What's Next? After Dirty, Gifted and Welsh

Tim Price talks to Nick Payne in the Q&A for Dirty, Gifted and Welsh

Yesterday, Saturday 19 October, the Park and Dare in Treorchy buzzed with the voices of writers.

These voices resonated through discussions, play readings, pop up performances, help surgeries, debates and connections over coffee: Wales' talented and passionate writers were the focal point for Dirty Gifted and Welsh, a celebration of this vibrant and vocal community. I was inspired by the work on show and the generosity everyone showed in abundance to each other.

I started the day with a synthetic-cream donut from Greggs. (This was always my mum's treat to me on a Saturday when we used to meet my Bamps in the Kwik Save cafe). 

And from there, the day just got better, starting with raw talent from Write Stuff, the Bridgend and Valleys Kids young writers group. Dirty Protest Greatest Hits showcased the diverse range of eloquent and funny voices represented at our shorts nights over the last 5 years. Dirty Protest Plays in a Bag took over the building with our latest work: monologues performed at the Royal Court and Almeida theatres this past summer. 

Nick Payne's Q&A and the wonderful panel discussion about women writers were provocative and insightful. The Rhondda Leader Rapid Response brought to life 7 real-life happenings from the Rhondda that week. New National Theatre Wales commissions were explored by the gorgeous 13-strong group of actors, GEARED by Matthew Trevannion and BEFORE I LEAVE by Patrick Jones (watched over by the group of Elders, who had driven from Merthyr especially to see Patrick's piece).

The day closed as it began, with final performances by the next generation of writers: new Write Stuff pieces by the young people of Valleys Kids, who had been coached and supported by Rachel Trezise, writer of TONYPANDEMONIUM - the play that most of us then went to see as soon as Lisa Maguire and I took to the stage to thank everyone for coming. And I got to channel my inner Whitney Houston. 

So, what's next? 

Throughout the day, there was lots of chat about doing this event again. 

The collaboration between Dirty Protest and National Theatre Wales, two very different companies in some senses but with some shared core values, really made this event work: we needed each other to make this day happen. 

But what should we do if we were to do this event again? What should we keep and what should we expand on? What is useful? What do writers desire from an event like this and how can we match that with an experience that also speaks to wider audiences?

What's next for Welsh writers?

If you were at Dirty, Gifted and Welsh, share your experiences and thoughts below. Let us know!

What's next?

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Comment by Guy O'Donnell on November 10, 2013 at 17:34

Young Critic Lola Bridgeman reviews Tonypandemonium

Tonypandemonium is beautifully gut wrenching and hard hitting on so many levels. The actors fit the characters roles perfectly and I’ve never seen it done more convincingly, its like they where them not merely acting. It hops back and forth from hilarious to tragic, as the story is told of a young girl living with her alcoholic mother, her struggles and regrets. The set is planned out in such a way that you are actually living in the play, not just a spectator. The music played in the background changes continually and reflects the change of time. Some thing is always happening, the stage is never empty. The mood and atmosphere change so quickly you’re constantly at the edge of your seat. Tonypandemonium is clever, realistic and will move you deeply, a great first play.

Comment by Guy O'Donnell on November 10, 2013 at 17:25

We supported Steve Jones and Leah Griffiths of Artworks/Valleys Kids to participate in Dirty Gifted and Welsh and then see and review Tonypandemonium, feedback below.

 

Steven Jones, Rhydyfelin, Artworks

 I really liked the idea of people playing the same character through time an age; it was a great concept. I thought the play itself was very relatable and believable because everyone knows someone who has been through this kind of experience, especially where we live! Sometimes, there was too much going on which meant you lost some of the action and what was going on in the story.  The humor was spot on and was written in a way that was still believable – it didn’t take anything away from the serious issue that was at the heart of the play. If she said she had loved her at the end of the play, it wouldn’t have felt right. The way it ended stayed true to the character, the ending stayed with me.

 

The Dirty, Gifted and Welsh day organized by National Theatre Wales and Dirty Protest was great because it gave us a chance to speak with professionals about the challenges/successes they face in their field. There was a lot going on during the day it would have been nice to have a chance to see all of the performances rather than having to choose between the shows and discussions that were running alongside one another. 

 For me personally I think its very important to encourage young people to think they can be a professional in the arts industries.

 

Leah Griffiths, Rhydyfelin, Artworks

 The show was imaginative, strongly influential and amazingly individual. People were able to connect with so much of the story.

 I loved the “Dirty, Gifted and Welsh” event because I’m a particular reader, always borrowing books from the library and I get so enthralled by them! I loved the idea of discovering actors hidden away in spaces, performing work by professional writers. It was frightening to read my own story on the stage but just seeing people get lost in the atmosphere, in my imagination and creativity was worth it! 

Comment by Guy O'Donnell on November 10, 2013 at 17:03

Young Critic and Writing Squad member Sam Pryce asked me to post his response.

Dirty, Gifted & Welsh – Park and Dare Theatre, Treorchy

by Sam Pryce

 Dirty, Gifted and Welsh. I’d like to think that I’m all three of those things now. And so should you if you attended the event for emerging writing talents set up in partnership by National Theatre Wales and Dirty Protest. Apologies for not talking about this sooner but, I suppose, if the event has lingered with me for this long then they must’ve done something right.

The various ominous corridors and storage rooms at the Park and Dare Theatre in Treorchy metamorphosed into theatrical spaces and the bar became a writing surgery. Poets, playwrights and actors flocked with sheets of paper clutched in hand and prepared for around six hours of diverse, edgy and inspiring new writing.

            Kicking the day off were the first batch of Young Writers who had their angst-ridden short stories read by two NTW actors in the foyer, which had been transformed into a grubby living room with Dirty Protest bunting splayed across the walls. In the same area later on began Dirty Protest’s Plays in a Bag which was performed at Royal Court earlier this year. This was innovatively staged in the promenade which - if you’re not theatrically eloquent, darling – means the audience are taken around the space as if they were on a tour and stop in back rooms to listen to the next monologue. And every monologue was just as darkly engaging as the next, I must say, and all exceptionally performed. Each one had the bemused audience laughing loudly, if inappropriately. In the bar, if edgy monologues aren’t your thing, was Dirty Protest’s Greatest Hits – a series of plays that define Dirty Protest’s best bits.

            A special appearance was made by Nick Payne! You know, Nick Payne? Constellations? That play with Rafe Spall? Yes, that one. Well, Nick gave a riveting Q&A session interviewed by Tim Price, playwright and stalwart of Dirty Protest, who probed him on his writing process and his advice to aspiring playwrights.

            Two full-length plays (or just about) were also an option for the audience – Geared by Matthew Trevannion and Before I Leave by Patrick Jones (which was a farcical version of his more tender play on aging, Dandelion). A heated debate was also thrown in about Women Writers and the discrimination they can face in the literary industry. Various issues were raised – misogyny of publishing companies, the abundance of “middle class white men” in literature and the connotations of the word “feisty”.

            Alongside all of the aforementioned was so much more (including my own monologue!) and for a young writer like myself, it was like a dream. I kept pinching myself on the way home to see if it really happened. Throughout the day, I was heard excitedly whispering, “Ooh! That’s [insert name of Welsh playwright/actor/director]!” Of course, I was too shy to go up and say, “I think you’re wonderful. Please brand your name into my skin,” but just to be in their presence was enough.

            So, to conclude on the subject of Dirty, Gifted and Welsh... It was certainly quite dirty. Everyone who participated was gifted. And the majority were Welsh too. It fulfilled its purpose. It enlightened, inspired, stimulated, tickled, and disturbed occasionally... It’s a day that’ll be ingrained in my consciousness for a long, long time.

            

Comment by Bethan Marlow on October 28, 2013 at 11:37

I had a really lovely day seeing a massive mix of work- my head was so full of a variety of writers' words at the end of the day!

As a member of the audience I loved that there were things happening everywhere but I could choose not to go to some things and just have a bit of a break (and chips!). There were times that there was so much going on though that I couldn't see them through (especially having to rush from Matt's reading to go watch the panel and so couldn't give him and Kate feedback on his play and then the panel was just getting somewhere and then had to end).

What's next? Another DGW for sure. It definitely worked. 

 

Comment by Guy O'Donnell on October 22, 2013 at 10:55

The Young People we supported to attend took a great deal from the day and the evening performance, we are looking at ways to support their development as young writers. Finn Kennedy's Schoolwrights project looks like a wonderful model and could provide an exemplar in light of the Arts In Education review.

http://finkennedy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/schoolwrights-new-playwrig...

Comment by Kenneth Griffin on October 21, 2013 at 0:45

It's pleasing to read here of the success of this event. The mix of sessions sounds almost identical to the Made in Wales new writing festivals which ran annually throughout the 1980s and 1990s, usually in Cardiff but also sometimes elsewhere in Wales. One main difference was that the Made in Wales festivals ran for a period of up to ten days, which limited regular attendance mainly to local people. A second difference was that the Made in Wales schedule was clearly advertised well in advance, which drew a wider audience to the specific sessions which interested them. I think non-writers would be reluctant to travel any distance to all or part of a daylong event without knowing its detailed schedule, and Saturday's programme was only listed online in a 10 Oct blog cryptically headed "It's getting dirty down at the Park and Dare...", with no link to it from the NTW What's On webpage. I think this inaccessible detail would deter general attendance - maybe deliberately? I hope that some local audience was inspired by the buzz of the residency to attend this event because it would be disappointing if writers were speaking only to writers.

Comment by Tim Price on October 20, 2013 at 19:41

Hi all thanks for a great day celebrating Welsh new writing. One of the very exciting things I felt about the event was the fact that writers like Patrick and Matt were having readings at the same event as the Young Writers' groups. That collegiate approach to new writing presentations felt very Welsh, and very Dirty Protest, almost an extension of our 'cherry popper' slot! Having something read or performed at an event legitimises young and emerging writers - being programmed is the ultimate answer to questions of access. So for me, if there were any further plans, that balance between writers at different stages of their career would be crucial to re-create.  

Although it was lovely to go to somewhere like the Park and Dare, and the idea of a peripatetic festival is exciting, I think that model would be at the expensive of potential growth. I think another DG&W in another community venue, would look very much the same as what we achieved this year, we couldn't deliver much more on the same budget. I think something in Cardiff, has the potential to grow, and to strike an identity and brand for itself. So I guess it's question of whether we're happy to repeat that model, and keep travelling it. Or plant it in Cardiff and see if it grows. 

If we were talking about Cardiff: I'd be tempted to try to get RWCMD to partner us, where we can find lots of spaces to hold various things at the same time. And more importantly draw on substantial resources at Welsh college (space and students!) - to grow the festival into a bigger messier unmissable event. 

Comment by National Theatre Wales on October 20, 2013 at 12:58

Oh, one other thought.  As many of you know we've done a lot of work around live-casting this year - working on interactive formats rather than simply broadcasting the show.  Would this be a useful thing to think about for DGW?  If anyone wants to help think about what this might look like, we'll be trying out some interactive live-cast formats at the Rhonnda Assembly on Saturday (26 Nov) - you can access the livestream here on the community, or by signing up to the NTW channel on Livestream 

Comment by National Theatre Wales on October 20, 2013 at 12:50

Thanks for getting this blog up so quickly Catherine.  And thanks to Dirty Protest and everyone who attended for a grand day.  One of my big highlights was the way in which very experienced writers and very young writers were interacting and really listening to each other.  I also loved the very different scales and forms of work being tried out - from some brilliant monologues to Patrick's multi-character extravaganza!  It was fantastic to see the event busy all day - despite involving a fair old journey on a Saturday morning for many people - and to see NTW's ethos of 'residency' in a place like Treorchy and Dirty Protest's 'takeover' energy combining to such good effect.  But perhaps a question for the future is whether the event should always be tied in with something like our production of Tonypandemonium and take place in the kind of location not usually populated by 'new writing days', or whether people would like to see it in Cardiff or another 'urban centre'.  And yes, it would be good to hear what the mix of new writing performance, debate, workshop and surgeries should be.  Another highlight for me was the chance to chat one-to-one with a handful of writers in the surgeries.  I could happily have done more of this as the conversations were all very productive for me.  Okay guys what do you all think?

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