabian A Santarciel de La Quintada – are ever present throughout the production.
Dance, mime, physical theatre in three languages, lack of ‘drama’ and familiar actors; I sense some confused readers and a lack of interest. What does all of this have to do with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru ?
Well, Rhwydo/Vangst is an unique experience that touches on worldly themes.
The script itself is still developing – thanks to new regular contributions.
The creator inherited an old typewriter from her grandmother, and decided to collect fears and desires from ordinary people all over Europe.
The audience’ experience also starts beyond the four walls of this alternative theatre.
When I arrived on a sunny Friday evening , I saw a blue tardis in the shadow of the Millennium Centre’s bronze shell.
People gathered around it – many on their way back from work –and they were attracted by old typewriters and pieces of paper.
Everyone’s assignment was to reveal their age, sex, work, and their deepest fears and desires, before posting them through one of the blue sheds many post boxes .
I sensed great excitement – in welsh and in English – as people from all backgrounds reacted to the challenge. A small number of them stayed to see the performance, but everyone contributed to it in their own way.
I don’t want to reveal too much about the contents of Rhwydo/Vangst; the mystery is part of the experience. For those of you who have yet to see it, go straight to the final lines of this review!
The script is simple and very easy to understand, thanks to the incredible honesty of its unknown contributors. Imagine a magazine’s problem page that is never published because the interviewers propose their own answers.
The fears are familiar – loneliness is the big one – but the desires tend to deviate from the humorous to the profound, and offer some pure fantasies.
But as a backdrop to Leisa Mererid’s comforting voice – here presenting Angharad Price’s translation – there is a rather sinister and incompatible piano piece.
There is further discomfort in the shape of the seats for one thing – ‘entertainment’ is not the purpose of our visit. A beautiful, mute girl budlees papers into small parcels ; by the end of the piece she is joined by a man who has risen from dead.
Are these two individuals or duality at work – the living tension between our fears and desires ?
At certain points throughout the piece, the performers stare straight into our eyes – challenging our own sub consciousness.
Salt is ever present in this piece as a symbol of purity and pain.
What is so refreshing about this democratic production is the fact that our desires are so alike – and our fears. We hear the experiences of the Welsh people as well as those of our European cousins – at its best, Rhwydo/Vangst provides a great comfort.
Don’t miss the opportunity to see it at the Eisteddfod in Denbigh, following visits to Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea.
If you put aside your prejudice for one hour only, there is a possibility you will be mesmerized.
They must have chosen just the right burnt offerings to proffer to the Celtic gods.This open air, (this very open air), production of Saunders Lewis’ dramatic retelling of the second part of Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion was blessed, nay drenched in sunshine.And as site-specific productions go, what a site!
The action happened around a Roman fort set on a dramatic tumulus high in the hills overlooking Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station. It was a sort of open-air set to begin with, complete with the wind-blasted remains of a farmhouse and a weathered topiary of rowans and blackthorns.There were eruptions of meadow pipits from the long grass and bleating sheep.The fact that this was also Mur-y-Castell, the legendary palace in Ardudwy described in the actual Mabinogion just made the setting even more extraordinary.
From the moment we gathered in the old social club of the nuclear power station, decorated with Union Jack pennants, with sponge cakes for sale and wartime radio playing the excitement was palpable.Equipped with headphones we listened to the play’s director, Arwel Gruffudd recite and weave the complicated web of stories that is the Fourth Branch.
We heard about the woman made of flowers – the eponymous Blodeuwedd – and about wizards such as Math, the King of Gwynedd and Gwydion, the greatest storyteller in the world.Buses then took us high into the hills, still listening to commentary about the place and its significance.For the play itself the audience perambulated around three seating areas, one for each of the al fresco scenes, with drawing rooms and decanters, Chesterfields and cigarette boxes arranged around the sheep folds.Soldiers drove their wartime vehicles along the high, empty roads. The shadow of war, in this case the Second World War, could wrestle with even the astonishing sunshine.
It is thus very tempting to say that the place was the star of the production, were it not for the début professional stage performance of young actor Morfydd Clark (her previous credits were in Saved andRose Bernd, as student shows at the Drama Centre in London.) As Blodeuwedd she was spellbinding, or as the playwright Meic Povey put it as we chatted between acts, completely mesmerising.We both found ourselves looking for the names of young Hollywood starlets of the 1940s with whom to compare her.It’s a big role, and Blodeuwedd is a complicated creation and has a lot to say, yet Clark inhabited the role as if she’d woven her own mantle, or in this case her mustard coloured dress.
If we marked actors out of ten simply for their stage presence (even in the absence of a stage, such as in this show) then Owain Llŷr Williams, as the servant, would win hands down, with his eleven out of ten.Even though his job was, in the main, to simply lead the audience from place to place, his stiff-backed, no-nonsense presence asserted itself right from the off.Our first glimpse of him was in itself a most arresting image: frock coated, bald-headed, he was standing on a rock as our buses slalomed ever so slowly, driver’s foot on the clutch, through the sitka plantations and on out into open country.He was both sentinel and guide, of this world and another.
Non Haf, playing the doomed handmaiden Rhagnell, exuded simple faith and trust in her duplicitous mistress Blodeuwedd, even after she tried to strangle her to keep her extramarital affair secret, while Glyn Pritchard as the magical, if Machiavellian Gwydion had sufficient authority to make you believe he could make a dead man walk.The scene where Llew Llaw Gyffes is murdered on the edge of a stream, played out on the edge of a mountain stream was particularly tense and thrilling and when we left Gwydion to the job of bringing the murdered man back to life it seemed almost a matter-of-fact act.
Some of the actors had very little previous stage experience but the confidence expressed in choosing them paid off.Youthful vim and vigour brings its own fresh energy.It’s not an easy play-in-verse to declaim.Oddly, I met one of Saunders Lewis’s former pupils in a bookshop today and he gave me the dramatist’s own assessment of the play: it was overly poetical, hen beth barddonllyd, as Saunders opined in that mosquito-whine voice of his.
So, at the end of the play Blodeuwedd, having committed the heinous crime of helping murder her husband, faces her punishment.She is banished to the forest.Here, because the other birds hate owls, she is turned into one.
This part of the story, anticipated, flickered in my mind as the play edged towards its conclusion.Seeing as we were, by now, seated in a field in the Gwynedd hills, it was hard to imagine what coup de theatrethe company could possibly pull off to enable that amazing transformation.And yet they did it, breathtakingly and heart-stoppingly well.In being banished Blodeuwedd slowly walked up a raised tump in the field.At play’s end she hurled herself off the ridge, her scream echoing wildly, and then a barn owl flew out at us, the spellbound audience.It was a transcendent moment of pure theatre, a fitting ending – both delicate and powerful at one at the same time – to the sheer, simple magic of it all.
“I’d found the play extremely powerful… I’d never experienced theatre or art in any form affect me quite so personally”
On Monday night Liesel and I headed out to the theatre. We rarely have the opportunity to do so nowadays, having been up and working for 13hrs we had to pack up quickly in order to make the start of the performance. So what did we see? A new ‘promenade’ performance from Theatr Genedlaethol called Tir Sir Gar. I won’t divulge everything as it’s well worth attending, I know performances have sold well, so purchase your tickets asap.
Saying that we went to the theatre is a little misleading. We didn’t attend a physical theatre in the traditional sense, but the mainstay of the acting performance took part in the varying rooms of Carmarthen County Museum. During our bus journey to the Museum, the shows ‘curator’ Marc Rees mentioned that there were two strands to the performance a fictional and factual one. The first, the fictional theatre piece tracked…
View original post 725 more words
This was probably THE most shakespearean Shakespeare I’ve seen to day. It was brilliant and it was fun and it was icredibly well played. So let’s start at the beginning:
Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru has a long standing tradition of playing Welsh theatre in Wales – and this time they had The Tempest translated into the very musical yet somewhat harsh language of the Ll and dd 😉 And even though my understanding of Welsh doesn’t go further than “cheers”, “thank you” and “good day” (on a good day LOL) I was perfectly fine and able to follow the play even without the subtitles they provided on the second day I saw it.
But not only was the language’s melody absolutely fitting for Shakespeare’s text, the play also profitted from some necessary cuts as it was brought to stage without an intermission. And what a stage it was: In Carmarthen…
View original post 503 more words
from Bethan Marlow, Director of C’laen Ta!
I’ve just got back to Cardiff after an intense six weeks of creating and directing a piece of promenade theatre on the council estate of Peblig in Caernarfon for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru.
I had three main aims for this project-
1- I wanted the residents of the estate to be an integral part of the production.
2- I wanted the production to fit onto the estate organically and not be plonked on artificially.
3- I wanted it to be big!
Residents were invited to participate in a variety of ways- they could join the art group to learn how to make props and art installations, they could join the vertical dancing group to learn how to dance and do stunts on outside walls, they could join the acting group to perform in the production, they could steward on the production weekend and they could even join our newly formed choir.
I’m not ging to lie, recruiting at the beginning was a challenge and I had to make a very last minute decision of getting profesionnal actors on board because I didn’t have enough people that wanted to perform.
But once we had our team of volunteers and once our production team and actors joined us, the experience was magical. Everyone worked so hard, everyone pulled together and more and more people started to open their doors and watch the rehearsals from their doorsteps (literally!).
There were parts that were rough around the edges but do you know what? It didn’t matter. When a play is located on such a real setting there’s no pretending that what we’re doing is ‘real’ and yet everyone would follow the actors around the estate every night because they wanted to know what happened next, wanted to see how he/she turned out in the end. They knew that they were acting but they were playing along because they could relate. It was their story- the story had come from their estate, from their backgrounds and from their presents situations. They understood that world and so had no qualms in jumping into it and that’s what was magical to watch because residents of all ages were stepping into a storyworld and playing along. If I would have invited them to come to the theatre to watch that play, I wonder how many would have come?
This play needed to happen on the estate.
The ethos I believed in and shared with the team right from the start was that we would always make sure that we left a ‘positive mark’ on anyone or anywhere that we worked with- even if it’s as small as replacing a broken plant pot or as big as boosting self-confidence and the messages we’ve been receiving on Facebook seem to say that we’ve achieved that.
Bringing theatre onto people’s doorsteps comes with a responsibility- you can’t treat the place as a set, you can’t expect the residents to be as obedient as actors and you have to accept that you’re not the boss. I’ve learnt so much and loved it- I love the buzz, excitement, spontaneity and importance that comes with making site-specific work. The story MUST belong to that site.
I’d like to thank the residents of Peblig for their welcome and for trusting me to tell their story. Diolch.
gan Arwel Gruffydd, Artistic Director
This summer will be the busiest yet for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. The preparations are in hand and the first production of the Summer is nearly ready. It is going to be a fun packed three months and I hope you will have the opportunity to be part of the excitement with us.
The team here at Theatr Gen have worked extremely hard over the last few months preparing for not only a summer of events, but also for a year long artistic programme that will be broad in its appeal and includes mainstream productions, community projects, site specific experiences and imaginative theatre activity throughout Wales and beyond.
I look forward to share with you, through this new blog, the latest developments within the Company that include behind the scene activity, as well as the work that will be seen in theatres or in a field or a street corner in the near future.
Other members of staff will also share their views with you through this blog. It would be great to have your response to this blog and also about the work we will perform over the coming few months.
During the Summer of 2012 we will be producing three completely different productions – a community project, an International production and one that will be part of the London 2012 Festival celebrations.
C’laen Ta! Is a community project, in partnership with Galeri Caernarfon and in conjunction with Peblig People Partnership, in Caernarfon. Under the guidance of playwright and director Bethan Marlow, the project will offer an opportunity for the community to come together to create a unique performance that will take the audience, quite literally, on a trip around Sgubor Goch. The audience will get to hear about the history of the area and to meet some of the areas characters though a new play that will be performed by a combination of professional actors & local people. The performances will be held during the weekend of 13-15 July 2012.
By bringing proffesional artists together (that include choreographers, designers, musicians, actors & directors), C’laen Ta! will celebrate the artistic skills already present within the community, that the community itself were not aware of! This is an opportunity to see Sgubor Goch in a new light and to enjoy together the life and creative skills of the area and its people. With two projects in 2011 called Sgint & Sgin Ti Syniad?, Theatr Gen have already planted some creative seeds in the area. I very much hope that these seeds will now grow even further with this exciting project……. in the sun hopefully!
Everyone in the Company (especially those who are going on the journey itself!) are looking forward to our first ever international experience. At the end of August we, along with our friends at Sherman Cymru, will be taking Dafydd James’ sucessful play Llwyth to the Taipei International Arts Festival in Taiwan. The invitation came following a successful run at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh last year.
We had an amazing response to the play at the festival in Edinburgh where the production was part of the British Council Showcase, and I cant wait to see what response we will have from audiences in Taipei.
It is, of course, a great honour for us to be part of one of Asia’s main arts festivals, and it is vital that we, as the National Welsh touring theatre company, take advantage of this opportunity to take a piece of Welsh theatre to the other side of the World. Aneurin and his ‘tribe’ will be flying the Welsh flag in Taipei this summer and I will be there shouting from the audience! Following a trip to Taipei, there will also be an opportunity, for the very last time, to see Llwyth back home in Cardiff, Carmarthen and Mold.
But before travelling to Taipei, we have the small matter of staging one of Shakespeares classics, ‘The Tempest’. Y Storm will open its doors at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in the Vale of Glamorgan, in August, before travelling to Carmarthen and Bangor in the Autumn.
We are very proud and privileged that the production is part of the World Shakespeare Festival and this new translation, by Gwyneth Lewis, will bring Shakespeare’s last play to life for Welsh audiences in a way that promises to be an exhilarating experience for the senses. The actors have already been learning new skills with Citrus Arts, the exciting circus company we are working with, and the director Elen Bowman has some exciting ideas for this never to be forgotten production.
I very much hope that you will be able to join us on our big theatre adventure this Summer! Enjoy!