Theatre will never be an English language exclusive, but even for those with English as our native – and only – language, in the UK it often feels like it is. Performances often experiment with foreign tongues – in the South West this last year, witches have gotten to grips with Gaelic and Russian has been whispered on the Ice Road – yet, it’s always an experiment, not an experience. In such an anglocentric world, it’s all too easy to forget that other languages are also native languages, and we even have one just across the water in the South West: Welsh.
Arts Council Wales are backing a Welsh Language adaptation of an August Strindberg classic from RCT Theatres about gender, class, and the engendered war between idealisation and degradation. The titular Miss Julie is the archaic but frustratingly ageless trope of the damaged, degenerate woman in drama, but actor and director Gareth John Bale acknowledges that the ‘playwright’s attitude towards feminism [is] as relevant now as it was when the play was written in 1888. Perhaps more so.’
Playing Miss Julie’s Machiavellian charmer, the valet, Jean, opposite Gwenllian Higginson, Gareth John Bale is well aware of the play’s provocativeness, in all senses of the word: ‘the characters in the play present a challenge to the actors playing them. The temptation is to see them as one-dimensional but there is so much more to them than that. We intend to dig a little deeper.’
This production will inaugurate a tradition of touring plays translated into the Welsh Language nationally, and it’s something that’s important to impede the degeneration of native languages. So, as Miss Julie and Jean play their dangerous game of ‘what if’, lets ask something similar of more ‘wonderful, naturalistic’ plays performed in Wales: ‘what if it was in Welsh?’
RCT Theatres’ Miss Julie touring to The Coliseum, Aberdare (19th April), Borough Theatre, Abergavenny (20th April), Taliesin Arts Centre Swansea (21st April), Chapter, Cardiff (22nd April), Blackwood Miners’ Institute (24th April), The Miners’ Ammanford (25th April), Theatre Brycheiniog Brecon (26th April), Garth Olwg Community Campus (27th April), & The Lyric Carmarthen (28th April). With thanks to Alan for the press pack and opportunity!
Original feature: Underdog Reviews (26th September 2017)
Over a century ago, the Wicked Witch of the West first flew into Oz in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; green and ghastly, she was after silver slippers and had only one all-seeing eye. In 1939, she was immortalised, in a certain shade of green and on screen, by Margaret Hamilton in MGM’s musical The Wizard of Oz, this time on the hunt for ruby red slippers to make the most of Technicolor technology.
After frightening families for over fifty years, Gregory Maguire reimagined the green-skinned miscreant as a green-skinned, misunderstood young woman with, for the first time, a name: Elphaba, fashioned from L. Frank Baum’s own initials, in the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This previously untold story of the Wicked Witch’s life and times prior to Dorothy’s appearance was adapted into a stage musical: Wicked. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, the musical opened on Broadway in 2003, starring Idina Menzel as Elphaba, and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning three.
Now, on a September day in 2017, it’s over 10 years since Wicked opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London’s West End and it’s the announcement of a new Wicked UK Tour, to begin in Bristol in the New Year, and a new Elphaba. Continue reading “Feature: Wicked UK Tour Launch”