Rhys Ifans, Amy Morgan and Steffan Rhodri among 200 Welsh actors adding to mounting concern over National Theatre Wales
National Theatre Wales is under fresh scrutiny after more than 200 Welsh actors have claimed it is neglecting the country’s creative talent.
Rhys Ifans, Amy Morgan and Steffan Rhodri are among the actors who put their names to a letter – the second in as many months to express concerns over NTW’s direction.
Signatories also include Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Alexander Vlahos, Caroline Sheen, Marc Antolin, Morfydd Clark and Sophie Melville.
While acknowledging NTW to be “imperative” to their professional careers and Wales’ artistic heritage, the 210 actors said many felt “a drastic disconnect from what once felt like a thriving and engaging theatrical forum that championed Welsh work and Welsh artists”.
The letter follows a similar caution from a group of 40 Welsh playwrights, who in September accused NTW of “ridding itself of its theatrical identity” and neglecting Welsh artists in favour of boosting its international profile.
The actors’ letter, addressed to NTW chair Clive Jones, was sent privately last month. However, the group said it wished to “stand in public solidarity with the playwrights”.
It adds to the playwrights’ pleas that the company improve its support for Welsh talent by calling for a commitment to hire Welsh and Wales-trained actors wherever possible, and to create work that would “excite and encourage world-class Welsh actors to want to work with the company”.
This could include “longer runs with bigger audience reach”, the letter says.
It goes on to suggest creating a bursary for under-represented Welsh performers to help widen the talent pool and demonstrate a commitment to the next generation of Welsh actors.
The Stage understands NTW has agreed to a meeting with the actors involved in penning the letter. However, plans are still ongoing.
The letter also addresses a perceived low production rate at NTW, which was also highlighted as an issue by the playwrights. This is disputed by Jones, who said in a statement it would be inaccurate to say that the number of shows had decreased in the two years of artistic director Kully Thiarai’s tenure.
Responding to the actors’ letter, Jones said NTW was open to “constructive debate about the role and mission of a national theatre” and stressed the company’s appreciation of its responsibility as a national company.
He added that NTW had a Wales-first casting policy and would “always strive to offer roles first and foremost to Welsh and Wales-based performers”.
In his statement, Jones also outlined plans including a 2019 season featuring “internationally renowned Welsh artists”, a trilogy of work by a leading Welsh writer “located in the Welsh landscape, [in] theatres and on digital platforms”, in addition to new and larger audiences for some of the work premiered as part of this year’s festival celebrating 70 years of the NHS.
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