Wales

Cultural highlights from Wales 2015

"All the world's a stage," Shakespeare famously wrote, "and all the men and women merely players." At times during 2015 the boundary between real life and the arts in Wales seemed just as blurred as the bard's.

Image copyright Sherman Cymru
Image caption Iphigenia in Splott will be at the National Theatre in London for a month from January

1 Iphigenia in Splott

I hadn't considered that a Greek myth would lend itself easily to one of Cardiff's grittier suburbs. But Gary Owen's remarkable play for Sherman Cymru earned five-star reviews from the broadsheets, and transferred to the Edinburgh Fringe. It'll be at the National Theatre in London in January, and focuses on the fiery life of a young woman in Splott.

Sophie Melville's monologue as Effie was "a perfect whirlwind of aggression, seduction, violence and pity," according to The Guardian, who called it "perfect theatre."

Image copyright National Theatre Wales

2 Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage

It took National Theatre Wales (NTW) six years of existence before staging its first rugby-themed play in the land of the oval ball. Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage largely relayed events off the pitch, and told how Gareth Thomas came out as the game's first openly gay professional player.

Real Welsh characters also appeared in NTW's summer production, 150, where it teamed up with its Welsh language counterpart Theatre Genedlaethol to tell the story of the settlers who emigrated to Patagonia 150 years ago.

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Media captionThe gala ended a week-long residency in Patagonia

3 BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Patagonia

The anniversary of the Welsh-speaking colony in southern Argentina prompted plenty of creative commemorations in 2015.

Perhaps the most inspiring was the residency in Patagonia by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as part of their first ever tour of South America.

In October members of the orchestra visited special schools, old people's homes and local music groups in the towns where thousands of descendants of the original Welsh settlers still live.

The visit culminated with a gala concert in a specially converted wool warehouse in the city of Trelew - the first known performance in Patagonia by an international symphony orchestra.

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Media captionWatch a time lapse of Helen Sear's Stack being installed in Venice

4 Helen Sear, Venice Biennale

Welsh art made a splash in Venice. Helen Sear represented Wales at the Biennale, the ritual gathering of the world's art elite.

Her photographs and film showed the natural world near her home in Usk, and attracted crowds of critics and tourists during its seven month show in the floating city.

5 James Bond - Never Say Never...

Image copyright AP

Welsh politicians were mostly furious when I revealed the world's most famous spy had been banned from their building.

James Bond producers were refused permission to film inside the Senedd's debating chamber, and didn't want to use any other available parts of the National Assembly's striking building in Cardiff Bay.

Assembly officials said curtly that the chamber was "not a drama studio", though AMs from all sides vowed to "never say never again".

Image copyright Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Image caption Some of the cast and production team

6 The Bastard Executioner

There was a warmer welcome for the film industry when production began at Pinewood Wales. The studios on the outskirts of Cardiff hosted the filming for the pilot episode of American TV series The Bastard Executioner.

It went on to film a full series at Dragon Studios, reviving the fortunes of the complex previously dubbed Valleywood. Though the Executioner won't return, a long-term deal between the studio and Fox TV means more productions should follow.

Image copyright AFP

7 BBC and S4C behind the scenes

On the small screen, discussions behind the scenes about the BBC and S4C were just as dramatic as some of the year's biggest shows.

The review of the BBC's Royal Charter, renewed every ten years, has led to calls for a better portrayal of Wales on UK-wide programming, and for a greater variety of programmes for local audiences in Wales.

Meanwhile the building work began on the future home of BBC Cymru Wales, after getting approval to move its HQ from Llandaff to Cardiff city centre in 2019.

S4C's budget was reduced again in the Chancellor's autumn statement, and while it's still assessing the impact of its shrinking income, the channel says it is fully committed to relocating its headquarters from Cardiff to Carmarthen.

Image copyright Getty Images/NMW/WNO/Theatr Genedlaethol
Image caption Literature, theatre, song, opera and ancient treasures to look forward to in 2016

Six to see in 2016

Roald Dahl Centenary

Events throughout the year to remember the Cardiff-born author, though the City of the Unexpected event on the streets of Cardiff in September shouldn't be missed.

Festival of Voice

Wales Millennium Centre has created this new international festival which takes place at venues across Cardiff in the summer. Rufus Wainwright and Juliette Greco are already confirmed, with the full programme announced in February.

Chwalfa

This Welsh language drama set during the great strike affecting north Wales' slate industry opens at the new Pontio arts centre in Bangor in February. It's staged by Theatr Genedlaethol who are offering an innovative translation service via a smartphone app.

Treasures

Iconic props from the Indiana Jones films are among the artefacts on show at National Museum Cardiff's first paid-for exhibition in years. Visitors to Treasures will experience a blockbuster show, and see the original ancient objects that inspired the film's producers. It'll cost £7 for adults, though children go free.

Shakespeare

It will be 400 years since Shakespeare's death in 2016. There will be a global celebration of his life and work, with Wales set to play its own part. You can expect new theatre productions, books, TV and radio programmes, while events such as the Hay Festival will also be marking the occasion.

Opera at 70

Welsh National Opera celebrates its 70th birthday with a newly commissioned opera based on David Jones's epic war poem In Parenthesis. With music by Iain Bell, it tells the story of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the Somme. This will also mark the centenary of the World War One battle.

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