Gehtin Evans

In Conversation with Elgan Rhys and Gethin Evans

We caught up with Elgan Rhys and Gethin Evans, Co-Artistic Directors of Cwmni Pluen Company to find out what the company have been cooking up recently. Pluen creates contemporary, unconventional theatre and, like all Pluen productions, Mags is a bilingual theatre experience using both English and Welsh languages throughout.

To reflect this, we spoke to Gethin and Elgan in both languages to find out what’s in store with their new production Mags

Pluen’s new production Mags is about human interconnection and community. What was the inspiration behind exploring this subject?

Mae cynhyrchiad newydd Pluen, Mags, yn canolbwytio ar rhyng-gysylltiad dynol a chymuned. Beth oedd yr ysbrydoliaeth i edrych ar y pynciau yma?

Gethin Evans: “Mags has been developed with a whole community of inspiring artists – individuals who responded to an open call out for discussion and through working with our partners DadsCan, CAIN & TransForm Cymru. The exchanges have in turn been joyful, harrowing, inspiring, truthful and we found ourselves collectively exploring questions on society – what is it to be part of a community? A family? To be part of something greater than ourselves? Which tribes do we find ourselves a part of – whether we want to be or not? How does this affect who we are and the choices we make?

Mags’ story – her past, present and future in the small Welsh village she both loves and loathes – is inspired by the people we met on our journey.”

Elgan Rhys: “Yn dilyn cynhyrchiad cyntaf Pluen, Llais/Voice, daeth mam Gethin a finnau at ei gilydd i adlewyrchu ar ddarn oedd yn ymdrin â fy mhrofiad personol i o ddelio gyda fy rhywioldeb… Wrth sgwrsio dywedodd fy mam i fam Gethin “mae mamau’n teimlo popeth”. Arhosodd hyn gyda’r ddau ohonom ni, a’n ysbrydoli ni i gwestiynu beth ydy o i deimlo cymaint dros rywun arall, i ofalu am ein gilydd, ac i gysylltu o fewn cymunedau yng nghymdeithas gyfoes.”

Elgan, you’re the dramaturg on this production. Can you tell us what your role involves?

Elgan, beth ydy ystyr dy rol di, fel dramatwrg, ar y cynhyrchiad yma?

ER: “Un o fy nghyfrifoldebau i ar y cynhyrchiad yw datblygu a phlethu testun dwyieithog mewn i’r gwaith, a dod o hyd i’r ffordd mae’r Gymraeg a Saesneg yn cyd-fodoli o fewn byd amlddiwylliannol Mags. Ynghyd â hyn, rwy’n cadw golwg agos ar naratif y profiad theatrig; sy’n cynnwys stori ffuglennol Mags, ymatebion personol y cast proffesiynol, ond hefyd ymatebion hael unigolion o’r wahanol grwpiau cymunedol, CAIN, Dadscan a Traws*Newid Cymru. Mae wedi bod yn broses o geisio dod o hyd i stori sy’n cysylltu storïau ni gyd.”

Gethin, how have you approached the rehearsal process? What are your influences as a director?

Gethin, sut wyt ti wedi cynllunio’r proses ymarfer? Beth yw dy ddylanwadau fel cyfarwyddwr?

GE: “The approach has been rooted in the work we have done with our community groups, exploring themes and ideas physically and musically before introducing text. It has been playful and exploitative, with all elements being improvised a lot before structuring.

My influences as a director are organisations like Company 3, Gecko and the National Theatre’s Public Acts programme.”

What do you want audiences to take away as they leave the theatre at the end of the performance?

Beth ydych chi eisiau i’r cynulleidfa cymryd gyda nhw wrth iddynt gadael y theatr ar ddiwedd y perfformiad?

GE: “To have been on a journey with Mags, to have felt a connection to the other people in the room and considered the communities we are part of and people who come in and out of our lives.”

ER: “Fy ngobaith i yw bod cynulleidfaoedd yn gadael Magswedi adlewyrchu am werth eu hunain fel unigolion, ond hefyd eu bod wedi teimlo’n rhan o gymuned a chysylltu gyda’r stori (storïau!) a diwylliant unigryw’r noson honno…”

How is language used in the show, and how much will non-Welsh speakers be able to understand?

Sut ydych chi wedi defnyddio iaith yn yn y sioe, a faint ohonno fydd yn dealladwy i bobl sydd ddim yn siarad Cymraeg?

ER: “The ebb and flow of language – English, Welsh, music and physicality – is an important way in which the stories on stage are communicated. Within the cast there are three different mother tongues, and what we’ve created reflects the modern multi-lingual society in which we live. Non-Welsh speakers will have more than enough to follow and guide them.

“Mae sawl iaith yn cyd-fodoli yn y cynhyrchiad; symudiad, cerddoriaeth byw a thestun Cymraeg a Saesneg fel ieithoedd llafar. Mae dwy iaith yn llifo yn rhan o’r profiad wrth i’r perfformwyr eu defnyddio fel dyfeisiau i ddweud stori (storïau…). Ein bwriad ni fel cwmni yw sicrhau profiadau sy’n ddwyieithog, a bod naill iaith ddim yn rhwystr.”

Electro-pop artist CASI is performing live as part of the show. To what degree is Mags a musical?

Fel rhan o’r sioe, mae CASI yn perfformio ei cherddoriaeth electro-pop. I ba raddau yw Magsyn sioe gerdd?

GE: “The musicians, CASI and Eddy Bailhache, are storytellers along with the rest of the cast, their form of developing narrative, situation and character is through the varied and hypnotic music. They feel like the emotional heart of Mags’ story, gorging on her emotions at different points of the story.

What are you both enjoying most about creating work in Wales right now?

Beth sy’n eich cyffroi fwyaf am greu gwaith yng Nghymru ar hyn o bryd?

GE: “I have been struck during this process by the support and openness of artists and organisations in Wales. We have been mentored by Hannah McPake and Cai Tomos who have been so generous with their time, skill and craft. Mags marks the end of our tenure as Company in Residence at the Sherman Theatre, a space which is creating high quality, contemporary work in Wales and beyond. Their continued support and mentorship during this process has been above and beyond – from artistic conversations, marketing support, technical equipment and time… I feel really lucky to be making work in this building and with these people.”

ER: “Gyda phopeth sy’n mynd ymlaen yn y byd a’r holl ynysu a ffiniau sy’n codi – dw i’n mwynhau bod yn rhan o brosesau a chyd-greu gwaith gyda phobl sydd eisiau dathlu, perchnogi a rhannu’r hyn sy’n gwneud diwylliant Gymru gyfoes yn unigryw, ond hefyd sy’n cysylltu’n fyd-eang.”

And, Wales continues to struggle with the idea of contemporary identity. How do you approach creating work that is very personal to audiences in Wales?

Wrth i gysyniad hunaniaeth gyfoes Cymru dal i fod yn ansicr, sut ydych chi’n mynd ati i greu gwaith sy’n bersonol iawn i gynulleidfaoedd yng Nghymru?

ER: “Mae proses Mags wedi bod yn ddylanwad mawr ar Pluen, a fy ymarfer bersonol i fel gwneuthurwr theatr. Fy mwriad i o hyn ymlaen wrth greu gwaith newydd yw cadw darganfod ffyrdd o gynnal a chreu profiadau agored a chroesawgar sy’n tynnu pobl o wahanol gymunedau at ei gilydd er mwyn cyfnewid, cwestiynu a gwrando ar brofiadau amrywiol o hunaniaeth gyfoes. Bydd hynny’n bwydo a sicrhau perthnasedd i’r gwaith a’n cysylltu a chyseinio i gynulleidfaoedd yng Nghymru, a’n fyd-eang!”

GE: “This has been very present in the strategic planning and management of Mags. The work with the community organisations has been over an extended period of time, we have blurred lines between professional and personal at every opportunity to stay, ultimately, as truthful as possible. The work has been developed with the community in the room, responding to their experiences, feedback and having their material rooted in the production.

Every project is unique, for us with Mags it was essential to keep it personal and relevant by developing the material with both professional artists and real people willing to share their own raw experiences.”

 

Mags opens at Sherman Theatre Cardiff, 25-28 September, and at Galeri Caernarfon, 3-4 October.

@cwmnipluen #MagsPluen

(Photo: Gethin Evans; credit: Photo by Nick Allsop)