Two weeks ago I met up with Welsh theatre company, Motherlode to watch their final rehearsals for ‘The Good Earth’ at The Park and Dare Theatre before they set off on their travels to New York City. I have been asked to be part of their ‘on the ground’ promotional team for their return to Wales where Motherlode will be performing at theatre venues throughout the country. Having heard and read so much about them, I was glad to be given this opportunity.
I had never been to Treorchy before, where Motherlode have been based at the Park & Dare Theatre for their rehearsals for The Good Earth. As I set off on the A470 from Cardiff heading toward into the Rhondda Valleys I became immediately fascinated with my journey. The roads seems to become narrower, the mountains became bigger. I drove along the winding roads, saw deserted collieries which were at the forefront of the community in the Valleys, but since the decline of the coal industries and closure of the pits, it feels empty. Really empty. I felt empty but I wanted to know more. The roads became even narrower as I drove higher into the valleys. I drove past an old pub with a couple of village houses. A long street with small terraced houses and an off license at the end. You cannot help falling in love with this un-spoilt scenery around you but I felt something was lost in the landscape... A community spirit.
As I arrived at Treorchy, I was glad to find this community spirit.
I could not believe how beautiful the Park and Dare Theatre was. I was expecting a small community centre but nothing as majestic as this Edwardian-type building. I met Gavin at box-office, who is their theatre manager and he obliged to give me a guided tour as I kept asking him all these questions. I found out from Gavin that the theatre’s construction was funded entirely by mine workers as they wanted to bring something to their community. The miners funded the building by donating a penny from each pound of their wages. It became a place where the miners and their families could meet and socialise and featured a bar and a library. Fascinating stuff. As I had a few minutes to spare before the rehearsals, Gavin suggested I should go to the Station Cafe which was opposite the theatre to grab a coffee. This humble cafe is a throwback from what I remember in the early 80’s… it featured the original 70’s style, the plain wooden interior with the brown leatherette bench seats and huddled, surrounded by fake old paintings and a wall menu which added some atmosphere. It was absolutely fabulous. I was served a frothy coffee by a lovely lady by the name of Marge who insisted that I should have her Welsh cake. All for only £1.60! Lush!
I headed back to Park and Dare with my lovely frothy coffee to meet up with the Motherlode team. I enjoyed watching the rehearsal immensely and without giving out too much of the play, I can see a lot of personal connections with myself and their story. It is about a community. It’s about being driven away from it. I can see this with my own community. I really had no idea what the story was going to be; the drive, the mountains, the frothy coffee… it all started to make sense to me.
Combined with good writing, physical theatre and beautiful songs it is a powerful play and a story that needs to be told. I cannot wait to see it again when Motherlode comes back to Wales.
I will be watching ‘The Good Earth’ again and I cannot wait, hopefully with my frothy coffee...
BSL interpreted on the 21st September at The Chapter. 8pm. The show will be interpreted by Julie Doyle.
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