'Welsh assemblies' : the phenomenon of contemporary, professional, English language theatre practice in Wales.
The academic study of English-language theatre in Wales as a
discrete subject is a relatively small field. Indeed, only three
books on Welsh theatre have been published during the 1990s.
Moreover, there are those who would argue that the idea of a
differentiated Welsh, English-language theatre is an oxymoron.
English-language theatre in Wales shares a linguistic mode of
communication with England's theatre and a problem is that it
resembles the formal properties contained within its larger
neighbour's theatre practices to the point where disaggregation
might seem a forlorn objective. The stress on language, however,
ignores the fundamental significance of issues of class,
political orientation and socio-cultural complexion, which is
where important definitions of the identity of Welsh theatre can
be found. Wales is a different country and therefore we might
expect it to manifest distinctive theatre practices. But the
procedures employed by the Arts Council have the effect of
standardising professional theatre and of discouraging the
development of critical thinking, which disqualifies many of the
distinguishing characteristics of English-language, Welsh
theatre. This is particularly evident in those performance
practices which emanate from a working-class lived experience.
The Arts Council's method of organisation can be described as a
process of incorporation.
This thesis responds to the situation by investigating the
relationship between the Arts Council's disciplinary procedures,
which determine incorporation, the promotion of normalised
English theatre and the marginalisation of Welsh, working-class
theatre practices. The problem of Welsh theatre is depicted here
as contingent on the dissemination of English concepts of high
standards, which is central to the post-war Arts Council project.
Thus, the main argument revolves around the idea that the notion
of theatre in Wales is manipulated by an external agency. Part
One of the thesis marshals concepts about power which can explain
hegemonic, or dominant, cultural structures. It includes specific
reference to theories advanced by Raymond Williams, Michel
Foucault, Antonio Gramsci and Edward Said. In the second part,
the argument progresses through the presentation of research
about the disciplinary procedures of the Arts Council as they
impact on theatre forms. It also examines the standardisation of
theatre practices in the UK, as a whole, and the position of
Welsh theatre in that context. Finally, it addresses the status
of theatre practices in an archetypal area of the south Wales
Valleys, through a micro-analysis of Aberdare and its immediate