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A sensory journey into the natural world: meet the artists behind a new immersive exhibition

13 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Language Landscapes – Tirweddau Iaith

This month, a new audio and visual installation is inviting participants to embark on a sensory journey into the natural world. 

Touring to the Sherman Theatre and Eryri National Park, Language Landscapes – Tirweddau Iaith is an immersive experience that explores the profound connections between words and nature. 

An eclectic range of artists have been assembled for the project, with Welsh writers, directors and performers collaborating on both scripted and verbatim works that examine our collective understanding of language and landscape.

Transporting audiences

Mari Izzard is a Welsh writer and actor whose play ‘Yr Arallfyd’ gave her the opportunity to delve into new artistic territory.

Whilst she has written for audio before – her sitcom ‘The Garden Centre’ aired on BBC Radio Wales last year – this project marks the first time she has written for an immersive installation. 

Mari Izzard

‘I personally find writing for audio really hard.’ Mari says. ‘You have to be super detailed, more descriptive and less reliant on physical action, and that isn’t something that usually sits comfortably for me.’

Despite this, Mari believes adapting her writing style for the medium had its advantages. ‘Audio does allow you to transport audiences to vaster, bigger, more magical worlds… just without the budget implications!’

She credits her creative partners – ‘the incredibly gifted director’ Izzy Rabey and composer Tic Ashfield, who Izzard dubs as ‘Wales’ most exciting Sound Designer’ – for guiding her through the process.

Rabey also happens to be working on National Theatre Wales’ new musical Feral Monster, which will be performing at the Sherman Theatre alongside the installation. 

Social media and private lives

Mari thinks we can all relate to her protagonist Buddug. In a time where there is pressure to ‘launch’ a relationship on social media and share details from our private lives as if they are announcements from personal PR agencies that live in our minds, she was keen to explore a now, arguably old-fashioned notion of wanting to keep private lives private.

‘Buddug’s journey is mirrored by the action she takes, it’s a hero’s journey not only in action but also in her personal life.’ 

Her father also served as inspiration. ‘He was in the process of retiring and handing over his workload to a colleague. Here was someone who’d dedicated their life to one job, and now he was passing the baton onto the next generation…’

She found that fascinating and considered that it was rich, poignant ground to draw inspiration from for her story.

Bilingualism, mythology and nature

Spearheading the project is director Fay Lomas, who also co-created one of the plays – ‘Acorn’ – alongside writer Tommo Fowler. This piece is different to Mari’s ‘Yr Arallfyd’, as it was influenced by verbatim accounts collated through various workshops held across Wales last year. 

Fay Lomas

‘We didn’t have a set idea for what we wanted the piece to be at the start. It’s all developed from the material we gathered in our workshops.’ Fay says.

‘We asked people about their relationship to nature and memories of it, their hopes for the future, and about other topics – about placenames, and bilingualism, about mythology and stories about nature. And from these amazing conversations, the piece took shape.’

A true emotional journey

Fay and her team eventually gathered over twelve hours of material from people aged in their early teens, right up to people in their 80s. But this presented her with a challenge.

She somehow had to find a way to cut down all the amazing material she had collected into a short but compelling story. 

Her aim was to create a narrative that would give listeners a sense of a true emotional journey but was also accessible for audiences on the move, passing through a foyer, perhaps having decided on a whim to give the exhibition a try. 

‘I don’t want to give anything away, but there is a lot to see, and there’s even the opportunity to interact with the installation.’ She says.

‘My hope is that everyone can engage with these pieces in their own way. You can come along and just visit the visual installation… or, you can decide to stay and listen to a piece… or, you can stay a little while longer to listen to all four!’

‘It’s been brilliant to explore the story of our relationship with nature through multiple different Welsh voices. Accompanied by our trusty microphone, we’ve really enjoyed speaking to so many people and creating a brand-new piece from their words.’

Language Landscapes – Tirweddau Iaith will open at the Sherman Theatre foyer (13 February- 6 March) and then travel to Eryri National Park Visitor Centre in Betws-y-Coed (8 March -26 April).

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