National Theatre Wales announces its tour of Circle of Fifths, an immersive production combining film, music and theatre, directed by film and theatre-maker Gavin Porter.
“Life in all its diversity; death in all its universality.” Institute of Welsh Affairs
★ ★ ★ ★ ★“You feel you are part of something real and stark and spiritual.” Buzz Magazine
Circle of Fifths premiered in June 2022 in Cardiff, opening to critical acclaim. National Theatre Wales is delighted to be remounting the show, and adapting it to be shared in community venues, from town halls to chapels to local theatres in Newport, Ebbw Vale, Chirk, Cardigan, Chepstow, Pontypridd, Butetown in Cardiff and Brixton in south London.
Devised with a collective of musicians and artists from Wales’ oldest multicultural community, Butetown, and featuring real-life stories from people across Wales, Circle of Fifths explores how music and stories can connect us in times of grief and loss – creating a space for collective reflection and celebration.
Co-creation is central to Circle of Fifths, as with all of NTWs’ projects. After losing his uncle to COVID-19, director Gavin Porter picked up his camera and started collecting people’s stories of how lives are celebrated in death and the importance of traditions and rituals. Taking to Twitter, he asked people to share what songs they would like played at their funeral. The overwhelming response included everything from Abba to The Abyssinians, Gil Scott Heron to Nat King Cole. Circle of Fifths was subsequently devised and performed by musicians and artists from the Butetown community including Ska and Reggae musician Drumtan Ward, multi instrumentalist Kiddus Murrell, and performer (and funeral arranger) Maureen Blades.
Music is the powerful thread that runs through Circle of Fifths, unlocking unexpressed emotions and connecting us to each other. The production takes its title from a tool of music theory that organises pitch into a sequence. Jazz musicians will sometimes disrupt this sequence to create new musical pathways. It is in this disharmony that Porter draws parallels with the impact that loss has – as a fracture in the rhythm of our lives.
Gavin Porter has worked with National Theatre Wales on numerous projects including The Agency, which put young people at the heart of developing projects and businesses that have a social purpose and The Soul Exchange as a filmmaker during NTWs’ first year. He later became involved with NTW TEAM and worked on De Gabay (2013), an award-winning play by Somali poets from Butetown. As NTWs’ Creative Associate from 2013, building on the work of others, he created the participatory theatre project The Big Democracy Project. Porter has spent many years telling untold stories through his documentaries and Circle of Fifths was his first major theatrical work:
“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. This show is a 360-degree experience, with performers, musicians, taped interviewees and film, all coming together to create a truly unique week of performances.”
Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales says:
“By touring Circle of Fifths across Wales and to London, we’re opening a dialogue about grief – a topic so often considered a taboo – and sharing rich, heartfelt and complex stories that originate in Cardiff’s Butetown with audiences across the country. Gavin and the team’s highly original piece of theatre draws on our many traditions and stories to celebrate all that connects in the ways we grieve death and commemorate life.”
Opportunities for creatives across Wales
As part of the tour, NTW TEAM is showcasing local artists at TEAM Social events at Small World Theatre in Cardigan on 29 September and at The Riverfront in Newport on 19 October.
We are also giving opportunities for 20 young storytellers aged 16-25 living locally to the venues to create an ‘audio portrait’ - a photographic portrait accompanied by a reflective audio interview - of someone in their community. The young storytellers will create a bank of stories from people across Wales around the show’s central theme of grief, which will be shared in the venues’ foyers and online.
National Theatre Wales, along with the National Theatre, National Theatre of Scotland and many other theatres in the UK and across Europe has committed to making our shows to the new Theatre Green Book standards for environmental sustainability. Circle of Fifths will be made to The Theatre Green Book Intermediate standard whereby 75% of everything used will have had a previous life and 80% will go on to have a future life after the show.
NTW is proud to be one of the six organisations to be coordinating The Theatre Green Book alongside National Theatre, National Theatre of Scotland, the Theatres Trust, SOLT/UK Theatre and the Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT). Working with the National Theatre and National Theatre Scotland, NTW will be delivering an event to reflect on sustainability and the impact of the climate crisis on the theatre sector in September 2023.
NTW are also partnering with The Riverfront in Newport, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Pontio in Bangor to present three conferences addressing “Welsh Theatre and the Climate Crisis”.
Forthcoming NTW productions
Feral Monsters - Touring Wales in spring 2024
Feral Monsters is a banging new musical by Bethan Marlow, directed by Izzy Rabey, with music by Nicola T. Chang. It’s touring across Wales’ theatres in spring 2024 with insane vocals mashing up grime, R&B, pop and rap. Think Inside Out meets Skins meets Kae Tempest.
The show celebrates the story of unremarkable teen, Jax, as she/they/whatever navigates love, sexuality, family and the many parts of her loud, opinionated brain.