Innovative night of theatre from Dirty Protest
Theatre company Dirty Protest’s new production
Since launching just nine months ago, theatre group Dirty Protest has raised the profile of many new Welsh writers. Now, as Karen Price discovers, it’s time for the directors to face the heat
TAKE one play and six directors and what do you get? An innovative night of theatre that’s for sure.
It’s the latest offering from Dirty Protest, the new Welsh theatre group which was launched in Wales less than a year ago.
While the first four events placed the onus firmly on the writers – challenging them to come up with short pieces that would attract a younger generation who don’t usually visit the theatre – the latest session will put the directors under the spotlight.
Mared Swain, Simon Thomas, Adele Thomas, Julie Barclay, Gareth Bale and Kit Lambert have all been given the same brief – to direct the same short play, Repeat, from Manchester writer Phil Porter. The play was originally commissioned by London-based new writing company DryWrite .
“It’s a play that can be interpreted in any kind of way,” says Claire Hill, a former Western Mail journalist who founded Dirty Protest along with screen writer Tim Price and former actress and director Catrin Rees.
“The lines could be used as a monologue or they could be split between several actors. It’s completely up to the director – they have such freedom.
“At least two of the directors I have spoken to are using music or they have pre-recorded some aspects of the performance.
“They are all quite keen to mess around with the script so I think we will see something totally different from each of them.”
Dirty Protest launched last August in a yurt in Cardiff cafe-bar Milgi.
Price, who penned the S4C drama Y Pris, felt there was a real need to make theatre more accessible to younger audiences by taking it to the places where they go.
The first event featured read-throughs of work by Welsh writers like Ed Thomas. The two sittings, which were free to attend, were both packed and people had to be turned away.
Since then, there have been three further events, including one involving students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and last month’s performances of short plays at Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre, part of its Springboard festival to promote new writing.
As well as the Dirty Directors event, the group will have a presence at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk from July 17 to 20 and there will be a special event at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff as part of the National Eisteddfod in August.
But for now, the focus is firmly on the directors who are all busy putting in last-minute preparations before they stage their piece at new Cardiff nightspot 10 Feet Tall.
Swain was more than keen to get involved and believes Dirty Protest is a great boost to Welsh theatre.
She says, “There’s plenty of talent here (in Wales) why not use it and show it in new and exciting ways. Let’s get people excited about theatre again.”
Thomas, who was artistic director at Sgript Cymru, believes Dirty Protest is filling a void.
“Freelance writers, actors and directors don’t have much of a voice when it comes to the decision-making and often get left out of the loop,” he says.
“Yet they are the ones who create events like this and have to cope with the lack of paid work.
“When Tim asked me to do this, I felt I couldn’t say no.”
But although he has a wealth of experience, he admits he’s a little “scared” about the challenge.
“Now I’ve got proper actors that makes a big difference. I thought I was going to have to do it with glove puppets,” he laughs.
Bale is also busy putting the finishing touches to his work.
He says, “The play has some interesting themes. Time, death and food seem to be apparent. I’m having plenty of fun with the cast getting to grips with it.”
As far as the Latitude Festival is concerned, Price will re-stage his short play, In The woods, which was performed as part of the Springboard trilogy.
He has also invited people to write acts two and three of the drama, also to be premiered at the event.
When it comes to the National Eisteddfod, Dirty Protest will be going back to its roots and staging work by five established writers and one newcomer – but this time in the Welsh language, of course.
As far as venues go, it will be in the biggest and one of the most traditional yet – the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay on August 8 and 9.
During the last nine months, the group has certainly grown. It has produced more ideas than many other theatre companies come up with in five years but is still keen to hear from anyone who can add to the mix.
It seems that this is one protest destined to run and run.
Dirty Protest is at 10 Feet Tall in Cardiff on Thursday, May 29 from 8pm. If you would like to contribute to the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Trained as an actress at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Swain has been assistant director on two productions for Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Two Princes and Measure for Measure. She directed Gock of the Greasy People for the Script Slam final at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff last year. For Dirty Protest, she has already directed Samuel Bees’ play In The River. She will soon be seen on television screens as Pobol y Cwm’s newest hairdresser.
The Swansea-born former artistic director of Sgript Cymru saw his first play, Badfinger, premiered at The Donmar Warehouse and was nominated in the Most Promising Playwright category of The Evening Standard Drama Awards in 1997. Previous plays have included Milk and Honey for Soho Theatre Company, Wales>Alaska for The Royal National Theatre Studio and Garageland for The Steel Wasp Theatre Co.
Thomas is artistic director of the Wales-based new theatre company Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard, which launched by staging five short plays by Cardiff-based writers.
Barclay has more than 20 years professional experience teaching and performing with various theatre companies, including The Hull Truck Theatre Company, The Sherman Theatre Company, Leeds Playhouse Company and Theatr Iolo. She has directed the Sherman Youth Theatre and the Shakespeare Schools Festival in Wales.
Bale trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and his theatre credits include Romeo and Juliet at Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Buzz for Sgript Cymru and Only A Matter Of Time for The Torch Theatre. As a director, he has worked with the Cardiff-based 3D Theatre Company since its inception in 2002 and among the plays he has directed are Epa yn y Parlwr Cefn, Endorffin and Abigail's Party.
Lambert’s play, The Custom House, was performed at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, in March 2006 having won the Sherman Script Slam Competition. It was shortlisted for the Kings Cross New Writing Award 2005. Lambert is working on a new play for Cardiff-based Hijinx Theatre Company.