Clwyd Theatr Cymru - Mimosa

Dylan Williams performed as a member of the cast of Mimosa, a production by Clwyd Theatr Cymru which toured in Wales and Patagonia in 2015.

Just a few weeks ago I was on the other side of the world, in Patagonia, with a crew of Welsh people and two young lads from Esquel, performing in a show called Mimosa.

Back in February, I was invited to an interview with the director Tim Baker, Clwyd Theatr Cymru, for the new Mimosa project. Tim and I had collaborated in the past, and he had shown faith in me as an actor as we worked on productions for this very special theatre company in Mold.

I couldn't help but get excited as Tim explained his vision for this new project. He spoke of his journey to Patagonia four years earlier, and of the inspiration for this piece, which was finding a picture of the grave of Kate Jones, one of the first settlers. Her name was discovered on the list of the Mimosa's passengers, as well as that of her husband William Jones 'Y Bedol' ('The Horseshoe') and his two little girls Mary Ann and Jane. There had clearly been years of research involved to weave together the stories of Kate and William, and a number of other travellers, in order to trace the history of the first group of settlers: the people who made a decision to leave Wales forever and set out on a journey from the docks of Liverpool on a small clipper boat in 1865 to a place in South America called Patagonia.

After finding out that I would be a part of this project, I began rehearsals in Theatr Clwyd at the end of April. After the busy rehearsal period to get the play ready in both Welsh and English in only three and a half weeks, we began touring the play around Wales. With each performance it became clear from the warm feedback we received that we were part of a very special project. Back in Mold, children from all over north Wales came to see the show every morning and afternoon for four weeks.

On we went to the Urdd residential centre at Glan-llyn to meet sixteen young Welsh people and two young Welsh speakers from Esquel, Mike Winter and Ryan Lloyd. Clwyd Theatr Cymru had developed a partnership with the Urdd for the next part of the project. It was a very fruitful partnership, which is now an essential network – both artistically and linguistically – for young Welsh speakers in every corner of the world.

Thinking about the project, it was both interesting and significant to remember that we were rehearsing in Bala. Bala – the place where William and Kate Jones left home forever to follow their dream of a better life in Patagonia. And so, in a mere fortnight, we re-rehearsed the show with the young people, before performing it at the National Eisteddfod in Meifod, to a packed Theatr y Maes.

Finally, on Sunday 9 August, we started the important next chapter in this project and travelled to South America – not by boat, but by plane – to Buenos Aires and then on to Patagonia. We arrived at Trelew first, then Puerto Madryn followed by Gaiman. The show was performed four times in these areas, and the community were incredibly welcoming. It was important, of course, to tell this story to each of our audiences as we toured with the show, but everybody realised that the response we had in these towns in Patagonia was somehow different. We were telling the story of the Welsh in Patagonia to the Welsh in Patagonia. Every day, we as a cast gained a better understanding of how important this piece was as we visited the landing site in Puerto Madryn and saw the graves of a number of descendants in Gaiman, including, of course, the grave of Kate Jones, who was the inspiration for the piece.

We then crossed the paith (desert) and performed two final shows in Esquel and Trevelin, once again receiving a warm welcome, and a response that was just as powerful and emotional, particularly on the final night when the descendants of the original settlers were asked to stand on their feet at the end of the show.

Not only was it the end of the tour in Esquel and Trevelin, we also said our goodbyes to two of these towns' sons, Mike Winter and Ryan Lloyd. Two unassuming and kind young men, two men with whom we hope to remain lifelong friends.

So what next? Well, with a big thank you to the Welsh community in Trelew, Puerto Madryn, Gaiman, Esquel and Trevelin, there's talk that we must return with more history. I very much hope that we can do so. The history of this piece, and its message, struck a chord with each and every one of us.

The whole purpose of this venture by Clwyd Theatr Cymru and the Urdd was, in my view, to hold a mirror up, via the arts, to the Welsh in Wales and the Welsh in Patagonia, in order that we continue the venture and realise how important the future of the language is. A network has now been established between Clwyd Theatr Cymru and the Urdd, and the Welsh community in Patagonia, and the venture can continue via this relationship and network.

I would like to end with the words of Tim Baker, which resonated in each one of us as a cast and in each member of our audience on this thrilling journey, in Mold, Anglesey, Pontypridd, Merthyr, Meifod, Mwldan, Felinfach, Liverpool and Builth Wells. From Caernarfon to Gaiman, Trelew to Trevelin, Puerto Madryn to Esquel.

"Dyfodol, Rhyddid, Gobaith, Ffydd!" (Future, Freedom, Hope, Faith!)

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