Louise Swindell starts a series of behind-the-scenes conversations with arts professionals in Wales by talking to Geinor Styles, Artistic Director of Theatr na nÓg.
Theatr na nÓg is on a mission to ignite the imagination of the nation. They believe in the power of outstanding theatre to inspire life-long change, and enrich the lives of people of all ages. Rooted in the Welsh Valleys, creating original theatre in English and Welsh that inspires and engages audiences of all ages across Wales and beyond.
So Geinor, how did it all start?
I began my career as a stage manager for Theatre West Glamorgan which evolved into Theatr na nÓg in 2000. But the ethos behind Theatre West Glamorgan continues which is to produce and present plays that are relevant and accessible to its audience.
What is your day to day role?
If we are not in production I spend my day in the office preparing for the shows a year or two in advance. We discuss at length how to make ourselves more accessible to audiences. How we can get more people to attend theatre performances. As a small team of four everyone has an input into making our shows as successful as possible.
Once I’m in rehearsals it follows a normal 10-6 day. I very rarely spend time sitting round the table discussing with actors, I like to get the show on its feet very quickly and block the show within the first week. Its just my way of working, get a shape and then sculpt away.
What are you most proud of that Theatr na nÓg has achieved?
The fact that we are a tiny theatre company that has big ambitions to get the work seen by the broadest of audiences is very much a driver for me personally. And in that regard Tom* being seen by 40,000 people throughout the UK was a great achievement, and also our one man show about Alfred Russel Wallace being seen in Rio de Janeiro and Singapore.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I suppose anyone who dreams of making a change – Maya Angelou just blows my mind with her incredible words.
Why do you have ambassadors and what do they do?
We have ambassadors because it is important for the ethos of na nÓg to continue. A Board member asked me in an appraisal about my succession plan, and after getting over the shock of realising that I would at some point leave na nÓg, who would continue that commitment to creating exciting theatre for the young people, specifically in our area, and so we decide to begin a scheme which hopefully would encourage young people to get involved not only in the production side of theatre but more importantly the nitty gritty of the business of running a subsidised theatre company. Times have changed so much since I started in 1992, and now such pressure is on us to diversify our income that the need for business acumen is fundamental, however we must realise that if we are to have an inclusive audience, subsidy is vital for its survival. Young theatre makers have to understand this hand in hand with their artistic programming.
How can we catch your next performance?
Eye of the Storm, a play with songs written by Amy Wadge, can be seen at the Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea Nov 7 -10th. Also Nye and Jennie a play written by Meredydd Barker about the life and love of Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee at the Met in Abertillery.
If you could name your favourite performance of all time, which would it be?
Of my own, there are so many incredible moments by talented Welsh actors I couldn’t possibly, just that I have been so lucky to work with these humans.
Of others I would say Anthony Sher in Torch Song Trilogy, changed the way I saw the world.
Thank you Geinor, what a wonderful insight into the industry. I look forward to hearing more about your work.