From page to stage and across the universe.
One of the most important things to me about theatre is that it offers a world where anything is possible. There are no rules. Shakespeare knew this more than anyone when he wrote about witches and fairies and statues coming to life. It is what excites me about theatre. I like the fact that we can question the impossible and open doors to endless possibilities. As a result, it felt perfectly natural to me, as I began to write Estron (Alien), that a person would turn to a tin of Quality Street for comfort and start talking to it.
When it comes to creating a play, I’m not a planner – I prefer to jump straight into the writing. With Estron, I had no idea where the story would go. I knew I had a main character that was alone and lost in the world. I also knew that the tin of Quality Street would contain something otherworldly. Everything else was a mystery. I like to write in this way because it keeps me on the back foot, always allowing the possibility of unexpected events. Often, I will let the characters take me down a strange path or into corners in order to challenge my own (and the audience’s) expectations.
About half way through the first draft of Estron, my mum passed away. Suddenly I was thrown into grief and writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Months later, as I was slowly returning to day to day life, I came across the play and realised that Estron had the potential to explore grief and its effect on an individual. However, I was eager to avoid writing a miserable play or something that would sentimentalise grief. Using my own experiences (and lots of imagination), I went about exploring form and content in an attempt to shine a light on the subject in an honest, energised and playful way.
By the time I received the Drama Medal at the National Eisteddfod in 2016, Estron had changed quite a bit. I had cut a character, moved another character to the other side of the world, added a play within the play, and shattered the fourth wall so that characters could speak directly to the audience. It is very important to me that a play justifies its place on a stage – what makes it a piece of theatre and not a film or radio drama? Now, I had something undoubtedly theatrical that stood firmly within that medium.
I won the Drama Medal on my third attempt. I like the fact that I came third and then second before winning the prize because it shows a natural progression and displays how adjudication can help to develop a young playwright. The brilliant thing about the competition is that it offers a rare opportunity in the Welsh language to receive feedback on a new play. Without it, Estron would not have reached an audience. I doubt also whether Estron would exist at all had it not been for the opportunity to develop my skills over the previous years.
As a result of winning the Drama Medal, it was decided that Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru would produce Estron. For the first time, an audience would see my work – which is the end goal for most playwrights – and a brand new experience for me. On the one hand I was delighted and extremely excited. On the other, terrified. Thankfully, I had plenty of help along the way. As a young playwright, I was surprised by the energy, enthusiasm and support that I received. I felt from the start that everyone at Theatr Gen was behind me and eager to make a success of the play. For someone making a professional playwriting debut, it was priceless.
Over the last year, I have been working with Janet Aethwy, the director of Estron, to prepare the play for the stage – first for the production at the Cwt Drama at last year’s National Eisteddfod, and then for a Welsh tour. Janet has a wealth of experience as an actor, director and writer within the theatre industry, and I was extremely grateful for her practical knowledge and advice during the process. She was invaluable support when it came to redrafting; making suggestions about cuts and changes in order to tell our story in the most effective way.
The reaction to the original production of Estron came as a surprise. As someone who suffers with a lack of self-confidence I was expecting a complete disaster, but thanks to the hard work of Janet, the actors, stage management and designers, the play affected people in a personal way. The truth, as an artist, is that not everyone will like your work – I try not to let that bother me too much – what I want instead is to start a discussion. I want people to leave the theatre having felt some emotion or excitement, be it laughter or tears or an extreme hatred towards the work! When I write in the Welsh language, I want to create work that feels fresh and full of energy and is relevant to us today. I feel strongly that Welsh language theatre should live in the present, continually pushing the boundaries and questioning its purpose, form and voice in 2018 and beyond.
Estron has come a long way since those early days writing about a person and a tin of Quality Street. However, the heart of the play remains the same. On the surface, Estron is a play about death and the process of grieving. And yet, that is not Estron at all. It is a play about life. It is a play about an individual coming to terms with a devastating event, and through the pain and loneliness, learning to see the universe in a brand new light.
Theatr y Glowyr, Rhydaman / Miners’ Theatre, Ammanford 19 + 20 Ebrill / April 19:30 theatrausirgar.co.uk / 0845 2263510
Canolfan Garth Olwg, Pentre’r Eglwys / Garth Olwg Centre, Church Village, Pontypridd 24 Ebrill / April 19:30 www.gartholwg.org / 01443 570521 *
Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli 26 Ebrill / April 19:30 01758 704088
Y Stiwt, Rhosllanerchrugog, Wrecsam / Wrexham 1 Mai / May 19:30 www.stiwt.com / 01978 841300
Theatr Bro Alaw, Bodedern, Ynys Môn / Anglesey 3 Mai / May 19:30 Menter Môn / 01248 725 700 *
Theatr Felinfach, Dyffryn Aeron / Aeron Valley 5 Mai / May 19:30 theatrfelinfach.cymru / 01570 470697
Pontio, Bangor 8 Mai / May 19:30 pontio.co.uk / 01248 38 28 28
Canolfan Morlan, Aberystwyth 9 Mai / May 19:30 Swyddfa Morlan 01970 617996 *
Neuadd Gymunedol Maenclochog, Sir Benfro / Maenclochog Community Hall, Pembrokeshire 11 Mai 19:30 Swyddfa Celfyddydau Span Arts 01834 869323
Ffwrnes, Llanelli 12 Mai / May 19:30 theatrausirgar.co.uk / 0845 2263510
Chapter, Caerdydd / Cardiff 14 Mai / May 19:00 + 15 Mai / May 14:00 + 19:00 + 16 Mai / May 19:00 chapter.org / 029 20304 400
Canolfan y Celfyddydau Taliesin, Abertawe / Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
17 Mai / May 19:30 taliesinartscentre.co.uk / 01792 602 060
Galeri, Caernarfon 19 Mai / May 19:30 galericaernarfon.com / 01286 685 250
* Rhan o Gynllun Noson Allan – am fanylion llawn gweler theatr.cymru / Part of Night Out – for full details see theatr.cymru
Image: Mark Douet