My name is Lorne and I have the great pleasure and privilege to be the new Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales.
I started in the job last Monday and, as I’m sure you can imagine, it has not been quite the beginning I had envisioned. On that first Monday we had to take the very difficult and painful decision to postpone a whole swathe of work: our upcoming co-production of ‘Frank’, being made in partnership with the Jones Collective; ‘Balloon Girl’, led by the incredible Hannah McPake and perhaps most painfully of all, given that it was in its first day of technical rehearsal, Jon Tregenna’s ‘Hail Cremation’.
Theatre is so deeply geared to overcoming the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that it feels deeply wrong, counter-intuitive and disturbing to not find the work-around, to not figure out a different way to get the thing done but to hold our hands up and say, ‘the show must not go on’.
On Tuesday, as government advice rolled out, we closed up the office and moved everyone to home working and began to deal with the implications of how the company can operate over the coming Days? Weeks? Months? Then, as we started that process in consultation with partners, colleagues and our board, I started to get sick and sunk into a few days of fever dreams and aching bones.
More or less a textbook first week in a new job.
Through all of this it has been incredibly inspiring to watch colleagues and partners absorb the huge disappointments and anxieties of this moment, and with remarkable resilience begin to plan. To plan not only for how we get these postponed projects in front of audiences at a later date, but for what we can do now. What we can do for our audiences, our communities and our freelance colleagues, for whom this is such an insecure and frightening moment.
In all sorts of ways this lockdown is stripping away the obvious conventional forms of things; going to work, the shape of our days, our regular social interactions. As these obvious forms are stripped back you are able to see more clearly the essence of things. As we take away the obvious form of theatre; some people gathering in a particular place, at a particular time, to watch others perform, then what are we left with?
We’re left with the telling of stories, the sharing of a moment, the performance of fundamental acts of connection and community.
The best theatre has always been made by passionate people trying to do a thing outside of their comfort zone, trying to meet the audience in a new way, struggling to render the complex accessible, managing to live in that terrifying and electrifying moment of ‘I don’t know how to do this, but I’m going to try anyway’. As we asked ourselves, ‘what is the most useful thing NTW can do in this moment?’, it seemed to us, what we can do is to employ people to try to do exactly this. To share our resources, our expertise and our networks in service of the audiences, communities and theatre makers of Wales alike.
Over the coming days and weeks we will be rolling out a range of opportunities, offers of commissions and collaborations for audiences and theatre makers to engage with.
Like everyone else we are making this up as we go along so please join us, share your ideas and together we will figure out how to do whatever it is that comes next.