Image by/Llun gan Simon Gough

Theatr na n'Og

With the support of the International Opportunities Fund, two members of Theatr na n'Og travelled to Rio De Janeiro to view a production of their play "You Should Ask Wallace". While there they observed methods of creating art for the communities that live in the favellas of Rio de Janeiro and gained an insight into the different methods of interactivity and inclusivity. They explored the possibility of initiating future projects between the two cultures, focussing on the combination of art and science.

Description

We visited the Museum of Life, in Rio De Janeiro to view my play You Should Ask Wallace being performed in Portuguese for young people from the favellas, to illustrate the life of the welsh Victorian scientist Alfred Russel Wallace who influenced Charles Darwin to publish his seminal work The Origin of the Species.

We are invited to perform our version of the play in English. The performance goes really well, and receives a standing ovation.
We then settle down to watch the Portuguese version of my play. I watch the actor, and listen to the script via a translator.
What a strange experience, seeing such a familiar story to me played out in another language, performed in a different way to our version, but compelling, funny, and poignant.

Feel very overwhelmed, that from an initial idea told to me by a BBC producer, Roy Davies, all those years ago, to this, an appreciative and enthusiastic audience half way around the world.

Luisa Massarani, the director of Museu Da Vida invites us to speak at a conference to promote science in art. I describe the work of Theatr na n'Óg, and concentrating specifically on theatre as a resource to teach science.

It is an extremely knowledgeable audience, who talk passionately and eloquently about the power of theatre in illustrating quite complicating theories and processes.

A physicist asks me a question about how important is it that children actually understand the theory from just seeing the play. I answer by explaining that we have created a play for young people about the man who co-discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection, so they will possibly struggle with the actual complexities of the theory, but for me it is more about introducing them to an exciting world of exploration. The story, the play is a springboard into that world, ready for them to investigate further. A play for curious minds.
It is fascinating and so inspirational. I start to think about a possible performance of our production to scientists and educationalists back home, to open up the debate on how to use theatre to teach science.

We finish by presenting Luisa Massarani with a photograph of Sgwd yr Eira in the Neath Vale. A place close to Wallace's heart.

The next day is taken up by seeing how the play is performed and then the seeing the audience take part in activities created by the theatre’s science department. The young people taking part in the activities are all from the poorest areas of Latin America. Their understanding of the issues raised in the play is excellent, and they appreciate the value of theatre to bring a Victorian scientist to life.

We look at different ways of interactivity. To observe their methods of creating art for the communities that live in the favellas of Rio de Janeiro, and gaining an insight into the different methods of interactivity and inclusitivity. They explain that they invite young people to be guides/ambassadors to their organization, and pay them travel and food allowance for the day. In exchange the young people are mentored in science and theatre.
We then have a meeting about how we at Theatr na n’Óg attract schools audiences to our work. And also to discuss future possibilities of collaboration between the two countries – focusing on art and science.

We discuss the possibility of a digital interactive website which will through the elements of the play of being on an expedition, children form both countries can share work on a secure website.

Development

It has been such a worthwhile experience not only to visit a country so very different to my own, but also to see such similarities in our working methods.

It was interesting to see that this organisation who work with probably the most underprivileged of society receive none or very little public subsidy. Therefore their business acumen is far more prevalent. They are not apologetic about their ambition for their work.

I had already planned an artistic programme, which incorporated science in theatre. This trip has confirmed to me that there is an appetite for delivering plays about science, which engages the audience with the scientist and the mind of the scientist. This will definitely inform my work for the future.

Science institutions communicate on a global scale, and I feel that for our work to be seen internationally this is definitely an avenue to investigate.

We are currently researching organisations across the world that would be interested in buying the play and our resources. Which would enable the name of Theatr na n’Óg and Wales to go further afield at very little cost.

Legacy

We are currently researching the idea of selling our work internationally by sending the script and the educational resources as a package for science museums and botanic gardens as a method of income generation without the expense of the company touring.

We are currently in discussion with the Museum in Rio for me to write other plays that will illustrate scientific theories and bringing scientist accessible to new audiences.

We have created interactive resources, which have video of our play, which will be available to schools in Rio and South Wales, allowing young people throughout the world to share ideas using theatre as the stimulus.

Additional Comments

This was such an amazing opportunity for me to see my play performed and appreciated by an international audience. To discuss the work that we have been producing for over 20 years, and to be acknowledged for a valuable resource which not only educates but also entertains future audiences throughout the world.

It has also opened many doors for us to present our work internationally.

I am extremely grateful to Wales Arts International for this unique opportunity.

www.theatr-nanog.co.uk

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