Dirty Protest to stage writer's debut play as festive show

Thursday 8 November 2012, 15:34

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When they set out in 2007, the Dirty Protest theatre collective agreed that one of their chief aspirations was to stage a new play by an emerging Welsh writer.

Now five years on, the group is set to achieve that aim with their new Christmas show from the pen of a nervous, yet excited Matthew Bulgo.

Bulgo, who hails from Swansea, has collaborated with the group before and has seen a couple of his one act plays staged in the past, but this is the first time he will have seen a full-length piece of his creation in production.

Matthew Bulgo. Photo by Kirsten McTernan Matthew Bulgo. Photo by Kirsten McTernan

He told me: "I'm very excited but I'm also terrified. There's such a huge wealth of great writers out there in Wales at the moment, I'm surprised they've picked this up but it is amazing and I feel like it's given me the confidence to work on some other ideas I've had for a while."

Bulgo, who is currently on tour with Mappa Mundi and the Torch Theatre in their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, says he was persuaded, nay 'bullied', to write the play by friend and Dirty Protest co-founder Tim Price.

He said: "I've known Tim about four years and worked as an actor for some of Dirty Protest's plays and the first discussion we had about me writing something was about two years ago.

"I have been putting it off and putting it off and then in August I finally got around to writing this idea that had been in my head."

What had been buzzing around in his head was Last Christmas, which in a whirlwind turn of events will be staged at the Sherman Cymru in December.

The one-man play will be directed by Clwyd Theatr Cymru's new writing director Kate Wasserberg and stars Sion Pritchard (Blink, Muscle) as Tom, a young man travelling back from London to Swansea on Christmas Eve to face his demons.

Sion Pritchard in Dirty Protest's Last Christmas. Photo by Tracey Booth Sion Pritchard in Dirty Protest's Last Christmas. Photo by Tracey Booth

Although Bulgo doesn't want to give too much away, he will reveal that Tom is used to hiding his emotions and his anger and on this journey he finds out what Christmas and family mean to him.

I asked him if it was at all autobiographical and he laughed, saying: "I suppose it's just about what happens when you hit 30 and you start to have a bit more responsibility and throw away certain ambitions.

"Tom the character is far from autobiographical but those who know me and go to see the play will spot me in there somewhere.

"When I sat down to write the play I couldn't help but write a lot about Swansea and my own experiences."

Even when he had completed his first draft, Bulgo was unconvinced that it would ever reach the stage but having sent it to Tim Price in the morning he had a phone call by that same evening telling him Dirty Protest wanted to stage the play by Christmas.

Next came conversations with Clwyd Theatr Cymru and Kate Wasserberg to see if they would be interested in co-producing it.

He said: "The pessimistic part of my brain kept telling me 'They won't like it. Why would they want to produce a play by me?' so I was relieved to hear that Kate loved the play and really wanted to direct it... and so it all started to fall into place.

"I'm still trying to get my head around the idea of writing a play in August and having it staged by Christmas.

"I've been a huge fan of Kate's from afar for some time – both her work at Clwyd and at the Finborough before that. I can't think of another company to whom I'd rather give my début play, and I'm delighted that Kate is going to be directing it.

"I'm pleased as punch and also utterly terrified, but with both Dirty Protest and Kate Wasserberg I feel in the safest of hands.”

He says he hopes it will be a good festive night out for people and that they enjoy a few mulled wines beforehand.

Dirty Protest's Tim Price said, "Last Christmas is one of the most beautiful plays I've read. Matthew is a fantastic talent and Dirty Protest is delighted to bring his début play to Welsh audiences.

"Five years ago when Dirty Protest was first conceived over a coffee in Milgi, we dreamed that one day we'd be able to present a new play by a new Welsh writer, and finally that day has come.

"It's the culmination of a long journey for our messy collective.

"We're also delighted to be working with Clwyd Theatr Cymru, it's a huge honour for us to be partnered with one of Wales' most successful companies and we are privileged to have a director as talented as Kate Wasserberg at the helm of our next show."

Last Christmas is at Sherman Cymru Venue 2 from December 12-15th at 7.30pm. For more information visit shermancymru.co.uk.

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