PART OF COREO CYMRU AND CHAPTER’S WELSH DANCE STRAND
The damning short stories that earned Caradoc Evans the title of Wales’ ‘best-hated man’ are recreated by six dancers through compelling dance theatre
Choreographed by Gwyn Emberton and dancers
ZOO, The Sanctuary, Venue 124, 24 – 29 August, 1pm (2pm)
“Emberton’s narrative impulse is compelling… My People is a mature work… that deserves to be widely seen.” Jann Parry, Dance Tabs 2015
In the centenary year of one of the most controversial books written in and about Wales and its people, Caradoc Evans’ My People, choreographer Gwyn Emberton presents the first dance exploration of this divisive work. Gwyn Emberton joined by five exceptional international dancers delves into the dark and turbulent fictional village of Evans’ Manteg. They give heartbreaking and affecting performances as they collide with the short stories of Wales’ ‘best hated man’ (Western Mail).
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
The piece is inspired by one of the most controversial books, My People, to be written in Wales and about the Welsh people by Caradoc Evans.
It is an incredibly visual book and it just jumped off the page into the studio so to speak.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
We have been trying to get the work out there as much as possible and Edinburgh is always a good way of reaching new audiences and programmers. It is also a great opportunity for the company to perform the work for a week of performances rather than a night or two in one venue, this really develops work in a completely different way.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
When making the piece I was always aware that I didn’t want it to be literal retelling of the book. To start with it would have been impossible as their are 15 complex short stories. My aim was to capture the essence of the book, the overarching sense of a community struggling with how it behaves and how each level of its society treats each other.
Although the book was written 100 years ago this year, its themes of suppression and control by those in positions of power, particularly from a religious stand point and the way women are treated and abused are still significant and incredibly relevant issues today.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I see this as how the work connected as a whole then how the work is received. What the structure presents, how the characters are perceived and if what I am trying to get across does so.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
I’ve combined two and three.
Up to this point my main mode of creation has primarily been through task based propositions inspired by and responding to the source material, either through improvisation or contact work. I then use elements of Meisner and other acting principles/approaches to develop the performance/character level. I am becoming increasing interested in archetypes (Jung) and I am currently in the process of developing some new approaches to creating based on these.
My creations are collaborations, with the dancers, composers, designers and lighting designers.
I admire the work of Crystal Pite and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for craft, scale and design, Alain Platel for being brave enough to show that thing deep within us all and Matthew Bourne’s ability to tell stories though movement.
I am inspired by other art forms, particularly ones which are based around words, whether it’s novels, plays, films or poems. Everything gets thrown in to the work, even the colour of cover of the book can feature in some way.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
I don’t want to spoon feed the audience by making the work too linear whilst still giving it a sense of narrative. I hope that the audience feel that they have the freedom and the joy to respond to the work in any way they want, they complete the relationship with all the other elements. My job is to offer an atmosphere that gives them the potential for them to do that.
An award winner at the Wales Dance Platform, the production combines a cinematic score with the haunting world of Evans’ most memorable characters, including Achsah, thought to be a madwoman, who is locked in the attic and taken out at night by her husband on a cow’s harness and Nanni, who sacrifices herself for a respected Minister and is left to have her face eaten by rats. The Edinburgh 2015 production will be performed in a former church – the ideal setting for a work based on a conflicted chapel community.
Early twentieth century writer Caradoc Evans is one of the most contentious figures in Welsh literary history, although admired for his writing style he was also despised for his unflattering portrayal of his own people. Attempts were made to ban the book and his portrait, in the national gallery in Cardiff, was slashed twice across the neck. The book deals with issues including religious hierarchy, the treatment of women, a depraved and troubled society, all of which remain relevant today.
Speaking about the production, Gwyn Emberton said, “In making My People I was able to bring together an incredible group of international and exceptional dancers and the work of two of Wales’ brightest musical talents, Tic Ashfield and Benjamin Talbott, who are currently co-composing for BBC Wales’ Hinterland. Together we bring the dark world of Caradoc Evans’ My People to the stage. Whilst the book is a very critical portrayal of his, our, own people, I admire him for questioning the community that he felt treated him and his mother so unfairly and for using his art to do so. The stories are dark but it is the beauty found in this darkness that attracted me to make the work. It is incredibly visual and lends itself to dance theatre effortlessly.”
Gwyn Emberton’s My People is part of the Welsh Dance Strand presented by Coreo Cymru. Taking place during the final week of Edinburgh Fringe it also showcases the work of three other Wales’ based choreographers; Sally Marie’s I loved you and I loved you, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s Dawns Ysbrydion and CAITLIN, directed by Deborah Light, which Gwyn Emberton also co-devised and performs with Eddie Ladd. Coreo Cymru is an initiative set up to encourage and manage the creation and production of new dance activity, and to support the development of Wales based artists and companies.
Gwyn Emberton Dance is the company of award winning Welsh choreographer Gwyn Emberton who has worked with many of the UK’s and Israel’s major choreographers and companies, such as Akram Khan, Matthew Bourne, Jasmin Vardimon, Scottish Dance Theatre and Inbal Pinto Dance Company. Gwyn Emberton’s work has toured the UK, Europe and the Middle East and he has also choreographed for theatre, TV and music videos. This will be the second year Gwyn Emberton’s work will be at the festival.
Gwyn Emberton is an associate artist of Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Chapter's Creative Producer Programme, Coreo Cymru. My People and CAITLIN were both nominated for Wales Theatre Awards, with CAITLIN winning the Best Dance Production award.