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Sunday, 29 September 2013

'Writing in Wales' - my thoughts


When I left Wales in 2007, with thirteen years of Welsh TV production experience under my belt, and having set up my own successful youth theatre group when I was thirteen, I was faced, for the first time in my life with this detrimental condemnation of Wales as being a ‘parochial, amateur, kitsch and quaint’ nation, who were a bit dim, and not of the Oxbridge caliber. The fact that I had dared to venture down from the mountains of North Wales, made my quest even more questionable, and having written to well over 200 companies – received only a handful of human replies – including the highly respected Josie Rourke, who was then at the Bush. Once I entered via the ‘intern / experience’ door, the ‘industry’ were shocked that a) I knew so much, b) I had common sense and c) I could do actually do the ‘job’ to the extent of my employers being scared that I was after their own jobs! 

The same naïve knowledge of Wales, was alive and well at Youth Music Theatre, when I joined them in 2008. ‘We can’t seem to get the Welsh kids in’, they cried, and it was clear to me, from day one, that the approach was totally wrong.

Eisteddfod yr Urdd
In Wales, from the age of five, or even earlier in some cases, we are almost forced to sing, dance or act in schools in preparation for the annual youth, International and National Eisteddfodau. These are the cultural highlights of the year, held either in North, Mid or South Wales respectively, in order for different areas to benefit both culturally and financially. Newly commissioned musical theatre is created for the festivals, with companies of up to four hundred young people, from local schools, performing at a local venue or on the main festival stage. Taught and rehearsed by aunties and uncles, teachers and preachers, past winners and competitors, all born into ‘our musical nation’, to quote Dylan Thomas!  Past winners include Daniel Evans, Rhys Ifans, Cerys Matthews, Ioan Gruffudd, Matthew Rhys, Duffy, Siân Phillips and Bryn Terfel, to name but a few! So, this FREE tradition is there, in the blood, the passion, the determination and also the talent.  The last thing these proud Welsh people wanted was an ignorant Englishman calling them, asking for over a £1,000 for a two week course on how to sing and dance! Most of them wanted to run away from it!

Double Olivier Award Winner Daniel Evans
Guidance and experience was the training they needed, to cross the so called ‘golden bridge’ from Wales, to the West End, and beyond. To recognize and build on their talents, rather than showing them how to do it. Using their natural skills in a different way, to enable a different sound and thought.

The same applies, in a way, to the writing. Every year, in the Eisteddfodau, we have high profile literature competitions, for prose and poetry, drama, music and even for Welsh learners. Having won the short drama writing award (30/40mins), three years in succession between 1995 and 1997, (the only person ever to do this in succession!), it always angered me when people criticized Wales for not having ‘new writers!’ In September 1999, I wrote a very passionate answer in the Welsh publication ‘Barn’, in support of Welsh playwrights stating that we were alive and well, the numbers competing at the eisteddfodau proving it – 24 short plays in 1999, 10 in 1998, 11 in 1997, 17 in 1996 and 8 in 1995. But who was responsible for nurturing these ‘new writers’ and what happened to the ‘new works’, after the eisteddfod week? As a past winner, I knew that you instantly became the ‘flavour of the month’ and everybody wanted you to write, even if you didn’t have anything to write about!

Daily Post 1996
You were expected to churn out hit after hit. I was even asked by one well known director, who will remain nameless (for now!), if I’d be willing to ‘forget everything you know about writing and start again?!’ What utter nonsense! To be FORCED to write large scale, semi-educational, ensemble led collaborations, just in order for him to be called the auteur of the piece!

Another fringe company, who’d obtained a grant for me to spend a few months, writing a new piece for them, also treated me appallingly. I was being ‘mentored’ by a soured actor come pop star who declared that my first idea was ‘a child’s fascination with death’ and asked me to write a play about a current issue. Having submitted the second idea, weeks later, I was told it was ‘too issue based’! I lost complete trust and respect for them, and later completed my first idea, which won me my third, and final award at the eisteddfod that year!

One successful play, does not make a playwright! 

That’s a big painful, lesson that we writers need to learn. The same goes for a director. You can study from books till the cows come home, but the best education is seeing theatre, morning, noon and night. From a single chair in a Porto cabin to a £20 million pound revolving stage! From Shakespeare to Sondheim, Pinter to Neilson, Kane to Rattigan, we learn from everything we see. What works, what doesn’t work, what moves and bores us, what dazzles and disheartens. The same is true for a writer – all you need is a pen, characters, an interesting location and a question that needs an answer! The stronger the story, character and dialogue, the more appealing the play.

To date, I’ve probably seen over 500 productions, and I’m STILL learning! That’s what drives me. The ideas, the vision, the simplicity and complexity of theatre. How to structure a story, how to live the life of the character, how to feel and how to say what you want, and need to say? What drives your passion, anger, frustration or happiness?

Due to the lack of financial funds, (and maybe more worryingly) the lack of artistic vision and support to promote and encourage and build on individual strengths, many a Welsh playwright in the late 1990’s, turned their stories into novels, which were later published, and in some cases, adapted back for stage and screen!

After being in London for a few years, I then looked back on Wales, in a completely different way.  

I am extremely proud of my Nation and language, and want to see it survive. Wanting to return, one day, with the knowledge and experience to educate and introduce a different way of creating theatre. Yes, I was amazed at some of the decisions that were made, the people appointed to the wrong jobs, the petrified fear of being connected or even seen talking or agreeing publicly with any outspoken individual (such as myself) who dared question them, and raise a storm. I could understand the fear – everyone needed to pay their mortgages and rent, everyone needed to work within Wales; people were related or had been coached by so-and-so, so it was a case of ‘shut up and put up’, fanning a small flame rather than fuelling a burning bonfire.

The bilingual nature of Wales has also caused much debate with the first language Welsh citizens and creatives being understandably over protective and in many ways, paranoid, about ‘our culture’ and ‘our theatre’ with a very strong theme of ‘this is how we’ve done it over the years, which has been fine and therefore, this is how we’ll continue’. It was very much a culture of ‘jobs for the boys’, and in some cases, seeds were planted in order for certain leading figures to grow and become established, keeping out the more radical and experienced voices. 

Then came the ‘it all takes time’ argument, ‘its only been four years, we are still in the early days’ which I now know the truth to be ‘we didn’t know what the f*&k we were trying to do!’.  ‘We have to be so careful, ‘ I was warned, ‘or we’ll lose everything we’ve worked hard for’, with the threat of a combined bilingual National Theatre. ‘If that happens, then we’ll all have to share the blame, even you as a critic’, I was threatened! The idea and essence of collaboration scaring the living daylights out of everyone, needing to protect their own wages and companies.

Pethe' Brau - Theatr Cymru - 1972 
Sadly, the reality was, and in some ways still is, the lack of experienced individuals who knew or know, what they were doing, and what needs/ed to be done. We are a waiting room Nation, looking out for our creative Glyndŵr, to come and save the day! Too scared and proud to ask for International assistance, in case the truth be known, and the castles on the clouds, falls.  Too ashamed or even proud to collaborate with English companies, fighting the oppression and detrimental beliefs of the ‘alright boyo?’ Taffy culture.  There is also a common belief amongst the older, more protective generation, that ‘we’ve done all this in the past, we don’t need to do it again’.

Y Gelli Geirios - Cwmni Theatr Gwynedd - 1991
Back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s the Welsh theatre scene was alive and well. Companies and creatives were popping up everywhere; actors came together to form companies from agitprop to alternative, from festivals to farces  which planted in me, not only the passion for live theatre, but also the electricity of our theatrical tradition. Although the closest relation we ever had to the current Theatr Genedlaethol, (founded 2003) called Theatr Cymru back in the 1960’s to 1980’s had retired by the time I was old enough to care, the newly opened theatr at Bangor, in North Wales, gave birth to Cwmni Theatr Gwynedd (circa 1986).

Wilbert Lloyd Roberts (1926-1996) meeting Ionesco 
Under the leadership of Wilbert Lloyd Roberts and later Graham Laker, this company staged Welsh and International Classics, from Molière to Saunders Lewis, and their stunning production values and unique theatrical vision, excited me greatly. I was so proud to accept the invitation to be the youngest member of their artistic board, after my graduation, up until the company and theatre were forced to close, due to the lack of funding circa 2008. In both South and Mid-Wales, other fringe companies were producing physical and educational theatre in farmyards, old industrial units and swimming pools, way before Punchdrunk or NTS! Many a fringe company was founded in a rebellious fight against the ‘classical hierarchy’ of Cwmni Theatr Gwynedd, which added greatly to the variety on offer. 
Graham Laker ( - 2001)
Even during my visit to Port Talbot to experience the once-in-a-lifetime Sheen spectacle ‘The Passion’ by NTW, I was confronted with this attitude of ‘why the fuss?, we were doing this kind of thing in Welsh, with Brith Gof, years ago’.  So why stop? The stubborn, protective Welshness, that needs to embrace the world, not fear it.

So where are we these days?

New ‘companies’ set up by actors (mainly) to ‘promote’ and ‘produce’ new writing. Whilst welcoming them, with one hand, I worry about the self appointed ‘leaders / directors’ of these groups. Dirty Protest seems to be churning out new ‘writers’ in Cardiff, on a monthly basis, which worries me slightly. We are now in a culture of – ‘I’m an out-of-work actor so I’ll start writing or directing, and then create work for my out-of-work friends!’. This has resulted in a mass of monologues and a sea of soliloquies, that some would argue is the easiest form of writing. I disagree. To create a truly brilliant monologue is more of a challenge than sticking two characters in an interesting location, and letting them talk!  It’s a tough one to find the right balance, and the danger of going down this route is that we’ll create a nation of ‘writers’ all aiming high, but having their hopes crushed not only from the competition, but also from the limited companies and resources.  I would urge these new companies to be creatively careful and to think up a strong support strategy, maybe a traffic light system, rather than the current ‘jobs for the boys’ attitude and approach.  If not, I do believe it could have a disastrous affect on Welsh culture and identity.

I'm with the Band - Traverse / WMC - 2013
I was furious when I saw Tim J Price’s latest offering at the Edinburgh Fringe this year – ‘I’m with the Band’. To think this was meant to be a co-production between Scotland and Wales, to clearly promote Scottish Independence, we as a Nation came out of it as "the cowed” according to the Independent’s (unbelievable) 5* review! To portray the Welsh as babies, being pushed in the flight box pram, unable to speak our minds or stand up for ourselves, angered me greatly, never mind the half naked rolling on the floor under the oppression of the English, towards the end, whilst Scotland enters, over the monitor mountains, to save the day. 

I'm with the Band - Traverse / WMC - 2013
If this is the Wales that Price is ‘proud’ of and wants to pass on to his first-born son, as noted in the programme, then he should hang his head in shame. The distinct lack of Welsh roots and cultural identity were painfully obvious. The sad truth is that the music industry appears to be one of the few stages we, the Welsh, HAVE actually conquered between the Manics, Stereophonics, Tom and Shirley, Duffy, Catatonia, Siân James, Anrhefn, Ryland Teifi, to name but a few! So the musical band analogy made the whole plot even more of a sore and very bad, sad joke.

Land of Our Fathers - Theatre 503 - 2013
This lack of Welsh identity was painfully obvious in another recent London ‘hit’ – for some – ‘Land of Our Fathers’ at the 503. Despite the brilliance of writing in parts, and the pit of artistic license clawed through in the darkness, the Welsh identity was non-existent. Between the swearing, the singing of musical theatre songs and the sun chair, all below ground, in the face of death and pit disaster – the horror of which would be routed deep in their family history, made the whole scenario a complete joke. I, being a child of the 1970’s hadn’t even heard of musical theatre in Wales, never mind knowing the words to ‘The Sound of Music’ and dreams of escaping to London! It was like Butlins, after five days of facing death, with limited food, water and the stench. Not one mention of an Eisteddfod, Chapel, Male Voice Choir, Band of Hope, and the most detrimental treatment of Welsh women, I have ever heard!

These newly created companies / collaborations between actors that came about whilst waiting for the Theatr Genedlaethol, and later National Theatre of Wales, to try and find its feet. I was often told, quite matter-of-factly, that the Theatr Genedlaethol’s role was NOT to promote new writing, but its brief was to ‘stage three full scale, mainstream productions a year’! My heart sighed. No wonder these smaller companies staged readings with their friends, hyped along by the well wishes of their families, in desperation, not only for work, but for ‘new exciting edgy theatre’.

3D, again based in Cardiff, will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year. Whilst again welcoming these projects, having witnessed a recent presentation of new work – three pieces, developed over a few years at Sherman Cymru, I was saddened at the same faults being amplified in all them. The first scene being a voiceover or sequence of images, or a ‘leader’ / ‘minister’ addressing their people / audience, in order to set the context of the play, rather than allowing the context, plot, story to arise naturally from the dialogue and characters.

Llwyth - Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru - 2010
I’ve also been horrified at the ‘years of development’ that some of the Cardiff based recent projects have been subjected too. Passed from writer to director, from company to company, and with each passing and person, the initial idea of the writer has been killed, culled or potted into something that the director or company wanted to produce, rather than the initial idea the writer wanted to share! We are left with a ghost, an empty shell of something that could have been truly magical. When the shit hits the fan, the delight of delegation and the ‘nothing-to-do-with-me’ comes conveniently into play. On the rare occasion of success, such as with Dafydd James’ play ‘Llwyth’ a very personal journey of gay sexual exploration, which premiered in Wales, and then went on tour visiting Edinburgh and Taiwan, many will relish in its praise, which sadly affects the confidence and rawness of the production.

‘I’m out of work, so therefore I’ll write’ - complete and utter nonsense.  

Failed actors’ egos seeking a news stage, rather than being led by their pain body or baggage, anger or distress to tell the world how they feel. That voice needs to be controlled nurtured and comforted.

I started working on an idea for a film about twelve years ago! It was taken from festival to festival, from workshop to workshop, from company to company. Commissioners, Producers and fellow writers all had their say, and slowly but surely, my idea drifted away from me. I was carried by an empty balloon, blinded by the story and ‘international appeal’ without actually having somebody simply ask me, what was I trying to say? A simple question, one that many of us are still unsure about the answer – such is life! But when you are finally made to face that answer, the results can be truly fantastic. That’s what makes a writer, not the necessity to tick a box, find work for a friend or fulfill a funding application. That process needs the right people to ask the right questions, to listen, to assist, to suggest, to support and also to have the courage to say, ‘listen mate – you’re not ready to write this yet, because you’re not sure what you’re trying to say’ or simply ‘you have nothing to say, its just a story’.

For me, I had to try and commit suicide, determined to end my life, before being made to realize, that I was suffering from severe depression, lost in loneliness. That’s what makes me want to write, to share, to warn, to educate to help me come to terms with who I am.  Only now, almost thirteen years later, do I truly understand what MY film was about, and what I’m now ready to turn into a stage play. Being a writer, like life itself, is a journey, not a destination.

Aled Jones Williams
Another recent important and influential Welsh voice is ex Church of Wales Reverend Aled Jones Williams who’s been battling with alcoholism and troubled by the emptiness of his Faith, for years. His theatrical vision and writing has been truly exciting. Kane meets Beckett meets Pinter. A raw, honest, sadomasochistic and often troubled look at what it means to be a survivor in the twentieth century. 

When you read his plays, you truly see the vision, derived from years of experiencing theatre and films, from Edinburgh to Stratford East. A vision, sadly, far beyond the ability of any director to date, who (I fear) tends to opt for the easier, cheaper version rather than trying to match or even recreate what is written. Many a time I have shuddered with embarrassment, as an actor/director too scared (or ignorant of the power of nudity on stage), exits in a pair of Donald Duck boxer shorts, completely ruining the intended theatrical moment. Other examples are key props being conveniently found on stage, rather than dropped from a great height, as the vision requests, or the body of a female Jesus hiding in a tip of a world, rather than being dumped from the trunk of truck, as requested.

Iesu - Aled Jones Williams - Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru - 2008
Having accidently met him recently, during a matinee of the new McPherson play at the Donmar, he confided in me that he hadn’t been writing in the last few years, as he simply had ‘nothing to say’.  He also agreed with me that he was still waiting to work with a director who actually challenged his vision, and even delivered what he’d written on stage! A comment which I’d quoted in a recent article in Y Cymro, and was attacked by one fringe company member – who cheekily asked me if I had seen their previous productions! Yes, I answered, I had seen their attempts to convey his FULL vision on stage, but failed due to the lack of funds, or maybe even experience.

Dirty Protest - Almeida Theatre 2013
Filling the stage at the Royal Court or the Almeida Festival with half travelled half imagined creations about ‘cat & partner killing, blow up doll abusing, fishy smelling gits’ (as I apologetically tweeted after the Dirty Protest showcase in London, assuring everyone that this was not a reflection of the Welsh people!) - will get us nowhere. The heart shaped Welsh cakes handed out at the end of the Sunday matinee at the Almeida, sweet as it meant to be, saddened me. Imagine being handed a thistle shaped haggis at the end of an NTS London show?! So the whole PR package seems lost and without control. Twitter Facebooking images of dressing room names at the Court and group t-shirt shots on Sloane Square, drowns the pride of achievement under an embarrassing eiderdown of childish passion.

Care is needed; both in the writing, planning, control and staging. By all means head to Edinburgh, experiment, join the thousands that share the passion and dreams, but come back having seen, listened and learned what truly makes quality theatre. A theatre that we can, and should be, proud of.  Stage the best, not the rest.

Salt, Root and Roe - Donmar - 2011
Yes, there are many names in the Welsh writing ether at the moment – but we need to be careful. I’m slightly worried about Tim Price who seems to be turning any recent news story into plays – from Bradley Manning to Scottish Independence, to his upcoming monologue at the NT about the ‘Occupy London’ movement. They are all a far cry from the quiet beauty of his inaugural, lyrical ‘Salt, Root and Roe’ which I adored during the Donmar season a few years ago. Rushing after any recent newsworthy plots may be a warning of a lost voice, not knowing what he truly wants to say, sacrificed by the PR machine of success, bullied by stronger co-producers, as was embarrassing clear to me, after ‘I’m with the Band’.

Blodeuwedd - Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru - 2013
As far as NTW and ThGen goes, I think its been a great influence and inspiration on current theatre goers. The only worry I have is the current tendency to keep away from the main playing houses, which are desperately dormant, especially in North and Mid Wales. The Theatr Genedlaethol have now, (finally, but alas, so late in the day) started to follow suit with site-specific productions. This style of performance is now influencing the writers too, so we are less likely to see more classic three-act structures coming to the stage. The dreaded television influence is also very apparent, in a sea of short scenes, rather than fuller, bolder, braver scenes, we can get our teeth into. The danger / worry again is that the little true talent there actually is, will be spread so far and wide, it will lose its flavour and power.  Sadly, this happened with the wonderful Hugh Hughes residency on Anglesey via NTW this year. Having fallen in love with his Welsh wit and warm character in Edinburgh over the years, his ‘show’ on Anglesey was a complete flop, owing to the essence and quirky props being scattered too thinly over the island thus weakening the final product.

In my fortieth year, twenty seven years since I wrote and staged my first short play, sixteen years since I won my last award, I am finally finding my voice, having experienced life at its most cruel. The plays (note, not monologues!) I read by young people aged between 16 and 26 for the drama writing competition at the eisteddfodau in 2000 and 2010, all entered anonymously, were far more inspirational and unique, than anything I’ve seen to date by Dirty Protest.

We need to be honest with ourselves, and think about what we are trying to do, rather than rush in all directions, with half-baked, tasteless Welsh produce.  We are not a cowed nation. We have the talent to dazzle and debate, to shock, question and to mock, without having to make complete fools of ourselves. I’m sorry to state the blooming obvious, but any failed or out of work actor, is not a potential, or even worse – a self proclaimed – writer or director. The same current argument about audience members being experienced critics. Yes, we can all have a go, have our say, a chance to express our thoughts, but unless we have respected and experienced, educated  leadership, to question, suggest or share with us a new possible way of looking at things, then we are destined to fail, to scare away and to lose support. Hobson’s support of Pinter, and Pinter’s support of Kane, leaps alarmingly to mind.

Sarah Kane (1971-1999)
Too much weak and badly created theatre can have a much worse affect than the lack of quality material. Audiences will get bored, money will be saved, and theatres empty. Collaboration, patience, and respect is the key, not a loose creative cannon shooting shit in all directions!

I was very disappointed to learn recently that Arts Council Wales refuses to fund and financially support Welsh writers without a base in Wales! What good comes from that? Surely it’s the voice and ideas of these brave, souls, who have managed to make a success of it, outside this protected, unhealthy web of Welsh who’s who, that should be given a chance to suggest, explain and promote Wales, with an unbiased, unconnected opinion?

Friday, 27 September 2013

'The Lightening Child' / 'Land Of Our Fathers' / 'Grounded'

Y Cymro 27/09/13

Wythnos llawn atgofion fu hi, wrth imi ail-ymweld â lleoliadau ac ail-gwrdd a chymeriadau o’r gorffennol.

I gragen gynnes, awyr agored y Globe ar lannau’r Tafwys yr es i bnawn Sul, a hynny i ddal cynhyrchiad beiddgar o chwedl Roegaidd fodern, yn hytrach na gwaith y bonheddwr Shakespeare.

Y Bacchae o waith Euripides yw sail y cynhyrchiad ‘The Lightening Child’ sy’n mynd â ni o gamau cyntaf Neil Armstrong ar y lleuad, at dlodion di gartref caeth am gyffuriau; o fflat foethus ynghanol ein Llundain heddiw i broblemau Billie Holiday ym mhumdegau’r ganrif ddiwethaf.  Cybolfa o straeon diangen sy’n ymestyn y ‘ddrama’ wreiddiol hyd at bron i dair awr hynod o syrffedus. Do, fe ddaliwyd nwyd a beiddgarwch y Bacchae, y merched gorffwyll a hudai ddynion meidrol i ddilyn duw’r gwin a’r bywyd da, Dionysos – duw’r theatr a phob daioni, ond dwi’n amau dim bod y cyfarwyddwr Che Walker wedi gorfeddwi ar fod yn rhy uchelgeisiol.

Anodd yw anghofio’r cynhyrchiad delfrydol o’r Bacchae a brofais gan Theatr Genedlaethol yr Alban, yn yr ŵyl yng Nghaeredin yn 2007 gyda neb llai na Alan Cumming fel y duw beiddgar. Er gwaetha’r syrffed, roedd hi’n braf cael bod nôl yn y Globe ar un o nosweithiau ola’r haf, o dan y sêr a’r hofrenyddion, a’r awyrennau. Diolch byth na chafodd y bnr Shakespeare ddim mor un drafferth!

Braf hefyd oedd gweld yr actor Jonathan Chambers, a welais gyntaf, eto, yn yr ŵyl yng Nghaeredin tua 2006. Hobi oedd y canu a’r actio bryd hynny, ond erbyn hyn, wedi cynilo ei geiniogau prin, wedi ymdrechu drwy goleg hyfforddi Arts Ed, mae’i freuddwyd wedi’i wireddu, ac fe lanwodd ei drydan dramatig a’i lais unigryw'r cylch cyfareddol. Da iawn yn wir.

Ail-ymweld â’r popty o theatrfechan y 503 yn Battersea wedyn ar gyfer cynhyrchiad y bu cryn dipyn o sôn amdani, dros yr haf. ‘Land of Our Fathers’ oedd y teitl a dynnodd fy sylw, a’r Henwlad ffyddlon oedd dan sylw yn nrama hir gyntaf y dramodydd Chris Urch. Allwn i’m gweld bod gan y dramodydd ifanc yma fawr o gysylltiad â Chymru, ac roedd hynny’n boenus o amlwg yn y cynhyrchiad sigledig yma.

Hanes chwech o lowyr wedi’i dal dan ddaear yn sgil damwain yn y pwll, yw craidd y syniad. Cenedlaethau o’r un gymdogaeth yn gaeth, ac yn wynebu eu tranc trasig yng nghrafangau creulon y ddaear – tranc a fyddai’n hen gyfarwydd iddynt, yn sgil yr hanes a fu dros y blynyddoedd. Ond dewis anwybyddu hynny wnaeth y dramodydd ifanc, gan droi’r drasiedi yn un anturiaeth fawr i’r chwech wrth rannu eu pecynnau bwyd a’u dŵr, drwy ganu a dawnsio, cecru a chweryla.  Rhes o regfeydd o boerai allan o geg yr hen ŵr, rhegfeydd na fyddai’n sicr wedi’u clywed yn y Capel, ac ambell i ‘byt’, a ddiflannodd yn llwyr, ar ôl dudalennau cynta’r ddialog. Wedyn y llanc ifanc merchetaidd ‘Mostyn’ yn cael ei bortreadu gan y Cymro Joshua Price, a welais ddiwethaf yn nrama Dafydd James ‘Llwyth’ fel y bachgen ifanc pymtheg oed a gafodd ei swyno gan y llwyth hŷn. Synnwn i ddim mai hunan bortread o’r dramodydd oedd y cymeriad dros-ben-llestri llywaeth yma, wedi gwirioni ar ‘musical theatre’ ac yn arbennig felly ‘The Sound of Music’ – a hynny yng Nghymru’r 1970au? Dim sôn am eisteddfod neu gôr meibion, ond Julie Andrews a Mary Poppins a’m gadawodd yn gegrwth yn nuwch tanddaearol set effeithiol Signe Beckmann.

Canmoliaeth am ei ddawn dialogi disglair, ond roedd ei anaeddfedrwydd di-gymraeg a’i ddiffyg adnabyddiaeth o’r cyfnod a’n diwylliant, yn boenus o amlwg.

A nodyn positif i orffen. Cyfle o’r diwedd i ddal y fonolog wych ‘Grounded’ a wnaeth gymaint o argraff ar gynulleidfaoedd y Traverse yng Nghaeredin eleni, ac sydd bellach wedi’i ddaearu yn y Gate, yn Notting Hill. Wedi’i chaethiwo yn ei chell lwyd, cawn dreulio chwrligwgan chwe deg munud yng nghwmni’r peilot awyrennau rhyfel (Lucy Ellinson), wrth iddi ail-fyw ei thaith gorfforol a meddyliol o ryddid ‘ei glas’ i ‘lwyd caeth’ a’i duwch. O berygl maes y gad i gerbyd ynghanol anialwch Las Vegas, ble y cafodd ei chaethiwo ar y ddaear, a’i gorfodi i reoli’r ‘drôns’ bondigrybwyll, sy’n achosi’r fath ddinistr dros dir y Mwslemiaid.  (‘Drôns’ yn yr ystyr awyrennau rhyfel, unarddeg miliwn, di-beilot yn hytrach na dillad isa’ gwrywaidd – fel y dryswyd darllenwyr ‘Golwg’ yn ddiweddar!).

Os am enghraifft berffaith o fonolog gyhyrog, gyda’i adeiladwaith celfydd, a’i drin geiriau gonest a gofalus, yna mynnwch docyn heddiw. Cefais fy hudo’n llwyr gan ddawn yr actores, y cyfarwyddo a’r cyfanwaith crefftus, a mwynheais bod eiliad o’r daith emosiynol, ddidrugaredd.

Mae ‘Grounded’ i’w weld yn y Gate tan y 5ed o Hydref, ‘Land of Our Fathers’ yn y 503 tan y 12fed o Hydref  a ‘The Lightening Child’ yn y Globe hefyd tan y 12fed Hydref.

Friday, 6 September 2013

'I'm with the Band'

Y Cymro 6/9/13

‘Gwell Cymro, Cymro oddi cartref’ meddai’r hen air, dihareb a’m meddiannodd yn llwyr, yr wythnos hon. Er imi fethu ymweld â’r Eisteddfod na’r Ŵyl flynyddol yng Nghaeredin eleni, rwy’n gobeithio medru dal yr amryfal gynnyrch Cymraeg a Chymreig ar eu teithiau amrywiol, dros yr wythnosau nesaf. Dyma gychwyn felly, nos Wener ddiwethaf, gyda chyd-gynhyrchiad Canolfan y Mileniwm, Caerdydd a Theatr y Traverse, Caeredin, ar eu hymweliad â Llundain, cyn teithio Cymru a thu hwnt.

‘I’m with the band’, yw teitl y ddrama, wedi’i gyfansoddi gan y Cymro, Tim Price, enillydd gwobr drama gyntaf James Tait Black yng Nghaeredin eleni, am ei ddrama i National Theatre Wales am gysylltiad Cymreig y milwr Bradley Manning, sy’n wynebu cyfnod o garchar, am ryddhau gwybodaeth gyfrinachol, ar wefan Wikileaks. Y fo hefyd oedd awdur y delyneg o ddrama, ‘Salt, Root and Roe’ a welais gan y Donmar Warehouse, dro yn ôl, cyn i Clwyd Theatr Cymru ei hatgyfodi’r llynedd.

Canolbwynt y ddrama yw’r band, ‘The Union’, wedi’i greu gan bedwar llanc o gefndir gwahanol. Y prif leisydd unben hunanol ‘Damien Ross‘ (James Hillier), Sais sy’n ceisio’n ddyfal i gadw’r band ynghyd; ‘Barry Douglas‘ (Andy Clark) Sgotyn, hyderus, annibynnol sy’n penderfynu gadael y band, a cheisio gyrfa unigol; Gwyddal meddw a threisgar ‘Aaron Adair‘ (Declan Rodgers) sydd mewn perthynas ranedig dymhestlog gyda’i gariad, a’r Cymro ‘Gruff Mwyn’ (Matthew Bulgo), llinyn trons o lipryn di-asgwrn cefn, ar y gitâr fas, ac yn cael ei wthio ar y llwyfan mewn flight case o grud! Bobol bach, roeddwn i’n gandryll.

Er mai telyneg o ddrama, llawn teipiau, gyda throsiad gormesol oramlwg, oedd y sgript, cafodd hi’i dinistrio’n llwyr gan ‘ordd o gyfarwyddwr o’r Alban, Hamish Pirie. Gig gerddorol (digon gwamal) a gafwyd, gydag ambell i olygfa eiriol wedi’i glynu at ei gilydd, er mwyn ‘ceisio’ dychmygu’r hyn fyddai’n digwydd, petai’r Alban yn hawlio’u hannibyniaeth lawn. Ond, mewn difri calon, beth mae’r fath bortread yn ei ddweud amdanom ni’r Cymry?

Yr Albanwyr sy’n dod allan orau, fawr o syndod o gofio mai yng Nghaeredin y cychwynnodd y daith, a synnwn i ddim mai o Gaeredin y daeth y syniad, yn ôl trywydd y sgript. ‘Barry‘ sydd hefyd yn achub y dydd ar y diwedd, wedi methu dilyn ei yrfa unigol fel cerddor, ac sy’n torri ar ormes unben ‘Damien‘, wrth iddo ymhyfrydu a’i gitâr flaen, ar ben mynydd o fonitorau cerddorol, i gyfeiliant y gerddoriaeth fwyaf erchyll erioed.  Tra bod ‘Aaron‘ a ‘Gruff‘, y taeogion di asgwrn cefn, llipa, yn eu trônsiau’n gwmanog noeth, yn ceisio’n ofer i ochel rhag y fath sŵn.

Do, fe gafwyd ambell foment wirioneddol effeithiol, fel ymson cerddorol y Gwyddal am ei berthynas ranedig dreisgar gyda’i gymar. Effeithiol oherwydd ei gynildeb trasig, a pherfformiad diffuant yr actor i’w ganmol yn fawr. Ond roedd gen i gywilydd a chynddaredd tuag at ein cynrychiolaeth fel Cymry, o’r eiliad y cawsom ein gwthio ar y llwyfan yn y pram o focs, yn gegrwth, heb farn, heb lais, heb ddim.  Pam na ddewiswyd actor golygus, hyderus, canwr o fri, gyda’i iaith a’i stôr o ganeuon traddodiadol, a’i lais unigryw ei hun, fyddai (AC SYDD WEDI) codi dau fys ar yr Undeb, ac wedi llwyddo ar draws y byd o Siapan i Salt Lake City? Pam na ddefnyddiwyd actor/canwr Cymraeg, fel Dyfrig Evans, Rhodri Siôn, Lisa Jên, Ryland Teifi, Cerys, Duffy neu Rhys Ifans? Ta di’r GWIR ddim digon dramatig?

Falle bod angen cic go hegar arnom fel Cymry, ond nid trwy atgyfnerthu’r negyddol yn Genedlaethol, siawns? Rwy’n synnu’n fawr at Ganolfan y Mileniwm, yn cytuno i’r fath gynrychiolaeth o’u gwlad, ac yn fwy fyth wrth yr awdur Tim Price, sy’n sôn yn ddiffuant iawn yn rhaglen y cynhyrchiad, am ei awydd i’w fab, cyntaf anedig, Franklin Gruffudd, fod yn gyfarwydd ac yn falch o’i Gymreictod! A’i dyma’r ‘Gymru’ mae Price yn ‘falch’ ohoni?

Er gwaetha’r dicter, siomedig oedd y cynhyrchiad sigledig hwn, wedi’i foddi gan y gerddoriaeth uchel a’i eiriau aneglur, wedi’i gyflwyno’n flêr ac amlwg o amatur mewn mannau, gyda’i neges wrth Gymreig, sarhaus.

Ewch i’w weld ar bob cyfrif, cytunwch neu anghytunwch, ond mae’r drwg Cenedlaethol wedi’i wneud yng Nghaeredin a Llundain; adolygiad pum seren yr Independent, dalltwch - "super-competent...Englishman and chippy creative Scot" ond…"the cowed Welshman and belligerent inarticulate Ulsterman.". ‘Wylit, wylit, Llywelyn…’

Mae ‘I’m with the band’ yn ymweld â sawl canolfan, dros y mis nesaf, gan gynnwys Pontio Bangor, Aberdâr, Aberystwyth, Caerfyrddin a’r dywededig gywilyddus Canolfan y Mileniwm, Caerdydd, ymysg eraill.