Welsh-language theatremakers ‘underserved by the country’s theatres’

Photo: Shutterstock
by -

Welsh-language script writers and theatremakers are missing out on opportunities in Wales, a writers’ union representative has claimed.

Writer and actor Manon Eames, who is also the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain representative for Wales, argued that theatres in Wales are instead sourcing talent in England.

In a bulletin sent to members, she called on Arts Council Wales to carry out a full review of the situation and to explain how it plans to develop Welsh-language talent.

“We are in Wales: it is our language, it is our culture,” she told The Stage.

“The language has to have parity, and there is a lot of talent here that has nowhere else to go. If you don’t nurture young talent, that has a knock on effect on the wider creative industries in Wales.”

Concerns were raised by Eames about the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff appointing a non-Welsh-speaking associate director, and for “commissioning only four Welsh-language plays since 2013, compared with 15 in English and one bilingual play”.

Eames also raised concerns over Theatr Clwyd in Mold, Flintshire, arguing that the theatre recruits writers and production teams from England and holds many of its productions in English.

Responding to the criticism, Theatr Clwyd artistic director Tamara Harvey said: “Of course more can be done [to support Welsh talent]. I hope we never reach a point where we feel we are doing enough.

“Although maybe not compared to England, Wales is a large country and there are many pockets to try to reach. It is at the forefront of our minds and we are doing a lot [to address the issues]. It is something we are continually challenging ourselves on.”

Harvey said that rehearsals may not take place fully in north Wales for a number of reasons, adding that the first week of rehearsals for the theatre’s recent production of Uncle Vanya took place in London so that its Welsh writer Peter Gill, who lives in London, could attend.

She explained that for co-productions a proportion of the rehearsals would often take place in London, and the theatre also rehearsed in Cardiff to support actors or crew members with caring responsibilities.

Theatr Clwyd will also be holding a series of open discussions on how to improve the situation and nurture Welsh talent, the first of which will take place on November 3.

A spokesman for the Sherman Theatre said: “As part of the full and varied scope of their job description, the associate director will coordinate a pool of highly skilled freelance professionals to develop work in the Welsh language. Through engaging external professionals, we help support Wales’ cultural ecology.

“As a leading producer of theatre in Wales, we are committed to supporting the development of work in the Welsh language. We have done this in the past three years in various ways including through script development schemes, the commitment to a bilingual company-in-residence and co-productions.”

An Arts Council Wales spokesman said the public body was “fully committed” to developing Welsh-language theatre.

He added: “We recognise, however, the challenges that still persist. Our staff have been examining what more we can do to support Welsh-language theatre. We are looking at career pathways and opportunities for developing and nurturing talent, and the production of innovative, high-quality work.”