Tour of Wales of 2071 Cwmni Pendraw’s Environment Project. Written by Prof Chris Rapley and Duncan Macmillan for The Royal Court in 2014-15 in a new translation into Welsh by Wyn Bowen Harries. The production now includes songs and writings on today’s environmental issues by musicians Gwilym Bowen Rhys (Y Bandana, Plu) and Angharad Jenkins (Calan). Video is by Sion Eirwyn Richards and Sound by Aled Hughes (Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog)
2071 – Environmental show tours Welsh theatres
How do you bring a discussion about climate change to the theatre? That’s the challenge that theatre company, Cwmni Pendraw has set itself.
The Company, which specialises in bringing history and science to the theatre, are touring Wales with 2071, an environmental project and a multimedia piece of theatre, in January and February 2018. The Company are eager to bring the show to a young audience and so are eager to perform for schools and colleges during the day. Contact Casi Wyn: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about these performances.
The Company have taken and adapted a play based on the words of a leading climate scientist, as he reviews his own life and career and looks to what type of future his grandchild might inherit in 2071. The production has been described as ‘breaking new ground in the Welsh language theatre’.
Renowned actor, Wyn Bowen Harries, who directs and is the main character in 2071, has updated the original stage play by Prof Chris Rapley and Duncan Macmillan, and infused the performance with images, and newly composed music and songs from musicians Angharad Jenkins and Gwilym Bowen Rhys. The show also breaks the theatre’s ‘fourth wall’ to bring the audience into the discussion.
Wyn Bowen Harries explains:
“In 2071, Prof Chris Rapley tells us how, in his childhood atlas, the Antarctic was described as a ‘region unknown to man’, but now we have a wealth of information about our earth, and all its intricate and interconnected systems.
For example, 12,000 years ago saw the beginning of the period which saw man’s development on earth. The earth’s temperature remained surprisingly stable. For the majority of the period, the sea level did not rise more than 0.2mm a year. But in that last century, sea level has risen by 1.8mm each year and by now, has risen twice as much, to 3.3mm a year. This may not sound like much but it’s significant. Sea level has already risen nearly 20cm.
This shows that the earth’s systems are out of kilter, that the dynamic balance of the climate system has been disturbed.
Though this is a serious topic, our narrator ends on a positive note that we do have opportunities to face the challenges ahead, and I hope that our audience will leave the theatre thinking about changes that they can make to contribute to preserving our wonderful planet.”
A conversation with Wyn Bowen Harries, producer/ director of Mr Bulkeley o’r Brynddu
What reaction did the first tour receive?
In general, the reaction was amazing, with several sell-out shows. I think it caught people’s imagination, and I think everyone enjoyed the show, though the audiences were not as large in some places: I think we sold more tickets once word got around about the show!
I think people enjoyed being entertained, but also enjoyed sampling a little of what real life when William Bulkeley was alive, as the story was in his own words, and not a work of fiction. It all felt very real: this was how life was, and these were the types of things that happened when he was writing his diaries.
What other elements pleased the audiences?
Considering the performance, the fact that the parts were all played by two actors was quite striking. A few people found that hard to believe; that all the characters were portrayed by only two actors- that’s high praise for the actors and the production; that the thing worked as a whole.
I was very happy with the way things worked, with the music directed by Stephen (Rees, Musical Director), he created the music for the show, choosing songs and music from the period- some songs from the Diaries themselves, in order to create the period atmosphere, and everything blended well together.
There’s not a great deal that I’d change, everyone seemed quite happy with the show. I will have to look over the script before the next tour though!
Were there more things you’d have liked to include?
There were all manner of things I’d have liked to put in the show, but as I’d decided that the show should be an hour and a half in length with no break, and would present a slice of life from the period, there were quite a few things that had to be cut from the first draft.
The actors (Manon Wilkinson, Rhodri Siôn) also contributed a great deal, from the perspective of what worked for them, both dramatically and practically on stage. Certainly a lot of interesting things had to be left out. If people are interested, having seen the show, then they could look at the diaries for themselves (as they’re available online at http://bulkeleydiaries.bangor.ac.uk/ ).
I had to use a certain amount of ‘poetic licence’ as well in order to weave a story. But I think I’ve been true to the old William Bulkeley, as I haven’t created entirely new situations, the only things I’ve created are the conversations in a few scenes between him and his son and daughter. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to tell a story well, and, in this case, to use the diaries to tell a story.
There is no evidence, for example, of how Fortunatus Wright (the privateer) behaved with Mary, William’s daughter, only a reference to the fact that she had returned and had been hurt by him. It was necessary, then, to imagine a possible scenario, but this also provides an opportunity to tell a story.
Some of the songs too, help to move the story along. During one visit to Dublin, William writes, “Went to see the Beggar’s Opera,” so there’s an opportunity to include a song that William had heard, and many of the songs and pieces of music, both folk and classical, are still with us today of course.
Did you reach any conclusions or insights into WB’s character while performing the piece?
I came to know William Bulkeley better by realizing what his attitude was to different things, though his own opinion about people is not always clear. He stands back and describes what he sees. But then as he gets ill you get an idea of the type of man he was, how much he enjoyed cockfighting, having a ‘binge’ on 12th night and that type of thing with his workers. “After last night’s debauch’ he writes for example.
Do you think that, as a diarist, he had one eye on who might read his diaries in the future?
This is an incredibly good question, and I’m not sure of the answer! I suspect that he’s writing for himself, especially when he’s recording the weather every day. This was a period of increasing interest in science and evidence, and I suspect that he’s doing this as he’s trying to be a part of the new scientific enquiry, and the way in which people were investigating and trying to improve agricultural practices, as a landowner, he is a farmer.
That’s why he records everything he’s growing and when. He mentions that his workers tell him that he should plant at certain times, according to folklore, despite how different the seasons can be from year to year. Though he’s not a scientist, he’s certainly joining in with the ethos of the period by recording everything.
He didn’t start writing his diaries until he was around 34 years old, but then wrote for the next 35 years.
Some of the diaries are missing in the middle years, there’s no mention of the Jacobite rebellion– we don’t actually know much about his politics.
Why take Mr Bulkeley on tour again?
With the last tour having focused on north Wales, I felt that we could reach more people. Also I was being asked if there was a chance of a further tour by people who wanted to see the show again or had missed it. Of course we’re now taking the show to new parts of Wales and making it a national tour as well as taking it to a London Welsh audience! Having Arts Council funding made the second tour a possibility, and it’s such a good story that I think we’re well justified in telling it again.
It’s quite a different sort of show isn’t it?
Yes, it speaks directly to the audience through diary readings, with the dramatic pieces carrying the story forward.
It’s not a conventional drama, but an interesting format. I had an interest in different forms of story-telling, and I think we’ve succeeded and are looking forward to doing it again, as the response was great. The show contains a lot of laughter, alongside some very emotional parts. It offers entertainment, and, while going to the theatre needn’t be an educational activity, it offers history in a light format.
We are also in an interesting period of Welsh history, and perhaps one that receives little attention. It’s a period before non-conformism or industrialisation have really taken hold.
Though we’re talking about rural Wales, what’s surprising is how much people travelled. There was a lot of travel by sea; it was easier to travel by sea than by land during this period. The roads which existed were in a very poor condition- people were supposed to contribute to the upkeep of roads in their parish, but they were in such a poor condition that nobody bothered. And yet, people had to travel- the drovers travelled, and the gentry needed to travel to access education or the law, for example. In one place in the diaries, WB writes that his son said: ‘took me only three days to get from London,’ which isn’t bad for a journey to Anglesey on horseback!
A selection of the ‘Mr Bulkeley of Brynddu’ performance from the Galeri, Caernarfon on the 10th of February 2015.
Here’s some coverage of #MrBulkeley o’r Brynddu on Wyn Evans’s Big Welsh Weeked on Radio Wales (30.1.25).
Remember the show is bilingual and so suitable for Welsh learners!
Listen in at 1’52” here. (Available for 25 days from 3.2.15).
Dramatic show brings Eighteenth Century Diaries to life
Pirates, cockfighting, and riotous football games: life in the Eighteenth century had its excitements and adventures, its privations and celebrations.
A new drama production; Mr Bulkeley o’r Brynddu, touring north Wales over the next few weeks ( see Manylion y Daith for dates and locations), has been inspired by a diary which brings the period to life in all its drama.
The personal diaries of William Bulkeley, squire of Brynddu, Anglesey, recorded between 1734- 1760, have proved the ideal subject for the first production by Cwmni Pendraw, a brand new theatre company formed to produce drama with history and science as its focus.
The versatile small cast seamlessly lead the audience through the highs and lows of William Bulkeley’s life, moving between characters and taking us from Bulkeley’s home at Y Brynddu to the courthouse in Biwmares and to Dublin, London and Italy. Readings from the original diaries, written in English, lead us through the performance, are interspersed with dramatic scenes and music from the period.
Playwright, director and actor Wyn Bowen Harries, said:
“When I read William Bulkeley’s diaries, in Bangor University’s archive, I couldn’t help but see the stories they contained as a play- there’s really a soap opera’s worth of drama here! Although he’s a member of the gentry, William Bulkeley’s life is far from easy, he has to cope with the situation when his daughter falls for a roguish pirate; his son, who, while supposedly studying in London, is squandering his allowance, and his mother gets trampled by cows and has a ladder fall on her. In his diaries, William Bulkeley also records the characters, daily life and customs. He notes the rough justice meted out to people at Biwmares court house and comments on the poor standard of preaching of the local parson.”
Reviewing the premiere of Mr Bulkeley o’r Brynddu in Barn, Manon Wyn Williams said: “the actors gave a resounding performance…” while Heledd Lewis Jones, Head of drama at Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones said: “The drama students continue to discuss the performance they saw in Llanfechell… the atmosphere created and the performance by the small, talented cast, was really effective… the versatile cast created realistic characters and the audience was engrossed. The period-appropriate music also contributed to the success of the whole performance.”
The performance, which is suitable for people aged over 11, is supported by Anglesey Council, Night Out Scheme, Wales Arts Council, Cymdeithas Edward Llwyd/Llen Natur, MagnoxSDF and the Climate Change Consortium of Wales.
New theatre company gears up for first production
Cwmni Pendraw has been created by veteran Welsh theatre and television actor Wyn Bowen Harries (Rownd a Rownd, Coronation Street, Pobol y Cwm, Tipyn o Stad) to produce performances which use drama to explore science and history themes.
Their first production, Mr Bulkeley o’r Brynddu, containing drama, diary readings and music does just that, using as inspiration the true diaries of an 18th century squire from Anglesey. The diaries contain enough highs and lows for a soap opera and reflect the social life as well as the precarious nature of life in rural Wales during that time.
Commenting on the creation of Cwmni Pendraw, Manon Williams, a Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol lecturer in scripting at Bangor University, who also writes for Barn, said:
“It’s heartening to see a new company being formed to provide live theatre in Wales and especially interesting to see a company dedicated to creating new work which explores historical and scientific themes. This reflects the vibrant culture and interest in live theatre performance that we have in Wales.”
Cwmni Pendraw are touring the bilingual production, Mr Bulkeley o’r Brynddu to communities from Holyhead to Bala and Mold from the end of January to mid-February, and have received considerable interest.
“We have been welcomed to perform at theatres and centres and village and school halls, and there has been considerable interest in the show,” says Wyn Bowen Harries.
“The show premiered to celebrate the completion and online publication of the diaries and their transcripts last autumn and the performance received a warm welcome. As the production is bilingual, we hope it will appeal to Welsh learners as well as to Welsh audiences, and to anyone with an interest in Welsh history and culture.”
Local school pupils were among the first to see the production, performed at William Bulkeley’s home, Y Brynddu, in Llanfechell. Heledd Lewis Jones, Head of Drama, Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones said:
“The drama students continue to discuss the performance they saw in Llanfechell… the atmosphere created and the performance by the small, talented cast, was really effective… the versatile cast created realistic characters and the audience was engrossed. The period- appropriate music also contributed to the success of the whole performance.”
Suitable for both Welsh speakers and Welsh learners, Mr Bulkeley o’r Brynddu is recommended for an audience aged 11 and over.
The tour runs between 27 January and 14 February. Full details are at cwmnipendraw.com
Cwmni Pendraw present ‘Mr Bulkley o’r Brynddu’
The Company will be beginning rehearsals on January 5th, 2015 in preparation for the North Wales tour from Jan 27th to Feb 14th. For details and times of the tour, please see the page – MANYLION Y DAITH.
‘Mr Bulkeley o’r Brynddu’ is an adaptation of William Bulkeley’s diaries which gives us a vivid picture of life in 18th Century Anglesey. The production consists of excerpts from his diaries in William Bulkeley’s own words – English. The context of the linking Welsh dramatic pieces should be easily understood. Songs and music of the period mentioned in the diaries are an integral part of the production.
In the meantime here is a taste of our preview performed on location in and around William Bulkeley’s house in Llanfechell. Pictures and video are on other pages.
William Bulkeley lived in Brynddu, Llanfechell which is a stone’s throw from Wylfa nuclear power station, North Anglesey. His diaries are kept in Bangor University’s archives and have been transcribed into digital form.
The diaries of William Bulkeley who was the squire of Llanfechell and an Anglesey Justice of the Peace, provide a superb picture of country life ranging from that of the peasantry to the business of the gentry in mid-18th century Anglesey. Importantly, he also notes the weather every day for over 30 years. This gives us a unique record which is of interest to climate change scientists today. There is at present a good deal of activity in attempting to correlate William Bulkeley’s notes with today’s records.
The online digital version of the diaries of William Bulkeley (1791-1760) was launched in Y Brynddu, the home of Professor Robin Grove-White, former high Sherif of Anglesey and a direct descendant of William Bulkeley on Friday morning 19th Sept for year 11-13 pupils and also on Saturday 20th Sept for the general public.
It was a bilingual day as the diary extracts are in English with the rest of the play in Welsh. The C3W climate group also had a bilingual presentation on Friday morning.
The schedule for William Bulkeley Day in Brynddu, Llanfechell : Friday 19th September
• 9.45am. An introduction by Professor Grove-White on the life and times of William Bulkeley.
• 10.00am. The performance of the play ‘Mr Bulkeley o’r Brynddu’ by Wyn Bowen Harries performed by professional actors and musicians begining outside the house, then promenading though the walled garden, following in William Bulkeley’s footsteps though the field (approx. 5 – 10min walking) to Llanfechell Church to see the rest of the play.
• 11.00. Across the road to Libanus Chapel rooms for a cup of tea and a presentation by C3W Wales climate change consortium on the importance of the study of weather data in diaries such as WB’s for climate change science today. Professor Sarah Davies of Aberystwyth University co-ordinated this presentation along with Dr Cerys Jones.
• Launch of the availability of online digital diaries by leader of the project Duncan Brown and transcriber Sue Walton. Questions. 12.00. Finish
The same pattern was repeated on Saturday, September 20th beginning at 2.00pm.
The actors were Wyn Bowen Harries, Rhodri Sion, Manon Wilkinson
The music by Stephen Rees a Huw Roberts.
A Short video of the day by Vince Jones of C3W :