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A good first night out for National Theatre Wales

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Nicola Heywood Thomas Nicola Heywood Thomas | 15:58 UK time, Thursday, 18 March 2010

I've been mulling it over for almost a week - the first show by National Theatre Wales. It was A Good Night Out In The Valleys at Blackwood Miners' Institute and on tonight's Radio Wales Arts Show I'll be getting local writer Patrick Jones' views on the play.

Everyone I spoke to at Blackwood loved Alan Harris' new work which was the result of gathering real life stories and weaving them into a play. And of course there was enormous excitement at the long awaited first production by the new company. The interest wasn't just in Wales - I sat next to a critic from the Sunday Times who I think was a little bemused by some of the play while members of the audience from nearer home were convulsed with laughter.

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It was a really beautiful production with clever use of back projections and staging that drew the audience into the action. The six members of the cast worked their socks off playing different characters, often with very quick changes in between scenes. It was a great reminder of what a fantastic actress Sharon Morgan is - she played at least five roles and was memorable in them all.

I felt that the women had the pick of the roles from the disillusioned teenager listening to classical music on her headphones to Siwan Morris' Dirty Karen, a keen boxer who wants to turn pro but who abandons her breakthrough fight to go to her mate's father's funeral.

Maybe it was familiar territory - post-industrial Valleys, the lingering resentments between striking miners and scabs of the 1984/5 strike and the importance of the 'Stute to the community. Progress versus the past is something we dwell on regularly. My only problem was that I struggled to really care what happened to some of the characters but there were some very funny moments. My favourite was the line spoken by Kyle - the son of the scabbing miner who explained that his family had been forced out and had to move "a million miles away - to Llanelli"!

A Good Night Out In The Valleys makes you think about the role of Institutes and community spaces and does what it says in the title - drama, laughs, music and even bingo! It's on at the Coliseum, Aberdare on 26 and 27 March and NTW's second show - Shelf Life is already in rehearsal. It's a collaboration between Volcano and Welsh National Opera and is on at the Old Library in Swansea from 7-25 April.

The Radio Wales Arts Show will be looking at that production too on 15 April. Let me know your views so far about National Theatre Wales and their work.


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