Rhiannon Lowe's picture


As a young apprentice starting out on a career in theatre direction, Steffan Gwyn has cut his teeth on an adaptation of an Ibsen play, translated into Welsh and transplanted to Pembrokeshire. Here he gives an insight into the process of creating Y Fenyw Ddaeth o r M r.

What s the sense in reimagining an Ibsen play oppressed by high mountains and stagnant fjords on the relatively low-lying coastline of Pembrokeshire? Although it might sound like a joke awaiting a punchline, in my role as Assistant Director on Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru s Y Fenyw Ddaeth o r M r (The Lady from the Sea), I ve come to buy into the idea of it being set in Fishguard.

While this might have something to do with the fact that I ve been commuting from the town daily, going back and forth on the train to Carmarthen, the more you begin to think about it, the more sense it starts to make. Fishguard, with its name rooted in Old Norse, offers a perfect, back-of-beyond window through which we explore the tensions of adolescence, of land and sea, and the growing urge for freedom in each of the play s three strong, female characters. In a world dominated by tradition, the past, and more explicitly men, having a local setting for one of the world s greatest plays simply reminds us of the relevance of Ibsen s message, whether it s told through onesmall language , as Ibsen once said of his native Norwegian, or another.

It s along these lines that I ve been thinking during the past few weeks. As part of my role as Assistant Director, I ve been working with Menna Elfyn, poet and translator, and Arwel Gruffydd, the show s director, to try and accurately portray the soft and warm nuances of the north Pembrokeshire dialect. Beyond that, I ve been sitting down with the actors to dissect their characters whether they re a seemingly-drowned seaman or a sculptor with a lung problem there s always something to be found that relates to the play s central message. Otherwise, when I haven t been sat at a table poring over the play in Welsh translation, I ve been working on Sibrwd , Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru s new app that allows access to the show to non-Welsh speakers. Available to download on any smartphone, it s an innovative new thing that whispers in your ear and guides you through the performance, ensuring that you have enough information on which to get by, but not too much as to spoil your experience of watching live theatre.

It s been a busy few weeks then, but it s also been an interesting one. There s been plenty to think about on the train back and forth to Fishguard; the play itself is such a hoard of hidden meanings that I ve spent many train journeys thinking back over some newly discovered way of looking at things, or a message previously unseen. One of the most interesting of these is the way in which Ibsen uses Darwin s Theory of Evolution as a means to stress the unnaturalness of a woman s static place in society. As with the creatures that came from the sea long ago, the place of women in society must also evolve.

Working on a play that has evolution at its heart then seems an apt way of summing up the experience of working as an Assistant Director. The process of learning, as with the play s central theme, is all about evolving. It s been, as one of the play s characters might say,both terrifying and captivating , as any learning process is sure to be. I look forward to the next show that I ll be a part of, but for now, my only qualm is that I ll be short of things to think about on the train journey back to Fishguard.


Y Fenyw Ddaeth o r M r is touring Wales until 21 March 2015. For details please visit www.theatr.com

This is a Welsh language production and non-Welsh-speakers can download the Sibrwyd app here

For information about other Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru productions please visit www.theatr.com