Y Consortiwm Cymraeg brings chills this autumn with the world premiere of Y Fenyw Mewn Du, a new Welsh language translation of West End hit The Woman In Black.
Director Geinor Styles explains: “I love being scared. Since I was very young, I have always loved ghost stories. When I read Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black it scared me so much, I had to have the book cover facing downwards so that I never saw her – The Woman.
I saw the Stephen Mallatrat adaptation for the stage in the early nineties. It was not only a very clever adaptation of the stor,y but also terrified me and those who sat with me watching it in the theatre.
The simplicity of the storytelling in the show elevates the power of theatre and the spoken word. That memory has stayed with me and it remains one of my favourite plays. Years later, after a feedback session with audiences following the Consortiwm production of Shirley Valentine, Welsh learners suggested that a known story or play helped with their confidence in attending Welsh language theatre. Venues also said that their biggest sellers were thrillers.”
The Woman in Black tells the story of Arthur Kipps, a solicitor sent to settle the affairs of Mrs Alice Drablow. While working alone on her secluded estate he finds himself the subject of a terrifying haunting and at the mercy of the curse of the woman in black. To rid himself of this misery and exorcise the ghost once and for all, he engages an actor to help him tell his tale, and thus the stage is set for one of theatre’s most enduring thrillers.
Adapted by Stephen Malatratt from the 1983 gothic novel by Dame Susan Hill, The Woman In Black is one of the longest-running West End plays ever, having united audiences in fear for 30 years. And now it’s the turn of Welsh audiences to hide behind their programmes.
Y Fenyw Mewn Du has been especially translated for Y Consortiwm Cymraeg by writer and actor Gwawr Loader. She told us why she feels this production is important: “I was thrilled when Geinor asked me to be a part of the team of Y Fenyw Mewn Du. Having the opportunity to present a new adaptation of a West End classic to the Welsh-speakers and learners of the valleys, in their own language and with a Welsh spin is such a pleasure. With costs rising across the board it’s vital that audiences have access to theatre of the highest standard in their towns and villages and Y Consortiwm Cymraeg excels at taking work to communities.”
Y Consortiwm Cymraeg are delighted to announce that Jonathan Nefydd (Pobol Y Cwm, The Way) and Tom Blumberg (Theatr na nÓg, Arad Goch) will play the Actor and Kipps.
Directed by Geinor Styles, artistic director of Theatr na nÓg, Y Fenyw Mewn Du will feature music by composer Barnaby Southgate. The production is designed by Kitty Callister with sound design by Ian Barnard, and lighting and projection design from Andy Pike. Llinos Daniel will assistant direct and storyteller Owen Staton will be running ghost story-telling workshops in each location to accompany the tour.
Y Consortiwm Cymraeg was established by the award-winning Theatr na nÓg, Awen Cultural Trust, Theatr Soar and The Welfare Ystradgynlais to present high-quality accessible Welsh language theatre. Y Consortiwm Cymraeg also aims to produce a programme of participation for communities to improve their language skills and also engage in arts and culture on their doorstep. The four organisations joined forces to rekindle the vitality and value of live theatre venues to communities across the South Wales valleys. Y Consortiwm’s wheels were already in motion pre the COVID pandemic, but as cultural centres locked down, they realised that the need for these creative hubs was even greater – to help safeguard the future of the Welsh language in the valleys, and to support thriving communities beyond the Covid Pandemic. Their first production, Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine, translated by Manon Eames and performed by BBC Radio Cymru’s Shelley Rees-Owen delighted critics and audiences alike last spring.
Richard Hughes, Chief Executive of Awen Cultural Trust said: “Awen is thrilled to host the 2023 Consortiwm Cymraeg production of Y Fenyw Mewn Du this autumn and to bring this chilling tale to Welsh-speaking audiences in Porthcawl and beyond. Last year’s Consortiwm production of Shirley Valentine was extremely well received and I have no doubt people will be eager to see this haunting translation of the West End classic at their local theatre”
Y Fenyw Mewn Du premieres at Porthcawl Pavillion on Thursday 26th October, where it runs until Saturday 28th before touring to Theatr Soar, Merthyr Tydfil (2-4th November), The Borough Theatre Abergavenny (9-11th November), ending in Ystradgynlais at The Welfare (16-18th November). Tickets can be found on venue websites or at theatr-nanog.co.uk.