Tag Archives: Persians

Creative Wales Awards 2017

I’m delighted to announce I am one of the artists from Wales fortunate to be granted a Creative Wales Award.

The awards, presented at an event held at Cardiff’s contemporary art gallery G39 on Thursday 12 January, “recognise the very best talent and potential of individual Welsh artists applying for this development opportunity.

The annual Creative Wales Awards offer up to £25,000 to enable artists to take time to experiment, innovate, and take forward their work. The aim is to develop excellence by offering a period of research and development to some of Wales’s most interesting artists.”
Phil George, Chair of the Arts Council of Wales said:

“The Creative Wales Awards is the Arts Council of Wales’s opportunity to recognise some our country’s remarkable talents. They are awarded to the artists at significant stages in their careers and as they take the brave decision to explore new ways of developing and making their art. We look forward to seeing how these awards will impact on their work and to how their creativity flourishes in the future.”

I am immensely excited about this award, but also phenomenally grateful to be living in a country which recognises life-long learning and development in an artist. For me, just writing the application for the award was stimulating and useful – it encouraged me to perceive where I ‘am’ in my career, and possible new ways forward.

My Creative Wales is based on my love of words and the incredible joy I experienced when writing my new version of Aeschylus’s ‘Persians’, directed by Mike Pearson site-specifically on MOD land for National Theatre Wales in 2010. You can see a promotional video of the project here.

Apart from starting a love affair with the remarkable poet-playwright-soldier Aeschylus, it introduced me to composer John Hardy, long-term collaborator of Pearson and the brilliant Brith Gof. I knew John’s work intimately, but hadn’t had the opportunity to work with him, before. At the read-through of the first draft, he said to me: “Do you write for opera?” and I answered in the negative. “Well, perhaps you should think about doing so,” he replied – words that remained scorched into my mind for six years – until I started thinking about a Creative Wales Award. I am happy to say John Hardy was immensely generous in our conversations about form and process, dialogue which helped me shape a programme of learning when drafting my application. He, alongside David Pountney of Welsh National Opera, and Michael McCarthy of Music Theatre Wales, were incredibly encouraging as I stumbled in my ignorance through possible approaches. I hope dearly to have the opportunity of observing process with WNO and MTW, and developing material alongside John Hardy during my experimentation.

But my award is not solely about writing libretti. It is about exploring the performative power of language with music. The gift of a Creative Wales Award is remarkable – it is not product-based, but about process, learning, experimentation, creative exploration. I will spend months exploring different form and approaches – from underscored performance poetry and verse drama through to exploring contemporary libretti.

Perhaps this exploration was inevitable. I won the Ted Hughes Award for New Works in Poetry for the text of ‘Persians’. This extraordinary honour both humbled and bewildered me (“but I’m a playwright, not a poet!!”) and started me off questioning what the relationship might be between the poetic and the dramatic. It is perhaps no accident that new friends and collaborators are themselves accomplished poets – Samantha Wynne Rhydderch, Gillian Clarke, Sophie McKeand and especially Chris Kinsey, who has consistently nurtured my interest in poetry, and encouraged my own practice through inviting me to read alongside her at public performances. I’m excited about where my journeying into the poetic may take me, and I’m thrilled that Owen Sheers and Gillian Clarke will give me some masterclasses in poetry and verse drama in the first stage of my Creative Wales.

All I need now is to get through the next four months before my exploration commences. I’m trying to curate an experience which will stretch and challenge me, forcing me to grow as an artist perhaps into unexpected places. I am so grateful to all who assisted me in the application, and those who wrote supportive letters. My greatest thanks, of course, goes to the officers of the Arts Council of Wales and that sterling institution which has such vision and understanding about how to grow mature artists within Wales. I know my colleagues outside Wales are envious we have such opportunity – and it is one we must cherish and jealously protect in uncertain times in the future.

 

 

No such thing as original… Writing plays and the ancient Greeks

Charles Mee

Charles Mee

I have a lot of time for the American playwright, novelist and historian Charles Mee. I was first introduced to his work by Phillip Zarrilli, who directed a large scale site-specific production of his version of Orestes in the US in 1998.

Mee does not believe that there is such a thing as an ‘original’ play – the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare retold existing stories and he believes all performance is both original and adaptation – we ‘remake’ as we go along.

His ongoing (Re)Making Project and the texts available on the site are offered as a free resource to be taken, used, refashioned and put to each artist’s use. He invites writers, dramaturgs, actors and directors to ‘…pillage the plays as I have pillaged the structures and contents of the plays of Euripides and Brecht and stuff out of Soap Opera Digest and the evening news and the internet, and build your own, entirely new, piece…’ He then encourages practitioners to share their own new re-makings. This way the old stories are made new, with resonance to contemporary audiences.

‘My own work’ Mee writes on his website ‘begins with the belief that human beings are, as Aristotle said, social creatures—that we are the product not just of psychology, but also of history and of culture, that we often express our histories and cultures in ways even we are not conscious of, that the culture speaks through us, grabs us and throws us to the ground, cries out, silences us.’

Owing to this, he tries to get past traditional forms of psychological realism, which in many ways over-simplifies the reasons why human beings do what they do. In an essay on theatre and translation for Theatre Journal in 2007, he celebrates what he views as the ancient Greeks more complex understanding of what it is to be human – what historians call multifactorial explanations: ‘We see now that we are formed by history and culture, gender and genetics, politics and economics, race and chance, as well as by psychology,‘ he writes.

Three years after writing my own version of Aeschylus’s Persians, I recently came across Mee’s opinion of the Greek chorus and found it similar to my own: the Greek chorus is the voice of the community, but composed of individual voices. In the version of Persians I wrote for National Theatre Wales in 2010, I separated out what I felt to be the different tones and ‘voices’ of the collective chorus into separate, identifiable, individual figures (I would not call them ‘characters’). They created the foundation and relief upon which the ‘principals’ rested.

‘I think the structures of the Greek plays were like Rolls Royces’. Mee states in the essay. ‘They work perfectly.’

I’m inclined to agree.

For further information on Charles Mee:

http://www.charlesmee.org/about.shtml

Kaite won the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New works in Poetry for her version of Persians. For images of Mike Pearson’s stunning site-specific production, plus reviews and other information, see: http://www.kaiteoreilly.com/plays/persians/index.htm