Audiences are thirsty for quality regional work: people want to watch performances that tell stories from everywhere. To laugh and connect with tales from different cultures. I have put my experiences to good use and have created a company with a focus on what I feel most passionate about: Welsh Theatre.
My company Chippy Lane Productions is named after the (in)famous Caroline Street in the heart of Cardiff. Affectionately known as “Chippy Lane” by locals and visitors alike. This is a place brimming with Welsh culture, where people come together to connect, laugh, cry and eat chips before getting the taxi home at the end of a night. Since CLP’s inception on the 1st of March (St David’s Day), we have produced three projects with a fourth in the pipeline.
When it came choosing CLP’s debut project, I wanted to create a buzz. There was no question I start with one of our most successful Welsh playwrights: the aforementioned Gary Owen. The appreciation for his writing beyond Wales is undeniable. Next year, Owen returns to the Royal Court with KILLOLOGY directed by Rachel O’Riordan in a co-production with the Sherman Theatre.
Our production of Love Steals Us From Loneliness boasted an authentic Welsh cast, a creative team that have worked for The National Theatre and a Linbury Prize Winner. What can I say, it exceeded all expectations. I am a firm believer in surrounding oneself with people who can challenge you to become better and this project did just that. The production received an overwhelming positive response from audiences and critics, gaining four and five star reviews for the London premiere at Camden People’s Theatre in July. On reflection, I believe it was the right decision in choosing one of Owen’s earlier plays for our first project. The success of the production has led on to further work, we were delighted to receive an invitation to be part of the programme at Chapter Arts Cardiff in December. Having accepted the invite, we are equally excited to bring the production home. A full circle in some regard.
An Evening of Welsh Playwrights, our second offering in October, was a collaboration with The Bloomsbury Literary Festival and The London Welsh Centre as part of this year’s Bloomsbury theme on “language” we were asked to produce a rehearsed reading event. As Artistic Director, I selected two notable Welsh Playwrights; Tim Price (The Internet is Serious Business) and Brad Birch (The Brink) and designed a bilingual event in both Welsh and English. We engaged two local actors to perform the pieces, directed by two Welsh directors from The Other Room, Cardiff. This theatre was the first outside London to be named Fringe Theatre of the Year at The Stage Awards 2016.
In the interest of seeking out fresh and emerging Welsh writers, I set up a scratch night under the banner Chipp & Scratch the aim of the night was to give writers the opportunity to bring their work to a stage. In August, we put out a call for submissions and received a great response. The event was a tremendous success and I intend to make this an annual event (returning in Summer 2017). It has facilitated relationship building with Welsh writers, and has led to further talks around matching someone to our next project for 2018. That production will be a piece inspired by Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.
Creating your own work can be very fruitful and meaningful and being “Mistress of my own destiny” (as Emma Rice once said) can affect positive change. So far our work has been met with much support and an appetite. My aspiration is to continue this work with heart, in the hope of one day becoming the “go-to company” for Welsh work and Welsh writing to be shared and enjoyed more widely across the UK.
Long may this wonderful experience continue.
Chippy Lane Productions new work is
Love Steals Us From Loneliness, by Welsh writer Gary Owen
Thursday 8th – Saturday 10th December 2016