Wednesday, March 03, 2010

National Theatre Wales gears up for first year

As National Theatre Wales prepares for the opening of its inaugural programme (with A Good Night Out in the Valleys, written by Alan Harris), in The Telegraph Dominic Cavendish speaks to its artistic director, John McGrath.
A former Eng Lit student at Oxford, where he first started to direct before honing his craft in Poland, then New York, and latterly Manchester, which saw him build an experimental buzz around the Contact Theatre, McGrath, 47, reflects: “If you’re going to have national theatres, theatres that enable countries to think about themselves, then Wales needs one. You could just put more money into touring, but that wouldn’t have the same effect. The word national focuses everyone’s minds.”
Meanwhile, in The Guardian, Stephen Moss talks to a range of people involved with National Theatre Wales's first year of productions, including Alan Harris.
A Good Night Out is based on stories local people provided in workshops that McGrath, writer Alan Harris and young volunteer Hannah Bevan held across the Valleys last autumn. Harris then reimagined them, drawing on anecdotes and characters. The work attempts a portrait of a living community – the six actors will play 25 parts – and wants, above all, to avoid being an exercise in nostalgia, a paean to the industrial landscape flattened in the last 30 years.

"At those workshops I got a load of stories and a load of characters," says Harris. "We expected stereotypical stories, and we did get some people talking about Aberfan or the miners' strike or the decline in industry. But a lot of times we got more personal stories. And they were stories of hope, rather than 'Woe is us'. People told us they wanted to see their lives on stage, but a woman in Aberdare said, 'We don't want you to take the piss out of us.' By that she meant life isn't all mines and unemployment. There's a lot more to it. She was saying, 'Our lives are a lot more complex than the view that it's a post-industrial wasteland where everyone works in Asda.'"

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