Theatr Clwyd is an award-winning organisation, not only for our theatre making but also for our community work. The Creative Engagement team, work throughout North Wales schools and communities. There are over 20 classes, groups and workshops that take place weekly.
Two of these groups are Cwils and Cwmni 65. We sat down with Karen, a participant of both groups, to find out more.
How did you first hear about and get involved with Theatr Clwyd, Cwils and Cwmni 65?
I took early retirement at the end of 2016, and in 2017 was excited to see that a new workshop was starting at the Theatr, for people of a certain age. I went to the introductory session, and I’ve been there ever since! The name was later changed to Cwmni/Company 65, although participants’ ages range from 50s upwards.
Cwils is a comparatively new group for people aged 17+ who are interested in writing for the stage. A writing group was held at the Theatr when Mold Riots was being produced in 2019. We were involved in creating additional characters for the play and giving them a back story. Some of our scenes and characters were included in the final production, which was great. After that, the Theatr decided to offer a permanent writing group, and Cwils started about a year ago.
Talk us through a session, what happens at Cwils and Cwmni 65?
At Cwils, a session might begin with each of us reading what we have written to the group. We receive lots of encouragement and advice from Emyr, our leader. Then we might be looking at a particular playwright, or aspect of writing for the stage. We spend time just chatting about what we have enjoyed seeing, on stage or screen. It’s very informal.
In Cwmni 65, sessions usually begin with some gentle warm up exercises. Everyone is encouraged to work to their own abilities, so for some members the warm up is done sitting down. Then we might play some games to develop focus and concentration – this usually involves lots of laughter. I don’t know where else people of mature years can play games and generally be silly! After that, we might be working on improvisation and devising, or reading parts of scripts, or preparing for performances. We love our leader, Hester who is an experienced actor and has been with us since the start.
And since joining these groups you’ve been involved in some Theatr Clwyd productions. Tell us a little bit about that.
I’ve been fortunate to take part in three productions so far. In 2018 I was part of the community cast for The Guild of Misrule and Theatr Clwyd production of The Great Gatsby, staged at the disused Dolphin Hotel in Mold High Street. It was an immersive performance, so our main role was to interact with the audience and help them move around the venue. It’s one of my favourite novels and I was thrilled to be part of it. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to join without Hester and our weekly workshops.
In 2019, I was involved in Mold Riots, a large scale production performed on the streets of Mold and in St.Mary’s Church. It told the story of an important event in local history, on the 150th anniversary of its occurrence. I played a policeman, so not a very popular character but I did get to arrest Kai Owen, star of TV shows like Torchwood and Hollyoaks.
This year, I was in Celebrated Virgins, about Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby who fled 18th century Ireland to live together in Llangollen. Writer Katie Elin-Salt and director Eleri Jones, were passionate about telling the story of Eleanor and Sarah in a modern, accessible way. Seventeen community cast members were split into two teams, and we formed an integral part of the story telling. Our team did eight performances in The Mix, and then another three in Cardiff, which was an added bonus.
In all three productions, it has been a privilege to work with professional actors, directors and technical staff, and to gain an understanding of how a show is developed and produced. Community cast is just what it says – people from the local community who want to be involved in storytelling on the stage.
What would you say to someone who might be interested in joining a group at Theatr Clwyd?
I’d say – come on, give it a go! There are workshops for all ages and abilities. Everyone in the Creative Engagement Team, is friendly and approachable with years of experience. If you have an interest in theatre, want to learn new skills or just make friends and have fun, then this is the place for you. Since I became more involved, about five years ago, I really feel that Theatr Clwyd is my theatre. And I love it.
To find out more about the work the Creative Engagement team do and how to get involved click here Groups & Workshops