"Working in Wales the debates surrounding independent media work are quite advanced and within those fields there is a preparedness to address issues of meaning, issues of process, issues of representation, and really get in amongst the art form, really pull it apart and analyse it, and move on into pieces of work that synthesise that analysis. That may be because if you make a film you've actually got the thing there, so you can rewatch it, and you can debate the thing. With theatre once it's gone it's gone and that might be part of the problem. So I think the criticism, the level of debate around theatre is either around the 'holiness' of the act, the kind of liberal, magical nature of the event, which I don't think gets us anywhere, or it deals with the play script and other remnants like that from a different kind of theatre from the one we are engaged in?" Cliff McLucas - Artistic Director of Brith Gof (1995) (Thanks to Richard Huw Morgan for generously providing me with a copy of this interview).
What struck me back in March was that there was a huge potential within this online community for constructive critical debate around the work that was being created. NTW had then, still has now and will have in the future a positive and open agenda with regards criticism of the work that they do. It is part of what makes them a thoroughly unique organisation. My question here is more to do with how the online community and the wider theatre community in Wales take up that very open invitation for a critical conversation about the work?
I don't entirely agree with McLucas, I do think that the critical vocabulary is there, I listened to deeply thought through arguments that explored the successes and failures of NTW's work so far, in accordance with their aim to explore location and place, at TAPRA in Cardiff a week ago. But no-one from NTW was there to hear them so how do these arguments from the academic world feed back into the working world of theatre in Wales?
As part of my research I have spoken at length to many people involved in the arts in Wales over the last six months. There are many highly considered and constructive things to be said. The question is why is it not possible to say those things publicly? Vicky Featherstone recently spoke about the honeymoon period having come to an end for National Theatre Scotland, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru are in a period of review in which they are asking questions of themselves that they should arguably have asked at their inception. What if we got over the idea of honeymoon periods and began to talk frankly about the work, so that all those involved could synthesise the criticism and apply it to their practice, rather than wait five years to try and fix things that would be better discussed now?
What would be the most appropriate forum for debating the performances produced by National Theatre Wales? Is it possible to speak in critical terms within this community? What is it that might prevent people from finding and sharing their own critical voice? How, in the most simple terms do we get beyond smiles and pats on the back and begin to simply, honestly and respectfully say what we think when we think it? I really don't have any answers, I am simply keen to know whether anyone is interested in having this conversation.