Preview: Theatre Critics of Wales Awards 2014

Another year, another excuse for a theatre awards ceremony.  The success of last year’s Theatre Critics of Wales Awards has meant that the awards ceremony will once again be taking place at Sherman Cymru next Saturday. The Welsh theatre world will come together for a second year to celebrate a year of Welsh production and this year has already seen some impressive changes. The awards are undoubtedly in their infancy, but the presence of smaller emerging Welsh companies on the shortlist is extremely promising.  The company Gaggle Babble are up for a massive four awards including Best Production in the English Language and Best Ensemble for their wonderfully successful The Bloody Ballad (review hyperlink?) The show has already won impressive awards including the Brighton Fringe Emerging Talent Award 2013 and the What’s on Stage, Music Theatre Network Award for Best New Musical and Best Music 2013.  Lucy Rivers, co-founder of the company and writer of the show was extremely excited to receive the nominations:

‘We are delighted to be nominated for 4 awards in what was a stellar year for Welsh theatre.  The Bloody Ballad is our first production for Gagglebabble and we’re thrilled that our gig-theatre style has been so popular with audiences and critics. We look forward to developing new projects this year (Forsythe Sisters) and bringing back The Bloody Ballad for a short tour and Brighton Fringe in May 2014.  25th January should be a great night!’


Other smaller companies tweeted their excitement on receiving nominations. These companies, alongside the bigger ones, deserve to be recognized for their fantastic work, and this year’s shortlist definitely reflects that. This is just testament to how the awards will continue to develop and commend this vast display of talent in Wales. Newport’s own Tinshed Theatre is nominated for best ensemble, a nomination thoroughly deserved for their production of Dr Frankenstein’s Freakshow (hyperlink?) RCT Theatres also make an appearance this year in the small scale dance production category. Flights of Fancy was produced as part of the centenary celebration of the Park and Dare theatre. The production was a massive collaborative project with pupils from nearby Treorchy comprehensive school taking part. I spoke to Geoff Cripps, programmer for these venues, who talked to me a little bit about how thrilled they were to receive a nomination:

‘It’s amazing for the production to be nominated and it just goes to prove that working with the right collaborators is essential. The project was a culmination of the dance work that’s been ongoing in the community for many years.’

 The project had an impressive inclusive age range of 11-93. Many artists in the area were able to bring something to their own community, to celebrate venues that stand as a central hub for the arts. Interestingly this nomination comes at a time when there is much talk of funding cuts to the Rhondda venues such as the Park and Dare and the Muni arts centre. Projects like this are essential, and to take away venues which house these projects is indeed very disappointing, especially when a panel has decided that a production at the heart of these venues is worthy of recognition.

Dirty Protest has received a nomination for best script for Parallel Lines. The company aims to promote new writing, and is a fantastic example of a Welsh company who are loyal to their objectives. Earlier this year they took their ‘Plays in a Bag’, a collection of new monologues, to the Big Smoke and showcased some original Welsh work at the Royal Court, Almeida and Latitude. They are brilliant ambassadors for Welsh theatre and have been deservedly recognized for this:

‘We at Dirty Protest were really proud of everything the Parallel Lines team created at the end of last year. It was a real team effort from writer Katherine Chandler, director Catherine Paskell, the actors Gareth Pierce, Rachel Redford, Jan Anderson and Lisa Diveney and everyone involved behind the scenes. The audience and critical reaction to the play during its run in Chapter really blew us away, and now we couldn’t be prouder for everyone involved that this hard work and talent has been recognised with four nominations.’

Another difference this year is the presence of bilingualism during the ceremony. Guy O’Donnell, organizer of the event and founder of the Young Critics scheme explains:

‘For this year’s awards we have an increased number of Welsh Language panellists ranging from Barn and Radio Cymru correspondents to more young Welsh speakers who are part of the Young Critics Scheme. We have a range of Welsh language productions as well as work in other art forms represented in a range of categories from lighting and sound to Inspirational Educators. We also aim to have a bilingual programme this year and have also set up a public online vote in partnership with Golwg to involve the general public and raise awareness of the wonderful work in the Welsh language that has been produced this year.’

Amongst the Welsh companies nominated, Theatr Genedlaethol certainly features prominently. This year has been a very successful year for them and their projects are bigger and better than ever before. Arwel Gruffydd, the company’s artistic director is also nominated in the Best Director category for the production Blodeuwedd, a site specific piece situated on Tomen y Mur, the perfect place for the classic Mabinogi tale. Arwel had this to say:

‘2013 was a very busy and exciting year for the company. Eight projects and eight original plays in 18 locations across the country. We’ve been to theatres across Wales, to inspirational and unexpected places, on tv, radio and online, in our communities and the feedback from the audience to the projects has been overwhelming. The reaction, enthusiasm and willingness of the audience to come on a journey with us throughout the year has been very uplifting, and with the creative talents of actors, authors, designers and directors a part of it all, we just can’t wait to start 2014! ‘

Elen and Robert Bowman represent Living Pictures in two categories, Robert nominated for best actor for Diary of a Madman and Elen as a nominee for Inspirational Educators. These nominations are thoroughly deserved; Living Pictures are considered a leading training resource for director training in the UK. They have a fantastic mentoring scheme and this nomination comes as no surprise to people who are aware of the work they do and their commitment to the development of new Welsh work.

The awards will undoubtedly be an exciting celebration of Welsh production in 2013, and this year the public can have their say. It’s not too late to vote for your favourite English and Welsh production.

To vote for Best Production in the English Language click here

To vote for Best Production in the Welsh click here