A brief mention of an article in the Guardian newspaper focusing on the award-winning work of the Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru or the National Welsh Language Theatre of Wales, with a very fair story that stands in stark contrast to some of the discriminatory news coverage on the Welsh language that we have seen emerging from the British media in recent weeks.

‘Back in the heady days of summer (all right, rainy early August), I wrote a piece for G2 about national theatres in Britain – theatres plural, because we have rather a lot these days: four in total. The piece ended up focusing on the National Theatre of Scotland and National Theatre Wales, but, as some of you pointed out in the comments thread and on Twitter, I didn’t spend much time on the third “new” national theatre, the Welsh-language Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. Partly that was because of space; partly, I confess, it was because although I’ve heard plenty of good things about TGC, I hadn’t come into direct contact with its work.

Readers, I remedied that – and thanks to everyone for insisting I should. Just before leaving Edinburgh I managed to catch the company’s revival of Llwyth (Tribe), Dafydd James’s flamboyant fantasia on gay identity and Welshness, produced in collaboration with Cardiff’s Sherman Cymru. The production was still finding its feet when I saw it, and sometimes its ambition exceeded its ability to deliver, but even so it was utterly unlike anything else I saw at this year’s festival: a play that took on far-reaching questions of language and sexuality without a hint of preachiness, performed in an uninhibited torrent of Welsh, English and a gloriously rich Wenglish that often bested both. As I scribbled on Twitter at the time, it was the only piece of drama I’ve yet encountered that features both Y Gododdin and Grindr. My grasp of Welsh doesn’t extend far beyond “diolch”, so I had to keep a beady eye on the surtitles, but even so: I was sold.

One thing in particular about our conversation struck me. Whereas Vicky Featherstone of NTS and John McGrath of NTW fought shy of flying their respective flags, Gruffydd has no apologies about the fact that creating theatre in Welsh gives the company something to fight for. “Whenever you do something in Welsh, it’s a political act,” he insists. “We’re operating against the assumption that we could just do it in English. We have to speak and work in our language, otherwise it won’t exist in a generation or two.” If only more theatre makers could articulate what they’re trying to achieve so fluently and persuasively. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of him and the company – and not just in Wales.’

Of course, if you want to have your prejudices about the zealous intolerance of English speakers for any Celtic language then look no further than the Comments section underneath the article (or what Irish speakers face here). The age-old bigotry and intolerance is on full display and it’s not confined to the English. But then again perhaps we shouldn’t look and instead focus on the article itself and leave the bigots where they belong.

%d bloggers like this: