Associate Artist

Shadow of a Quiet Society is a brand new dance production performed by six of the most prominent and awesome female dancers working in and around the UK today.

It is inspired by a place we all know but never heard of.

Once again we have collaborated with rising stars of theatre and dance: composition Benjamin Talbott and Tic Ashfield (BBC Wales’ Hinterland and National Theatre Wales being just two) and lighting design by Ben Cowens and Aideen Malone who are our regular designers. Angharad Matthews is designing and also comes from working on NTW projects amongst many others.

The idea for Shadow of a Quiet Society came about when I finished my last production My People in March 2014. The book that inspired the work, by infamous author Caradoc Evans, was a caustic look at his own community in 1915. I had recently returned to Wales after many years away, and had begun to reflect on the place that I came from, its people then and now, and I was asking myself why had I left it so long to go back?

Something happens to you when you hit 30 (or so). That place you avoided for 15 years just calls you back. It’s like it says to you, ‘you’ve had your fun, we’ve allowed you to go but now it’s time to return’. It’s partly connected to that period in life where close family start getting ill, grandparents pass away, and sisters have babies but it is also much more than that, something less tangible tugs at your heart until you make that return.

Big life things make you reflect upon who you are and where you’ve come from, what connects you to the world, and it is with this that I started to think about Montgomery, a small little town on the mid Wales border, and all its amazing history that dates back over 800 years.

Although the initially idea for the work was inspired by the town it has become much more reflective of us all, as a community, a society, that takes a look at who we are in a more universal way. We all experience love, sex, conflict, and have had our happiness turn into instant sadness and vice versa.

In January 2015, with support of Arts Council of Wales and Coreo Cymru, I invited Benjie and Tic (the composers who I have now been working with for the last three years) and lighting designer Aideen Malone, who I started working together with in 2000 when we were working with Akram Khan, to Montgomery to research the town’s past. Over two weeks we met with local historians, and found that people stopped us in the street to tell us their stories.  What followed was a year long process of continuing to discover more and more wonderful things about such a small place and I realised that Montgomery punches above its weight for a town of only a 1000 or so people. It makes me curious to think what other places across Wales are like. I am certain we are all sitting on a wealth of wonderful histories waiting to be unearthed with just a little digging.

Everyone growing up in Montgomery is made very aware of its incredible past, the castle ruin is a daily reminder of the town’s significance in Welsh and English politics in the 1200’s with the growth of the town just stopping, remaining pretty much the same for the next two to three hundred years as other towns near to it came into prominence.

Besides the many local anecdotes and memories recorded in journals and in the archives of the small museum in the town, gathered and recorded by generations of the townsfolk, acting as custodians of their heritage, we discovered several people from the town who had national, and in some cases, global significance.

 

 

George Herbert, the metaphysical poet that most people who have studied A level English will be extremely familiar with, whose hymns are still sung in churches all over the world today, was as from Montgomery. His younger brother Henry was James I’s Master of Revels, the licenser of plays and performances in London and the rest of England, a sort of Stewart Arts Council. Their older brother was the father of Diesism writing the first book on the subject bringing him much prominence as a bit of radical Lord.

Many artists and composers were either from the town or came to the town to live such as Peter Warlock the famous mid century, bohemian composer and Edward Detmold, a early 20th century artist who fled the blitz with a motley crew of artists and his mother, arriving and staying in Montgomery by accident.

During the Napoleonic Wars, French soldiers were kept prisoner in the finest houses in Montgomery, given the finest wines and food and the townspeople even put on a ball for them.

In the process of making the work, we used the psychologist Carl Jung’s theories on the unconscious and archetypes as a way of looking at these stories from a more collective perspective. My aim, with the company, has been to make a work that we can all identify with. There are characters you will all recognize, perhaps within yourselves.

There are a lot of funny things in the work, some sad things too, beautiful moments and some crazier bits. It is as one friend described my work ‘full bodied dancing’, meaning it is very physical and technical but as I always aspire to bring to my work it has a human story to it. Every member of the audience will connect with it in some way.

The cast is all women including two of NDCWales most significant alumni from the past few years, and whilst Eddie Ladd, who needs no introduction, was with us for just part of the development of the project. She has been a constant presence in the process and will be in the piece if you look carefully.

There seemed to be many pieces being made across the UK and beyond that were for all male casts and I wanted to see a different perspective on stage and it has created the most intriguing ambiguity in how you look at the characters on stage. The work is not about gender politics or ‘showy man dancing’ but it gives you something to reflect upon in a more individual way. Jung would be pleased, I think.

Shadow of a Quiet Society is a co-production with Aberystwyth Arts Centre and with support of Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council England, Greenwich Dance, Swindon Dance, Coreo Cymru and Riverfront.

 

Upcoming show:

Aberystywth Arts Centre: 29th January at 7.30pm http://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk

Riverfront Theatre, Newport: 4th February at 7.30pm http://tickets.newportlive.co.uk/default.aspx

The Hafren, Newtown: 6th February at 7.45pm http://www.thehafren.co.uk

Y Ffwrnes, Llanelli: 9th February at 7.30pm https://ffwrnes.ticketsolve.com

 

We will be touring further in Wales in Autumn 206 including dates in England and beyond into 2017.