My name is… Dylan
My age is… 30
I live in… Cardiff
But I’m originally from… Mid Wales
‘That’s not very specific,’ says NTW producer Lucy Gough, standing nearby. I tell her the name
of the hamlet where I’m from. She’s never heard of it; not many people have.
She takes a felt tip pen and writes Pennorth
on my sticker; an extra piece of information, an additional talking point.
‘Where’s that?’ she says. I smile. ‘Mid Wales… near Llangorse Lake.’ It’s this
phrase ‘But I’m originally from…’ that gets people talking. Name, age, place of
residence retain the coldness of fact; it’s the contentious nature of words
like ‘originally’ and ‘from’ that break the ice, opening up autobiographical
worm cans and plugging straight into the narrative of ‘The Beach’.
Prestatyn is a dead seaside town. It is dominated by self-interested ‘curtain twitchers’, or, as
the stickers on the back of their cagoules would have it ‘P.R.A.T.S. Prestatyn
Residents Against Twenty-Somethings.’ These people have forced out ‘the missing
generation’. There is nothing keeping young people in the town. All the
creative talent is drained away and the town becomes more and more stagnant.
This information is relayed to us by our hosts for the evening, a double act called Charlie (Mathew
Lloyd) and TJ (Michael Humphreys). Charlie is from Prestatyn, but was forced
out by the curtain twitchers. He went to dance school in Moscow where he had an
accident that has provided him with £100,000 compensation. He wants to spend
the money on something that will bring ‘the missing generation’ – people like
himself – back to Prestatyn. TJ is his amiable sidekick, hails from Merthyr
Tydfil, and offers light relief from the often frantic anger that motivates
These central characters, and the narrative they provide, are absolutely vital to the
production of a piece that is essentially a series of team games on a beach. In
our – randomly selected - teams of six we enjoy a series of challenges that
engage us in an interactive experience whose outcomes genuinely depend on the
audience, but it is the conviction of the two lead actors that make this a
truly immersive piece of theatre.
As we milk Daisy the cow and fill milkshake glasses to the brim without spilling any on the coconut
mats, play Pictionary-cum-charades through the medium of kazoos, fill an
fishtank using buckets with holes in and transport families of cardboard
cut-outs via miniature cable cars, Charlie and TJ are there to support us,
playing on the ‘us and them’ situation created by the ever-present menace of
the curtain twitchers, looking to steal our ‘elements’.
The ‘elements’ are our rewards for competing in the various games (two for a win, one – if you’re
lucky – if you lose). At the end of the event, these elements are transported
back via the trolleys we have had to wheel around the seafront to the
billboards that have been erected on the beach, each depicting an
under-utilised facility in the town. Our mission is to produce a credible
concept for bringing the missing generation back to Prestatyn, using the
elements we have collected to illustrate our idea. My group ended up creating a
MarioKart theme park, where visitors had to reach a castle by various means of
transport, thereby perfectly vindicating director Catherine Paskell’s desire to
target this piece at ‘the PlayStation generation’.
But the end of the night is not ‘Game Over’. ‘The Beach’ finishes on a note of real possibilities.
This is the dual project here. Despite the overt simplicity of the game’s
narrative, the ‘missing generation’ are lost to theatre as well as to
Prestatyn. The target audience are exactly the kind of people in the majority
on the night I attended, declared on their introductory stickers as twenty (and
thirty) somethings who live in cities but hail from small towns all over the
country, who don’t mind looking a bit silly in straw hats with colour coded
ties and who don’t mind a night at the theatre which involves getting wet and
going home with sand in your socks.
It is testament to the success of the production that by the time we leave the windy seafront behind,
having written a message in the sand to our own hometown (Mine? ‘Keep On
Farming’) we are not only using the language of the piece, but our heads are
buzzing with ideas about how our own hometowns could win back people like
ourselves. Pretty thought provoking, for a game.
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