Welsh Theatre: What to watch over the summer

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Emily Garside

As we move towards summer it’s worth taking a look around some upcoming highlights in the Welsh Theatre scene. From family-friendly works to international collaborations and homegrown musicals.

For Young People, Theatre Iolo in collaboration with The Riverfront is Transporter a play for young people aged 11 and upwards. The story of a girl called Maya. A girl who is always thirteen. A girl who is always on the move. It is a story of a never-ending search for the last safe place on earth. Maya stands on the cusp of yet another beginning, at the threshold of a new house in a new city. From this everyday moment an epic story is woven. These stories weave together and the local and the global and the personal and political collide. Asking how do we navigate our way through a world that appears to be in ruins? Transporter will have post-show Q&A’s after every performance and is at the Sherman Theatre from 20th -22nd June.


In more family theatre, Theatr Clwyd hosts its Family Festival once again this July. A full where they want children and their families to ‘Jump into the school holidays for some family fun!’ a mix of visiting artists and local organisations, Clwyd’s family festival offers a chance to get into theatre at a young age and a chance for families to enjoy performances together. Full listings for the festival from performances to workshops: https://www.theatrclwyd.com/en/whats-on/family-arts-festival-2019/

Theatr Clwyd have collaborated with Paines Plough on a new play from Daf James. ‘On the Other Hand We’re Happy’ (9th-19th July) is a play about being Mum when you’re called Dad. Following a single dad meeting his adopted daughter for the first time. Then he agrees to meet her birth-mother. It looks at how three lives are changed forever in one meeting. Daf James works in Welsh and English, and this co-production forms part of Clwyd’s ongoing collaboration with Paines Plough which also sees Daughterhood (11th-20th July) by Charley Miles, which tells the story of two sisters, reunited back in their childhood home, and the bonds that tie and those which need breaking.

In more political, boundary-pushing works two performance pieces in Chapter Arts Centre in the next month offer challenging but potentially rewarding experiences for audiences. In Neither Here Nor There, Sonia and Jo host a series of conversations that happen over 6 minutes. These questions are big and small but lead to big questions sometimes unfathomable and unanswerable ones about world paired with small questions about the state of your garden.  Weather permitting there will be a walk, small talk, refreshments, tables, chairs, questions, talking, listening, come in sit down. Inspired by research undertaken by Frank Bock and Katye Coe this is a discussion designed to engage a range of audeinces, and one they’d like people to sit down, lend their voices and their time to. As they say ‘Complexity takes time, it requires multiple voices, many levels of expertise.’ They’d like you to join the conversation. Sonia Hughes and Jo Fong are two middle-aged, award-winning, international provincial artists and during this run 4pm performances will be hosted in Welsh by Eddie Ladd and Sara McGaughey

International work and conversations about language are at the forefront of Y Brain/Kargalar from Beaware productions resumes its tour in June. Previously seen at Chapter where it returns again from 18th and 19th June, this unique production brings Turkish and Welsh together. Exploring writer Meltem Arikan’s relationship with her mother tongue Turkish and adopted language Welsh it explores identity, personality and expression through this unique pairing of languages. Also visiting Pontio, Bangor (5 June), Theatr Twm 7th June, Theatre Fach Dogellau 8th June, and Chapter 18th and 19th June.

Welsh musical theatre is a rare thing, but often a wonderful one. Swansea Grand have ‘Calon Lân’ the true story of Evan Roberts, a 26-year-old miner from Swansea. In 1904 Evan started having nightly visitations from God. The reason for the visitations soon became clear. Evan’s mission was to lead a worldwide revival….and his mission to save 100 thousand souls! Set against the hardship and struggles of industrial Wales in 1904, Evan Roberts finds himself fighting mine owners, union leaders and pillars of the Church and society, armed only with his faith, his Bible and a group of teenage girls known as ‘The Singers of Dawn’.

The musical, with a score by Mal Pope draws on the Welsh heritage of hymns and arias, Mal Pope and forms part of the Grand’s 50th year celebrations. Directed by Maxine Evans, who was Olivier Nominated for The Revlon Girl in 2018, this is a great example of Welsh musical theatre talent, and Welsh storytelling through song.

In Welsh Language theatre, Theatr Genedlaethol have performances of rehearsed readings of plays by local playwrights Melangell Dolma, Cai Llewelyn Evans, Gruffudd Eifion Owen and Lowri Morgan. Taking place at the Sherman on 11th and 12th of June it is the culmination of the 2019 New Playwrights’ Group project. Taking place across Wales this is one of a series of rehearsed readings which celebrates the work from a new wave of Welsh Language playwrights.

Each event will include readings of new plays by two playwrights, followed by a conversation with the playwrights, cast and directors. And if you miss it there, they return to the WMC in July and are touring across Wales for readings of the work.  For details regarding the rest of the tour, and further information about the plays, including information about cast and directors, please visit theatr.cymru

One of the bigger shows to come to Wales is NTW’s latest, Cotton Fingers by Rachel Trezie. Beginning in Belfast before travelling to Derry-Londonderry then on to Cardiff before the Edinburgh Festival. This was This bold, coming-of-age story was originally commissioned as part of National Theatre Wales’ NHS70 Festival in July 2018, and performed in Aberaeron, Ceredigion, and Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. A timely, politically-charged show, written by award-winning writer Rachel Trezise at the time of the historic referendum of the 8th amendment in Ireland, Cotton Fingers takes us on a journey from Belfast to Cardiff. As boredom and hunger are satisfied by half an hour in Cillian’s bed, Aoife’s life changes forever. As social and political upheaval grips her country, what hope does Aoife have to regain control?

https://www.nationaltheatrewales.org/ntw_shows/cotton-fingers-tour/#about_the_show

As NTW’s latest prepares for Edinburgh so do many other Welsh companies. And a few not to be missed this year are the return of Dirty Protest’s ‘How to Be Brave’ one woman’s journey through a day just trying to be brave enough to get by in Newport, returns to Chapter before Edinburgh on 22nd and 23rd July. Siân Owen’s one-woman play is about what we’re made of and learning to be brave when your world’s falling apart.

http://www.dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk/now-on-how-to-be-brave

Mrs and Mrs Clark produce Johnny Cotsen’s ‘Louder Is Not Always Clearer’ which has been selected for the 2019 British Council Showcase in Edinburgh. Continuing to Tour before Edinburgh Cotsen will be performing at The Riverfront, Newport on 24th July. Before the Edinburgh festival in August.

http://www.wcdeaf.org.uk/the-louder-is-not-always-clearer-tour-2019/

Finally from one of Cardiff’s small but mighty theatre companies, Clock Tower Theatre Company, ‘Adrift’ by George Infini. A comedy about failed mutiny and three sailors cast adrift in the Atlantic. Having its premiere at The Gate before heading North it’s a likely a fun evening of the kind that’ll also make you think too.

https://www.thegate.org.uk/event/clock-tower-theatre-adrift/

It’s clearly a myth that summer is a quiet time in the world of performance, with these being just a few highlights from across Wales in the coming months.

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