Well, I just thought I’d write a bit about the process that has been happening for A Good Night Out in the Valleys.
The project has been on-going for a while and started with a tour of South Wales institutes and kind of concluded with a woman in Blaengarw asking “anyone here from Ogmore? If so, would you like to make a lantern?”
It has been an eclectic, fun and largely random experience.
So, from the start, this is what we did:
Myself, John McGrath (director) and Hannah Bevan (intern – I know that sounds a bit odd and American but I think that’s the official term) toured the Valleys for a week looking at the spaces we are going to put the show on in – Blackwood, Pontardawe, Aberdare, Blaengarw and Bedwas.
We hired a car which made us look like more sinister than we are (a big Ford thing with tinted windows that seated about nine. John had a bit of a sweat on as he’s not the most confident of drivers and he thought for a while we would be sharing the driving. Luckily Hannah was so competent and we got into a steady pattern of Hannah driving, me staring out the window and John sending texts/emails on the back seat).
We met lots of people, had lots of food in places with names such as the Tuck In café - where everything on the menu had a price except anything that contained salad - and tried to set up some links with the communities. It was then down to Hannah to organise a load of workshops.
We did a lot of workshops. Basically what happened is that we devised a strategy for the workshop depending on the group we were going to meet (usually a youth group or a mixed group of people from the area) and divided the work up between us (John would do the first bit, then I’d do a bit, then John etc). In reality what happened was that we would introduce ourselves and then I’d sit back and let John get on with it – it would have been unfair to stop his flow when he got motoring at a youth theatre session.
So I collected stories. Oh and by the way another place we visited was Ammanford to do a session with Mess Up the Mess, a company based there. I’d never been to Ammanford before and liked it. Especially when we noticed it has some brilliant shop combinations; there a laundry/bike shop; a shop that sells women’s lingerie and accessories such as watches; a fancy dress/dry cleaners and a taxi cum carpet shop.
After the workshops were finished and I’d gathered a load of material, I set about writing a series of scenes based on the things we had been told. In the end I wrote five scenes, two short stories and a few pages of one-liners/scraps of stories.
Then, with four actors, we rehearsed them for three days before going out on the road again to show them to the people who we had originally met (and anyone else we could get to come along). The actors were great and even “performed” the short stories and snippets.
I got a lot of feedback. I’d purposely played the scenes quite straight stylistically, put in one monologue and plenty of jokes.
There’s plenty I have missed out in this process (the problem of not blogging regularly, I should have started earlier and done short, sharp ones) but will continue to blog as the writing continues.
If you are writer or just have an interest in the show and have any questions/comments about this process then please do get in touch. Also if you have any stories of A Good Night Out it would be lovely to hear those too.
I’ve got a first draft deadline of just after Christmas but have given myself a few mini deadlines between now and then. The first was to start blogging, so that’s that one ticked off.
Alan x

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Comment by Alan Harris on December 8, 2009 at 11:20
Hi Katie, grampa Matthews sounds like a character! Thanks for the stories - if you think of any more please let me know. Now, if I can find a pound coin and some super glue the afternoon should take care of itself. Alan
Comment by Katie Elizabeth Payne on December 8, 2009 at 10:46
Hello Alan, just wanted to say how excited I am to see/or secretly be in this! I have seriously been waiting for a play to be written with all the wondeful south wales story...since grampa matthews has been telling me how he used to glue pound coins to the floor and watch from the flat as someone tried picking it up off the floor or trying to hide the fact they wanted it by kicking it...i think there was also an insident where he wrapped up some dog poo...hilarious! anyhoo...i sound slightly crazy now, but that is just a good night out in the valleys!
waiting anxiously
katie x
Comment by Alan Harris on November 24, 2009 at 11:04
Hi Bethan, yes, the strike is part of the conversations we have had with people, not just in Ammanford. Industry, including mining, has been discussed a lot. A woman in Blaengarw told us what mining had meant to the village - then and now pictures of the village are remarkable in the way they show how the place was dominated by the pit. She was proud of that past (or certain elements of it at least). Asked "if there was a pit about to open up today would you back it?" she said no way, it's the last thing she would want to see.
Thanks for the "ladies" rugby club tip - if you tell me some of your tour stories I'll be very discreet...
And Angharad, thanks for telling me about your dad peeing in the wardrobe! It happens quite a lot, doesn't it? Not with your dad I mean (I've obviously never met him) but I have heard of this before. I hope your mum has aranged things so that it's just his clothes that are in the firing line.
Comment by Bethan Marlow on November 23, 2009 at 17:47
Not sure if it' the same for the Valleys but a good night out up North is always the rugby club- especially amongst the "ladies" team (a very funny term to call us considering that the mothers, wives and well-behaved girls turn into animals on the pitch!). If there is a female rugby team around there, it'd definitely be worth having a chat with them- mind you, there is a strict religion of "what goes on tour, stays on tour!".
I'm also working with Mess Up the Mess at the moment so Ammanford is quickly becoming my second home. Bumped into a gang of young boys there last week that are hugely into their jumping (don't know what the term is but you know, jumping off buildings/stairs/outdoor things!) Maybe it's because I'm working on a play about the miner's strike but it's definitely something that still keeps coming up and something that's been a huge part of bringing them together as a community. Good luck with it all.x
Comment by Angharad Lee on November 22, 2009 at 11:28
It is a Cinema, but is still used for certain community productions. We did Panto there last week. Bit of a steep rake to the stage,but a nice intimate feel to the place. There is also a nursery downstairs there so it is obviously still a little hub for the community I suspect. My darling father has a tendancy to use the wardrobe in their bedroom as a toilet when drunk!!!God bless him....although they are not usually the words that come out of my mum's mouth when she wakes up in the morning!!
Comment by Alan Harris on November 21, 2009 at 16:43
Hi Angharad, we visited the hall in Ammanford but not the one in Brynamman (isn't that a cinema now?). The youth theatre was great - lots of stories including one from a girl who said her uncle was so drunk one day he fell out the back doors of the bus and the driver never even noticed.
Matthew - I know the darts/porno shop you mean! I have never bought darts or porno from there but it's a good combo.
Comment by Angharad Lee on November 21, 2009 at 16:29
Hi there Alan. Glad you have been up to Bynamman to work with Mess Up the Mess. I am working with them at the moment delivering Vocal Workshops and helping them out with their Xmas fundraising show. They are a great bunch and Peri and Sarah seem very enthusiastic. Looking forward to see what you come up with. The workingmen's hall up there is great too...these places are so underutilised. Did you guys visit the workingmen's hall there?
Comment by Matthew David Scott on November 21, 2009 at 12:17
This sounds bloody brilliant. Looking forward to Blackwood already. Speaking of shop combinations: Adult Magazines and Darts Supplies on Caroline Street has always been a favourite.

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