Welsh Writer’s Work Remains Alive, Vibrant, and Full of Love – Siôn Eirian

I was sad to learn of the passing of Welsh scriptwriter, Siôn Eirian last week.

I only became aware of the work of Siôn in the last decade  when I was invited by Sion’s wife, the director, Erica Eirian to catch a rehearsal of Theatr Pena’s presentation of The Royal Bed at Newport’s Riverfront Theatre in 2015. The play was an English language adaptation of Saunders Lewis’ Siwan, originally commissioned by BBC Radio 4 in 1993. Theatr Pena’s 2015 touring production was The Royal Bed’s stage premiere and a rare opportunity for theatre audiences to experience the Welsh classic in English.

Although Siôn wasn’t at the rehearsal the day I attended, I became fascinated with the subject matter of the play as Erica described it to me and of which Siôn had adapted so vividly.

The Royal Bed

Set in Easter 1230, The Royal Bed, told the story of Siwan, the illegitimate daughter of King John and passionate, outspoken, and politically astute wife of the charismatic Prince of North Wales, Llywelyn the Great. Siwan’s 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, becomes a tale steeped in passion, tension and unbound love.

An ability to paint larger than life but believable and most importantly identifiable characters, Sion’s creations were undoubtedly magnificent templates for the cast to get their teeth into, particularly the females of the piece, as Theatr Pena were performing plays with strong female roles.

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I certainly felt while watching The Royal Bed in Newport’s Riverfront studio back in 2015, the production was showered in love from its cast and creatives. While Eiry Thomas’s Siwan rose from carefree lover to the real power behind Russell Gomer’s dark, brooding Llywelyn’s thron,  Hannah O’ Leary’s chambermaid, Alis and Francois Pandolfo’s Gwilym, both caught up in their own individual tales of tragedy and  passion.

Writing the review as I was in February that year, I felt it was Siôn and Theatr Pena’s “Valentine gift to Wales”.

Woman of Flowers

It would not be until 2018 that I would see Siôn’s Woman of Flowers, an adaptation of Saunders Lewis’ 1948 Welsh language verse drama, Blodeuwedd combined with original material to create a dark fantasy of epic proportions for the stage.

Woman of Flowers tells the story of Blodeuwedd, a human female being, created from flower petals by the embittered goddess Arianrhod and the malevolent wizard Gwydion.

Blodeuwedd’s sole purpose to be a wife to the young warrior prince, Llew, is put in jeopardy when she seeks attention from the huntsman, Lord Gronw. As their lustful yearnings spark to a flame, treachery is born, while another battle rages between the forces of Arianrhod and Gwydion.

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Immersive edge of the seat drama at its best, there was no exaggeration as I wrote that Sion’s Woman of Flowers was “As enthralling as an episode of Game of Thrones…” Everything about the production was epic, from Sara Gregory’s free spirited lead that danced her way through the drama to the bloodthirsty battling of Betsan Llwyd’s Arianrhod and Eiry Thomas’ Gwydion.

Not only were The Royal Bed and Woman of Flowers respectfully written around strong performances for women, they remain two of the finest productions I have had the pleasure of reviewing.

Siôn Eirian’s Work Is Alive, Vibrant, and Full of Love

I recall after the premiere of Woman of Flowers, I asked Siôn to autograph my programme and I told him how much I enjoyed the show. I was greatly surprised when he told me how much he had enjoyed reading my reviews and that I should never stop writing them. His kind words and comments have stayed with me through times when I have struggled with confidence, it was indeed a great compliment not to be taken lightly.

Reading back over the reviews, what strikes me is Siôn’s work is alive, vibrant, and full of love, as well as epic in every sense of the word. I am sure any future performances of The Royal Bed and Woman of Flowers (or indeed any of his other creations) will reflect that.

I will certainly be there to see them when they are. Thank you Siôn.