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The Healing of Brân the Blessed at The Big Splash festival

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Polly March Polly March | 10:50 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

Characters and themes from medieval Welsh folklore come under the spotlight this weekend as an ancient tale is brought to life by the Small World Theatre.

The company has created a 7.6m tall giant puppet, powered by humans, to illustrate the famous story of 'The Healing of Brân the Blessed'.

The story, which has its origins in the pre-Christian Celtic mythology of the Welsh tales of The Mabinogion, follows giant king Bendigeidfran or Bran the Blessed.

Image of the Bran puppet in a boat. Photo courtesy of the Small World Theatre


Image of the head of the Bran puppet in a boat. Image courtesy of Small World Theatre

Images of the head of the Bran puppet in a boat. Photos courtesy of the Small World Theatre

His journey is described by the company as one of "personal sacrifice, a story of a King's love for his family, people and lands, which after much treachery, battling and sorrow ends with conciliation."

Bendigeidfran must battle to maintain peace with Ireland, despite the destructive efforts of his evil half-brother Efnisien, a complicated marriage between his sister Branwen and the King of Ireland, and the vengeful fury of their enemies.

The bilingual performance will take place on Saturday outside the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre in Newport and is part of a weekend of events for the city's Big Splash festival. Highlights for spectators will be actors on giant tricycles, satellite performances around Newport, and a key part of the tale played out on a small boat on the River Usk.

Image courtesy of the Small World Theatre

Image courtesy of the Small World Theatre

Small World Theatre, a community arts company based in Cardigan, uses the Brân the Blessed storyline to explore the meaning of the famous quote 'a fo ben bid bont...' which it has interpreted as 'there is no leader who is not a bridge.'

The production investigates what being a true leader means, what sacrifices must be made for others, and what commands respect.

The puppet was created by Small World Theatre with funding from The Arts Council of Wales last year.

The aim of the project was to draw on the ancient tradition of folklore and its sense of a wealth of shared common experience and to make it current for today's audiences.

The company says: "At home people and families tend to stay behind individual screens for their entertainment and leisure, but we are seeing a huge appetite for big outdoor festivals.

"Free celebratory art contributes to people's sense of identity, community and common reference points."

The Big Splash festival, which kicks off on Friday, offers a string of free events on both banks of the River Usk in the centre of the city.

Audiences can enjoy a fireworks display, circus skills and craft workshops and a whole host of street performers and musicians.

Thrillseekers will be able to watch Motocross events and enjoy fairground rides. Other activities include 'waterwalker' balls, a climbing wall, a Roller Derby, and live music from The Elasticated Waste Band, The Cherry Beats, Wonderbrass and Tattsyrup.

Full details are available on Newport Council's website www.newport.gov.uk/bigsplash.

Small World's performance of Brân begins at 4.30pm on Saturday on the West Bank, outside the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre. For further details about the company visit www.smallworld.org.uk.


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