News Story

★★★★ “[A] beautiful and moving portrait of a place and its people.” Guardian

Circle of Fifths by director Gavin Porter opened up a dialogue about grief – a topic so often considered taboo – with audiences across the country. The show explored how music and stories can connect us in times of loss.

Co-creation is central to Circle of Fifths, an immersive theatre experience devised with a collective of musicians and artists from Wales’ oldest multicultural community, Butetown.

Premiering in June 2022 in Cardiff and opening to critical acclaim, Circle of Fifths was the first of NTW’s shows to be remounted, enabling stories from Butetown to be shared on home turf at Butetown Community Centre as well as in Newport, Ebbw Vale, Chirk, Cardigan, Chepstow, Pontypridd and Brixton in south London.

“An astonishing portrait of grief, community, music and memory, told through an immersive funeral ceremony, complete with samosas and Welsh cakes. I've lived with continual grief for three years. The production is so raw, real and heart-wrenching, it broke me several times, but it's also SO full of joy and celebrating life that I think I healed a little.” Audience member

Our impact

Circle of Fifths is director Gavin Porter’s first major theatrical work. We’ve worked with Gavin on numerous projects since 2011 including The Agency, The Soul Exchange and De Gabay. As our Creative Associate, he created The Big Democracy Project.

‘Having come up through NTW TEAM, I’ve always been interested in how the skills I’ve honed through my documentary work, and interviewing hundreds of people, could be transferred into a theatrical space.” Gavin Porter

After losing his uncle to COVID-19, he picked up his camera and started collecting people’s stories of how lives are celebrated in death and the importance of traditions and rituals.

  • On its tour, Circle of Fifths was seen by 982 people across 14 shows in local theatres, community centres and Brixton House. 6 out of 8 venues had sold-out dates. 46% were first-time attendees of our work.

“Deeply immersed in our communities. One of the most heart-warming and cathartic realisations of collective grief I have yet witnessed. These have been tough times and we have no idea what stories our audiences carry with them. You held us well.”

Audience member from London

“Outstanding production of loss, love, grief and happiness. We felt a roller coaster of emotions through empathy and the celebration of life.”

Audience member from Chirk

“From tears of grief to belly laughs to fond memories remembering loved ones... And then a bit of dancing and celebrating.”

Audience member from Newport

“The most energising, real, heart-melting, funny and open piece of theatre I’ve ever encountered.”

Audience member from Cardigan

  • 91% of attendees thought the show was high-quality and 100% thought the show was value for money.

  • Not everyone could make it in person, but our campaign reached over 1 million people across live and digital activities such as interviews with the creatives and audiences.

There is an individual standing , clutching their chest with their right hand and pointing with their left. They are wearing a suit without the jacket and there are two individuals sat behind them.
  • We employed 17 freelance theatre-makers.

"I have worked with artists that I haven't worked with before. I've had the opportunity to explore my voice with music. Working with members of the Butetown community has been exciting and so inspiring." Cast member

"The people, the laughter, the audience's love of the show... Knowing that we have given it our best shot makes me happy as a performer." Cast member

The tour also opened up opportunities for creatives and young people across Wales, including showcasing local artists at NTW TEAM social events and facilitating intergenerational workshops:

  • Hosted by cast member Francesca Dimech, our TEAM Open Mic Night at Small World Theatre, Cardigan supported 17 local artists and 3 freelancers to perform to an audience of 75.

  • The show’s opening night at Riverfront, Newport supported 5 freelance creatives from Newport and Cardiff to perform a post-show gig.

  • We collaborated with 28 participants on our Young Storytellers project, which inspired intergenerational connections in communities across Wales and Brixton. An exhibition of these audio portraits was seen by 982 people across the tour and listened to by 300 people online.

  • We widened arts access by giving free/discounted tickets to communities, such as providing a group from Butetown with a minibus to attend the opening night in Newport.

Opening night post-show gig at Riverfront, Newport
TEAM Open Mic Night at Small World Theatre, Cardigan
  • We supported small businesses across Wales, with eight Indian restaurants (each local to the venues) and two Welsh cake suppliers providing 820 samosas and 880 Welsh cakes for audiences to enjoy after the show.

  • One Brixton House audience member live-streamed the entire show to their family back in Butetown (we swept this one under the rug..!).

Thank you

Circle of Fifths was a team effort bringing together artists, professionals and communities.

We want to say a special thank you to our funders:

  • Arts Council of Wales
  • John Ellerman Foundation for their support on our Associate Dramaturgs project.