Welsh company Theatr na nÓg continue to innovate and increase awareness of Welsh Theatre! The company have just announced that they will present their original play “You Should Ask Wallace” in Indonesia.
The play tells the inspiring story of Alfred Russel Wallace, who was born in Usk and who left Wales in 1854 to document the diverse fauna, flora of the area in Indonesia now known as the Wallacea Region.
The British Council has invited the award-winning Theatr na nÓg to take part in the Festival of Inspiration, Education and the Arts to celebrate the diversity of the Wallacea region. The Festival will be held in Makassar from the 22nd -28th of November 2019.
We asked the companies Artistic Director, Geinor Styles about the relevance of the work of Wallace today.
With the Welsh Government recently declaring a Climate Emergency the themes of this production seem especially relevant. What do your think Wallace might make of our Climate Emergency and organisations such as Extinct Rebellion if he was alive today?
“I think he would definitely be part of Extinction Rebellion.
He was extremely aware of the impact man had on the environment, he certainly didn’t forsee the crisis we are in now. During the Industrial Revolution he was working in Neath as a surveyor for the railways , and although he had a love for nature and in particular beetles he was conscious of the fact that “I was cutting up the land and beneath me a whole new universe teeming with life”.
Also whilst in Indonesia he explains that when he first discovered the King Bird of Paradise he describes it’s fate as “should man ever reach these distant lands, we can be sure that he will disturb the balance of nature so that he will cause the disappearance, and finally extinction, of this creature.”
Paul Smith, Director of The British Council in Indonesia explained how delighted they are about the collaboration, “Here in Indonesia we are thrilled that the Welsh Wallace is returning to the Archipelago. In our Wallace Week in Sulawesi we are not just exploring biodiversity but also the cultural and ethnic diversities that Wallace encountered. Theatr na nÓg’s production will contribute greatly to the understanding and inspiration of young audiences along The Wallacea Line and we are thrilled that the company will transfer the production to local performers to ensure its own ‘sustainability’ here.
Each year Theatr na nÓg create original productions for over 5,000 young people which integrate live theatre performance with innovative creative learning resources. The organisation will be sharing their successful model of presenting theatre and education in workshops and symposiums in Makassar. The company is grateful to Wales Arts International and British Council Cymru for supporting this exciting opportunity.
Theatr na nÓg’s Artistic Director Geinor Styles said :- “It is an incredible opportunity for us to tell the Welsh story of Wallace to an area that celebrates and recognises this often forgotten scientist who co-discovered the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin, and to be here in the place where Wallace wrote the theory is inspirational.”
Styles together with actor Ioan Hefin, who originated the role of Alfred Russel Wallace, will not only perform the original play but will subsequently work with Indonesian actors and director to enable them to formulate their own version of the drama which they can continue to present to local audiences. “Our first performance of ‘You Should ask Wallace’ was in 2008. At the time I thought we were revisiting an important but forgotten historical figure. I now realise that ARW is very much a voice for today and tomorrow. He was, and still is, a visionary influence”
This terrific opportunity tops a great year for this small Neath based company where they started the year with another British Council invitation to present their hit musical “Eye of the Storm” in Hong Kong and which has just completed a UK tour captivating audiences and receiving rave reviews.