London troupe stages Welsh classic

A new theatre company is aiming to attract adventurous audiences when it stages a play in Welsh – at a London venue.

The recently launched Invertigo Theatre Company is producing Gwenlyn Parry’s Saer Doliau (Doll mender) at the Finborough Theatre, which started on 3 February.

‘It’s a big risk we’re taking,’ admitted actor and Invertigo co-artistic director Steffan Donnelly.
It will be the first time that Parry’s 1966 classic – addressing society’s ever-relevant obsession with modernisation – is performed in its original Welsh with English surtitles.

‘London’s Welsh community, lively as they are, aren’t enough to hold this by themselves,’ Donnelly told IAM. ‘So as well as appealing to Welsh learners in London, we’re also appealing to adventurous theatregoers, the type of people who would go and see something like the Globe to Globe festival last summer, where there were a lot of plays in different languages.’

He continued: ‘I think it will be a rewarding experience; being a brave theatre-goer will be well worth it because I hope it will offer a different view on things. I think seeing something in a different language can have an interesting effect, especially because you’re telling your mind to look in a more visual way. You’re not completely dependent on the language.’

Productions staged in the Welsh language are relatively rare, certainly outside the country. The Carmarthen-based Welsh language national theatre, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, was founded in 2003 and produces a varied range of work in Welsh.

‘I think it’s very important to promote Welsh, our culture and tradition, outside of Wales,’ said Donnelly. ‘We need to look a bit further out in order for people to see Welsh as a European language and also something worthwhile that can contribute to the cultural landscape in London. It’s a brave step forward to put Welsh on the international stage.’

Launched in 2012, Invertigo’s aim is to promote lesser-known works. Saer Doliau is produced with funding from the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprises, which the group received last year.

Donnelly said: ‘The Welsh production is important because it ties into this idea of representing the lesser known on the British stage, but also ties into the idea of staging undiscovered European gems. There are storylines out there that are just waiting to be unleashed. That really excites us.’