ONES TO WATCH: STAGE | FEATURE
Ones to Watch: Stage
Compiled by Claudia Rutherford and Chris Williams
Rising in popularity, the Common Wealth theatre company pursue an ambition in voicing the struggles of working-class people. The company’s core project is to produce art that communicates the real concerns of everyday people, and in a post-Grenfell Britain, their work could not feel more relevant. This year’s successes included a poignant performance of Class: The Elephant in the Room and the vibrant and affirmative production of We’re Still Here, where the cast was comprised mainly of real steelworkers lent an opportunity to express themselves regarding the potential closing of Tata Steel in Port Talbot. The driving forces of the Common Wealth collective are artistic directors Rhiannon White and Evie Manning. Whilst Manning lives in Bradford, White is a born-and-bred Cardiffian, committed to engaging Welsh communities through the stage. Their art is strictly political, aiming to articulate social struggles through theatre and art.
Poetry has often been labelled a defining aspect of Welsh culture, and next year, it looks like Welsh youth will be leading the way. Active in the Welsh poetry scene is Cardiff-born performance poet, Sarah McCreadie. She is a BBC 1Xtra ‘Words First’ artist, and a member of the Roundhouse Poetry Collective. McCreadie combines a passion for topics on love and growing up LGBT with a subtle wit. In her poem I’ve Been Waiting my Whole Life for You, she discusses the hardships of dealing with archaic reactions to ‘two women holding hands’, announcing that a ‘man can’t understand how something so earth-turning and heavenly can take place without him’. McCreadie handles societal issues and deeply personal themes with great capability. Most recently, the young Welsh poet supported Holly McNish at the Wales Millennium Centre, whilst also headlining the Juke Open Mic Bespoken stage at Folli Festival in Castell Coch.
Welsh National Opera’s Spring Season
The Welsh National Opera’s spring season, entitled Rabble Rousers, is set to form the start of a three-year collaboration with Theater Bonn. Its main draw is a new production of La forza del destino, which will mark the start of a Verdi trilogy, directed by David Pountney. Revivals of Puccini’s Tosca and Mozart’s Don Giovanni also make up the 2018 Spring season.
It’s unusual to call someone who’s already had a three-decade success in the theatre as ‘one to watch’, but before 2016 most people wouldn’t have heard of Ria Jones. As understudy in Sunset Boulevard last year, Jones had to take to the stage when illness forced Glenn Close to temporarily pull out of the role of Norma Desmond. The resulting reaction, including a six-minute standing ovation, meant the Swansea-born actress has become a household name. Now Jones is heading a UK tour of Sunset Boulevard, playing the WMC in February, whilst getting to play her hometown when it played the Swansea’s Grand Theatre in October.
A graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Bebb was cast in WMC’s biggest original musical Tiger Bay. From Abercynon, she made her professional debut in the musical, which had previews in South Africa and premiered in Cardiff in November. She received a scholarship from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and was spotted by producers whilst performing at a gala concert for the RWCMD. In Tiger Bay, she played the leading role of Valleys girl Rowena Pryddy, starring alongside West End stars John Owen-Jones and Noel Sullivan.