BLOG Alice Vernon

NWR Issue 107

Dirty Aberystwyth

On Wednesday 18 March, Cardiff-based Dirty Protest came to Aberystwyth Arts Centre for their first ‘Dirty Aberystwyth’ show. As a theatre company, their message is simple but incredibly important: to allow both established and new playwrights the opportunity to see their work performed. Powering through eight short plays in just over an hour, the show was a little bit like theatrical speed-dating. It was energetic, dynamic, and – best of all – featured some excellent local writing.

Based on the stimulus, ‘The End of the Line’, ‘Dirty Aberystwyth’ featured a range of dynamic short plays from Meredydd Barker, Caroline Stockford, Rachel McAdam, Branwen Davies, Roger Boyle, Liz Jones, Catrin Fflur Huws and Lucy Gough. It was wonderful to see such a diverse interpretation of the theme from these writers, from a grieving dog-owner, through an anti-Starbucks protest, to a rant about climate change. Where one play was darkly comical, another was stark and understated, providing a constantly shifting and broad array of dramatic tones. The creativity involved in taking such varied approaches to the topic made the show an engaging experience. It was an absolute treat to watch. These plays were so different, but all were entertaining and performed with a great amount of respect for the writers. With only around fifteen seconds between each play, and without a single prop, Hanna Jarman and Rhys Warrington gave each performance an effective and unrelentingly enthusiastic interpretation. It was smartly curated by Matthew Bulgo and Dan Jones, and the transition between the stories was snappy but smooth despite how new the works must have been to the company. The stories were very much driven by dialogue, and I actually rather enjoyed the fact that Jarman and Warrington, work-shop style, held the scripts for each play. It gave the writing its own physical presence. And while the playwrights were given a warm announcement by the evening’s director, Matthew Bulgo, they were not matched up to their work until all had been performed to ensure an unbiased reception from the audience. Each piece was handled equally well by the company, which in turn was received warmly within a friendly atmosphere. The event took place in the Arts Centre’s snug performance studio which made the evening all the more personable, but I was also delighted to see such a full room. It really was an excellent showcase of Aberystwyth’s writing talent.

Since their establishment in 2007, Dirty Protest has performed the plays of around 150 writers. Before and after the Aberystwyth show, Matthew Bulgo encouraged the audience to spread the word about their mission, and to contact the company if we were interested in working with them. After seeing how professionally each piece was treated, I immediately told the playwrights among my friends. Aberystwyth is such a fantastic and talented artistic community, from local writers to university students across the creative arts departments, and Dirty Protest provides an invaluable opportunity. I had the chance to contact the company after the event, and they said, ‘We were really excited to engage with a group of writers who were unknown to us, and the relationship we’ve started with Aberystwyth Arts Centre is one we’d very much like to continue.’ I was inspired: this was an innovative and important evening that added another level to the richness of Aber’s culture. Their work in promoting local playwrights is definitely something to celebrated, and I certainly hope to see Dirty Protest in the Arts Centre on a regular basis.

Alice Vernon is a MA student of Creative Writing at Aberystwyth Universtiy and a contributor to New Welsh Review online.


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