Wales Millennium Centre and Frân Wen have announced that they’re joining forces to produce a brand-new Welsh-language dramatic musical, Branwen: Dadeni.
Branwen: Dadeni, written by Hanna Jarman, Elgan Rhys and Seiriol Davies, with lyrics and music by Seiriol Davies – will be staged in Cardiff, Aberystwyth, and Bangor in November 2023.
This artistic partnership marks a major milestone for both organisations as they embark on fulfilling their shared vision of producing a landmark Welsh musical, drawing talent from across Wales for a contemporary reimagining of the legendary yet tragic tale of Branwen, from the ancient mythical tales of the Mabinogion.
Led by a team of three writers, co-creation is at the heart of the production, bringing together Hanna Jarman’s (Galwad, Y Teimlad, Merched Parchus), Elgan Rhys (Elen Benfelen/Goldilocks and Woof) and Seiriol Davies, who is also composer and lyricist, (Betty: A Sort of Musical, Milky Peaks and the acclaimed hit How to Win Against History). Branwen: Dadeni will be directed by Frân Wen’s Artistic Director, Gethin Evans, who leads an outstanding team of creative talent from across Wales and beyond.
The creative team includes set and costume designer Elin Steele (The Scandal at Mayerling, Dextera and the upcoming Cinderella for Scottish Ballet; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hero of the People, Woof for Sherman Theatre), lighting designer Bretta Gerecke (Lady in the Dark for Opera Zuid; set & lighting design on Coming to England for Birmingham Rep; set, lighting, costume & projection design on The Invisible for Catalyst Theatre), orchestrator Owain Gruffudd Roberts (leader of contemporary 9-piece Llareggub Brass Band; regular arranger for BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Welsh Pops Orchestra and S4C) and casting director Hannah Marie Williams (The Cost of Living for National Theatre Wales, live and theatre casting for GALWAD).
The action is set in a dispersed kingdom, with a corrupt monarchy and a new generation, desperate for change. Branwen: Dadeni will offer an epic Welsh language musical which brings one of our most well-known legends into the contemporary world.
After a bloody civil war, the Llŷr family control Cedyrn. Branwen, the charismatic young princess who has won the people’s hearts, is eager to move her country forward, but her brother, the king, won’t listen. During an unexpected visit by the King of Ireland, she sees her opportunity: escape to a progressive and prosperous country where her voice will count and she’ll have the power to change things. But, as her star rises, every bargain, betrayal and body leads her deeper into the darkness, until, on the brink of ruin, the price becomes clear. What would you sacrifice to create a just world?
Gethin Evans said: “I’m thrilled to be sharing the news of our brand-new musical with the phenomenal Wales Millennium Centre – a partnership that is key to our development of new work of scale in the Welsh language.
Reimagining the myth of Branwen has been quite the journey, floored in our first workshop by the potential contemporary relevance of a tale we had all heard romanticised as children. Finding the humanity in these myth-like figures to unlock its themes of power, grief, and family with such an incredibly talented creative team is a real privilege.
“I look forward to sharing the epic score and heart-wrenching story with audiences in Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Bangor through our strategic touring partners Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Pontio Arts.”
Artistic Director of Wales Millennium Centre, Graeme Farrow added: “I’m extremely excited to be working with Frân Wen in this landmark undertaking for Welsh language new writing in this genre, on this scale.
This collaboration is of huge importance to us as we embark on our largest Welsh language production to date, based on a much-loved world-famous Welsh tale, re-told for our times. I can’t wait to see this brilliant adaptation of Branwen, written by Hanna, Elgan and Seiriol, being brought to life on stages across the country, by our wonderful team of Welsh creative talent.”
Branwen: Dadeni is the latest in a run of Wales Millennium Centre Productions that nurture writers and creative talent in and from Wales. Its latest production, Es & Flo, an award-winning script written by Jennifer Lunn, premieres at Wales Millennium Centre’s Weston Studio between 28 April – 13 May 2023 before being staged at The Kiln Theatre in London in June 2023.
Previous acclaimed productions include Hamed Amiri’s The Boy with Two Hearts (2021) which recently transferred to the National Theatre in London; Connor Allen’s The Making of a Monster (2022) Llinos Mai’s Anthem (2022) and Kaite O’Reilly’s The Beauty Parade (2020).
Fran Wen’s recent work includes the national sell-out tour of Welsh language coming-of-age dramedy Croendena, Ynys Alys (2022) which followed the story young girl as she set out in search of her independence and Faust & Greta (2021) a co-production with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Pontio – which was a digital theatrical experience inspired by T. Gwynn Jones’ Welsh translation of Goethe’s classic ‘Faust & Greta’.
Branwen: Dadeni will open in the Wales Millennium Centre’s Donald Gordon Theatre later this year (8-11 November 2023), before travelling to Aberystwyth Arts Centre (15-17 November 2023) and ending in Pontio Arts Centre, Bangor (22-25 November 2023).