National Theatre Wales' John McGrath exits 'vibrant' scene

John McGrath

The outgoing founder and chief executive of National Theatre Wales says he leaves at a "vibrant" time for Welsh cultural life.

John McGrath is stepping down at the end of 2015 to run the Manchester International Festival.

He launched NTW in 2009 with a remit to stage original and creative productions in venues and unusual locations.

McGrath has overseen productions including Michael Sheen's Passion in Port Talbot.

Other productions include The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning and Mametz.

The final show under his leadership is The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion which is currently running at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff.

"I genuinely think the arts in Wales are in an incredibly vibrant state at the moment," he said.

"It's been wonderful to see all the young independent companies, and new theatre and performances, along with artists who are making work and putting it on in all sorts of places.

"And if NTW has inspired people to think that you can put art on anywhere then that's a fantastic legacy for us to have," he added.

Image copyright National Theatre Wales
Image caption Boyd Clack and Sharon Morgan in A Good Night Out In The Valleys (2010)
Image copyright National Theatre Wales
Image caption Michael Sheen in The Passion, staged in Port Talbot (2011)
Image copyright National Theatre Wales
Image caption Richard Lynch in Coriolan/Us which took Shakespeare to an old RAF hangar in the Vale of Glamorgan (2012)
Image copyright National Theatre Wales
Image caption Matthew Aubrey in The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (2013)
Image copyright National Theatre Wales
Image caption Mametz, a WW1 setting on the edge of a wood in Monmouthshire (2014)

The first production staged by NTW and directed by McGrath was A Good Night Out in the Valleys, which opened at Blackwood Miners Institute in March 2010.

Subsequent shows have taken the company across the country, visiting communities that rarely have the opportunity to experience live professional theatre.

It's a principle McGrath feels strongly about.

"As a national theatre there are so many different voices, different stories, different artists to work with and communities to reach that you have a responsibility to think things afresh every time."

As McGrath prepares to leave NTW, he said it was "really important" that the leadership teams of arts organisations were "perpetually refreshed".

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Media captionGruff Rhys explains about The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion

"So when I was offered the chance of a fantastic role in a city I love, Manchester, running the hugely successful international festival there, I thought that would be a great next step for me and an exciting new challenge.

"But it also felt like the right time to be handing NTW on, and to give somebody else the opportunity of doing one of the best jobs in the world."

He said it had been a "real joy" to set up the theatre and not having a traditional venue meant the company had to think things from scratch and that had been part of NTW's "great freedom" to reinvent things.

Candylion has been created from the 2007 album by Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys, who said McGrath had helped break down barriers.

"It's exciting for him to be moving on and I'm sure he'll pass the baton on to someone new to carry on that tradition of trying to making unique things happen," he said.

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