Guy O'Donnell

Hi I am Guy the project coordinator for Get The Chance. I am a trained secondary teacher of Art and Design and have taught at all Key Stages in England and Wales. I am also an experienced theatre designer and have designed for many of the theatre companies in Wales.

Using Sibrwd to access Welsh Language Contemporary Drama

Earlier this week I was invited by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru to use Sibrwd (which translates as whisper) to see their new productions Merched Caerdydd (Cardiff Girls) by Catrin Dafydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd (Saturday Night Forever) by Roger Williams. This was the first time the company has used Sibrwd to offer full translation of a theatrical production. Sibrwd is a free app for mobile devices that gives theatre audiences the ability to fully appreciate a (Welsh language) performance in (potentially) any language. The app gives access to theatre productions for Welsh learners and non-Welsh speakers for Welsh language performances. Sibrwd can offer audio or text based instant translation of live theatrical productions.

I went to see the production at the beautiful Borough Theatre, Abergavenny. The app is free and very simple to use. Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru have produced this excellent video which goes through the process of how to download it onto your device and then how to use it in the theatre.

On the night of the performance staff from Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru met Sibrwd users in the foyer prior to going into the theatre to check they were happy , additional smart phones can be provided by the company if required. I was informed by Chris who was operating Sibrwd that the translation would be text based for this particular performance, Sibrwd has the potential to offer audio or text.
Once in the theatre itself I checked I could pick up the Sibrwd Wi Fi signal and my phone was on aeroplane mode, this is very important to make sure no one can ring you during the performance!

Once the production begins the app automatically provides English Language text based translation. The user does need to be able to read fairly quickly as well as keeping an eye on what’s happening on stage but you quickly adjust to this. The app itself works flawlessly, I was surprised at my own knowledge of the Welsh language, I know more Welsh than I previously realised! For a learner like myself the frequent references to South Wales locations or the mixture of Welsh and English made the production vey accessible and relevant. Providing full English language translation for two contemporary productions of this nature are an excellent way to increase learning opportunities for people like me.

If full audio and text based translation can be offered through Sibrwd I think there would be a great deal of interest in Welsh Language productions from Blind or Deaf audiences.

Many thanks to Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru for supporting me to access more Welsh language contemporary drama, I will be sure to keep an eye out for more productions of this nature supported with Sibrwd.

Cathryn McShane on BSL supported Theatrical performances in the Welsh Language

“I feel providing access to Deaf audiences to Welsh language productions is significant because Deaf people in Wales have traditionally been excluded from this aspect of their culture and heritage.

From my experience, I am aware that Deaf children in schools are often exempted from the National Curriculum Welsh language requirements and historically even Welsh-speaking parents have been actively discouraged from using their mother tongue with their deaf children.  This has resulted in the Welsh Deaf community missing out on the rich and vibrant offerings that the Welsh language art scene provides.

Recently I have been involved in interpreting several plays that were once Eisteddfod pieces (Estron, Anweledig, Nos Sadwrn o Hyd and Merched Caerdydd).

The Eisteddfod to me is the epitome and hub when it comes to the best of contemporary Welsh writing and performing, so being able to facilitate access to these pieces to a Welsh audience who previously have not had access to Welsh culture in this form is a real privilege.

After agreeing to do one show two years ago, I have been inundated with enquires, and Deaf audience numbers have steadily increased (including individuals who had never been to the theatre before) so I’m really pleased with how these initiatives are developing. More recently companies are taking an interest in integrating BSL in their productions, so I can see scope for some really exciting work in the future.”

Cyfweliad gyda Rhian Davies, Cynhyrchydd Gweithredol, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Yna, penderfynais symud adref i Abertawe, lle cefais swydd gyda chwmni teledu Tinopolis fel cynhyrchydd dan hyfforddiant, a chael cyfle i barhau i adrodd straeon dramatig drwy gyfrwng rhaglenni dogfen am dros ddeng mlynedd. Rydw i bellach wedi bod gyda Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru am ychydig dros 3 blynedd, ac yn dal i ymhyfrydu yn y cyfle i ddweud straeon da, perthnasol, mewn nifer o wahanol ffyrdd.

Er taw Cynhyrchydd Gweithredol yw eich swydd yn y cwmni, rydych hefyd yn gyfrifol am yr holl gynyrchiadau, yn ogystal ag am y gwaith cyfranogi, sy’n cynnwys gweithio gyda’r gynulleidfa ehangach. Mae hynny’n waith ac iddo gwmpas eang iawn. Sut ydych chi’n llwyddo i gyfrannu at bob un o’r meysydd hyn?

Amrywiaeth sy’n rhoi blas ar fywyd! Mae’n gylch gwaith eang, ond rydw i wrth fy modd yn wynebu’r her. Yn fy marn i, mae’r gynulleidfa’n allweddol i bopeth ry’n ni’n ei wneud, ac mae ein gweithgareddau cyfranogi gyda chynulleidfaoedd yr un mor bwysig â’n cynyrchiadau.  Rydym yn ymestyn y gweithgareddau hynny, gan wrando ar farn pobl a gweithredu arno.

Mae gan Theatr Gen dîm gwych yn Llinos Jones, ein Swyddog Cyfranogi, a Fflur Thomas a Nia Skyrme, ein Cynhyrchwyr Cynorthwyol. Yn ogystal â chynllunio a hwyluso trefniadau holl gynyrchiadau’r Theatr Gen rydyn ni hefyd, gyda’n gilydd, yn cydlynu ein Clybiau Drama gyda Menter Iaith Gorllewin Sir Gâr, Theatr Mwldan a Theatr Felinfach; ein gweithgareddau lles gyda’r rhwydwaith Cyfuno Sir Gâr; yn ymgysylltu â chynulleidfaoedd yn y gwahanol leoliadau ar gyfer ein perfformiadau BSL; gyda Dysgwyr y Gymraeg ledled Cymru trwy gyfrwng ein sgyrsiau cyn-sioe a gwersi Cymraeg i Ddysgwyr a gyflwynir ar y cyd gyda’r Ganolfan Dysgu Cymraeg Genedlaethol; gydag arbenigwyr ym myd addysg er mwyn cefnogi’r cwricwlwm newydd a darparu adnoddau yn y Gymraeg; gyda gwahanol leoliadau wrth gyflwyno’r cynllun cenedlaethol ‘talwch faint a fynnwch’ ar gyfer cyflwyniadau o ddarlleniadau o waith gan ein Grŵp Dramodwyr Newydd, ac ati ac ati. Rydym yn gwneud ein gorau, ond yn bell o fod yn berffaith, ac yn croesawu unrhyw sylwadau ac awgrymiadau.

Rydym eisiau ymestyn yn bellach ac yn fwy eang, ac, fel y cwmni Theatr Genedlaethol Cymraeg ei iaith, teimlaf fod gennym gyfrifoldeb aruthrol a bod angen i ni weithredu i ddileu’r rhwystrau i gael mynediad at ein gwaith. Dydyn ni ddim yn honni ein bod yn gwneud popeth yn dda nac yn berffaith, ond rydym yn gwneud ein gorau glas. Rydym yn craffu a bopeth ry’n ni’n ei wneud, gan newid ac addasu o fewn Cymru sydd hefyd yn newid, gan ddysgu o’n camgymeriadau.

Ar hyn o bryd, mae Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yn ymarfer Merched Caerdydd gan Catrin Dafydd a Nos Sadwrn o Hyd gan Roger Williams. Bydd y ddwy ddrama’n cael eu perfformio fel rhaglen ddwbl i deithio Cymru y gwanwyn hwn. Mae’r ddwy yn adlewyrchu gwahanol agweddau ar y Gymru gyfoes. Ydych chi’n credu bod theatr fyw yn dal i deimlo’n berthnasol i gynulleidfaoedd iau, o ystyried y gystadleuaeth sydd am gynulleidfaoedd i ddramâu gan safleoedd ffrydio yn ôl y galw, megis Netflix?

Does dim byd gwell na’r teimlad hwnnw o weld stori ddramatig yn fyw, a rhannu’r profiad o ymateb yn y foment i berfformiad a sgript. Yn wyneb cymaint o gystadleuaeth, mae’n fwy anodd gwneud y theatr yn fwy perthnasol – yn enwedig i gynulleidfaoedd iau – ond dyna lle mae’r her, ac rydw i wrth fy modd gyda her.

Rwyf hefyd yn aelod o fwrdd Mess Up the Mess, sefydliad sy’n cynnig cyfleoedd deinamig i bobl ifanc ym maes creu theatr, oherwydd fy mod yn credu’n gryf mewn ymgysylltu â chynulleidfaoedd iau. Roeddech yn crybwyll Netflix. Yn 2017, bu Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru yn peilota ein dangosiad theatrig cyntaf yn y sinema drwy ddarlledu ein perfformiad o Macbeth, yn fyw ac fel-byw, o Gastell Caerffili i 11 o sinemâu ledled Cymru. Yr enw a roddwyd ar hyn oedd Theatr Gen Byw.

Wrth symud ymlaen, mae angen i ni gofleidio’r agenda ddigidol. Rwyf wedi cael gweledigaeth y bydd pobl ifanc – ac, yn wir, pawb arall – yn gallu cael mynediad at ein cynyrchiadau, a dylanwadu arnynt yng nghyd-destun y cynnwys, pryd bynnag maen nhw’n dewis, pan mae’n eu siwtio nhw, ar ben eu hunain, mewn grŵp, ble bynnag y maen nhw. Mae’n rhaid i ni fod yn gynhwysol, nid yn gaeedig, ac mae hyn yn golygu darparu cynifer o gyfleoedd ag y bo modd i sicrhau bod pawb yn gallu mwynhau amrywiaeth o weithiau theatr yn y Gymraeg, yn fyw ac fel-byw.

Yn ddiweddar, mae’r ddau ddramodydd – Catrin Dafydd a Roger Williams – wedi cael llwyddiant ym maes Dramâu Teledu a gynhyrchwyd yn Gymraeg yn gyntaf, ac yna yn Saesneg. Ydy Cymru’n unigryw yn y ffaith bod ganddi awduron o’r fath safon uchel yn sgrifennu ar gyfer y Teledu a’r Theatr ar yr un pryd?

On’d yw hi’n wych bod awduron sy’n sgrifennu yn Gymraeg i’r teledu – rhai fel Roger a Catrin, Siôn Eirian, a sawl un arall – hefyd yn gallu bod yn ddramodwyr sy’n sgrifennu yn y Gymraeg; bod Cynhyrchwyr Teledu Cymraeg, fel fi (a Roger) hefyd yn gallu bod yn Gynhyrchwyr Theatr Gymraeg, a bod Cyfarwyddwyr Teledu fel Ffion Dafis (sydd hefyd yn actores) yn gallu cyfarwyddo pennod o Pobol y Cwm yn ogystal â chyfarwyddo cynhyrchiad theatr? Roedd Mared Swain, sydd ar hyn o bryd yn cyfarwyddo’r sioe gyntaf yn ein rhaglen ddwbl, Merched Caerdydd a Nos Sadwrn o Hyd, sy’n agor yr wythnos hon yn Theatr Clwyd, hefyd yn Gynhyrchydd Stori ar gyfres S4C, Gwaith Cartref. Rwy’n siŵr fy mod yn diflasu fy nghydweithwyr wrth sôn mor aml am sgiliau trosglwyddadwy, ond os nad ydych chi wedi gweithio mewn rhyw sector penodol, does dim rheswm pam na all eich profiadau fod o fudd i sector arall, a hoffwn weld mwy o gydweithio ar draws y sectorau ym meysydd y diwydiannau creadigol a diwylliannol. Rwy’n credu’n gryf y byddai sector y theatr a sector byd teledu yn cael mantais o hyn.

Bydd y cynhyrchiad yn cynnig dau berfformiad BSL – un yn Theatr Clwyd, Yr Wyddgrug, ar 15 Mawrth am 19:45, a’r llall yn Stiwdio Weston, Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru, Caerdydd, ar 11 Ebrill am 19:00. Allwch chi ddweud wrthon ni pam, yn eich barn chi, mae perfformiadau a gefnogir gan BSL yn rhan bwysig o’r hyn rydych yn ei gynnig i gynulleidfaoedd?

Dechreuodd y cyfan gydag awydd i fod yn fwy cynhwysol, ac edmygedd o’r arferion da a sefydlwyd gan Sherman 5 yn Theatr y Sherman, a bellach mae’n rhan greiddiol o’n gwaith. Roedd dod i adnabod Cathryn McShane, Cymraes sy’n ddehonglydd BSL, a Nia Skyrme, cynhyrchydd Cymraeg ei hiaith a chanddi brofiad o hwyluso perfformiadau BSL, yn gam allweddol yn y gwaith o wireddu’r weledigaeth hon. Cawsom gymorth gan Jonny Cotsen yn ein peilot cychwynnol, ac yn ddiweddar fe’n hanogodd ni i beilota perfformiad BSL integredig o Estron gan Hefin Robinson.

Rwy’n credu ei bod yn bwysig i holl aelodau’r gynulleidfa weld y dehonglydd ar y llwyfan. Merched Caerdydd a Nos Sadwrn o Hyd yw’r trydydd cynhyrchiad teithiol cenedlaethol lle rydym wedi darparu’r gwasanaeth hwn, ac rydw i wrth fy modd fod Cwmni’r Frân Wen hefyd ar hyn o bryd yn darparu’r gwasanaeth hwn (gan Cathryn) ar eu taith ledled Cymru o’r cynhyrchiad Anweledig. Fel cwmni theatr cenedlaethol Cymraeg ei iaith, teimlaf fod gennym gyfrifoldeb mawr i barhau i symud ymlaen, yn y gobaith y gallwn helpu i symud y sector yn ei flaen yn y cyd-destun hwn. Mae’n rhaid i ni ddechrau meddwl nawr – beth nesaf?  

Mae ‘Get the Chance’ yn gweithio i gefnogi ystod amrywiol o aelodau o’r cyhoedd i’w galluogi i gael mynediad at ddarpariaeth ddiwylliannol. Yn eich profiad personol chi, ydych chi’n ymwybodol o unrhyw rwystrau i ddarpariaeth ddiwylliannol?

Yn fy marn i, mae yna sawl rhwystr. Ar nodyn personol, mae gen i ffrindiau ac aelodau o’r teulu sy’n cael trafferth i ymrwymo’u hunain i fynd i weld cynhyrchiad theatr yn y Gymraeg, er eu bod i gyd yn byw eu bywydau’n hapus drwy gyfrwng yr iaith. Mae pobl yn aml yn meddwl nad yw eu Cymraeg yn ddigon da, neu bod natur yr iaith a ddefnyddir mewn drama yn rhy anodd iddynt ei deall yn llawn. Rydym yn ceisio cyfathrebu’r neges bod ein perfformiadau theatr yn y Gymraeg yn gwbl gynhwysol, a’n bod yn cynnig ystod eang o gynyrchiadau – rhai’n defnyddio iaith lafar, eraill yn defnyddio iaith farddonol, rhai yn nhafodiaith y gogledd, eraill yn nhafodiaith y de; rhai mewn Cymraeg dinesig ac eraill mewn Cymraeg cefn gwlad. Y realiti yw taw dim ond un elfen yw iaith yn yr holl sbectrwm o rwystrau i gynyrchiadau theatr.  Mae gennym ddyletswydd tuag at yr holl bobl sy’n wynebu rhwystrau i’n cynyrchiadau, a dyna pam rydym yn gwneud pob ymdrech i chwilio am bartneriaid o bob cefndir i’n helpu ni gyda’r daith hon i’w gwneud yn haws i’n cynulleidfa gael mynediad at ein gwaith.

Yn ogystal â chynhyrchu pecyn cynhwysfawr o weithgareddau i gefnogi rhai sy’n dysgu Cymraeg,  deallaf mai hwn fydd y tro cyntaf i Sibrwd, eich Ap unigryw, gynnig cyfieithiad llawn o’r Gymraeg i’r Saesneg. Mae hyn yn cynnig cyfleoedd cyffrous i gynulleidfaoedd newydd gael mynediad at eich gwaith. Sut mae Sibrwd wedi datblygu fel cyfrwng mynediad i gynulleidfaoedd?

Ydyn, rydyn ni’n peilota rhywbeth cwbl newydd y tro hwn; bydd Sibrwd, ein ap ar gyfer ffonau clyfar, yn cynnwys cyfieithiad llawn o’r ddwy ddrama yn y rhaglen ddwbl hon. Rydym wedi cael adborth gan ein cynulleidfaoedd, yn cynnwys pobl fyddar neu rai a chanddynt nam ar eu clyw; mae’n amlwg eu bod nhw’n awyddus i gael y gwasanaeth hwn, ac rydyn ninnau’n awyddus i roi cynnig arni. Rydw i wedi gweld y cynllun newydd, ac mae’n edrych ac yn teimlo’n grêt. Rydym yn edrych ymlaen at gael adborth gan gynulleidfaoedd ar y daith hon, wrth i ni barhau i ddatblygu’r adnodd.


Pe byddech chi mewn sefyllfa i ariannu un maes o’r celfyddydau, pa faes fyddai hwnnw a pham?

Prosiect cyfranogi cenedlaethol ar y cyd â lleoliadau ledled Cymru a fydd yn datblygu teimlad o gyffro o gwmpas y theatr, ac yn cyrraedd uchafbwynt mewn perfformiad cenedlaethol mewn gwahanol leoliadau ar yr un pryd. Rydym yn awyddus i gefnogi’r lleoliadau wrth iddynt weithio tuag at gynyddu ac amrywio eu cynulleidfaoedd.


Beth sy’n eich cyffroi chi ynghylch y celfyddydau?

Y ffaith bod popeth ac unrhyw beth yn bosibl, gyda’r bobl iawn.


Beth oedd y peth gwych diwethaf i chi ei brofi y byddech yn hoffi ei rannu gyda’n darllenwyr?

Yn ddiweddar, y stori sydd wedi fy nghyffwrdd fwyaf yw llyfr o’r enw Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Stori yw hon am arwres anghyffredin, lle mae ei phersonoliaeth unigryw a’i hiwmor yn creu stori hynod ddarllenadwy wrth iddi sylweddoli mai agor ei chalon yw’r unig ffordd i oroesi – ac mae hynny’n neges bwysig i ni i gyd.

Diolch yn fawr iawn am eich amser.

An interview with Rhian Davies, Executive Producer, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Hi Rhian great to meet you, what got you interested in the Arts?

I’ve always loved watching soap operas, drama, films and reading good stories. In my teens I wrote a few short stories that were published in magazines and books and then decided to follow my dream and see if I could get a job doing something creative. I had no idea what I could do, but kept knocking at different doors and got a place on a Cyfle course as a trainee scriptwriter based in Caernarfon. I was paid as an apprentice and had amazing experiences working on scripts for dramas on S4C and got a chance to meet loads of good people. I then got a job at Pobol y Cwm as an Assistant Script Editor and remember that immense feeling of pride when walking through the BBC Wales double doors. I became a Script Editor and later a Storyliner and got the chance to write a script or two, and had a ball helping create stories for some of Wales’ most colourful characters.

Rhian working as a Script Editor.

I then decided to move back home to Swansea where Tinopolis TV took me on as a fledgling TV Producer and gave me a chance to keep telling dramatic stories through documentaries for over a decade. I’ve been with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru for just over 3 years now and am still relishing the chance to tell good, relevant stories in different ways.

Your role in the company is that of the Executive Producer, you are also responsible for all the productions and also the participation work, which includes working with the wider audience. That’s a role with a great deal of breadth. How do you manage to cover all of these areas?

Variety is the spice of life! It’s a broad remit but I relish the challenge. To me, the audience is key to everything we do, and our participatory activities with audiences are as important as our productions. We’re increasing these activities, listening to what people want and acting upon it.

Theatr Gen has a cracking little team in Llinos Jones, our Participation Officer, and Fflur Thomas and Nia Skyrme, our Assistant Producers. Together, as well planning and assuring the smooth running of Theatr Gen productions, we co-ordinate our Drama Clubs with Menter Iaith Gorllewin Sir Gâr, Theatr Mwldan and Theatr Felinfach; our wellbeing activities with the Carmartheshire Fusion network; engagement with audiences in theatre venues for our BSL performances; with Welsh learners across Wales via pre show talks and Welsh learner lessons taught nationally in conjunction with the work of the National Centre for Learning Welsh; with educational specialists so that we support the new curriculum and provide resources in the Welsh language; with venues in introducing a national ‘pay what you decide’ scheme for presentations of our New Playwrights’ Group readings, and on and on. We’re trying our best, but are far from perfect, and welcome all comments and suggestions.

We want to reach further and wider and I feel that, as the Welsh-language, National Theatre company, we have a huge responsibility and need to act to remove barriers to accessing our work. We don’t claim to do everything well or perfectly, but we’re trying our best: we’re scrutinising the value of everything we do, changing within a Wales that’s changing and hopefully learning from our mistakes.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru are currently rehearsing Merched Caerdydd (Cardiff Girls) by Catrin Dafydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd (Saturday Night Forever) by Roger Williams. The two plays will be performed as a double bill touring Wales this spring. Both plays reflect different aspects of contemporary Wales. Do you think live theatre still feels relevant to younger audiences with competition for drama audiences from on demand streaming sites such as Netflix?

Nothing beats that feeling of seeing a dramatic story live and that shared experience of reacting there and then to the performance and the script. With so much competition, it’s harder to make theatre relevant, especially to younger audiences, but therein lies the challenge, and I love a challenge.

I’m also a board member with Mess Up The Mess, an organisation that offers dynamic theatre making experiences to young people, because I sincerely believe in the importance of engaging younger audiences. You talk about Netflix. In 2017, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru piloted our first cinematic theatrical screening through broadcasting our performance of Macbeth, both live and as-live, from Caerphilly Castle to 11 cinemas across Wales. We branded it Theatr Gen Byw.

Moving forward, we need to embrace the digital agenda. I’ve had a vision that youngsters, and indeed everyone, will be able to access our productions, and also influence  them in terms of content, whenever they want, when it suits them, on their own, in a group, wherever they are.  We need to be inclusive, not exclusive and this means providing as many opportunities as possible for everyone to enjoy a variety of Welsh theatrical works, live and as-live.  

Both playwrights Catrin Dafydd and Roger Williams have had success recently in TV Drama first produced in the Welsh and then English Language. Is Wales unique in writers of this calibre writing for both TV and Theatre at the same time?

Isn’t it great that Welsh-language television writers like Roger and Catrin, Siôn Eirian too, and many more, can also be Welsh-language playwrights, that Welsh-language TV Producers, like me (and Roger), can also be Welsh-language theatre Producers and that TV Directors like Ffion Dafis (who’s also an actress) can direct an episode of Pobol y Cwm as well as direct a theatre production? Mared Swain, who’s currently directing the first show in our double bill, Merched Caerdydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd, which opens this week in Theatr Clwyd, was also a Story Producer on the S4C series Gwaith Cartref. I think I bore my colleagues about the significance of transferable skills, but just because you haven’t worked in a sector doesn’t mean your experiences can’t benefit another sector, and I wish to see more cross sector working within the creative industries and culture sector  I truly believe that both the theatre and TV sectors would benefit.

The production will have two BSL performances, at Theatr Clwyd in Mold on the 15 March, 19:45 and then the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 11 April, 19:00 Can you please tell us why you feel BSL supported performances are an important part of your offer for audiences?

It started with a desire to be more inclusive and an admiration of the good practices established by Sherman 5 at Sherman Theatre and now it’s an integral part of our work. Finding Cathryn McShane, a Welsh-speaking BSL interpreter, and Nia Skyrme, a Welsh-speaking producer with experience of facilitating BSL performances, was key to moving this vision forward. Jonny Cotsen supported us in our initial pilot, and recently encouraged us to pilot an integrated BSL performance of Estron by Hefin Robinson.

I think it’s important for all audience members to see an interpreter on stage. Merched Caerdydd and Nos Sadwrn o Hyd is the third national touring production where we have provided this service, and I’m delighted that Cwmni’r Frân Wen is now also providing this service (by Cathryn) on their current national tour of Anweledig. As a national Welsh-language theatre company I feel that we have a huge responsibility to keep moving forward and hopefully help move the sector forward in this regard. We need to start thinking now, what’s next?  

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. In your personal experience, are you aware of any barriers to cultural provision?

There are many. On a personal note, I have friends and family that struggle to commit to making it to a Welsh-language theatre production even though they all live their life happily through the medium of Welsh. People often think their Welsh is not good enough or that the nature of the Welsh language used in a play will be too difficult to understand fully. We try to communicate that our Welsh-language theatre productions are inclusive and that we offer a wide range of productions, some that use colloquial language, others more poetic language, some using North Walian dialect, others South Walian dialect and some in urban Welsh and others in rural Welsh.

The reality is that language is only one element in a whole gamut of barriers to theatre productions. We have a duty towards all people facing barriers to our productions, and that is why we actively seek partners from all walks of life to help us make this journey for our audience to access our work an easier one.   

As well as a comprehensive package of activity to support Welsh Learners, I believe this is the first time your unique App Sibrwd will have full translation from Welsh to English. This offers exciting opportunities for new audience to access your work. How has Sibrwd developed as an access tool for audiences?

You’re right, we’re piloting something new with Sibrwd this time and Sibrwd, our smart phone app, will include a full translation of both plays in this double bill. We’ve had feedback from our audiences, including people who are deaf or have hearing loss, and this is what they want, so we want to give it a go. I’ve seen it, and it looks and feels great. We look forward to receiving audience feedback on this tour, as we continue to develop this resource.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in what would this be and why?

A national participation project in conjunction with venues across Wales that will build some excitement around theatre and culminate in a national performance in venues at the same time. We want to support the venues as they try to grow and diversify their audiences.

What excites you about the arts?

The fact that everything and anything is possible, with the right people.

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

The story that’s touched me the most, recently, is a book called Elanor Eliphant is Completely Fine. It’s the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose weirdness and wit make for an irresistible story as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart – an important message for us all.

Many thanks for your time, Rhian.

You can find out more about the work of the company and its work here

Please note this article is paid for content.

Top Tunes with Adele Thomas

Credit Kirsten McTernan


Hi Adele, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I am a theatre and opera director. I am from Port Talbot originally and live in Cardiff now. I’m about to make my Royal Opera House debut with Handel’s Berenice

Credit Damien Frost

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

I am obsessively listening to Berenice as I’m about to direct it! So my iPod is pretty much given over to that and to some of Handel’s other operas. It’s good to get a sense of where this piece fits into his wider body of work.


But the latest thing that I saw and was blown away by was a gig by Hen Ogledd. Their album, Mogic, has just come out and it’s just sensational. I’m a vinyl lover, so I’ll be listening to it on the record player! 

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 
1

Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles

I’m going to immediately preface this by saying that this is by no means The Beatles’ best album (for me, that’s Revolver) but it is the one that changed my life. I was struggling to fit in in my teens in a world of grey concrete and everyone in head to toe adidas block colour tracksuit and gangster rap. After one very late night of underage drinking, a friend took me back to his house and said “check this out”. He put the film of Magical Mystery Tour on and immediately my entire world opened up. The colour, the surreality, the clothes and, of course, the music! I became obsessed with the backwards tapeloops, the kaleidoscope camera, the technicolour kaftans. I binned the tracksuit and immediately became a 60s throwback. That one encounter opened up everything to me: art, counter culture, the music scene, a whole world of new friends. And I can still quote that film word for word. 


His ‘N’ Hers – Pulp 


When my school mates did all start listening to Oasis and Blur I was firmly in the 3rd camp: I was a massive Pulp fan. Different Class is the album that cemented them as working class hero for the wierdo amongst us, and This is Hardcore saw them reach the pinnacle of their orchestral ambition, but His ‘N’ Hers is my favourite. It captures something very real about being an outsider in the 90s: when charity shops were packed full of incredible 60s clothing for pennies, the seedy glamour of the beachside dirty weekend B n Bs along Mumbles road, sticky indie clubs and lager and lime. It’s an album that celebrates the trashy, sexy, the working class. Jarvis Cocker is still my hero and nothing makes me dance and cry at the same time like “Do you Remember the First time”.  

Work and Non-Work – Broadcast 


I wrestled between this and Dots and Loops by Stereolab (which is a masterpiece) but Broadcast just pips them for me. Warp records seemed to be the coolest thing on the planet, and Broadcast’s music touched a nostalgic nerve for a period I didn’t even know.  Their music seemed to be the subconscious by product of an alternative past: the mulch creepiness of Dario Argento’s fits, the sun saturated photography, the trippy wierdness of Public Information films. This album is incredibly beautiful and cinematic: every song on it lends itself to a film that has never been made. And perhaps the thing that pushes Broadcast’s work up the list for me is the tragic death of their singer and heart of the group Trish Keenan. She was a fashion icon and a poetic mind who went too soon. 


The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell


One night my boyfriend and I were driving very late down a pitch Black Country lane and we were listening to a radio show of Prince’s favourite songs. Suddenly this piece came on and it was so overwhelmingly beautiful, so totally perfect that we had to stop the car and just sit there in the dark listening. That song was Edith and the Kingpin from this strange and haunting album by the one and only Joni Mitchell. Poetically, every listen glistens with new meaning and her use of language is so incredible. “The helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof/ Like a dragonfly on a tomb”. Exquisite. Especially coming at you through that pure voice. 



Wozzeck – Berg


I discovered that I wanted to direct for stage when I sat down and watched Richard Jones’s production of Berg’s complex and terrifyingly hard opera based on the Buchner play. That production tore away any concepts I had of what theatre could be. The world on stage was so strange, so complete, and the performers were incredible musicians and amazing actors (Christopher Purves’ performance in that was one of immense human detail. All while singing some of the hardest music you’ve every heard over a full orchestra). Now I’m finally directing opera, this production is still the benchmark for me of what can be achieved. It’s really worth listening to: yes the music’s complex, but the tragedy of the story is brilliantly served here. Please note the version Adele describes is not available online. Instead we present The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra, The Chorus of the Hamburg State Opera, Conducted by Bruno Maderna, Directed for television by Joachim Hess. Set design: Herbert Kirchhoff Costumes: Helmut Jürgens Recorded 1970, Hamburg State Opera.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

I’m going to chose Babies from His N’ Hers because I think it shows how complex pop music can be. Melancholic, strangely profound: it captures the sense of teenage boredom on a rainy Tuesday evening between school and… But it also never fails to get everyone on the dance floor, and it builds into a euphoric, semi-spiritual exorcism of raw sexuality and kitchen sink drama. I can’t listen to this without dancing!


Top Tunes with Lleucu Siencyn.

Hi Lleucu great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

 I was raised in Talgarreg, Ceredigion and went to Ysgol Dyffryn Teifi in Llandysul. While still at school my friends and I set up the Welsh-language rock festival, Roc y Cnapan, in Ffostrasol. We had amazing bands such as Y Cyrff (who later became Catatonia), Ffa Coffi Pawb (later, Super Furry Animals), Crumblowers, Cerrig Melys and Datblygu playing in front of thousands of young people who came to the festival from all over Wales. After school I travelled around South America for a while and studied English literature at New College, Oxford. After working at various media and arts companies I ended up where I am now in Literature Wales. Poetry, spoken word and hip-hop have always inspired me, and I love the way these genres have developed and intersected over the years.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

These days I’m enjoying listening to Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Stormzy, Dave (the young political rapper from London. Check out his song Question Time) – exciting music with a message and an edge.

There’s also a lot of great music coming from Wales, such as Los Blancos, Adwaith, Y Pencadlys. And Olion by Mr has been playing endlessly in our house for the last couple of months.

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?

Velvet Underground & Nico – a funny, louche and weird album with surprisingly catchy songs.  I listened to it a lot as a teenager (and still do), and it made me fantasise about moving to New York, wear black and live in a loft.

2 Ride On by Christy Moore – my friends and family can vouch that this gets played a lot in our house and I know every single word to every song. His voice is hauntingly beautiful.

3 It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy – extremely influential album when I was younger and the band still sounds as fresh and urgent now. I saw them play at the Tramshed a couple of years ago and they were amazing.

4 Libertino by Datblygu – without a doubt the most influential and exciting band ever in the Welsh-language, if not in any language. The combination of the musical genius of Patricia Morgan and the poetic desolation of Dave R Edwards makes any of Datblygu’s albums worthy of intense listening.

5 Gold: Greatest Hits by ABBA – dancing round the kitchen to ABBA songs is a tradition I’ve proudly passed on to my children. Fun, classy, catchy, genius pop disco tunes which should be part of everybody’s lives.

 Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

A toss-up between Cân i Gymru from Libertino by Datblygu and Dancing Queen by ABBA. Or perhaps Ride On by Christy Moore, or Don’t Believe the Hype by Public Enemy. I really can’t choose!L

What to see in 2019!

In the article below a range of Welsh and Wales based creatives share with us a selection of cultural events they are looking forward to this year. Thanks to all of our contributors.

Connor Allen, Writer and Actor.

My cultural highlights for 2019 would have to include Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre starring Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Cox. One of my favourite Pinter plays and one hell of a cast, so it should be great!

Another one I’m ecstatic for is Tree by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah at the Manchester International Festival. The vision of both those artists is nothing short of superb so we are in for a treat whatever they create.

And speaking of the Manchester International Festival Skepta is doing an immersive experience called Dystopia987 and even if you’re not a lover of grime I can bet that it’ll be worth the watch.

Closer to home in Wales I’m looking forward to Mathew Bourne’s Romeo & Juliet coming to the Wales Millennium Centre as previous productions from Mr Bourne have been astounding in terms of choreography and storytelling so I am very much looking forward to his take on Romeo & Juliet.

Also I’m very eager to watch Tigerface by Justin Cliffe at The OtherRoom in Cardiff. I’ve no doubt that it will be an awesome piece and being that I missed previous sharing’s of it I am excited to see the piece in its entirety.

A personal hope of mine for 2019 is that more people and companies are taking risks, especially with minority groups. We’ve played it safe for many years now. Let’s shake it up. And also accepting other people’s views even if they are different from our own. We all come from different walks of life and with that we bring different views and opinions. Let’s show compassion and accept or at least acknowledge other people’s views. We can all learn and grow from each other.

Meredydd Barker, Playwright.

From the 14thof June to the 10thof November, Tate Liverpool is hosting the first, major UK exhibition of artist and activist Keith Haring. Because his work decorates T-shirts and tea towels it tends to be forgotten how subversive he was. This is a superb opportunity to be reminded of how urgent his response was to issues such political dictatorship, racism, homophobia, drug addiction, capitalism and the environment. He died 28 years ago but is as relevant as he’s ever been.

It didn’t happen last year but I will get to see The Idles live this year; I will, I will, I will…

Jo Clifford’s new version of The Taming of the Shrew at the Sherman in March is a must attend.

If I make it, I will be 50 in September and hope to be in Chicago to celebrate. There’ll be a World Music Festival on at the time – think Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, but in Chicago – so I’ll dip in and out of that while going to as many shows, plays, bars as I can. Nothing planned for definite, but I think just going to Chicago – and New York beforehand – counts as a cultural event.

I’ve just bought tickets to see Ruby Wax – How to be Human: The Show, “answers every question you’ve ever had about evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, sex, kids, the future and compassion.” I think she’s astonishing, one of the great documentary makers of our time and times.

I always promise myself that I’ll go the Machynlleth Comedy Festival and it never happens, but I am going to make a super-human effort to get there this year.

As for me I’m writing a play called The Huntsman for the brilliant Torch Theatre in Milford Haven. It’s pencilled in for perfomances this Autumn. I’m piecing together the first draft as I write. I have to remind myself to breathe as I do so. It’s about Pembrokeshire when serial killer John Cooper was at large. And along with a brilliant film-maker called Nick Swannell I’ve just begun the process of starting a film company called The Holding Cell. I’m very excited about that indeed.

Be Excited. Be Bold. Be Kind. That, I hope, will be the themes for this year, and these horribly uncertain times.

Mawgaine Tarrant-Cornish, Casting Associate, National Theatre Wales.

First up I’m excited about BLUE, a new play by Rhys Warrington which has a stellar cast. It’s at Chapter from next week.

At NTW, I’ve been working with Mike Brookes to cast STORM 3: TOGETHER AND ALONE and I can’t wait to see these performers together on stage in March. They’ll be taking over a venue in Newport with this experimental show about how we figure out our place in the world.

Also in March, NEW, from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, will hit the Sherman Theatre. It’s your chance to catch this year’s graduating actors collaborating on four brand new plays by up and coming British playwrights. For Wales’ offering, Hannah Noone will direct Jacob Hodgkinson’s BETWEEN ETERNITY AND TIME.

As part of Diffusion 2019, in April, Matt Wright and Janire Najera will create an immersive visual score for JUNIPER, Slowly Rolling Camera’s latest album, which they’ll play live.

At National Museum Wales, the Women in Focus exhibition continues into June. Part One introduced me to Charlotte James and her Ffasiwn Project with Clémentine Schneidermann so I’m looking forward to discovering many a new girl crush in Part Two: Women in Front of the Lens.

I’d love to see DYSTOPIA987 by Skepta at MIF this summer and there’ll be loads more to get excited about in that programme, I’m sure.

Finally, look out for Common Wealth Theatre’s I HAVE MET THE ENEMY (and the enemy is us). They are a force and this is their exploration of our complicity in the arms trade and conflict around the world.

Jonny Cotsen, Theatremaker and Consultant.

Artes Mundi Tour with John Wilson. I have been campaigning for many years to try and get John Wilson to curate and lead a BSL tour at one of our brilliant museums/galleries. John is one of the most experienced Deaf curators in the UK and for him to come to Wales to led the Artes Mundi exhibition at the National Museum, Cardiff was fantastic!

The event took place two weeks ago and sold out pretty quickly. My background and passion is visual arts and to see this happening in Wales was a personal dream for me. I have been to hundreds of exhibition tours and I usually only understand about 20/30% of what is spoken, for this tour I understood 100%.

I think having a Deaf curator makes a bigger impact because of the language they use and it resonated with a Deaf audience. There was a real mixture of people in attendance; some have never been to a museum before, some attending liked Art but have limited opportunities to see an accessible tour, some just wanted to see John. The feedback was really positive and I hope to bring John back more for more BSL tours in other museums around Wales. You can read and exclusive interview with John and Jonny about this event here.

Mr and Mrs Clark ‘Louder Is Not Always Clearer’. I might be biased because I am involved in this but it is going on another tour from May to June then will be heading for a month at the Edinburgh Fringe at the Summerhall. Louder Is Not Always Clearer has also been selected for the national rural touring and will be visiting rural communities in the UK. Exciting times and we are looking forward seeing wider and more diverse audiences!

Cardiff Deaf Centre Arts Festival – After it’s success 5 years ago for young deaf people, it is back again in April at the WMC with a range of exciting Deaf artists running workshops.

Hijinx and Frantic Assembly ‘Into the Light” at Sherman Theatre. Always exciting to watch both organisations but to see the two combined… wow!- I am looking forward to see more disabled-led events in 2019. Kaite O’Rieily’s ‘Peeling’ directed by Taking Flight looks interesting as well as the brilliant Graeae’s new production of Sarah Kane’s ‘Blasted’. I am very excited to hear Deafinitely Theatre are creating their version of ‘Horrible Histories’ called ‘Dreadful Deaf’ which is going to be touring later in the year. I am really excited to see what Paula Garfield (Director of Deafinitaly Theatre) is going to do with this. I am sure it will be fun, visual, accessible and mad!

I am also hoping to see Extraordinary Bodies new fully inclusive outdoor touring show ‘What I am Worth’. British Paraorchestra’s ‘Nature Of Why’ is touring and will be coming to WMC. They are the world’s only large-scale ensemble for professional disabled musicians so I am very excited they are coming to Wales.- I have been looking at festivals where we can take our 2 year old daughter along so we are going to head back to the Blue Lagoon Festival in West Wales which we have been many times and its brilliant. We are also  thinking (if i can get tickets) of going to the Just So Festival because it looks amazing.  I have never been to the Machynlleth Festival so I have made sure it is on my list to visit this year.

Branwen Davies, Writer.

My cultural delights or highlights for 2019? I’m still recovering from the cultural smorgasbord  of 2018! The end of the year in particular was a whirlwind of exciting and engaging work that inspired and moved me. I’m still discussing and thinking about some of my favourites – Clean Break’s ‘Thick as Thieves’ at Theatr Clwyd, John Rea’s  ‘Atgyfodi’ at Sain Ffagan, the Sherman’s production of Meic Povey’s ‘Fel Anifail,’ good cop, bad cop’s ‘Phantom Rides Again’ at Chapter and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s verbatim musical ‘Nyrsys.’

Last year it was impossible to catch everything so I’m glad there’s an opportunity in 2019 to catch some of the things I missed. On my list –  Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff) at Galeri, Caernarfon before Carys Eleri takes her show to Australia.  Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s‘Merched Caerdydd/Nos Sadwrn o Hyd’ that premiered at the Eisteddfod last August and will soon to be touring Wales. NTW’s ‘The Stick Maker Tales’ and Jonny Cotsen’s  production ‘Louder v Clearer.’

Other theatre productions  I don’t want to miss this year are Fran Wen’s powerful one woman show ‘Anweledig.’ Be Aware’s Turkish/Welsh production ‘Y Brain/Kargalar.’ Cwmni Pluen’s ‘Woof’ and Ed Thomas’s new play ‘On Bear Ridge’ (a co-production between NTW and the Royal Court).  As one of the Dirty Protest gang I’m excited that we have a new production touring in the spring. Sian Owen’s one woman show ‘How To Be Brave’ is set in Newport and is a love story to the city. On the art front I’m intrigued to see the work on show and the work being developed at Shift and Rugart/Celfryg and the possibilities of these contemporary art spaces at the Capitol Shopping Centre on Queen Street. Another highlight I’m looking forward to is London Sinfonietta Synergy Vocals at St David’s Hall (Steve Reich being hailed as one of ‘the most original music thinkers of our time’)


I want to enjoy more live music this year. I just hope there will still be vibrant and individual venues left to be able to do so. I’m heartbroken that Buffalo and Gwdihw in Cardiff have been forced to close down.

I recently saw Cate Le Bon at The Gate, Lleuwen is performing a series of acoustic gigs in chapels across Wales following the release of her new album ‘Gwn Glân Beibl Budr,’ and Mr (Mark Roberts + Band) is also touring. I love his first solo album, Oesoedd.

My personal hope is to collaborate more with different artists who work differently to me and to have more creative discussions. I’m keen to work more with music and sound and challenge the way I write and create. I’m also keen to explore the possibilities of political plays in Wales. Where are our political plays especially in the current political turmoil we’re facing in Wales and beyond?

Peter Doran, Artistic Director, Torch Theatre.

2019 will start with a theatrical explosion for me, I’ve booked for Wise Children, the first production of Emma Rice’s new company at Bristol Old Vic. Emma Rice is one of the most exciting directors in the UK, her work with Kneehigh was phenomenal. I directed Brief Encounter at the Torch a couple of years ago, unashamedly based on her production with Kneehigh and was probably one of the highlights of my career as a director. Wise Children, I’m told has all the hallmarks of a knee-high production and with two fantastic Welsh actors in the cast, Katy Owen and Gareth Snook and no bridge tolls to pay, this will be a cracking start to the year.

Laura Penneycard and Liam Tobin in Torch Theatre production of Brief Encounter by Emma Rice.

From a Torch perspective, we have Grav back for it’s fifth tour, it’s now like welcoming an old friend back to the theatre; staff, audiences, they all love Grav, it creates such a great atmosphere in the theatre; it’ll be great having him back at the Torch and to take him to London for a short run at the Hope Theatre in Islington! Who would’ve thought that a play about a boy from Mynedd y Garreg would perform in New York, Washington DC and London all in the space of twelve months.

Gareth Ford Elliot, Get the Chance critic and playwright.

My personal highlights of what I’m looking forward to are the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival and The Other Room’s Spring Fringe. It will be excellent to see so much work in the first half of the year in Cardiff.

As for specific projects, Spilt Milk’s ‘Five Green Bottles’ by Joe Wiltshire-Smith looks to be an absolute hit. It was a brilliant show at last year’s Cardiff Fringe and to see it with a few extra months work and some changes is a very exciting prospect. Wiltshire-Smith is one of the upcoming Cardiff-based writers and working with Spilt Milk who have contributed so much to Cardiff’s arts scene in the last two years is a combination not to be missed.

David Evans, Head of Production, National Theatre Wales.

I am intrigued to see the The Mirror Crack’d – the WMC’s Co-Production with Wiltshire Creative that will be on at The New Theatre, Cardiff.  Agatha Christie shows have been the staple of mid scale touring for years, populated by people “off the telly” in the twilight of their careers.  But this is apparently a completely new take on the hoary old country house murders and I am fascinated to see what they have done.

After “Now the Hero” I am eager to see anything that Marc Rees is up to, I don’t know what his plans for 2019 are but whatever they are I will be there.

Matthew Gough, Faculty of Creative Industries, USW, Senior Lecturer Dance

I’ve been looking forward to 2019 for some time, it will bring the first graduates from BA Hons Dance, at the University of South Wales. Some 20 years after my own graduation I will be watching our students with pride as they present their dissertations (March), Perform at MAP festival, and Agor Drysau (March), a repertoire night with work from Wales based choreographers (April), and our end of semester performances at Dance House Cardiff (April, & May).
National Dance Company of Wales, and Groundwork Pro are both in a period of new leadership and their plans for future delivery are exciting and progressive. A number of dance artists have (re)established themselves in Wales and, the sector will benefit from the diverse perspectives, and experience they bring. Cardiff Dance Festival always brings a richly curated, international focus to the sector, and I anticipate the next edition will bring more dance delights (November). Overall I look forwards to the Welsh dance sector, adapting, reimagining, and revitalising itself depicts the challenges, and uncertainty that we know 2019 will bring.

Rebecca Jane Hammond, Artistic Director Chippy Lane.

I think topping ‘2018’ will be difficult as there was so much work of great quality being developed and produced. New companies thriving, venues reaching wider audiences and winning awards and most importantly the community rallying together to ensure our work is met with joy and love and great support for one another.

My cultural highlight for 2019: NEW: 2019, Between Eternity and Time Written by our Jacob Hodgkinson, directed by Hannah Noone, commissioned by Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and Sherman Theatre “I am beyond excited to see this team of collaborators working together and Jacob’s writing getting the recognition it so deeply deserves in Cardiff and London.”

19 – 21 Mar, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
2 – 5 Apr, The Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, London

As for our own cultural highlight it’s important I mention BLUE, Chippy Lane’s second production and first foray into new writing. Boasting an authentic Welsh and Wales-based creative team and published by Methuen Drama (Bloomsbury Publishing). This is an enormous achievement for a company not yet three years old. We will also continue our other projects and initiatives by producing more of Chippy Lane’s Podcast and running our Welsh Female Writers Group. We hope you can continue to support us as we continue to create great theatre and provide opportunity.

Paul Jenkins, Theatre Director/Dramaturg/Writer.

I’m looking forward to new plays from Elgan Rhys & Ed Thomas. Woof, directed by Gethin Evans, is first up at The Sherman and is sure to be a theatrical force from the creative force from the creative team behind Mags last year. Then the brilliant Ed Thomas, whose gritty surrealism defined Welsh theatre in the 90s makes a welcome return with NTW. On a personal note I’ve been inspired by the locals of Taibach while recording responses to the Banksy that appeared over Xmas. This street art asks difficult questions about the economic foundations of Port Talbot and yet has been embraced by the entire community. Freelance theatre-makers like myself rely on the big producing theatres to pick up exciting ideas & support emerging talent, so I’m very much hoping the Banksy story will find a good home and become an essential highlight of 2019.

Zosia Jo, Dance Artist.

Most of the things I am looking forward to in 2019 are still awaiting their funding! Cardiff Dance Festival for example, and my own production- Songs for the Body- which will be a promenade live action concept album with dance, music and spoken word taking over Chapter in October half term.

However one thing that is confirmed is Groundwork Pro’s funding and they will be offering workshops, events, classes and residencies for dance and movement artists throughout 2019. There will be so much opportunity for discussion, training, sharing and professional development. I am really excited to be part of it.

Angharad Lee, Director.

Firstly, I am looking forward to seeing Hadestow which tells a version of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a musical adaptation of the folk Opera concept album by Anais Mitchell.

I am silly excited about attending an intimate evening with Stephen Schwarts in Manchester. It’s the first he has done in the UK. I am thrilled to see Wales Millennium Centre devote their Curious Season to mental health later in the year and can’t wait to see what’s in store there. Draw Me Close at the Young Vic looks fascinating also. 

Having had a frantic year last year, most of my own creative enegrgies this year are being ploughed into the new BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre Course which will be up and running this September. It’s the first ever undergraduate course in Musical Theatre in Wales and am delighted to be a part of it. Details here, get in touch if you think you would like to apply and come and chat . 

In the meantime I am directing Pippin by Stephen Schwartz and The World Goes ‘Round, both with the fabulous students at Canolfan Berfformio Cymru, UWTSD. Leeway Productons’ 10 Minute Musicals will be rolled out again a little later in the year with some fabulous partners including RCT Theatres who work so hard as a team.  We are also thrilled to be working on a lovely Welsh Language production with some young people from Merthyr in the Summer. Hopefully, this year will feel a little more relaxed than last year! 

David Mercatali, Director.

My highlight of the year ahead is to see the continued development of the 15-18 year olds in my Introduction to Playwriting group at the Sherman Theatre. Mentored by 3 brilliant writers, Matt Hartley, Branwen Davies and Brad Birch, their work is already showing so much talent and I can’t wait to see what they do this year. My personal hope is to see more new plays produced for longer runs in Wales. There’s many exciting voices with stories to tell.

Rachel Pedley Millar, Artistic Director, Avant Cymru.

Happy 2019 everyone. Avant have an important year lined up, where we have a focus on mental health and well-being. Our Hip Hop theatre piece has a focus on mental health and we hope to head to New York to attend the Hip Hop for metal health conference held by Doug E  Fresh and partners. We aim to undertake research on ‘how art can aid those living with mental health conditions?’ Working with other artists (including Sadlers Wells) and our community in RCT.

The Valleys have a celebrity year with it being 80 years since Llewellyn wrote ‘How Green Is My Valley’, we want to find out ‘How Green is Our Valley Now? We are always interested in what everyone in our community has to say. Including other artist and we hear Motherlode have exciting plans this year and we can’t wait to hear more about them.

Have a happy, healthy New year everyone. “For all sad words of mouth or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been.” – John Whittier.

Fearghus Ó Conchúir, Artistic Director, National Dance Company Wales.

As a newcomer to Wales, there’s a lot for me to learn about, lots to see.  Starting closest to home, some of the events I already know I’m looking forward are in our varied activity at NDCWales: our Awakening programme that tours Wales and England in the Spring with magical new work by Brazilian choreographer, Fernando Melo and by our resident choreographer, Caroline Finn, as well as the Roots programme that will tour across Wales in the Autumn with pieces by new choreographic talent. 

As a recently-arrived Artistic Director, I’m mostly at a stage where I get to be an excited cheerleader for other people’s work in our programmes, but I’m also happy that in 2019, I’ll get to make work myself, with the company’s professional dancers, with other artists and with different groups across Wales who will all inform the new piece.  I knew about Cardiff Dance Festival before I came here, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in this year’s programme.  And one more dance highlight for me will be the BBC’s #DancePassion on 5th April when the BBC’s social media channels will showcase dance in the UK, with livestreaming (including from NDCWales) and the chance for audiences to interact.  I’m looking forward to seeing the diversity of dance that this event will bring to the BBC’s wide public.

Because I’m interested in what bodies get to be visible and to fulfil their potential, I’m inspired by work that shows me what’s possible and pushes me to expand my vision.  For that reason, Mission Control, NTW’s collaboration with Hijinx that will be performed in November is something for me to look forward to with its cast of professional neurodivergent and learning-disabled actors as well as members of the Only Boys Aloud choirs.  I won’t get to see Splish Splash, the NTW collaboration with Oily Cart that’s made exclusively for children in special schools across Wales and England, but I love that it’s going on and that it’s going to be a cultural highlight for people who mightn’t be included in other events.

Jasmine Okai, Assistant Producer, Fio.

Fio: Futures’ production of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Fear and Misery of the Third Reich’ showcasing in RawFfest April 2019. This timeless story of the rise of fascism is unfortunately still as pertinent today as it was in the 1940s. Brecht’s play presents a series of vignettes on the everyday lives of German citizens, including Jewish people, living under this oppressive regime of Nazi fascism during World War II. After the success of ‘The Island’ UK tour in October 2018, Fio have since established Fio’s Young Company, Fio: Futures, who will be bringing these important stories to the stage.

William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, as reimagined by Jo Clifford. Shakespeare productions are a classic and, some would argue, integral faction of theatre. What makes this production so exciting is that while keeping the main story of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, Jo Clifford uses gender reversal within the main characters to switch up the dynamics of the play. How refreshing!

Catherine Paskell, Theatre Director.

Believe. If I Could Turn Back Time. Just Like Jesse James. Gypsies Tramps and Thieves. Bang Bang. I can’t wait to see Cher’s concert.  Her tour in October 2019 will be her first live UK dates in 14 years. Her songs, her films, her outfits, her political activism, her Twitter feed. Her music video for If I Could Turn Back Time was too much even for MTV because we could see her tattooed bum cheeks either side of her thong as she straddled that cannon and strutted in front of the navy – so it was the first video to be banned by the channel. Cher’s career and musical evolution embodies the transitions of American cultural forms. She is outspoken, honest and authentic as an older woman in a male-dominated field. It’s going to be an ambitious, theatrical and entertaining show – Cher is my cultural highlight of 2019. 

Image Credit Warren Orchard

Tim Price, Playwright

I’m looking forward to the following – 

Books – Dignity by Alys Conran, out in April. I loved Pigeon and am looking forward to what Conran does telling a story outside of Wales.  The Age of Surveillance Capitalism By Shoshana Zuboff. Zuboff, is a brilliant cultural critic and I think this might have the same impact as Piketty’s Capital. 

Films – Toy Story 4, and Star Wars IX. I mean, do I need to justify those? Reuben Ostlund’s Triangle of Sadness starts shooting 2019 but I’m not sure it’ll be released. 

Theatre – Richard III by Headlong will be brilliant. And it’s great that Ed Thomas has taken a break from counting money to write another play so I’m excited about ‘On Bear Ridge’ by National Theatre Wales. Berberian Sound Studio created by designer Tom Scutt and playwright Joel Horwood at the Donmar warehouse. Home, I’m Darling at Theatre Clwyd, I missed it first time around. The Funeral Director by Imam Qureshi won the Papatango Competition this year and is being toured by ETC.  Nos Sadwrn O Hyd by Roger Williams is a brilliant monologue revived in Welsh for the first time by Theatr Gen.


TV – What We Do In The Shadows has been turned into a TV show released in 2019. I’m also super excited about Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone, and a new True Detective series. Channel 4 have produced a new 4 parter from Lucy Kirkwood about the porn industry called Adult Material, fellow Cynon Valley boy Gareth Evans has his first TV series out Gangs of London on HBO and Sky Atlantic.


Event – Blue Dot at Joddrell is a brilliant mix of science, astronomy big ideas and music – Gruff Rhys and Hot Chip play this year under the mighty Lovell Telescope. It looks amazing. 

Catrin Rogers, Press and PR Manager, National Theatre Wales.

I’ve booked tickets to see WNO’s The Magic Flute, and I have high hopes for that. They’ve just announced their next season, including the return of Bryn Terfel, which is great.

I’ll try to catch at least one of Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s touring plays, by Catrin Dafydd and Roger Williams – two writers I admire very much – in the Spring.

I’ve also booked tickets to see National Dance Company Wales’ Spring tour, Awakening. It includes Tundra, which I’ve seen many times but never, ever tire of – honestly, it takes my breath away every time I see it.

In the coming weeks I’ll go with my family to catch the Artes Mundi Exhibition, which I’ve been reading a lot about.

I’ve even booked tickets to see Take That at the Principality Stadium – well, I couldn’t resist a singalong with them.

Alice Rush, Theatre Producer

2019 is set to be another fantastic year for the arts. Even though the production won’t be until 2020 I’m excited to see what project will be chosen from National Theatre Wales’ Radical Creatures callout, I think it’s a great initiative and a great choice for female identifying and non binary artists to take more of centre stage in the current arts scene.

From a more selfish point of view my theatre company, CB4 Theatre, will be presenting our inaugural production 10,316, a new devised piece marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We’re all so excited to get stuck in to the already thriving grassroots arts scene here in Cardiff, so watch this space for dates!

Aside from the arts, 2019 is definitely going to be a bumpy year. With Brexit looming and pressing social issues plaguing the country I really hope that art can do what it does best; listen, respond, discuss, create, inspire, protest. At a time where it’s easy to give into divisions I think it’s more important than ever for the arts world to take a strong stand against hatred and fascism.

Credit othercrowd.com

Matthew Scott, Writer and Teacher


Music-wise, I’ll keep my usual eye on Warp, Hyperdub, and Heavenly. Nubya Garcia is playing Clwb in May, so I’ll try to get down to see her. Mostly though I’ll still be dreaming of SFA making another album and hoping Doves get their arses in gear after the dates they’re playing.

In art, I’m looking forward to seeing how John Abell’s new place, RUG develops over the coming year. 2019 also looks like it’s going to be a brilliant year for new fiction, and the novel I’m most excited about is Niven Govinden’s ‘This Brutal House’, which has been described as a queer protest novel set in the drag ball community of New York City and, therefore, fierce as all fuck.

As far as theatre goes, How To Be Brave by Sîan Owen is coming via Dirty Protest and I am doubly excited to see this full scale show, especially as it is set in my adopted home of Newport and pitches up in the one and only Le Pub. As for my personal hopes: I just hope there is a miracle of some sort that puts a halt to the madness we can see coming our way, and Liverpool and Manchester City lose every game they play between now and the end of the season.

Abdul Shayek, Artistic Director Fio.


So for me, 2019 has started off with a bang- one of my cultural highlights has already happened, Sri Lanka and the Galle Literature Festival, where the amazing spoken word artist Nicole May performed!  It also featured writers such as Sir David Hare, Mohammed Hanif and Vahni Capildeo amongst others who I had the pleasure of meeting.  I was also lucky enough to find out about the amazing arts and cultural activities taking place across the South Asia region, supported or directly delivered by the British Council, as I joined their bi-annual Arts regional meeting, in my capacity as an Arts Advisor.  

Personally, the next cultural highlight will be my trip to Australia as part of the British Council Australia Intersect Programme.  It was brilliant when my counterparts came over to the UK, which included a visit to Cardiff in 2018.  Now it’s the turn of the UK participants to visit Australia, learn and understand what the diversity and inclusion picture looks like.  We will be visiting Sydney and Melbourne and meeting with a range of cultural leaders.  We will also be part of the Fair Play Symposium 

Other than that I have a number of other projects and ideas that are currently in motion, all very exciting and some have international elements to them, however, quite a few are funding dependent, so fingers and toes crossed. Other cultural highlights for me include: Manchester International Festival in general, but really looking forward to Trees by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah and the collaboration between Flexn and Young Identity will be very exciting.

I am really looking forward to seeing King Hedley II at Theatre Royal Stratford East with Lenny Henry. In Wales, I am really looking forward to Rawffest and in Cardiff at the WMC, I am sure it will do what it was initially set up to do and really engage young people from a diverse range of backgrounds.  I am also really looking forward to Mission Control the NTW and Hijinx – collaboration. In terms of non-theatre highlights, I can’t wait to see the final season of Game of Thrones, also looking forward to Star Wars IX and the remake of the Lion King. In terms of gigs, I am hoping to catch Tank and the Bangas on their European tour, Anderson Paak when he visits London and Skepta at Manchester International Festival.
I’m sure there will be loads more cultural offers which will entertain, inspire and most importantly keep me nourished during 2019!!!!!

George SoaveProducer, He/Him/They/ThemThe Other Room.

We are kicking off 2019 with an almighty bang. Spring Fringe is the latest addition to our programme here at The Other Room. February and March, traditionally the home to our self-produced work, will now be occupied by eight weeks of imaginative and bold Fringe Theatre. Spring Fringe will champion home-grown companies and provide a platform for non-native touring companies to perform their breakthrough work here in Cardiff. Presenting work from Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Cardiff Fringe and others from across the UK and internationally! Our diverse programme will present eight productions over eight weeks that capture the essence of the fringe – telling imaginative stories in ingenious ways.

What about our self about our self-produced work? The Other Room will remain champions of well-made, daring modern drama and are as committed as ever to producing our own work – if anything we’re pushing the artistic envelope even further in 2019 and this Autumn will see our self- produced work return so watch this space.

And that’s not all! In the spirit of the fringe, this Spring we are embracing our Cardiffian cultural cousins… the rugby. There’s no avoiding that each spring Cardiff is ignited by the Six Nations Championship, so we thought, if you can’t beat them join them! All five of the Welsh rugby matches will be screened in both Porter’s bar and in the theatre as a part of our Spring Fringe programme. So come on in and enjoy a play, a pint and a match.

Kully Thiarai, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales.

I’m biased I know, but I’m looking forward to Ed Thomas’ new play ‘On Bear Ridge’ that will open at The Sherman in September. He has written a beautiful, poetic and poignant work.

Taking Flight Theatre Company’s production of Peeling by Kaite O’Reilly is touring Wales so I planning to catch that on the road somewhere.  I missed it when it was first produced by Graeae Theatre Company many years ago.

More immediately Artes Mundi 8 has had another great year and finishes soon so catch it while you can! National Museum, Cardiff is also showing the rarely displayed drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci as part of a UK wide simultaneous exhibition.

Two big music nights back to back this summer– Manic Street Preachers and Paul Weller play Cardiff Castle. I will definitely try and go to both!

I’m very excited by Yoko Ono’s Bells for Peace that will be opening event for Manchester International Festival in July. Thousands of diverse voices and an orchestra of bells sending a message of peace to the World seems like a very apt thing to be doing in 2019.  In the same festival Idris Elba and Kwami Kwei-Armah will be making a new work called TREE – sounds like a great collaboration to me, combining music, dance and film.

Rachel Trezise, Novelist and Playwright.

Finally this year I get to road test a piece of my own work that’s been on my table for seven years, a play about the Pontypridd boxer Freddie Welsh, said to be one of the inspirations behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. I’m going to be working with RCT Theatres and Motherlode Theatre to determine if the work is suitable for public consumption.

Also I’m really looking forward to travelling to Northern Ireland where my monologue ‘Cotton Fingers’, commissioned by NTW for the NHS70 Festival last year, will open in May. The monologue is set in Belfast and concerns abortion laws in Northern Ireland but I haven’t been to Belfast for twenty years.

Most of all I’m looking forward to the publication of short story-master Amy Hempel’s new collection ‘Sing To It’ in late March, her first new work in over a decade. My personal hope for the year is that the UK, and Wales in particular, manages to get through the Brexit withdrawal process without much more trauma. We should know by the end of the year whether the tunnel that connects the Rhondda to the Afan Valley will be able to open as a cycling and walking track. I think that would be a great thing for both valleys.

Get the Chance critic, Sian Thomas

I’m awfully excited for the third How To Train Your Dragon movie. I really enjoyed the films through my teens and have actually managed to make that enjoyment infect others, too. It’ll be nice to see a cushy family film with the family this year.

Personal hopes are to read at least 20 books this year – and review the ones that take my fancy (not the ones I have to read for uni, haha). I’m looking forward to this because it means I’ll easily work on two new year’s resolutions: read more, and review more!

Top Tunes with Abdul Shayek

Hi Abdul, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

My name is Abdul Shayek, I am a theatre director and Artistic Director and CEO of Fio.  Fio is a theatre company created as a direct response to the current lack of diversity within the theatre sector in Wales. Of 67 Arts Council Wales, portfolio funded organisations, only one is led by someone of colour, (Liara Barrusi founder and Artistic Director of Jukebox Collective) and has a board to reflect this. Currently, there is no theatre company led by someone of colour other than Kully Thiarai, Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales.

Image Description, head and shoulders photographs of Liara Barrusi founder and Artistic Director of Jukebox Collective and Kully Thiarai, Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales.

Fio is truly the only BAME led theatre company based in Cardiff, but works across the UK and Internationally.  It delivers work across 3 strands: Productions – making politically relevant professional shows.  Projects: delivering high-quality engagement activities.  People: providing interesting, unique and paid training opportunities to a range of individuals trying to develop a career in the sector.  Personally, most of my time is taken up with running Fio, however, I also work for as a freelancer and work across the UK and internationally, most recently I was the associate director on the Channel 4 documentary, Superkids about young people in care, led by Lemn Sissay.

Image Description, Lemn Sissay photographed centre with a group of young people featured in the Superkids documentary.

I have recently come back from Sri Lanka, I was there supporting my partner who is an amazing spoken word artist called Nicole May.

She was invited to perform at The Galle Literature Festival.  I was also there in my role as an Arts and Creative Economy Advisor for the British Council. 

Poster of The Galle Literature Festival, blue background with text in the centre.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

I am listening to a range of people at the moment, recently I have been listening to some interesting artists such as Vimala Rowe, who I heard at the Brixton Hidden Jazz Club and Robert Glasper who I was introduced to by my girlfriend.  I am also listening to people like Alexis Ffrench, Kendrick Lemar, Anderson Paak,Sampha, Post Malone, Skepta, Stormzy and Childish Gambino, anything I like the sound of really………

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 

1 Life after Death – The Notorious BIG 

2 All Eyes on Me- Tupac Shukar

I love both these albums as they remind me of my teenage years growing up in East London and both these artist were amazing at what they did, shame their stories finished the way they did.

3 Purple Rain – Prince

What an album and what an artist, I saw his concert at the O2 and he was brilliant.

4 Michael Jackson

To fair, I like all of his albums- its Michael Jackson, what more is there to say, he has it all- the ultimate entertainer- it resonates for me as I remember I couldn’t afford CDs so I had to tape the albums from my mates CD, so as I could have the albums!

5 Illmatic – Nas

I concur with many that this is probably the best hip hop album ever……..the flow, the artists, the lyrics and of course the politics, for me it has significance as it got me thinking about my politics and my world and how I want to change/ influence/ shape it.

Supporting Access at Artes Mundi 8

All images in this article copyright Robin Maggs
[Image Description John Wilson leads a BSL tour of the Artes Mundi 8 exhibition. John is surrounded by a large group of people following his presentation.]

Jonny Cotsen– I have been campaigning for many years to try and get John Wilson, Deaf arts practitioner and consultant to curate and lead a BSL tour at one of our brilliant museums/galleries. John is one of the most experienced Deaf curators in the UK and for him to come to Wales to led the Artes Mundi exhibition at the National Museum, Cardiff was fantastic!

All images in this article copyright Robin Maggs
[Image Description John Wilson leads a BSL tour of the Artes Mundi 8 exhibition. John is surrounded by a large group of people following his presentation.]

John Wilson– I was really pleased to be given this opportunity to come to Cardiff for the Artes Mundi 8 tour. Getting out of London and being able to share such an important and fascinating cultural event with deaf people in a different part of the UK was a privilege and a delight! I really believe that Deaf-led events with British Sign Language (BSL)  the native language of Deaf people as the only medium of communication. They deliver such a lot for deaf people who feel confident that they are coming to something which they will understand and, what is more, has been organised specially for them. As a result some will come to a museum for the first time ever.

All images in this article copyright Robin Maggs
[Image Description John Wilson leads a BSL tour of the Artes Mundi 8 exhibition. A photo of John from his waist up with an image behind him.]

John Wilson– This event felt even more special for two reasons. Firstly the exhibition was for the largest art prize in the UK – I am not aware that any tour of such an important event for contemporary art in the UK has ever been organised for deaf people. It also provided an opportunity to open up contemporary and more abstract art to deaf people which, to be honest, is not a subject many will have felt able to approach before.  I congratulate National Museum, Cardiff for organising this. What is more, I would like to thank Melissa Hinkin, Exhibitions Officer, Artes Mundi for doing such a wonderful job of setting up and organising the BSL tour.

All images in this article copyright Robin Maggs
[Image Description John Wilson leads a BSL tour of the Artes Mundi 8 exhibition. John is surrounded by a large group of people following his presentation.]

Jonny Cotsen– The event took place two weeks ago and sold out pretty quickly. My background and passion is visual arts and to see this happening in Wales was a personal dream for me. I have been to hundreds of exhibition tours and I usually only understand about 20-30% of what is spoken, for this tour I understood 100%. I think having a Deaf curator makes a bigger impact because of the language they use and it resonated with a Deaf audience. There was a real mixture of people in attendance; some have never been to a museum before, some attending liked Art but have limited opportunities to see an accessible tour, some just wanted to see John. The feedback was really positive and I hope to bring John back more for more BSL tours in other museums around Wales.

All images in this article copyright Robin Maggs
[Image Description John Wilson leads a BSL tour of the Artes Mundi 8 exhibition. John is surrounded by a large group of people following his presentation.]

John Wilson– Being profoundly deaf I am always well prepared for problems when getting involved in projects like this, only because people do not understand my communication needs or how best to make events accessible to deaf people. Of course, I had none of these problems with Melissa, and it was real pleasure to work with her. Thanks are due too to Jonny Cotsen who I know has put so much effort personally into campaigning for deaf access to museums and galleries in Wales. He sowed the seed of this and we need to say thank you to him. On top of that I was able to be part of such an important cultural event and a wonderful exhibition. It has been a cultural highlight for me and I am not sure it will be surpassed in 2019!