When The Night Fell (part two)
Did you read our last amazing post? If not you may want to read it before this one!
In February we created a short film of a performance for the Theatr, When The Night Fell - by local celebrated playwright Owen Thomas. When The Night Fell was performed by local actors Louise Collins and Gareth John Bale. We would like to thank everyone involved in the performance and making it happen! It was truly incredible to have the energy and creatively on our stage again.
We caught up with actors Louise Collins and Gareth John Bale asked them both some questions on their time working on the performance, their thoughts behind the piece and their connection with Theatr Brycheiniog.
Can you tell us about your background in the Arts?
Louise Collins: I played Mary in the school nativity at the age of 4 and that was it, I caught the bug. Drama was the only thing that got me through school and I was lucky enough to gain a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and have worked as an actress since graduating in 2003. I have worked for The RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe, The West End, everything from Sarah Kane’s Blasted in a pub theatre in Cardiff to even performing a Dylan Thomas piece at Sydney Opera House in Australia.
Gareth John Bale: I wanted to be a rugby player! The realisation that I wasn’t good enough coincided with a developing interest in theatre. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my path to being a professional actor started in Brecon when I spent a month there with the National Theatre of Wales. It was a wonderful time on and off stage. I then attended the Welsh College of Music and Drama (not quite Royal then!) and have worked professionally as an actor and director since then. I have been fortunate to work on some brilliant productions with some great people in fantastic theatres and locations...long may that continue!
How many times have you worked with Theatr Brycheiniog?
LC: I played Jennie Lee who was Aneurin Bevan’s wife in the play Nye And Jennie with Theatr na nôg. We toured around Wales and as part of the tour we performed at Theatr Brycheiniog. Serendipity would have it that we performed on their actual wedding anniversary and I remember the Theatr did a lovely question and answer session with the audience. We even had a cake to celebrate. Both myself and GJB the actor playing Nye, said it was one of the warmest theatre audiences we performed to.
GJB: Theatr Brycheiniog is a wonderful theatre and one that I always look forward to visiting. It’s a warm theatre with great staff and a loyal audience. I’ve been lucky enough to perform there many times. My first experience of the theatre was with the National Youth Theatre of Wales in 1998 when we performed Animal Farm. Since then I’ve toured to Brecon with several shows for Black RAt Productions, played Hamlet for the Wales Theatre Company, performed and directed the Welsh language shows Dau and Miss Julie, and performed Grav there twice. One of my last performances before lockdown was West at the theatre - we performed with the audience on stage with us. It was a wonderful, intimate experience.
What are your connections to the Brecon area?
LC: Since the tour of Nye and Jennie I have moved to Defynnog which is just outside Brecon and absolutely love our rural life. I volunteer for Theatr Wildcats which is a theatre company at Theatr Brychiniog for adults with learning difficulties. I love being a member and can’t wait for us all to be back in the Theatr together where we get to connect through play.
GJB: I grew up in Ynysmeudwy in the Swansea valley. I remember day trips to Brecon with the family. My Mamgu and Dadcu (grandparents) would often bring us to Brecon for a day out. Maybe my grandfather liked it because of his work with Welsh Water so he enjoyed visiting the nearby reservoirs. I remember that they picked me up when my month in Brecon with the Youth Theatre came to an end. In 2006 I filmed Calon Gaeth (a Welsh language film for S4C) just outside Brecon. It was a superb few weeks over the summer. I enjoyed the work but also the walks and views in the countryside and a few pints in the local pubs. One thing I must do is take a boat on the Brecon Canal for a week.
What is it about acting that you love?
LC: I think very early on I found it easier to be someone else, by telling stories through other peoples words. For me theatre is the craft of connection, being part of a theatre company is like being in a very special family. The relationship between the actor on stage and the audience in the auditorium is a magic one. We’ve got to make magic, that’s what we as actors are here to do. That’s the tragedy of the pandemic.
How did you emotionally connect to performing When The Night Fell?
LC: Owen’s poetry is so beautiful, poignant and breathtaking. There is hope and tragedy in his poetry and they feel so steeped in the beauty of Brecon. “Our goodbye limited to waves, as they rose like ghosts on the breath of the wind” this line of Owen’s poetry really haunted me as I feel there will be a lot of healing for all those we didn’t get to say goodbye to. Working with Phil Clark, the locally based director was thrilling as I’ve always wanted to work with him since he was Artistic Director of The Sherman in Cardiff. It was wonderful to rehearse and work with him on such beautiful words.
GJB: Phil directed it in a very simple way. He made sure that we understood what we were saying and the message that we wanted to get across. If it is clear to us then it should be clear to the audience. With a piece like this the temptation is to over think and over complicate it. By understanding and connecting to the words I think that the message of hope comes through.
How did it feel to be back on a stage?
GJB: It felt great to be back on stage. Especially in a theatre that I’m familiar with and worked at so often. There was something special about being back up there under the lights. I feel honoured to have been asked. Owen’s words are beautiful and full of hope. I have enjoyed working with Louise in the past and it was lovely to share the stage with a familiar face and a very talented actress. It was my first time working with Phil but hopefully not the last. I really enjoyed his direction and the experience he brought to the piece. Ioan and the team were brilliant, as usual, and I felt very welcome.
Thank you both so much, such great insights!
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Check out this amazing clip of When The Night Fell by Owen Thomas.