Ahead of the launch of Theatr Pena’s tour of Siôn Eirian’s play The Royal Bed, Andy Howells chats to director Erica Eirian about the production.
Theatr Pena’s third co-production with The Riverfront in association with the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven is a classic Welsh story. The Royal Bed by Siôn Eirian. The Royal Bed is an English language adaptation of Siwan by Saunders Lewis, will premiere at Newport Riverfront on Wednesday February 11 and continue until February 14.
The play was originally commissioned by BBC Radio 4 in 1993. Theatr Pena’s 2015 touring production is The Royal Bed’s stage premiere and a rare opportunity for theatre audiences in Wales to experience the Welsh classic in English.
Director Erica Eirian told Andy Howells:
“It’s our first national tour. We’re going to 18 venues in all, including The Riverfront. The Riverfront is our co-producer and provide our rehearsal space and lots of support, so we open here for our usual Wednesday to Saturday six performance run, including two matinee’s and then we go on tour for six weeks.”
The Royal Bed will visit other venues across Wales including Abergavenny, Abertillery and Blackwood.
Theatr Pena was set up in 2008 driven by an uncompromising determination to stage revivals of some the world’s best classic plays and develops a commitment to creating opportunities for women in theatre. The Royal Bed follows other major productions by the company including The House of Bernada Alba, The Trojan Women, The Maids and The Killing of Sister George.
“Ironically, this is the first production that has men. We are not exclusively women. We simply try to choose our material which gives opportunities. The central character in this is Siwan and it’s her story we follow.”
The Royal Bed is set around Easter 1230 when an uneasy truce exists between a divided Wales and England. At the court of the charismatic Prince of North Wales, a catastrophe is about to unfold and dreams of a united Wales will crumble. At the centre of the drama is Siwan, the illegitimate daughter of King John and passionate, outspoken, and politically astute wife of Llywelyn the Great. Set in Medieval Wales, the play tells the story of her adulterous affair with the young Marcher Lord, Gwilyn Brewys, and the terrible revenge exacted by her enraged husband when he discovers the lovers in the royal bed, the consequences of which reverberate down the centuries to contemporary Wales.
Erica believes that aspects of the play, adapted by her husband, the playwright, Siôn Eirian, are central to much of Saunders Lewis’ work.
“Essentially what the play is about is the struggle and the tension between personal desire and public political duty. In this we have a young woman who has spent 20 years constricted by duty and responsibility as a wife and as a political and royal consort, who in the moment wants to taste passion and desire. So, she gives into that with repercussions, but equally Llywelyn gives into rage”
The Royal Bed will feature BAFTA Cymru award winner Eiry Thomas as Siwan, Hannah O’Leary as Alis, with Francois Pandolfo as Gwilym Brewis and Russell Gomer as Llywelyn. The production also features live music from mezzo soprano Buddug Verona James and Celtic harpist Delyth Jenkins.
The Royal Bed will run at Newport Riverfront from Wednesday February 11 at 7.45pm with further presentations on Thursday February 12 at 2.30pm & 7.45pm, Friday February 13 at 7.45pm and Saturday February 14 at 2.30pm & 7.45pm Tickets -£12.50, concessions – £10.50, students – £6.50 Call 01633 656679 for ticket details.
Interview Archived: June 2020