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Sand in Wales, Sea in Wexford

June 16, 2010

 

Am already in sunny Wexford before finally managing to catch up with Carys Shannon and Catherine Paskell from National Theatre Wales  as Catherine lost her dongle reception between the hills of North Wales and the Marches on her way back from rehearsing The Beach – an excuse thats hard to beat!
NTW is in its first year – whats been the reaction so far?
 
This is our first production year and so far, we have produced 3 of our 12 productions which will be staged, one a month, over 12 months, in 12 different places across Wales. We are still a young company and through our first year, it has been interesting to explore and negotiate people’s expectations of what a “National” theatre is. The reaction to our shows from audiences has been fantastic; our first, A Good Night Out in the Valleys, which toured miners institutes in the South Wales Valleys, sold out bringing in a large proportion of new audiences. The Devil Inside Him, staged at the New Theatre in Cardiff, was filled with young people, for most of whom, it was their first theatre going experience. We have also received great notices in both the Welsh press (English language and Welsh language) and national press. One of our core values at National Theatre Wales is engagement. We maintain openness in the dialogue we share with audiences and artists when we were creating the company in 2009 and through the production of our first year productions. Our online social network (nationaltheatrewales.org/community), which in its first year grew to over 2,000 members, enables us to engage in open conversations on anything from asking them what productions they would like to see, to what our writers policy should be. Early drafts of such policies were put up on the community and we received valuable feedback that contributed directly to the development of the finished policy. We try to see as much work as we can, to get to know emerging Welsh and Wales-based artists and theatremakers. To expect that people will simply go along with us blindly because we are a “National” company seems naive and arrogant. We hope that by being open and bringing people along with us on our developing journey, the artists and people of Wales will come with us – and stay with us.
NTW performs in pubs and clubs and other non theatre spaces. Catherine you are directing The Beach – is it on the beach?  How do you cope with the sand?
 
One of the first productions I ever directed had a set that was constructed out of 3 tonnes of sand – and that was inside a theatre – so sand is something that I keep coming back to in my work! The Beach is a production like no other in our first year. It is a game that will be happening outside on the beach in Prestatyn, North Wales. The audience are the players, the characters in the story and can influence the outcome of the production. There has to be a winner – and it could be you. We are exploring what theatre can be whilst creating a show for the playstation generation with three emerging young Welsh artists: Rhiannon Cousins, Bethan Marlow and Carl Morris. We are working closely with the local community and holidaymakers of Prestatyn to develop the production, bringing groups of people onto the beach to play early versions of the game and give their feedback. Producing our game outside is exciting because it gives us so many new resources to work with. The beach, sand and all, is literally our ‘set’ and having lots of adults playing outside, something lots of us haven’t done since we were children, allows us to see our world as a playground, to see it with new eyes and to reimagine our place in it.

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