National Theatre Wales’ Circle of Fifths on Tour

Circle of Fifths tackles grief head-on and manages to find joy and connection in the sadness.” – Kate Griffin, Entertainment South Wales

National Theatre Wales has announced its tour of Circle of Fifths, an immersive production combining film, music and theatre, directed by film and theatre-maker Gavin Porter.

Circle of Fifths premiered in June 2022 in Cardiff, opening to critical acclaim. National Theatre Wales is delighted to be remounting the show, and adapting it to be shared in community venues, from town halls to chapels to local theatres in Newport, Ebbw Vale, Chirk, Cardigan, Chepstow, Pontypridd, Butetown in Cardiff and Brixton in south London.

National Theatre Wales presentation of Circle of Fifths. Photo: Mission Photographic

Devised with a collective of musicians and artists from Wales’ oldest multicultural community, Butetown, Circle of Fifths explores how music and stories can connect us in times of grief and loss – creating a space for collective reflection and celebration.

Co-creation is central to Circle of Fifths, as with all of NTWs’ projects. After losing his uncle to COVID-19, director Gavin Porter picked up his camera and started collecting people’s stories of how lives are celebrated in death and the importance of traditions and rituals. Taking to Twitter, he asked people to share what songs they would like played at their funeral. The overwhelming response included everything from Abba to The Abyssinians, Gil Scott Heron to Nat King Cole. Circle of Fifths was subsequently devised and performed by musicians and artists from the Butetown community including Ska and Reggae musician Drumtan Ward, multi instrumentalist Kiddus Murrell, and performer (and funeral arranger) Maureen Blades. 

Music is the powerful thread that runs through Circle of Fifths, unlocking unexpressed emotions and connecting us to each other. The production takes its title from a tool of music theory that organises pitch into a sequence. Jazz musicians will sometimes disrupt this sequence to create new musical pathways. It is in this disharmony that Porter draws parallels with the impact that loss has – as a fracture in the rhythm of our lives.

National Theatre Wales presentation of Circle of Fifths by Gavin Porter. Photo Credit: Jorge Lizalde

Gavin Porter has worked with National Theatre Wales on numerous projects including The Agency, which put young people at the heart of developing projects and businesses that have a social purpose and The Soul Exchange as a filmmaker during NTWs’ first year. He later became involved with NTW TEAM and worked on De Gabay (2013), an award-winning play by Somali poets from Butetown. As NTWs’ Creative Associate from 2013, building on the work of others, he created the participatory theatre project The Big Democracy Project.

Porter has spent many years telling untold stories through his documentaries and Circle of Fifths was his first major theatrical work:  “Having come up through NTW TEAM, I’ve always been interested in how the skills I’ve honed through my documentary work, and interviewing hundreds of people, could be transferred into a theatrical space. This show is a 360-degree experience, with performers, musicians, taped interviewees and film, all coming together to create a truly unique week of performances.”

Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales says: “By touring Circle of Fifths across Wales and to London, we’re opening a dialogue about grief – a topic so often considered a taboo – and sharing rich, heartfelt and complex stories that originate in Cardiff’s Butetown with audiences across the country. Gavin and the team’s highly original piece of theatre draws on our many traditions and stories to celebrate all that connects in the ways we grieve death and commemorate life.”

National Theatre Wales presentation of Circle of Fifths by Gavin Porter. Photo Credit: Jorge Lizalde
Circle of Fifths Performance Times and Dates
  • Thursday 19 – Saturday, 21 October, 7pm – The Riverfront, Newport
  • Thursday 26 October, 7pm – Ebbw Vale Institute
  • Saturday 28 October, 7pm – Black Park Chapel, Chirk
  • Friday 3 November, 7pm – Small World Theatre, Cardigan
  • Wednesday 8 November, 7pm – Drill Hall, Chepstow
  • Friday 10 November, 7pm – Hopkinstown Hall, Pontypridd
  • Saturday 11 November, 7pm – Butetown Community Centre, Cardiff
  • Wednesday 17 – Saturday 20 January, Brixton House, London (tickets on sale soon)

Tickets: Pay what you feel, from £7-£17. Circle of Fifths has a 14+ age recommendation. Book tickets via the National Theatre Wales’ and venues’ websites via this link:

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