I started my first blog by saying National Theatre Wales’ had taken over the building…. Now that they’ve left I feel a longing for them to return.

The residency which lasted a month was, for me, one of the busiest, jam-packed four weeks I’ve witnessed at the theatre. Granted, I’ve only been here for just over a year.

Tonypandemonium was the centre piece of the residency; a play written by the award-winning writer Rachel Trezise, a Treorchy girl! It received brilliant reviews not just from the ‘official critics’, but from the local residents who came in their hundreds to watch the play. (Something we here at the Park and Dare Theatre didn’t think would happen, as plays are a hard sell). The most important reviews for me were what the Rhondda people had to say, not those review writers clutching at their thesaurus(es).

After Tonypandemonium, local artists were invited to play small intimate sessions in our lounge bar which were well received; offering our local talent a platform.

My highlight from Tonypandemonium? Welcoming latecomers to the theatre from Bristol, they arrived with only 30 minutes left of the performance and were there to see their friend who had a part in the play. They lied to the poor chap in question and said that his performance was “fantastic, marvellous, compelling” (we’re all familiar with how the “well done” remarks go after a show) even though they’d missed two thirds of the play!!! I told them their secret was safe with me – but I couldn’t help myself…

Dirty, Gifted and Welsh by Dirty Protest also went without any real mishap. A platform for Welsh writers to showcase some of their ‘new, raw’ material. Another funny moment happened on this day – we were told 2 of the readings had some bad language in them. Little did we know that it should have come with a ‘strong language’, ‘age restricted’ label considering some of the language used would still get me a clip around the ear from my Mam and I’m 22 and 6ft 2”.

We then had a week full of smaller events; Gwyn Thomas - A Centennial Celebration of his work; Mother Courage on Trial - a script in hand reading directed by NTW’s Artistic Director John McGrath; Rhondda’s Assembly - creatively driven by Gavin Porter.

I was very fortunate to be asked to present the live streaming of Rhondda’s Assembly by Katherine Jewkes – who, I’m going to say it (what the hell it’s my blog), is a truly amazing lady!!! I got on with her really well, I mean we’re Instagram, Twitter and soon to be Facebook friends – she’s like family now ‘mun!!! Jokes aside she’s a strong member of NTW’s team and a friend. I wasn’t alone in presenting and was joined by the very handsome Simon Coates – who thankfully brought some sense to the evening’s proceedings along with Jen covering the chat and tweets.

My highlight from Rhondda’s Assembly, possibly of the entire residency? Teaching David, Simon, Sarah and those watching at home the Rhondda two step – if you don’t know what I mean by this, look back at the live stream or I’m available for private tuition. (I won’t tell you about our ‘slut drop’ conversation - if it’s good enough for Alan Carr well its good enough for this Rhonnda boy...)

As with any friendship it grows over time, but it feels like my friendship with NTW has been cut short; leaving too soon, moving on to their next project. I wish National Theatre Wales all the very best in their next production - “Silly Kings” - and for the company’s future. The company is a strong, flexible, evolving beast and it should be given credit for having the guts and determination to take up residency in an arts venue in the valleys – venue being the most important word there - for a company used to forests and beaches I’m sure it was a welcomed decision by the majority of the staff.

I ended the live stream by saying something like this:

“We started this evenings live stream by saying that 100 years ago the miners of this proud community sacrificed a ‘penny in the pound’ of their wages to build the Park and Dare Theatre – enriching the lives of their community. Here we are again with the community of Treorchy coming together”

One thing that has been re-enforced in my mind throughout NTW’s residency is the sense of community that we have in the Rhondda. Still strong to this today. Granted, everyone knows everyone’s business and I can’t do a slut drop in my local without being reminded of it the next time I go in there. But I’m happy living in an area where people do know me – where my neighbours are friends and I shovel the snow off their front in the winter. I’m proud being a part of a community that still has a strong identity. We’re a friendly, outgoing, positive bunch of people and I hope it stays that way.

My name’s Tom, Tom Jones, and hey that’s not unusual. Thanks for reading; I hope I haven’t bored you! Marvellous, Fabalas, thanks for coming.

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Comment by Katherine Jewkes on October 31, 2013 at 18:25
Aww Thomas! There are no words xx
Comment by National Theatre Wales on October 31, 2013 at 16:11

Thanks for this fantastic blog Tom.  It was a true pleasure for us to spend time with you and the P&D gang.  Despite having 'left the building' I hope we will find many ways to work together in the future.  I think there's a genuinely strong bond now between NTW and Treorchy/Park and Dare/RCT.

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