What responsibility our national theatre has to theatres across Wales

In response to the debate that started on the Bradley Manning group we wanted to ask you "what responsibility our national theatre has to theatres across Wales". 

Should we be producing more work on the stages of our theatres across Wales?

It's quite a big question so what do you think?

Matt


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Comment by Tim Price on December 28, 2011 at 1:42
I think this is a debate ntw will have and should have for it's whole lifespan. It's one of the absolute joys of this company that it is open to suggestion. My two pence would be that although Matt is absolutely right Ntw have taken plays into traditional theatre spaces, I think the perception is the company is more interested in the non traditional site specific productions. I think this perception has come about because the plays in traditional spaces have failed to capture imagination the way The Passion did or The Persians did. So I think I wouldn't criticise NTW for not going to enough traditional theatres I 'd just say they need to make the work in traditional theatres as urgent as their site specific stuff. How do they do that? We obviously have theatre practitioners who can turn the most unlikely place into a killer theatre venue. Do we have the practitioners who can tell a story without the sweetner of breathtaking site, or the sleight of hand of a one off venue? Personally I think it's harder.
Comment by Kenneth Griffin on December 22, 2011 at 20:44

Replying to John's second follow-up question, one aspect of NTW's project selection being done purely on the relative merits of individual artists' and companies' bids is that it results in a lack of balance in the support that NTW gives within the Welsh theatre scene. As I see it, A Good Night Out in the Valleys boosted the South Wales valleys venues and The Village Social was produced in collaboration with the national Night Out scheme for presenting professional performances in community venues. Similarly, A Provincial Life will be a major part of Sherman Cymru's reopening season. But the networks of Welsh theatres and arts centres may never receive an NTW show unless a creative project is chosen which happens to be suitable for development for such a tour.

I agree with Sybil (on the Bradley Manning thread) that a balance is desirable between located work and work for theatres and arts centres. My favourite NTW shows, Marc Rees's For Mountain, Sand & Sea and Pearson/Brookes's The Persians, were created in response to NTW's decision to produce located work in Year 1. (I missed The Passion because I feared I'd be intruding, like a vulture, on a local event). Their past work proves they could also produce work to tour theatres and arts centres if that were invited.

My reasons for supporting Sybil's proposed balance are that I feel the quality of NTW work supports the coproducing, collaborating and copresenting companies and venues. It improves the range of what's accessible for audiences to see and should be part of developing the local audiences. It seems unfair of NTW to work with some and to shun other organisations and audiences. Also, Sybil indicates that the technical and audience comfort costs would be lower in existing venues.

As for challenges, I wonder if technical standards might be compromised in less well-equipped theatres and arts centres. There'd also be a significant reduction of the current NTW programming flexibility if, for example, there were an annual programme of one Night Out tour, one "Theatr Mwldan and RFO venues" tour, one "Traverse & beyond" tour, etc. And maybe it's hard to attract an audience to some theatres and arts centres because the local populations may be disinterested in their general programming.

Comment by Iain Goosey on December 22, 2011 at 20:13

Sybil - Let's not give up on drama. I would like to see more high quality drama equally distributed on our stages, although this should not just be expected of NTW or a right reserved for them.

There's a lot of high quality drama continuing to develop across Wales (not just the work of NTW) and venues should take the opportunity to explore and support those options also. That way the sustainable development of new companies providing a range of work will continue to grow, ensuring a diverse future for venues in Wales.  

Waking Exploits are passionate about promoting high quality drama for welsh audiences and will be touring in 2012 to venues in all regions of Wales.

We look forward to having the opportunity to bring future work to Swansea and Taliesin.

Comment by carmen medway-stephens on December 22, 2011 at 19:23

HI Matt, where ever theatre is needed - this may need to be identified. I suppose where its also wanted and there is a call for it - the far reaches of Wales e.g. a remote pub...a village hall...a church in Tenby, Talley Abbey...a race course...half way up a mountain...a hospital...a harbour....a castle etc...but you're doing that type of thing so press on :)

But is that site specific...???

Little used theatres would be good...I remember seeing an excellent Theatr Clwyd event in a recreation centre, they created a theatre within the sports hall. All the schools attended - kids who wouldn't normally travel to Cardiff or see theatre.

Next year an alternative Panto would be good with all the NTW staff ...ha

Comment by National Theatre Wales on December 22, 2011 at 18:34

I think you are right Kenneth to point out that there are gains and losses when we make productions site specific.  To be fair, on the final day of The Passion in Port Talbot, there were 12,000 people in the audience, which is a lot more than is reached on many tours, but I agree that we can't afford to settle into one pattern of working - we must see the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and respond imaginatively.  We started our Year 2 programme with a tour of village halls - 16 different venues - which reached a whole different set of locations and audiences.  However, the more traditional art centre/theatre tour hasn't been a big part our our programme yet.  I guess a follow up question to your comments would be - Is it important that we take work on tour to a wide range of places - but take an inventive view of what those places might be; or is the key thing that we take work to the arts centres and theatres across Wales.  If it's the latter it would be good to think about what the reasons are and what the challenges are. 

Comment by Kenneth Griffin on December 22, 2011 at 13:04

Belfast's Green Shoot Productions successfully staged Martin Lynch's Chronicles of Long Kesh in a theatre(!) and have subsequently toured it widely. In February this year, Theatr Mwldan produced the Welsh leg of its tour to theatres in Barry, Aberystwyth, Pwllheli, Caernarfon, Cardigan and Brecon: http://www.theatre-wales.co.uk/news/newsdetail.asp?newsID=3881

NTW would doubtless have presented an exquisite located production on the site of the former prison for a run of about ten days. It would have been reviewed by ecstatic London newspaper critics who would have cited it as among their top theatre experiences of the year. It would have been imprinted on the memories of those who saw it. It would not have been accessible to the vast majority of potential audiences for reasons of geography and exclusivity.

Meanwhile, the stages of these six theatres across Wales would have remained bereft of NTW productions (until Mundo Paralelo reaches Cardigan and Brecon this coming February).

"To find the right way to tell (the story)" involves a consideration of who you want to hear it.

Comment by Matt Ball on December 22, 2011 at 9:48
And where's that?
Comment by carmen medway-stephens on December 21, 2011 at 19:41

Take theatre to where its needed

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