FAUST + GRETA | STAGE PREVIEW
With theatres beginning preparations to open their doors again, for now the focus remains on digital performance as we ease ourselves gently back into some kind of normality. Welsh theatre’s response to the pandemic has brought the word ‘collaboration’ to the fore – and collabs don’t get much better than this.
Frân Wen, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Bangor art centre Pontio have teamed up for a new Welsh language co-production of Faust + Greta, streamed live from Pontio’s Theatr Bryn Terfel from Fri 18 to Sun 20 June. Taking its inspiration from T. Gwynn Jones’ translation of Goethe’s classic, Faust + Greta will embrace social distancing restrictions to offer an innovative digital theatre experience: a combination of camera angles are shown on the screen at the same time, giving the audience an opportunity to immerse themselves in every aspect of the story.
Another important element to this production, and indeed to how Welsh theatre is changing as we emerge from the pandemic, is the focus on young people. Since November 2020, an ensemble of 18-25-year-olds from north-west Wales [pictured, top, in rehearsal] have been working together on this production. They have been involved with its every aspect, learning as they go and devising a performance that will be streamed live under the leadership of the production’s directors, Nia Lynn and Gethin Evans.
Joining the ensemble on stage is actor Llion Williams, who takes on the role of Old Faust. Though a familiar face on Welsh television, Llion is perhaps better known for his stage performances: famously awarded the ‘double’ – Best Actor in both English and Welsh – in 2017’s Welsh Theatre Awards, for (Re-live)’s Belonging and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s Chwalfa. His powerful performance as a dementia patient in the former will stay with me for a long time.
Another pro to join him onstage will be Sian Owens. In another innovative addition to this forward-thinking production, Sian is working closely with Amy Warrington, a Deaf member of the ensemble, to integrate British Sign Language into the performance. The team are working with some of the country’s finest theatre professionals offstage, too, including Elin Steele (set and costume designer); Ceri James (lighting designer); Sam Jones (composer and sound designer) and Nico Dafydd (video director).
It really is refreshing and inspiring to see three Welsh theatre powerhouses combining to put young people at the heart of their work. More in the industry need to step up and provide opportunities and experience to young people who have had their learning and development so cruelly disrupted. Support the future of Welsh theatre – and the young people whose talent holds it in their hands – by grabbing a ticket for this exciting and innovative digital experience now.
Faust + Greta, livestreamed from Pontio Arts Centre, Bangor, Fri 18-Sun 20 June. Tickets: £5. Info: pontio.ticketco.events
words JAMIE REES photos KRISTINA BANHOLZER / CARL RUSSELL OWEN