Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Last Exit to Brooklyn, at the age of 12 or 13.
Is there an all time favourite book, or one you keep coming back to?
All of E M Cioran… The Temptation to Exist, The Trouble With Being Born, All Gall Is Divided, Short History of Decay… Cormac McCarthy, Suttree and Blood Meridian… Joan Goytisolo, Juan the Landless, Marks of Identity… Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
Can you tell us a little about your own writing process. Do you have a ritual or regimen, do you write long-hand, into a word-processor or dictate?
Consume massive amounts of coffee, enough cigarettes to kill off all of Texas, pace a hole in the floor, rip out clumps of hair, kick the wall, scream AS LOUD AS YOU CAN and then settle down and JUST DO IT!
With speeches, stories, books… I always start writing at five or six a.m. and quit by ten or eleven. Paradoxia I wrote on an old typewriter. It took about three months. It just didn’t feel right doing it on the computer. For my columns I use word-processing. Songs spurt forth whenever they feel like it, so I usually keep notebooks full of random lines… which eventually get compiled… or they’re shat out all at once.
Any advice for the aspiring writer?
All a writer needs to do is find their voice and tell thee truth. Or at least their version of it. Editing is one of the most important aspects of what makes good reading. Most of my editing is almost ‘in-camera’. I have such a fat-free style, and being the contrarian I am, I usually need to expound more, not edit. But that’s me.
What do you think the social roles of the writer are?
Depends on what kind of writing… The only ‘social duty’ a writer has is to not be boring.
Read the extended Scrawl interview with Lydia Lunch here ...or go to the official Lydia Lunch website.
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
This fresh approach to art history follows a timeline that spans more than 40,000 years, from pre-history to the present day, using clear language and specific examples to chart the development of key ideas and major concepts along the path. Art is the ultimate expression of a culture and often survives as the only evidence of how people thought and acted. Could art be one of the factors that saved the human race from early extinction? Do we make art because we are intelligent, or has human intellect grown as a response to our art? How does our art define us?
Remy Dean is a teacher with more than a decade’s experience of lecturing in art history and contextual understanding to young adults (levels 2, 3 and 4). The aim is to remain clear and concise without over-simplification and not shy away from the important concepts. Each example is approached using a method of analysis suited to the work.
This book guides the reader along a path that runs through the major landmarks in the evolution of western art. It takes in ancient art, mediaeval art, the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, the art of the Enlightenment, the Romantics, Impressionists, Expressionists, Modernists, the Abstract, the Post-Modern, the Conceptual and the contemporary scene…
This is the first non-fiction title from Questing Beast Books since Maren Hancunt's Lady Lazarus: Confronting Lydia Lunch, published ten years ago, and follows 'hot on the heels' of the electronic re-issues of Dean's novel, Scraps, and novelette, Final Bough...
Click here to preview or buy Evolution of Western Art by Remy Dean
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Tom doesn't know which city he is in or what drug he is addicted to and is forced to confront himself on a strange journey of self discovery - or maybe self deception.
On the run from the cops and two factions of the mob, he falls in with a gang of street punks and poets.
Under the influence of three very different women and assorted substances, Tom must sort out his dreams from his memories and come to terms with what he has done, or failed to do...
Scraps is brave and uncompromising - a surprising story told with startling style - brutal, flippant and fun.
Lydia Lunch, author, confrontationalist, musician and multi-media artist, said of Dean's first novel, "great language, poetry and images..." she also commented that, "the sex was hot".
Miles Hatfield in his review in 'The Champion' described it as, "a twisted tale... a freewheeling, experimental novel". He realised that, "Dean has taken a few risks... there are some startling and surreal episodes," and goes on to say that, "there is plenty of energy in the writing and the yarn rattles along at a cracking pace".
Susan Watt, a senior editor at HarperCollins described Scraps as, "a really moody, and inspired portrait of urban life at its seediest".
Writers News called 'Scraps', "a fast moving, gripping story of love, lust and moralities," whereas Writers Monthly branded it as a, "shocking debut novel, also describing it as, "racy, gripping, brutal and startling..."
Others have likened Dean's distinctive gritty-crime-noir fantasy style to the films of Quentin Tarantino and Scrawl UK said, "An intelligent crime novel with a romantic twist... A dense and powerful debut novel, 'Scraps' has the visual impact of cutting edge cinema and the lyrical quality more often found in good song writing. The theme challenges you to re-think your own morality."
Remy Dean has added this note to the new edition: "Music was an important part of the writing process for this novel – it helped me to create and capture certain moods and atmosphere. I was writing as if describing a film I had dreamt, and I had music in mind for the dream soundtrack of that film. The sounds that were playing as I wrote, and in various ways filtered through into the text, included music and lyrics by the following artists, to whom I wish to extend my gratitude for their positive influence upon this piece of writing and upon my life, then and now: Dave Graney (The Moodists / The Coral Snakes), Lydia Lunch (8 Eyed Spy), Gavin Friday (Virgin Prunes), BrainDeath, Slab, Eric Serra, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Go-Betweens, Hunters & Collectors, Nick Cave (Birthday Party), Scott Walker, Gordon Lightfoot... If you really listen to this book, you will hear them all."
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Free Kindle reading apps are easily downloadable for most devices - a revolution in reading! You can find the right download for your hardware here...
or find out more about the choice of Kindle readers...
The print edition of Final Bough, featuring illustrations by Katie Hone, remains available...
Friday, 8 October 2010
The fame of Barker has grown and grown, from the first cult readership of The Books Of Blood short stories more than two decades ago, to the now world-wide audience that keep his novels in the international best selling charts for months on end.
His more recent works have been epic tales that sweep the reader along from world to world and from one reality to another. Galilee was the novel to firmly establish Clive Barker as a literary presence outside of genre, it is a huge generation-spanning family saga set against the broad canvas of America’s bloodstained history - a little bit of a departure from what his vast audience may have come to expect. Although there is action occurring on supernatural planes, much of the drama is earthbound and human centred. So was Barker deliberately trying to come down to earth in order appeal to a yet wider audience?
“I could not say that I woke up one morning and decided to do this - I don’t have a lot of control over the way my imagination works, it sort of decides by itself. I always had a passion to do a multi-generational family saga. I wanted to do something with a real sweep to it.”
“I’ve made sure that supernatural stuff is going on in the book, but I can see by the numbers that we were widening the readership as I context these fantastical events in more realistic settings. As I’ve moved more in that direction, my readers have moved along with me…”
He has turned four of his stories into major movies, Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Candyman and Lord Of Illusion, in addition to the numerous adaptations based on his huge repertoire of short stories. His epic saga, Weaveworld, has been adapted for television as a series, though this project has yet to reach fruition after ten years in development. It did see a transmedia manifestation when it was published back in 1991 as a three-part comic series, adapted by Erik Salzgaber, who has more recently written for the CSI franchise.
On its release, Hellraiser was hailed as heralding the resurgence of British horror cinema... So what happened?
“The problem is that the Americans stole our thunder. They make these movies so much faster and so much cheaper than we do. I had to go to America for the money to make Hellraiser, I had to for Nightbreed. I went to America to make movies there... there’s nowhere to make my kind of movies here.”
Clive Barker made his presence felt in the USA, rapidly earning himself a degree of notoriety and infamy. Hellraiser and especially Nightbreed stirred up plenty of trouble with the MPAA, the American equivalent to the British Board of Film Censors. Are the States a suitable climate for making his kind of movies?
“They gave us seventeen scenes they wanted cut from Nightbreed... I got four Xs on the movie and I only got one on Hellraiser. Which is bizarre to my mind because the movie is a much mellower and less aggressively horrible movie than Hellraiser. Well both movies are fairy tales.
“What can you say - they’re inconsistent. That is the nature of the censorship game: you never know where they’re going to come from. They’re always going to find something, that you don’t think twice about, bothers them in an incredibly weird way and then something that you think is really gonna cause trouble, they just pass over. There’s no logic or pattern to it and that’s very irritating.
“There are people who have suffered it far worse than I have, Cronenberg is obviously an example, but that’s the way it is, you’re dealing with irrational people.”
What was it like dealing with David Cronenberg - one of Barker’s heroes and one of the horror genre’s most respected directors himself - who starred in Nightbreed?
“Wonderful, a deeply rational man. He is someone who’s enthusiasm for the genre is not dissimilar to mine in the sense that we both feel that you can do things with the genre which are more than saying ‘Boo’ behind people’s backs. I’ve never been interested in ‘Boo’ pictures, and David isn’t either. You don’t go to one of David’s movies to be made to jump, you get something different, a kind of intelligence and poetry which is missing in most horror movies.
“And he had a good time making the movie. He said, ‘Hey do I get to come back with worms coming out of my eyes?’ And I said, ‘David, if you want to come back with worms coming out of your eyes, you got it guy, no problem’!”
It’s not only the MPAA that get worked up over Barker’s fiction and films. We all know that the States are crammed with fanatics and bible-thumpers, but Clive knows this better than most...
“I get so much mail, some saying I am already burning in Hell - which is an interesting theological notion - but many saying I will burn in Hell, or that I’m the Devil’s child or on occasion I’m elevated to the Devil himself. I get copies of The Bible with passages underlined and so on. I mean the hypocrisy and nonsense of it all, where does one begin?”
Which of course leads us to believe that these god-bothering people actually read Barker’s books... Does it worry him that there is this fascination with the darker side, which is always a prominent theme in his works?
“I’m much more concerned that people are interested in the Catholic church. I’m much more concerned that the Catholic church prevents contraception in nations that are spilling over with starving babies. It seems to me that the people who pull on the black magic string don’t look at the organised religions and their horrors anything like closely enough. If you want a really scary religion, look at fundamentalism, in any form.”
Clive Barker was born and raised in Liverpool, which has a strong Catholic community and culture, how much does he owe to his roots? The accent is now lost and his speech liberally spiced with Americanisms...
“I never had the accent. Knowing what part of is your roots, what part is your education, what part is genetic, what part of you is self made - those are difficult analyses. It’s a bit like being told by some body that you look like one of your relatives... and you can’t see the resemblance, it may very well be there, but you just can’t see it. And I feel the same about my roots. Maybe I do seem like a child of Liverpool, but I can’t see the resemblance. Your environment makes a mark on you, of course.”
Ever since the first groups of humans huddled round the first fires, the Shaman has been with us - priest, teacher, medicine man. A storyteller recounting his dreams, tales of spirits and animals in the Otherworld. His dreams would become the dreams of the tribe, their identity.
It is from his dream diary that Clive Barker plucks many ideas and themes for his bizarre creations. His dreams become his drawings, stories, novels, films, and our memories and nightmares. There are many parallels between the state of dreaming and watching a movie in the darkened auditorium. Does Barker parallel himself at all with the Shaman?
“The whole idea of the shamanistic principle, that the tribe can collectively dream a solution to a problem and that the shaman somehow indicates the direction in which the tribe heads off into their collective unconscious, to pick around amongst the bones of old gods and return with news and indications... that is very easily parallel with what, particularly the writer of the fantastique is doing.
“The realist, the writer of naturalist fiction, is necessarily bound, by definition. The fantasist says, all right, I can write about divinity, semi-divinity, demons, gods and spirits of air and water or stone. I can write about human beings, sane, crazed, visionary, even dead and I can write about them all in landscapes that are very realistic or very unrealistic. I can write about them in states of mind which are also worlds unto themselves.
“So when you’ve got that range of possibilities, reality dissolves, which I think is a dreamstate in a way because in our dreams we also meet the dead, we commune with gods and spirits. Whether we literally do that is an issue which I haven’t resolved for myself. I’m tempted to think that sometimes we do, that there is a literal sense in which in certain states of consciousness, dreaming, trance states, drug states, any altered states, I think it’s very possible that in some instances we are actually communicating with entities other than human, at least other than living human.
“But even putting aside that possibility - which I realise marks me as a crazy - let’s just assume that this is all the mind’s creation. Even under those circumstances, in dreams we are learning from our subconscious, which is, to take the realist view, representing itself as the dead or the semi-divinities in order to instruct us. We are learning from those forms and forces in symbolic form, and we are growing by the exchange.”
The Shaman was the most respected of the tribe, he has a great power, but little wealth. Is it the power or the wealth that motivates Barker? Does he find himself exercising restraint in his fiction to comply with what his now vast audience want to see?
“I don’t know what they want. They seem to be willing to take me at my most extreme. Which pleases me. Great And Secret Show doesn’t soft pedal any of its themes, which are very difficult. There is some strange fantastical stuff, the odd sex, some very violent material, it’s a big book and so on... Yet it was one of the most popular books in terms of number of copies sold that I’ve done. So I don’t think about my audience in the sense that I think, ‘Oh, I’d better not do that - it might turn them off’.
“With movies it’s a different thing. You’ve got the constant problem of the MPAA and the BBFC and so you’ve got people telling you that you can’t do this... but in books it never occurs to me to mellow what I do...
“As for motivation... I got through my twenties without earning a dime and not worrying about it. Money has never been a motivation.
“It is very important for me to produce - to make things that don’t resemble other people’s things. Not just for my audience’s sake but for my own so I don’t bore myself... It’s important for me to have the power storytelling gives. There is something very wonderful about holding someone enthralled, just as there is something wonderful about being held enthralled.
“I love to be told a story, I love to be in the middle of a movie and know that this movie’s got me. Not just fantasy stories, it’s all kinds of stories... The story is about what happens next. That’s what the kid wants to know when he’s told a story, ‘What happens next?’ It’s very primitive, very simple. And I love to have that done for me.
“I hate knowing what is going to happen next. My problem with most Hollywood movies is you always do. There’s a terrible predictability about most movies, particularly horror movies. You enter most movies knowing who’s gonna live or die, knowing what the division of good and bad is, knowing who you’re going to end up caring for and who you’re not.
“I have nothing in my life but work - that may sound like a trial, but it isn’t. I desire nothing in my life but the making of stories on the screen or on the page, and it obsesses me.”
Clive Barker has more than enough to keep himself busy... In addition to creating and writing his ‘fabulist’ tales – currently concentrating on the Abarat series that he also illustrates – he has ventured deeper and deeper into the world of Hollywood and film production. He was Executive Producer on the 1998 film, Gods And Monsters, the critically respected biopic of cult horror director James Whale. Dread, adapted from Barker’s short story by Anthony DiBlasi was released in 2009 and there are two more movie manifestations currently awaiting release: The Thief Of Always, scheduled for 2010, and Tortured Souls, adapted from his own Hellraiser-linked short story and being directed by Barker himself … and he tells us that he intends to, “get on with the business of making movies on a case by case basis...”
Then, after a short pause, he adds, “But I don’t take movies as seriously as I take books. And never will. ”
Clive Barker was in conversation with Remy Dean.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Parthian Books, ISBN 1-902638-01-8
Love In Plastic ventures further into a surrealistic mindscape. A story about a man who deals with the death of his parents by transforming his house into a symbolic womb and becoming a recluse for nine months before re-birthing himself into the world, obsessed with tracking down an actress he has seen in a TV advertisement - more death, wombs and birth. It may appear that the subjects of these plays get ‘a bit heavy’, but the dialogue and characterisation is imbued with a lot of wit and philosophical tomfoolery that successfully lightens the tone, often to the point of comedic farce.
The final of the three plays, Glissando On An Empty Harp, continues the thematic journey mapped by the first two plays, with a woman giving birth to a box. The meat of the play is the debate sparked off by this event between two bards who argue about the nature of truth, beauty and art, sometimes falling toward preachy polemic, but usually redeemed by self-referential puns and self-conscious parallels with religious dogma.
Throughout the work of Ian Rowlands run strong themes of Welsh attitude to its own identity and its place within Europe and the world - nationalism versus patriotism, cultural identity or cultural isolationism. But far from being ‘worthy’ polemic, his plays are sharp-witted, often humorous, sometimes dreamlike in their content, veering into surreal territories, forging in-roads deep into the terrain of the Welsh mass psyche. He is a theatrical activist. Drawing on both modern and atavistic (look it up) influences. A driven practitioner with a far reaching vision that can see a way ahead for a new theatrical presence in contemporary Wales.
Originally training as an actor, Rowlands’ first success as a playwright was with The Great Adventures Of Rhys And Hywel, a play about two characters - one originating in the North of Wales, the other in the South. The play is set in the post-referendum era of the early eighties, well before the surge in Welsh consciousness that has occurred over more recent years. Straight away the play attracted the favourable attention of many a review.
Ian Rowlands, remembers how Rhys And Hywel came to be, “My original scrawlings and thoughts at that time condensed themselves into four, one act satires. These plays started performing around 1989 to around 1991, and condensed into a full length play in 1992 called, The Great Adventures Of Rhys And Hywel - toured four countries in 1992 and was nominated for a Writers Guild Awards.”
Of his distinctive style, already evident, he said, “They were very much influenced by Italian pantomime, Commedia Dell Arte - where you have stock characters. My work is full of archetypal characters, and in Tuscany at that period, four or five centuries ago, theatre was a means of discussing ideas, and transmitting news. Some people have termed the kind of theatre I have written, ‘the theatre of ideas’. Character is not as important to me up on the stage, what is important to me is the discussion of ideas. In deed, in some of my plays there are no real characters per se, only facets of a debate.”
Of course, things have changed and developed over the ensuing decade, “as my writing evolved, I’ve stepped further away from that and more towards characterisation.
“I remember the first time I ever used emotion, deliberately in a play, it was in a one-act play called The Ogpu Men, written for the Sherman Theatre, and done by HTV. I deliberately used and manipulated emotion up on the stage and that was a compromise for me, because my work was very much black comedy and dealing with ideas, not naturalistic or realistic at all.”
One aspect of Rowlands' work that has been repeatedly picked up on by many reviewers, is his apparent love of wordplay, of language and the sound of language. Was it this love of language that first attracted him to the writers life or has that developed as a symptom of that life?
“What inspired me to write…” Ian echoed, “It came from the performance element… From reading works by people like Umberto Eco, Salman Rushdie, Patrick Suskind, Tom Stoppard - I was interested in people who really use language and use language for effect.
“The kind of writers I enjoy are those that use language and tend to be from bilingual cultures… or have experienced bilingual cultures, such as the magical realist writers of South America - any writer who uses linguistic imagery and manipulates that for effect. Writers who play with words, fantsatical imagery and create other worlds, other ways of thinking - multi-lingual, multi-layered ways of interpreting the world. I can’t abide naturalistic, realistic novels, television, theatre or anything. Life does that so much better.
"There are two types of writers - I am generalising here - writers who get used by language and writers who use language. Writers who get used by language tend to be more naturalistic, concentrate on character and plot in quite a realistic way. Those who use language, for effect, are more concerned with that effect upon an audience, which sometimes can be divorced from characterisation and realism. I use language for effect, and some people get rather annoyed with my work and say that it’s too dense. But you don’t really have to listen to my words. Let my words wash over you like atmosphere.
“All I’m trying to create for my theatre is an effect. I don’t consider myself a writer, I consider myself a theatre practitioner and writing is just one facet of that.”
So does he employ a strict regimen or have a secret recipe for his writing process?
“I have no time-tabled work process - I’m appalling. The only thing that presses anything out of me is deadlines, I think if you talk to a lot of writers you get the same answer. I write into a word processor, I don’t think I could write the way I do without my computer. The reason is that it allows me to play with the language in a way that would be just too tedious in long hand. It allows me to see the language set out in front of me - you can mutate it at the press of a button, and I find that quite fascinating. I find the mutation of language upon the screen exciting, it allows me to play with it in a more fluid way.”
As a writer with such a pronounced social awareness and intellectual appreciation of writing, does he have any advice for the aspirant?
“To write from your heart, not from your pocket. Write your truth on paper and be brave enough to allow the world to experience your naked emotions upon the stage or the page. Sometimes that is not financially worthwhile, initially, but if you have abilities, then people will slowly get to know of your work and will come to accept what you have to say in the way you want to say it.”
But Rowlands is a playwright, right? More often than not, theatres are slaves to their audience profiles and their catchment areas. As a director of theatre companies, as well as of productions, is this something that affects him during the writing process?
“I don’t think it should. Obviously theatre is a medium of communication - that’s why theatre exists, to communicate between actor and each audience member - but I don’t think that any writer should have the idealised target audience at the back of their mind as an aim. I think that being true to yourself is the most important thing for a writer.”
Rowlands has also gathered an impressive CV of TV. He wrote a four-part documentary series for S4C titled, Men, about the male psyche, and had a big hand in the BBC feature production, A Light In The Valley, which won the Royal Television Society Award for Best Regional Programme… but how can writing television compare with the theatre?
“I see the world through theatrical eyes. I have written for television and I find that process a compromise. Someone once said to me that the art of film and television is the art of compromise and theatre allows a writer to not compromise as much as they would in any other medium.
“The thing that draws me back is that excitement of an actor sweating and spitting in front of you. There’s nothing to beat the excitement and electricity of live performance. That’s why I remain true to theatre, though obviously, to pay the bills, sometimes one has to dip into other media.”
A review in The Stage observed that, “Rowlands writes metaphors to kill for”, and often an entire play can be viewed as one big metaphor, such as Love In Plastic, about a man who chooses to re-gestate in a plasti- lined house for nine months before venturing out in search of love clad in an environment suite, or Glissando On An Empty Harp, about a woman who gives birth to a box that reputedly contains perfect beauty. Do the meanings of his metaphors ever get completely misinterpreted and do those interpretations ever surprise or disturb the author?
Rowlands’ response may seem surprising, “As a writer so consumed by words, individual words, to me, don’t matter. What I’m looking for is an effect, so when an audience leaves a performance they leave with a kind of atmosphere surrounding them, having been touched by some sort of happening. They don’t really know what it means. So they go away thinking.
“In certain ways, what I’m doing is creating music and not a text. When I was young, fourteen or fifteen, I used to fall asleep to tapes of poets reading their work. And the words didn’t matter, what I was most fascinated by were the rhythms and the music of the voice. What I try to do in my work is write a score of words - and that score also dictates the physicality and whole nature of the stage - therefore I am not a writer, I am a theatre practitioner, creator, image-maker.
“Do the things people read into my work ever surprise me? Yes - and they should. I’m fascinated when other people interpret my work because it gives a different slant to something. Sometimes that illuminates things in my work that I might not have seen there. Sometimes one can be too close to one’s own work. Sometimes people can read something into your work that are sometimes there and sometimes they aren’t there. But that is the nature of any sort of text, to a degree and interpretations of my work I find quite refreshing.”
Could Ian Rowlands have happened anywhere other then Wales? To what degree has the Welsh culture affected and informed his work?
“Immensely. I was a bilingual person in a mono-lingual society. My parents spoke English and my grandparents, on both sides, spoke Welsh - the Welsh ‘leap-frogged’ a generation. I didn’t really feel that I belonged to English Wales, or to Welsh Wales. Somehow I was this linguistic hybrid in the middle. The benefit being that bilingualism offers you more than one way to see the world.
“My work and the way I play with words is influenced greatly by the Welsh language and its effect on the English language. I am attempting to create an epic language for the contemporary experience. This process is called ‘syntactic shock’. Even unconsciously, the Welsh language inflicts itself upon my English.
“I feel that, through my work, I am trying to ligitimise the Welsh use of English. The Scottish use of English and the Irish use of English have been ligitimised over centuries by the English establishment. But the Welsh use of English has been derided. I’m trying to produce that didactic Welsh-English voice, which I don’t think is clichéd - the roots of it have always been there - Dylan Thomas exploited it, as did Carradog Evans at the turn of the century, Gwyn Thomas did it within his work, the precedents are there for setting it down in text and ligitimising it.
“So my roots as a Welsh writer are deep - I don’t write constantly about ‘Welsh problems’, but it is there in the backbone of my work. I cannot escape the conflicts of identity in language because I happen to be a writer who is writing in Wales, and therefore it informs everything I do.
“I’m a patriot in the Orwellian sense. In his essays on nationalism, he defines the difference between patriotism and nationalism. A nationalist stands shoulder to shoulder out of antagonism with another nation, a patriot stands shoulder to shoulder out of mutual respect.”
Wales and the Welsh have always had strong socialist tendencies, does Rowlands feel that the writer has any particular social roles to play?
“I think there can be social responsibilities for a writer. I don’t think that theatre has any responsibility to be a tool of social cohesion, as the Welsh Assembly seems to be trying to promote at the moment. In certain ways I think theatre should be a crowbar that can break social cohesion apart and ask questions that society doesn’t actually want to hear.
“The theatre has the ability to change the consciousness of a nation. It does not have the ability to correct its ills. It should highlight those ills, point them out, expose hypocrisy and head towards a utopia. Theatre is a utopian tool in that sense. So writers should only perceive the society around them and comment on it in a way they feel is true to their own political and social consciousness.
“There is a problem in Wales at the moment, as I direct mainly Welsh-language, we are creating a nation of people who see the world through televisual eyes. There is a dearth of theatre writers, therefore there’s also a dearth of theatre texts of a standard that can be directed and performed. So part of my work is Bara Caws, a company in North Wales, as we approach a time when a National Theatre will evolve in the Welsh language, is to produce a source of genuine theatre texts, not televisual texts that have been squashed into a theatrical mould.”
Bread and Cheese?
“Bara Caws - the name suggests many layers and it’s to do with the food that the slate workers used to take to quarry - it’s a community-socialist-based ideology.”
So what has read and enjoyed that sticks in his mind?
“I’ve been reading about a poet called David Samwell, who was a surgeon on the Discovery in Hawaii when Captain Cook was killed. He wrote a first-hand account of that which was published at the end of the Eighteenth Century. He was a Welsh-language poet who was very influential in the London Welsh Society at the time, very influenced by the revolution in France and the revolution in America. During the Eighteenth Century with the London Welsh Society, you had a dawning of the consciousness of modern day nationhood, which in certain ways has been realised two centuries later with the Assembly and the raising of awareness of what it is to be Welsh within a contemporary setting.”
Ian Rowlands is a busy man and there is plenty on his plate, including bread and cheese…
“I’m involved in the process of creating a National Theatre for the Welsh language in Wales. The English-language National Theatre of Wales, Theatre Clwyd, is already making headway, but the Welsh-language National Theatre is still lagging behind in the development process. I am part of that discussion and debate - in a very direct and integral way. That takes up a lot of my time. Over the next year, I have four plays to direct with Bara Caws, plus writing one of my own, and bits and bobs for telly…”
Ian Rowlands most recent published play, first performed by the Torch Theatre Company, is Blink – and not one to shy away from difficult and controversial issues, including the language of Wales, it concerns an inquiry into systematic child abuse that happened at the Welsh-language comprehensive school of a ‘tight-knight’ community in South Wales. Sounds pretty bleak and harrowing? Well there are very hard to take elements in the story, but Rowlaands manages to keep it centred on drama and personal stories that contain a lot of humour and warmth, beginnings and conclusions… He said of his play, “Blink tumbled out, almost fully formed, as if it had been seeking life for some time - a play that needed to be written, a statement I needed to make”.
Ian Rowlands is published by Parthian Books.