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Verdict from the National Theatre Wales launch

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Nicola Heywood Thomas Nicola Heywood Thomas | 16:46 UK time, Thursday, 5 November 2009

I've just got back from the launch of National Theatre Wales' first year of programming and I'm really excited.

The fact that the new company would be staging 12 shows around Wales was common knowledge and that it aimed to bring a fresh and innovative approach to English language drama but all I can say is WOW!

Artistic director John McGrath and producer Lucy Davies outlined the 12 shows which will bring together some of the most exciting talents working in Wales and also beyond. The company is calling it a theatre map of Wales and it's certainly giving drama a whole new look.

Forget conventional theatre buildings, comfy seats and interval drinks in the bar for some of these shows!

You can get all the details from the National Theatre Wales website but I've just got to mention the collaboration between physical theatre company, Volcano and Welsh National Opera in Swansea's old library; a long lost play by the young John Osborne set in south Wales and a new version of Aeschylus' The Persians that will be directed by one of Wales' most celebrated theatre practitioners, Mike Pearson, and performed in the heart of the Brecon Military Range. It'll be staged in the replica German village that the Army uses to train soldiers ready for work in some of the most dangerous situations in the world. The audience will be bussed to the performance site over 10 days in August 2010.

It seems unfair to just mention three of the planned shows as all are different and exciting in various ways. I could rant on and on about each of them but I suspect we're going to be hearing plenty about the work over the next 12 months.

Actually, NTW's plans go a little further than a calendar year too. Port Talbot should already be looking forward to April 2011 and the return of one of its most famous sons. Michael Sheen will be the creative director of Passion, written by Owen Sheers and based on local stories gathered over the previous year. The town's tales of redemption, return, love and faith will be woven into a really 21st century version of the traditional Easter Passion Play that used to take place in Margam Park. It aims to involve the whole of Port Talbot as cast, crew and set  

Like I said - WOW. I think all of us who were at the National Theatre Wales launch - either in person or online - are still a bit breathless.


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